road home

Oh my god Neal Hawthorne is the messiest bitch and I love it. Like — I mean let me tell the whole story.

Okay, so Cara gets out of the shower on Wednesday and she comes out in nothing but a towel, flops onto the king bed and turns on the TV.

Neal made his praying-for-patience face and said, “Cara. Where the fuck is my car?”

“Hm?” she said. “Oh, are we still on that?” Then she rounded on me. “Come here,” she said, patting the bed beside her. “Are you their latest victim?”

I glanced uncertainly at Julian and he rolled his eyes just slightly.

“Come on, I don’t bite.”

Listen I’m willing to bet Cara Thistle does bite if she needs to, but I could get into that lmao (kidding I’m legit terrified of her). I went and sat awkwardly on the edge of the bed beside her.

“How old are you sweetheart?” she asked.

I hesitated.

“You look like a baby,” she said. “Let me guess, they found you under precarious circumstances, didn’t they. There was no choice but for you to go with them.”

I said nothing, but the answer was all over my face — up to and including my one all black eye.

“Yep, that’s how they getcha. You’re at the worst point in your life and along come some handsome hunters to sweep you into a whole new world. How’s it working out for you? Has it been all the glamour you’ve been hoping for?”

Lol. No.

“I used to be like you, you know,” Cara said. “A long time ago. Just a young, fresh faced idiot, with a few paranormal problems. And then in swoop the Walthers…”

Record scratch — the Walthers?

“Cara,” Neal said, as evenly as he could. “Where’s my car.”

“Please Neal, I’m talking to the new me,” she told him with a big sparkly smile.

Which like — okay, bitch?

Neal was so pissed his nostrils were flaring but he didn’t rise to the bait. “The only reason we’re here,” Neal said. “Is we’re looking for our car.”

“Did you call Celeste?” Cara said.

Neal said nothing and Cara cackled.

“Did she love it? I bet she just loved this.”

“No,” Neal said. “She didn’t love this. I’ll be lucky if she ever speaks to me again. Are you happy?”

Cara smiled and stretched luxuriously. Then she said, “How’s Jasper? I haven’t seen him in ages.”

Here, Julian finally intervened. “If you want to see Jasper, you know where he is,” he said calmly. “But we really need the rabbit.”

Cara gave him a pitying smile. “I sold it,” she said.

“To who?” Neal said.

Cara shrugged. “Someone willing to pay.”

“Cara, if you need money, the Scelerats —”

She groaned. “The Scelerats,” she scoffed. “You may be happy being tied up in all their rules, but I prefer —”

“Thievery? Black markets? Devastating betrayals of trust?” Neal suggested.

She smiled indulgently at him. “Baby, you sound bitter.”

“Okay,” Julian said. “That’s enough. We’re not here for the games Cara. We just need the car.”

“Well, good luck with that,” she said. “But I’m afraid I can’t help you. You’re welcome to call the cops if there’s been a crime.”

Julian came and sat on the bed between Cara and the TV. “Here’s the thing,” Julian said. “I’ve really missed you these last few years. The car will be fine out there, where ever it is. I’d be more than happy to spend a few days in a nice hotel with you. But I suspect our presence won’t help your itinerary much.”

Cara narrowed her eyes. “What do you know about my itinerary?” she said.

“Nothing,” Julian said. “Only that until we have our car back, you’re going to have to postpone it.”

“So you’re kidnapping me,” Cara said. “That’s a fun new low for us.”

“Wait…” I said, and I’m proud of this because I was still stinging from the implication that I’m just a lame Cara replacement. Because listen, this girl is a FOX and I’m like… a rat. A possum on a good day. “If they’re kidnapping you, I think that makes you the new me? Right?”

😗👌Neal high-fived me.

The fun went out of Cara’s expression. “Fine,” she said. She grabbed her phone off the side table and tossed it at Neal. “The guy you’re looking for should be my last five missed calls. He’s running into some trouble with the rabbit.”

Neal deflated with relief, scrolled through the missed calls, then tossed the phone back at Cara. “Set up a meeting,” he said. “And get dressed!”

After that it was a simple case of meeting up with the buyer. He was clearly pissed because he wanted to meet up that exact second. We literally were back with the car within the hour.

I knew everything about the buyer the moment I saw him. He was in his late twenties probably, wearing a scarf in summer and sunglasses at night. “It doesn’t RUN,” he shouted at us the moment we were out of the rental. “You promised this was the best drag racing car in country, so I bought this ugly piece of shit at a PREMIUM and the damn thing won’t RUN.”

“Keys,” Neal said.

“I want a refund!” the buyer shrieked. He was practically spitting with rage.

“Oh calm down,” Cara said. “Your daddy’s bank account will be fine.”

