Disclaimer: This is a work of fiction. Any resemblance of characters to actual persons, living or dead, is purely coincidental. Unauthorized duplication is prohibited.
Love Stoned (And She Knows)
Despite how much I tried to keep myself calm, the sight of a casually lounging blond to my right was keeping my nerves on edge. Kent had walked in without a single word and taken his position on an elongated couch. He was stretched out like an overly pampered pooch and looked so damn natural doing so. And no matter how hard I stared suspicious holes into the back of his head, his entire attention seemed to be on a none existing figure. It was obvious he was blatantly ignoring me, even though I only sat a few feet away. Almost to the point of finding the imaginary lint on his suit more appealing than starting up any sort of conversation with the likes of me.
An hour into the heavy silence, I broke. "What are your intentions with Mason?"
Brown eye colored eyes slowly turned towards me. Amusement and curiosity shinned in them for a brief moment before they muted into disinterest. As he glanced away with the same snail-like pace, I couldn't help but feel the spark of annoyance beginning to flare at the pit of my stomach. The act of being brushed off ticked me off, but with a silence exhale of breath I closed my eyes and tried to squash the flame.
The massage had been clear. There wasn't a need for us to be swapping words while we waited for Mason to show. But the longer I sat there, trying to hold my tongue and refrain from spewing words I'd later regret, the worse my nerves became. My leg began to shake on its own account while I found myself constantly throwing Kent suspicious glances. As if that would somehow annoy the older werewolf into leaving the room.
Unfortunately, it didn't.
"Seriously," I finally spoke. "Don't hurt him."
Our eyes met again and I noted the looks of annoyance and indignity. He grunted as he slowly pulled himself together. Tugged at his suit and positioned himself in a professional pose, he popped various bones into place and ran a free hand through the blond locks. "We're not all animals. Contrary to what you've been exposed to."
I shifted in my seat, no longer able to keep eye contact with the man before me. It was hard to image them as anything but wild animals. Throughout my entire experience, I had been exposed to nothing but feral growls and threats. The thought of these people – of these creatures acting civilized among those they considered an abomination, was impossible to comprehend.
Kent rolled his eyes at me. "If you have to hear it coming from my mouth, then so be it. I will not lay one finger on him."
The stiffness in my own position eased. Granted it was only a tiny bit, but even so I felt a grateful smile form. "Thank you. That's all I wanted."
He scoffed at my statement before relaxing against the couch again.
Another wave of silence settled between us once. Still uncomfortable but easier to deal with this time around. But as soon as the sound of doors being opened reached our ears, both our attentions were drawn towards it. I almost leaped out of my seat when Mason came into view. His eyes briefly searched the room before landing on me with relief. Closing the distance between us in seconds, I found myself being enclosed in strong arms before I realized what was happening. For a brief moment I could have sworn I heard low growling, but I opted to ignore the sound and relish in the rare moment of feeling completely safe and secure.
Mason pulled me away and looked me over. "Are you okay?"
"I'm fine." I answered with a long sigh. "God, I'm glad you're here Mason."
"I am too, but what are you doing here?"
Kent cleared his throat, "We are offering her a sanctuary."
Both Mason and I gawked at the blond, who was frowning at our display of sibling affection. The grip around my form tightened and I watched as Mason openly glared at the older werewolf. "And you would be?"
I glance back at Kent in time to notice what looked like a hurt expression flashing in his eyes before it was hidden by an aloof look. "Kent Hardwick. Current owner of Hardwick Enterprises. And I've been watching over your... sister during her stay here."
I arched a brow. Opening my mouth to correct his statement, but I thought against it once I fully took in the pointed look Kent was forcing me to endure as Mason gazed down at me. It promptly motivated me to close said mouth and remain mute. If only for the moment. The grip around my mid-section lessened, but neither of us moved an inch from the other.
"Is that true?" Mason whispered to me.
I nodded glumly, after receiving another look from Kent that dared me to object.
Detaching myself from Mason, I watched with growing suspicion as Kent made his way towards us and practically tore Mason from my side. Opening and closing my mouth again, I stood by the sideline, trying to figure out just what the hell had happened. The blond had successfully hijacked my comfort and was now giving me the evil eye when Mason wasn't looking.
I scoffed quietly to myself and crossed my arms in front of my chest, briefly glancing to the side when I felt a presence nearing.
"He's working quicker that I thought he would," came Clayton's hushed voice.
Glancing away from the odd sight before me, I gave Clayton a confused look. "What just happened?"
The brunet cringed, looking about as uncomfortable as someone could look. He cast an long glanced towards me before halfheartedly looking back to the pair across from us. "It's it obvious?"
