"Ah Sinclair! My boy!” My yell reached the large werewolf who was trying and failing miserably to hide his face behind a large newspaper. More than once I had managed to see him peak out from it whilst I spoke to Anthony, the young man who I had promised to meet with once I returned from Arthur.
Anthony had a whole lot to say about Harold, but our conversation had soon came to an end after the burly werewolf showed up, sitting only a few tables away from us. I had seen him passing by the restaurant outside and felt his eyes on me as contemplated his next move of action. I was not surprised when he finally came inside, thinking that I had not spotted him.
I shook Anthony’s hand and left my table, walking to Sinclair’s, who had now discovered that he had been caught trying to listen in to my discussion. He was grabbing at his coat and fixing his hat when I reached him, his upper lip curled in a snarl as he glared down at me.
“How have you been?” I said, falling into step with him as he walked briskly through the restaurant, dodging waiters holding plates and glasses. “I mean, life must be difficult for you now that you’ve been fired from your job. But then again, I’m sure Idina must be paying you a hefty fee for whatever it is that you’re doing for her, so you must not be worried about getting money.”
A low growl, one of warning rumbled from him and I wagged a finger in his face. “Now now. Let’s not get any attitude. So why were you in the restaurant? I saw that you did not order anything.”
When he didn’t respond, I continued speaking.
“I also saw that you were trying to hear what I was saying with the young man. You need not worry, the topic of our conversation had little to do about you.”
Brad stepped forward when we exited the building, eyes narrowing sharply at Sinclair. Holding an umbrella with one hand, he took my arm with the other and pulled me away from the broody werewolf, who had began to walk away, disregarding the rain. Pinching my lips together, I stood by the door of a vehicle, staring as he walked down the sidewalk, bumping into many people trying to get out of the rain.
“Could we follow him?” My question was directed to Brad. He hesitated, looking at the watch strapped to his wrist but nodded. I got in the vehicle quickly, the SUV speeding forward as Brad hurried to catch up to Sinclair. We watched as he got into a flashy Dodge Challenger car and drove through traffic. Brad made sure that there was some distance between the vehicles as he drove so Sinclair would not become aware of us following him.
“If I may ask, Rebecca,” Brad said after we stopped at a red light. “Why are we pursuing this man?”
“He’s acting suspicious,” I told him. “Besides, we have nothing else to do and I’m curious to know where exactly he’s going.”
Brad still looked reluctant, but carried on driving. The route which we took as we followed Sinclair’s car was an unfamiliar one and I realized that I had never been in this type of neighborhood before.
Several feet away from where Sinclair had parked, was where Brad turned off the engine, both of us gazing out the window as Sinclair walked through a murky road.
“Rebecca,” Brad said as my fingers wrapped around the handle of the door. “I will call Xerxes and let him know that we shall be late if you intend on following that man further.”
I shrugged. “Then do so. I won’t be long.”
Brad was swift as he pulled at the material of my shirt. “I will come with you.” He told me. I nodded and got out the vehicle, relieved that the rain had lessened.
My sneakers sunk into the wet mud as we walked, keeping Sinclair in my line of sight. A few glances around the area showed some ‘houses’, which looked exactly like the one which I grew up in after the werewolves had taken over. I frowned, wondering why Xerxes had not looked into fixing up this area as yet. I yanked my hoodie over my head when we passed a few people, a gut feeling telling me that it was best that I hide my identity.
Young children sat on bricks outside a hut, playing with sticks, chattering excitedly to one another. Their clothes were tattered, faces smeared with mud. Worry gnawed at me because of their appearance, but they at least looked well fed.
“Rebecca.” Brad jerked me behind him, directing us behind a dumpster when Sinclair turned, looking over his shoulder. I tripped, bracing myself against the ground with my palms and lifted myself back up again. The movement had thankfully not caught the attention of Sinclair and he kept on walking, hurrying up to a house.
Eyes widened when I saw a woman, Mathew’s mother, open the door. I had expected her usual expression of grumpiness and was takenaback by the smile which lit up her face, the way her hands smoothed seductively over Sinclair’s coat. He however was subtle with his flirtation and looked over his shoulder to the houses, as if not wanting anyone to see their interaction.
I shook my head. Sinclair had made it clear that he disliked humans, but yet, here he was, subtly yet intimately engaging with one.
“Let’s leave.” I announced, deciding that I didn’t want to see anymore of their flirtation. Brad nodded, eager to leave as well. I turned, my breath hitching when I met the intense eyes of a man who looked to be in his late forties, casually leaning against a light pole and smoking a cigarette. A permanent looking scowl deepened on his face and he squinted at me, his fingers fumbling for his red glasses attached to his shirt.
Shoes slid against the mud as I walked quickly, keeping my head down.
“Hawthorne Ville?” Xerxes’ settled down beside me. “Yes, I’ve heard of the area.”
I sat up on the sofa on the balcony, staring across at him. “Houses need to be built out there. The neighborhood looks horrible.”
His hand swept through his curly black hair in exasperation. “I know. But the people there are refusing my help.” He said. “They’d rather live in the conditions that they do now than for me to interfere and make things better for them.”
I stiffened. “I see.” My eyes narrowed on the dark sky above, at the setting sun. “I visited a house a couple weeks ago with Harold. It was recently built and rocks had been thrown at it, and the woman who lived there recalls one of the attackers yelling about the house being evil.”
“I received a report on that.”
“And the people from Hawthorne clearly have a distaste towards your plan of helping them...perhaps some of the people there have something to do with the same incident that took place at the house?”
