Chapter 74 - Good Intentions
Ezekiel suddenly heard Brandon breathing behind him, tight sharp gasps.....like he couldn’t quite catch his breath.
Taking a moment to step back out of the circle that his brothers had formed around their father and Nate, Ezekiel turned to Brandon and was struck by the emotions swirling across his face and in his eyes.
He had expected to see irritation because of Mantilo’s refusal to listen to him. (Something Ezekiel was privately relieved about.) But what Ezekiel saw there on Brandon’s enchanting face wasn’t anything as simple as irritation or even pouting.
What Ezekiel saw was an intense mixture of pain and shock. His cool green gaze was slightly widened and his gloved finger tips were clawing into the narrow arms of his chair like he was holding onto the seat in a turbulent sea that only he could see.
Only he could feel. And it was tearing him apart.
Moved by his obvious discomfort Ezekiel went to the side of his chair, leaned on it and playfully waved his hand in front of Brandon’s face.
“Brandon....breath...just breathe.” Ezekiel said.
“I am breathing.” He responded, finally looking up at Ezekiel, but his green eyes were still cold, unfocused and scattered. “Leave me alone.” Brandon demanded nearly at a breathless whisper.
“No...You’re gasping, not breathing.” Ezekiel said, as always not put off by Brandon’s brusque words. Instead he leaned down and put his chin on the back of the chair, a few inches up and away from Brandon’s ear. “And you’re going to pass out if you don’t try to regulate your breathing for me.”
Ezekiel said putting a hand over his heart, feeling it pounding far too hard and fast beneath his palm. “Center yourself...focus on my voice if you need to...Focus on the weight of my touch...breath with me...” He tried to instruct. A part of Ezkeiel knew he could just force the man to clam down with his abilities but he knew Brandon would welcome that the way a slug welcomes salt.
“Hey, stop touching me! I’m fine. Im okay....” Brandon snarked at him, attempting to sound strong, but it didn’t escape Ezekiel that he was still clutching the arms of the chair for dear life.
“Hey...” Ezekiel snarked back. “Stop trying to pass out on me....and maybe I will believe you.” Then because he really did feel like Brandon passing out was a definite possibility Ezekiel continued to try to calm him.
Increasing the weight or his hand on Brandons chest slightly as he leaned closer, speaking in a tone that seemed to make Brandon narrow his attention on his voice. “Now listen to me for once..... And breathe....nice and slow. In and out. Just take it slow. Feel the strength in your body flowing away from you...fell the weight of my touch holding you in place, keeping you grounded...Push aside the panic. Give it away...give it all away for me...”
The seconds passed as the rumbling voices of Mantilo and his sons droned on in the background. But all Brandon could really focus on was the weight on his heart and Ezekiel’s voice. He was happy to focus on that, on anything except for his own problems.
Like the fact that Ezekiel proximity and the warmth of his hand steadied him far too easily, when nothing before had ever centered him so deeply or as fast.
A few more moments passed like this until Brandon had the presence to pull his hands from their death grip on the arm rest of his seat and use his left to push Ezekiels hand away from his heart.
Ezekiel didn’t resist and he removed his hand quickly enough, but he then began to ask him questions. Questions Brandon didn’t want to answer.
“Can you breath now? Good! What happened?” Ezekiel asked first, his voice still low, but no longer trying to soothe or calm him.
Brandon lifted his black gloved palms watching them shake and shiver against his control. He wrapped his hands under his arm pits and shook his head, turning his gaze towards the doorway instead of Ezekiel. “It doesn’t matter.... I’ll be fine.” he mumbled the superficial lie.
Ezekiel walked around to the front of the seat, his long legs and torso forcing Brandon to crane his head back or stare forward at the Shifters zipper.
“Well it looks to me like the adrenaline has worn off and you went into shock.” He said looking at Brandon’s face and apparently not liking what he was saw he frowned and extended a hand out to him and said. “Come on, I’ll help you up. You’re pale and shivering.”
