Ali's Intuition

an excerpt



Chapter One

Ali left his perfectly decorated cake sitting on the table when he followed Lucius and Nicu out of the kitchen. He didn't leave it out it in the rain like the old song said, but that might as well have been the case. They'd been preparing to cut into the strawberry-stuffed chocolate masterpiece so he wasn't at all impressed that someone was interrupting the celebration. It was extremely rare for anyone to knock on their door in the first place, and their last two visitors had been more than a little startling-and they still hadn't left. So excuse him if he wasn't thrilled to discover who would show up next.

His head ached a little, centered mainly behind his left eye, as it did when a storm was readying an appearance. Despite the day being clear and bright, the barometer in Ali's head was seldom wrong. He'd have to take some of the migraine medication his doctor had prescribed, just in case he was in for a doozy of a day. Unfortunately, even being a witch didn't stop the dreaded things from attacking and he couldn't simply wiggle his nose or zap them away.

He paused to lean against the wall when the slight pain increased sharply. It was no doubt a precursor to the impending force of the migraine, but having one appear so fast was rare. The stark whiteness of the hallway certainly didn't help, either. Whose idea had it been to paint it that color anyhow?

He hoped the meds could head off the migraine. He didn't want to ruin the day for everyone else since they'd planned to celebrate Lucius' and Nicu's birthdays-and bonding-with a trip into town for dinner and a movie later on.

He sighed and tilted his head, continuing to rub his temple. He'd turned the corner to the living room when he was blinded momentarily by a burst of light inside his head. He slapped a hand to the wall, a wave of instantaneous nausea overtaking him. Better take that damn medicine sooner than later.

As he pushed himself to an upright position again, another loud knock ignited a spark of anger in his brain. He wasn't in the mood for any more surprises with all the activity and drama Nicu's arrival had caused. Whoever was at the door needed to go away right now.

"What's going on out here? The cake is wilting." His eyes went wide and his mouth dropped open when he entered the living room. "You've got to be fucking kidding me."

A large man stood in the doorway-all in black, massive amounts of long thick hair, teased and tangled to within an inch of its life, hanging over his shoulders, and was that make-up he was wearing? Ali's first reaction was curiosity, his second disgust and his third a repeat of you've got to be fucking kidding me. He parted his lips to tell the newcomer he was sadly mistaken by being there, but take care and have a nice day when the man made a strangled sound in his throat then crashed to the floor in the middle of the doorway.

"Oh, for Goddess' sake. What is it with you wolves and your fainting?"

Nicu had barely been saved from being squashed beneath the man, his concerned face now pressed into the nape of Lucius' neck as he was held tight.

"Fuck me," Lucius said as he turned them both toward Ali. "Did I look that stupid when I passed out?"

Nicu shook his head and pulled away from Lucius' grasp. "He doesn't look stupid and neither did you, dragosta mea." He patted Lucius' arm then looked at Ali. "I guess I should introduce you to my cousin Kalo. He's not a normal wolf shifter...and he appears to be your spirit mate."

Ali snorted, tossing his hair over his shoulder then crossing his arms over his chest. A trickle of excitement joined the throbbing in his head, but it wasn't so much for the man himself, but Nicu's outright statement of spirit mate itself.

"No shit, Sherlock. Another Roma, I'm assuming? Can you tell me what the hell we're supposed to do with him? And what, pray tell, is abnormal wolf shifter?"

Lucius smacked Ali on the arm. "What's with the language, Mama Bear? You're always giving us hell for it."

"Don't even start, Lucius." Ali huffed out a breath, and bent to grab Kalo's feet, motioning for Nicu and Lucius to help him. "Let's get the big lug out of the doorway at least. Don't want to be responsible for our guest catching cold."

"Mikalo!"

"Oh, that's just what we need now," Ali whispered under his breath as the pitter-patter of feet rushed down the hallway behind him.

Anca Petulengro came flying into the room, all tiny legs and arms and big skirts and shawls. Ali usually found her quite amusing, but right then, while his brain pounded out an annoying beat in his head, and his spirit mate lay unconscious at his feet, she was really the last thing he wanted to deal with.

