Stark Love, Amanda, Derbs, Black Heart, and Suzi- I also did a fan-of-fans-girl dance when I saw that you guys had reviewed. It is so much more gratifying to have reviews from so many different perspectives at each step of the way than to go solo. I've really missed your feedback and am glad that I will be able to reconnect with my fans and buddies once again.
Mrs. Fiction, and Chlerek4ever- The cuteness is going to be a major factor in the story but there will also be some minor sexiness and adventureness. I hope you like the rest as much as the first chapter!
Silver Bird- Don't worry, I didn't forget you! I'm just answering your question separately; no it is not a one-shot. I don't think it will be as long as WBT but since it's the first in a possible series of nine consecutive stories I figured that would be okay with you guys.
Rikku- Thank you for your opinion, I definitely am more comfortable writing from Chloe's POV but I've also enjoyed reflecting on events that happened in WBT through Derek's eyes (later in the story). I may even try writing a story from a completely different perspective like Jeremy's or Tori's but I definitely want everyone's input before I try that.
For the first time in awhile life was really good, I had claimed a camp chair and Chloe was settled on one of my knees, roasting two marshmallows on one stick. I'd resigned myself to accepting the swimsuit as it made her happy and we weren't in a heavily occupied vacation spot. I could deal with Simon's sneaked glances but if there were a bunch of strange guys eyeing Chloe I wouldn't be able to keep my temper in check. Siberia was looking like a good place for us to move to, I was sure I could find her a strawberry printed parka somewhere.
She yelped as her marshmallow caught fire, looking so horrified that Simon, Tori and I cracked up. There was a flash as dad took a picture of her—I wanted a copy of that one for sure.
I blew out the marshmallow and sandwiched it in graham crackers and chocolate. "I'll take this one." I smiled and patted the top of her head.
"What? After all that work I put into catching it on fire!" She swapped me the stick with the partially toasted marshmallow for the crispy smore. "I like them burned, it just caught faster than I thought."
"You like them burned?" I asked, raising an eyebrow.
"Bro you're the only kid on the planet who carefully toasts marshmallows." Simon rolled his eyes as his own caught fire. He blew it out and peeled off the top, eating it like a pudding cup.
"Don't you want the cinnamon graham crackers?" Chloe offered and I glared at her. I was already uncomfortable enough about him eating the marshmallows.
"You can have one." Kit waved him on and Simon went warp speed to grab the box.
"One." I repeated sternly and Simon rolled his eyes.
Chloe squeezed my knee and I nearly forgot about monitoring Simon's blood sugar.
Tori reluctantly put a bookmark in The Man in the Iron Mask as her flashlight started dying and sat back, giving Chloe a shuttered look that I didn't like. "So. Simon said that you promised real ghost stories."
Dad glanced at Chloe, a slightly nervous expression on his face. I seconded that nervousness, when she wanted she was the most powerful one of us and I did not like the idea of her tempting the ghosts in these woods. I checked to make sure her bracelets were still in place. The original ones that she had made in the safe house had been destroyed when she overused her power and one of the first things she had done when she got out of the hospital was commission a jeweler to make new ones. They were still mostly copper but smaller and less cumbersome than the first version.
"Chloe-" I began slowly.
"It's okay, it's just a story." She smiled reassuringly at me. "If I remember correctly we've been to these woods before." She gave me a look.
I nodded, I'd intentionally suggested this place, it was the last campsite we'd used when we had the stolen car from the Edison Group.
"Well. Last time we were here I was in the forest talking to Derek." She leaned back against my chest and I wrapped my arms around her waist. "It had been a long day of running from rogue werewolves and Edison operatives and I had that kind of antsy nervous energy that you get after a ton of adrenaline and I was pacing. I remember the frost breaking under my steps and how cold it was."
"Below twenty." I added, getting myself a smile from Chloe.
"With a wind that bit right through my clothes."
Not that she'd been wearing a jacket. She'd been flustered enough to leave it behind.
"I paced towards Derek, trying to plan our next move."
More like first move. I kept a smile off my face as I remembered our first kiss shortly after.
"When I turned there was an axe swinging towards my face." She leapt to her feet, making a hacking motion and Simon jumped in his seat. "The axe sliced right through me, leaving a cold path down my body as I stumbled back." She traced the front of her body where the axe had swung and took a stumbled step back, letting me catch her like I had that night. "It was the axe murderer of green valley! He stumbled towards me, dragging a mangled leg."
