A couple newspapers littered the floor of Xerxes’ spacious living room. On a couple of pages, clear snaps of Idina and Sinclair talking, near a river bank could be seen. They knew they were being photographed, for they were staring straight into the lens as they walked, an odd, smile on the female’s lips.
Skimming under the pictures were some paragraphs, which spoke of the whole ordeal between Xerxes and his mother months ago, about how he had warned her not to ever enter this town again. And yet, here she was, shamelessly ignoring the commands of the Alpha, which in turn had werewolves anticipating what Xerxes would do now.
Hands grabbed at the papers, shoving them into the trash bin, easily clearing the once messy floor. I straightened, watching as Xerxes shove the small bin into Greta’s waiting arms. Her nose wrinkled when I made eye-contact with her and with a quick half-twirl, she left the room.
“Did Sinclair tell you what he was talking to Idina about?” I asked Xerxes, once we were alone. He sighed heavily, as if the mere thought of his mother exhausted him.
I straightened further, tilting my head slightly as I looked up to him. “And?”
Taking long strides he crossed over to a wine cabinet, taking a bottle and pouring himself a glass of the Burgundy wine. “My mother was discussing some plans to create a business with him."
He swallowed the liquid and then lifted the bottle again. Raising my brows, I pressed, “What sort of business?”
Bright eyes narrowed in concentration. “He spoke of clothes being sold at the building.” Shaking his head, he poured himself a glass once more, gripping it in his hand and stalked to his couch. “He will not be allowed to have any further contact with her whilst in this country. If he chooses to have anything to do with her, it must take place elsewhere."
No more words were spoken about Idina and Sinclair when Sissy suddenly entered the room, needing assistance with her homework. It was soon after that I realized that I too had some work to figure out for college, so I left the house.
Many hours later, after double checking that all my necessary textbooks and books filled with seemingly endless notes were packed away for Monday, I took a quick shower, grabbed my phone and opened up my laptop, turning it on. With a few taps on my device, I managed to get find the picture of the ring on my phone.
Attempting to research it led me to nowhere. The sun was beginning to rise, the sky brightening slowly outside. Disappointed, I sighed heavily, slumping in my wooden chair and staring at the photograph. I hadn’t slept throughout the night; I was far too consumed with the need to find anything to do with the strange rings.
Dejectedly, I placed the laptop away, resting my head on the table, allowing myself to get a little sleep, uncaring of the uncomfortable position I was in.
My mother fussed over the cushions on my sofa, rearranged a few vases with flowers which she had given me a couple months ago, to decorate the two tables I had in my small dining room. She was nervous and it showed. My brows lifted in amusement when she shoved a curtain into its holder, paused and then decided to take it out once more.
Giggles came from the living room and I briefly casted my eyes to my two younger siblings, who were munching hungrily on my chocolate. Their lips were smeared with the dark substance as they stared wide-eyed at the cartoon showing on the television screen.
“It’s such a lovely day today.” My mother quipped, my attention being brought back to her. Eyes flickered over her shoulder, towards the unusually bright blue sky and I nodded in agreement, resting on the armchair of my sofa.
“Is there a problem?” I finally asked, after realizing she had began to trail her fingers over a rather ugly painting that was gifted to me by Penelope. I couldn’t get rid of it though; she’d probably be so hurt if she were to find out I did so.
My mother turned to me slowly, her smile unnatural. “Um, yes.” She murmured. “Well...no. Not a problem really. I quite enjoy having him around and-”
My head lifted. “Him?”
Her unnatural smile faltered, smoothly being replaced by one which seemed more realistic. Her dark brown eyes got all gooey-eyed and my jaw dropped open.
“Are you seeing someone?” I blurted. She chuckled nervously, pulling at the collar of her green shirt.
“Yes.” She admitted, hands lowering to clasp in front of her. “His name is Benjamin.”
I blinked. “Ah.” Silence ensued and I watched my mother watch me, taking in my many expressions. My father had died a month after George and Alyssa had been born and my mother would repeatedly tell me that she had little time to really care to look for a partner, which I understood. Life had been stressful with the werewolves having us work strenuous hours.
She fiddled with the buttons on her shirt. “I’d like for you to meet him.”
My mouth parted. “Um. Okay.” I scratched the back of my neck, getting uncomfortable when she suddenly became transfixed, probably reminiscing of Steven. Clearing my throat, snapping her out of her thoughts, I asked, “So how long have you two been dating?”
My mother smiled. “For a month. The kids have never met him and I don’t want him to come by my house, yet. I want to talk to George and Alyssa first. And then maybe introduce you guys to him over dinner at a restaurant.”
The laughter from the living room lifted. My mother looked over me to them, shaking her head when she saw what they clutched in their hands. “Did you give them that chocolate?” She demanded. When I shook my head, she continued, “They ate a whole jar of sweets earlier this morning and haven’t drank any water.”
