Grey didn’t have to be an Alpha with the ability to sniff out emotions to tell that Teddy was furious when he called her and asked her to meet him at an address she’d never been to before. It was a little too close to the witch quarter for her personal comfort. Still, since Kol was going to be there—and she didn’t miss the extra venom in his voice when he mentioned that part, so she was leaning towards thinking that Kol was the one he was furious at, though she didn’t know what he’d done this time—so she felt safe enough going there tonight. She just hoped it was going to be worth it, and that Teddy was willing to behave.

“Who was that?” Alex asked. They were sitting in her car, on top of a hill overlooking the rest of Savannah. It was outside city boundaries, so it felt like a safe place for them to meet on neutral grounds.  The last thing either of them needed was her family or his coven finding out that they were continuing to meet despite now knowing that she was a Lycan and he was a witch.

It was strange for even her to think that they were continuing to meet. But something about him just kept Grey intrigued. She wanted to see what would happen, even knowing that it probably shouldn’t happen. What was she going to tell him if they did find Shepherd? Or even if they didn’t? What would she tell her family?

But for some reason, she felt removed from all that when they were together. He was slowly becoming her escape from the difficulties of regular life. And with Julian suddenly being sick, possibly even deathly sick, she needed that more than ever; it was hard to be around Julian, and even Teddy, with that fear weighing down on them. Plus, Alex was a great tutor. For once, she was actually understanding math. Even in high school, when she made good grades, math was a struggle. But it felt less like a struggle with Alex helping to teach her.

“Teddy,” she said. “He said Kol wants us to meet him at this Oracle’s place. You know anything about it?”

“Oh, man, they can be pretty difficult to handle. Mind if I tag along?”

She shrugged, though her smile should have told him that he was more than welcome. “We might get caught,” she said.

“Eh, I’ll play dumb,” he said. “I’m pretty good at that.”

“Are you sure it’s playing, then?” she teased.

“Cold-blooded,” he declared. “Are you sure you’re a wolf and not a snake?”

“Hm. If I’m a snake, I’m a furry one.”

“Things I didn’t want to know about the girl I’m dating,” he joked.

“I’m all for sharing.” Grey said, then leaned over the console in her car, eyes dancing mischievously. Alex got the hint immediately, closing the remaining distance between them and pressing a kiss to her lips. Neither of them let it linger too long, fear of what their futures might bring tainting the otherwise tender moment. As soon as they pulled apart, sharing a small smile—Grey’s more bashful than anything—she started the car up and headed back into town.

They pulled up to the address—an old warehouse by the looks of it—and climbed out of her car. Kol was waiting outside, back pressed against the brick façade of the building behind him.

When he saw Alex get out of the car as well, he cat-called. “Look who arrived together!” he teased. “Gralex, confirmed?”

“Shut up,” Alex said, cheeks flushing in the darkness.

Headlights appeared, pulling in behind her car. No sooner had the lights gone off than Teddy was out of the car and heading right for Kol.

“Teddy! Buddy! How’s it going? Are we at the hugging stage now?”

Grey knew the minute she saw Teddy that they were decidedly not at the hugging stage. In fact, it looked like they were about to be at the punching stage. Teddy reached out and grabbed Kol’s collar, pushing him against the wall. “Teddy!” Grey shrieked, but Alex caught her arm before she could actively go and stop him.

She glanced at him, confused, but he just shook his head and indicated that they should watch and listen before interfering.

“Julian is off limits,” Teddy said, his voice practically a growl. “Don’t you ever involve him again. Do you understand me?”

Kol’s dark eyes burned, his usually easygoing expression veiled by something else, something deeper. He reached up and pulled Teddy’s hands from his collar. “I’ll keep that in mind,” he said reasonably.

That seemed to take some of the wind out of Teddy’s sails and he deflated a bit. He obviously had expected more of a reaction than what he got.

“I apologize for assuming that, Jules being your best pal and all, you had the decency to be honest with him. What does he think you do, anyway? What brilliant set of lies have you had to tell him to keep him guessing about your whereabouts all hours of the night? I sure hope worrying over you doesn’t affect his health too much,” Kol continued.

