22 of March, 2021 – 3:46 PM
I was only half-listening as I escorted Cari and Helena across the street. My phone buzzed in my pocket, and I pulled it out and saw I had three messages from Whitney. Great. She’s probably gonna tear my ass a new one for leaving her with Zan.
The girls idled the second we hit the sidewalk outside the café, and I took advantage of their deep conversation to check my messages.
(Sent at 3:41 PM) whitneyshepard: You ok? Whats going on? (Sent at 3:43 PM) whitneyshepard: Why are you with those witches??? (Sent at 3:46 PM) whitneyshepard: JETT WHY TF ARE YOU NOT ANSWERING??????
Oops. I tapped away at the screen, penning a swift reply.
(Sent at 3:47 PM) jettsondanvers: Sorry, helping some friends. Go home w.o me.
Whit responded immediately.
(Sent at 3:47 PM) whitneyshepard: Can’t. (Sent at 3:47 PM) whitneyshepard: Zan says we have to wait for u.
I blinked. He’s making the pack wait for me? Why?
“Um, so, my sister is in there waiting for us,” Cari picked out her sister from the crowd and pointed in her direction.
Then we locked eyes briefly, and I couldn’t hear a word she said afterward. There wasn’t anything special about her eyes–they were brown, the same as mine–but they were the same shade and depth that I hadn’t seen in years. Like warm, dark chocolate, big and innocent-looking.
She reminds me so much of you.
“Uh, Jett?” she frowned, a tiny wrinkle forming above the bridge of her nose. “Did you hear me?”
“Uh, nah, sorry.” I rubbed the back of my neck, feeling warm and uncomfortable. “But I gotta go, my pack’s waiting for me.”
“Okay,” she smiled and waved. “Thanks again for earlier. See you tonight, maybe.”
I nodded to both witches and backed away, heading back toward the school. “Right, maybe.”
“He’s kind of weird,” I admitted out loud as I watched Jett turn around and jog across the street. Then I looked at Helena. “Don’t you think so?”
She shrugged. “I dunno. He seems nice enough.”
“Why’d you go to him for help, anyway?” I asked, leading her into the busy cafe.
“Gunnar and Lilly already left, and I couldn’t find any of our people around.”
I scoffed. “Like they’d help me.”
Helena didn’t say anything in their defense, leaving me to imagine Wihnhilda leading the rest of the coven to watch me as Dane…
I shuddered. What would have happened if Helena hadn’t asked Jett for help?
“Anyway, thanks for your help back there,” I sighed, glancing around for my sister. “I can ask Val to give you a ride since you missed your bus.”
“Thanks!” she beamed. “Uhm, where is Val?”
We scanned the crowd, searching for my sister’s short black hair. When I finally found her, she was nestled in a booth toward the rear of the café, seated shoulder to shoulder with a woman I didn’t recognize. They were completely engrossed in their conversation, as if they were the only two people in the world, and both of them wore the biggest smiles on their faces.
Helena and I shared wide-eyed, knowing glances. Who’s that?
We stealthily approached the booth, easing through the crowd. Val’s friend caught sight of us when there was still a table between us and them, and she whispered something to Val before both women straightened in their seats and turned to greet us.
“Hey, girls!” Val greeted us, her cheeks flushed. “How was school?”
“Uh…” Helena and I shared a concerned look. Should I tell her about what just happened? What if Jett gets in trouble over it? “School was fine. How was your job hunt?”
“It was great!” Val gushed. “I’m going to work at a nightclub!”
I frowned. “I thought you were supposed to get a day job.”
“So you… Got a night job?”
“When you already have a night job?” I pointed out.
“I’d much rather be nocturnal,” my sister reasoned. “Besides, it’s not like anyone will notice I’m in another dimension if I enter before midnight and return shortly after. It’ll be as if I never left!”
“You’re not making a good case for yourself,” the other woman shook her head, sending her pastel purple curls bouncing. She waved half-heartedly at us. “Hi, I’m Abrielle, I’m a bartender at The Cat’s Eye and we’re looking for a waitress. It’s easy and pays well, and there’s a L.O.R.E.-approved mirror in the basement for easy access to your school. She’ll work the same shift as me, so I can cover for her for up to half an hour.”
I shot Val an annoyed look. “See, why can’t you explain things like that? That sounds way better than everything you said.”
Val scoffed as Abrielle leaned over and smugly whispered, “You’re welcome.”
“And it’s nice to meet you, Abrielle,” I waved shyly. “I’m Cari, and this is my friend Helena.”
“It’s nice to meet you as well,” she nodded. Her eyes were a deep mahogany, so brown they almost appeared red. There’s no way she’s a normal mortal, I debated internally. Right? I mean she knows about L.O.R.E. portals. Is she a Fury? A hellhound? What kind of creature has eyes like that?
“Oh, Helena! Did you miss your bus?” Val gasped. “Do you need a ride home?”
“Yes, please,” Helena simpered. “If that’s okay?”
“Of course! But you should let your dad know that you missed your bus, just in case.”
“Well, I guess I’ll see you girls around,” Abrielle began as they scooted out of their booth. Once she was standing upright, I noticed that she stood a few inches shorter than Val. Abrielle took Val’s hand in hers, gave it an affectionate squeeze, and leaned up on her tip-toes to land a swift peck on her cheek. “And I’ll see you tonight, Valoree.”
I swear, Val turned the shade of bricks. “O-okay. See you then.”
We waved goodbye to Abrielle and followed Val out of the café to her silver Tesla, which was less parallel to the sidewalk and more crooked. I considered making a joke about her parking as Helena and I climbed into the backseat when my sister cleared her throat.
“Oh, uhm… Not a word to Clarence about Abrielle. Okay?”
I shrugged. “I mean, fine, but I think she was nice. Nanny’d probably like her.”
Val pulled out of her parking spot and onto the street, driving away from the café and the school. “Not a word, Cari. I’ll tell him when I’m ready.”
“Okay! Okay, I won’t say anything.” What the hell is going on with her and Nanny?