“It’s happening again?” Sean frowned, emerging from Claire’s kitchen with a plate of sandwiches in his hand and a bag of chips in the other.
Sean looked better than he had these last few weeks. He was eating again, and the dark circles around his eyes had faded almost completely.
Moving on from a fallen mate was impossible, but finding a way to live despite the pain, only the strongest could do such a thing.
He took a seat beside dad on the couch, setting the plate on the table for the two of them. Dad and Sean needed to keep their hands busy when they were stressed.
It was exactly why grandma was out back right now, pruning Claire’s rose bush. I knew she was listening in on us, because every so often she’d throw a comment of her own through the sliding glass door.
The breeze that wafted through was pleasant, at least. Even though the room was heavy with emotion.
“Exactly like the first time?” Dad questioned, his eyes flitting to me.
I had come clean about the notes I was getting from Tyler, and how he had confronted me that day at my secret swimming hole. This was all before his d***h, which begged the question. Who was doing this?
“Not exactly. The d***h is the same. Just as b***y and gruesome.” I swallowed, but it did nothing to ease the knot in my chest.
It brought back that photo, the one where Carson and I had posed like long- lost friends. “It’s the details that changed. Like the note and picture at the crime scene, that was new.”
“Last time this happened, Tyler and the Vampire King were behind it. Seeing as how they’re both long confirmed d**d, they aren’t responsible. That leaves the witches, or the Vampire’s against Lola.”
Zeke chimed in; his playful mood nonexistent. The sly glint in his eyes had long ago turned dull, souring until only guilt filled them. As those eyes met my own, I knew the same light shined in my own.
I had been posing with her for several minutes, and in all that time, I hadn’t felt anything out of the ordinary. There had been dozens of drunken college students watching us, eying the popular sorority girl and their Luna.
It had been my brief association with her that got her k****d, but it was Zeke who had seen her last-who had watched as she got into an uber and headed back to the lake in search of her cellphone.
‘We’re striving for peace, Lola. There are always going to be vile people who want to destroy that. They’ll do whatever it takes to get their way, but that’s when we need to stand strong, not back down.
What happened wasn’t your fault, and we’re going to do everything in our power to make sure what happened to Carson doesn’t happen again.’ Asher’s voice was the last thing I had expected, his raspy voice swirling through my head.
I felt my throat constrict as I registered his words, my eyes darting to where he stood against the kitchen doorway. Even as everyone talked, his gaze remained trained on me, on every movement or expression I made.
“Did either of you see anything, hear anything out of the ordinary?” Killian asked, his dark hair was longer than Asher’s, but just as untidy from the number of times he ran his fingers through it. Claire sat stone-faced at his side, a hand on his bicep.
“While I was at the party, no. There were just a bunch of students, nothing more. There was some drunk ae that tried to pick a fight–Devin, I think, but I doubt a college frat boy is our m*r.”
I replied, looking into Asher’s golden- flecked eyes. “What about you? Did you feel anything off when you went after Zeke last night?”
“Devin Armstrong?” Killian grimaced, eyes passing between me and his son. ” He’s Judge Clint’s son. Causes him some trouble every now and again, but the boy wouldn’t m****r someone. Not with Clint breathing down his neck.”
“I went straight to the after party looking for Zeke, then the nearest police station when a pack member told me he had been arrested.” Asher’s baritone filled the room, always robbing me of breath. ” Third and fourth shift patrol teams were switching out the time of her d***h, but neither saw anything.”
“Your sister…the nightmare’s she’s been having. Is there any chance they could tie into this? What about Tristan and his vampire connections? They have to know something.” Zeke asked, pulling my attention away from Asher. His eyes were dark with shadows, that only he could banish.
The same ones that still haunted me after Mason’s mates’ d***h. I didn’t take it personally when his voice turned hard, “If there is a chance…we owe it to Carson to find out.”
“She’s your sister, and she has been through a lot in her short life, but this is bigger than that. If she knows something about Carson’s d***h, or how to prevent any more, we need to know.” Asher was first to break the silence since we had left Zeke and the others, on our way to see if Holly knew anything about last night.
Zeke had been right, and so had Asher, even though my chest ached at the thought of upsetting Holly. Part of me had been excited for a sister, and still was, but now all I wanted was for her to get better. To taste sunlight and freedom after years in the dark.
Breyona, Giovanni, and Tristan were all at the house when we arrived. The first vampire had been sleeping peacefully, until Breyona padded upstairs to wake him up. The second, who peered at me with pale eyes, leaned against the kitchen counter.
“You woke me up with your panicking earlier.” Tristan remarked dryly.
I jumped a good inch as Asher’s snarl crackled beside me, the once empty house filled with hostility and aggression. The hand I placed on his arm only did so much to curb his rage. At the very least, it kept him from lunging at Tristan.
