“Oh, these are good.” Cassidy’s moan sounded from the kitchen, followed by Breyona’s laughter.
I squinted against the early morning sun that peered through the cs and padded down the hall, catching snippets of their conversation the closer I neared.
“Aren’t they? You don’t know him, but the recipe belongs to a grumpy vamp named Tristan. It took me days to figure out how to make them since he’d always grumble when I asked.”‘
The sizzle of something cooking in a pan followed Breyona’s soprano and filled the air with something both sweet and savory.
“Tristan knows how to cook?” I asked skeptically, leaning against the door jamb as both she-wolves spotted me lurking.
Cassidy was perched on one of the island stools eating a bowl of oatmeal and nibbling on a rolled-up pancake, her strawberry blonde hair a halo around her shoulders.
“Oh, he does. Gio was complaining about it a few days ago while cooking dinner. He said something about Tristan making his family recipes better than his nonna.”
Breyona scrunched her nose and turned back to the omelet sizzling away on the pan. She said over her shoulder, “I can’t believe how nervous I am to meet his family. Usually I don’t care so much what other people think of me, but I can’t seem not to care.”
I glanced down at the eggs simmering away and held back a frown. I’d have to sneak a bag of blood and some sugary cereal when the two of them left. Not that there was anything wrong with the omelet, but my appetite had been changing since becoming Vampire Queen.
The sudden chime of the doorbell had me spinning around, but the figure standing beyond the frosted glass was distorted.
“Probably the newspaper boy.” Cassidy shrugged and scooped another spoonful of oatmeal into her mouth.
“They’d be insane not to like you. You’re the total package.” I smirked at Breyona before crossing the foyer to the front door.
“Of course, you’re right. How could I forget?” Her laughter trickled into the foyer, along with her reply to Cassidy. “You still get newspapers delivered around here?”
“Asher’s Dad tried to get rid of it a while ago. We have a website-even an app that broadcasts pack news across the country, but some of the older members were totally against it.
They liked the way things were, so he kept it.” The warmth that Cassidy had for Asher’s family was laced within her every word.
My stomach dropped when I opened the door and heard Cassidy ask, “Your old Alpha wouldn’t have done the same, I’m assuming?”
Oh, this wasn’t good.
“Tyler would’ve done what he wanted, and lock anyone who disagreed in the nearest cell.” Breyona replied, and I could hear the grimace in her voice.
Cassidy made a sound of disgust, “…sounds like a grade ‘A’ wolf right there.”
Her laugh was as dry and brittle as my own when I snatched the newspaper off the porch and glared down at the bold printed headliner.
“Well, you can read all about it on the front page.” A snarl tore past my lips, making Breyona jump in a way I would’ve thought were odd if I hadn’t been seeing red. Ignoring Cassidy’s widened eyes, I slapped the newspaper down on the counter between them.
It took several seconds for both to read and process not only the headline, but the two photos printed in bright coloring–so vivid I felt like I were still there.
“…you need to get a hold of Asher…now.” Cassidy paled, dropping her spoon into her oatmeal. It was quickly swallowed whole by the brown sugar and cinnamon flecked sludge.
“Even Asher can’t fix this…what’s done is done.” Breyona frowned and leaned against the counter.
“It’s not about him fixing it, it’s about Lola getting to him before he finds the wolves responsible and kills them.” I could taste the urgency in her voice and forced myself not to panic.
My resolve only faltered a little when her sea-green eyes met mine, bright as they were honest. “You know he’ll use their deaths to make a statement-and from what I do know, the last thing you want is a public e*n.”
I narrowed my eyes at the perfectly timed photograph of myself and Clint Armstrong facing off against one another, right at the scene of his son’s m****r. Breyona and Mason stood off to the side, both glowering with fists clenched.
My chin was angled upwards as I met his defiant stare, and even though I was several feet shorter than him, there was something about the way I stood that felt more threatening-or maybe it was just my confidence and over inflated ego.
Either way, someone had taken a photo that morning and I wanted to know who. As for the second, I had an inkling on the person responsible.
Seeing Tyler’s arm draped over my shoulder made my stomach clench, his bleached teeth and freshly plucked eyebrows now grating where I’d once found them charming and irrevocably handsome.
It was his slender face and weasel-like nose that had me clenching my teeth, and not the way his eyes strayed mid-photograph to check out the scantily dressed bartender nearby.
