Chapter 17 - The Matching Ball
Ray would be at the ball tonight with dozens of men drooling all over her. I tried texting her a couple of times, but her responses were short. I was worried about her and a million different scenarios played out in my mind about what could have happened yesterday. What the fuck had happened? And why were they being so secretive about it? She looked so defensive and unlike herself. Plus, nearly everyone in Blade was hounding me about what happened to her or why I wasn’t with her for the ball.
I needed to get away from here. Away from the strong Valkyrie emotions. I texted Jack and unlike Ray, he was quick to text back. He too was worried about her. I figured we could worry about her together.
After hours of primping, makeup, and painful hair styling I barely recognize myself in the mirror. Before our plan, I probably would have been upset at how I looked because I definitely was going to draw attention in this dress. But since that was the whole idea of tonight, I knew that I couldn’t say anything.
My dress was a dark green that shimmered slightly as I moved, matching the vibrant color of my eyes. It was form-fitting on the top and wrapped around the outside of my shoulders leaving a good portion of my upper chest bare. The part wrapping around my back was made of a stiff material that formed a prominent ridge surrounding my neck while the skirt flared slightly just under my waistline and dropped elegantly to the ground. My hair was braided in an intricate pattern that tricked the eye into thinking I was wearing a crown and I was standing in three-inch heels. To top the whole thing off, my ears were decorated with ruby drop earrings and a large ruby hung off a gold rope necklace drawing attention to my chest.
Looking at myself in the mirror, I started to believe that maybe I could actually be a royal one day. The thought scared me so much, I fled from my bedroom and into the main living space without giving the guys any warning. Derik was the first to see me. He actually dropped the mug of coffee that he had been holding and it smashed to the ground. I completely understood his reaction as I could feel my jaw fall open slightly at the sight of him in a crisp black tuxedo with a formal white shirt underneath.
He looked like he belonged on the red carpet with paparazzi hunting him down. Or on the cover of some magazine. Bananas he is hot. And without the police uniform or scowl on his face, he looked more his actual age of twenty-one. We stood there and stared at each other for a moment until a low whistle broke the tension building between us.
“Shit Ray-Ray, you look incredible!” Blake called and I backed away from the coffee spill. I swung my eyes to the twins and found myself dumb stuck once again. Hot bananas, they were attractive.
Huge, massive, slabs of attractive muscle with good bone structure wrapped up in formal wear. Yum! Connor slowly approached me with a cocky smile gracing his lips. He reached out to gently push my mouth closed and I felt my face burn with embarrassment. You weren’t supposed to stare at your friends like they were hunks of meat, but damn they all looked so good in the matching tuxedos.
It took some effort but eventually, I tore my eyes away from the sight of the twins all dressed up and saw the Nelsen brothers standing close to the door. Max and Elijah never looked more related than they did at that moment. The only real difference between them was that Max kept his hair in a buzz cut and Elijah preferred his long enough to pull back in a low ponytail.
Kindness and warmth radiated from them and I felt instantly drawn to them. How was it possible that I felt so deeply for all of these men in such a short amount of time? What would happen to me if they decided to leave my side? It seemed that so much was working against our friendship, but the connection with these guys was the only thing keeping me sane at the moment. I needed it. I needed them.
I couldn’t believe that after starting so early, we were actually running late. Elijah reassured me that it was okay and that there would be more people there to witness my entrance, but I was a generally punctual person. My nerves started to get the best of me and I shooed everyone into the awaiting limo outside.
I spent the entire ride sandwiched between the twins trying to get a handle on my anxiety. How was I supposed to act all badass warrior princess when I was so freaking nervous? I wasn’t designed to be in the spotlight. Didn’t they understand that? My Cloaking Gift was proof of that alone. Why would I have been granted the ability to disappear if the powers that be didn’t want me to stay unseen? This was a big mistake.
I found myself pushing against the fabric of reality and slowly turning myself invisible when Derik leaned forward in his seat and caught my attention. Within his eyes, I saw pure fury and determination so strong that I flashed back to when he was straddling my body and choking the life out of me. For a split second cold fear washed over me, but it was closely followed by undiluted anger. Derik was right to be pissed off. The man that did this to us was most likely going to be there tonight wanting nothing more than to see me weak, broken, and vulnerable.
I was not weak. I was not a victim. I was a survivor and I would have my revenge.
