“WHAT’S GOING on?” I was the last one to enter since I was a watcher last night. Now, it made me scowl upon seeing the familiar faces at Gael’s office, and something didn’t add up.
“Morning, Colt.” Cora greeted.
“Morning.” I gestured to everyone to start telling me, and my scowl deepened when I couldn’t find Iris.
Darick shrugged. “No idea, man.”
I leaned against the wall since the chairs were already occupied by Cora and Lois, and a moment later, Gael entered with a steaming cup of coffee on his hand.
“What did I miss?” I asked.
“Wait for your turn,” Gael briefly said and sat on his chair.
It frustrated me that suddenly I became invisible around him, and as far as I knew, I hadn’t failed the duty he gave me. Right now, I questioned myself if he still needed my service, or I had to pack my things and move out.
“Let’s start with you, Darick.” Gael eyed him. There was something different about the way he asked.
“Um, okay. Look, um, we didn’t talk much, Gael.” He looked at me, then back to Gael. “She told me her name and said she just arrived a few days ago. She seemed kind though. She looked harmless and genuinely concerned that I was hurt,” Darick explained.
So, this was all about Iris. And here I thought he let that woman stay because his conscience would keep him stay awake at night while Iris was out there alone, fighting for her survival.
My jaw clenched when I realized he kept me in the dark. I hated being angry at him, and I wanted to erase this unwelcoming emotion because he was the only person I trusted with my life.
“Did you observe something strange?”
“I was drowsy, and I’m not good at picking up things like that. I just took the pill when she and Lois came to see me. I wasn’t able to observe her very well. As I said, she looked weak and pale, and I don’t think she could even harm a fly.” Darick shrugged.
“How about you, Templeton?”
The idiot, Frost smirked. “She’s pretty.”
I narrowed my eyes when he briefly eyed me, waiting to see my reaction.
“This is a serious matter, Templeton.”
“Sorry, Gael. I have nothing much to say other than she grows some weight and curves—”
“Jesus, Frost!” My voice got everyone’s attention. “Tell us something other than what you see.”
“I’m just telling the truth. That’s what I saw, man. If you didn’t stop me from inviting her to come hunting with me, I could have told you some details. I didn’t see anything off other than she’s friendly. She didn’t seem to have something up on her sleeves. I mean, she was shy at first, but later on, she adjusted pretty quick around us and worked her ass off in the garden.”
“And that’s the odd thing. She catches up everything pretty quickly like she used to do it without difficulty. Don’t you think it’s a little bit odd?” Cora interrupted.
“What made you say that, Cora?” Gael asked.
“She’s friendly to everyone to get their sympathy and after that, she’ll stab us behind our back,” she replied with confidence.
“Whoa! Hold up there,” I stopped her, and she met my gaze. “How many times did you talk to her?”
She shifted. “Twice?”
“And you had already come up with all that? What did you two talk about anyway?” I focused on her body language. When she swallowed and shifted uncomfortably, she didn’t have to say anything. “You don’t have to answer that.”
I started to dislike Cora. She didn’t have to prove her self-worth to the group by making a story out of it. I knew she wanted to get rid of Iris, but what she didn’t know was, what would be the consequences awaited for someone like Iris once Gael decided to let her out of this camp.
Gael nodded. “How about you, Lois?”
“I’m her roommate. She slept most of the night. I haven’t observed unusual things she did besides helping Anna at the kitchen, planting, and picking some vegetables. She also went to visit Dr. Hull. I checked her backpack, and all she had was her vitamins Dr. Hull gave her. I checked under her mattress, but there was nothing. We talked about our lives, and she told me about her brother and that they didn’t find her parents when the virus reached their home town. Her brother died weeks ago. Murdered actually.” Lois’s voice cracked. “You can’t blame someone to open-up just like that. We’re still strangers to her, you know. The scars on her arms, I think it’s not from drugs. I don’t know.”
Her story was the same story she told me. Either it was true or she must have rehearsed it for days. Either way, there was only one way to find out.
“Did she tell you about her necklace?”
“A gift from her mom. Why is it so important, guys? She never took it off even when she used the bathroom.” Lois looked at me as if she was telling me something.
“Okay, thank you for coming. Everyone, dismiss. Colt, stay.”
I nodded absently and took a seat. The meeting was wrapped up, and there was a part of me that didn’t want to say anything since it was obvious, but my emotion was clogging up in my throat that I had to voice it out.
“I couldn’t believe you did not let me involved with this. And what am I still doing here if I don’t have any more help to you?”
He leaned on his chair, studying me. “Don’t be so dramatic. I just don’t want your emotions will cloud your judgment.”
I huffed. “Seriously? Since when I failed something you asked me to do?”
“Never, but I doubt if you would be able to judge fairly at this time?”
“Judge fairly? How so?” My nose flared with tension, and Gael noticed it.
“Let me tell you, Colt. One, you fought back, woman or not, if she was a threat. I knew you could easily handle the situation the first time you two encountered, but you chose to give her back the necklace, instead of twisting her wrist to let the gun fall off, or was I wrong about your self-defense expertise? Second, you asked me if you could take her with you for a supply run, and that never happened with anyone even Lois. Then someone saw you talked to her in the garden.”
“I was just asking her if she wanted something. What’s wrong with that?” My answer came out defensive, and Gael didn’t miss it. I had to avert my gaze to the papers on the table.
“I also noticed how your jaw clenched when someone appreciated her. Should I go on?”
“Still, it’s not fair that you did not tell me about it. You don’t trust me anymore, Gael because I failed to protect my brother, and I was supposed to go instead of Darick.”