With one more confused look towards Clayton, I stared back. Watching the two for a minute or two, I was still finding myself unsure of what exactly was supposed to be obvious. From my point of view, all I seemed to be getting was two men talking. One looked super suspicious, while the other looked – Oh. There it was. I gawked at the blond. The one actively trying his best to impress Mason. Long gone was the bored look Kent had been parading around with. Instead there was a look of pure unadulterated joy plastered on his face. He was smiling, like it was the most natural thing in the world, and staring down at Mason with a look that sent a string of jealousy to the pit of my stomach.
"Are you seeing this?" I whispered, inching towards Clayton.
When I looked back at him, he merely shrugged and we both turned back to the scene before us. Watching with growing interest as Kent laid on the charm, a nervous twitch began to filter through me. The longer I stared at Mason, who seemed a little apprehensive of the attention, the more I forced myself to try and trust the blond werewolf. He had, after all, promised that he would hurt Mason. Besides, if what I was seen wasn't an act, then there wasn't a change in hell he'd probably let anyone or anything lay a hand on him.
Cocking my head towards Clayton, I finally broke away from the scene. "He took your credit."
He snorted. "I'm not at all surprised."
I raised a brow at the response, but counter with, "And you're just going to let him because?"
Clayton chuckled quietly before looking down at me. "If you only knew how long Kent's been trying to figure out a way to get Mason to even acknowledge he's alive without coming off as desperate, you'd understand."
I rolled my eyes, but before I could speak again, Mason and Kent moved towards our standing forms. At the look of uncertainty on Mason's face, I could only smile at him in hopes that it would someone sooth his worry. Unfortunately, the second his gaze moved away from me and landed on Clayton, his eyes hardened. Before I heard the sickening sound of a fist colliding with bone before I realized what was happening.
I gasped, "Mason! What the hell?"
Clayton was on the floor, holding the side of his face, while Kent held Mason off from taking another swing, and didn't seem to be breaking a seat. I rushed to Clayton's side and looked over the damage. Nothing too serious, but I couldn't keep the grimaced look from seeping into my face. Snapping my eyes back at Mason, I was a second away from chastising him when Clayton grabbed my wrist. Looking back at him, I frowned when he shook his head at me.
"It's fine," he whispered to me.
"This is all your fault," we heard Mason start off. "If you would have kept to yourself, none of this would have happened!"
I glanced back up at Mason and found his staring darkly at the brunet at my side. "Mason, please." The angry stare turned towards me as soon as the words tumbled out of my mouth. I could only shake my head at him, "Not now."
He shook his own head as he tried to form his own words, but all that manged to escape was a sound of pure irritation. As I turned away from Mason, I heard Kent mutter a string of low words. Their footsteps soon echoed and it wasn't long before we were left alone. I winced at the sight of a forming bruise on Clayton's face. Lightly brushing my finger tips across the slowly swelling flesh, I shot Clayton an apologetic look.
"It's fine," he repeated again, this time without a pained look.
"I don't know what got into him. I've never seen him hit anyone before, even when they've been practically asking for it." Clayton gave me a curious look, but I brushed it off and motioned towards the kitchen. "We should put some ice on it before it gets worse."
Clayton nodded as I stood back up. As he stretched his jaw, I heard him mutter, "You'd never expect he'd be packing quite a punch."
I laughed softly to myself, not at all surprised that despite the situation Clayton would still someone manage to find a bit of humor in it. Once we reached the kitchen, I clumsily moved around it to get together some ice for his face. Only when I was sure Clayton was going to actually use the ice, even if he was only doing it to humor me, did I leave his side in search of Mason. It was long before I located his position. The loud yelling coming from one of the nearby offices was enough to tip me off. Although muffled from the walls separating us, I could occasional catch a few words. But when I knocked, it all ceased.
Kent was the person I was met with when the door swung open.
I glanced behind him and found Mason pacing. Looking back at Kent, I motioned behind him. "Can I talk to him? Alone."
The blond's lips formed a thin line before casting an uncertain glance behind him. It took a few seconds for Kent to answer me, but as he stepped to the side to let me pass he took a hold of my arm and whispered. "Tread lightly."
As I stared at him, Kent cast one last long look towards Mason before leaving us alone. At the sound of the door closing behind me, I frowned at Mason. He had stopped his pacing and was now looking at me. With an unmistakable look of expectation etched into his features. I inhaled deeply before letting it loose and taking a seat. Mason mimicked, but the look had refused to leave his face.
"What the hell, Mason?" was the best way I found myself staring off. Completely ignoring Kent's warning.
