A Fang in the Sass: BBW Paranormal Shape Shifter Romance (Sassy Ever After Book 6) (3 page)

BOOK: A Fang in the Sass: BBW Paranormal Shape Shifter Romance (Sassy Ever After Book 6)
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SIX

 

“Okay, everyone. Settle down. Take a seat,” Aria said. The rumble from the crowd in the South clan community meeting room didn’t lessen. She brought the mic closer to her mouth. “Sit! I have another bomb to drop.”

The room fell instantly quiet.

“Yeah, that’s what I thought,” she said. “You’ll want to hear this.” She waited for the scuffle of chairs scooting on the tile floor to stop. All eyes fixed on her. Many curious, some afraid, some pissed-off. Those were the ones she wanted to talk to.

“All right. So you see, Grandfather didn’t make up rules willy-nilly to be a jerk. He had your immortal lives in his heart.” She needed to milk this. “He only wanted his people, his family, to be happy and long-lived. To be able to walk in the sun again.” She paused to let that sink in. Heads nodded.

“My only desire is to carry on his goodness, his belief that his family should have the best and fairest choices. History shows dictatorships and oligarchies never worked well for a large amount of people. So instead of having a single leader, like the clan has always had, you’re to have a five-person council.” She thought to throw in that Marxius would strip the first person to yell and hang their underwear from the flagpole. Throwback to summer camp years.

But no one made a sound. She wasn’t sure how to take that. Was everyone onboard with the idea? Was Filip such a horrible leader that the plan of a council made them wordless?

“So, no one has anything to say?” she asked. Clan members looked at each other. Some with fear in their eyes. Not good.

A voice came forward. “I thought Damon was the leader since Filip was dead.” Several agreed.

“He has been,” she said. “But now that all the fall-out has settled, it’s time to bring the clan up to date with the modern world.”

“What if we want the old-fashioned challenges where the strongest wins. That proved well for lots of clans.”

From the first row, Aria heard Maree call the speaker a nit. “He couldn’t pour piss from a boot if the directions were on the heel.” No need for translation. Aria agreed.

She hid her smile with her hand. “So what you’re saying is for all the strong guys to kill each other so only one is left? How does that bode for the strength of the clan overall?” The large group grumbled among themselves.

This was getting old. If these people wanted to be stupid, could she save them from themselves? “All right. If you insist on having one leader, then you all get to vote on who that will be. And pray that you’re right and he doesn’t take all the power to his head and do stupid shit that could get you all destroyed like Filip almost did.

“You better hope like hell this one person doesn’t pick favorites and give those people more than they give you. Or protect them and send you to wolves. Be sure you pick the
one
who will always look out for
your
best interests, not his own.

“You want this person to listen to your complaints, all of them, and do something about them. Then, of course, they need to run the clan fairly and keep it strong against those who would take it over and enslave you.” She looked around the room for the second-in-command.

“Damon, since Filip has been AWOL, how much time do you get to see your family?” Before he could speak, a pretty brunette stood.

“I’ll answer that. None. He’s at the clan house working from sundown to sunup. His child doesn’t even know him well enough to call him da-da.” Her last words wavered and she gave a little sniffle.

Aria looked to Damon then back to the lady. She saw the love between them, but also the sadness. Hell, if this didn’t convince the clan to have a group of leaders, she didn’t know what would.

Then she realized something that had never rolled around in her head. She could be in Damon’s place, and that woman standing alone in the middle of a sea of faces could be her mate.

How would she feel if their child didn’t know or love her enough to call her mama? Trev—her mate would take care of the child, seldom seeing her. She thought back to her parents when she was little. How was her childhood? Was she really happy?

Her father always seemed to be working and seldom around. But she had her mom and that was fine. They did family vacations and fun stuff when they could, but Dad always did work and was on the phone then, too.

