10 – COFFEE & DECEPTION

  Nightfall finally arrived, on a day that seemed unending. With everything she had taken in, Devon found herself unable to sleep after her conversation with Rowland. To everyone in her old life she was considered dead, and as she stepped into this new life, she yet again faced death head on.
  Keryn attempted to start a conversation with an offer for food as she entered the house. Devon could tell that this was obviously an attempt to cheer her up. It was possible that she was listening from the house and heard Rowland’s speech. Instead of being rude, Devon politely refused the girls kind offer for the company and told her that she just needed some quiet space to process. It wasn’t a lie, neither was it surprising that sleep was not available to her mind.
  Hours past as she stretched out across the massive bed, laying in a patch of moonlight. Devon lifted her arms behind her head as she let her fingers trail. Each pad felt the texture and deep grooves of the elegant carvings along the wood headboard. No one would be required to tell her that this bed was once Derrick’s; his smell still lingered deep within the foam coils below, in a room, she now inherited as her own. Devon buried herself into the pillow, hugging it tightly to her chest. This was the closest she would ever be to Derrick again. Well, physically at least.
  It was strange to think that all of this was intended for him; his room, his place in the pack, even the heightened senses which allowed her to smell his scent all around her. If she could trade them all back to acquire just a moment with him she would.
  In comparison to the new abilities and pack expectations now placed upon her, this room was equally extravagant and easily larger than her old apartment had been. The vastness of it all left her feeling isolated and immensely small; a bewildered child in this hand-me-down life.
  The day’s event’s had physically and mentally taken their toll, leaving her exhausted. How could anyone find a bright side in any of this? Knowing that her fate balanced on the sole word of a stranger from across the water that she had never met. Both eyelids began to drop, drifting into sleep as exhaustion finally won the struggle against the chaos swirling in her mind. Two weeks ago her fears were a failed relationship and possibly being pregnant. Now, both of those concerns were moot, lost, and in its place, she had gained all this instead…

  Devon’s cheek slid down the pillow as she was jolted upright by something shuffling near the end of her bed. A shadow of a small someone ducked below the end, just out of sight. “Hello? Who’s there? Sophia?” Why would Sophia be here and not the farm? There was a pause, but still, no answer came from the end of the covers. Carefully she crawled out from under the sheets and made her way cautiously to the end. This new bed was uncommonly tall, and as she got closer, she was surprised to find the little, unnamed boy from her dream sitting cross-legged on the floor. He was silent, neck craned up toward Devon as he looked shyly into her gaze.
  “It’s you again. Do you live here?”
  For a moment he seemed puzzled, the look on his face told Devon that he was unsure of how to answer her. “I don’t really live anywhere,” he answered.
  “Well, we both have that in common.” She smiled, “Sorry, what I meant is I know how that feels.”
  Lightly, she patted the bed inviting him up from the floor. At first, he hesitated but then stood up on his feet and used the blankets to scramble up onto the bed beside her.
  “Wait a minute you were in my dream before. How are you here?”
  “Dream, memory, you still hadn’t decided which one you preferred.”
  “That’s true, I didn’t. So kid, are you always going to be this cryptic with me?”
  This question seemed to sadden him. “I’m only able to give you what I can. If I could, I would answer all of your questions.”
  Something felt strange, the air shifting. It was as if the room was contracting and expanding around Devon, in tempo with a panicked state of her breath. Dizzying claustrophobia filled her, as the walls continued to waver and spin. This was most certainly some kind of dream state. Devon placed her hand against her forehead in hopes to still the room – was her exhaustion still toying with her senses?
  When she looked back at him, there was something comforting in the depths of his eyes. An awareness that suggested knowledge that his years couldn’t possibly account for. Deliberately, she slowed her breathing, counting to five as she inhaled in an attempt to prevent the dream-terror from rising and holding on to the calm that his eyes were creating. Amongst this contentment, Devon found that his scent helped eased her panic; memories warmed her, reminders of the circular forest glade where they first met. His presence eased the unpleasantness into a new form of dreaming. Somehow this small boy made her feel comforted and protective all at once.
  Steadying herself by his presence, she placed her hand on his shoulder. Something made the boy flinched in fear, pulling away from her touch. He jumped from the bed spinning onto all fours as he let out a small growling sound while baring his fangs.
  “It’s okay,” she said, surprised by his reaction. “You’re safe with me.”
  “It’s not you that’s coming,” he said, just before he bound on all fours across the room and out the metal door.
