I hate getting shot.
I had taken a stray bullet to my right arm a few patrols ago. Supernatural creatures, we call them myths, are still commons. Their lives are enhanced, or burdened, with supernatural features.
Would you believe guardians are occasionally called to settle disputes between myths who cling to old rivalries? I used to hate being a Keeper in gang territory. Luckily for us, we were moved out of the War Zone district – it’s an inside joke – and left the warring myths to be calmed down by some other guardian pack. As of September, we officially deal with mad myths only, not myths who turn back to their common roots and familiar pains.
My eyes focus on my hair and I bit my lip hard, eyes narrowing. Why won’t this curl–
I scowl, “Fuck me,” as I pull my hand away from my hair. I shake out my right arm, wincing as the familiar pain resurfaces. My eyes go to my hair just to see one curl falling out of place, flopping over. It lays between my eyebrows like a wet noodle. It’s a good thing I’m patient.
I look away from the mirror to find my best friend, blond, blue-eyed, and lean Isaac St. Clair peeking in on me. Isaac can wear everything but sweats. He smiles at me, fully dressed in the Keeper getup: the (usually) black jacket and blue jeans.
The jeans are made of Skin (what Ty, my leader, calls werewolf skin) and they fit like ordinary jeans. The jackets fit well, too, despite the thin but tough werewolf skin on the outside. Both the jeans and jackets are lined on the inside with werewolf fur to help us stay warm during battle as we lose blood. The Skin jacket resembles a leather jacket more than your casual jackets made of cotton. A Keeper would literally freeze to death in those. Cotton is useless when it comes to going on patrols.
“What’s up?” I ask as I grab the gelled curl and shove him in place with the rest. I reach for the blow dryer and arch an eyebrow at Isaac.
He’s second tallest of us all, beaten only by Ty, and he leans against the door frame while I aim the hot air on the curls above my forehead. His fair blond, platinum-streaked, hair covers his eyebrows and almost shields his clear, pale blue eyes. I don’t know how he can deal with his hair in his face like that. He is rubbing the lenses of his glasses clean with a small chunk of his shirt. He almost never wears them. Being marked with pure moonshine enhances eyesight and it takes a while for it to wear off after a patrol. We had been on call a few days ago, so it’s been long enough for Isaac’s eyesight to go bad again.
I cut the dryer off, wincing at the heat, and touch the gelled curls. They’re in place. I look over at Isaac. “What’s up, Clair?” I ask as I unplug the blow dryer and place it on the counter.
Isaac shrugs. “I hear Lucy’s going to be there. Harper told me.”
His words stop me cold. I gaze at him as I process this. Luciana Snow, one of my childhood best friends, has been gone since she was nine. She left for Common World after Alex died. Alexia was my older sister and she had been appointed to be the leader of our group after Cynthia Lentwood, Lucy’s godmother, retired from Keeper life in 2003. In 2007, we were attacked by werewolves on the way to throw Cynthia a surprise dinner and for the only time in my life, we were completely unprepared to take them out.
Alexia died that night and the group struggled to stay together for the next three years before finally splitting in 2010. Lucy’s parents realized they could only stomach one of their children being a Keeper, and they decided that Lucy had to move in to Common World with Cynthia the year before the group split up.
“What for?” I ask, turning back to the mirror to stare through it. My hair is the least of my concerns now. “Is she . . . ?” I trail off, unable to complete the thought. My stomach churns, almost overpowering the urge to smile. Part of me doesn’t even want to consider it.
“I don’t know.” Isaac murmurs. “The marks are fading again, making her remember things. At least, that’s what Cynthia is telling us.”
“Figures.” I say. “Cynthia should have used pure moonshine. Weak moonshine is, well, weak.”
“If I was supposed to keep someone from knowing about werewolves and whatnot, I would use pure moonshine, too.” Isaac says. I glance at him to see him pull away from the doorframe to cross his arms. His eyes lazily drift over to me and he shrugs. “I guess she hoped that Lucy would know the truth one day.”
I tuck my hands into my pockets and turn to Isaac. “Do you think she’ll ever tell Lucy about us?”
