I love you," he told her, wiping impatiently at the tears that kept trickling down his face. "I couldn't say it before. I couldn't --" He clenched his trembling jaw, trying to control the hot flow of tears. It only made them worse. Giving up, he buried his face in her hair. "Bloody hell," he muttered.Sara had never seen him so undone, had never imagined it possible. Stroking his dark head, she whispered meaningless words, trying to give him comfort."I love you," he repeated hoarsely, burrowing against her. "I would have given my life to have one more day with you, and tell you that.
"I'm sorry," she said. "I only..." She gave a sad twist of a smile. "I only wanted to speak to you. You seemed like such a nice girl." I caught a glimpse of Derek, out of line now, striding over and glowering at the snickering boys. The woman got to her feet and leaned across the table again. "I was very nice talking to you, dear." She put her hand on mine...and it passed through.I leaped to my feet. "I'm sorry," she said again.The look on her face was so sad that I wanted yo say it was okay, it was my fault. But before I could get a word out, she faded away, and then all I could hear was the laughter around me, the mutters of "crazy" and "schizo," and I stood there, rooted to the floor, until Derek took my arm, his grip so soft I could barely feel it. "Come on," he said. "Yeah," the laughing guy called. "I think your girlfriend's day pass has expired." Derek slowly raised his head, lip curling in that too-familiar look. I grabbed his arm. He blinked and nodded. As we turned to go, the other guy at the table chimed in. "Trolling for chicks at the psych ward?" He shook his head. "Now that's desperate."As we passed the front window, I swore every eye inside followed us. I caught a few looks: sympathy, pity, distaste, disgust. Derek moved between me and the window, blocking my view as we walked. "They didn't need to do that," he said. "Those kinds, sure. They're idiots. But the grown-ups should know better. What if you were mentally ill?" He led me around to the parking lot then stopped at the back, under the shadow of the building overhang. "You'll never see them again," he said. "And if they'd treat a real mentally ill person like that, then you shouldn't care what they think. Bunch of morons."
"Derek's a good kid, Chloe. He always has been. Responsible, mature...Kit used to joke that, some days, he'd rather have a dozen of Derek than one of Simon. But the wolf is coming out now, and he's struggling with it. I always told KIt..." He exhaled and shook his head. "The point I'm making is that I know Derek seems like a normal kid."Normal? I could have laughed at that. I don't think anyone ever mistook Derek for a normal kid. "But you need to remember that Derek is different. You need to be careful." I was sick and tired of hearing how dangerous Derek was. Different, yes, but no more than a dozen guys I knew from school, guys who stood out, didn't act like everyone else, followed their own rules. He could be dangerous, with his superhuman strength. But how was he any worse than Tori, with her uncontrollable spells? Tori had a track record of trying to hurt me, but no one except the guys had ever warned me away from her.Unlike Tori, Derek was struggling to control his powers. But no one ever recognized that. They didn't see Derek. All they saw was the werewolf.
"Derek?" I called.No answer.I took a few more steps, then called a little louder, "Derek? Are you out here?" A branch snapped in the woods. I pictured Derek, in the middle of a Change, unable to respond, and hurried toward the forest's edge. The noise stopped and I paused at the end of the path leading in, peering into the dark woods, listening. Another snap. Something like a groan. "Derek? It's me." I stepped in. It took only a few paces for the morning light to fade and darkness to envelop me. "Derek?" I jumped as he rounded a corner down the path. I didn't need full daylight to see the expression on his face at all to know I was in trouble, just the set of his shoulders and he long strides as he bore down on me. "I—" I began. "What the hell are you doing, Chloe? I said we'd come out here later and try to contact that ghost. Key word? We. If you're here—" I lifted my hands. "Okay, you caught me. I was sneaking out on my own, hoping no one would notice. That's why I've been calling your name."
Of the Phoenix kids, the one Derek got along best with was Daniel. In him, Daniel had found a good sparring partner. And a plotting partner, too. Derek wasn’t just the biggest and strongest in our group. He was also the smartest. Scary, off-the-charts smart. That intimidated Daniel a little at first—he’s bright, but he needs to work for his grades. But Derek wasn’t a show-off or a know-it-all, so they got past that and we would hang out together, the two guys, Chloe, and I planning and plotting our future, bouncing ideas off one another.
"You're thinking too much, as usual," I said.A dismissive snort as he got to his feet. He tried running again, and didn't fall, but did more lurching than loping, his legs threatening to tangle at every step. "Apparently this could take a while, so how about you practice and I'll head back to the house—"He darted past me and veered to block my path.I smiled. "I knew that'd work. So as I right? It's better when you act, not think?" A sigh whistled out of his nostrils, condensation hanging in the frigid air. "You hate that, don't you? We should keep a scorecard, see who's right more often: me or you." He rolled his eyes. "Not a chance, huh? You'd never live it down if I beat you. But I am right this time. Your body knows how to move as a wolf. You just need to shut your brain off and let your muscles do their thing."