  Her heart began to pound with her rising concern for the boy. Alarmed by his swift departure, Devon left the safety of the bed and raced forward. As her body passed the threshold of the door, the hallway transformed. Where she had expected to find wood paneling, damp stone walls stretched in both directions, further than her eyes could make out. Her heightened senses were overwhelmed by the smell of decay, with a whiff of fresh forest air floating past her, telling her which direction the boy had gone. Thick clumps of moss clung to the walls as she ran along, searching for the boy. With each stride, Devon could feel her feet tread deep into the soft black earth below. There was movement from a shadow far ahead and although she could not see him clearly, the boy’s scent hung thick in the air. Increasing her speed, she was eager to catch him. Her heart was pumping with adrenaline; a steady beat driving her in the thrill of the chase.
  Devon’s body instinctively hunched forward onto all fours, as the feeling of the damp soil churned beneath her paws. Each claw dug deep, pushing her momentum into bounds. Within seconds her prey was overtaken as she tackled him to the ground.
  Beneath her wasn’t the boy: Her prize was a strange man, fully grown. Snarling, the flews along her upper muzzle tremored for the tender meat of his pale soft belly. He let out a flail of weak punches, shooting out vainly in all directions as he shrieked in blood-curdling terror. Swirling wafts of pheromones filled her nostrils; this new rising scent of his fear enticed her. All thoughts of the boy disappeared as she was filled with a hunger she did not fully understand. Knowing now that the blood pumping through his veins would make his flesh savory and fresh. Devon used her large paw to pin the man against the pathway, claws extending deep within his chest, releasing a wail of pain from her prey. Warm blood gushed between her fingers as the iron tang scent filled the air. She leaned in closer, letting out a growl that reverberated into the man, causing him to whimper as he craned his face away from her exposed jaws.
  Tongue lolling from between her teeth, her eyes drank in the sight of him. Strands of saliva dripped down along his neck, spewing out as he blubbered and screamed. His feeble hands scratched and clawed against her arm in his attempts to free himself. Dropping her muzzle, she lapped once at the blood welling out across his chest from under her paw. Coating her tongue, she could taste his terror as he struggled to get away. Stretching and twisting, he exposed his neck.
  Without hesitation, her head lunged. Devon’s canines bore deep as her teeth gripped onto the lower section of his jaw; sharp incisors scrapping roughly against the bone. A hideous crack, followed by a spray of blood drowned out the gurgling screams while the man’s jaw tore clean away. Further, attempts to call out only failed while his tongue flopped around hopelessly in the surging flow of red.
  Hunger and desire exploded through her. More than ever she was eager, tossing the bone against the stone wall before tearing away a generous piece from the bicep. Pale bone gleamed, exposed where her teeth had ripped away the muscle and sinews. This was something new to her, the flavor of hot blood that bathed her mouth as the man thrashed beneath her. Chewing the stringy meat between her jaws, she watched her victim shudder, his movements growing weaker as his life bled out of him. How useless his struggle seemed; the will of the human spirit could not be silenced as easily as his gutted mouth.
  Fresh air scented with oak trees cut through the sharp tang of blood. Ahead of her, Devon was able to see movement which now claimed her focus. Letting the raw flesh slide down her throat, her original chase caught up to her, and she gazed upon the boy. In his return, he held a sword almost twice his height. Propping it upright against his shoulder, he turned the sword on point. The movement was slow; it caught a beam of moonlight that began gleaming off the blade, reflecting towards Devon. Her eyes flickered, sheltering her from the brightness, tossing her head wildly as though the light itself were a net cast over her, pulling her in…

  Moonlight was replaced with a bright streak of the sun, which created a gradual path along her body. Devon found herself safe in her room, with no sign of the aftermaths that had followed. The boy, the tunnel and the dying man were nothing more than another dream.
  Carefully she made her way around the room, tidying the bed before dressing herself in one of the generic black track suits that filled the closet. Somewhere deep in her stomach, a pain crept, followed by an intense growling. In disgust, she realized that her new appetite had incurred from her nightmare, which still lingered in her mind. That or her genuine hunger guided the direction of her dream; maybe she should have taken Keryn up on her offer of food. Whichever it was she could still recall the taste of the stranger’s blood when she drew upon those memories.
  It dawned on her, having gone straight to bed after her talk with Rowland, Devon didn’t know her way around the house. Calling from the bedroom door, she received no answer. Knowing that she couldn’t just stay there all day, Devon wandered down the hallway, bare feet silent in the deep carpet as she passed several bedrooms that were all individually decorated. Each room was smaller than hers, and most likely belonged to the other family members that Rowland had mentioned. Something unusual stood out visually within each room. Along the walls closest to the beds were large wooden plaques with weapons attached to them. Devon noticed each grouping were a bit different, some were axes, swords, or even daggers. Had everyone gone out? Maybe they were waiting for her in the great hall like the previous day.