She left the room afterwards, pouring water in two glasses from the kitchen and marched back into the living room. Small squeaks of protests erupted when mother gave them it, but once she gave the look of warning, small hands swiftly grabbed the glasses and chugged the cool water down. Stifling a laugh, I joined them back in the living room, staying with them until the afternoon. They left and I got ready to go out on a run.
My tank top easily became drenched with sweat after an hour of me running. I sighed noisily, my eyes trained on the pavement ahead, dodging several passer-by. Tires screeched loudly, jolting me out of my concentration and I internally groaned at the sight of a news van trailing alongside me.
My hands searched for my phone, quickly finding the device and plugging in my headphones just as a news reporter bounded out of the vehicle. Her words could not be heard, my music blocking out the sound of her voice.
It must’ve looked rude to an onlooker, me completely ignoring the reporter as she continually followed and barked question after question to me. Finally, I had enough and I jerked to a stop abruptly, scowling furiously at her and took off one of my headphones, letting it droop to my shoulder. “What?!”
She stiffened at my voice. “Um…” Her hands trembled as she sought out some papers from her pocket. A camera man had stepped out of the van and was now aiming his equipment at me. My teeth began to hurt from how hard I was grinding them.
“Do you have anything to say about Xerxes’ mother-”
“Has The Alpha told you anything about his feelings regarding the sudden appearance of his-”
The woman sighed, her papers lowering. “Well, have a nice evening.”
Rubbing my temples, I watched as she climbed back into the van. Had this woman followed me for the past fifteen minutes just to ask those two questions? Shaking my head I plugged back in my headphones and took off on a slow jog. I didn’t miss the van slowly following me as I turned a corner, only coming to a stop when I decided to enter a shop.
The reporters and paparazzi had a bad effect on me mentally and physically. Despite the cold front I would show them, internally I was scared at what ridiculous tactic they would pull to gain my attention. They also were very intimidating with the ways in which they would hound and follow me, their persistence on wanting to know every detail about my personal life, firm and unyielding.
I stayed behind a stall, watching with narrowed eyes at the van. My heart pounded against my chest rapidly as I looked on through a window, waiting for it to move. The shopkeeper looked fleetingly over me, not bothering to ask anything.
I didn’t even bother to hide the volume of my groan when I saw that more vehicles began to pull into the small parking lot, persons grabbing cameras and waiting by the exit of the shop. The shopkeeper finally spoke to me, “You need to leave missy. I don’t like this sort of attention that you’ve brought here.”
My feet dragged against the floor as I slowly walked to the exit, my chest aching. A hand clamped down on my shoulder before I could step outside and I whirled around, my shoulders lowering with relief at the familiar face.
“Need some assistance getting through that?” Brad asked, nodding his head towards the crowd. My lips twitched in a smile.
Minutes later the shop’s door swung open and Brad marched forward, one of his hands gripping mine tightly as we navigated our way to his car. My breath caught in my throat when a man lurched forward, bring both Brad and I to a halt. The stranger opened his mouth to speak, but I was immediately pushed to the side. Brad whispered quickly to him, his face dark.
The male reporter stumbled backward, giving us the space we wanted. Brad only released me once I was in his car. He walked to his side and got in as well. Tires screeched against the road as he reversed, the bumper grazing the side of a gentleman. I winced, but Brad continued to drive, not caring to wonder who it was that he barely managed to avoid hitting into.
Conversation flowed easily between us two as he drove. It was only when he began to ask numerous questions about the paparazzi that I became uncomfortable. When he parked outside my home, he said, “It’s probably best that I drive you more often to your destinations, for your own safety.”
I slid off my seatbelt and wrapped my fingers around the handle. “Maybe.” I got the car and crouched down. “Thanks for the ride.”
Brad arched a brow. “I will speak with The Alpha and sees if he agrees with my idea.”
I did not think much of his words for the remainder of the day. I had assumed it was just him trying to be kind by offering me a ride to and fro. But I was wrong.
When morning came the next day and I was hurrying out of my house, my bag slung over my shoulder and my mouth filled with pieces of toast, I came to find Brad standing outside, waiting patiently for me by his SUV.
I swallowed my food. “You really don’t have to do this…”
The door clicked open. “Get in, Becca.” Xerxes called from inside. Begrudgingly I went in, allowing Brad to close the door behind me.
My eyes wandered over to Xerxes, looking over the business attire he wore. A dark grey blazer and a simple, plain button down black shirt fit perfectly against his upper, muscular body, dark pair of chinos covering his long, impressive legs. He caught me staring and I jerked around, facing forward, not missing his low chuckle.
“How long shall you be in college today?” Xerxes asked quietly. His face was tilted as he asked me, his stare seemingly piercing the skin of my face.
“I think until five or so.” My hands twisted the strap of my bag. His mild, appealing, aroma suffused the vehicle, filling my senses with each breath I took. My body reacted, electricity seemingly cascading down my arms. Xerxes was silent when I dared a look to him. He was watching me, a secret, small, smile on his alluring lips.
