Edward and Teritt followed my dad as he walked in the direction of the living room and the third boy stepped into the doorway. This guy looked 17/18, had very dark brown hair and equally shaded eyes, and, tall and fairly well-built, cut an imposing figure against the rectangle of landscape visible beyond the door. What struck me especially was that he was magnificently handsome - even more so than gorgeous-eyed Teritt.
I gazed up into his eyes and thought I detected a slight increase in the intensity of his own gaze but the change was so barely perceptible that I could have imagined it.
"So you're Lor, are you?" I asked, and I felt I had to lower my voice to ensure I didn't ruin the atmosphere.
"Yes," he replied, his expression unfathomable.
"I'm Penny," I told him quietly, as though it were a great act to introduce myself to him.
His mouth twitched but my gaze didn't move from his eyes.
I fancied that our eyes were the anchors of this subtle tension - though it was a pleasurable tension, I admit: bizarre though that may seem.
"The Alpha sent you," I said unnecessarily.
He inclined his head.
"Top dog," I murmured: the words I had used earlier.
"Top dog," he agreed.
I lapsed into silence. His eyes intensified but noticeably this time, like he was allowing me to view the action, to see what my reaction would be - or alternatively like he had lost control of his ability to hide his feelings. I began to try to compete with him, staring unwaveringly for what felt like an hour but could've only been seconds.
I was suddenly struck by the thought that maybe Lor didn't like to be challenged. I relaxed slightly, allowing his eyes to be more powerful than mine.
It was the right thing to do. Sparks began travelling in the air between us, invisible but tangible as rain or snow. I started to feel like my heart was melting and I almost desired to collapse so Lor would catch me. As if reading my mind, he stepped forwards, closing the space between us. I dropped the grocery bag. Nothing in it was breakable.
I noticed that my chest was rising and falling faster and then I noticed that his shoulders were doing the same. I felt his hand, though it hovered in the air, not touching the right-hand side of my waist.
I leant in towards him, driven by an unknown force, rolling onto my toes as if the knowledge of the motion were innate within me, and the sparks crackled with electricity and he was leaning down to my face...
Our mouths would have met if hadn't been for the cough behind us.
I turned to see Edward standing by the door to the living room.
"I am sorry," he said quietly, "but Mr Howler would have come if I hadn't insisted on doing so myself."
With briskness that almost broke my heart, Lor said, "Of course. I shouldn't have kept Penny so long."
I observed that he had withdrawn his arm so it was back by his side - another thing that pained me.
"You didn't keep me," I murmured.
He cast me an all-too-brief glance: his expression once more unfathomable; before walking away to join Edward. Sighing, I closed the door and picked up the bag of groceries, feeling numb where I wasn't sad.
It took me a few seconds to realise that I had no idea of what had come over me. Why did I suddenly desire to kiss - and to kiss passionately, at that - someone I had never spoken to in my entire life? I couldn't imagine, either, why he should want to kiss me.
"What took so long?" Dad asked as I entered the room behind Edward and Lor.
"Oh... I thought I'd seen Lor somewhere before," I said lamely.
"But we ascertained she hadn't," Lor added so that Dad wouldn't need to ask.
I sat on an armchair while Dad gestured for the boys to be seated on the sofa. I put the bag of groceries at my feet.
"So what's a Moon Child?" I queried, trying to forget what had just happened.
"A werewolf," Lor answered simply.
I laughed. "No, really."
Edward smiled. "He really means it."
I looked to Dad to see what his reaction was. I was shocked to find no amusement or surprise within his still slightly dazed expression.
"You're not honestly telling me werewolves are real," I said, looking around the room in search of reason.
I couldn't find it. Everyone seemed fully convinced that Lor was telling the truth. Like they'd say exactly the same thing if I asked them.
"Sorry," Edward said, after a long silence during which no one really knew what to say. The only person who didn't seem awkward was Lor.
Edward stood up and walked over to kneel before me, gazing up into my eyes.
"When you know, it's hard to remember how you yourself reacted to the news. Your dad, Teritt, Lor and I couldn't be worse at empathising with you. Even if we tried."
"I'm sure you don't try," I said, looking straight back into the crystals that formed his gaze. They were so clear and full of sympathy.
"Would you like me to turn for you?"
"Don't you need a full moon for that?" I asked dubiously.
He shook his head.
"Though I prefer to transform at night, I can change at any time I want."
"And you'd do so now for me?" I asked, my voice hushed with awe at his utter loveliness.
Edward nodded, still wearing his warm, comforting smile. Glancing backwards at my dad, he asked, "Are you okay with me changing so your daughter can see?"
Dad nodded slowly.
"Just do it outside," he said distantly. "My wife would throw a fit if you changed indoors."
Edward rose to his feet and held out a hand. I took it as I slowly stood up.
I walked to the sliding doors in one wall of the room and opened them, leading Edward out into the part of the grounds on one side of the house.
There, Edward let go of my hand and walked forwards, stopping in a space between an apple and a pear tree.
"You might want to look away while I actually do the transforming," Edward suggested. "I'll bark when I'm a wolf."
"Okay," I said, and I turned around, keeping my eyes on the brick of the mansion. Two minutes later I heard a noise similar to a dog's bark but wilder, more suited to a forest than the vicinity of a human residence.
I turned back to see a gorgeous wolf standing where Edward had just been. The wolf had thick, shaggy fur, a few shades darker than Edward's hair and irises the same colour as his, which looked like sky-coloured glass. It was slightly frightening to see such an animal so close, in a tamed, human environment but ...Edward sat and regarded me calmly as I tentatively approached him, needing to touch his fur to check that he was real...
His fur was warm and coarse: fully substantial beneath my fingers.
"How do I accept this, Edward?" I whispered. "How do I accept that ... that Moon Children are real? And ... how can I accept that I'm one?" A worrying thought suddenly struck me. "Could I turn on the spot?"
Edward shook his head. He looked into my eyes and seemed to communicate reassurance, settling my other fears too.
"I won't be left to deal with it on my own, will I?" I murmured.
He shook his head fiercely. The spoken equivalent would have been "Of course not!"
I smiled at him.
"Thank you, Edward," I whispered. I turned back around so he could change into a human.
In a minute he had transformed and was walking up to me. He patted my shoulder comfortingly.
"You get used to it," he promised.
He withdrew his hand. I turned towards him, fascinated by the absence of obscurity in his eyes.
"You're so kind," I told him.
Edward smiled. "Your pack is like your siblings. We're inviting you to join the pack so I might as well treat you like my sister."
My smile widened.
"You're more than so kind," I amended.
"It's a good thing Teritt's not here," he said. "He'd accuse you of flirting with me."
"Perhaps I am," I joked.