CHAPTER TWO

At lunch, Allison and Lydia waved Scott over to their usual spot in the cafeteria. It was still so strange to him that he and Stiles sat at the cool table now because Allison and Lydia were friends, and no one was cooler than Lydia Martin—except for Jackson, the captain of the lacrosse team, and Lydia's boyfriend. Who totally had it in for Scott.

And is missing, Scott thought fearfully.

"I told Lydia you'd help us," Allison said as he put his tray on the table and sat down.

"Sure. With what?"

"Finding Jackson," Allison replied.

The four of them were alone for the moment. Despite her perfect makeup and every strand of strawberry blond hair in place, Lydia looked as if she hadn't slept at all. She still looked great—not as great as Allison, but no one was as pretty as Allison—and she glanced furtively around and kept her voice low, talking fast.

"So, I went over to Jackson's like we planned, after the parent-teacher conferences," Lydia said. "His parents had already left for the airport. Paris," she elaborated. "I swear, those people don't have any imagination. They go to Paris all the time. Anyway, he wasn't there. But this was."

She reached into her purse and moved around whatever it was that girls kept in their purses—Scott wasn't exactly clear on that—and pulled out a folded piece of paper, ripped at the bottom. She handed it to Allison, who shared it with Scott.

He looked over her shoulder and read:

Dear Jackson, as you are now called,

My name is Hunter Gramm, and I'm a private detective. I have important information about your birth parents to share with you. To show you that I'm sincere, please look at the enclosed. And then call me at

The rest of the paper was gone, just like Jackson.

"It had to be a phone number," Lydia said. "And I'm thinking a picture of his biological parents. Or maybe a baby picture or adoption papers."

"We think Jackson went to meet him," Allison said, glancing at Lydia, who nodded. "And he hasn't come back."

Scott handed back the note. "And. . . have you contacted Sheriff Stilinski?" The sheriff was Stiles's dad. Scott wouldn't be a werewolf right now if Stiles hadn't eavesdropped on his father's call from the department, informing him that a dead jogger had been found in the woods. Make that half of a dead jogger. Scott and Stiles had gone out to look for it, too, and that's when the Alpha had attacked him.

"No," Lydia said quickly. "I haven't contacted Sheriff Stilinski, and I'm not going to. It might be nothing. And if it's nothing . . ." She moved her shoulders.

"Lydia told her parents she was spending the night at my house last night," Allison said, her cheeks reddening. She cleared her throat. Scott wondered what kind of punishment Allison had gotten for bailing on school the day before. He doubted they'd be spending the night together anytime soon.

"Besides, Jackson is the captain of the lacrosse team," Lydia said. "If it's nothing, it will make him look stupid."

And Coach might demote him, Scott thought, but he seriously doubted that could actually happen.

Allison handed the paper back to Lydia, and Lydia carefully folded it back up and put it into her purse. Then she pulled out her phone.

"I can access the Where's My Phone app from my phone if I have his user name and password, but I don't . . . seem to know his password at the moment," Lydia said. She made a face. "It's not what it used to be."

Scott was clueless. "Lydia," Allison whispered softly. "That's what the password currently . . . isn't."

Lydia huffed. "Let's not overshare," she said to Allison. She typed in some text on her phone. "I've been trying all kinds of possibilities, and I was wondering if maybe he's using a lacrosse term. I've tried baller, cannon, man up . . ."

Allison's brows rose slightly in amusement, and Scott was about to translate what the terms meant when she picked up a French fry off her plate and fed it to him. As he chewed, she rested her head in her arms, cocked her head, and smiled up at him. It was the best-tasting fry in his life ever.

"Can you think of anything Jackson would use for a password?" Allison asked Scott.

Other than "JerksRme"? Scott thought, but did not say.

"Oh, don't ask Scott," Lydia said as she stared down at her phone and blew air out her cheeks. "Okay, not 'A stick,' either." She glanced at Allison. "He and Jackson barely know each other."

"They're on the same team," Allison pointed out.

"Hardly." Lydia favored Allison with a pitying smile.

Allison pursed her lips and was about to say something when Stiles arrived, followed by Danny and some of Jackson's and Lydia's other regulars.

"Hey, where's Jackson?" Danny asked. "We were supposed to get together this morning for scrimmage."

"He's not here," Lydia said firmly as she put the note and her cell phone back into her purse and snapped it shut.

"Yeah, but where is he?" he persisted.

Scott took note. Danny was Jackson's best friend, but it was obvious Jackson hadn't told him about the detective or the note. Scott and Stiles told each other just about everything, and Scott was glad of that. Stiles was the only person on the planet who knew that he had become a werewolf.