I allowed my anger to grow within my heart, pushing away any and all of my uncertainties, leaving me confident in my ability to do this. I would do this because it would bring Derik and me a little peace after what had happened yesterday.
The plan was for me to act like I was above everyone else and disinterested in getting to know them. That worked for me. I really didn’t want to talk to any of these people. No matter how much Mathis tried to convince me otherwise, all of the royal Valkyries that I met seemed to be rotten to the core. Not to mention that if I did have to converse with too many people, I might start interrogating everyone around me. We needed the details of what had happened to remain secret. It was the only way to flush out whoever had done this.
I could do this. I could do aloof and intimidating.
My anger and determination continued to grow, taking root inside of me and fueling my resolve. I felt both of the twins tense at my sides and I looked over at Blake when his grip on my hand started to become almost painful. “Easy Ray,” Elijah muttered. “Your allure has only grown. We want people to notice you but be careful not to push too hard. If your power takes over like that in the ballroom, it is quite possible that we will have a mob on our hands.”
I let out a breath and lightly Cloaked myself once more. While I was at it I Cloaked each of the guy’s minds and hoped that I would be able to maintain the multiple partial cloaks for the entire night. That was another facet of the plan. To silently demonstrate how I could protect those within my clan from any Telepaths or Empaths at the ball.
But keeping all of the cloaks up, pretending that I was comfortable in this dress, and going out of my way to be visible was a lot of balls to juggle. I silently prayed that I would be up to the task.
Blake relaxed his grip on my hand and I glanced back over to see that Derik’s face was now in shadow. What would happen if we found the person who Compelled him. Would Derik kill him on the spot? Would I? What if he Compelled one of us again? I knew from experience that things could go bad fast when you were up against someone with the Gift of Compulsion.
I let these questions float around in my head, strengthening my determination and anchoring my anger as we pulled through the royal gates. When we reached the top of the granite staircase a small man stopped us and asked for our names. I questioned what he was doing and he explained that we were to be announced as we made our entrance.
This was it. This was the moment that our entire plan hinged on. Time to draw focus. Time to prove that I was not someone to be taken lightly. Time to finally take a stance.
I stood straight and reached for a little more allure as Elijah and Derik moved to stand on either side of me. The twins and Max made a second row and as a group, we strode through the entrance while the herald called out our names in a clear booming voice. My name was called first and I held my head high as I heard the room instantly drop into a heady silence. The guys joined me after they were called and together we stood as a unit staring down a room packed with powerful Valkyries. When I was sure that everyone had a chance to get a good look at us, I slowly descended down the stairs and was pleased when the sea of people parted as everyone rushed to get out of our way.
Whispers started rustling around us and I did my best to ignore what they might be saying about me and walked with purpose straight towards the dais where the Collins’ Royal Clan was sitting on literal thrones. The whole thing felt like it was straight out of some medieval novel and I embraced the small, amused smile that graced my lips. We finally reached the dais and the rampant whispering came to a halt. I dipped into the low curtsy that I had spent at least an hour practicing with Mathis and inclined my head towards Queen Florence.
“Well my dear Delia, you are looking beautiful tonight,” Florence purred in a welcoming voice and I stood to my full height once more. “Welcome, to Regina’s Matching. We are so pleased that you were able to make it. I am surprised to see that you are not with your family though, are they well?”
Hmm, was she asking because she knew about the attack, or was it because the last time we interacted I was accompanied by my uncle and grandfather? Both Sean and Mathis should already be here, integrated within the crowd and gathering information. Elijah had stated that it would strengthen my perceived ties with the Oakland Clan if I was presented with only them and without my family. It illustrated exactly where my loyalties lie. Mathis and Sean originally were against this part of the plan, but eventually agreed to play it Elijah’s way.
“Oh, I am sure they are here somewhere,” I responded in an almost bored voice. “They were beyond honored to have been invited to such an event.”
Florence pursed her lips at my reply and I scanned the rest of the royal faces to gauge their response to my public attachment to the Oakland Clan. Regina looked like she wanted to scratch my face off, but I was pretty sure that was jealousy. If anyone in this room wanted me to align myself with a foreign kingdom, it was Regina. Then she could continue to be the only female of our generation in the West and thus the center of attention. I knew it had to be killing her that I was becoming the focus of her own damn Matching ball.
