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Rated: E · Fiction · Fantasy · #2152981
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Prologue

1245

A dove flew over the fields high above the heads of the farmers as they plowed the land, getting ready to plant the years crops. Her cheerful chirps could be heard by the farmers, and many of them were lifted by her merry laughter. Flying was one of the dove's favorite pastimes, and she always took advantage of the ideal conditions that spring provided. She spread her wings and soared over the country side and into the woods, singing all the while. While she flew, she stumbled upon the sight of a young man. He was chopping wood and was one of the most handsome men that she had ever seen. He had arctic blue eyes and wild black hair that hardly looked as if it could be tamed. The dove alit upon a branch close to the young man and sung sweetly. The man turned his eyes to her and smiled warmly. She could see that the sharp lines of his face seemed to be new and suggested that he had left boyhood behind in only the last few years.

"Hello little dove. How are you this fine morning?" He asked her. She ruffled her feathers and closed her eyes, appreciating the warm sun that filtered through the trees. The man laughed and looked up to the canopy, "I agree. The sun is very welcome. My uncle says that this summer will be one of the warmest we've seen in a while."

The dove nodded sagely as she had seen many seasons go by and anticipated the warm weather and surge of wild flowers that were sure to come.

"You know, I have an odd feeling that you understand me dove. That may seem crazy, but trust me, I am very used to crazy by now." The man informed the bird in a conspiritual manner. The bird laughed again in her high-pitched chirp and before his eyes changed into a beautiful girl with alabaster skin tinged with pink, blemished only by the splashing of freckles across her cheeks and hair that was as white as the purest of pearls. As he stared, shocked, into her eyes, he found that they were the same blue as the deepest parts of the ocean and contrasted greatly with the rest of her pale features. The girl wore a simple brown frock and no shoes; while her hair hung in loose, messy curls down her back. She laughed as the man stared at her in confusion, her eyes crinkling softly in her mirth.

"I very much understand you sir. In fact, I believe your uncle to be right. We'll have a beautifully, warm summer yet." She told the man. Slowly a grin spread across the man's handsome face as he ran to the girl swinging her around in his arms.

"Oh my dove, I think we are going to have a lovely time together." He said jubilantly before setting her down gently.

"You are too forward young man. I don't even know your name and yet you fling me around like we've known each other since birth," she replied, still laughing. The tinkling sound echoed through the quiet forest. The girl loved how open and bright this boy was.

"You are absolutely right dove," he bowed deeply, making the girl blush, "William Hale, it is an absolute pleasure to meet you."

The girl curtsied in turn and introduced herself, "My name is Elizabeth Winter. I am just dying to learn more about you William."

Little did she know, William was like herself, able to change his shape and live through the ages as if time didn't exist. Their story was as frustrating as it was beautiful, but it ended faster than either of them intended in a way that would haunt each them until they met again, but that isn't important now. Something big is on the horizon, and to be prepared, they must find the strength to overcome it.



Chapter 1

Five years ago

Why do humans leave food outside, are they just stupid or something? I stalked over to the grill, where several cuts of meat sat sizzling and smoking; giving off the most mouthwatering smell. I hadn't eaten in several weeks, and I was hungry. Of course, if I wanted to, I could have gone on for eternity without food and be just as well, but I enjoyed having a full stomach and the way food tasted, so I was fine with this theft. Inside of the human's house, warm lights and laughter drifted towards me as I allowed myself to think about my life before I decided to go wild. Clubs every night and the faces around me constantly changing, anything to keep my mind quiet. Being wild was better. Animals had routines, and basic needs that overrode human emotion.

I had decided on a bobcat once I made it up to the Vancouver area where they were common in and around the city. I hunted in the surrounding forests and sometimes stole from the yards on the outskirts of town. At first, I felt bad for thieving, but as my instincts kicked in, it got easier and easier to rationalize it. I shook my head, trying not to dwell on the past, and focused once more on the sizzling meat. I wished, not for the first time, that I could shift with regular colors. Instead, my fur was snowy white with dark grey markings, making it harder to blend in to my surroundings. I had had more than enough time to adjust, so I had no issue now. Still, it would be easier to be normal.

