Disguise

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Basically Manhandling

He moved forward and took the wounded pup from my hands, gently giving it to Alyssa.

“I want to get to the bottom of this,” he told her with a steely voice and she nodded, quickly turning back to go inside.

Atticus, next to me, acknowledged Reece with a slight nod of his head but he had eyes only for me. And they were not warm eyes. They were an angry, punishing green.

“Next time you decide to leave, at least inform me!” He was so close to yelling. His handsome face somehow enhanced to be even more so because of the protective intensity and I found it a little difficult to muster my anger to his level. Surely I didn’t need to inform him. I should be outraged at his outrage!

“She managed to lose her escorts as well!” He fumed to Atticus, who looked back helplessly at me.

What’s crawled up his ass?

“Why are you livid?” This was apparently the wrong thing to say because Atticus choked and Reece narrowed his eyes.

“Because I didn’t know where you were, Flora! You’re never doing this again!” He roared, his eyes moving back and forth between Atticus and me. Poor Atticus, I should teach him a thing or two about standing his ground sometime.

“Excuse me?!” What the hell?

Atticus deftly stepped closer to Reece, somewhat standing between us. He raised his hand in a defensive gesture, “what matters is that she’s safe. She is right here.” He patted Reece once and I found this ridiculous. I will do what I want! Thank you very much! And this young man in the middle should not appease him with such words. He should instead explain why I can, and will continue to leave unannounced whenever I pleased.

“That is no way to talk to someone! Why should I report to you?”

From the corner of my eye, I saw Atticus cringe before he stepped further between us, “he was just worried, Ms. Lori. Alpha can’t convey that across is all.”

Reece wasn’t talking anymore, he stood there glaring at me, while I did the same. I was surprised we didn’t burn holes in the poor guy’s skull as he attempted to calm us down.

A thought struck me and I forgot my anger, “what escorts?” Atticus looked to Reece, his eyes wide and Reece’s angry demeanor dropped as he avoided my eyes.

“Nothing you need to be concerned about.” He said swiftly, but I could still hear the underlying irritation in his voice.

Guess there’s no point then.

I stepped around Atticus, moving towards the hotel when I felt something snake around my wrist.

Reece held it firmly but it wasn’t hurting me, instead I found delicious tingles spreading through me.

He spun me around to face him and I glared some more.

“Where do you think you’re going?”

“Back to my room?” I made it sound like a question but it was hard to keep the anger out of my voice.

“Next time tell me if you -”

“I don’t have to do anything.” I shot back almost immediately and his eyes narrowed slightly. I could tell that it wasn’t such a good idea to push his buttons.

Atticus left with an apologetic glance in my direction, wheeling the cycle along with him.

Suddenly, I was yanked into his chest, with his hand leaving mine and going around me. I let out a small squeak as I managed my footing - his steely arms managed it actually - and then whipped my head up at him in annoyance.

“You’re basically manhandling me!” It was such a strain to meet his eyes when he was a good head taller than me. Oh my poor neck.

He met my gaze with an equally stubborn one of his own. I was finding it difficult to maintain my indignation though, with his hands around me and the close proximity of his lips from mine.

Would I ever forget this feeling and move on?

The jacket I had on was suddenly unnecessary, it was getting hotter.

“Something tells me you like it.” I could feel my cheeks burn as I looked away from him, “as much as you’d like my knee to your balls.” I retorted and he let out a chuckle but didn’t loosen his arms.

He was so volatile, one minute he was angry, then stubborn, then easy going and now...now he was intense again.

I turned my head back to him again, but my demand for release got stuck in my throat when I saw his dark eyes.

“I am only worried, you know.” His words were velvet smooth, but effective.

“Reece..”

“It’s a simple request. Just let me know if you’re headed somewhere.” He continued, not having heard me.

“But-”

“And, I’m sorry.” He admitted reluctantly and I stopped talking. “I didn’t mean to yell, I was only concerned.” He amended, bending his head down further as if that way he could see deeper into my eyes.

