One Gang and a Bronze Battle

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Chapter 33, What a Pair


[BY AMBER MARIGOLD JILTEN]


I wake up in warmth. Though the morning sunlight doesn’t reach this side of the treehouse, I’m drenched in unbelievable light when my eyes flutter open. I take a deep breath - smelling the musky spruce forest outside as well as something else.

“Coffee?” I ask when I try to perch myself up on the large maroon bed.

Sure enough, Xavier comes walking into the room with two cups of steaming coffee. “Goodmorning my beautiful wife,” he greets. It’s impossible for me to ignore the fact that he’s only wearing boxers. Scars and hard-earned muscles adorn his body. Though I can’t really judge since all I’m wearing is his maroon shirt from last night. I really should find my underwear soon.

Shivers run down my body all the way to my toes. I can’t help but instantly smile. “Goodmorning, my handsome husband,” I greet in return.

Xavier hands me my coffee before he sits down on the bed with me. “How did you sleep?” he asks.

I nearly spit out the sip of coffee I take. “Sleep?” I ask surprised, “Did I have a chance to sleep?” Xavier laughs, but I’m still a bit in shock. “How many times last night did, y’know,” I take a shy pause, “we do it because I think I slept half an hour at most! I can barely feel my legs, Xav!” I exclaim.

Xavier continues to chuckle. No remorse found whatsoever. “You’ll be fine, Marigold,” he says. “It was only five times. I went easy since it was your first time.”

“Easy?” I ask astounded, “If that was taking it easy, I don’t even know what normal is.”

“You’ll find out eventually,” Xavier says as he peers at me with those emerald eyes. He takes a sip of his coffee, keeping eye contact, and something about the simple gesture really turns me on. Dammit! One taste of the forbidden fruit and I think I’m addicted.

“Soooo, what’s on the agenda for today?” I ask to change the topic. I take a big gulp of coffee as I watch my husband push back his bed hair - finally breaking eye contact.

“Well, we’re leaving for the International Gathering tomorrow. I would’ve loved to stay longer here, but this event isn’t exactly something we can miss. So, I was thinking we spend some time today down by the beach. There are a few gorgeous pools over there we can soak in. After that, we can get back and relax further in the hot tub. Unwind a little before the chaos that’ll undoubtedly befall us at the International Gathering,” Xavier says, “If there is anything specific you wanted to do, please say so.”

“Oh, no, I’m fine with what you have planned. Would just like to take a shower now. I smell like mortal sin,” I explain with a chuckle.

Xavier sends me an alluring look as he smirks. “We could shower together,” he suggests.

I calmy finish the cup of coffee before I set it down on the bedside table. “Sure,” I answer and get up before Xavier can see the state my face is in. I don’t think I’ve ever blushed this hard in my life. I can barely keep my eyes open from the heat on my cheeks.

To my dismay, however, I barely manage two steps towards the bathroom before I feel myself being whisked off of my feet. “Hey! What-” I say in surprise as Xavier scoops me into his arms. He presses my chest against his, forcing me to wrap my legs around his waist for safety. I feel a breeze trail over my exposed legs and can only be thankful that Xavier’s shirt is big enough on me to cover up my naked butt.

“You said you could barely feel your legs, so I’m merely helping my poor frail wife to the shower,” Xavier explains not so innocently. Frail, my ass!

“I could take you down right now if I wanted to,” I threaten.

Xavier smirks down at me with a lock of tussled auburn hair dangling out of place. “Yes, but you wouldn’t want to do that. I think that after last night you’ve learned that your actions will have consequences from now on, Marigold.”

More shivers run up and down my body and I can’t do anything but bury my face in his shoulder in a pathetic attempt to hide my reddened state. Will it always be like this? Will I always be putty in Xavier’s hands or will there be a day when I can finally get used to him? I don’t know how long I’ll last if my heart keeps fluttering like this every day. I mean, it can’t be good for my health.

