Confession

Confession

Alex stammered, “What? How is this my fault?” he tried to shove me but I didn’t move.

I sighed. I didn’t like Alex mad at me and I didn’t know any other way to explain. “I didn’t say it was your fault. I said you are the reason I can’t remember.” I grabbed Alex’s hand and I dragged him over so I could relax into the wall and get lost in my dreams again without falling over.

I took Alex through a specific memory. We were playing like every other time we’d done in every other dream. I was building towers that spelled the word monster no matter the order I placed the blocks, but the whispers had died down. I truly hated myself in my subconscious. But I was happy with the little blue-eyed boy sitting next to me building towers and then we’d smash them together.

“Alex, I’ll see you tomorrow. I got to get to class,” I said calmly. My voice drifting into the dream. And we parted ways. And the dream drifted away into the darkness into the very next sequence. I knew Alex then. Knew his name. He was my Mushu, my best friend. He was the reason I made it through Garrett’s teachings. But then something happened…

I was standing in the darkness. Hands and feet spread and pressed against an invisible wall. My demon was beating me with tentacles of fire and air, earth and water, and tears slid down my cheeks but I never sparked. I controlled my fear. I controlled my hatred of the man. I didn’t spark.

But there was a boy in the dream and the demon turned towards him. Took hold of my Alex. And even though I couldn’t see I knew from the screams that Garret was holding him tight with bonds of air. And then he screamed and the pain ripped through me. I knew that pain. One lash. I was frozen in fear.

I heard the meat flayed from Alex’s back as a second strike hit. I was angry. I turned and I grabbed the fire inside. I saw it. I always saw it. I knew what to do with it. I grabbed it, I willed it into a fiery ball and as the third strike landed I threw the ball of fire at the Demon.

He laughed as he winked out and the fireball splattered across the far wall of darkness. I rushed over to Alex and he was bleeding and I wrapped my arms around him and I cried into his shoulder. He couldn’t come here anymore, if Garrett knew what he was. He’d find him. Hurt him just to hurt me. I couldn’t do that. “You can’t come back. He’ll kill you Alex. He knows what you are. You know what he is. He’ll find you and you’ll die because of me,” I whispered.

I was so afraid. I hurt so bad for Alex. He wrapped his arms around me and held me close. He was older than me. I knew that much. He acted older and was there when I needed him. Always there when I did… He was the reason I lived. There were other memories, ones where he’d saved my life just before the demon snatched me away again. But he always gave me the will to fight on. Without Alex I wouldn’t be here.

Alex spoke confidently to me, “I’ll make you forget me. I’ll make him forget me. No one will know. I’ve done it before. Kish will help me. Please don’t make me stay away.”

If I didn’t know, Garrett couldn’t use me to find him. And Alex would be safe, so I had nodded then. And my world was forever changed. I’d forgotten my best friend when I woke. I’d forget him every night and I’d bury the memories in the deep dark recesses of my mind someplace Garrett would never find him, but where I’d never forget him. He was my everything and he’d just ripped my heart out.

We were standing in an alley holding hands. Alex was staring at me and I was trying not to cry but I could feel the tears staining my cheeks. Alex wasn’t angry anymore but his voice was rough with emotion, “What the fuck just happened?”

“Margo showed me how to regress into my memories. Well I figured it out while she talked me through it. It was easy once I figured it out.”

Alex took a step back, “What the fuck was that, Nox?” he asked.

I looked at the ground, “My nightmare. The same dream I have every night. I’ve had had every night since I was six years old.”

“What was that thing?”

“That was my teacher. He taught me how to control the elements through pain and violence and obedience.”

“So he was beating the control into you.” Alex growled like he was going to do something about it right then and there.

I shrugged. “Yes. He is the reason I am the way I am.”

“Why you are submissive you mean?”

I didn’t really know. I shrugged again, “No. I was that way before. He took advantage of it. I want to please people, if you hadn’t noticed. He’s why everything is about control. I control my mind, my body, my soul and it’s very tiring,” I said softly. “It doesn’t matter anyway. I just wanted you to know I was working on remembering, and had seen our first kiss, our first time. I saw all the faces, the fun, the bad times. I’m still finding memories. You’re the reason I survived.” I shook my head and moved away from the wall and started to walk away.

