Morning comes too soon. The alarm beeps loudly through the room, and Elijah groans next to me. I force myself to a sitting position and lean over him to turn it off.
I rub the blurriness out of my eyes and yawn, wanting to go back to sleep. Shivering, I just sit there for a minute, preparing myself to get up. Elijah stole the blanket sometime in the middle of the night and now he’s wrapped up in it, leaving me freezing on the outside of it.
I try to step over him without waking him up, but end up falling on him and rolling out of bed. He rolls over and squints at me, his eyes red from sleep. “What are you doing?” he groans.
“I have to leave for now,” I whisper. “I’ll be back later though, probably around three or four. Go back to sleep.” Instead of doing what I said, he sits up, running his fingers through his messy hair.
“Do you need a ride? Do you want me to come with you?”
“No, it’s fine,” I say. “I think I’m gonna call Logan and see if she wants to come. I’m gonna go get ready. I love you.” I quickly kiss him on the cheek and then push myself to my feet.
I borrow his phone to call Logan, who takes forever to get to the phone. She says she’ll come get me in about thirty minutes so I take my dear sweet time getting dressed and ready in the bathroom.
Fifteen minutes later I walk down the hall to see Elijah in the kitchen with Milton, eating waffles at the dinner table. I notice that Kai is asleep on the recliner still, and I feel my face heat up as I remember him seeing me naked last night.
“I made you waffles,” Elijah says, pointing to the seat next to him, across from Milton. A plate with three waffles, along with syrup and a fork next to it wait for me and I head over to it.
“Waffles, huh? I prefer pancakes,” I say.
He waves his fork at me as I sit down. “You take the waffles and you like it.”
“Yes, ma’am,” I say, dousing the waffles in syrup. Milton giggles and I smile at the sound of his laugh.
Milton looks at Elijah to his right. “You didn’t even make them, they came in a package.”
Elijah puts his finger to his lips, eyeing me out of the corner of his eye. “Shhh, don’t tell her that.”
I laugh and scarf down the waffles, and end up taking more from their freezer and cooking them, too. I don’t know how it’s possible to be this hungry but I end up eating six waffles, and even then I don’t feel quite full.
Waiting on Logan to show up, I sit in the kitchen and ask Milton questions about school, which he is more than happy to tell me about. I enjoy hearing him talk about it, but I hear Logan pull up and have to leave. I hug Elijah goodbye, try to hug Milton but he runs off, and head toward the door.
I’m pulling the door shut behind me when I feel something tug on the door and I stop. Looking back, I see Kai preventing the door from shutting and he steps out, closing the door behind him.
“Did you talk to him?” he asks. His hair is in a mess even worse than Elijah’s was, making me want to grab a brush and fix it for him.
“No, I’ll be back later to do it then. Around three or so. I have some important things to do this morning and I didn’t want to do it last night.”
He sighs. “All right, that’s fine. We won’t be leaving until tomorrow morning anyway.”
He turns to go back inside. “Kai?” I say. He looks at me. “Remember to comb your hair, you like Big Bird.”
He brings his hand up to his head, feeling his hair, then drops it. “Ha, ha,” he says sarcastically. “And don’t forget to change your clothes, you look like you came out of Beetlejuice, too.”
I look down at my black and white striped shirt, and look back up at him. “Thanks, I appreciate it.” He goes back inside and I turn around, walking down the steps and into Logan’s car in the driveway.
“Where am I taking you?” Logan asks, sipping what I can assume is coffee from a silver travel mug.
I pull my bag off of my back and search through it, looking for the address.
“Hold on, it’s in here somewhere,” I say. I move some clothes around and find the paper folded up. “Here it is.”
I pull it out and unfold it, handing it to her. “There’s the address,” I say, pointing it out.
“Okay, cool, I know where that is,” Logan says. She backs out of their driveway and then we’re on our way to the greenhouse.
On the way, I tell her the reason we’re going, but I, of course, leave out the fact that I plan on using it to kill Marcus tonight. I don’t even like thinking about it myself, let alone speak it aloud.
We soon make it to the greenhouse, where I see a black truck parked outside. Good, he’s here. I go to out but Logan grabs my arm.
“Wait, do you want me to go with you? You don’t really know this guy, do you?” I consider taking her up on the offer, but decide against it. Matthew didn’t invite her here, only me.
“No, I’ll be fine,” I say. “In case you don’t remember, I am a-a you-know-what, and I can take care of myself. But if I’m not back in an hour, I might be dead, so I’d suggest leaving or come looking for me.”