  Underneath the staircase, she pulled open the doors to the council chamber, announcing herself with a tentative “Hello?” Devon was greeted only by the sound of her own voice, echoing across the stone walls. There was the thought of returning to her room as she wandered towards the front door to look outside. Before she could open the great oak door, she was hit with another echo, this time it was the incredible aroma of food.
  Hunger winning over her reluctance to get lost, Devon followed it into a section of the house she had yet to explore, past what seemed like a massive dining area. The smell led her to a set of double doors at the end of a long hallway. Behind them, Devon could also hear the sound shuffling of objects. A short internal debate of what she could be walking into played in her mind before making a choice to push forward. Opening the door, she was greeted with something her mind had not anticipated.
  Alone in the kitchen, Keryn was dancing. Unaware that she was being watched, with her back to the door where Devon stood, she shimmied across the tile floor, dark hair flying. Attached to her right arm was an Mp3 player, the headphones buzzing away with the faint pulse of rhythm. Devon clasped her hand over her mouth to stop herself from giggling; a spy in the room. She watched as Keryn pulled out the whisk from the batter she’d been intensely stirring and began using it as an imaginary microphone, belting out words to the song. Devon couldn’t control herself anymore, laughing outright. Knowing it wasn’t fair, she coughed loudly to announce her presence. Keryn spun around, batter flicking haphazardly onto the floor – an extreme shade of red blushed across her face at the sight of Devon propped in the doorway. In an embarrassed panic, she slapped the whisk and bowl onto the counter before yanking out her earphones.
  “I don’t know about werewolves, but I’ve never seen someone blush like that. Is color change another werewolf trait that Jesse forgot to mention?” Devon smirked.
  “I, uh… so embarrassed,” she shook her head, trying to regain some of her composure. “I was making us some breakfast before you got up.” Keryn nervously explained as she attempted to clean the mess while stuffing her MP3 player back into the pocket of her jeans. “Actually it’s safer to say that I was trying, more like attempting to, at least. I’m not really big on cooking, myself.”
  “Well, whatever you made, the smell is amazing. That’s what guided me in here.”
  Keryn’s eyes narrowed as a faint crease formed across her brow. “But I haven’t actually made anything yet.” Perplexed, her words continued to tumble out in an attempt to explain herself. “I mean, the bacon is still sitting there, and I’ve taken a few steaks out to marinate for dinner, but no actual breakfast yet.”
  Devon moved to the island that divided the two girls and sat down at one of the stools. Large slabs of soaking meat and raw bacon were laid out in front of her; reminding Devon of the remnants of her gruesome dream. The aroma she followed was the same from her memory; that taste of blood now pooling onto the cutting board. Her face pulled in a grimace, disgusted with her new craving.
  “Are you okay? Was is something I said?” Keryn asked.
  “Not what you said exactly. I’m a vegetarian.”
  There was a pause as Keryn waited. “Yeah, I brought you food that first night you were here, don’t you remember? I will be honest with you. I don’t think you’re now designed to be a vegetarian.”
  “Why wouldn’t I still be?” Devon asked.
  “Sorry, it’s just I’ve yet to meet a wolf that was. It’s just not in our nature.”
  Not even breakfast could stay the same or go unspoiled by werewolf-related changes. After a second look at Keryn’s face, Devon knew it was irrational, but she couldn’t suppress her frustration.
  “Of course. So, let me guess, you’re like nine hundred and fifty years old or something?” Devon asked, her voice crisp with irritation.
  “Oh my god, why would you think that?” Keryn’s mouth twitched a little, the edges turning down slightly.
  Devon sensed that Keryn was the type to be easily hurt, and her question must have walked that thin line of offensive. It was a gentle self-reminder that this wasn’t Jesse that she was speaking to.
  “Hey, I’m sorry. I didn’t mean to be offensive. I’m still new to all of this. So were you bitten like me?”
  Keryn was already shaking her head. “No, you misunderstood, I’m like Jenn’s kids: I was born a wolf. In this house actually. I’m only 18.”
  “So why aren’t you in school? I mean this is a weekday isn’t it?”
  Devon couldn’t help but notice that Keryn was avoiding eye contact as she stirred the contents of the bowl. She watched as the young girl’s jaw clenched and unclenched a few times, as though she were nervous and trying to decide how best to answer.
