Disguise

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Just Who Are You?

“Are you just going to stand there all day gawking or are we going to get our cycles?” I asked my seemingly dazed best friend, who didn’t look like she heard me anyway. We had decided to cycle around the city for the rest of the day, and maybe grab a late dinner somewhere.

“And you’re telling me, you haven’t even opened one of them?” She didn’t even meet my eye as she asked the same question again. “For the love of God! I did not.” I was exasperated now, could she stop staring at all those shiny wrapped gifts already?

“Why wouldn’t you open even one? Isn’t that just mean? He’s obviously trying to take some efforts!”

“I-” Her question stopped me short. Me not opening and planning to return his gifts is rude? That’s a new perspective.

“I was just trying to be humble-”

“When will girls realize that men like to do such things for them? Honestly, it’s exhausting.”

I opened my mouth to reply to her and then closed it again. She had finally turned away from all the presents to give me a pointed look. Meekly, I shied away from her gaze. “Well I did kind of decide to open them today.” I told her, remembering my afternoon with Reece when he told me that he already knew I was his mate. My head still spun about that, and my heart ached.

What could have turned him against me when I was made specifically for him, and he, for me? I was curious but also scared. What if the answer was something crude? I was human, he was not only a ten times stronger werewolf, he was also a King. Obviously anybody could see how the scales tilted.

“Helloooooo?” Xena’s hands were waving in front of my face and I broke out of my thoughts. “What’s gotten into you lately?” She questioned with the hint of a smile, her blonde hair framing her face now that she had opened up the messy bun. She had really pretty hair, it was wavy, but not too much that it got difficult to manage, and it circled all around till her waist in an elegant, voluminous fashion.

“Or shall I say, who has gotten into you lately?” She wiggled her eyebrows and her dirty insinuation registered in my mind and an unwarranted blush ran to my face. Why was it that no matter what, whenever it was related to Reece, I was blushing or fuming?

Xena misunderstood my stop signal face and shy silence and squealed, ” Oh god, Flo! I was only kidding, you didn’t really..?” She left the sentence hanging, her blue eyes peering into my expression for further hints and I immediately shook my head.

“No! No we have done no such thing!” I rectified with alarm, trying to get her to believe me. She looked at me suspiciously before nodding once. Her mood had shifted, I could tell. What was she thinking?

Best to ask.

“Xen, what’s up?” I asked while toying with a random gift on the bed. She contemplated for a minute or two before sighing, her golden hair spun with her body as she turned to face me completely.

“Flo-”

Here it comes.

“-I’m worried about you.”

I smiled at her, my heart melting at her words. “I know.” I decided against telling her that I was going to be fine. All that wasn’t going to stop her worrying. She would undoubtedly make her own assessment of things regardless of my insistence.

“I know I said I approve and all that, but that was only meant to be funny. I don’t want to lecture you on being careful and not making the same mistake twice, but..” She started pacing back and forth, looking straight ahead and making gestures with her hands while she spoke.

My smile grew wider. She was such a gem.

“I know.” I said again, mostly because I knew that nothing I said would really convince her. She stopped pacing to give me a once over.

“Just..Just be careful, alright?” She tried to play it down as casual but anyone could easily see all the worry seeping through. Oh well, she’d trust him in time.

I got off the bed, walked up to her and engulfed her in a warm hug, “Don’t worry so much,” I gave her a squeeze and then whispered into her ear, “you’ll go bald.”

She pushed me back with horrified eyes. “You take that back!” She said with revulsion, her hands going to clutch a few strands of her shiny hair dearly. I cackled like a chicken at her mortified expression. Oh boy was she gold.

Just then we heard the familiar ding of the elevator and the doors slid open. We walked into the lobby area to see Reece and Hank step outside. Hank was avoiding my gaze actively, while Reece looked at me with a lively expression. He then turned to Xena and gave her a friendly smile, “Like the upgrade?” But he didn’t make it sound cocky.

Xena beamed back at him, but then her smirk turned evil as she said, “I’ve seen better.” making the two of us laugh. Hank managed to give us a wry smile and then Xena coughed, turning my attention to her.

“Oh! Right. Xena, this is Hank. Hank, this is Xena.” I made the basic introductions and they mumbled a polite hello.

