WARNING: This chapter contains strong language.
Linley was curled up in her bedroom chair, replaying the events of the past few months over and over in her mind. It was like a bad record with a stuck needle.
Her parents were blatantly disappointed with her, and she couldn’t say that she blamed them. Still, she was being very reliant on the blood she consumed. It was becoming like her drug. In fact, in some ways, she was an alcoholic. Or a bloodaholic.
She could hear her parents’ muffled voices in the den below her room. They were saying something about her finding another way to vent her frustrations. She had no idea what to do. Besides, she was a hybrid. What was so wrong with living like one? Even the vampires of Duskwood lived like “real” vampires, and of course the werewolves did as well before they’d been driven out. She had the best of both worlds, so why shouldn’t she embrace it?
She’d wanted a normal life, but she finally realized that her life was far from normal. She couldn’t live a human life, because she wasn’t a human. For a normal human, this was the time where she’d be preparing for college and moving out. That wasn’t how it worked in her world. And no amount of persuasion from her parents would change that.
Five months later…
Allanna looked into the mirror at her frazzled face. She had so much to fret about, what with Linley and her fear of losing everyone she loved.
Xavier had explained how the aging process of vampires worked. If one was born a vampire, they’d age normally until they were 20, and then they’d take around three times as long as a human. However, if one was turned into a vampire after birth, they’d live forever at the age they were when they transitioned, or until they were killed.
Allanna was the only member of her family who wouldn’t age and die in time. She’d live for eternity, and someday, she’d lose her husband and children. Linley would age like a normal human, so she’d be the first to go. But in some ways, Allanna felt like she’d already lost her daughter.
“It’ll be all right,” Xavier consoled her when she brought this up to him. “I’d rather die knowing you were in my life than live an eternity without ever having known you.”
“Isn’t there some way to make it so that you and our kids can live forever like me?” she asked pleadingly. “I don’t want to have to ever lose you, even if it won’t happen for a long time.”
“I don’t think there’s anything we can do about that. But we should spend the time savoring each other’s company, not dreading the inevitable.”
“I just can’t imagine…”
“Then don’t. Besides, right now, we have to make sure we haven’t already lost Linley, which is just what you were thinking. I don’t know how much longer we can keep her under control."
Linley’s appetite for blood didn’t cease. If anything, it became more prominent. Every time she bit into a human’s neck and drained them of their blood, it was like a release of the pent-up hostility inside her. She’d embraced being a hybrid before, but in the back of her mind, the reality of the situation was always present. She was the only one of her kind in existence, and she hated it. She hated that she’d never be normal, and though she’d fooled her friends for several years, the one she cared about the most had found out the harsh truth.
Time and time again, she found herself straying away from Morningside and finding victims in adjacent towns, despite her trying to come up with another way to kill the pain. Usually her victims were men she'd manage to seduce, which made her wonder if she was also part succubus (which wouldn't be that big of a surprise considering the existence of supernatural creatures already). The body count was piling up, and before long, there was a breaking news report on all the TV stations. That was when her parents lost it.
“Are you fucking insane?!” Xavier demanded after he saw the report. “You’re gonna get caught! This is ridiculous! Your mother and I have tried to be patient and helpful, but that’s gotten us nowhere. No more playing nice and no more trying to support you. This has to stop!”
Linley stared back at her father with the same fury in her eyes. “You said yourself a few months ago,” she retorted, “that I’m 18 now and I’m not a little girl anymore. I can do what I want!”
“As long as you’re living under our roof, you live by our rules!”
“Then maybe I won’t live under your roof anymore! Maybe I’ll live by my own rules!”
“You won’t be able to do that, because to live on your own you need an income. And I’m not going to give you any of our money to support your asinine habit. And the job market isn’t exactly friendly to a high school graduate with no college education who’s been spending all her time sneaking in and out of her house after going on a bloody rampage.”
Linley didn’t bother retreating to her bedroom this time. Instead, she ran outside and threw her clothes off before transforming into a wolf. She was tired of hearing this, so she thought she’d try running again to ease her frustrations.
