Twisted Fate

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Chapter 44

Astrid

I’m lying on my back with my arms folded over my stomach, staring up at the ceiling. So far, I’ve listed all the reasons why I should say fuck it and leave Salem. One: Arlo now knows exactly who Cassandra Jamerson is, so our chances of finding her have risen. Two: I’m impatient, and I want to kill her like really, really bad. Three: I want to slice my sword across her face until she cannot be recognized. Four: I’m bored and making stupid lists like this one.

My fingers tap anxiously against my knuckles. The grandfather clock ticks, reminding me of the precious time wasting away. Arlo is out there searching for Cassandra while I lounge here on this couch, waiting for guests to arrive. From upstairs, I have a perfect view of anyone who comes into the gift shop, but it’s been dead for the past three hours.

I should just stop talking to myself and follow through with my plan. They can’t make me stay here against my will.

“Yes, I can,” Blair hollers from somewhere downstairs. “You know, the cool thing about empaths. Not only can we feel others’ emotions, but we can hear them too. And I don’t care if you’re an alpha. I will literally lock your ass up in the basement if you try to step foot out of Salem’s borders.”

I roll my eyes. “Aren’t you supposed to be leaving?”

Blair stomps in my line of sight and points up at me. She looks tiny from up here, but her attitude is bigger than the both of us. “I’m leaving now. But just so you’re aware, Nicolas will be in the study room all day. Watching every move, you make,”

“Yeah, yeah,” I wave her off and sink further into the couch. I might as well get comfortable since I’ll be here all day. Just me and the faint smell of whatever the hell Nicolas is cooking in his big pot of strange substances. I would keep him company, but he stays pretty absorbed with his work, much like Blair. And Ms. Hattie is out for the day, so I promised her I’d watch over the shop.

On the bright side, all this free time gives me an opportunity to think about my life and what I’m going to do with it. Which hasn’t been easy given the major events that have taken place.

When I was younger, my peers used to tease me about being cursed because I’m a female. And according to the legend, one that shouldn’t have been born in the first place. But here I am, very much alive and breathing…and dealing with some crazy psycho bitch who wants to kill me, to abolish all born females of my pack. If that was so true, then why is Cassandra only targeting me? Khloe and many of my cousins should be on that hit list. Although I’m relieved they’re not, none of it makes sense.

Let’s not forget about the fact that Jackson freaking Blackburn, of all people, had a hand in this.

I’m surprised that his plans have continued way past his time. A part of me wonders if that’s what he was aiming for all along. I mean, what psychotic murderer wouldn’t be thrilled to have their cult survive throughout generations, fulfilling his evil works. He’s probably dancing and cheering on Cassandra in hell right now.

It makes me wonder which kingdom he’s been sent to. I would assume the ninth since he worships Lamashtu and… oh for fuck sakes! No! I refuse to sink to that level of crazy.

This must be how humans feel when they think about the existence of the supernatural. Is it too much to ask for some things in life to be normal? I’d rather not be cursed by some soul-sucking demoness who thrives on the hearts of women and their unborn children.

I rest my palm on my forehead, contemplating this giant puzzle with scattered pieces. It all brings me to the million-dollar question: Why?

Why did Jackson Blackburn kill the first female in my family, and why did he form the bestial cult? Was he really trying to please his demoness or is there something else? And why is Cassandra so dedicated to a cult that tortured her? She’s obviously crazy, and I should feel bad for her, but I don’t. She deserves what comes her way.

I sigh and close my eyes when the ceiling doesn’t offer any interjection to my thoughts. I want so badly for someone to pinch me and tell me to wake up. Tell me that the legend isn’t real. Tell me that I’m not cursed and being paired with Arlo has nothing to do with it. How is it that we’re so different yet so…connected?

Oh, god. Suddenly, something disturbing occurs to me.

What if the actions of his ancestor brought upon Loretta falling in love with a demon? Was his father summoned to cause more havoc? I don’t feel so bad for my family anymore because it’s clear to see that the Blackburn family are the real ones cursed.

I don’t have much time to think about it further because I spot movement out of the corner of my eye. A dark blur moving from the main floor to the hallway. It happens so fast I don’t see a face. Surely, I wasn’t so drowned out that I missed a guest? No, I definitely would have seen someone coming.

As I sit up from the couch, I swear I hear someone calling my name. “Nicolas?” I call out. He doesn’t answer.

I stand up and begin to make my way down the spiral staircase. “Nicolas?” He still doesn’t answer me, and I wonder if he has his earbuds in his ears. I’ve noticed he likes to drown out his surroundings while he works. So why would he call me?

When I get to the bottom of the stairs, I turn the corner that connects to the hallway. I hear footsteps. And then I see the woman’s black dress sway as she quickly turns right at the end of the hall. How the hell did she get in here?

“Excuse me?” I walk down the hall with quick steps. “Can I help you find something?”

The woman keeps walking and ignores me.

“Hello, are you-“ I turn the corner, but the woman is gone. Poof. Like she never walked inside the shop. I’m left standing in front of the red door that’s locked.

“I am crazy,” I say to myself. But the minute I turn around, I’m proven wrong. The woman is standing right behind me. “Hello,” I greet her, holding my chest to calm my racing heart. She doesn’t speak back.

Right away, I sense something odd about this woman. She is wearing a long-sleeved black dress that looks old and soiled. Her gray hair is pinned back, and the sharp, high cheekbones make her eyes look sunken inward. Her skin is pale white, and suddenly I’m freezing.

There is no way in hell this woman could have gotten past me so quickly. No sign of life is within her. She is no longer a living, breathing form but a ghost from the past, wandering the halls of Salem’s finest gift shop because that’s completely normal here.

“Who are you?” I ask. Great. Now I’ve really sunken to that level of crazy. I’m talking to a dead person.

Silence. She just stares at me with her foggy eyes without blinking once. Not creepy at all.

“Are you looking for something…or someone. Maybe Blair?” I regret being annoyed by her presence earlier. The last time I checked, only empaths can see or speak to the dead. Why I have strangely adapted that ability right now is beyond me. But I assume this ghost wants me to see her.

More silence. And more intense staring.

“Okay,” I say, slowly stepping away. “I’m just… going to let you do your thing. Whatever it may be.”

The moment I walk around her, she speaks up. A low and sinister tone echoes through the hall. “You have questions.” We both turn simultaneously.

“What?”

“You have questions,” The woman repeats, lifting a finger to the red door. “They have answers.” Okay, I’m officially freaked the fuck out.

I shake my head, confused. “I’m sorry, but I don’t know what you’re talking about.”

“The great ones beyond you and me. They have been waiting for you.”

The door begins to shake uncontrollably. I gasp and recoil from the commotion that sounds a lot like someone is pounding the door from the other side. I think about going to get Nicolas because I’m no expert on ghost tantrums. He would know how to stop this. But I can’t move from my place. I’m frozen.

“Astrid!”

I nearly jump out of my skin and whip around to see Carson standing behind me.

“Are you fucking deaf? I called you like a gazillion times. Nicolas said he’ll watch the shop so we can eat. I’m famished,” He makes a pained expression and rubs his stomach. I look at Carson and then back at the door. Nothing. Absolute silence. And the woman is gone.

“Did you not see that?” I ask, my hands slightly shaking as I point in the direction of the red door.

“You staring off into space? Yeah I did, weirdo, now let’s go. I’m thinking Italian today, yes?” You think Italian all the time.

“Sounds great,” I mumble, practically racing to the front door. After that experience, I wouldn’t have cared if he asked me to eat grass and dirt.

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