With Vigilance, my eyes stay glued on Blair’s trembling hands as she raises the cup of hot tea. She’s too weak to do anything for herself these days. I offered to help, but she slapped my hand away before I could reach for the cup. So, I’m a nervous wreck each time she lifts the wobbling cup to her lips.
It’s been three weeks, and Blair’s health has shown no improvements. Everyday Ms. Hattie tries different medicines and remedies, but she still has dizzy spells, pukes her guts out, and forms these dreadful migraines. “Feels like my head is going to explode” is the only way Blair can explain it. Her powers have gone haywire and I’m really starting to worry about her.
And to top off my long list of worries, Arlo and my wolves have yet to return. They were supposed to be home weeks ago. Derek has been calling to fill me in and I damn near had… no, I DID have a panic attack after learning that disgusting bitch cut off some of our pups’ limbs. The guilt ate me alive for days- it still does- but I keep trying to tell myself that all our pups are alive and back with their parents.
Now if Arlo and my wolves would return to Salem, that would give me a little peace of mind. However, as the alpha of Blood Rose, he has his own guilt to deal with. “I should’ve gotten to them sooner. The pups didn’t deserve this. It’s all my fault.” Arlo said the last time we’d talked. And I reassured him with the same words. “The pups are alive and back home.”
“Gotta find Cassandra before anyone else gets hurt,” was the last thing he said to me, and I haven’t spoken with him since. According to Derek, they’ve been chasing her further south, but every time they get close. Poof. She vanishes.
Blair finally convinces me after a few slow and balanced sips. However, I turn around and do exactly what I was hoping she wouldn’t. I turn off the stove and reach for the handle with the pot of boiling chicken noodle soup. Shit! A small amount of soup sloshes to the floor as I slam the pot down.
“I’ll get some towels.” She slowly lifts on her arms but struggles to get out of her seat.
“No, sit down. I got this.” I quickly examine my hand and find nothing major, just a little red mark on my palm. Carefully, I remove the pot with a towel and pour the soup into a bowl. Blair’s stomach grumbles with impatience as I set the bowl in front of her, and the steam reaches her nostrils. Her hard stare tells me she’s not in the mood for chatter, so I let her eat in peace.
“I’m perfectly capable of cleaning my own house,” she mumbles in between bites as she watches me clean the floor and move on to the dishes. Today she’s eating in bigger portions, which still isn’t good enough for her greedy stomach. I’m hoping she can at least keep the soup down.
You’re a stubborn pain in the ass. “I know,” I say, rinsing the dishes and glancing out of the kitchen window. Gloomy, just like Blair’s mood. The weather witch seriously needs some joy in her life.
Once she finishes with her soup, I set the bowl in the sink and wrap my arm around her waist, guiding her to the bedroom. She stands to her feet, glaring at me. “I appreciate everything you’re doing, but I can take care of myself.” Although her words are pleasant, her tone is terse.
Says the girl who can barely get out of bed or bathe without assistance. She cuts in before I get the chance to respond. “My powers might be a little off, but I can still hear your thoughts, you know! I wish everyone would just leave me the hell alone.” She uses the little energy she has to throw the covers back and plop down on the bed dramatically.
I sigh as she continues with her tantrum and slaps her pillows in place. “Look, I know having someone wait on you hand and foot is bothersome. But I’m just trying to make things easier for you. I hate seeing you like this. I want you to get better.”
Somehow the genuine concern in my voice seems to breakthrough to her. She nods and pulls the blankets up her body. “I’m sorry. It’s just been hard not knowing what’s wrong with me.”
“No need to apologize,” I say, covering her exposed, cold feet, “Everything’s gonna be alright, Blair.” And I’m hoping it is. As if seeing right through my smiley facade, she frowns and then lies her head down, finally giving into exhaustion.
My phone is ringing in the living room when I softly close her bedroom door behind me. I rush over to the coffee table and pick up my phone to find my brother calling.
I roll my eyes and plop down on the couch. “What do you want, Keaton?”
A mocking gasp fills my left ear. “Is that any way to talk to your little brother who you haven’t seen in, like, 10 years? We need to have a meeting.”
“Calm down, drama queen. It’s only been a month.” After the words fall from my lips, the realization dawns on me. Whoa, it really has been a month. One month away from my home and responsibilities. I could imagine all the nasty things Jefferson would have to say about my first year as alpha.
Keaton’s tone takes a grim note. “No, but seriously, dad wants to have a meeting. Can you video chat?”
Oh, God. This must be serious if dad wants to discuss things over video chat. My voice isn’t enough. He must look me in the eye and break the bad news to me. “Sure,” I say grudgingly.
Keaton answers my request on the first ring and positions his laptop on my desk back home. I’m staring at a few familiar faces sitting in my office. Four include Dad, Mom, Keaton and Khloe. But my stomach twists nervously at the sight of four neighboring alphas.
“Good afternoon, alpha,” Frank greets me, intensifying the sickness in my stomach. Frank has been a good friend to me since our childhood years. So why is he greeting me like a casual acquaintance? What the fuck is really going on? “We hope Salem hasn’t been too dreadful for you guys.”
