Ember's Curse (Prime Wolf), p.2Gena D. Lutz
"Did Tommy agree to this?" I asked.
"It took some doing, but after years of begging him to get rid of you, he finally listened. So yes. To answer your question, he knows."
So Tommy was behind this ridiculous idea as well. Great. I had to figure out how to get myself out of this. There was no way in hell I was going to chain myself to some domineering Alpha wolf. But first, I had to get away from this woman before I lost my cool. The idea of spilling some blood all over her silk designer dress was becoming all too tempting. I was about to open my mouth to make an excuse to leave when she lifted a round black disc about two inches wide and pushed the silver button on it. Ten seconds later, a black sedan crept towards us down the alley. Its headlights blinded me as it pulled up behind Sylvia.
"We are throwing a small party at the pack house tomorrow night. The announcement of your engagement will be made then." Her light brown eyes traveled slowly over my ripped leather pants and half tucked in Care Bears T-shirt that read "Love-a-lot" before she said, "And for Christ’s sake Ember, could you at least make a small effort with your appearance? We did tell your intended that you are somewhat tolerable to look at. I know it's a stretch, but do your best."
Sylvia stepped around her tall, well-muscled chauffeur who was holding the door open and disappeared into the car. As quickly as she appeared, she was gone. I stood there for a few more minutes, stunned. It felt like I had just been run over by the bitch train. There was no way in hell that I was going to give up on finding my heartmate.
I grabbed the hem of my shirt and pulled it out so I could look at the little bear on it. "Don't listen to that heifer. You’re cute as a button."
I thought back to the person I was a hundred years or so ago, when at fifty years young, I was still considered a cub. Daydreams of the wolf that my elders assured would someday unleash my stunted passions, took up most of my waking minutes. I couldn't help but feel a bit jealous of the males of our pack. It was so easy for them in comparison to us females. They received a boost of extra abilities from the vampire blood that was transferred to them down our ancestral line, just as we did. Some of them inherited more than others, but not one of them had been struck with the downside of the curse. They could develop feelings and love with whomever they chose. The plague of never knowing if they'd experience the proverbial butterflies, or sweaty palms, in the presence of the one person they currently yearned or lusted for, was reserved just for us women. My bitterness over the unfairness of it had lessened over the years and I'd come to learn and adapt to this damnable curse. Regardless of its seeming futility, not once did I ever give up hope that I'd find him, and I never would.
Have you ever felt like you were dreaming even though you were wide awake, walking around, completely disconnected from everything and everyone around you? That's how I felt walking back into Haven.
"Here's your cut for the night," Nathan said, pushing a stack of tens and twenties at me. "We made $350 each. Not too shabby considering the entertainment up and left the stage in the middle of his act. It cleared the place out."
"So Robby scampered off, did he? That's too bad," I said, sitting down next to him, "I was looking forward to taking a bite out of his ass."
"I'm going to assume there’s something you haven't told me."
I nodded then laid my head in my arms. I had them crossed on top of the bar; they made a great replacement pillow.
"Robby rolled my mind tonight, and the dickhead had the nerve to dress me in a damn string bikini while he was at it. The bottoms were nothing but butt floss," I groaned.
Nathan blinked at me and stared. I waited a few seconds for him to digest what I had just told him. It was highly illegal for any supernatural beings to use their powers against another living being. If I were to register a complaint to the Adelphi, the organization that policed our community of ’others’, he could be either jailed, or depending on the extent of the crime, terminated for his indiscretions.
"That vampire weasel," he said, finding his voice. He looked over me with a critical eye and stopped cold when he noticed the tear and blood stain in my jeans. "Did he do that to you?" Nathan growled.
I shook my head. "Nope. That happened when my body was on autopilot, during my scuffle with the two werewolves from earlier. I'm pretty sure one of them stabbed me with a silver knife."
I slid my hand over my now smooth skin. It had taken long enough, but my body had kicked into gear and healed the nasty wound.
