I’d never been on a plane before, much less a private jet that could easily double as an apartment if you ever found yourself without somewhere to live.
I shuddered at the thought of being on a flight long enough to make use of the walk-in shower and king-sized bed in the back of the plane.
The only positive things about this flight were the tiny bottles of liquor that chased away my gnawing worry, cuddling up to Asher for the next hour, and the fact that there were no shadows forty thousand feet in the air.
Everything else-down to the turbulence and the pitch-black sky, I absolutely hated.
“Asher might be alright with waiting until this plane lands to ask what the h**l happened, but I’m not. Give us the details, starting why you’re dressed like a movie star and this one… isn’t dressed.” Zeke leaned in; his hands clasped tightly together. I didn’t miss the way his eyebrows were creased, or the way the vein in his neck stuck out.
Asher rolled his eyes, “you didn’t give me the chance to ask.”
“Sorry, but you were taking too long.” He replied, glancing around the plane with that same look of unease on his face. I found it curious that an Alpha would fear plane crashes, but I wasn’t going to tease him for it. We all feared something. “I need a distraction before I spend the rest of this hour tweaking.”
“I’m ‘not dressed’ because I’m a performer at a club-well, I was a performer…” Clara explained, giving me and Brandon long looks that let everyone know we were responsible for her sudden resignation.
She turned her attention to Asher, “…until your mate decided to beat up two bouncers and storm the employees only area to hunt me down.”
“You should have seen the looks on their faces when she threw that pitcher of beer-” Brandon began, ready to shovel a handful of chips into his mouth when he paused.
Asher was glaring daggers at his brother, his eyes pitch black, and arm draped protectively over my shoulders. “Anyway, we would’ve been back sooner rather than later if it weren’t for the creepy sister witches.”
“Creepy sister witches?” Zeke repeated, just a flicker of fear in the Alphas eyes.
“Yup. One threw fireballs and the other made the ground crack open.” Brandon nodded, mimicking throwing a fireball only it was a sour cream and onion potato chip.
“So what you’re saying is not only did you put Lola’s life at risk once by kidnapping her from the scene of an accident rather than taking her to the hospital, but you also put it at risk numerous times afterwards, and for what?”
Asher’s voice was as flat as the lack of color in his eyes, so dark that his pupils had vanished. He swiveled his eyes to Clara, who paled. ” What was your reason for taking Lola this far away from pack boundaries, knowing there are people after her?”
“Woah, woah. Technically, I saved her life twice-three times actually.” Brandon retorted. “First, I pulled her from that wreck and made sure she had a blood-bag.
Then I let her nearly bleed me dry for a pack of demonic leeches, and I didn’t take off with the stolen car when she wanted to follow the creepy sister witches. Three times, brother. And I’m not even asking for a thank you.”
“You called on the shadows and followed the witches?” Asher frowned, not with anger but worry. He knew I’d always feel guilty for what happened to Mason’s mate and Breyona, and that I’d never again use them lightly.
“There was no other option. Those witches said someone was doing a tracking spell on me. They would’ve caught up to us eventually, then who knows where I’d be.”
I shuddered, remembering all too well what it felt like to be imprisoned by my father, to have my every breath and move watched. “The shadows made us invisible, so they couldn’t see or hear me.
One of the witches was on the phone, she said that the witch doing the tracking spell lost us. The other was pissed, started going off about how they’re locked up and never get to see any action, and how this mysterious leader of theirs sent out other witches instead of them…”
“Sent out?” Zeke repeated, “What does that mean?”
“It means there’s witches in our pack…hiding, blending in for goddess knows how long.”‘ I looked up at Asher, seeing the same hurricane of emotions in his eyes that raged within my own.
“They said that these witches blend in better, that they’ll have everything set up for when “she’s” ready to slip past our boarders, and that once I realize she’s here, it’ll be too late for us all.”
“Oh-I knew they were planning something… I just didn’t know it was this big…” Clara swallowed, still nervous even though I alone kept Asher rooted in place. “…they must’ve been planning this for some time.”
“Explain.” Just that single word charged the small space between us with Clara’s fear and hesitation. Not once had I ever felt a shred of fear towards Asher, but I knew the affect he had on those around him.
Clara must’ve truly been desperate, because the found the strength to ask a question in return.
“How do I know you won’t k**l me as soon I tell you what I know?” She asked, doing a remarkable job at hiding the tremble in her voice.
