Twisted Fate

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Chapter 51

Astrid

“Good morning, darling. Could you do me a favor and put these back in their placements?” Ms. Hattie says, giving Nicolas a pointed look, “Someone here does not know how to return borrowed things.” She slides the stack of books over to me and discusses paperwork with Nicolas.

Is she really going to play that game with me? I place both palms down firmly on her desk and look straight into her big brown eyes. “I want the keys to the red door,” I say adamantly.

Ms. Hattie continues to avoid my demand and opens her filing cabinet. She slides the papers into a folder, turning her nose up at my hands on her desk as if they’re filth. “No,” she dismisses.

Meanwhile, Nicolas is gaping between the two of us like we’d just told him about the most fascinating thing in the world. “You have found the devil’s door?”

“I have. And I know I am the only one here that can see it.”

“Who gave you that information?” Ms. Hattie snaps, her gaze burning into my soul. I’ve never seen her so angry before, and I’m not about to make Evelyn deal with her wrath. She’s already grounded for the rest of the year after her parents found out about the last few stunts.

“A friend.” I shrug.

Her eyes harden, and she knowingly throws her red pen down. “I’m going to have a long talk with that girl. As of now, she is officially banned from my gift shop. I’ll give Mr. and Mrs. Winston a call.” Shit!

Before I can think of a lie to save Evelyn, Nicolas finally comes out of shock and diverts the topic, “Wait a sec,” He stands up abruptly and looks down at Ms. Hattie, gritting through clenched teeth “You mean to tell me that this she-wolf has been chosen by the further ones. I have been alive for 120 years. Half of that time I spent here, working in the shop. I have taught our future snot witches and warlocks, put up with ghost tantrums, and cleaned this place like a slave. My knowledge of dark magic is endless. I’ve searched and searched for that blasted door and this she-wolf finds it on her first visit.” He blows out a long breath and rubs his chin with years’ worth of frustration.

I smile sweetly at him and then it occurs to me… “What exactly is inside the room?”

“It’s not a room,” Nicolas sounds shocked by my ignorance, “There is an unimaginable power that lies behind that door. People have traveled to different times. Different realms. The further ones were once four great sorcerers of dark magic. They are the creators of the devil’s door.”

Different realms? My mind is already running with possibilities when Ms. Hattie barks, “Enough!”

“This is unreal. No one has been summoned in years!”

“That doesn’t matter to me because…” Ms. Hattie taps on her chest, “I am the keeper of this shop and what I say goes. And I say that no one is going through that door!” Her heels nearly crack the floor as she stomps out of her office.

“No,” Nicolas muses. We both exchange a look, the correspondent light of agreement passing between us before we’re fast on our feet, following a seething Ms. Hattie. “Astrid has to go inside. If the further ones have chosen her, then it is for a good reason. I’m afraid that you’d be doing more harm with your restrictions.”

“Do neither of you speak English? I can say the word No in fifty different languages. Which one would you prefer?”

I raise my hand, interjecting at her sixth foreign example. “I’ve been harassed by freaking ghosts for the past week and last time I checked, I’m not an Empath. They’re trying to tell me something important and I’m going to find out what that importance is.”

Ms. Hattie takes a daring step in front of me and tips her chin. “I understand you are used to leading back home, but you don’t make the rules here. I am the alpha, and you will obey me. It’s too dangerous and I forbid you from stepping a foot near that door. End of discussion.”

The alpha in me wants to challenge her rules, but Ms. Hattie is right. I can beg and plead all I want, but this gift shop is hers. She has laid down the law and I’m not having any high hopes for reconsideration. But then again, it’s me we’re talking about. Which is why I’m going to do it anyway.

Nicolas tries again. “What if I went with her? Would that make you more comf- “

End of discussion.”

And it is. For now.

~

“Did anyone see you come here? Ms. Hattie will skin me alive if she found out about this.”

“Relax. No one is going to touch a hair on your pretty head. I took the back roads.”

“And you’re sure no one saw you leave the house?”

He’s paranoid. It’s after midnight and everyone should be in their beds. “Blair is too sick to function and Carson was snoring so loud, I could barely hear myself think.”

With trepidation, Nicolas peeks his head out and does a double take of the darkened street. Once he’s convinced we’re alone, he carefully shuts the door and locks it.

“Oh, I almost forget.” I dig inside my pocket until my fingertips find the vial, “Worked like a charm,” I grin at my choice of words, tapping my nails against the glass. Sneaking past Carson wasn’t an option. The guy stays up all hours of the night watching movies and making it a mission to devour all the snacks in the guest house. I had to slip something into his soda, otherwise he’d ask me a bunch of questions.

