What’s the catch
Outside the motel was crowded with even more reporters and news crews as the seconds turned into minutes, and no one seemed willing to give up and leave.
In the dining hall, Elijah, Matt, Peach, Ryan, Miss Grace, James, and Rookie sat around the table, in silence, eating their breakfast, and occasionally stealing glances at each other.
When Peach looked at her mother, she could tell that she was getting increasingly concerned, and she looked over at Elijah, looking away from his eyes when he caught her stare.
“Do you still have Melina’s number?” Peach said after a few moments had passed, her voice low.
Raising his gaze, Elijah fixed his eyes on her, but she refused to meet his stare. Taking a deep breath, Elijah took a long look at her and asked, “Why do you need it?” “To end this nightmare,” Peach muttered, her eyes glued to the table.
Everyone’s gaze was now focused on her as her mother asked, her voice filled with uncertainty, “What are you talking about now?”
Slowly, Peach lifted her head and gave her mother a small smile which faded away once she said softly, “All this is happening because Melina assumes that Elijah… that Elijah and I are together, and I want to talk with her… to clarify-1
“That’s not going to work,” Elijah said bluntly, cutting her off as everyone stared at him.
Frowning slightly, Peach swayed her eyes on the plate, in front of him and asked, “How do you know when we have not given it a try?”
“Just trust me. Talking to her will only feed her ego and make her think that you are some sort of toy for her to play with.” Elijah replied, raising his brows as he eyed her seriously “Okay, I know the possibility of Melina treating me rudely and insulting me is very high, but I can’t just ignore this mess and wish it away “No one is wishing this away, Peach. But I need time to think about what to do with this situation,” Elijah said firmly, giving her a look that clearly said ‘don’t get involved.’
But Peach was persistent, and stubbornly shook her head and continued arguing, “It is not your place to decide this. I want to talk to her…” Hands clenching, Elijah clutched his jaw and then he said, “It’s not my place?”
The others looked at the two nervously, judging from Peach and Elijah’s expressions, it was clear that there was an unresolved issue between them.
“Yes. I don’t want you getting yourself tangled in my family matters and involving yourself in this mess… You have done enough and don’t need to put yourself into the middle of my problems,” Peach replied quietly, her fingers nervously twisting together as she stared at her hands.
As silence fell over them, Elijah glanced at the rest of the group, seeing their worried gazes and he frowned and said, “Okay, but you can get her number from somewhere else, not me.”
Glancing at the others, Peach nodded silently as she slowly stood up and looked down at her
half-fill plate, and mumbled, “Fine, whatever…” Then she left the dining area, leaving behind everyone, staring helplessly at each other, and then at Elijah.
For a while, the room was filled with heavy silence until the sound of Elijah’s ringtone interrupted their uneasy tension, snapping everyone out of their awkward state. Pulling out his phone, Elijah sighed as he stared at the unknown number and then canceled the call. But then, two seconds later, the phone began ringing again. With a frown, Elijah accepted the call and placed the phone against his ear, mumbling, “Who is this?”
“I can not believe you didn’t save my number,” A deep male voice that he recognized, echoed from the phone, causing Elijah’s brows to furrow, surprised that he called. “Bryan Checks,”
“Ahh, you have a good memory. But why are you making me do all the chasing, Elijah?”
Narrowing his eyes slightly at the teasing tone, Elijah replied coldly, “Why did you call?” “I heard you have a little problem with the media these few days.” Bryan commented, smirking as he added, “I think I could help you out, you know.” After hesitating for a second, Elijah decided to humor Bryan a little. “Alright then. What’s the favor?”
“Oh, so you’re playing along?” Snorting, Elijah answered, “Of course, why wouldn’t I when this is to my liking?”
Resting back in his seat, a smirk tugging at his lips as Bryan let out a chuckle and then said,” Well, if that’s the go-ahead, then one call from me can get your driveway clear of those reporters.” “Okay, what’s the catch to this deal?” Elijah demanded, a serious look on his face as he leaned forward a bit.
Everything has a price, and Elijah wasn’t stupid enough to think that Bryan would just offer him his assistance freely and without conditions.
