Benjamin’s smile was so forced that it looked like it hurt. Dressed in a suit and tie, he gestured many people, who he had been forced to invite by Xerxes, into the building. One by one they stepped inside, hands clutching wrapped gifts and parcels that they believed were meant for Claire’s surprise birthday party.
But there was no party. Benjamin had only emailed this out to persons of the Insurgency Club so that no one would say anything to Claire about the gathering. People were arriving, under the pretense that Claire would be arriving later and would be shocked by the party, when in fact, this was far from true.
I hung back in the shadows of the building, away from lights shining from the many rooms. My arm pressed against Xerxes' as we both watched from a distance as many came inside. Leo stood beside Benjamin, making sure he didn’t go out of character or slip out of the facade.
When the doors closed shut and everyone was ushered into the room including Benjamin, I walked out to the door where roughly one hundred people were behind. As my hand wrapped around the handle, I paused, the sudden overwhelming feeling of fear surging forward.
Xerxes pressed a hand against my back and I inhaled deeply, shoving open the door a bit too hard. It smacked against the wall, making a loud noise and I watched as countless heads and eyes swivelled to me.
It was so odd, having so much people staring at you all at once and the queasy feeling of unsurity arose, but I made sure to keep my expression polite as I walked inside. Hands folded behind my back I watched as many began to exchange looks.
“What is she doing here?” A woman hissed, prodding Benjamin on his side. Benjamin scrambled for an answer whilst others looked on in confusion.
I took a step further into the room, which allowed the humans to see who stood beside me. Confusion morphed into shock and then fear as Xerxes entered, loud gasps and whispers filling the air.
The werewolf who they all, I assume, shared a hatred towards, was in the same room as them and I could tell that they were unsure on how to react. The many expressions passing over their faces were almost laughable.
The wooden floor creaked under Xerxes’ shoes as he advanced further, taking in every face in the room. Like sheep, the humans began to press closer to one another, backing away from the upcoming werewolf.
My eyes fell upon a man, one who I remembered had been at Mary’s party; Jeffery. His head immediately lowered when he saw that I noticed him, his face slack with what looked like guilt.
“I’d like to speak with you all.” Xerxes’ voice thundered over the many whispering voices and mouths snapped closed. “Amicably and civilly.”
No one said anything at first. But then a blond haired woman stepped up from behind a few people, eyeing Xerxes almost suspiciously. Her head was held high but her voice trembled, “About what?”
“I know what you all plan to do with the werewolves of this town,” Xerxes revealed. “And I want to see if I could change your minds.”
Awkward silence rippled through the air. I could hear Leo asking me through my earpiece if everything was fine, but I didn’t respond yet. I looked through a window, seeing one of the five vans which held soldiers, ready to attack if needed. Things could get nasty very soon if the persons inside the room decided to become aggressive.
As I looked over the persons in the room again, I could tell that they were still reeling from the shock of having the Alpha in the room. Xerxes glanced back at me and I raised my shoulders.
“Just hear him out.” To my complete surprise, it was Benjamin who said this. Taken Aback I stared wide-eyed as he continued speaking, “Do you remember that meeting we had weeks ago? When we spoke about what we would say to him if we were to ever meet him?”
A couple heads nodded and Benjamin gestured with a sweep of his arm to the crowd and then to Xerxes. “Now here’s your chance.”
This time, it was Flynn’s voice that echoed in my ear. “Rebecca? Do I need to come inside?”
I lowered my head, hesitating to respond because of the many eyes watching in the room, but uttered a quiet ‘no’, which thankfully, he heard.
“How do we know this isn’t some sort of trap?” A balding man demanded, coming to stand beside the blond lady. Murmurs of agreement with his statement filled the large room, but Xerxes was quick to shake his head.
“It isn’t. I will not harm you as long as you all don’t harm me.” Xerxes told him sharply. I took a step backwards, closer to him as people began to quietly speak with one another, backing away further from us as they did so, and then, turned to speak with Benjamin.