As I slip out of my thick coat, I see a flash of movement down the hall. My throat is suddenly dry, but Nicolas walks over to the office, unfazed by the deadly presence. I guess when you work at a haunted gift shop for so long, fear becomes redundant.

I ignore the uneasy feeling of being watched and follow Nicolas into Ms. Hattie’s office. He cracks open the desk drawer and finds the set of keys to the filing cabinet, testing each one on the third lock. Two tries later, he opens the drawer and finds the golden key at the bottom- the key to the devil’s door.

The raspy sound of someone clearing their throat has Nicolas and I frozen.

“So. You really thought you could pull a fast one on me, huh?”

Damn. Is this how Evelyn felt when I came and shitted all over her parade? Had I known, I would’ve closed my eyes and let her do as she pleased. I’m fully prepared to put on my sad face and throw out apologies, but Nicolas is already spluttering excuses, “I had nothing to do with it,” he raises both hands in defense, dropping the key like a hot potato. “It was her idea.” Asshole. I slap him across the arm, and he winces. However, I can’t totally blame him for being terrified of Ms. Hattie.

Ms. Hattie stands silent in the doorway, glaring. I take one cautious step toward the seething healer. “Before you start screaming at us, let me just say that despite this insubordinate act, I have mad respect for you-” At the irony, a mirthless snort escapes her lips. “I need to find out why I’ve been chosen. I’m going to find out and I need you to be okay with this.”

A beat passes as we stare at each other in silence. She holds out her hand. “Give me the key, Nicolas,” she orders in her no-nonsense tone, and he obeys. My shoulders sink. There’s no way she’ll ever trust me inside her shop or speak to me again. I’ve ruined our friendship and I’m mentally preparing to win her back.

But as she walks out of her office and turns to look back at me with a softer expression, she does the unthinkable. “Follow me.”

Anxiousness tightens my chest as we follow Ms. Hattie to the red door. She whispers a spell and waves her hand over the door, making it visible. Nicolas mutters a few curses under his breath at the realization of the proximity to the door from the study room.

“This secret stays between the three of us,” Ms. Hattie says sternly. I nod enthusiastically.

I use my strength hastily to rip the boards off the door and toss them to the side. Once that’s done, Ms. Hattie presses the key inside the top and bottom lock. My fear has vanished. I feel nothing more than excitement as I step up to the door of possibility.

“Listen to me very carefully,” Ms. Hattie warns, stopping my hand before I can twist the doorknob. “I have seen many people go in and never come out. Do as they say, and you’ll always find your way back. But disobey them and your name will be added to the long list of victims.” She leans forward and wraps her arms around me in a long embrace. “Good luck.”

With a firm grasp and nerve-wrecking anticipation, I open the door to pure darkness. There isn’t a better way to describe it. Not even my wolf sight could navigate my way through this black maze. I reach out my hands and try to feel for something. Anything. But the only thing I’m aware of is the chill air and the dead silence. For a long while, it is a game of hide and seek until my vision falls on the faint flicker, a lantern.

I straighten my posture and carefully walk in the lantern’s direction, accompanied by four hooded figures. Oh, god. Why do I suddenly feel like a sacrifice walking to my doom? Seriously, these guys don’t look friendly and they’re standing like freaking statues, waiting to hand out punishment.

“Astrid Caroline Collins,” One of them speaks my full name and I flinch slightly. Fortunately, they have little to say after that. After Ms. Hattie’s small lecture, I expected there to be a long list of do’s and don’ts. However, they make one rule very clear: Refrain from altering the past or future in any way.

Take something from us and we will take something in return.

Without another word, they snap their fingers, and just like that, the darkness fades. I’m standing at the back of a bar filled with rich, older men who wear pinstripe suits and carry pride on their bulky shoulders. The fresh painted sign hanging above the bar tells me exactly where I am.

I watch as the men chit-chat and drink their beers. Nothing seems out of the ordinary. Just a regular night in Silverhill with overworked men who are looking to drink the night away.

Or at least that’s how it seems until my eyes fall on a blonde-haired she-wolf sitting alone at the bar. Her hesitance to bring the filled mug to her lips screams she’s out of place and underage. Who is this she-wolf?

A man wasted off his ass accidentally bumps the edge of her stool and falls to the ground with a loud thump. He slurs in laughter as his heavy briefcase decorates the ground with papers. She turns to glare at him for the disturbance, but her silver eyes sparkle in the yellow light. My heart beats a little faster as the familiar features strike me. No fucking way.

It’s her.

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