Then Penelope’s constant badgering about having children crept in. Aria had always planned to have a family, in an ethereal sense, anyway. She never gave much thought as to how things would really work. Her three ex-advisors, Chantal, Anton, and Claude, had helped with the workload balance, but she worked the same as Damon: from dusk to dawn.

She needed to sit and analyze her lifestyle. She had a bloodmate, but he was gone, out of her life. That meant she wouldn’t love another. Did she want a child, want to be a single parent her child never saw? If she’d never been able to spend as much time with her mother as she did before her parents died, she wouldn’t have been happy. Great time to think of this. The thought of Trevan out there, wanting him, wanting that bond mates shared and the family she’d secretly been thinking of since she laid eyes on him, but knowing it wasn’t happening…it broke her heart.

“Aria?” She heard Maree say her name, bringing her back to the meeting. The audience was quiet, staring at her.

“Oh, yes. Sorry.” She scrambled to get back to where they were. “The council, right. Tonight, everyone should give thought to serving on the council. It will be a paid position, full-time, and require a lot of energy. I want females on this board, too. So ladies, don’t think you’re excluded. Ever.

“This is your chance to take the clan in the direction you want it to go. And I do suggest that Damon highly consider running for one of the positions.” She glanced at him. “You won’t be working as much, and you’ll still be a leader in the community.” She looked at her watch. It was getting late. Just a short amount of time before sunup.

“All right. Everyone go home and think about all I’ve mentioned. Tomorrow I will pick a delegation to setup and run this first election and get your lives back to normal. If anyone has questions, hold them until later. We’ll meet here at one tonight to give you time to talk things over after rising. Good day, South clan.”

As Aria stepped off the stage, headed for Damon, her phone buzzed in her back pocket. She glanced at the ID. Penelope. Shit. Her stomach churned as she pressed the talk icon.

“Aria, I have bad news. We need to talk at once.”

 

 

SEVEN

 

Aria paced the space between the combined kitchen living room area in the guest quarters next to the clan leader’s house. She pressed the phone to her ear. “Penelope, that is the biggest load of shit I’ve ever heard.” So much anger built in her, she wanted to tear down the entire building with her bare hands.

“Calm down, Aria. It is what you say, but it could be worse,” Penelope said.

“How could it be worse?” she questioned, immediately hating the attitude she gave the other woman.

“They could arrest you, right now, and destroy you without further investigation.”

Not fucking likely. It would take a lot to destroy Aria. And even thinking of it wouldn’t go without consequences.

“They will not.” Her hand fisted. “I will fight them to my death. There is no question of innocence on my part. Filip trafficked humans.”

Penelope gave a soft sigh. “Yes, dear. I know.”

“Then what is it going to take for them to fucking know the same thing?”

Her beloved mentor cleared her throat. “Aria, we need proof of his actions. They need to see a history. And motive.”

“Well, motive isn’t difficult. It’s obvious why any vampire would want a blood slave.”

“That’s not enough, Aria. They want something specific to him. Not generalizations.”

Well, fuck. She’d give them generalizations. Right up their asses. She wiped a hand over her face. Marxius came around the kitchen bar, glass with swirling red liquid between his fingers. He motioned for her to sit in the upholstered chair. She plopped down with a growl and took the cup from him. She mouthed thank you and took a gulp.

“Will the council accept eyewitness accounts?” Aria asked.

“They might. Depends who it is.”

“An alpha wolf and his mate.”

Penelope groaned. “Aria, you know our relationship with shifters. Especially wolves.”

“Everyone else involved in the ring we killed. What do they expect?” she asked.

“Yes,” her mentor said, “that does present a bit of a challenge.”

She snorted. “You think?”

“Aria…” A sigh reached her through the speaker. She knew Penelope was only trying to help. The woman was on her side, but frustrations ran high with such aggravation. She took another gulp of blood then laid her head against the back cushion.

“I’m sorry. I know you’re there to help me.”