Twenty minutes passed quickly and by then, I was resting against a wall, arms folded whilst Xerxes remained standing in place. I was able to speak properly to both Flynn and Leo, since they were distracted. I gave them a brief detail about what was going on, but paused when I saw that the room silenced.
I straightened up eagerly when Benjamin came over to us.
“This is what they want to happen,” He told us. “They’re willing to speak with you, under one condition.”
Xerxes’ forehead creased. “And what is that?”
A chubby finger was pointed near my chest. “You need to leave.”
I tilted my head, unsure if I heard him correctly. “I beg your pardon?”
“You.need.to.leave.” Benjamin pronounced the words slowly, but sighed when he saw my remaining baffled expression. “All they’ve ever seen is you walking around, speaking about Xerxes’ doings and what he plans to do. For whatever reason, they believe that you’ll speak over him, so they want you to leave and hear what he has to say.”
I somehow felt hurt, but began backing away. Xerxes looked to me, opened his mouth to protest me leaving, but I shook my head. If they wanted to talk with him privately, then so be it.
I left the room, allowing the door to bang shut behind me and Easton looked at me in confusion as I marched outside, startling Leo.
“Rebecca?” He asked, moving to touch my arm gently. Tears brimmed my eyes but I blinked them away.
“I’m fine.” Those words were spat out aa I squated down to the paved steps, ignoring the heat of it. I chewed hard on a fingernail, sensing Leo’s presence beside me. I looked across to him when he lowered himself to sit beside me.
A paper bag rustled and I watched as Leo withdrew a bar of chocolate. “I was planning to eat this if some annoying situation came up or whatnot. It usually calms my nerves.”
I scoffed. “A chocolate does that for you?”
Leo frowned. “Well, not exactly...but chocolate sure does make me forget about any annoying matters at hand, at least for several minutes.” He dropped it on my lap and winked at me. “Here. You look like you need it.”
My head rested against my folded hands, on an empty table, eyes watching the clock and the rhythmic sounds of it ticking. Kesley had bought food, and the others were eating, but I chose not to eat anything as yet; I was far too nervous. I wanted to know what the persons in the room were saying to Xerxes, and why it was taking more than three hours for those things to be said.
I had fallen asleep after munching on Leo’s chocolate for at least half of an hour, before he woke me up to suggest that we go inside because of the heat of the sun. Since then, Xerxes’ soldiers were milling in and out of the building, becoming bored, that was, until Flynn stepped in and demand that they get back into position; anything could go ary at any given second.
Flynn had just began barking orders when his phone rang. Looking annoyed, he pulled it out, not bothering to look at the caller I.D. and answered. The stiff expression melted away, replaced rapidly with shock.
“Uh-I’ll be there in...ten minutes.” Flynn glanced down at his watch, panicked and excited. He barely gave us a look, but yelled over his shoulder that Penelope was in labour and he needed to leave. Easton and I watched as Flynn ran down the steps and into the parking lot which led to his car.
I frowned, remembering that Penelope was now around seven or eight months pregnant. My frown deepened as I thought of a gift I could give to her baby boy or girl.
“I’m wondering what I should order…” Leo mumbled. He saw me staring at him and leaned over, showing me his cellphone. “This is a super value menu. They have chips, a veggie burger and a drink for 5:50. But here,” He scrolled down and paused at an image. “Has more food but is a bit more-”
Doors flung open and I winced as Leo’s phone clattered to the ground, his hand automatically going to the gun attached to his hip. But there was no need for him to shoot, as I watched the persons leaving the room.
I was unable to read their facial expressions clearly, but did notice they seemed relaxed as they strolled towards the exit. As I stood, my eyes searched for Xerxes in the crowd, but I didn’t see him. Or Benjamin either.
I waited impatiently as everyone left the room before going inside. My eyes immediately landed on Xerxes, who was standing beside Benjamin. A desk which had once been empty, had a stack of paper resting on it. They both looked up as I entered.
“How was it?” I blurted out. Benjamin made some strange gesture with his fingers, as if to say ‘so-so.’, whilst Xerxes just made a face which looked like he was grimacing.
