Chapter 32 - A Family Meeting
“Chin up, my love.” He places his fingers underneath my chin and literally lifts my chin up. “They can’t touch you anymore.” His eyes trace my face. “They tried to beat you down, break you, and crush your spirit. But they failed because my Princess is strong.” Pride shines in his vivid green eyes. “So you're going in there with your head held high.”
He’s giving me a pep talk but all I can think of is how I want to kiss those sexy lips again. Oh, god...I’m so hormonal!
“I wish you could’ve met my Nana. She would’ve loved you,” I tell him instead. This is not the first time that I wish she could’ve met him. I’m sure they’d have gotten along famously.
“Of course she would.” His words sound cocky but he flashes me an adorable, almost shy grin. “Your Nana wouldn’t be able to resist my charm. She would have wanted me for herself. You would have to fight her for me.”
Actually, he’s not that far off. If he gave my Nana that panty-melting grin, she might’ve claimed him for herself because my Nana was outrageous...just like this prince in front of me. “You are so outrageous! If your head gets ---” I suddenly clamp my mouth shut.
“Nevermind.” I can’t believe I almost walk right into that one.
“Oh, come on! You’re about to say something about my head?” His expression is hopeful as well as mischievous.
“Nope!” No, I’m so not going there.
“Awww...” He looks downright disappointed now. Almost pouting. “You’re about to say, “If your head gets any bigger, it’ll explode”. Then I’ll say, “Hey, I have something else that’s big...“.”
“Shut up!” I can’t stop the bubble of laughter from bursting out of my lips. He's incorrigible!
He chuckles, eyeing me with the look of amusement. “I love it when you laugh,” he murmurs. “Ready to go in now, princess?”
I nod my head and he drops a gentle kiss on my lips. Sweet and reassuring. My lips tingle from the brief touch.
I love it that he knows how to make me laugh and loosen up. The more time I spend with him, the deeper I fall. The pull between us feels so much stronger now. I can feel it stretching tight that it’s hard for me to stay away. I know it in the way he can’t keep his hands off me. I’m afraid, one day soon, he won’t be able to stop his lycan from claiming me.
We twine our fingers together like it’s the most natural thing in the world and make our way back to the huge grey building where the Pack Community Hall is. It’s scary how synchronized our movement to each other is already.
He touches the doorknob and I square up my shoulders. Our eyes meet. He has that cold, arrogant, almost bored look on his face as he pushes the door open. The force of his lycan energy and power radiate off him. I know he must have looked and felt intimidating to others but he makes me feel safe and protected.
The hall is full and falls silent as soon as we enter it. I can feel all eyes on us as we make our way to the front where all our friends are. His big warm hand gently squeezes mine.
Lord Archer is standing at the very front and center as if he’s in the middle of talking to the crowd when we walk in. He has a tiny smile on his lips while his golden cat’s eyes follow our movement. When we both reach him, he bows quite dramatically. “Your Highnesses.”
Caspian ignores him as he pulls me to sit next to him on one of the chairs facing the crowd.
“Lord Archer,” says Caspian, motioning to Lord Archer to come closer. He rests his arm on the armrest and leans further from me when the man approaches. He whispers something in Lord Archer’s ear. Lord Archer’s watchful gaze unhurriedly slides to me while he nods a couple of times.
I can feel all their eyes on us. I know my mother and her family are in there among the crowd. I stare straight ahead and ignore the whispers. I know some of them think that I’m an awful daughter.
I told Caspian that I don’t care about what’s going to happen to them, especially to my mother. I don’t know if that’s completely true.
I would like to say that I stopped caring that day in Beta St. Martin’s office when mother didn’t bat an eyelash as her brother was choking the life out of me. Unfortunately, you don’t have an off button in your heart. Right now I’m trying my best not to care. Caring for people who don’t care about you, hurt.
Her indifference hurt more than I care to admit. Growing up, I always hope that deep down my mother actually cared. I did some outrageous things to earn a tiny reaction other than the usual detached, uncaring expression she wore when she looked at me. I was just so pathetic. I was desperately hungry for whatever scraps of love she could spare me.