“I’m glad you recognized that, child. Now, on a different note. Have you spoken to our lovely Maree?”

She laughed, thinking back to the conversation. “I have. I’ve dilled her pickle.”

“You’ve what with her pickle?”

Aria laughed again. “Translation is she’s happy to see me again.”

“Oh, good then. She’s the only woman I can have a conversation with and walk away understanding nothing said. But I love her to death.”

“You should see her, though, Pen. She’s really aged in the last hundred years.”

“That’s what drinking from humans when young will do.”

Aria wondered if she should mention all she shared with the clan earlier in the meeting. “Is Julian all right with others knowing how old he is?”

“I guess he’s fine with it. He’s never said anything about keeping it secret. But it’s best not tell too many others,” Penelope replied.

Shit. “Why not?”

The line remained silent for a moment. “It’s just another secret of our society. Same as the not talked about effects on our bodies of drinking fresh human blood. Those who know keep it to themselves.” Penelope was quiet for a second, then asked, “Aria, why did you ask?”

She cringed in the chair. Shit. Shit, shit, shit.

“Aria, how many vampires did you tell?”

“Who said I told anyone?”

“You did, by asking me the question. Now, how many?”

“Maybe the whole South clan.”

“Aria! You did not!” Penelope didn’t sound the least bit happy.

She cringed even tighter. “Okay, I didn’t.”

Penelope groaned. “My god, child. Shit is going to hit the ceiling.”

“It’s fan, Penelope. Shit hitting the fan.”

“No, child. You done blew the fan off the wall. Anything else you care to tell me you ‘mentioned’?”

Aria glanced at her watch even though Penelope couldn’t see the movement. “Well, would you look at that. The sun should be up any second now. I gotta go, Pen.”

“Aria—”

“No, really. I’ll call you later. Sometime. Thanks so much for everything. Bye.” Her red-tipped finger slid over the red button on the phone’s screen. She was so fucked. Actually, being fucked would be a great thing right now. Her blue-eyed stud muffin came to mind.

His wide shoulders, rolling with muscles with every movement. His slick chest she wanted to lick and taste. Fuck. Now she was getting all warm below the belt. Speaking of warm, the man smelled like chocolate chunk cookies fresh from the oven. Her favorite.

Marxius stood in the hall and cleared his throat. No doubt he smelled her. Shit.

“Yes?” she asked, trying to hide her burning cheeks.

“Wynther and I are ready to go down. Are you ready?”

Ready? Yes. To go downstairs? No. “Uh, I’ll be down shortly. I just want to get a bit of fresh air.”

Marxius came into the room and held out a hand to help her stand. “Do you want to go now? I’ll stay with you while you’re out.”

“Oh,” she started. Him following her defeated the whole idea of escaping to cool her embarrassment. “You don’t need to. The sun’s almost up. I’ll be fine. No one here can day walk.” Her devoted guard scowled. “Marxius,” she pointed a finger at him and feigned being boss. “Don’t give me that look. Didn’t your mama tell you your face might freeze like that?”

Marxius’s frown broke into a laugh. “She did. Your mother told you, too. Every time you didn’t get what you wanted.”

She rolled her eyes. God, she was such a petulant child, and spoiled beyond rotten. But she loved her childhood. Aria gave him a playful shove. “All right, my eternal guardian, the sun is up. Go before the rays get through the windows. I’ll be back shortly.”

He gave her a
you better be
look then hurried into the hall. She chugged the remaining blood in her glass and set it on the granite bar. This would be the perfect opportunity to snoop around with no one seeing her. If this clan had blood slaves, she would find them and destroy the vamps. Of course, Maree would move into the northern clan house. The woman was an angel, when she wasn’t talking.

She headed out the door, ready for whatever came next.

Or so she thought.

BOOK: A Fang in the Sass: BBW Paranormal Shape Shifter Romance (Sassy Ever After Book 6)
9.44Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
ads

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