"Witch boy! What you do to Kalo? Is Kalo? Yes, Niculae?"

Nicu nodded, holding out a hand to his grandmother. "Relax, Bunica."

Ali opened his mouth to object to the implication-downright accusation really-that he'd somehow hurt the beast in the doorway. "I didn't-"

Anca gasped dramatically, both hands covering her mouth, glaring wide-eyed at Ali. "But he cannot be...he is not...witch boy is not-"

"How about this?" Ali began, a smirk pasted on his face in an attempt to override the nervous fluttering that had overtaken his body. "Yes, he can. Yes, he is. And yes, I apparently am."

The answers seemed easy enough to put into simple words, but the implications settled rock hard in the pit of Ali's stomach.

"But Kalo is-"

Nicu stepped between Ali and Anca, gently taking her hand and leading her away. "If Kalo has things to tell Ali, he must do it on his own. Is that not what you always taught us?"

Anca complained loudly in Romanian and Ali expected her to stomp her feet at some point, but Nicu patiently waited as her temper tantrum subsided. Finally she huffed out a breath. "You knew, Niculae? About your var?"

"No, and I am guessing you did not as well?"

Anca flung her arms in the air, broken English rattling off her tongue. "Kalo's mate was mystery. Not searchable on charts. Higher ones never reveal him like Nicu's wolf."

Ali turned back to the matter at hand, namely the big man dozing in the middle of his open door in the middle of goddamn winter. Damn it! He was certainly cursing a lot. Even his thoughts were wrought with the words he discouraged in his home, and dammit, his head was still throbbing.

"Lucius, will you run and get my migraine medication, please?"

"But I thought we were-"

Ali ignored his objection. "Yell at Kristof while you're at it, please. I'm sure he can pick it up by himself anyhow. I'll just try to shove it away from the door so I can close it."

Nicu's glare cut Ali to the core. "My cousin is not an it." Ali had never heard Nicu speak in such a stern a tone, and the look on his face didn't seem natural to the soft-spoken, easy-mannered man he'd come to know. "You must be aware the headache you are feeling has nothing to do with a migraine."

"It could simply be a change in the weather." Ali hadn't meant to add so much snark to his words but Nicu was pissing him off. It had to be the knife in his head slicing his thoughts to ribbons and making him forget his manners.

Nicu ignored Ali as he knelt down, pressing his hand to Kalo's forehead. He gently pulled back one of Kalo's eyelids then peered at the exposed eye. "There's something..."

Lucius laid a hand on his shoulder. "What is it, Nicky? He's okay, isn't he?"

"I believe he will be fine," Nicu said as he held his position over Kalo, his fingers brushing long, black strands of hair from his face. Ali thought he looked as much confused as concerned, but then again, it wasn't every day someone had their cousin pass out in their brand-new spirit mate's doorway.

"If that's how he looks when he's fine, I'd hate to see him when he's not." Ali cringed at his own remark, honestly uncertain why he felt such distaste for the man at his feet.

"Ali, I would prefer you did not talk in such a way about him."

Lucius attempted to casually pull Nicu closer. "Nicky, maybe you should leave Ali alone for the moment."

"No, he's right. I'm sorry, Nicu." Ali flicked his hair over his shoulders again, bundling it up and securing it at the back of his neck. "Kristof! Can you come here, please?"

"You could just, you know, wiggle your nose."

The look Ali shot Lucius made him step back and dip his head, his bare feet suddenly very important and interesting. "Go get Kristof, Lu."

Ali turned to Nicu again. "Is he supposed to be out for this long? Lucius barely lost consciousness when you showed up and I don't see that it's...that Kalo has grown any wolfy body parts the way Lucius did."

Nicu sounded like he was reading from a text. "Every spirit connection and reaction is different. No one knows how mates will react to each other until that first meeting. He may not go into a shift like Lucius did, but perhaps there will be other signs."

"Fabulous."

The stomping of large feet down the hall announced Kristof's-the Kamoda bear shifter and fourth member of the original misfits' family-entrance. "You needed me for some...holy hell, there's a man in the doorway, Mama."

