(I’m seriously trying to train myself to stop writing in past tense, so if you see the difference, you know why. It’s harder than it looks. Wish me luck for future chapters)
After I get my breathing under control, I walk up the church’s steps and put my hands on my hips. I throw a mocking smile over my shoulder, my chin tipped up. “What was that shit you said about female alphas?”
Carson hunches over, resting his hands on his knees and breathing hard. “Calm down, princess. It was a tie.”
“Only because you cheated,” I said, matter of fact.
“I didn’t cheat!”
“Yes, you did,” I growl, glaring down at him from the steps. “I saw you stick your foot out and trip me. Otherwise, I would’ve beaten your ass.”
“How is it my fault that you’re so clumsy? Women.” He says the latter derisively. “Always blaming someone else for your own faults. Learn to run faster.”
About what I said earlier, he might look like Arlo, but he is nothing like his brother. I can easily tell that Carson is the stubborn and cocky one. I have a mind of pushing him down the church steps. But I’m not sure Hecate would approve of such behavior in front of her place of worship. She might send more of her witches after me.
Carson walks the rest of the steps two at a time. He steps right in front of me and abruptly reaches for my hair. I forcefully shove his hand away, stepping back. If you can’t look an alpha directly in the eye, what makes him think he can touch one without permission. Who does he think he is? I growl as he reaches for me again. I firmly grip his wrist but let go once I see the leaf he pulls out of my hair. I wouldn’t have leaves in my hair had he not pushed me in the bushes.
“Don’t flatter yourself, princess.” He leans in and scoffs the latter to my face. “You’re not that cute.”
I’m not sure if I want to slap him more for giving me the nickname princess or calling me ugly. He didn’t, but he might as well have. Not that cute definitely equals ugly. Which I know I’m not. I’ve been complimented on my appearance and looked in the mirror enough times to know it’s not true.
I roll my eyes and leave him to walk back to the guest house to shower. Today is going to be busy, and I’m sure more hectic than yesterday. I can only imagine the surprises we’ll walk into, but the pups are my only concern. We need to find them before these witches decide to hurt them…or worse. I shook my head, forcing away those negative thoughts.
Footsteps sound off behind me, and I turn around to see Carson following me. “Before you move into the house, I should warn you that I’m not giving up the garage. It’s the only place Arlo lets me blast my guitar, and I won’t move my set for anyone.”
My brows furrow with confusion. “What are you talking about?”
He shoves his hands in his pockets and walks beside me. “And you can’t change my days for dinner. Eleanor gives us specific days of the week for meal requests, and I will fight you for my lasagna Thursday.”
It takes me a solid minute to understand what he’s implying before the light bulb turns on in my head. “I’m not moving in because Arlo and I are not getting together. We’re friends. Nothing more.”
Carson pauses. I realize my mistake when he takes a step closer and sniffs me. “Is that why you smell like him. Because you’re just friends and nothing more?” I grind my teeth and look down, embarrassed. The amusement in his voice gives me the urge to slap him.
“It’s not…I didn’t…We….” I stammer, trying to find a way out of this awkward conversation. The last person I want to talk to about my non-relationship problems is the little brother of my mate. “That’s none of your business,” I mutter, stomping past him. He continues to follow me, breathing down my neck.
“Whatever.” He shrugs. “So, now that we’ve gotten the important stuff squared away. Why are these witches trying to kill you anyway? Did you go on a killing spree or something?”
“I don’t hunt witches, and if I knew the answer to the first question, then I wouldn’t be here in Salem.”
Carson arches a brow. “But your father hunts witches. Maybe they’re after you because of him?
“He used to.” I correct him. “He doesn’t participate in hunting anymore. Not after my siblings were born.”
This part is true. My mother demanded my father stopped hunting after Keaton and Khloe came into the world. She made him stop to protect my siblings and me from anyone with a possible vengeance against my father. Guess what, mom? It didn’t work.
“I doubt it has anything to do with my father. It feels much deeper than that.” I find myself admitting out loud.