This time, Teddy very nearly punched Kol, but Grey had had enough. Alex didn’t even try to stop her. “Do not hit him, Teddy,” she commanded. “We’ll talk about what he said later. Right now, I think we have some business to attend to, or did we all just meet here to start a fight club?”

Teddy looked like he was going to fight her command, but of course he wouldn’t. He clenched his hand into a tight fist and punched the wall instead. His strength was enough to shatter a good bit of the brick and mortar beside Kol’s head and the druid had the decency to gulp at the idea of the shattered wall being his face. Grey thought he might turn into a mouse and scurry off, but he managed to compose himself. She did notice that he stuck much closer to her and as far from Teddy as he could from then on.

Grey tried to catch Teddy’s gaze, to tell him it was okay, but he just looked away; they would have to talk about that later.

“Let’s just go,” he said.

The group stepped into the warehouse. The smell of alcohol and sawdust filled Grey’s nostrils; it was a surprisingly pleasant smell—very rustic—and it reminded her of her father, who ran his own little microbrewery in their basement before her parents’ divorce.

“So what’s this Oracle like?” Grey asked, wondering where this person was.

“They’re…hard to explain,” Alex answered.

“Are there more than one? Why do you keep referring to the Oracle as ‘they?’”

“Preferred pronouns, sweetheart,” came an unfamiliar voice. A shadowed figure stepped out from behind one of the large barrels which had once likely stored alcohol and into the sparse light provided by a string of construction bulbs—what kind of construction they were meant to guide she didn’t know as the place looked as if it hadn’t been touched in years.

The figure that had stepped out had big blue eyes framed by long eyelashes and thick black-framed glasses. Short blonde hair, cut in a boyishly charming fashion, framed their pale face and delicately pursed lips. They wore a tailored black suit and a silk blue shirt, with a nice pair of shoes on their feet which looked out of place in the old brewery. “The Oracle, at your service,” they declared, bowing to the assembled group. “I hear you’ve been looking for someone.”

“You’re not an Oracle, Steph,” Kol said. “You’re barely a hedge-witch. How do we know you even have the information we need and you’re not just trying to get into our cool-kid clique?”

The Oracle, or Steph, looked miffed at having their entrance ruined. “I may not have been born with magic like you lot but I’ve worked my ass off. I probably know more about your own history than any one of you. Pathetic, honestly. None of you realize your privilege.”

Teddy made a nasty sound of annoyance. “I’d hardly call having my life ruined a privilege.”

“You keep thinking that, pretty boy,” Steph said. “But you have at your fingertips unimaginable skills and talent, an immunity to illness, increased healing capabilities…do you know what I would give for that?”

“I never wanted any of that,” Teddy said. “But I’m not here to discuss my ‘privilege.’ Do you have what we need or not? I need to get home to Julian.”

“You won’t be heading home any time soon,” Steph said, “Not if you value finding your alpha-man alive.”

They snapped their fingers and a flame appeared at their fingertips. As the flames receded, a slip of paper was revealed. Steph looked immensely pleased with their little party trick, but Alex ruined the effect by summoning the paper into his hand and unraveling it as if that was nothing. “It’s another address,” Alex explained.

“Are you trying to give us the run-around?” Grey asked, feeling her own annoyance crest.

“Not at all,” Steph said. “If you go to that address, you’ll find Shepherd and Malik, but don’t expect them to be how they were before. They’ve…changed.”

“What the hell is that supposed to mean?” Grey demanded, her heart plummeting. Could Shepherd really be at that address? Alive? She knew she should be relieved—she never wanted to wish ill on anyone, not even Shepherd—but it all seemed so simple. And if he was found, her whole life was going to take a very different direction. She wasn’t sure if she was ready for that step.

“How do we know this isn’t some trap?” Teddy asked, ever the paranoid one.

Steph scoffed. “You’ll have to just see for yourself,” they told Grey, then turned to Teddy, “And you don’t know it isn’t a trap, though why you think I would waste my time setting a trap up for you is a mystery. You can either go to that address or not—no skin of my nose.”

“And what’s in it for you?” Kol asked. “You parted with this information awfully easy.”

To that, Steph smiled. “That is my business and none of yours. Later,” they said and with a puff of smoke, they were gone.



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