As the Watcher for the Northeast, Lex loves lobster, being in the woods, and sex. That last part, though, he keeps hidden from the other Watchers, because they’re supposed to be above those kinds of desires. He gets his fill of men from the local shifter clubs whenever he’s out doing his Watcher duties, and this one is no different. A hot guy, a night of fast sex, and he’s out the door again without anyone knowing more than his name.

But this time it is different, because that one night hook-up is Tucker, and his daughter is Lex’s first apprentice. Addie is headstrong, demanding, and more than Lex can handle. He never thought a seven year old little girl would be a match for him, but she is, and worse than that is how her father drives Lex nuts one minute and makes him think about the impossibilities of forever in the next.

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Cover Art by Carmen Waters

The next morning he woke up, got ready, and put on his borrowed clothing. This would be the end of his single life, he realized as he brushed out his long brown hair in the mirror. In an hour or two he’d have a child to care for, as his mentor had done before him. New Watchers were rare, and they were precious. Getting one in his own territory was a big deal. Lex knew he should have been celebrating that gift instead of thinking of some kid crowding around him as being a burden.

He left a thank-you note on the dresser with the stationary that had come with the room. It was the polite thing to do. Then he walked out the back door again and followed the slow, steady pulse of the other Watcher’s mind through whatever small town in Maine he’d found himself in. He wasn’t even really sure. Towns were human constructs. Shifters, especially Watchers, worked on territory lines, which often gave absolutely no credence to where a town’s boundaries were. Most of the clans had existed well before the states had come into being, and while shifters had played some part in the early development of the country, most stayed well out of human affairs. It was safer for all of them that way.

Whoever the new Watcher was, they lived in a suburban neighborhood that looked far too neat for any shifter to feel comfortable in. Shifters needed space, and privacy. The closely manicured lawns, the shiny new cars in the driveways, the people watching him suspiciously and probably calling the police because he didn’t belong in their neighborhood—it was all very much not where a shifter should have been living.

But there was no mistaking the feel of another Watcher close to him. They had an attraction when they were together, as the few telepathic powers they did have began to grow in each other’s presence. Lex stopped in front of a light blue house with white shutters and cocked his head to the side. Whoever they were, the Watcher lived in that house. And it was definitely a child. Lex could hear her humming softly in his mind. It wasn’t obtrusive, and since she was untrained she probably didn’t even realize she was projecting anything to the other Watchers, but he could definitely hear it.

Hello. My name is Lex, he told her gently.

The humming stopped abruptly and seconds later the front door was opened. Lex found himself in front of a blonde haired little girl who couldn’t have been more than seven. “Dad!” she shouted as she barred the door so Lex couldn’t come inside and have this conversation in a much more private environment where her neighbors weren’t looking out their front windows at him as if he was some escaped crazy person intent on murdering them all that second. Humans really were tiresome to be around sometimes.

“What is it, baby? Oh.”

Lex frowned at the man from the night before.

“How did you find me?” he asked Lex.

“I wasn’t looking for you. I’m here for your daughter. She’s going to start her apprenticeship as a Watcher. With me.”

The man put his arm around his daughter’s shoulders and pulled her back protectively.

“We should really have this conversation inside,” Lex said. He could feel the neighbors watching their exchange with interest.

The man backed up and took his daughter with him, silently letting Lex into their house.

The house was so... Lex shook his head. It was far too human for any shifter to inhabit, especially a young Watcher. There was no room to shift, and everywhere he looked there were glass vases and candlesticks that would easily be knocked over, even by a careful shifter.

He closed the door and walked into the living room. Without an invitation to do so, he sat down and nodded to the couch across from himself. That the man from last night was there was a complication, but it didn’t need to be. Lex’s mission was still the same. He had to collect his new apprentice and begin her training.

Lex studied her, as he was sure that she was doing to him. She was tall and thin, but not unhealthily so, and she watched him with the curiosity that came naturally to all Watchers. He could have easily traced her family lines and figured out what she was, but Watchers gave each other more respect. They didn’t pry unless they felt each other being in pain, and then they were quick to move in and surround them.

“Do you know what a Watcher is?” Lex asked her.

“First, we’re doing introductions,” the man said curtly. “I’m Tucker, and this is my daughter Addie.”

Lex nodded to them both. “I’m Lex.” Which Tucker already knew, but he wasn’t going to bring up what had happened between them the night before. Lex turned his attention back to Addie. As a future Watcher, and the first of the next generation, she was the only one who he needed to give his attention to now. “Do you know what a Watcher is?” he asked her again.

“It’s... Aren’t they myths?”

“Most people think so. But I know you’re one, and more than that, you’re the first generation of new Watchers. There are only five of us right now, six with you. Once you’re old enough to handle some territory on your own, we’ll talk about which part of the Northeast you want. I don’t go much into Canada, but sometimes that Watcher gets overwhelmed with his territory, so I do lend a hand there occasionally.” Lex looked between them, at their identical expressions of mistrust. “You don’t believe me. Fine. Addie, do you have dreams so real you can feel the sun on your back or the touch of another shifter? Or something darker like the taste of blood in your mouth after someone has hit you?”

Tucker stood up. “You shouldn’t be talking to a seven-year-old like that.”

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