“I know, it’s insane.” Breyona’s laugh was breathless and just a bit choked up as she wiped the tears from her eyes. Staring off into the forest, her voice unnaturally soft she said, “I never thought I’d be able to feel that kind of freedom again…it’s like-it’s like I can breathe again.”
“Breyona, I don’t know why they did that…but there’s no way they won’t want something in return.” I wasn’t sure what made my chest ache more, warning my best-friend her dream come true might actually be a nightmare, or seeing the denial bleed across her face when I continued carefully, “I’m just worried they’ll take back what they gave you in the first place…”
I didn’t want to say it, but she wasn’t giving me a choice. There was stubborn refusal in her warm hazelnut eyes, but I knew no matter how miserable she was without her wolf, she’d be worse off without Giovanni.
“…Giovanni’s life.” I murmured and watched as the iron bars of resolution slammed down over her eyes.
“No, that’s not it.” Breyona stood from the patio chair but made no move to head inside. Frustration was written across every corner of her face and was obvious in the semi-aggressive way she pulled her hair back.
“So I’m not a witch, but that doesn’t mean my gut feelings can’t be right too. Well, right now mine is telling me they wouldn’t take my wolf and save Gio’s life, only to return her and finish the job.”
I wanted to reassure her, but the only thing I felt was worried, both for her and Giovanni.
“Why can’t I just have both?” Her voice cracked, and she clenched her hands into fists while letting out a shaky breath.
Devastation still shimmered in her eyes, but she held it down so well. “Let’s–let’s just drop it for tonight, okay? I know we can’t ignore it forever…but if I could just have these few days with Gio. We can figure out what to do when I come back.”
Just from watching her pull the splintered shards of emotion from her skin and patch herself together, I realized I might’ve not given my best-friend enough credit. Not once had she faltered at my side, even though she was going through so much herself. Instead she kept her problems to herself, even though a subtle feeling told me she’d been drowning in them.
Feeling like a monumentally crappy friend I stood and wrapped my arms around her waist, which I was sure looked comical since I was nearly a foot shorter than her. Sure enough, she began to chuckle, but I could hear the sniffling it covered.
Watching the happiness that had just been rekindled fade in her eyes had a sobering affect.
“We’re going to make sure you can have both, Breyona. I’ll use every bit of magic I have to make sure of it.” I promised, cracking a grin at her brave nod and the way she hastily wiped at her eyes.
Minutes later, Cassidy eagerly interrupted with news about her lacrosse player ex-boyfriend, Kendrick. With gossip and a rapidly cooling pizza waiting, Breyona and I raced back inside.
While we stuffed our faces with pizza from the small parlor down the street, Cassidy told us all about her whirlwind romance with Kendrick-which seemed more fueled by lust than anything else. Breyona wrinkled her nose at my slice of Hawaiian every other minute, but otherwise was absorbed in every seedy detail of Cassidy’s story.
“My mom was absolutely against Kendrick from the start, despite what she says. It took her almost a year just to get over the fact that I wasn’t Asher or Brandon’s mate.” Cassidy rolled her eyes and let out a small huff as she tore the crust off her slice of pizza.
From what I could tell of her expression, she looked more exasperated than jealous or longing. I didn’t have nearly enough to drink to feel comfortable asking my questions outright, but I apparently Breyona had.
“Did you want to be one of their mates?” Her voice grew quieter even though there was no one in the house to hear us. Any wolves patrolling the grounds would be well out of range, but that didn’t stop her from asking it as though it were a secret.
She hiccupped once and added, “…don’t worry, Lola is freakishly good at not getting jealous. She won’t go all tri-brid on you for talking about her mate.”
When I snorted in her direction her smile widened. Maya’s tail swished in my head, letting me know how wrong our endearing friend was about us not getting jealous.
“I’ve definitely thought about how incredible it would be to be Luna, but at this point being mated to one of them would feel like being mated to a brother.” Cassidy wrinkled her nose, creasing some of the freckles splattered along its slim surface.
“I think our parents expected it because of how persistent I was back then. The minute I saw Brandon and Asher wrestling in the dirt, rougher than all the other kids, I knew I wanted to be best friends.”
The ease at which she spoke dissolved the tension in the room. If there was any hesitance on her end, I couldn’t sense it.
My relationship with Asher and the titles I’d been given didn’t affect the things she said, or the way she treated me. It was refreshing and eased the rest of the trepidation I had towards Cassidy.
‘Asher said himself, he’s never even kissed her. Which means there’s no reason to be jealous.’ I reminded my wolf, who at times could be much more hot-headed and stubborn than myself.
A contemplative look forced her lower lip out in a pout, which lasted but a few seconds. “I’m sure my mom won’t hate Kendrick this time around.
Hmm, I might just cancel my date with Lars. Kendrick has a game out of town that day anyway, and I’m nothing if not persistent-which means I have to go too, especially if there’s a good afterparty.”
“Clara’s pretty persistent with Mason…” Breyona pointed out, folding a slice in half before taking a large bite. I tried to wait patiently as she chewed, but I was already hooked. “…but I don’t think it’s friendship she’s after.”
