The trip home was filled with silence.
It wasn’t the comfortable kind that faded into the background and made your eyelids grow heavy as the purr of the car’s engine droned on and on.
This one was full of tension, and unspoken words that were so loud they needn’t be spoken at all.
Zeke, Clara, and Mason hitched a ride with Asher and I since Tessa was currently tied up and unconscious in the back of the work van Breyona drove. Giovanni and Tristan had no choice but to sit back there as well considering they were the only windows blacked out from the rising sun.
It would’ve been safer to wait until dark to move, but we didn’t have the time to waste.
There was no telling if Ember would come back for her twin with more witches, and now that the location of the safe haven was compromised, we needed every spare warrior available to protect the territory.
It did help that Deacon, Dina, and Spence stayed behind, but there was still the risk of the witches attacking during the day.
Since my nerves were too frayed to sleep, I spent the entire drive home thinking of ways to magically protect the safe-haven Asher and I created. Undoubtedly, Cordelia would be able to help.
She could use her protection magic to cast an alarm-like spell, one that would alert us if any witches crossed the boundary, but it would do nothing to give us a heads-up.
I’d been able to turn a Vampire into a Werewolf and a Werewolf into a shadow creature, so I couldn’t help but toy with the idea of somehow creating a protective shield over the land. It was a solid plan, but I’d have to be extremely specific on who would be allowed through.
By the time we made it to the pack’s boundary lines, I had a stronger idea of what I wanted to do.
I had no doubt that it would take a crap ton of energy, but a shield was exactly what the safe haven needed. Vampires without ill intentions would be able to pass through and seek shelter, along with any wolves from our pack.
While Asher, Zeke, and a few of the others transported Tessa into one of the reinforced holding cells, I ran my plan by Cordelia.
The middle-aged witch had been in the middle of smudging the house, singing a whimsical song as she waved the smoking bundle of Sage through every corner of each room. She’d been hesitant over how much energy it would cost me, but was positive it wouldn’t draw on any dark, evil magic.
After telling her about Tessa, she very reluctantly gave me a bundle of some bitter-smelling plant she called Hemlock. There wasn’t a drug or herb on this planet that could take away a witch’s power, but this poisonous root would make it harder for Tessa to have access to it.
The only stipulation was that it couldn’t be administered for more than a couple weeks, or you’d run the risk of death. It gave us time, and time was exactly what we needed.
Only Brandon, Zeke, and Asher remained when I made my way dowm to the prison cells. The overhead lights were bright, reflecting off the pale tile floors and white walls. If you turned your head and ignored the row of glass boxes with cots inside, you could almost fool yourself into thinking this was some ordinary human office building.
“What are you doing here?” I asked Brandon.
Asher’s brother was mean-mugging Tessa through the observation glass, his arms crossed over his chest as he leaned against the wall. The scowl on his face was identical to Asher’s.
Zeke, who sat in one of the metal chairs looking just as distraught as he had hours ago, snorted dryly.
I asked the same thing.”
“And I’ll say what I said before. What’s it f*cking matter? Her twin nearly melted my head off and everyone’s on my ass for wanting to know where I can find the b*tch?” Brandon snapped with a surprising amount of hostility.
Asher leveled a look in his direction, one that was scarily calm.
Brandon held his brother’s stare for a few tension- filled seconds before averting his eyes.
“Just let me know if she says anything useful.” He muttered, quickly storming off.
His footfalls echoed down the hallway up until he reached the door that would lead to the winding staircase that brought you to the ground level.
Asher was still staring at the spot Brandon had occupied when he said, “I’m going to talk to him.”
“Asher, is everything alright?” I asked, placing a hand on his arm to stop him.
The sharp edges of his jaw and lips softened when he turned to look down at me.
I’m not sure. He’s always on edge, but this is worse than usual. I’ll see if I can find anything out. Let’s hope I get to him before he finds the liquor.” He grunted, tossing me a look that told me Brandon would be in deep shit if he drank his way through Asher’s whiskey collection.
With Asher and Brandon gone, I had nothing left to do but fixate on Zeke’s forlorn stare and the witch it was focused on.
Tessa sat on the cot in her cell, her back to the wall and her feet stretched out in front of her. There was dried blood on her forehead, peeling where it reached the corner of her down-turned lips.
“Has she said anything?” I asked.
“No, she’s been surprisingly unhelpful.” Zeke said sarcastically, his chin in his hand. “You know, I’d never been in a rush to find my mate. It wasn’t until I saw you and Asher together that I started feeling like there was something missing. It’s..hard to believe that she’s it. My missing piece.”
My stomach clenched painfully at the bleakness in his voice. It was terrifying to think that the selfless man who dropped everything to help Asher and I wouldn’t get the future he deserved. Even with all the power I held at my fingertips, I had no clue what to do to help him.
“Have you spoken to her?”
He didn’t meet my eyes, instead choosing to look at the floor. His reflection stared up at me. Its eyes were familiar. I’d know them anywhere, just as I knew the sound of his laugh by memory. The hopelessness in them, that was foreign.
“No.” Was all he said, and for several seconds we sat there in absolute silence.
The clock on the far wall ticked louder and louder as its hand continued to move. Zeke forced out a sigh, his shoulders slumping.
“Asher already told me, Lola. You can stop beating yourself up trying to figure out how to say it.”
I winced.”What did Asher tell you?”
The best way to get answers from her is to use the mate-bond. She might be a witch, but even humans can feel the bond when they’re mated to a wolf.” He replied.
Zeke pushed himself up from the chair and took a deep breath, his expression torn in two as he ran a hand through hair. It stuck up in all directions, but he didn’t seem to notice or care.
The hulking warrior responsible for running an entire pack, even if it was smaller than mine and Asher’s, was hesitating all because of one little witch.
The loss of his dimpled grin and easy-going attitude was like a kick to the stomach, but no amount of supernatural healing could wipe away the guilt.
“You don’t have to do this. You know that, right? If you want to walk out of here and never come back, I’Il support you. Asher will support you too, but I’Il still tell him to back the hell off for good measure.” I assured him, forcing a smile at the end.
I know you both have my back. You and Asher have been like family to me. Even if it weren’t both our species on the line, I’d go in there for you guys.” He said, his soft tone contradicting the fact that he was easily six foot tall and comprised of hardened muscle.
The emotion that had been on his face was wiped clean, leaving nothing but emptiness in its wake. It was chilling to see Zeke put on the same stone-faced mask Asher often wore. For some odd reason, it reminded me that Zeke was just as much as an Alpha as Asher was, even if he didn’t spend much time in his own pack.
At the last minute, he turned.
“Asher isn’t the only one who’d do anything for his people.” He winked and slipped inside Tessa’s cell.
The metal chair was cold and hard, against my backside and only grew more uncomfortable as the minutes slipped away. Every time Zeke spoke, I’d analyze Tessa’s face for the slightest reaction. It was clear she had training that extended past magic.
She remained silent the entire time, through every single question and accusation Zeke threw her way. Even when he threatened her with death, she didn’t so much as blink.
The only reaction she had came in the form of a grimace, and it was when Zeke mentioned the mate- bond between them.
She wrinkled her nose and pursed her lips, glancing away from him in favor of staring at the far corner of her cell.
“You think some stupid bond is going to change anything? Please. It means nothing. She chuckled incredulously, then waved her hand in Zeke’s direction. “Just get on with the torture already.
Anything is better than this.”