Maybe because I’m mated to your brother, my conscience tells me. It’s the only logical reason I can come up with. Bad things started happening after I met Arlo. And I can’t help but wonder why? Because he is a hybrid, and we’re not supposed to be together? This thought frightens me and saddens me at the same time. Mostly because I’m starting to believe our lives will never be the same after this.
There’s also this microscopic part of me that worries about the past. What a coincidence that the person I’m destined to be with is also kin to the vile man who corrupted my ancestors with constant agonizing pain and trauma. Right now, I want to scream at my family for poisoning my head with their beliefs. It shouldn’t have crossed my mind in the first place. The legend is bullshit. The legend is a story to scare the pups into acting accordingly. So, what if I’m the first female born alpha. I’m not cursed!
Carson picks up on my facial expression and nudges my shoulder. I thought he was going to offer some words of encouragement, but then his face turned blank. “Well, whatever the reason, you’re gonna have to train harder. Because you can’t run to save your life.”
And just like that, we’re back to bickering the whole way back to the house. He criticized me for my lack of ‘alpha qualities’ while I pointed out his noticeable height difference. He isn’t nearly as tall as his brothers. It clearly irritated him when I threw around nicknames like ‘half-pint’ and ‘rabbit.’ He rolled his eyes while I choked with laughter.
“I mean, what kind of name is Astrid. Did your mom smoke a doobie before she made that decision?” Carson jabbed. I ignore him and reach under the floormat for the spare key, unlocking the front door.
“Why are you still following me, little rabbit? You can go run along and play now.”
“Nah.” He shoved me aside and stepped inside the house. Okay, rude. “I think I’ll hang out here for a while. Spend some quality time with my future sister-in-law.” Great. Just great!
“Don’t call me that,” I warn, shooting daggers through my eyes at him.
He smiles mockingly. “I say a year before you guys start having pups. 6 pups, I’m calling it.”
I drop my face to hide my reaction from Carson. The thought sends blood rushing to my cheeks, but it doesn’t horrify me. I’m more shocked when I actually try visualizing a newborn pup in my hands. My pup. My wolf is playing her wicked games on me again. She’s trying to put these ideas in my head, so I’ll break my promises and go running into Arlo’s arms.
Yeah, not gonna happen.
I shake my head, forcing a nervous chuckle. “Don’t keep your fingers crossed, little rabbit.” Carson glares at me for the name, and it makes me laugh.
Once inside the small kitchen, Carson put his shirt back on and makes himself at home. He downed about five water bottles and began looking curiously around the house. I left Carson in the kitchen to hunt for my phone ringing in the other room. My dad’s name flashes across the screen, and my throat tightens. He’s been calling me non-stop for the past 48 hours, and I’m too scared to look at the 20 unread text messages.
By now, he knows I ran off to the witch town. But I’m still not prepared to talk to him. I don’t think I’ll ever be ready to talk to him, especially if the topic involves Arlo. He would ask me what my plans were, and I wouldn’t know what to say to him. What’s the right thing to say to your headstrong father who despises the man you deliberately ran off with? Ending up in Salem, of all places, the place crawling with women he hates even more. Better to keep my mouth shut…for now.
I deny the call and turn around to find Carson standing behind me, looking through my things! His eyes silver eyes sparkle with astonishment as he holds up my sword, testing it in the lighting.
“What the hell are you doing? Put that down!” I snatch my sword away from him and set it back in the case. Does this kid not understand boundaries?
“Didn’t take you for a girl who likes to play with swords. Are you any good at it?” He asks, intrigued.
I’m a master at it. “I can slice your hand off before you think about twice touching my things again,” I tell him, slamming my case shut. Carson rolls his eyes.
“Show me some tricks then.” He sits at the edge of the bed and looks up at me expectantly. If I showed him a trick, then Arlo and I wouldn’t have a bedroom to sleep in.
“No, we aren’t in an open area,” I grumble, grabbing some clothes out of the closet. My shirt is sticking to my skin like glue. I really want to take a shower after that exhausting run, but from the looks of his relaxed position, Carson doesn’t have any plans of leaving anytime soon.
