Confession - Brock's POV
“You have humiliated my daughter, and have tarnished our good name with your dereliction!”
Brock was furious but he kept his beast in check as he watched his opponents through lowered dark lashes, he a predator to their prey. His frame filled the chair with a deceptive air of calm, his body attuned to each individual in the room and any moves they made. There was only one man, who sat across the massive wooden oak table from him, that garnered his direct attention.
All but one man in the room had backed down from him and his immense strength and influence. Every member of the council from both parties had turned their heads in submission, recognizing him as the ruling authority in the group...all but Lara’s dad. The man kept a smug pucker to his overly large lips, the image of them planted against ass cheeks made comical by their plunger-like appearance. Brock knew the only thing that kept this man from submitting was his own greed and his own perceived power.
“Do you mean to tell me that you do not acknowledge the mating laws within our prides?” Brock looked at him pointedly, his eyes darkening with an intended threat. “That you wish to challenge me?”
The man’s face paled, making it clear that he knew who his better was. Though the man was titled, Brock couldn’t shake the feeling that it was ill-gotten, at best. When Malcolm straightened in his seat and lifted his chin a fraction with a hint of arrogance, Brock tilted his head to the side and waited. There was still a backbone in him after all, even if his next words were merely to change tactics in order to gain favor.
Malcolm’s voice was slightly more subdued, his anger vanishing from his words as he spoke. “We should be able to settle this like gentlemen, it is what my brother would have wanted,” his hands spread out before him amenable, determination saturating him as he tried to win his points.
It rankled Brock to hear this man use the memory of his brother in his attempts at extorting compensation for his daughter and their honor, not that much honor existed between the pair of them. The man was reprehensible, and Brock had been near ready to pay whatever the man wanted to have him out of the way so he could return to his mate. At least, he was until he brought his brother, an actual man of honor, into his contention.
He shifted his weight, reclining in the chair with one hand laid casually on the table. In a deadly calm voice, he asked, “Would your brother have wanted you to blackmail and disparage my pride and his for self-gain?”
Malcolm’s face went beet red and he opened his mouth to voice his outrage, stopping short when he saw the look that Brock shot him. Taking a few breaths, his eyes fell to his hands that lay clasped in front of him before he continued. “What I do is for the best interest of my pride!”
A small sneer lifted the corner of Brock’s lips. “That is what worries me. That it is your pride that you are more worried about keeping intact than those that make up your pride.” The snickers in the room rose from both sides of the table, making it clear to those present that not all were loyal to their king. “How long did you serve at your brother’s side, Malcolm?”
He ruffled the old man’s feathers when he used his Christian name, but the man did not deserve anything more dignified, in his opinion. “What an absurd question! I do not have to answer to you,” he sputtered. The crimson in his face had yet to abate, clasping his hands together to the point where the knuckles turned white.
The two men locked eyes. Before Malcolm had a chance to look away, Brock saw something there that made him uneasy, yet something intangible.
Brock lifted his brows, sitting forward and letting his voice take on a tone of innocence where there was none. “I was merely referring to what you said earlier about settling things like your brother would want. To know what he wanted, I imagine you must have spent many years in service to him.” The man before him continued to watch his hands while Brock watched his face. “Many dedicated years,” he added, the word nearly scorching his lips as it passed through them.
His voice stuttered and spat as he tried to formulate an appropriate response. “Enough time that I understood and adopted his policies to the best of my ability,” he said indignantly.
“Does that mean you felt lacking in his absence? It must have been hard shoes to fill.” Brock was locking on to everything he could wield against this man, watching each subtle flicker across his countenance.
The more ruffled Malcolm got, the better apt he would be to negotiate nearly the original terms of the treaty without the huff and stuff this man tried to interject into it.
The old man blubbered and rasped. “Of course that is not what I meant! I have made my own mark on this pride. Made it great again!”
Though his blood flared in his veins, his composure was unflappable. “It wasn’t great before? I mean, your brother had to be a hard leader to follow. He was smart, fair, loved by all. I can understand how you might feel inferior to him.”
“My brother was an idiot!” The words had flown out before he had a chance to think about them. Once out, there was no retracting them.
Malcolm’s face paled once again as he shifted his gaze from each of his pride members that sat next to him at the table, their eyes locking on him. He did not try to add anything else, lifting his chin a fraction to impart an air that did not travel further than skin deep.
Brock did not let up, that which seemed intangible starting to rise to the surface. “It sounds like you did not care much for your brother and the way that he ruled the pride.” He adopted a sympathetic expression, trying hard to soften it as much as he could considering his goal. “Your pride had power, strength, wealth, land, and no one would dare challenge you to draw it into their own coalition. They would have been stupid to make such a bold move against you.”
