“Are we on the same page with this?” I asked Asher, holding back my third yawn.
One more and he threatened to carry me to bed, even though we both knew neither of us would be getting any sleep. The sun would be rising in an hour or so, which meant we had no choice but to start our day.
There was too much to do, but I refused think about that right now. I was happily curled up in Asher’s arms, surrounded by his scent and the soft material of the sectional we sat on.
We’d been silent since getting home, both of us lost in our thoughts as we replayed the sad ending to Flora’s story.
Almost ten months Flora’s mother had until the witch gave birth to a little girl. One week later, Flora and her mother watched as their housed was engulfed in flames, destroying what sliver of home they both had. After that, life grew dark for the widowed Luna.
Flora recounted the numerous times they moved over the years, always somewhere new. They stayed longest in other packs, but somehow the witch always managed to find them.
It wasn’t good enough that she had k****d Flora’s father. The witch was spiteful and wanted the life of the child she had helped create, and the mother that carried her.
Time dwindled as they ran from the witch, but over the years Flora’s mother learned to spot signs of her magic. Her taunting changed each time, always something horrible and new.
Storms would blacken the sky, or rodents would scurry inside their walls. They’d wake up covered in spider bites, or find their dreams haunted by pale-faced figures with torn out eyes and distorted mouths.
The witch was toying with them, sending these things their way as a warning. Telling them to run before she got too close. Some nights Flora swore she could hear a voice laughing in the dark, whispering for her to hurry. That morning she woke up covered in deep scratches.
They moved the next day.
After so many years on the run, Flora’s mother was growing tired. Just once, she let the witch get close.
She left Flora at a friend’s house under the guise of going on a date, but really she planned to face the witch head on. The mistake she made was thinking the witch was acting alone.
Flora never knew what made her mother turn around that night and come rushing back to her friend’s apartment, but she had nearly been too late.
A fire took the lives of seven people that night, one of them the friend that had been watching Flora. Her mother found her running down the street burned and covered in ash, breathing so hard it felt like her heart was ready to burst.
It was another two years before the witch was able to get close again. During that time, her mother’s mental health was declining. She had only survived this long because of Flora, but the damage that comes with losing your mate is irreversible.
She grew suspicious of everything and hateful towards the witch that had destroyed her life and taken her love.
Flora’s mother sought out countless witches, seeking answers on how they were found so easily. It felt like the time between moves was growing shorter and shorter.
She never knew if her mother found what she was looking for, and just a few weeks later they found themselves approaching the borders of Alpha Killian’s pack.
It was the first time Flora let herself feel hopeful. She could tell the pack was well protected, that the people there cared about keeping one another safe. There were warriors everywhere. Children and teenagers training, boys and girls of all sizes and ages.
She’d been too excited to see the look on her mother’s face, dull and void of life as she pulled Flora towards a quaint blue house. That night was the last time she saw her mother.
The words whispered in her ear, the hug that felt much too cold, it was her last memory of the woman that had lost so much.
‘This should’ve never been your life, Flora. Make a new one for yourself, make us proud.’
I shuddered in Asher’s arms, chilled even though the fireplace was running, and the heat of his body surrounded me like a cloak. Tears pricked the back of my eyes, and the weight of my emotion was lodged painfully in my throat.
While Flora’s mother never returned, the witch did.
The house Flora had been dropped off at was a children’s home. The owners, who were mates themselves but unable to have kids, promised Flora’s mother they would take her in.
Years passed and while Flora grew to love the kind-hearted people who raised her and treated her as their own, she missed the woman she had been through so much with.
She spent those years wondering, staring at her curly blonde hair and soft eyes as she tried to pull up the fading memory of her birth mother.
She was twenty-five when the witch found her and had been out getting groceries for her adoptive parents. They were getting up there in age, so Flora would often run errands for them. That night, Flora never made it home.
‘I stood my ground, because I knew I was going to d*e…’ Flora’s soft yet fierce voice replayed in my head. ‘I demanded she tell me what happened to my mother, why-why she never came back for me.’
‘What did she say?’ I had asked at the time.
Flora had this faraway look in her eyes, and I knew that she had left the present for the past.
