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8. How to Protect Your Friends

I stood in silence, staring down at my phone.

Call ended.

I gazed at those two words, unable to move, not wanting to believe what had just happened. Everything felt still. I wasn’t aware of anything else around me. I didn’t know if my heart was still breathing, if my brain was still operational, if my lungs were sucking in oxygen.

Call ended.

I couldn’t process a single thought. I couldn’t move a single muscle. My eyes were glued onto the screen, the small, harmless-looking phone where, just moments ago, the voice of the most dangerous man in Toronto - perhaps even Canada - had spoken.

I look forward to meeting you in person.

As soon as his words echoed through my head, my brain jumpstarted, and I got control over myself again. I threw my phone back onto the back, taking a step away from it, as if I was afraid he’d be able to reach through the phone and transport me to wherever the hell he is now.

He’s in Riverdale Park, Reese. Far too close for comfort.

I need to leave, now. I need to get out of the city, fast, and leave this place behind - I’d return when things calm down here. When the supernatural beings let down their guard once again, and I’d be able to fulfill my life’s purpose without too much grief.

But first, I had another thing to do. Though I wasn’t noble enough to sacrifice myself to save Opal and Kyle from taking the heat of my disappearance, I could at least warn them of what was coming for them. I would tell them to leave the apartment, now. Go stay with Kyle’s family in Hamilton. Go find Opal’s grandmother in Port Perry.

Maybe I could hide them in my old apartment.

The thought came to me, but I quickly shooed it away. It was a stupid idea. The family-sized apartment in Mississauga was bound to be watched, now that the pack knew who I was. The childhood home of Reese Hearne wasn’t safe.

My bedroom door opened, and I jumped, muscles tightening, and spun to face the door, relaxing when I realized it was Opal standing in the doorway. She frowned.

“I couldn’t find anything you might need...” she said. “Are you okay? I mean, despite the circumstance? You seem more... on edge than usual. At least, more on edge than you were...” she trailed off.

“Come into the living room,” I hoisted my bag over my shoulder. It was heavy - heavier than it should have been, but there were some items I couldn’t bear to leave behind. “I have to talk to you and Kyle, now.”

She took in my change of tone, the coiled way with which I held myself, and nodded once. I glanced down at my phone, lying on my bed, and, after a brief hesitation, grabbed it and stuffed it into my pocket. I’d buy a new one as soon as I could - but for now, I needed a way to stay in contact with Opal, to make sure she was safe.

If Opal saw the wary way I looked at my phone, she didn’t comment on it. She just turned as I headed towards her, leading the way into the living room where she settled down onto the couch next to her husband - who was still shirtless, of course.

Kyle’s favorite thing to do - besides help me create files on my targets - was to strut around the apartment shirtless. He claims it helps him think better. I think it’s just so he can prove to himself that some humans are as fit as supernatural beings - and so he can prove it to his wife, too.

Opal - who had put her clothes back on - folded her arms and gave me a look that said, go, get on with it.

I cleared my throat, unsure of where to begin.

“Reese?” Kyle shifted, casually throwing an arm around Opal’s shoulders, pulling her closer. She ignored him, training her concerned eyes on me, searching for any sign of what I was about to say. “What is it now? Are you preparing a heartfelt goodbye speech?”

My eyes narrowed. He knew I wasn’t one for heartfelt goodbyes. If it wasn’t for all that they’ve done for me, I might have slipped quietly out of the apartment without so much as a wave. I wouldn’t have even thought to warn them about the pack. I wouldn’t have cared.

But Opal and Kyle have been there for me for nearly three years now. I met them while apartment hunting, looking for a place to stay while I wreaked havoc across the supernatural world. They were dating then, a few months away from being engaged, and Opal immediately took in my battered, dirty body from sleeping on the streets - I’d had no job then, and made money by robbing the corpses of my targets.

It didn’t take Opal long to figure out I was a Hunter - she found out just after I realized she was a witch. Come to think of it, I’m pretty sure it was my reaction to discovering her witchy-voodoo that sold me out - I all but threw a dagger at her. We weren’t friends at the time. Back then, she was merely a cover-up for me. A roommate to make me appear like I was a normal, free human.

We made a deal - her help in exchange for me not killing her. She’d help me track down my targets, be a wingwoman for me at clubs and bars, occasionally casually drawing away any companions my target might have. She’d be there with me for back-up, in case I got myself into a sticky spot - which rarely happened, thank goodness. If anybody realized the Hunter had a witch helping them, the list of suspects would have shrunken drastically.

We came up with a better cover story for me, and I became Isabelle Sage, the younger sister of Opal Sage. We told Kyle the truth when he started asking questions. I knew he wouldn’t sell me out - threatening to carve out his heart with my dagger tends to make one keep their mouth shut.

I was Opal’s maid of honor at her wedding last year. She pointed out all of her supernatural friends beforehand, telling me she’d burn me alive if I dared touch any of them. I’d even talked to some of them - though my Hunter’s instincts were screaming at me to kill, kill, kill, I’d actually liked some of them.

Basically, it’s because of Opal and Kyle I’m not killing every single supernatural I lay my eyes on.

It’s because of them I can’t leave without at least telling them that because of me, they’re now in danger.

“My problem,” I began. “Has gotten quite a lot bigger.”

“Oh?” Opal leaned forward. “How so?”

I proceeded to tell them about the unexpected phone call from Elijah Randon, and his deal - go to him willingly, and he’ll leave them alone.

