Home > The Care and Feeding of an Alpha Male (Bluebonnet #2)(5)

The Care and Feeding of an Alpha Male (Bluebonnet #2)(5)
Author: Jessica Clare

The two men didn’t follow her down the path, just went back into the tent at the front. She clutched the bag and stumbled down the dark, overgrown path, heading for the first campfire in the distance.

“Wait, milady,” called a voice behind her.

She turned, hopeful. Maybe she wouldn’t have to go searching in the woods after all. “My sister?”

But the man—Baldy—jogged out to her, and presented her with an apple.

Beth Ann stared at it for a moment, then back at him, confused. “I’m not sure I follow.”

“By QuestMaster rules, if a gentleman wishes to show a lady his favor, he presents her with an apple.”

How terribly awkward. “Oh, well, listen, honey. That’s nice, but—”

He leaned in. “It is all in how you receive the gift, milady. An apple from a potential lover can be a teasing token.” He leaned in as if sniffing the apple, and turned a hot gaze on her.

Beth Ann took a step backward. “That’s nice of you, but I’m not sure—”

As she watched, he turned over the apple and began to tongue the base. Over and over, stabbing it with the tip of his tongue and continuing to give her the same heated glance. As if he were making love to the thing.

Oh, mercy. This was rather horrifying.

He held the poor, violated apple out to her, then bowed.

She raised a hand in the air. “I really must pass.”

Baldy frowned. “That’s not how the game is played. You must accept it and then demonstrate your decline of my favor by using the apple.”

She was doing no such thing. Beth Ann pulled out her phone and checked the time. “It’s getting late and I really have to go. Sorry. I’ll have to learn the rules next time.” She gave him a tight smile, and then disappeared down the path as quickly as she could.

Lord, to think that an apple could be used in such a graphic manner.

To her relief, he didn’t follow her. She did, however, run into three more girls a bit farther down the path. They were about Lucy’s age and dressed like wenches. Very loose wenches. They smiled as they sauntered past, ignoring the rain, and she noticed each one carried a beer mug and an apple. She continued on to the nearby campsite, and smiled at the people gathered there as she approached. More teenage girls were here, and she scanned the faces, looking for Lucy. No luck. These girls were scantily dressed and sat on the laps of men in tunics and capes. All were oblivious of the rain pouring down. One couple in the back of the group was making out as if they didn’t realize they were in public. Or in a rainstorm.

“Excuse me,” Beth Ann said, stepping forward and giving them a little wave.

“A fairy,” one of the girls said with a drunken giggle, raising a mug. “Behold her sparkle.”

“Yep, that’s me,” Beth Ann said cheerfully, determined to put a pleasant face on things. “Sparkly. Isn’t that nice of you. Listen, honey, I’m looking for Lucy Williamson. Have any of you seen her?”

One of the men stood and gave her a puzzled look. “I know not of a Lucy.”

“Sounds like a mundane name,” another wench piped up, then belched.

“There are no mundanes here this eve, milady,” said another.

This was going to be a long, long night.

TWO

Two hours later, she was no closer to finding Lucy. If her sister had been hiding at one of the campsites, her friends and fellow QuestMasters had done an excellent job of concealing her. Everyone she asked had never heard of a Lucy, and she didn’t know her sister’s QuestMaster name. Everyone, it seemed, had one. She’d met a Sparkle Blossom, a Megan the Fair, a Ragnar the Great (who didn’t seem so great), and three different Aragorns.

She’d also met a lot of drunks and had run across a lot of people making out. She’d been propositioned more tonight than she’d ever been in her life. Apparently the QuestMasters geared up for the big tourney tomorrow by drinking heavily and sleeping with anything that said yes. And here she’d thought they camped out in the woods because they were into nature. Turned out they were just into underage, unsupervised drinking. She’d seen more teenagers carrying bottles than she’d seen adults to supervise them.

The rain didn’t seem to be slowing down the QuestMasters any. They wandered from campsite to campsite, laughing and drinking despite the rain and now inches-deep mud. Most of the campfires had gone out in the torrential downpour and her newly purchased cloak was little more than a sodden blanket around her shoulders. She’d taken off her shoes when they’d started to sink in the mud instead of slide. Now she carried them in the bag along with the condoms and alcohol.

And despite all her searching, still no sign of Lucy. But every time she passed another couple making out in the open, or another teenage girl swinging past with a drinking horn, she was even more determined to find her sister. Seventeen was a little too young for this sort of thing, and some of the men here were older than Beth Ann.

It was getting harder to tell the trail from the rest of the ground, since it was all turning into a sludge. She tripped over a root and pitched forward, but caught herself on a nearby bush. Ahead, she could see someone moving and heard the clinking of a costume. “Hello?”

A girl approached and in the low light of a nearby torch, it looked as if she wore a belly dancer costume that was soaked in rain and mud to the point that it was indecent. Her other arm carried multiple bottles of booze, from what Beth Ann could tell. She glanced at Beth Ann’s dress, then back at her. “You with the cops?”

“Do I look like a cop?”

The girl squinted at Beth Ann in the darkness. “No?” she said hopefully.

She crossed her arms over her chest, wishing for the hundredth time that she had a flashlight, or that it’d stop raining for five minutes. “I’m not one.” When the girl sagged with relief, she pressed on. “Are there cops here? At the Tourney?”

The girl shifted her burden in her arms uneasily. “Maybe.”

“My goodness, why would cops be here?” Beth Ann smiled, as if totally oblivious to the minor in front of her carrying alcohol. “That’s just silly.”

“I know,” the girl blurted, relaxing a little. “But that’s what I heard back at the Templar camp.”

“Templar camp?”

The girl gestured behind her. “Back there. It’s quite a ways into the woods but they have the best alcohol.”

Maybe that’s where Lucy had headed. “That sounds like where I want to go. Can you show me the way?”

The girl shook her head. “I need to vacate the premises if the cops are here. Someone at the Templar camp told me they were making people leave.”

Well, good for the cops. They were going to have a field day with this place. She raised her voice to speak over the downpour. “I’m looking for Lucy Williamson.”

The girl fidgeted in place, her wet hair plastered to her skull. “I don’t know her.”

“I know,” she bit out, then forced the pleasant smile back to her face. “I don’t know her QuestMaster name. But she’s tall and skinny with blond hair and bright green nails.” She’d painted them for her sister just yesterday.

The other girl brightened. “I think I saw her earlier. She hang out with Lord Colossus?”

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