"You have to understand miss. We need to see more progress before we truly trust him." A man stood, arms tightly folded and eyes narrowed. Not breaking eye contact, I relaxed back into my chair, nodding slowly.
"Every day, progress is made, improvements are being established." I told him gently. The man frowned, unsatisfied with my answer.
"Many are still without proper homes." He snapped.
"The ones without homes are currently living free of cost in hotels. Once more houses have been built they will immediately be allowed to move into them."
The man blinked, his jaw clenching. Slowly, the man returned to his seat. My eyes skirted the many persons in the room, the faces of the young and old.
I leaned forward, resting my arms against the table. "I understand the frustration you all feel. Xerxes' promises however, shall be done. Your appropriate suggestions are in the works of being put in place."
A lady stood abruptly, startling Harold and I. "And what about pay? We're still given the lousy wages since these wolves took over."
Foreheads creased in confusing. I shook my head. "The wages have increased."
"She is right." A man amongst the crowd stared up at the woman. "I and many people are being paid twice the amount we previously worked for."
The lady folded her arms, head high. "Not where I'm working at. The conditions are shitty too."
Harold and I exchanged a long look and I eventually sat forward, grabbing a pen and paper. "Where do you work?"
"At Benson's Shoe Store."
I wrote down the name. "And who is the employer?"
My head jerked upwards, meeting her eyes, a feeling of exasperation seeping into me. The Benson's Shoe Store was owned by Xerxes and he had allowed Sinclair to be the employer.
Sinclair had once been a friend of Xerxes' and a stubborn werewolf. He was the first of many of his kind to voice his disapproval of having the humans being treated fairly. Him and I had many nasty arguments in the past.
Eventually, after Xerxes threatened to fire him because he refused to abide to his rules, Sinclair promised to do as he was told.
"Well then,” I began slowly, placing the pen down on the table, glancing at Harold who stayed silent beside me. “I shall visit Sinclair this evening and try to have this issue solved. Are there any other questions you all have?”
After waiting for two minutes, I received no response. And so I stood, Harold following my lead. Waiters and waitresses entered, trays of pastries and drinks in their hands. I watched as several heads turned towards them and I gestured to the trays. “Refreshments shall be served.”
Slipping on an oversized coat, I began to leave, the meeting now finished. Harold leaned down, whispering, “The paparazzi is outside, by the doors of the building. Brad shall direct you to the car and I will meet you later today.”
My jaw worked, teeth grinding together as I watched Harold walk away, leaving me to face the mob of paparazzi alone. A guard nodded as I passed, opening the door for me, a look of sympathy being sent.
Immediately I spotted Brad. His tall height made him easily tower over the persons surrounding him. Questions were thrown as I pushed past the cameras, the reporters.
Inquiries about the whether I was Xerxes’ pawn or slave, or about me not caring about humans were asked. Each question left my chest feeling heavy, my anxiety increasing.
I finally reached Brad and a sense of comfort fell over me as he placed a hand on the middle of my back, directing me to where the SUV was parked. Offering a hand, he helped me inside the large vehicle, sending a look of warning towards a male reporter who got a little too close.
They oddly reminded me of a bunch of animals, the way they banged against the tinted dark windows, surrounding the car, their yells muffled. I locked eyes with Brad in the rearview mirror, who started the engine, revving it, startling the crowd. He honked twice and took off, heading in the opposite direction of where the paparazzi stood.
“Where to miss?” Brad asked over his shoulder. I sighed, rubbing a hand on my face, bracing myself for who I would have to see.
“Benson's Shoe Store. I need to have a little chat with Sinclair.”
My stomach churned at the sight of the workers when I pushed open the door, the chimes above ringing. Heads were bent, the clothes which the diligent employees wore loose and old. Hands moved quickly, expertly. The environment they worked in were disgusting.
There were only to small windows, which were barred and the floors were covered with ripped papers, shoe laces and soles. Because of the lack of windows, the air in the room was thick, an odd stench evident.
Attempting to step over the items on the ground was useless, for they were everywhere on the floor. Few heads turned as I passed, moving to Sinclair’s office. Knocking once, I waited until I heard his grunt and opened the door.
Blue eyes widened at the sight of me, and then narrowed. He closed his laptop which rested on his desk, folding his arms. “Ah, Rebecca. This is a surprise to see you here….” His voice trailed off, eyes darting behind me. “Without your mate.”
