THE STORY CONTINUES
Last time, Caleb and Titania investigated a military lab where they discovered some crucial information about Alice Martin and had a run-in with Clive Beeden. Biffington presented his proof of vampires to the Brindleton Bay Men’s Club, while Mortimer’s cooperation was secured at…gunpoint.
This chapter contains strong language, adult situations, violence, gore, sexual situations, depictions of grief, trauma, and severe depression.
Miko Ojo learned to knit from the Fates. Her aunts taught her everything about threading and binding the universes, looping around until things were “just so.” It seemed chaos to lesser beings. Even gods found it confusing. But if there was anything that Clotho, Atropos, Lachesis, and Miko agreed on, it was this:
The worlds were not chaos.
Oh, there were mistakes—stitches that might send the whole pattern careening. Fixing them wasn’t hard. You simply held the thread tight with the needle in your right hand, pulled back until—fwip!—you flipped the mistake to the other side.
But if your mistake was several rows down—
If you made a mess of things across patterns—
Then the work was harder.
Stitches would have to be unraveled.
And only the sharpest tool would do.
DEL SOL VALLEY
Penny examined her reflection, poking at her face, trying to see if there was something more wolf-like about her. Spoiler alert: there was nothing she could see, although the phone vibrating in her locker sounded like a growl. In fact, if she brushed her hand against the metal and compressed wood, she could pretend it was a rumbling in her chest and not her best friend calling.
Yes, it was shitty to avoid Alice, but what could she do? Their dynamic was all off. It was supposed to be “hot mess single mom” and “sharp-tongued best friend.” Phone calls were for Alice to bemoan some short-sighted emotional decision while Penny talked her down from the ledge. Alice was the dreamer, and Penny was practical. Alice followed her heart, and Penny followed the plan. And when all else failed, they had a bitchfest.
But now, Alice’s calls were full of plans—finally opening an art studio, getting Gwendolyn dance lessons, and paying off her debt. And this time, they were real because “New Boyfriend” was happy to bankroll whatever she wanted. He doted on Gwendolyn, took Alice to the library for dates, and cared about what got her off—which, come on. Was he some sort of saint? Penny was all for orgasms, but she and Anastasia didn’t sit around talking about their kinks like it was some sort of therapy session.
And Alice didn’t care that all the help she took from him was just giving him ammunition. To her, the admin of life was so painfully boring that she didn’t mind handing “New Boyfriend” the knife to stab her in the back, no matter what Penny advised. It was fucking ridiculous.
With an actual growl, Penny left the locker room and ran straight into an elderly woman with long silver hair whose scent screamed: “Werewolf!
“Are you Matilda?”
“That would be me.” She frowned, not bothering to hide her disappointment.
Penny introduced herself anyway, Pizzazzes didn’t let anyone know they were rattled. “So Anastasia told you about me?”
“She mentioned you were without a pack, and so far, you’ve made no progress in securing one.”
Something else for the list of things Penny didn’t know and Anastasia didn’t tell her. She tucked back a stray piece of hair, “I’ve been pretty busy. I’m a journalist. I ran into a wolf while chasing a story, and I’m sure you can guess what happened.”
“I’m aware of how often mortals provoke attacks, yes.” Matilda’s face tightened, “If you had taken up with werewolves rather than vampires, you’d have a better sense of these things.”
Heat flared in her chest unpleasantly. Penny knew she was fucking this werewolf thing up, but Matilda was rapidly confirming just how much.
“Membership is always open with my pack,” the werewolf continued, “It would take hard work, but we’d get you up to speed.”
Pizzazzes weren’t afraid of hard work. But Penny did worry about how long she’d spend at the bottom of the group. “Maybe we can start with the basics, and I can see about the pack later? I’m a fast learner.” She glanced around, trying to anticipate what they were about to do. “Are we doing some yoga or something before you tell me about my new diet and the full moon?”
“That depends,” the corner of Matilda’s mouth kicked up in a sneer, “Do you want to break out into a murderous rage and kill everyone you know?”
“What the fuck?” Penny stepped back, “No!”
“Then we train. Werewolves build up fury inside them—a rage we can’t control because it’s unnatural. To combat that, we have to wear ourselves out.”
As if summoned, Anastasia appeared at the bottom of the steps. “Careful, wolf. The holy mother of the occult would not take too kindly to your description of her supernatural gifts.”
Matilda gave Ana a look that Penny could not decipher—except to know that it was unfriendly as hell. “Wolves don’t take to your blasphemy, vampire. Have you come prepared to work?”
Ana popped a hand on her hip and flipped her hair. “Always. Shall we?”
