Mercy Falls, Minnesota looked different when you knew you'd be human for the rest of your life. Before it had been a place that only existed in the heat of summer, concrete sidewalks and leaves curved up toward the sun, everything smelling of warm asphalt and dissipating truck exhaust.
Now, as the spring branches shared seldom-seen firlls of tender pink-it was where I belonged.
In the months since I'd lost my lupine skin, I'd tried to learn how to be a boy again. I'd gotten my old job back at the Crooked Shelf, surrounded by new workds and the sound of pages turning. I'd traded my inherited SUV, full of the scent of Beck and my life with the wolves, for a Volkswagen Golf just big enough for me and Grace and my guitar. I tried not to flinch when I felt the cold rush in through a suddenly open door. I tried to remember I was no longer alone. At night, Grace and I crept into her room and I folded myself against her body, breathing in the smell of my new life and matching my heartbeat to hers.
If my chest caught when I heard the wolves' slow howls in the wind, at least I had the balm of this simple, ordinary life to console me. I could look forward to years of Christmases with this girl in my arms, the privilege of growing old in this unfamiliar skin of mine. I knew that. I had everything.