Just when I thought Asher would put me out of my misery, he stiffened above me. Even his breath halted, grazing just below my collarbone. He cocked his head to the side, his voice deadly calm.
“Why is my brother’s scent on you?”
I froze beneath him, my mind taking a few seconds to process his question. I sniffed the sweatshirt I wore, catching remnants of wet sand, fresh water, and sunblock.
Asher’s scent had mixed with my own when we completed our bond, but hidden beneath it all, I could distinctly smell Brandon’s mint and cheap beer scent. I hadn’t even realized, and neither had he until now.
“Don’t, Asher.”‘ I warned him, sitting up when he leaned back on his knees. Shirtless and bathed in moonlight, he looked like a vengeful G*d, eyes swirling with flecks of gold. “He’s using me to get a reaction out of you. Believe me, I didn’t let him get away with it.”
“Show me.” He snarled; his anger directed towards younger brother.
I had always had this adverse reaction to Asher’s anger. While everyone else blanched and cowered, I found myself excited.
My body reacted as it always had in his presence, even though my legs still trembled from what happened moments ago. My mind, however, was focused on not igniting a war between two hardheaded brothers.
With a sigh, I let him into my thoughts, replaying the brief encounter with Brandon. I could hear Asher’s snarl in my head, feel his rage at his brother’s words. Even the begrudging satisfaction he felt when my knee sent his brother to the ground, was fleeting.
As a tremor ran down his shoulders and spine, I wondered how close my mate was to murdering his brother. This feud between the two of them clearly ran a lot deeper than I had thought.
“K***g your brother wouldn’t win people to our side, it would send them running in the opposite direction.” I tried to convince him in the only way I could, by keeping my stubborn as hl attitude in check. “We have more important st to worry about.
If he can’t keep his hands to himself, I’ll make him. Who knows, maybe I’ll let Maya bite off one of his hands. It’s better than you hunting him down while he’s drinking himself into a stupor.”
“He already knows he’s going to pay for touching you, but he knows I’ll wait until he’s sober.” Asher grunted. Frustrated, he ran a hand thrugh his hair, making the once neat strands messy.
“I knew he’d use you to ps me off. I expected him to insult you or disrespect your position in the pack. It would have been easily dealt with. In other packs, it is a d***h sentence to touch an Alpha’s mate.”
I frowned, surprised that this was something he had contemplated. Sean had pissed me off more times than I could count, pushing until we were both red-faced and shouting at one another from down the hall.
Dad even had to intervene a time or two. He had doubted my capability when I first returned home, but not once had I thought of hurting my brother.
“What happened between you two?” I wanted to know what would cause such a divide between them, what would pit brother against brother until there wasn’t a shred of familiarity left.
“I’m not sure I even know anymore. His version of events might be different than mine.”
Before I could learn anything further, or at the very least, quell Asher’s anger, his Beta’s voice played within our heads.
‘Alpha, Luna-we have a Cordelia Warren here at the main gate. Her credentials check out, as does her luggage. We clear to send her on through?’
Asher and I locked eyes. The rune and protection witch was here, which meant we could finally comb through the house he had built for us.
I wondered what damage the witch had done. Who knew how much time she had to roam the house, to tamper with anything inside?
‘Escort her to the estate. I have to check in with Mason and the rest of tonight’s patrol. Let her know we’ll catch up shortly.’
“I can head there now.” I assured him, all too eager to put my relentless worries to rest. I hinted at the reluctance in his eye and reassured him, “Breyona and Giovanni will come with me.”
“Have them meet you at the forest line. From the sounds of it, tonight’s game of Manhunt is coming to an end.”
I sent Breyona a quick mind-link, making a small sound of satisfaction as she answered instantly. Her and Giovanni were nearby, already on the move to our meet-up point.
“I wasn’t aware there was a patrol roaming the lake tonight, or that Mason had joined them. I guess that’s why he wasn’t at the party.”
I accepted Asher’s hand and stood, watching with held breath as he retrieved my bathing suit bottoms and retied the dainty strings.
