A beaming Charlotte sat beside me, her eyes which had once been vacant of any emotion when I last saw her, now glowing with content. Her body was still thin, but it did not look as unhealthy as it had once been.
“It’s so lovely here.” Charlotte was telling me. “And quiet too. Back where I lived with Harold, it was so loud with buses and cars constantly passing by.”
I frowned at her mentioning Harold. I hadn’t seen that man since I returned into the country. I hesitated in asking Charlotte if she had caught sight of him, reluctant to spoil her air of happiness.
Brad walked into the room, his forehead creasing in concentration as he tried to balance a plate with vanilla cake and two glasses of water. He handed the cake to Charlotte and me the glass of water. I refused the offer of food; I would be meeting my mother in a restaurant after I left and her boyfriend would be there as well.
I barely drank my water, too involved in the conversation that developed between Brad, Charlotte and I.
Charlotte had lived with her relative for a couple days, however when she acquired a job a great distance from where she had been staying, Brad was kind enough to allow Charlotte to stay in his home, which was fairly closer to the business she worked at.
Charlotte was quick to say that her living in this house would only be temporary, and that she would find an apartment soon. I didn’t miss the way Brad frowned at that statement, clearly displeased about the idea of her moving. The more Charlotte and I talked, and the more I glanced at Brad every now and then, it became clear that Brad liked her, but Charlotte was completely oblivious to this.
Brad was healing well from his injuries, which shouldn’t have surprised me. He is a werewolf after all. There had been a pause once the conversation had stopped. Before the silence became too awkward, I decided to blurt out,
“So have you two seen Harold recently?”
Charlotte, to my relief, didn’t look sad or upset by the question. She shook her head and I turned to Brad, who muttered out a ‘no.’ I finished off most of my water, had another chat with them for fifteen more minutes and then left.
Leo was waiting outside the door and straightened when I walked to him. “Where to next, Rebecca?” He said, striding beside me as we headed to his parked car.
It was thankfully one which wouldn’t draw much attention to it, the color was simply grey and the brand one which many people drove. If I were to be driving around in a big black SUV, I was certain that it would stick out like a sore thumb.
I gave Leo the address to the small dainty restaurant that I would be meeting my mother in as we crossed the road, the hood I wore shielding my face from any prying eyes.
It was morning, and there was little traffic. Most of the children in the country were on vacation, which means less parents hustling to get their kids off to school. Leo took full advantage of this and drove barely below the speed limit.
After Leo drove me to the restaurant, he followed me inside as well. It was fairly quiet, and I spotted my mother and a man who I couldn’t see because his back was facing me. Leo walked ahead and sat by an opposite table as I approached them.
My mother stood, grasping my hand gently. Her brown eyes darted to the man before her and then to me. A sense of unease unfurled inside me, and I found myself studying the man.
There was a slight darkness in the restaurant, which made it difficult for me to really see what he looked like and that, for whatever reason, annoyed me. My mother’s voice pulled me away from trying to scrutinize the man, for now.
“Rebecca, I’d like for you to meet Benjamin. Benjamin, meet Rebecca.”
I attempted a polite smile and looked down expectantly at the man. That feeling of unease increased when I saw the broad hand being offered to mine. I shook it, noticing that whilst mother and I stood, the man had chosen to remain seated.
I was certain that if he had taken a stand, I would’ve been able to see his face properly because of how close we would’ve been. And, it seems, like he knew this too.
Leo was watching me with steady eyes as I sat down beside my mother. My eyes narrowed sharply as I saw something red glinting in the darkness. Glasses. Immediately I was reminded of the man who I had seen when I had walked through the desolated neighborhood, the teacher I had seen when Sissy had pointed in his direction.
“Benjamin has been wanting to meet you for a long time now.” My mother was telling me. “He’s really interested in the sort of work you have been doing in neighborhoods.”
I tilted my head, facing the man who had yet to speak. “Is that so?”
His response was a grunt and I flickered a look to my mother, who I also saw begin to notice his odd behaviour. I shifted on the seat as a waiter approached, pouring wine into the man’s glass.
“He’s just a shy man.” My mother whispered softly. I lifted my brows at that statement, saying nothing. Benjamin lifted the glass after the waiter left, and I could feel his eyes on me. Every muscle in my body tensed as I stared directly, to where I hoped his face was. The waiter returned whilst mother tried to form conversation. It was mostly her talking however, it seemed like the man only knew how to grunt. I scoffed.