‘She told me my mother was d**d…and that it had been at her hands, as it should’ve been all along.’ Her voice held both sadness and longing, happiness, and horrible loss. ‘She said my mother bought me some time by leaving me…but that it had been in vain.
I wasn’t afraid anymore…because I knew I would be with them again.’ I was sure of the witch’s cruelty when Flora’s lower lip trembled and she said, ‘she knew I wasn’t afraid anymore and laughed at me…she said I wasn’t going where my parents were, that she had something even worse in mind.’
“If by ‘this’ you’re talking about the likelihood that Holly’s birth mother is the ‘strongest blood witch to walk the earth’ and Flora’s half-sister, then yes we’re on the same page.”
The gravely sound of Asher’s voice and the feel of his stubble against my face pulled me back to the present.
I groaned and sank deeper into the couch, “She’s the mastermind behind all of this, she has to be. How messed up is it that Holly’s grandmother tried to k**l me?”
“All of this is messed up.” Asher grimaced and the sharp angles of his face became even harsher. I could feel his frustration as he ran his fingers through his hair.
“We’ve always prided ourselves on how secure our pack is, but it seems like the only thing we’re able to protect our people from is rogues. Did the witches you spied on say anything about when the others infiltrated the pack?”
“I’m sorry, they didn’t.” I frowned at the cold anger in his eyes and kissed along his jaw until it had no choice but to thaw.
There was nothing I could do to ease the suspicion in his voice or his need to protect, “we can’t know for sure that Cordelia and Rowena aren’t the witches here to hurt you. Inviting them here was a huge risk.”
“If Rowena was out to hurt me, why would she k**l a powerful blood witch to save my life? She and Cordelia are working to get rid of this magical block I have so I can be useful and help protect our people.” The sharpness of my voice caught Asher’s attention, even though it hadn’t been intentional.
There was a small part of me that felt powerless, useless unless I called on the dark power of the shadows. We were stumbling around in the dark, and what we desperately needed was light.
He looked down at me, concern mixing with the caramel tones in his eyes. My anger vanished, leaving me exhausted and frustrated.
I grumbled but didn’t fight when he grabbed me by the waist and pulled me onto his lap. Once I was straddling him, all I wanted was to bury myself into the sweatshirt he wore, but he refused to let me move.
“You don’t need magic to protect our people, Lola.” The sweet side of Asher that no one else got to see, he broke through every barrier I put around myself.
He would never see me as a problem, as a magnet for all this trouble and chaos. He told me what I needed to hear, and what I refused to believe. “I’m not saying it wouldn’t help, but magic isn’t what makes you useful.
You’re a passionate and fearless Luna. You handed yourself over to your father to protect the pack, while I was ready to b**n it all down just to keep you by my side. Even with this magical block going on, you’re too stubborn to give up.”
“Stubborn? I’m sure you could’ve picked a better word than that.” I teased, but my voice failed to d***n out the way my heart rate skyrocketed.
There was never a moment where I wasn’t thankful for Asher, and the unwavering support he always showed. I relaxed in his arms and peered up at him through my lashes, “does that mean you’re on board with the witches training me?”
“You don’t like stubborn?” He cocked an eyebrow. I let out a surprised squeal when his arms wound around my waist, much too tight for me to break free. I fell against his chest, still giggling as he said, “how about manipulative, or mischievous?”
I’m sure my laughter sounded delirious from how long we’d been up, but it was normal moments like these that I longed for.
The tantalizing curve of his smirk was just a few inches from my own lips and even with my stressed, sleep clouded mind I longed to close the distance between us.
“I don’t want to make decisions for you, and I won’t walk away if you choose to do something I don’t agree with. If undoing this block and learning magic is what you need, then I’ll do everything I can to help. We’re in this together, which means I trust your judgement.”
He said softly, stealing my breath and any future response when he placed a hand on the back of my head and guided my lips to his own.
I was wrapped in Asher’s arms, drowning in his taste and scent. Even though I was exhausted in more ways than one and worried about what the upcoming weeks would bring,
I savored the break in between the waves that crashed over our heads and took us further from dry land.
Even as the waters calmed and the skies cleared, a sense of foreboding lingered in the air. There was a storm headed our way, and we had no clue when it would be here…