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I laid flat on top of the covers on the bed, returned back to Knox’s home by a grumbling Janus as dawn was lighting up the desert. He’d told me to rest and shower, and that someone would send for me in a few hours to prepare for Draven’s arrival. My mind was swirling, too anxious to sleep but too tired to run through all the possible outcomes of this upcoming meeting.

Instead I turned my thoughts back to the hours I had spent at Jessamy’s house, replaying everything I learned from her over in my mind.

Jessamy waited until the ring of magic faded, then led me over to an overstuffed couch to sit. I was in shock, mouth agape and eyes wide at the implications of what she said. My throat felt dry, and I swallowed thickly as she watched me hesitantly. “I’ll make us some tea,” she murmured, and bustled to the kitchen to put a kettle on the stove.

Once a china teacup covered in pink roses was between my hands, Jessamy took a seat in an armchair next to me with her own cup. “You poor thing,” she crooned, patting my knee and settling in with her feet tucked up under her. “Tell me where to start and I’ll explain anything you want to know.” I wet my throat with a sip of my tea, tasting mint and lavender and honey.

Clearing my throat, I rested the cup on my thigh. “Knox told me some things, about how the houses have magic and that there was a solution found to magic loss after the Great Culling.” I rubbed my brow and ran a hair through my tangled hair. “But I still have so much I don’t understand, I don’t even know where to begin.” Jessamy gave me a sympathetic look and drank from her tea, sighing into the china.

“Knox is not the best as far as magic teachers go.” She chuckled and raised a brow at me. “He’s always been too concerned with his own magic to study further into the differing practices.” The bobbing balls of light illuminating the room floated closer to us, hovering around the sitting area where we sat. With a curious gaze, she tilted her head and studied me. “What did he tell you about his magic?”

I snorted through my tea, coughing as the warm liquid smacked against the back of my throat. “Not much,” I managed, steadying my breathing. “But that’s about how every conversation we have goes. It’s maddening.” Jessamy laughed her tinkling laugh, her blue hair tossing with her head.

“Oh doll,” she sighed, standing and making her way back to the kitchen and returning with a plate of cookies. I took one gladly when she offered me the plate, setting it on the bright green ottoman between us. “We’ll start from the beginning then.”

I nibbled on my cookie - chocolate chip and still warm - as she collected her thoughts. Already I felt much better about my latest acquaintance, more confident in Jessamy’s willingness to speak plainly with me than the others I’d encountered so far. “About ten years ago,” she began, taking a cookie for herself to snack on as we talked. “Knox became Alpha shortly after his eighteenth birthday.”

“I had been an apprentice under the previous Pack advisor for several years at that time, and the role became mine when the power transitioned during the Alpha blood ritual. He selected me to stay on as the Pack advisor and made me part of his inner circle when he took over.” She smiled fondly, and took a bite of her cookie. “Iana, the witch who served as Advisor for Alpha Matteo, she was ready to retire.” Her head nodded, and she sighed. “All of the inner circle was, and Knox replaced their roles as he saw fit when he assumed power.”

“She taught me everything I know about magic, and helped me make this place mine after the ritual was complete. But she passed away a couple years ago, at the tender age of eighty seven.” A tear slipped down her cheek despite her smile, and I shifted on the couch.

“I’m sorry,” I said, unsure what to do with my hands. “I know how it feels to lose someone close to you.” Jessamy turned her smile to me, wiping her eyes and shaking her head.

“I continue her work here, advising the Pack and creating remedies for all the ailments the recruits pick up in training.” She pressed a palm against her chest, the rings on her fingers clinking against the layers of necklaces draped around her neck. “She lives on in me through that work, and it is an honor to be the vessel for such beautiful magic.”

“But I know you’re not here to learn about my training.” She smirked, and wiggled her brows at me. “You want to know about the Alpha.” My cheeks flushed without my consent, and she laughed. “Don’t worry! It’s natural to be curious. He is not like any other you’ll meet.” Heart racing, I waited for her to continue, too eager to finally get some answers to risk interrupting.

“I’m sure you’ve noticed that the Alpha is a man of great power,” she began, tucking a strand of blue behind her ear, “and he has been his entire life, even before he assumed power from Matteo. His magic manifested when he was just a boy, and that’s when his mother moved them from the wine country to live here, with the Pack.” She looked at me hard, her eyes roving over all of me before returning to my face.

“His mother…you would have liked her.” She smiled sadly, but continued. “You remind me of her in some ways - she was a beautiful and tenacious woman.”

“What happened to her?” I whispered, throat tight. Jessamy ran a hand through her hair, clearly uncomfortable with the turn in conversation.

“Lilith - his mother - was a normal human, though her ancestry was steeped in magic. She had an ability…she could see beyond time, though only in bursts and with no discernible order. These visions were often very intense for her, and increased in frequency the older Knox got. Some days…some days she would spend every waking hour out of time, unaware of what was real and was not.” Jessamy bowed her head, her eyes pained.

“Shortly after Knox became Alpha, she experienced an episode that required hospitalization, which led to the discovery of her cancer. It was aggressive, likely aggravated by the magic she tapped into when her sight changed, and she was gone within months of her diagnosis.” My stomach was in knots, revolting against the cookie as I listened to her speak. Knowing this about his mother…it explained so much about Knox, gave context to the guarded way he was with me. I wish he had told me himself - the loss of a mother being something we had in common.

“But his magic.” Jessamy refocused, directing us away from the topic of dead moms. “He specializes in shadow magic, but Knox has a number of skills that he developed during his time training under Matteo. When I arrived to begin my apprenticeship, we often had lessons together with Iana. Sometimes he would collect herbs with us, or help prepare for rituals. So he was actively growing his magic well before he assumed the power of the Alpha.” She glanced at me before continuing, and I schooled my expression into one of neutral interest.

“I’ll let him demonstrate the nitty gritty of what he can do,” she smirked, “as I’m sure you would enjoy the display. He can be quite impressive to watch.” She waved her hand and the kettle floated over from the kitchen, refilling both of our cups before settling on the bit of open space on a side table scattered with rocks and small bones. “He has other skills as well, one in particular that we trained on together, and that only grew stronger with the addition of the Alpha power.” My heart pounded, and I nodded at her to continue. She seemed to hesitate, as if she wasn’t sure how to tell me about this skill, or maybe she was unsure of how I would react.

“Please, go on.” I urged, distracting my anxious hands by sipping from my tea. “I want to know everything.” Jessamy seemed placated by that, reaching over to the side table to grab a smooth round stone. She palmed it in one hand, a practiced motion, one I figured I would see often if I continued spending time around the blue-haired witch.

“Knox has the ability to…peer into the minds of others.”

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