He pushed to his feet, wobbly, still adjusting to his new center of gravity. He gingerly moved one forepaw, then the next, one rear paw, then the other. He picked up the pace, but still slow as he circled the clearing. A snort, like he'd figured it out, and he broke into a lope, stumbled and plowed muzzle-first into the undergrowth.I stifled a laugh, but not very well. and he glowered at me. "Forget running. A nice, leisurely stroll might be more your speed." He snorted and turned fast. When I fell back, he gave a growling chuckle. "Still can't resist throwing your weight around, can you?" He lunged again. This time I stood my ground and he checked his leap at the last second...and toppled sideways. I didn't hide my laugh that time. He twisted fast, grabbed my pajama leg and wrenched, and down I went. "Bully." He growled a chuckle. I fingered an imaginary tear in my pant leg. "Great. I finally get some pj's and you rip them." He walked over for a better look. I tried to grab his foreleg, but he darted out of my reach and tore across the clearing.
When I finished, Dr. Fellows said, "And this was a vision you had Corey?""Right.""Are you sure?""Huh?" She lowered her voice. "Is it possible that Derek... influenced this vision of yours?""What? No.""Absolutely not," I said. "Derek's the one who cut it short. Accidentally, but still. And if by influence, you mean 'talked us into telling a lie to get everyone out tonight,' then I don't appreciate the insinuation, Dr. Fellows." Her brows shot up to meet her hairline. Tori smirked and leaned back onto her pillow. "Well, Maya, I don't know you yet, so you'll forgive me if I question you.""I don't blame you. You don't know us. But you do know Derek and, sorry, but persuasion doesn't seem to be the guy's strong suit.""She has a point, Lauren," Tori said.Dr. Fellows shot her a look, which Tori met with a cool gaze. "Also," Tori said, "I really think you'd know your niece better than that. I wouldn't put it past Derek to lie to get us out of here, but no way would Chloe let him pull others into the scheme."
"Talk to Simon. He's the one who thinks...""Thinks what?" Step. Block. "Thinks what?""That there's someone else," I blurted before I could stop myself. I took a deep, shuddering breath. "He thinks there's someone else.""Who?" I was going to say "I don't know. Some guy from school, I guess." But Derek's expression said he already knew the answer. The look on his face...I'd been humiliated before, having Simon accuse me of liking Derek, but that was nothing compared to how I felt when I saw Derek's look. Not just surprise, but shock. Shock and horror. "Me?" he said. "Simon said he thinks you and I are—""No, not that. He knows we aren't—""Good. So what does he think?""That I like you." Again, the words flew out before I could stop them. This time, I didn't care. I'd completely humiliated myself, and now I was just empty and ashamed. All I wanted was to get him out of my way, and if telling him that made him run in terror, then good.But he didn't run. He just stared at me, and that was worse. I felt like the biggest loser at school, admitting to the coolest guy that she liked him. He stood there gaping like he must have heard me wrong.
"Now, do I dare ask what you guys are doing hiding out up here? Or is it going to make me jealous?" Simon was smiling as he said it, but Derek glanced away with a gruff "Course not.""So you weren't having another adventure?" Simon lowered himself on my other side, so close he brushed against me, hand resting on mine. "It sure looks like a good spot for one. Rooftop hideaway, old widow's walk. That is what that is, huh? A widow's walk?""Yeah. And it's rotting, so stay off it," Derek said. "I did. So, adventure?""A small one," I said. "Oh, man. I always miss them. Okay, break it to me gently."
The door slapped shut, sound echoing as Derek marched across the yard, dead on target.I looked around, desperate for an escape route, but there was none. Go forward and deal with Derek, or run back toward Simon and have to deal with both of them. I kept walking. "Where's Simon?" he snapped.Relief washed through me. I didn't trust myself to speak, so I just pointed back to the woods. "He left you? Out here? At night?""He dropped something," I mumbled, trying to get past him. "He isn't far." Without a sound, he was right in front of me, blocking my path "You're crying?" he said. "No, I—" I tore my gaze away. "Just dust. From the path. Simon's that way." I tried to pass him, but he stooped, trying to get a look at my face. When i wouldn't let him, he caught my chin. I jerked back, flinching at his touch, heart thudding at it, too.I told myself Simon was wrong. I'd never be dumb enough to fall for Derek. But I had. With him so close, my stomach kept doing weird little flips. It wasn't fear. It hadn't been fear for a while. "You've have been crying," he said, voice softer. Then his breath caught, the growl coming back as he snapped, "What did Simon—?" He bit off the words, cheeks reddening like he was embarrassed even to think Simon might be responsible.