Xerxes was silent for a heartbeat. “Perhaps.” He muttered, straightening as he took out his phone. “I’ll have a word with Flynn about this and see if I can investigate…” His voice trailed off as he dialed his Beta’s number, pressing his phone against his ear and walking a few feet away from me.
My own phone pinged with a message. My professor had emailed with a reminder of a test taking place later during the week. I rested the phone down, turned it off.
A soft breeze touched my cheeks as I stared down at the device, confusion and frustration strong in my thoughts. As if sensing this, Xerxes ended his call and was by my side, the trench coat he wore lifting from the increasing windy weather.
“What troubles you?” He questioned softly, his hand lifting my face away from the cellphone, distressed because I was. I leaned into his touch momentarily, subconsciously seeking comfort from him.
“I’ve decided to quit college.” My voice was terse. “I may go back one day, when I’ve figured out what career I’d like to do.”
“Are you certain?”
“Yes. Maybe I could spend more time with the people of the town and neighborhoods and answer their inquiries,” I paused standing and staring out at the lights coming from many homes in the distance, the buildings. “Well, those who want my help that is. It seems like I can’t please everybody.”
A heavy feeling settled in my stomach. I did what I could to help so many, yet some still seem ungrateful, criticizing everything I did. I grimaced at the memory of so many horrible headlines from newspapers and slowly faced Xerxes.
“It’s getting cold.” He said, opening a door which led to his bedroom. “If you’d like, I will ask Greta to bring up something hot to drink and we can watch a movie or two. Maybe that will get your mind off of anything worrying.” He smile was soft and I rubbed my palms together as the chilly winds increased, crossing the distance and playfully shouldering him, asking for a cup of hot chocolate.
“This is awful.” I snapped. “How can that lady be so blind? He clearly is a stalker! The guy was just in her house and she’s acting so calm!”
Xerxes laughed deeply, his chest vibrating against my head. He tucked the blanket around us and I noticed it only brought us closer. My body gladly responded to his touching mine, the bond pulsing as I laid contentedly against him.
“It’s just a movie, Becca. No need to get all riled up.” He murmured into my ear, felt his smile against the skin of my neck.
I huffed. “Maybe we should watch something else then.” I began to lean forward, wanting to grab the remote, only for the werewolf to grip me tightly back to him, a snarl of displeasure escaping his mouth, patently not wanting me to move. I scoffed at his behavior and decided that I would just have to endure the rest of this horrible movie and grumble at the many things the character overlooked.
Thankfully, my mind drifted many times; I thought of what possible career I could enjoy, how I would schedule meetings to speak with the public. I no longer had Harold to do that for me, but knew several ways to get into contact with people who would help organize these meetings.
Public speaking has been, at times, a fear of mine. I chewed on the inside of my cheek, looking at Xerxes’ and my entangled legs which peaked out from under the blanket. I stretched my ankle and the fresh memory of walking through that muddy neighborhood surfaced.
Xerxes’ hand moved from where it rested by my hip, trailing across my shirt until it rested on my stomach. He was breathing so soft and evenly and I wondered if he had fallen asleep. I got my answer when I attempted to move and found myself pulled right back flush against his body, my back rising and falling minisculely against his chest as he inhaled and exhaled.
“You are being so restless,” He whispered, his breath tickling my skin. His hand lowered to grip the inside of my thigh and my senses became alert, my stomach and the bond tightening with anticipation. “Will I have to help you relax?”
I said nothing, my mouth agape in surprise. His chuckle was a low guttural sound. Dilated silver eyes watched as I rested my head on his chest, staring but not taking in what was happening on the screen of the television. As minutes ticked by, the noise of the television became distant, the room blurring as I fought to stay awake.
George ran into my arms, squealing when I lifted and propped him on my hip. He waved his report card in my face, his little white teeth showing when he smiled.
“The teacher said I did good this term!” He said, wrapping a small arm around my neck. “And he gave me a medal.”
I kissed his forehead. “That’s great.” I told him, giving him a gentle playful shake before bringing him back down on the ground. Alyssa was talking with mother, not looking quite as happy as her brother. Tears were in her big dark brown eyes as she looked at mother, listening carefully to what she was saying.
Holding George’s hand we crossed over to them, crouching so I was at Alyssa’s short height. “What’s wrong?”
Her lower lip trembled. “My teacher yelled at me today.”
I wiped a stray tear away from her cheek. “Why was that?”
“He said I shouldn’t speak out of turn.” She mumbled. “But the other boy wouldn’t answer so I said the answer for the question instead. It wasn’t even that hard.”
I stared, bewildered. “He? What happened to Mrs. Glenn?”
Mrs. Glenn had been teaching her class since Alyssa had first came. She was kind and gentle, and genuinely cared for her students, like most teachers at this school did.
“She’s on vacation I think.” Alyssa frowned in thought. “I apologized to the teacher.”
My mother nodded. “Good.” She gently squeezed her daughter’s hand.
“Let’s leave. We’re going to celebrate.” She declared. “You and George did well in your grades and deserve some ice cream.”
As we made our way to the parking lot, Alyssa tugged on the edge of my sleeve and pointed a finger at a man putting a briefcase in the backseat of his small, very dirty car.
“That’s my new teacher, Mr. Bradford.” Alyssa told me when we passed by him. Eyes narrowed shrewdly on him and I paused at the familiar stature of the man. My breath came out in a hiss when I saw the man grabbing for his red rimmed glasses and entering his car.