But I stopped and turned around, I looked at those ice blue eyes one last time. He was so impossibly close yet I didn’t remember him moving. “Since you can’t say it to my face, I’ll say it to yours. It’s over.” Tears slid down my cheek, and my voice cracked as I continued, “I’m done.” I felt my heart shattering, my breath quickened as the panic started to set in. “There will never be an us. I’ll lose your number. You won’t hear from me again. Good-bye. Al…” As I started to say his name he grabbed my shirt and pulled me against him and kissed me hard and fast.

Shattered Glass

Shattered Glass

And I wandered around the city for some time before I found myself staring up at the the Bellagio hotel again. This was the reason I was here. And now I had a job to do for Ms. Snow. Two actually. I had no place to stay. I probably couldn’t afford anything around here. And I’d deal with that later. I could find a shelter somewhere to catch z’s even if it was out in the desert by the side of the road. It wouldn’t be the first time.

But I didn’t go looking for anything. I sat down in front of the fountain and stared at the water thinking. Alex, and vampires and putting together a curriculum. I didn’t know where to start. I needed to go for a run. I needed to change clothes. I could find Ant. I could call him even, but I wanted to do this on my own. I wanted to win Alex back on my own. He was already jealous of Ant. And I didn’t need to make that worse.

So many memories of my past were haunting me. And all I really wanted was Alex. I needed to destress.

I looked up and I swear I saw Alex – all blond and staring at me like he recognized me. He turned and looked behind him and I smirked as I stood up and headed towards him. Alex stood there and then he came at me quickly. Faster than I expected he pushed me into an alley way. Glass shattered where we’d been standing as we went deeper into the alley.

“Why the fuck are you here?” Alex screamed at me.

He was angry and I could only stare at him. I tried to speak but I couldn’t, the words stuck on my tongue and I went ridge as I felt his body against my. Alex looked at me again and spoke in a much calmer tone “What are you doing here Nox?”.

He was mad at me and I was starting to regret coming at all. I dropped my eyes and looked at his shoes. How much more different he was when he was someone else. Was he even Alex Kennedy? I growled at him, “I came here to see if you were alright. You weren’t answering my texts.” He was annoyed at me so I wasn’t going to let my annoyance show too.

“I broke up with you, what the fuck don’t you get about that,” Alex snapped at me.

My eyes shot up to meet his eyes. The rejection stung. I didn’t know when he broke up with me? I didn’t… I thought about all the missed messages? And the one he said was ‘see you around pretty boy’. That was a break up. “Oh!” There was nothing left to say. He didn’t want me so I walked away. I felt the hatred of myself growing.

“So that’s it. You came all this way, for what to say Oh?” Alex shouted.

I stopped before I got to the entrance of the alley way and spoke softly, “I thought you wanted more. That the whole point of you telling me you couldn’t do it anymore, couldn’t lie to me anymore was because you had feelings. I was wrong. My bad.” I didn’t wait for a response I didn’t want to hear anymore.

I heard Alex move long before he grabbed my elbow and yanked me back around. There was a soft thunk of metal near the dumpster we had just vacated. It was slightly concerning but I was more concerned about the liberties my fucking ex-boyfriend was taking and I jerked out of his grip. “Get off me.” I moved away from him. He had no right, he didn’t want me and the crushing rejection flooded my system but I yelled at him, “I came all this way to make sure you weren’t dead in some ditch somewhere.” I waved my hands at him, he was standing alive and well in front of me as I continued, “But here the fuck you are alive and well. Moved on. Blonde and who else knows what the fuck. Going by James or Jimmy or whoever the fuck. I had other things to say. But you broke up with me. You don’t care. You fucking run away whenever shit gets hard.”

“You fucking disappeared!” Alex yelled back.

Disappeared? What? I had been texting him and trying to get him to talk for weeks. I disappeared? I tried to decipher what he meant. In all the times we spent together I couldn’t find any single instance where it made sense. He’s the one who disappeared on me.

I even ran through all the lost dreams I’d found, looking for it. I disappeared in those, but I was pretty sure he didn’t mean those times. I didn’t want to dwell, I shook my head trying to get Alex out. I knew he was reading me – he was always reading me. “Get out of my head,” I said quietly. I wasn’t angry – at least not at him. I’d fucked up yet again and he grew tired of it. I should just leave.

“How?” He asked.

“How what?” I was confused still

“How did you remember?” Alex stared at me dumbfound.