  “Well yes and no. Going to school is a tricky one for us. We can’t really have young children going to public school. We’re homeschooled, at least until we are able to keep the family secrets from, well, normal people. I actually graduated last year. A year earlier than other people my age. By the time I got into school, the cliques were already established, and I was a bit of an outsider. So, I just pushed ahead and finished early instead of trying to be popular.”
  Devon felt kind of bad for Keryn and could now see why she was so eager to please people. “Wow. That must have been difficult keeping all of this from people.” Keryn could benefit from a solid friendship, she realized.
  “It’s really not that bad. Plus if you think about it, there are so many options when aging is not really an issue.” Keryn lowered her voice to a muted whisper. “I did enroll myself in a web design course over in Seattle next year. I haven’t told anyone yet, so please keep that between us. I’m not really sure what I want to be when I grow up, but it’s a start.”
  “I guess it would be hard to just pick one career when you have centuries to grow up. Even I could take a whole series of professions, if….”
  “If what?” Keryn was curious.
  “If I’m allowed to live.” The look on Keryn’s face said it all; she had either heard Rowland last night or already knew.
  Keryn stopped stirring the mixture as she placed it on the counter. Both girls stared blankly at it: the batter had become so thick that the whisk now stood straight up unattended.
  “Um, do you have any cereal?” Devon asked.
  Both girls laughed after a moment, breaking the tension of such a heavy conversation.
  Maybe cereal will help calm her body’s craving. She did admit with a touch of embarrassment that she would consider cooking the bacon herself. Devon could tell that Keryn was ready to admit defeat on the whole breakfast preparation project.
  Keryn pushed her hair out of her eyes with a smile, looking around at the mess she had made of the pancakes. “Yeah, it might be safer that way.”

  They ate, sitting across from one another in the center of the kitchen. Devon was still struggling with her feelings towards the cooked bacon that sat cooling on the plate between them. Although she truly wanted to resist its temptation the smell made her stomach ache no matter how much cereal she shoveled into her mouth.
  “So, those rooms upstairs…does Jesse live in one of them?” She asked between spoonfuls.
  “We all live here.” The answer came from behind Devon, delivered in a man’s voice.
  While Keryn glanced up casually, Devon turned sharply on her stool to see if this soothing voice matched who she thought it was. Indeed, it was the same man she’d stormed past on her way out of the council room yesterday. Devon had all but forgotten about him; she actually felt bad about it since he seemed so prepared to shield her against Smith’s hostility.
  Still, she didn’t know who he was or what his role was amongst the family. The young man circled the island to take a spot beside Keryn as he reached over to steal a piece of the untouched bacon.
  “Well,” he said, chewing thoughtfully, waiting to swallow before speaking. “Let me make a correction. We all have rooms here, but most of us live stretched out amongst the surrounding areas to make things seem less odd.”
  “Odd might be an understatement, and it came way too late for me,” Keryn piped in. “A bunch of people at my old high school thought I lived with a cult at one point. Try living that rumor down.”
  “Let me introduce myself, I’m Connor.” The newcomer extended his hand across the table with grace. Devon returned the handshake and was slightly amazed by his brass confidence; though she did her best to conceal it. Connor was handsome and well dressed. Everything in his manner was inviting and friendly, a complete contrast to Rowland. Devon found it difficult to grasp that this golden college boy was actually a werewolf. His whole look closely resembled a junior executive or a model in a GQ ad campaign.
  “It wouldn’t be far off to assume that you had something to do with Derrick’s change in wardrobe over the last year?” She asked.
  Behind his eyes, the greater point of amusement dissipated at the mention of the name. His face fell, almost to the point of not making eye contact with her. “I’m very sorry for your loss, Devon,” he said. “Derrick was a friend and brother to me. He will be missed around here more than you may yet understand.”
  Seriously, how could anyone argue with that? There was no doubting that his condolences were sincere and well meant. Still, everything about this was unusual. To sit here grieving the loss of someone she loved so deeply, with people she had only just met. Devon’s feelings of separation only increased with the reminder that Derrick had led a secondary life alongside the one he shared with her.
  “Well, you both have had longer to mourn him than I have.” She felt a touch of guilt at her statement. Still, it wasn’t fair that her memories and that time had been taken. The newness of his death and its aftermath was overshadowing the event itself. Devon’s loss was meant to be felt in stages, and everyone else was ahead of her in that regard.
  His hand reached across the table and covered Devon’s. “It’s ok, and you’re right. Just remember that there are no rules on how you are supposed to feel from one moment to the next.” Warmth spread up her arms into her chest, his touch was smooth and gentle. His grey eyes were solemn; she knew his words were sincere, and not just something to placate her.