“A girl was md last night.” His voice still oozed malice, but at least it was contained. I gave him a warning glance as he took a step towards Tristan. “It’s pretty f*cking convenient the details of her m*r match up to the ones in Lola’s old pack. Remember them? The innocent werewolves that you helped kill.”
The last thing I felt like doing was breaking up a fight between an Alpha and a Vampire, but I wasn’t going to let them k**l one another. Not when I needed their help figuring all of this out.
“I’ll never deny my part or what I’ve done. My mistakes will follow me to my d***h, but I know what side I’m on now and who I support. Doubt me again, and –“
“Enough. You’re both arguing like children.” I snarled, jabbing a finger into Asher’s chest when he opened his mouth to snap back at Tristan. I looked into my mates’ eyes, seeing, and understanding the anger and fierce protectiveness that lived there.
It leeched some of the harshnesses out of my voice, “We can pick this argument up after we figure out who md Carson. I know you’re angry right now but fighting one another is a waste of our time.”
The anger that turned the air thick and humid fizzled out when Giovanni emerged from upstairs, followed by Breyona. His curly hair was messy from sleep, even though his dark eyes were bright and alert.
“Someone was md?” Breyona asked, her eyes wide as she paused at the top of the stairs.
It took ten minutes to explain what happened to the three of them. The only one unable to hide their reaction was Breyona, who grew paler with each gruesome detail.
I held back a laugh that turned sob when she flung her arms around my neck. If my balance wasn’t so good from training, I would’ve tumbled backward.
“Oh, Lola. That’s so horrible to hear.” She frowned, pulling back after a few long seconds. “You know this isn’t your fault, right?”
“So Asher keeps reminding me.” My smile was brittle, turning towards Giovanni and Tristan. “Think any of your contacts will know about this a****k?”
“I’m still in touch with a few families that haven’t chosen a side. If this was the work of Vampire’s, I have a feeling they might know who. Getting them to tell, that will be the fun part.”
Tristan replied, his angular jaw still clenched. He brushed a strand of his now short hair out of his face, his eyes the color of storm clouds. “It’ll take me some time to get a hold of them. They’re trying to stay off the grid.”
“By off the grid, you mean as far away from me and Asher as they can get.”
Tristan didn’t dignify my comment with a response, not that he needed to. I could tell I had hit the nail on the head.
Unfortunately, his frown lines were going to worsen, because I had no choice but to bring up Holly.
“There’s something else. We need to talk to Holly about her nightmares.” I told him firmly, instantly seeing the disapproval in his eyes.
I shut him down with a hard look and continued, “She’s been seeing things in those nightmares, and there’s a chance it could have something to do with tonight’s a****k. We have to try, Tristan.”
I hated the pleading edge in my voice, and even more so the way his eyes narrowed, and his posture became tense. It took him a few long seconds to reply, “I can’t promise she’ll open up.
She’s been closed off lately, even to me. She won’t admit it, but this witch is her last chance.”
“Get her to come downstairs, and I’ll talk to her.” I told him, knowing from experience the only one she allowed inside her bedroom was Tristan, and that was only for minutes at a time.
Shortly after our father’s d***h, I had convinced Holly to talk to a therapist. This was before she had closed herself off to the world, barely venturing out at night even though she could walk during the day with little discomfort. Therapy was slowly helping, revealing the fears she had about the outside world.
The start of her nightmares, it had sent her reeling backwards. It’s been over a week since I’ve seen her face, and even longer since she’s seen sunlight.
Tristan vanished upstairs, his faint knock on her door the only sound I could hear.
We waited for the better half of an hour, our breath held as he finally emerged and came downstairs. The crease between his eyebrows had vanished, but his eyes remained troubled.
“She’s coming downstairs. Lola, if you push too hard, I have no clue how she’ll react.” I took Tristan’s warning as truth, because at the moment, no one knew her better.
I could hear the soft tap of her feet first, a steady rhythm as she rounded the corner and followed in Tristan’s footsteps.
As I saw her face, I was reminded of all the features I had gotten from our father. The raven hair and pale eyes, our full lips rounded ever so slightly at the top, they all belonged to him.
Holly had lost weight since I had last seen her. The roundness in her face had vanished, revealing her high cheekbones and sharp jawline.
Her skin had paled, making her hair and eyes look even more startling. I could see the hesitation in the way her eyes flitted from face to face, and her fingers toyed with the hem of her t-shirt.
“It’s good to see you, Holly.” I kept my voice neutral, hating the soft and delicate tone people would use when they viewed you as wounded.
I hoped she would notice the difference, and see that no one here saw her as weak. There was no easing into this, not when Holly’s nightmares sent her spiraling into fits of terror or rage. Those long nights were just as horrifying, and there had been nothing to prepare her then.
“A college student was m***d last night, and I need to know if you’ve seen anything about her d***h, or the people who caused it.”