Suddenly snatched out of his own heavy thoughts, Brandon returned Ezekiels stare for a second. At first Brandon was confused by his words, then he realized that Ezekiel thought he was in pain because of his cuts.
Brandon didn’t have any reason to correct him so he looked past his blue eyes and tried to beat back the darkness trying to overflow in his heart. But Brandon struggled to get a handle on his spiraling emotions as Ezekiel continued to talk to him.
“Brandon, are you listening to me? Let me take you to my mom, so she can patch you up.” Ezekiels said extending his hand out towards him more.
Brandon didn’t respond, or even look at him, but when Ezekiel tried to help him to his feet, he flinched away from his touch, stood up, and walked past him.
“No, don’t! Everyone’s busy. I’m just a little jittery. I think Im gonna go lay down....” Brandon spit out the lame excuses like a puppet. He felt hollow. “Let Glen know that I’ll be okay until tomorrow. Ok...” He sighed and quickly started to exit the room.
“But...” Ezekiel began taking a step to follow him, but Brandon put a hand on the door way and stopped.
“Ezekiel stop trying to coddle me so much...I’m tired and smelly and I’m going to bed.” He said softly.
And with that Brandon once more began to walk out of the room, fighting his hardest not to look at Ezekiels face. Fearing that he would see that Brandon had absolutely no intention of resting....or remaining in that house for another night.
But all of the thoughts swirling around, the ideas of escape that were scratching away at his temples, were swiftly silenced and gutted like fish, when Mantilo called out to him in that moment.
“Oh and mortal?” Mantilo said suddenly from behind him. Brandon stooped but didn’t turn. “If you’re thinking of sneaking out of the village? Then you will be held in contempt of my rule. And if that happens you won’t just have to be afraid of the Ghouls coming after you...Ill lock you up. IF that’s what it takes to protect you from acting foolishly I will do it.”
Brandon resisted the urge to howl at the ceiling in frustration.
Held in contempt...!?
He moaned to himself, knowing that he was standing far too still in the door way.
Will he kill me if I try to escape?
He asked himself, but internally he denied that. He knew Mantilo wouldn’t murder him, the hard and commanding Clan head was a good man, beneath his harsh words. Much like his wife and Sons were good Shifters as well. But Brandon knew that if he ran and was captured he would likely be forced to kill who ever came after him or he would be locked up until Mantilo decided to let him see the light of day again.
Will I have to kill them? I don’t want to hurt them....
Brandon thought to himself.
But if I try to run off.....I’ll be forced to see them as a threat and possibly fight any of the Guardians that come after me.....
Now that he knew the Shifters better... and knew that all of the Guardians were Ezekiels family.....he didn’t feel like attacking them. In fact his fists tightened at the thought of having to fight any of the brothers or hurt the people whose home he had been eating and sleeping in for the last month. Brandon also couldn’t risk running and then being locked up by Mantilo if he failed to get away.
“You can’t...!” Brandon slammed his fist into the wall beside him, hanging his head in defeat.
“You can’t keep me here.....” Brandon growled and he thought he whispered the statement, but Mantilo spoke up.
“Calm yourself. ” He advised sternly. “The Ghouls will be dealt with.....We will dispatch them soon.” He explained in the most patient tone Brandon could remember him ever adapting with him. “Once they are dead, there won’t be anything to fear and then you will be able to leave the lands safely....”
“Ha! You and those ugly monsters don’t scare me....” Brandon shrugged and with a rude scoff Brandon moved on down the hall.
Candle lighting behind him, shadows dancing over the dark resentment simmering on his face as he stalked down the dim interior of the Clan Heads home.
Its me that should frighten the hell out of you, Mantilo....
Brandon thought as the candle flickered at his swift passage and the shadows played over his face and the walls of the hallway. He wanted to say it, but just like with Ezekiel.....he held his words back.