Chapter 23: Hidden Faces
It smelt him—I smelt like him.
My eyelids fluttered open, my sight landing on that of my hand as it slowly rose and fell with Hunter’s muscular chest. When I averted my eyes to his soft features, I noticed his own were sealed shut: he had embraced his own state of slumber sometime within the time that I had my own.
He looked peaceful, maybe even happy—I didn’t know he was capable of so. I knew this would more than likely be the first and only time I’d ever see him this way, so I watched him. I wanted to watch him sleep.
I wanted to watch him forever.
Whatever his reasons were for staying behind and holding me, it was nice. He was nice; I liked it.
Unfortunately, the truths of what would follow were slowly creeping into my mind: he’d wake up any minute now. I wasn’t sure how long I had been asleep, and if I were any more ignorant to his nature and that of his kind, I would hope that he’d sleep far longer than I did.
What a shame…
The words crossed my mind as a cue: his eyelids fluttered open. He stared at the ceiling of my bedroom, continuing his steady breaths until I murmured in a hoarse voice, “Good morning.”
His muscles stiffened and his breath caught in his lungs. He didn’t say a word nor did he move for a moment; however, when he did, it wasn’t a pleasant hug or a ‘good morning kiss’. He moved fast, harshly gripping my wrists into one hand while the other found my neck and squeezed.
My airway was sealed. His fingers dug into my neck as his eyes shifted to their horrifying pitch-black color and his veins slithered beneath them like hungry snakes.
I tried to fight him, to loosen myself from him enough to take a breath, but I knew in my fear-filled mind that I wasn’t going to breathe unless he wanted me to. All I had was to look into his eyes and hope that he’d see me.
I hoped that he’d see me.
He took a deep breath, and for a second longer, his fingertips bruised me.
“H-Hunter?” I gasped. Oddly, I wasn’t concerned for myself, but rather for him as he slowly pulled back into his senses.
“I-It’s me...Celic. I’m sorry.”
He didn’t say a word, relinquishing his hold on me and rolling off until he found himself sitting at the edge of my bed with his head shamefully bowed. I could see his fists clenched tightly, his knuckles turning white and his muscles rippling with even the slightest movement.
“A-Are you alright?” I whispered as I too sat up, moving my hand to touch his shoulder.
I wasn’t sure if he knew or not, but before I could so much as grace his skin, he rose to his feet and headed for the door. He never so much as turned back nor did he ease the tension in his muscles.
Oh, stupid! Stupid! Stupid!
“Wait,” I called, scrambling off of the bed and onto my feet. I ran to him, taking his arm to pull him back.
I had frightened him. He had probably never slept next to anyone.
I scared him…
“What, Celic?” he snapped, finally turning to look at me. His eyes were norm, but they were angry. Angier than the terrorizing ones he stared at me with when he pinned me to the bed. “What do you want?”
“I-I,” I stuttered, desperately searching his face until the words that I should have said a long time ago broke away from my mouth, “I just wanted to thank you.”
I didn’t know what I was expecting, but it sure as hell wasn’t an even angrier glare with a clenched jaw.
“Are you mocking me?” he spat through his teeth, taking a step forward as if to threaten me.
I stepped back.
He didn’t believe me. He eyed me with those angry eyes of his and he scoffed, “I was nice to you for one night. I pitied you because you’re pathetic.”
“You keep your mouth shut, alright?” I flinched as he rose his voice, “Last night meant nothing and you mean nothing!”
He had taken me aback...one minute he was so nice and sweet and I was enjoying watching him sleep...now he was...he was the man that he was before we became friends.
My nose stung and I could feel the tears breaking at the brim of my eyes as my voice watered, “Where’s this coming from?”
I knew that he noticed that he had hurt me and I hoped that he understood that he was being unreasonable. I wouldn’t tell anyone about anything: I promised him I wouldn’t.
However, as his eyes softened with my saddened ones, I realized that he wasn’t talking about the ball.
He was talking about the fact that he had feelings for me.
I parted my lips, but before I could mutter a sound, he stormed out and all that I could do was call to him, “Hunter…”
She sat still, pale and silent. Her back was pressed against the concrete wall, her head kept straight by the lack of blood in her veins turning her skin and bones into stone. Her eyes remained skill, staring lifelessly at me as victims do at their murderers.
