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

“I don’t want to join the Tourney. I’m just going to check for my sister—”

“I’m afraid we canna let ye do that, lass,” Fur-head said, now mimicking a bad Scottish accent. “Only those that pay the toll may enter the QuestMaster grounds for the weekend.”

These guys were going to drive her insane. “Fine. Whatever. How much is the toll?” She had a few bucks on her.

“Fifty dollars,” Baldy said proudly.

“Fifty…what? Fifty dollars? You’re kidding me.”

“Everyone must pay the toll,” he repeated stubbornly. “If ye don’t wish to pay, we shall have to escort ye from the king’s lands, milady.”

King’s lands, her patoot. “I don’t have that much cash on me.”

Baldy inclined his head ever so slightly. “We take checks, milady.”

“Naturally. Fine. I’ll write you a check.” She headed into the tent to write it. Even under the tent, the air was muggy and gross. Her hair was dripping into her eyes and she was pretty sure her makeup was running down her face. Lovely. Maybe she could be one of the hideous monsters they were hunting this weekend. Long live the swamp hag.

Beth Ann began to write out the check, and then began to shiver. She glanced up. “I don’t suppose you have a flashlight for sale while I’m at it? Or a jacket?”

“Such things are forbidden in QuestMasters,” Fur hat said in a stiff voice, as if outraged by the thought.

Okay, she’d go stomping around in the dark to find Lucy. Whatever. She eyed his cloak—it looked a lot warmer than her thin sequined dress that was even now sticking to her body. “Don’t suppose I could buy that cloak off of you?”

“Tis not for sale—”

“Fifty dollars,” she offered.

He took it off with a flourish. “All yours.”

She pulled out a new check, wrote it, and handed it over.

He smiled and handed her a clipboard. “Sign in, milady, with your QuestMaster name.”

“Oh, um, I don’t have one. How about I come back when I think of one, and then I’ll sign in, okay?” At his nod, she took the cloak he handed her and pitched it over her shoulders. To her surprise, they then handed her a grocery bag. “What’s this?”

“Party favors,” Baldy said with a wink. “Shall I escort you throughout the Tourney grounds in search of our fair maiden?”

She dug through the bag. To her surprise, she pulled out a box of condoms. There was also a roll of toilet paper in the bag, and a bottle of cheap rum.

This was the big party her sister had gone to? Where they passed out boxes of condoms as soon as you paid to get in? Beth Ann clutched the bag to her chest and smiled tightly. “Actually, I think I’ll go find her on my own, thanks.”

The fur-headed one stepped out in the rain with her to open the gate. “Luck to thee, fair lady. May ye steer clear of the dragons in the forest.”

“I’ll keep that in mind,” she said dryly, and headed down the path.

The rain pelted her, the ground underneath her feet slushy and sucking at her strappy Louboutin sandals. She was pretty sure they were ruined, but she hadn’t brought a spare pair of shoes. That was fine—she hated these shoes anyhow, and they were far too pricey for a beautician to own, anyhow. They’d been a gift—an apology from Allan when he’d cheated on her. She didn’t regret ruining them. She wouldn’t have worn them if she’d have thought she’d be spending her Friday night in a muddy forest looking for Lucy, after all.

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?”

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