Chapter 7: Snake Pit
It was ten minutes to eight. Ten minutes before the first bell rings. Ten minutes to morning hell and yet, the school was already in a silent uproar. Nobody dared to breathe.
Well except Jordan Hughes.
Pride was thrown out of the window as he grunted, begged and cried while the boy on top of him punched the living daylights out of him.
The crowd could only stare as Gabriel Morgan threw his punches, demolishing Jordan's prized jawline bit by bit for every passing second. A few steps away, the body of a petite, purple-haired girl lay in an unconscious heap. The side of her head was bleeding slightly. Her legs had fresh scrapes on top of the old ones from yesterday. Her uniform was drenched with a foul-smelling, light brown liquid. A pail and a baseball bat lay next to her.
Jordan and his girlfriend, May Chou made the mistake of attempting to curry favors by continuing the terror attacks on Anne. Big, big mistake. Don't they know that fads could end oh so quickly?
More so, Gabriel's mood swings?
May Chou had run to the nearest faculty room for help. Hm. The teachers must've been reluctant to rescue Jordan from a Morgan. She wasn't back yet.
No need, anyways.
Gabriel had suddenly stopped. Maybe it was pity. Mercy? Or he was tired. Punching can be tiring. Painful. Newton's third law of motion and all that jazz.
Nobody in the crowd noticed that Gabriel only stopped right when Anne had woken up, wincing and grasping her head and leg simultaneously.
Except Vivi Ashcroft.
"Vivi," a smooth-as-chocolate voice said in a slightly scolding tone. "It's too early for you to be gnashing your teeth and glaring at puny humans."
Vivi gulped and bit her lip. Her face was a picture of exaggerated drama and anguish when she turned to the boy behind her. "Did you see that? He's nice to her again," she hissed. "He's protecting her."
Maximillian Albright IV, or Max, only smiled, showing perfectly straight, white teeth that sparkled predatorily. His blue eyes gleamed like liquid sapphire as he leaned over the balcony and eyed Anne Meyers who was pulling Gabriel Morgan up and away from Jordan Hughes. The headmaster had arrived at the scene and was commanding everyone to go to their respective classrooms eight minutes before the first bell was supposed to ring. Three nurses were already in the process of depositing Jordan's unconscious body on a stretcher.
"Can't you kick her out already or something? She's under your scholarship grant!"
Max only raised an eyebrow, and smirked at Vivi's impetuous demand.
"And why should I? She deserves the grant—"
"Oh, please. Spare me! How many 'deserving' pests have we driven out all these years—"
"They weren't interesting enough."
Vivi's lips curled in distaste. Her green eyes attempted to pierce Maximillian's, and tried to read what was in his mind.
How could he think that such... trash... was the least bit interesting?
"Why, you might as well get Nicki Minaj here in Riverstone! If you liked glowing neon hair..." She cut her rant short as Max laughed. His eyes closed, a pale hand running through his raven hair. He was making fun of her again. But God, was he beautiful.
"Isn't it interesting that a little girl would mean so much to a rabid dog such as Gabriel Morgan?" He noted, as he looked down again. Headmaster Griffiths was in his element, yelling at Anne, although his words were definitely directed towards Gabriel.
Vivi stiffened. She had her doubts about Gabriel's interest in the girl. But then, if Max had also noticed it, then it must be true. The pain, the shame of being tossed aside for such a girl as Anne was just too much. It only took a little to irk Vivi Ashcroft. Now this was too much.
"Don't worry, babe," he whispered in her ear. She let him circle his arms around her waist and hold her close. She allowed herself to rest against his chest and become comfortable to the butterfly kisses he let loose on her throat. His smell was intoxicating her. She was like light sucked in a black hole.
"You'll get rid of her for me?" She moaned and hissed at his touch. His hands had always made her feel white-hot heat. She was ready in a snap.
He chuckled against the nape of her neck and inhaled her delicious scent, already peppered with intense desire. "No," he teased her. "I want her here."
Vivi stiffened and her eyes snapped open. She growled, fighting furiously to break away from him. Her eyes were then once again glued on to the boy down below, walking off to his first class of the day. The purple-haired girl hobbled closely behind. A dull ache was growing in her chest.
Max roughly pulled her close, making her grunt upon impact. As his hand slid up under her skirt, trailing teasingly on her thigh, he attacked her lips. Vivi cursed herself as she started to melt against him. She grunted again when he pushed her up against one of the pillars. Upon opening her eyes, she noticed that Max had stopped, and was smirking at her.
This was nothing but pure lust.
Max leaned in, and was pleased as her lips started to pucker up in anticipation for a kiss.
