A week has passed since that night. I thought we would start avoiding each other, but instead, Xavier woke up acting as if it never happened in the first place. I couldn’t bring myself to speak up about it, so I ended up following his nonchalant behavior.
What was I supposed to say? Hey, you made me cry yesterday because you refused to mark me even though I was the one who pushed you away first.
Knowing him, he would have said that it was the effect of the full moon and proceed to curse out the Moon Goddess for playing ‘weird tricks’ on him.
Leaving that aside, nothing changed. In fact, my routine is still the same. I wake up finding myself hugging Xavier from behind, followed by our training, lunch, a relaxing shower, and then my lovely free time in the afternoon that gets interrupted as usual.
I was lying down on the fluffy pillows the clowder considers a couch. My eyes were glued to the story about lions’ pride until my eyelids eventually grew heavy. I covered my face with the open book, giving in to the nap when someone’s footsteps perk my ears up.
With one deep inhale, a strong cologne enters my system, making me scrunch my nose. Only one person uses such a spicy fragrance.
“What is it, Xavier?” I ask, keeping my eyes closed.
Soon, I feel the book’s lightweightness disappear. I blink my eyes open, staring at Xavier’s glowing gaze, his face hovering over mine. His brownish complexion makes the color of his eyes pop out even more, and I can’t help but quietly admire him.
Ah, my heart is acting up again.
I can hear it pounding against my ribcage.
“Richard is looking for us, and why are you reading about lions’ pride? You know, I can explain it to you,” he says, straightening his back and aimlessly flipping the pages around.
I quickly blink, disregarding my primal organ attitude. “I don’t trust your version. You tend to make everything about yourself.” I put my arms out, waiting for Xavier to help me get on my feet.
He closes the book before doing so. “I can be objective for you,” he says, giving me a soft smile.
My heart skips a beat. Alright, maybe something has changed. Xavier has become sweeter. I don’t think he has realized it yet. “We’ll see, now, tell me, what does Richard want?” I change the subject as we walk out of the living room and head upstairs. Richard’s office is the only black colored wooden door down the hallway.
“He found something about the Crimson Pack. Looks like we’ll be off sooner than expected,” he says, clasping his hand behind his back.
I smile. “Took him long enough. I’ve been dying to get out of the house for a while.” I glance at Xavier, finding his face looking... sad? What? “Why the sad face?” I ask.
Xavier stops in front of the door before facing me. “Promise me one thing. Whatever happens out there, don’t shut me out, alright?”
I chuckle, my hand closing around the knob of the door. “Why would I do that?”
“Just promise me.” His eyes glow a goldish color as he waits for my reply.
I nod, opening the door. “I promise,” I say before we step inside Richard’s office.
My eyes quickly wander around. It’s as messy as his mind. His L-shaped wooden desk has papers and open files everywhere, and right under it, there’s a tiny garbage bin with overflowing paper balls.
Richard is connecting his laptop to his mounted TV with a cable. “You’re late,” he says, motioning for Xavier and me to take a seat on the two dark leather chairs located in front of his desk.
“Don’t be so hard on them,” I hear the husky voice that I instantly recognize as the eighteen-year-old that saved our kind.
My eyes look at the TV screen, and it’s indeed Blake Harrison. His piercing blue eyes are staring at us, well, Richard, since the laptop is facing him. He passes his hand through his dark wavy hair that keeps covering his forehead.
“I have to be, or they’ll do it more often,” Richard dryly explains, leaning back on his chair and lazily untying his tie.
Xavier and I mimic his position, a smirk tugging at my lips. “Don’t worry, we only do that, so you don’t start slacking off at your job,” I say, receiving a glare from our leader.
“What did you find out about the Crimson Pack?” Xavier quickly asks, not giving Richard enough time to snap at me.
“Blake,” the tiger says, making my eyes shift back to the screen.
“Ever since we made an alliance with you, and the werecats came back from their hiding, we’ve noticed some irregular activities to the South where the Crimson Pack is located. My ex-Beta has been going there a lot. From his report, it seems like they started luring werecats into their territories against their will. We still don’t know what they do with them, but they’re well known among other packs for bending the law as they see fit,” he explains, leaning back in his chair.
The Alpha taking an interest in werecats out of the blue is odd. He’s always dealt with voluntary humans for his businesses, so what’s changed?
“I know you did your research on them, Alexa. What did you find?” Richard asks.
