“Are you ready to go, boys?” Jon asked as we gathered near the backdoor of his hideaway.
I took one last look at the dimly lit corridor behind us before I turned back to Jon and nodded.
Jon motioned for us to follow him as he started running towards the north.
“Why are we running?” Tatum asked as he followed along behind me.
“Jon has a tracker on his car, and the government doesn’t know about the place that we’re going.” Dylan replied. “This way we can help keep the secret of ‘Lulu’s Hideaway’ from the humans.”
“It’s a safe haven for Creatures of the Underworld, Tatum.” Jon answered. “There’s a lot of rules that have to be followed when we get there.”
“Such as?” I asked.
“All humans are under the protection of Lulu and are not to be molested by any means,” Jon stated. “You will be banished from the safe haven if you break that number one rule. Number two. There is to be no fighting within twenty miles of the safe haven, unless it’s for training purposes only. Leave each other alone. The Hunters that protect the place are very strict.”
“I see,” I said calmly. “Are you going to be able to control yourself, Tatum?”
“Maybe,” Tatum replied nervously.
“No,” the mind reader told me calmly. “He’s trying to not even consider the idea, but he doesn’t have the same control as you do, yet.”
“There is one way,” Jon said as he slowed to a walk before he stopped and looked at me curiously. “Have you tried giving Tatum any commands yet?”
“What do you mean?”
“Have you told him to do anything?” Jon asked.
“Not really,” I said with a shrug. “Why?”
Jon appeared thoughtful for a moment.
“I want you to tell Tatum to do something,” the werewolf said after several minutes. “Something that he can refuse to do.”
“I don’t know,” he said. “Tell him to do push-ups or something.” Then, Jon turned his attention to Tatum. “Tatum, I want you to refuse to do the task, no matter what.”
Tatum nodded in acknowledgement.
“Go ahead, Evan.” Jon instructed. “Focus your attention on Tatum and tell him to do something.”
I turned to Tatum.
“Do ten push-ups, Tatum.”
“No,” Tatum replied easily.
“I’m missing something,” I said with a glance towards Jon. “What’s the purpose of this?”
“To keep your cousin from murdering someone on accident while we’re at the safe haven,” Jon stated bluntly. “Now, focus. I want you to remember that you are the Alpha, Evan. Use that energy to enforce your command. Tatum shouldn’t be able to say no to you unless you allow it.”
I nodded and focused on what Jon had told me. I felt something click in the back of my mind as I remembered what Jon had said about me being an Alpha. Tatum couldn’t refuse to do what I said.
“Do push-ups, Tatum.”
Tatum flinched at the command and immediately lowered himself down into the push-up position. I felt a smug sense of satisfaction at this new ability of mine.
“It only works on your own children, Evan.” Dylan informed me trying to knock me down a peg or two.
“Stop doing push-ups, Tatum.” I told my cousin and he immediately stopped. “You can get back up.”
“Good,” Jon said proudly. “Now, make sure that he doesn’t hurt anybody under Lulu’s protection at the Hideaway.”
I turned my attention back to Tatum and forced my will upon him again.
“Tatum, you are forbidden from molesting anybody that is under the protection of Lulu. You are forbidden from even considering the idea of drinking from somebody on Lulu’s property without her express permission.” I glared at my cousin as he began to tremble. “Am I understood?”
“Yes, father.” Tatum answered meekly.
I was surprised at the use of the title, but I let it pass as Jon nodded towards me before taking off at a run in the direction we had been moving. Dylan, Tatum, and I all followed closely behind the werewolf as he led us through a dense part of a forest. We traveled for only about an hour longer with little bits of information being shared here and there before we made it to ‘Lulu’s Hideaway’.
The motel looked rundown and was surrounded by trees. Even the poorly lit sign had bushes growing in front of it, nearly blocking it from the view of passing cars. There was a center structure that was surrounded by windows, and I guessed that that was the main office and the lobby of the motel. On either side of the main building there were two long single-story buildings that had eight red doors at spaced intervals. Curtained windows were placed between the doors and I could see light coming from behind one of them on the building to the right. There was a tiny blue car parked in front of the room, so I assumed that Lulu was able to conjure up some normal business every once in a while.