"That girl is mine," he whispered huskily before taking full possession of her lips.
Vivi couldn't decide whether she felt relieved or insulted once again.
The bell rang for first hour.
Anne was absentmindedly scratching an itchy scab on her knees when she heard the sound of well-oiled wheels rolling towards her.
A girl in a wheelchair was approaching. She had no prior data about her. Weird. The girl didn't look familiar. Yet, the girl in the wheelchair, whose hair was like shiny gold floss that ended in spiral-ly curls and whose eyes were the brightest green Anne has ever seen, smiled at her like they were the best of friends.
Anne scrambled to her feet and put up her mask; a smile that vibrantly screamed, "Hi! Nice to meet you!"
The girl in the wheelchair smiled up at the boy who was pushing her wheelchair and held up one pale hand. The wheelchair stopped. Anne's eyes were immediately drawn to the boy. A tall, silent one with a blank facial expression. Anne had a hard time moving her eyes away from the brown-haired, hazel-eyed boy.
Anne was unsure if she should say something. For a full minute she just stood there, smiling her idiotic smile, while the girl in the wheelchair appraised her from head to toe. Anne felt that the girl wasn't being condescending. Just curious.
"Anne Meyers, is it?"
Her voice was deep. Serious. Soft. Maybe frail.
Anne held back a sigh of relief. The silence had gotten too awkward, and she hated being stared at like fresh meat.
She chuckled and reached out a hand. Anne's perfect smile faltered for a second before she caught herself and the girl's hand.
"Pleasure to meet you, Alexandra."
Alexandra's eyes lit up and gestured to the silent boy behind her. "Oh. And this is Leonard."
"Pleased to meet you too, Leonard," Anne said. Leonard only bowed his head in reply.
Again, silence crept in between them.
Anne cocked her head and decided to break it. "So... Um, do you... Do you need something?"
She probably wants to talk to Gabriel.
Anne winced inwardly. It would be cruel to deny the girl in the wheelchair. But then again, better her than Gabriel himself.
Alexandra dipped her head and giggled. One hand covered her mouth.
"Oh, you must think I'm after Gabriel Morgan too."
She waved Anne's excuses aside. "No, Anne. I'm here for you."
Anne stood up a bit straighter and licked her cherry chapstick-ed lips. "Okay?"
Was this about the incident this morning?
"Nobody really gave you a tour of Riverstone High yet, am I right?"
"There's really no need," Anne answered, scratching the back of her head and smiling wryly. She had become familiar with the twists and turns of the school grounds while running away from Gabriel's wannabe peons yesterday.
Alexandra clucked her tongue while shaking her head. "But that's simply unacceptable. I also heard that you were harassed recently by some of the students here. Did you file a report against them?"
Anne clamped her mouth shut and smiled tightly while shaking her head. Again, it was of no use tattling.
"As senior class president I give you my heartfelt apologies. It is my responsibility to keep the students in line but as you can see," she gestured to her legs, "most of the time my condition prevents me from having much contact with my peers."
Anne, true to form, had a polite answer on hand. "Don't trouble yourself so much," she responded with a smile. "I believe things have already been sorted out—"
The creak and subsequent slam of the fire exit door behind Anne made her jump. That would only mean one thing.
"Hey, get me some of those chips..."
Anne whirled to face Gabriel who still had an unlit cigarette sticking out of the corner of his mouth. His blonde hair was unruly and his suit looked as if it never experienced ironing.
Upon seeing the two strangers in the hallway, Gabriel's sleepy and annoyed expression immediately turned dark and raging. An eyebrow twitched upward before his grey eyes, which was still a bit red from just waking up after a long nap, swung sharply back to Anne's sheepish face.
"Err... This is Alexandra and Leonard. Uhm..."
"The hell do you want?" Gabriel rudely lashed out at the two.
In a flash, Leonard was suddenly a step away from Gabriel. His hazel eyes burning with anger as he lifted a hand to strike.
One blink. Gabriel knew that the brown-haired dude should've punched him already. It had been too late for a block or a counter attack.
Nothing came. Instead of seeing stars, Gabriel saw purple with a hint of grey.
"Leonard!" he heard the girl in the wheelchair yell.
Another blink. Leonard was already beside the girl again.
"I think it is best that we continue our conversation at another time," Alexandra said with the same serene smile.
It was then that Gabriel had noticed that Anne was in front of him.
When did she get there? Did she... Did she block...?
Gabriel shook his head and chuckled inwardly. That Leonard douche's speed must've shocked the hell outta me. Didn't even notice her move.
"Okay then. Have a nice day."
