“Heart wounds and head wounds usually result in unconsciousness instead of purposeful fainting,” I add.
“So how do the girls get their heads back on after the guy loosens the thread?” she asks curiously. “Or is that not a head wound?”
“Those are just one portion of the story. Shera is probably a vampire, based on what I’ve learned, yet I’ve her out during the day. She wasn’t in direct sunlight, but she wasn’t sizzling in the shadows either. Werewolves were out on a night other than the full moon.”
“You just lost me.”
“I’m saying the truth doesn’t have to identically match the myth. Only certain parts are stronger because of mind power or whatever.”
“Are you lucid?” she asks me with a dubious expression.
Ignoring her, I decide to stick to the simplest answer. “The ribbon girls from the stories could have had charms that sew them up when they sleep, like I do. Or someone else sews them up. Or, like me, they’ve trained the ribbons to work on their own.”
Her lips form an O.
“So that’s what your charms do.”
“Some of them. Believe it or not, I do have survival training. Just not the standard-issue kind,” I say as I turn my back and head toward the shower, leaving the door open for once so she can talk.
“Do you think they’re so fascinated because you’re a ribbon-girl monster?” she asks as I step under the spray of water.
“I think I’m the perfect storm,” I mutter as I tip my head back.
“Well, if you are a monster, maybe you should do what monsters do.”
“Make monster allies, study other monsters to learn their secrets, and have lots of sex.”
I groan for a second when she goes off on a tangent about my ignored needs, but then something she says sort of clicks.
I’m worried about hiding as they work twice as hard to pick me apart. What if I become boringly unoriginal, therefore lose their interest, while also making some allies? Winning situation all around.
It’d be stupid and dangerous if I could die, but that’s a nonissue for me. I’m allowed to take reckless chances.
So long as they don’t know my secrets, I have the secret upper hand.
“You should try the ribbon trick with Van Helsing, see if he’d be curious enough to break your rules and untie the ribbon from your neck. I’d bet he’d pass inspection,” Anna says, breaking back into my thoughts.
“Oh, Vance isn’t like that, so I have a better angle to work for him,” I tell her, bringing her into the middle of my thought process.
“Like what?” she asks like she’s confused.
“Vance is into guys,” I say as I shampoo my hair.
“What?” she shrieks. “Noooooo! He was still my top pick to use your vagina on when I snatch your body.”
“It makes sense, now that I think about it. He’s sort of obsessed with designer clothes and stuff. It’s not a common trait among heterosexual men,” I go on.
“Did he tell you for certain he’s into men?” she asks with a heavy huff of disappointment.
“No. A ghost who stalks him told me. It helped me realize the window-watching, at least on his part, really was sort of innocent. And I think it’d be smart to be friends with a monster killer who has an ironic urge to protect me, now that I know he’s not a creep staring through my window with his hand down his pants.”
“This is just terrible. Is this ghost you’re cheating on me with a reliable source of information? I met a pirate ghost in Jamaica, and I tell you, he really led me for a loop. Woke up in China with no clothes on and haven’t been the same since,” she informs me.
“That’s…so fucking ridiculously inaccurate,” I mutter under my breath.
“What?” she shouts.
I peek my head out of the curtain and give her an innocent smile, seeing her toeing the very edge of the salted room.
“He’s more reliable than most ghosts,” I say with a saccharine tone.
“I feel like you just insulted me,” she deadpans as I put my scheming gypsy brain to work.
I have an Ace up my sleeve. I just have to wait on him to return.
He’ll know what I need to do to form allies. Anna’s not wrong about needing that.
This is my life. Time to accept it.
“The Carmine girl from the gypsy herb shop is requesting to see you,” Collin says from the doorway, poking just his head inside my bedroom as I finish tying my towel around my waist.
“Violet Carmine?” I ask, confused.
That fucking blacksmith tattled and told her I’ve watched through the window as well. Accidental confession my ass. Now she’s here to berate me.
I find it all too easy that she’s at my home just two days later requesting an audience, so I decide to just wear the towel. Maybe she’ll feel like we’re even if she gets to look her fill.
“Send her in,” I tell him as I flip on the TV, pulling up the forest fire coverage that shows the newest wildfire is getting too damn close to my woods.
“Are wildfires part of your alpha duties?” a familiar, feminine voice asks, devoid of all the anticipated hostility.
My eyes dart to the door to see Violet standing there, a package of some sort tucked under her arm, and a gypsy’s smile on her lips.
I don’t like that look. What’s she up to?
