Chapter Eleven

“You can’t be serious!” Jackson exclaims.

“Serious about what?” I’m sitting on the couch across from him paging through a book, and when I look up he’s glaring at the TV screen with his hands outstretched.

“The game!” He says. “Corda almost had a goal and that other guy tripped him! And they didn’t catch that!”

“What…?” I look at the TV and try to follow the players as they race across the field, but I barely understand how soccer works, so I only nod and hum in agreement. I’m not sure who Corda is either, but I don’t ask. I’ve already heard enough about Alpha Banastre complaining to Luna Hailey about football.

“That should have been called,” Jackson continues to grumble. He drops his hands, one on his knee and the other on the couch arm. Apparently he has no work today. Sunday’s are his self-given days off, and it seems to be the same for every other pack member. It’s surprising, because in Alpha Banastre’s pack, everyone had to work everyday. There were barely any day offs, even for birthdays.

“Whatever you say,” I say, my eyes already drifting back to the book. The Blithedale Romance, it’s called, although it’s very confusing to keep up with. Priscilla is my favorite – she reminds me so much of myself.

“What are you reading?” Jackson asks as his eyes skim the cover. “Nathaniel Hawthorne?”

“Yes,” I reply. “Adonis actually suggested it to me.”

“Adonis?” Jackson straightens. “When were you with Adonis?”

I shrug. “On Tuesday. I think you were doing Helene’s papers so Delia suggested going to the library upstairs. Adonis was in there already.”

Jackson snorts. “Adonis in the library? That’s a first,” he says. “What was he doing there?”

“I don’t know,” I say. “Reading, probably. He was looking for a book on the shelves when I went there. Something about magic, I think?”

Jackson rolls his eyes. “Ever since his rendezvous with a witch he’s been obsessed with magic,” he says. “It’s one of his favorite – and probably only – subjects that he studies.”

“He’s still in school?”

“He was. He just barely graduated last year from community college,” Jackson explains. “He went to the human school. I forgot the name.”

“Housingburgs,” I remember. “Housingburgs Community College. It was by the pack. I think Oscar went there for two years before he went to Kean.”

“He’s a Kean kid?” Jackson sounds surprised. “Teaching?”

“Yeah. Math.”

“Damn, never expected that. Especially for a future Alpha.”

“Alpha Banastre never really paid attention to Oscar, not like Luna Hailey did,” I say. I set the book down next to me and fold my legs on the couch. “I don’t really know why he didn’t like Oscar. Maybe he saw him as a threat or something, but Alpha Banastre had a preference for his daughters more than his son.”

“I…noticed.” Jackson swallowed. He reached on the coffee table and plucked an almond from the bowl in front of him, tossing it into his mouth. He frowns. “Anvi?”

“Yeah?”

“Why do you keep using Banastre’s title?” He asks, and my stomach tightens a little bit. “You’re not subordinate to him. He’s subordinate to you. And with an attitude like that he’ll soon be crawling at your feet.”

“I don’t think he should be crawling at my feet!” I interject quickly. “Him or anybody! I mean, it’s not really fair…and…I don’t know. I use his title because that’s what I’m used to. I’ve never really known anything else, and it feels weird calling him just Banastre. It feels like I’m doing something wrong.”

Jackson’s frown deepens. “You shouldn’t feel like that,” he says. He shuffles closer to me on the couch he’s sitting on and takes my hand from the opposite arm rest. “You’re the Luna Queen, Anvi. He’s not in charge anymore – not of you.”

“I know,” I respond quietly. It’s a white lie, anyone can see through it, and based on the way that Jackson’s eyebrows dip, I’m sure he knows that I’m lying. He opens his mouth a little bit, then closes it and turns back to the game. My heart loosens a little from the cage that had been tightening around it.

For the next hour or so we sit in silence. Jackson keeps his attention on the game with his hand still over mine and I continue to read my book. It’s a sad story and I don’t see it as a romance until I reread a few of the pages again. My heart aches for Priscilla and Coverdale, but also for Hollingsworth. Zenobia got what she deserved, and with a cruel pleasure I imagine Amanda and Darcy in her position, but the idea was quickly blown away by my morals. I wouldn’t want to wish Zenobia’s downfall on them, no matter how cruel they were to me.

When I’m finally finished with the book, I decide to try and devour another one. Reading has always been a passion of mine. Everyone knew that, even Banastre. He ripped it away from me just as he did every other guilty pleasure in my life. Even though it’s been a week since leaving him, the sting of his memory still haunts me.

“Where are you going?” Jackson sounds a little panicked when I begin to get up from the couch.

“Just to get another book,” I say, showing him the book I had already finished. He stares at it for a few seconds before he takes my hand that had been under his on the couch arm and brings it to his mouth, kissing it delicately. It’s quick and I barely feel it, but the tingles that spread through me leave a reminder for the next few minutes of his affection.