And now we get to the fictional part. I settled back and watched her talk, hands gesturing, voice pitching as she crawled towards Tori. Telling her in a cracked voice that she looked just like the wife that was hidden at home… underneath the floorboards.
Tori looked spooked. Chloe was just getting to how the murderer had conjured up one of his victim's ghosts and was getting ready to murder her again when she went rigid.
"Chloe…?" Simon asked hesitantly, not sure if this was part of the story.
She stumbled back, tripping on a log and falling in the grass before I could catch her. "N-no." She whispered. "P-please n-not again, I-I was just t-telling a s-story! I-I d-didn't m-mean to summon you!" Her gaze followed something just behind Tori. "L-look out!" She screamed and Tori dove to the side, eyes wild.
I was halfway out of my chair, getting ready to block Chloe from whatever horror she was reliving when she started cracking up.
"You should see your faces!" She laughed, clutching her sides and trying to catch her breath.
I settled back down, trying to decide if I would smile or frown at her lying on the ground and giggling while color returned to everyone else's face. Gradually dad started grinning and Simon laughed at Tori who was glaring at Chloe.
"No more ghost stories from the necromancer." I said, pulling Chloe back up on my knee.
She grinned at me. "But I have a really good one about a sociopathic half-demon telekinetic ghost."
"Liz?" Simon asked with an innocent head-cock.
A series of marshmallows pelted him in the face.
"Hey Liz." Chloe waved at empty space. You can see why we were easily fooled by her lying about seeing a ghost, it's not like any of us could tell one way or another. "Of course I wasn't talking about you, obviously it would be a guy ghost."
She smiled at a spot just next to Simon and I saw a slight shimmer in the air, like heat rising off of asphalt.
"Since when can she do that?" I asked, pointing at it.
"Wha-?" She followed my finger and stared as when the shimmering spot moved so did I. "You can see her?"
"No. Just… something."
"Can… either of you two…?" She started but Tori and Simon were already shaking their heads, giving me the look that normal people gave Chloe when she talked to ghosts.
Dad was staring at the two of us, face pale. He knew Chloe and I were bonded on some werewolf level but I may have sort of left out the part about us being beyond the chemical and physical level of what constitutes a normal bond and onto the spiritual power-acquisition level. He was giving me the you're-in-deep-shit look but kept his mouth shut with Simon and Tori in hearing range.
I stood, placing Chloe in my chair. "Seat check."
"What? You can't use me like a bookmark!" She crossed her arms and worked up a glare.
"It's a chair. Not a book."
"You're a butthead."
I rolled my eyes and started towards the car, after a few steps dad joined me and we walked towards the direction of the bathrooms but kept going past them when we got there.
"So." Dad began. "You failed to mention that you and Chloe were…"
"Does she know?"
"Are you being safe?"
I stopped and stared. "With what?"
He rolled his eyes but looked a little uncomfortable. "You know the word mate is pretty loaded Dare."
"You… you think that I… that we…" I was floored. Sure Chloe and I had been a couple in human terms for over three months now but we were going slow. Very slow, specifically because the wolf part of me already thought of her as mine and adding a physical claim like that would cement it for me, and that wasn't fair to her. "No."
"You're… not being safe?"
I tossed up my hands, sure my face was completely red. "No we're not… involved like that."
"What? Really?" He looked taken-aback. "Maybe you don't take after me or Simon."
I glared at him.
"So she's not ready?"
"I'm not ready. You know what that means to my 'kind'. I'm giving her time to adjust to the whole energy dynamic, then I'll tell her about the physical… bonding." I could not believe I was talking to my dad about this I could not BELIEVE I was talking to my DAD about this.
"You should probably talk to Jeremy." He suggested hesitantly. He had adjusted remarkably well to knowing who my biological dad was but I was still trying to figure out how to compartmentalize Jeremy as my father-figure role was already filled.
I made a non-committal grunt.
He sighed heavily. "I should probably not do this." He handed over a glass bottle full of an amber-colored fluid. "Simon said that Chloe made you promise to buy liquor if he let you and Chloe escape the safe house without a fuss."
I stared at it, Makers Mark. With one of those red wax tops. "Dad. This is super illegal."
This time the sigh was exasperated. "For god's sake Dare try to be a normal teenager for once."
