The bottle in my hand wavered as I stared dumbfounded at Natalie. Penelope was withholding a laugh at my startled expression, whilst her friend looked on earnestly.
“You really expect me to answer that?” I finally exclaimed after a moment of realizing she was anticipating a response.
She shrugged. “Well, yes. It wasn’t a hard question and I’m curious. Did he clap your cheeks yet?”
Penelope burst out into fits of laughter. My ears began to burn and I squirmed, giving an awkward, forced chuckle.
“Stop it, Natalie.” Penelope laughed. “You’re making her uncomfortable.”
Natalie giggled enthusiastically. “I know.” She reached over, patting my hand. “I’ll stop prying...for now.”
I sighed with relief when Natalie and Penelope began conversing, the topic shifted. Thinking about sex with Xerxes did things to my body; my skin felt hot, little goosebumps rising on my arms in pleasure. My hand sought out my bottle, quickly gulping down some of the sweet juice as I pushed away the mental image I had created of Xerxes being naked.
“Hey mama!” Sam pulled on one of his mother’s dark braids. “I’m hungry.”
Natalie uncurled his small fingers from her hair and shook her head at him. “You had something to eat before we left home.”
“But I’m still hungry.”
Natalie sighed, taking up her purse and searching through it’s compartments. She withdrew a twenty dollar bill and stood. “I’ll be right back.” She told us, taking her son’s hand and leading him away.
“I hope you didn’t feel nervous about her questions. She can be a little blunt, but is generally a nice girl.” Penelope said, referring back to the conversation Natalie had attempted to have with me. I smirked, waving a hand dismissively.
“It’s fine. She seems cool.”
Penelope smiled, leaning forward and placed her chin on her palms as she rested her elbows on the sturdy table. “I am curious however....have you ever thought about having children with Xerxes?”
My smirk dropped immediately, my stare lowering to the label wrapped around my bottle to avoid her inquiring gaze. I hadn’t expected that question and I stumbled for words.
“Not really,” I finally managed. “I’ve never considered the idea of having children with Xerxes.”
Penelope’s smile widened. “Well, do you even like the idea of having kids?”
Shrugging, my fingernails scratched at the label anxiously as I met her eyes. “I guess. Perhaps one day I’ll have children. But I have other things to figure out in my life, other things to focus on, before I really decide on that stuff. Besides, I’m only nineteen. I don’t think I’m ready to have kids yet at this age.”
She nodded. “That’s understandable.”
I finished up the rest of my juice and tossed the empty bottle into a nearby bin. Penelope was leaning back in her chair, her hand moving in a circular motion over her belly when my phone vibrated. As I read the message I received from Harold, I began to stand.
“I have to meet Harold in half an hour.”
Penelope frowned, looking disappointed. “We’ll talk some other time then.”
Nodding, I waved a hand towards Natalie and her son who were a few feet away before leaving the mall and heading into the parking lot.
The neighbourhood of RidgeView Lakes was usually a quiet area. People were kind and close-knit. They had been thankful and happy with the work Xerxes and some of his employees had done in reconstructing the homes in which they could live in. I had met a few persons and they were all very welcoming.
So when I arrived in the neighbourhood, I was baffled when I saw that one of the many newly built homes were destroyed. The people who lived there were understandably distraught and frightened. As I got out of the car after parking outside their house, I managed to spot Harold amongst the dozens of people gathered on the family’s lawn.
“What happened exactly?” I asked after reaching his side. Harold looked hesitant, but finally responded by pointing to the home, showing me the damage. The windows were cracked, some holes in them. Clay plant pots which had been on the porch were destroyed, broken into small pieces. As Harold and I walked further across the lawn, I could see the glass from the windows strewn across the grass.
“My kids and I were upstairs when this happened.” The homeowner told us. “My wife was downstairs and heard some people yelling a few words before they decided to throw rocks at the house.”
I fixed my gaze on the young brunette, who clutched a two year old girl on her hip. She, like her husband, looked visibly upset at what had occurred.
“What did they say?” I directed my question to the trembling woman.
She swallowed, brows furrowing as she began to recall their words. “They were saying something along the lines of this home being evil.”
I tilted my head, eyes slanting over to the house and then back to her. “Evil?”
She nodded. “Yes. The rest of their words were garbled but I did manage to hear that one sentence.”
