Xavier and Allanna were overcome with relief when Linley explained that she’d decided to start living off animal blood if her thirst struck her. She also explained that she’d start running at night again and wouldn’t be going after humans.
However, the big news wasn’t received as enthusiastically as Linley had thought it would be.
“You want to go to Duskwood and drive all the vampires out of it?” Allanna asked. “Linley, that’s dangerous and I don’t think it can be done.”
“That’s just it,” Linley explained, “it can be done. I’m the only hybrid in existence, and no one knows how to kill me. Gloria did but she’s dead now, and so are all the other vampires that she had with her. They’ll think I’m some sort of god, and you even said that Mortius was scared to death of me as a toddler. Imagine what those vampires would think of me now, all grown up. I can get Duskwood back for you and your family, Mom. And for Cynthia, too.”
Allanna just shook her head stubbornly. “Your intentions are good, but we can’t risk it. Besides, I highly doubt my dad will want anything to do with me after all these years.”
“That’s his problem then. Mom, I’m not talking about putting the invisible line back in Duskwood. I’m talking about creating a haven. Supernatural creatures like us aren’t supposed to exist, remember? We have to live among humans and try to survive, and we have to blend in. But why don’t we try something different? Why don’t we make our own little place for all vampires and werewolves or whatever to stay where they can be safe? Kind of like our own little civilization.”
“It’s not a bad idea,” Xavier admitted, “but like your mother said, it’s dangerous. And I highly doubt any vampires or werewolves would be willing to put aside the hatred they’ve had for each other for thousands of years because a hybrid suddenly showed up with a peace treaty.”
“I’m stronger than they are, Dad. They wouldn’t mess with me. I want to do something good, something to help people. I’ve hated myself for being a hybrid all my life. I want to use it to my advantage now, and do something good. That war that happened in Duskwood? It was all about territory and who it belonged to. Technically, that land should be ours."
Despite Linley's adamant protests, her parents didn't budge. Their minds were made up; they feared for their daughter's life, and they didn't want her to intentionally put herself in danger.
But Linley didn't need their permission. She wasn't asking for it. She was now 18, a legal adult. She could do whatever she wanted. She was telling her parents her plans just to inform them. She wasn't asking for approval.
And their reactions gave her even more of a reason to exile all of the Duskwood vampires out of the town forever, not only to restore peace and balance, but also to prove her parents wrong.
One week later...
Allanna knocked on Linley's door one morning, though it was nearly noon. She figured her daughter had just been out hunting late at night again and wanted to let her sleep.
Still, when there was no answer, she entered the bedroom anyway. But she didn't see a figure sprawled out in Linley's bed. Instead, the bed was neatly made, almost as though it hadn't been slept in all night. Linley's scent was nowhere in the room, and the window was wide open.
"Xavier!" Allanna cried at the top of her lungs. Her husband was at her side in seconds.
"What? What's wrong?" he inquired quizzically upon seeing his wife's frazzled face.
Allanna put her hand to her chest as she expressed her worries to Xavier.
"I can't smell her, it looks like the bed hasn't even been slept in, and you know she wouldn't stay a wolf and sleep outside..."
"Calm down. I'm sure she's fine, where could she have gone?"
"Xavier, please tell me you're joking."
The thought was there in both of their minds. They didn't want to admit it, but they had no choice. The most logical explanation would be that Linley had gone to Duskwood. A quick survey of her bedroom showed that her suitcase was gone as well as several of her clothes. She'd obviously gone to Duskwood to accomplish her goal of turning it into a sanctuary.
"We have to get to her!" Allanna declared. Xavier only nodded before summoning the boys and instructing them to pack their suitcases. Allanna called Cynthia while Xavier packed for the both of them. This wasn't going to be easy, and they needed all the help they could get.
Meanwhile, Linley had arrived in Duskwood. She'd taken a cab, having no other means of transportation to get there (she was already in hot water with her parents, so stealing one of their cars wouldn't help), and she was grateful to finally get out and stretch her legs.