“I’ll be talking with them much more.” Xerxes explained to me as I neared them. “But we have reached an understanding between each other.”
My fingers trailed across a paper. A list of suggestions, something to do with the town, was written messily.
“There will be no battle.” Xerxes further went on to say. “Not because the weapons they were going to use are destroyed, but because they would rather sit down and try to work it out civilly.”
“Why didn’t they try to do that from the beginning then?” The question came from Easton, who stood in the doorway of the room, looking tired.
“It’s partially to do with Claire’s words,” Benjamin began explaining before Xerxes could. “She would always tell us that Xerxes would never make time himself to listen to their queries, that he never really cared about humans. But some questioned those words, because they believed it was contradictory.”
“Right.” I said. So much change was being brought about and it would only make sense for someone to be doubtful about Claire’s statements.
“But, Claire was able to convince many, including myself, that there is some ulterior motive that Xerxes has. She never went into detail about it, but she only provided that his actions were, in her own words, ‘to soften us up and pounce on us again when we least expect it.’”
“Do you believe there is some motive, Benjamin?” I asked, watching as his face close off, thus making it difficult to read him. That was, until his brown eyes softened.
“I had at first,” Benjamin begrudgingly admitted, sighing slowly. He looked to be thinking hard about his next words. “But after hearing what Xerxes had to say, my mind has changed. Well, a bit.”
Xerxes watched as I poked at the hole of my juice box, jabbing the straw in a little too violently. The hole ripped and some of the contents dripped out. I was told that it wasn’t often that customers asked for juice box drinks in this restaurant, but I, for whatever reason was craving one, so fortunately for me, there were some available.
A basket with napkins was slid across the table and I absently cleaned up the small puddle that had formed. My fingers drummed against the metal table as we waited for our food, frowned when I saw that someone who had entered after us was served. My leg bounced up and down as more waiters passed by with plates of food.
“I’ve always admired your patience, Rebecca. Few people have that level of control over their emotions and I must say, you are one of those few pe-”
“Shut up Xerxes.”
“Of course, mia belle.” He quipped in a horrible Italian accent. He chuckled softly, glancing down at my tapping fingers. I shot him a glare, but refocused my attention on the passing waiters and waitresses. We were in a certain spot in the restaurant, near the back. No one, except for our waiter knew we were here and I liked it that way. Too much attention made me uncomfortable, unlike Xerxes.
“Sorry for the wait.” Our waiter, Quinn, bustled over to our table, setting down plates of food and glasses. “Here is your Lamb salad with Fregola.” He pushed the plate closer to me. “And here is your Paella."
Quinn avoided eye contact with the Alpha and only left after we thanked him for the food. I eyed Xerxes’ dish and looked down at my steaming food. His food looked far more appealing than what sat before me.
“I knew I should’ve ordered that.” I mumbled, more to myself than Xerxes, but began eating my meal anyway. I ate slowly, savouring each bite; it was surprisingly delicious. Xerxes finished eating way before I did and I lifted my eyebrow at the amusement which gleamed in his silver eyes as I chewed slowly on some of the roasted lamb.
“Do you usually watch people eat?” I drawled after swallowing. The tips of my ears began to burn when I saw the way his eyes flared and darkened when I licked my lips. My stomach tightened, a warm heat pooling in my stomach and I coughed, dragging my eyes away from him and his knowing smile.
I looked around languidly at my surrounding again, content now that I had eaten. Those long hours of waiting for Xerxes’ meeting had made me hungry and I was now more than satisfied.
The bill was dropped off and paid for soon after, when we realized that the restaurant was becoming more full. My hand tightened in Xerxes’ when we left our table, my smiles brief but polite when I caught eyes with some people who recognized us both.
As Xerxes drove home, I wondered what Xerxes had decided and told to Sissy regarding their mother. I didn’t have to wonder too long.
When I entered the house, I looked towards the bottom of the stairs where she sat, balancing an opened book on her knees. Her eyes shone with gratitude when they landed on me and I instantly knew what decision Xerxes had made.