by Jane Doe
Dad’s grin didn’t falter, remaining intact while I picked my jaw up off the floor. He chuckled, the sound warm and throaty, while tugging Flora over to his side.
The woman with the kind eyes and soft curls smiled at me, her pink lips matching the petals on the dress she wore. She was clearly nervous, twiddling her fingers and glancing around the kitchen with interest. I felt a tad guilty considering I hadn’t really spoken more than a couple words to Flora. The last thing I wanted her to think was that I had a problem with her and my dad being mates.
“That’s great, dad! You’re like a whole new person, but how did this happen?” I had to ask, glancing over at grandma when she made a noise in her throat.
She said nothing, currently hunched over as she stuffed our refrigerator full of her homemade sweets. There were tupperware containers stacked on the shelves, and from a distance I could make out a couple batches of cookies and even a plate of brownies. I’d have to sneak away later on and steal a few before Asher and Zeke scarfed them all down.
Dad heard it too, his grin widening as he shrugged. It made sense he wouldn’t be too worried about how it happened, only that it had. He jutted his chin in grandma’s direction and said, “Had to be your grandma working her magic.”
“I told you four times now it wasn’t me that fixed your leg.” Grandma huffed, swatting at him as she closed the refrigerator door.
Dad shrugged, “All I know is I hope it lasts. Flora here has been teaching me how do dance. Can you imagine that, Lola? Your old man on the dancefloor!”
I had to grin at what he said, laughing at the excitement on his face and how it made him less of a gruff veteran and more of a lovesick puppy. Before I could get more than a chuckle out, my smile fell. What he said about dancing, it plucked a memory from the back of my head, one I hadn’t thought about since Tristan and I sped out of the pack via motorcycle.
A familiar tickle started in my stomach as I remembered Flora and dad dancing at the wedding. Seeing him like that, his face contorted in pain and shame while his eyes b****d with longing, it broke a part of my heart that wanted nothing more than my dad’s happiness. He’d been through so much, lost out on so many things with Flora that it didn’t seem fair for him to miss out on this too.
Grandma was the first to speak, instantly noticing the fallout in my joy.
“What is it, Lola?” She asked, coming to my side, and placing a steadying hand on my shoulder. The scent of dried lavender followed her, mixing with her floral perfume to create a scent that was familiar and calming.
Hearing the seriousness in her voice, dad broke off his silent conversation with Flora and turned my way. His eyebrows creased with concern, the same salt and pepper shade as the hair on his head.
I was connecting the dots, realizing that the burst of emotion I’d felt watching my dad and Flora dance was my magic manifesting itself. There was no point in hiding this from them, from the people I trusted more than anything in the world. Even though I hardly knew Flora, the way she looked at my dad had me wanting to trust her in the same way. She’d never replace my mom, and I knew she didn’t want to, but she deserved happiness just as dad did.
“I think I’m the one that healed your leg, actually.” I admitted, “It’s a long story, but Asher and I figured out my magical type. I can conjure things, make them real just by thinking about them. It’s why the witches want to use me so badly.”
Understandably, no one looked too relieved to hear the truth. Everyone, Flora included, now had identical looks of unease on their faces. Dads was mixed with anger, while grandma’s had small traces of worry. They both looked at one another, then at Asher who had just walked into the room.
“They’re not going to get their hands on you though, isn’t that right’?” Dad said, but his question was directed at Asher.
Asher came up behind me, his arms circling my waist and drawing an instant sigh of relief from my lips. His masculine scent and the heat of his skin melting against my own took the edge off and filled me with a sense of confidence that came from feeling safe. Dad knew as well as I did that Asher would sooner send the entirety of our forces into battle if it meant keeping me protected, but I didn’t blame him for needing reassurance.
Apparently, neither did Asher, because he replied without a hint of offense in his voice. I could feel his chest vibrating against my back, quaking with the gravely sound of his voice.
“Not a chance. We’re going to take every measure possible to make sure she stays safe.”
I craned my head to look up at him, momentarily dg in the amber pools that circled his pupils. His lips, which looked irrevocably soft and kissable, twisted into a small smirk. It didn’t matter that I was openly ogling him. Any time our eyes locked, it was like the room melted away, leaving us both alone in our own small bubble.
