I skid past the finish line, throwing my hands up. "And she beats him again! It seems like Eric Wilkins will have to try again next time!" I announced, just as Eric made it across the mark.
Eric scowled at me goodnaturedly, pushing me. "Oh shut up, I was up half the night. And you beat me by four seconds."
"Breaking news! Sore loser needs his beauty sleep." I mocked, rubbing my eyes to annoy him. Some other people made it, and I bumped fists with Lenny and Zoe. "Hey, I'm just kidding!" I pushed him lightly, winking at Ella as she ran past.
"If you had any real responsibility you would get it," Eric informed me, his hands on his knees. He looked past me as he staggered up, wiping sweat off his forehead. "What do you think they're talking about?"
I looked over my shoulder, watching my teacher speak to some idiot wearing a suit in the forest. Smirking back at Eric, I extended my hearing. "Recruitment, they wanna get more of us out there, hunting."
Eric smiled, and I knew what he was going to ask before he did.
"What do you mean, no? What else is there? You wanna play soccer, be a human?" Eric restarted the old argument all over again.
I groaned angrily, dragging my hands down my face. "Seriously? Do you not understand English? Non, nein, nahi!" I grabbed my water bottle.
Eric came in front of me again. "You're the best in our class at gymnastics, climbing, boxing-"
Oh wow, every day it was some new story. "Didn't you yell at me last week for sucking at stalking, tracking, being patient?"
Eric crossed his arms obstinately. "We need more hunters, now more than ever. Don't be responsible for the deaths of your human friends."
I stared at him, letting my disbelief play out over my face. "Note to self, since ordering fails, resort to guilt-tripping. What will it be next year, actual threats? You said this before, and it was fine."
Eric saw some kids watching us, and steered me aside by the elbow. "Listen to yourself, putting some human nonsense over the pack! The more you refuse to join, the more idiots like Ella, Steve, and Grig refuse too! Those are recruits we cannot afford to lose!"
"You mean threatening and ordering people around fails? Imagine that!" I snapped back, shooting Tomas a look when I caught him staring. "I'm not becoming a murderer! Unlike-" I stopped myself too late, and closed my eyes in annoyance. I didn't mean to say that.
"Oh, no, please finish." Eric smiled, which was scarier than if he had yelled. "A murderer, like me, right?" Shit, now he had me into a corner.
"Eric, you're not-I'm sorry, I didn't mean for it to-"
Eric had a lofty expression on his face. I would always lose when it came to this. Always. "What's worse? Some douchebag vampire dates Sabine or Daniel, or I kill it first? What's worse? That they get turned, or killed, or attacked?"
"You know my answer," I responded accusingly.
Eric rubbed his neck, switching tactics. "And, I get that your mom's a human. I get that they raised you to be good, not a murderer or whatever, but you wouldn't be a murderer. Those things are already dead. Just 'cause they look good, or talk well, or act nice, means nothing. It's a dead parasite with a glamour, trying to trick you into handing over your life."
I rolled my eyes. "I know that-"
Eric wasn't stopping today apparently, he was on a sanctimonious roll. "We are different. Humans are frail, wolves know what needs to be done. We kill them, to make the world cleaner. Life is for the living, and true werewolves know their duty. And yeah, maybe sometimes those vamps are our friends, but at the end of the day, they die."
Oh, I didn't know we were killing our friends now. I wondered if I could get Eric tested for psychopathy. "So you would kill Albert? Even though he knows to drink animal blood? Even though he gives you information on roosts?"
"Yes," Eric said firmly. "Albert dies, and I would do it myself."
I stared at him, hiding my disgust from both my scent and appearance. Albert played football, he knew everything: capital cities, the periodic table. Hell, he sang Taylor Swift songs when he baked.
Eric seemed to take my silence as agreement. "So then what is it? You want beauty sleep, you want good grades? You hate being a wolf?" Were there classes for sounding like an asshole? Or did it come naturally?
"I don't hate being a wolf, but I would leave Albert alive," I replied quietly, knowing how dangerous saying that was.
Eric turned to see our teacher and the stranger and looked back at me, angry. "You've gone crazy!" He growled, and then pulled out his phone. "You like Albert, eh? Well, what about this then?" He showed me a photo of what looked like a crime scene. Blood spattered everywhere, the ceilings, the floor, pooling in the mattress.
Albert did this? I wasn't naive, but I had spent so long around him. He had shown me the ugliness under the glamour, he taught me how to protect my friends from vampires. From him.
But Eric wasn't finished. "Don't you recognize the room? It's-"
I had practically grown up in this room. It was Alex's room. I glared at Eric, unable to speak, refusing to show him tears.
This event had triggered my transformation. Alex, had died horribly, and Albert did it? "You hid this from me? I've comforted him! Protected him, and you let me do that? You-you lied! You said Alex died in a car accident!"
"That anger you feel? Everyone feels it, even if they don't know what he did, every time they see you getting pally with that abomination." Eric told me, his voice cold. "You need to wake up. They're all like this, frenzied killers. This little vegan diet he's on is only making me more and more hungry. And all they want is-"
"Blood." I finished, feeling a sting in my nose like I always did before I burst into tears. I forced it down and felt my wolf snarling instead. Alex had just gotten his license, and I believed it, that he could have crashed. This was so much worse, the pain, the feeding, the blood everywhere.
I want Albert dead. He hugged me when I was crying about Alex's death, and told me some bullshit story about his own family.
"That's right," Eric said, seeing my fury. "I wasn't supposed to tell you any of this, but Albert dies today. If you want revenge, it's now or never."
For a moment, one single second, I felt crushingly bad for him. Who would care for his garden? Who would read his massive library?
The moment ended. If Alex had to suffer and die, so did he.
"So, will you join us?" Eric offered, smiling at me. As always, he knew the answer.
My voice cracked as I answered, "I'm in."