It certainly didn’t make it any easier to get out of his spell. Without thinking, I nodded and the words ‘okay’ slipped out of my mouth. Two times that had happened today.

A satisfied grin came over his lips and he took his arms away from my sides. The sudden cold made me shiver, despite the jacket, and I held it tighter.

It was getting clear now, like a daze.

He knew what his touch did to me! It always got him to do his bidding so easily!

Even after all this time I’m open to his every attack.

Annoyance and regret at how easy it was for me to melt for him drowned me. I should be running from here, from him. Or I should be trying to make his life miserable but for some godforsaken reason, I just couldn’t fight this. The revelation crushed me.

“Are you cold?” He asked, eyeing the hand that was clutching the jacket and I shook my head, not trusting my voice.

“We should get inside.”

“I’ll go and check on the wounded wolf pup.” He said when we got to the brightly lit reception. Alyssa was back at the desk, talking politely on the phone. I just nodded in acknowledgement. Maybe he sensed that my mood was off and didn’t try to talk to me further. I reached the elevator and placed my key card onto the screen. The basement buttons lit up and I chose my floor.

Once inside the flat, I leaned against the shut elevator doors and dropped the facade. I slid to the ground and let the tears flow, not even bothering to reach the couch.

I didn’t know what was bothering me. That I couldn’t get over him? Especially after what he put me through? Or that I couldn’t feel this way with any other man? Or the worst....that he didn’t feel the same way about me.

That thought struck a low blow and the waterworks worsened.

It’d be pathetic if it was the last one and for the life of me, I couldn’t figure this out. I shouldn’t even have remote affectionate feelings for him, and here I was, contemplating the likelihood that I’d be hurt if he didn’t.

How can one be confused about what they feel?!

And then I heard the horrific ping of the elevator and the doors slid open...and I fell half in half out staring at the handsome face of the man of my dreams.

Great. Just great. I just had to lean against the doors and sit, didn’t I?

His expression went through many changes, tension, shock, confusion, worry before it settled on concern.

I quickly scrambled up, before he could help me up and turned my face away from him. Embarrassment hit me hard as I quickly wiped away my tears, praying that I was quick enough for him to not notice them.

My prayers were in vain as I heard him say, “Flora! What’s wrong? Are you hurt?” I didn’t even hear him come closer and so when I spun around to deny, because that’s what I always do, he was an inch away from me, causing me to reflexively step back in a stumble.

His hands reached out and pulled me back to stability before I could fall but they didn’t leave me after. He was scanning the room with suspicion and I took the chance to get out of his grip.

Bad move. His attention turned back to me and this time I couldn’t even hide my face.

His steely eyes were trying to read mine, and I did my best to avoid his penetrating gaze.

“What happened?” His words were short and on edge -he was desperate.

“Nothing! I just tripped and hurt myself that’s all!” I lied easily but he didn’t seem to buy it.

“Where?”

“M-my shoulder.” That’s good. He won’t ask to inspect it.

But to my horror his gentle fingers went towards the collar of my jacket, trying to take it off. I immediately stepped back, away from his quick fingers as I looked at him uncomfortably.

“You don’t have to do that! It’s nothing!” My voice was an octave higher but it didn’t deter him.

He stepped closer still, his demeanor meant to be comforting, “but you were crying! It’s not nothing. We all know how much you hate crying.” His hands were once again reaching for my jacket. “Let me just have a look, see how bad it is.”

“No!” Darn it I spoke too loudly.

“I- uh it’s fine honestly!” I made a show of rotating my arm, “see!”

He gave me a dubious look before sighing.

I collected myself with a deep breath, reigning in all my emotions.

Just distract yourself.

I looked for a change of topic and that’s when I noticed the bags by the doors.

“My bags!” All traces of the earlier worry disappeared as I moved around Reece to the bags of groceries I’d Just bought from the local market. I totally forgot about it!

