“So," Stark said after the door swung shut behind us, “let's talk about Kimberly."
He started off down the sidewalk, hands in his pockets, and I followed. Even though he was only wearing a t-shirt, the cold didn't seem to bother him.
“What about her?" I asked.
“Her first full moon is coming up soon, isn't it?"
“Oh," I said, the reminder making me stop in my tracks, “yeah."
“The first change is never easy," he told me without stopping. I had to jog to catch back up to him.
“Yeah, I know," I replied, shivering when I recalled that night.
“It always hurts the first time. Your body is doing something it's never had to do before. After that, it becomes a lot easier. Look at you, you're doing it at will now. But the first time…"
I bit my lip, imagining it happening to Kimberly. Stark was right. The first time I'd changed, it had felt like my entire body was being melted down into a liquid. My muscles had shifted, but that hadn't been as bad as the bones. Think about a blob of silly putty, and the way it stretches and bends. Now imagine that happening to your bones. Bones aren't supposed to do something like that, and when they do it can be enough to drive you insane.
But Stark was right about the other changes, too. The second time I changed, it hadn't hurt at all. My body had somehow accepted that it was supposed to completely reshape itself, and my bones and muscles were able to turn into silly putty on command. If Kimberly could get through her first change, it would all be downhill from there. But if she didn't…
I shook my head, deciding to worry about that later. “What's your point?" I asked.
“My point is that Kimberly needs to be around supportive people when that happens. Those dimwits in your pack couldn't care less about her. Being with them on her first change would be a disaster."
“I changed my first time without any help," I said, almost without realizing it.
Stark nodded. “And I'll be honest, I'm surprised by how well you're doing these days. It says a lot about how strong you are."
I found myself blushing, and turned away so he wouldn't see. I watched the cars race past for a couple minutes as we continued to walk before turning back to him again.
“On the day before her first full moon," he said, as if there hadn't been a break in the conversation at all, “bring her to me. We'll provide her the atmosphere she needs for transformation."
I looked at him in shock. “Wh- really?"
He nodded. “I've had plenty of experience guiding new wolves through their first moon. I'm certain that, with the two of us, she'll make it through just fine."
I looked down at my feet, my thoughts a whirlwind of confusion and suspicion. I didn't trust Stark, not by a long shot. Coming out here alone to meet him had been a huge leap of faith. Now he wanted to bring Kimberly into it? No way. But at the same time, I wanted to trust him. His eyes were able to see right through me, I was sure of that. But there was still kindness in them. Genuine kindness. The kind that I'd been in short supply of ever since being bitten six months ago.
“I'll think about it," I answered at last.
“You don't trust me," Stark nodded again. “I understand. Don't blame you. Take some time to think about it. Get back to me when you've decided."
“How will I find you?"
“When you have an answer for me, I'll know. And I'll come to you."
I nodded my agreement, and we walked in silence for a while. I followed him, having no idea where he was taking me, but also not caring much. As we walked, I thought. Things gradually began to come together in my mind, like puzzle pieces. I took a sudden, deep breath when the last piece fell into place- all of them fitting together so perfectly that there was no denying it.
“I think I know who you are," I said softly when he turned around to look.
“Hm," he said, putting his hands back in his pockets. “Do you, now?"
“You knew I was a Silverblood," I answered, reciting all the conclusions I'd just come to. “You knew about Kimberly being a Silverblood. You knew where to find me. You're so interested in both me and her."
Stark raised his eyebrows. “And?" he prompted me.
I whispered my response, “You're the Silverblood that attacked me and my father."
For a full minute we just stood there facing each other. I had no idea what was going to come next. Would he be angry that I'd figured it out? Would he take back his offers to help? Would he… would he kill me to keep his secret safe?
The long, tense silence grew heavier until I thought I would collapse underneath it. Finally he tilted his head toward me.
“Is that what you think?" he asked.
I couldn't speak, so I just nodded.
“An interesting conclusion," he mused, but that was all he said.
“Majestic asked me to help them capture you," I said. “They're setting up a trap tomorrow night."
Immediately, I clapped my hands over my mouth, horrified. Why had I just told him that? I'd just ruined their whole plan! He wouldn't come anywhere near me now!
“I see," he replied. “And do you plan on helping them?"
I nodded. “Hendricks has my mother. They said they'd help me get her back if I helped them catch you."
He nodded solemnly. “Family is important. You do what you have to do. I'll be seeing you soon."
Stark reached up to his brow, like he was tipping a hat, and then turned and walked away. I stood where I was, completely breathless and terrified. What would happen now? There was no way he'd come within a mile of me tomorrow, knowing what Majestic and I were planning. Maybe not ever again. What was I going to do? Not only did I have my mother to worry about, but now the night of Kimberly's first change weighed on me as well.
It wasn't for another couple minutes that I realized Stark had led me back to the road the Swag Pag lived on.
NEXT TIME: Wuh oh, Amber definitely let the cat out of the bag there, didn't she? Or... wolf out of the... She spilled the beans. What now? How will she catch Stark if he's wise to the trap? And who will help Kimberly through her first change?