Xavier carries me over to the ensuite bathroom with no resistance on my part. I keep my head buried in his shoulder, listening to the opening and closing of the door, feeling myself sway as Xavier walks over to the large shower I saw yesterday. I peek with one eye over Xavier’s shoulder - seeing my own embarrassing reflection in the polished dark granite walls. I barely have time to marvel at Xavier’s back muscles in the reflection before I feel coldness press against my back. I involuntarily perch up in Xavier’s arms, noticing how he’s pressing me against the shower wall. Before I have time to question the mischievous glint in his eyes, my cruel husband turns on the water - having icy needles rain down on me.

“Xavier!” I shriek as cold shower water quickly runs down me, trailing icy paths all over. In seconds the shirt gets soaked - clinging to every curve and dip of my body. I blink and rub my eyes to get rid of the water in my vision, only to see my husband smiling down at me with water running down that body of his.

“Nothing like cold water to wake you up in the morning,” Xavier grins. His auburn hair turns almost black and curls against his skin. I watch mesmerized as drops of water drip from his eyelashes.

“I’m more of a hot water kinda gal,” I say before reaching to kiss my husband. Despite the cold, no maybe because of the cold, I lean into the warmth of Xavier’s lips. Wishing for my body to warm the way my lips do.

When I pull back, Xavier has the same look in his eyes as last night. “Such a temptress,” he smiles, “Let’s see how you handle the heat,” he whispers before turning up the hot water and coming down for another kiss.

I wrap my arm around his neck just as the water turns warmer, my fingers running through his wet hair. I can’t seem to get enough, to feel enough of him. And somehow I feel as though Xavier is thinking the same thing. With the way his hands start running underneath my soaking shirt, I can’t help but believe this is the touch of a starved man.

A small yelp leaves my lips when I feel Xavier rip the shirt open - buttons bursting and cloth tearing. I lower my arms as Xavier helps me out of the undoubtedly expensive designer shirt.

The water only gets hotter, steam building up to the point where I’m gasping for a breath. With no other option, I cling to Xavier as though he’s the breath I’m desperately in need of. I feel his hands explore all over my body - all the while keeping me pressed against the wall. Remembering last night, I reach for Xavier’s soaking boxers, but before I hit my mark, his much larger hand grabs hold of both my hands and pins it above my head. So unfair! He’s trying the same shit as last night, this sneaky fucker!

I try resisting, wriggling under his grip, but Xavier keeps me in place. I feel him push me harder against the granite wall - to the point where I can feel my back strain in a way that’s making me tingle all over. Xavier pulls away from the kiss - revealing an out-of-breath expression that makes my throat go dry. Using his free hand, Xavier trails his fingers up my body all the way to my mouth. With two fingers he parts my lips and instinctively, I slowly suck on his fingers. Xavier’s head lowers again, this time tracing kisses across my collar bone.

Dizzy from the scorching heat and taste of Xavier, I lose any sense of reason. I allow myself to be putty in his hands and fold and bend just as he likes for the rest of the shower

We finally manage to walk down to the beach. Just as Xavier promised, crystal clear pools of water are scattered across this side of the island. The spruce trees dangling at the edge of the island creates small shadows mixing with the light reflecting across the water. It’s midday so having a bit of shade while swimming can’t be anything but good.

Though I love my bikini, a little red number that took me an hour to figure out, I don’t want to get a tan in it. I wish Nessa allowed me to bring simpler swimwear.

“Come along,” Xavier urges as he tugs me by my hand towards one of the pools of water. We make our way across the rocky shore to a glittering pool filled with small signs of sea life. I just hope an octopus doesn’t creepy-crawly its way over to me.

Once Xavier goes to sit in the pool, the water only reaching his chest, I know it’s safe for me as well. My husband pulls me over and I go to sit in between his legs - the water reaching my shoulders. I’m not even short but Xavier makes me feel tiny in comparison.

“I always loved coming here when I first became the North’s leader. I’d just sit here and listen to the waves rolling back and forth,” Xavier comments. I feel his breath on the back of my neck, a pleasant contrast to the cool water I’m in.

I lean back against Xavier and have my feet tangle with his. Just a moment ago we were getting all hot and steamy in the shower and now we’re just... on pause. It feels nice being able to have both fiery passion and quiet calmness.

“I could fall asleep here,” I sigh, “I wish this would never end.”