  “Connor,” Keyrn’s brow creased. There was a hard glare to her eyes as she nudged him in the side with her elbow, causing his hand to retract.
  His attempt to comfort her was appreciated, but Devon was thankful that Keryn stepped in to break it up. With her grief at losing Derrick so fresh, she was not prepared for the conflicting emotions sweeping through her at the thought of being physically consoled by another man, even with something as innocent has hand-holding.
  Had grief counselors ever coached someone through the bite of a werewolf, along with the death of a loved one? Getting advice from a pack member would be hard, how could she trust that it wasn’t unbiased. Perhaps there were therapists in this world who happened to be werewolves themselves.
  On the brink of asking, she realized that she was off in a daze before focusing in on Keryn. For some reason, she was smiling, watching Devon with a sly look. While she contemplated the existence of a werewolf shrink, her hands had unconsciously walked their way to the plate and back. It was too late, she was already chewing the bacon without her awareness. She thought about spitting out what was currently in her mouth, but its savory taste made that an impossible task. Removing another piece from the plate, she bit into it with a sigh of pleasure. Connor watched, aware something significant had occurred, although he was at a loss over what it was.
  “Are you okay, Devon?” he asked.
  
Keryn answered for her, laughing. “Devon’s a vegetarian. Well, at least she was up until 2 minutes ago.”
  “Ahh I see,” he said, his grin returning. “The good news is, even after three hundred years that taste is just as pleasurable.”
  Devon’s face flushed slightly red as she smiled back, until what he said fully sank in. Wait, did he just say he’s three hundred years old?
  Keryn rolled her eyes at them both, cutting the discussion short. “If you two are done,” she said. “I’m heading into town. If you’re up for it, you could come with me, and we can get you some new clothes?”
  “With what?” Devon asked, focusing herself on the discussion at hand. “Magic beans? It’s not like I can walk into my old bank and take out money. I lost everything when I ‘died,’ remember?”
  “Money sh’money. Don’t worry about it. Rowland said we could charge what was needed. It’s the least we can do. That is unless you enjoy wearing nothing but black tracksuits?”
  “No, I would love something different. These are comfortable but… wait — what if someone sees me?”
  Without a word, Connor reached out to take hold of Devon’s wrist, this time she pulled her hand away before his skin made contact.
  “My apologies,” he said, “I didn’t intend anything unchaste.” He gestured to her hand. “The bracelet, the one on your wrist- may I?”
  Devon was only slightly embarrassed by her reaction since she had allowed him to place his hand over hers earlier – still, she nodded, while extending her arm.
  Connor reached over and lifted her wrist taking the bracelet delicately between his index finger and thumb. Rotating her wrist, he pointed out the markings engraved along its surface. “This writing here, this is not simply for decoration. It masks you.”
  “Masks me? What does that mean?”
  “Magic.” He replied.
  “Magic?” The skepticism leeched through her tone.
  “Ok, a better way to phrase this. These are magic words carved into the band, a spell, that cause people to see you as someone else. This is one of the many ways we were able to stay located in one place for over a hundred years without being noticed. Although, it’s getting harder these days to create a new identity whenever needed.”
  Devon looked at him. Still, a bit lost with the whole reality of the conversation.
  “On account of how well documented things have become.” He grimaced in his expression, his energy shifted enough that Devon could physically feel it.
  “What was that look about?” Devon asked, pulling her hand back out of his gentle grip.
  Keryn’s pursed her lips and frowned, watching this exchange. “Connor is having a hard time expressing his gratitude for the skill set that Jesse brings to the family dynamic,” she piped up.
  So focused on the change in Connor’s energy, Devon continued, oblivious to the change in Keryn’s. “Well, this makes things clearer for me. The bracelet I mean. That’s why no one knew me when I went into my building… and at the coffee shop. Jesus, whose face am I wearing? If I don’t look like myself, then who do I look like?”
  Keryn could feel the tension in Devon’s energy. “Don’t worry, we see you truthfully, the way you have always looked, this kind of magic isn’t designed to affect us-”
  “As in hocus pocus, magic?” she interrupted. “Seriously?”
  Connor simply nodded as if this whole conversation was normal. “People will see a distorted version of you. Just little things, for instance, your hair will be slightly different, eye color, skin tone, facial features… essentially it is you, but altered enough that people who know you wouldn’t be able to perceive your identity.
