It feels strange to write that again after so long. I haven't seen my old journal in years, but back then it was the only solid part of my life. The only thing that kept me together, a reminder that I wasn't going crazy.
My first entry still makes me laugh:
"I don't know how it happened but today I turned into a wolf."
I was fifteen when I wrote that. Then over the years that followed, my eyes changed color. Even stranger things started happening. At eighteen, I left home, giving up my birth name in favor of "Amber". That was back before I belonged to a pack. Even before I met Scott.
That was when I knew Austin… and it was when I stopped writing. Because what happened next, I could never put in a journal.
Amber gritted her teeth as she braced over the antique clawfoot tub, her legs tingling under the steaming bath water.
"It's supposed to be, silly." Austin smiled as he draped the washcloth over the porcelain edge. "It helps circulation." He gripped her arm to help her slide all the way in.
His touch was like ice compared to the heat radiating from the bath. An involuntary shiver danced over her skin. Frigid but familiar. She gave a small smile.
The cold was sometimes a comfort to her, like a welcome numbness veiling her mind. Not like the heat, which seemed to draw it away, leaving her open and exposed. Feeling too much.
But as much as her shoulders tensed at the thought, her mind remained blessedly peaceful. No waves of excitement, nor sharp throbs of anxiety. No ambient fear, nor strange pangs of lust. She was safe from that here. With Austin.
His striking green eyes stared back at her from his smooth, composed face. He was cute, and maybe just shy of exotic, with his exquisite taste in clothes, medium-length dark golden hair, and a mischievous smile. He was her age, give or take a few years she supposed. A college freshman with uncanny self-assurance and sometimes heartrending charisma.
At the moment, he was everything to her. But even so, she wished he could have been more.
She'd met him under harrowing circumstances when her life had just been turned inside out: rejected by her family, kicked out of the house, no financial support. And if that wasn't bad enough, there was her little problem with sensing emotions, and the much larger issue of turning into a wolf.
But that hadn't mattered to Austin, nor the Others who were like him—though colder and distant. In fact, they made it easier and put her short, grim life in perspective. They gave her a purpose, even if it was that of their captive, serving their appetites. It was the best she could have hoped for; at least here someone cared.
"Will tonight be it?" She sank back, submerging her hair in the water for a moment before sitting up.
Austin frowned as he retrieved the washcloth. "No." He rubbed a bar of soap against it until it foamed with lather. "I don't think so."
"Sometimes I wish it would be."
The soap dropped to the ground. "Amber. I told you. We'll find a way. Just have patience."
She sank down until her chin touched the water. "I'm tired."
"Come on." He pushed the sleeves back on his black dress shirt and dipped his hands in the water, urging her to sit up. "You can't be tired yet. You'll need all your energy tonight."
He scrubbed the washcloth over her back and shoulders as she leaned forward. "You are gorgeous and they will love you, as I love you. They would not waste that. Not tonight."
She'd done this at least a dozen times, yet her heart still raced with anxiety. It wasn't like she had to do much: just lie back, focus on the gleaming opulence of the room, the dignified poise of the guests, the grandeur of their attire. Try to keep her pulse steady amidst a swirling sea of scarlet and black, lace and leather.
But when all those eyes turned to her, it was a struggle to keep from fainting. And that was the only thing required of her. Don't pass out.
"Are you going to do it again?" Her
Ray Perman, Alistair Darling