A few hours after the sun had set and the chill of night kicked in, the rest of our guests showed up.
Tristan and Holly stepped inside toting a cooler full of blood bags, which I eagerly took to the icebox in the garage. My reserved half-sister looked elegant as ever, wearing a midnight cocktail dress that somehow seemed to blend in perfectly. Her hair was identical to my own, falling down her back in long dark waves, only it was pinned back with a single crimson bow.
She smiled shyly at everyone, but was quickly swept away by Cassidy, who had no qualms striking up conversation with anyone. Kendrick followed her around like a lost puppy, but judging by the cheeky grin on his face, he was just happy to be here.
Tristan remained by her side, a detail I quickly noticed, but he too could only stay quiet for so long with Cass launching question after question at him.
During their stay in Asher’s family home, Dad and grandma had become good friends with his parents and wandered into the living room to chat. Sean tagged along, followed by Zeke, the two of them shoving one another and cracking jokes like old friends.
Mason and Clara, who had been glued to one another’s hip since wandering into the house, ventured onto the back porch with Breyona and Giovanni. From the kitchen I could hear Breyona grilling Mason over his relationship with Clara, but it was the witch that provided most of the answers.
It was chaos in the best way possible, a sea of chatter and laughter that seemed to have no end. No matter what room you went into, you’d find the same thing.
As the grill was being prepped, everyone picked at the sweets grandma had brought. Not a single one of us was exempt from her killer baking skills. Not that I’d say anything, but I swore I saw Kendrick wrap a few cookies in a napkin before slipping them in his pocket.
An hour or two passed and I found myself wandering onto the back porch, a chilled blood bag in my hand. Drinking the stuff was almost normal to me now, even when I left it in the bag rather than pouring it into a cup.
My dad and Killian were manning the grill, though dad had slipped inside for another beer. Breyona and Giovanni were perched on the outdoor sectional with Mason and Clara at their sides, each one sipping on a different drink, though by the smell I’m pretty sure Giovanni was drinking blood. After a short conversation with Killian, who was just as stoic and brooding as Asher, I was waved down by Breyona.
I plopped down in between Giovanni and Mason, inhaling the mouthwatering scent of grilled burgers and steaks that emanated from the smoke curling in the air.
“Alright, you lured me here. How exactly are you responsible for turning me into a shadow wolf?” Breyona asked, effectively silencing all other conversations going on. Even Mason and Clara turned to join in, both waiting curiously.
Asher’s voice popped into my mind, floating through the mind-link.
‘Want me to come out there?’ He asked, his gruff voice making my heart skip a beat.
‘It’s alright. I can explain things well enough. Besides, I don’t think Zeke’s commentary would help.’
I laughed, hearing his voice in the background.
There was a gentle, reassuring brush of warmth through the mate-bond before our mind-link ended and I was left to explain the situation.
“My magical type is called conjuration. I can basically conjure things into existence, whether it be physical, like opening a door, or something like turning a regular wolf into a shadow beast. I don’t know the actual limits on my power yet since the book we have is missing a bunch of pages, but I’m almost positive it’s why your wolf is different now.”
Breyona had been listening, giving me her undivided attention, when her face contorted in confusion.
“Did you want to make me into a shadow wolf? Don’t get me wrong, I’m not complaining, but was it intentional?” She asked.
I answered the best I could given I didn’t have all the answers and wasn’t sure I ever would. “So, I don’t think you were ever meant to get your wolf back. When it was taken from you, that should’ve been it, but something changed when you got hurt.
I commanded them to save you, and instead of wanting to make a deal with me, they just listened. I think I used conjuration to make them obey me, and the solution was to give you your wolf back.”
“You think being in the shadows possession changed her wolf’s form.” Giovanni stated, speaking for the first time in what felt like an hour. His eyes were as dark as the night sky but were as piercing as the moon itself.
“That’s exactly what I think.” I agreed, taking a swig of blood. The minute it hit my tongue, my taste buds erupted, tingling from the sweetness and warmth. It filled my veins with the same feeling, sharpening the forest and back porch until everything seemed brighter in color. “It’s even more proof that I need to master this thing before it gets out of control. Its terrifying that any thought I have could become reality.”
Breyona squared her shoulders and straightened her spine. There was a look of determination on her face that only appeared when she was in training or about to battle.
“You gave me my wolf’s form back. It’s only right that I do my duty as your best-friend and help you. How are you supposed to master this? Where should we start?”
“Cordelia said to practice randomly, on things that aren’t life or death.” I shrugged, “Your guess is as good as mine.”
Breyona went silent for a few seconds, tapping her chin. I fell into a conversation with Mason and Clara, who both seemed to have something going on between them. Clara was curled up on the sectional, her body pivoted towards Mason’s.
I couldn’t help but notice the way she’d smile, curling her plump lips at him as she batted her eyelashes. From what I could tell, it wasn’t one sided either. When a breeze stirred and Clara shivered, Mason was quick to slip his jacket off and drape it over her shoulders.
While talking to them, I’d been poking and prodding at the topic of their ‘friendship.’ By no means was I against the two of them talking. I had no negative feelings towards Clara and after all Mason had gone through, he deserved his happily ever after, even if it was one without his fated mate. I was close to getting an answer when Breyona piped up.
“What was your brother saying about being bald?” She asked, that look of contemplation still on her face.
I quirked an eyebrow at her, wondering where she was going with this.
“He was having a moment. He’s worried he’s prematurely balding.”
