The rear of the cemetery stood eerily quiet. Even more statues stood guard over the graves. Most were covered in dead vines. Some were dilapidated, others decapitated by vandals or the passage of time, their heads resting on the ground. Still, they all seemed to watch her as her feet crunched upon the gravel path. Suddenly feeling alone, she looked back and realized that the chill of the dead had subsided. She was truly alone.

The spirits hadn't followed. Why? Fear knotted in her throat. Did they know something she didn't? Even as panic built inside her chest, she kept walking, praying that coming here had been the right thing.

She saw the trees ahead of her; beneath the alcove of gnarled limbs hung shadows-black shadows that could hide anything, or anyone.

Moving closer, she could hear herself breathe, and in the distance a few birds called out as if in warning. She stopped a few feet from the trees. Their heavy limbs seemed to be reaching out for the cracked tombstones nearby.

"Hello?" Her voice seemed to be swallowed by the night.

"You came," answered a voice, deep and serious.

Breath held, she saw a figure move out of the shadows. Malcolm Summers, her grandfather. He looked younger than he'd appeared at her camp; obviously he'd dressed to play the part of Mr. Brighten. She recalled Della telling her that supernaturals didn't age as quickly as humans.

His gaze met hers, and even in the darkness his light blue eyes stood out. Kylie realized they were her exact color. She studied his face and saw the features of her dad, features that she, too, exhibited.

She suddenly felt insecure, unsure how to behave around him. Her chest ached. Should she hug him, not hug him?

"I'm sorry," Kylie blurted out.

"For what?" her grandfather asked.

"For ... not being able to talk to you that day in the forest."

"It wasn't your fault," someone else said. Kylie's great-aunt eased out of the shadows and stood beside Malcolm. The woman smiled. Before Kylie realized it, she'd been caught in an embrace. The strength and warmth in her aunt's touch surprised Kylie-the woman felt hot.

When the hug ended, Kylie realized that, like her grandfather, the fragileness her aunt had displayed on the the day she'd come to Shadow Falls had disappeared. Kylie did a quick calculation in her head. The woman had to be in her seventies or eighties, but she didn't look older than fifty.

Chameleons must have a long life expectancy. She tucked that info away for future contemplation.

"Look at you," her aunt said. "So beautiful." She glanced back at her grandfather. "What's wrong with you, Malcolm? Give your granddaughter a hug."

He moved in hesitantly. "I'm not much of a hugger, but I guess the moment merits it." He embraced her. And like her aunt, he felt hot to the touch. The embrace was short, but sweet, and reflective of the ones she'd savored from Daniel, and even her stepfather before their relationship had gone bad.

"You're good at it," Kylie said.

"What?" he asked.

"Hugging." Tears stung her eyes when she saw emotion in his expression.

A smile welled up inside her. "You look like my father."

"I noticed that, too, in the pictures."

"I have so many questions," Kylie said.

"I'm sure you do."

"We're chameleons, right?" She held her breath, waiting for him to confirm what her father had told her. Or was Holiday right, that chameleon meant something different? Would Kylie be accepting her role as a witch after tonight?

The look on her grandfather's face shifted from tenderness to concern. "Where did you learn this?"

"My father," Kylie said. Doubt filled her. Had her father been wrong? "He said-"

Malcolm stilled. "But he's dead."

"She's a ghost whisperer." Her aunt clutched the man's arm in excitement. "I told you I sensed a spirit present when we were at the camp." Her gaze shifted to Kylie. "Your great-grandmother had that gift. She would be so proud."

"So it's true? We're chameleons?" Kylie asked again.

"Yes," they said at the same time.

Kylie's chest swelled with victory. She finally knew. Knew for certain. But no sooner had the feeling hit than questions started forming. Deep down, she sensed her real victory would come when they answered those questions.

She stood trying to assess everything they'd said so she could learn more. Her great-grandmother had been a ghost whisperer, but the two of them weren't. So one chameleon didn't have the same gifts as another one. How did that work?