Kaiden looked like he had bitten a lemon and I figured he was still upset that I refused to give him back his dagger. Damon and his bride looked pleasantly blank. Hernan was watching me with calculating eyes and a slight frown marring his face. He was at the top of my list of potential people who could have ordered the attack. He didn’t have Compulsion himself, but after I made it clear that I would rather stay with the Oakland Clan than become his apprentice, he definitely had a motive to try to break the trust we had together.
“Ah, well I will be sure to make sure to say hello to them later tonight. Please do enjoy yourself,” Queen Florence stated, not knowing how to take my nonchalant answer.
Now that we were dismissed, I didn’t really know what to do. We had only really talked about my entrance and that I was supposed to act intimidating. I gave another half curtsy and turned to walk back into the crowd of people. I felt the twins hovering near my back and knew that they wouldn’t let anything happen to me here. I took a deep breath and reminded myself that I was safe. I walked until I found a wall and then turned to survey the room. The guys all spread out around me and I could feel that most people were still staring.
Elijah, Derik, and Max stood slightly away from me and I knew that they were looking for opportunities to start conversations and probe people for reactions. The twins had stated that they were going to stay by my side the entire night and I had to admit that I was drawing a lot of strength and comfort from them. I don’t know if I could pull off this charade without them.
The first couple of people that tried to approach me directly, I leveled with such a deadly glare that they simply turned on their heels and walked away. Blake laughed quietly the second time this happened and suggested that I turn it down a notch. But I figured that if they couldn’t even brave a look from me, then they weren’t worth my time.
When I saw Ethan approach with an easy smile on his face, I couldn’t help but return the friendly gesture. “That was some entrance,” Ethan said in a teasing tone. “I think that half the people in this room are in love with you and the other half is scared to death of you.”
“Well then, I was at least fifty percent successful,” I teased back, eliciting a chuckle. “You must have been to your fair share of these things. How does this one compare?”
“In my opinion, everything that the Americas West does is overdone,” Ethan told me and I found that I was actually interested in his point of view. “The two that were done for my sisters were a little less flashy and had a more sophisticated feel. But in the end, it is always the same people playing the same power games. The rest is just window dressing.”
I was about to respond when a champagne flute was thrust into my hand by a good-looking guy of Spanish descent. I had been so focused on Ethan that I hadn’t seen him approach and I reminded myself that I needed to keep vigilant. “Now, why would a female such as yourself lower yourself enough to talk to a seventh son?” the Spanish man said with a slight slur to his words.
My gaze turned hard and I lost the small bubble of calm that Ethan had brought. “Excuse me?”
“Ethan here is just about as far away from a throne as you can get. No reason for you to be wasting your time by talking to him when you could be spending your time getting to know me,” he responded and I blinked at him in surprise. Had he really just said that?
When he then reached out and tried to run his fingers down my bare shoulder I reacted without completely thinking everything through and pushed him back into the void and sealed the entrance. His now invisible fingers ghosted through my skin, saving me from having to live through his touch. I figured this was a better response than cutting off his hand. I liked this dress and didn’t want to ruin it with his blood.
“Fuck,” Ethan whispered at my side. “Did you just disappear Prince Charles Rubio?”
“He was rude and about to touch me without my permission,” I replied a bit defensively. It wasn’t like I had hurt the dude. I just didn’t want him to touch me.
“Is he still alive?” Ethan asked with a kind of morbid fascination and Blake started chuckling again. Glad he found this whole thing amusing.
“Yes, but he is going to be disappointed when he figures out there isn’t any alcohol in the void,” I said flatly and passed the glass of champagne to Connor. For all I knew, that dude was trying to roofie me. Ethan was still looking at me like I was a crazy ax murderer that he had a sick fascination with and I noticed that he wasn’t the only one. As I scanned my surroundings I saw more and more people gaping at me with distinct expressions of shock. Blake went from chuckling to full-out laughing.
Oh, this was ridiculous. “I’ll bring him back once he has had some time to cool off,” I snapped at the closest pair of onlookers and they practically fled to the far side of the ballroom.
Max came over and whispered in my ear, “We want them to take you seriously and understand that you are powerful. Not scare them so much that they leave the ball,” he muttered and I let out a deep breath.