I crouched low to the ground and coiled my muscles preparing to grab the meat and run. I took two tentative steps forward, placing my paws softly onto the ground making hardly any noise, and checked the door again. Suddenly, one of the humans opened the door, and I cringed back from the light, narrowing my eyes. The human was male, with tanned skin and neat milk chocolate hair. I growled low in my throat as the human looked at me, eyes wide in surprise. I still wanted the meat and as the human hadn't moved yet, I was going to get it. I walked slowly, twitching my tail, not paying attention to the man, but swiveling my ears to listen for any movement. I had almost gotten to the grill when the human finally realized what was happening.

"Hey! You can't take that!" he yelled, waving his arms at me, "It's for my family."

I rolled my eyes, still not looking at him and put my front paws on the grill, hooking my claws onto the edge. The metal was extremely hot, but I didn't feel at thing. The man ran for the grill, telling me to stop while gesturing wildly his hands. I finally turned to face the man and looked straight up into his leaf green eyes. I crouched once again and showed my teeth, a gesture that sent most humans running for the hills. Much to my surprise, the boy shifted into a bobcat. His fur was rich brownish red with black markings. He was quite a bit bigger than I, though that was to be expected as I was not very large in any form I took. I was so startled by this that I was shocked back into human form. The boy soon followed my lead and was soon back in his own skin.

"So, you are a shifter too eh?" I rasped. I was still wearing the same clothes that I was when I first went wild, tattered jeans and a grey tank top. The boy seemed incapable of speech as he stared at me. "Do you talk? How old are you?"

Shifters were immortal and stopped aging around their teenage years depending on how early they first used their powers. Shifters were so rarely born, that most everyone that I had met had been a few thousand years old.

"Uh ya I talk. I am Luke and I'm seventeen years old." Luke stuttered. This time it was my turn to gape. Seventeen years old? Luke was still in his first lifetime. His family hadn't seen what he was and that he didn't change. He could still be normal, for a while at least. I nodded my good bye at him, then made to get up and make my exit, but the stupid boy grabbed my arm.

"I thought I was the only one that could do that. What did you call me?" Luke seemed overwhelmed, but his grip on my arm was iron.

"Shifter. That is what we have been called since we came to be.... Or variations of it in other languages." I muttered, not really used to using my voice for any period of time.

"So, there are more of us?" the boy asked with wide eyes.

"Well ya. We're pretty rare, but there are still a couple of us kicking around." I stood up not wanting to be seen sitting awkwardly on the ground any longer. I brushed myself off and walked closer to the boy trying to get a better look. Usually when I met another shifter, if at all, they were well past their first century, and most of the time, older than I was. It was interesting to see one of us that hadn't really learned how to use our powers that well. The boy was still on all fours but was quickly realizing that this was a bit of an embarrassing situation. Luke scrambled to his feet and smiled sheepishly as I chuckled.

"Uh sorry. I haven't really gotten the hang of the whole not being human thing. What is your name?" Luke asked. He approached me as if I was still a wild animal, slowly and knees slightly bent to seem less threatening to my less than significant height.

"I'm Elizabeth Winter. Most people call me Lizzy, but I don't really care what you chose. We won't see enough of each other for that to be very important." I told him matter-of-factly. It was part of our unofficial code to leave shifters be during their first lifetime so they could have as much humanity as they could for as long as possible. Of course, Luke didn't know this and miss interpreted my meaning entirely.

"Why not? You can't expect me to forget that I found someone that can do what I can do. Besides, us shifters gotta stick together right? It can't be safe for us, I mean mutants in the movies are always hunted and you're so small. You can't be much older than me." He fumbled around making my hackles rise as he commented on my size. Don't get me wrong, I was more than a formidable opponent having had years to hone my skills and perfect my battle strategy, but my barely five-foot stature did not inspire fear into the hearts of anyone.

"Buddy I am willing to bet that I am thousands of years older than your grandmother. I assure you that I can take care of myself without issue." I informed him dryly. I thought for a second and became irritated that he had asked at all, "Aside from that, have you really not noticed that shifters heal unnaturally fast?"

"Well ya, I've had a couple broken bones in my life and doctors were kind of amazed at how fast I healed." Luke admitted. It was all I could do to keep from banging my head against the nearest wall. This kid was such a liability that it was insane. Used to be that special people like us were praised for our abilities as gifts from the stars, but nowadays anything abnormal was something that needed to be experimented on and carted away to laboratories.

