The movie night went great. It didn’t end in a goodbye kiss or anything, but Linley and Craig both agreed that they’d had a great time and even planned to do it again.
Unfortunately, when Linley returned home in a cab that night, Cynthia was waiting for her in the living room. Her parents were on their second honeymoon in Starlight Shores, so Cynthia was staying with Linley and the twins during their absence. Linley hadn’t minded that since she and Cynthia had become good friends in that short amount of time. Since she could still transform into a wolf, Cynthia would go for runs with Linley at night after the twins fell asleep, and shopping was equally entertaining because Cynthia had a great sense of fashion. She explained this was because she used to be a dancer back in Vegas.
Because of their growing bond, Linley didn’t think twice about seeing Cynthia waiting up for her in the living room after her non-date with Craig. But something on her face made Linley hesitant to tell her about the good time they’d had.
“Hi, Linley,” Cynthia said by way of greeting. “How was it?”
“It was great. We saw the new Sherlock Holmes.”
“Awesome. Hey, why don’t you come in here and have a seat so we can talk?”
How Linley wished that she was able to read Cynthia’s mind! The one part of having vampire blood that might come in handy was the one she didn’t possess. Just her luck.
“Okay, what’s up?” she asked as she sat down on the opposite end of the couch.
Cynthia took a deep breath and looked genuinely remorseful as she looked at her adopted niece.
“Your parents called from Starlight Shores, just to check up on things. I told them everything was going great, and I mentioned that you had a date tonight…”
“It wasn’t a date. We just went to the movies as friends.”
“Well, I don’t think they care what you were doing; they wanted me to tell you from them that they don’t want you seeing Craig on a romantic level.”
Linley’s brow furrowed as she analyzed this. Surely she misheard Cynthia. Why would her parents forbid her to see Craig on a romantic level? They’d only gone to the movies as friends, and they’d been friends for a while. It was no different than hanging out with Chelcie or Skyler.
“I think it’s because you have a crush on him,” Cynthia clarified when Linley mentioned this. “I know you try to hide it, believe me, but it’s still pretty obvious. And your parents can tell that he likes you as more than just a friend, thanks to their special ability to read minds and humans not being able to block them out. But anyway, they wanted me to tell you that if you want to be friends with Craig, that’s fine, but you shouldn’t be alone with him like you were a couple.”
“Why not? That doesn’t make any sense. My parents like Craig!”
“Well, it’s not that they don’t like him, it’s just that…Linley, they know what it’s like to fall for someone you’re not supposed to be with. They’re living examples of that. You’re a hybrid, and Craig’s a human. Humans don’t even know that creatures like us exist, and if you and Craig were to start dating and get really close…”
“My parents think I’d tell him? Oh my God, I don’t believe this! That’s the stupidest reason I’ve ever heard to not see somebody!”
“They’re just worried for your safety. Could you imagine what humans would do if they knew about us? They didn’t accept us back in the dark ages before you or I were born, do you really think they’ll accept us now? The media’s idea of vampires and werewolves doesn’t help, either. I wouldn’t be surprised if Craig asked if you sparkled in the sun if you told him.”
“Very funny. Look, I’m not a little kid anymore. I’m thirteen years old, and I’m a hybrid. I’m the only one of my kind in the world, and I’m not going to stop seeing Craig just because my parents are afraid I might tell him something. News flash, being a hybrid is easier than being a vampire or werewolf because I don’t ever have to transform or drink blood unless I want to. So I just won’t.”
“Linley, your parents told me that when you get older, your fangs will come in when you feed. How are you going to explain that one?”
“Fangs come out if I want them to, and only if I’m drinking blood. God, it’s not rocket science. I can’t believe my parents are being so stupid about this.”
“Well all I know is that they told me to give you the message, and I did. I don’t know what else to tell you except don’t put me in the middle. I love you, but your mom’s my best friend and I won’t betray her. Besides, they’d be able to pick my brain and find out the truth anyway if I tried to hide it.”
Linley looked down at her feet. This was just great. A perfectly lovely night ruined by her parents, who weren’t even in the same town. Why were they calling to check up on her anyway? They were on their honeymoon, and last time she checked, couples on their honeymoon got it on rather than make phone calls.
Of course, most couples who took honeymoons didn’t have kids at home.
Linley finally caved, but only outwardly. Inwardly, she had no desire whatsoever to stop seeing Craig in any way she wanted. As of right now, they were only friends, and there was a strong possibility they’d stay that way. Besides, did her parents think she was a complete imbecile? She’d never tell Craig the truth, nor would she tell Chelcie, Skyler, or anyone else who wanted to know.
She may have just turned thirteen recently, but she wasn’t a child anymore. She was perfectly capable of making her own decisions and having good judgment.
Two weeks later…
Allanna and Xavier returned from their honeymoon in official wedded bliss. They thanked Cynthia for watching the kids while they were gone, all three of which were thrilled to see that their parents had brought them back some souvenirs.
Despite the joyful homecoming, the inevitable question that Linley dreaded was asked by her father.
“Linley, did Cynthia give you our message?”
“You mean the one about me and Craig? Yeah, I got it. And I can’t say that I liked it too much.”