"Yes. Thanks so much for pointing that out. Would you be a dear and move him out of the way, so we can shut the door and stop warming the neighbors' homes."

"What?" Kristof curled up his nose in confusion.

"Just move him to the couch. Thank you."

Kristof flashed the grin reserved solely for Ali before sliding his hands under Kalo's passed out body and half-lifting, half-dragging him to the sofa. One power-packed heave and Kalo was plopped unceremoniously onto the leather couch. The big man didn't move a muscle or make a peep.

"Who is this dude? He's almost as big as me and he smells really bad...and weird." Kristof fanned his fingers in front of his face. "Hope he wasn't selling anything ‘cause I know you don't like that, Mama."

"He wasn't. You can go back to what you were doing now."

"Waiting for cake?"

Ali groaned. "Right. The cake. I bet all the frosting has melted off and is laying in lumps all around my stunning creation." He turned to Lucius and Nicu. "Why don't you boys get Manny and put that poor cake out of its misery. I'll make a new one later so we can do the whole happy birthday schtick all over again."

"You sure you're okay here with Kalo?" There was a hint of suspicion in Nicu's voice, but Ali figured it was well deserved considering he probably wasn't rocking out any rainbows and sunshine in his aura.

"I won't touch a hair on his chinny chin chin."

Lucius and Kristof guffawed together, then Lucius paused, looking Ali in the eye. "Why didn't I know he was a wolf before I opened the door? I can usually sense shifters from a mile away."

Nicu circled an arm around Lucius' waist. "Kalo's a special sort of wolf shifter."

Ali couldn't resist that little nugget. "Oh yeah. He's special all right."

His sarcasm was rewarded with the most disappointed look he'd ever seen-from Nicu. He instantly wanted to take back his words, but short of wiggling his nose and making himself disappear, he had no recourse. He'd have to try harder to hold his tongue since his brain didn't seem to be communicating with it at the moment.

"Lucius, I really need my-"

Nicu interrupted him. "I've not known you to be so judgmental, Ali."

"And you've known me all of what? A week?" Again Ali wanted to retract his words. What the hell was wrong with him? He didn't like when his mouth spoke before his brain thought.

"Ali!" Lucius stepped into Ali's personal bubble, something he rarely did. "Nicky was just trying to help."

Ali dipped his head and inhaled a deep breath. "I'm sorry. You know that's not how I think. I don't judge shifters, people, anyone. I do apologize, Nicu. I just don't feel like...myself."

"I don't understand your dislike of Kalo, Ali. I suppose it could be part of the introduction process."

Nicu had hit the nail on the head. What was it about the stranger on the couch that sent Ali reeling with distemper and disagreement, even suspicion?

"I don't know if I like him or not since I haven't actually met him yet."

Nicu stepped closer. "But you knew you had a spirit mate when you were growing up, did you not?"

"My grandmother told me when I was a child."

"Did you not dream about him then? See images of him in your mind, how he looked, how he spoke...had feelings about him?" Ali only nodded this time. "I suspect Kalo does not fit into those images?"

"No. Not in the least." And he certainly didn't. Ali had never seen nor imagined such a man existed, really. Oh, he'd seen tattoos and piercings and big rugged men before, but never someone like Kalo who even while asleep seemed to demand attention in a dark almost foreboding way. Ali's dream mate was as far off the Kalo spectrum as was possible.

"Listen. I promise to be nice when he wakes up. You boys go eat that cake I slaved over before Kristof needs his stomach pumped from inhaling the whole thing. I promise to yell if Kalo wakes up."

Lucius nodded, taking Nicu's hand in an effort to pull him along. But Nicu hesitated for a moment. "Kalo is a very good man, Ali. I don't believe the fates would attach such a vital bond if it was not important for both mates' futures and hearts to be entwined."

Ali nodded. "Ah, you're a hopeless romantic, Nicu, but thank you. I'm sorry if I reacted too hastily. Maybe you should take your grandmother into the kitchen too before she washes the skin off your cousin's face."

He dipped his shoulder to the couch where Anca was busy spit-washing-using a dirty tissue-Kalo's smudged eyeliner and scraggly beard.