"Ok uh, there was so much wrong with that, I don't even know where to start." I pinched the bridge of my nose, trying to forestall the headache I knew was coming. The sooner that I got away from here the better, "Please do not got to the doctor anymore. It is a terrible idea and I promise that you will be fine without it. Most of us come from a time where doctors had no idea what they were doing and would hurt you more than they would help you. Please for heaven's sake, unless you want to be strapped to an exam table for the rest of your life, do not go to the doctor's office.

Luke looked thoroughly puzzled by my rambling, but seemed to get the general gist of what I was saying. He nodded slowly in acknowledgement and I took that as my que to leave.

"Wait! I want to come with you." He called after me, "please, I really want to know where I come from and how to control this. You said you've been alive for a long time, surely you could teach me?"

I sighed and turned back to Luke, "Look, as much as I would love to help you, I don't think that would be a good idea."

Since meeting this boy, I had been thinking about getting back into the human thing so I could keep an eye on this train wreck waiting to happen. Besides, I had an apartment in New York and someone needed to keep tabs on the rest of the known shifters. Some of them tended to forget that we needed to keep a low profile, and I might as well have something new to keep me busy.

"I live in New York and I would hate to rip you out of this perfect little family that you have here. Besides, you'll want to spend as much time as you can with them." I tried to reason with the boy.

"No, that's great! I was going to go to college near there anyways." He rushed his words, getting more excited by the minute, "You could train me there in New York and no one would even know the difference.

Crap. That actually sounded like a half way plausible idea. I mulled it over quietly and thought about the possible repercussions this could leave me with. This kid had no idea what he was getting into, nor did he think about time or really anything else the way that I did. He was so young, and immature, but heaven knows I could probably use the distraction.

"Fine. You can come with me. When do your parents expect you to leave for college?" I said reluctantly, keeping my face turned away, not looking him directly in the eye.

"You're kidding! Aw thank you Lizzy!" He smiled widely and swept me into a hug, making me want to cringe away as I had not really had any human contact in the last ten years.

"They expect me to leave next week, but I could tell them that I need to leave this weekend!" Luke put me down and started rocking up and down on his feet, clearly excited to get started. I rubbed my arms, sort of put off by the outpour of anticipation.

"Alright, I'll get you plane tickets and directions to the apartment." I edged over to the bushes so I could finally escape, and turned over my shoulder, "Good night."

With that I shifted and relaxed as soon as I saw my own furry paws in front of me.



Chapter 2

Present Day

I made my way to the kitchen, hungry from the exertion of my morning workout. I had gotten up early and had been running for hours as Luke's arrival grew nearer. After he had come to New York, I started his training with very little preamble, acting as a drill Sargent and stressing the importance of control over mind and body. As time went on, we had gotten to know each other and became friends, then dated for a few years. I cringed as I thought of the few years that we were together and the fundamental differences between us that eventually drove us apart. He was so young and immature, while I had seen more time go by than he could ever imagine. We still texted each other sometimes, but both of us understood that we were never destined to be more than friends. Today, he was coming to stay for a couple of days so that we could deal with a minor disturbance in one of the vamp dens. A handful of civilians had been found stacked in a warehouse drained of blood, and though I could have dealt with it myself, Luke had wanted to come up to New York and help. The Moroi, a race of civilized vampires, had said that they would deal with it, but the problem with them, and really any other ancient race, was their inability to do anything in a timely manner. Even Luke had heard about the mounting body count in South Carolina where he was currently living. He would most likely arrive this morning and check into a hotel close in proximity to the den and come by to report his findings tomorrow.

I put my towel down and grabbed a plastic spoon and a jar of peanut butter from the cupboard. I had always liked the idea of food having its own container, and try as some might, I have never lost the habit of eating things straight out of the jar. I sat on the counter and enjoyed my snack until I heard a knock at the door. I tensed my muscles and set down my jar. I lived in the penthouse apartment of this building, which could not be accessed unless you knew the code for the elevator. It should be impossible for someone to come up here, and I should know, I put extra security in myself.

I stalked over to the door quietly so as not to give the intruder any notice that I was coming. I put my hand on the knob and my ear to the door right as another series of loud knocks pounded on the door. I swung the heavy metal open and struck. Leafy eyes met mine in confusion and I stopped just short of breaking Luke's nose.

"What the hell are you doing here?" I shouted, embarrassed at my slight overreaction.

"What do you mean, Lizzy?" he chuckled, "You knew I was coming today. Jeez you're even more paranoid than I remember."