God, I hated interacting with stupid people. I pulled Charles Rubio back from the void not knowing where he would reappear, just assuming that he wouldn’t go far. He popped back into existence in front of an older version of himself who looked like he had a steel rod surgically attached to his back. Charles was screaming for help at the top of his lungs and his pleas filled the entire large marble chamber.
I couldn’t help the small smile that played on my lips as I heard how pathetic the sleazebag sounded. His father took one look at Charles and slapped him across the face to get him to shut up. My smile disappeared from my face and I felt rage start to awaken within me. I did not like parents that hit their children.
Charles’ father must have seen the intensity of my anger because he took one look at me and then really did flee from the ballroom, with his sniffling son in tow. “I don’t think that helped,” Max said and Blake burst out laughing again. I was positive that we had the attention of every single person in the room and I clenched my fists to resist sinking back into the void myself.
Elijah came over to check on us and I admitted to him, “I don’t think I am cut out for this.”
He wrapped his warm palms around my bare shoulders and looked into my eyes. Feelings of warmth, love, support, and protection flooded through me, and I felt my shoulders relax. “You’re doing great. They need to know they can’t get away with treating you badly. Take a breath. Maybe grab a drink. Try to relax and enjoy yourself. It is a party,” Elijah said in a soft voice that didn’t carry. I tried to follow his direction and took a deep breath. When he didn’t move away from me, I took another one and actually did feel a little better.
“Better?” Elijah asked and when I nodded he gave me a reassuring smile. “Good, because there is someone I would like to introduce you to.” He then took me behind the elbow and gently led me to a small group of people to our left that included Sean and two Asian men, one middle-aged and one in his twenties. The older Asian man looked like he was holding back some laughter of his own and I immediately liked him.
“Ray, please allow me to introduce you to King Eito Tanaka and his brother Prince Goro Tanaka,” Elijah said in a smooth voice like he handled these types of introductions all the time. “King Tanaka, this is Delia Ray Olsen, an honorary member of my clan.”
Eito Tanaka was the only living Valkyrie known to have more than three gifts. Well, that was until I showed up and didn’t know that it was a big deal that I had five. If I remembered correctly, he had Weapons, Shield, Healing, and Telekinesis. “It is very good to meet you, Valkyrie Olsen,” Eito stated formally while bowing low.
Bananas. Mathis had instructed me to only curtsey to the royals that ruled the kingdom that you were currently in. I was pretty sure Eito had just crossed some line by bowing to me because I wasn’t a royal of the Americas West. Hell, I wasn’t a royal at all. Maybe it was a cultural thing. I decided to mirror his action and bowed at the waist. When no one looked offended or angry when I straightened I figured that I hadn’t messed up too bad.
“That was an impressive trick,” Eito said and for a moment I thought he was talking about the bow but then I realized that he was talking about making Charles disappear.
“I honestly didn’t mean to scare him like that,” I admitted. “I just didn’t want him to touch me.”
“A reasonable expectation to have,” Eito replied in a formal voice, and once again I felt the heavy weight of many eyes upon us. “I would like to ask you a personal favor that I would urge you to feel free to deny.”
Uhoh. Mathis and Derik had told me that Eito was considered one of the most powerful and respected Valkyries of our time. I had to tread carefully here. When I nodded my head letting him know that I was open to hearing him out, Eito asked, “Would you make me disappear? I would like to experience what that boy just did for myself.”
I didn’t see why I shouldn’t do it, but I checked in with Elijah. He gave me a small smile and nodded. I decided to go with the king, to make sure he didn’t freak out as Charles had. I didn’t want to know what this crowd would do if I brought back their most famous king screaming.
I locked eyes with Eito and then pushed us both back into the void and sealed the entrance. There were audible gasps from around us and Eito took a moment to look around. I don’t think he actually believed that we were now invisible until his brother side-stepped into the exact space that Eito was standing. Goro was now standing partially inside of Eito. Eito flinched back and ended up stumbling through several more people before he regained his footing.
I swallowed back any notions of laughing at the important king and waited for him to get his bearings. He completed a full circle, looking in awe at the people we could still see but were unable to interact with until he locked eyes with me. “I stand corrected,” Eito said in his formal way. “This is much more than being just impressive. Thank you for sharing it with me.”
I went a little karate kid because he reminded me of Mr. Miyagi and pressed my palms together near my chest and bowed my head. “It was my pleasure, your Highness.”