My eyes darted to her child and to her other presumably two children who stood nearby. “No one was injured, right?”
She shook her head. “No. Thank goodness.”
The husband sighed, dabbing at his face with a handkerchief. “I just don’t understand. Around here is usually peaceful. I’m certain that whoever that group of people were aren’t from around here.”
His wife nodded in agreement and I glanced at Harold, who had remained silent throughout the entire conversation. Searching the exterior of the house with my eyes, I began to observe any other possible damages.
“Did you check the cameras?” I asked, remembering that Xerxes had made sure that each home be installed with some. The man nodded.
“Yes. They all wore masks.”
“Could I see them?” Harold blurted, before I could ask. His wife nodded and still holding onto her half-sleeping child, walked towards the house. Harold and I followed her into the homes, whilst her husband began to speak with a few neighbors.
On the wooden floors in the house, there was much more glass. Coffee had been spilt on a table in a kitchen, which urged the woman to apologize.”Sorry about the mess. The rocks had startled me.”
“No need to apologize, ma’am.” I assured her, continuing to follow her lead. She finally showed us to a room upstairs, opposite her bedroom and pointed to a computer.
“It’s on there.” She said, setting down her little girl onto a chair and assisting us. A video popped up, showing three masked men outside, talking with each other, one of them appearing visibly hesitant. Eventually, they all turned towards the house and began to throw rocks. It lasted for several minutes, until the front door opened and the husband came outside. They immediately took off afterwards.
I pressed pause, lowering my body slightly so I could peer closer at the screen. Their masks had done well to cover their identity.
“I think we’ve seen enough,” Harold was telling the woman. “Have the police seen this footage?”
I didn’t listen to her response. My eyes narrowed on one of the man’s hand as I restarted the video. Blinking, I straightened, grasping Harold’s arm.
“He’s wearing one of those rings I told you about.” I hissed, pointing to where the ring clearly rested on his forefinger. Harold didn’t even bother to look at the screen and my frustration rose.
“What rings are you talking about?” Harold muttered, blatantly pretending to be writing down a few notes on a small notepad he had carried with him. Gritting my teeth I released his arm.
“Remember when I told you about the rings with the helmet designs?” I pushed, allowing my exasperation to seep through my words, so I could gain his attention. It worked, partially. He lowered his pen and barely spared a glance at the screen.
He shrugged my observation off. “It’s probably just a popular affordable ring that’s trending. I’m going to have a word with the officer downstairs.”
He left along with the woman and her daughter and I remained upstairs. My eyes narrowed as I debated leaving the detail alone or investigating it further. Sighing, I withdrew my phone and took a quick picture of the zoomed in ring.
Tucking it away, I decided that I would be doing some research on it later this evening.
The smell of a freshly mowed lawn flowed through a window, the light curtains lifting in the breeze. Soft violin music played from a radio that I couldn’t find no matter how hard I looked. The gray expensive sofa that I rested on, was so soft, almost urging me to sleep. Mud from my dirty shoes had fallen on the marble tiles when I had walked in, leaving a trail. Sure, I could have wiped my shoes on the mat by the front door of the mansion, but I had immediately been distracted by the young maid who had immediately flung questions about me regarding if I was thirsty or hungry.
She looked almost crestfallen when I had began to deny her offers, so I finally asked for a glass of water.
“I get so lonely in this large house. At times, there’s so little for me to do here.” Scarlett explained once she returned with my glass. “I’m the only maid here and Mr. Harrison is usually busy, doing work in this office.”
“I see.” I lifted the glass filled with chilled water, tipping it up to her. “Thanks, by the way.”
She nodded. “Of course.”
The office door flung open, an angry massive werewolf barging through it.
“You little bitch.” Sinclair marched into the office of his home, feral eyes narrowing onto my relaxed frame. Scarlett jumped. Her eyes went as wide as saucers, head bowing slightly as she hurried out the room. Sinclair brushed past her to come to stand above me. He wore a set of male pajamas, his grey shirt and long pants creased. His hair was wild as he scowled down at me.
“What the fuck are you doing in my house?” Sinclair spat. I slurped my water noisily, hiding my smile, exaggerating my swallows so that for a couple seconds, there would be silence. The engine of a car could be heard from outside and then a door slammed closed.
“I enjoy your company.” I eventually drawled. Sinclair stiffened, appearing muddled, but then his face darkened when he saw my barely controlled smile.
