by Jane Doe
There wasn’t much more we could do after that. Rowena was dangling on the cusp of unconsciousness and one more slice, one more sliver of flesh, could easily send her tumbling off the edge.
I could’ve healed her, resealed her wounds. and sent the blood trickling back into her body, but I didn’t trust myself. The more I thought about her, about Sean and how I felt, the hazier my mind became. I was running out of reasons not to finish what I’d started back in the forest, and that fact terrified me more than anything. I should’ve told Asher, but what was the point? There was nothing that could be done. The dark veins along my fingers and hands were proof that I’d almost went off the deep end, and the shadows themselves insisted there was no cure to be found.
After ordering Giovanni to dose Rowena with enough Hemlock to subdue a small army, Asher and I left. We spent the rest of the day together, though it was anything but relaxing. There was so much he and I needed to talk about, but we were both working on overdrive, fixated on protecting the people of this pack.
Zeke, Tessa, and Breyona tagged along, following us to Killian’s old office. The five of us crowded around the large conference table, clutching cups of crappy coffee in our hands as we created lists of every single person we’d come in contact with since moving to the capital of the pack.
Strangers, acquaintances, friends, family, foes. There were too many people to sort through and not nearly enough time to vet them all. Tessa, surprisingly enough, was the most helpful. She’d stepped up since declaring which side she was on and was honest with the information she gave out despite her obvious fear towards losing her sister.
“I don’t know exactly where the others are. Ember and I were kept from the group. We were assigned a protector-or a babysitter as Ember liked to call her. Elaine’s one of the witches good with crafting illusions.” Tessa explained, her soft features hardening at the mention of her twin. Her voice took on a muted tone as she continued, “…there were a couple of times your wolves didn’t even notice us. We’d be camping in the forest and a patrol team would race by.”
“Do you think that’s how the blood witch is escaping our notice?” Asher asked from across the table. I noticed how he tried to tone down the command in his voice, but it was there, nonetheless. Tessa didn’t seem phased by that fact. If anything, from the way she tilted her chin, she seemed used to being given orders.
“No. If she’s truly here in your pack, then she’s hiding in plain sight. Surrounding herself with a bunch of protectors to hide her whereabouts…it’s not really her style.”
It should’ve frightened me that the mere mention of the blood witch had Tessa flinching, but all I could think about was Sean and the fact that both Breyona and
Mason were meant to join him.
“You’ve met her, then?” Zeke asked, his eyes brightening. They flickered to my mate, staying there for several seconds. He and Asher were having some kind of silent conversation when Zeke abruptly turned back to Tessa and asked, “Do you think you’d be able to point her out if you saw a picture of her?”
Tessa blanched, “I’ve met her once, but it wasn’t an experience I ever wanted to relive. She was terrifying, to be honest with you. The kind of crazy that’s cunning and calculated.”
“How do we know she’s not wearing someone else’s face?” I countered, hands clasped and resting beneath my chin. The dark veins running up my fingers made them ice cold. “If the second witch can change her identity, can’t the blood witch do the same?”
“Again, that’s not really her style. She’s cocky, but not in a way that’s considered a weakness. She’d thrive on the fact that she’s living under your nose, but the second you came sniffing too close, she wouldn’t hesitate to pack up and move on.” Tessa explained, pursing her lips. “The way Rowena spoke made it sound like you haven’t even come close to figuring out who she is. I’d be willing to bet if she’s actually here in your pack, then she’s wearing her own face. If she is I think I could point her out.”
“It’s not perfect or fast by any means, but it’s a start. Now, if you don’t mind, I’d like to know who murdered my parents. Was it that sister of yours?” Breyona chimed in, and as her voice dropped low, I swore the lighting in the room followed.
Tessa visibly swallowed, glancing at the furthest corners of the room as though she noticed the sudden lighting change too.
“No, it wasn’t Ember…not that she didn’t volunteer herself for the job. My sister isn’t bad, not at her core. She’s just…she’s just angry.” Tessa sighed; her earthy eyes locked on the table’s surface as though it were the most interesting thing in the world. She scratched at a speck on the surface, not meeting any of our eyes.
“Our parents were killed werewolves. Rogues, actually. It doesn’t matter to her who you guys are or what pack you belong to. You’re all the same in her eyes. The witch that murdered your parents was an elemental like Ember and I, only her element is water.”
Breyona’s eyes narrowed. “Water. Does that mean…”
“Your parents drowned.” Tessa said softly. I’d apologize, but what would it change? All of the apologies Ember and I received as children did nothing to bring back our parents.”
As the others continued to talk, their voices fading into the background, I lost myself to my thoughts.
The blood witch was here in our pack, waking up each morning on our land, staring our people in the eyes whilst plotting their deaths. Did she sleep in a bed? Was it a house she lived in or an apartment? Did she hold a job to keep up the facade of a pack member? These were all things I mulled over, and the more I pictured her smiling and pretending to be one of us, the angrier I became.
It came to a head when I glanced over at Asher, seeing him when he thought no one was looking.
There were dark circles beneath his eyes, and his lips were swollen from the number of times he rolled them between his teeth.
“Zeke, you and I can come up with a list of everyone within a fifty-mile radius. We’ll get pictures and have Tessa go through them one by one. If the blood witch doesn’t turn up, then we’ll widen it another fifty miles.”
Asher declared, his posture stiff and shoulders drawn back.
Tessa tapped on the table’s surface, seemingly deep within thought.
“If you had a strong enough witch here, she could cast a location spell. You’d need something belonging to the blood witch though. The more important the object, the more accurate the spell.”
Her suggestion made an idea pop into my head, one I should’ve thought of sooner. I mentally cursed myself for being so distracted with the thought of revenge that I couldn’t formulate a plan on how to get there.