Gabriel calmly looked as Leonard and Alexandra went away. He didn't want to show it but he was still trying his best to calm down the harsh beating of his heart. Relearning how to breathe again. He had been so sure that a fist was about to come in contact with his face. Good thing that Alexandra had put a stop to it.
He'll have to watch out for that dude.
Gabriel looked down at Anne and frowned at the girl's serious expression. She was still staring at Leonard and Alexandra's retreating backs. At once, a furious fire of rage and shame exploded in his chest. She probably saw that Leonard almost made him eat some fist. He clenched his jaw and decided to play it smooth.
He slapped the back of her head. She gave a little squeak that made the corners of his lips twitch upwards.
Anne flashed her signature sheepish smile and mumbled a "sorry."
"Huh? Uh, what? Sorry?"
Gabriel rolled his eyes and grabbed the back of her blazer. "Never mind. Come with me."
"Stop apologizing so much. Tsk."
"Sor—I mean, yeah. Okay."
"Alexandra already made her move. I believe Maximilian will be next."
Sebastian Rhodes let his head hang back on his leather chair and swivelled round and round. His eyes closed. A slight smile played on his lips while he savoured the tinkling sound of Da Hong Pao tea being poured on delicate bone china.
Clarita Ortega shrugged after carefully putting the teapot back on the trolley. "It seems the girl is as dangerous as Gabriel Morgan, though," she continued. "I wonder what Maximilian's approach will be. I do expect that he'll play it out later during detention."
Sebastian stopped swivelling his arm chair and opened his eyes, revealing sharp, black irises with veins of golden-brown. He lazily lolled his head to the side and stared at the 50-inch screen which was playing on loop Leonard Larkin's encounter with Anne Meyers during lunch.
He grabbed the remote control and played the video in slow-mo.
Gabriel Morgan's garbled, ultra-slow voice started.
"The hell do you want?"
Sebastian chuckled at the gall of the boy. The video perfectly captured how the insulting remark immediately irked Leonard Larkin. Nobody had dared do so for so long. Heck, no one had done so and survived. Leonard Larkin was, after all, more than Alexandra Bertrand's caretaker. He was her right-hand and bodyguard. One with unquestionable devotion and loyalty. A robotic monster programmed to shield his master from any sort of pain.
This video was gold.
In ultra-slow motion, Leonard Larkin's aggressive attack was laid bare. How he had rushed forth towards Gabriel. How his fist raised to strike the infamous one shot punch.
Sebastian gripped the arms of his chair in anticipation of contact between fist and face.
Yet there it was.
Anne Meyers rushed to block Leonard's attack, and with a swipe, threw the punch away to the side. Not content with that, Sebastian gaped, awestruck, as Anne made a direct hit to Leonard's solar plexus.
Sebastian pressed normal play. In an instant, Leonard was back to Alexandra's side. Anne was standing in front of Gabriel as if she had merely walked in front of the boy, and had not, in actuality, saved his nose.
"The girl is living with him, isn't she?"
Clarita nodded while nibbling on a macaron. Her large brown eyes narrowed slightly as she studied the video.
"Maybe it isn't so wise to approach the girl. Obviously, she was planted to be on his side," she remarked thoughtfully.
Sebastian wiggled his eyebrows as he took a sip of tea. "Maybe. But then again, we have no other recourse, or do we?"
Clarita sighed. "I still cannot be sure how we're going to map this out. There are no other useful records about Anne Meyers out there. You'd think a girl who walks around dressed like a Christmas tree everyday would garner more attention. It would be comforting if we have more information."
"It's all a guessing game then. We have no clue. They have no clue. This is a game of speed. We can't-"
"He obviously has a weakness for the girl. But he doesn't trust her either."
Now that got his attention.
"Oh? Anybody would think otherwise."
Sebastian leaned forward and stared at his partner. Clarita Ortega was his fiancée. Their marriage was arranged at birth.
And thank God my parents made the lucky jackpot of choosing her.
Aside from the voluptuous body courtesy of her Spanish genes, and the gorgeous, strongly Italian facial features, the girl had a sharp mind that rivalled that of Sun Tzu. Beauty, brains and a stone cold heart. Unfortunately for her, the Ortega family considered girls only as alliance-builders. Not as leaders of the clan.
Fortunately for Sebastian, he was born in a family that the Ortegas would be more than happy to be connected with.
Clarita smirked at Sebastian's eager expression, but she knew better than to tease him. "Yesterday was not punishment for a mistake. It was a test. Probably to see if she was worthy enough."
"But he stopped. Jordan Hughes is evidence of that. No one would dare attack Anne Meyers now. What happened this morning was affirmation that he had taken her under his wing."