“This has nothing to do with your brother, Colt. We were betrayed and ambushed that nobody saw it coming. Have you forgotten that he died protecting me? I should be the one who’s dead not him. You should blame me, and not yourself.”
“He made his choice,” I replied shortly. Every time I remembered what happened, it still gave a sharp pain in my chest.
“I trust you, Colt. Don’t ever question that. And honestly, I would never allow her to go out with others. It’s not that they can’t protect her, but she seems to trust you more than them.”
“I doubt if she trusts me. She’s distant.”
“So as I observed. Don’t worry she’ll come around.”
“I am not worried.”
“And one more thing, the last time you and Templeton had a fight was about your brother’s shirt he wore without your permission, and yesterday, Iris was wearing one of Colton’s. And I heard it clear that she called you Colton, yet I never saw you gone ballistic to correct her.”
Sometimes I wanted to punch him for being so damn right. I didn’t know. All I wanted was to protect her no matter how annoying she was.
“You were the one who suggested to not let her stay, so what changed your mind? And don’t give me shit it’s because she’d grown on Lois.”
“I don’t know,” I said truthfully. “You also don’t seem to care about other people we encountered during the run, so what did you see in her that you want her to stay for as long as she wants? Your words, not mine.”
Gael laughed. “Since when did you run out of opinion?”
“Since you planned on letting them spying on Iris. Why don’t you spy on me, too? You’re good at being tight-lipped nowadays.”
“This is nothing personal, Colt Danger.”
“The fuck it isn’t.”
“I wanted to protect this place. To protect you all. I don’t want to compromise our location, Colt, and you are aware there are dangerous people out there. So, I want you to do your part—”
“By what? By playing the role of James Bond?” I shook my head. “No, thank you. Not gonna happen, Gael. Find someone else who is capable of doing because and I am not good at lying.”
“She seems to like you.”
“You misread it. She hates my gut. We can’t be friends. We will fight every day because she’s damn stubborn and tenacious, and so do I. You’ve seen it yourself.”
“Fine. I’ll let Templeton do your part.”
“Damn it, Gael! What is your agenda exactly?” My gaze delved fiercely at him, but he ignored to acknowledge my point.
“I already told you.”
“No, you did not. You’re up to something, and I wish I could read your mind.”
“You will take the blame if something happens to this place and our group, and you know the price you must pay.”
“If you have proof. I’ll take it.”
FOR THE past few days, we’ve been eating the same mushroom soup, green salad, and a small portion of potato. Surprisingly, none of us complain, except for Cora, but the guys were used to her tantrums, and they ignored her annoying shits.
I was late to come to the kitchen since I had to cool down after my confrontation with Gael. Iris instantly caught my attention. The guys were already sitting on the long table, waiting for their lunch to be served. I knew she was just trying to help, but she missed the memo that her kindness was being abused by these fuckers.
Anna and her husband were scared to scavenge for their own food because they had kids to look after. Gael accepted their reasons since we were not capable of taking care of kids if something terrible would happen to them.
“Get your fucking asses up and get your damn own lunch or you won’t eat at all!” Now, being a server was not a part of Iris’ task. The last time I checked, everyone was capable of feeding themselves, and that pissed me off.
Everyone stilled, including Iris. I eyed her fiercely, and she was about to say something when I raised my hand to stop her.
“They used to feed themselves before you came. Don’t let them get used to it because I haven’t been sitting with them lately.”
“Right we are.” Frost whistled then smiled.
“I honestly don’t mind,” Iris said, shrugging.
“You have a new task, Iris. Now, go get your lunch and eat, and do what I tell you to do.” I walked past her. “And don’t question me. That’s an order.”
Iris frowned. Everyone stood up willingly except for Cora who rolled her eyes and sighed exasperatingly before leaving her chair.
After taking my share, I sat beside Frost like I used to. Cora was beside me and Darick. Lois and Iris were sitting across the table and the empty chair beside her was my brother’s.
We ate silently for several minutes until Frost spoke, “What’s Iris' assignment?”
“She’ll take the night watch with me?”
“Seriously?” Cora reacted, mocking Iris. “Does she even know how to handle a toy gun?”
“She handled just right.” And she threatened my dick. How could I forget that? That was enough to prove that she was capable of protecting what was belong to her.
My propriety idea made my dick harden. I inwardly groaned at that thought. As good as it sounded, but this was not the right time to think about pussies.
“Colt taught me how to shoot, and I’m sure you will learn faster than me.” I expected how Lois would react. Cora treated her like shit and body-shamed her. When she was with Iris, I knew she slowly regained her self-esteem.
“I told you, man. She should come with me to hunt sometime. Iris could be my partner one day, right, Iris?” Frost grinned evilly. Who would have thought a damn billionaire’s son adjusted to this kind of life pretty quick and became our shooter?
“That’s absurd,” Cora said. “Does Gael know about this?”
“Yes. His order,” I answered bluntly.
“What’s absurd if she comes with me.” Darick rolled his eyes at her. He didn’t talk much, but he always had a point when his words came out.
“What?” Darick asked her.
No one was surprised if the two of them didn’t get along. I didn’t ask him what really happened when they went out together for a run, but I had a feeling that what went wrong during that night was planned out.
It was all my fault. I should have been with Cora at that time, but I tried to stay away from her after we slept together, and Darick ended up going out with her and got shot.
I met Iris’ gaze, I took a moment to admire the most fascinating shade of blue I'd ever seen. “Meet me at the armory at twenty hundred.”
Cora took her plate and fled out to the kitchen without finishing her food. Frost snorted like a pig, making Lois laughed.
“Serves her right. Just be careful, Iris. She will do everything to get rid of you.” Lois’s warning made me realize something. Her hand.
“Yes. And she already did.”