“According to Leslie,” Dylan spoke up from behind me. “Lulu has a steady set of clients that pass through here.”
I frowned remembering that Dylan knew everything that I was thinking.
“Sorry,” Dylan muttered in a dejected tone.
I turned back to Dylan and put my hand on his shoulder.
“Never be sorry for something that you can’t control, Dylan.” I reassured the vampire. His red eyes had a long look in them as he absorbed my words. “Your ability will keep our family safe from any harm that could befall us.”
Then, something strange happened. I felt a strange sort of click in the back of my mind as Dylan dropped his gaze from my own. He had just submitted to me.
“I understand, father.” The mind reader said quietly. “I will work on doing better.”
I turned to look at Jon who just looked completely stunned.
“Leslie said that it was going to happen at some point,” Jon muttered in disbelief. “I just don’t think that she knew it was going to happen this soon.”
“What are you talking about, Jon?” I asked him curiously.
“You’re finally beginning to settle into your position as the Alpha,” Jon stated smugly before he jogged across the street. Dylan stopped me from following him.
“F… father?” He stammered nervously.
“What is it, Dylan?”
He refused to meet my gaze with his own.
“Could… could… could you possibly give me the same order that you gave Tatum?” Dylan finally met my gaze with his own and I could see the look of terror in his eyes.
I nodded and repeated the process of giving Dylan the order not to harm any of Lulu’s guests. He trembled just like Tatum had, so I knew that I had done it correctly. It still baffled me that Dylan was able to switch his allegiance like that. I dismissed the thought for the time being and decided to join Jon at the motel.
The outside walls of the office were tan in color and there were several fluorescent lights flickering along the covered walkways giving an eerie glow to the entire scene. I could see a few people moving around inside the office as we approached, but I could only hear the sound of one muffled heartbeat. Jon waited for us at the door before he made his way into the office.
I wasn’t surprised to see a human being working at the front counter, but it did shock me that he didn’t look even the slightest bit afraid. He looked more curious than anything until he saw Jon standing beside me. He was as tall as I was, but he appeared to be a year or two older than me. He wore a tight blue t-shirt that showed off his chest muscles and made his blue eyes stand out from his shaggy mop of dark brown hair.
“Good evening, Jon.” The young man greeted the werewolf with a brief smile. I caught a scent of peppermint as he spoke, and it seemed to draw me in. It wasn’t the thirst that was drawing me towards the human. It was lust. His skin was flawless, and he had a slight shadow of hair creeping in on his chin. I had to stop myself from reaching out and running my hand along his cheek.
“Good evening, Leonard.” Jon returned the greeting pleasantly. “Is Lulu around this evening?”
“Indeed, she is, Jon.” Leonard replied with another brief smile. “I’ll let her know that you’re here.”
A door off to the left of the main desk swung open and a short woman with long black hair that hung down in a single braid down the center of her back stepped into the lobby. Her skin was pale, but she wore red lipstick that seemed to make the red of her eyes stand out even more. A single red ribbon adorned her braid at the beginning of it and another at the end of the long rope. She wore a black dress that clung tightly to her body and kept little hidden from the imagination. She had on dark red heals with points so sharp that she could probably kill a man with them, and he wouldn’t even know he was dead until he hit the ground.
“It’s been a while, Jon.” Lulu said in a seductive voice as she closed the distance between her and the wolf. Jon blushed in embarrassment as the vampire threw her arms around his neck and kissed his cheek soundly. “Those pesky government officials are just using you, Jon.”
“I know, Lauren.” Jon stated as though they had this argument on a regular basis. “I apologize for not coming to visit more often. I’ll make an effort to come around more.”
“You better!” She chided Jon playfully. Suddenly, Lauren was standing in front of me and I flinched back in surprise. The tiny woman smiled at me in mild amazement. She reached out slowly and took both of my hands in her own. “I’ve been looking forward to meeting you, Evan Bentley.”
I caught Jon looking at me intently from the corner of my eye.
