Chapter 12: Hope for the Best, But...

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"Look, this stuff just isn't going to work," I said for the millionth time.

Maybe only the fifth or sixth time. But still. Ian and Matthew were both leveling identical glowers at me, their brows furrowed and their arms crossed over their broad chests. I turned a laugh into a cough, and they frowned in unison. I choked down another laugh and leaned back against the kitchen table of the pack house, taking a load off, since it looked like we'd be here arguing for a bit. My ass ached, and the boots I'd found in the pack house's hall closet to cover my stolen super-socks didn't fit quite right.

I was finally caffeinated, though. Ian and I had slept all night tangled up in each other's arms, and he'd slipped out of bed at the crack of dawn, taken a shower, and set a hot cup of coffee down beside the bed without comment a few minutes later. I might have mumbled a thank-you, but...maybe not. Shit. Who was the asshole now? I wasn't much of a morning person, but still.

Probably too late at this point, after we'd already gotten a call from Matthew about setting the territory wards, hiked over to the pack house in awkward silence, and rummaged through the pantry.

"I need rock salt. Lots of it. You have what, thirty miles of territory perimeter to cover? I already calculated how many warding sites I'll need to set, allowing for working around obstacles, and it'll be at least twenty. Maybe as many as twenty-five. Does this," and I held up the little cardboard can with the yellow umbrella girl on it they'd offered me because they were idiots, "appear to be approximately twenty pounds? Didn't think so. I also need fresh rosemary, not that dried crap you have in that jar that's been in the cabinet for a billion years. And other things, too, not to mention --"

"You'll just need to make do --"

"Not to mention!" I shouted over Ian's interruption, and stared him down. "Not to mention," I went on after he'd subsided into peevish silence, "I need some of my own stuff. My laptop. Clothes." I waved my arms around a little, the too-long sleeves of Ian's borrowed sweatshirt trailing like pennants. "I need to head into town for a couple of hours."

"It's not safe," Ian said, at the same time as Matthew said, "I don't think that's such a great idea."

I let them start to smirk, thinking they'd won. "Yeah? And who the fuck said I was asking your permission?" Both their mouths opened, and Ian let out a low growl, and -- fuck it. I pulled on my reservoir of magic, nicely topped up after a night of wild sex and a whole pot of coffee, and put up my right hand. I had to quickly tug the sweatshirt sleeve up over my wrist, which yeah, sort of ruined the smoothness of it, but the crackles of blue lightning that shot out of my fingers and dissipated in wreaths of smoke in the center of the kitchen made up for it.

They both rocked back on their heels and then went utterly still. I knew how impressive it looked. Honestly, if that lightning had hit either of them, it wouldn't have done jack shit; it would've been about half of the shock of sticking a fork in an outlet, a big nothing-burger to an alpha werewolf.

But it really did make me look like a younger, more moisturized Emperor Palpatine, and I kind of loved it.

"Guys. Listen to me. I'm not your prisoner, and I'm not a fucking child, and if I want to go to my own apartment and get my laptop, and go to the grocery store, I will. I was weak as hell when I turned up, too weak to argue, but I'm not now. And you want wards. Which means I need to go into town. So don't try to stop me."

It was a great speech, I thought, and I certainly had their full attention. I was on a roll! Kicking alpha ass and taking names.

Until they exchanged a look, the kind you can only have between siblings or people who know each other so damn well they don't even need to say a word. I bit my lip and stood my ground, even though I could already feel control of the conversation being yanked away.

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