27 of March 2021 – 8:59 PM
I followed Zander through the portal, blinking as I adjusted to the warping scene around me. Our well-furnished basement had transformed into a dimly-lit, open space that looked like something out of a coming-of-age movie. I saw a couch and some chairs here and there, a couple tables with drinks (did that one have beer?!), curtains of tiny white holiday lights along the walls–and, at the center of it all stood two familiar little witches.
“Hey!” I greeted them, just as Zander nodded in their direction and smirked. “The place looks great!”
“Thanks!” Cari beamed with excitement, though Lilly rolled her eyes.
“Of course it does. I don’t half-ass party planning!”
“Considering we only just came up with this idea Friday, I think we can consider this, ‘half-assed’,” Cari muttered with a sideways glance, but we heard her clear as day.
“Whatever, de Ardo. You guys want anything to drink? We’ve got a wide selection, so help yourselves.”
We moved to the nearest refreshment table–I caught Zander turn his nose up at the alcohol as we passed it on our way to the other table–when a whirring sound brought my attention back to the portal. Out stepped a familiar looking witch wearing a suit vest and dress slacks. Their green eyes regarded us with a guarded warmth.
“Hope I’m not too early?” Sage asked our hosts, sounding somewhat breathless.
Cari seemed to see right through them. “Don’t worry, you’re right on time. Ax won’t be home for an hour, though.”
“Right,” they nodded absentmindedly, their eyes scanning the room as a smirk played on their lips. “I feel like I’m in one of those American films where the teenagers throw what’s meant to be a small party, and it just spirals out of control until the police are called.”
Cari frowned. “That sure as hell isn’t happening here! Not if I have anything to say about it.”
“And if I have anything to say about it, it will!” Lilly declared, eliciting chuckles from us as she waved Sage over to the table where we stood. We grabbed our drinks and moved out of their way, greeting them.
I couldn’t help but turn to Zan and ask, “Are we under dressed?”
Zander scoffed. “Nah, man–witches just like to show off.”
Instead of taking offense, the three witches laughed at his jest. “So, where’s the rest of your pack–?” Lilly began, only for the whirring sound of the portal to draw our attention yet again.
This time, three familiar faces walked through, and it took every ounce of restraint not to frown at two of them. Ugh, I forgot they were coming.
The three of them were dressed as if they were going clubbing instead of to a highschool house party. Whitney wore an off-white dress with thin straps and leopard print shoes with dangerously high heels. With her were Danivyn and Sarina; the beta’s girlfriend had on a peach sleeveless top tucked into a pleated black skirt, while her best friend (the daughter of our gamma) wore a strapless floral-print top and a shiny tutu-esque shirt. The senior girls also wore high heels.
I gestured to the three of them without so much as a greeting. “They’re not witches, what’s their excuse for dressing up?”
Zander shrugged, noticeably averting his gaze from Whitney. “They’re girls, and girls like to look good.”
“Damn straight,” Sarina grinned at the other two. Danivyn simpered quietly–she was the more reserved of the trio, especially in unfamiliar settings. Whitney smiled and stepped toward our hosts.
“Everything looks great, guys!” she said as she greeted them each with a nod. “Thanks for inviting us.”
“Yeah, but is this all the lighting you’ve got going on?” Sarina inquired, causing me to frown. “And where’s the music?”
“Sorry about her,” Dani told them. “She doesn’t mean to be rude–she just speaks her mind. A lot. Without filters…”
Cari stifled a giggle. “Don’t worry about it–I’m actually envious of that.”
My brow furrowed at her words. Doesn’t she already speak her mind?
“Music and dance lighting, coming up!” Lilly gushed, tapping at her phone’s screen. It was a few seconds before a fast-paced, bass-heavy beat faded into the room, seemingly coming from all around us as it grew to a manageable volume. Then the fairy lights dimmed, and strobe lights that I hadn’t seen in two corners of the room turned on to give off a rainbow disco effect.
The girls gasped, and Rina immediately began to clap her hands and move her body to the music. “Yes! Tonight’s gonna be fantastic!”
Danivyn and Whitney giggled at their friend’s enthusiasm before approaching the refreshment table, greeting Sage as they passed. Zander and I were still standing beside it, so I smiled at them both as they neared us.
“Hey! You girls look amazing.”
“Thanks!” smiled Dani, to my surprise. Then she nodded in our direction as she reached for a soda. “You guys look good, too!”
Zander and I had kept it pretty casual, so I wondered if she really meant that. Her tone seemed genuine enough. “Aw, thanks.”
“You don’t have to lie to him,” Whitney told her friend, who looked shocked.