Isaac opens his mouth to speak when I hear Constance’s voice calling us into the living room. Isaac turns to go and I follow him into the living room.
Constance Digby is standing in the middle of the room, her arms crossed. She must have left the gym a short while ago. The skin of her dark-skinned arms is taut with strained muscles. The moonshine blue highlights in her permed, black hair are glowing against her dark skin. She usually wears tank tops with her Skin jacket when she’s on call. She hasn’t thrown on the Skin jacket for now and the muscles in her arms ripple with every movement. I wish my arms could beef up like that.
“Let me get my coffee first,” Clementine Lovell says as she shuffles from the girls’ hallway.
Clementine rubs hard at her dark brown eyes before jogging past me to the kitchen. “Sup, Chambers,” Clem says as she passes me, her silky black hair flying all over the place as she skids to a halt on the tile. She wears her hair in a short bob cut similar to Constance’s. The haircut makes both of them look badass to me.
“Clem, how do you make it on no sleep?” I ask, my voice soft with concern, as Clementine gets on her tiptoes to open the top cabinet.
“Pure will.” Clementine says, turning her head to stick her tongue out at me, waving off my concern.
I roll my eyes and turn to look at the rest of the group as they file in. Most of the group members aren’t here, like Harper Anthony, for example. When Lucy left, she had been too devastated to just let her live life without us, as we all were. Spencer Newmont, back when he was in our Circle, and Harper made a deal with their parents to enroll in Common World to keep an eye on Lucy. Harper is still at Sutton High with Lucy, pretending to be a common and Spencer graduated from Sutton High a year ago. He stayed with us over the summer until he decided to become an Elite shortly before autumn.
An Elite is powerful Keeper, much more so than your average Keeper. They act as the president’s secret service and undergo special training, while also serving in Lunar Territory as a magical version of Common World’s National Guard. I hardly see them around Lakevale, but I know they’re here, looking out for stray hellhounds and whatnot.
Back when Emerson Snow, we all call him Emery, was part of our Circle, he used to shift into a Jack Russell Terrier and wait for Lucy to get off the bus at Cynthia’s house throughout her middle school years. Now that he’s an Elite, we hardly ever see him, but I know he still checks on Lucy. I like to think Emery and Spencer hang out after they’re done with their duties for the day. Clementine and I used to stop by Cynthia’s house every other weekend or so when we were fifteen, but we stopped doing so after we had our initiation ceremonies at sixteen.
“Ow! Enrique!” is accompanied by two heavy thuds and laughter.
“That’s your own fault!”
“Whose fault is that?” Romeo Martinez taunts his older twin.
Enrique bursts into the living room, a fresh cut by his dark brown eyes. He turns and ducks as a dove comes flying at him and vanishes after it misses. The sight of blood against his warm-toned skin makes my mouth dry and I avert my eyes to the ground for a moment. I never liked the sight of blood, not after Alex died.
“Palomas?” Enrique taunts, doubling over to laugh.
Romeo runs into the living room and lunges at Enrique. “I’ll show you palomas!”
Enrique and Romeo crash onto the floor and roll against coffee table, still laughing, before they roll the other way, towards the couch. You can blame their roughhousing on the fact that they’re both true shifters, half human and half werewolf. The werewolf side comes from their father being a shifter. He chose a werewolf as his shift back when he was training as a Keeper and there you have it: the Martinez Brothers. It’s a touchy subject for them, unfortunately for curious Keepers like Isaac.
I look over at Constance to see her roll her eyes at the twins, fighting a smile. “That’s enough, you two.”
Romeo sits up, straddling Enrique, and squirms off of him, a smug on his face. “I win.” Of the two of them, I would say he is the least serious and most charismatic, thanks to his laidback, comedic nature. He also knows the most Spanish, between the two of them.
Enrique sits up, his face scrunching up with pain, before he looks over at Romeo. “I think you bruised something.”
“Just your ego.” Romeo grins, fangs flashing. “You’ll survive.”