She snapped her fingers, a grin spreading wide across her face. With her slender jawline and high cheekbones, she looked like a mischievous pixie.
“Perfect! For your first practice session, fix your brother’s hair.”
Giovanni lifted his shoulder in a half-shrug, indifferent over his mate’s idea. Clara had on a grin of her own, her curls bouncing as she nodded eagerly. Only Mason, whose wide eyes darted between the two of us, seemed unsure about the entire thing.
“Um, I don’t think that’s a good idea.” He chuckled nervously.
Clara scoffed, jutting out her lower lip in a pout. “I think it’s a great idea. It’s practice, which is exactly what Lola needs.”
“Besides, it’s just hair. What’s the worst that could happen?” Breyona chimed in, but Mason still seemed unconvinced.
“Just focus and make sure what you’re wanting is very, very specific.” Clara suggested. Her eyes twinkled with humor, “Wouldn’t want your brother to end up with a Mohawk or something.”
Soft footfalls sounded inside the house, nearing closer to the patio doors. A second passed when Claire popped her head out, her eyes trailing over the five of us before darting over to where Killian stood manning the grill.
Her eyes crinkled as she smiled, and within the fine lines on her face I could see traces of Asher. She gave him her long lashes and plush lips, while Killian gave him the harsher aspects of his appearance. Claire eyed the five of us and asked, “What’s just hair?”
She padded over to Killian, wrapping her arms around his waist and watching as he flipped a couple burgers and checked the temperature of the steaks.
“They’re talking about her brother, Sean. Apparently, he has a balding issue he’d like Lola to fix, and like the caring little sister she is, she’s thinking about helping him.” Killian remarked, the corners of his lips twitching into a knowing smirk.
Claire, innocently oblivious to the underlying tone of Killian’s voice, cooed sweetly. “Oh, how kind of you, Lola! I promise I’ll keep my mouth shut. I’m sure he’ll love the surprise.” She pecked her husband on the cheek and wandered back inside.
Her and Breyona both began cackling, their faces bright with laughter, uncaring of the two men that watched them with rapt attention. Even Killian was smiling, which was as odd as seeing Asher smile. The two men were so tightly under wraps the slightest bit of emotion was shocking.
“I have a younger sister myself, so I’m well versed in the antics of siblings. Even when the entire pack was afraid of me, Claire included, she never was.” He chuckled, then turned his attention back to the food he was grilling.
I had to bite back my own giggle when an idea weaseled its way into my head, one spawned from Clara’s comment.
“Alright, I’m going to do it.” I decided, straightening my spine.
My eyes fluttered shut and I told the four of them,“ I’ll need a minute to concentrate. If it works, it should be instantaneous.”
Darkness enveloped my vision, but I still had my other senses. I could feel the chilling brush of night against my skin, its breeze curling around my arms and speckling them in goosebumps.
The smoky scent of charred meat clung to my nose, mouthwatering as it called on my empty stomach to awaken. One by one, I let them slip into the background, where I could no longer notice them. Just as I’d began constructing the thought, I heard a familiar voice.
“Woah, what’s she doing?”
It was Zeke, and from the sound of it, he was close by. I didn’t plan on answering, not that I needed to. Breyona was quick to reply, effectively hushing the eager Alpha.
“Shh! She’s using her magic to give Sean hair.” Breyona whispered, her voice fading into nothing.
Zeke cursed then whispered, “I don’t want to miss this.”
I could hear the sound of his footfalls and knew he had run back into the house. Returning to the task at hand, I thought of my brother and the role he filled in my life. He’d been my first best-friend, and my first enemy. This time around, I didn’t have to put much effort into it.
Cordelia had been right when she said knowing my magical type would make it easier to call it forth. All I had to do was create a mental image of what I wanted, and I felt the electrifying stir of magic in my gut.
Reaching out, I tapped into it and let it solidify the picture I’d created.
A scream rang out, and my eyes snapped open. It was rough enough that it sounded masculine, but it was higher than any man’s voice I’d ever heard. It was followed by a deep bellow of rich laughter.
The five of us locked eyes, a second passing before we scrambled off the sectional and raced inside.
More laughter rang out, varying in pitch and tone. I recognized my dad’s and grandmas in the mix, along with Claire’s.
We sprinted through the kitchen, pushing past one another like children, to the source of the commotion.
Everyone was in the living room, so it took a moment before I was able to spot who screamed. Giovanni made it first, followed by Breyona and then me. Clara and Mason came directly after, both craning their heads until they found what we were all looking for.
Zeke was on the floor, clutching his stomach as he cackled. Dad was red-faced from trying to hold it in, and grandma had her hand firmly planted against her forehead. Both Cass and Kendrick had ear-splitting grins on their faces while Claire and Flora giggled behind their hands.
Asher’s was the last laugh I heard, his tone as deep and rich as Zeke’s. I was so stunned by my mate’s reaction that I almost didn’t notice Sean.
“Lola, this isn’t what I meant at all.” My big brother groaned, combing his fingers through the long mane of hair I’d given him.
It was a wispy shade of blonde, a last-minute detail I didn’t think would stick, and ended a few inches past his ass. Seeing him like that left me stunned for a minute, not only because it actually worked but because of how different he looked. Breyona was the first to break the silence, and as always, she didn’t disappoint.
“So majestic.” She murmured in amazement.
Per her comment, the room was once again engulfed in laughter, this time mine included.