“I’d be careful, Lulu.” Jon warned her. “He is still a newborn.”
Lulu giggled lightly at Jon.
“Always the worry wart, Evan.” Lauren giggled. “Don’t mind him. I’m certain that you and I are going to be best friends.”
I smiled nervously at the woman.
“I’m Lauren Williams,” Lulu introduced herself to me. “But, you may call me Lulu. Everybody else does.” Lauren glanced past me at Tatum and Dylan. “And just who are these two beautiful boys hiding in the background?”
Lauren pushed past me and introduced herself Tatum and Dylan in turn. Dylan’s eyes went wide for a moment when Lulu touched his hand and he immediately pulled back from her with a startled growl. I was at his side in an instant and the woman glanced at me nervously.
“Did you know?” She demanded with a frown.
“I learned after a few days of knowing him,” I replied honestly. “Does it really matter? He already knows that the existence of this place is a secret. I also know that he can’t control it, Lady Lauren.”
Lauren giggled and relaxed.
“You really can’t control it, Dylan?”
“No, ma’am.” Dylan mumbled quietly without looking up.
“I apologize for overreacting, Dylan.” Lulu stated humbly. “And as you can obviously tell, I don’t do that for everyone.”
I sighed with relief as the tension left the room. Lulu smiled warmly as Dylan managed to glance up at her.
“I hope so,” Dylan replied softly to an unspoken comment by Lauren. Then, he glanced at me sheepishly. “My apologies, Father. I didn’t mean to bring dishonor upon your house.”
I pulled Dylan into my arms and held him tightly.
You could never disappoint me, Dylan. I filled the thought with as much love as possible. Dylan relaxed in my arms and wrapped his arms around me as well. He sighed deeply.
“Did he call you Father?” Lulu asked in bewilderment. I glanced back at her to see that she was staring at Jon who just chuckled and shrugged his shoulders. “I can practically smell that Evan didn’t create Dylan.”
“That’s not my story to tell, Lauren.” Jon replied smugly. “But, I do have to say that Evan has been growing a band of followers that he doesn’t even know about.”
I pulled away from Dylan to face Jon. “What do you mean?”
“Word spreads quickly within the Underworld, Evan.” Jon stated smugly. I knew immediately that he had been the one to start spreading the word about my existence. “I think that even one of the High Priestesses from the Witches’ Circle wants to meet you.”
“Witches aren’t real,” I stated with a snort and couldn’t help but start to laugh. Lulu and Jon just watched me with serious expressions upon their faces. I felt my stomach drop as I realized that it was true. Witches were real. Everything that Mr. Hunter had taught me was true. “Oh shit…”
“Watch your mouth, Evan.”
I froze at the familiar voice come from behind me. I hadn’t even heard anybody else enter the tiny lobby of the motel. I turned around slowly as Tatum gasped in surprise.
“Nana!” Tatum cried out excitedly and embraced our grandmother. I watched as she held him tightly and for a moment I was afraid that he might lose control and bite her. Then, her blue eyes met mine, and I couldn’t help but smile at the sight of her. Her thin pink lips were spread in a smile as she gazed at me. Her long white hair was done in a single braid that reached down to her hips. She wore a blue dress that reached her ankles and swayed about her legs as she moved. My grandmother had a beige shawl wrapped across her shoulders and her large black purse hung from her right shoulder. Tatum suddenly stepped back with a growl.
“Sorry,” he muttered quietly.
“Wow,” Jon stated in an amazed tone from where he had been leaning against the counter. “It would seem that your compulsion worked, Evan.”
“That’s nice to know,” I said with a grin.
“It’s nice to see you too, Tatum.” My grandmother smiled at my cousin and ran her hand through his shaggy black hair. “You look so much like your father did when he was your age.” Then, she focused her attention back to me. “You as well, Evan.”
I saw tears in her eyes, and I approached her slowly as she held her arms out to me. The monster wasn’t interested in my grandmother in the slightest. Her body was warm against mine, and I could feel her heartbeat against my own chest as she squeezed me tightly. I held my grandmother as lightly as I could. I was afraid that I would hurt her if I squeezed her too hard. She leaned back from me and put both of her hands on my cheeks.