“Thank you, that’s very comforting,” Logan says as I get out of the jeep. I swing my backpack around to my back as I walk up to the greenhouse door. I knock on it, even though it’s already open.
“Hello?” I call out as I step inside. I immediately take in the sight of a huge amount of plants. Some flowers, some trees, some fruits and vegetables, and some other types, but it all comes together in one beautiful picture.
“Hello?” I call again, walking in further.
“Hey!” A man says, stepping between one of the rows of plants to make himself visible to me, ten yards away. “Sorry, I didn’t hear you. I’m back here. Come on in, and close the door.”
I close the door as he says, then walk over to where he’s waiting on me, mindlessly looking at plants. He looks younger than I’d expected, about thirty I’d say. His hair is a dusty blond color, his eyes brown. He wears a pair of denim jeans and a normal red, yellow, and white plaid shirt, though he has a name tag attached to it. Must be for his job, I think.
When I reach him, he turns to me and introduces himself. “I’m Matthew, but everyone calls me Matt. You must be Julia?”
I nod, smiling.
“All right, well the stuff you’re looking for is back here.” He turns, waving me along behind him and starts walking down the rows of plants. “Wolfsbane, right? Or, Aconitum, whatever you want to call it.”
“Yeah, wolfsbane,” I say. “Thanks for doing this for me, I appreciate it. I couldn’t find it anywhere else around here.”
“Yeah, it’s cool,” he says. He glances back at me. “What did you say this is for again?”
Why do want to know? I think, but I don’t say it aloud. I’m just being paranoid.
“I’m doing a research project over it,” I say. “I’m seeing how it affects sick cats.” Aw, shoot, shoot, shoot. I said dogs on the phone, not cats. Stupid, stupid.
He gives sort of a half-smile and nods. “I see.” Crap, crap, crap, he knows I’m lying.
We come to a stop near the back of the building, and I see that the plants we stopped by are purple wolfsbane plants. Holy crap, he has a lot of them. Why so many? They’re eye-level with me, planted in soil on a shelf. I make sure not to get too close, stopping several feet away from Matt and the plants. Maybe I should’ve brought gloves.
“These are what you’re looking for, correct?” he asks.
“Yes.” I nod. I don’t know if it’s just me, but it seems like he’s acting weird. He keeps watching me, like he suspects me of something. I try to act normal, but when it feels like I’m being watched, I act anything but normal. He probably notices my anxiety. You’re being stupid, Julia, he’s just a normal dude. Not everyone’s out to get you.
“All right, I’ll get you one.” He pulls out a thick brown pair of gloves from his pocket, and picks up a small gardening shovel from the shelf. He digs up one of the long, purple plants, and I listen for his heart rate, to see if anything’s unusual. It sounds normal. I’m not sure if it was Kai, or Tiffany, or who told me, but someone said that you can smell emotions. I try it to see if it works, but all I get are plants.
After pulling it out, Matt sets the shovel down and holds the plant in his hands. We make eye contact and I realize too late what he’s about to do. He shoves the plant across my neck, and any doubts I had before about this plant not being poisonous to werewolves is gone. It takes effect immediately, burning into my skin and my reflexes react by grasping at the plant and backing up a few feet. He lets the wolfsbane go and it falls to the ground at my feet after burning my neck and hands, and I’m surprised to see my skin doesn’t immediately start healing.
In the midst of my pain and blurry vision, I think I see him reach under his shirt and grab something. He moves so fast I can’t be sure though. I keep coughing, feeling like my throat has closed up.
I look up at Matt again, and see he now has a gun leveled at my head. I slowly raise my hands above my head, not sure what else to do.
“I thought you might’ve been a werewolf,” he says. “I wasn’t sure though. Thought I was being paranoid. But I had to check. Guess I was wrong.”
I cough a few more times, and my throat finally feels like I can breathe again. “Guess so,” I get out.
After a moment of standstill, my mouth just takes over and starts talking for me. “If you’re going to shoot me, will you hurry it up? I’m a tad bit impatient.”
“My bullets are silver bullets. They’ll kill you,” he says. He drops the gun from my head to my heart. Internally I’m screaming to run or fight, but instead my mouth just keeps talking. I guess I just don’t really care anymore, which is incredibly sad.
“Okay,” I say. “That’s cool. Could you either kill me or let me go, I don’t really have the time for this. Also, be sure to give my mom some money for killing me. She’s in debt and I want my death to be worth something.”
