“Juanita! Juanita!” I yelled into the cell phone. “What do you mean my life is in danger?” There was no answer. I pulled the phone out in front of me to take a look.
It was completely dead.
The screen was entirely white, which wasn’t normal. I frowned as I tossed it back to Marcy, who snatched it in midair. She turned it over and raised a single eyebrow. “Please tell me that was not your Latina neighbor who just killed my cell phone? Because whatever supe she is, it’s something ancient. The signature coming off this phone was off-the-charts crazy.”
I gave her a single nod as foreboding washed over me. I leaned my head back against the airplane seat and closed my eyes for a brief few seconds.
I needed time to think.
Up until that very moment, Juanita had been my very human neighbor. I’d never guessed she’d been anything different, which is not exactly saying much, since I wouldn’t have been able to detect her otherness when I’d been a human anyway. But once I’d made my first shift, I should’ve picked up on something. My wolf paced in my mind, not liking our circumstances either. Did you ever feel a strange vibe from her? I asked. She barked, ending on a snap of her muzzle. I wonder how she hid her true nature from us.
When I’d moved into my apartment, Juanita had already been living directly across from me. So her being there had been no coincidence. If she’d known I would move there, she had to be some kind of an oracle, knew an oracle… or was somehow tied up with Fate.
Fate would be my best guess.
I pressed my fingers into my temples and rubbed. I’d recently come back from the Underworld, where things had gone south in a big way. I’d killed Ardat Lili before her time, so Fate was angry with me—or at least the Hags were. They were the keepers of Fate, and I’d somehow managed to throw it off its true course. Assuming Juanita was connected to all of it was as good a hunch as any.
Ardat Lili, the powerful daughter of Lilith, had sat on the Coalition, and I’d ended her life before she’d had a chance to birth a child. The unborn child was the key. It would’ve led to the rebirth of one of the Hags, the one who had lost her life battling Lilith, Ardat Lili’s mother.
It was a tangled web of power and greed.
But now, Fate was officially off its course because of me, and leaving the beautiful, peaceful Bahamian island where Rourke and I had just spent some much-needed quality time was beginning to feel like the biggest mistake I’d ever made. More foreboding crept over me and I rubbed my temples harder. Not that I could’ve avoided Fate’s wrath on the island—but at least I’d have been on a sunny beach surrounded by luscious white sand, sipping fruity cocktails delivered in hollowed-out pineapples with umbrellas and pink straws.
To make matters more complicated, after killing Lili, I’d found out about my possible place on the Coalition. It had been big, earth-shattering news—the kind of news that makes your stomach roil uncontrollably. My place on the Coalition was the reason I’d been born a female. Only females were able to serve on it. My predecessor might have even been one of the very first.
Ardat Lili had been stronger than me, and I would’ve been killed had I not been given the power of five. The combined magic of five powerful supernaturals. Now it dwelled deep inside me, waiting for me to call on it. It’d been given to me freely by the Vampire Queen, the Prince of Hell, Rourke, Ray, and Selene.
Fae, demon, shifter, vampire, and witch.
My wolf had rejoiced and treated it like a second homecoming, but I wasn’t sure about any of it yet. I hadn’t had time to fully take it in. I was just thankful my wolf had stored it away and knew how to handle it, because I had no earthly idea. I’d only been a wolf for a few months.
This wasn’t initiation to the supernatural world by fire—it was initiation by firing squad.
I finally opened my eyes and glanced over at Rourke, my mate and partner in all things. His expression was grim. We were seated next to each other on the private jet en route to Florida to aid my father and my Pack against a fracture pack of wolves who were wreaking havoc on a small town after soliciting the help of a powerful priestess who was turning humans into rabid wolves.
Rourke grabbed my hand, sensing my distress, and gave it a squeeze. “I heard every word she said, and Juanita wasn’t talking about your life being in danger because of the fracture pack. She was talking about what happened with Lili in the Underworld.”
I nodded in agreement. “I know. She was giving me a warning, and it makes me believe the Hags will strike sooner rather than later.” Before we’d left the Underworld, Eudoxia, the Vampire Queen, had speculated that the Hags might take years to follow up on their retribution. Her reasoning? We were supernatural and there was really no need to hurry. We’d all be around for a good long time. But I didn’t buy it. Why wait when you could strike me down today? “My guess is Juanita is involved with Fate somehow. Either she’s an oracle or she is a Hag herself.” I shook my head. “I can’t believe I didn’t know she was a supe. It was a rookie mistake.”
“Don’t beat yourself up about it,” Rourke said. “A supernatural that old, with that much magic, could’ve fooled anyone—even me. Powerful supes, especially the ancient ones, can keep their magic cloaked, no problem. If she didn’t want you to know what she was, you didn’t stand a chance of finding out.”
Marcy sat up straighter in her seat across from me. “Did I just hear you say you think your neighbor might be a Hag? Like, as in a Hag Hag or a hag, as in she’s ugly and awful and smelly?” I hadn’t had any time to fill Marcy in on everything that had transpired in the Underworld. She’d arrived with Ray just before we all boarded the plane. Before I had a chance to answer, she continued, “Listen, Hags are pretty badass. They run the clock—so to speak. You don’t want to mess with them unless you want to be royally screwed over. They will scramble your brains and smile like fiends while they do it.”