I hadn’t prepared myself for her to say it and so I wasn’t sure how to react. I didn’t want to sound too interested but I couldn’t lie that I had been curious over how he’d been going. We hadn’t spoken about Bash since the last time we were here as Ava knew it was a sensitive topic. But it wasn’t as fresh for me anymore and I reminded myself there wasn’t any reason to get upset. I’d been doing great over the last few months, having much more important things happening in my
But I still thought of him now and then. In fact, I had made several attempts at writing him a letter over the months he’d been gone… but every time I ended up throwing it out, having thought better of it. Based on the last time I saw him, I knew that if he wanted to talk to me he would reach out himself.
“And how is Bash?” I finally asked.
She pursed her lips a bit to the side, trying to gauge my reaction. “He’s going well. Busy, he said. He’s begun his full training for Alpha heir now. He asked how I’ve been and wanted to check in to see if everything was still going well here in the Lock Heart.”
I nodded my head, absentmindedly. “That’s good.”
I could feel her eyes on me as she spoke and I tried to act as casual as I could.
But after what felt like at least a minute she finally continued reluctantly. “…And he asked how you were.”
I snapped my eyes up to her then, unable to now hide my interest. Bash asked… about me?
“…And what did you reply back with?” I said cautiously.
“I… haven’t replied yet,” she admitted. “I was sort of procrastinating talking to you first.”
I inhaled deeply, thinking it through. Bash asked how I was… Did that mean he wasn’t angry at me anymore? But if he wasn’t angry, then why didn’t he just send me a letter directly himself? Why would he go through Ava to find out how I was going?
…Was he just asking her to sound polite since he knew Ava and I were good friends?
“You can tell him that I’m fine and leave it at that,” I finally concluded.
“Winona…,” she said, disappointed. “Wouldn’t it be better to tell him what you’ve been up to? Maybe it’ll help fix things between you two.”
“No,” I said, a tone of finality in my voice. “If Bash wants to know how I’m going then he can reach out to me himself. And I mean to me, not via a third party.”
She sighed. “You’re too stubborn sometimes.”
I ignored her, concentrating on the small cookie pieces inside my drink as if it were suddenly the most interesting thing at the table.
Ava ended up having plans for the afternoon and so we finished up our breakfast earlier than I would have liked. The
absence of having any plans left me with too much time inside my own head, mulling over things I would have rather moved on from.
Or at least, I thought that would be the case.
Instead, I arrived back home only to find an attendant I didn’t recognise in my house.
“Saintess,” they greeted me, bowing.
I groaned internally at the title. “Yes?”
“I have been sent today to inform you that you are to prepare yourself for dinner with the Alpha heir,” they said. “He will be arriving tonight at around seven o’clock.”
My face paled. “Arriving… where?”
“Here,” they confirmed. “You will be hosting the Alpha heir here, tonight, at your residence for dinner.”
Ah… well, fuck.
It had Alpha Leo written all over it.
He had ‘coincidentally’ chosen a night my father was out of town and my mother was shifted to work at the hospital. This meant it would be just me… and Benjamin.
It seemed I had assumed incorrectly that Leo was done trying to play matchmaker with us. When I had been accepted as a probationary Beta heir, naturally I had thought the surprise dates would come to an end. Did he think I was going to fail in my endeavour to best Alexander? Or was his idea that I could be persuaded to drop out of the running for the title if I fell for Benjamin?
Putting all of that aside, I now found myself with less than seven hours to get the entire house ready.
To have the Alpha or Alpha heir come for dinner was considered a high enough honour already, but hosting Benjamin would just make things more difficult. I’d never found him an easy person to please in my past.
I worked tirelessly, from the moment I found out he was coming, to organise everything down to the most minute detail. From briefing the attendants on behaviours to avoid around him, to creating a menu for the cooks so they could prepare Benjamin’s preferred foods, nothing was left to chance.
By the time I was finally finished organising, I found I only had an hour for myself to get ready and dressed.
And then, finally, the time came.
As Benjamin entered the house, I saw him pause a moment to take it all in. I wondered what was going through his mind and couldn’t recall if he’d ever come here before. But judging from his face, he didn’t remember either.
“Greetings, Alpha heir,” I said, bowing my head.
“Evening, Winona,” he replied.
I looked up and saw him staring at me strangely already. Had I done something off? I wracked my brain but couldn’t think of anything.
“It’s an honour to receive you tonight,” I continued.. “If you’ll follow me to the parlour, we can sit there while we wait for our meals to be ready….”
We walked into the large sitting area with two couches. I stood at the doorway, allowing him to move first to choose where he would sit. When he’d made himself comfortable, I purposely sat on the opposite couch with just enough distance. Close enough to not be rude, but far away enough that I didn’t have to worry about flinching at any of his sudden movements.
“So, how have you been, Winona?” he asked finally, after several moments of silence had passed. “It’s been… a week since our last meeting?”
“Yes, Alpha heir,” I said. “I’ve been well. Yourself?”
“I’ve been good…,” he said, his face turning that same odd frown again. “You can call me Benjamin, you realise? You’re a Beta heir now. The formalities aren’t required.”
Oh… so this was why he’d given me that look at the door. I’d found it easier to call him Alpha heir these last few months, the sound of his real name on my lips always leaving a bitter
I clenched my jaw, preparing myself to force to words out. “Apologies… Benjamin.”
He regarded me warily. Obviously, something else was still bothering him that he hadn’t mentioned.
But he didn’t end up bringing it up as, not long afterwards, one of the attendants came in to announce dinner was ready. I breathed out a sigh of relief. At least having food in front of me would give me an excuse to not keep the conversation going.
We sat down in the dining room, Benjamin at the head of the
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table, myself to his right; just as it always had been. I could feel the anxiety begin to creep into my chest at his proximity, knowing I was within arms reach of him at any given moment. But I pushed it aside. I was stronger than that now.
The food started to come out then and I was grateful everything had been prepared exactly the way I had instructed. The spread was diverse enough for even four people, but I hadn’t wanted to leave anything to chance.
I looked up to check on Benjamin, to gauge his reaction, but he seemed completely fine; this being at least one comfort to my anxiety. I knew I’d never know for sure though since he was impossible to read.
“Is everything to your liking… Benjamin?” I asked.
“Yes, it’s all great,” he said. “Thank you.”
That didn’t tell me much but at the very least he hadn’t hated it right away.
And with that, we both began to eat.
However, several minutes in, I realised he still hadn’t said anything… and I was beginning to worry I’d done something wrong.
I cleared my throat. “So… how was your exchange?”
He looked directly up at me as he spoke, and I tried not to jump at the sudden eye contact. “It was good. I went to a northern territory called the Opal Tide. It’s the central pack for the region up there.”
I wasn’t overly familiar with them but I knew they were a fairly
powerful pack. Benjamin had spared them during his tyrant years. I guess now I knew why.
“That’s… good,” I said before taking another bite of my food.
“Winona…,” he said, trailing off.
He looked confused, as if he wanted to talk about something but wasn’t sure if he should.