How do you think we fit in Alec’s curse? Accalia asks me for the millionth time in the past hour.
I do not know. Can you please drop it? You’re giving me a headache.
But are not you curious? I can sense her excitement.
No, because if I was in his shoes, I would not want anyone snooping around in order to figure it out. Especially, since he promised to tell us.
Oh, come on Shadow! You cannot seriously believe that! He only said it to keep us from asking questions.
Well, you are still asking questions. I reply bitterly. I try to block her, but she is just too excited to be locked in a mental cage. I huff in annoyance. It is not a pleasant feeling to have someone pacing back and forth in your mind. If anything, it is torture.
Can you stop? You are giving me an anxiety attack! Typically, my irritating wolf ignores me.
About an hour ago, Alec and I walked back to his house. Surprisingly, the silence between us was somewhat tranquil. Although, I can tell that he was having a battle of control with his wolf.
The alpha offered to have lunch with me. Sadly, he got called to the pack house through the mind-link leaving me in the huge building alone. Since then Accalia has been getting on every nerve I have.
It is lucid that Alec was requested regarding the matter of the warriors. As much as I want to help, I know that his people do not trust me. Thus, it seems like the logical thing to do is sit this one out. After all, this is not about me; it is about the safety of the people who live here. Besides, my mind needs a break to process everything that has occurred ever since I came to this pack. Somehow, I know that what happened so far is nothing compared to what is to come in the next two days. Regardless of what happens, however, I know that I will not regret deciding to help this pack. One of my many reasons is the opportunity I got to see that not all werewolves are rotten. Some of them are open-minded and compassionate.
“You look tired.” Joshua stands by my room’s door. I turn around while sitting on the bed so I can face him. His body leans on the door’s frame.
“What are you doing here? I thought you would be with everyone else putting together the pieces of the epic plan.” I give him a smirk. It is kind of comforting to be in the witch’s presence. His aura is similar to Nick’s, and that grounds my nerves a little bit.
“Yeah, but I do not like being around people for more than an hour per day. So, it is safe to say, that I have gifted them my presence long enough for the day.” I smile as I take notice that Joshua is as cocky as Nick is.
“Well, that only makes me repeat my previous question. What are you doing here?” I get off the bed and walk towards him.
“You are my brother’s best friend, so I kind of wanted to be near you since you are the closest I have ever gotten to him in years.” His voice holds a hint of sadness, and I can relate to it. I miss Diamanda every day. I immediately push the thought away as soon as it comes. I cannot afford an anxiety attack.
“So, I was wondering if you would allow me to take you on a tour around the territory. I can use a couple of hours of peace.”
“Well, considering the glares the pack members gave me earlier when I walked to the flower field, I am going to have to decline.” His face immediately drops.
He thinks you do not want to spend time with him.
You are not allowed to talk to me for the rest of the year. I try to block her once again, and this time it works. I sigh in relief before turning back to Joshua.
“I would, however, love to see some baby photos of Nick. What do you say?” My evil smile is mirrored by his.
“That would be my absolute pleasure. Follow me.” I do as I am told while imagining my friend’s reaction when he finds out that his brother basically offered me the best black mail material against him.
“Is everything okay? With the others I mean.” I ask Joshua as he searches through the boxes he brought down from his attic.
“Well, Nick sent a letter just before I came to see you. Although it was pretty much useless considering it contained everything you told Xander earlier. And I believe that they are forming a plan as we speak.” My face drops.
“You should be with them. I do want to keep your people safe from harm.”
“Shadow, relax. I am not the only witch in this pack. Besides, my head is never in the game after I receive a letter from Nick – even if it is work related.- So, I need to be here.” I feel an urgent impulse to convince him to do otherwise. But I cannot decide what he needs; only he can. Therefore, I nod and wait for him until he finds what he is looking for.
I take a look around Joshua’s living room. One thing I noticed as soon as I walked through his front door is his obsession with plants. Joshua’s justification was and I quote: ‘I am a witch, should I be interested in paintings or trophies? Besides it is a witch thing, you would not understand.’