“What do you think she’s after?” I asked before Cassidy got the chance, and noticed I was the only one of us to appear worried.
Understanding in the form of a cringe slapped me across the face when Breyona leaned in and said, “His di-“
“Wow, okay. Um, are you sure? How do you know?” Even though heat blossomed across my face, I pursed my lips and waited for an answer.
“Mason stepped out of training to take a call from her right when I walked in the building.” She smirked tipsily, gently waving her uneaten slice of pizza around as she talked. “Naturally, I harassed him until he told me everything.
She’s been asking Asher for him for days now, but Mason keeps refusing. Well, one of Mason’s patrol buddies was given guard duty and she used her taser magic and knocked him right out. Took his phone right out of his pocket and called Mason with it…”
“No way, she sounds like a total badass. Taser magic? Goddess sign me up!”‘ Cassidy exploded in warm laughter, the sound light and airy.
“That’s not even the best part…” Breyona shook her head, making her messy bun grow loose. “She tied some of the bedsheets together at the hotel and wrapped them around his waist. Mason got to the hotel and found his friend hanging off the third-floor balcony.
Which I know sounds dangerous, but his friend had already woken up at that point. The only reason he hadn’t gotten himself down was because Clara threatened to zap him again…and apparently a second zap so soon after the first does something to the bowels and you just sh-“
“It sounds like she just likes pissing him off.” I replied, lifting my eyebrow in her direction. “…also, how does Mason feel about it?”
“Yeah, she likes pissing him off the same way you like pissing Asher off.” The cheeky grin that stretched across her face grew wider, because she knew she’d won this round. “As for Mason, he was blushing the entire time he ranted about her.”
“Really, you think he likes her back?” I couldn’t help the surprise that popped into my voice.
Werewolves who found love after surviving the d***h of their mates were rare. Mason had a better chance than most since he hadn’t completed his bond, but that didn’t lessen the pain of knowing your soulmate had left this world and moved on to the next.
“I think he’s attracted to her, which he’d be an idiot not to be, but I think he doesn’t really know what to do with the attention. Luckily, like I said…she’s persistent. She’ll find some way to get them alone together and push his buttons, just like you and Asher-“
“Hey, I was never the one to ‘get him alone’ remember? He was the one stalking me.” I said shrewdly, letting out a sound of exasperation when she and Cassidy collapsed in laughter, sputtering snippets of conversation in between their snorts and wheezes.
As both she-wolves succumbed to laughter and pawed at the tears budding in their eyes, my thoughts darted to Mason and the curvy exotic dancer who apparently had a thing for him.
There weren’t any flashes of fear or other gruesome emotions warning me about the young witch, only a healthy dose of suspicion–which was far less than Asher’s regular everyday amount.
I returned to the conversation just as the two had pulled themselves together. Cassidy was pouring herself another shot, while Breyona grabbed a few containers of ice cream from the freezer.
“We’re just teasing…” Cassidy giggled and tossed back the strong-scented liquor. Her perfect pout remained in place even though I knew her throat must be burning. “…I think every she-wolf dreams of meeting her mate that way. It’s just so strange seeing Asher wrapped around someone’s finger with how untouchable he can be.”
“Those are the best ones though.” Breyona sighed, plopping down with a pint of mint chocolate chip-the worst ice cream flavor to grace this planet. “The men that act all tough and brooding, but secretly they want you more than you could ever imagine.
Mason’s getting the brooding part down, especially since meeting Clara. I think things between them would be…explosive. He just has to stop being so stubborn.”
She giggled at her choice of words, undoubtedly comparing it to Clara’s magical abilities.
That night, after finishing two containers of ice cream and suffering through a long-winded romantic comedy we ended up hating halfway through, I stared at the ceiling in my bedroom and thought of Mason.
It didn’t matter how much time had passed, only that I was responsible for the d***h of his mate. There was no telling what could have changed with time–if she would’ve left her Vampire spouse to follow the bond that tugged at her soul. I’d taken that choice from her, and that future from Mason.
The gentle and repetitive sound of Breyona’s snoring had yet to lull me to sleep, so I wasted the time conjuring ways to get Mason and Clara alone together.
Most of them were juvenile, like having Asher assign Mason as her personal trainer. It wasn’t too far-fetched since Clara knew absolutely nothing about defending herself without magic, but he’d see through me in a second if I were the one to give the order.
Someway somehow, they would find themselves alone together, I was sure of it. Even more so, If Breyona were right and the spark between them mirrored Asher and I’s, it would only be a matter of time before they both caught flame.
I wanted this desperately for Mason, for him to have some fraction of his happiness restored-some shred of peace reclaimed since his reason for existing had been so cruelly ripped away.
Exhaustion was weighing down my eyes and pulling me into its deep abyss when my heart skipped a beat and a jolt spread throughout my chest. Though the feeling was abrupt, there was no stopping myself from tumbling over the edge.
Right before plummeting, I wondered if it were my thoughts about Mason or something else entirely that caused my elusive magic to crackle down my nerve endings, and even more so I wondered what it meant.