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A Sincere Smile

“December’s wintery breath is already clouding the pond, frosting the pane, obscuring summer’s memory...” -John Geddes

A chillingly cold winter wind fluttered in the black curtains, before drifting over to where Raven was. The cold air felt good against her sweaty, warm skin.

A grimacing look passed over her features as she lowered herself down for yet another push-up, being one of possibly hundreds over the past week. And up again she went.

She had gotten into a nice schedule of coming down for meals when needed, and sealing herself back in her room. Occasionally she would talk to a maid and discuss current gossip. Raven was still trending, along with a small one that was limited to house members only.

Grace might replace Raven.

The maid had looked shameful at having to tell Raven it herself, but honestly Raven took no offense. In fact, Raven had begun to believe it herself.

Raven had more than a few times seen Grace and Ezekiel sharing hushed conversations, behind doors or under the blanket of the public. It hadn’t escaped Raven, however.

And she wasn’t about to forget when she had seen them together in his room, both looking ruffled.

Heeding Dmitri’s advice, she had given a week of rest before exercising again. Her range of mobility wasn’t back to what it had used to be, but she was able to do a lot of basic moves. Such as push ups.

The skin over her back felt like it was being pulled tightly together as she went up again, the scabs almost threatening to rip back open. Heat from the workout had overtaken her, and made her discard her tank top a while ago, leaving her in black yoga pants and a black sports bra.

Pausing with the push ups, she moved into a plank position, using her shirt to cushion her elbows. A knock sounded at her door, tapping only twice. “Come in,” Raven grunted.

The door opened and softly closed, but Raven didn’t move from her spot. She wasn’t stopping for anyone.

The person came over quietly and sat on the edge of her unmade bed, their legs coming into view. They were clad in nicely fitting jeans, and Raven couldn’t help but to be confused and look up. She was greeted by Dmitri’s thoughtful expression.

His eyes didn’t meet hers, as they were assessing her back. Raven rolled her eyes and quickly got up. “How can I help you, doc?”

“Oh, nothing. I just thought I would come and check up on how you’re doing before my day starts. Since you haven’t come to see me for any new injuries.” Dmitri smiled at her, finding her refusal to seek any type of help amusing.

“They’re doing nicely. Healing well. None have reopened since the last time I came and visited you.” Raven panted softly, her lungs still not adjusted to heavy usage.

“Turn around?”

Raven grunted slightly and slowly pushed herself up to stand, taking heed of her healing back. Dmitri stood up from her bed and gently prodded the skin, running his fingers along the scabs. His hands felt cool against her warm skin. “Move your shoulders a little, please.” Raven rolled her shoulders and pushed them forward and back, showing her range of motion.

“Relax.” Dmitri’s hands left her back.

“You’re right, they are doing well.” His voice was deep and soothing, almost like Ezekiel’s. In fact they shared similar traits, such as those light green eyes, soft dark brown hair, and enormous height, though Dmitri was slightly shorter. Ezekiel was just more buffed out than Dmitri was, and their faces weren’t the same.

Raven rolled her eyes before quickly bending over and pulling her shirt back over her body. The feeling of fabric felt awkward against her sweaty skin.

“Ah, hello Alpha. I was going to report to you today on how Raven was healing.” Raven spun around to find none other than Ezekiel standing at her door, looking between her and Dmitri.

Ezekiel straightened and looked at Raven, clearly dismissing Dmitri. Raven found it a little rude, but there wasn’t anything she could say about it.

Dmitri found the sign clear too, and left the room slowly, drawing out his steps because he knew that Ezekiel’s words weren’t meant for his ears. Raven couldn’t help but think back to herself waiting on that stage.

The door closed softly behind Dmitri, leaving her and Ezekiel alone in her room.

“What the fuck was that, Raven?” His voice had an eerie anger to it.

“What was what? Dmitri checking up on my wounds that you never bothered to check up on?” Sudden rage took hold of her emotions, pent up from weeks of being trapped in this room in solitary. It wasn’t fair to him, as there was nothing he could have done about the events, but he was her only available target.

He puffed himself out, willing to take on her anger.

“Where the fuck have you been Ezekiel? Off fucking the maid?” Raven scoffed at him. “You wanted to know how I’ve been healing, but wouldn’t bother to even come look yourself.”

“I have wanted to come and see you, but I haven’t had the time. And I haven’t been with the maid.” Ezekiel still held that anger from before, but he was beginning to see it was irrelevant.

Raven scoffed and crossed her arms over her chest, staring him down. He may have the height advantage, but in this moment he felt quite small under her gaze.

She opened her mouth to scold him more, but quickly shut it again. Silence was a better punishment for him. They stood staring each other down for a good while, until Raven gave up and turned her back on him.