“You didn’t think I wouldn’t have you protected at all times?” He lifted an eyebrow and gave me a look, holding out the bottoms for me to step into, “I’m letting them off early, anyway.
Just in time for some afterparty they were talking about. There’s a smaller patrol that circles the estate. They’re ordered to alert us both if they pick anything up.”
Giovanni pulled into the circular driveway out front of our estate, which still sounded strange to my ears. I gazed up at the bay windows that looked into the living room and pinpointed the spot I had been standing when the witch attacked.
“The a****k last night, I get the worst feeling any time I think about it.” I said absentmindedly. My confession made Breyona, and Giovanni fall silent, both of which watched me curiously.
“What kind of feeling?” Breyona asked.
“Like…”‘ I paused for a few moments, trying to turn a vague feeling into words, “…like this is just the beginning.”
I wouldn’t voice my other feeling, that there was more to this a**k than what met the eye. No, my father had nothing to do with this. The man himself-he was dd, his body burned along with the rest lost that night.
“I’ve seen the feelings Holly gets. If you ever get them around me, let me know.” She shuddered in the passenger seat, “As for this just being the beginning…I have to admit, I hope your wrong, Lola.”
“I do too.”
Cordelia Warren was what grandma would have turned out to be if she had been born a witch and not a werewolf.
Her chestnut hair, streaked with grey, was held back by a bandana. Laugh lines creased around her lips and at the corners of her eyes Crystal earrings dangled from her ears, matching the silver pendants around her throat.
She had the same knowing light in her eyes as grandma, along with a kindness that instantly set me at ease. Her scent was one that brought back memories of grandma’s cottage, the scent of her herb garden as it baked beneath the sun.
Giovanni leaned against the wall, in between Cordelia and me. The warriors that had escorted her here remained outside.
“How wonderful to meet you, Luna Lola.” She smiled warmly, the bracelets on her wrists twinkling as she clasped her hands together.
I felt like I was greeting a distant family member when she let out a soft sigh and said, “Let me get a good look at you.”
“You don’t have to call me by my title. Lola is just fine.” I assured her.
“Nonsense, it’s a title to be proud of.”
I stood a few feet away, swaying awkwardly, as the middle-aged witch looked me up and down. There was nothing disapproving in her gaze.
If anything, I couldn’t help but feel as though she were marveling a bit. ‘Strong, hard-working hands…’ She murmured, toying with one of the pendants around her neck.
“You’ve got old magic in your blood. Passed down through your lineage, I reckon.” She said, turning to rummage through a large tote bag she had placed on the couch. A dainty-looking amulet was shoved in my face, the chain thin and gold as it caught the light.
“Take this and wear it. The stones inside are quartz and citrine. It’ll help focus your thoughts and strengthen your magic.
Had you have been trained, that dark witch wouldn’t have dared step inside your household. Whoever she was, she was relying on your inexperience.”
“What you don’t know, can in fact hurt you.” Breyona said with a worried frown. Her eyes brightened as she eyed the necklace in my hands, “So you’re saying the crystals humans buy from those little shops are actual magic? Mom got me a few last years, I keep them on my nightstand. My favorite is the little amethyst geode. I actually brought that one with me!”
“Depends. Did your parents buy them from a witch?” Cordelia laughed, and the sound reminded me of fluttering wings. Breyona seemed relaxed around the witch, reinforcing the familiarity I felt. ” Crystals work only when a witch fills them with her magic.
It’ll run out eventually, but they can be recharged. They’re capable of different things, depending on the quality and shape. But without a witch, they’re just beautiful rocks.”
“Can they help protect me, and my people?”
“Their power varies on how much time and energy you put into them. They cannot protect an entire pack and clan of vampires, but they can help keep you and your inner circle safe.” She said softly, stepping forward when Giovanni’s harsh expression relaxed.
There was sincerity in her voice that came from years of experience and understanding. “If you’d let me, I’d like to teach you what I know. At the very least, I can offer some protection on your journey.”