Indifference is worse than a look of disapproval or even hatred because indifference means you don’t matter. Not even a little bit.
Lord Archer is now addressing the crowd again, explaining to the crowd their future.
Loup Noir Pack is now leaderless. Even though Alpha Gordon and the werewolf Council is temporarily taking over, the pack is unstable. The investigation will continue. Their future is now uncertain.
All the neighboring Alphas who are willing to offer help are here today. I don’t know if all the Alphas are here with pure intentions. I’m sure, over time, some of the Alphas will make an attempt to stake their claim on the land. That could easily turn very violent very quickly.
Loup Noir Pack members who are under investigation will be taken to another location while others are given the choice to stay or apply to move permanently or temporarily to other packs.
After the initial statement, Lord Archer lets Alpha Gordon takes over the meeting. Alpha Gordon seems very patient in explaining and answering all the questions and concerns of the pack members.
“I need to get some fresh air,” I whisper to Caspian.
“I’ll come with you,” he says.
“No, stay. I won’t be too long,” I tell him, squeezing his hand. “Besides, I need to sort something out by myself.”
His eyes narrow. “I’ll come after you if you’re not back after ten minutes.”
“Give me thirty.”
“Ten,” he insists stubbornly. I know he’s worried about my safety. He hasn’t let me out of his sight yet since yesterday unless he’s sure that I’m safe. That is also the reason why he rented the whole hotel, which I think is a bit overkill. He doesn’t want strangers anywhere near me and have my safety compromised.
I resist the urge to roll my eyes at him as I get up and stroll out...before my meager 10 minutes is up.
I walk quickly on the aisle between the seats. Then I see her. My mother. Even sitting in the crowd with her fate in our hands, my mother sits with a proud stance. No emotion on her face. That indifference again.
My half-sister, Caitlin Rose and her father, Jon are both staring at me with part anxious and part amazed expression on their faces but they remain seated quietly beside her.
Joelle is sitting next to her mother, Maria. Both of them wear the same wooden, glum expression.
I thought they’re all going to ignore me but surprisingly, Maria rushes past the guards to land at my feet. “They’ll execute him,” she says. “Please, he’s your uncle. Your flesh and blood.”
Yeah? He wouldn’t let me call him uncle. All my life, he’s always been Beta St. Martin to me. None of them ever claimed to be my flesh and blood when I was a “weak human”.
“He will be tried justly. They will not execute him if he’s innocent. He will get what he deserves,” I tell her flatly.
“They will kill him! You can’t let them do that to him. He’s your uncle! We’re your family! Doesn’t family mean anything to you?” Her voice is getting higher and she’s pushing up to get in my face. The whole hall suddenly grows silent. Everybody is staring at us now.
I just remember how I struggle to stay positive every single day when I was around these people. They tend to suck all the positives inside of me and left me wilted and sad at the end of every day.
I turn away and a guard pulls her hands behind her back and restrains her. “No, you can’t do this to me. How dare you!” she yells. “You ungrateful bastard! We took you in when you had nowhere to go. We were there when you needed us. We looked after you!”
I stop in my tracks and turn back around to face her. “Don’t fool yourself. I never needed you. You never looked after me. You starved me and you abused me.
“You robbed me of what little that I had and everything that I had. You robbed me of my freedom. “My flesh and blood” tried to kill me before and you were planning to kill me again. You were never my family and you never will be. He should be so lucky I didn’t go and rip out his spinal chord myself like I want to.” Oh, how I want to.
My chest is feeling warm. I spin on my heel again and stalk away before I give in to my urge to rip her head off. I grab Jorden and Jonah by their arms on my way out.
The two brothers follow me out without any resistance or question. Good! They know when to keep their mouths shut when I’m feeling particularly violent.
We walk out of the building and I head straight for the wooden bench underneath an oak tree not too far from the building.
I walk back and forth in front of the bench, trying to calm my raging violent inner self that’s fighting to come out.
Both of them stand in front of me quietly. This is the first time I notice that they’re both almost the same height now. When did Jorden grow so tall? After a while, Jorden sits on the bench while Jonah remains standing. Both brothers are still watching me warily.
