She insisted I get out once we got on the main road, but I declined. Eloise really does need a doctor. I have to convince her to stay with the pack. So now we’re riding in stubborn silence, neither of us wanting to be the one to break it.
We near a building that looks akin to a cottage and the sign out front reads PAWS CLINIC in bold letters with Dr. Grey underneath. There’s a few cars parked out front and the front door is propped open. I look over at Aria and she pales as she sees what I see, ducking her head.
“Shit,” she hisses through clenched teeth. “Shit, shit, shit.”
“Problem?” I inquire nosily.
She drives past the clinic, breathing hard and heart racing. She seems to be bordering on a panic attack. I command her to pull over but she ignores me, gasping desperately for air. I put my hand over hers on the steering wheel.
“Pull over,” I growl.
She listens this time, veering off of the road and pulling into a crowded grocery store parking lot.
“What’s going on?” I demand.
“You still need someone to take care of your sister?” She asks, desperation and fear evident in her voice.
“Aria,” I say, trying to sound calm, but I’m filled with a black cloud of fury and an overwhelming desire to protect her from whatever has her so afraid. “Tell me who those people were. Tell me why you’re afraid.”
“I’m not afraid,” she says indignantly, her chin jutting out, her full lips pressed into an attractive pout
“You are a stubborn witch,” I laugh before looking over at her in all seriousness. “How can I help you if you won’t tell me what’s wrong?”
“Why do you want to help me?” She asks, looking dejectedly out the window.
“We’re allies now—it’s what we do. I also need to know what kind of trouble you’re in before I invite you into my pack.”
She shakes her head at me, an amused smile on her lips. “I’m not in trouble,” she laughs.
“Then why were you about to break down back there?” I counter.
“My mom,” she sighs. “She wants me to come home. I don’t want to.”
“Any particular reason for that?”
She bites her lip, thinking hard about her answer. “Differences of opinion. We’ll leave it at that. She’s brought the cavalry to drag me home, I presume.”
I stare her down for a moment, trying to discern whether or not she’s telling me the truth. She slumped in the driver’s seat, arms defiantly across her chest, deep in thought. I don’t know that we can trust her yet. She’s obviously got something going on that she’s unwilling to share. Maybe Talon can get it out of her.
“I don’t trust you,” I tell her now. She looks over at me. She doesn’t seem surprised.
“I don’t trust you, either.”
“However,” I continue, choosing to ignore her remark. “Talon does, for some reason, trust you. So that will have to be enough for me. He’s strong willed and hard-headed, but I have one hundred percent faith in his judgement.”
“I’m not his mate,” she tells me now. “Whatever the two of you were thinking—it’s not true. I didn’t do anything to make him think that, and I’m definitely not his mate. I think I would know.”
“You don’t always immediately know in the wolf world. In some rare cases, it can take a while for sparks to fly.”
“Is that how it was with your mate?” She asks.
I clear my throat uncomfortably. “I haven’t found my mate yet,” I tell her.
“You don’t have to pity me,” I snap at her.
She looks at me with wide eyes. And then understanding. “I don’t pity you.”
“No mate for you either, huh?” I ask, my heart leaping.
“I thought there was,” she says quietly. “But that’s over now, and there’s nothing left to talk about. Do you want me or not?”
She bursts out laughing. “Do you want me to help with your sister?” She giggles. “You thought I meant…?”
I growl. “Laughing at an Alpha is poor in taste.”
“Good thing I’m not a wolf,” she continues laughing. “You should’ve seen your face!”
“If you want to get away from your mother and be welcomed as a visitor in our pack, I suggest you refrain from embarrassing the Alpha,” I pick at her.
She slowly calms down. “I’m sorry, your majesty.”
“I forgive you, peasant. Just this once.”
She rolls her eyes, putting her car in reverse. “Let’s head back, I guess.”
“What about clothes and whatever else girls need?”
“My mom probably has people at my house. I’ll have to buy new things, I suppose. I can’t risk sending anyone or showing up myself.”
“Inconvenient,” I muse.
She just shrugs and begins the drive back to pack land. I direct her to park around the back of the pack house when we arrive, near the entrance to the attached guest apartment that she’ll be staying in for the duration of her time here.
I walk her to the door and let her in.
“Welcome to the Black Moon Pack. Make yourself at home, witch.”
“Welcome to the Black Moon Pack,” Percy says, unlocking a back door for me. “Make yourself at home, witch.”
I turn around to throw an insult at him, but he’s already gone. I step inside tentatively, not sure what to expect, but I’m pleasantly surprised. The walls are a crisp egg white color, the hardwood floors dark in contrast. There’s a large comfortable-looking in sofa in the middle of the living room, a unique collection of eclectic furniture scattered around it. The living room opens to a modern kitchen equipped with a spacious island and state of the art appliances. I make my way down a wide hallway dotted with beautiful artwork, entering the door at the end. There’s a massive king sized bed in middle of the enormous room, the walls a deep gray. The bedding is white with red-wine colored accents. Candles sit on the nightstands, the mantle above the faux-fireplace, the dresser, and the accent tables. From the bedroom door I can see into the huge shower with two shower heads and the tub big enough for two in the bathroom. Something about the room just screams sex to me, and I blush, embarrassed despite the fact I’m here alone.