I scoffed, stepping further into the clean room, a stark contrast to what the employees worked in. The air condition was on, the blasts of cold air sending chills down my body, despite the coat I wore. Plopping down onto a chair I steadily watched the six foot four man, his intimidating stature, as well as his irritating, smug smirk making a jolt of annoyance shoot through me.
"We need to talk.” I said, in a clipped tone.
Sinclair’s fair brows raised. “About what?”
I jerked a thumb towards the opened door, through which the workers could be seen. “You have the employees working in horrible conditions.”
Sinclair hesitated. “I haven’t gotten around with employing any janitors.” He said, raising a shoulder nonchalantly.
“And apparently you haven’t gotten around to increasing the wages either.”
A growl, one of irritation, rumbled from him. “No, I haven't.” He snarled, blue eyes cold. “What I do with my business has nothing to do with you.”
His large hand gripped the table, his entire body stiff with tension. I tilted my head, watching the way his foot tapped against the hardwood floor under him. He was nervous.
“You mean Xerxes’ business?” I corrected him, flashing a smirk. His scowl deepened further and I continued. “If I remember correctly, you signed a contract with him, promising to put in place what he wanted.”
Sinclair stiffened at the mention of Xerxes' name and my lips quirked. I would use his obvious fear towards the Alpha to my advantage.
A muscle jumped in Sinclair's jaw as he sat onto his office chair once more. “I did.”
“Breaching that contract would lead you into being fired, or paying up money. A lot.” I rubbed my fingers together, winking.
The werewolf abruptly stood, canines growing, a tactic he used as an attempt to intimidate me. “He didn’t give me a set date in which to establish these things he wanted.”
“He did. Changes were to be completed the week after the contract was signed. And it’s almost been a month and you still haven't done shit.” I leaned forward, watching the way he inhaled. “Xerxes won’t be pleased.”
Papers went flying as he smacked a hand against the wooden table. “Get out of my office.” He bit out. “Leave.”
I shook my head. “No can do, sir. I can't leave as yet, not until you promise to pay what was promised to the employees.”
Sinclair's hand reached forward, gripping the coat I wore, yanking me up so I was inches away from his face. His hot breath fanned my cheek as he spat, “You’re a fool. You come here alone, trying to convince me, to agree with your ridiculous plans-”
“I’m not asking you to agree with me, asshole. Your opinions are your own.” I hissing. “What I’m telling you, is that Xerxes’ rules should be followed. Whether you agree or disagree with them doesn’t matter. The rules are to be carried out.”
A low, humourless chuckle fell from his mouth. “Of course.” Sarcasm laced his words. Sharp eyes pierced mine. “Now I was going to let you leave easily, but it seems like I will have to be using some force.” From the corner of my eye, I watched as a hand which didn’t grip me, flex, nails shifting into claws.
A click echoed from behind us. A smile curled my lips as I saw Brad step into the room, pistol drawn. “Release her.”
Without a word Sinclair removed his hand, allowing me to move. He straightened the sleeves of his jacket, a smug expression on his face. Brad took my arm, still aiming the gun at Sinclair's head.
“We need to leave.” Brad told me. I nodded, eyes darting towards a ring which rested on Sinclair's table. There was an odd symbol which rested in the middle of it, a circle with two masks.
It seemed familiar and I narrowed my eyes slightly in concentration, wanting to know where exactly I had seen it before. But Sinclair stepped into my line of vision, making a 'shoo’ gesture with his hands.
“Perhaps it’s best that Xerxes comes to speak with you about this matter instead.” I said, a sense of satisfaction overcoming me briefly as I saw the way Sinclair's eyes widen, lips tightening.
Waving a hand I left the room, Brad beside me, the door slamming closed behind us.
My fingers wrapped around the handle of my door later that night, my eyes heavy with exhaustion and my stomach gurgling in hunger. Behind me, Brad was driving away, after seeing that I entered my home with no danger.
Once the door closed behind me, I kicked off the boots I wore, yawning as I thought of what I was to make for dinner and then cursed, realizing I had to buy groceries.
I turned a corner, beginning to walk to my bedroom, when the shadow of a person fell over me, a startled scream falling from my lips as I stumbled backwards, falling on my butt.
Blinking in confusion, I looked up, eyes sweeping over the black jeans, the long sleeved grey shirt which hugged the muscles of a chest and broad shoulders. I stood shakily, still recovering from my shock and locked eyes with silver gleaming ones.