“Not at all,” I respond instantly. The four alphas seem a bit shocked by my response, but it’s the truth. Without Cassandra Jamerson and her Satan freaks trying to kill me, I’d actually enjoy my time in Salem. “The witches here are very welcoming. I’ve become friends with the healer, second in command, and the head priestess’ wife.” My father is the least pleased to hear about this.
Dad shoots me a pointed look that say’s we’ll definitely argue about this later. “I’ve invited our allies here to discuss some issues,” he says, crossing his arms and feet. Another indicator that shit is about to get real. “More dark witches have been spotted trying to cross Silverhill’s border lines. I’m suspecting that they’re after one of us,” he motions to himself, mom, and my siblings, and the guilt deepens. “They’ve tried sneaking through the other packs territories, and leaving dead animals, and cursed objects behind. Fortunately, after the last attack, the packs have increased security, though that certainly hasn’t stopped them from trying.”
Bryson’s fervent gaze falls on me, and I shift uncomfortably. Anyone can see that he still has feelings for me. I don’t blame him though. We were together for a long time, and I cared deeply for him. But I’m strangely disappointed that his hair isn’t a shade darker, he’s not covered in tattoos, and his eyes aren’t silver. I don’t get butterflies in my stomach and my heart doesn’t skip a beat when I see him. He doesn’t ignite the fire inside me.
“We wanted verbal consent to cross your property if needed to protect your family,” Bryson pulls me out of my deep thought, “And to ask for your warriors help to protect our pups.”
“Of course. I grant each of you, including your warriors, permission to cross River Ash territory in the case that my pack needs help. Thank you.” I do my best to show gratitude, though the latter of his statement has me shaking. “Umm. Protect your pups?”
The alphas exchange a look of concern. “There’s been some word going around the packs,” Frank explains. “Alpha Harris from Connecticut reported 3 missing pups from his pack, and more alphas are coming forward with the same problem. We have no confirmation, but we’re sure it’s the same cult who kidnapped River Ash pups. We want to take precaution.”
More missing pups? I swore the cult came for River Ash pups because of me, but maybe they’re planning something bigger?
I sit back on the couch and contemplate a plan. “We need to gather some warriors from each of our packs and make sure the city’s borders are always patrolled. Every pack should take part in this.”
“Agreed,” Alpha Lo speaks up. “The four of us have considered this plan already, and now that its official, I’ll inform the other members of the committee and make sure word gets around to the alphas.” He says, dialing numbers on his phone and exiting the office.
Ten minutes later, everyone leaves my office with an agreement to keep our city safe.
Since the shop is closed today, I spend the rest of my time taking care of Blair. Which isn’t very eventful because she sleeps most of the day away. I check on her every hour, but she doesn’t notice my presence, leaving me to feel alone and bored. The one time I wish Carson would come waltzing through the door, he’s too busy studying for an exam.
Television and social media keep me entertained for the afternoon until Nicole picks me up for lunch. We eat at Carson’s favorite pizza place and talk about how much we miss home. Although the coven has been more than welcoming, it’s still not home. I miss my family and my pack. Who knows when we’ll make it back to Silverhill.
“Astrid!” Blair’s pained voice is hollering from the bedroom as I walk into her house. And then it’s all downhill from there. She’s vomiting like a possessed person and having those intense migraines again. Shit, I shouldn’t have left her alone. I rub her back, give her medicine, and do my best to make her as comfortable as possible.
“Lay back and I’ll bring you some water.” I give her pillows a good fluff before she rests her head. It’s past 9 o’clock, so when I turn down the hallway, the kitchen is drowned in darkness. The floor slightly creaks, and a strange feeling crawls up my spine, but I ignore it.
You’re being paranoid.
I navigate my way through the kitchen and pause in front of the refrigerator doors. Out of my peripheral, I catch the glimpse of movement from the seated figure with red glowing eyes. But the moment I turn my head, the figure is gone. Hastily, I grab a water bottle and hightail back to Blair’s room.
The red door hasn’t shown itself to me in almost two weeks, but I haven’t forgotten the things I’ve seen. Impatiently, I have waited for it to appear again, but Ms. Hattie says the door comes and goes on its own time. So, I wait, and wait, and wait for the red door to appear, but it hasn’t come back.
The only thing that seems to keep coming back is Azazel. He’s everywhere. I see him in my worst nightmares. I see him in the shadows of the gift shop. I see him from the bedroom window, lurking at the edges of the woods.
And I know for damn sure I just saw him in Blair’s kitchen, smiling up at me as he sat crossed legged in the chair. I’m not paranoid.
Blair is knocked out and snoring by the time Ms. Hattie shows up for the night. I gather my things and plant my eyes on the back of my head as I walk out of the main house and back to the guest house. It’s a short walk from here to there, but I’m still aware and looking back as I twist the key into the doorknob.
For a moment, as the door swings open, my heart leaves my body. There’s another figure standing in the kitchen however this tall figure brings an entirely distinct feeling that has my wolf stirring uncontrollably. My stomach dips as I stare into those silver eyes.
I close the front door, and the sound brings his attention towards me. “Arlo?” His name leaves my lips in a breathless whisper. I can’t put into words how happy I am to see him right now.
A beautiful smile lights up his entire face. “Did you miss me?”