Cat held her breath, waiting for Gran to come running in with her sword out.
Tap, tap, tap.
Gran slowly hobbled into view. Cat watched Silverfur rise from the couch and extend his arms, like he was welcoming an old friend.
“Come, Betty,” he said with a smirk. “There’s no need for such theatrics here.”
“Believe me, Silverfur,” Gran said through clenched teeth, setting her walker down and hobbling towards it. “If I was able to turn you into a rug, I’d do it this instant.” She hobbled further into the room. “Unfortunately, I’m a few hours behind on my daily dose of youth potion. I don’t suppose you’ll wait while I get it?”
She phrased it as a question, but it sounded like she had already answered it. Silverfur’s smile widened in response. He shook his head.
“There’s no need,” he said. “It wouldn’t help you at this point.”
Cat wondered if she was supposed to try to slip away and grab it. But she had a feeling Silverfur would stop her before she left the kitchen. She looked over at Bree and gave her a questioning look. Maybe Bree knew Gran’s plan for situations like these. Bree shook her head, as if answering her question.
“Cloud,” she whispered.
“Who?” Cat mouthed.
Bree didn’t respond, so Cat really hoped it meant it wasn’t over Gran. She glanced over, as if she’d be able to see it too. A sudden thought struck her.
It’s easier flying under the radar when you’re an old lady, Gran had told her, maybe only a few days ago.
Gran doesn’t take youth potion, she realized.
“I’m sure the tea is ready by now,” Silverfur called out.
Cat jumped and tried to wipe the thought from her mind. She was pretty sure werewolves weren’t mind-readers, but it’d be just her luck if he could somehow. Bree nodded towards the tray, not answering Cat’s question. Cat reached for the tray. Bree’s hand stopped her, pulling Cat closer to her. Cat felt cool metal against her hand, and Bree gave her a meaningful look. Glancing to make sure Silverfur wasn’t looking, Cat checked her palm.
Bree had given her a fork.
Cat’s brows furrowed together, and she gave Bree a questioning look. Bree moved away quickly, returning to the cloth she used to wipe the counters.
Of course, Cat almost said aloud.
She understood why Bree had been fiddling with the kitchen counters. Cat never cleaned the fork Gran poisoned. The fork that Bree no doubt had just given Cat. What was it Gran had told her before? Banshees could detect poison. That must have been why Bree was so intent on fiddling with everything in the kitchen. She must have sensed it.
“Sometime today,” Silverfur called out again.
Cat thrust the fork into her pocket and picked up the tea tray. She felt her heart race, but she tried to assume the look of fear and uncertainty again.
With a sigh, Cat brought the tea into the living room and set the tray on the table. Gran hobbled over to a chair, motioning for Cat to sit next to her. Silverfur spread himself out on the couch with a satisfied sigh.
“Isn’t this nice?” he asked, but Cat wasn’t sure who was supposed to answer. “Maria’s kid grew up quite well, wouldn’t you say?”
Cat suddenly felt her skin crawl as he looked over at her. She saw Gran’s knotted hand tighten on her cane.
“It almost makes up for all those years,” Silverfur continued, taking a long, slow sip from his tea. “Your bloodline has a taste unlike any other, you know.”
“You can leave now,” Gran said sharply.
Cat followed Gran’s gaze. She was looking at Bree, who was still standing in the kitchen. Bree tilted her head questioningly.
“This is family business,” Gran continued.
Bree’s eyebrows furrowed at the remark, and Cat wondered if there was some sort of hidden code in it.
“Very well,” Bree replied.
She sounded upset, but she left without another word. Cat wondered if she was supposed to go get the vampires or someone else to help. She really hoped Gran wasn’t counting on just the two of them to fight Silverfur. Cat had no weapon, unless a fork counted, and Gran was looking more fatigued by the second.
Maybe she was remembering their conversation wrong, she thought with a sinking feeling.
“What is it you want?” Gran asked, leaning forward to try to grab the other cup of tea with a shaky hand.
Cat helped her, putting the tea on her walker so Gran could reach it. Silverfur watched them with a bemused smile. Cat wished she could ask Gran if she was faking it and waiting to hit Silverfur with a surprise attack. But Cat was awful at subtlety. And it seemed Gran was trying a more diplomatic approach.
“What I want?” Silverfur repeated questioningly. “Will you give it to me if I ask nicely?”
“It depends on what it is,” Gran replied tersely. “As Guardian, I can at least listen to your request.”
“Well, I suppose there are many things I want.” He glanced out of the window. “But I suppose what I want most right now… well I can get it very soon without your cooperation.”
Cat looked out the window. The sun was sinking lower over the horizon, sending the living room into darkness. She wondered what he was looking for. Then, she remembered.
It was a full moon tonight.
Cat felt her blood run cold. She reached for her headband, and then remembered she was weaponless. She looked over at Gran, who looked more tired than anything. Maybe she really had been telling the truth about a youth potion. She might have taken a potion to look old but also had a youth potion to be able to fight. Gran had to be at least fifty, Cat guessed, which seemed past the prime fighting age.
Cat wondered if she should try to get Gran’s cane from her. It was darker in the room. Maybe she could grab it before Silverfur noticed. She had a better chance taking him on before he was a werewolf, she thought, and as sweet as Bree’s gift was to her, the fork just didn’t have enough range for her comfort. She reached her hand out.
