The summer sun is making me sweat without even moving a finger, so imagine how much odor my body has after three hours of exercising.
I put my bow on the grass before sitting down to take a breather. Why do I feel like I’m dying? I’ve never had issues while exercising, but the past few days have been quite intense.
“No time to rest, do fifty burpees.”
I lift my head. My eyes are squinting for the UV rays while Xavier walks away from me.
I thought after the little party we had, he’d go back to his usual self but, I guess I was wrong. Every time something is bothering Xavier, he shuts everyone out. But it seems like this time, I’m the one at fault because he acts like himself with everyone else but me.
With a sigh, I pull myself up and slowly do the burpees. My legs are burning from the intense training. I let my eyes wander around the greeny front yard, seeing everyone else stretching their muscles. My eyes narrow at the sight of Xavier stretching his arms.
That fucker. Xavier is purposely draining me.
With that in mind, I sit down, stretching my legs. If Lyon is really being an ass, he’ll come. I stare at the ground when my feline ears perk up to approaching footsteps.
“Alexa,” Xavier baritone voice calls.
I don’t move my eyes from the floor. “What is it?”
“I told you to do fifty burpees.”
I hold back the roll of my eyes. “Well, everyone else is stretching, so why shouldn’t I?”
“Because everyone else listens to me. You don’t, so do the damn burpees.”
My jaw clenches as I look up to a glaring Xavier with crossed arms. “I’m sorry. You must have mistaken me for another person. I always listen to you during training. Always, so don’t come at me with that nonsense.”
Xavier opens his mouth only to close it and clench his jaw, passing his tattooed fingers over it. My eyes don’t drop the glare as I turn my head away from him, continuing to stretch my legs covered in burgundy sporty leggings. Now that I think about it, Xavier gifted me these pants during the winter solstice holiday.
The memory of it clenches my heart, and my facial features soften. My ears shift back to human as I look back toward the lion, walking further away from me. My mouth opens, calling his name out loud.
Xavier stops in his tracks and reluctantly turns back around with an unreadable expression. When he’s close enough, I motion him to sit down with me on the ground, and for once, he listens.
“Did I do something to offend you?” I quietly ask, watching him cross his legs.
“You know damn well what you did,” he grumbles out, his eyes staring at the ground.
“Yeah, well, you asked me a question. Did you prefer for me to lie about it?”
He surprises me by nodding his head. “Definitely,” he says, looking up at me.
I roll my eyes. “It’s not like I’ll see Dante again, but hey, I didn’t take you for the jealous type,” I tease, nudging Xavier playfully.
Xavier sighs. “I have a feeling he’ll make an appearance in the worst moment possible, and at that point, I’ll probably be done with life.”
I blink. Huh?
My hand holds onto his shoulder in a comforting way. “We watch way too many TV shows that are affecting the way we view the world,” I say with a pitied look on my face.
“Well, if it happens, promise me you won’t do anything with Dante,” he says, his eyes unwavering from mine.
I frown at that. “I’m sorry, but I can’t promise that, and also very confused at the way you’re acting. We had sex, but that’s it, you know? I told you I wanted to go back to the way things—”
“Again with that bullshit,” he says, releasing a growl as he massages his forehead. “Guess what, Red? I don’t want to go back to how things were. I want the whole Justin Timberlake movie with you.”
I can’t help but raise an eyebrow at him. “Justin, who?”
Xavier rolls his eyes in reply before looking at me dead in the eye. “Your Mila Kunis.”
“Oh!” I laugh, remembering the friends with benefits plot of the movie. “Well, let’s see, they had rules. What would ours be like since you’re so invested in this.”
It looks like Xavier was waiting for me to say it because the biggest grin lights his face up. In a blink of an eye, he stands up, pulling me with him with ease.
“Kai!” he calls out, waving his hand around as he looks behind me. I turn around, seeing Kai’s pale face a reddish color for all the exercises done. There could be forty degrees outside, but he’d still come out with military, dark pants, combat shoes, and a white shirt. As long as he’s in style, Kai would gladly walk around the snow shirtless if he has to.
The thought of it makes me chuckle as the leopard jogs to us. “What’s wrong?” Kai asks as he passes a hand through his dark thick hair.
“I need to disappear for a while, and I don’t want Richard on my ass, so please, finish the training for me,” Xavier says, receiving a nod from him.
“Say less.” And with that, he whistles with his fingers, grabbing everyone’s attention. “Let’s do ten more minutes of stretching before heading for lunch!” he yells, making everyone cheer.
