As I walked through that door, my heart lurched to a stop from what I was seeing. Noah, my precious brother, was kneeling on the ground. He was being held with great force on either shoulder by the two guys from yesterday. At the foot of the room, sat Striker with a stone-hard expression. The door slammed behind me with a bang, the sound echoing through the small space and alerting them of my presence.
They stopped what they were doing and shifted their heads in my direction. When the guy with flame-red hair laid eyes upon me, he tsked in annoyance. When Striker laid his eyes on me, they travelled from my face down to my feet in cold calculation. He had truly dark eyes, the color of wet bark, but it was the severity of his gaze that had me on alert.
I'd seen a similar gaze before. One that I would rather forget. It made me sick just thinking about it.
"Is this the girl?" He directed to flamy in a low voice. He nodded in confirmation.
"She's the girl, alright," he confirmed his hold on my brother's shoulder tightening. I watched as Noah's body lowered to avoid the pain, his face scrunching up in displeasure. It was then I also noticed the black, swollen skin that outlined his left eye. My eyes widen in panic and I tried to take a step towards him. He was desperate to reach me too, trying to squirm out of the hold they had on him. Only, every step I got closer, they would force him back.
"Not so fast," Striker warned and my footsteps faltered. It became clear that they had no intention of letting me reach him. I came to a halt and exhaled. I needed to change tactics, but in order to do that, I had to at least control my emotions first. It took me mere seconds to shove them down as it was like second nature to me now.
"What do you want?" I directed my question to Striker, as he was clearly the one calling the shots. "Why did you take my brother? And why aren't you letting me take him out of here?"
His face kept impassive, except for the dash of amusement that resided in his eyes. It only lasted a second before it faded and the cold took over again.
"What's your name?" He simply asked.
"Your name," he repeated slowly, making sure to pronounce every word clearly. He must have read the confusion on my face because he added, "I don't hand out things for free. If you want something from me, you must first learn to give something back."
To say I was annoyed was an understatement. Firstly, he chose to ignore my questions altogether. And secondly, he felt like I owed him my name. He waited quietly among his chair at the front of the room.
This is how you change the situation I guess.
"My name is Verona," I gave up begrudgingly. At the sound of my name, another emotion flashed through his eyes. Surprise? Or Shock? I couldn't be sure. If there was one thing about this guy that I already learnt, is that if you want to find out what he's thinking, find it through the eyes. He wore them like artwork, sharing the parts of him when his face chose to be silent. "Now you give me something in return."
His chin had now come to rest on his hand, his elbow supporting him by leaning on the arm leg of the chair for support. "Well, if you must know, your brother here got involved in some business that he shouldn't."
"And what's that?"
"You would know, Honey," Flamy interjected, jamming a finger in my direction. "You were also there at the time."
"Does Presely ring a bell?" Blue said.
My brain immediately flashed to the raven-haired guy from yesterday. Before I knew it, I had cursed out loud. Striker's seemed unfazed by the sudden outburst. I did catch flamy and blue side-eye each other in surprise. "I told you not to jump in and help everyone, Noah. I knew he was bad news."
Noah sent me a glare. "I'm being held hostage on the ground here and you're yelling at me right now!"
"This is exactly why I say listen to me." I flail my arms in the air as I talk. "But, no! You still do it anyway."
"Let me remind you that this is not the time to be doing this." His eyes are wide as his chin points to the room where Striker sits on a chair. I'm suddenly back in the room littered with empty desk and chairs and not in the comfort of our home where we yelled all the time. I clamp my lips shut and pinch the bridge of my nose while scrunching my forehead. "So what exactly do you want him to do about it?"
Striker's gaze hardens. "Verona," he says, "you must be new here to not know that you don't mess with me or my business." He plants his feet of the chair and with slow steps approaches me. "Thanks to your brother who so kindly wanted to help someone in need," he continues while circling me, " he stopped my boys from enacting an attack on someone that rightfully deserved it." Eventually, he stops full circle in front of me and decides to lean down, not satisfied by our height difference. I had to raise my head if I wanted to meet his gaze. His breath practically fans my lips as I make out the last part. "So when you ask me what I want him to do about it." He pauses, before adding, "I need for him to stop making me angry. And if that is by getting beat up. Well," he shrugs his shoulders, "so be it."
His gaze shoots down to the newly clenched fist at my side. He watches it, his body taking on alertness in preparation for if I go through with the only thought clouding my mind currently. "So," I say between clenched teeth. "Has his black eye pleased you?"
"Oh, not in the slightest." His response garners snickers from the other two and I lift my fist in the air acting out the process of hitting them. They only laugh at me. My attention was solely on the boys behind him, that I failed to notice the finger that traces the edge of my jaw. Being touched when my guard is down sent my body into overdrive. Blood rushes to my brain, my hand lashing out and knocking his finger away from my face. My eyes are wide in shock and my breathing erratic. I immediately try to step away, but he catches on quickly and grabs around my waist, the palm of his hand holding me in place at the side of my hip.