  “You will find a lot of people telling you how familiar you seem, or how we remind them of someone else. That sense of familiarity also helps achieve a calming response from humans; we’re easily trusted when we remind someone of their grandson, for example. We also have to be careful. We affect humans with our own natural energy, but Rowland will explain more of that to you later.”
  “Great, I can’t wait,” she said.
  Devon knew that he was doing his best to ignore the continued sarcasm in her voice. He even stood up to offer a slight bow.
  “You two ladies enjoy your outing. I really must prepare the council room for this afternoon’s training session.”
  After he had left, Devon looked to Keryn in amusement. “Uh, what was with the bowing? And who says unchaste?”
  “Give the guy a break, he’s three hundred years old,” Keryn said. “Besides, you are technically going to be the new boss around here.”
  “Yeah, if I don’t get axed instead.”
  Keryn’s expression turned solemn. “I’m…I mean we’re not going to let that happen.”
  This statement was followed by an awkward pause shared between the girls. One that carried on longer than Devon felt she could bear. Thankfully Keryn broke the moment in a sudden burst of excitement.
  “Go get ready, we’re going shopping!” As soon as she had spoken, her cheeks flushed. Devon was beginning to see how awkward the girl was in her socializing skills, no doubt the side effect from being raised in this house, surrounded by people centuries older than she was.
  “Sorry, I’m not normally so big on girly moments like this,” Keryn explained. “I’m more likely to get this excited over Buffy or Angel. It’s just this is the first time I’ve had someone around my own age to do things with who isn’t a stupid boy.”
  Devon smiled. As strange and socially painfully as Keryn could be, her enthusiasm and innocence seemed the exact thing needed to whisk her mind away from the dark space left by the visions of her dream.
  “It will probably take me another 20 minutes. I just need to finish cleaning up,” Keryn said.
  “How ’bout I help you, it’s not like I need to get changed. Besides we can get out of here faster?” Devon offered.
  Keryn’s smile of gratitude was all Devon needed. In no time, the girls had finished Keryn’s chores and were driving her car into the city.

  Within thirty minutes of combing through one of the local malls with its generic clothing stores, Devon could tell something wasn’t working. After a bit of prodding and loud sighs, Keryn admitted to her that she didn’t feel very helpful. Most of her shopping was done online or small little stores out in Sooke. Choosing to leave, Devon insisted that the mall was just wasting their time. Instead, Devon decided to take Keryn to one of her favorite stores nestled in the downtown core.
  As they stepped out from the car, both girls were greeted by traditional Han folk music that blended perfectly with the scenery around them. This beautiful melody came from high up along the speakers of the Chinese archways that stood guard to the historic area that greeted them. Halfway up the street, Devon stopped just before a narrow brick alley to the right of a decorative red post with a sign that listed Fan Tan Alley. This picturesque beauty was once used in the turn of the century to shelter opium dens, gambling halls, and the city’s darkest secrets. Men and high up government officials would venture within to purchase foreign women who had been stolen and sold off into the sex trade. No one would know to look at it now, its dark past had been covered up and turned into an attraction for tourists. The high orange brick walls were beautifully lined with small local shops selling clothing, metaphysical items, records, and other wares.
  “Come on, it’s just down here on the right.” Devon took Keryn by the arm as she shoved past rows of tourist blocking the way. Only ten feet in, just above a thickly painted door, hung a hand-painted sign that said Hearts Content in the shape of a white and red banner. Decades of weathering and age had worn away its paint; leaving an antique look. Shopping locally was something Devon had always tried to do. It gave her a sense of joy to support small merchants, rather than throwing money away on cheap crap in large box stores. She knew the shop owners got far more out of her money than any box store employee ever would.
  Above them, an old bell chimed as both girls stepped into the shop. The reaction on Keryn’s face was just the one Devon was hoping for. The gleam in her expression lit up the small 20-foot by the 20-foot store as a small gasp escaped her lips. A composed nod came from the woman running the store, but nothing more. The owner was an eccentric older woman who never really shared anything personal with Devon in all the years she frequented the shop. The whole vibe was that of a London underground punk shop mixed with modern day trends. Whichever decade it was, there would always be a new generation looking to fill the punk, goth, and alternative subculture. Each prowling the city on the hunt for a pair of knee-high Doc Martens and intricate fishnets. Different retailers had come and gone, Second Hand Rose, Sideshow, Sam’s boutique: Yet over the years, her store evolved and stayed the mile. Maybe it was luck or her knowledge of fashion. Either way, the owner seemed to keep up perfectly with the niche styles of the modern day while keeping her mix of iconic wears of the past.