What does my mother see in this man?
The waiter lit a candle, providing a source of light and I managed to see the face of the man before me completely. He was indeed the man who I had seen in that neighborhood I visited with Brad, the same man who was Sissy’s teacher. My mother had yet to be introduced to the teacher, had not known the teacher’s last name, so I doubt she knew who he really was.
“So, Rebecca.” Benjamin finally spoke, his voice void of any friendliness, instead, completely business-like. “Are you happy with the improvements of this town?”
I studied him, listened to the way his foot tapped restlessly on the tiled floor beneath us. I could see Leo lean forward from the corner of my eye, always watching. I picked at a warm bread in a basket, rolling the crumbs around my fingers. “Yes.” I answered truthfully. “However, there is one particular little neighborhood which I think can do with some fixing up. Do you know which I’m referring to?”
His scowl was fast, the rapid change of his stern expression into a more angered one was almost comical. “I’ve been seeing you recently around town, helping people. But The Alpha, him, I have not seen him for a while. I can’t help but question if he really is the one bringing about change.”
The flame from the candle flickered, as he moved. An arm which had once rested on the table dropped to his side. My eyes narrowed inconspicuously in suspicion as his clothes rustled.
“Xerxes has been the one to provide the necessary materials for construction workers to rebuild homes, to create businesses and other buildings that many humans work at,” I told Benjamin. “He has significantly increased the wages for many people and once did a meeting with the public. The reason you may not see him as frequently as you see me, may be because throughout the past months, he’s been leaving the country to also organize other countries he once...ruled over. And although he may not always be here, we both are making sure everything is better for the lives of many.”
Benjamin looked positively disgusted at my words, and I could see anger rising in his eyes. “You really are daft.”
My mother gasped in surprised at his hate-spewed words and I pressed my shoulder against hers, wanting her to somehow know that I wasn’t taking offence to his actions. “I told you factual truths, Benjamin. I don’t under-”
“Oh, I know that he’s done that shit.” He spat. “What I mean is, you still are deciding to work with this man, despite all the crap he’s put all of us humans through. I say, it would be better if he left, if the whole lot of the damn werewolves left.”
His body moved again, his foot tapped faster. Growing distrust caused me to glance briefly at Leo, who nodded his head. He knew when to intervene. I looked back to Benjamin.
My mother was the one to speak. “Benjamin, Xerxes has done many bad things, but it’s clear he regrets them. Can’t you try to see the positive actions he has done?”
He snorted, a deep sound that made me twitch in disgust. “I don’t care for the materialistic things he has done. I don’t care about anything he has done. I want him out of this town, out of this country. Only then, will I be happy.”
It was then, that he lifted the hand that had been resting by his side and my eyes zeroed in on the ring resting on his finger. He was a part of the Insurgency Club, and I was not surprised. He had said many things which match up with what Mathew had told me about the intentions of the humans in that club.
His dark eyes narrowed on my mother, and a sense of protectiveness surged forward. My hand reached for the gun resting in the pocket of my hoodie, clutching it, waiting.
“I want to try and offer a suggestion for both of you.” Benjamin told us. “I think you should attend this meeting at Gemma. Maybe the discussions that will be held will manage to get through to you.”
I exchanged a look with my mother, who looked utterly confused. I waved a hand nonchalantly. “I’m gonna have to pass.”
My mother shook her head. “I don’t think so, Benjamin...”
“Then you are also a fool. Like your precious daughter.” Spittle flew from his mouth as he yelled at mother. Her face was slack with surprise, her hands shaking, before surprise morphed into anger.
“We are no fools.” I snapped, deciding that I was done with the conversation. I stood, taking my mother’s hand and practically yanking her out of her seat. There was no way I was going to leave her with this man.
He said nothing as we left, Leo also following behind us as well. Unshed tears glistened my mother’s eyes and she dabbed at her face with a napkin. I exhaled, gently watching as she tried to compose herself.
“I-I’ve never seen him like this.” She told me. “He’s normally so kind and gentle.”
I squeezed her hand, giving her some comfort. We walked further outside the restaurant as Leo drove the car over to us. And just as he had parked, I could feel the presence of someone near me. I whipped around, reacting quickly as Benjamin launched himself at me. Something nipped the side of my arm as I stepped to the side as he fell to the ground noisily, my brows furrowing at his crumpled form.