“It wasn’t hard once I knew I was missing things.” I sighed. “You’re the reason I can’t remember any of it.”

The surprise in Alex’s voice radiated through my body, “What?”

Matthew Davenport

The goons were slipping around the corner chasing the false lead while I went into the room where I’d actually seen the patternless boy. My curiosity got the better of me. Which reminded me I need to make sure the twins fed Ophelia.

I slipped past the door into what looked like a small reception area, a boy sat on the white couch dressed in all black, his hair was a mess. He was a stark contrast compared to the white sterile room he sat in. His legs were crossed in front of him and he was pretending like he never moved. I knew better. I asked, “You alone?”

He looked up at me trying to look innocent. “Yes, sir.”

I smirked. “It’s Nox.”

“I know who you are. You are an example of what they say we shouldn’t be in school.”

“If you are supposed to be in the academy what are you doing here?” I asked.

“I … uh… ran away.”

“You ran away?” I asked with a smirk. That was ballsy. “So are you in here because you are in trouble or are you hiding?”

“Both. Ms. Snow told me to stay in here until my parents came. Which they won’t care either way. But they told me because this was my third strike that they were going to make me tacet. I can’t even fucking touch the elements.”

“But you can see them, can’t you?”

“Yeah, they think because I can see them that I can touch them. But they just slip through my fingers.”

I wove four strands of elements in front of me. “Show me, what you can do.” I knelt down in front of him holding the four strands.

He waved his hand through each element and they winked out of my web like they were never there. “My mom used to take me to work with her when I was younger so I’d cancel out all the voices in her head. She’s in the infirmary now because she can’t handle it. They call her crazy.”

“You’re a null,” I said with a smile. I offered him a hand, “What’s your name?”

“Matthew.”

“Matthew?”

He sighed, “Davenport.”

“It’s nice to meet you.” He took my hand slowly and I tried to weave a fireball but my power didn’t work. “Does it only work on contact?”

He shook his head. “I don’t know.”

“That’s the test of your skill. You know right?”

“How do you know this?”

I shrugged. “Come back to the Academy with me. I’ll make sure you get the right education even if I have to teach you myself.”

“How can you teach me?”

I laughed. “I have a theory. I believe all Magnus can touch all elements most just need to work harder. And then there are some who absorb all of the magic. Just like I do whatever it is I do with magic.”

“Why would you think that?” he asked.

“Why can I wield all four elements at the same time? Why can’t someone theoretically repel all elements at the same time?” I grinned at him.

“If you let me, Dorian will help us fix whatever it is that’s wrong with your record and we’ll get you that training you need.”

Matthew shook his head, “Ms. Snow won’t let that happen. She told me if she caught me home again that she’d make me tacet herself.”

I grinned at him. “Let me handle Ms. Snow.”

The door opened and the blonde leader of Vegas Venatori walked in followed by the goons I’d sent off on a wild goose chase.

“Handle me, Mr. Sétanta? Hardly.”

“Well, see. I promised him I’d get him training. I guarantee you if people stop telling him to touch the elements he’ll stay in school, finish his lesson and be a productive member of our society. All you people think you know what’s best for us that are different.”

Scarlet sneered at me. “You are hardly older than he is.”

“Maybe so. But he’s more like me than you. Or than anyone else in the Venatori or at The Academy.”

“And you know better than those who’ve been doing this for more years than you’ve lived?” she asked rather pointedly as she took Matthew by the scruff of his neck and stood him up. “Come Mr. Davenport.”

“If I can give you a curriculum for him for his magical ability only, will you let him come with me?” I pleaded. The boy looked scared. “Let him come with me so I can access his ability. I’ll have a lesson plan for the next two years. He’s sixteen right? He’ll stay in school. Make his parents proud.”

Scarlet sneered. “Doubtful on the latter, but no. He will not go with you until I see a plan. I am his legal guardian as you were Dorian Vega’s.”

I sighed reluctanly. “Fine. But I’m also going to make sure he gets out of your hands too.”

“Doubtful again, Mr. Sétanta.”

I shrugged. “We’ll see. I already have one coming to me. What’s a sixteen year old boy who I can teach compared to a three year old.”

“Don’t you have things to do?” she asked as she lead Matthew away from the couch and do the door.

I nodded. “I have a lot of things to do. I’ll see myself out.”

The Mission

Scarlet looked at me and frowned, “You really don’t want to play.” She stood up and rolled her eyes. “I really had hoped you might be amenable to my charms and my offer.”