“You turned out to be so beautiful, Evan.” She complimented me. “I’m sorry that you had to go through so much pain to get to where you are. I’m so proud of both of you boys.”
I nodded as I felt the sob hit my chest and a lump formed in my throat. She hugged me one more time before she finally stepped back from me.
“I missed you, grandma.” I told her softly. “Why are you here, though? How do you know about all of… this?”
My grandmother smiled at me, but it was Jon that answered my question.
“Evan, I’d like to introduce you to High Priestess Patricia Montgomery Bentley of the Witches’ Council.” Jon stated proudly.
I stared at my grandmother in awe.
Has everybody been lying to me my entire life? I thought sadly. Suddenly, I felt more alone than I ever had.
I could feel the walls vibrate with the rumble of thunder from the passing storm. Tatum had gone down to Lulu’s sitting room so he could spend some time with our grandmother. Dylan was asleep in the bedroom while I sat on the couch of our suite that Lulu had put us in. There were two bedrooms off of a living room area, and there was a small bathroom in between the two bedrooms that had a hot tub for a bathtub. I considered relaxing the hot tub but decided that I didn’t want to interrupt Dylan’s dreams. I tuned out the voices of Arella and Jon as they chatted about somebody named Vincent and focused on the pitter patter of raindrops falling against the roof of the motel. If I strained to listen, I could almost hear the electrifying sound of the lightning as it crackled through the air outside. I vaguely remembered sitting in the bay window of my family’s home and watching as it would rain. I loved storms. Ethan was the opposite of me. He was absolutely terrified of thunderstorms. He used to come running into my bedroom whenever a storm would hit in the middle of the night. I didn’t mind.
I would do whatever it took to protect Ethan from harm…
After I spent an hour listening to the rain, I went out to the main room and watched as Tatum played a racing game with Leonard on the flat screen television. Tatum was cheating judiciously, but Leonard didn’t seem to mind. They were both laughing, and it reminded me of me and my own little brother as we would play games with each other.
My grandmother was seated at a dining table with Jon and they were talking quietly with each other.
“Do you think he’ll be ready?” My grandmother asked the werewolf.
“Absolutely, Lady Patricia.” Jon stated without any hesitation. “Did you hear about what he did to those werewolves?”
“Yes,” my grandmother replied grimly. “I have unfortunately.”
“You have nothing to fear when it comes to Evan, Patricia.” The werewolf said with pride. “He’s going to be amazing!”
I cleared my throat as I approached the table.
“May I sit here?” I asked nervously.
“Of course, dear.” My grandmother replied with a smile. She patted the empty seat next to her. Once I sat down, she slipped her arm across my shoulders. “Are you okay? This must all be incredibly difficult for you.”
I shrugged my shoulders.
“It took a little bit to adjust,” my gaze fell on Tatum and Leonard. “But, I think that I’ve found a purpose behind it all.”
“Oh?” She asked with a raised eyebrow. “And what might that be, Evan?”
“To save the people that I love, grandmother.”
“That’s the best answer that I could ever hear, grandson.”
She kissed my forehead gently before she turned in for the day. I could tell that she was tired by the way that her shoulders slumped as she left me and Jon alone at the table.
“There’s something that your grandmother asked me to tell you, Evan.” Jon told me once she was gone.
“What now?” I asked sullenly. The only news I ever got was bad news.
“This isn’t easy for me, Evan.” The werewolf hesitated. “Your mother is dead, Evan.”
“What?” I gasped in surprise. I felt my stomach drop at the man’s words. “Bullshit!”
“I wish it was, Evan.” He said quietly. “I really wish it was. She killed herself.”
“No, no, no, no…”
I couldn’t wrap my head around the idea that my mother had taken her own life. IT didn’t seem possible.
“What the fuck?” I said with a slight sob. I growled slightly as Tatum suddenly wrapped his arms around me and held me tightly. I couldn’t stop myself from sobbing uncontrollably…