I stop and face them, still frowning. Thinking.
“I want to talk about your father,” I tell them. “What do you want to happen to your father?”
“What is there to talk about? Is it even our decision to make at this point?” asks Jonah.
“You’re forgetting that you’re talking to our future queen,” says Jorden.
I just roll my eyes before answering, “I think there is a huge possibility that he might be found guilty. He might get executed.
“I don’t think I can get him out scot-free, nor do I want to, but we can negotiate a lighter sentence for him...if you want.”
“I’d rather he be tried and prosecute fairly for all the crimes that he committed,” Jonah says firmly but I see the hesitation in Jorden’s eyes.
“My father is not a good man. He did a lot of vile things.” His body is hunched in resignation but his chin juts out in determination. “He made his bed, now he must lie in it.”
Jorden never had a good relationship with his father. I know he was beaten quite frequently when he was growing up to “toughen” him up. Still, the man is his father. It must still be hard for him to say this.
“What about Trey and his mate Emelie?” I ask Jorden. Trey is his best friend and he’s a good guy. I used to date him until he met his mate, Emelie.
“He wants to join Emelie’s grandparent’s pack. The Alpha is here.”
“Okay. That’s good. I hope they’ll be happy.”
I take my seat on the bench after Jorden and Jonah left. The sky is grey and the air seems cooler. Nobody is around and everything seems so quiet. So peaceful. That’s why I almost jump when I see Lord Archer leaning against the Oak tree, quietly watching me.
“Your uncle---” he says.
“Beta St. Martin,” I correct him.
“Beta St. Martin,” he amends. “He tried to kill you before?”
“Yes,” I tell him. “Twice...no, three times.” I don’t know why I’m telling him this. I never talked about it before. I rarely even think about it now. If I didn’t talk about it or think about it, it never happened.
“The first time was when I was just a day old but my Nana stopped him.
“The second time was when I was seven years old. Some woman told him I took a toy from her little boy and then beat him up. It was the other way around.” The boy was three years older than I was and a lot bigger. He took a little toy car Jorden lent me, then he pushed me to the ground and called me a filthy human. So I got up and pushed him right back and called him a stupid dog. He beat me up pretty good too after that but I was fast and managed to run off with the little toy. I was mighty proud of myself until Beta St. Martin showed up at the edge of the forest where I was playing by myself. He beat me to within an inch of my life. Literally.
I still remember his face. Red with rage and loathing. He didn’t just want to kill me. He wanted me to suffer. He snapped my skinny arm like a little twig and bashed my head against a tree. He didn't stop beating me up even after I passed out.
The pack doctor didn’t think I’d make it at first. I was broken everywhere. My lung was punctured and my skull was fractured. I was bleeding and black and blue all over. I whimper at the slightest touch.
I remember Nana looking after me day and night for months afterward. I remember her tears. I remember her gentle, loving hands feeding me, bathing me. My Nana...
I remember drinking my food through a straw for a week because my jaw was locked.
I later learned that Jonah was the one who found us and stopped his father from killing me. Jonah was just sixteen then. I don’t know how he stopped his father but I stayed away from Beta St. Martin after that.
“And the third time?” Lord Archer dips his head to peer into my face. He’s now sitting next to me on the bench.
“The third time that he tried to kill you,” he reminds me.
“Oh.” Now I remember I’m in the middle of telling him my story. “The third time was a few months ago, a day before I ran off.” The day he had his hands around my neck. “Jorden saved me then and helped me run away.” I have no doubt at all that he would have finished me off if Jorden didn’t interfere.
“I’m sorry you have a dreadful family,” he says quietly.
I don't like anybody to feel sorry for me. I shrug my shoulders. “Jonah and Jorden are great,” I tell him. “My Nana was awesome too. So, I’m pretty lucky, actually.” I smile up at him. There are so many people who got it much worse than I did.
He smiles back. His expression is almost admiring.
“So...that’s my life story, I guess. Thanks for listening, Lord Archer,” I add, feeling awkward and shy suddenly.