She'd only been to Duskwood once in her life, and it looked the same as when she'd come to rescue Craig. Thinking of him still shot stabs of pain through her heart, but knowing that she was about to do something more meaningful with her life, and something that was undoubtedly the right thing, helped ease the turmoil.
It hadn't been particularly easy, sneaking out of the house in the middle of the night. But Linley knew that going out through the front door, past the creaky stairs and her parents' and brothers' bedrooms, would be far more risky and conspicuous than just opening her window and climbing out onto the roof. As a hybrid, she could easily jump down from that not-very-high roof and land on the ground unscathed, even with a suitcase in her hand.
She'd then hiked toward town to flag down a cab, fearing that her parents might wake up if they heard it outside the house. She could have just bought an airplane ticket, but that was far more expensive, and she wanted to have enough time to think of the best way to fulfill this task without harm coming to anyone, including herself.
Now, standing in the fog that surrounded Duskwood, she was suddenly overcome with a wave of uncertainty. Would this plan really work? What if her parents were right and she ended up getting herself killed? Was taking back Duskwood, a town her parents had grown up in, and a town that her parents' families had shunned them from, worth her life?
But she kept telling herself that it was, and that this was the right thing to do. The war between vampires and werewolves had to come to an end, at least in one part of the world. Linley was proof that it could end, having both vampire and werewolf genes in her body. She was stronger than any normal vampire or werewolf alone, and it wasn't easy to kill her. She was determined to prevail, and she wouldn't leave Duskwood with this task unfinished.
Linley had counted on a lot of things transpiring during this mission, but the one thing she hadn't counted on was running into her parents, brothers, and Cynthia shortly after getting out of the cab.
"Get your ass in that car right now," Xavier demanded as he pointed to what looked like a rental car. The fact that he and Allanna were both standing in the sun didn't seem to faze either of her parents, though she could smell their scorching flesh. "You are in deep trouble, young lady."
"Dad," Linley began, but her mother's hand cut off her words.
"We don't want to hear it," she said with vehemence. "You disobeyed us, snuck out in the middle of the night, and came to Duskwood alone! At least you had the decency to take a cab and give us enough time to beat you here by taking a plane."
"Why are you so against this?" Linley demanded. "I'm just trying to make things right here, and I'm telling you, I'll be fine! Besides, you guys are all here now, so we have greater numbers. I'm telling you, we can do this. I swear!"
Allanna and Xavier began to retort once more, but then Cynthia spoke for the first time, surprising them all:
"Let's do it."
Everyone gaped at Cynthia like she'd completely lost her mind. Allanna's mouth fell open and Xavier's brow furrowed. Linley's heart sped up and Braden and Jaden just stepped away from the werewolf, both in an attempt to separate themselves from the smell and to avoid any lashing she might receive from their parents.
Allanna was the first to speak.
"Cyn, are you crazy? What's the point? You left Duskwood and came to find us, and now you want to live here again?"
"I didn't leave Duskwood by choice. I was forced out, just like the rest of the pack. But this is my home, and it's yours too, whether you like it or not. It's where all three of us - you, me, and Xavier - grew up, and your own daughter is willing to restore order to it, even though she's only been here once in her whole life. And she's got a point - she's a hybrid, and we're all on her side. I think we can do this."
"Plus," Linley added before her parents could interject, "Mortius and Gloria are dead. This clan doesn't have a leader, right? They don't have someone they'll have to listen to. They can choose on their own, and I bet a lot of them are just as tired of this stupid war as we are."
Allanna looked heavenward. One other thing Linley had inherited from her besides her wolf genes - her stubbornness. She also inherited her father's determination and bravery. There would be no talking Linley out of what she hoped to accomplish. It was there in her eyes, a cause and a spark of hope that she might be able to end a war that seemed futile, and her "curse" of being a hybrid, something she'd hated for many years of her life, would be the key.
