Asher grew still in his seat, chiseled from stone as he stared at Clara with a blank expression on his face. “How do you know this?”
“They probably promised him power in exchange for his help, and like the dumbass he is, he accepted.” Zeke muttered under his breath. “They were probably going to kill him off once they got what they wanted.”
“Yeah. Me.” I swallowed, glancing at him. “They would’ve used my magic, I’m sure of it.”
“When you two were fighting, he had a witch using magic on you. I sent Mason off to find her, but he didn’t have any luck. Chances are she was being protected and whoever was doing the protecting pulled her out the minute you won, which shouldn’t have happened, by the way.” Clara replied to Asher’s question, leaning back in her chair.
I swallowed the knot of unease in my stomach at the thought of Asher losing “What do you mean it shouldn’t have happened?”
Clara looked me straight in the eyes and said, “Your mate should be dead, but he isn’t and I don’t know why.”
“What” Zeke sputtered, his eyes going wide”. What do you mean he should be dead? I’ve seen Alpha Bran fight dozens of times, there’s no way he should’ve been able to beat him. There isn’t a single Alpha that can one up Asher. Hell, even I only stand a couple minutes against him before I tap out.”
“The magic that witch was working should’ve weakened him until he couldn’t fight anymore. At that point, I assume Alpha Bran would’ve y’know.. ended things.” Clara winced, her eyes flickering to where I sat.
I felt a rumbling in my chest and realized I’d been growling. Both Maya and I hated the thought of that a*hle using magic against an Alpha he challenged himself. Not only was it disrespectful, but cheating like that was grounds for an immediate disqualification. Also commonly referred to as an execution.
Clara held up her hands in an act of surrender, ” Look, if I had the power, I would’ve stopped the b!tch. If Mason had gotten his claws on her, I would’ve zapped her into next week. That being said, the witches magic didn’t work on Asher. If it had, he’d be dead.”
“No one’s blaming you. Alpha Bran was known for being a c0ward. I think it’s just a bit shocking he stooped as low as working with the witches.” Mason said quietly, his words directed to Clara.
If I’d been paying more attention to Mason rather than what Clara had said, I would’ve noticed the way his tone softened when he spoke to her and how there was an obvious lack of hostility in his voice that hadn’t been there before.
“Her magic didn’t work on Asher?” I blurted the question out loud, not expecting any sort of response.
“Sure, didn’t. Alpha Bran seemed surprised at that fact.” She replied.
Zeke chimed in, “That’s why he looked so damn shell -shocked?” He chuckled. “I thought it was because Asher had just put him on his a**.”
“I’m sure he wasn’t too happy about that part, but that wasn’t why he looked like his eyes were gonna pop out of his head. No, someone used magic on your mate and that’s what kept him safe from Alpha Bran’s witchy ally.” Clara nodded, her tone confident. Clearly, she’d thought this through and after analyzing each and every alternative, the only answer she could come up with is that someone else had protected Asher.
Suddenly, all eyes were on me. Even Mason had stopped mid-sentence to tilt his head and peer at me curiously. Clara shifted in her seat, leaning forward.
“Now, my intuition ain’t that great, but if I didn’t know any better, you look like you just figured something out.” She said pointedly, tapping one of her manicured nails on the surface of the table.
“So, uh-I kinda, sort a did a protection spell on you.” I cringed at the sound of my own voice, and waited for Asher’s reaction.
He tilted his head, and if I didn’t know any better, I swore he looked almost.. impressed?
“You put a protection spell on me?” He repeated.
I nodded, nibbling on my lower l!p as I fought the urge to look away. A quick glance around the room told me how everyone was feeling, but there was one face I purposefully skipped over. Clara looked at me like she couldn’t tell if I were a genius or an idiot, while Mason and Zeke had identical looks of surprise.
Clara narrowed her eyes, skewering me with shards of amber. “When exactly did you do this protection spell?”
“The same day he left, I think.” I cleared my throat.
“Maybe the day after.
