“Tell me what you meant about a Portocale being safe with the three of you, two of which are sick perverts.”
She is really bent about the window-watching. I’m not sure why I find that…cute.
“Because if all the Portocale gypsies die, we lose our chance at breaking the painful curse,” I tell her, leaving out the part where we suffer in agony with every Portocale death.
I think it’s best if we ease her into the truth, since she’s getting bent about the little things.
She just blinks at me.
“Let me guess, it’s not as easy as a simple direct answer as to why that’s a thing,” she states dryly.
You can tell she’s been asking questions and not getting many answers.
“Are you sure you want to know the dark secrets of monsters, Violet Portocale?” I ask her more seriously.
“I do,” she says as she glances around. “But maybe some other time in some other place.”
“Are you climbing or riding over my shoulder?” I ask her as the snowfall picks up.
She looks too tired to argue about it this time, and without too much hesitation, she gets on her tiptoes, putting her hands on my shoulders without any warning.
Trying not to think too much about the fact a Portocale is willingly touching me, I lift her from the ground, suppressing my own groan when she immediately buries her face in my neck and wraps her legs around my waist.
Her warm breath teases my skin, but I focus on putting my hands in safe places, so as not to make this situation worse than it needs to be.
“You’re far too trusting,” I murmur as she finishes tightly winding herself around me.
“I’m clinging to a werewolf alpha the day after werewolves attacked me. All while adjusting to the fact werewolves are real...I’d say that’s an understatement,” she says against my neck, her lips innocently brushing the skin there.
I never let anyone so close to my throat. Maybe I’m the one who is far too trusting of the mysterious Portocale who has us all obsessed to an unhealthy level.
“I really do hate you, and your cobwebbed vagina,” the pest says, reminding me there’s a ghost still stalking our every move.
Moving quickly through the snow, I continue to ignore the damn pest, even as she drops to her knees right in front of my path.
“He’s got another boner! I think it’s bigger than last time. Ooo la la,” she adds.
Violet shakes her head against me as I pass through the ghost like I can’t see her at all.
“I just gave him a phantom blowjob. If I lick it first, that makes it mine!” she shouts from somewhere behind us.
I speed the hell up, and Violet’s arms tighten around my neck in response.
“Do you know who killed my mother?” she asks quietly.
“Not definitively. It’s speculated it’s the same ones who try to kill all the Portocale gypsies. Followers of the Forsaken.”
She goes stiff against me. It looks like I’ve finally said something that she does have knowledge of.
“Do you know how to find them?” she asks, hiding any emotion from her voice, her lips still far too close to my skin to carry on talking without distracting me.
“If I did, they’d already be dead. As I said, it’s important for the Portocale gypsies to all live.”
“So this unknown curse can be lifted,” she states dryly. “Though why that’s a thing…I may never really know, huh?”
“Shhh,” I say on a hushed breath, sensing Ian nearing. “That’s not something we discuss too loudly.”
“Why?” she asks on a tired sigh.
“Because the more people who know that secret, the more enemies a Portocale collects—our enemies become yours, and we have a hell of a lot more.”
She tenses just as a howl ignites the air, and I tip my head back, responding with my own howl. Violet startles in my arms, scrambling to get closer to me.
I guess she does have the ability to feel appropriate fear.
For whatever reason, I sense Ian coming closer instead of leaving, as I just commanded him to do by responding. The rest of his pack have turned back, but he’s still advancing. My brow furrows as I cant my head, sniffing the air, certain I have to be wrong.
“Please don’t tell me there are wolves surrounding us. I can’t have this day happen twice,” Violet murmurs against me.
“Only one wolf approaches. He must have something important to say. The car isn’t far from here, so—”
A sharp growl has me jerking my head to the right and narrowing my eyes at Ian’s wolf form, as he snarls at the Portocale in my arms.
Violet clings to me harder, burying her face that much more in my neck. “They’re yours, right?” she whispers, causing Ian’s growl to intensify and my eyes to narrow more on him.
What’s he playing at right now?
The gray wolf paces back and forth, growling and snarling, eyes staying fixed to the shivering girl in my arms.
“The car isn’t far. Walk there. No other wolves are in the area,” I assure her.
She clears her throat and slowly slides down my body.
“Oooh, Grandma is back!” Anna shouts as she lands next to Violet’s side.
“Tell me what to do so that I don’t provoke him before I walk away,” Violet says very quietly, her eyes down at the snow.
“Don’t make eye contact,” I say as I step in front of her, cutting off Ian’s view.