To keep him from seeing the rising blush on my cheeks, I bolt out of the room, aware of his laughter that follows me. He doesn’t know the effect he has on me, and no matter how hard I try to control it, I can’t hide the feelings that I am beginning to feel for him. It scares me, but it’s not the same kind of fear that I felt with Banastre.

As I’m passing the steps to go up to the library, I notice Delia and Adonis talking quietly at the bottom of the other staircase. They laugh and Delia pinches his cheek affectionately, like a mother would to her son, and I can’t help but see Luna Hailey and Oscar in their places. They used to be exactly like that.

“Please be safe, Adonis,” I hear her tell him. “Don’t you go on making stupid mistakes, you understand? You remember what happened to Riley, don’t you?”

“Yes, Delia, I know,” he sighs, but he’s smiling too, like her scolding amuses him. “I’ll be careful, I promise. And it’s just a date! Chill!”

“Hm, I know what kind of dates you go on, Adonis,” Delia continues. “I’m not scolding you, I’m just trying to keep you and this girl safe.”

“Right, whatever.” Adonis rolls his eyes, and Delia looks like she’s ready to begin another lecture again before his gaze meets mine. Immediately, his eyes light up.

“Anvi!” Adonis dashes towards me and lifts me up in a strong hug, spinning me around.

“Adonis! Be careful!” I shout and squeal at the same time. Adonis laughs and puts me down as Delia approaches both of us.

“Sure, sure,” he says, grinning mischievously. “Where are you headed to?” He glances at my hand. “Is that, The Blithedale Romance? You actually took my suggestion?”

“Well, of course,” I say and hand him the book. He flips through the pages. “It was a romantic tragedy, not really my forte, but I think it was meant to be that way.”

He nods. “Definitely.” And hands the novel back to me. “Where’s Jackson?”

“He’s probably watching soccer in the living room,” Delia answers with a roll of her eyes. “That boy has been kicking balls ever since he could walk.”

Adonis snorts and it takes a few seconds for the lewd double-meaning to translate in my head, but when it does I shove him playfully.

“Adonis!” I hiss.

“What?” He chokes on his laughter, and I feel giggles beginning to rise in my throat. Those articles were right when they said that laughter was contagious.

Delia looks between the two of us, confused. “What is it?” She asks. “What’s so funny?”

“Nothing, nothing,” I assure her. I glance at the purse she has in her hand. “Are you going somewhere, Delia?”

She smiles. “Just to the store,” she says. “We have to stock up on some food. Adonis and Jackson have eaten so much there’s hardly anything left for you and I.”

“Hey!” Adonis exclaims. “I don’t eat that much! That’s mostly Jackson.”

“Perhaps,” Delia agrees and pulls on his ear gently. “But I know who raids the pantry for all the junk food when I’m not there.”

Adonis doesn’t defend himself this time.

“See,” Delia says and lets go of him. “I know everything that happens in this house…some of which I wish I didn’t.” She wrinkles her nose and I laugh.

“I can agree with that,” I say. Delia smiles at me and says her goodbyes, making her way to the door, and Adonis follows her after a few minutes, but not before he says:

“Did you see the picture?”

I stop in my steps. “Yes…” I hesitate. “Why?”

He shrugs. “Just asking. She was quite the lady, wasn’t she?”

I bite my lip. “Yes, she was very beautiful…”

Adonis pauses, his gaze becoming far away for a moment. “Yes, she was,” he says. “But don’t worry.” He winks at me. “Jackson’s pretty smitten with you. His eyes aren’t going anywhere else.”

I smile. “I hope you’re right, Adonis,” I say, and once he’s gone I look down at the book and whisper again to myself. “I hope you’re right.”

~****~

“Did you find a new book?” Jackson asks when I come back downstairs.

“Yeah. I left it upstairs though, in my room,” I say, taking a seat on the couch next to him. “I’m going to read it later, probably before bed.”

“Nighttime reader, huh?” He says. “I don’t blame you. It feels more magical to read at night.”

“It does,” I smile, playing with my fingers. The picture burns its image in the back of my mind, and every time I take so much as a glance towards Jackson, I just see the girl he was once with, and I think to myself: what the hell is he doing with me?

“Anvi?” Jackson’s voice envelopes me and startles me out of my reverie. He stares at me, confused, and I hesitate before answering him.

“Yes? Sorry, I was…distracted,” I murmur, looking down at my lap.

Jackson frowns. “Did Adonis say anything to you?” He asks, and I can’t help but think that he’s a bit too worried about what Adonis may say to me. Is he hiding something?

“No, he didn’t,” I say. “I just-!”

“Alpha, Luna,” Mateo steps into the room. A bushy, stocky wolf who always seemed to have an amused grin plastered on his face, Mateo gestured to the hallway leading towards the main doors. “Alpha heir Oscar Yuen is here. He says he has something to give to the Luna Queen.”

“Oh,” Jackson pauses. “Let him come in, then. Come on, Anvi.” He offers me his hand. “Let’s go greet your…friend.”

I take his outstretched hand and let him lead me to the kitchen, where Oscar is already waiting with the widest eyes I have ever seen.”