“Linley,” her mother said as she sat down her suitcase, “I know how you feel, trust me. When your dad and I first met, the last thing I wanted to do was tell him anything about myself. But love is a strong emotion, and it makes you say and do things you normally wouldn’t. I know you wouldn’t mean to tell Craig anything, but if your feelings are strong enough, you’ll do anything.”
“What’s the difference between me and Craig and you and Dad?”
“Your dad and I were both aware of each others’ existence for one. Humans don’t know about us, and I know Cynthia told you that. They don’t know, and they can’t know. It’s too dangerous.”
“You really think some whack job is going to grab a stake and try to kill all the vampires if they knew they existed? Please, that’s a load of crap. In the dark ages, vampires only had humans to live off of. Now, there’s animals and blood banks. No one has to die.”
“Do you really think they’d listen to that? Or even believe it? Linley, you can be friends with Craig, but that’s it. Besides, you’re too young to get involved with boys as more than friends, and you’re too young to know what love is.”
“I didn’t say anything about love. And what about Chelcie and Skyler? They’re my good friends too, and we hang out together. What’s so different about them? If Cynthia was a human, wouldn’t you have told her about yourself?”
Allanna sighed as Xavier interjected, “You know what, that’s a good point. Remember when we were worried about putting you in public school? Well, now we have a whole new reason to worry about that. We never thought you’d even consider telling anyone about being a hybrid.”
“I’d never tell anyone! I can’t believe you don’t trust me!”
“It’s not that we don’t trust you…”
“Bullshit! If you trusted me, you wouldn’t even be telling me this!”
“Linley, watch your mouth.”
“No! If you don’t trust me, why should I even care what you think?”
Linley spun on her heel and flew up the stairs, slamming the door to her bedroom on the way. Xavier glanced at his wife and heaved a sigh. Now what were they going to do?
It took some convincing from Cynthia, and even more arguing and insisting from Linley, before Allanna and Xavier finally gave Linley the blessing of seeing Craig as more than a friend if she wanted. She just had to swear not to tell him anything, and they trusted that she wouldn’t.
Still, Linley and Craig remained friends for quite some time after that night at the movies. They still hung out with Chelcie and Skyler, and Cynthia had gotten a job at a local restaurant called the Rib Cage, so the four of them would accumulate there frequently as well. This gave Cynthia the perfect opportunity to keep an eye on them, just to be on the safe side, and report back to Xavier and Allanna.
Cynthia and Linley still shared their strong bond, and Cynthia had even found a small house relatively close to where the Deitrechs lived. She and Linley would go on their nightly runs in the woods, and sometimes Chelcie would accompany them shopping.
There were a few things changing once again in Linley’s life, but the biggest change came when she and Craig were walking through the park one evening after a local band had performed and Craig suggested that they sit down and gaze at the stars.
Linley happily complied, and the two sat down on the soft ground and looked heavenward.
“I can’t wait to take astronomy in high school,” Craig said as the two looked at the twinkling dots so many miles away. “I want to learn where all the constellations are.”
“It’s so cool how they all form something up there. I wish I had a portable telescope.”
“Yeah, me too.”
“When I was little, my parents and I would sometimes look up at the sky at night and see if we could find shapes in the clouds. I think I can see a person in that one.”
“A person? In a cloud? Geez, you must have better eye sight than I do. I just see fluffy clouds up there.”
“Sometimes you just have to look hard, and let your imagination take over.”
“I’m getting a bit of an imagination, but it isn’t seeing things in the clouds.”
“What’s it for then?”
Linley didn’t get a reply right away. Instead, she felt Craig’s hand cover her own. She looked down at their hands intertwined, then looked up at him. He looked into her eyes and said, “I’m imagining giving you your first kiss.”
That was all she could think to say. Real smooth. She tried to rectify that by asking, “Wouldn’t it be your first kiss, too?”
“Technically, yeah. Because this one will actually matter.”
Linley suddenly remembered Addie, but she didn’t bother thinking about her any longer as Craig’s face got closer and closer to hers. His arm snaked around her shoulders as she felt her eyes flutter closed. Craig’s sweet scent penetrated her nostrils as she felt his lips press against hers.
This kiss was everything that a first kiss should be. It was gentle and a little awkward, but it made Linley see fireworks. It didn’t last very long, but it wasn’t a brief peck either. When she felt Craig pull away, she opened her eyes and saw him looking at her intently, and with a hint of blush in his cheeks.
She knew she should say something, but what? She hadn’t prepared a speech for what she should say after her first kiss. So she settled with, “Wow, that was nice.”
Craig grinned and replied, “I’m glad you thought so. I know we’re still pretty young, but…how would you feel about going out with me? As in, being my girlfriend.”
“Really? I mean, we’re only thirteen, but…”
“If you’re not ready, it’s cool.”
Linley felt like she was ready, but she was apprehensive about what her parents would say if they found out. It had taken her forever to convince them that she and Craig were just friends so they wouldn’t worry about her being too open with him, but this? How would they react?
But she didn’t particularly care what her parents thought at that moment. Her wish for her thirteenth birthday was for lifelong happiness, and she had a feeling that Craig would be a big part of that. So, her parents be damned, she accepted his offer. The two kissed one more time to seal the deal. And Linley felt like her wish was already coming true.