I know for a fact that it is not a witch thing, but I choose not to burst his bubble and I keep quiet.
The next thing I noticed is that his taste is different from Nick’s. My friend’s style is classy and a little old fashioned; it reminds me of the old beautiful houses they show in movies. On the other hand, his brother’s house is modern yet simple.
As for the furniture, there is a single light gray couch. It is v-shaped, and it has a few white and black pillows on it. There is also a tiny square shaped table by the couch, and it has a black bowl of fruits and a vase of flowers on it. Under the table, there is a beige square carpet. As for the walls, one is occupied by small plants, one with windows, one is totally blank –revealing the white paint,- and one has a maze-like bookshelf. Despite these dull colors, the room is vibrant thanks to the plants that Joshua has. Some of their branches cover the white ceiling.
“So I assume your brother told you about me in his letter?” I break the silence once I am done admiring the room.
“Yeah, he wrote an entire page about you, not that it surprises me.” He mutters as he pulls a huge old book out one of the boxes.
“Typical Nick.” I smile as I think of what he might have said about me.
“Yeah, so now I know everything about you.” Joshua sits on the couch and gestures for me to join him.
“Nick is many things, but he would never tell you everything about me. He would not betray me like that.” I sit on the huge couch next to the witch.
“I knew you had some dark secrets. Luckily for you, everyone in this pack does. And no, Nick did not tell me any of yours.” He assures me as he opens the book with his long fingers.
“Please tell me this is Nick.” I try to hold my laughter when I see the first picture in the book.
“It is.” Joshua answers proudly.
“Also I should mention that it took me years to collect these. I have been collecting dirt on him ever since I was six years old.” Joshua arrogantly points out. Truth be told, I would also be arrogant if I had a picture like that of Nick. It would literally turn him into my slave.
“So what is the story behind it?” I ask still amused by little Nick covered in boo from head to toe.
“Well, Nick was five. He still had the problem with not being able to hold it. So, one day, we were both playing in the backyard when suddenly, he peed in his pants. He got so mad and yelled ‘either I can do it, or not. There is no in between.’ He took his pants and boxer off. Next thing I know, he was crouching and doing the number two on the grass.” My laughter consumes the room. I have not laughed this hard in a while.
“Normally, I had to take advantage of the situation and decided to practice some magic; since you know we were still learning back then.” The cunning smile on Joshua’s face tells me exactly what happened next.
“You used your magic to shower Nick with his own poo, did you not?” A nod from the witch is all I need to fall into another fit of laughter.
“I wish I had a copy of that photo. It would be my treasure that I will take to the grave.” I say between laughs.
“Maybe you can.” Joshua smirks at me and waves his hand. A replica of the photo appears between his fingers. I give him a diabolical smile as I take it from him.
“You are officially my new best friend.” I declare as I hide the photo in my bra.
“It is good to know that one of my brother’s friends relishes torturing him. I hope your other friend, Clay, is the same.” He looks me in the eye with a soft smile on his lips. He seems interested in Clay, and not in a bad way, which is something I deeply appreciate.
“Oh no, Clay is friendly, peaceful even. Although I suppose it makes a good balance considering he is friends with Nick and I.”
“I noticed that Nick did not say much about Clay; which leads me to believe that he has an interesting story.” He does not ask, he points out facts.
“His story is interesting, that does not mean it is pleasant.” I say no more; it is not my place.
“What about you?” I change the subject.
“What do you mean?” he places the book on the couch beside him.
“Well, you seem to know a lot about me. While the only two things I know about you is that you are a witch and that you are Nick’s older brother. So what is it that you can tell me?” I give him a smile that tells him that he is not obligated to tell me anything.
“Well, I am going to tell you my family’s story because I know my brother did not tell it to you.” I actually feel intrigued by the idea; Nick never told me anything about his family.