“I don’t have a problem working for you Ms Snow,” I replied quickly.

She shook her head and pouted, “Not that offer child. Another more personal.”

It was my turn to roll my eyes. “I’ve already done the trying to father children and I’m not interested.”

“Obviously, only here for him.” She sneered and almost spat out the words. “Take him with you when you leave. We really don’t want him here.”

“What do you mean?” I asked.

“If he stays here too long I won’t care who he is, Mr. Sétanta.”

“And who is he?” I asked.

“You are friends with Del Figlio, ask him who your boy is. It is only out of courtesy he’s not dead yet.”

“Just tell me, Scarlet.”

“How easily you jump from formal to informal.” She smirked at me.

“Just like the vampires have a name for you, they have a name for him. And anyone who’s ever tried to kill him have only gotten themselves dead. So we stopped sending men after him.”

I was confused. “How do you know the vampires have a name for me?”

“You think you are the only one with connections? Vegas doesn’t run like the rest of the world boy. Much like New York doesn’t run like the rest of the world or Vegas. A certain cooperation is needed so we all prosper.”

I didn’t like the sound of this. “What do you need me to do?”

She smiled. “Always business with you child. Fine. I can’t move against the vampires myself, but you can, you aren’t mine to call. Abraham has a new friend in town, he’s threatening everything we’ve built here on top of the human world. We need to stop him.”

“You want me to get involved in vampire business because you can’t make money if things change.”

“If you say it that way it sounds so selfish.” She pouted. “But in a nutshell that sums it up. And for that I’ll let your boy do whatever he wants in my city.”

I wanted to say he wasn’t mine, but I didn’t want her to kill Alex either. She knew partially at least, what he was. But the fact that the vampires protected Alex scared me even more. What was Alex? I mean I knew he was a telepath and a dreamwalker. The dreamwalker alone could get him killed on sight.

I sighed as I nodded. “So you what want me to kill Abraham?”

She shook her head. “No just make it impossible for him to interrupt my plans. I don’t care if you hand him over to Il Cane and her ilk. Her son is here anyway which is unusual enough, but to have the three of you in my city at the same time. You all need to get the fuck out as soon as possible.”

“The three of us?” It was like we were some triumvirate of power. Alex and Ant didn’t even know each other at all. Alex was jealous of Ant’s relationship with me. And Ant didn’t like Alex. Why the fuck was she worried about us.

“All that power and you are ignorant of it. Even the heads of your stupid city are ignorant, young one. Ignore it. Protect your boy toy, keep Del Filgio from being a thorn in my side, and keep Abraham from getting whatever it is he wants with the New World Order. It will not stand in Vegas.” Scarlet didn’t waste any more time. “You have seventy-two hours to figure it all out. Before I get bored and end the three of you.” And then she walked further into her apartment.

The men who had saw me in were standing next to me waiting. I guess it was time to go.

I stood up and followed them to the door. I didn’t know what the fuck had happened, but I agreed to stop the Prince of Las Vegas’ plans. Whatever the fuck that was.

We were nearing the elevator when I saw a head peak out of the door. There was a distinct lack of pattern around the head before it snapped back inside. The men didn’t notice. “You have peeping toms?” I asked.

The looked at me and frowned. I pointed in the opposite direction. I just saw a camera around that corner. The men looked at me and pressed the button to go down shoved me inside and then went off in the direction I’d pointed. I pressed the hold button then stepped out after they’d gone. No fucking way I was taking that thing anyway, but that kid who I’d seen before was Venatori and the lack of pattern meant null. I had to see what was going on for a kid to be sneaking around Scarlet Snow’s headquarters.

Venatori Problems

I was out the door before I regretted doing that. I stopped and was about to turn around when a pair of crossed swords blocked my view. I smirked and sighed, “I’ll be up there in a bit. I haven’t been here long.”

The man on the right was large. He could probably break me in half without blinking an eye. “You need to come with us, Mr. Sétanta, Ms. Snow is looking forward to meeting the infamous Mr. Sétanta.”