"Simon is normally a handful, you want me to get him drunk?" I asked incredulously, shaking the bottle. "And what about Tori? Uncontrollable powers ring a bell?"
He clapped me on the shoulder with a grin. "With you around who needs a conscious? I'm going to bed when we get back, I'll let you decide whether or not to let the others have some much-deserved normal teenage fun. Just don't tell them you got it from me."
We got back to the campsite where Simon was talking animatedly with his towel pulled up over his head in a really bad imitation of a ghost.
I'm going to regret this. I looked down at the bottle. But dad's right. They do deserve to have some fun.
"Okay I'm going to bed, test your blood sugar Simon." Dad announced, pulling his sleeping bag off to the far side of the clearing. The nights were still cold enough that bugs weren't a problem and we'd decided to sleep in the open as long as it didn't rain. "Night girls."
"Night!" Everyone said, I just sent him a glare. I couldn't believe he'd dumped the responsibility of choosing whether or not to get my mate and sibling…s drunk.
"Hey you." Chloe smiled, holding out her slender hand to me and everything seemed much simpler.
I wrapped my fingers around the proffered hand, engulfing it completely.
"Whatcha got there?" She nodded at the bottle but her eyes shot to dad's retreating back while she arched an eyebrow. She knew.
"You did make me agree." I gave her the bottle and lifted her, settling her back down on my lap after I sat back down in my chair.
"Is that…?" Simon squinted. "Dude! I so did not think you would get any!"
"Shut up and pass the bottle." Tori said but with an almost smile.
I cracked it open and the wave of alcohol fumes that hit my nostrils made me sneeze. It smelled sweet and faintly like corn once the acrid burn of alcohol faded. I shrugged and tried a sip. After changing there really wasn't much that could make me make a face and this was no exception, it actually wasn't too bad.
Chloe slipped the bottle from my fingers, I opened my mouth to protest but she put her finger against it. "I just want to try it. I'm not going to risk getting drunk and raising the whole forest." She tipped back the bottle and took a sizable gulp, like it was soda or juice instead of straight liquor. "Blegh!" She coughed and handed the bottle quickly to Simon.
I gave her a look. Just want to try it my ass.
Simon grinned at her. "Pretty hardcore girl." I was glad he'd stopped calling her "Love," the nickname had grated on my nerves. He took an even bigger drink and made a face. "Okay NOW I'm going to test my blood sugar before that kicks in."
Tori grabbed the bottle as he passed and took a swig, making no face whatsoever.
"Done this before?" Chloe teased.
She rolled her eyes and took another sip. "Once or twice."
I took the bottle from her and drank, it was going to be my last since both me and Chloe were wary of losing control period, much less under the influence. Simon would have to babysit Tori if she started throwing fireballs, or we'd just toss her in the lake.
I felt a strange warmth spread throughout my body and I passed the bottle back to Tori, bypassing Chloe completely. My nose seemed a little burnt out from the wave of alcohol fumes and I felt relaxed. I pulled Chloe so her back pressed against my chest and we both looked up at the sky.
"There's Ursa Major." I pointed and traced a line through the stars. "And Ursa Minor." I shifted and pointed again.
"Isn't that the dog star?" Chloe asked, arching backwards to grin at me.
I rolled my eyes. "No. It's part of Lyra."
She settled back in and smiled up at the sky. "My favorite constellation has always been the Pleiades. They're so close together that they look less lonely than the others." She said this quietly and I rubbed my fingers down her arms.
"We should play a game." Tori said and I glanced over to see her handing the bottle to Simon as he sat back down. "Like Never Have I Ever."
Simon rolled his eyes. "Sounds like a game where just you would be drunk."
"Oh I don't think so." Tori slid a sly glance our way and I stifled a growl.
"Sure." Chloe piped up and I stared at her. "Let's try this 'normal teenager' thing."
She eased off my lap to rummage through the cooler, pulling out three normal cokes and one diet. She passed them around and ordered us all to take a drink, then poured a measure of whiskey into each bottle. I thought of stopping her, remembering my decision to stop drinking, but the warmth had spread to my head and I didn't know why I'd worried so much. The biggest doses went into Simon and Tori's but mine still got a hefty shot. She topped off her coke without drinking any so hardly more than a thimble-full went into hers, being the one who could see in the dark I was the only one who noticed. No amount of warm fuzzy feeling in my stomach or head was going to make me comfortable with Chloe getting really drunk.
