You were never meant to grow up in a city like this. Our kind stays together for a reason.”
I could hear what Kieran was saying, but I was struggling to fully grasp it.
The words kept swimming around in my head. An explanation that seemed too impossible to believe. And yet, at the same time, what he was saying somehow made sense.
He was right. I wasn’t human. A part of me had always known that, dating back to when I was a child. I was never like the other kids at the house. Turning eighteen had just manifested that part of me in the form of a beast.
So… was this what had been missing then? I was a werewolf? Like In those scary stories?
Like… in those monster movies…?
“…How do I make it go away?” I asked after a few moments, my voice barely louder than a whisper. “How do I stop being… a werewolf? To be normal?”
“Raven… it’s a part of who you are. There isn’t any way to remove it.”
“But I don’t want to live with this burden of losing control at any moment,” I argued. “I can’t afford to have slips when things go wrong, or have this constantly interfering with every little thing I do. I’m living in a nightmare every time I lapse.”
He took another few cautious steps towards me but I didn’t back away this time. With every word he spoke, my resolve to push him away faded a little bit more. It was as though his presence had a soothing effect on me and I couldn’t deny that I needed that right now.
“…It doesn’t have to be a curse,” he said slowly.
“I can help you manage it. You didn’t grow up learning about the things you needed to… but I can teach you. It’s not too late.”
He held out a hand to me, as if inviting me to take it. Offering me something that no one else had ever before.
A chance to live my life without fear.
…But what would it cost me?
“I just need you to trust me, Raven,” he said, making my gaze shift from his hand to his eyes.
Familiar. There was familiarity when I looked at him, the same feeling I’d experienced when I first met him. As if I’d always known him. Whatever this reaction to him was, it was strong enough to sway every behaviour in my life.
If I believed him and accepted that this influence wasn’t due to foul intervention, then did that mean that my body had been telling me to trust him this whole time? That it was recognising in him the same condition I was born with? Was that just a normal connection between what we were?
However, getting close to someone was dangerous. Especially someone who I was meant to have investigated and then disappeared from entirely. If my father found out about this….
…But wouldn’t my father be just as upset if I continued to fail because of what I was?
Medications, strict daily routines and punishments had been the only’ solutions’ given to me up until now. Solutions that clearly didn’t work since it continued to happen regardless.
Kieran wasn’t pretending to offer me a solution, filling my head with false promises if I kept conforming to the rules. He was offering me a way to take back control despite that very issue plaguing me. A way to learn how to harness it instead.
“…Will I be able to stop the blackouts from happening?” I asked carefully, taking a slow step towards him.
“And the sickness? Will I stop wanting to throw up every time it’s about to happen?”
His brow furrowed slightly at what I said.
“…Blackouts? I can’t say I’ve heard of that being a common symptom… but it’s possible you’ve been fighting against yourself too much.
The more you try to stop the shift from happening, the more painful and uncontrollable the whole process is. I can walk you through it and help you so that it won’t happen.”
He sounded so genuine that I wanted to believe him. In fact, it was increasingly becoming harder to deny those feelings inside, the ones urging me to just run to him already.
But it was those very feelings that brought me here today. I still needed answers.
“…And this… thing… between us. These feelings…,” I vaguely said, my cheeks starting to burn a little. I was used to faking romantic interest in people, but this was different.
It was an uncomfortable new situation for me. “…The stuff you spoke about at the charity event before I left.”
“The sparks?” he clarified.
“Right…,” I agreed, trying to push through it. “So, if you really didn’t drug me, then is this a normal thing between our kind? Is that how you recognise others who are the same?”
Now it was his turn to shuffle a little uncomfortably.
“Ah, well, no, not exactly… that’s a bit of a complicated question,” he fumbled as he looked around the room awkwardly.
But this was something that had been bothering me since the day we met. I needed to know If there was a way to manage this too so I could stop becoming so overwhelmed.
“Is there a way to make it stop?” I pressed when he still didn’t answer.
…That seemed to be the wrong question to ask.
His eyes immediately snapped back to my own, a look on his face that I was struggling to decipher. It was serious… but there was something else there too.
“…Did you want it to stop?” he asked.
And I felt as an ache pulsed in my chest, the question bringing with it a wave of distress I hadn’t expected.
So much connection to someone I didn’t even know. Surely, this couldn’t be healthy. It was far stronger than anything I’d ever felt before, a gravitation pull around him that was so hard to ignore. Was he also feeling the same thing I was? I couldn’t be the only one who found this frustrating.
But then another question came to mind, taking me by surprise.
…Did I even want the feelings to go away? Truly?
It was at that very thought that my head then started to burn up again, my headache returning.
I shook it a bit, trying to get over it, but ended up wincing involuntarily and touching my temple.
“Hey, you okay?” I heard him ask. but I wasn’t able to focus. “You’re probably overwhelming yourself too much for one day.”
That was probably true. I’d spent the last few days in a basement. My body was worn out and still recovering.
“Hey,” he said again, though I still didn’t reply.