“My parents were born and raised in the Red Eclipse pack. They actually were really happy; they fell in love, dated for about a year before they finally got married. Most importantly, they had me.” Joshua has a dreamy smile on his face as he starts his story. I find myself being sucked in every word he says. I take my shoes off, and I pull my legs up on the couch hugging them.
“It all changed, however, when I was two years old. My mother was pregnant with Nick at the time; she was actually in her due month. The beta’s sister died. I do not exactly know what happened. What I do know is that she was killed in an attack rogue witches were responsible for.” Joshua leans his back on the couch as he speaks.
“Even though he did not have any proof, the beta accused my parents of killing her. It made no sense since my parents were devoted to the Red Eclipse pack. Luckily, while the beta was notorious for being an unfair jerk, the alpha was the exact opposite. Thus, he did not take his beta’s accusation seriously.” I can feel the disgust and hatred surging through my veins. I feel the same way. After all, I am not a stranger to that man’s cruelty.
“So, the beta decided to take matters into his own hands.” Joshua avoids meeting my eyes, and I know exactly why.
“Sounds familiar.” I mutter under my breath. I do not know if Joshua hears me or not. If he does, he does not show it.
“He threatened my parents to leave the pack and never come back. My parents were never ones to give up or go down without a fight, but they did as he demanded. They did not want to risk their kids’ safety; they also did not want to be the cause of a war between werewolves and witches.” I suddenly realize that I really do not know anything about Nick compared to what he knows about me. All the times that we talked it was either about me or about little useless things.
“Somehow, they ended up in the Open Wound pack. Thus, Nick and I were raised with Xander, Chance, and Nolan. For over a decade we lived here in peace.” A smile now appears on his face.
“Five years ago, however, the beta’s daughter –who I believe was named Diamond-, was abducted and killed; that is what everyone knows. What no one knows is that my father was abducted and was forced to kidnap her using his magic.” I can feel the contents of my stomach as I hear the witch talking about my sister. What scares me is the fact that I did not know about any of it.
“My father did not know who blackmailed him into doing it. He did know, however, that it was not just one person.” Even though Joshua does not know who was responsible, I do. But I will not tell him, I simply would not bear the look he would give me.
I am more concerned about Nick finding out. Accalia says causing my anxiety level to almost reach its peak. I repress it as best I can; I need to know the rest.
Please do not talk about it. I must sound really desperate because she does as I request.
“I was twenty-one at the time, and I remember how I was sitting with Nolan in the pack house waiting to hear news about my father when I suddenly felt my link to his magic vanish. He was dead. Later, we discovered that one of the men who had blackmailed him killed him after he did their bidding.”
Calm down Shadow. Accalia tries to calm me down, but it barely works. Still, I keep my emotions tucked away. I remain seated on the couch across the witch as I listen to his story.
“My mother was extremely affected by burying my father’s body underground that she eventually went insane. I guess, she could not bear the loss of her mate.”
“Wait, witches can have mates?” My voice is unrecognizable; it is cold, devoid of emotions.
“Some of them can, others fall in love the human way. It is ironic really. Ever since I was a kid I dreamed about finding my mate so I can be in love the way they were. I watched other witches envy them for even having a mate. Suddenly, I found myself wishing that they were not mates; I wished they had never met.” Joshua lets out a dry laugh.
“The pain of watching my mother deal with the loss was much greater than the one I felt for my father’s death. Honestly, a part of me is glad that she basically does not remember any of it; the insanity caused amnesia. However, every time I visit her, I visit a breathing corpse.” I feel the dryness on my cheeks, but I make no attempt to wipe my tears away.
“Two months later, Xander’s incident occurred. Let me tell you, it did not make things easier. But, we faced it together, because we are family. While everyone, including myself, got distracted with the barrier spell and Xander’s trial, Nick was still grieving the loss of our parents. Who can blame him? He was only nineteen years old.” For the first time since he started talking, Joshua looks at me and notices my tears. He does not make a move to comfort me which makes me relieved.
