The following days after the cafeteria, the werewolves didn't bother with me or my friends. We were back to being invisible which was fine by me.

I was sitting on my couch deeply engrossed in a novel on art history that Marina had gotten me. Heavy black curtains covered the glass door to my balcony to block out the midday sunlight so my room was lit by my lamp.

I heard a voice calling me from downstairs so I bookmarked my place and stuck my head out the bedroom door.

"Yeah?" I called down.

"What?" Marina called back from the guest room.

"I thought you called me, never mind." I called down and then shut my door.

Settling back down on the couch I swore I heard my name again. Very muffled. I got up and grabbed my phone from my desk thinking maybe it was someone calling me and my phone answered without me knowing. Nope I opened it to the home screen, no ongoing call. I opened the group chat and texted 'I swear I keep hearing my name. I'm haunted or going insane.' I set my phone back down and sat on the couch. Grabbed my old iPod from my human years and put headphones in. Cranking up the volume enough to drown out my regular human hearing.

I was picking the book up when I heard my name again. But I knew for sure this time I'd heard it with my vampire strength hearing so it must've been coming from outside the house. I took the headphones off and walked to my balcony door. I was afraid to call out, Marina might hear me. So I knocked on the door softly. Then took a step back and waited.

There was a soft thud on the balcony railing. Someone had jumped up onto it. I took another step back from my door. I could hear breathing so there was no doubt that someone was on the other side. It seemed tense like the person was nervous. I waited for them to make the first move and they waited for me. I nervously step back up to the door and knock again three times. They knocked back three times.

"Layla?" They say and I immediately recognize the voice. What on earth was the werewolf Ryder doing here? "Can I come in?"

I knocked in response, unsure of what that response was, then sped into my closet to stay out of the reach of sunlight. I could hear his heart racing. His hand rested on the door handle and then slowly turned it. He took a breath then pushed the door open. My bedroom flooded with sunlight and I pressed myself harder against my hanging clothes. Ryder stepped in.

"Layla?" Ryder whispers.

"Shut the damn door," I respond, keeping my voice low too.

"Oh. Oh yeah. Oh god sorry." Ryder steps in fully and shuts the door.

I step out from my closet and a beam of sunlight hits my calf. The curtain had been moved when the door shut. I hiss in pain and jump backwards. Ryder fixed the curtain as quickly as he could. Making sure there are no more gaps.

"Oh my god. I am so sorry! Are you okay?" He asks worriedly as he fixed the curtain.

"Yeah I'm fine just shhh. There's others in the house."

He nods acknowledging to keep his voice low. I come back out into the room and sit on my couch to examine my calf. It's a very light burn that just felt worse than it was. It would be gone in less than an hour. I look up at Ryder who's still standing by the door.

"Come in?" I say wondering why he was still standing there.

"I shouldn't touch much, you won't want my werewolf scent everywhere."

I shrug, "You're already inside. My whole room will smell like that wet dog thing people talk about."

Ryder hesitantly comes and sits at the other end of the couch. But he sits stiff, on guard.

"People talk about?" He questions the last part of my response.

"I don't smell wet dog but other people say they do."

"Then what do you smell?"

"A better question is why are you here?" I ask trying to hit a tone of curiosity instead of accusation as well as trying to avoid his question.

"I know the others have forgotten about you, that's why I felt comfortable enough to come here. Because they wouldn't be suspicious of it."

I wait for him to explain more.

"It's just," He pauses, "You aren't like other vampires. I just...I guess...I think I feel protective over you. I had this need to make sure you're okay."

"You came here," I repeat back questioningly, "Because you feel protective over me, a vampire?"

"I know it sounds crazy. But I'm not like other werewolves if you haven't noticed. I'm a lone wolf. I don't care about species as much as the other guys. I don't really understand instincts but I had to follow them and check up on you."

"I have noticed," I nod, "I just don't know what to say here. A werewolf sneaking to my house for the second time."