Suddenly, he was right in front of me, his hands softly moving mine out of the way so he could lift my face up to look at him.
“…Are you alright?” he repeated, feeling my head for a temperature.
His touch was so unbelievably soothing. Within seconds, I felt as the burning started to ease, and I shakily exhaled in relief.
So much had happened today. So much stress, confusion and confliction. I must have been pushing myself too hard.
Wait… today… today….
I’d completely forgotten about Noah in the cupboard.
“I-I’m alright,” I said, though failing to hide the slight falter in my tone. ” But I need to leave. I have someone waiting for me. Before I go though… I just need to know one more thing.”
A part of me didn’t want to, but I gently took a step away so I was out of his reach. His scent and warmth were already far too tempting.
“I ah… I need to know how to shut out the voices,” I said. “I can’t seem to go through with what I need to do, almost as though it’s a mental block physically stopping me.”
“…What do you mean by?”
I felt something vibrating and reached into my pocket to grab it, finding the burner phone I’d brought with me. With a jolt of surprise, I saw the number flash across the screen and recognised it immediately.
“Sony… I have to take this…,” I said turning around, and proceeded to hit the ‘answer button.
“Hello? Rae?” the voice on the other end asked.
Clearing my throat, I tried to sound as natural as possible.
“The boss said you had a job tonight but you didn’t call yet. It’s been a few hours. Is everything okay?”
Of course, lac would think it was strange. He was meant to be cleaning up a dead body by now. A body that was still very much breathing.
“I, uh, I had to postpone,” I lied, conscious of the fact that Kieran could hear me. “The client wasn’t home so I said I’d come back later. I should be heading there soon.”
“What? Rae, I thought—.”
“I’m actually just talking with someone right now,” I stressed, praying that he’d pick up on what I was trying to tell him. If he said something incriminating. then it would make this more complicated than it needed to be. “I promise to call you once I have more news.”
“Bye, Zac.” And I quickly hung up.
‘If there was a god out there; I silently thought to myself, ‘please don’t let Zac tell my father about my odd absence.’
But the phone call brought yet another problem with it.
“And what exactly do you do for work that keeps you busy until almost one o’clock in the morning?” came Kieran’s voice behind me.
Immediately, I froze at the question.
‘Espionage’, ‘assassination’, and ‘kidnapping, were the first job descriptions I thought of, but I kept that to myself. For obvious reasons.
“…I work for my father’s business,” I replied loosely, slowly turning back around to face him. “Deadlines wait for no one, especially when there are millions of dollars on the line.”
That sounded business enough to be believable. And it was probably somewhat true too… in some way, shape or form.
“Funny how barely anyone knows Eric Reid even has a daughter,” he said.
I looked down and saw Zac’s number flashing on the screen again.
“I have to go,” I repeated, taking a few steps back to leave.
But Kieran reached into his pocket and grabbed something.
“Wait,” he said quickly. “Take this. Come find me when you’re ready.”
I looked down and saw a hotel room keycard. Number one hundred and fifty. Pretty sure that was a penthouse level or similar for a building this size.
“It’s a spare. Just use it to get past security and say you’re with me.”
Hesitantly, I reached out and grabbed it, but as I went to pull it away. he held onto it for a moment as he continued to speak.
“I’m only going to be in town for a little bit longer,” he added. “If you really want to find out more about what you are and agree to let me help you… you know where to find me. Just don’t leave it too late to make the decision. I’m not sure when I’ll be able to come back to Lockdale City again.”
My gaze lingered for a moment, meeting those eyes of his that held me in place so easily, before, finally, he let go of the keycard.
What would happen once he went home? Was that what he meant earlier by saying ‘our kind stays together for a reason’? Was he saying that I might never see him again?
“Thanks…,” I said, still in thought. “I’ll keep that in—.”
I was quickly becoming more certain that someone was going to be killed tonight and, at this rate, it was going to be Zac.
I sighed and looked back up one last time towards Kieran, a part of me not wanting to leave despite the situation. But I knew it needed to be done.
“Until next time,” I said, not wanting to say goodbye.
And I quickly exited the building before I completely chickened out, heading through a side door into an alleyway.
“WHAT?” I answered a little too angrily. “Do you have any idea how close you were to blowing my cover?’
I fast-walked through the alley, back towards where I could see the main street up ahead. With any luck, it wouldn’t take long to hail another taxi.
“What’? What do you mean ‘what?” Zac replied annoyed. “Do you have any idea how close I was to calling the boss?”
That took me by surprise, making me pause a second. “Why?”
“I thought you’d been caught and were being forced to answer the phone. You were talking weird.”
“Please tell me that you didn’t call him,” I said. “Please, Zac.”
“No! No,” he said hastily. “But what the hell is going on? Was the body found already?”
This was going to be too difficult to explain and it was something that I wouldn’t be able to do alone, no matter how much I hated that thought.
And so I gritted my teeth, saying something I never in a million years thought I would ever be saying.
“Zac… I need your help,” I said begrudgingly. And, internally, I sighed, regretting this decision already.