“You have the ability to change the world my child, but you must make the correct choices. Be patient enough to fully understand your actions before you commit to a single path and remember to take pride in learning from your mistakes,” Eito said and I blinked in surprise.
That was a whole lot of advice that sort of sounded like it should be printed on a fortune cookie. I didn’t really know how to respond to that so I asked him if he was ready to go back and we positioned ourselves slightly behind our original group. I pushed us back to the physical plane and another round of gasps sounded around the room. Eito faced me again and dipped into an even deeper bow that had the peanut gallery going silent again. I searched out Elijah’s eyes and silently asked him what was going on.
Sometimes I really wished that I had Telepathy too because I didn’t really understand the intense look that Elijah gave me in return.
The twins came up from behind me and both of them were tense. I didn’t need to see their faces to know that they were upset that I had disappeared without them. I stepped back until I was leaning against their chests in a silent apology. After the little show with Eito, several different people asked if they could also see the void, but I refused every time. I wasn’t some kind of carnival ride that these people could line up to experience.
Dozens of men handed me champagne flutes or other premixed drinks, but I refused to touch a single one of them. In an effort to fit in a little more, I did start pushing the contents within the glasses to the void so that it looked like I was drinking. I didn’t think much of it, till I overheard a comment about how I could hold my liquor like an old Irish farmer. It was then that I understood that they were trying to get me drunk for some reason.
The whole thing only served to make me angry and I went back to simply giving anyone that got too close to me a death glare. Thank God no one was actually dancing, because Mathis and Sean never got around to teaching me how to ballroom dance.
It felt like I had been standing in these awful heels for days, but when I asked Max what time it was he told me it was only a little after ten. Mathis had told us that it would be rude to leave before midnight and I resigned myself to another two hours of this ridiculous show. I reminded myself that we were here on a mission and scanned the sea of faces for the hundredth time, searching for some hint for who had attacked us. I even made eye contact with Elijah and raised an eyebrow, silently asking if he had discovered anything new. He gave me a patient smile and pushed his open palm towards the floor, signaling for me to wait.
If Elijah had any answers, they weren’t important enough for him to share with me right now. I needed to trust in our plan and keep acting the part. Easier said than done. I felt like there were a million eyes analyzing every move that I made and just the thought that one of these people had Compelled Derik made me uneasy. I didn’t feel safe. I was on edge. Every part of me wanted nothing more than to fade back into the void and gain answers from a place of safety.
But I wasn’t alone anymore. I was a part of a clan and together we had come up with this plan. I was going to work with the Oakland Clan and see this through.
The later it got and the more alcohol that people consumed, the more brazen people became with trying to approach me. In one such attempt, two boys slightly older than me started walking towards me and I recognized them from the royal dinner a couple of nights ago. They were princes from the Americas South and I think they were somehow related to Regina. Florence and their father were brother and sister if I was remembering right.
They introduced themselves as Everette and Yates Norwood when I looked at them expectantly. They seemed a little offended that I had forgotten their names. Everette tried to hand me a plate with small samples of different types of food that I was tempted to take because I was hungry, but after the whole drink fiasco, I decided it wasn’t worth it.
“No thank you,” I told him and his face twisted in anger.
“You’re a little stuck up, aren’t you?” Everette accused and I couldn’t help but find the situation ironic. They were the royals that thought they were too high and mighty to interact with normal Valkyrie or other supernaturals and he was calling me stuck up. Connor and Blake didn’t find his words as amusing as I did and they stepped up to either side of me.
“Oooo, are you going to have your bodyguards remove me from the premises for trying to talk to you? Or make me disappear? What’s the point of showing up to an event like this if you are going to be a bitch to anyone that walks up to you.”
My amusement evaporated and I clenched my jaw to stop myself from lashing out again. I felt both twins tense at my side and knew that they also were holding onto their temper by a thread. After everything that had happened the day before, this kind of confrontation wasn’t going to end well for anyone. Yates looked like he was just about to add something to his brother’s rant and tip the scales when Regina rushed over and pushed through her two cousins. Now I stood toe to toe with the crown princess and we both had two angry Valkyrie teenagers at our back. How in the world did I get myself into these types of situations?
