Ed's words echoed infuriatingly in my mind as I got off the bus that afternoon. My comments about going to a stupid Larp had staved of Stacey's questions for the rest of the day, but what the little twerp had said haunted me anyway. Majestic was still watching us just in case Dr. Lacken needed a new pincushion. If I wasn't there when they came, they would take Kimberly instead. Those aren't the kinds of threats you just push to the back of your mind and worry about later.
Which was why I was surprised when I found myself doing exactly that.
Sure, I was still scared for me and Kimberly. As if Hendricks wasn't enough to worry about, now I had the Terrible Trio to bug me again. Well, I thought as I tramped through the snow towards Stark's cabin, I guess they were the Terrible Two now that Hendricks had thrown Victor under a truck... and then blown that truck up on top of him. Unless Majestic had already replaced him, which wouldn't surprise me.
But despite all that, the only thing I could think about was yellow potions. Yellow potions kept in vials the size of my finger. Yellow potions that could cure my lycanthropy and let me live a normal life again, free from Majestic and Hendricks and all this crap.
Yellow potions only one person I knew had.
If Edgar was back in town, then it stood to reason that Dex was somewhere nearby too. One of the last times I'd seen him was when Mr. Wrogan had asked for my help in catching the original Silverblood. I'd accepted in exchange for his promise to rescue my mom, but the four of them together hadn't been enough to keep Dex from getting bit. And the thing was, he hadn't cared. He just got right back up, chugged a potion, and went on with his life. I had been confused at first, but I finally figured out what was going on.
Those potions were a cure.
Dex had been bitten by a werewolf, drank one of those potions, and as far as I knew he had never actually changed. When I tried to ask about it, he refused to give me any straight answers except one: there were no cures for lycanthropy. He was lying, though. He had to be. That potion had cured him.
I drew in a shaky breath, the memories bringing back more emotions than I had expected. I was clenching and unclenching my fists, claws threatening to pop out of my fingers and shred my gloves.
Of course Dex didn't want me to think there was a cure. None of them did. If I were to be cured, they'd lose one of their precious Silverbloods. It would be like flushing money down the toilet, and they couldn't have that, could they?
A growl rose to my throat, but I swallowed it. I had actually managed to forget about the cure in light of everything else that was happening. Or, at least as much as you can forget about a life changing discovery like that. Now they were back, Dex was back, and my urgent need to get one of those potions came back with them.
Deep inside me, my wolf stirred.
I shuddered as the single word carved itself in my brain. Of course it would feel that way. If I was cured, what would happen to it? Would it still be a part of me, less noticeable and more passive? Or would it just cease to exist altogether?
I paused, the snow reaching up to my ankles. The thought of killing the wolf actually made me sad. It wasn't just some animal stuck inside my body, it was as much a part of me as my own thoughts.
But... it would be worth it.
Stuffing my hands in my pockets, I ducked my head down and started on my way again. I would ask Stark about it when I got home. If anybody could give me an answer, it was him. I made it to the cabin a few minutes later, and immediately noticed my mom's car wasn't sitting in the driveway. Odd. To my knowledge, she hadn't left the cabin once since we'd brought her here.
Stepping into the house, I immediately found Stark sitting at the kitchen table.
"Amber," he said, motioning for me to join him. "I need to have a word with you. Sit down."
There wasn't anything hostile in his voice or in his expression, but my skin still crawled when he said that. I felt like a child about to be scolded for doing something wrong by her father... or, rather, a puppy being scolded by its master.
A small smile broke out on Stark's face. "Relax, you're not in trouble. I just need to talk to you about Kimberly."
"Oh," I said, taking a seat across from him. The knot in my stomach only untied itself a small bit. "What about her?"
Before he could answer, I looked around and realized I didn't see her anywhere. A quick sniff told me she hadn't been home since we left to board the busses.
"I asked your mom to take her out for the afternoon," Stark said, answering my unspoken question. "They're getting ice cream and their nails done."
I breathed a sigh of relief.
"So," Stark said, crossing his legs and regarding me with a curious expression, "what do you think about getting Kimberly back together with her parents?"
When I heard those words, I jumped as high as if somebody had goosed me, and my knees hit the underside of the table.
"Are... are you serious?" I asked.
"Dead serious," he answered. "It was Majestic's decision to keep her away from her family, not mine. They didn't want to risk word getting out about their experiments, so they told you to keep her a secret."
I slumped down in my chair, hardly able to believe what I was hearing... and unable to decide how to feel about it.
Stark shrugged. "I won't deny that there are good reasons to keep a new werewolf away from its parents, but now that she's gone through her first change we don't have much to worry about. She misses them."
I looked down at my lap and nodded. "Yeah," I whispered, "she does."
"So, what do you say?"
I looked up at him again. "Why are you asking me? You're the alpha. Isn't it your decision?"
"Yep," he agreed. "The final decision is mine to make, but I'm not Dalton. Just because I'm your alpha doesn't mean that I don't care what you think."