“You don’t remember when you did the spel1?” She asked, her voice oozing with skepticism.
“Look, I-“I began, but Tristan’s brittle laughter cut me off.
“A sleepover, huh?” He said, his incredulous expression making me want to laugh and apologize all at once. It was the most expression I’d ever seen him display. His eyebrows were lifted and baby blues piercing as they stared me down. His l!ps were flattened into a thin line, that amplified the harshness of his jaw and cheekbones. “Boy talk, pillow fights, and sappy romance movies, right? You just conveniently left out the witchcraft part. Was it Holly’s idea to help or did you recruit her?”
Biting my tongue, I replied with only a small hint of sass, “Does it really matter? What’s done is done, and Asher’s well and alive because of it. As far as I’m concerned, it’s a win. Who knows what would’ve happened if we hadn’t done it.”
“I can tell you what would’ve happened…” Clara muttered, her eyes darkening.
Tristan scowled, and somehow I had the feeling my response was the answer he was looking for. He huffed, ” should’ve figured she’d offer her help. She’s just as much trouble as you are, she’s just better at hiding it.”
“I could hide it if I wanted to.” I shot back.
He snorted, his l!ps twitching as he fought a smirk. “I don’t believe you in the slightest. Tell me, what did your witchy trainers have to say about this?”
I opened my mouth to respond before remembering neither Cordelia or Rowena knew about the protection spell. At the time, I knew they’d only try to stop me. Going behind their backs was a necessary measure considering it had saved Asher’s life in the end.
The pale tones in Tristan’s eyes darkened as he stared me down. I refused to squirm under his gaze. After all, I was the Queen here, not him. Even if the image was amusing to conjure up.
“They don’t know, do they?” He grunted, swiping a hand down his face.
“I got the spell from one of Cordelia’s books, and I got the book from using Conjuration, I just didn’t know it at the time,” I confessed, turning to Asher who had remained neutral throughout all of this. ” Look, I don’t regret what I did, especially knowing it kept you from being killed by Alpha Bran. I cant even imagine what would’ve become of this pack with him in charge. I shouldn’t have used magic on you without your consent, just like I shouldn’t have gone behind Rowena and Cordelia’s backs. I plan on returning her spell book today along with telling her the truth.”
I assume you’ll ask her what the risks were in casting a spell like this.” Tristan murmured, his tone softening.
Zeke frowned, “Maybe that’s what made Asher go all feral.”
It would’ve been an easy answer, but something about it felt wrong. How would a protection spell cause someone’s wolf to go insane? The math just wasn’t adding up. Judging from Clara’s crinkled nose and down-turned l!ps, I’d say she agreed with me.
“Somethings telling me that’s not what caused it, but it still wouldn’t hurt to ask.” I replied, then looked towards my stoic mate. “How do you feel about all of this?”
As his warm eyes settled on mine, swirling with hints of gold that told me his wolf was nearby, he opened the bond between us and let me into his head. There was no blame within his thoughts, all of which were neatly organized where mine was a straight cluster-f*ck of madness. He’d already moved on from the surprise of learning about the protection spell, and was sorting through different theories he had surrounding my newly discovered magic.
His smile was soft and intimate, an expression anyone else would overlook. “You did what you thought was right at the time and it paid off. I think returning the book and getting Cordelia’s advice is a sound idea. Perhaps there’s more you can ask her.”
When his eyes drifted to my family tomb, which was still sitting on the table, I realized he might be onto something.
“You think she might know something about Conjuration?”
Asher half-shrugged, “It couldn’t hurt to ask.”
With my eyes still on the book, I hummed. “No, no it couldn’t.
I looked around the room, at the people who surrounded me, the emotions that were carved across the canvas of their faces. Each one had their own stake in this, their own fears and hopes when this battle finally came to its head. I couldn’t afford to be afraid any longer. Fear wouldn’t help me master my magic, nor would it help me defeat the blood witch. I swiped the book from the table and stood, straightening my spine as I inhaled sharply.
“Well, I guess I know what I’m doing today.”