I start to wonder if what I said to Logan in the car wasn’t much of a joke, considering I’m about to get shot.
“Yes, I’m serious,” I say. “I’m not a complete joke, thank you very much.” I’m not sure why I feel the need to say these things, if I feel like I need to act brave or what. For whatever reason, I don’t feel very frightened right now. I guess as long as I don’t imagine anything happening to me, I can’t be scared of it.
There’s a loud bang on the top of the roof, taking Matt’s eyes away from me for a split second so he can look up. On instinct, I take the opportunity to knock the gun out of his hands. Even with my speed, he beats me to it and pulls out a long, silver knife from under his sleeve, shoving it at my throat before I can do anything else. My hands shoot back up in the air.
“Move again and you’re dead,” he says. The sharp point of the knife digs into my throat, making it uncomfortable to breathe. It’s almost like it’s burning me, but not terribly so.
“Okay,” I get out. I stare at him a moment before adding, “Why are you doing this? Are you a hunter or something?”
He scoffs. “Please. Don’t mistake me for one of those barbaric devils.”
I manage to swallow underneath the point of the knife. “Then who are you?” He seems to be quite close to my face, enough so that I can’t take my eyes away from his eyes.
“Not who, what,” he whispers, looking between my eyes. “And that what can either be your ally or your enemy, depending on how this goes. So I suggest you act a little nicer to me.”
I squint at him. “I’d be a whole lot nicer if you’d take this knife away from my neck.” He digs the knife in deeper and I feel a small trickle of blood running down my neck.
His face is mere inches away from mine now, and I’m getting to know his face a lot more than I wanted. “What did you want the wolfsbane for?” he hisses.
I open my mouth, prepared to come back with a smart-aleck answer, then decide not to. That’s not going to get me out of this situation. He’s right, if I go about this the right way, than he could help me. I do have a list of things in my bag that I need, and it’s possible that he has them. Plus, not dying would be good, too. Just answer honestly.
“Because I’m going to kill the alpha,” I say. I could’ve worded that better, I think, and hurry to add to it. “He-he wants to kill my sister, and no matter what I do or say he’s not going to change his mind. I have to do it. The wolfsbane can help me have an advantage.”
He seems taken aback. “You mean Marcus?”
He studies me for a moment. “If I put this knife down, you must agree to not attack me or harm me in any way, okay? And don’t run away either.”
“Of course,” I say, and he slowly lowers the knife away from my neck. I let out a sigh of relief and let my hands drop. We stand there, eyeing each other for a brief moment, but the silence is soon cut off by him talking.
“I’m gonna need your bag.” What?
“Yes, your bag,” he says. “Hand it here.” I have to clench my jaw to keep from saying something, but I reluctantly slide my bag off my back and hand it to him.
He unzips it, and looks through my bag, moving my clothes around and papers around. He opens up the papers I have in there, but there’s really nothing to see so he puts them back. Then he comes across my dad’s book.
He pulls it out, staring down at it intently. His brows furrow in confusion. “What-what is this?” he stutters.
“It’s a book written by my dad,” I say. “Well, partially written by my dad. It has a lot of information in there. I don’t understand some of it, and I haven’t got to look through much of it.”
He’s so focused on the book, I’m not sure that he hears me. He slowly opens it, looking through the pages with his mouth gaping open. Then he snaps it shut, looking up at me.
“I’ll help you,” he says. “But only if I get to keep this book.”
“What? No-” I start. I want to keep this book. My-my dad wrote it and...I haven’t even gotten to read it yet.
“You want to kill Marcus, correct?” he says, cutting me off. “I know there’s instructions somewhere in this book and I can make you something that’ll help you. That way you can fight Marcus, fairly. That’s what you want, right? All I need is this book.”
I close my eyes, thinking. I really, really, don’t want to give it to him, but...if I can kill Marcus and protect Logan, then..I guess it’s worth it.
“Okay,” I say. “Okay, you can have the book. But I want you to make the-the stuff now. Like, right now. I need it before tonight.”
“Okay.” he nods. “Come with me, I can make it in the back.” He zips up my bag, the book still in his hand, and hands the bag back to me. He picks his gun off the ground and tucks it in the back of his pants
I follow him to the end of the row, where we turn left along the back wall. We reach a brown, wooden door that he unlocks with a key. I go inside the small room, instantly seeing a small wooden table similar to a kitchen table in the middle, a wooden chair on either side. Off-white cabinets line the walls and the floor, and I see a bookshelf stacked with old books to my left. I wonder if that’s where my dad’s book will end up.
