This was the easy way? “No. Muraco’s right. I’ve never learned a thing about fighting demons and I grew up with la Aquelarre. It’s been my life forever. Maybe Luciana has something in her spell room, but—”
“No one is going in there. Never ever.”
It wasn’t safe, which was why I hadn’t suggested it. Teresa was the last person who’d snooped in there, and she’d ended up stripped of her powers and almost killed. “I’d never ask that of you. But I could—”
“No. We both know she’s after your powers. She managed to strip me of mine, and now that you’ve left, she wants yours just as bad. You can’t go anywhere near her.” She was quiet for a second. “I don’t like the sound of this douchebag being in Peru with you.”
“I know. But we all agreed. This is the best chance we have to save Raphael and stop Luciana.”
“Right. Well, stay away from him.”
“Thanks. I’ll be okay. I’ve protected myself from Matt for years, but his being here isn’t a good sign. I wanted to warn you. I’m not sure who is spying on us, but…” I hated to admit it was a possibility, but Teresa needed to know. “Maybe look into Beth, Tiffany, and Yvonne.”
“Yeah, I had the same thought. But Dastien and Mr. Dawson talked to them when they showed up. If they were anything but genuine, one of them would’ve smelled a lie.”
That both made sense and was a huge relief.
“There are a few wolves who aren’t acting right. They should be following Mr. Dawson’s orders, but they’re being shifty.”
I laughed. “They are shifters.”
“Yeah. Yeah. Bad use of the word.” The sound of her sigh came through the receiver. “I don’t want you to worry, but Raphael—”
“He didn’t… He’s not…” My heart stopped as I waited for her to answer the question that I couldn’t ask.
“No. He’s still alive.”
I let out a heavy breath. “Thank God.”
“He’s hanging in, but he’s looking a lot worse tonight than he was this morning. You just do your best, and then come home fast. I’ve got a feeling if you’re not back soon, well… I’m not sure what you’ll come back to.”
I leaned back against the pillows. “I know. I’m going to move as fast as I can.”
“The thing is… He’s fading faster than Dr. Gonzales expected. I’m wondering if it might make sense to get him to you. That way by the time you find his cure, he’s there. She says we can’t put him on a plane—he’s not stable enough for that—but I can get a few wolves and maybe a couple of your brujos to drive him down to Peru. It’ll take a few days, but could work out timing-wise. Then, once he’s okay, you all fly back together.”
That made sense. “Who’s going to drive him down?”
“Adrian and Shane for sure. And then I was thinking maybe Beth, and one or two more wolves. I have to see who else might be up for it. Who we can spare right now.”
“Okay. I agree. Drive him down and I’ll move as quickly as I can.”
“Just stay safe, Claudia. You can do this. I know you can. Call me if you need anything.”
“Same to you. I’ll be in touch as soon as I have more information. Call me if anything changes with Raphael.”
I relaxed back on the bed made with a mix of colorfully patterned pillows and blankets. The air in here was better—no so thin. I flipped on the TV, and as I lay there, with my head throbbing, I thought of everything I wanted to change in my life. I was making steps. And yet, my past always managed to catch up with me.
Matt being here meant that I had to be careful. I was pretty sure he wasn’t here to spy for Luciana. They weren’t close enough for that. Still, he might tell her what I was doing if she checked in with him. So, I had to watch what I said or else I’d fail this mission before it started. And, on a more personal level, I had to make sure that he didn’t think that I was in any way open to being with him. I wasn’t with Luciana or her coven anymore. I didn’t have to honor the agreement that she’d made, and I wasn’t going to let him suck me in with his games. I didn’t have to listen to him. Ignoring him was my best plan.
Okay. So it was a passive aggressive plan, but things changed. I had changed, and now he needed to change, too.
I called in an order for food, and then grudgingly switched it for the broth and tea Lucas had recommended. My head was pounding. The altitude was definitely affecting me. Broth then straight to bed. Something told me I’d need every ounce of energy I could muster to keep up with Lucas.