I looked at the trees long after my sister had disappeared among them. I didn’t like being away from her. We were just reunited. And now she didn’t have Hunter or Grace with her to watch her back. Gunnor was with her, but I didn’t trust him.
“She’s going to be okay,” Grace said as she stood by my side. Her arm wrapped around mine and she put her head on my shoulder.
“Should I have gone with her?” I asked. Except I didn’t think I could stand to be away from Grace either.
“The werewolves won’t hurt her,” Grace said. “She’s safer in there than we are out here.”
“That’s true,” Mason said. All of his focus was on the soup. I didn’t think anyone was listening to me and Grace as everyone sat around the cooking soup, but I was wrong.
“Lily is more than capable of defending herself,” Hunter said.
“Against werewolves though?” I asked. “What if there are werewolf zombies inside.”
“There aren’t,” Alex said.
“How do you know?” Dr. Higgins – Mike- asked.
“We would be able to smell them, sense them,” Mason said. “At least Erik and Salene would and warn the rest of us.”
“How would they warn you if you’re out here?” Richard asked.
Grace tugged at my arm until I followed her to the fire and the others.
“Pack magic,” Alex said, but he didn’t explain further.
“What does that mean?” Monica asked. She looked to Hunter, but he was currently stirring the soup while frowning at Mason who was leaning in too close.
“So werewolves in a pack can communicate telepathically,” Grace said.
“You sound like you weren’t sure,” Alex said.
“We weren’t,” Grace said. She sat shoulder to shoulder with me.
“Our mother taught us what she could,” Hunter said. “But she didn’t have all the information either. She had been shielded growing up. I think the soup is ready.”
He pulled it off the fire. We got out the spoons and passed the soup around. Mason and Alex were just as eager as the rest of us for soup.
“I’m sure you have better food than this back at your werewolf sanctuary,” Hunter said, but didn’t protest as Mason took a large spoonful of soup.
“Sanctuary,” Alex repeated and chuckled as if he found the word itself funny.
“Our pack will feed your people,” Mason said. “You should feed us.” Mason scooted a little closer to Hunter as he handed him the pan.
Hunter scooted away so he was now closer to Richard. He took a spoonful of the soup and passed it to Richard. Mason scooted even closer to Hunter. “Personal space,” Hunter said to him.
Richard took a bite of the soup and passed it to Monica.
Mason leaned in closer. “It wouldn’t bother you though if I was a certain someone who dressed up as a Jedi for Halloween and had mousy, brown hair and glasses.”
I didn’t get the reference, but Richard was instantly on his feet and frowning at Mason. Alex stood to confront Richard, but Mason and Hunter ignored them as they continued their weird exchange.
“No,” Hunter said. “It wouldn’t. And you are definitely not him.” He pushed Mason away. Not hard, just to give himself space.
Mason stared at him a moment longer and then shook his head. He backed off. “You have weird taste in men,” he said.
“Are you talking about Darren?” Mike asked.
“Seriously though,” Mason said. “Him over me?” He stood up and indicated his torso as if it was God’s gift to the world.
Hunter rolled his eyes. “Definitely,” he said.
“You’re gay?” I asked Hunter. Everyone looked at me like I was clueless. Which I was. But I also knew that was going to bruise Lily’s heart. She’d had a crush on Hunter since elementary school.
“You’re gay?” Grace asked Mason.
“He’s bi,” Alex said. He lost interest in staring down Richard and was now watching the pan of soup where it sat forgotten in Mike’s hands.
“Erik would definitely not approve of you and Hunter being together,” Grace said. Her gloved hand took mine.
For the first time Mason looked a little hesitant. “It’s just for fun,” he said. “Nothing serious.” He sat back down next to Hunter.
“Is Darren gay?” Mike asked.
“No,” Hunter and Richard said at the same time. They exchanged glances.
“Darren’s a great guy,” Richard said. “Anyone should be glad if he likes them.” He looked at me.
“Darren likes me?” I asked.
Grace laughed quietly.
“No,” Richard said.
“Then why did you look at me?”
“Nevermind,” Richard said.
“Am I missing something?” I asked Grace.
She smiled at me and it warmed my soul. “I like you,” she said.
I couldn’t help but smile back as she became my sole focus. “I like you too.”
Hunter drew my attention away as he rolled his eyes at both of us. Monica tugged at the sleeve of Richard’s coat and he sat down next to her.