Chelsea’s arm was linked with my own, the smile on her face more like a sneer now that I was no longer blinded by shallow popularity.
There was no need for me to read the contents of the article, the headings pieced the stories together flawlessly.
Tri-brid, seductress linked to the d***h of a young Alpha, tied to the slayings of numerous wolves.
My eyes strayed from the five columns of tiny print that took up the entirety of the front page. No way in h**l was I reading those. I was both hungry and murderous, and worried Maya would hunt the culprit down themselves.
“Oh, Goddess.” Cassidy murmured, her eyebrows and forehead creased with disbelief. I heard as my heart skipped a beat, and then another when she flipped her phone around and showed me the pack’s app. In the same bold lettering, was the article that depicted me as some sort of temptress.
A headache throbbed at my temples, “…you’re right, I’ll try to mind link him.”
“Here, you look like you’re going to pass out…or bn the city down looking for the a***e that did this.” Breyona’s slender lips tilted up at the corners as she handed me a blood bag.
“Don’t even worry about it…I do hope it tastes better than it smells, though.” Cassidy waved her hand dismissively even though she watched me with interest brimming in her eyes.
I realized she was waiting for an answer, but my train of thought was stopped short when Breyona set a box of cereal in front of me. It was sugary and fruity, everything I looked for in a breakfast.
She caught sight of my frown when I looked over at the omelet she made me forgotten on its plate.
“You know what’s worse than cold eggs? Microwaved eggs.” Breyona’s lips were pursed as she shuddered. She shrugged a single shoulder, “…besides we both know you don’t care what’s for breakfast as long as you get your blood bag. Gio’s the same way.”
Ignoring the feel of Cassidy’s eyes on me, I emptied the blood into a cup and sent my thoughts veering down the mate-bond, where I was met with a wall of nothingness.
“He must still be asleep.” I told the two of them, my mind too clouded to notice the sugary cereal as it hit my tongue. Unease accompanied the food as it settled in my stomach. Where I slept like the d**d, Asher would wake to the smallest of sounds.
Halfway through my second bowl the shrill chime of a cellphone blasted from somewhere in the kitchen. I made a mad grab for it once I realized it was mine and frowned at the name on the screen.
“‘Zeke, tell me this bad feeling I’m having nothing to do with you and Asher.” I skipped the pleasantries and got down to business, but each second it took him to answer solidified the truth.
“The bad feeling you’re having has nothing to do with me…and everything to do with Asher.” He blurted, stumbling over his words. It took me a few seconds to realize it was worry that filled his voice.
“I’m only telling you this because I love you like a little sister and because I’m more afraid of you than I am of him…but you need to come get him before he kills Clint Armstong.”
“Zeke, where are you?”
“His office.” Zeke’s voice was gritty with emotion, but my thoughts were racing too fast to dissect them all. “Armstrong decided to hand deliver him todays paper. You’re the only one that can get through to him. I tried and he threatened me.
So, when you get him calmed down again, let him know I’ll be expecting my apology in writing. I’ll text you the address, but you need to get here fast before he–.”
The call ended abruptly, but Cassidy was already on her feet with the car keys in hand.
“Don’t bother waiting for the address, I know where his office is. It’s the same building his dad’s is in.” Her smile was reassuring even though the pale complexion of her face told me she heard every word and knew how precious our seconds were.
“Gio and I were going to leave in a couple hours, but I can’t just leave you to deal with this by yourself.” Breyona frowned, her eyes darting between the two of us.
“Go to Giovanni and when I mind-link you tonight, I’ll be expecting a detailed summary. Got it? Take advantage of the chaos and slip out of the pack unnoticed.
I’m sure there will be wolves watching us after this.” I’m sure my stern expression was flimsy at best, but it was enough to reassure her that we’d survive on our own.
“Only if you give me one. I’d like to hear what Asher does to that foul-mouthed Judge.” Her face contorted into a grimace, and for a split second her eyes deepened past their natural mocha brown into something darker. It was that, paired with the coldness in her voice which sent a chill racing down my spine.
“Deal.” I nodded slowly, scanning her eyes for any trace of that strange darkness.
When I came up empty handed, and found myself staring into the unchanged eyes of my best-friend. Left with only the memory and fading chill of darkness, I couldn’t help but wonder if it had ever existed at all.