There was some spicy local cheese spread, some fruits, olives, chips...

“Oh yeah, that’s why I’d come down. To give them to you. You left them with Atticus in the cycle.” The way he said it, it sounded like a pretext.

“I completely forgot about this because of the - oh! How is the animal?” Hadn’t he gone to check on it?

His expression darkened slightly and didn’t match his words,“he’s fine now. He’s getting the attention from our best doctors.”

I took the two bags from the floor and placed them on the kitchen counter, Reece followed me to the kitchen as well.

“Then why do you look mad?” The words were out before I could stop them. He glanced briefly at me before looking away and I couldn’t stop the feeling of hurt that washed over me, “I’m sorry, I didn’t mean to pry.”

“No it’s not that. It’s just not something for right now.” His words seemed sincere and so I didn’t press further, but I felt the need to cheer him up stir within me.

Because you might still love him.

Did I mention that my subconscious was a bitch?

“Flora?”

“Yes?” I had begun to remove and place things on the side, continuing my task as I waited for him to talk.

“Did you eat dinner?”

Damn. How did I forget?

“Um, no. I meant to go for dinner when I was back but..” I noticed that I’d finished the first bag and took the next one. It had gotten rather late because of our slight detour with the animal. Not to mention that we didn’t cycle the rest of the way, so it took much longer to get back.

“Didn’t have the time?” He couldn’t keep the hint of mockery out of his voice and I felt the urge to poke my tongue out at him. Reece walked closer now, standing right beside me.

“It’s fine really. There’s this thing, called room service, you should try it!” I mocked him right back and he chuckled, obviously amused.

“Hey! Wait! What’s that?” The last item in the second, smaller bag was a small green colored flask. It was the only non edible thing I’d bought besides a book.

It was a pretty thing, with a delicate gold pattern swirling across the dark green glass. Inside was a transparent liquid that smelled like heaven.

“It’s a perfume, why?” I gave the bottle in his impatient hands and he looked at it closely, turning it over.

He then took the cap off and sprayed a little in the air, sniffing it. His eyes went wide for a long second before he schooled his features again.

“Where did you get this?” He could barely contain his voice.

“In the local market. What’s going on?” Everyone was behaving either weird or vague here.

“But where in the local market?” He pushed further, ignoring my question completely.

“I- I don’t know. It was like a street thing. This old man was selling bottles of them and I really like fruity smells. Near a bookstore. What’s going on?!” I asked again, but his anxiety was completely gone. He looked relaxed and composed.

“Nothing, it’s just that Sienna had one just like that before she broke it. So I thought I could gift it to her.” He said awkwardly and I nodded unsure.

“Well if I find it again, I’ll be sure to buy her one.” I promised him and he flashed me a crooked smile.

I think my heart just melted.

“So about dinner. How about you join us? Daniella, Grey and I are grabbing a late dinner. We’d love it if you came.”

Were we friends now? What was this? I thought we’d just acknowledge the whole thing and move on with our lives.

“I don’t think I should-”

“It’ll be fun, I promise. Just like old times”

My heart beat sped up a little.

“But-”

“Come on! You know they’d love it if you came.” And then he spoke a little more softly, “Give us a chance, Flo.”

Did you give me?

“No, Reece. I’m actually just really tired. I cycled a lot and walked for hours and everything.” I lied to him.

His face dropped a little but he covered it up quickly.

Grey’s words from earlier rang in my head ‘He’s really trying to make an effort.’

“Oh well, maybe next time.” He said with false energy and my own heart sank. Guilt bloomed in my chest and I hated myself for it. A ‘yes’ was at the tip of my tongue.

Reece walked out of the kitchen and I let out a sigh. It felt like I was battling him and half of myself as well.

And then he poked his head back in again, a cheeky schoolboy smile on his face.

“Are you sure? We’re still fun!” He tried and I couldn’t help but laugh. The man didn’t take a no. If I was going to rip myself up further I might as well do it right.

Here goes.

“Okay.”

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