I stood in the door way of the small bedroom, watching as Tomlin and Xavier argued over how to put the crib together properly. They had gone into town earlier in the week to pick it up along with some paint for the walls. The small pack had been working secretly to have the room ready for Angel’s baby and soon to be newest member of their pack.
“That piece doesn’t go there.” Tomlin growled as he snatched the direction away from Xavier. He jabbed his finger into the diagram on the paper, reading the words aloud, “See, it says that you connect point A to point C.”
Xavier snatched the directions back, smacking Tomlin in the back of his head, “What does it look like I am doing, idiot? I can fucking read, you know.” He was more agitated with the approaching birth of his child. It didn’t help that he and Angel were at odds currently. I had seen her moping around the house but she wouldn’t come near her pack mates. They had seemed to have softened in their hatred for me. It probably helped that I had been doing what I could to lend a hand with projects and chores around the pack house.
They still had their suspicions and I didn’t blame them, but I could feel that they didn’t mind me around as much anymore. Which was good for me because I couldn’t handle sitting around idly. It was in the times that I was completely alone or without something to fix my thoughts on that they wandered to Rhys. I would find myself worrying about if he was okay? Had he found Silas yet? When would we be together, again? The thoughts would eat away at me until I was a frazzled mess. That’s why I had found my way to the baby room, I needed to find something to put myself into.
“Oh yeah?” Tomlin puffed up his chest, pointing at the wooden board in Xavier’s hand, “Then why are you holding the piece marked, D?” Sure, enough in the far corner there was a tiny white circular sticker with the letter D on it. Xavier lowered his gaze, jaw clenching as he stared down at the piece he was holding.
Tomlin took the direction from his hand with a victorious smirk, “I think I’ll be the one to hold this. You just try to put the right ends together.” Xavier growled low as he knelt down on the ground and began searching for the correct piece.
“Those still two still at each other’s throats?” I jumped slightly at unexpected voice in my ear. I twisted around to see Tomlin’s sister, Della. She gave me an apologetic smile, “Didn’t mean to scare you.”
I let out a small chuckle, feeling a little silly, “You’d think I would be used to the fact that you guys all move around like ninja’s...” Della shrugged her shoulder, drawing my attention to the plastic bag of paint supplies and the paint can.
“You need help?”
She looked down for a moment, before meeting my gaze again, “Sure. The more the merrier.” She handed the bag of supplies over to me as she brushed past me into the room. I followed behind, feeling a little unsure of myself. I didn’t know if I should be helping with this project. I knew how Angel felt about me and it felt a bit like I was rubbing it in, but I tried to squash that feeling before it could take root.
Xavier lifted his face, giving us a forced smile, “Hey, Dove. Del.”
“You guys look like you’ve accomplished a lot since I left.” She remarked the sarcasm dripping from her lips as her eyes raked over the half pieced together crib, most of it still laying in a mess on the floor.
“Well, we might have got more done if some people actually knew how to read things properly.” Tomlin replied, never lifting his eyes from the booklet of directions. Xavier glanced up at him with narrowed eyes. It looked like he was about two second away from giving Tomlin a beating he wouldn’t forget.
“Keep talking, Tommy boy. See how that works out for you later...” Xavier mumbled under his breath through clenched teeth.
I shook my head as I turned away from their banter, setting the plastic bag on the ground. I squatted down next to Della, who was using a flat headed screw driver to pop the paint can open. I smiled at the sight of the light-yellow color when she pulled the lid back, “I’m guessing they wanted to keep the sex of the baby a mystery...”
“Angel had been afraid in the beginning of the pregnancy. She didn’t want to get attached, she had lost so much already, ya know? It’s been a process for everyone, but we’re all excited for the baby.” She said softly as she set the lid down and reached for the bag, pulling out the stirrer and the paint pan. I felt my smile fade at her words. It was hard to imagine that all the people in this room had suffered so dearly. To go from a pack of fifty people to seven, well they must feel that every day. Still, they all seemed to have moved forward, doing the best they could to keep hope alive.
I watched as she stirred the paint, making sure it was mixed up well, “So, Xavier and Angel aren’t mates, then?”
Della lifted her gaze to meet mine, dark eyes searching my face as if trying to figure out the motives and intentions, “Angel’s mate was killed during the raid...Denny was...” She lowered her gaze, jaw tensing as if she were trying to force back emotions. She pulled the stick free, dragging it along the edge to get free the excess paint, “Denny was the beta of our pack, and a very good man. It’s tragedy what happened that night.”