Ryder shrugs and nods, "I guess it doesn't sound any saner out loud."

"You've got that right."

Ryder shrugs again, "Maybe but I needed to see you and find out for sure what the instincts meant."

"Be careful of your werewolf buddies finding out, they can be scary."

Ryder laughs a little, "Yeah, I know. It's their testosterone and all that. Trying to prove to the big boys that they are worth joining in the real pack when they start shifting."

"Real pack?" I ask

"Oh yeah, there isn't just little groups like us, it's only like that while you're young. Once you start shifting into a wolf you join the real pack of all the wolves."

"I never knew that."

We both seemed unaware that we had seamlessly glided into a normal conversation which should not have been normal for our species or the circumstances.

"It's not a hidden fact about us wolves or anything, but you are vampire so that's probably why. Apparently, everything's got to be a secret from vampires." Ryder says the last part in a tone mocking some werewolf I don't know.

"I get why in the outside world and all, but here in Pail I don't get it."

Ryder looks at me confused.

"We have a civil agreement here in Pail to well, be civil with one another. So why is this feud from the outside world still going on between us."

Ryder shrugs and sinks back into the couch a little. Seeming to let down his defenses a little since I didn't run screaming at his confession.

"I don't get it either. But maybe if we can get along just fine, we could show others that they can too."

"Careful there," I caution, "I don't need that werewolf coming after me again."

"Michael? Oh he won't do that. He talks a big game but he's really a scaredy-cat." Ryder pauses then laughs. I laugh too, surprised that I just saw a werewolf crack a joke.

We sit around talking for a while longer. Ryder tells me about how he found me interesting how I didn't behave like other vampires and how he doesn't know how it happened but he thinks that he developed instincts to protect me. He subtly hinted at wanting to figure out what it is that made us both so different than the stereotypes of our species. He said he hoped to one day be able to teach others equality outside race.

"You've got big aspirations, that would be no easy job," I tell him.

"What about you? What do you want to do?"

I shrug, looking down at my hands in my lap, "I don't know anymore. I used to have tons of dreams and goals as a human but there's not a lot of opportunity outside Pail for a vampire."

Ryder's eyes widen in curiosity, "Wait. You've lived like two lives. What's it like growing up human and thinking all the stuff about monsters is just a fairy tale?"

I shrug, "Boring really. But a good type of boring. My worries were getting a better report card than my siblings or not getting picked last in gym class. Not never being able to see daylight or worry about going psycho murderer if I don't drink enough blood."

He pauses worried that he struck a nerve, "Oh I didn't know you had human siblings. I'm sorry."

"It's okay. It's just nothing something I talk about really if that's okay."

"Oh of course, I understand. If it's okay for me to ask though, what was it like being bitten. I've never really got to talk to a vampire before to ask."

"That's okay. We get asked that a lot so most of us don't mind talking about it, it's just like telling a story after a while." I explain, "I was playing on the playground with my best friend and it was starting to get late. Our parents had the rule of be home before dark but we were having so much fun on the new equipment that we weren't watching the time. It was around dusk, when vampires can be out and about but still stick to the shadows mostly. We finally realized that we were probably going to get in trouble with how long we had been out so we decided to cut through a patch of woods to get home quicker. We heard something else in the woods with us and started to get scared but kept going. Then something swooped in and we screamed and ran. Getting separated from each other. I tried calling out for my friend but then a vampire appeared in front of me and shushed me. It was scary yet weirdly calm. That is until they showed their fangs. I screamed and tried to run away. Next thing I know they've grabbed me from behind and sank their teeth into the back of my shoulder. Hurt like hell. I blacked out and don't remember much after that."

I face my back towards Ryder and pull down the collar of my shirt. He winced as he looked at the scars.

"Yeah," I nod sitting normally again, "Never found out what my family thought happened to me. Though I'm not sure I want to know. I'd rather they think I ran away than got kidnapped."

"What happened to your human friend?"

"I don't know," I shrug honestly then divert the subject away from me, "What's it like growing up a werewolf?"

