That afternoon, the hunters checked their weapons and their vehicles, while Alex went upstairs to take a nap. Ladona didn’t need to do much for her spells, so she and Anna chatted for a while about their mutual friends, checked their email – Lizzie had sent some picspams of a favorite actor – and talked about the previous week.
“So what’s the deal with Dean giving you the evil eye?” Anna asked. “I know about the hookup, but that was, what, a couple months ago?”
“I know,” Ladona said. “Can you believe it? He keeps making comments about witches, half under his breath.”
“Well, then say something,” Anna said. “Don’t let him get away with it.”
“Oh trust me, if I didn’t think there were other battles to be fought now, I’d be ripping him a new one,” Ladona said. “I keep hoping he’ll get over it. I mean, really, holding it against me that I’m a witch?”
“I’m not so sure that’s all it is,” Anna said slowly. “If you ask me, it sounds like he’s more disappointed than upset. What’s his mindset on witches?”
“He’s had a few run-ins with black magic witches,” Ladona said with a sigh. “See, his thing is, there’s good. And there’s bad. And that’s all there is to it. Sometimes you can persuade him to see the gray version, but usually no, it’s black or it’s white. Drives Alex bonkers and now I know why.”
“She’s a scent sensitive, right?” Anna said. “And Nick’s a shaman. So why is he cool with them, and not with you?”
“My magic is stronger than theirs,” Ladona explained. “An active power. Alex’s is passive – she can’t do a lot with it – and Nick’s is minor. He’s mostly slightly sensitive to paranormal phenomena and his gift comes through potions and skills. But I do actual spells, and that freaks Dean out.”
“So when did he find out you were a witch?” Anna asked. “Before or after the bed-shattering sex?”
Ladona flushed without meaning to.
“After,” she said. “Silly me, I thought we were getting along great. And my god, does he know what he’s doing.”
“So your email said,” Anna gave a wicked grin. “I think it was along the lines of, ‘can’t type – blown all O-rings – must restock – *thunk*.’”
“Alex warned me what to expect,” Ladona said. “And she wasn’t lying.” She fanned herself. “You should hear her tell it sometime.”
“But they’re just friends now,” Anna said, clarifying.
“Oh yes,” Ladona said. “I think she and Dean would throttle each other, otherwise. She’s Nick’s 100 percent. No question.”
“I got that feeling,” Anna said and gestured around the room at all the pictures. Ladona nodded in agreement.
“In the meantime,” Anna said, “you might want to corner that stubborn
“Oh, I’m planning to,” Ladona said ominously. “First chance I get.”
On the other side of the room, John downed bottled water – no beer before a hunt - and noticed his eldest was avoiding the curly-haired brunette. Heh. He’d been around enough to see that look before. He sidled up to Dean; Sam was flipping his phone closed from yet another call that had left him with a smile on his face. John was going to ask him later who he kept sneaking off to talk to.
“You two sure jumped to attention when this Alex gal called you,” John said with a wry smile. He’d needle his eldest a little and see what happened. “Rushed right over here from the last job. Left a huge cloud of dust on the road, I bet.”
“When she needed us, we came, no questions asked,” Dean said firmly, loading his gun with a new clip. He ignored his dad’s teasing tone. He wasn’t in the mood.
“Yeah, Dad, she’s an old friend,” Sam said, in a much more congenial tone. He could see where this was going.
“I just didn’t know there’d be so many of us,” Dean said. His eyes sidled around, settled on Ladona, averted quickly.
“So let me ask you this,” John continued, not hiding his amusement. “How many of these women have you slept with?”
Dean gave his father a sullen expression, and while Sam hid his own grin, Dean answered finally,
“Both.” And then, because his father was still waiting, he added, “Alex, a long time ago, and she’s in love with somebody else. And Ladona, and she thinks I’m a jerk.”
“I wonder why,” Sam said with a snort. “It’s because you’re behaving like a jerk.”
“Shut up, Sam,” Dean said, which was the only comeback he could think of.
“I thought you really liked her,” Sam said in a regretful tone. “Then you ran off like a little girl when you found out she was a witch.”
Dean gave him a baleful glare.
“Just because you met-“ he started, his face reddening, but John was too busy laughing.
“You kill me,” John said, slapping his son on the back. “I knew someday your tomcat ways would come back and bite you in the ass.” He grinned. Dean sulked. And Sam bonded with his father over Dean’s tribulations.
At dusk, as the group was getting ready to head out, Christian’s phone rang.
“Hey, Detective,” he said, which caught everyone’s attention. So did the fact that his face went quickly serious.
When he hung up the phone, he turned to the others, his face actually white.
“He says they just found 12 of the 13 missing people alive and unharmed in the park,” he said. “They aren’t sure where they are or where they’ve been. And Nick isn’t with them. He’s the only one still missing.”
“Then we can track where they came from,” John said, getting up and reaching for his coat.
“He’s going to call me when police clear the scene,” Christian said, holding up a hand. “We can’t go barging in when they’re there.”
“They’ll trample all over the place,” John said in frustration, even though he understood the logic. “Ruin the trail.”
“I can help you,” Ladona offered. “Help you track, I mean. Now that we have fresher energies and prints, and so many of them. Even having the cops around shouldn’t throw me off that much.”
“Done,” John said. (At least, Ladona thought, he didn’t care that she was a witch.) “Let’s hope the cops get out of there quick. Now I want to know where they were this whole time. That’s really pissing me off.”
“I’m going to go tell Alex,” Ladona said. “She needs to know.”