Matt walks around me, setting the book on the table and flipping through it.
“Are you looking for the instructions?” I ask. He nods and I walk over to him. “Let me see it.” He slides it over and I find the page for him. He looks it over quickly, then brings his eyes up to meet mine.
“All right, so I have a lab right over there,” he says, pointing to the right corner, where I see another door. “where I can make this. I already have all this stuff, but it’ll take me an hour or so to make it like it says to. If you want to help, you can put on a pair of gloves, go back into the greenhouse, and bring me back some of the plants needed for this. And be careful with the wolfsbane, don’t touch yourself with it. Here’s a pair of gloves.” He takes the gloves off his hands and passes them over to me. I slide them onto my hand, finding that they’re still warm from him wearing them.
He goes to tell me what he needs me to get, and from where at, and then I set off to find it as he goes into the lab. I carry each of the five plants into his lab for him, one at a time so I don’t harm them.
He distractingly thanks me, already working on whatever it is he’s supposed to do. Right now he’s heating something up, but that’s about all I know.
I clear my throat. “So what, um...what are you? You said something about it earlier.”
He pours a liquid from a small vial into a larger one, mixing two various liquids together as he talks. “I guess you could say I’m sort of an….advisor to other supernatural creatures. My job is to advise a werewolf pack, and the werewolf pack I’m supposed to advise is yours. But Marcus has never respected me like he should. Never wanted my advice or my help. So I left.
“I know what goes on with his pack. And I know I probably should’ve taken care of him long ago. I’m powerful enough to. But to be completely honest, I just don’t care. If you choose to kill Marcus, great. If you don’t, that’s fine, too, but it’s better if you kill him. It’s time for someone else to reign.”
I listen and watch as he does his thing with the ingredients. “I don’t suppose you’re gonna actually say what you are, are you?” I ask.
“Not a chance,” he says.
“Figures,” I mutter under my breath. I guess if I think about it, this worked out pretty well, but it’s annoying that I had to lose my book to get this. I also take heed in the fact that if this guy could kill Marcus, he could definitely kill me.
“If you don’t mind me asking,” he says. “what are you going to do if you kill Marcus You realize you’ll become the alpha. You’re gonna have a whole bunch of werewolves looking to you for help, for guidance. Plus, You’ll probably have at least a couple that will try to kill you for your power.”
I tense up at hearing all that aloud, but honestly, I already knew all this. I don’t want it to happen, but I know that I have to prevent Marcus from killing Logan and there’s only one way to guarantee that.
“I don’t really know,” I say. “But I do know that no matter what happens, I’m not going to lead like Marcus did. I don’t want my pack to respect me out of fear or because I force them to, I want them to respect me because I’m forgiving and I earned their respect as a leader. But I also know that if anyone tries to kill me, it’s time to slice and dice.”
Matthew lets out a loud laugh at that, making him spill some clear liquid onto the countertop.
“Okay,” he says, roping in his laughter and looking at me. “You’re distracting me and the next part of this is going to be difficult and kind of dangerous, so I’m gonna need you to leave for right now.”
I don’t really have anything else I want to ask him anyway, so I just agree and walk out of the room. As I pass through the small room, I set his brown gloves on the table, then head outside to tell Logan what’s going on. I was kind of surprised that he laughed at what I said; he seems like someone who doesn’t laugh a whole lot. Seems like he's kind of on the negative side, but I don’t know, I just met him.
I hop into Logan’s jeep, tossing my backpack into the back seat.
“You were in there forever, did you get what you needed?” Logan asks, glaring at me.
I shake my head. “No, the dude in there is making some stuff for me to drink, that way Marcus’s mind control crap won’t work on me.” I go on to tell her about what happened, though I purposefully leave out the part with the book, saying that I just talked my way out of it. I feel bad, because not only did I lose the book, but so did Logan, and she didn’t even know about it. She doesn’t even know it exists, and never will, because of me. I can’t tell her about that book. She’d be too mad at me about it, and I can’t get it back now anyway.
“Hold up,” Logan says when I’m finished. “This dude-this stranger-held a gun to your head and a knife to your throat, and now he’s in there making you some-some drink thing, and you’re just gonna drink it? Have you learned nothing about stranger danger, Julia?”