"Did you kill them?" he asked expectantly, his face turning an odd shade of red.
"It would have served them right if I had." I sat back up. "It's getting late. You ready to get out of here?"
He picked up the cash and shoved it into my hand. Before letting go of it he said, "You earned every penny of this. If you hadn't dealt with those wolves tonight I would've had to."
Nathan pulled his hand back and walked behind the bar to grab his jacket. He picked up my sweater and purse while he was at it and tossed them both at me.
"Let's get out of here and grab some food before your growling stomach drives me crazy."
"Fine. I give," I said, cramming the wad of bills into my purse. "Let me just lock the place up. Can you drop the cash in the safe for me?"
Nathan grabbed tonight’s take and the receipts. He folded everything together then zipped it up in a bank bag. "Sure, I'll be back in second."
The phone rang as soon as I flipped the final light switch. Nathan had already returned from making the drop and was waiting for me by the door. His fingers paused mid stroke over the alarm pad. "Are you going to answer that?" he asked.
My stomach growled again reminding me that I was torturing my poor body with starvation, and I rubbed it to try to settle it down. "I might as well," I said. It was probably just some fed up wife looking for her drunken husband.
"Ember, is that you?" came the loud angry voice on the other end of the line.
"Yes Tommy, it's me. Is everything okay?"
"Is everything okay? Is that what you asked me?" Uh oh...here it goes. The shit was about to hit the fan.
"No you little twit, everything is not okay," he growled.
"So I take it Sylvia got to you?" I said, purposefully leaving out the fight. I didn't want to slip up and say too much, tying my own noose.
"I just got off the phone with the Alpha of the Redwoods. He claims that you attacked his wolves in my club tonight...said you almost killed his Beta?"
The phone went silent for a few seconds. I didn't know if he was expecting an answer from me or if he was just trying to calm himself down. "What do you have to say to these charges?"
The fact that he chose to use the word "charges" was really bad for me. The last time that happened was after the gilding incident last year and my punishment for that was severe.
"You don't understand Tommy. If we keep letting that pack walk all over us we could lose our top position in Astoria," I said, trying to appeal to his vanity. "That means losing the bar and our homes. We will be run out of our territory."
I could hear glass shattering and unknown objects crashing on the other end of the line. I just might have pushed Tommy too far this time. When the noise in the background subsided and he came back on, he was out of breath and his voice rumbled over the line.
"Never question the way I decide to run my pack, Ember." I cringed at the ferocity in his voice. "As you have already been instructed, you are to be at the pack house tomorrow night no later than eight."
"Yes, Alpha," I immediately replied.
"Good. One more thing. If I hear of anymore disputes between you and the Redwoods, I will personally deliver you to them tied up in a pretty little bow, and they can punish you however they please." And with that, the line went dead.
"Who was that, Ember?" Nathan asked.
"It was just a wrong number," I said, not wanting to worry or burden him with any of my problems. "Let's get out of here and eat."
"I know you're full o
I socked him in the gut as I walked passed him and out into the cold night air. "Fuck off," I said.
"You wish," he chuckled.
The bright neon lights are the first thing a person usually notices when they walk into The Venus Café. The second thing would probably be the extensive collection of alien and UFO paraphernalia that covered the walls and littered the countertops. The three-foot green alien statue, by the register, holding a hamburger was my favorite decoration by far.
Roxanne, the restaurant’s owner, is a huge believer in the existence of "other life forms." She will even swear on a Bible that a few years back the same said creatures had abducted her. I didn't know what to make of her or her claims. She seemed nice enough to me, and to be fair, I had to give her beliefs some credence. After all, I was proof that humans weren't the only humanoid life forms on earth. So why couldn't there be some on another planet? But enough about that. I was starving and couldn't wait a minute longer to stuff my face with just about anything edible at this point.