Ezekiel settled himself on her bed, making himself at home. Their anger hung heavily in the room, both too stubborn to back down. Raven had been closing the window and curtains, turning back around to see him on her bed.

“Oh sure, get comfortable on my bed.” She growled lowly at him, stomping to her closet to pick out fresher clothes.

“I did.” She heard him call out behind her.

Raven’s fingers clenched around the shirt in her hands. She spun around, about to throw a fit. She was interrupted, however, by him holding up his finger as if he expected her outburst. “I came here to offer you something.”

Her jaw clenched but she said nothing. He took this as a sign and continued. “Would you like to go back to training?”

The question left her dumbfounded for a moment, at a loss for words to say to him. “I..” Ezekiel raised his eyebrows at her.

“Yes.”

A small smile tugged at his lips as he roused himself from her bed. Her eyes couldn’t help but to be drawn to his biceps, and how his muscles moved with basic movements. A beast lurking beneath that skin of his.

Her mouth watered at the sight of him fully standing. That tall, muscular frame. A perfect body. Oh how she desired to see what was underneath those clothes.

He seemed to be assessing her too, those green eyes wandering up and down the curve of her body. A perfect hourglass, yet fit and lithe. Small, but just as frightening.

Raven cleared her throat and diverted her lingering gaze down to the floor. He seemed to snap out of his trance too. She felt warm all over, flushing from the acknowledgement from her male.

“We can start as soon as those scabs are fully healed.” Her excitement dimmed slightly. It wouldn’t be for another two weeks or three that they would be healed enough until she didn’t risk the threat of having to visit Dmitri again.

For once she agreed with him. It would be stupid to just rush into training. She nodded at the ground, afraid to look up at him and be lost to the mating call again.

The door softly closed, signifying he had left. Raven released a breath she hadn’t known she’d been holding. Her body slumped against the wall of the closet. Her heart thrummed in her chest, surprising her. For a while she had forgotten she had had one, like it had only just now started to work thanks to him.

Raven rubbed her eyes, closing them and trying to soothe her heart. The heat from her workout had been replaced by the warmth she had felt by simply being near him. With him gone, a sudden empty cold had settled in her skin. She didn’t like it.

She didn’t know how long she stood there leaning against the wall. It felt like an eternity yet only a few seconds at the same time. But at some point she made up her mind to go and get food.

Her fingers had long since lost grip on the shirt she had planned to change into. Instead, she tugged an over-sized hoodie down from a hanger, and pulled it over her cold frame.

The deep green fabric went down past her butt, the sleeves much too long for her arms. It made her feel comfortable, her skin quickly warming up with this extra layer of clothing.

The silver was a small burn against her fingertips, but easily ignorable. The weight of the door caused it to shut on its own, needing no assistance.

Her eyes couldn’t help but to glance down the hallway to look at his door, checking if it was open again. Instead, it was closed, and dark.

She paused for a moment, the ache in her chest growing almost unbearable. She took a deep breath before moving on. Her steps were delicate going down the stairs. The last thing she wanted to do was slip and fall.

Chatter came from downstairs, happy pack mates gossiping to each other about recent events. The sound was foreign to her ears, having been alone for so long now. She quickly decided against going toward the voices.

Instead she slipped past that room, silently making her way down the maze of hallways. She wound up in the kitchen, expectantly looking for any of the cooks.

She was greeted by one of the common maids, one she had yet to learn the name of. He smiled at her, and she was somewhat awed by it. It was a sincere smile, something she hadn’t been given in years.

“Hello. How can I help you?” He politely asked her. No doubt he knew who she was. Raven was confused why he was being so kind to her.

“I.. Food.” Her words were limited, still in shock.

He chuckled at her response, his eyes lighting up with his smile. He left for a few minutes but returned with a platter containing a sandwich and an assortment of other foods.

“Why are you being so nice to me?” Raven asked him, as he had already been turning away to busy himself with something else.

He turned his full frame back at her, his eyebrows scrunching up. His head tilted to the side slightly. “Why wouldn’t I be?”

Raven pursed her lip. Shit. Maybe he doesn’t know about me. I’m about to screw this up, she thought to herself. “I uh.. I’m that girl that murdered Abigale.”

A funny look crossed his features. “I know that. I was there to witness your punishment. Hell, the whole pack was.”

“And?”

“I personally don’t think you did something that terrible. I mean, yes, you did kill her. But I don’t know. You probably had your own motivations. Honey, everyone in this pack has harmed or killed a fellow wolf. You were only punished because she belonged to this pack. But if you ask me? That bitch had it coming. And anyone who can piss off the Beta like that is on my favorites list.” He winked at her, turning away again and disappearing.

Raven took her food back up to her room, and was left to muddle over his words, playing them over and over again in her head.

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