From his seat, I saw Mason stiffen. "Me? What about you? You went from one serious threat to another! What did you expect me to do? Do you not realize what was running though my head when Clayton showed up at the bookstore, completely out of the blue? I thought the worse! I come in, expecting to see you comatose, or worse, and you're just sitting there with one of the Hardwick brothers like it's nothing out of the ordinary."
"Mason, I am fine."
But he cuts in, "Not only are you just any Hardwick brother, but you had to be with the worse of the worse. Do you not understand the kind of danger these people associate themselves with? Even being in their damn presence brings people bad luck, I mean look at where you're at now. If Clayton would have just stayed the hell away from you. If he would have just never stepped into the same room as you, none of this would be happening."
"Enough!" I heard being yelled. For a moment I wasn't able to recognize the voice, but I found myself shaking in my seat and the words continued to tumble out. "Clayton save me, Mason. Okay, he saved me. If it wasn't for him, I would still be in the room Kane had locked me in. With no food, or water, or way to call out for help because no one in the house was going to go out of their way for me. So please, I would appreciate if you would stop making Clayton seem like a monster he's clearly not."
Mason sat with an astonished look. He remained silent for a few minutes afterwards before made a reaction. And it was one I wasn't expecting at all. The sound of the seat, the one he had been occupying only moment ago, hitting the floor was deafening. The doors opened abruptly as Mason picked up his pacing. I could see Clayton from the corner of my eye, but for the most part I remained seated and watched Mason. He seemed mad – crazy almost. Moving from one end of the room to the other with a hand over his mouth, effectively blocking any of us from understanding what was being muttered by him.
He paused for a second to stare me down with a dark look beginning to form. "He locked up away."
The sneer deepened, "Like some animal."
At that I made no motion, made no sound, but it seemed to be enough of a response for Mason.
"I'm going to kill him."
And it was only then that Kent and Clayton make their complete presence. Clayton kept at my side while Kent easily demolished the distance between himself and Mason. I watched as the older blond placed a reassuring hand on Mason's shoulder. I silently hoped he'd be able to talk Mason down, but the look of utter rage that overwhelmed his features was quietly destroying said hope. For a moment I looked away from the pair and stared up at Clayton. He caught my gaze and must have read the desperation in them because he moved away from me and made his way towards the other males. I'm not sure what they say to one another, once again the language barrier was working against me, but moments later I'm relieved to find Mason calmed down. The look of pure murder subdued by words I would most likely never understand.
"He's not going to get away with this," I finally grasp from their muttered tones.
"Of course not," Kent answered back, motioning for Mason to have a seat. "But the method you're trying to use to get revenge is messy. There are simpler ways to get it done."
There was an air of uncomfortable silence as the three males took seats, Clayton having to drag the toppled chair back to place before lowering himself to it. I momentarily stare at the three. Mason looked trouble by what Kent had said. Clayton seemed irritated but when our eyes met briefly he offered a small smile. Kent, on the other hand, was throwing me an accusing look. I flinched at the sight and lowered my gaze.
"Mason, I asked for them to bring you here because I need you to find Jessica for me." I changed a glance at Mason and found him staring at me so I continued. "The book I told you about, she sent it to me." I felt the curious gazes of both Clayton and Kent resting on me, but I paid no mind. My sole attention was on Mason, who seemed to be having a difficult time looking at me now.
He finally shook his head and answered. "I wasn't sure if she was serious."
"You've said that before," I countered with.
A pained expression crossed his face, "I've told you once before, Abigail. I'm not going to tell you to do what it says, but I'm also not going to tell you to ignore it. That day, when you found me with Jessica, I tracked her down because I had heard rumors. I needed to get information that would benefit us. But then we found you and Kane in the apartment and everything just went to hell. Even since then, she's been doing a stellar job at keeping away from me."
"Why did you tell her in the first place?"
Mason frowned, "She wouldn't have told me anything. Up until that moment, she thought I was just another human which was why she wasn't shunning me like a leper until after the incident. Our kind – werewolves and witches – aren't on the best of terms, Abigail."
"Then why live together?"
"It's.. complicated." was all Mason muttered.
Kent interrupted, "You're mated to a possible contender for the Alpha position, and yet you don't know a single thing about us. How is this possible?"
I narrowed my eyes at Kent. "It's not like anyone sat me down for a full run down of the towns history. All I even get from you people are the basics, and I'm lucky if I even get that."
The blond snorted. "Well, that's going to change if you're going to be staring here for the remainder of you initiation. I'll have Jackson cram as much information as he can get into the tiny skull of yours, you'll know this place like the back of your hand in no time."