I finished off my glass and slammed it down on a table. Sinclair flinched, his fingers clenching into fists by his sides as he roared,
“Are you here to give me an earful about that same shit we talked about earlier? Cause if it is, I have news for you-”
Xerxes’ voice had Sinclair’s mouth snapping shut, anger washing away from his expression. The stiffness in his body was more obvious as he became rapidly nervous.
I relaxed back into the sofa at Xerxes’ appearance. We had arranged to meet here, despite my initial protests. I knew that there was a possibility that I wouldn’t be welcomed in the home, but when thoughts of getting under Sinclair’s skin flooded me, I had floored the gas pedal in my hurry to get to the werewolf’s home.
The Alpha stepped into the room, sharp eyes flickering to me and then to his friend. “Is there a problem here?”
No one spoke.
“Rebecca?” Xerxes looked towards me and I shrugged.
“I was just telling Sinclair that I enjoy his company. And he was about to make it clear that he doesn’t enjoy mine.”
Xerxes stared at me, a hint of confusion swirling in his bright eyes. Finally, he turned to Sinclair, who shifted on his feet uneasily.
“Is there a reason for you two to be here?” Sinclair spoke slowly, softly, as if afraid to offend The Alpha.
“Yes.” Xerxes moved to the office desk, lifting a large folder, watching the many emotions which Sinclair struggled to control. Papers rustled as Xerxes searched through them, his expression blank.
“Have you carried out my orders, Sinclair?” His eyes didn’t move from the documents when he asked the question.
A hand ran through his unkempt hair, stress making the werewolf’s eye twitch. “About that. I would like to have a small discussion on the matter of pay raise-”
The folder flew across the room, banging hard against the grey walls, documents scattering onto the floor.
"Did you or did you not follow my orders?" Xerxes’ snarl had my threatening smile slipping away. His anger was stronger than what I had expected it to be and even I felt antsy.
Sinclair stumbled for words. “No...no not yet. I just need to talk with you fi-”
“You have until tonight to deliver the correct cheques to the workers. If not, I will ruin you.” The words were spat out, making the man recoil in fear.
Sinclair’s adams apple bobbed as he swallowed. “Y-yes. I promise to do so.”
Xerxes didn’t look convinced. “Your words can’t be trusted.”
Sinclair finally looked away from him, shame crossing his face as he stared down at the documents.
Xerxes straightened, fingers moving to roll down the sleeves of his shirt, covering the tattoos on his arms. “I believe you do know my other reason for coming here as well.”
Sinclair blinked and I immediately recognized the way he allowed the facade of surprise to overcome him. Although he appeared bewildered, his body tensed at the statement. “What are you talking about?”
The feral look on Xerxes’s face became more pronounced. “Do not play dumb, pup.” He growled.
Sinclair winced, taking a step away from the towering man. His hands delved into the pockets of his pants as his head lowered in submission. Xerxes’ nostrils flared, his upper lip curled in a snarl.
No words were exchanged between them, but it was clear that they were having a conversation through the means of mind-linking. Even though I knew that there was something that Sinclair was hiding, I had no idea what it was. And so, I sat confused on the couch, watching the stiff interaction. When Xerxes finally walked away, his face devoid of any emotion, I expected him to explain what they had been discussing, but he didn’t utter a word.
Sinclair straightened, broad shoulders slumping in relief now that there was distance between himself and Xerxes. “I will do your request to cut off all contact with-”
“I don’t trust your words.” Xerxes reminded him sharply as I stood. By the way things were going, it appeared that this little meeting would soon be coming to an end. Scarlett was waiting for me when I left the room with the empty glass.
“I thought you would be staying longer.” Scarlett said as she followed me down the spiral stairs. I shook my head, sinking my hands into the pockets of my coat as the cold chill of the air condition in the house seemingly increased. I was silently thankful that I wouldn’t have to be in that temperature any longer.
Xerxes took a while before he emerged from the house, and when he finally did, his anger had strengthened, the thick emotion being felt throughout our bond. I straightened slightly on his car which I had been propped on whilst I waited for him.
“What was it that you told Sinclair?” I demanded, watching his pace slow as he came to a stop. His eyes softened as he inhaled, his side caressing my own when he leaned on his vehicle beside me, watching my expression carefully.
“It’s about Idina,” He finally responded. “She’s back.”