“Well,” I say, “you’re not wrong. He could totally be making something to kill me. But I feel like he’s not, you know? He-he seemed like he had something against Marcus, like he wants him dead. I don’t think he’d want to jeopardize the chance for someone else to do that for him by killing me.”
Logan does have a point and I feel kind of wary of Matt, but the feeling I had when I first met him is gone. It doesn’t feel like he’s hiding something from me, or that he has something against me. I think I can trust him, at least for this one small task, considering I gave him that book. What was with his reaction anyway? It was like he recognized the book, like it was important.
Logan fusses with me about it for a while, but I eventually convince her to let me do it. Although I’m not entirely sure why I feel like Matt is trustworthy anyway, he held a knife to my throat. But he also lowered the knife.
I sit with Logan in the car for about thirty minutes before going inside to check on Matt and see if he’s done.
“Still working?” I say as I walk into the lab. There are rows upon rows of lab equipment on the far side of the wall, enough that I wonder where he has gotten the money to afford this kind of stuff.
“Yeah,” he says, dropping something into a large beaker, “But I’m almost done. You can wait in the other room and I’ll be out in a few minutes. Don’t steal anything.”
“No promises,” I mutter as I walk out, talking to myself. I pace around the other room, looking in random cabinets and just wasting time. Should I be looking through other people’s stuff? Probably not. Am I going to do it anyway? Yes, yes, I am. There’s nothing in this room anyway, just empty cabinets, a few gardening tools in one of the corners, and the bookcase.
I go through the books while waiting, though few have any kind of markings on them. No titles, no authors, nothing. Like the book I found in my dad’s office. Then again, there’s also plenty of normal books. There’s a few college books, along with a few books about plants. What does he even do for a living?
I hear a door squeak behind me and turn to see Matt closing the door to the lab. He has one small vial in his hands, a fuschia-colored liquid inside. He gently holds in one hand while taking the blue latex gloves off the other, then throws the gloves in the trashcan by the door.
He walks toward me and I move to meet him halfway. “That’s it? Out of all the stuff I gave you, this is all it made?”
He shakes his head. “There’s a little bit more, but this is all you need. I’m not even sure I should give you this much,” he says, dangling it in front of his face. “It’s going to be extremely painful, as you read, and it might make something happen to you, but you’ll heal so it’ll be okay. But I’d prepare myself for the pain if I were you.”
I take the vial from him, looking at the liquid in my hands. “So I just drink this and Marcus will no longer be able to control me?”
“Yes, but-” I yank the cork off the vial and force the liquid down my throat before he can stop me, and before I can think about it and scare myself. I drink it too fast to get a taste, and though my throat burns a little, it’s nothing too unpleasant.
I look at Matt. “That wasn’t too b-”
I speak too soon. It suddenly feels as if I’m on fire. Not just my throat: my entire body. It’s like I just drank a gallon of acid that now made into my bloodstream, burning my insides up. My stomach starts retching and my body shakes uncontrollably. Hands trembling, I hold them against my stomach, afraid I’m going to throw-up.
Subconsciously, I notice that Matt is holding up a bottle of water to my mouth, and I recall seeing it on the countertop next to him earlier. I open my mouth and allow some to go down my throat. It brings a brief moment of relief, at least for my throat, but when it’s gone the pain comes back twice as bad.
“Julia, try not to throw it up. If you throw it up it won’t work and this will all be pointless. Don’t throw it up, Julia.”
I don’t process what Matt says to me, but I hear it. With a trembling hand, I reach out to grab the water from him, looking for anything that could bring me relief. But just as abruptly as it came on, it stops. All of it stops. No more pain, no more shaking. When I look at my hand, I see that my claws are out. I must’ve shifted, I think. I wonder if pain is a trigger for me.
Suddenly, I feel my body start moving in a weird way and I can’t control it. It feels as if my body is moving on the inside, though I can’t say that it hurts. I’m aware when I hit the ground, but after that things begin to blur. I feel a slight buzzing sensation and everything feels far away. I can’t even tell what position I’m in on the ground- be it my back, stomach, or side, I don’t know.
Where-where am I? I think, confused. I-I can’t seem to remember anything. I’m not sure what’s going on, or where I am. It's like I'm not even here.
All at once, I go back to something, back to a memory that I didn’t know I had, back to a memory I didn’t know happened at all until this moment. What I see makes no sense to me, but it might later, when I can actually think. All I know right now is that I recognize these people from my memory, but I can’t remember who they are, or what's going.