Chapter Thirteen

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Everyone in the room collectively sucked in a nervous breath. You could cut the tension in the air with a knife. Matteo looked like at any given moment he was going to spring across the table and strangle me to death in front of everyone, Amias and Fran just looked like they wanted to be anywhere other than here and Isabel, she was off in her own world entirely.

The snarky nature of my words was entirely lost on her, she offered me a bright smile as she eagerly nodded at me. "Precisely, Olive!" She leaned forward the table, looking at all of us with that same mischievous smile. "Except there's a small twist."

She swept up one of the bubbling pink drinks with a flourish and held it in front of us all, "This is called La Boisson de L'Ardeur, the drink of ardor and it has magical powers."

This time it wasn't me who wasn't having it, Fran snorted. "Magical powers?"

Isabel continued to nod, "What you all just drank is no ordinary beverage, it enables a person to be their most true self. Free of inhibitions and free of dishonesty, it allows for complete candor and empowers a person to embrace their emotions and feelings as is the Ardor way."

"You drugged us?" Amias exclaimed and immediately set his drink down onto the table.

She laughed, her voice coming out like delicate little bells. "But of course!"

My eyes rested on Matteo giving him an exasperated look, I couldn't believe he was so blasé about everything Isabel was doing. He stared back at me, daring me to open my mouth and say something but I quickly dropped my gaze.

"We are our best selves when we embrace our emotions, these Ardor nights help attune oneself to our ways of life." Isabel clarified as she herself took a sip from a cup that unlike ours, was not transparent.

"I don't like you." The words fell out of my mouth before I totally recognized what was happening but I couldn't stop myself. The thoughts had been pried from my subconscious and thrown out, that must be where the Fact or Fiction came into play.

I expected Isabel to lose her composure after my candid outburst but she just kept on smiling at me with that same creepy jovial attitude. "Looks like the fun is beginning."

I heard someone cough out that I was a lightweight but in the crowd of stiffs I found myself in, it was obvious the culprit was Amias. That and the fact that he was covering his face with his hands trying to stifle his laughter, it appeared that I wasn't the only one feeling the effects of the cocktail.

"I'll start." Isabel looked around our small group, "Matt,"

Big surprise there.

"Matt, fact or fiction?" She leaned forward, holding her head in her hands. As a result of her shift, Isabel's blonde hair moved away from her shoulders and displayed her neck where she sported a fresh looking bite mark. She was mated.

For the first time in our time here in Ardor, Matteo for a split second looked slightly uncomfortable. Welcome to my world. He rolled his shoulders and leaned away from the table, moving his eyes away from the juncture of her neck and shoulder. I took this strange moment of silence to down the rest of my drink, I was going to need every drop of this to get through tonight.

"Fiction." He ran his hand across his jaw before he too took another long sip from his drink but if it was affecting him at all he was doing a good job at hiding it.

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