Chapter Two- Blood and Wine

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Arsen

If I was going to get a tattoo, what would it be?

I found myself thinking that often after the day I met Charlotte Acosta. I had never wanted a tattoo. I didn't particularly like them on girls either. Until I met her, that is. Something about the way she talked about them, the passion ringing clear in her voice, made me want to reconsider.

Her tattoos were like a map on her skin. A map of her history, detailing each place she'd been, each notable memory or event or passion. A map I wanted to follow from her collar bones down to her ankles, and everywhere in between.

Of course, that would never be possible. At least not now, while a war brewed in my world, one she wasn't a part of.

It didn't stop me from thinking about her. Her deep red hair, hazel eyes framed by too-big glasses, bowless lips, sharp nose, slightly uneven teeth, alluring smile, even more alluring scent...

I wondered if she knew. I wondered if she even had the vaguest of ideas that half her clientele weren't even human, or how she would react if I told her. I wondered what she had thought of me, and if she was excited to see me at Solstice. I wondered what she would wear, and if she would care if I pulled her aside at the party and...

I had to snap out of it.

After Aiden and I left the tattoo parlor, it had been a nonstop week of scouting the city and our territory, looking for any more signs of them.

The sorcerers.

They had discovered one of the last remaining Passes to Lycan, and wanted nothing more than to exploit our homeland for its inherent magical properties. We could stop them-- shifters of all sorts had strength and numbers to their advantage-- but not alone.

And that's where the challenge began and ended. The Volkovs, as we called ourselves to remain under the guise of a mafia family in the criminal world, were wolf shifters. And as insignificant as differences in shifter species should have seemed in the wake of the shifter homeland of Lycan being taken over by our long-time enemies, it was difficult to convince many of the other "families" of this fact.

That's what we were hoping to break past at Solstice. The species barrier. If we could all access each other's territories surrounding the Pass, then we could more adequately protect against sorcerer exploitation. We would all keep control of our various influences over the city, but theoretically, outside of the organized crime agenda, we could band together for the greater good of Lycan.

This was all just an idea, one that Kase, our pack's alpha of sorts and the boss of the Volkovs, fully subscribed to. The issue would be convincing the others that this was the best option. I knew from my own hesitation and distaste for it all how hard it would be. The preservation of Lycan should have been enough, but the distrust between species ran much deeper than that.

"Do you think we will convince them?" Adrian asked as we rode to Solstice. "I mean, the Nathairs are downright mean. Some of the others we may be able to logic with, but them..."

"They tend to strike out first, think later," I agreed, and rolled my neck. "It's going to be tough."

"It's going to be damn near impossible," Kase said from opposite us. He sat with his wife, Eva, and Adrian rested his arm around his own wife, Macy. Nathan and I were both unaccompanied in this limo. Six more for the Volkovs followed behind us, but we would be the group arriving first. Hopefully we would beat the Hayatos, but they were known to be quite fast...

"Who do you think we can convince tonight?" Eva asked, and I could tell by her tone that she was irritated with her husband's pessimism. She wanted badly to believe we could make this all work, but she was from the outside, and didn't quite understand how deep-rooted the rivalry between families was.

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