  Devon held up a pair of the classic eighteen-hole black Doc Martens raising a brow to Keryn. “I think we both need to get a pair of these, don’t you?”
  Keryn nodded her head eagerly. “This store is amazing! There is so much stuff in here I would want to wear, but I just can’t.”
  “Why?” Devon asked. “It’s just clothing.”
  “I’m taking a big chance in telling you this, but here goes. There is another reason why I want to move next year for school. I love my Dad, and this family has always been so good to me, but honestly it can be a bit suffocating for someone my age. It’s sad: I’m almost twenty, and I still can’t change my wardrobe or style without running it by everyone. As the youngest of the adults, they just keep repeating to me that this is the way it’s always been, and I’ll understand in a few more decades. Social media is only adding paranoia to Rowland and my father’s worries of leaving a digital trail. No one in the family is allowed to start a Facebook account.”
  “Well if I’m going to be in charge, those things will change.” Devon smiled putting the boots into Keryn’s hands. “Starting with these. We can both get them, you can tell your dad and Rowland that I forced you to buy them. Seriously, just buy what you want today, and I’ll put it in my closet, and you can borrow it whenever.”
  “You’re good.” Keryn laughed as she still down to try on the boots. “Just putting it out there – If things changed that much I might be more inclined to stay here on the island than go to school on the mainland. Right now, I want to feel that I’m at least fifty percent in charge of my own life for once. Like your life, you were so independent, and you’ve seen so much.”
  “I was wondering about that. Just how much of my life do you know about? Did Derrick talk about me to the family?”
  Keryn looked quickly away from Devon. “Actually, I studied you before Derrick was even approached. We knew he had been chosen to lead after Rowland, but we still had to assess you and see if you were a liability. Sorry I know it’s a huge invasion of privacy, and I hope you can forgive me for it.”
  “I doubt you would have been given much choice in the matter.”
  “Yes and no. I did have a choice, but it was either I do it or someone like my father. I guess I thought I was a better candidate since I was closer to your age. If you were a liability, well… who knows what could have happened. Rowland and my father will do anything to protect this family.” Keryn’s wide brown eyes looked back at Devon, “Anything.”
  “That’s pretty fucked up, you know that right?”
  “Oh, I agree. I’m a different person and age than all of them. Most of them have been protecting our secrets for hundreds of years. That was my argument when I took on your case. I didn’t think it was fair for someone not from this century to judge someone born in it.”
  “Well for what it’s worth, thank you.” Devon gestured to the shop owner. “We’ll take the boots, wrap them up please.”
  “Wai..”
  “Shut it, I’m the boss remember.” Devon laughed. “You said it back in the house. They took my life, and you have been the kindest person through all of this awful mess. If it weren’t for you and Jesse, I would be out of here. The least they can do is get us a new wardrobe on the house.”

  Several hours and stores later, laden down with their prizes, they headed back towards the car. “Hold on, I just want to stop in here and get a coffee. This place has the best americanos in Victoria.”
  “Devon, no we really need to get back to the house.” Keryn pulled at her arm.
  “Seriously it will only take a second.” Devon shook her arm free, as she opened the heavily painted green doors to the Bean Around the World Coffeehouse. Looking back at Keryn instead of watching where she was going, Devon slammed right into an older gentleman.
  “Harold…” Devon stuttered as she stood there frozen in the doorway, staring into the face of her old bank manager.
  “Sorry? But do I know you?” The man looked puzzled as he searched her face.
  “Oh…” there was a moment of panic from Devon…The bank! “Sorry, you work at my bank. I remember one of the tellers mentioned your name.” Devon had just prevented a situation from starting as she tried to act as nonchalant as possible.
  All around her a cold feeling began to fill the room, as if some invisible gas was pouring in from behind, sending chills along her spine. As the tension built, it caused her heart rate to increase. Everyone sitting along the narrow café tables, all slowly stopped what they were doing to stare past her in the direction of the door. Conversations drifted into a muted chatter; even her old manager stared blankly past her shoulder with a concerned look. As she joined the gaze of the patrons, her eyes came upon the fearful and panicked look that clung to Keryn’s face; her mind sending out energy to match.
  “No more coffee for you.” Devon laughed as she put her arm around Keryn, moving her past the other customers that were waiting to enter and escorting her down the street. Within half a block, Devon pulled Keryn into the alcove of a boarded up shop front.
  “I told Rowland it would just be the malls! I’m going to be in so much trouble. If he finds out you’ve talked to someone from your old life…” Keryn was starting to verge on hysterics, unable to finish. Her breath was panicked as her fingers pulled at the edges of her coat. “This was a bad idea, we never should have come downtown…”
  “Keryn, what the hell was that? Pull your yourself together, nothing bad happened in there.” Of course, Devon was half lying in hopes of calming her down. That was a situation she wasn’t ready for at all.
