#Chapter 118: The Family Business
That night, I returned to the arena for the hockey game. There were still protests happening outside, but there were fewer people now that campus security was standing around — and apparently, as Lori and Jessica explained to me on our way there,
several students were arrested for- throwing objects and starting fights. After the mini-riot, more students also realized that such negativity was toxic, and decided to join the pro- werewolf club. I was relieved to hear this.
The hockey game that night was a landslide victory on our part. Although the crowd on our side of the arena was much smaller than it normally was and our cheerleaders had completely boycotted the game, our team played hard. Enzo used a lot of different tactics to outsmart the other hockey
captain, and I began to wonder as I
watched them if the other captain was even nearly as skilled in hockey as Enzo, or if he was only placed in that role because he was a Crescent werewolf. It made me think, as our team scored goal after goal, that there really was nothing special about werewolves in particular that could help them win this tournament over skilled hockey players.
I was also shocked to see that Enzo was not only performing incredibly well despite his recent injuries, but so was Matt. In fact…
Matt’s performance was far above what it used to be, and his injured hand was perfectly fine now. It was almost superhuman.
The next morning, I went to class after another uneasy night of sleep that was full of nightmares. I could practically feel the dark circles under my eyes as I walked to class, and even the coffee I bought at the dining hall didn’t seem to be helping much.
How much longer would these nightmares last?
I arrived at class with Jessica, and vowed to focus solely on my classwork. I couldn’t let Enzo, Edward, anyone or anything else invade my thoughts anymore. Now, my grades were the only thing that I could focus on.
At the end of class, however, the professor called me down to his desk.
“I’ll catch up with you at the student
center,” I said to Jessica before swallowing the knot in my throat and walking down to the professor’s desk.
“Nina,” the professor said with a concerned look on his face, “I’ve noticed that your grades have been slipping, and you were out without any sort of excuse for almost all of last week. This isn’t like you; is everything okay?”
I gulped, thinking about the real reasons behind why I was gone for all that time. How could I possibly explain to my professor that I was missing from class because I was being held hostage by the campus counselor for days on end and was brainwashed into believing that the entire past four years of my life were a fantasy?
“Well?” the professor asked.
“I was just dealing with some personal
issues,” I said, which wasn’t entirely a
lie. “I’m sorry. Is there any way I can
make up for the work?”
The professor sighed and folded his arms across his chest, leaning back in his chair. “I don’t normally do this, but I like you and I know that you’re at good student,” he said. “Tell you
what: there’s a symposium next week. If you give a presentation, I’ll award you with some extra credit. But this is just a one time thing, okay?”
I let out a sigh of relief. “Thank you so much, professor,” I said with a smile. ”
I promise I’ll do my best and I won’t
let my grades slip again.”
The professor nodded, then let me
After lunch with Jessica, I decided to head to the library to get started on my presentation. Much to my surprise, 1 spotted James crossing the quad from afar. I waved, then jogged up to him. I secretly just wanted to pry about the protest.
“Hey, James,” I said with a smile as I
approached. “Where are you headed?”
James looked a little nervous as he
adjusted his bag on his shoulder. “Uh…
Nowhere in particular,” he said. ”
What about you?”
“I was just heading to the library,” I replied. Then, after biting my lip for a moment: “Did you hear what happened at the protest yesterday?” 1
asked. I waited to see his reaction, but all he did was shrug.
“Yeah, I heard a bit about it,” he said, his eyes shifting from left to right and giving him an uncharacteristically suspicious appearance. “I guess lots of people aren’t thrilled about this whole werewolf thing.”
Now, I was starting to get
apprehensive about James’ behavior, so I decided to pry just a little bit more. “They sure are,” I replied. “Whoever leaked this information is probably feeling pretty bad about it right now.”
James ‘didn’t answer right away. He
paused for a few moments, unblinking, then cleared his throat and opened his mouth to speak-but before anything came out, his eyes caught something behind me, and he closed his mouth again.
I felt a hand on my shoulder and looked up to see Enzo standing beside me. His eyes were fixed unwaveringly on James. Was he about to have another outburst of jealousy, or was he suspicious of James as well?
“Nina,” Enzo said suddenly, turning to look at me and breaking his gaze from James. “Do you have that jersey I gave you? I need it back.”
I swallowed, then nodded and dug into my bag for it. “I was gonna find you later to give it back to you,” I said. ” Thanks for letting me borrow it.”
“No problem.” Enzo paused, then turned back to face James. “Did you hear that some psycho at that protest hurled a rotten tomato at Nina?” Enzo asked. His voice was low, and almost accusatory. “Whoever leaked this info should’ve thought about these consequences before doing it. Someone could get hurt from all of these protests.”
James’ eyes widened momentarily. He cleared his throat again and shifted from one foot to the other. “Uh, yeah,” he said, moving to walk around Enzo and me. “They really should’ve. Um, anyway, I’ve gotta get to class. I’ll see you guys around.”
Before Enzo or I could say anything, James suddenly turned on his heel and stormed off. He moved so quickly, in fact, that a folded up piece of paper fluttered out of his pocket and landed on the sidewalk.
“Wait, James–“I called, grabbing the
paper, but he was already gone.
I turned back to Enzo and gave him a confused look. “Was he being weird?” I asked.
Enzo nodded, then looked down at the paper in my hands. “What is that?”
I shrugged and turned it over in my hands, wondering if it would be appropriate to read it or not. I was curious, but it could be anything. It could be personal — it could be a love letter to Edward, for all I knew.
Finally, my curiosity got the best of me, and I opened it. My eyes widened as I read what was on the page. Enzo, seeing this, snatched it out of my hands.
“Dear James,” he read, glancing up at me briefly, “I’m so proud of you for what you did. The truth is important, and you did the right thing by taking my advice and making sure that people are aware of this sort of thing. I
understand if you feel a little guilty, especially since you considered him to be somewhat of a friend but rest assured that the world will be better off with another one of those monsters taken care of. Now, the next part will be even harder, but your mother and I believe in you. Once you get it over with, you’ll realize that it’s not so bad after all. Welcome to the family business, son. Love, Dad.”
Enzo stared unblinkingly at the page for several moments. I felt my chest start to burn with the realization of what was at hand. It felt too deliberate that the paper suddenly fell out of James’ pocket like that at just the right moment. It wasn’t intentional, was it? Like some kind of warning? Or was James really that frazzled from whatever was going on in his personal life that he genuinely was so careless to let it happen?
Finally, Enzo crumpled the paper into his fist. “That little weasel,” he snarled, beginning to storm past me, but I jumped in front of him and placed my hand on his chest to stop him before he could do anything rash.
“Enzo, think rationally about this,” I pleaded. “Please. Just take a step back and don’t do anything without really thinking about it first.”
Enzo growled and tried to step past me again. Once again, I put myself in front of him, this time pressing my body against his to keep him from going. Just breathe,” I begged. “No one needs to get hurt.”
As I pressed my body against his, I saw his red eyes finally flicker down to me and soften a bit as he looked at me. His fury seemed to be placated for now…
But as we stood too close together and the smell of his sweet, strong scent filled my senses, and as our breaths came out onto each other in little white clouds in the cold autumn air, I wasn’t sure what would happen next