“Me too.”

“I wish the world outside of this island wasn’t a shithole right now.”

Things go a little quieter, the waves and cool breeze the only sound to be heard. Every now and then a seagull would call out or some forest bird would answer.

How many times did Xavier come here alone? Am I really the first to share this view with him? Hasn’t he ever...

“Xavy.”

“Yes?”

“Last night. You mentioned you’ve... Y’know, done it with three other girls. Did you love any of them?” I ask. I know it’s a selfish question and I won’t change my opinion on him regardless of his answer, but I just feel as though there’s so much more I’m yet to learn of my own husband.

“One of them, yes,” Xavier admits.

I can’t help but to gasp and twist around to look at Xavier’s expression. “Whoa, and what happened?” I ask. Why aren’t they still together? Did Xavier fall out of love? Or did she dump him? I can’t really picture any woman turning Xavier down once they get to know him.

I watch Xavier’s kind eyes darken a little. “She died. As ends most romances in this life,” he answers.

“Oh... I’m... I’m sorry to hear that Xavy...” I say and I really mean it. I don’t know how things would’ve turned out if this woman never died, but nobody should have to go through losing a loved one like that.

“She was the opposite of you,” he scoffs with a small smile.

“Oh really?” I ask and perch up a little, watching every expression Xavier is making.

“Yeah, she was part of the Northern gang. Been with me as long as Daniel has, but she always wanted to get out. She was working towards a way for us to leave this life. See what I mean when I say you two are opposites?” Xavier grins at me.

I chuckle at it. “Yeah. Here I am, running headfirst into danger. I’ve been offered a way out a million times by now but I just can’t let go.”

Xavier’s smile slowly fades again. “It was the Northern ball six years ago. The same fire that killed the leaders of the North. I knew back then it was the South. That’s why I swore to bring them down. But more recently I figured out that it was probably Kyle who was the mastermind behind it. After all, just the previous year was when he faked his death. Since that day, all sorts of tragedies have been taking place. There’s no doubt in my mind that if we can stop Kyle, we can stop even more people from going through the same fate.”

“I hear he’s respected. How does he manage to be both a butcher and a hero?” I ask.

“That’s just how history works,” Xavier says simply, “All butchers are heroes if they win.”

I take in Xavier’s words. It’s so true. I lost. I lost my title and got labeled a fake, a traitor. All my good deeds were forgotten - the credit going to Jane who did nothing but win a rigged game.

“I can’t really judge though,” Xavier sighs. “Kyle and I are more alike than I like to admit. We both claim to want a better world and yet our actions say something else.”

“You don’t want to hurt people though, Xavy.”

“Yes I do,” Xavier admits to me. He suddenly seems so vulnerable, like he’s waiting for me to run away. “Sure, I’m only hurting the bad guys, but... I like it, Marigold, and that scares me. I find myself wondering if I would like it just the same if the people I hurt were innocent... I have all these evil thoughts and I feel like a worse monster than the people I’m hurting sometimes...”

Xavier’s being so honest, I can’t help but feel myself leaning into him more. “Having bad thoughts doesn’t make you evil, Xavier. Rather it is acknowledging those thoughts and choosing to do the right thing regardless that makes you good.”

I twist some more, my legs dangling over his right leg as I go to hug my husband.

“Thank you, Marigold,” he whispers into my ear, “You’re the only person that makes me feel human.”

I squeeze a little tighter before I pull back. “You’re not perfect. Nobody is. Even I am... Even I feel like a monster some days. I’m always rushing into the fray. And... and deep down I know that running towards danger means I’m putting everyone I love at risk... Even though I claim to want to save the world... A part of me knows it’s just a big fat lie. I’m not in this life because I’m a hero. I’m here because I like it. The pain, the danger, the hurt... All of it. I feel so alive. If I can make the world better in the process, it’s for no other reason than to relieve me of some of the guilt I’ve built up inside,” I admit.

I’ve never been this honest with anyone in my life.

“I like hurting and you like getting hurt. What a pair we are, Marigold,” Xavier jokes.

“What a pair indeed,” I smile sadly.

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