Damn it. I bet she knows exactly where the freezing gypsy is.
“What the fucking hell?” I ask him on a growl.
“Don’t play dumb. I smell her all over you,” he says with a sneer. “And I need to talk to that little gypsy.”
“Good luck finding her,” I tell him as I hold up threads from her shirt that I pocketed earlier.
His lips twitch. “She’s learned to use her Portocale seamstress talents in some rather unusual ways,” he says with a shrug of his shoulder. “This method is less impressive than the last.”
“What was the last?” I ask him absently, sniffing the air and still finding her scent scattered all around.
“She strung me up on the wall, and I couldn’t break a few simple threads to free myself,” he states, quickly bringing my attention back to him as my eyebrows bounce to my hairline.
“You’re being serious.”
“Dead serious,” he assures me as he lifts a thread of her shirt from the snow and easily tugs it in half, something even mortals would be capable of. “I’ve never seen the Portocale gypsies use their seamstress gifts as an offensive weapon. Violet Portocale may not know all our secrets, but we apparently know none of hers either.”
I stare at him for a minute before my jaw clenches. She opened a window to the past without much effort. That alone is attention-snaring.
“Where’s Vance?” I finally ask.
“Probably tracking these threads scattered throughout the land, same as you are,” he states idly as he pulls out his phone.
“Actually, I’m here,” comes Vance’s voice from behind Damien.
The gypsy’s threads have officially obstructed my senses, because he’s not that good at sneaking up on me.
“She locked us in Damien’s house with a simple potion,” Vance tells me, jaw grinding like his pride is hurt and he’s pissed about it.
I try not to smile. I really do.
But my unbidden smile slips quickly when I tell him what I just witnessed.
“She opened a window to the past in less than five minutes to search for her mother’s death in a spot that wasn’t her death spot. No ritual. No energy drawn from a stronger source. Just five-fucking minutes. As though it’s something she can casually do anytime she wants.”
“That’s impossible. You have to push yourself to the brink of death to open a window, and it needs heavy supervision or you could actually die, especially as a mortal,” Vance argues. “Why would you even let her attempt it?”
“I didn’t know she was going to do it so abruptly, which is why I was hurrying us along. I thought we’d be out there until at least nightfall, and I was prepared to link to her to let her see for herself Marta didn’t die on my land. And I didn’t say I understood it. But I did just witness it. I don’t think she even understands the magnitude of what she did, but I heard her heart slow for three short minutes until it was less than twenty beats per minute. It began beating normally after the two minute window into the past closed.”
It seems none of us really know what to say for a minute. Damien is finally the one to break the silence.
“I’ve forgotten how annoying it can be to not have all the answers.”
“Imagine how she feels right now,” is all Vance mutters in response as he turns and walks away.
“She should feel real damn proud of herself for leaving us all stuck out here with our thumbs up our asses,” Damien calls to his back.
A loud knock at my door has me groaning as I turn over in the bed.
“Breakfast!” a woman sings from the other side.
“She doesn’t want breakfast. She wants to hide from her life,” Anna tells the woman who can’t hear her.
“Go. Away,” I say over my shoulder.
“Are you okay, Ms. Carmine?” she asks as she knocks again.
“No. She’s terrified of sexy monsters because she doesn’t like stepping outside of her comfort zone,” Anna answers.
“Fine,” I snap.
I’d normally be nicer, but that Do Not Disturb sign has been getting ignored for the past three days, because that woman knocks breakfast, lunch, dinner, and sometimes in between—just to check in.
“You should have chosen a hotel instead of a Bed and Breakfast if you don’t want fairies tinkling in your coffee cup,” Anna goes on, her attention riveted to the TV as she watches American Werewolf.
“Maybe if she knew you only had a bra and panties to wear out in public, she’d leave you alone,” Anna adds on a drawl. “That stolen toga you wore in should suffice, though.”
The curtains start unraveling, the threads quickly dropping into a heap, and light spills inside the room, causing me to squint. When the threads start forming a very floral jumpsuit, Anna scoffs.
“Just because you can make clothes out of curtains without getting out of bed doesn’t make you interesting. You lack the wow factor I have in spades,” she states, jutting out her chin.
The zipper and zipper tracks unravel from the cushion of the sofa, and it pops onto the new one-piece, hideous jumpsuit that will have to do, because the bedding here is too thin. And the comforter is…even more hideous with little kittens on it.
The stolen toga is one of those thin sheets I snatched from a basket near the window when I walked in.
“My ancestors once made robes and gowns for royalty. Does that make me more interesting?” I ask Anna, happy for the distraction.