“We don’t have an object, but we have something else…something better.” I mused, looking up from the table to realize that all eyes were on me.
Asher tilted his head, pride flickering in his eyes regardless of how exhausted and pained they were.
“You have something of hers?” Tessa inquired, visibly perking up.
“Yeah, we do.” I replied. “We have her daughter.”
Once the idea formed, it was all I could think about. There wasn’t any need for a locator spell, not when I had Conjuration on my side. That, along with Holly’s blood, had to be plenty to show me where the blood witch was. Even the dark magic coursing through my veins agreed with the idea, thrumming its praise as it whispered silky promises egging me on.
“I think we should wait until you’re at full strength. I’m all for getting this bitch, but you look dead on your feet.” Breyona said with obvious concern. A few seconds passed when her mouth popped open, and eyes went wide. “Ugh, that so wasn’t the right choice of words.”
Snorting at how horrified my best-friend looked, I shook my head. “I don’t know if waiting is the best idea. She has everything she needs now to finish the spell.”
“Actually, she has to wait until the full moon tonight to do anything. Blood magic is tricky in itself, but a spell like this relies heavily on any sort of power it can consume. The full moon would be just the extra charge of power Freya needs.” Tessa cut in.
Shock seemed to ripple over everyone at the table, everyone except for myself.
The poisonous whisper of dark magic filled my head once more, singing songs of all the other things I could do under the might of a full moon. I gave nothing away, not even when one of their tantalizing verses caught my attention and spoke to the wounded shards of my soul.
“So, we do this tonight.” I said, glancing around the table for confirmation.
Adrenaline held my muscles in its tight grip, desperate to spring. Even Maya writhed with anticipation, fighting the urge to shred my skin and start the hunt.
“Tonight.” Asher said, and the others quickly followed suit.
For the next few hours we comprised lists and photographs of every pack member within fifty miles. With every pair of eyes I stared into, my patience waned. Tessa breezed through them, her scowl growing more and more prominent with each photograph she slid to the side.
When dusk took hold and the sunlight careening through the large, open windows faded, we decided to call it quits. We filtered back to mine and Asher’s house where
Tristan, Holly, and the others would soon be on their way. Deciding it was better to explain things to Holly in person, I told Tristan to keep our plan to himself.
There was another plan brewing, one conjured up by the dark magic whispering in my ear. It was insanity, so much so that I didn’t dare tell anyone, not even Asher. Still, as insane as it was…it was also highly tempting. Any guilt or doubts I had were slowly wiped away by its siren song.
Even as we pulled into the driveway of the house, it was all I could think about.
Tristan, Holly, and Giovanni had beaten us to the house. They were all in the kitchen, crowded around the island and sipping from the blood bags I kept stocked in the fridge.
My fingers twitched at the sight of my half- sister, at the features her and I shared, one’s we got from our father. I ground my teeth together, agitated and on edge. The room felt too small, to confining. This plan was weighing on my head, dangling in front of my face like a juicy piece of steak.
I needed to tell someone before I did something I regretted-something I couldn’t take back.
‘Can we talk for a minute?’ I asked Asher through mind-link, catching his honey coated eyes from across the room. ‘…alone.’
He gave the subtlest of nods and excused himself from the kitchen. Together we walked throughout the house, heading upstairs and straight down the main hall. Asher followed closely behind; his lips knitted tightly together though I didn’t understand why until I stopped in front of our bedroom door.
“Oh, I didn’t realize…” I trailed off, staring at the door. “We don’t have to go in there.”
“No, it’s fine.” Asher replied, his voice deeper than usual. “It’s not the only thing I have to face, right?”
I laced my fingers with his and nudged open the door, flicking the lights on as we stepped inside. Our scent clung to every inch of the room, from the rumpled bedsheets to the closet where my clothes were strewn along the floor. There was something lying by the foot of the bed, something that caught the overhead light and shimmered beautifully.
I gasped, my heart jumping at the small band of metal on the carpet. Practically diving for it, I snatched it off the ground and held it up for Asher to see. The sheer relief that slammed my chest ached, bringing a heavy wave of tears to my eyes.
“My ring…” I stammered, trying to catch my breath. “I thought I lost it in the forest.”
Asher’s attention wasn’t on me though, or the ring. He was frozen just a few feet in the doorway, his eyes locked on the exact spot where I’d lost consciousness. There were a million emotions fraying the ends of the mate-bond, but they were echoes of what they should’ve been, remnants of what Asher was truly feeling.
I wasn’t sure what spurred me on, forcing my feet to carry me his way. All I knew was that I couldn’t physically bare to let him go through this alone.
“Show me what happened.” I whispered, raising my hand to guide his face towards my own.
The fog cleared from his eyes, replaced with blatant refusal.
“I can’t let you see that side of me.” He rasped; his stubble coated jaw clenched beneath my hand.
“It wasn’t you that did those things. You can’t carry this alone; it’ll kill you. If you show me what happened to you…I’ll show you my side of things. You’ll be able to see for yourself that I don’t blame you.” I urged, a piece of my already damaged heart cracking when he closed his eyes. “P- Please, Asher. I can’t even remember the last time I saw Sean. Let me see him, please.”
Kicking the door shut behind, Asher placed his forehead flush against my own and released a shaky sigh.
Mirroring his face, I closed my eyes and welcomed the darkness behind my lids. As I released my senses one by one and slid into the familiar embrace of the mate-bond, a burst of color flooded my brain.
‘I’m so sorry, Lola.’ He whispered; his voice too broken to utter the words out loud. ‘Please, don’t hate me for what you’re about to see.’
Alpha Asher by Jane Doe
Author: Jane Doe
Native Language: English