'Paranoid my ass,' I thought, 'My covering our tracks and managing my money right for years was the only thing that kept us out of the eyes of the government.' I crossed my arms as I examined Luke. His coco colored hair was mussed from travel and his clothes were rumpled. My eyes shifted down to his hand, where the handle of a suitcase was gripped firmly. I crossed my arms over my chest, and narrowed my eyes as a realization crept slowly into my mind.

"I didn't expect you until tomorrow. Thought you might want to get settled into your hotel." I emphasized the last word, hoping that my prediction was wrong. Living in the same apartment for the next couple of days could become awkward very fast.

"Um about that...," Luke's ears turned pink and my jaw tightened, "I thought, why waste money on a hotel when Lizzy has like six guest rooms."

Crap. I consider my prediction accurate, and chew on the inside of my lip as I consider his request. His statement was designed to make me feel bad for him as he indicated that he might be a bit tight on money since he refused to take the funds that I offered to support him. He also seemed to be taking a low blow at me for not offering up my home in the first place. After watching him squirm for a couple of more minutes, I sighed and relented.

"Fine, you can stay here. I just really wished you would have at least told me this was going to happen. The apartment is a mess." Luke looked over my shoulder to the kitchen and living room where only my peanut butter blemished the clean and dust free surfaces. I blushed and turned away, starting to lead him to the room he had stayed in before.

"Wait. I've gotta get Amber from the lobby. I told her it might be easier to get you on board if I came up here alone. Looks like I was right." Luke laughed. I however, did not. I did not know who Amber was, but I could assume it was the new girlfriend. Something that would have also been a good thing for him to have called or texted about since he very well knew that my apartment was not the best place for a human to be. They tended to be extremely fragile.

"You brought a human here?" I asked him with my eyes blazing. Luke looked sheepish, but not sorry as he wheeled his bags into the living room.

"Ya, I'll help disable some of the stuff you keep around so she won't die." He reassured me, "She didn't want me to be alone during my trip so she made me take her with me."

I scoffed, of course she didn't want him to be alone. I could gather that he told her he was going to see an ex of his, and no girl really wants that to happen. I didn't know what else he told her, but based on past experience and his trusting nature, I was going to guess that the answer was way too much. I waved him away indicating him to get it over with and smiled slightly as he bounced out of the room.

I waited in the kitchen as Luke collected his girlfriend and the rest of her stuff. I put away the peanut butter with the label facing out and threw the plastic spoon away. Having my house clean and everything put away the way I wanted helped me to calm my nerves when I met new people.

Too soon, another knock came at the door, so I prepared myself to be polite and opened the door slowly, not wanting to repeat the almost bloody scene of earlier. Amber turned out to be a tall blond with amber eyes to complement her name. She wore jeans and a pink tee shirt that seemed to have the bottom physically cut off. She also had her hand snaked around Luke, claiming him as her own, as if I would ever want to revisit our relationship. She smiled tightly at me as we evaluated each other while I kept my face neutral. I have lived long enough to figure out that no one really needed to waste time faking a smile for others.

"Hi! Lizzy, right? I'm Amber Jeffries and it is so nice to finally meet you." She said loudly as if I were hard of hearing. I rolled my eyes and saw Luke frown out of the corner of my eye.

"Nice to meet you Amber. I never even knew you existed until after Luke asked if he could stay here, so it should be entertaining to see how we get along." I told her in a deadpan. Her fake enthusiasm and intrusion into my home had not given me the best first impression. Never the less, she kept trying to make conversation as we stood in the door frame. I noticed then, that I had not moved to let them pass.

"I am very impressed that you live in the pent house honey. Are your parents someone I should know?" She asked. Clearly, she did not know everything. I smiled now knowing that at least some of my secrets may be safe.

"No, my parents have been dead for a long time. I've learned how to make my own money." I told her and finally stepped out of the way and gestured for her and Luke to come in. Amber looked around the room, feeling all of the furniture and admiring some of the artwork that graced the walls. When she was done, she turned and told Luke to take her stuff to their room. Luke happily obliged, but the minute he left the room, the smile melted off of her face, and morphed into a glare that I met confidently.

"That is an interesting outfit to wear for the arrival of an ex-boyfriend, don't you think you little cougar?" She said as her gaze traveled up and down my body. I looked down myself, wondering what I could be wearing that might elicit that response. I found I was wearing my typical workout attire, short, black compression shorts and plain sports bra. I needed clothes that wouldn't restrict my movement and dried quickly so I could transition from swimming laps to dry land without discomfort. Since Luke's arrival was a surprise, I had not had time to change.

