“Why are you smiling?” Wonton asked, dumping his meager breakfast onto a paper plate and walking around the counter into the living room. “She’s going to be mad.”
Derick rifled through his bag, pulling out a very dated flip phone.
“She’s always mad,” Derick sighed, rolling his eyes. “Let’s get this over with.”
He flipped open the phone and pressed it to his ear. Derick began to say hello, but was cut off by the voice on the other end of the line.
“Have you seen her face?” Alice asked sternly, her voice slightly tinny through the old flip phone speaker. “How could you let this happen?”
“We can’t stop her from going to the Raven’s Nest,” Derick said, immediately jumping on the defense.
“Yes, you can,” Alice snapped.
“No, we can’t,” Derick snapped back. “You force most of us to stay undercover whenever we’re around her! How exactly can I keep her out of that bar in bird form, huh? Gouge her eyes out? Dive bomb her until she gets annoyed and leaves?”
Silence on the other end of the line. Derick could almost feel the heat of Alice’s anger pouring through the phone onto his cheek.
Wonton stood next to the couch, eating and watching Derick with interest. He still only wore a towel around his thin waist and Derick grimaced and pointed at the towel. Wonton looked down, shrugged, and then walked back into the kitchen and out of sight.
“We keep her away from the Blue Rings,” Derick continued, sitting up on the couch and leaning over his knees. “We’re keeping her out of sight of your father’s men. We’re even keeping the stray shifters who wander into the city away from her, just in case they decide to join up with the Blue Rings or happen upon your father. We’re doing everything we can, but we can’t stop her from fucking up her own life.”
“I keep telling her to stay away from that godforsaken bar,” Alice said. “I keep telling her to find a real fucking job. Betting on the fighting rings, getting into back alley brawls with strangers, she’s basically making herself into a walking target for every faction in this place.”
“Thankfully she managed to stumble into the one bar that isn’t controlled by a shifter,” Derick responded. Alice was mad, but now her anger was directed at Grace. Derick could live with that.
“Where are you?” Alice demanded. Derick’s eyes quickly shifted to Wonton who smirked at him.
“Over by the grocer’s on fifth,” Derick quickly lied. “Lost track of her on the bus. Gonna go bird mode and see if I can track her down.”
“You’re a shit liar,” Alice said. “She went to class anyway. Andy can keep an eye on her there. Be ready for when she heads home.”
“Yes, ma’am,” Derick said and then quickly shut the phone before Alice could respond.
“Sounds like you’re on her shit list,” Wonton said, shoveling the last bite of egg into his mouth.
“Why do I put up with her?” Derick asked, tossing his phone back into his bag and zipping it up.
“Because you love her,” Wonton said. “Also, she’s terrifying.”
Fuming, Alice ended the call on her end and shoved her phone into her bag.
Derick was insolent, arrogant, and could get on her nerves quickly. If she hadn’t known him since she was a child, she would’ve killed him years ago. He’d been a part of her life for a long as she could remember and, despite being cocky, he was one of the few people Alice felt like she could trust completely.
“Insolent, cocky, smarmy…” Alice mumbled to herself as she walked across the street to the coffee shop. She needed to get back to work, but she knew she wouldn’t be able to hold it together without something in her system.
She ordered a cappuccino, paying with the crumbled dollars Grace had shoved down her dress. Looking at the bills, Alice smiled. She thought of Grace’s eyes, her hair that never laid quite right, her thin frame that, despite looking petite, was incredibly strong.
There was a reason Alice was trying to protect her. Grace was Alice’s only weakness.
As Alice turned away from the counter, she nearly bumped into a man standing directly behind her. She looked up into his face and froze, anger seeping back into her system.
“Hello Alice,” the man said. “Your father needs to see you.”