“Once the entire pack -werewolves and witches- got cut off from the entire world; Nick made a decision that would change our lives even more. While others saw it as a sacrifice for the pack and for Xander; I knew that while their assumption was true, he also had another reason. He could not live here anymore, he just could not look at the pack the way he once did.” I believe I know what was Nick’s decision was, but I want to hear Joshua say it. So, I ask him.
“What did he do?” My voice is a whisper.
“He volunteered to be a spy for the Open Wound pack; to tell us everything that would happen in the supernatural world. I know for a fact that his choice to reside in the Red Eclipse pack is not a coincidence. I believe he wants to fill in the blanks since we do not know what exactly happened to our father.”
I unconsciously look down at my necklace expecting to find it glowing red, it does not; he is telling the truth.
“Did he learn anything?” I ask. I know he did, Nick got all the answers he craved.
“I think you already know the answer to that. After all, you are the beta’s daughter.” His voice does not hold any resentment towards me.
“Why did you tell me this? I mean, to add to the long list of why you should not trust me, you barely know me.” I actually find myself terrified of his answer thus I immediately regret asking it. Sadly, words cannot be taken back.
“Honestly, I have no idea. Maybe I wanted to see if you are like your late father or your bastard brother. Maybe, I trust you just like my brother does. Because despite the pain your family caused mine, he seems to consider you family.”
“I consider him my family as well.” I say as my tears keep escaping my eyes.
“And by the way, my sister’s name is Diamanda, not Diamond.” I try to lighten up the atmosphere and reduce the effect of my unstable emotions.
“I do not know who killed your father; I do know that my father, brother and uncle must have been the ones to kidnap him since they are…” I could not bring myself to say it. Nevertheless, he nods his head in understanding. We stay in silence for a few minutes as we each battle our thoughts.
“I cannot help but feel responsible.” I abruptly mumble as I look down; I cannot find the courage to look him in the eye.
“Hey, it is not your fault.” Joshua says as he moves a little close to me. He takes my hands in his.
“I know, and believe me no one on earth hates my brother as much as I do. I mean the idea to massacre this pack was his, he is a monster and I know it. I just, I always thought that the only lives he ruined were mine and Clay’s.” I look up at Joshua to notice that he is doing what Nick has done to me a thousand times.
“Can you please not do that?” I yell as I pull the witch away from me. I get up and start to walk in random directions around the room. The tears flowing like a river.
“Shadow?” He is confused by my sudden outburst.
“Nick has known everything from the first time we met. And yet, he never –not even once- looked at me with distain. Every single time I cried over my sister he was there to hold me while I had an anxiety attack.” I stop in the middle of the room, and turn to Joshua.
“And now, you tell me that he was dealing with the same pain that I was. In fact, his pain was worse because he was comforting a person who comes from the family who basically destroyed his life. I cannot imagine how that felt like.” At my words Joshua allows a tear to slip down his cheek.
“I mean he literally ran away from here so he can escape the reminder of his parents’ death only to be stuck with me.” If anyone is to walk into the room right now, they would think that we are having a crying session.
I suddenly walk up to him, kneel down in front of him, and wrap my arms around him. Comforting him is the least I can do. We break apart when we hear a loud growl.
“Xander, is everything alright?” Joshua asks his alpha.
“Yes. I was actually looking for Shadow. I followed her scent here.” He seems to be really angry, which makes me not want to be anywhere near him. Given what I had seen so far from his temper, I know that being around him right now will not end up good for me. I already feel my heart weighting in my chest. I really believe I am on the verge of a breakdown. Still, I force myself to give him a smile.
“Do you need something?” For some reason, I am glad that he is here, despite the state that he is in.
“I want to talk to you. But I can wait until you are finished here.” He says through gritted teeth. I take a look at Joshua wanting to see if he is alright. Once he gives me a small nod and a smile, I walk towards Alec.
The alpha offers me his hand, and I take it without hesitation. I give Joshua one last glance before I am pulled out of the house. I stare at his hand in mine while we walk under the afternoon sky, and I cannot help the smile that appears on my face.