They were both dressed as if they were going out tonight, or they were just returning from somewhere. Reece looked mouthwatering in the simple black shirt and jeans with his sleeves rolled up.

Oh those arms seemed so, so strong. They could probably break a bed post..Goodness did I just think that? What was happening to my virgin mind?! Although, his body would feel so good on top of mine, like today morning. It was like he ignited something in me. Something big and uncontrollable, almost....instinctual.

“-so we think that you should come with us. What do you say?” My mate looked at me questioningly, and I realized that I’d just been asked a question. And with the sneaky smile Reece was giving me, I was pretty sure he knew what I was thinking about. I tried to act normal as I answered him.

“Oh, um. sure, if Xena is fine with it.” What was I saying yes to again?

Xena was already smiling at me, looking rather excited. Uh-oh. Her ideas of exciting things were generally what always got us into trouble. Reece relaxed, looking rather pleased himself while Hank just gave us half a smile. He clearly didn’t want to be here. Things with Hank had always been tense, I remembered his words from my first day here. He’d called me a leech. And with such loathing as though I’d personally done something to harm him. He looked like he wanted to say something but held back because of Xena.

“We were planning to cycle around, but this sounds fun!” She explained.

“Alright then, we’ll give you an hour to get ready?” He asked, directing his question to me and I shook my head. That was not necessary. “Half.”

Twenty minutes later we were both ready for a night at one of the best clubs in town. Xena had extended me the courtesy of repeating the plan after I confessed to the day dreaming. She didn’t tease me much, claiming that good looks were often distracting.

I wore a maroon colored dress that ended a few inches above my knee, a total bodycon that hugged my curves in all the right places. It had a high neck, but a sexy cut out back. I paired it with my favorite statement black heels. Xena wore a dark green dress that flared below her waist in an elegant fashion. She wore grey heels below, that went well with the dress.

Her enthusiasm was catching up to me. I hadn’t gone to many parties since quite a while now. Alcohol and me never had a good equation, and Xena always ended up taking me home, so after a while I had just stopped. Yep, my capacity was shit, I couldn’t hold my liquor even if my script writing ass depended on it.

But today felt different. I felt like I could go out and enjoy it for real this time. And I had a pretty good idea of why that was happening.

Reece stood in awe - rather literally - as we entered the reception area from the lift. His eyes raked all over me, making me blush at the approval and hunger I could see in them, and then he went ahead to give me a brilliant, sexy smile that made me struggle to keep my heart under control - and my body. Next to me, Xena leaned further in and whispered, “Who are they?” and I dragged my attention from Reece to look at everyone else. They were all standing there looking absolutely stunning; Dani, Sienna, Hank and Grey. All my old friends, walking back into my life, one diva at a time.

I vaguely chalked their incredible looks and charisma to their werewolf genes, which made them intimidating as well as attractive to those who knew nothing about them. Sigh, life was unfair. Reece hadn’t changed from earlier, but he chose to throw on a jacket which made him look even more attractive. I think my mouth was watering.

Grey was the first one to step ahead, trailed by Daniella. “There you are!” he spoke excitedly before moving forward to greet us. Dani engulfed me in a warm hug. I introduced them all to my equally gorgeous best friend, who no doubt felt slightly out of place. But she was just one of those people who won everyone over easily and it would only be a matter of time.

“And lastly, this is Sienna, Reece’s sister.” I told her, and they shook hands. Reece walked over to me and placed a hand around my waist, inciting warm sizzles between the two of us. I was about to move an appropriate distance away when he suddenly tightened his hold and yanked me closer.

“Eeeek!”

I lost footing momentarily before I caught myself on his chest even though I knew that he wouldn’t have let me fall to begin with. Reece let out a little chuckle at the scene we were in - my hands on his chest and his both arms wrapped around my waist - everyone was looking at us now.

“Looks like you lost your step there for a second.” He said loudly without releasing his hold on me and I looked up to glare at him.

“You pulled me!” I accused, but I could already see that nobody was going to believe that because they all burst out laughing. Xena even had the nerve to comment, “She is rather clumsy.” Which made my face heat up even more. I decided that there was no point in arguing about this and was about to tell him to take his hands off when he leaned forward the tiniest bit, looked right into my light brown eyes and whispered,” You look gorgeous tonight.” And I was lost. His comment lit my face on fire and I completely forgot about my annoyance. I just stood there playing the fool, with wide eyes, red cheeks, and a wide smile.