“Did they break the table again?” The sound of Bridget’s voice makes me look in the living room. Bridget Lockridge leans against the plump, lush armchair, patting her damp, chestnut brown hair with a towel. Most of her skin is covered in tiny, bubble-like scars.
Bridget is one of the few Keepers who scars after dealing with vampire blood. It’s an allergic reaction that all Keepers get from coming in contact with the blood. Vampire blood isn’t hot enough to do the damage that venom can, but both hurt considerably when they come in contact with your skin. The venom can give you third degree burns while the blood only feels like hot water. Luckily for most Keepers, the blisters heal within a minute or two, without having to pop or leaving behind scars. Bridget’s scars remind me of the residue soap bubbles leave on your skin when you pop them after they land on you.
“No, the table is fine.” Clementine calls from the kitchen. “You want some coffee?”
“Yes, please,” Bridget leaves the armchair to walk into the kitchen. “I just woke up from a hardcore nap. How do you manage, Clem?”
“Pure will,” Clementine says with a smile.
“Where’s Ty?” Isaac asks beside me. I look over at him to see him plop down on the couch. Isaac looks around and counts on his fingers. “We’re missing some people.”
“Alan and Ty are still at the gym.” Constance says. “Zach is still in the infirmary and Harper is still at school. I think Elsa is knocked out in her room.”
Zachary Markinswell is my cousin. He suffered a bad blow to the head on the last patrol. Darcy, the nurse assigned to our circle and a few others, said he was doing fine when I went to check on him last night. He was knocked out cold.
Clementine and Bridget walk over to us, both holding cups of coffee. Knowing Clem, her cup is already half empty. Romeo and Enrique are now sitting on the bean bags in front of the fireplace. Romeo’s fangs haven’t vanished just yet. Guess the play-fighting got his blood pumping.
I take a seat by the bar and Constance’s eyes go to me. They linger on me for a moment before she looks over at Clementine. “You good and caffeinated?”
Clementine nods with a big smile, making me chuckle along with the others.
Constance nods in approval and uncrosses her arms. “Well, you all know Opal’s party is in a few nights. Even though she and Walker retired shortly after the incident, they still want to help Keepers out. They’re still going to live in Common World, under the usual common façade, but President Snow is enlisting their house as a hideaway, with their consent.”
Hideaway, meaning a place where Keepers can restock on weapons and get some one-time use Angel’s Pens and crystals. Cynthia and Alvaro run one of these in Middle Grounds right in Cynthia’s home. Even though Lucy lives with Cynthia, she’s still clueless as to what Cynthia really does as a living because Lucy is marked with a Blind and Purge mark. Lucy can’t cross over to Middle Grounds and see Keepers, and even if she did, thanks to the Purge mark, she won’t remember doing so.
And the incident is what we call the night my sister was killed.
“Lucy is going to be there.” Constance says, her voice grabbing my attention. “Now as far as I know, Lucy is going to the party under the impression that it’s a common teen throwing the party, not a retired Keeper. If you interact with her, don’t mention anything about Lunar Territory, Keeper life, none of that, until Cynthia gives us the green light. I don’t think she’s told Lucy anything. Understood?”
We all nod. Easy enough. My lower lip trembles as Lucy’s nine year old smile comes to mind. A rush of wistfulness makes me smile and I hide my quivering lips by rubbing the corner of my mouth.
“Good.” Constance says. “We’ve got a few hours until the party. President Snow is aware of his daughter’s presence at the party and his orders are mine for now: Don’t seek Lucy out.”
I nod along with the others and feel a grimace twist my face. Constance looks over at me and arches her eyebrows without a word. I nod more firmly and focus on making my face blank.
“Dismissed.” Constance says. “Don’t go too far.”
I linger in the living room while everyone else scatters. Constance leaves base with Bridget, muttering something about buying more groceries. Isaac leaves base as well, most likely going to the library. Clementine disappears into her room and the Martinez Brothers vanish after sending me a wave. They’re probably going to finish what they started at the Tree – our hangout spot since childhood and a place Lucy hasn’t seen for nine years.
I reach for the remote on the bar and turn on the TV, trying to force Lucy into the back of my mind.
My stomach twists. I haven’t seen her in years.