"Do you not work out like this?" I asked, genuinely confused. Luke had seen and worked out with me so many times while I was dressed in this exact outfit, that I doubt he was even phased by it. My only response from her was a narrowing of eyes as Luke came back into the room. Her phony smile made an encore purely for Luke's benefit. It made me want to vomit.

"I think Amber and I are going to go out so I can show her the city and maybe grab lunch later." He crossed the room, coming to a stop in front of me "Thank you so much for letting us stay here Lizzy."

He stooped to hug me quickly, then grabbed Amber's hand and was gone. I let out my breath slowly and rolled my shoulders, trying to let the tension out. Amber was certainly going to cause some difficulty in the future, and I needed to make the house less deadly. I had more security that one might think, trip wires and sensors lined the halls, and while most wouldn't kill you, they were still very capable of breaking bones. Personally, I enjoyed the obstacle course and tried to think of a new way to best it every morning, but I had a feeling Amber would be less appreciative of the challenge. I thought for a minute, but decided to leave everything the way it was, after all, Luke did say that he was going to disable everything anyways. I shrugged and went about doing what I normally did; after all, this was the best part of my day.

I walked down the hall and locked every door except the room that Luke was using, then headed toward the door at the end of the long walkway. The sky bridge to my private gym was situated near my bedroom at the end of the hall for easy access. It had taken awhile for me to arrange it, but boy did owning a gym have its perks.

The apartment building that I lived in, was flanked on the right side by a large name brand gym that every average Joe could attend and pretend that they wanted to be fit. What no one else knew, was that many years ago, I had bought the company and added to the original building to make a space that catered to my needs. The top floors could only be accessed from my apartment, so no one could accidentally see more than they were supposed to.

I scanned my finger print and input my code into the small pad by the door, then walked across the small bridge that was camouflaged by huge billboards on either side of it. I emerged into a large room, sporting a track that formed a ring around an Olympic sized swimming pool. Hurdles were set up on the other side of the room, lined up perfectly with the lanes, but could be deactivated and sink into the floor with the push of a button. Doors on the other side of the track lead to the bottom floor and rooms with various kinds exercise equipment and studios that could be used for dance, martial arts, or whatever struck your fancy. On both floors, thick beams crisscrossed the ceiling, and small platforms made it a great place to train for a variety of situations.

Not for the first time, I wondered at the marvel of what I had built. Being alive for so long meant that I could usually predict rises and falls in the stock market and I had invested my money well over the years. Now, I had enough money to buy a small country and still live in comfort.

Suddenly, I started laughing. Amber's raised voice and surly attitude suddenly made much more sense. Luke had told her my true age, that I was over three thousand years old. She must have expected a withered old woman to open that door. Why she would think that was beyond me. Did she really think her boyfriend would have dated an old woman? I must have been quite different than she expected, I mused. The only thing that might have close to what she was expecting is my thick white hair.

I let myself laugh as I hadn't in a while, but sobered quickly. This was the point in my day where I usually practiced with my abilities. You see, I am special even for a shifter. I was born with the ability to control fire and use it for any means I see fit. It had taken many years to keep it in check, but after thousands of hours of practice, I was in complete control and could use it to my advantage.

I stretched on the track, making sure every part of my body was loose and warm, before setting my face in the stony mask I wore in battle. Settling into a crouch, I took a deep breath before exploding up and out, lunging at an imaginary foe.

Feint left. Jump and twist right. I brought my foot down landing in the middle of the line I was aiming for, and immediately launched into a series of kicks and jabs that aimed to harness control over your limbs and mind so you could think steps ahead of what you were doing. With every other movement, I shot bursts of flame from my fists and bare feet. Plumes of white fire tinged with blue shot out with blazing accuracy and searing heat.

I continued for about an hour before lowering myself carefully onto the ground, filled with endorphins and drenched with sweat. I loved the post workout feeling that left me feeling accomplished and in control. I tipped my head back and closed my eyes to take a long drink of water, and was immediately blinded by a sudden flash of bright light, and was swept into a memory.