“Yeah,” I start, straightening my back, “They’re known for human trafficking, weirdly voluntary, and a shitty hierarchy. Women are treated like objects, and men’s ranking is solely based on nepotism and the fur’s color. It’s ancient, plus, people get inside the territory easily, but few of them get out.”
Richard nods. “What about you, Xavier? I know you found something about the Alpha,” he says, making my head snap to the side at hearing those words. When did he search the Alpha? And why didn’t he say anything?
Xavier facepalms himself, and Richard’s eyes widen as if he just remembered he said too much. They’re hiding something from me again.
“What did you find?” I ask, forcing my lips to smile while my eyes reveal the anger I’m feeling for them.
Xavier notices it and shrinks in his seat. “I thought I found something, but in the end, I came up empty-handed,” he says, lying to my face.
Richard wouldn’t have asked that question if you came up empty-handed.
“You’re lying,” I say, openly glaring at him now.
Xavier shakes his head. “I’m not.”
We go back and forth for a moment until two distinct voices audibly clear their throats.
The Alpha of the Harrison Pack looks amused, while Richard is annoyed as hell. “I’ll continue from here, thanks, Blake, and say hi to Catherine from me,” Richard says before they bid their farewell, and he snaps the laptop close.
“Alexa, I need to talk to Xavier alone,” he says.
I can’t help but growl. “Of course, you do. You guys are always hiding something from me. I don’t get why I’m your left hand to begin with since I’m always kept in the fucking dark.” I stand up, marching toward the door.
The idiots stay quiet, making my blood boil even more. I make sure to slam the door loud enough that the sound of the impact booms in the hallway.
My hand clenches around the knob to the point where my knuckles turn whiter. I’m always the last one to figure things out. I hate it.
Angry tears slide down my cheeks. I quickly wipe them away and shift into my small feline form, wanting nothing more but to be left alone. My bones crack as they adjust for the tiny animal, and in seconds, the heavy shirt I was wearing covers my vision.
I slide my body away from my clothes and let Foxy stretch our body before taking her time to walk down the hallway, going back to the curved staircase.
Seems like everyone is locked in their rooms. As I pass the doors, my ears perk up to the sound of electronic devices being used, moans and groans, and some people snoring loudly.
As we walk down the stairs, hushed voices are heard. I slow down my pace, quietly following the sounds that lead me in the kitchen. My nose scrunches up at the view.
Ew. Nevermind. Nothing interesting.
It’s just Jason making out with a dark-haired girl right in front of me.
I turn around, getting the hell out of that scene and walking outside. Thankfully, some idiot left the entrance door open.
The green front yard has a few felines running around, most of them being kids. I let Foxy take complete control. She takes her sweet time to walk around the stone-built villa, sniffing the various scents and climbing on top of trees.
Why would they hide valuable information about the Alpha from me? Sooner or later, I will meet him, so why?
Think, Alexa, think!
My brain starts searching through my memory for any clue.
Xavier’s constant sadness whenever the news of us leaving for the Crimson Pack comes up isn’t right.
Kali looking for him is off as well, and she mentioned business. A business that might be connected to the Crimson Pack because both of them are from the South.
I mentally gasp, taking my feline off guard since she freezes for a moment.
She’s the one who reported to Xavier about the Alpha, and I bet he told her to keep her mouth shut because he wants to protect me. That’s the only reason to gain Kali’s loyalty when I’m involved.
But if he said that, doesn’t that mean I might know who the Alpha is?
A faint scent of perfume halts Foxy. She looks around the forest, finding a lion walking toward us, his powerful and confident aura radiating in waves.
The closer he gets, the more I have to crane my neck upward to look at him. He looks like a giant from my current perspective. We stare at each other until he lies down in front of me, closing his eyes and slightly bending his neck, a sign for me to hop onto his soft mane.
I need to find out why he’s hiding the Alpha from me.
Foxy quickly leaps forward as she takes out our claws and holds onto his neck. Xavier gradually starts speeding up his pace through the forest of the villa.
I close my eyes, enjoying the sound of his paws softly hitting the ground, the deep exhale of his breath, and the way his mane is keeping my body warm, perfectly lulling me to sleep.
It’s so warm.
My eyelids start closing themselves, with my head swinging downward until I give up, letting the sleepiness win. The last thing I feel is my body sliding down his mane and a mouth grabbing the scruff of my neck on time.
When I wake up, I would have never thought it’d be on a boat.