“No. That simply makes them marginally more interesting. I bet they’d be proud their descendant is a gypsy drug dealer,” she states dryly.
“Stop calling me that,” I groan.
“Stop being that and I will. And stop selling polka dot pajamas on the side. Polka dots haven’t been cool since the early nineteen-hundreds when I was commanding the British army.”
I pull a pillow over my head as she begins to devolve into a spiral of absurd lies.
“We should sell rainbows instead of gold. The gold should be a prize at the end of the rainbow,” she resumes.
“The leprechauns beat you to that already,” I grumble from under the pillow, just as there’s another knock at the door.
“Go away,” Anna and I both say.
The knocking grows more insistent, because Ms. Bleaker, the owner of this particular B&B, is very persistent about getting me to eat, even when she has to hand-deliver the food.
Making a frustrated sound, I stand up, pull on the new hideous jumpsuit, and yank open the door, expecting to find the short little woman with a huge bun on her head.
Instead, all I catch a glimpse of are two dark figures, the glint of a blade as the sun catches it, and solid black eyes, before I’m gasping for air and stumbling back into my room.
I see blood.
Where did the blood come from?
I hear screaming.
Why is Anna screaming?
The figures clad in all black barely enter my dimming vision when I collapse to the floor, feeling a burning in my throat as the disorienting dizziness overwhelms me.
My hand weakly comes up, feeling the gash across my neck, and I squeeze, trying to stop the blood from pouring out as my vision grows dimmer.
“They should have mentioned how good her blood smells,” I hear a man saying around a groan.
In the very next instant, I see him blasting through the wall as Anna charges him. So many pretty dots dance in my vision as she shouts at them, and the second one goes flying out the window.
Pain explodes in my chest, and my head falls downward, seeing the knife sticking through me, causing my heart to stutter in its rapid beats that are echoing in my ears as I try to piece together the scattered scene going on around me.
“You have to fight, Violet!” Anna shouts. “I can’t take on the entire army without my captain! Release the kraken!”
It’s the last thing I hear before it all fades to black.
“It’s better to die than to fight. When people think you’re dead, you don’t have to fight so hard,” Mom tells me as she ties on her cloak.
“But if I fight with you, maybe we won’t ever have to fight again. You can train me. Teach me to be as good as you,” I tell her as I chase her through the house.
“You’re too gentle for the world of fighters, Violet,” she says quietly without looking at me.
“Right now, I’m sick of sitting here and worrying about you, when I could be at your side.”
“I work better alone,” she scoffs. “Besides, the more badass you are, the more people want to take you down a notch. We only need one warrior in the family. We also need one secret weapon.”
“How am I a weapon if I can’t even defend myself?”
She turns, her eyes staring directly into mine with more seriousness than she usually reveals to me.
“Because you’re the perfect storm, Violet.”
“That makes no sense.”
She smiles sadly as she gently brushes my hair out of my face. “Let’s try not to draw attention to the perfect storm. People want to kill the things that are different, or they want to use them to their advantage. Trust me, Violet. In all things, trust me. And always wake up.”
“Always wake up?” I ask her incredulously as she hands me two bracelets, two anklets, and a necklace, all of them adorning the same charms on them.
“Yes. First you fall asleep,” she says as I start pulling them on. “But always. Wake. Up!”
Startling awake, the first thing I hear is Anna chattering, and I barely peek open an eye in the really dark room to see her outline as she rocks back and forth.
“I tried to possess them. I almost succeeded on one. I think. He flicked salt over his shoulder like he knew what was going on. Why does everyone carry salt?” she’s rambling.
My lips won’t part to make a sound, and my throat aches as the feel of satin tickles against my neck, a ribbon stirring into place. Looks like I got a chance to do step one of the survival lessons my mother instilled in me long ago.
It’s sort of odd in the sense that step-one is to let the enemy kill me. Generally speaking, that’s the very thing most people’s survival plans try to avoid.
I’m not all that special. I just simply can’t seem to die.
My super power is actually fainting on command so that I can wake up when I want to, instead of dealing with the searing pain of feeling my “fatal” wounds being sewn back together.
Enduring the pain, I lie still, listening, allowing my head time to stop spinning from all the blood I lost. Apparently I went unconscious before I could purposely faint.
Step two is to return the favor, because obviously they’ll never see it coming. But I can’t risk making any noise until Anna stops spinning inside this room we’re in. Or is the room spinning around her?
“I’m going to rip their eyeballs out just as soon as I trust what’s going on around me so I don’t muck it up this time too,” Anna rattles on, a catch in her voice that causes me to roll my eyes. “Such a waste of a good vagina.”