“We could’ve just bought you new clothes,” Jack pointed out on the car ride back to his house. “That probably would’ve been easier and less painful.”

“I know, but Milo needed to see me. I needed to prove that I wasn’t just gonna forget about him.” I looked over at Jack to see if he understood my sentiments, but he just stared ahead and didn’t say anything. “I will see him again.”

“I’m not arguing with you.” He wasn’t, exactly, but his tone wanted to contradict my claim.

“You don’t think I will.” Just saying it aloud hurt. “Why would you let me promise Milo anything if you knew it wasn’t true?”

“I don’t know anything,” Jack said. “But I do think that Ezra will be home when we get back. And it might be good for you to talk to him.”

“You always know more then you let on,” I grumbled, crossing my arms over my chest and sinking low in the seat. “You pretend to be dumber than you actually are.”

“Have you considered that I really might just be that dumb?” he asked playfully.

“I have. Many times.”

He laughed at that but didn’t say anymore until we got to his place. There would be very little he could say that would comfort me anyway. I was beginning to realize that I might have underestimated the cost of being with him.

When we went into the house, Jack called for Ezra and Mae, and they appeared in the living room almost instantly. Mae swooped in to hug me as if she hadn’t seen me in ages when reality it had been an hour.

Ezra smiled warmly at me, and somehow, it still made me blush. He had returned today early from the trip, citing that he couldn’t stand to be away from Mae for that long, but Peter wouldn’t return for a few more days. He could apparently stand to be away from me until the end of time.

“So I heard that you’re going to be staying with us for awhile,” Ezra said, and I tried to decipher if there was any disapproval in it.

He sat on the couch and Mae curled up next to him. They had only been apart for a matter of days, but being around him made her giddy.

I wondered if Peter would react anything like that when he returned, but I’d probably be lucky if he even looked in my direction. Something tugged painfully at my heart, and it amazed me that I still even wanted into this.

“Yeah.” I sat on the chair across from them, and Jack sat by my feet, rubbing Matilda’s belly. “Is that okay?”

“I don’t see why it wouldn’t be.” Ezra played with a long, wavy strand of Mae’s hair absently, and she buried her head in his chest. I realized that I hated people who were so comfortably in love, especially when my “love” life was bogged down by all sorts of unnecessary stipulations.

“What’s going to happen?” I asked bluntly.

“You’ll have to be more specific. There’s a lot of things up in the air for you.” He didn’t mean anything by it, but it stung just the same.

Nothing for me was set in stone, which should’ve been a relief, but I didn’t like having everything feel so uncertain and precarious.

“Exactly.” I took a deep breath. “Am I just gonna live here forever? What happens when Peter gets back? He doesn’t want me around. Should I even stay here with him? What if he keeps rejecting me? Am I supposed to just go back to my life? Are you planning on me someday being a vampire?”

“You can stay here as long as you want, regardless of how Peter feels. He has other places he can go if need be. You have made yourself an indispensable part of this family.” Ezra looked down at Mae, carefully choosing his words.

“Peter… No matter how any of us feels, there is a bond between you and Peter that is not easily broken. For his sake, as well as our own, it is essential that you remain a part of our lives.” His russet eyes rested warmly on mine. “As such, yes, it would be in everyone’s best interest if you were to turn.”

Looking down at the floor, I exhaled and tried futilely to slow the frantic beating of my heart. I knew they all could hear it, and Jack especially was susceptible to it.

The thought of being a vampire, which had crossed my mind much more frequently than I had ever imagined it would, both excited and terrified me, but that was par for the course. Nearly everything about them was simultaneously exciting and terrifying, and I could never seem to reconcile the two.

“Alice, it’s really awesome,” Jack chimed in helpfully. “You’ve seen me. I’m awesome.”

“Jack,” Mae scolded him.

“It’s not a decision you can take lightly,” Ezra went on, and Mae had gotten a particularly solemn expression. I didn’t fully understand it, especially based on how much she loved having me around. “This is something that changes everything about your life, and it’s irreversible. If you decide that this is what you want to do, you cannot go back. But if you decide not to turn, we won’t hold it against you.”

“It will make your life harder, though,” Jack interjected.

“Jack!” Mae snapped. “You can’t make this choice for her!”

“I’m not trying to!” Jack sighed dramatically and shook his head.

“If you do turn, the thirst is a bit overwhelming, as Jack can attest to,” Ezra gestured to Jack, who nodded heavily in agreement. “All your senses become much more heightened, and all your movements feel exaggerated. Your emotions are stronger, too. They’re all right at the surface, and you’re volatile. You’re libido increases, as does your general lust for anything.”