Well, Derek knew, too, but Derek hardly counted as an actual person. Given a choice between hanging out with Jackson Whittmore or Derek Hale, Scott would have to go with Jackson. Except, of course, that Derek could keep Scott alive - or so he claimed - while Jackson would probably be a little bit psyched if Scott bit the big one.

Hey, I cracked a werewolf joke, Scott thought.

"Jackson is not here," Lydia replied, enunciating carefully, as if Danny might be having trouble understanding her. That was definitely the signal not to pursue the subject. After all, in the boyfriend-girlfriend rules according to Lydia, Jackson should keep her informed of his whereabouts at all times. It would embarrass her to have to admit that she didn't know where he was, either. And no one embarrassed Lydia Martin, ever.

So the subject was dropped. Lunch without Jackson-that was pretty sweet. Ever sweeter, Allison fed Scott some more french fries and smiled her little smile, and texted him a happy face.

Life - despite it being life as a werewolf-was good.

Allison couldn't stop thinking about how cute Scott had looked eating her lunch, and she kept daydreaming about doing something with him after school today - it was Friday, glorious Friday - until she remembered that she was grounded. Her father had totally lit into her, pacing and demanding to know how she could have skipped school and gone into the woods while a mountain lion had been on the loose. Her mom had been angry, too, but Allison could tell that if it had been left up to her, she wouldn't have been as harsh about having to stay in all weekend. Her mom liked Scot.

So, score one for my lacrosse guy, she thought. I've never skipped school before, but I've never had a boyfriend before, either. And I've never had such a perfect birthday. It was worth it. Except I won't get to spend time with Scoot except at school until I'm, oh, 112.

The last bell rang and she headed for her locker, anticipating a less-than-thrilling week of homework and hopefully jogging with Aunt Kate. At the thought of her aunt, who was practically more like a sister, she touched her new necklace, the one with the strange creature on it. Kate had given it to her for her birthday.

Then she spotted Lydia waiting for her at her locker. Lydia had on her cute high-waisted coat and a beret.

"I figured out the password," Lydia announced. With an air of triumph, she showed Allison the screen of her smartphone. "It's 'Captain.' And here's where Jackson is."

Allison squinted at the address and phone number on the faceplate as she twirled her combination lock. "He's at a motel?"

Lydia nodded, her expression cool and collected. Allison didn't know what to make of that.

"It appears so. But I've called his phone and he's not picking up. And I called the motel and they haven't seen anyone named Jackson, or who even looks like Jackson. And there's no Hunter Gramm registered."

She peered through her lashes at Allison, who opened her locker and put her lab notebook into her leather messenger bag. Allison smiled uncertainly back, not sure what Lydia was driving at.

"Color me unsurprised," Lydia said. At Allison's confused expression, she explained, "Unsurprised that there's no one there by the name of Hunter Gramm. At this kind of motel, people go by John Smith and Jane Doe. Or possibly Bambi von Boob Job."

Allison blinked at her in horror.

"And pay by the hour," Lydia added.

"No way." She closed her locker door and leaned against it. "Why would a detective arrange to meet Jackson there? And would Jackson even go into a place like that? Wait. Don't answer that."

"Well, apparently his phone did," Lydia said, dropping her façade that the conversation they were having was anywhere close to normal. "I need to check it out." She looked less than thrilled. "Come with me?"

Allison blanched. "I'm grounded," she said quickly. And gratefully. "I can't go anywhere."

"Except maybe my house?" Lydia asked, smiling hopefully. "To work on our English project?"

That we don't have, Allison translated. She licked her lips. "I guess it's worth a shot to at least ask my folks if I can." She'd never been grounded before. She didn't know how it worked. Scott, no, but a girlfriend, yes?

"Thank you," Lydia said.

Just as Allison pulled out her phone, she caught sight of Scott. He was talking to Stiles, his quirky best friend, but he was staring at her. Her insides went all warm and tingly and she gave him a little smile. He grinned and started walking over. Stiles came, too. That was okay with her. She liked Stiles.

"What's up?" Scott asked. "Did you find Jackson?"

"Possibly," Lydia replied, raising her chin. She gave Allison a look. "And about that? We could use some backup," she declared.

"Yeah, um," Allison said anxiously, smiling uncertainly up at him. "Do you want to go to a motel with me?"

Scott gaped at Allison. Did she really just ask me to go to a motel?

He looked over at Stiles for confirmation. Yes, there it was: his best friend's jaw practically dragging on the floor. Stiles looked from Scott to Allison to Lydia and back to Scott, as if asking someone, anyone, in turn to validate this man-dream come true.

"Are you seriously asking me that question?" Scott asked Allison, and she playfully batted his arm.

"Not to do . . . that," she said. "We're looking for—"

"We're going on an errand," Lydia cut in, then licked her lips and cleared her throat, as if she had just realized how that might sound.

