Custodian Chronicles: Lone Red

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Axel and I headed to our second class, which was literature, with Lucy and Trevor walking in front of us. He perfectly angled his position beside me to keep any Lycans from catching my scent. Upon our arrival, I abruptly became rigid when I saw the Lycans entering the room ahead of us. Axel shifted his position again and blocked my view from them.

“I’m fine, Axel,” I whispered, though my hand gripped on the edge of his shirt like a lifeline.

“Just stay behind me at all times, Roe,” he murmured in response before we entered the room.

Lucy and Trevor were otherwise occupied, having their usual banter about what movie they would be watching on the weekend for their date. They hadn’t insinuated on our cautious behavior or how Axel and I exchanged seats. As we sat down, Axel leaned on his desk, keeping himself between the Lycans and me.

Once our professor arrived, Axel remained in his stiff position while I leaned back, tilting myself away from their view. I was too absorbed in keeping myself hidden that I hadn’t listened to what was happening around me. It took me a second to comprehend the situation after the classroom burst into loud groans of protest. I’ve finally read the words Mr. Rupert, our literary professor, had written on the board.

“For your midterm papers, I’m putting you all in pairs for a book report on classical fictions.” Mr. Rupert phrased again, discussing the reason for everyone’s discomfort.

At that moment, I wasn’t as dismayed at the news until he continued his instruction. “And I’ll be the one picking partners for this project. This way everyone would start to associate with each other.”

“No! At least give us that choice, professor!” One of the students sitting in front cried.

“Think of it as part of the learning experience, Mr. Jackson,” Mr. Rupert reprimanded the student and then returned to his speech like he hadn’t been interrupted rudely. “Now, how about I’ll start calling out the partners so you’ll start discussing on which classical novel to work on.”

“Axel…” I grabbed his shirt anxiously. This was an unpredicted turn of events.

“Don’t worry. I’ll insist us pairing up for this,” he muttered in assurance under his breath.

“But what if…” I stopped short when Axel was called out.

“Axel Hunter, your partner would be Ian Jackson.” Mr. Rupert said and gestured at the guy who had reacted rashly a few minutes ago.

Without a second thought, Axel raised his hand – interrupting Mr. Rupert’s rhythm. “Is there a problem, Mr. Hunter?”

“Yes, sir. Can my sister and I pair up for this project? I don’t want us to work on this separately,” he replied without a hint of concern. From how sure he sounded, I was hopeful that Mr. Rupert would reconsider.

“Did you not hear what I said, Mr. Hunter? It would be best if you and sister work separately. Hadn’t you had enough of each other?” Mr. Rupert bluntly countered.

“Never, sir.” Axel brusquely replied, not even bothering how everyone’s attention was on us.

I tugged his shirt again, cautioning him.

Mr. Rupert studied Axel and me for a moment before making his final verdict. “I’m not changing my rules, not even for you Mr. Hunter.” Without breaking stride, he peered at me and glanced down at his clipboard where he’d already listed the names. “And as for you Ms. Hunter, your partner is Mr. Blackwell.”

My face suddenly paled as my breath got caught in my throat. Beside me, Axel balled his hand into a fist – like he was ready for a fight. But I kept my hand on his skirt, making it a leash now.

“Mr. Rupert…” Axel called again. With a trained ear, you could hear the threatening edge from his voice.

But then he was cut off when Mr. Rupert glared back at him. His icy stare made the hairs on my arms stand – and living in the world that we do, it said something.

“Mr. Hunter, I’ve already made myself clear. Would you want to skip this term paper? I’m willing to make an exemption if you’re insisting on it. That’ll be one less paper for me to check.” Though it sounded like an empty threat, his firm tone didn’t sound like he was joking as well.

Finally, Axel stood down and took my hand, giving it an assuring squeeze. For a moment, I thought he was trying to assure me, but then I heard him let out a heavy breath. As Mr. Rupert finished calling out the pairs, I learned and gave Axel some comforting words.

“I’ll be fine. He won’t know, Axel.”