“Seriously?” Reinga hissed at me angrily. “First you go and steal all of the spotlight on what is supposed to be the best night of my life and now you think you can take Everette and Yates from me too? I won’t stand for it. I don’t care who you are or what you can do, this is my Matching!”
I would have been more interested in how close Regina seemed to be with her cousins if my chest wasn’t filling with panic. The panic wasn’t my own, and I had only felt this way once before. Amy!
I quickly scanned the room but couldn’t find Elijah or Derik. I didn’t want to just pull them away from something important without warning them first, so I decided we were just going to have to do this without them. I reached out and squeezed both of the twins’ hands before pushing the three of us and Max, who was standing nearby and talking to Ethan, into the void and sealing the entrance.
“Amy is in trouble,” I told them in an urgent voice and started running towards the door. I used the void to clear the crowded room as quickly as possible and I knew without looking the Three Musketeers were close on my heels. When we reached the entrance I pushed us back to the physical plane, severely scaring a couple of the parking attendants, and demanded that our car be brought around. The panic in my chest was only growing, but we were at least thirty minutes away from Oakland and I had no idea where Amy even was. I could Track her, but I feared that we wouldn’t get there in time.
I asked for Connor’s cell phone and tried calling Amy’s phone but it just went straight to voicemail without even ringing. I tried Jack’s phone next and held my breath as the damn thing just continued to ring in my ear. Eventually, his voicemail kicked in and I left a frantic message for him to call me. The limo was pulled around and Blake jumped into the driver’s seat while the rest of us piled into the back. Blake had the large car moving before the door was even closed and I tried calling both Amy and Jack again. When the same thing as before happened I pulled the phone away from my ear and thought about my options. All of the Oakland Valkyries were here, and other than Jack and Amy the only other people I even knew enough to talk to were the Shifters.
I scrolled through Connor’s contacts until I saw Lawerance Lopez and I clicked the little green phone button to connect the call. The phone rang twice before a gruff voice said, “What can I do for the local Valkyries today?”
“Lawerance, It’s Ray,” I said into the phone and couldn’t hide my growing fear that Amy was in trouble and I was too far to help. “Amy Huntsville is in trouble. I don’t know where she is, but she is not okay. Is there any way that you can ask around and find where she is at? I can find her if I am closer but I was at that stupid royal ball and am too far away and she is in trouble now.”
I would have kept babbling into the phone but I heard Lawerance starting to bark orders to people on his side of the line. I couldn’t quite make out the other side of the conversation but Lawerance was asking someone about Amy and I closed my eyes and prayed that they knew where she was at. I doubted she was at the house because I couldn’t imagine her getting into trouble there. Unless someone had tried to attack me again and found her instead. That idea sent a spear of worry and panic through my soul and I clutched at the phone. I could not lose my cool right now. Amy needed me.
“The kids that she has been hanging with are having a party. I will go with a couple of guys to see if she is there. Is there anywhere else we should look?” Lawerance asked and I forced my numb lips to move.
“My rent house and her old trailer at sunny times trailer park,” I told him and when I tried to give the address he cut me off to tell me that they already knew where I lived.
“I will call back on this line when I have information,” Lawerance stated and then the phone beeped letting me know the line had been cut. I didn’t know if Lawerance was helping me because he thought this was coming through official Valkyrie channels or because he still thought he owed me, but I didn’t really care. I just hoped with everything inside of me that he would find her in time.
I tried both Amy’s and Jack’s phones again but still just got their voicemails. I tried to search inside of me for the thread that connected me to Jack to see if he was also in trouble but all I could feel was that Amy was in trouble and it was getting worse. The limo took a turn too fast and the back wheels skidded flinging me into Max. He reached out to steady me and continued to hold me even after the limo straightened out.
“The Shifters will find her, and if not we will be there soon,” Max promised me and I clung to his arm drowning in Amy’s and my combined panic.
Fifteen long minutes later the phone in my hand started buzzing and I looked at the screen to see Lawerance Lopez calling. I hit the green button and held my breath as I brought the phone to my ear. “We found her,” Lawerance stated without preamble and a sob escaped my lips. “She was at the party and took something. We think she overdosed. We can’t get her to wake up. We are taking her to the hospital now. Not waiting for an ambulance. Meet us at Providence.” Then the line went dead again and another sob ripped from my lips.
“Get to Providence Hospital,” I yelled to Blake and then tried calling Jack’s line again. All I got was his voicemail.