Even though the sun was up and he’d surely be heading to sleep soon, we went to talk to Giovanni first. I was eager to get my hands on the magical text he managed to get, especially since Cordelia called and said she’d be back this afternoon to perform the séance.
I put all of my focus towards getting this binding removed so I could get ahead of these witches and hopefully stop this mess in its tracks.
There was every chance the witches working against us would find out and try to stop us, so the faster we moved the better.
Since Asher refused to let me out of his sight for the day, he tagged along. Even in broad daylight I couldn’t help but keep my eyes peeled on these twisting and turning roads, waiting for another pair of dark boots.
‘You alright?’ Asher asked, his voice flowing through my head. He glanced over at me from the driver’s seat and took a hand off the wheel to place it on my t***h.
‘Yeah…’ I nodded and sank further into the seat. My pulse raced from the small touch, but it did nothing to steer my thoughts away from the stranger and how abrupt the ch had been. My voice was strained when I asked, ‘would you believe I’m not in any hurry to get into another ch?’
I hadn’t expected to find Rowena at the house so early. She was coming down the stairs as we walked inside and smiled once she noticed us.
The sundress she wore reached her ankles and had little maroon flowers that matched the shade of her hair. The long layers were curled and framed her heart-shaped face.
“You like it? I got it at a little shop in town.” Her smile widened when she noticed me take in her outfit. “I’m wearing it to the bake sale today. Apparently a bake sale is much more exciting than what I was led to believe.”
“We’ll probably stop by sometime after the séance.” I replied, silently praying grandma would have leftover cookies in case we couldn’t make it.
Since this bake sale was in honor of Carson, I was positive there would be plenty of college kids ready to binge on a bunch of sweets.
Grandma would be right in the line of fire and would love every chaotic second. She probably considered it a reward from all the stress baking she’d done last night.
“Cordelia called me this morning too! I’ll be there for the séance and from what I’ve heard your friend Breyona is coming as well.” Rowena smiled warmly, “are you coming as well, Alpha Asher?”
“Of course. I wouldn’t miss it.”
A smile tugged at the corners of my lips, because there was no way my stubborn mate would let me call on the ghost of my d**d mother alone. We hadn’t at all discussed whether he’d come, but I knew he had made up his mind when I first told him Cordelia’s idea.
“Wonderful! I hope this afternoon gives you the answers you’ve been looking for.” The sincerity in her voice rang like a bell throughout the quiet house, along with the concern that slowly closed in. She paused by the front door, “actually, I wanted to speak with you about Holly…”
“Has everything been going alright with her training?” I asked, glancing upstairs to where her bedroom door was.
Rowena nodded and brushed back a thick curl of hair, “she’s starting out strong considering she’s never practiced magic a day in her life, but my concern for her isn’t of the magical variety.”
My eyebrows inched together, “then what kind is it?”
“Has Holly ever spoken to a therapist? You’ve briefly mentioned her life with your father, so I can’t presume to know everything, but enduring a situation like that is traumatizing. Trauma can stunt a witches progress and affect their magic.”
If I hadn’t already known about Rowena’s background as a preschool teacher, I would’ve thought she sounded like a concerned mother. I wasn’t nearly as suspicious as Asher. From bone structure to even the smallest of details, she and Holly looked nothing alike.
“She did for a little while before we came to town, but it didn’t seem to be helping. I’ll have Tristan see if she’ll agree to it, and if she says yes I’ll find one that’s a good fit.” I added it to my mental to-do list.
It was my turn to stop her before she left. I planned to ask Cordelia about the tracking spell when we met for our training session, but I didn’t see why I couldn’t ask Rowena as well.
“Do you know anything about tracking spells?” I asked.
If she thought my question was odd, she gave nothing away. Instead, Rowena’s eyes lit up curiously and she answered in the clear soprano of a preschool teacher.
“I know a little on the subject. Were there any specific questions you had?” She asked.
“How are they created, and is there any way to destroy one?”
“With most tracking spells you need something personal from the target, or some of their DNA. Also, they can only be tracked for so long. It all depends on the strength of the witch and how well she can concentrate.
The only other kind of tracking spell would involve sigils, which we would’ve discovered the same time we revealed your binding mark.” Rowena replied, a self-satisfied smile on her face.
“I’m a bit proud I remembered that. I would play hide and seek with the witch I grew up with using a tracking spell. I was horrible at it, but that never stopped me from trying.”
Rowena lingered a few minutes longer, but eagerly left to venture through the city market twenty minutes away. We had passed the cluster of small boutiques and restaurants on our way to the house.
From the main road you could see some of the outdoor seating areas and the small courtyard where live music sometimes played.
‘You know how easy it would’ve been for her to grab some of your hair when she was first in our house?’ Asher’s voice flooded my head, along with a heavy dose of wariness. ‘She was following that feeling of hers when it led her there.’
I was happy to see Rowena and Cordelia adjusting, but Asher still wasn’t convinced.
‘You’re right, it could’ve been her. She was in our house…’ I nodded, because other than the lack of alarm bells going off in my head, I had nothing to prove her innocence. I continued before Asher had the chance to respond, ‘…but so was Cordelia and Cassidy-oh Breyona stopped by a couple days ago too, and there was that pizza man…’
‘Are you teasing me, Lola?’ He lifted one of his dark eyebrows and pinned me in place with his stare.