I watched him in the corner of my eyes. He groans in defeat. After opening them again, while still holding my hand, I subtly nodded. Once Mr. Rupert was finished with the roll call, he asked the class to seat with their partners. Axel slightly faltered and grew alarmed, but kept it to himself as Lucy regarded me.

“You’re so lucky Roe, working with Cole Blackwell. Don’t forget me when you start hanging out with the in-crowd.”

“Of course, Lucy.” I humored with a forced smile.

Still sitting beside Axel, I have finally forced my gaze towards the Lycan sitting in the front row. There in the middle of the group was my partner, Cole Blackwell. My heart sank and lurched at the same time – unsure whether I could do this.

“If you want to get out, I’ll follow you, Roe.” Axel avowed softly beside me, waiting for my decision.

“I think this is great, Axel. If he doesn’t know, it would be to our advantage.” I suggested, seeing a gleam of hope.

“But what if…?” He trailed off, unable to say those words out loud.

“Don’t worry. I’ll make this work.” I boldly declared.

Axel hesitantly nodded before letting me go. Gathering my things, I said a quick goodbye to my friends before walking the short distance to where Cole sat. Once I stood in the middle of the aisle from where he was, I cleared my throat to make my presence known. It took three tries before the Lycans noticed I was there. They all huddled in their group, waiting for their partners to approach them rather than leaving their group. And seeing as people started flocking them, it showed what their hierarchy was in here.

“Excuse me?” I asked, standing by the empty chair, two seats down from Cole. Blocking between us was another Lycan, whose was too muscular and bulky he could pass as a weightlifter – or a football player in the major leagues.

The Lycan sitting in front of me looked up first before Cole regarded me. “What do you want?” The Lycan asked at the same time Cole said, “Move Dan. That’s my partner.”

Without waiting for my reply, Dan stood up and sat down in the chair behind him. Not sure what to do next, I lingered from where I stood and waited to be asked to sit down. But what I truly waited was for them to realize who I was and tackle me. However, if the reports about his Clan were true, they’ll hardly do anything rash in broad daylight, which I’m betting my life on and why I’m taking this chance.

Since I hadn’t moved, Cole peered back at me. As soon as our eyes met, I felt my heart thump nervously. He did a double take like he was unsure of what he saw. He studied me for another second before putting a feigned smile.

“I’m sorry. This was rude of us. Please sit,” he offered and gestured at the chair where Dan, the other Lycan, had sat down.

Rather than taking his offer, I chose to sit down in the empty seat closest to me. I’m not taking the risk too far. Amused, Cole chuckled at my timid response. He suddenly stood up, giving me a clear guess of his height. He was tall, around six feet and two inches. Blinking in wonder, I was too stunned to realize what he was doing. Before I knew it, he had taken the empty seat beside me and closed the distance.

He then held out his hand towards me. “Hi, I’m Cole.”

I regarded his hand for a moment, thinking whether to take it or not. After a moment’s thought, I accepted his outstretched hand. As our skin touched, I noticed a tingling sensation like a mild electric current passing through him. I jerked my hand back in astonishment and gazed up at him. He had already composed his expression and pulled his hand back.

“I’m sorry… I don’t know what that was…” he muttered in thought.

“No. It’s okay,” I commented and turned away from him. I clenched the hand he held. “I’m Roe, by the way,” I added softly.

“Roe? That’s a unique name.”

“It’s actually Rhoane, but I prefer people calling me Roe.”

“Rhoane.” He murmured my name and smiled. “That sounds much prettier.”

After the awkward introduction, there were no signs the Lycans knew about my identity. Everyone in the class was preoccupied as well. But whenever one of Cole’s friends – and fellow Lycan – interrupted us, I peered back to where Axel sat, sensing his stare. Every now and then, I’d subtly give him an assuring nod.

It wasn’t long before the class ended, giving me the excuse to get away. Once Mr. Rupert dismissed us, I hastily got up and said a short goodbye towards Cole. When I turned my back on him, I felt the same tingling sensation as a hand grabbed my wrist.