Leo was out the car in mere seconds, hauling the man up. What looked to be a Bowie knife fell from Benjamin's hand, clattering to the ground. Leo eyed it before looking back to the man who struggled in his grip.
“Bad mistake dude.” Leo said, clenching the man tighter. “Bad mistake.”
A large shed, tall and wooden, sat ahead of us. My hands found warmth in the large pockets of the coat I wore, as I blinked up at the building. Xerxes, Easton and Flynn all standing beside me, took in it’s spectacular view as well. It was by far one of the largest sheds I had seen in my life and looked to be recently built.
Cameras were set up on the shed and I knew that if we were to get any closer, we would be captured on it. My fingers itched to open the door, to see what lay inside, even though Benjamin had already told us, after Xerxes managed to make him spit it out through interrogation.
Apparently, hundreds of weapons rested on tables, hung against the walls of the shed. They were to be used in the riot which Claire intended to carry out with others.
I rocked back on my heels, all of us simultaneously moving backwards as the headlights from a small pick-up truck entered the parking lot, staying there for many minutes, just keeping the vehicle facing the shed. The person driving did not see us when he finally left the area.
Fifteen minutes later, the truck appeared, this time cutting the engine off when it found a space in the parking lot. The door swung open and I peered forward. Xerxes' side pressed into mine when he stepped up beside me and I briefly looked at him; he too was curious to know what this person’s intentions were by being here and who it was.
I managed to stifle my gasp when I saw Harold get out, scratching at a beard that he didn’t have when I last saw him. He walked slowly to the shed door and just stood there with a blank expression. It seemed like he was guarding the shed and I shook my head.
Anthony, when I had spoken to him at the restaurant, had gone into detail about a conversation he had with Harold.
Harold had supposedly strongly disliked the whole notion of werewolves and humans living together; he believed that there was a place for werewolves elsewhere, and humans should not be involved with them. Which came to a bit of a surprise to me. Harold had never expressed this to me and I had been takenaback when Anthony had told me this.
“Let’s leave.” Flynn muttered, breaking the silence of the night. “It makes no sense for us to stay here, watching this man. We’ve seen what we needed to see here.”
I nodded in agreement and cautiously moved away, ensuring that I would not bring any attention to myself or the others with me.
“Tell me about Claire and Sinclair’s relationship.”
Thin fingernails scraped harshly against the wooden table, as the heavyset man leaned forward. Dark eyes searched mine as he grunted and Benjamin reached for a bottle of water, what he had requested before I decided to question him. It had been a silent trade. He would get his little bottled water and I would get information on my gentle inquiry.
Xerxes did not know I was in here; I had left during the early hours of the morning, my mind filled with endless thoughts, questions that needed to be answered. Benjamin sucked at the bottle like a baby chugging down milk, his body slumping as he enjoyed the first drink of water he had in hours.
“Claire has successively been using her seduction skills with Sinclair for a couple months now.” Benjamin chuckled, a bit deliriously, at his words when he managed to drink most of the water. He was beginning to answer my question now, and I was nodding my head, a silent command for him to continue speaking. I had noticed the difference in which he spoke to me and the way he spoke to Xerxes the day before; Benjamin clearly had a form of hatred towards The Alpha and only provided little information about questions. And all though Benjamin did not exactly like me either, he was a bit more open on giving me answers.
The threats he received from Xerxes throughout the interrogation had been enough to get him talking, exposing some of Claire’s plans.
“Claire claims that it helps with the bringing in money thing.” Benjamin was saying, swinging the empty plastic bottle in his hand. “But you see, he’s using her as much as she is using him. I believe that Sinclair thinks that by hooking up with Claire, she’ll be more willing to do what he asks her to do.”
“I see.” I murmured, watching as Benjamin rubbed at his forehead, as if suddenly experiencing a wave of dizziness. My body leaned to the side, fingers curling around a water bottle which I had intended to drink myself. It rolled across the table, teetered on the edge of it. The empty bottle which Benjamin once held fell to the ground and he lifted and opened the new one, raised it to his lips.
“Who’s the founder of the Insurgency Club?”
Benjamin froze at my question, his eyes glazing over as he slowly lowered the bottle. Several seconds ticked by, with no response from him.
“I saw a glimpse of him once.” Benjamin finally said. “He’s a massive werewolf and a person who, in his own words, prefers to stay hidden, until the time is right.” He said, watching me. “I would advise that you stay clear from him...his hatred for you runs deeper than you may ever know.”