I was mesmerized by the golden flakes in his eyes when his arm snapped out lightning fast. The last thing I felt before being pulled into his chest was a hand wrap around my wrist.
Some of the playfulness faded from his eyes, turning the vibrant gold into a gentle caramel. ‘You think I’m being paranoid, don’t you?’
Asher was only doing what he thought was right, what had worked to protect the pack in the past. Everything had changed in such a short amount of time, and it was far from over.
With vampires joining our side and witches slipping past the boundaries, werewolves are facing our biggest threat to date. We’re all trying to navigate this new world as best we can, so I didn’t blame Asher for becoming a little overprotective.
Still, I couldn’t help but tease the man. I nibbled on my lower lip, pretending to think my answer through. The short strands of his hair tickled my hands as I wound my arms around his neck.
“Mm, I think that…I love you.” I grinned innocently, fully aware that I had won this battle. His arms snaked around my waist and pinned me flush against him. I knew he wasn’t letting go anytime soon when he captured my lips and claimed my last breath for himself.
“Since Breyona clearly has come voyeuristic tendencies she needs to work through and won’t speak up, I will.” Tristan’s voice split the air like a whip. I knew both from his words and from the severity in his voice that he was in a s*y mood. “If you make this house smell like s*x, I’ll b**n it down.”
Asher’s hold around my waist didn’t budge, but I also hadn’t tried to pull away. I took a few long seconds to enjoy his embrace, knowing it would p**s the cranky vampire off even more. Sure enough, he cleared his throat. Asher smirked as I rolled my eyes.
“Are you acting like an a*e because it’s past your bedtime?” I asked, meeting little resistance when I stepped out of Asher’s arms.
Breyona yawned and trudged down the stairs, paying no mind to Tristan who lingered close behind, waiting for her to speed up.
“Hey, Lola.” She half said, half yawned. Her shoulder length hair looked even shorter with how messy it was from sleep. Catching me eyeing her disheveled appearance, she nodded. “…my life is forever going to be erratic sleep schedules and emergency naps…a werewolf on a vampire’s schedule, lovely.”
“See, she’s in a good mood.” I nodded in her direction, which was currently hovering around the coffee pot in the kitchen.
“She’s in a good mood because she just woke up. I have yet to be asleep and the sun-dweller that lives in this house think’s it’s funny to leave curtain’s open in the middle of the day.” His voice lowered and his jaw clenched so hard I was certain he’d crack a tooth.
Breyona’s voice could be heard from the kitchen, “did you just call me a d**n sun- dweller?”
She poked her head out of the kitchen and glared daggers at Tristan before turning to Asher and me, “…I only did it on purpose the first time. Second time was an accident, but he had to wait four hours to use the bathroom since Gio was also asleep.”
“Doesn’t matter, keep them closed.” Tristan scowled and stormed towards the two of us.
I heard Breyona mutter something about ‘enjoying natural light’ before slipping back into the kitchen. The rest of what she said fell on deaf ears since I was currently focused on the sketch book in Tristan’s hand. He tossed it on the kitchen table with a thud and opened it a few pages in.
“Holly had a dream about this place last night. Woke up around 10pm and drew this. The only reason she spoke up about it is because she saw your brother’s car out front of the place.”
“How does Holly know what my brother’s car looks like?” Asher asked, darkness tainting his voice as it always did when Brandon was involved.
Again I had that nagging feeling–that budding curiosity that made me want to know the cause for all that tension between two brothers.
“Your brother stopped by a few days ago, in the middle of the night.” Tristan and Asher’s unamused looks were nearly identical, even with their different facial structures.
“Here I thought you were the most insufferable creature I’ve ever met, and this drunken idiot comes along wanting to see a real-life vampire. I would’ve drained him dry if I wasn’t worried about alcohol p*g.”
“Tristan, you remember what we talked about? You can’t threaten people after you try to compliment them.” Breyona shouted from the kitchen. Her voice carried the mouth- watering scent of freshly brewed coffee.
“It was one time, and I’m not complimenting him.” He grunted, his sky-blue eyes darkening with storm clouds.
“Three times. It was three times.”
Tristan pinched the bridge of his nose and whipped his head towards the kitchen where Breyona’s soft humming emerged.
“I apologized.” Was all he said, his eyes daring her to reply even though she was too far in the kitchen to see.
Regardless, I knew she wouldn’t disappoint.
She shouted back, “…that’s debatable, you brought me a coffee.”
“You looked tired.” He deadpanned.
She snorted, “tired was not the word you used.”
“Semantics.” He waved his hand angrily and spun the sketch book around, clearly running on fumes in terms of patience.
He turned the book our way, and instantly the rough splotches and slashes of charcoal were familiar. Fine lines made up the smaller details, like the lamp posts, sidewalks, and barren street.
While Brandon’s car wasn’t in the drawing, there was something a bit more concerning I noticed. The little brick building that sat on the corner was identical to the one he dragged me to just hours ago, the one we had chased Clara through–only there were a few differences.
Not only were the windows shattered and the ceiling caved in, but a jagged crack ran down the wall giving a glimpse at the inside of the building, which was nothing more than an empty shell.