“No one calls me Luke. Ever.”
I grinned, and it probably looked a little evil. Now I knew exactly what I was going to call him. Why I got so much fun out of playing on peoples’ names, I had no idea. But, when given the opportunity, I couldn’t help myself. “So, Luke. Where are we headed?”
He muttered something that I couldn’t hear, but Muraco could. The old man started laughing—the sound was loud and wheezing—and the other two wolves in the car followed suit.
“What? What did he say?”
Muraco and Lucas—who were nowhere near the same age—looked at each other and started laughing harder. “Boys.” Didn’t matter how old they were, they were all the same. I leaned back in the seat and closed my eyes for a second, rubbing my temples. Being over two miles up was no joke.
We turned down what couldn’t be considered anything other than an alley, and Lucas parked. “Here you go,” he said.
The hotel looked nondescript from the outside. Only two large wooden doors—as tall as the first story of the three-story building—marked its entrance. A little placard to the side read Hotel de los Siete Cruzes.
Finally. A place to stay still for a little bit.
I hopped down from the van as Lucas grabbed my backpack. Muraco hadn’t gotten out. The fear I’d felt when I thought he left me at the airport still lingered in the back of my mind. Being lost in a foreign country wasn’t appealing in the least. I needed a little direction. A place to start my journey.
I cleared my throat as I stood in the open door. “So, uh, what…umm…tomorrow…”
He leaned forward and patted my cheek. “Don’t worry, child. Andrés will be back—”
“I’ll take her,” Lucas said in Spanish.
“I thought you had things to do,” Andrés said, also in Spanish.
I nearly laughed. They didn’t know I could speak the language.
“Things have changed,” Lucas said with a hint of growl in his voice.
What had changed? Was he reading me as some kind of threat?
Muraco’s gaze met mine and he grinned. “Boys. The girl speaks perfect Spanish.”
“Way to spill the secret,” I muttered, and Muraco’s grin turned into a laugh.
They switched to another language, whispering fast. It didn’t take long before Muraco’s grin faded and he joined in.
What on earth was going on?
Finally Muraco cleared his throat. “It seems that Lucas will be your guide during your stay.”
Mr. July was going to be my guide? No. That wasn’t going to work. “Are you sure? I mean, I’m okay with Andrés if that’s easier.”
“Eight a.m.,” Lucas said, still growling a little. He came around carrying my backpack like it weighed nothing, but his voice softened. “Don’t be late.” He handed me the pack, and I nearly dropped it. I had for sure over-packed.
“He’s not to interfere, but to help. Protect. The mountains are full of dangers,” Muraco said. “This task is yours alone.”
“Right,” I muttered. No one knew more than I did what was at stake. If Lucas was going to be my guide, I’d make it work. And I’d focus every second on the image of my brother in that awful bed. “I’ll be ready in the lobby before eight. Thank you very much for your help.”
“Try the broth soup. It’s good here. Especially if you’re adjusting to the altitude.” Lucas got back into the passenger’s seat as I slid the van door closed. “And try the coca tea.” Andrés honked twice and then took off.
I was left staring at the entrance to the hotel. Oh crap. I didn’t have a credit card. All the travel blogs said you needed a credit card for hotels. I’d thought Muraco would be staying here, too, but that was dumb. Of course he’d go with the pack. And I couldn’t stay with an unknown pack any more than they’d want to host an unknown witch.
It’s fine. I’ll figure this out. No big deal. Mr. Dawson had sent me on my way with good amount of crisp Sol bills. Maybe they’ll let me pre-pay for the night.
I stood there, running through various scenarios, before I mustered up the courage to go inside. No time like the present, Claudia.
As soon as I stepped into the foyer, my breath caught. The entrance was ornately decorated, and huge wooden sculptures of howling wolves stood at either side of the door. A round marble-topped table decked with an elaborate flower arrangement took up the center of the lobby, and one wall had a fireplace surrounded by tables and chairs. The little sofas looked so plush that I could sink into one and fall asleep right then and there.