“Taking every measure possible doesn’t mean I’m going to be locked away like a princess in a tower, though.” I reminded them both, “I have this power for a reason, and I’m going to use it to stop the witches.”
“Lola, maybe that’s not—” Dad began, putting on his stern parental voice.
“First, you need to master it. No point in running head-first into battle with this Blood Witch without knowing your stuff.” Grandma chimed in, on my side as always. Pride sparkled in her eyes, but it had always been there, even when I was nothing more than a werewolf living in her little cottage in the woods.
Dad side-eyed her, still grimacing. “Mom, we’re not sending my daughter up against an army of witches.”
“Don’t you look at me like that. I care about her just as much as you do, but even I can put aside my own feelings to see what’s best for this world.” She huffed, snapping her fingers. “This doesn’t just affect this pack. Maybe it did at first, but things have grown bigger than that. This fight can very well change things everywhere, and not for the better. Your daughter’s been given a special sort of power, and power like that demands to be used.”
“H**l, yeah! Tell him, Grandma.” Zeke’s whoop sounded from across the kitchen.
The messy-haired Alpha appeared in the entryway; a lopsided grin pasted onto his face. Dad skewered him with a look so vicious that Zeke held up his hands in surrender. The smile didn’t slip from his face, and after a moment Dad let out a deep sigh.
“I know you’re strong, Lola. Stronger than half the wolves in this pack, but that doesn’t mean I still don’t worry about you. You’ve taken on so much so young, and everyone has their limits. I’m just afraid of what might happen once you reach yours.” He grunted.
Dad’s eyes carried a weight I’d noticed my entire life, but never fully understood. He’d been an incredible warrior in his prime, shot down during battle and grievously injured. In the span of one day, his entire life had been flipped on its head. I wondered if dad had reached his own limits that day, and if that was why he mentioned what might happen once I reached my own.
I slipped from Asher’s arms and stepped into my dad’s, inhaling his woodsy scent, and smiling at the tobacco and leather notes of his cologne, a gift mom had gotten him a few years ago. Even though I wasn’t his daughter by blood, there was nothing but affection in his eyes.
“I know, dad, but I have to fight. I have so many people counting on me and letting them down isn’t an option. I’m trying my best not to go into this blind.”
His smile turned wry, and his eyes glistened with the emotion he fought to hide. “You’ve changed, you know that, kid? The old you would’ve charged in there and set the place on fire. You’re becoming a better ruler each and every day, making your old man proud. Just remember that you’re not in this alone, alright? You got so many people here wanting to help you, and you need to let them.”
I looked back at Asher, my heart stuttering in my chest at the intimate smile that ghosted across his face. It would’ve looked out of place to anyone else, clashing with his sharp jawline and bottomless eyes, but not to me. He was confirming what my dad was saying without words, reminding me that no matter what was lost, he would always be here.
“I know, dad.” I replied, squeezing him one more time before returning to Asher’s side, drawn by that invisible tether between us.
He chuckled, swiping beneath his eye before gesturing my way. “Now tell us about this magic of yours and how it healed my leg. It won’t wear off, will it?”
Settling into Asher’s arms, I leaned against his chest and thought over my dad’s question. There wasn’t any way for me to test whether or not it would wear off, so I went with what my gut was telling me.
“I’m pretty sure it won’t wear off. If the doctors and Rowena said it’s fully healed, then it should stay that way.”
Flora glanced between my dad and I before speaking softly, stunning just about all of us in the room.
“When exactly did you heal him? If you don’t mind my asking, of course.” She said, toying with her fingers, drawing my attention to the pale pink nail polish she wore.
“It was at the wedding Claire hosted, when you two were dancing. I…1 saw dad scowling, and I felt awful. I could tell he was in pain, but he was doing his best to hide it.” I frowned, remembering the guilt like it were yesterday. There was nothing quite like the pain of watching your parent struggle, so close to having it all, but still weighed down by the past. I looked at dad, matching his gentle smile with one of my own. “All I know is that in that moment, I wanted you to be able to dance with her.”
Sean piped up, his mouth full and one of grandma’s lavender cookies in his hand.