“Exactly,” the old man grumbled. “He could not see how his leadership was making us weak and susceptible to attacks. Allowing riff-raff of any breed to just walk in...to join our pride and partake of our lands.” He was looking to the others, taking Brock’s lead and almost trying to will them to understand why he would have said anything unfavorable about his brother.
Brock shook his head, continuing to give the man the rope he needed to hang himself. There was so much more here to discover, something this man was still hiding. “I don’t know. I don’t think I could have stood by and watched my pride fall apart. Kings act. They lead.” Landon and a couple of the other members shifted in their seats, but Brock just gave them a cautionary glance before turning his attention back to Malcolm.
“I am leading! I have worked hard to undo the damage that was his creation! We couldn’t keep going the way we were.” Malcolm’s face was created of harsh lines and perspiration.
“I am surprised it took you so long to do something about it.” Brock had never thought he would be good at acting, but he marveled at the fact that he almost sounded sympathetic.
The man grumbled. “Someone had to do something, or we would have lost everything.”
Gotcha! There it was, nearly an admission. He had all but put his head in the noose, but it was time to yank the cord. “And what better man to do something about it than someone who actually knew how to run a pride!”
“I...,” he started before clarity took hold. Malcolm looked back at his own men and saw the look of anger and vengeance that sat there. “It wasn’t me.” The man looked deflated, defeated. Resignation rang clear through his eyes. For the first time, the man looked like he was at war with himself. “He was my brother.” He whispered to the room.
The man knew more and Brock meant to wring his confession from his lips. His lion had been pacing, agitated. He needed to give him peace, maybe even a little bit of an outlet to assert his authority. With one swift movement, Brock jumped on the table. The rumble from his beast started to travel through him, vibrating into the room on low, dangerous waves. He snatched Malcolm up by his scruff, pulling him up to his full height and forcing the man to look him square in the eye. The table creaked weakly beneath his feet but his eyes were narrowed dangerously on the man in his grip.
“So, what did you do?” Brock let every ounce of power flow through him, making everyone at the table buckle under the sheer power of it. The vibrations thrummed through him to echo against the walls and batter against the table where he now stood. Glasses thumped in their spots, water splashing if they were nearer to full than empty.
“I didn’t...I...” Malcolm stammered, understanding of his situation becoming more apparent by the second. His hands feebly gripped Brocks in a failed attempt to release himself from the powerful grip.
Brock pulled the man closer, their noses nearly touching as he snarled threateningly. “Remember that my lenience is a limited time offer.”
His grip tightened on the man’s collar, Malcolm’s eyes widening impossibly large in his ashen face. The pallor of his face turned so sickly that Brock would not have thought it possible. His whole body shook as he tried to take in breaths of air that would benefit him rather than make him start to hyperventilate, his body convulsing from the effort.
Brock kept his narrowed eyes on him. When Malcolm’s throat constricted, he threw him back into his chair once more, close to being the bearer of the old man’s breakfast.
Before the man had a chance to fully land, he hurled the contents of his stomach over the front of himself and the expanse of the table at Brock’s feet. The acrid smell of bile from the man’s fear tainted the expulsion of his stomach, and the stench and bitterness of it were enough to burn the eyes.
Intent on going after his target once more, Brock only managed one step forward before his lion ripped his claws across his chest. Those sharp claws wedged into his rib cage as it tugged in urgency. It dropped him to his knees as he roared, further startling his once intended target. Landon stood, reaching for him.
“Brock?” Landon’s brows were knitted. He held out a hand to Brock and helped him to the floor. “What is it?”
Brock shook his head, clutching his chest at the intense pain that punched him. “I thought he had been pacing because of this mess.” His lion roared in his chest once more, ready to make another assault on his already aching chest. “Something isn’t right.” With the statement, his lion seemed to be frowning at him, frustration pouring through every pore of him as he stared at him with a menacing glare.
Brock made eye contact with Landon, understanding hitting them both. The bond was still new to him, his human side not knowing how to tap into it to connect to his mate...but his lion knew. His beast had a tight hold of that bond and did not intend to let it go.
“You need to go, Brock. We will finish this here. There is no need for your presence any longer, the job is done. You need to go to your mate.” Landon practically shoved him beyond the conference room doors, though Brock needed no encouragement.
As the doors closed behind him, he heard Landon’s last words to Malcolm. “You will put it in writing what you have done to wrong your pride, you will step down as king of your pride until we find an interim king or queen to lead, and you will be exiled.”
Brock raced away, trusting Landon to sort out the rest of what needed to be done. At that moment, every cell in him needed to be in his mate’s presence, to hold her to him, and to know that she was safe. The need to protect her flooded his veins, and pity to any man who stood between them...