I nodded my head in agreement. I wanted to piece together the truth of what had happened, and Rhys involvement in it. Perhaps it would help me to bridge the gap between Angel and I, help me to understand why there was so much suspicion between the two packs. I had gleaned enough from the small interactions that Rhys father had made some kind of deal with the wrong type of men, a deal that effected Kendrick’s pack. Rhys had lost his father and Kendrick had lost most of his pack, including his own mate.
“Ah, fuck this piece of shit!” Xavier snarled, startling us out of our private conversation. I turned my face as he pushed up from the ground, kicking the pile of pieces still needing to be put together.
“Dude, what the hell?!” Tomlin growled. Xavier turned to him, the sound of bones grinding against one another filling the room. I noticed Della shifting her body, angling it so that she was poised in front mine. It seemed like a protective position, as if she was concerned that something was going to happen to me. Tomlin raised his hands, like he wanted to pacify Xavier’s sudden surge of anger, “Calm down, X. Get your wolf under control. We don’t have a problem, brother.”
Xavier seemed all out of sorts, like a beast cornered. His eyes darted to where Della and I, expression morphing into guilt. He let out a pained snarl. Tomlin moved out of the way as he charged out of the room, feet stomping heavily. I didn’t know what to say or do. I could feel the tension in the room as Della and her brother seemed to communicate silently.
“I’ll go deal with mister. I’ve got my panties in a twist...” Tomlin sighed after a moment, dropping the booklet and chasing after Xavier. I stared after them, nibbling on my lip. I couldn’t help but feel that this was somehow my fault. That my being in the house had completely upset the delicate balance of life that they had achieved after everything they had experienced.
“Do you think he’ll be okay?”
Della snorted, “Tomlin is good at taking beatings. I wouldn’t worry too much about that meat head.”
I turned back to her, “I meant Xavier...”
Her expression softened before she turned her face away, picking up the paint can and dumping some into the pan, “He’ll be okay once he and Angel make up. The two of them are good for each other, when they aren’t being so stubborn.” I nodded my head as I grabbed the rollers out of the bag, handing one to Della. I knew what it was to be stubborn. Rhys and I had certainly butted heads many times since we had come into each other’s lives.
“Just so you know, Angel isn’t a bad person. She’s a little rough around the edges sometimes but underneath all the anger and sorrow...is a genuine person. She’s a good leader and a good friend.” Della remarked as she dipped her roller into the paint and rose up from the ground, touching it to the blank wall. I could only imagine the thoughts going through her head as she dragged the roller up the wall. Whose room had this been before the attack? Had they been a friend, maybe family? Did it hurt to cover it with something new?
I dipped my roller into the paint, rising up from the ground, “I never thought any of you were bad people.” I felt the heat of her gaze burning into the side of my face as I made my first stroke up the wall, “I know what bad people look like..human or werewolf...”
“You’re referring to the one Alpha Kendrick and Alpha Rhys are hunting for?”
I turned my face in her direction, meeting her dark gaze, “Silas. His name is Silas and he is the epitome of a man gone bad.”
“But you say you don’t hate us for what he did to you?” She seemed curious about my thoughts. I watched as she continued to even out the paint she had put onto the wall.
I tilted my head, thinking about how to respond to her question. It seemed simple but my feelings were more complicated than the question, “I wouldn’t say that I harbor any hatred for your kind. I think I am a bit fearful because I know what you are capable of. I know that if you wanted to you could tear me to shreds and there would be almost nothing I could do about it. So, I’d say I have a respectful fear...but I don’t hate any of you...” Except for Silas, I mentally added. Della nodded her head, brow furrowing as she digested my answer, “I feel the same way about humans.”
I blinked at her soft comment, “What do you mean?”
“You have traps, weapons, and machines...things made specifically for the sake of killing. Humans are the only species on the planet that hunt for the thrill of it, not just for the kill.” She looked towards me and for the first time I saw myself in a different light. I saw myself through the eyes of someone I feared, and realized that perhaps I was just as deadly. She had witnessed with her own eyes what humans were capable of. Whether it was done from a place of fear or for the trophy above a mantle, mattered little.
“I’m sorry for what happened to you guys.” I meant it. I knew I was responsible but it felt right to say.
Her lips twitched upward into a sad smile, “I’m sorry, too.”
I gave her a smile in return, a piece of understanding I didn’t have before sliding into place. I turned back to the wall, covering the blank wall with color. I held my smile as I realized that maybe, with a little work, we could build a better future for everyone. Perhaps It was wishful thinking on my part but I wanted to believe that all of untogether could build something better. I already had some ideas churning in my mind. Now, all I needed was Rhys back, Silas gone, and to make sure Xavier and Angel made up.