“I imagine you have no plans to do that,” Kyle said. He didn’t sound upset, just factual.

“Unfortunately, no,” I allowed an apologetic tone to slip into my voice. “I’m sorry, but...”

“It’s two lives for two million,” Opal finished for me, waving away my apology. “We understand, Reese. We knew what we were getting into when we agreed to help you with your suicide mission.”

“At least, it seemed like a suicide mission at the time,” Kyle added. “Since then, I’ve learned to trust you. When you say you can do something, you’re usually right.”

I let out a breath of relief. Though I hadn’t known it, hearing them say they understand why I can’t surrender just released a huge weight off of my shoulders. Had I felt bad for potentially leaving them at the mercy of Elijah Randon?

Surprisingly enough, I did.

Opal shrugged Kyle off, standing, her husband’s arm flopping onto the couch where she was sitting. She came towards me, stopping a few feet away. “Do you still plan on taking the subway to Union Station?”

“That’s the idea.”

Her eyes were bright with concern. “The two closest stations are awfully close to Riverdale Park. How are you going to get there undetected?”

I shrugged. “I was planning on running, but that was before I learned the Big Bad Alpha is handing around there. If he’s trying to pick up my scent, though, he may be there for a while. I might take a taxi.”

Kyle shook his head. “You can’t trust anyone, Reese. I’ll drive you to Broadview station. Opal and I will leave from there to go to a friend’s house in Richmond Hill to grab a few things, then head up to Barrie.”

I hesitated. Staying in close contact with me, even if it was for one short drive, was dangerous now. Maybe even deadly. But still, having a few companions with me while going through Riverdale Park was reassuring. Surprisingly enough, having a witch near me was comforting now, rather than something that set my teeth on edge.

But only if that witch is Opal.

“Fine,” I said, managing a weak smile, despite my roiling nerves. “I’ll be glad for the company.”

We took the fastest, most straightforward route to Broadview station, which just so happened to run straight past Riverdale Park - the west side, anyways. I kept my gaze trained out the window, convinced there were dozens of eyes trained on me. Kyle drove casually past the park, though I could tell he wanted to be a street racer. How could I tell this? He told me so.

“This is painful,” he said, slowing the car down for the fourteenth time as the speedometer began creeping past sixty kilometers an hour. “I feel like I’m being watched. What would I give to be in a street race right now?”

“Nobody forced you to drive me to the station,” I muttered from the backseat. “I was somewhat-content taking a taxi.”

“And if the driver happened to be a werewolf hell-bent on dragging you to the Alpha?”

“He’d be dead,” I patted the silver dagger nestled in my pocket.

We were quiet after that, Kyle focused on keeping his speed inconspicuous, Opal and I staring out the windows, searching for any sign that we were being tracked. A tugging feeling grew in my stomach the closer we got to the place where I killed Nicholas Randon, a feeling I ignored - it was probably my instincts warning me of the proximity of danger. Elijah Randon was too close for comfort.

We passed right by the spot - or, close by it, anyways - where I went on a bit of a murderous rampage. Though the actual location was about four hundred meters further into the park, I instantly tensed. Opal turned around in her seat and gave me a half-reassuring smile.

“They’re not watching us,” she said. “They’re all deep in the park, wandering around, trying to pick up your scent,” she frowned. “But they’re not finding anything. How did you hide it?”

I didn’t say anything, not knowing the answer myself, but slightly comforted that she was using her witchy-voodoo to track the location of the werewolves.

I smelled it again. Just a faint hint of it, but it was there nonetheless.

Pine trees and springtime.

Just as quickly as it came, though, the scent vanished. I began to wonder if I had been imagining it earlier. It was a likely conclusion. It was autumn. It’s seasonally impossible for it to smell like spring.

We passed the park, driving down the final stretch of Broadview Avenue, and pulled into the subway station.

Kyle pulled into a parking lot, put the car into park, but didn’t turn off the engine.

This is it. This is where we part ways.

“Stay safe, Reese,” Kyle said, twisting around to shake my hand, though he was probably holding back from giving me a hug. I remember the first time he hugged me, I threatened to stake him like a vampire. He got the message.

“You too,” I said, smiling softly, though my heart wasn’t in it.

Opal, however, lunged towards me, wrapping her arms around my shoulders. I reluctantly hugged her back. Unfortunately for me, Opal had the ability to set me on fire if she really wanted to - and I suspect not giving her a proper goodbye would warrant that.

“Call me as soon as you’re able to,” she ordered. “And I know you have my number memorized, so don’t pretend to forget it.”

“I won’t,” I promised. “And I’ll see you again. I’m not staying away forever.”

“I’ll hold you to that.”

I laughed weakly. “If I don’t call within the next few days, assume I’m lying dead in a ditch somewhere,” or imprisoned by werewolves.

Kyle gave me a sharp look. “You’re going to get out of the city, Reese. You’re the Hunter. You’ve had half the city trying to turn the tables and hunt you for three years.”

“Unfortunately for me, somebody’s managed to do that.”

He sighed. “Don’t die, please.”

Opal nodded. “It would be much appreciated.”

I shrugged. “From what I’ve heard, the supernatural beings in Oshawa are worms compared to the ones here. I’ll have that city under control in no time.”

Then, without another look, I grabbed my bag, opened the door, stepped out of the car, closed the door, and began walking towards the entrance to the subway.

I didn’t look back as I heard Kyle drive away.

This chapter of my life is over now. Isabelle Sage is no more.

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