“Gideon,” he says.
“My name is Gideon.”
“Oh. Uh...okay...Gideon.” I remember the ornate carving of the letters GA on the lid of his pocket watch. His initials. Gideon Archer.
“There you are, my love,” says Caspian, slowly approaching us. His eyes are measuring the closeness at which Lord Archer is sitting next to me. Penny, Serena, Genesis, and Constantine are trailing behind him. Darius, Lazarus, and Agent Smith are talking to my cousins and Alpha Gordon not too far away.
“So...how’s everything going?” I ask him. That possessive, feral look on his expression makes me nervous.
Instead of answering me, he pulls me up to my feet. He grabs my waist, leans in, and covers my lips with his. This kiss is possessive and branding. Claiming.
He cups the back of my head with his hand and moves his lips against mine demandingly. His tongue pushes my lips apart and plunders inside.
My knees give way. If he’s not holding me up with his arm tightly around my waist, I’d have fallen like an old rag on the ground.
Just as I’m about to lose all my thoughts, he pulls back and...Holy smokes! I’m flushed and breathless. Both of us are breathless. The rest of the other lycans don’t seem to care since they continue talking as if nothing out of the ordinary happened. I guess it’s a normal thing for them since all of them are mated. Lord Archer seems to be attentively listening to what Constantine is saying but his lips are curled up into a strange little smile.
I pull Caspian away to the other side of the building as soon as I feel like my feet are strong enough to carry me.
“What was that all about?” I whisper to him. I’m a bit miffed because...hmm, why am I miffed again? Seriously, I can’t think straight when his bright green eyes are staring at me with that smoldering, possessive, and hungry look.
“That was me reminding some people, especially Lord Archer not to fish in my lake. Not to set a trap in my forest. Not to get too close to what’s mine.”
My mouth drops open. “Wha... I’m not your lake or your forest!”
“Of course you are.” His smug smile is maddening. Ughh!
“And Lord Archer was not doing any fishing or setting any trap. You’re crazy.”
“Of course, he’s not. He wouldn’t dare fishing or setting a trap in my territory. I just made sure of that.”
It’s official, he’s crazy. This feeling I have for him leaves no room for anyone else. Besides, Lord Archer is not even interested in me. He was just curious about me and we were just talking. “Well since you know he’s not going to do any of those things, what’s the problem?”
“The problem is, he fancies what’s mine and that’s unacceptable.” His dark blond eyebrows pull down into a frown.
“He’s not even---” Oh, I give up! I’ll never win this argument.
By 3 pm. we’re back at our hotel, including Jonah and Jorden. We are all very hungry. It’s a relief to see a big buffet waiting for us in the dining room.
The smell of food is mouthwatering. The servers in crisp white uniforms and black aprons are standing in line by the buffet table. There are servers standing behind our chairs by the long dining table as well.
Caspian is very attentive, transferring everything that he thinks I might like from his plate onto mine. Sometimes, he even feeds me some of his food. He makes me feel like I was the only person in the room.
After that, we all head off to an area in the huge lobby where there are a comfortable sofa and chairs grouped together next to a roaring fireplace. Servers bring trays of drinks as everybody relaxes. I think everybody needs it after the day we just had.
Caspian pulls me to him and I rest my head on his shoulder. I’m always sleepy after a big meal.
“I think we all should head back to California tonight,” says Darius. “Unless there’s anything else you want to do here.”
“I think we’re good to go,” agrees Lord Archer. “We let the Council do their job.”
Clicks of high heels hitting the stone tiles echo from a distance. A few of us lift our faces up to take in a new scent. It’s not someone I know. Jorden shoots me a questioning look.
Soon, a beautiful lycan woman in a stylish, tight, long, red silk dress walks in. The slit opens all the way almost up to her crotch with every step that she takes. Her dark brown hair falls into shiny waves down her back. Her hips sway as she walks and her dark blue eyes are taking us in. Assessing.
*I'll probably come back and change a few things in this chapter still. Have a wonderful week everybody! My next update will be Tuesday again.