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By´╝ÜChristine Pope



When Sydney entered the train station, she took one look at my face and pulled me into a hug, her embrace as fierce as it was unexpected. Without saying anything, she picked up my suitcase, while I grabbed my purse and duffle bag from the bench where I’d been sitting. In silence we left the building, heading to where she’d parked her Focus in the small lot just outside. It wasn’t until we were out of downtown and back on the freeway that she finally said, “You want to talk about it?”

All those unshed tears were still a logjam in my throat. I coughed, then shook my head and replied, “What’s to say?”

The headlights of an oncoming car shone on her face briefly before they flicked past. I could see the tight set to her mouth, the worry in her eyes. “Angela — ”

“Later,” I cut in, knowing if I started talking now, I’d break down. And I really didn’t want to have this conversation in her car. We could talk about it when I got home.

Home. What was home? Over the past few months I’d come to think of Connor’s apartment as home, but it wasn’t, not really. The rambling Victorian house waiting for me back in Jerome didn’t feel much like home, either. I hadn’t lived there long enough for it to have become mine yet. I realized then that I’d spent more time at Connor’s place than in the house I’d inherited. No wonder it didn’t exactly call out to me as a welcoming refuge.

But it was the only place I could go, so I let Sydney drive me there, the miles flashing past in silence until at last she pulled up in front of the house and parked there. We retrieved my meager luggage from the trunk and climbed the steps to the front door. It was a dark night, with barely a crescent moon, but I noticed the porch light was on. I frowned; was someone in my house?

Not bothering to hunt through my purse for the key, I laid a hand on the doorknob, willing the deadbolt to unlock itself. Which it did, the door swinging inward with a faint creak.

Sydney stared at me, mouth slightly open. “I’ve never seen you do that before.”

“Well, my powers are a little…stronger…now.” Talk about your understatements. Goddess only knows what Sydney would think if she’d seen the way I’d fought back the wolf-creature that Damon Wilcox had become.

“No kidding.”

The overhead light in the entry was on, too. I scowled up at it, wondering if it had been on the whole time since I left almost three months ago. You’d think someone would have come by to check if that were the case.

But the mystery solved itself when I heard footsteps coming down the hallway toward us. Instinctively, I stepped in front of Sydney, preparing to mount a defense against the unknown intruder if necessary. Then I blinked as I saw my cousin Kirby enter the foyer.

It’s hard to say who was more surprised, him or me. His gray eyes widened, even as I stammered, “K-Kirby?”

“Um, yeah.”

“What are you doing here?”

His expression told me he was thinking exactly the same thing, but he said, “We’ve sort of been taking shifts watching the house. You know, turning the lights off and on, keeping the water running, making sure the pipes didn’t freeze during that bad snowstorm we had back in January.”

I supposed that made some sort of sense. When I left, I’d been so angry at my family and their reaction to Connor that I hadn’t stopped to think what might become of the house if I left it unoccupied indefinitely. “Oh,” I said after a lengthy pause. “Thanks, then.”

Gaze flickering over to Sydney and back to me, he asked, “So…are you home now?”

There was a question I really didn’t want to answer. But word would get out soon enough, and if I had Kirby spreading the news, I wouldn’t have to worry about doing it myself. At the moment, I just wanted to hide in this house for about the next sixty or seventy years. I let out a breath. “Yes, I’m back.” For how long, I have no idea…. Since I didn’t feel like going into it any more than that, I added, “But I’m really tired, so if you aren’t in the middle of anything — ”

“No,” he said quickly. “I mean, I was going to watch a movie, maybe drink a beer, but I hadn’t opened it yet. So I’ll just let myself out.”

Again he looked over at Sydney, almost as if he were expecting her to say something, illuminate the situation somehow, but I could tell she thought this was a family matter and therefore intended to stay out of it. So Kirby didn’t exactly sigh, only went to the hall closet and got out his jacket, then shrugged into it. He paused, studying me carefully, his eyes full of questions. He must have seen that I was not in the mood to answer any of them, because he just said, “’Night, Angela.” He nodded at Sydney, and she gave him a hesitant smile before he went to the door and left.