The word pops into my head and I freeze. Talon had said that he thought I’m his mate. That’s not even possible. He had Waylon’s mother. SHE was his mate… and I had Halston. I have Halston. Thinking of him makes me feel sick so I push those thoughts aside and head back outside. Percy neglected to give me a key, but I locked the door anyway. When I come back I won’t need a key to get in.
I roam around the grounds, taking in the beauty of everything—the grass, the trees, the hills, the mist—it’s absolutely gorgeous.
“Ah… the witch,” someone says from behind me. I turn to find a girl. She’s pretty, probably a little older than me, and she has a figure to die for. Her hair is inky black and reaches in tendrils down past her waist. Her cat-eyeliner is flawless and her bright red pout is enviable. “Skylar,” she introduces herself, reaching a hand lazily towards me.
“Aria,” I say, shaking her hand.
“I am Perseus’ mate,” she says lazily.
“Oh.” I say, surprised. “I thought he didn’t have a mate.”
I regret it as soon as it slips out of my mouth. She glares daggers at me. “Sometimes with an Alpha it can take longer to figure out, but I wouldn’t expect you to know that.”
“I’m sorry, I didn’t mean anything by it. It just slipped out.”
“Don’t worry about it,” she sighs, instantly over it. “So, what are you up to?”
“I thought about going to find coffee and maybe some new clothes, but I don’t even know where to start.”
“Great, I’ll go with you. I could use a friend on a similar level of attractiveness. The girls around here are all dogs,” she says, laughing at her own joke as she links her arm through mine and pulls me towards my car. I’m not sure how, but I think I just became friends with this conceited girl.
She drags me through store after store. As it turns out, there’s a mall 30 minutes away in the neighboring town. We’ve sipped on sugary coffees, eaten pretentious salads, and bought too many crop tops to count. Now we’re browsing dresses.
“Let’s talk boys,” she says now.
“There’s not much to talk about,” I inform her.
“Oh, come on,” she sighs, exasperated. “We know I’m Percy’s mate. We grew up together. I’m meant to be Luna. That’s about it. Your turn.”
“I had someone,” I tell her reluctantly. “Still do, I suppose. He’s my witch equivalent of a mate… but I guess we don’t take that bond as seriously as wolves.”
“What happened?” She asks, engrossed in the gory details.
“We were planning our wedding,” I sigh regretfully. “I was probably the happiest I had ever been in my life… and then he told me that he’d slept with my best friend. It was all very Lifetime. I got a job and moved away, but they wouldn’t leave me alone. My mother called every day, my ex had flowers sitting on my desk every day… and then when I tried to go home they were there ready to drag me back to Hallewell, Georgia. So here I am. Buying a whole new wardrobe because I can’t even get inside my house.”
“Wow… that sucks,” she says. “What an asshole! The best friend, too! But, you know, I heard I teensy little rumor that you might be Talon’s second chance mate. So there’s that.”
“What’s a second chance mate?”
“It’s crazy unheard of. Usually it only happens with rejections, not with death, but who is to question the Moon Goddess?” She shrugs, as though her answer explains everything.
“But I don’t feel that way about Talon…” I say slowly. “There was no connection with him, not like with—” I stop speaking, unsure where I was going with that train of thought.
“Not like with who?” She asks suspiciously, her eyes narrowed at me.
I clear my throat, treading lightly as I can tell what she’s thinking. She thinks I was going to say that I had a connection with Percy.
“Halston,” I answer her sadly.
She pouts at me. “I’m sorry, hun. Is a witch love connection stronger than a human one? I know in the wolf world mate bonds are sacred—but don’t get me wrong, we still have our fair share of asshats who would throw it all away for an easy lay or wolves stuck in the past who like a side piece.”
I ponder her question for a moment, wanting to get the answer right. “It’s a stronger connection than with human relationships, for sure. I miss him, and thinking about him feels like daggers to my heart. We have a bond that will never go away, which is why my mother thinks that I need to forgive him and stop being ‘silly’ as she puts it. I’ll never trust him again, though. I don’t want to live that way, and I don’t think she’ll ever understand that.”
“Wow.” She says simply, taking everything in. “What has Halston said? Aside from the flowers? He’s got to feel like shit.”
“He does. But at this point I don’t care how he feels. He knows he screwed up and promised it would never happen again, but it wasn’t an accident. They both made a conscious decision not once, but multiple times, behind my back. To me that’s unforgivable.”
“Oh for sure,” she agrees, running her hand along a red dress with a thigh-high slit. “Good thing for you that Talon is yummy,” she says, winking at me.
I sigh, trying to picture Talon, but all I can see is Percy.