I turned around and sure enough: it was Derik!
I mentally cursed myself for not thinking this through before I agreed to all of this. Of course, ALPHA Derik was going to be at the ALPHA ball. I could be so stupid sometimes…
“W-what are you doing here?” he stuttered, before he noticed the rest of my body. Instantly his eyes went as wide as Grand Canyon. “And what are you wearing?”
If I wasn’t so mad, I’d laugh at his brotherly instinct. But instead my instinct was to look down at myself. And the second I did, I cursed under my breath. It was absolutely none of his goddamn business what I was wearing! And yet there was just that one flicker of ‘baby-sister’-syndrome left in my stupid brain, that wanted his approval.
“It’s Dolce & Gabbana,” I tried to keep my voice neutral and voice of all the emotions swirling inside my body. I didn’t expect to see him here – or ever again. “What are you doing here?”
I mentally groaned. I wish could just kick myself!
“This is an alpha Ball…,” Derik answered--- and this conversation quickly took dived into awkward-ville!
“Is Mindy here?” I asked, trying to derail the conversation. But of course, only made it worse. Derik opened his mouth to answer, but I quickly cut him off: “Of course, she’s here. How is she?”
“Lizzy,” he said in a soft voice and held out his hand to me. But the second his finders graced my skin, I felt a cold shiver run down my spine and I felt sick to the bone.
“Don’t!” I snapped, instinctively taking a step back. “Don’t touch me!”
For a second he looked surprised. Like he didn’t expect me to react like that, but regained his posture quicker than I’d liked.
“Liz,” he continued, and stepped closer to me. I gulped. Too close! “What happened?”
“I took your advice,” I answered, trying not to let my raging heart affect my speech. “That’s what happened!”
“My advice?!” he exclaimed and frowned. “Lizzy…”
“Is this wolf bothering you, love?”
A heavy hand rested on my shoulders and a calm I couldn’t describe instantly soothed my racing heart. I released a breath I didn’t know I was holding and without thinking, leaned into Xyen’s strong hold.
Derik looked surprised. Eyeing me, then Xyen, before his eyes went to me again.
“You’re…” he questioned, but I cut him off; happily ignoring him.
“Not at all,” I replied, feeling like I could breath and think again. Then I remembered that this was a formal gathering and I was playing a role of a hostess. So I did: “Alpha Derik and I are old acquaintances. I assume I don’t have to introduce you?”
“Alpha Derik,” Xyen boomed, his voice sounding more like a lion’s roar than anything human. He held out his hand for Derik to take. “It’s a pleasure.”
It really wasn’t.
“Alpha Xyen,” Derik greeted him, stiff as a stick, before turning to me again. “Liz, can we talk in private?”
The command in his undertone clear as day. I mentally scoffed and cursed him down and under. How dear he think he could just walk back into my life and start making demands! Anger boiled in my blood and I’d opened my mouth to politely tell him to fuck off, when Xyen came between us.
“No,” Xyen growled and took a threating step forward, efficiently placing me behind him. “And if I see you looking at my mate again, I’ll personally feed you your insides.”
My anger evaporated and I was left glaring at the mountain of mussels next to me. He looked at Derik like a volcano ready to blow. I was shocked at his statement. Where did all this protectiveness come from?! Was this really all just for show? Or was there more to it? And if it was, what the hell did it mean?!
Derik – on the other hand – looked equally stunned, but for entirely different reasons. He looked at me again and I simply lowered my eyes, pretending to be very occupied with my drink. I had so much emotional shit going on myself, I did NOT want to deal with his shit as well…!
“Mate?!” He looked as surprised as he sounded. His eyes trailed from me to alpha Xyen and back to me, almost as if he expected me to protest. But when I remained silence, he continued in a stiff, formal tone: “I meant no offence.”
“I’m sure you didn’t,” I snarled sarcastically and took a big zip of the champagne. It made me borderline stupidly brave, having Xyen standing between us and threatening Derik if he came closer. I don’t know what would happen if he did and of the two, Xyen was definitely the more deadly one. But Derik was--- dangerous. Perhaps that’s what scared me the most. That the second he stopped talking, I’ll be back in his arms crying my heart out.
I’d be back with my brother. Back at the beginning.
I low hum emitted from Derik, as he couldn’t completely suppress a growl.
“How do you two know each other?” Xyen asked, clearly annoyed with the familiarities between us.
“Derik taught me everything I know about werewolves,” I replied truthfully – or at least half-truth – before turning my attention back to Derik. “You could say he’s the big brother I never wanted.” After he killed my biological one, I added mentally but didn’t say it. Not that I didn’t want to, but it’s not like I could completely blame Derik for that. I’d helped them. I knew they were monsters and what they did was wrong, but… That had still been my brother!
