I stayed there, standing still as everyone else moved around me. I couldn’t take my eyes off his back as he wove through the chaos, never bumping anyone, moving straight and confident.
My exact opposite.
The lady still stood there expectantly, so I took a handful of leaves against my better judgment and shoved them in my pocket for later as I thanked her.
When I turned back to the exit, my eyes found Him again. He was looking back at me. Was I supposed to follow him? Did he know Muraco, or did he just enjoy watching my awkwardness?
I straightened my shirt, suddenly self-conscious. He winked and my cheeks grew hot as he disappeared through the exit.
Way to play it cool, Claudia. I adjusted my backpack and started walking again. Next time you come across a guy like that, just move on. You’ve got things to do here. Raphael is counting on you.
And great. I’m talking to myself. In my head. Again. But still. Off to a great start.
As soon as I passed through the sliding doors, the cool breeze hit my face. The air was noticeably thinner, making me feel seriously out of shape. I was no Teresa, but I forced myself to do cardio DVDs a few times a week. Apparently, that wasn’t enough to survive Cusco. The leaves were in my pocket… But still, I couldn’t put them in my mouth. Who knew where they came from?
I scanned the parking lot of the tiny airport. It was getting dark, and a sea of people milled. Some were picking up loved ones. Others were tour participants. Cab drivers shouted as they offered the rest cheap rides to hotels.
Where in the hell was Muraco?
I couldn’t afford to mess this up. I didn’t have time for this. I needed to get started looking for these mages.
Stupid. So stupid. I should’ve planned more. Asked more questions. He’d mentioned a hotel, but I had no idea what it was called. Was I supposed to get there on my own?
I should’ve convinced Teresa to come with me. She’d know what to do.
“You okay, child?” Muraco said, startling me.
My heart jumped into my throat for a second. The wolves were always sneaking up on me. I shouldn’t flinch every time someone talked to me when I thought I was totally alone, but the reaction wasn’t so easy to control.
Thank God he hasn’t left yet. “Yes. I’m fine.”
Muraco stood with a group of guys. They all wore jeans and fleeces. Most had a bit of shadow to their beards. From the way they watched me, it seemed like they were assessing me. Understandable. I was an unknown bruja.
All of the staring made me a little uncomfortable. They were so handsome that they made me feel self-conscious. They could definitely make a calendar of Peruvian hunks. Or more accurately, Peruvian werewolves. I knew Cosette would buy one.
As I took them in, my head started pounding. This time, I hoped it was from the altitude. I rubbed my temples in slow circles.
“Try the coca leaves. They’ll help,” said the hot guy from earlier. Even next to the calendar men, he stood out. His aura was so bright that if I looked too close it felt like staring into the sun. With all that gold, he’d be a summer month for sure.
“I’m fine,” I repeated as I tried to stop with the delusions and focus on Muraco. The sooner I got to my hotel, the sooner I could get comfortable.
Muraco nodded. “This way.”
The hot guy kept pace beside Muraco as I trailed behind. The rest of wolves spread out, surrounding us. As we wove through parked cars, an unusual gray and pink aura caught the corner of my eye. I tripped over my feet, and the hot guy caught my elbow.
Oh no. It can’t be… I scanned the area as I gained my feet again, frantically looking for what I knew couldn’t be there. I hadn’t said anything to Matt on the phone about Peru. Had I?
I’d lost my temper, so maybe I had. But I didn’t think so.
No. It couldn’t be him. I was exhausted and seeing things. There was no way he could’ve made it here from New York faster than I had.
The guy shook my elbow, gaining my attention again. His eyebrows bunched together, forming a crease. “Are you sure you’re okay?”
“I thought I…” I paused. No. It wasn’t possible. “I’m sorry. Must be tired from all the travel.”
Mr. July studied me for a second before nodding slowly, but from the expression on his face, there was no way he was buying it. Right. Werewolves can smell lies. Thankfully, he didn’t push me for a better answer.
“Let’s get you to the hotel,” his words were soft, almost like he was worried I’d break.
I smiled weakly at him. “Don’t worry. I just haven’t been getting much sleep lately. I’m sure I’ll be right as rain in the morning.” That wasn’t a total lie. “I’m okay, though. Really.” That was a semi-lie, which meant it was also semi-truth. I wasn’t sure if it would “smell” right, but it was the best I could do.