"As fun as that sounds, I think I'll pass." I turned my attention back to Mason, "Jessica is offering me a way out and I'm going to take it."
"What?" Mason and Clayton uttered at the same instant.
I nodded, "In the book, she sent me a message saying she have a way for me to be free. I want that, Mason. I was my life back."
"There is no way to reverse this. Not unless one of you dies." Clayton bit in. "Every book – "
I gave a desperate laugh, "I don't care what the books say. I only care about what Jessica is offering me. I want my freedom. Please, Clayton, you don't understand how completely confused and alone I've been feeling the last few weeks. Constantly anticipating the disgust from one half and muddling through the false affection the other throws at me. I'm going to go insane if I have to spend the rest of my life with that."
Clayton stayed silent, but remained staring at me. I stared back, hoping he would see it my way and just help me escape from the prison I had accidentally stumbled upon. But the longer we remained staring at each other, the smalled said hope became. Turmoil played across his features and he made no attempt to hide it. He finally looked away from me and stood from his seat. I watched, crushed at the sight of him silently excusing himself from the room. My hands formed fists against my lap and I tried desperately to sort out the broken feeling I was falling victim to.
"I need you to find her for me, Mason." I finally whispered out, refusing to look back at the two remaining males.
I heard him sigh, "She won't let me anywhere near her."
Slowly dragging my attention back to Kent and Mason, I dragged a tired hand across my face. "Then how about taking a message to someone. I don't know her name, she said there wasn't a need for introductions since we ran in different packs? Whatever that means, but she had red hair, gray eyes, pale... Geoffrey called her a 'witch lover'?"
Kent chuckled, "You're describing a majority of the central pack. But red hair is rare, it shouldn't be to hard to track someone down if your description is correct. Two days, maybe a day if we get on it immediately."
I eyed Kent with confusion, "How?"
He gave a chilling smirk. "It's what we do. We're tracker. We hunt and kill troublemakers for a living. And we are very good at it." I glanced at Mason, who was frowning at the blond. It suddenly made sense why Mason had been adamant in me cutting all ties with Clayton. They were essentially a murder-for-hire ring. When Kent stood from his seat, I couldn't help but keep my eyes glued on him. But he paid no mind and merely glanced at Mason. "You'll be coming with us during the hunt."
The frown on his face turned into a full out glare. "What for?"
"I can't have you doing anything stupid while we are preoccupied. Besides, the more eyes we have, the faster we can get the girl back here for her to relay whatever message she wants to give. You – " he pointed at me, "are going to stay here. I'll leave behind Clayton until Jackson can can his place to give you a history lesson."
"What for?" I found myself mimicking Mason. "The second Jessica sets me free, I am leaving this place and never looking back."
"You don't know if what she's offering is going to work," Kent shot back. "So, it's better to be over prepared than under. You are not to leave this property under any circumstance. No matter who comes, you don't leave, understood?"
The pointed look I was being subjected to left me no choice but to nod. Kent looked pleased for a second, but a frown soon etched his features as he motioned Mason towards the door. "I'm going to let Clayton know we're going to be leaving. Meet me at the entrance in ten minutes."
Mason nodded as we both watched the older blond disappear into the hallway. Once we were alone, I looked back at Mason and found him frowning softly at me. "Never look back, huh?"
I winced, "Mason."
But he shook his head, "No. I understand."
"Mason, wait." But he wasn't having any of it. The second I stood from my seat, he was heading out the door and I was soon left alone. I cursed quietly to myself and ran my hands through my hair. The urge to scream out in frustration was huge, but instead I just sighed loudly and dropped myself back into my seat. As I sat there, left to muddle through my frazzled emotions, I couldn't help but feel a bit hopeful. There was a change of leaving all of this behind, of possibly going back to a normal life. A life with no werewolves. No bipolar lunatics locking me up. No more lies and confusion.
But on the other hand, it almost meant no Mason. No Clayton. No real hope of every truly having things go back to normal.
I gave off a shaky breath as I pulled my legs onto the cushioned seat. The pounding in my head steadily growing as I realized the drawbacks of the freedom I desperately wanted. As I covered my mouth with my hand, muffling another harsh breath, I missed the sound of footsteps behind me. It wasn't until he was practically on top of me when I figured out I wasn't alone anymore.
Looking away from the glossy wood floor, I found him standing at my side. Even through my sight was blurred from unshed tears, I could see he was still confused. Even so, he moved in front of me and knelt. I tried to smile, tried to act as though the tears were from joy, but it failed. Instead, I heard myself whisper out, "Say it'll be fine."
He wore a tired smile, but nodded none the less as he patted my head. "It'll be fine, princess."