Peter rested his hand on the small of my back as he ushered me into the house, and I tried to pretend like I didn’t notice the tingles it sent through me. My heart beat that funny way again, the one that drove everyone mad, and I hoped that Milo wasn’t home.
No one greeted us at the door, which surprised me since I had given Mae a heads up. Matilda barked and scratched at the basement door, which led me to believe that Mae had stepped in. If Jack and Peter were going to start battling it out, Matilda would probably get hurt, so Mae put her in the basement to protect her.
“Hello?” Peter announced, his silken voice resonating through the entryway. He sighed when Mae didn’t rush in to greet us, the way she would’ve any other time. “She did always like Jack better than me. She needs someone to coddle.”
“That’s why she prefers me,” I added dryly, and he smiled slightly.
“Mae?” Peter ventured out into the kitchen.
He kept his hand on my back to keep me going along with him. Not that I would’ve turned away. Wherever Peter was going, I wanted to be, and not just because my body insisted it. If he was going to stumble across Jack, I had to be there.
“Mae?” Peter repeated, his tone growing irritated.
A scuffling sound came from the living room, and Peter moved his arm so it was in front of me, shielding me from whatever was going on in the other room. His stance had changed, though, like he was ready for an attack, and I tried to think of a way relax to him.
“Mae!” I shouted. I doubted Peter would hurt her, and I needed someone else to break the tension.
“Alice?” Milo tried to hide the nervousness in his voice.
He burst into the kitchen with Mae right behind him, tugging on his arm, and I understood the scuffling sound. Mae tried to keep him in the other room, away from Peter, but Milo had been trying to get to me.
Peter, meanwhile, only deepened his defensive posture, and moved so his body completely blocked mine.
“Is that her blood?” Milo asked, referring to the splatter on Peter’s shirt. He sounded horrified and his eyes widened a split second before he bared his teeth and charged at Peter.
Fortunately, Mae’s arms locked onto him and slowed him down just enough where I could dodge underneath Peter’s arm so Milo could see that I was safe and sound. Peter looped an arm around my waist and pulled me back to him. He was trying to protect me from Milo, who was trying to protect me from Peter.
“Milo, I’m fine,” I said, and I let Peter hold me to him.
“What’s going on?” Milo growled. He stopped clawing his way towards us, but Mae kept her arm around his chest just to be safe.
“Peter fought another vampire. That’s his blood, not mine. I’m fine.” I held up my arms and turned my neck, trying to show him that nothing had happened.
“Is that… is that your brother?” Peter’s grip relaxed as he narrowed his eyes at Milo, trying to understand that situation. “Your brother’s a vampire?”
“Yeah.” I moved away from his arm, standing a little bit away from him.
Being so close to Peter had done that thing to me again. My mind got hazy and filled with him, the way a room is filled with a scent. I could smell him, too, hot and tangy, and my mouth began to water. Unnecessary goosebumps broke out on my skin, and I’m sure I was trembling.
Wrapping my arms tightly around myself, I tried to concentrate on the scene around me, like Milo’s wild eyes and the heavy sounds of his breath. Mae hadn’t spoken since we’d come in, but that was because she seemed to have her hands full keeping Milo contained.
“When did he turn?” Peter looked to me, but I wished that he would ask somebody else. I wanted a chance to clear my head of him.
“About a month ago.”
“Why did he turn?” Peter’s furrow deepened and his tone got even more confused. “Why haven’t you?”
“There was an accident, and Milo was going to die, so Jack turned him,” I said. “And I had been waiting to turn until Milo was a bit older.”
“Jack’s always so eager to turn everything,” Peter said more to himself than anyone else. Then he shook his head and looked past Milo at Mae. “You haven’t said hello.”
“I haven’t really had the chance.” Mae forced a smile and finally released Milo, but she made no movement towards Peter, no attempt to hug him the way she hugged everyone else. “Peter, maybe you should just go.”
“I know that you’re not happy to see me, but that’s not fair.” Peter was genuinely hurt by her reaction, and Mae’s eyes filled with soft tears. “I haven’t done anything wrong.”
“Peter, you know that’s not exactly true,” Mae said quietly. She kept her gaze on him, but nodded her head slightly to me.
“I’m not trying to justify it, but if…” He bit his lip and shook his head. “Jack overstepped his bounds on every measure of this, yet you’re all continually on his side. She was meant for me, not him. And it shouldn’t have mattered to any of you if she had died.”
“Thanks,” I mumbled, and I felt his eyes land apologetically on me.
“Alice, that’s not what I meant.” He made a move towards me, then dropped his hand.
“We’re not on anyone’s side,” Mae insisted, and she rested a hand on Milo’s arm, trying to keep him steady. Hearing Peter so casually talk about my death had him fuming. “Things are far more complicated than sides, and you know that.”
“But Jack is wrong!” Peter slammed his hand on the counter, and we all jumped. “What gives him the right?”
“He loves me, Peter,” I told him timidly.
He turned, his eyes burning on me, and I felt myself try to shrink away. Milo hissed and Mae stepped forward, blocking Milo from Peter. She knew, just as I did, that Peter had no intention of hurting me again.
“And you think I don’t?” he asked.
Peter moved so quickly, I almost didn’t see it happen. His face was directly in front of mine, and I was backed up against the wall, but he wasn’t touching me at all. Milo freaked out because of his sudden movement, and Mae pushed him into the other room so he could get a reign on his emotions.
“They’re fine! He’s just talking to her!” Mae kept insisting.
Out of the corner of my eye, I saw her finally wrangle Milo into another room, but all I could really see were Peter’s green eyes. He always looked at me is if he was trying to completely look through me and solve a great mystery.