“KEYS,” Neal said more insistently and the buyer’s confidence faltered. He put the keys in Neal’s hand and Neal slid into the front seat. “Finally.”

“REFUND,” the buyer said.

“Here,” Julian said. “We’ll just buy it back from you. How much did you pay her?”

“1.3 million,” the buyer said.

“Dollars?” I said. “For that thing?”

“It’s death proof!” the buyer said. “She proved it!”

“Here,” Julian said. He pulled up some banking app, and got the buyers banking information. All that money moving around must have soothed the buyer, because after that I didn’t really hear anything from the Douche. Instead I was shuffling through the back of the car, and sure enough, still tucked in the seat pocket was my iPad. Thank GOD.

Cara slid onto the hood of the rabbit, feet kicked up behind her, and faced Neal through the windshield, smirking.

At this point I’d just like to know who Neal hasn’t slept with.

I got back out of the car.

“So,” I said to Julian. “We’re on rental return duty, huh?”

Julian glanced at Neal and Cara having their moment through the rabbit’s windshield. He rolled his eyes. “Looks like it,” he said. “Come on, we’ll have them meet us there.”

I asked him for Cara’s backstory in the car, and Julian, bless him, indulged me.

“We met her on a hunt when we were kids,” he said. “I was probably fourteen, Neal and Jasper were sixteen, seventeen max. Nolan had left to test his wings with Alec and Rosie the moment he turned eighteen, and we were chomping at the bit to follow him. We were still living with Louie, who didn’t have time to teach us the trade. So he called the Walthers and we — Neal, Jasper, and I — saddled up with them to learn the ropes.

Cara was one of our first cases. Her parents were… well they both died, and she had nowhere else to go, so we brought her with us. We learned the trade together. The four of us and Beverly.

“But Cara didn’t like hunting much — the case where her parents died was really ugly, and she never really got over it. She started stealing shit from the Emporium and selling it, which obviously no one could let stand.” Julian shrugged. “She makes a better thief than a hunter,” he said. “But her moral backbone is… flawed, as you’ve seen. We keep an eye on her.”

I didn’t even know they learned the trade from the Walthers, I guess I thought they learned it from Louie, though now I think of it, he more than has his hands full.

That story also raises some questions about what happened between them and the Walthers, because last I checked they hated those guys.

Anyways, I didn’t get the best part of the story until later, when Celeste called Julian.

He looked super confused, but Neal wasn’t back yet (yeesh) so he picked up.

“You found the car?” Celeste asked.

“We found it,” Julian

“…did you find Cara, or —”

“Yeah, we had to find Cara. To get the car back.”

Celeste was quiet for a long time. Then she said, “He’s with her right now, huh?”

“…you know, it’s really not my —” Julian began awkwardly and Celeste quickly said,

“Of course not. Right. I can’t believe I called you! I’m sorry, this is so inappropriate. It’s none of my business.”

So I’m watching this like !!!!! and Julian’s making agony face, and Celeste goes, “Could you not tell him I called? I really wish I hadn’t called.”

“You can always call me,” Julian told her. “But yeah, I won’t tell him.”

“Yeah, cool,” Celeste said and straight up hung up on us. And it was just all so weird and out of character because frankly Celeste is like… I mean Celeste is the coolest person on earth, and Neal is a big dumb dork. I don’t get it.

Julian got it tho. When she hung up the phone he like groaned exasperatedly and tossed his phone, at which point, OBVIOUSLY I had to ask what the deal was.

AND GUESS WHAT.

Turns out CARA is why Neal and Celeste broke up. Not like, in a shitty cheating way, but apparently Neal and Celeste started dating and Cara went in to see what trouble she could cause with Neal’s new girlfriend, and it turned out she could cause a LOT of trouble, because Neal hadn’t told Celeste about his whole lie detector thing.

No one wants to find out that your boyfriend can supernaturally tell when you’re lying. Especially if they’ve been keeping it from you. ESPECIALLY if you hear about it from a beautiful, mean, blond who is like… his ex? Kind of? I’m not under the impression that they were ever like officially dating, but clearly there’s a lot of history there. Plus, according to Julian because Celeste is a witch, she takes trust and transparency involving magical abilities very seriously.

Which would all have been bad enough, but Julian also sort of awkwardly mentioned that when Celeste confronted Neal about his powers and Cara’s behavior, Neal was more protective of Cara than was probably wise.

So THAT’S what happened between Neal and Celeste. Cara happened hahahaha. MESSY.

And like I haven’t even asked how Jasper fits into it hahaha. The DRAMA. I’m living for it.

ANYWAYYYS we’re back on the road again, just the three of us. Cara slipped out in the night, and the boys didn’t stop her.

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