"I could totally help with that," Stiles said quickly. "Errands are my middle name. Actually, my middle name is almost as difficult to pronounce as my first name, but hey, I could do it."

Lydia slid Stiles a glance that hovered somewhere between incredulous and impatient, and he went silent. Which, Scott knew, could be very challenging for his hyperactive best friend. But it had been achieved before, and could be again if the stakes were high enough. And for Stiles, who had been crushing on Lydia Martin since kindergarten, pleasing her was sky-high stakes.

"Stiles is quite the hacker," Allison said, and Lydia's disdainful gaze grew thoughtful.

"And I'm sure you're very good at tracing people on their phones," Lydia said.

"They have an app for that," Stiles said. "Several, actually." Lydia smiled. "Which, I'm guessing by your expression, you already knew." Scott could see the lightbulb go on. "And this someone might be at a motel," Stiles continued. "And I'm guessing that this someone might be Jackson."

Lydia shrugged. Then she turned to Allison. "Tell you what. If the boys are willing to go to the motel for us—"

"To a motel. To look for a guy," Stiles said. "Maybe you should ask Danny." Danny, their lacrosse team goalie, was gay, out, and proud. "He could act, you know, more causal about it."

Then Scott shut his eyes against the pain as reality came crashing down on him. "We can't go. We have lacrosse practice."

Stiles stared at him, looking even more dumbfounded than when Allison had asked Scott to go to the motel with her. He gave his head a little shake, then gestured for Scott to move out of earshot of the girls.

As soon as they were a few feet away, he punched Scott in the arm. "Are you insane?" he said. "Let's think this through. Getting smacked around by sweaty guys with sticks. Going to a motel with a girl."

Scott grinned. "When you put it that way . . ."

"I'll tell the coach you've got food poisoning." Stiles held up his hand as if solemnly swearing to tell the full truth, nothing but the truth, and utter BS. "I'll tell him you're dying."

"If her father finds out, he'll kill me," Scott said.

"He's already trying to kill you. So no worries," Stiles replied cheerfully.

Scott's grin widened. Then it shrank a little. "Yeah, okay, but it looks like it's not just me and Allison going. It's me, Allison, and Lydia."

"And is there any justice in that?" Stiles said with a sigh. He clapped Scott on the shoulder. "Go, my friend, go be a man. I'll take one for the team." Then he glanced longingly in Lydia's direction, sighed again, and took off toward the boys' locker room.

When Scott returned to the girls, Lydia was reapplying her lip gloss and Allison was looking kind of guilty and a little nervous as she held her phone to her ear. Seeing Scott in her makeup mirror, Lydia said to his reflection, "So it occurs to me that I have tons of math homework, and I was wondering if you two could handle the trip to the motel on your own."

She popped the cap back onto her lip gloss and turned around to allow Scott to admire her. Her lips were very shiny. "I'll go camp out at Jackson's, in case he shows."

"Okay, sure. Thanks, Mom," Allison said into the phone. She disconnected. "They said okay." Her forehead was furrowed, as if okay was a bad thing. Scott remembered that she'd been grounded. He had, too, but he was on the honor system. He had lacrosse practice, and his mom had the night shift. They wouldn't be home at the same time until tomorrow morning. Which meant that he could sneak around if he needed to.

"So you can go," Lydia translated, and Allison nodded. Lydia mimicked putting a phone to her ear. "You let me know what you and Scott find out the minute you get there," she ordered Allison.

"I'll call you. Promise," Allison said.

Lydia took off, and Allison and Scott walked to the parking lot. By the time they'd reached her car, she was still looking weirded out, and Scott paused beside the door.

"Is this okay with you?" he asked her.

"Yeah," she said, relaxing a little as she slid her arms around his waist. It's just . . . I didn't expect my parents to say I could go to Lydia's. Last night my father said I would be grounded until the end of time, and today he seemed almost glad that I wasn't coming home."

"Oh." Scott didn't know what to make of that, and it worried him a little. Maybe the Argents were going out werewolf hunting. "But he thinks you're going to Lydia's, right?"

She caught her bottom lip between her teeth, lowered her head, and nodded. She didn't like lying to her parents. He knew how that felt. He hated lying to her.

"Yeah," she said. "He thinks that first we're going to study in the library, where we're not allowed to have cell phones on. And then he, um, thinks I'm spending the night at her house." She gazed up at him mischievously with those huge dark brown eyes of hers, and he thought he would explode. He still couldn't believe that of all the guys in school, Allison Argent had picked him to be her boyfriend.

"So aren't you?" he asked her. "Spending the night at her house?"

She wrinkled her nose, half shy, half flirty. "Maybe not," she replied.