“So wait a minute. You’re telling me you can ‘conjure’ things? Where does that kind of magic end? Like, are you restricted to just physical stuff, or can you make something appear out of thin air too?” He asked, moving from his place against the counter.
There was a look of excitement in his eyes that made me snort. I might’ve been the troublemaker growing up, but anytime Sean had that look in his eye, he’d quickly end up tangled in his own mess.
I shrugged, waiting for the other shoe to drop. “I’m not sure. I still need to practice more. So far I’ve healed Dad’s leg, opened a trunk, and stole a book from Cordelia. I’m pretty sure I also turned Breyona into some kind of shadow wolf and opened a door back at the warehouse Tristan and I were escaping. So, thinking back on it, I’m not sure conjuration has any limits.”
Sean made a sound of absolute wonder, his mouth stretching into a wide grin that actually had me snorting.
“A shadow wolf, are you serious?!” He hollered.
He then proceeded to lean in and lowered his voice, whispering even though everyone in the room could still hear him.
“Do you think you could work your magic and do something about my hair? I’m pretty sure I’m going through some kind of early male pattern baldness and the only thing worse than me being bald is having to wear baseball caps all of the time.” He groaned, clenching his eyes shut. “I’ll take a mullet at this point, just fix me!”
Grandma made a sound of disbelief, then swatted at Sean. He danced out of her reach, using dad and Flora as cover. Flora held her hand over her lips to quiet her giggle, while dad scoffed at his son. Sean peeked over their shoulder and mouthed, “pretty please?”
“She is not using her magic to fix your silly hair problems.” Grandma scolded him, but there wasn’t any sternness in her voice.
Sean appeared around dad’s bulky frame, his face a mask of defiance.
“It is not silly! Male pattern baldness is a serious condition.” He shot back.
Zeke nodded, murmuring his agreement, then grinned when Grandma turned her sights to him. From behind, I could feel Asher’s chest rumbling with amusement, watching the clusterf**k of a conversation the three of them were getting into.
“Who’s going bald?” A voice called out, one that made me whip around, a smile spawning across my face.
Breyona and Giovanni stood in the doorway, both glancing around the room with identical looks of confusion. The curly haired Vampire that towered over my best-friend gave her an intimate look as he slid past. His pitch-black eyes met mine as he set a couple of two-liter sodas on the counter.
“Breyona insisted on bringing something.” He chuckled smoothly, the sound oddly similar to melted chocolate. “I brought something a bit stronger.”
He pulled out a bottle of whiskey, one whose label was covered in thin cursive lettering. Asher made a sound of surprise and with a chuckle, Giovanni handed him the bottle. The two men were so alike that Breyona and I found it hilarious. Both were reserved in their own ways but had this viciousness hiding just under the surface.
“This is good s**t.” Asher said, handing Giovanni back the bottle.
Giovanni nodded, a quick j**k of his sculpted jawline. “Some of the best.”
“Aw, they’re bonding.” Breyona whispered, a smile cloying at her lips as she slipped between the two of them and ended up at my side.
I didn’t hesitate to throw my arms around her, squeezing her hard enough to make her groan. Even with her fake sounds of pain, I could hear the laughter in her voice.
“I’m so glad you decided to come.” I told her.
She smirked down at me, tucking a wavy strand of her hair behind her ear. “You didn’t give me much of a choice, bribing me with information and whatnot. You were right, though. I needed to get out for a little bit. I’m still not alright, and I’m not sure I’ll ever be, but I’m not going to give up and check-out just because…you know.”
I took a moment to admire my best-friend, marveling at her strength and resilience. It made sense that someone as radiant would be mated to a force like Giovanni. Everything would’ve been different if we hadn’t started talking again—if she hadn’t of forgiven me for ditching her for Tyler and his s****y friends. Looking back, I don’t know what I would’ve done without her.
I laced my arm through hers and gave her a small smile, “You don’t have to be alright. I think most people are a little bit broken, and that’s okay. No one gets through life unscathed; we all end up wounded one way or another. I’m lucky I have such strong people in my life to help me get through those moments.”
Alpha Asher by Jane Doe
Author: Jane Doe
Native Language: English