Well shit. This was one of the things that I could live without. My mind could play memories back in perfect detail in both a voluntary and involuntary fashion. This usually occurred when my body was relaxed and vulnerable, which was why I liked to constantly in motion. The experience was disorienting and confusing to say the least, but I had become resigned to them and just tried to be prepared for whatever was to come.

The memory swirled into focus until I found myself sitting in a house that I knew well, though there was more people in it than usual. Other shifters, about twenty in all, milled around the small space, obviously nervous as if waiting for something to start. I sat at a large, but simple wooden table surrounded by a motley assortment of chairs. As I observed the tension around me, I didn't share any of it, I believed that we could get through whatever was coming.

As the pieces fit together, I tried desperately to push myself out of this particular memory. I had figured out where I was and I was not prepared to relive this one. My fault. I should know better than to let myself get too comfortable. This meeting had been the start of the most horrible thing that I had experienced. Something that should have been impossible, the death of shifters.

I was startled out of my panic when a pair of strong hands settled on my shoulders. The me that lived in this memory turned around and gave the owner of the hands a warm smile. Arctic eyes pierced mine as I returned the smile immediately. Will. He had been the steadiest thing in my life and I knew I could count on his friendship until the end of time. How wrong I had been. We ended up having different opinions on a great many matters. I also knew that whatever was going to happen wasn't going to be the end as long as the little family I found stayed together. I felt like rolling my eyes at the irony. That 'family' had broken apart after Petram died and Will had made it clear that I was not welcome in his presence. I resigned myself to the fact that this would most likely to be painful to watch, and tried to pay attention as the rest of the memory played out.

Will and I broke eye contact as the rest of the room seemed to quiet down. Petram walked to the center of the room, his quiet prescience filling the room, quieting the chatter. Petram was the one responsible for the meeting and by far the oldest shifter I had ever met. He had an ageless face and though he was a small, squat man, he radiated power in a way that I never would. Thousands of years older than Will and his sister Nita, he had taken them in after they ran away from the hunters (A race of half angels that were sworn to protect humans from demon and other supernatural creatures) and in turn, had taken me in after I found Will. We lived in a small, but lovely home in the middle of nowhere. He was charismatic in a way that required little words and I regarded him as a father and mentor.

"Fellow shifters," he greeted us as the room went silent. "I am delighted to see so many of us in the same place, but I trust that you know why we have gathered here."

This statement was met with grumbling and I detected more than a little annoyance. Most shifters regarded Petram with an almost reverent attitude, and would come to his aid no matter what the reason, but there was more than a bit of doubt here. I could feel the color drain from my cheeks as eyes turned to me, but snapped back to attention when Petram continued, "There is a threat to our kind, the likes of which we have never seen before."

I nodded along remembering the cold dread that had pooled in my stomach until I had broken. I had been plunged into darkness, similar to the way my body was dragged into memories, and pains had shot down my limbs making my whole-body shake. Will had informed me that I had screamed about a looming threat and someone coming to take us away. It was an embarrassing situation that caused everyone to treat me like a china cup and wrote it off as another one of the nightmares that frequently plagued my sleep. This continued until a strong sense of dread accumulated in each of them until the feeling could not be ignored any longer.

"How do you know?" a pale haired man asked from the crowd, "Going on a hunch is not exactly fool proof."

Petram nodded and thought for a moment before he spoke. I absently reached for Will's hand where it rested on my shoulder and pictured the grin that usually graced his face,

"Now Charlie, you know that a hunch is not exactly what it is." He swept his hands around the room in a broad gesture, "I know you may think this feeling is just the anxiety of old age, but it is too deep seated to be that. I know anxiety, but this is something else. If feels dark, but every time I try to examine the cause, it dissipates or hovers just out of reach."

The murmuring in the room turned uneasy as they wondered how Petram could have so accurately summed up the knots tied in their stomach.

"Our own Ms. Winter can sum it up best as she has abilities that we lack and can sense these things more acutely. She says that someone or something is coming for us and I believe her without a doubt." He always called us by our proper names though no one else in our little family was ever that formal. I glowed with warmth at his trust, and nodded as he gestured to me. We had gone over what would happen during this meeting a million times, so I knew that this was my que to talk. I looked around the room, and Nita winked as our eyes met. I smiled as Will squeezed my hand and I stood up.

"Go on, you've got this dove," he whispered making me smile. I loved that he never gave up that little nickname.

"Yes, well," I started uncertainly as all eyes turned towards me, my voice grave, "Someone is after us. Someone that knows everything."