“Oscar! Hi!” I beam. Oscar smiles and strides over to me, wrapping me in a large bear hug. Jackson lets go of my hand, and out of the corner of my eye, I see him mill gloomily to a newspaper that sits on the table. I can’t read the headline, but its bold capital letters and multiple usage of the word “murder” tells me that something horrible probably happened.

“Hey, Anvi!” Oscar pulls away from me and looks me over, smiling. “God, I feel like I haven’t seen you in ages!” He hugs me again. “How are you? How’s everything?” He glances surreptitiously behind his shoulder at Jackson, who’s taken a seat at the table and is coolly surfing through the pages of the newspaper.

“Everything’s going alright,” I say. I laugh . “It feels a bit weird, you know? Not having to wake up every morning and start cleaning. It’s…” I pause to think of the right words. “Interesting.”

Oscar laughs. “I’d bet,” he says. He turns to Jackson, who nods at him curtly. “Alpha King.”

“…Oscar,” Jackson says after a moment of hesitation. If I could mind-link, I’d be scolding him for being so courteous, but Jackson seems to understand that I’ve noticed his behavior. He shrugs and returns to the newspaper, hiding his face entirely.

“So, how are things?” I ask. “How’s Luna Hailey? Darcy and Amanda?” I don’t ask about Alpha Banastre.

“Mom’s doing good,” Oscar replies. He accepts the glass of water that Jackson slides over to him and gulps it down quickly. “She’s been a little jittery since you left – nervous like crazy about how you’re doing, actually.”

I blush. “Oh, well tell her that I’m doing fine, okay? I don’t want her to worry about me, you know?’

“I hope I can alleviate her worries now,” Oscar says, tapping his knuckles on the table. “But you know my Mom. She treats everyone younger than her like her children.” He sighs. “Especially you. You were like a daughter to her, Anvi.”

My blush deepens. “I – um, thank you?” I’m not sure how to respond to that. “I’m…flattered.”

Oscar scoffs and pushes my shoulder gently. “Hey, you knew that. It was pretty obvious.”

I bite my lip. “Not to me.”

“Would you like anything to eat, Oscar?” Jackson interrupts our conversation with an impassive expression. “The run from Banastre’s pack to mine must have been exhausting.”

Oscar hesitates for a moment, then nods. “If you don’t mind,” he says. “Dad’s been swallowing everything in the fridge. One day I worry that he’s going to eat the fridge itself.”

“Really?” I frown. “I mean, Alpha Banastre was a big eater, but that much? What is he doing? Stress eating?”

“I’m not sure,” Oscar responds. He thanks Jackson quietly for the plate he’s given and devours the food. “He’s been pretty out of sorts lately. I mean, that’s probably normal, but there’s something…” he stops talking to lick his hands. “Different, you know? It’s like he’s suddenly angry at everything and everyone around him. Helplessly angry.”

Helplessly angry? What did he do? Lose…something… I glance at Jackson. My mate looks squarely into my eye. He’s thinking the same thing.

Oscar doesn’t seem to notice anything off with our expressions, though. He thanks Jackson for the food and my mate nods back silently. His face is like a marble statue – impassively emotionless.

“How’s Luna Hailey handling his new behavior?” I ask, curious to know if my old friend is alright.

His heart stills, and for a moment, Oscar doesn’t move. It’s like there’s a movie playing through his head, and he’s picking the pieces from the roll to try and put them in the proper order.

“She’s doing the best she can,” he admits quietly. “It’s not easy for her, it was never easy for her.” He goes quiet again, then his eyes light up and it’s like he’s flipped a switch on his face, changing his expression from thoughtful to excited. “She says that you have to call her – gosh she’s been throwing a fit over that!” He laughs, but it’s not a complete laugh. It’s forced and damp, like the memories have put a weight on his throat.

“Oscar…” I begin to say, then stop myself. I’m pitying him. I’m about to tell him the same things that I loathed to hear, and knowing how they felt, I stay quiet. Jackson is watching him contemplatively. He doesn’t say anything, but from the side of the table, I can see him scribbling something on the newspaper, and in big block letters is Banastre’s name.

“Oh, I wanted to give you something before I go, actually,” Oscar says suddenly. He reaches into his shirt pocket and pulls out a bunched up necklace and places it in my open palm.

Surprised, I carefully pick through the necklace, straightening it out on my hand. It’s a dark gold color, almost rusted. The centerpiece is a gold locket in the shape of a waning crescent. It looks like it could be opened a long time ago, but is forever shut now.

There’s an inscription on the back. A name, written in two lines because the first part is too long. I have to squint to see the name, but when I am finally able to read it, my heart stops. A thrill of warmth rushes through me and into my stomach.

To the loveliest woman in the world: Akanksha Bachan

My mother.

~***~

Hey guys! 

Finally, an update, YAY!! This chapter took me a while to write, but what do you think? Why does Oscar have Anvi’s mother’s necklace? What does it mean? Why does Hailey want her to have it? Do you think Jackson was jealous of Oscar? Let me know what you think!

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