Another whirring sound, and Luke entered the room, dressed just as casually as we were. Zander’s face relaxed some. “Yo, Luke! Where the kids at?”
Luke scoffed. “Don’t worry, they’re at Finn’s. Kel’s bringing ‘em.”
Kellen was Finn’s older brother who had graduated the year before. He seemed pretty cool, though I hadn’t interacted with him much. I certainly preferred him to their little sister, Georgina, who was way too handsy for a twelve year old. I frowned at the thought of her attending. “He’s bringing all the kids?”
Luke snickered. “Chill, man. Georgina’s staying home, so you’re safe.”
I let out a comically heavy sigh as my hand flew to my chest. “Oh, thank the gods… My virtue shall remain intact for another night.”
The room erupted in laughter at my joke, and warmth flooded my cheeks. Is this actually happening? Am I getting along with the rest of the pack?
It was then that I realized that someone was missing; I had already figured that Estelle was either not coming or coming late with the other underclassmen, but I was surprised that Helena was nowhere to be seen. “Hey, where’s Hel?”
It didn’t seem as if the younger witches had heard my question, but Sage managed to quip, “In my experience, just a summoning circle away.”
Danivyn cocked an eyebrow at this, but Sarina paused from her dancing to double over in laughter. My eyebrows rose. Wow, she’s… In a really good mood.
Sarina caught me watching her and winked flirtatiously in my direction, and it took every ounce of power not to react with wide-eyed disbelief. Did she just–?
Luke, who was standing beside me and opening a wine cooler for Dani, chuckled at the look on my face. “Yeah, Rina’s kind of in heat right now.”
Sage nearly spat out their soda, causing the other wolves to howl with laughter. I just watched on in confusion. “Uh, in heat? For real?”
“Yeah, it happens to she-wolves after they come of age,” Zander explained. “It’s only for a few days a month, and only male wolves that are eighteen and up will be affected by it.”
I frowned. “Uh, does Rina know I’m not eighteen yet?”
“Age of consent is sixteen,” she giggled, stepping closer.
Eyes wide, I put my hands up in a defensive pose. “Um, I’m flattered, but I think I’m good.”
Seeing how uncomfortable I was, Zander squared his shoulders. “Take it easy, Rina. You know the rules–you can’t hook up with wolves under the age of eighteen, no matter what the local human laws say.”
She rolled her eyes and strutted back onto the dance floor. “Fiiiine. Boring ass pendejos…”
Suddenly, both her and Luke’s eyes glazed over as they held a short mind-link conversation. After a short moment, their eyes reverted to normal, and Sarina was blushing with a huge grin on her face. Danivyn caught this exchange and elbowed her boyfriend. “What was that about?”
He shrugged and whispered so low that only she was meant to hear. “I was reminding her that he’s coming.”
Danivyn’s confused expression (which I swore held a hint of jealousy) was swapped for one of comprehension. I did my best to act as if I hadn’t heard, though I was very intrigued. Who are they talking about?
The portal whirred again, and three more wolves arrived. I smiled at the alpha of the Denver Pack. “Yo! Wasn’t sure you’d come, Storm.”
They smirked, their right arm around Vivienne’s shoulders while Cinnamon trailed behind. “Like I’d pass this up.”
They were dressed in all black; their pants were covered in straps, buckles, and chains, and they wore a white collared dress shirt under a black band tee. They had more facial piercings than I remembered. While Cinnamon’s outfit was similar to their aesthetic, Vivienne had on a white tank top and a pink skirt with imprints of black birds all over. She was such a contradiction to her partner that I had to stifle a laugh.
The trio from Denver were busy greeting our hosts and the rest of us when I heard the basement door creak. Professor de Ardo and Cari’s security guy aren’t home, and Axel’s at work, so that must be–
Her red ankle boots were the first thing I saw. She descended the stairs at a steady pace, and I found my heart beating faster with each step she took. Her legs were slender, disappearing beneath a short white dress. It was lacey and sleeveless, and it swished with her hips. Her dark hair had a slight curl to it, something I hadn’t seen her try in the week since I’ve known her.
Cinnamon gasped and ran up to her just as she hit the bottom step. “Holy crap, Hel! You look so pretty!”
Helena’s cheeks were tinted bright pink from the attention. “Thank you…”
I caught Luke and Danivyn snickering to my left with Sage beside them, the latter person cocking an eyebrow in my direction. Zander leaned in from my right, his plastic cup raised to his lips as if to take a sip.
“Jett, pick your jaw off the floor, bro.”
Having not realized that my mouth was agape, I quickly clamped it shut and gulped. “I, uh–”
Then the portal whirred to life once again, and more guests arrived.