"Never have I ever kissed a girl." Tori started.
"Good for you..?" I said slowly, unsure of why she was telling us this.
Tori sighed exasperatedly. "Every time you've done the thing you drink. I've never kissed a girl but you and Simon have, so drink."
"Huh." I drank. So did Simon.
"Your turn Simon." She nodded in his direction.
"Never have I ever… worn a bikini." Simon grinned as both Chloe and Tori drank. "Well that was easy, you're up Chlo."
"Never have I ever gotten lower than a B in a class." She smiled at me but her mouth opened in surprise as I drank with Simon.
"Theater." I shuddered and she rolled her eyes. "Never have I ever had a sorcerer for a father." I watched Simon and Tori drink.
"Never have I ever had a penis." Tori laughed when Simon snarfed coke. "And now things will start getting interesting."
"Never have I ever had… not… a penis." Simon made a face at Tori when she rolled her eyes at his eloquent wording.
"Never have I ever changed into a wolf." Chloe said as soon as she swallowed.
"Cheap shot." I drank.
"Never have I ever owned a cat."
Only Tori drank, I looked at Chloe and she shrugged. "We moved too much for pets."
"Never have I ever seen a ghost." Tori raised her eyebrow when I drank with Chloe.
"I summoned a ghost who could materialize." Chloe explained.
"Never have I ever bench-pressed a sofa." Simon grinned as I drank. "Which was pretty awesome might I add."
"He dared me." I smiled when Chloe looked at me incredulously.
"All right then. Never have I ever been able to track someone by scent." She looked at my half-empty bottle. "You're going to need another soon."
"It's not my fault this turned into take-cheap-shots-at-Derek." I scowled at her. "Never have I ever used any form of telekinesis."
"Never have I ever kissed Chloe." Tori shot back at after drinking. Her haughty look turned surprised when both Simon and I drank.
"Sorry about that." Simon slid a guilty smile my way.
I shrugged, I'd gotten the girl in the end so it didn't matter to me anymore… much.
"You guys are more interesting than I thought." Tori said in a tone that bordered something like respect.
"Never have I ever kissed… me." Simon looked triumphant, then wilted as Tori drank while glaring at him. "Oh god why did I bring that up?"
Chloe giggled after taking a small sip. "Never have I ever kissed Tori."
This circular game was getting boring so I decided to take matters into my own hands and drank with Simon—who still looked green. This decision to spice things up was probably aided in no small part by the fuzzy relaxed mood I was in. Chloe whipped around so fast she nearly fell off my lap and Simon snarfed again.
"WHAT?" They said in unison. Tori just leaned back, face impassive, waiting to see where I went with this.
"I'm sorry Chloe. I meant to tell you before…" I looked away from her face like I was ashamed but really just needed to compose myself before I started laughing. "But Tori and I… we just have this connection, you know?"
I looked back at Chloe as her look of disbelief turned to understanding. We both looked at Simon who was staring open-mouthed at me and Chloe looked back to me, eyes sparkling mischievously.
"Oh Derek. I… I wondered why you've been so distant… and all those text messages. I really should have guessed before now." She ducked her head, letting her hair hang in her face as her shoulders shook.
I was worried for a second when I saw actual tears in her eyes but they were tears of mirth as she shook with silent laughter.
"HOLD UP." Simon waved his arms around frantically. "YOU AND AND AND TORI?"
We all looked at him and his pale wide-eyed face moved to each of us, ending with Tori who still had an unreadable expression.
"WHAT. THE. FUCK." Simon gaped and Chloe dissolved into helpless laughter.
"You… should… see… your face." She gasped and I started laughing with her.
Even Tori managed almost a giggle as Simon relearned how to not panic.
"What the fuck." Simon said again, this time with less horror. "I seriously thought I'd just fallen into a wormhole into an alternate universe or something!"
"You are funny drunk." Chloe grinned at me.
"I am not-" Even as I started the protest I realized that it wasn't true, that I was unquestionably silly-feeling and probably drunk.
"You are an ass drunk." Simon countered, shaking his head ruefully.
"Never have I ever kissed Tori." I grinned as Simon drank yet again, this time without the coke coming back out through his nose.
"I think that's as good a note as any to end on." Chloe smiled and leaned back against my chest.
I crossed my arms around her, reassuring through my body language that I would never, could never, cheat on her.