I turned at the same time Cole pulled his hand away, his eyebrows creasing in wonder. He must have felt it again. What was that?

“What is it?” I inquired and averted his attention back to me.

“Ah, yes. When would you like for us to continue discussing this?” He asked expectantly.

“I don’t…” I trailed off when I felt a familiar presence standing behind me.

Turning sideways, Axel placed a hand on my shoulder and lightly squeezing it – asking if I was okay. “Are you ready to go?” He spoke up.

“Yes. Let’s go.” I replied and briefly peered over at Cole. “We can talk tomorrow before class,” I informed.

Cole studied Axel and me for a second. “How about lunch today?” He suggested.

“She can’t. She’s having lunch with us.” Axel replied before I could answer.

“I’m not asking you.” Cole dryly stated towards Axel and then glanced at me. “What do you say?” He inquired again.

I was entranced with his clear blue eyes for a second, hindering me to give him a direct response. It was the first time I dared to look longer. The ocean blue looked so familiar. Like me, I saw he was studying my facial features as well.

Unconsciously, I choked out the words, “sure.”

Like a light bulb, I watched him brighten up in a triumphant grin. “Then I’ll see you later.” He announced.

With an approving nod, I turned back around and grabbed Axel’s arm. He had been too surprised to object my decision. But as we had gotten outside the room, he’d regained his composure.

“What was that my lady?” Axel hissed in disbelief.

“He wanted to talk about the project, Axel. Don’t overreact. We’re not yet compromised.”

“But what if you’ll slip?” He prompted in worry. “Or maybe it’s a trap.”

“It’s not. Don’t you have faith in me?”

“I do, my lady.”

“Then don’t worry too much. I got this.” I assured. Not sure where the confidence came from.

Axel hadn’t brought the topic up again for the rest of the morning, which strained our relationship a bit. The lack of verbal communication was ominous. However, I didn’t want to lose his trust in me. Though he was taking a chance – since I’ve asked him, Axel could still act on his own free will. I’m not going to incite him into doing something I didn’t want. He was loyal to me and I’m taking that connection to my advantage. All I have to do was stay true to my words.

Once the lunch break came, Axel grew more anxious. I kept on reassuring him with a subtle pat on his arm or a brief smile at his direction. We both headed towards our usual lunch table where Kaleb and Tony were waiting for us. But then we hadn’t made it halfway when Cole shortly intercepted us. Instinctively, Axel puts himself between Cole and me. Feeling the eavesdropping ears of the other students and the Lycans, I patted Axel’s shoulder – asking him to move aside. He peered behind me for a second before stepping away, though he kept his defensive stance by my left side.

“Would you like to join me for lunch for a change?” Cole offered, looking at Axel cautiously before giving me a welcoming smile. His stare lingered on my face.

“I don’t think my brothers and cousin would love it. How about you join us?” I countered, remaining my hand on Axel’s shoulder to keep him from lashing out.

“What?” Cole inquired with uncertainty.

“But we don’t have enough chairs. You have to get one for yourself though,” I added, giving him a comforting smile. “From what I heard, you don’t hang out with anyone except your friends over there.” I nodded at the table was all Lycans sat.

It took a second, but Cole regained his good humor and chuckled. “True. I won’t deny that.” With a shrug, he gestured towards our table. “I’d love to have a change of scenery.”

“Roe,” Axel spoke up beside me. “I don’t think Kaleb would agree.”

As he said those words, my eyes strained towards our table. Watching their icy gaze, Kaleb was observing the three of us. I could see from the wrinkle between his eyebrows, he was angry at what he saw. I was supposed to stay low and away from Lycans. Yet here I was talking with the son of an Alpha, with all of the Lycan population in school ogling at us. Even after all the warnings and doubt this morning, nothing exponential had happened. I had regained my confidence. They do not know about us.

“Come on,” I stated, ignoring Axel’s words and walked towards our table.