"Oh. Well..." I hesitated.
"Tell me what you're thinking, Amber. You can be honest with me."
I gritted my teeth, already guilty for what was going through my head. "I dunno, it just feels like if we do that, then I'll have... you know, failed."
When Stark didn't reply, I continued, "When Majestic got her out of the funeral home, I promised I would take care of her. I did the best I could, but if you're talking about bringing her parents back then that means she's not happy, and that means that..." My voice trailed off.
Stark was still for a few seconds, but then he reached across the table and put his hand on my arm. "Is that really how you feel? Amber… that's just plain stupid."
It wasn't sure what I'd expected him to say, but his bluntness startled a laugh out of me.
"You got her out of the funeral home where they were going to bury her alive," he said. "Then you all but adopted her when Majestic wanted to run experiments on her. And then you kept her alive while you were living with that pack of idiots. I don't know who you've been listening to, but I'd say you've done a hell of a good job taking care of her."
I wanted to shy away from his hand, but the fact that he was my alpha kept me still.
"Yeah," I said quietly, "but now she hates me."
Stark snorted. "And you think that's your fault? She's just mad at you because you're the one who's been with her through the whole thing. She doesn't know who else to be mad at."
"But it's my fault she's here in the first place."
Stark pulled his hand back and grimaced.
"Um," he said, hesitantly. "Yeah."
We sat in silence for a few seconds, neither of us meeting the other one's eyes, and then Stark shook his head.
"Anyway, whether or not you did a good job, Kimberly needs her parents. She's only five years old. It's not right to keep a girl her age away from her family."
Slowly, I nodded. "Yeah, I guess."
"She'd still live here in the pack house, but I don't see why her parents couldn't move in with her." Stark chuckled and looked around the cabin. "God knows I've got more than enough space."
The idea of bringing Kimberly's parents into this still made me feel horrible, and that itself made me feel even worse. As much as I wanted to be the perfect caretaker for her, it was selfish of me to want to keep her to myself. Stark was right, she needed her parents more than me, so it was time to be a big girl and do what needed to be done.
"How are we going to do it?" I asked, making myself sit up a little straighter. "We can't just show up at their doorstep and be like, 'Hey, you know your dead daughter? Well, she's not dead, she's just a werewolf!'"
This got smile out of Stark, and he chuckled again. "Nope, we can't do it like that. Situations like this need to be handled delicately. Leave that to me, though. This isn't the first time I've had to do it."
I cocked my head. "How many times have you done this?"
"Oh," Stark groaned, scratching his head, "this isn't exactly an uncommon thing for werewolves. Sorry to say it, but you'll be one lucky woman if you never have to see this happen again."
"Oh," I said, frowning.
"Besides that," Stark went on, "we won't be doing it for a while."
I gave him a sharp look. "Wait, what? You thought all this out, but we're not going to do it?"
Stark shook his head. "Not yet. I was planning on doing it as soon as possible, but," he took a deep breath and let it hiss out again through clenched teeth, "what we saw on the news this morning makes me think we ought to wait a little while longer."
"Oh," I wilted a little. "Right. That's... probably a good idea."
"I just wanted to let you know what I was thinking in advance," he consoled me. "That way you can start preparing yourself for it."
I nodded. "All right, I will. Thanks for letting me know."
Stark nodded back and crossed his arms. "So, got any questions?"
I shook my head.
"Not just about Kimberly's parents," he clarified. "About everything that's going on."
"Well," I said before I fully realized what was coming out of my mouth, "do you know any way to cure lycanthropy?"
Stark sat up a little straighter with a concerned look on his face. "Now, why would you ask something like that?"
I shrugged, trying to keep my expression from giving away what I was really thinking. "I dunno, I was just wondering."
Stark looked at me for a few long seconds, and I fought the urge to squirm. He was my alpha. I didn't like lying to him. But... that hadn't really been a lie, right? So why did it feel like it had been?
"I'm afraid not," he said at last, shaking his head. "There's no cure for lycanthropy."
"None at all?" I asked, sounding a little more desperate than I meant to.
"There are a couple preventatives someone could take to keep it from infecting them," he made a face when he said that, as if he didn't like referring to lycanthropy as an infection. "But once you have it, there's no way to get rid of it."
I slumped down in my seat again, defeated.
But, no... that couldn't be right. I had seen Dex take one. There was a cure. Stark just didn't know what it was.
With that, the little spark of hope woke up inside me again.
"So," Stark asked, "what happened to make you start thinking about cures?"
"Nothing," I said, shaking my head. "I just wondered. Do you..." I started rising from my chair, but stopped when I realized my alpha hadn't dismissed me. "Do you mind if I go? I've got a lot of homework."
Stark hesitated, but then nodded. Trying not to look guilty, I gathered up my bags and headed for my room, feeling his eyes burrowing into the back of my head the whole way.
NEXT TIME: Now Amber’s got even more reason to find Hendricks and throttle him! That is, if she can bring herself to give up her little girl. That is, unless Hendricks finds her first…