"My father, he was a ghost whisperer as well," Kylie said, realizing she hadn't checked out their patterns. She tightened her brows. Surprise filled her when she saw they were both humans. Then again, she'd also worn the human pattern not too long ago. Exactly what did being a chameleon mean?

"So you've seen him?" Sadness rang in her grandfather's tone.

"And my grandmother." She looked at her grandfather's forehead again. "Can I ask you-?"

"Heidi?" He said the name with such love that Kylie's chest tightened.

"Yes. Actually, she was the one to tell my father that we were chameleons. But no one at Shadow Falls knows what it is."

Her aunt and grandfather gazed at each other. Her aunt nodded. "Tell her."

"I will," he said. "But you must come with us."

Kylie hesitated. "Why can't we talk here?"

"Not just to talk." He rested his hand on her shoulder. The warmth from his touch was familiar. And Kylie recognized it to be similar to Holiday's and Derek's touches. Did that mean ... Her grandfather continued. "You must come and live with your own kind."

"Live?" Live? Leave Shadow Falls? Kylie shook her head. "I can't. I'm going to Shadow Falls boarding school."

"You don't understand the danger you are in, child," he said.

"From ... Mario?" Kylie asked.

His brow wrinkled. "Is Mario part of the FRU?"

"No." Kylie hesitated to get into a conversation about the FRU. "He's part of a rogue organization."

"The organization you need to fear is the FRU. They are affiliated with your camp, but they are not what they seem. I have reasons to believe they are responsible for your grandmother's death."

Unwilling to lie, Kylie nodded. "I know."

His expression hardened. "You know what?" When she didn't immediately answer, he continued, "Did she tell you something about it?" His tone matched his expression-serious, demanding.

Unsure if confiding in him was best, but sensing it would be wrong to keep it from him, she nodded. "She was paralyzed from the operation. The one they did on both of you. They killed her."

His blue eyes filled with rage and his hands tightened into fists. "Murdering bastards! Only over my dead body will you return to that school!"

Kylie tried not to react to his threat. But yes, she saw it as a threat. She inhaled a breath to calm herself. "I understand how you feel. I was outraged myself. But Burnett assures me-"

"Burnett works for them!" her grandfather roared, and even the trees seemed to cringe at his fury.

Kylie's aunt moved in and rested her hand on his arm. Kylie recalled how the woman's touch had been so warm the day they'd shown up, pretending to be the Brightens. Was the woman fae? Part fae, perhaps?

"Yes," Kylie said. "Burnett works for the FRU, but he assures me that the people who did that are no longer with the organization. And-"

"And you trust them knowing what you know? Trust him, knowing who he answers to?"

"I don't trust the FRU, but I trust Burnett," Kylie said. "He's on our side. And even more, I trust Holiday."

"You are naive and young. You don't know what's best for you."

She tried not to take offense. "Young yes, but not so naive," Kylie said. "I'm following my heart."

"Your heart will mislead you," he said. "Mine did. I trusted them. I was blinded to what they really were. Heidi knew ... or she suspected, but I didn't listen to her."

"I'm sorry," Kylie said, "but I can't-"

"You can," he demanded.

"No, Malcolm! The child must make up her own mind." Her aunt spoke to Kylie's grandfather, but looked at Kylie. The woman didn't look angry, but disappointment gripped her expression. Kylie's chest tightened at the thought of hurting these people, but giving in wasn't an option.

Her grandfather swung around and stared back at the tree. His sorrow, his anger, his loss filled the darkness like a living, breathing thing. Kylie went to him. Even frightened, she needed to offer comfort.

"The last thing I want to do is to hurt you. You have been hurt too much. I'm sorry that I can't do what you want, but I have to follow the path I believe is right." Some slight movement in the sky caught the corner of Kylie's vision; she didn't look up, but she suspected that speck answered to the name of Perry. He'd obviously found her. Her time was running out.

