A woman looked up at me as I stepped to the check-in desk. “Checking in?” she asked in rapid Spanish.
I nodded. Being out of my element was making it hard for me to find my voice. I wasn’t even on the same continent as my comfort zone.
“Name and passport, please.”
“Oh. Right.” I fumbled to get my passport out of my purse for her as the hotel’s front door opened. A cold burst of wind hit my back, but I was too busy searching my seemingly bottomless bag to turn around.
“There you are,” a voice said behind me. “You nearly lost me for a second when you left the airport. Thank God I already had my rental.”
Everything went still for a second. It was like the world paused to take a breath while I cringed in horror.
Oh no. I squeezed my eyes shut. I was right. I did know that aura. It was one I’d never forget.
I finally found my passport and slid it across the counter to the lady.
“I flew all day to catch up with you. How could you leave the country without telling me?”
And that was it. There was no denying it. I couldn’t stop my sigh. Even the sound of his voice aggravated me, but I was too tired to really fight with him. I shifted the pack on my shoulders as I turned toward him.
When I first met Mathieu, I’d thought his tall, lanky stature was handsome. Maybe he was a little too skinny for me—I didn’t much like the idea of my future husband being thinner than I was—but he was a good-looking guy. His skin was tanned. His light brown hair had golden, sun-bleached strands running through it. He liked to play sports in the summer, and always ended up looking like a beach dude, even though he lived in New York.
Now, whenever I really looked at him, I’d notice his hair had too much product in it, making it look greasy. And his pointy nose and eerie light green eyes reminded me of a snake. An upright cobra, getting ready to strike. Because he would strike. And when he did, my confidence would pay the price.
Not today, Claudia. You’re stronger now. You’re not under Luciana’s thumb anymore. “I wasn’t aware that I had to ask your permission.”
“Maybe not my permission, but Luciana’s.”
That caught my attention. A sliver of icy fear ran down my spine. “How did she know I was here?”
He shrugged. “Does it matter?”
It most certainly did.
“She called me last night to tell me, and I hopped on the first flight out. I can’t believe I beat you here.”
I swallowed down the panic that threatened to take over. I couldn’t let Matt see how afraid I was, but the knowledge made me cold. There was a spy at St. Ailbe’s. Yvonne and the others had all left the coven of their own accord. But they could be spies.
Or it was possible that a wolf who’d been involved in the attempted pack takeover was still backing Luciana. Either way, I needed to get to my room. I had to call Teresa and warn her. But first I had to somehow get rid of Matt.
“I’ll give it to you, I never thought you’d go against Luciana. You’re more ambitious than I thought.” The way he leered at me made me want to puke.
“I’m not asking Luciana’s permission for anything. Like I told you on the phone, I want nothing to do with her.”
He crossed his arms and stared at me down his long, straight nose. “Breaking from her is dangerous.”
I jiggled the backpack. “I know.” He didn’t have to remind me. I was on zero hours of sleep thanks to that stupid oath, and if I didn’t do something about it, I’d die. And if I didn’t find a way to fix my brother, he’d die too. She’s systematically destroyed my whole family. No one knew how dangerous she was better than me.
The lady at the front desk cleared her throat. “Your room is ready. Señor Reyes has arranged everything already.” I made a mental note to find out who that was and thank him as she slid a little envelope to me. “Room number is written inside.” She glanced to Mathieu and back to me quickly.
I could’ve kissed her. Matt didn’t need to know my room number. “Thank you.” I grabbed the envelope, holding it close to my chest, and turned to Matt. “I’m going to my room now. Good night. Safe travels back to New York.” And please take a hint for once.
Unfortunately, Matt’s listening skills were as terrible as always. When I started down the hall, he did, too. I couldn’t keep going on like this with him. I took a deep breath before squaring my shoulders to face him. “Look, Matt. I know you’ve come a long way, and I’m sorry for that. I didn’t tell you I was coming, and I certainly don’t remember inviting you. I know I mentioned our sham of an engagement was off. So I have no idea why you’re here or what you want but I can’t give it to you and you can’t follow me around expecting me to change my mind. If that’s your plan, then you should go home now and save yourself a huge headache.” I was proud of myself. I was keeping calm and being mature. Not usually my first reaction when he was around.