I followed them to the house. As soon as my flip-flop hit the bottom step I had a feeling that this house was going to be full of stuff for me to “see.” I shoved my gloved hands in my pockets. Better safe than sorry while Mr. Dawson was around. Mom and Dad were touring the house with him. Axel hung back with me. “What’s your deal?”
I shrugged. “Didn’t you see how he walked?”
“Remember when we went to the San Diego Safari Park and spent the night and we went into the tiger enclosure?”
He nodded. “Yeah. Those cats were crazy. They were inches from us the whole time, and we didn’t even notice it until the guide shined her flashlight on them.”
“And what does that have to do with Mr. Dawson?”
“He didn’t make a sound coming down those stairs.”
Axel shoved me. “You’re messing with me.”
I shoved him back. “No. I’m actually not. Pay better attention next time.”
We walked through the door and went the opposite way my parents had gone, ending up in a living room.
“Look at this yard,” Axel said as he looked out a back window.
“What yard? All I see is forest.”
“That’s what I’m saying.”
I shook my head. He was so weird sometimes. “I’m going to go claim my room.” I found it upstairs, first door on the left, complete with en suite bathroom. It was even better than the pictures Dad had shown us. A bay window with a bench faced the front yard. The unpaved driveway disappeared around the corner, hidden by the forest.
Axel stomped into my new room. “Oh, this is for sure my room.”
“No. Yours is next to Mom and Dad’s. This is mine.”
“No way. I’m older. I get this one. With the tree, it’d give me maximum sneaking-out capabilities.”
“Dude.” I smacked him on the back of his head. “You’re not really going to be living here.”
“Right. Forgot about that part.”
“This can be your room I guess.”
I rolled my eyes. “Perfect. Thanks so much.”
Mom called from downstairs.
“Coming.” We walked down to find her.
“How are you guys doing?” she asked as soon as we entered the kitchen. Dad and Mr. Dawson were standing around the kitchen island with her. It was a nice, bright white kitchen with granite counters and stainless steel appliances.
“My room is much better than Axel’s and that’s what counts, right?”
“That’s right,” Dad said.
“Hey!” Axel said.
Mr. Dawson chuckled and the sound gave me goosebumps. There was something off about him, and I wanted to figure out what it was.
“I opened all the windows down here to air it out a bit with that nice breeze,” Mom said. “But it’s so hot out, we’ll need to close them in a minute. Help me with that?”
“Sure,” I said.
“This is going to be great for us,” Dad said.
“It’s a good house. I hope you’ll be comfortable here,” Mr. Dawson said. “But it’s important to remember that it’s more secluded than you’d think.”
I stifled a snort. My teeth were still rattling from the last mile of “road.”
Mr. Dawson smirked. Guess I hadn’t stifled it quick enough.
“Behave,” Mom whispered to me.
“There’s lots of wildlife in this forest, especially wolves,” Mr. Dawson said.
“Wolves?” Dad laughed. “You’re kidding,” he said with a slightly high pitch to his voice. Dad always did that when he was lying to us. He knew exactly what Mr. Dawson was talking about.
I glanced at Mom. She shrugged, not giving me anything to go on.
Now I knew my vision was real. Something was definitely up with St. Ailbe’s and the people who went there. Mr. Dawson had my full attention. I wanted to see how he was going to explain away these “wolves” of his.
“Unfortunately, I’m not kidding.” His voice was firm, leaving no room for misunderstanding. His gaze met mine with such a force that I wanted to look away but couldn’t. “If you leave them alone, they’ll leave you alone. You’re safe here. Just stay close to the house after dark.”
“Thanks for the warning. We’ll keep an eye out,” Mom said.
“I’d advise staying away from my St. Ailbe’s kids. They’re not like most other teenagers and can be a bit unstable. Even violent. Which is why we need the help of people like your Dad.” He paused. “They might look normal, but they’re not. Under no uncertain terms should you make friends with them. You’d be risking your life. Your future. Understand, Tessa?”