“But Flora,” Reece continued, a bit more loudly, after the pause, “We can’t get into the car if you continue to keep your hands behind my neck.” And that, ladies and gentlemen, is how I realized that Reece had already taken his hands off of my waist but mine had slithered from his chest right to the back of his neck.

Talk about wishing the earth to swallow me whole.

Needless to say, I put space between us almost immediately and looked away, while correcting myself from the sudden movement. Did I have to be so clumsy? I caught myself well enough that only Reece noticed and looked away from his penetrating gaze. He was enjoying himself too much at my expense.

They gave Xena a rather warm welcome, taking turns to talk to her and make her feel well included and I appreciated that. I had been worried about her not liking them much, since she was rather protective of me and the only stories she had heard about them did not portray them well. My thoughts were interrupted as Alyssa, the receptionist came forward from behind the reception counter. “The cars are ready, Al-Sir.” She amended quickly and Reece nodded, ushering us outside to where there were four cars - all sleek and black.

“So, which one is ours?” I asked him and he pointed to the two in the center. “Those are the two we will go in.”

I could vaguely make out a person sitting in the driver’s seat, “He’s blocking us.” I pointed to the car ahead, and Sienna next to us let out a laugh. “That’s our security.” She said, trying her best to keep a straight face at my gasp.

Xena was a lot more expressive as she eyed the cars with wide eyes. “Just who are you?” She mumbled trying to have a better look at the cars. I peered in the direction she was squinting and froze when I saw it. The first and last cars didn’t just have drivers, they had nearly six people sitting inside each, few men and few women, staring straight ahead. It was so dark and the windows were semi-tinted so I missed that minor detail before.

I couldn’t remain impassive anymore. “Are those...”

“Bodyguards? Yes.” Grey didn’t even hide his proud tone when he answered me, clearly enjoying how overwhelmed we were. They probably didn’t get to show off much, I thought dryly. But it was working just the same - I think I ate a fly.

“So how long are you guys vacationing?” Sienna asked her and she shrugged, “I think till the end of the next week. Then we head further up north.” Sienna nodded, exchanging a subtle look with Reece but before I could question it, someone tapped on my shoulder and I turned around.

Hank stood there looking at me like he would rather be anywhere else than here. He was looking down at his shoes in obvious guilt and I didn’t say anything but just stood there and raised an eyebrow. “Hi, Flora..” He began, scratching the back of his head and I wanted to announce to everyone how uncomfortable he looked. Behind me, I could still hear Xena and Sienna chatting away animatedly while Daniella and Grey had already sat in the second car.

“Hi.” I told him, looking around for someone to save me from this awkward conversation. Reece stood right next to me but he didn’t say a word, he was instead listening intently to our one word conversation. Hank was Reece’s muscle man, I could already see that. The whole break down was rather obvious, Grey was the trusted adviser, right hand man and the one that got involved with all the administration work. Hank was the strength. He probably was in charge of security and training and all that. Sienna fit nowhere into this scenario apart from the fact that she was Reece’s sister, maybe she was vacationing as well. Dani was Grey’s mate. He had told me that they met in school but I know that that was just a human lie fed to me. I’d have to catch hold of them and ask them the true story someday.

“Why don’t we go already?” I heard Sienna urge my best friend and she towed her away to Daniella and Grey while chatting animatedly. A part of me didn’t want to leave her with them but I trusted Grey to take care of her. Besides, she seemed rather engrossed in her conversation and didn’t mind.

Hank looked at Reece once before he gestured towards the car. “Shall we?” He asked me with a tilt of his head and I nodded. Reece started walking right next to me, still tight lipped but attentive. The seats were facing each other - like that of a limousine, and Reece sat next to me while Hank sat facing us.

Immediately, Reece’s hands were on mine and I felt the familiar sparks comfort me for this awkward conversation that was yet to come.

“You planned this.” I stated calmly, looking back and forth between the two of them. They didn’t defend themselves and I nodded with the answer that their silence gave me. I slunk into the seat, trying to make myself as small as possible. “What happened?” I asked no one in particular. If they had taken the efforts to split Xena and me then it had to be something important.