I would have been at ease if she was unconscious; however, she wasn’t. She was awake and I knew that due to her state of starvation, she wouldn’t be lucid.
“How...h-how long has it been?” her voice cracked into a mere whisper.
I stood before her, my hands tucked into my pockets and my eyes boring into her own. “You still have a few hours to go,” I sincerely responded.
Her features never shifted, not even as she spoke in what I knew would normally be a glare in her eyes and a hint of bitterness in her voice, “So, you’re here to watch and enjoy the last few hours?”
A humorless chuckle emitted from the back of my throat, coordinating with the smirk that broke upon my lips. “I have had time to think,” I said.
“Oh?” she mused.
“Hope,” I stepped forward, closing in on the door’s metal bars barring me from her, “you will lose consciousness in a few minutes and will not remember a word that I have said once you awake. And, I just want you to hear this: I abused my power over you because you are nothing like anyone I have ever met and I saw it as a challenge.”
“You’re intimidated by me? You’re the King...and you still needed someone to help boost your ego?”
Even in her low and flat voice, I could hear the hint of sarcasm still burning inside her. Saying that she is a fighter and brave but partially stupid for it would be my greatest understatement.
“You confuse me,” I admitted, taking the final step closer to the cell. “I feel the need to be unnecessarily and unreasonably cruel but it ultimately burdens me.”
A sigh escaped my lips as I began to ponder my decision on the choice I took today. I wasn’t saything this for her: she wouldn’t remember anyway. I was saying it for me, but the fact that I was admitting it aloud would more than likely change things.
However, ultimately, I wasn’t sure if it was a bad thing or not.
Tatianna made me wonder...would it be wrong for me to accept her as an equal to my dear friend? She is no different.
“The night of the ball,” my eyes fell away from her sight, shifting to the concrete floor we shared, “you didn’t have to tell me what I wanted to know; I wouldn’t have beat you anyway. I-I can’t bring myself to raise my hand against you anymore...”
My voice had trailed off into nothing and I found myself unable to speak. I wasn’t sure what it was, but there was a feeling of a mix of guilt and relief in my static heart. And, I was left to ponder again.
I wanted to open that cell and feed her the blood that she had deserved, and not because I pitied her, but because this was wrong.
I was wrong.
“It’s stupid and pathetic,” I breathed out. “After all that I have done to you, I somehow still want you to willingly submit. I don’t want obedience, but I understand that obedience is the closest that I will get to submission from you.”
My eyes snapped up to meet hers that still stared at me; however, there was now a sort of light that struck my heart like a lash.
“Is this an apology?” she whispered.
“No,” I chuckled lightly. “I won’t lie to you. I am not sorry that I punished you for being disrespectful. But, I do apologize for the way I went about doing it. I had no right to take you as slave. I should have talked to you, instead, as Purebloods do.”
I could see her efforts to nod, but she couldn’t. She lowered her eyes and muttered away, “I understand. I know how the system works.”
“I am sorry that I took extreme measures for my amusement. For that, I do feel ashamed.”
She would no longer look at me. She wouldn’t do it because she knew that this meant I would still keep her. She knew that the only reason I was saying this was because she wouldn’t remember it once she re-lost consciousness and she could never hold it against me.
“Since we’re being honest,” she drew a shaky breath, lifting her eyes to meet my own, “there is something that I have to tell you.”
My eyes fluttered open, landing on Genesee as she patiently stood before me, beneath the podium of the throne I sat in.
“Genesee,” I acknowledged her in disappointment for having pulled me out of my thoughts of the memory of the moment that happened no more than an hour ago.
“I have news from Terrance,” she presented. “He’s caught it: a witch.”
For this, I was no longer disappointed. I leaned forward, nearly pulling myself off of my feet to stand as she continued, “It’s beaten and unconscious but breathing. He’s on his way.”
I hadn’t noticed it till now: she was breathing...hard. I couldn’t tell if it was anxiety or excitement, but both of us understood the importance of this for our race and I couldn’t help but smile.
The doors swung open, Hunter quickly emerging into the room with a look of terror on his face.
“Hunter?” my voice echoed with concern as I furrowed my eyebrows on the panting man. This time, I had risen from my seat and stepped forward to approach him until I saw the group of men who followed behind him—men of his kind.
“Erebus!” Tarlac’s angry voice snarled.