She shrugged and took a deep breath, her lips pursed in an amused, tight smile. "People like him don't trust other people overnight. Regardless of the sacrifice offered."
Sebastian raised an eyebrow. "Psychology? Or women's intuition?"
Clarita laughed, her deep voice flowed like Napa wine. "Neither, my love." Then her eyes glowed ominously, almost cruelly. "Try years of experience."
Sebastian shook his head in amusement and finished his cup of tea.
"Catch!" Gabriel yelled right after tossing his backpack to his right. Without even looking whether Anne had caught his bag or not, he slammed his locker shut and walked off, whistling.
When he didn't hear her distinct, hobbling footsteps following him, he frowned and deigned a look back.
Anne had failed to catch the bag and was in the process of picking up the contents. Most of which were illegal to bring into school.
Or any establishment for that matter.
"Miss Meyers!" an elderly woman shrieked, making the people along the hallway jump. Before Anne could shove the pack of weed back into the bag, Mrs. Cornfell had snatched it away.
"Please tell me this isn't what I think this is?" she screeched, her face almost as purple as Anne's hair. Anne's face was a picture of panic and worry.
Gabriel sighed and briskly walked towards Anne. He snatched the bag away from Mrs. Cornfell's wrinkly hand and pulled Anne behind her. With a nonchalance that was a mark of a spoiled rotten brat, Gabriel jerked his nose up in the air and stared coolly at Mrs. Cornfell.
"W-Why Mister Morgan! Don't—"
"It's basil. We're having pesto tonight."
Mrs. Cornfell's face turned a bright red as the students who secretly listened in on the commotion couldn't hold back their snickering.
Gabriel shot a final glare at the old lady and grabbed Anne's elbow.
"Hold it!" Mrs. Cornfell screeched once more. Gabriel sighed but did stop and turn around. He held back yelling, "What?"
Mrs. Cornfell cleared her throat and attempted to regain her dignified composure. "Due to the commotion earlier this morning, Miss Meyers is supposed to stay for detention."
Gabriel scoffed. "She has no reason to stay. It was between Ho-bag Hughes and me."
"Tone down the ghetto language, Mister Morgan. Miss Meyers was the reason for the scuffle. Unless you want to serve her detention—"
"Mrs. Cornfell," a voice called out.
Gabriel, Anne and Mrs. Cornfell turned towards the speaker.
"Maximilian Albright," the teacher greeted the young man accompanied by two ladies who clung to his arms like boa constrictors. It was obvious that Mrs. Cornfell's tone of voice had lightened up a bit, much to Gabriel's annoyance. He narrowed his eyes at the newcomer and didn't hide the clear disgust he felt.
Gabriel had only heard of Maximilian Albright a few times. Apparently, next to him, Max was the most coveted boy in Riverstone. He noted the skanks who stared at him hungrily too. The clear difference was that Max welcomed whoever spread their legs for him while Gabriel threw knives next to their heads.
"Anne Meyers is under my family's scholarship grant. I'd hate for my family to be besmirched just because of a clear misunderstanding. I, among many of the students, witnessed how Mister Hughes brashly attacked the poor girl." Max sighed dramatically before pulling out a slip of paper from his breast pocket and walking towards a bewildered-looking Anne. Gabriel's frown started to deepen.
"Alas, truth has to be fought for and defended these days." And with that, he handed the paper to Mrs. Cornfell.
With a gentle smile, Max leaned down to whisper to Anne's ear, "You're cleared."
Anne smiled brightly at Max and was about to whisper back her gratitude when a sharp tug on her elbow made her yelp instead. "Come on, Meyers. We have a stupid family dinner to attend."
Max moved fast and held her waist to prevent her from falling backwards. A stern scowl appeared on the young man's gorgeous face. Not less than twenty girls swooned at the sight.
"Careful, Morgan! That is not how you should treat a lady," he seethed. Thirty more girls dropped on the floor twitching because of such display of gallantry. Even Anne found herself momentarily speechless as she stared up at Max's burning, deep blue eyes.
Gabriel, shocked at how even Anne had fallen for the notorious playboy's charm, cursed under his breath and let go off Anne's elbow. "Women," he muttered darkly before stomping off.
In a blink, Anne blushed and struggled to free herself from Max's waist. She muttered her apologies, head bowed low and ran after Gabriel. In her head, a nonstop string of curses played. It was only when she was already in the car with Gabriel did she remember about the pain in her injured leg.
Still, she found herself staring back at the lobby, curious about the boy with blue eyes and raven hair.
Gabriel pretended not to notice, nor care about Anne's behaviour.
A/N: Yep. It's one versus many.
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For TM fans, the next chapter might be interesting for you. Morgan family insiders will be up next/
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