“Come on,” Carson urged. “If you know what you’re doing, let me see something cool.”
Okay, now he’s annoying me. “I don’t need to prove my swordsmanship skills to you.” I grip his arm and drag him off my bed. “Now get lost. I’ve got better things to do than deal with your bullshit all day.” I push him out of the door, but he sticks his foot out before I can slam it shut.
Carson laughs despite my look of irritation. “Are you always this bitchy?”
That’s it! The dam of my patience combusts, threatening to pull Carson right from under his feet. My canines are out, and my palms are itching to slap him upside the head. But within a blink of an eye, Nicolas teleports, standing beside us.
His face is solemn as he looks between Carson and me. “There’s something you should see.” He says grimly.
Nicolas takes our hand, and next thing I know, I’m teleporting for the first time. The feeling is strange, like soft prickles traveling from my head to toe. Whiteness is all I can see for a few seconds before my vision corrects. Louisa and Blair hold hands, focusing straight ahead while Kane and Arlo are standing on the main road, waiting and watching. They’re quiet as the three of us stand by them. Way too quiet.
I stare off into the distance, narrowing my eyes. There are groups of people walking on the main road, heading in our direction. From Louisa and Blair’s protective stance, it’s obvious to see they are witches- witches that don’t belong to the Salem coven.
I notice Louisa’s eyes rolling to the back of her head and her angered whispers in Latin. She’s using her magic for something. “Maybe I should leave?” I suggest. The witches will chase me, and it will give them some time to protect the town. But Arlo is quick to hold my hand, giving me a reassuring squeeze. He stays silent, and it kills me. The closer the trespassers come near, the more nervous I get.
I don’t realize how stupid the question sounds until it leaves my lips. “What are they doing here?”
“They’re coming to kill us,” Nicolas says, stone-faced.
A pair of burning hazel eyes land on him. “Not on my watch,” Blair grumbles over her shoulder. And I believe her. She’d walk on needles and climb over mountains for her people. But I don’t see how we’re getting out of this one.
“Everyone stay calm and be quiet,” Louisa warns as the witches reach the edge of town. I hold my breath and watch each group cross the entrance mark of Salem. They’re all fully loaded with weapons, ready to kill anything in sight. Confused and exhausted, the witches are standing in front of us. I’m expecting blood to be shed soon, but then something strange occurs.
“It should be here.” A woman comments. She’s standing three feet away from me, staring in my direction but her voice is muffled. Like she’s standing on the opposite side of a wall. Carefully, I shift on my feet and move out of her sight, but she remains unfazed.
“We must have taken a wrong turn.” Another witch mutters. “You said you knew the directions to the town.”
They can’t see us.
The groups continue to wander on the road in a daze before their leader’s command; they keep moving. “A few more miles ahead.” The warlock shouts, unaware of his ignorance. He moves forward, and I exhale a deep breath. A sigh so deep that my hot breath travels through the cold air and brushes past his face. He pauses right in his tracks. Fuck.
Arlo is behind me as the warlock turns around and steps in front of me. I’m staring up at his cold eyes as they search our surroundings. He can’t see me staring at him, but that fact doesn’t make me any less nervous. I cover my mouth and slow my breathing. If we’re caught, they’ll attack the entire town. My safety is putting enough people in danger as is, and I sure as hell don’t want to be responsible for the coven getting hurt.
The warlock pauses for a few more moments. “Let’s move out,” He commands. I don’t dare exhale this time until the groups are completely out of sight and walking miles away from Salem.
“That was close,” I breathe, placing my hand over Arlo’s arm that’s wrapped around my waist. I try to step forward and distance myself, but his arm tightens. With his free hand, he tips my chin upward to look at him. And I let him without thinking much of it. Then he leans down to kiss me, catching me off guard. It’s not as intense as last night. Just a soft, quick kiss, but it still makes me feel giddy inside. I’m already missing his lips as he pulls back. And cursing myself for allowing it to happen.
That was the last time I let him kiss me! I swore to myself.
“What was that shit you said about nothing more?” Carson snorts. Yeah, I’m going to kill him.