I followed Nathan over to our usual table. The half-circle booth sat in the back and out of the way of most of the café’s foot traffic. Harper was already there patiently waiting for me to arrive. She always met me here after my weekend shifts. I hopped in next to her with a quick smile of hello and a "thanks," and proceeded to make short work of the Cosmic Burger and fries she had considerately ordered for us in advance.
"Wait a minute," I said while wiping ketchup off my mouth. "How did you know to order three burgers? Nathan didn't decide to join us until right before I left to meet you."
Harper took a drink of her soda. The tips of her blonde bangs skimmed the edge of the glass, and after a few pulls off her straw, she set the cup down and focused her bright green eyes on me.
"The bar is across the street, Ember. I can hear everything that goes on over there." She pointed at herself and said, "Remember me? Vampire...extraordinary hearing and stuff?"
I looked around the room to see if anyone was close enough to overhear what she had just said. Other than one vampire who sat alone minding his own business way on the other side of the café, we were in the clear.
"Keep it down. Someone will hear you."
Nathan was pretty much oblivious to our conversation. His burger sat cold and untouched as his eyes followed Roxanne around while she diligently went about her duties taking orders and cleaning up dirty tables.
"Isn't she the most exquisite creature you have ever seen?" he said, practically drooling over Roxanne. She wore a knee length dress with a black apron that she kept her money and order book in. She always seemed frazzled and in a rush. Now that I was taking a really good look at her, she was actually a very attractive lady. She wasn't as skinny as the women that usually tried to hang all over him. It worked for her, making her body more curvy and feminine in a Marilyn Monroe sort of way. She even had wavy, light blonde hair, like the world’s most famous bombshell did. Judging from the look on Nathan's face, whoever she resembled, she was just his type.
"Every time we come here it's the same thing with you. Why don't you grow a pair and go over and talk to her?" I asked.
"I've tried. She doesn't seem that interested."
"Well you’re about to get another crack at it. She’s heading this way." Harper informed him with an evil grin.
I swear, that she-devil lived to witness other people's torment. I loved that about her.
Nathan's head whipped around and he shoved almost half of his burger in his mouth. After a few chews, he said around a mouthful of meat, "Help."
"I wish there was help out there for you," I joked.
Nathan rolled his eyes and swallowed. "You're not funny."
"I think she's a riot," Harper teased.
"Is everyone doing okay over here?"
Nathan turned around with a nonchalant look. He was going for casual but he ended up looking like he had gas instead.
"Hi, Roxy...we’re fine," he said through a goofy smile.
Roxanne crossed her arms then uncrossed them switching from one foot to the other. The shifting of her posture was slight, but as a werewolf it was in my nature to read a person’s body language for any signs of aggression or submission. She wasn't showing either of them. She was nervous. Speaking of nervous, I thought. Nathan was about to drop the ball.
"Nathan was just telling us how much he liked the color of your hair ribbon. Blue happens to be his favorite color."
Roxanne gently touched the ribbon wrapped around her light curls. Her hair was loose, but it kept her bangs neatly tucked out of her face. She looked down and then spoke, "It's my favorite as well."
"See there," Harper said smacking Nathan on the back. "You two already have something in common."
"Um, that's uh...wow. Thanks for that Harper," Nathan said while kicking me under the table.
I suppressed a laugh and stuffed a ketchup-drenched fry into my mouth.
"I can bring you guys some refills if you're ready," she offered us, looking everywhere but at Nathan. "They're free."
"I’m good thanks," Nathan said, shifting his doe eyes on her. “If I’m not being too forward,” he began nervously. “Would you like to have a cup of coffee with me after your shift?”
Her quick intake of breath wouldn't have been noticed if I wasn't already paying attention to the bashful couple and their attempts to mask just how into each other they really were. I was also pleasantly surprised that Nathan had finally made a definitive move.
Roxanne reddened and her hand fluttered to her chest. Before she could answer him, she turned at the sound of a customer incessantly dinging the bell at the counter. The douchebag waved for her attention, scowling and huffing. Nathan shot a heated look the guy’s way and let out a low warning growl.