“You don’t, but we don’t make it a habit just k***g people.” I replied before Asher could. I wasn’t the most sensitive, but Asher had the bedside manner of a rogue. “So long as you’re not trying to harm our people or anyone we care about, there’s no reason to k*l you. You said you wanted protection; we can arrange that if you help us in return.”
“I…I don’t have much information. It is enough for them to k**l me over, though.” She murmured, fearful even as she talked about them. “It started a month or so ago…whispers in the witch community, talking about some big event going on.
I remember wanting to go, but I was busy at the time. A performer friend of mine went, came back…different. Told me how things were finally changing for us witches, and that when the time came, all of us needed to be on board.
A week later, she gave me an official invitation to one of their gatherings. There’s no address to give you-I never went. The whole thing felt…off to me. Kiersten was always one of those happy-go-lucky people, and after that meeting…she turned hateful, especially towards non- witches. She tried one last time, came to my house with another witch.
They told me about the glory days for witches, when our power put us at the top of the food chain, even above werewolves. They told me how we could have that again, there was just one obstacle in our way…”
Her eyes settled on me, and a chill worked its way down my spine, turning my nerve endings cold.
“A tribrid with the power to achieve that vision. They made you out to be this…monster, said that you sided with the werewolves and were even working to enslave vampires. When they mentioned taking over werewolf packs, I knew something was wrong.”
She continued, “I threw the invitation away…and Kiersten, she stopped talking to me. For days she just watched me…until she didn’t show up for work. Turns out she quit, and I haven’t seen her since.
All I know is there’s been new people coming to the club, which is strange since you can’t come here without being invited by a regular. These new people would always come to watch me dance…only me.”
“You think they were sent to watch you?” Mason asked.
Clara nodded, “I think Keirsten vouched for me, and promised this woman I’d be on board, but I wasn’t. My magic isn’t the kind that fights in wars.”
“You mentioned before you have to get up close to use your magic.” I recalled, thinking back to when I had her pinned against the wall. That whisper soft touch at the back of my head, it had been her magic. I was now sure of it. “If I remember correctly, you and I were pretty close back at the club. What exactly can you do?”
“You felt that?” She chuckled nervously, tucking a few ringlets behind her ear. “My gift stems from spirit magic…it just works a bit differently.
I can slip into someone’s mind, sort of like what vampires do. It’s not for very long, but there’s a lot I can do while I’m in there.
I’ve never used it to seriously hurt someone…but I have used it to stun some of the handsy customers. I-I’m a novice at potions, more likely to singe my eyebrows off than actually make anything successful. I’ve also tried some small spells that have worked… well, all except for the love spell.”
“You were going to stun me like a witchy taser?” I lifted an eyebrow.
“Well, you were about to rip my throat out.” She replied, bringing her fingertips up to the exposed skin.
I was two seconds away from saying ‘fair enough,’ when my brother’s voice popped into my head. Since Dad was settling in just fine at Claire and Killian’s, Sean was spending more time running patrol and training with Mason and the other warriors.
I had asked him a handful of times how he was doing since losing his mate almost a year ago, but Sean always had a strange way of dealing with things. He was always able to keep his emotions in check, which is why I instantly became worried when I heard how stunned he sounded.
‘Hey, uh Lola…you and Asher on your way back?’ Sean asked, his voice filling both mine and Asher’s heads.
‘Yeah, we’re on the plane now. Why, did something happen?’ I asked warily, locking eyes with Asher.
‘Well…uh, yeah. Something did happen. I mean, I’m not sure how it happened-like at all, but it did…’
‘Sean…what happened? You’re not making any sense.’ I replied.
‘Uh, that woman from the hospital-the cursed one…yeah, she stopped by today looking for you two. Asher’s mom told her you’d both be back tonight…so she’s here now.’
‘We’ll be there in forty-five minutes if she doesn’t mind waiting.’ Asher told Sean.
I frowned, ‘Sean, that’s all you had to say? You sound a little freaked out.’
‘Sorry, I keep getting distracted…and uh, no that’s not all I had to say. When the woman- Flora, came here the first time she left before Killian or dad got back…when they did get back, dad started acting strange.’ I couldn’t help it; I assumed the worst.
My mind conjured up every bleak and dark scenario it could. Like freight trains veering towards the edge of a steep cliff, I was ready to plummet- but then I slammed on the breaks, and felt my jaw go slack. ‘…she got here a couple minutes ago, and it just happened…he always assumed she must’ve died…but she didn’t. Dad’s mate was just cursed…’