“I shall collect you this evening then.” He told me.
There was traffic during the entire ride. Brad eventually had to turn on the air condition because of the hot weather. I yawned sleepily, rubbing my eyes. It was only late yesterday that one of my professors decided to email us an assignment, due this evening. And so, I had stayed up late, until one a.m. doing the work. I grinned slightly, knowing that some of the students would have a couple words to say to the professor.
When Brad finally reached my college, I barked out my goodbyes, avoiding eye contact with Xerxes and hurried along to my first class. It had started already and the tutor, like so many others at this college, could care less about my lateness and continued on with her teaching.
“I’ll be handing out a couple worksheets that need to be completed by the end of the class. You can use your notes to assist you in answering the questions.”
A hand raised. “What about the test you promised?”
Murmurs erupted, glares being tossed at the man who had asked the question. I found slight amusement in the way the class reacted, their actions similar to how a group of highschoolers would behave if one of their classmates had dared to ask that dreadful question.
Mrs. Crowne frowned, confused. “What test?”
The man’s head lowered, flipping through his pages and paused. “Oh. My apologies ma’am. It’s my management class which will be having the test.”
Sighs echoed. I laughed softly, grasping my pen and waiting for my professor to share out the worksheets.
“Sup, babe.” Mathew slammed his bottle of root beer on the wooden table, disrupting my concentration. Sighing I slammed my History book closed, shoving it into my bag.
“You need to stop calling me that.”
Mathew frowned. “Huh?”
I sighed, again. “Stop calling me babe.”
He sat down on the bench opposite me, leaning back on the bench. “You’ll get used to it.”
Rolling my eyes I looked over my shoulder. I was in no mood to deal with his weird behaviour. College work tended to drain me and all I wanted to do was curl up in my bed and sleep.
“Waiting on someone?” Mathew asked, staring at the gate as cars whizzed by outside of it. I nodded, not bothering to elaborate further.
“We need to talk about meeting up so we can complete the project.” He said, ignoring my obvious disgruntled expression. “There is café a couple blocks away. Are you free Wednesday evening?”
I straightened, seeing a familiar SUV turn into the parking lot of the college. “I think so.”I murmured, distractedly. After gathering the rest of my books laid out on the table, I quickly placed them inside the bag, wincing at it’s heavy weight once I placed it on. Mathew looked behind me.
“Is that your ride?” He asked. I nodded, already standing and beginning to walk to the vehicle sidling up to the pavement. Mathew trailed behind me, his eyes sparkling in curiosity as he watched the door open.
Xerxes stepped out, his eyes resting on me and then Mathew, his face instantly hardening into a cold expression.
“Who is this?” Xerxes questioned me, keeping his eyes trained on Mathew, who watched him silently. The young man was easing closer to me, a taunting smile etched across his pale face.
I shifted my shoulders, wondering how I should introduce him. Mathew certainly wasn’t my friend, or even my acquaintance. So I eventually settled on telling Xerxes he was my partner for the project. Mathew feigned a gasp of surprise.
“Is that really all I am to you?” He whimpered sarcastically, clutching a hand to his chest, his other reaching out to mine.
Silver eyes slowly began to turn to black, a snarl making its way up Xerxes’ throat and I stepped out of reach from Mathew. He guffawed at my reaction, only letting the noise die away when he finally turned to stare at The Alpha. Piercing eyes were now a stormy gray color, jaw clenched tightly as he regarded Mathew.
“Uh-I’ll be going now. Don’t forget about our date, Rebecca.”
Although I chose to ignore Mathew’s words, Xerxes sure as hell didn’t.
“What date?” He spat, grasping my upper arm when I began to walk towards the SUV. Brad had stepped out by now, and was slowly taking in the situation.
“Mathew and I do not have a date,” I sighed, exasperated. “He’s just saying that to get a rise out of you.”
The fingers around my arm tightened; it was not painful, but rather, firm. “How do you know the boy?”
“We go to the same college.”
Xerxes gave me a deadpanned look. I lifted my hand, undoing the fixed grip he had on my arm.
“Mathew and I are in the same Psychology class. We are working together on a project. Is that a good enough answer for you?” I snapped. Being tired made my patience decrease tremendously. Xerxes pressed his lips together, his eyes narrowing as they swept over my face, eyes softening when I covered my mouth whilst yawning.
He finally reached behind me, swinging open the door of the vehicle, waiting for me to enter first. I sighed and got inside, briefly locking gazes with Brad, who scratched at his hair, shaking his head and walked to the driver’s seat. Xerxes moved in beside me, shutting the door a bit harder than necessary.
My head turned to stare out the window as Brad began driving. Teeth gritted together when I saw that Mathew had retreated back to the bench, watching me, his face devoid of any emotion.