His eyes come up to meet mine, and I can tell his night is about to get really fucking bad, because he’s clearly lost his damn mind.
“My general rule in life,” Violet mutters before I hear snow crunching.
She walks away with her back turned, showing that foolish trust too much with that action.
I don’t have to see it to know what’s going on. My eyes stay trained on the idiot beta, who has apparently forgotten his place.
Ian shifts, bones snapping and cracking as his fur recedes. He stands as a man, anger etched on his face.
“She attacked your wolves just last night, brought a Van Helsing with her to do the dirty work, and you lob her onto our land today?” he bites out.
“It’s actually my land. You forget your place,” I say with just enough warning.
He takes a step toward me, eyes not lowering. “This is more our land than yours. We’re the pack. Your only role is to keep the other monsters in place so they don’t take cheap shots at us, but you’ve been failing in your role quite a lot in the past century or so, don’t you think, Alpha?” he asks, spitting the last word out like he’s forgotten how to respect the title.
A smirk dons my lips, and in the next instant, I’ve crossed the ten feet between us and am gripping his throat, all before he even realizes what I’ve done.
Slamming him against a tree, holding him only at his throat, I watch as the rebellious gleam in his eyes shows just a hint of trepidation. Ian has gotten ballsy, it seems.
All wolves need a reminder of their place from time to time.
“This is my land,” I say again.
He starts to speak, but my claws begin to extend, biting into his throat.
He wisely elects to remain silent instead.
“My wolves are on my land,” I go on. “I’ve done more for our people than you’ll ever understand.”
“Past tense,” he spits out with a venomous tone, eyes staying fixed to mine. “You used to do more for our people, but you’ve gotten weak.”
My gaze rakes over his face, seeing nothing but contempt, and wondering when the hell he got this stupid.
“Arion tore our people apart right under your nose, and all you did was give him a slap on the wrist,” he goes on. “Now this gypsy shows up, red cloak on as she hunts down our people’s spirits to strengthen her own, and you just brought her back. Even fucking cuddled her, you trai—”
My fist slams into his face twice before he can finish that sentence, and blood sprays as I drop him to the ground, his face slightly mangled but fixable.
“The next time you speak to me like that, it’ll be more than a little tough love, Ian,” I tell him as I turn my back, the gravest insult any alpha can give his beta, and walk away, trying to calm my own wolf before I tear him to shreds.
The last thing I need is my people fearing my sanity. Not right now. Things are too tense among my people, thanks greatly to Arion and his psychotic endeavors to always be right.
I can smell Ian’s retreat as I reach the car, and I huff out an angry breath when I realize Violet Portocale isn’t waiting there for me.
The snow is falling too fast, so there aren’t any immediate tracks. Sniffing the air, I take off in the direction where I smell my own scent mingling with hers, but stop.
There’s a patch of my jacket on the snow, and I frown, seeing a few more squares of fabric that have been torn off and dropped like breadcrumbs.
I follow those breadcrumbs to a dead end and sniff the air again, not finding the scent to go on farther, but weirdly find a lot of it in the other direction.
Turning, I jog in that direction, following a new trail of patches that do the same thing—lead me down a false path.
Then I catch a whiff of just her scent in a different direction, and I start running in a circle, smelling her but not seeing her, until I suddenly kneel in the snow, finding a few threads of her shirt and rolling them around between my fingers.
“Clever fucking stupid gypsy,” I mutter under my breath.
Her scent is scattered everywhere now, the wind picking up and blowing thin threads all around, along with pieces of my deconstructed jacket.
“You’re going to fucking freeze!” I call into the wind, cursing when no answer is returned.
“She said she can’t adjust this quickly,” the ghost says as she pops up at my side. “But she’s not as interesting as me, because I’m totally good with the whole violent wolf thing,” she adds cheerily.
Stalking to my car, I throw the door open and get in, revving the engine the second I crank it.
Anna joins me in the passenger seat as I spin the car around and start racing down the road, expecting to run up on the half-naked gypsy idiot who will be dead soon if she’s out in this shit with barely anything on.
She’s just mortal, and a daft one at that.
“I don’t mind the window-perving either. Feel free to watch me with your friends anytime you want,” Anna chatters on. “I do like riding in the front seat. Makes me feel more like your girlfriend.”
She reaches over and puts her hand through my crotch.
“I’d really like to show you what else girlfriends in the front seat do for their—”
Her words end on a scream, and she flies through the front windshield when I slam on my brakes and skid across the snow, barely sliding to a stop in front of Damien, as he stands in the middle of the road.
The ghost picks herself up from the ground, mutters something about monster drivers, and disappears.