This statement elicited a few gasps and incredulous looks from the other. It should not have been possible for humans to know about us. We went through a lot of trouble to keep our existence from the general populous and I knew that many would feel betrayed if just one of us let the secret slip. I continued, but this time, my voice was stronger.

"I don't know what they are after yet, but I know that we don't have to sit and wait for it to happen. Even if this individual knows what we are, no one will believe them without proof," several shifters nodded their head in agreement as I continued, "If we stay together, then there is no way to pick one of us off. In fact, we can make plans of our own to make sure he doesn't make it out of the year alive."

Cheers went off around the room as I concluded my part, and I turned to Will as he swept me into an embrace. I hid my face in his shoulder as color rose in my face. I did not enjoy the spotlight. My stomach had been in knots for days leading up to the meeting and Will was the only thing that got me to this point. I relaxed as his piney scent wreathed around me.

"You were amazing dove. Petram couldn't have done it better himself." Will tugged on one of my curls and grinned down at me. He knew how nervous I had been and we had joked before the meeting of how my hair always getting stuck on our rough wooden chairs may have posed a bit of a problem. My brain formed a snarky comment, something about me being more graceful than he thought, but before I could, the memory started to disintegrate around me.

I couldn't hear the rest of the memory as the edges started getting fuzzy and the voices muted. I watched people's mouth's move until I couldn't make out the faces anymore. I faded out of the memory and slowly regained control in the present. The last thing I saw was Will's lovely smile in perfect focus before snapping back to myself.

I wiped my face as I saw the familiar lines of the track and found my cheeks to be wet with tears. Though that memory wasn't the worst that I had experienced, the aftermath surely was. Only half of the shifters that came to the meeting stayed, resulting in the others getting picked off one by one and forced into a dark cave, chained to the wall, their restraints made of a metal that I had never heard of before. Rhodium is the rarest metal on the face of the planet so through some logic, it prevents the rarest beings on the planet from being able to shift. I thought it was bullshit, but I couldn't really argue with hard evidence. Since most of us relied on our ability to easily get out of difficult situations, there was nothing that they could do to escape. Many of our friends were tortured for days to reveal the secrets of the ages, but to their credit, none gave in and instead opted to kill themselves to keep our secrets safe. It was a steep price, but it forced their captor to venture out at every failure. It was a waiting game that toll on even the best of us. We may have dispatched the man responsible, but all of us took the loss extremely hard. Especially Petram. The man that we once thought was invincible, crumbled before us and eventually took his own life. It was a huge loss, and we ended the century with only six surviving shifters. Most went back to the lives that they had left, but my family fractured without Petram. My best friend and Will's sister, Nita, left us to go back to the hunters and forge their weapons in the Adamant Citadel. Will and I also parted ways after I refused to live as an animal with him, leaving me alone after living relatively happily for the past two hundred years.

The line of thought I was following made me uncomfortable, so I peeled myself off of the ground and walked back to my apartment. I hadn't realized how uncomfortable I was until I got to my room. My sweat soaked clothes had dried and were now irritating against my skin, so I stripped them off and placed them in the laundry basket before grabbing a different set of clothes.

I shrugged on a navy boatneck sweater, that hung attractively off one shoulder, over a black sports bra and pulled on a pair of light wash jeans that were ripped on the knees. To complete the new look, I gathered my unruly hair into a large, messy bun on the top of my head.

Looking for something else to do, I grabbed my half-full laundry basket and proceeded to walk down the hall to the wash room and start the washing machine. I carefully picked the dark clothes out of the pile and pop the into the soapy water. Once this was done, I decided that I was hungry again.

After wondering into the cupboard, I found a jar of Nutella and hopped up onto the counter to eat my snack. When I was comfortably full, I put the jar back in its original spot. I rubbed my bleary eyes as I realized how tired this morning's activities had made me. Being forced to relive my past always ran me down more than anything, but I almost never slept at night. The darkness brought on nightmares so horrific that I usually woke up screaming and crying, so now, while the sun was still out, seemed like a great time to nap.

I didn't want to mess up my carefully made bed, so I shifted into a cat. I knew my fur was white with a swirling gray pattern that marked me as an Australian mist. I was always more comfortable when the animal I chose was predominately white anyways. Satisfied with my appearance, I jumped up onto the kitchen counter and promptly dozed off in a truly inspired mime of a cat nap.





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