I sighed. “Fine.” I didn’t fight them, there was no point. I was on their territory without permission. I thought Dorian had cleared the path but I guess I was wrong. I followed tweedle-dee and tweedle-dumb through the streets of Vegas. At least they had wait until I was alone to abduct me. That was nice of them. I had heard of Scarlet Snow, she ran Vegas like Dae’lin and Gary did New York City. There were many locations like that around the world. Technically Michaela fell under Scarlet’s regime, even though the HQ was officially in Boulder where Michaela was stationed, but Scarlet Snow was too big too powerful to stay in the middle of east bumblefuck and rule the Venatori with her iron fist.

I had never expected to meet her though. I guess I was gonna get that wish regardless of whether or not I wanted it. She was a scary sob if the rumors were true. We walked into one of the fancy casinos and headed off to the side to the executive elevators. The high rollers and such and we went all the way to the top floor. Ms. Snow was rich and famous and she paraded the exotic on stage of her hotel and casino. She didn’t have real magic or dragons in use that would be a gross breach of The Clandestine Providence but she skirted the edge of reality with her shows. There was a lot of things that could go wrong here, and there were people who specifically watched those who were outliers.

And I was one of those outliers and I was watched just as closely though for completely different reasons – obviously.

We approached the elevator and I stopped and the guy following me ran into me. “Uh, can we take the stairs.” I looked at the hotel elevator that was just as bad as the one in the AU building with its plate glass walls.

The guy behind me shoved me towards the elevator. “Let’s get going. You don’t want to keep Ms. Slow waiting.”

“I bet I can beat you up to the stairs.” I challenged him.

He shoved me again and I sighed. “Fine.” I growled.

I stepped inside the plate glass death trap and pressed myself up against the back of the elevator and closed my eyes as I tried to calm my breathing. I hated elevators. I wished Alex was here. And then I remembered seeing him and then his friend, Benji. Benji said they were just friends but I was starting to doubt it. Alex looked like he was enjoying his company and they were having dinner together.

The elevator stopped and I rushed out before the goons. I sighed as I waited for them to come out of the elevator. They glared at me like I was some sort of aberration. And I guess I was. I was a weirdo here and I was okay with that. The stepped in front of me again and I followed them into a lavious room that was more home than it was office. Some Venatori were pretentious.

Scarlet was sitting on a plush red couch lined with gold filigree and drinking a dark red wine probably from a crystal fluted glass more expensive than my entire dinnerware set. She was wearing a black dress in four inch stiletto heels in patent leather. Dorian would know the brand I’m sure. Her blond hair was short and gelled back, her lips were painted red and her lashes were long and thick and completely fake.

Her legs were up on the couch like she was an enticing treat. I smirked as I was lead to a seat and motioned by her men to sit. “Mr. Sétanta, a pleasure.”

“Scarlet Snow.” I said as I sat down. “I don’t know if it’s a pleasure or not. Though I like your place.” I said looking around. I made sure to meet her eyes and ignore the rest of it. She was a beautiful woman if a bit older than my typical fuck. But I wasn’t here looking for that. I was called in for whatever purpose they thought was important enough to distract me from my adventures. “I though Dorian Vega or Dae’lin Rivera cleared my passage before I landed.”

She gave me a flowery smile that spread her lips thin against her teeth. “Ms. Rivera did, but I still wanted to see the boy who is friends with the monsters.”

I grinned and bowed with a great flourish from my seat, “And here I am in all my glory.”

She stood up and looked at me like I was prey. “And look at that glory.” She sashayed her way towards me, her hips moving as she walked but I let my eyes stay with hers instead of looking at the way she moved. “Most men would leer.”

I looked up at her, “Most men aren’t attracted to men.”

“I heard that about you.” She said sitting down on the edge of my chair and ran her fingers up my arm. I smirked, “I’m here to see about a boy, that’s all.”

“So I was told, but I have use of you.” Her fingers trailed up my arm still and I had to think about other things. She knew exactly what she was doing to entice a man. And I was no different.

I looked into her dark green eyes, “I’m expendable.”

She shook her head then smiled, “Well, yes, but there’s more to it than that. Abraham Morgan.”

“The Prince of Vegas.” I said with confidence. “You want me to go up against a prince?”

She smiled. “You have one Prince already in your pocket, two heads of packs, you are friends with the money makers for the CCB.”

“I wouldn’t call Desmond and Marshall friends.” I interrupted.

“But you call them by their first name.” She laughed with such seduction I was almost convinced she wanted me.

I shrugged and kept my eyes on her. “I get around what can I say.”