She ran as fast and as hard as she could to try to clear her head, not even paying attention to where she was going. She stayed within the trees, their leaves forming a protective canopy overhead. The moonlight broke through the branches in bright beams, giving the woods a somewhat mystical appearance.
As she ran, Linley tried to think of some other way to vent her anguish about Craig breaking up with her. She’d heard her parents talking one night, and they’d mentioned how they considered letting her drink his blood just to get some closure. Unbeknownst to them, she’d already done that. Craig’s betrayal was unforgivable; she’d told him her deepest secrets, given her virginity to him, and she and her family had risked their lives to save him (without receiving so much as a thank you).
But like the coward he was, he’d thrown it all away and ran off with his tail between his legs. He'd told her he loved her. Was that just an attempt all along to get into her pants? When thinking of that, Linley realized that she didn't trust him. And now, she no longer trusted anyone.
She was also bitterly reminded of the day Craig had driven a stake through her body in a misguided attempt to kill her. She never should have forgiven him after that. She no longer trusted him and didn’t want to risk him exposing her family to the public. She was already in enough trouble with her parents for confiding in him anyway. Even if she was living as a monster, her family didn’t want to, and she wasn’t going to let Craig break another promise. He’d sealed his fate the moment he broke her heart. His blood had tasted worse than she remembered from all the times she had fed from him during her guilty pleasures, and killing him didn't ease her pain like she'd hoped it would, but at least it would keep him quiet. His corpse would never be found as long as it deteriorated at the bottom of the river.
Linley realized that running helped her clear her head easier than drinking blood. Sure, fresh blood from an open wound helped quench her thirst, but she didn’t want to risk getting caught. She wanted to hold on to at least one shred of her humanity and not, as her father seemed to think she was doing, lose control of herself.
With that in mind, she spied another type of prey – an innocent rabbit hopping along through the bushes. She caught up to it quickly and pounced it, sinking her fangs into its fur. Its blood didn’t taste as appeasing as a human’s, but it was something at least.
When she’d finished her meal, Linley ran some more before finally stopping at a stream. She leaned down toward the water and saw her reflection gazing back at her.
All those girls from the vampire romance stories she loved so much never fled at the first sign of danger, and they got their fairy tale endings. Of course, in Blood and Chocolate, the guy ran from the girl in fear, just like Craig did to her. And Edward had left Bella in New Moon for her safety, not because he was scared.
Why was it that real life was never like in the movies or books? Why couldn’t Linley have a fairy tale ending too? All the supernatural creatures she read about did something important, something valuable on top of having a great, understanding human mate. Why couldn’t she do something like that?
Then a thought came to her. It was true that she was the only hybrid in existence, but instead of looking at it from a lonely perspective, she should have been looking at it in an empowered perspective. Being a hybrid had its advantages, because a hybrid was stronger than a vampire and werewolf on their own. A hybrid couldn’t be killed like a vampire or werewolf and no one else knew how to do so. And even Mortius himself feared her existence, and that was back when she’d been a toddler.
That accounted for something, right? Linley was a hybrid, a creature stronger than the two warring species of Duskwood. Duskwood, which had been her mother’s and father’s home until they’d had to flee like criminals for simply falling in love. Her mother had lost several of her family and friends in the bloody war brought on by Gloria, who was also afraid of hybrids. She’d seen that fear in her eyes before she’d bit her throat out.
That was the answer. Duskwood. That was the rightful home for her parents, and had there not been a war going on, it would have been hers as well. Linley hadn’t met any of her Duskwood relatives, undoubtedly because they’d disowned her parents for falling in love with each other and then breeding.
But Linley was about to rectify that. Her parents had explained to her that Duskwood had held an invisible barrier separating the vampires from the werewolves, and there’d always been disputes over territory. But now, the barrier could be lifted and she’d have some leverage to restore peace to the town. It might not end the war of vampires and werewolves all over the world, but it probably would restore the balance in Duskwood.
Linley stood up and ran back to her house. She was going to do what should have been done years ago. Her parents had only moved to Morningside because they’d had nowhere else to go after Bridgeport. They’d been unable to return home to Duskwood because of the war. Now, she was going to take it back.