“I haven’t seen or heard from you in a year,” Derik said lowly, the hurt and strain in his voice obvious. “Is this really how you want this to be?”
I glanced up at him, his eyes pleating me to go with him. I felt conflicted. Seeing him brought back so many different emotions. Anger being the most dominate one. Of course, Derik knew how to “guilt” me into talking to him again! And for that reason alone, I wanted to just walk away. But there was so much I needed to say! To know. I just...
I groaned and gave in.
“Babe, I’ll take a short walk with Alpha Derik,” I turned to Xyen, placing my hand on his chest. I didn’t know why I did that, but if felt natural. “See you in five?”
“I said no...,” Xyen replied gruffly, but I already knew he was going to refuse. Xyen wasn’t a man, that changed his mind for anyone, so I had to play a little dirty. Xyen knew he had to behave tonight, and I knew he had to, so the only thing I needed, was a sacrificial lamb…
“Alpha Terrence!” I exclaimed with a bright smile, seeing the alpha I’d been looking for. He was a technical genius and he had several ideas I was pretty sure Xyen would love. I just speeded up the process of introducing them: “I just told my mate about your idea for that fast train of yours; he’d love to hear more details.”
“Really?” Alpha Terrence exclaimed, and instantly came over. Without waiting for any introduction or answer, he started talking: “Why Alpha Xyen, you see…”
I grabbed Derik’s arm and pulled him outside to one of the balconies that was overlooking the backyard.
“You have five minutes until he kills something,” I hissed, and closed the glass doors behind us. “What do you want to talk about?”
“That for one!” he exclaimed, gesturing what I could only imagine was Xyen. “His mate? What the fuck, Liz?!” He ran his hands roughly through his hair, something he did a lot, when he was frustrated. “That’s Alpha Xyen in there! Do you have a death-wish?”
“And if I do,” I challenged him back, defiantly crossing my arms. “Would you honestly blame me?”
Instantly his eyes softened, and he rubbed the back of his neck. His signature nervous tick! Something I’d seen him do a million times before.
“I tried to help you…” he said softly. A soft voice that had lulled me to sleep so many restless nights. All those nights, when I missed having Sif in my arms. When I missed her small hands and soft breaths. When I woke up crying, because she was gone.
He was there…
“Then stop!” I cut him off, clenching my teeth so I couldn’t cry. “Because you really suck at it, ok?”
“Liz,” he sighed hopelessly. “What happened with Kevin…”
“Is the wolf’s way, I know,” I mocked, but honestly, Kevin could go fuck himself for all I cared. I needed to know something else: “Tell me,” I asked, looking my brother dead in the eye. “If I’d been a wolf, would it have been different?”
“A wolf wouldn’t have gone after a man, who just found his mate,” Derik answered south of the question I asked.
“I’m not talking about Kevin,” I said and looked up. We both knew what this really was about.
“Liz, we’ve been over this,” he sighed, his tone laced with annoyance. “You were 14…”
“Answer the goddamn question!” I shouted, not caring if anyone heard me. Anger was boiling in my blood and hurt stung my already broken heart. “My age didn’t matter, when I saved her life! My age didn’t matter, when you let Alpha Vector torture me in your dungeon. And my age didn’t matter when I helped you take down the Hunter Compound, Derik!” I was standing barely an inch away from his face. “Why the fuck should it matter when it came to Sif?”
“It was her mother…”
“She gave her up!”
“To save her life!”
“I saved her life!” I cried, tears running down my face. “I took her! I cared for her!” I tried to breath. Tried to calm down. I wasn’t going to let them see it. See what they’d done to me… They’d never know, they broke me! “Tell me,” I demanded, but my voice was barely a meek whisper. “If I’d been a wolf? Had. It. Been. Different?”
Derik sighed, and rubbed the back of his neck. He didn’t think long…
“A trial would have…,” he replied, confirming my suspicion. And yet, it felt like a hit in the gut.
“A trial?” I cut him off, not being able to hide the surprise in my voice. But the second I realized, I also understood--- everything! I stepped back and scoffed. Smiled and laughed, not knowing what else to do. They’d really gotten everything they wanted. Their way! The wolf’s way…
“I guess that answers that question.”
Had I been a wolf, Sif would be mine right now. I’d still have my baby!
But I was a Hunter!
“Liz,” he said again, and regret flashed in his eyes. He tried to reach out for me, but I snatched my hands away from his. Just the thought of him touching me, made my skin crawl.
“You know what, Derik,” I scoffed and looked him dead in the eyes. “Go fuck yourself!”
I turned around and walked away.