“Are you going to finish that?” Alex asked Mike. Mike looked down at the pan of soup in his hands. Then he offered it to Alex. Alex leaped inhumanly high over the fire, grabbed the pan and brought it to his lips gulping down what was left of the soup. He licked his lips when he was through and handed the now empty pan back to Hunter.
He sat in his spot next to Mason. As soon as he did, both Mason and Alex stiffened. Their heads raised and they sniffed at the air. “They are getting closer,” Alex said.
“Zombies?” Monica asked and we were now all on alert. I let go of Grace’s hand and grabbed my baseball bat.
“No,” Mason said. “I will show you, but move as quietly as you can.”
“I’ll stay at the camp,” Mike said.
“I’ll stay too,” Alex said.
The rest of us got up and followed Mason into the trees.
“Got any more soup?” Alex’s voice trailed from the camp as we left.
We didn’t say anything as we traveled. I tried to make my footsteps as quiet as possible, but unlike Mason, the rest of us couldn’t hide the soft crunch of pine needles and twigs that covered the forest floor. I didn’t know how he remained so quiet as he moved through the forest. Maybe it was werewolf magic.
We traveled quite a ways away from camp before Mason indicated for us to crouch. We moved forward half crawling until we were hidden safely behind trees and the underbrush. After several moments of staying there in silence, I could see men moving through the trees at a distance.
Hunter immediately stiffened. It wasn’t until one of the men spoke that Richard and Monica also stiffened. I hadn’t spoken to him much in high school. He was my sister’s age, but it was Grant’s voice that said, “They are around here somewhere.”
“Are you sure?” a man asked. “You’ve been saying that for days.”
“It’s a big place,” Grant said, “but the people who helped us out are around here. I’m sure our group is big enough to take them out.”
“What happened to that group you were traveling with?” one of the men asked. There were five of them. That wasn’t a big group, but Lily had mentioned a large group of men that should be avoided. Maybe Grant was part of that group.
“They kicked him and his dad out,” one of the other men said. “He hasn’t told us why.”
They all stared at Grant waiting for an answer, but he said, “I’m sure those people that gave us backpacks have a lot of food and supplies. It was around here somewhere.”
That was when I noticed that Monica was shaking. Richard put a hand on her back. Mason indicated with his head we should follow him out. We crawled away until we thought it was safe enough, then we stood. Richard put a comforting arm around Monica’s shoulders. Tears slowly trailed down her cheeks. She hurriedly wiped them away as she leaned into Richard. I had forgotten until that moment that Grant had been Monica’s boyfriend.
By the time we got back to camp, Monica had collected herself. She smiled gratefully at Richard and slid out from underneath his arm.
“Are you alright?” he asked her.
She nodded. “Thank you.”
“So,” Mason said. “Grant and his dad had been traveling with you and now they’re not. They are now traveling with a much larger group of men that are trying to steal our supplies.”
Alex scoffed. “As if humans can take on a pack of werewolves.”
“They don’t know you’re werewolves,” Richard said. “They weren’t with us when we learned vampires and werewolves were real.”
“They also think we’re just a handful of families living in a compound,” Alex said. “They don’t know how many of us there really are.”
Mike sat silent as he watched and listened to our conversation.
“I’m surprised Erik hasn’t ordered them to be driven out of your territory yet,” Grace said.
“That is still in discussion,” Alex said. “For now, they have been staying on the outskirts of our territory.”
“That’s going to change,” Mason said. “They explore a little deeper into our territory every day. If they aren’t careful, we might have to kill them. So, why aren’t Grant and his father traveling with you anymore?”
Hunter and Richard looked at Monica. She folded her arms as if she was hugging herself and said, “There were always disagreements between Grant’s dad and Hunter.”
“That wasn’t the final straw though,” Hunter said. “I could have put up with his idiocy if I had to.”
“We were surprised by a silent zombie,” Monica said. Her arms tightened around herself. “It almost got Grant’s dad, but he grabbed me and threw me at the zombie instead.”
Richard’s hands clenched into fists by his side. “The zombie bit her, but her coat saved her,” he said.
“Grant didn’t even try to save me,” Monica said. “He turned his back.”
“And then Grant’s dad wanted to kill her before we could even confirm if she was bitten or not.”
“That was when we kicked them out,” Hunter said.
“Sounds about right,” Mason said. “If he would throw his own wife to the zombies, who wouldn’t he sacrifice to save himself?”
“But at least that means the group of men is still down in this area and not near the house where the rest of our group is,” Monica said. “So that’s good.”
That was good for my little sister, Mackenzie, but I wasn’t sure what complications that would add to our group.