She smirked, “I want you to get around for me, Nox.” Her hand trailed up to my cheek and along my jawline. I wanted to jerk away but this was a woman would could break me in a heart beat and I preferred to survive long enough to at least kiss Alex one more time.

“What do you want me to do?” I asked.

Benji

When we were outside and several blocks away from the strip Benji opened a door to a building in the side of some diner. It smelled like the kitchen was nearby cooking some kind of Asian food. “Korean” He said without me having to ask.

“You know that’s as weird as when he does that I said.

Benji shook his head. “Sorry. I forget that you weren’t asking out loud.”

I shrugged, “I’m used to it.”

Benji lead me down a narrow hallway into a smaller room with a rod-iron bed frame and a plain blue mattress with a desk and a chair the only other furniture. He offered me the bed and pulled around the chair to face it. “This is a safe place to speak. Vampires don’t come into this part of town.”

“Vampires? You know about vampires?” I asked in shock that he would one know but more importantly he’d say it so casually.

He gave me a slow cautious nod before he added “Only recently. Well I never gave it much thought before, but yeah. We know vamps can do what we do. It’s why we stay away from them. But Alex is working a job around vamps and they can’t know his name, or that he’s friends with me. So no Alex anything. You don’t know me either.”

“Another reason I should just go.” I said but I didn’t get up. Vampires, friends I had never heard about, why I wasn’t supposed to know these things – all valid reasons to stay I told myself.

Benji chuckled. “Alex and I met after his mother died. We were working the same crowd and ran into each other in the stupidest ways – telepathically listening to each other and holding a conversation we didn’t mean to have from across the room.”

“Alex doesn’t do anything by accident.” I said.

“That’s true, but I like I said, we met each other by accident. Working the same crowd in my game and we decided to team up.”

“And you’ve never slept with him?” I asked.

Benji smirked, “He’d probably have liked that if I liked boys.”

I licked my lips and tried not to say anything. “I can read your thoughts you might as well say it.”

I shrugged, “Why do I have to say it if you can read my thoughts.” And I let my thoughts wander to all the best parts of Alex and how he might fit with Benji. It wasn’t exactly a fantasy I’d entertain more than once, but it had the desired affect on Benji. He was red even through that dark olive skin of his. I smiled.

“You two are perfect for each other.”

“Tell him that,” I growled.

“I have, actually. He refuses to read your texts. I will admit that is one damn cute kid you got there.”

“Not mine yet, but soon,” I said.

“And the little girl?”

I looked at him a little confused. Benji nodded, “Your friend posted a picture on Instagram with you and her daughter.”

“That would be Mia. And my sweetheart Naya.”

“She’s cute too.” Benji said.

I nodded, “She is. Best thing that happened to Mia was being a mother.”

“Alex is not himself right now. He’s going crazy over you and he’s trying to forget you.”

“All the more reason for me to leave, Benji.” This time I did stand up.

“Nox, come on. You flew all this way out here. You don’t even want to tell him off yourself. Don’t be a dick like Alex. You’re here. If it’s over at least end it right.” He smirked, “But I think if the two of you get in the same room you’ll work it out.”

“All we do is fight.”

Benji laughed, “That’s all Alex ever does; fight – or run away. Looks like he’s doing both now at the same time now.” He looked at me and frowned. “Why did you come here?”

“I was worried about him. He wasn’t replying to anything. He wasn’t at his apartment – either of them. He wasn’t even telling me to leave him the fuck alone so I was being oblivious to the fact that he wasn’t answering, and I was busy so I didn’t have time to notice.”

“We have dinner tonight. Me and him in his room. Let me take you there, you can shower, change and then you and he can sit down and talk.”

“I have nothing to change into, this is what I have,” I said. “I’m going to catch the next flight out. He obviously doesn’t want me.”

“No.” Benji stood up and got in my face. “You will not go anywhere. I can make you stay.”

I sighed, “That’s exactly how this fight started, Alex nudging me into doing something that I knew I shouldn’t do to keep my sanity.” I stepped away from him. “You touch me and you’ll find yourself on the floor in a heartbeat.”

Benji sighed as he backed away. “Alright. I won’t do that. But talk to him.”

“I’ll think about it,” I said. “What time is dinner?”

“We are doing it at 6 local time. That’s in three hours.”

I nodded. “Alright. Plan your usual. I’ll decide if I want to be there.” I didn’t wait for a confirmation. I just left Benji the same way I came in.