Sensing Elijah’s uneasiness in his tone, Bryan let out another laugh as he stated, “Join me for a drink tonight. That’s all.”
Those words made Elijah raise his brows in confusion since he hadn’t expected Bryan to suggest such a thing. He thought that Bryan would demand something in return, not simply invite him to hang out with him. “Hmm, a drink?” Elijah asked, trying to figure out whether or not he should accept Bryan’s offer.
“Yeah, just a drink… How does eight o’clock sound?” Bryan asked, chuckling faintly. Uncertain, Elijah hesitated before saying, “Sure, I’ll see you.” “Goodbye, Elijah.” “Hmm,”
Hanging up the call, Elijah stared at the phone in his hand for a while, wondering what exactly Bryan wanted out of that invitation. But even though he didn’t know what Bryan wanted from him, he had no choice but to comply and agree to the request because… even though he would never admit it with his mouth, Peach’s little outburst did a number on him, and he couldn’t deny that he cared about her well
“Matt, follow me,” Elijah said as he stood up from the chair, ignoring the other’s gazes while he walked off.
Not wasting a second, Matt jumped from his chair and rushed out of the dining room following Elijah into the hallway. When they got to his bedroom, Elijah looked back at Matt with worry written all over his face, and then he told Matt, “I need your protection for tonight.”
Those words sent Matt straight up in a panic before he quickly stood straight, brought his hands to his side, raised his chin, and uttered seriously, “May I ask why, boss?”
“Bryan invited me for a drink by Eight,” Elijah said, looking at Matt with a dull expression as Matt nodded, understanding his intentions “Where?”
“Yes, where is the meet-up happening?”
Immediately, Elijah’s face went blank when he realized that Bryan didn’t mention where exactly he was planning on meeting him, and he replied, “I don’t know.”
The sound of her room door opening drew Peach from her thoughts as she looked up to find her standing in the doorway watching her. After shutting the door behind her, Miss Grace walked over to where Peach was sitting, on a stool, in front of the dresser mirror.
“Why are you hiding in here?” Miss Grace questioned calmly, glancing at her daughter with concern etched in her features.
Looking down, Peach hesitated, feeling nervous for reasons that she couldn’t quite pinpoint. She didn’t like lying to her mother, especially not when she was upset about something, so she mumbled, “Does my eyes look deceptive or manipulative?” A look of confusion and slight surprise washed across Miss Grace’s features and she stared at her daughter for a while before mumbling with a hesitant tone, “Huh? What are you saying, Peach?”
“I too am confused. I don’t know what he means by that. But it still feels weird and uncomfortable to talk about it. I want to know what exactly he wants from me.” Peach whispered, avoiding eye contact with Miss Grace. “One minute he’s nice, and the next, he’s angry and I don’t understand why and how he changed so often.” “Give Elijah time, Peach. We don’t know his story or what he went through… You shouldn’t rush into things either, you’ll get hurt if you do,” Miss Grace responded, putting her arm around her shoulder.
“Just be yourself Peach, and trust me, I’m sure things will work out. As long as you stay calm and stay patient, everything will be alright. Just give him time, and remember, he is not a bad person, he just needs more time and space,”
Looking at her daughter’s moist eyes, Miss Grace gave her a gentle smile and softly kissed her forehead as she hugged her tightly.
Peach smiled as she rested her cheek on her mom’s chest, closing her eyes as she took in a shaky breath. And in a small voice, she whispered, “Thanks Mom, I love you.”
The lobby had an awkward tension as Rookie, Elijah, and Ryan sat on the couch facing each other, the only sounds audible among them were their breath.
“What do you think the boss wants to talk to Matt about?” Rookie broke the silence after several minutes.
“He called, Bryan Check’s name… He’s a dude we met when we went to the bank.” Ryan responded, a faint frown appearing on his face.
“Their conversation sounded like they were making some kind of deal…” “Yeah, and the boss didn’t look happy about it.”
The conversation made James frown slightly, having a sense of unease creep upon him as he tried to push it away, and then blurted out, ‘What do we know about this man?”
The sudden sound of cars’ engines echoing from outside the motel interrupted the conversation, making everyone turn towards the doorway.
“What’s going on out there?” Ryan questioned as he stood up, looking curiously at the others.