DEL SOL VALLEY
Penny kept at her training even though it was miserable and did nothing to reduce her fury. Anastasia had gone from scolding her for getting upset to trying to convince Penny to drop it altogether.
“You hate it, and it doesn’t seem to help. You’re already strong; there’s no reason to continue. We’ll find someone else.”
Honestly, Ana could have saved her a lot of headaches by just flat-out saying she was a failure as a werewolf.
Speaking of headaches, Penny had one constantly. It had grown worse as the full moon crept closer. Matilda was supposed to be giving her insight into being a wolf, but the only thing she’d discuss besides running the fury out was “fated mates.”
“It’s a soul-mate for our kind,” she said, “Your one, true werewolf love chosen by destiny. They will be suited to you and you to them. You haven’t spent much time with werewolves, but when you do, you’ll start to feel fate tugging you in the right direction.”
“You know I’m dating Anastasia, right?”
Matilda’s eyes narrowed. “That’s because you were a mortal who didn’t understand what she truly is.”
It wasn’t true, but Penny learned it was best to just play along. “And what’s that?”
“A blood-thirsty monster without feeling or heart. Ask her,” Matilda said, her smile barely reaching her eyes, “Ask her how she feels about anything. And then you’ll know.”
But Penny already knew the answer to that question. Anastasia Barrister didn’t feel fuck about shit.
When she got a text from Bella, it was a relief to leave the gym. Ana made a big deal about hunkering down for the full moon, but Matilda hadn’t mentioned it, merely telling Penny to work on her training and quell her rage. Penny didn’t know what to believe, but she knew she would scream if she spent another second thinking about being a wolf.
“Penny Pizzazz here, reporting for duty to solve someone else’s fucking problems!” The bar wasn’t super crowded, but a sign taped on the window announced it was “Bear Week.” Whatever that meant.
Bella laughed and waved Penny over. “I’ve got plenty of fucking problems, so take a seat.”
The bartender set down a Wutaheftabir, “She ordered for you.”
Penny took the glass gratefully. She was thirsty…actually insanely thirsty. Downing the drink in one gulp, she immediately ordered another. “Alright,” she said to Bella, “Lay it on me.”
“Are you okay? Are you sure you don’t want a glass of water?”
“I said, lay it on me!” Penny clenched her fist and willed the fury building in her to settle. “I’m fine, seriously. What’s going on?”
“Besides Bear Week?” Bella joked, gesturing at the man in costume sitting next to Penny.
“Yeah,” Penny snorted, “Besides this town and its weird fucking events.”
Whatever friction was between them melted. Bella launched into an explanation of her case. Most of it, Penny had heard before. She let the words wash over her until a name jolted her out of her reverie.
“—It wasn’t a lie exactly,” Bella said, “I’m pretty sure Salim killed Johnny, and Alice is the only reasonable culprit for Eliza’s murder. Still, my evidence is way more circumstantial than it should be and—”
“Salim. As in Salim Benali?” Penny jumped to her feet. She remembered reading about the case in the paper months ago, but after a bunch of hubbub, it all went quiet. Alice was long gone, and Penny was distracted, so she never mentioned it.
That’s not true.
Penny closed her eyes and tried to ignore the voice, but she couldn’t. She wasn’t distracted; she was doing that awful thing where she held onto a piece of information until it benefited her to deploy it. In this case: when Alice inevitably announced her engagement to that weirdo billionaire, and Penny needed to bring her back down to earth.
The voice was there, and it was loud. So loud that Penny admitted to herself that she was saving the information for when it hurt the most because that’s what Pizzazzes did, and she was so fucked up she couldn’t stop herself.
“Answer me!” she shouted, pointing angrily at Bella.
“Y-yes. I really shouldn’t have said anyone’s name,” her friend clambered off of her stool, “This is an active investigation.”
“Salim is a liar. And a cheat,” Penny bit out. Heat flared in her chest. “And the Alice you’re talking about, you mean Alice Martin?”
“I…yes?” Bella put her hand on Penny’s shoulder, but Penny shoved her back so hard she flew into the table behind her.
The bartender started over, but Bella put her hand up. “It’s fine,” she wheezed, “Just a misunderstanding.” She focused on Penny, “You need to calm down. I don’t know your relationship to either of these suspects, but—”
“Alice is not a suspect!” Penny roared, “She is my friend, and you don’t know what you’re talking about.”
“She fled the country,” Bella argued as she clutched her side.
“She took her daughter away from Salim, who still tries to control her by dangling child support and screaming at her. But you don’t know anything about that, do you? Because you never talked to her. You never asked.”
“Penny, please, I—”
But Penny didn’t hear her. She stormed out of the bar and dialed Alice. When the call when to voicemail, she left a frantic message, all while guilt was scouring her from the inside out.
She should have gotten Alice to break up with Salim.
She should have told her about the cheating back in college.
She should have said something about the articles.
A piercing pain split through her.
Werewolves build up fury inside them. A rage we can’t control because it’s unnatural. And to combat that, we have to wear ourselves out.
Stomach curling and heat licking at her bones, Penny took off on a run.