Claire looked apprehensively at the moon, hoping the potion Alex made her would hold. According to Alex, she’d still feel the pull to the moon and if she needed to transform, she could, but she wouldn’t have to. Claire definitely felt the pull. She wanted to rip off her gown and run off into the woods to howl and hunt and rampage – but it wasn’t safe. Besides, while most people accepted that what she did under the moon’s influence wasn’t her fault, that excuse didn’t hold water if she could have chosen not to transform and didn’t. Transforming was only going to happen if hunters came across her, recognized the way she shied away from the light of the gas lamps or fire, and decided to kill her even in human form.
There was also that Alex had promised to tell her something if the potion worked. She wouldn’t say what it was, just that she thought Claire would be happy to hear it. So now, Claire was waiting. She’d be more comfortable in her cage with the silver-plated bars and locks, but if Alex was coming… she wouldn’t do that to her best friend. Vampires hated silver as much as werewolves.
Alex’s knock was welcome, snapping Claire out of her thoughts of the moon. “Alex! It worked!”
“That’s great! I won’t be needing this, then.” Alex set her pistol on the table along with her cloak. “Sleeping gas bullets, of course. No silver.”
“Of course.” Claire led the way to the drawing room, where they had no sooner sat down than an automaton rolled in with a tray of tea and cookies, including a special red teapot with blood-infused tea for Alex. Claire carefully poured, ignoring the scent that made the moon pull harder on her thoughts. “I don’t suppose there’s anything to be done about the pull?”
Alex grimaced and gave Claire’s hand a reassuring squeeze. “Unfortunately, no, not that I can do. I’ve sent the formula to the alchemists at the university and they might be willing to tinker with it, but you know me. You know I don’t trust myself to do anything that affects people’s thoughts, not after Celia.” Claire did, and it was one of the things she loved about her best friend. She’d been raised human in a vampire nest that used their mental domination to coerce her to lure men in as prey, turning her when she was twenty-one. Once she’d broken free of her nest, she’d worked hard to go straight and integrate into society. She still had to have blood, of course, but there were many people who voluntarily donated in exchange for money or favors from the vampires they fed.
“Fair enough. You said you had something you wanted to tell me if the potion worked?”
Alex ducked her head, letting her dark hair hide her face a bit. “Technically, I wanted to tell you no matter what happened, I just didn’t see the point in telling you in your wolf. You wouldn’t listen, and even if you did, you wouldn’t remember.”
“Alex.” Claire tried not to reward her friend’s stalling with giggles, but it was a fight she was doomed to lose. “What did you want to tell me?”
“Um. I.” Alex drained her teacup and made a face. “Right now, I am very glad that vampires can’t blush, or I just might set your couch on fire.”
“I can’t decide whether I’m more scared or more intrigued,” Claire said, and Alex covered her face in her hands. “Come on, Alex, you know you can tell me anything. It won’t change our friendship.”
“That’s… not a good thing, in this case?” Alex lifted her head. “I’m in love with you. I don’t want us to be best friends anymore, I want…”
“Okay, yeah,” Claire had to admit. That would indeed change their friendship. “But that’s a good way to change our friendship, Alex. You know what I meant.”
“I know, I know, but… look, I’m nervous, okay? Either things are going to change between us, which yes it’s a good way but you know how vampires are with change, or I’m getting my heart broken!”
Claire set her teacup down and moved to sit beside Alex on the couch, putting an arm around her. “We’ve got time, we can take this slowly, change things a little at a time. Or if you’d prefer, we can do it all at once, as long as that’s not going to have you retreating to your coffin for the next decade.” Alex shot her a glare. “Yeah, I know, circumstances and all, but you did do that to me once!”
“I wouldn’t… well… if I get my heart broken, I just might, but…” Alex shook her head. Claire raised an eyebrow. Did Alex think that was a possibility still? Okay, maybe it was a little too subtle, but… “Claire, please, at least give me some kind of answer?”
“I thought I had. Yes. I love you too. I want to change our friendship to include being lovers. You’re in control of the pace. You know how werewolves are about sudden changes, but I can hold back for you.”