Hank was the first one to speak, “I know that I have never been much of a support for you.” I snorted, this was true. Even in the start, while the rest had been overjoyed, Hank always lurked around the corner, remaining impassive to anything related to Reece and me. I hadn’t let it bother me much - you couldn’t please everyone - but I was always curious about his neutrality.

“I didn’t approve.” He confessed, and I had to stop myself from squeezing Reece’s hand because of the pain his statement gave me. “I figured.” I answered rather blankly, I was not going to let my emotions show. He let out a huge sigh, putting his head in his hands before looking up at me again.

This time, his expression was not guarded. I could see his eyes clearly, the torment within them, arising from our age old conflict. It took me by surprise, the swirl of things his eyes conveyed to me and I decided that I wanted to hear out what he had to say.

“My cousin is Bri.”

“Didn’t see that coming.”

Bri, short for Brianna, was another member of the squad back in the good old days. She usually hung out with Reece, Hank and occasionally Sienna. Her parents were really good friends with theirs’ and they three were rather close.

“Until I came in the picture.” I whispered, suddenly seeing where this was all leading. They gave me a funny look and I realized that I had spoken out loud. “We were kids and Reece began to spend so much time with you, or so we thought.” Hank continued, overseeing my thoughts with a nod.

I had, several times, tried to extend an olive branch to the one aloof friend Reece had, but she never took it. Eventually I just pushed her to the background assuming that she was someone who simply didn’t like me for some superficial reason.

“So you hated me because I was dating him?” I couldn’t even begin to explain how idiotic it sounded when I said it like that. How childish were they? Hank scratched the back of his head again, his eyes lowered in shame. “We didn’t know what to make of it first, we thought it was just an infatuation and it would blow over, and you couldn’t have been his mate because a werewolf doesn’t identify his mate till he reaches nineteen.”

That stopped me. So why did Reece say that he knew it all along? But before I could ask, Reece supplied me with an answer, “We can’t identify for sure, but we do have inklings, a pull, hints. So I was rather certain that you were mine.”

My heart fluttered at his words. He’d called me his? I hoped that he had a defibrillator in the back of this car somewhere.

“And it was fine, we were learning to adjust to this new member in the group. Daniella and Grey were smitten by you, and Sienna wasn’t around much anymore..”

“But then Bri went crazy.” Reece supplied, continuing Hank’s half left sentence.

“Werewolves are all about packs, and families. That is our most important code. What was I supposed to do?! She was my sister! And Reece was my best friend! I thought she was protecting him!” Hank bellowed, his loud tone catching me off guard. The next second, Reece was leaning in front of me, his one hand outstretched and on the square of Hank’s chest, his eyes jet black. His other hand was pushing me slightly behind him, further into the plush printed seat.

“You will not talk to your Queen like that.” His voice was a whisper, but only a fool would think him harmless. I myself was cowering away from him.

“Alpha, I apologize.” Hank said hurriedly even though the two of us knew that his outburst was more at himself than me. He was angry at his own actions and not at my presence, but such explanations were not the right thing to say at this moment. Hank gave me a sideways look and I caught on. My hand immediately went over his shoulder and I felt him slightly loosen. “Reece, please calm down you’re scaring me.” I didn’t even have to put efforts into sounding scared, my voice was already shaking, along with my other hand.

He immediately looked away from Hank and I could see the dark cloud in his eyes subside. Reece took both my hands in his, clutching them close to his chest for a moment and then I was awarded with the familiar forest green of his eyes as he regained control.

“Sorry,” He muttered, “Instinct.” I didn’t know what to say to that, so I only nodded. This was going to take a lot of getting used to.

Luckily, Hank brought us back on track. “Well, she came up to me one day and said that she was sure that Reece was her mate. I know you don’t want to get into all this at the moment, you will ask when you are ready but you have a right to know that I played a part in everything that happened that night.” Hank confessed.

There was a silence as his words hung in the air, lingering over us like perfume. Both Hank and Reece waited with patience as they let me absorb the information. Reece was frowning a lot while Hank had averted his eyes away from me and was looking out the window.

And then, surprising even myself, I let out a small smile. “Thank you.” I told him. His eyes snapped back to me and his body stiffened. His mouth was apart in surprise and the sight would have made me giggle in some other situation, but this was too touchy a topic.