I AM SO GLAD THIS IS BACK AGAIN EEEEEE < 3 It'll be fun to see how Penny gets on in a pack! But I also feel like she'll have her mother in the back of her mind *ten minutes in 'WHY AREN'T YOU ALPHA YET? YOU'RE SUCH A LETDOWN' Ohh and on top of that we have drama between Bella and Caleb…this'll be fun. Wondering what Penny's gonna be like in a pack…if she'll get knocked around by the others, or bite back, or be accepted, who knows?
I really like this outlook on vampires as not always being stronger when they're turned, and that without training they're really no better than a human. The pic with the dagger against her throat gave me a chill x_X TBH At least Anastasia is making more of an effort to understand Penny's emotions, it can be hard when you don't feel anything to pick up on how others are feeling and what to do. She's giving it a go at least, but I still get why Penny's stressed because it also gets annoying sometimes having to explain why you're annoyed about something someone's done. I feel like there was something shady about Deacon that got hinted at, but I can't remember what.
I love that Penny and Bella get to have a good old bitch about people together : P I can just hear the beat before that '…what?' XD Penny's face at the end of the page 3 is amazing. Admittedly my memory is hazy, but I remember there defo being times where I did think Bella wasn't a bad mum, she was just struggling to balance work/life. LMAO the link to that story…safe to say it's all I think about when I see Jacques Villareal anywhere now.
UGH NO BIFFINGTON STAY AWAY FROM THE MAGIC REALM! Welp, if they do capture Vlad…Honestly I'm not worried. He'd break all of them like they were cocktail sticks.
Hahaha welcome back!
I cannot make any promises about Penny and Matilda’s pack. But you are right, Penny can’t stop hearing her mom in her head berating her for failing.
Ana is trying, but yes, she and Penny are on two different wavelengths.
Oh you remember the hint about Deacon? Bella never got it. Why does she smell smoke even though the cops smoking outside are long gone? No reason! Everything is fine!
Yeah, you are hitting the nail on the head with Bella. Is she a bad mom? Just harried? A little of both. You know I like messiness so stay tuned 😈
Hahaha all Jacques are just versions of Manny’s genius creation!
I’m sure Biffington will 100% follow your advice 😈
Oooh, Miko again. Wasn’t she the reason that things went so incredibly bottoms-up last time around, too? I wonder how much of a hand she’s had in… yyyyyyyyep, I bet she’s got something to do with things this time around too. Maybe even the reason why this time around is this time around. Does that make sense? It probably doesn’t.
Hm. Do I detect some jealousy there, Penny? I hope it’s jealousy, because the alternative is that she only wants Alice as a hot mess, and that’s a whole ‘nother can of worms.
Ah, right. The other hot mess. Wow, Bella. So it’s fine for you to go behind Caleb’s (and Mortimer’s) back, but he cannot do the same to you. Oh, you were very much the cause of that drama, love. Don’t try to deny it. 😂
Ooooh Miko is a vampire too? Or did we know that already? If we did, I’d completely forgotten. Poor Candy seems to be in quite the predicament there…
Hm. On the one hand, having a partner that has no clue about social clues is really draining. But on the other, Penny’s emotional responses there seem to come from trauma, not from Ana. And she can’t expect Ana to be that good of a mind reader. Penny’s inferiority complex is not on Ana to tiptoe around; it’s on Penny to work through and rise above. But try telling that to her 😅
On second thought, Bella and Penny both need to get a good “I don’t need to prove myself” therapy session. On the double for Bella. With ice.
Wait, “get you some”?! No no no. Gah. No! Don’t encourage that! If she’s so unhappy with Mortimer, then she should break up with Mortimer! *flips table * Gah, that fell right into my angry lap, I’ll be back in five minutes.
Aaaaaand I’m good. Poor Mortimer. He’s stuck in a cell while all of this is going on, with Bella clueless and not caring either. She didn’t even flinch when she got the report that he’d injured himself. Just cares if she beats Mortimer on the preferred-scale of her kids. That’s her essence, isn’t it? She wants to be #1. Everyone else be damned.
Capturing Vlad, huh? That’s… they better liquidate a truckload of assets. And then some. 😂
Lol I love that everyone is like: yeah, kidnap Vlad. Good luck with that 😂 we shall see…
Everything you said about Miko makes perfect sense! When I decided to link the universe of The Strauds to BBD that’s one of the things I had in mind. Miko is not going anywhere and I hope by the time the Strauds are done, you’re satisfied (or horrified hehe). Miko is many things btw, as you’ll see—vampire, Fae…but the question is how?
“Because the alternative is that she only wants Alice as a hot mess” 😳ummmm no comment
But yeah, Penny is definitely struggling and you’re right, it’s her own trauma, even if she’s projecting it on Ana and she feels frustrated by being with someone who can’t just “read her.”
How can Bella be concerned about Mortimer? She’s dealing with her vampire lover! She doesn’t have time! Is she self-imploding? No comment!
(But like yeah, maybe start those divorce precedings first?)
Hahaha oh man, given your responses I can only advise you to strap in 😂