  Devon’s hands cupped Keryn’s shoulders. “Just breathe, look at me and slow your breathing.” It worked when Rowland did it to her, why not with Keryn?
  Whatever she was doing seemed to be working. The panicked energy around them began to return to a normal state.
  Keryn took Devon’s hands from her shoulders “I’m ok, you don’t have to do that anymore. I’m not going to transform and go berzerker. That’s only something Alphas can do.”
  “Are you sure?”
  Keryn nodded.
  “Good, now that you are ok. I’m going back in there to get my coffee. You can wait out here or laugh it off and come inside.”
  Keryn agreed. “I don’t know if I’ll be able to laugh it off, but I’m good enough to go back in.”

  They decided to sit in the café for a bit longer after Devon convinced Keryn that she needed to calm down more before heading back to the house. It would be a dead giveaway to Rowland if he sensed that kind of nervous energy from the young pack member. The girls chose a booth toward the far back away from prying ears. The silence dragged out for a few minutes, Keryn’s hands incessantly twisting the sleeve around her paper coffee cup between sips.
  “I’m nervous about training because I don’t know what that even means. What does training involve?” Devon asked, both because she was curious, and to help distract Keryn from what had almost happened.
  “How to fight, weapons, skills you might need in the next couple months.”
  “Why would I need to know how to fight?” Devon asked.
  “You don’t think any of us are going to let you die do you?” Her eyes were wide and serious.
  “Well, not all of you. I don’t feel like a popular choice here. This was supposed to be Derrick after all.” Devon refrained from mentioning that she was pretty sure Smith wouldn’t exactly mourn her passing.
  “Rowland isn’t going to come out and say it to you or any of us, but he knows we would all rather fight then… well, the alternative.”
  “Me dying?”
  “It’s not just about you dying. Rowland did fill you in on what happens if you are not accepted by Orin?”
  “So you were listening to us in the woods.”
  “Sorry, werewolf ears. I’m pretty sure everyone that was still in the house was listening.”
  Orin, the name created mixed emotions within her “Honestly I didn’t even know this person had a name. Rowland mentioned something about the families having to merge. I thought he was being a little dramatic. That I would die and that he would keep on being miserable until the next Alpha is chosen.”
  “It’s so much more than that and complicated is an understatement. Devon, you don’t know that other family. I’m also not supposed to talk to you about them, not yet. Rowland needs to explain this better. Please don’t ask me.” Keryn’s eyes pleaded for her to stop pursuing more information.
  “Fine, I’ll wait. I guess we should be getting back soon, I’ll ask him when we get there. So are you going to train with me?”
  “Haha, yeah right. Like that will ever happen.”
  “Why not? I thought you said everyone needs to be ready.” Devon asked.
  “Well yes I did, but,” Keryn’s energy shifted, as her eyes dropped back to her fidgeting hands. “I’m forbidden. We’re not allowed to do what an Alpha forbids us to do.”
  “Why would Rowland do that?” Devon asked.
  “Because of my dad.” Her voice was barely above a whisper, choking on the words.
  “Ok, well that’s an easy fix. I’m an Alpha, can’t I just tell you to train with me?” Devon smiled.
  Keryn’s head shot up, hope lighting up her eyes. “I never really thought about it, but yeah, I guess you could make those calls. I would have to try, it’s not just about obedience or loyalty. Our bodies will actually stop and lock up if it’s something we have been forbidden to do by an Alpha. Seriously, my dad would never let me, not with what happened to my mom.”
  “I noticed that she wasn’t there the other night. I didn’t want to pry.”
  “It’s ok, and I appreciate that. I’m open to talking about it, I just wouldn’t classify that under coffee talk.”
  “Fair enough, but let me ask you: Do you want to train with me?”
  “Of course, I do!” Keryn’s eyes blazed, and Devon felt her energy surge with passion. “I would be lying if I didn’t say that it scares me, but yeah I would love to learn. I just can’t see how we could. My dad is always there, so the house is a no go. Plus, we would need weapons,” she laughed. “You have to understand my dad keeps the weapons in his forge and he’s very particular of their care.”
  “What about the ones upstairs in the rooms? The different swords and stuff hanging on the walls? Could we use those and go somewhere else?”
  “Like where?” Keryn asked.words and stuff
  “It’s simple, we tell them we are going shopping.” Devon grinned.