Asher made himself scarce for the rest of the night per Breyona’s orders. Zeke stopped by half an hour after our conversation about the past and stole him from the front step after promising no alcohol or half-naked women. He made sure to clarify that meant for Asher and not himself before peeling off into the night.
‘Wait till he finds out instead of a kegger, we’re teaming up with tonight’s patrol.’ Asher’s voice was amused as it rumbled in my head, each syllable an aftershock that made goosebumps lift along my arms.
‘You’re going to ruin his entire night.’ I bit back my laughter as the doorbell rang and both Cassidy and Breyona’s cheerful faces played on the security camera.
‘I have to go now; the girls are here. Maybe give a little and let the poor Alpha have a beer, he’s been working hard since Carson’s d***h.’
I couldn’t make out Asher’s reply because I’d already opened the front door and my head now rang with the excited chatter of Cassidy and Breyona.
The cheerful blonde of the two toted in what looked like a kit full of nail supplies and make-up, while Breyona held up two bottles of the dark-colored whiskey Giovanni and Asher often drank.
The maple and teak finish were still growing on me, but for Breyona it was an instant favorite.
“So, I came overprepared. Bite me.” Cassidy said with her nose in the air but paused when she remembered who stood beside her. Breyona already had a cheeky grin on her face, so only a second passed before Cassidy began laughing and said, “I would say that while standing in a room with a vampire and a vampire’s mate.”
“No worries, we only take our blood from bags.” I teased and waited for the flash of disgust or hesitance to cross her face.
Only laughter shimmered in her baby-blue’s, which grew as she charged up the stairs after Breyona. I followed quickly behind, my heart light and smile wide even though I had questions for both of them tonight.
I could ask about Cassidy’s date with Lars while Breyona was in the room, but when I retold the story of how I made yet another unbreakable deal with the shadows to save my best-friends life, I preferred the two of us alone.
Like everyone else, Cassidy knew little to nothing about the shadows, and I wanted to keep it that way.
An hour later, with our nails freshly painted and one bottle of liquor down, we stumbled into the kitchen to order what was probably an obscene amount of pizza-or what would’ve been if we were three human girls and not three tipsy she-wolves.
The entire wait for the food I ran over various scenarios to get Breyona alone. Mind-linking was always an option, but I knew her face would give away the truth.
All I needed was five minutes to explain the truth before I could make my escape and seek solace in the second bottle of liquor she brought.
My slow trickle of ideas turned into full-scale panic when the doorbell rang. A jolt of frustration darted down my spine, so fast that I couldn’t be sure if it were magic or just an effect of my liquor fueled emotions.
“Oh my goddess.” Cassidy hissed half a minute later. She darted into the kitchen; her hands empty of the pizzas she was supposed to be grabbing.
“The delivery driver stole the pizzas?!” Breyona gasped, staring at Cassidy’s empty arms like someone had kidnapped her mate.
“What? No, no one stole the pizzas. Kendrick Bennett is outside!” Cassidy snorted, then lowered her voice to a whisper. I realized she was blushing when she started fanning her face.
“He’s the captain of the lacrosse team …he and I dated six months during my freshman year at the university. He’s still unmated, and sometimes I can’t help but think about him. Our relationship…it was so intense, I just…”
“You should go talk to him.” I blurted, clasping a hand over my mouth even though it was far too late. “It sounds like you aren’t completely over him.”
Thankfully, Cassidy was tipsy enough to mistake my blunder as one of those bad ideas that pop up only when alcohol’s been consumed.
“You think so?” She whispered and leaned in. “Sometimes I don’t think I am…but I have a date with Lars tomorrow night.”
“No ones saying leap into lacrosse guy’s arms and s***w-“
“What Breyona’s trying to say is you don’t have to do anything you don’t want to do.”‘ I narrowed my eyes at her lopsided grin.
“…you’re totally right, I should go talk to him.” Cassidy tittered, her eyes peering through the kitchen and towards the front door.
Her glossy lips tilted up into a smirk as she tugged her sleep shorts up her hips and readjusted her tank-top to reveal a hint of cleavage. She called out over her shoulder, “I’ll mind-link you ‘code red’ if he tries to get handsy!”
“As if you can’t take him yourself! I saw you in training today!” Breyona whooped, “…oh, and don’t let the pizzas get cold!”
“You’re so right, but wouldn’t it be a great way for some girl-bonding if we did it together?” She winked and slipped out the front door.
“Did you notice how she said nothing about the pizzas?” Breyona said with narrowed eyes seconds after the door clicked shut.
“Let’s not worry about the pizzas for a few minutes…” I cleared my throat and mentally prepared the colossal apology I was about to give. When Breyona’s eyes glazed over, I decided we needed a little fresh air. “Come on, we’re going outside.”
“But pizza…” She whined as she slid off the barstool and followed.
I closed the sliding glass door behind us and heard a quiet beep from the security camera mounted on the side of the house. We headed beneath the canopy on the patio and sank into a set of lounge chairs that overlooked the forest thirty feet away.
An in-ground pool sat off to the side, not yet cleaned and prepared for the summer. We still had a couple of weeks left even though the days were passing with gaining speed.
“I get why you brought us out here now…” Breyona said after taking deep breaths of the crisp nighttime air. “I can’t believe I almost got drunk and forgot…how can I forget about something like that?”
The breeze carried the scent of moist soil and fragrant plants, mixing with everything else to create an earthy perfume that called to the beast inside each of us.
“I get how you can forget; it was your life that was almost taken. Don’t blame yourself for wanting to take your mind off it.” The feeling was more familiar than I wanted to admit.
When it’s your life that d***h calls for, and you narrowly avoid its grasp, you’d do anything to forget about it. “I just wanted to tell you in private…”
Breyona could hear the way my voice wavered and could see that the pain in my eyes was left over from that night and would probably never leave my side.
“Tell me, Lola. I swear I’m not mad at you. I can’t be, and neither can Gio. I’m here, I’m alive, and that’s all that matters. Anything else we can deal with; I just need to know exactly what happened.” She pleaded, and the desperation in her voice shattered my own selfish need to shove away the pain.
Starting from the moment the bonds around my wrists and ankles snapped, I launched into the blood-soaked memory of last night.
Every word I screamed and every emotion I felt hovered in the space between us, growing heavier the more my voice cracked and the more my throat constricted.
“You only told them to save me…that was it?” She trailed off, a hand over her mouth as she stared at the dark forest with her eyes wide in confusion.
It wasn’t the response I’d been expecting, not in the slightest.
“I wasn’t exactly thinking about specifics. I just wanted you alive and not wounded. I didn’t care how it happened…” I admitted and felt horrible in doing so.
Breyona’s voice was fragile and still so confused, “…and they didn’t ask you for anything?”
“No…they didn’t-Breyona, why are talking like that? What aren’t you telling me?”
Her eyes flitted to the forest just as the shadows deep within began to thrash and squirm. I could hear the echo of their silky voice when they noticed her and I.
The reluctance written across her face as she turned her attention back to me made me wonder if she could hear their whispers too.
“When I told you the car Asher loaned me broke down, it was the truth…but I didn’t tell you how I got to training.”
The breath she let out was shaky and bordered on a sob, but it wasn’t grief that welled in her eyes…it was joy. “I shifted, Lola. The shadows gave me my wolf back.”