The living room light flickered on, and Cat jumped. Maria was standing next to the light switch with a confused look on her face.
“Why are you all here in the dark?” she asked groggily.
Her eyes traveled from Gran to Cat to Silverfur. She let out a gasp.
“Oh, I’m so sorry, Mr. Jenkins,” she said quickly. “I… I must have fallen asleep. Ma, this is Ross Jenkins, the senior care community outreach supervisor for—”
Her voice trailed off, and her eyes narrowed as she looked over the three of them. Cat realized it was a lot to take in. She and Gran were still wearing their bloody, ripped clothing from the fight with the fairies.
“Are you okay?” Mom asked slowly.
“They’re fine, Maria,” Silverfur replied. “Come closer. We were all just catching up.”
Mom slowly walked into the living room. Cat wanted to yell at her to lock herself in a room, but she already knew Silverfur would be faster. Her heart pounded. When Mom came to sit on the arm of Cat’s chair, Cat was certain her heart was beating loud enough for everyone to hear.
“Do you remember me?” Silverfur asked, looking at Maria. “I wanted to ask you earlier, but you fell asleep too quickly.”
“You’re… Ross Jenkins,” Mom replied with a confused look. “You’ve been checking in on Ma these days to…”
She must have seen the looks on everyone’s faces and trailed off again. Cat and Gran were looking at her with confused expressions, while Silverfur had a bemused look on his face. Cat put a hand on her mother’s.
“I mean before today,” Silverfur continued. “We met once, a long time ago. You were playing outside on a lovely swing set that used to sit just inside the protective circle.” He titled his head. “We talked for a few minutes, too, before your mother brought you inside.”
“I don’t know what you’re talking about,” Mom began slowly. “Who are you?”
“I suppose my memory in this is a little better,” he said. “Of course, you all were always such a memorable family. Well, your father was just average. But your mother—” His tongue traced his upper lip. “Her blood was so rich. It must have been the Guardian blood.”
Mom’s face drained of all its color.
“Who the hell are you?” she demanded, putting her hand on Cat’s shoulder.
Cat wasn’t sure if it was to protect her, or if Mom was putting her hand on her shoulder for comfort.
“I wonder if the same blood runs through you,” he said. “And your whole family. I guess I’ll find out soon enough.”
“If you don’t leave right now, I’m calling the cops,” Mom snapped.
“I haven’t finished my tea yet,” he said with another long sip. “Besides, Betty wouldn’t want the police coming here, would you, dear?”
“Mom,” Cat said softly.
“Cat, give me your phone,” Mom ordered, holding out her hand.
Cat glanced at Gran. Her expression was unreadable. She wasn’t even looking at anyone, just at the table in front of her. She looked so old, Cat thought. So tired.
Maybe the fight with the fairies was too much for her.
Maybe she’s just drained. The love of her life was bleeding out hours ago, and now she’s sitting down with the creature who killed her sister while the rest of her family is in the crossfire.
No, a small voice insisted in the back of her head. It’s Gran. She’s obviously faking it to get the upper hand.
But that voice was sounding less and less sure. Gran was only human.
“Maybe this can help you remember,” Silverfur said, setting his teacup down.
He looked at his watch and wandered to the living room window. Cat followed his gaze. The sky was dark now. She hoped the moon wasn’t out yet. The grin on his face told her it was.
Silverfur stretched out his arms, basking in an invisible light. Cat’s heart jumped to her throat. She held her breath.
A few moments passed. Silverfur glanced outside. He sighed and checked his watch again. Cat watched his take it off and give it a few shakes.
“Must be running a little fast,” he said. “Give us just a sec.”
He set the watch on the couch and returned to the window. Then, he stretched his arms out again.
Silverfur let out a cry of pain. He hunched over. Mom sprung up, but Gran grabbed her arm, holding her back.
“Stay away from him,” she warned.
Silverfur’s shirt began to rip at the back seams. Long, ashen fur shot up as his back seemed to expand. He fell onto all fours. His fingers popped and broke, shrinking into his hands. Large paws began to form. He opened his mouth to let out another cry that turned into a howl as sharp fangs pierced through his gums.
Cat had never seen a werewolf transform, and she’d be happy if she never had to see it again. It was grotesque. She glanced at Mom, who seemed like she was about to throw up.
“What’s happening?” Mom cried. “What is that?”
Oh god, she realized. In just a few moments, her mom would be face-to-face with a werewolf who wanted them all dead.
The thought brought Cat to her feet. Before she clocked what she was doing, Cat felt herself grab the fork from her pocket and jump onto Silverfur’s hunched back. She thrust it between his shoulder blades with all her strength, and he let out a howl of anguish, but he could do little more than cry and thrash feebly at her. She watched it sink into flesh as the fur molded and clumped around it. She backed up quickly before he could retaliate and pulled her mom behind her, wondering if she could make it to the bedroom. But Mom looked frozen. The best place to have her would be within defending range.
She looked over at Gran, who had also risen from her seat but looked like she was in shock. Whether it was from seeing the transformation or watching Cat jump on the guy just to poke him with a fork, Cat wasn’t sure. She hoped they lived long enough for her to ask Gran.
“Give me your cane,” she said, holding out her hand.
As much as she hated to think of it, she was probably the only one who could fight Silverfur. And she was ready to go down protecting her family.