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The knock at the door was a welcome change from the doorbell. The kids who were brave enough to come up the Benoit’s drive on Halloween night always rang the bell. Lisbeth always answered it, handing out candy with such a huge smile that the pirates and ballerinas and monsters inevitably left looking more confused than victorious.
When Claire heard the knock, though, she darted out of the den and cut in front of Lisbeth, who was reaching for the orange bowl full of candy bars.
“This one’s for me,” she said.
Lisbeth raised an eyebrow and offered the bowl of candy.
Claire swallowed. That had been sloppy. She’d recognized the sound of Matthew’s car tires coming up the driveway, but she could hardly explain to Lisbeth that her wolf-sharpened senses had told her who was coming. She’d gotten so good about keeping her double identity a secret, but the smallest slip could be deadly. Even with Lisbeth.
Claire took the bowl and opened the door, feeling ridiculous. Matthew stood beneath the porch light, the blue-black night sky behind him. He looked down at the bowl of candy bars and arched an eyebrow.
“Trick-or-treat?” The corner of his mouth quirked up in a smile and Claire swallowed hard. She wasn’t going to kiss him with Lisbeth lurking in the foyer behind her. Besides, she could see flashlights bobbing up the driveway.
“There are better things than candy inside,” she promised him, setting the bowl of candy back on the hall table. She’d kept her voice low, hoping Lisbeth wouldn’t hear, but Matthew obviously had. His gaze darkened, his smile deepened, and he stepped inside.
“Perfect,” he replied. “Hey, Lisbeth,” he said, his voice rising and brightening.
“Hi, Matthew,” she said. “Emily and Amy are already in the den. Holler if you need anything, okay?”
“Sure thing.” He caught Claire’s hand as he came in, and the two of them walked into the den that way. Emily and Amy were on one of the couches, half-buried beneath a pile of pillows. A bag of chips was open between them on the sofa, and there was a movie on the television paused at the title frame.
Emily caught sight of Claire and Matthew’s locked hands and rolled her eyes, but there was a smile on her face. Amy grinned at them. “Hey, Matthew. Are you ready for the horror movie-fest?”
He held up Claire’s hand. “Yep. She said she’d hold my hand during the scary parts.”
“Awww,” Amy said.
Emily threw a pillow at her.
Claire pulled Matthew over to the other couch. In spite of Emily’s fake displeasure, Claire was relieved that they’d all been willing to come hang out with her on Halloween. It wasn’t a full moon, so she didn’t have any pack duties, and she didn’t really want to leave home. Halloween was always a night when some group of Hanover Falls morons went looking for werewolves.
There were good things about being a werewolf, but Halloween wasn’t one of them.
Two movies later, all four of them were sick of blood and cheap scares, and the doorbell had long since stopped ringing.
“We should get going,” Amy said.
Emily snuggled further down into the cushions. “But I’m so comfortable,” she protested.
Amy pulled the pillows off her. “Come on. I promised your mom I’d have you home by midnight.” She caught Emily’s hands and pulled her off the couch.
Emily eyed Claire and Matthew, sitting on the other couch.
“Yeah. These two probably want some time alone, anyway.”
Amy and Emily walked out into the dark. Claire stood at the den window and watched them climb into Amy’s car.
Matthew came up behind her and slid his arms around her waist. She leaned back into him, her head finding the familiar curve between his neck and his shoulder.
“I can’t remember the last time Emily went this long without dating someone,” Matthew said.
“Me, neither. She and Amy are spending so much time together, I’m not sure she actually has room for a boyfriend right now.”
Matthew made a non-committal noise. “Jealous they’re spending so much time together?”
Claire blew out a long breath. “Not exactly. Yes. Sort of.”
“That’s not much of an answer,” Matthew said. There was teasing in his voice, but Claire stared up at the moon, half-full, and it didn’t feel funny at all.
“I used to love Halloween,” she said. “But now . . . now it just reminds me that I can’t ever live all the way in either world that I know. I can’t go to the woods and run tonight. I can’t go to any of the parties, in case someone comes up with the stupid idea to hunt werewolves. Emily and Amy can do whatever they want.” She hadn’t expected her voice to hitch on the last word, and she swallowed against the sudden tightness in her throat.
Matthew spun her in his arms so that she was facing him.
“No, you’re right, you can’t do those things.” he said. “Your world is different, but you’re not alone in it.”
She looked up at him, glad for the millionth time that she could tell him everything, at least. She was beyond lucky that the one human who knew everything was the one she was in love with.
“I know,” she said. “Thank you for being here tonight. I mean it.”
He reached down and tilted her chin up. “Are you kidding? I wouldn’t have been anywhere else. This is the best Halloween I’ve ever had.” He closed the distance between them until the were almost kissing. “Ever.”
He pressed the word against her mouth, his warm lips moving against hers. The light of the half-moon shone against her back while they kissed, and in that moment, Claire saw everything differently.
Her world was not the same as anyone else’s, but it wasn’t broken, either.It was whole, and it was hers, and when Matthew dragged her down onto the couch in the dark, she thought that this was the best Halloween she’d ever had, too.
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