"Honestly probably not all that different than a human. Right around our age now is when we start shifting to wolves so up until this point, the only difference is the pack mentality and the animalistic noises we can make in human form. We have a little bit of animal instincts but that really sets in when shifting begins."

"So why haven't you or any of the others shifted yet?" I ask curiously.

Ryder shrugs, "I've been asking the same question. I mean I don't want to shift, it seems painful, but I want to get out of here and associate with more than just these guys. I can't stand them a lot of the time. They're all jerks. Michael aspires to be alpha one day so he's already stepping on anyone who threatens that."

I nod, "I've seen. Why leave? Why not stay part of the Pail pack?"

"I don't know how to explain it. I don't have the pack mentality of the rest of the werewolves. I'd rather choose who my pack is or if I even want to be in one."

"You should be able to decide."

I felt my fangs starting to poke through wanting blood. I kept moving my gaze around the room to keep my mouth out view when I talked.

Ryder shrugged, "They don't see it that way."

Not wanting to hit a nerve, I changed the subject. "I don't know if you ever got that text but thanks for helping get them off my back the other day."

Ryder nods and runs a hand through his hair, "Not a big deal. Just because you aren't werewolf doesn't mean you should be treated lesser."

"You really are different," I observe.

Ryder looks at me, "And you are different every time I meet you. No offense. You were really jumpy when we met in your yard, and now you seem pretty calm."

I shrug smiling slightly, "I guess I'm getting used to you?"

He laughs, "Why did that sound like a question?"

"Because it was, because I don't have an explanation for why I act differently every time."

"You okay? Your eyes are black." Ryder tensed to resist the urge to back away. He didn't want to offend me.

"Oh. Yeah. I'm just thirsty." I look in his direction again as I speak so he can see the fangs.

"Did I do something?" He asks, I can hear his heart very loudly. Beating against my ears.

"No. No." I shake my head, looking down at my hands, "It's just been a little too long since I've drank."

I didn't want to say it out loud but Ryder deduced it.

"And me being alive probably isn't helping is it?"

I shook my head. Ryder hesitates but moves closer to me and sets his hand on my back. It was sweet that he was trying to help even though he didn't know how. Feeling his hand on me let me feel the heat of his werewolf skin, the beating of his heart and the rush of his blood.

"Can I do anything to help?"

"No," I say, "You can't go downstairs to get a blood bag because you're not supposed to be here."

There's a pause in Ryder's breath like he was about to say something.

"What?" I ask

"Could you, uh, could, um," he doesn't finish his statement. He clears his throat, "I guess I should get going then so you can do whatever you need to. I've probably been gone too long anyways."

I nod, "Yeah you don't want to get into more trouble with those guys."

"I'll see you around," Ryder stands and then opens the balcony door as little as possible to slip through, before shutting the door behind him he says, "We should probably keep today between us. But I'd like to see you again."

After Ryder and the pounding of blood gone, I feel a little better but I still needed blood. I go downstairs and into the kitchen. Tearing into the first blood bag I find in the refrigerator.

"You alright Layla?"

I turn around to find a concerned Marina in the doorway. My eyes return to normal with something in my system.

"Yeah, I just went a touch too long without blood. It was a long school night. I had to partner up with a werewolf in one of my classes."

Marina crinkles her nose, "Yeah, I can tell. You stink like a dog. Please go shower when you're done. And don't push yourself with blood, I don't need a vampire with control problems."

I suck down the rest of the bag, "I'll be fine. Everyone slips up every once in a while."

"Please go clean up," she repeats.

I go to get in the shower a little later when I realize I never checked my phone. I pick it up and open our group chat. I sent a text saying 'Sorry for disappearing, got busy' in response to the messages I'd missed.

'What was the voice?' Came back from Books.

'My imagination. Or ghost. Lol.'

I chat with them for a few more minutes, making plans to hang with them tonight. Then hop in my shower to get rid of the smell of werewolf.