She hated to admit it, but she couldn't deny it - with Linley's determination and genes, it was much more likely that Duskwood could be saved. There would no longer have to be an invisible barrier between vampires and werewolves, nor would there have to be an asinine dispute between territory.
Was this Linley's true purpose? To restore order to a town long thought lost to conflict? If she herself was willing to try, why should her own family try to stop her?
Which was why she found herself saying, "Fine, we'll give this a shot. But I swear to God, if any of you get hurt, I'll rip this town to shreds and kill every single vampire in it. I don't care about restoring peace if one of my family is harmed."
"We'll make sure that doesn't happen," Xavier declared.
Linley looked at her parents with newfound respect. She was so afraid that they'd forcefully shove her into the rented car and let Duskwood, their true home, slip through their fingers. But now, she felt an even stronger wave of determination wash over her. They would prevail. Of that she was certain.
Four months later...
It hadn't taken as much force as they'd anticipated, but it had taken a lot more time. But after four long months, all the vampires of Duskwood had surrendered. They'd accused Xavier and Allanna, both of whom they'd remembered from all those years ago, of bluffing when they'd threatened to have them ripped apart by both a hybrid and a werewolf. They were equally shocked to see that Allanna had been turned into a vampire, but they still refused to accept her because Mortius and Gloria had ordered her dead.
Until Linley herself showed up. And wasn't killed by either a silver bullet or a wooden stake.
Her parents weren't thrilled that she was using herself as bait, but the vampires of Duskwood had pure horror in their eyes when her wounds healed faster than the poisonous silver could spread through her body, and faster than the stake's wood took effect. She just looked at them smugly and they backed down, as though they were showing respect to an alpha wolf.
The vampires, not having a leader to follow, spent a lot of their time arguing over whether or not to just give up the war since Mortius himself had initiated it and staying loyal to him, even if he and his daughter were dead, and killing the enemy.
In the end, the vampires that wished to remain loyal to Mortius were exiled, though it did cost one vampire his life as Linley and Cynthia ripped him to shreds to illustrate their seriousness. The other vampires, fearing for their own lives, weren't too thrilled about being ordered around by an 18-year-old "half breed", but they nonetheless complied and agreed to sign a treaty.
The treaty stated that the werewolves could have their land back and could keep it as long as they wished. There were to be no more wars in or around Duskwood, and the territory belonged to all creatures living within the town.
The biggest surprise of all came when Darius, Allanna's father, returned to Duskwood and looked at his daughter with a hint of understanding in his eyes. He wasn't pleased that his daughter was now a vampire, and he was still bitter about losing his wife, but when he saw his granddaughter and all she'd done to help him get his home back, they all came to a mutual understanding.
Darius was no longer the leader of the wolf pack, but the new alpha was equally grateful for Linley's help. Because she fed on animal blood and could turn into a wolf, he viewed her as more of a werewolf than a vampire, so he welcomed her with open arms.
Reconstruction of several homes took place, and both species put their brute strength to work (except the vampires during the day, but the work was mostly done at night). Trees and shrubs were planted to conceal the town from humans (though there hadn't been any ever since the vampires took over and celebrated by drinking their blood), and the Deitrechs got a new house right in the middle of the town.
Linley, however, didn't move back in with her parents. She got her own place, since at 18, she'd proven she was capable of living on her own. No one would dare try to defy or kill her because no one knew how to do so. Still, in time, she truly was looked upon as a god, being so strong and possessing abilities of both species. She was living proof that there truly could be an end to a war that started before any of them even came to be, and therefore had nothing to do with.
But Linley wasn't a dictator. She truly cared about the well-being of both species, and if there was a problem, she'd rationally try to solve it. She became the unofficial leader of the Duskwood clan (Xavier, being a full-blooded vampire, was made the official leader) and the unofficial alpha of the wolf pack (or second in command as she was sometimes called).
Xavier and Allanna couldn't have been more proud of their daughter. She'd defied all odds and accomplished the impossible. And her life was only beginning.