"Nathan," I hissed under my breath. "Control yourself."
He calmed himself down with some reluctance. I didn't know how to react to his display. Nathan was usually a very calm tempered wolf. He was acting like he and Roxanne were a mated pair already, which was impossible; a wolf can't mate with a human. They could date, fool around, but mating was definitely out of the question.
Roxanne turned back to us and with a regretful frown, set down our ticket. "I'm busy tonight," she said averting her eyes. "Maybe some other time."
Nathan watched her walk away. He shook his head and threw a few bills on the table. "I'll never figure you women out."
"Yeah, us women are a mystery," I said, taking a sip of my coke.
"Well at least that one is."
“It’s been real as always but it's time for me to jet," Harper said, sneaking a quick look at her cell phone. "The sun will be up soon and I have a couple stops to make before I go home.”
I knew exactly what she was referring to when she said she had a 'stop to make'. Twice a month she sashayed herself over to the blood bank on the corner of Central and Oak, one block over from our apartment, to visit one of her carefully selected boyfriends. I can only speculate what happens there, but she usually arrives home with a box full of O-negative, and a goofy smile on her face.
"See ya later. Oh, and tell your blood boy hi for me," I said with a little wink.
Harper threw a twenty on the table, hugged us both and whispered in my ear. "I overheard the phone conversation between you and your Alpha," she said, pulling me in even closer. I could smell her lavender perfume and her hair tickled my nose. "I know I promised not to drink that little punk like a juice box, but if he keeps treating you like this... I won't be responsible for my actions." She pecked me on the forehead and squeezed my shoulder. "See you at home, Roomie."
I pulled my 1990 green 5.0 Mustang convertible up to the curb. I parked right in front of the two-story apartment building that me and a few of my pack mates have called home for the last few years. The tall, brick building had a grey slate roof and quaint w
I strolled up the sidewalk and stopped in front of a large, blue paneled door. The wind rustled the leaves of the large oak tree that took up most of the front yard. It was the largest of three trees I had planted years ago to bring a little bit of nature to the urban setting.
I fished through my keys while I enjoyed the smell of the cool night. When I entered the home’s common area, I froze. The oval mahogany table that sat dead center in the foyer was in pieces, and glass from the crystal vase that was a gift from Tommy's late mother, was shattered all over the hardwood floor. I immediately went on alert. I had to take a few calming breaths before I made my way into the great room, making sure to keep my eyes and ears- hell, even my nose- open for any signs of danger. The room was dark when I entered it but that wasn't unusual for this early in the morning. You would rarely catch us werewolves getting up any earlier than we had to. We loved our rest.
I left the light off so as not to attract attention from any possible danger and proceeded to scour the entire first floor. After I was satisfied that the area was clear, I headed back in the direction of the front door.
The steps slightly creaked as I climbed the stairs that led to the large home's private apartments. We all shared the lower level to ease the call of our pack mentality, but the upper levels were separated. That was how I got away with having a vampire for a roommate.
My heart was beating frantically and I held tight to the banister's smooth wooden railing. Something was terribly wrong; I could feel it. The closer I got to the landing, the more my overwhelming sense of unease increased.
When I reached the top, the bittersweet smell of copper filled my nostrils. I looked down at the hall floor that separated the apartments and had to cover my nose and mouth to keep myself from vomiting. Blood...pools of blood covered the floor in a sea of glassy blackness. The doors to all four apartments where either slightly ajar or wide open, except for one. I stared at the closed door like it was going to jump at me. "Harper," I whispered. Unbidden, my legs began to move across the slippery floor. I felt like a puppet being pulled by tethered strings towards that closed door even though I was petrified at what I might find behind it. My hand wrapped around the knob and I twisted. It was unlocked. I pushed it open and immediately dropped at the sound of a gun being cocked.
Ember's Curse (Prime Wolf) by Gena D. Lutz / History & Fiction have rating 4 out of 5 / Based on32 votes