"And what if you are wrong and I'm forced to face another death in my own family? One whom I didn't even get to know?"

"I don't think that'll happen," Kylie pleaded.

He stared at the ground as if in defeat.

Feeling certain her time ran short, Kylie continued. "I still have so many questions. Please help me understand what I am."

He looked up. The fury faded from his eyes. "It is impossible to teach you what you want to know in a few minutes, hours, or even weeks. It could take years."

"Then I will be coming to you for years with my questions," she said. "But please, answer me this. What does it mean that I'm a chameleon?"

Her aunt came forward. "Like the chameleon lizard, we can change how we appear to the world. And for our own protection, we have had to hide ourselves to avoid persecution."

"Hide from the FRU?" Kylie asked.

"Sadly, from everyone," her aunt said. "The few who did not hide were viewed as outcasts, freaks, and not belonging to any one kind. At first they thought we had brain tumors and then they just assumed we were insane."

Kylie couldn't deny that she related. Though like most prejudices, it had probably been worse in earlier years. While sometimes she felt like a freak, for the most part, she was accepted at Shadow Falls.

"The FRU studied us like lab rats," her grandfather added. "The elders and Councils of all the species viewed us as mutants. Some were forced to work as slaves for other supernaturals."

The truth stung, but she needed to know it, know all of it. "But what are we? A new species?"

"Not really," her aunt answered. "Normally when supernaturals produce offspring, the dominant DNA is passed on. The child will generally have weaker powers than those who were born from parents of the same species. Chameleons maintain the DNA of both parents and those of their forefathers. Chameleons carry a blend from all species."

Her grandfather met her eyes. "My father was vampire and were. My mother fae, witch, and shape-shifter."

"Wait," Kylie said. "Are you saying that I have the gifts of all species?"

"When you wear that pattern you do. Except..." His expression showed concern. "If the rule of protector is the same with a chameleon as the others, then you wouldn't be able to use any of these powers to protect yourself."

She shook her head, trying to soak it all in. "But your pattern shows human," Kylie said.

"It is safer to pretend to be one of them," her aunt answered.

"But I'm half-human," Kylie said. "So how could I be that special blend?"

"At first, it didn't make sense," her aunt said. "But when we studied your mother's family history, we found that she came from-"

"An American Indian tribe," Kylie finished for her. And suddenly a thought hit. "Does that mean that my mother's supernatural?"

"Not supernatural, just gifted," her aunt said.

"Like how?" Kylie asked.

"She may be psychic. Or an empath," her grandfather said. "It is believed that those from this tribe can distinguish supernaturals from humans-sometimes they aren't even aware of it, but are simply drawn to them. There are more gifted humans married to supernaturals than regular humans, even though they are much less in the world population."

He tightened his brows and stared at Kylie's pattern. "Your brain has developed quickly. Most chameleons aren't able to bring forth one pattern and utilize those powers until they are in their early twenties."

"I may be developed, but I'm clueless. I don't know how to do it-how to change my pattern or how to control it."

"Which is why you must come with us." He frowned.

"I can't, but I still need to understand." She looked up and this time she knew it was Perry. "A while back, I showed a human pattern and then I'm sending paperweights around a room and ... Well, it's not good. But maybe I developed early because I'm a protector. Or they think I am. The truth is they don't know what to think of me."

Her aunt smiled. "We heard rumors that you were a protector. That is a huge honor."

"I guess." Kylie wasn't sure how any of this was going to work out.

Her grandfather stared at her forehead again. "If you aren't in control of it, then you must be forming patterns instinctually. Normally, it's a learned talent that can take years to master. I would assume you needed the power of speed and intuitively you initiated the change."

"Speed?" Kylie asked, confused. "It wasn't about speed. My friend kept messing up her spell and-"

"Spell?" he asked.

"I'm a witch right now." Kylie said the obvious.

"Not anymore you're not," he said. Copyright 2016 - 2023