“Excuse me?” He asked, as if he hadn’t heard me clearly and so, I repeated. “Thank you.”

Reece was looking back and forth between the two of us in contemplation. His face morphed from confusion to one of understanding and a small smile lit his face, completely eliminating the frown. I couldn’t be sure, but I think I saw approval in his eyes and that made me continue.

“It took guts to admit this, so, thank you. Thank you for being courageous when it was most needed.” I elaborated as I watched his expression go from dubious to doubtful to surprised and finally settle on grateful. And I meant every word of it. It was true that I should be hurt and angry, but what was the point now? It was as evident as the Sun that he truly felt remorseful, and wasn’t that all that was needed? The sincerity behind every apology.

Not to mention that admitting this meant that he had to face Reece’s wrath when he did confess, and that’s something I didn’t think even I had the capability of. And miraculously, I felt lighter as well. Just as I had felt when Reece had first apologized. Bit by bit, I could feel the pieces of my life edging closer to each other, yearning to be one and that was warming me inside.

Hank seemed to have decided that I was being genuine after much hesitation and then finally he let out a low whistle.

“I thought that you would ask Reece to rip my head off.” He muttered, making me laugh harder now. “What? Where do you come up with such nonsense?”

“I would do it without a fight.” Hank promised, his demeanor no longer relaxed. I glanced at him open mouthed before looking at Reece whose lips were a firm line. I waited a moment for the two of them to break their stance and double over laughing, but it never came.

The severity of his words hit me hard, “You’re not joking.” I whispered, almost choked up and Hank nodded. “I don’t think you realize what you’re into.” he said in a low tone, urging me to question him further but I didn’t.

Reece gave a small grunt and Hank said no more on the subject, but it was already too late. I could get people to...die? I was horrified at that thought. This was insane! Nobody should have that much power. The situation turned sour as I confronted one more piece of information that was hell bent on spiraling me out of control.

“Don’t think about all this tonight.” Reece whispered into my ear and I nodded halfheartedly. How could I not? This web of complications was weaving itself worse and I somehow stood near the center, unarmed and confused. “You don’t have to worry about any of this anymore, I promise.” He said again, trying to soothe out the worry I must be exuding and I nodded absentmindedly yet again.

A minute later he leaned in once again, “You’re still thinking about it.” he whispered and I turned to give him a sarcastic look, “Thanks for the update, Wolfy.” In retrospect, I think that was what tipped him off that standard tactics wouldn’t pull me out of my web.

“Looks like you need some distraction.” He muttered and I chose to ignore him.

The next moment Reece switched his hand from on top of mine to my right knee that was exposed from the dress and it succeeded in jolting me out of my thoughts sufficiently enough to give him a glare. Now I had a new problem - how to get these wandering fingers off my knee before Hank noticed and I burst into flames.

I glared at him silently, trying to simultaneously keep a check on Hank, who was staring out the window in deep thought. Reece’s smile tilted into a smirk as he raised his finger higher, reaching above my knee and I swatted it away, giving my meanest glare but it didn’t work for long. Instead, his fingers came back higher this time.

Goodness what was he doing to me?! How could you expect anyone to behave when your counterpart was such a notorious heartthrob?!

I put my hand on top of his, and curled my fingers to hold on to his. He gave me a questioning look as if to say ‘You want to hold my hand?’ and I blushed slightly before I did what I had set out to do. I pinched his hand. Hard. Reece let out a surprised yelp before taking his hand away and Hank turned towards us in obvious curiosity.

“Oh, I’m sorry. I really should cut my nails.” I spoke sweetly, just enough for it to sound believable to Hank while Reece made a face at me. Anyone who knew me knew that I hated long nails and always kept them extremely short.

The car stopped and someone opened the door for us from outside.

“We’re here.” Hank said simply, still looking slightly forlorn.

We stepped out of the car and I decided to try putting him out of his misery once again.

“Hank, I told you. It’s okay. You don’t need to beat yourself up about it anymore.”

“You don’t even know what it is..” he spoke quietly and I opened my mouth to protest about it but he beat me to it.

“Alpha King Reece will give you the details when you choose to seek them.” He said finally, and then walked away from the two of us towards the rest of my friends.

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