Rather than protesting again, Axel followed and walked close as Cole kept a steady pace on my other side. I could feel Axel’s guarded and threatening glares directed at Cole. The tension only grew fiercer when we reached our table.

“Who’s this?” Kaleb grimly inquired, his eyes wearily studying Cole.

“Kaleb, this is Cole Blackwell. Cole, my step-brother, Kaleb Hunter.” I introduced, gesturing between the two, though I knew Kaleb knew who he was.

Cole held out his hand towards Kaleb as a courtesy. “It’s nice to meet you. Rhoane and I are doing a term paper for our literature class. Would it be okay to join you, and possibly take her out of your hands after she’s done eating?” Cole got straight to his point, giving me a surprise.

It got Kaleb’s defenses up. He no longer hid his distaste towards him. “No. I’m not allowing it.” He replied with clenched teeth.

“You don’t have to make that decision for me, Kaleb,” I uttered in annoyance.

“Excuse me?” Kaleb finally tore his eyes from Cole.

“There’s nothing you should worry about. It’s just for a school project.” I stated in defense.

“What’s gotten into you, Roe?”

Still feeling a bit insulted by his words, I made the most eccentric decision of my life. With my bag still in my hand, I took a step back and I grabbed Cole wrist. The electric current was there, but mild enough for us to overlook.

“If you’re going to be like this while we ate, then we’ll be heading out first. I’m not that hungry anyway.” I stubbornly informed before walking away from our table.

The feeling of anger from how Kaleb had presented himself to Cole was palpable in my system. However, in my rational thought, I’m confused why I had such emotions. Like I was suddenly prompted to side with Cole against my own will. Something wasn’t right.

I blindly walked out of the cafeteria, dragging Cole behind me. Once I regained my composure, I stopped in the middle of an empty hallway in shock. I turned around and faced the culprit.

“You? What did you do to me?” I inhaled in disbelief.

Cole’s smile widened like a villain had caught his prey.

“I didn’t know the connection would be this strong. But I’ve seen it first hand with my parents.” He announced mostly to himself.

I took a cautious step away from him in horror, but I couldn’t run away if I willed my body to move. “What is this? What kind of sorcery is this? Lycans shouldn’t wield any power than shifting into a wolf.” I gasped and covered my mouth at my slip. What have I done?

Cole expression harshly turned serious. His calm blue eyes steeled and locked me in his gaze. My body had grown rigid in response. I was trapped.

“I know it was you last night, Custodian. I knew it the moment you stepped underneath the moonlight. No matter what kind of magic you try to hide, I knew it was you. From the moment I laid my eyes on you, I couldn’t look at another again.”

“You tricked me. You knew and you pretended…” I trailed off as he suddenly grabbed my arm. The tingling current I felt whenever our skin came in contact had amplified. I wanted to pull my hand away from him, but my body wasn’t listening again. I was stuck. And like a statue, I couldn’t move away from him.

“It was you who tricked me, Custodian. It would have been better to idly pretend you were a human. Making timid ways to approach you with such ideas would have been better. But now I know you live in the same world, I knew you’d crack one way or another. Yet I’m still not prepared for this,” he exhaled like he was in agony, his words not making any sense.

“What are you talking about?”

“Don’t play dumb with me. You heard me loud and clear.”

I felt his hand gripping me tighter around my arm, yet rather than pain, I felt a bubbling need in the pit of my stomach – like I wanted him to never let go. What is this?

I whimpered in confusion, feeling lost in my own emotions. I thought of ways to justify the situation. But I couldn’t. Absorbed with my own thoughts, I was caught off guard.

Cole suddenly cupped my face and leaned down, brushing his lips on mine. I heard myself gasp at the contact and then my heart lurched. The electric current that seemed to tingle whenever we touch had hummed and a growing warmth blossomed within me. My eyes finally closed as I relished the sensation. It had taken me a few seconds to realize Cole had already pulled away from the kiss.

He leaned his forehead on mine. His breath tickling my face. And my heart continued to swell at his touch.


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