“Anything close to my woods is part of my duties. But you really shouldn’t be running around and talking too much about the small amount of knowledge you’ve acquired. You’ve been told things Portocale gypsies are privy too, but that doesn’t mean just anyone knows these things.”
“How will I know what I’m allowed to know and what a Portocale knows?” she muses, her reasonable tone only causing me to use more caution.
Her ghost is marching back and forth behind her like she’s guarding her back. I have to pretend not to notice, but it grows increasingly difficult when the peculiar ghost starts running around the room and shouting.
“The ants! General, the ants are in my pants!”
Violet rolls her eyes and grinds her jaw. “Do you have any salt?” she asks me.
“I’ll stop, Gov’nah!” Anna shouts with a faux Southern accent. “Please don’t throw salt in my vagina again!”
For fuck’s sake… “I have an entire drawer full of salt if you need it,” I say with an annoyed smile. “Did you come out here to borrow salt? Most neighbors ask for sugar.”
Her lips twitch, and I find a certain uneasiness within me at her burst of notable confidence.
“No, she came to wax your giant dick,” Anna says from right beside me.
Fuck my life, now that image is in my head, and no Morrigan should be thinking of any Portocale that way. Especially not one as infuriatingly intriguing as this potential menace.
“Are werewolves also born? Or just scratched?” Violet asks me abruptly as she puts down the terrible looking quilted covering over the package she’s been holding.
“Which are you?” she asks as she takes an apple from the bowl next to my bed and starts eating it. “Pure blood?” she prompts when I don’t immediately answer.
Unnerved by the peculiar quilted thing on the table, I go to it, sniffing the air, and finding something that smells really damn good.
The scent guides me as I start unzipping the uneven zipper. What is this hideous, knitted creation?
“Did you make this?” I decide to ask, since she is a Portocale, after all.
“Portocale gypsies are usually known for their unparalleled seamstress abilities.” I wiggle the hellish nightmare of the horrid stitch job on the shit design.
“I’m aware,” she states dryly.
I pull out a tin can that is really warm and open it to some damn good smelling cookies in the shape of…bones. She’s got jokes, huh?
“However, Portocale gypsies aren’t usually known for their sense of humor,” I go on, unamused as I bite the dog biscuit that tastes like…something really orange and not at all like the cinnamon I was smelling.
My senses are extremely confused. Where’s the cinnamon? Is that on the knitted nightmare instead?
The cinnamon scent in the air almost feels like an illusion as it begins to fade, and the familiar scent of orange grows to replace it.
“I’m aware of that too,” she goes on.
I’m caught off guard when I actually like the surprise orange flavor, and I shove the rest of the cookie into my mouth before turning back around.
“Why the hell are you bringing me treats?” I ask around the next mouthful.
“Because she wants you to be a good dog,” the annoying ghost chirps, causing me to swallow the next mouthful and quickly wipe my lips free of crumbs.
My eyes flick to the curious gypsy in the room, as she absently eyes her pink nails. “I don’t know anything about monsters, and the alpha werewolf is the only werewolf I happen to know. Who better to fill me in on how I should or shouldn’t act in the presence of a werewolf in the future? But don’t ask me to tell people I’m a Portocale.”
“That’s Vance. He thinks the Portocale gypsies are safer when announced. More people pay attention to them, and it’s harder to get away with taking one down.”
She sits down on the couch as I mute the TV.
“I think you’re a fool for painting an unnecessary target on your back. Only alphas, such as Vance and I, truly know your blood,” I state, tossing in my two cents.
“How many alphas are there?” she asks as she clears her throat.
Deciding these are safe questions, I return my interest to the treats, feeling I deserve the rest as I pick the bowl up and move to the couch beside her.
“Better question. How did you know to bring me treats?”
“It was actually my idea,” Anna says as she purrs and moves onto my lap, sitting right on the cookies.
I have to lift the next one up through her crotch, and it’s awkward. I really wish I could salt her without the gypsy or her noticing it.
“Wolves and food. Seemed to make sense,” Violet answers with a coy smile. “It’s customary to bring a gift when stopping by unannounced.”
“Why couldn’t I have had gypsy friends when I was alive? All the pricks that stopped by unannounced to see me just wanted to take. Never give,” Anna sighs wistfully.
I swallow down the next cookie as she finally gets out of my lap and moves to lie down and…start swimming in the floor. I only notice from my peripheral.
“What do you know about yourself?” I ask Violet as I try to pretend it’s a casual question.
“That I’m the Portocale gypsy who sucks at making pretty things,” she deadpans.
“It’s because you’re a gypsy freak,” I tell her as I eat another cookie.