In the meantime, Xavier grabbed my hand and is now dragging me inside the house. His eyes are carefully looking for a sign of Richard walking around nearby.
We manage to go all the way upstairs without seeing our leader, which makes a few question marks pop into our minds. Richard is always present during training. Where is he?
As if on cue, we hear hushed voices coming from down the hallway. Xavier and I exchange a quiet look before letting our ears shift into their feline form. Curiosity is our worst enemy.
Thankfully, felines’ hearing sensibility is high, surpassing humans and werewolf combined.
“I’m sorry that you feel trapped by me and suffocated,” a shaky feminine voice says, breaking my heart. Gabriella.
My ears flatten back. “I don’t think we should be hearing this,” I whisper, but Xavier immediately shushes me. He even starts walking toward their room with my hand firmly grasped by his.
“I just have a lot on my mind right now, and coming home only to fight with you because you’re not getting enough attention from me isn’t helping us at all,” we hear Richard say with his voice breaking toward the end.
I stand my ground, pulling Xavier toward me. “It’s too personal,” I whisper, shifting my ears back to human form.
Xavier’s eyes are wide as he looks down at me. “You were begging me just the other day about what was going on with them, and now that you have a live drama going on, you’re backing out?” he asks in a hushed tone.
I nod as I grab his other hand and walk backward. “Yes, because I never thought it was that personal, now please, show me the rules.”
The last part puts the grin back on his face. “So you’re agreeing on being friends with benefits.”
My little Foxy is purring in my mind, wanting nothing else but to spend other nights with him, and for once, I fulfill her wishes.
She wants it, Xavier wants it, and honestly, I want it as well. I’m just scared it’s going to ruin the friendship we built in the past five years. I know I say it a lot, but I can’t imagine a life without having Xavier by my side. He’s been there for me through the heartbreak I felt for Dante and all the dramas that happened with others’ brief relationships.
He’s the type of person that wouldn’t mind giving his shoulder to cry on while listening to the same story a dozen times and throwing the same advice a dozen times. He’s also the best company I can ask for without thinking twice about it. It doesn’t matter where I have to go or what I have to do, but if I can bring someone, it’d be him.
Anyway, he said that I won’t get hurt and nothing will change. Xavier has never lied to me, so I trust him. The moment we find our mates, we’ll end things and move on.
He just doesn’t need to know that I agree right away.
A shrug comes out of me. “Who knows,” I simply say with mischief twinkling in my eyes that Xavier can clearly see. In one swift movement, he releases his hold from mine, grabs me bridal style, and runs down the hallway toward his bedroom.
My laugh echoes in the long room as I grip onto him for dear life. Once we’re inside, he gently puts me down on his unmade queen-sized bed and starts opening his bedside wooden table’s drawers.
“You actually wrote them down?” I ask, surprised.
He nods as he throws on the floor packets of empty chips, wireless earbuds, and even crushed, empty water bottles. “I thought about it all night— Found it!” he happily says, sitting down beside me.
He hands me the paper, and my head tilts to the side at the unreadable writing. “I can’t understand shit,” I say as I squint my eyes at the letters. Is that an N or an M? Or a U?
Xavier grabs the paper from me, and I notice his face having a tint of red coloring his cheeks when I glance at him. “Uhm, sorry,” he quietly says, making me want to hug him so much for how adorable he sounded.
“Anyway, the first rule is that as long as we don’t find our mates, we cannot sleep with other people, and orgies are allowed if we’re both in it.”
Gee, how thoughtful.
“The second rule is that no one needs to know about it because I don’t know about you, but I don’t want people minding my intimate business.”
I nod. “Yeah, I know. What’s next?”
“Third one is in case one of us falls in love, the deal is off, and knowing your masochist ass, I got you this.” Xavier slides down the bed and crouches down, looking for something underneath it. His arm disappears for a moment only to come out with a tiny velvet black box.
My eyes widen up. “That looks expensive,” I say as Xavier puts the box in my hand.
“Open it,” he says, smiling from ear to ear that makes something weird happen to my stomach. That’s not a good sign.
A beautiful bright ruby crystal is blinking at me. My mouth goes dry. Oh my Gods. “I think I just fell in love,” I breathlessly say as I slide the simple gold ring on my middle finger. The shape of it reminds me of a princess crown. “Now I can flip you off with elegance,” I say, throwing my middle finger at Xavier as I smile.
He laughs before taking my hand and kissing the crystal. The gesture makes a rush of heat come up to my neck and face. He looks at me from under his eyelashes, and my heart stops beating at the kind of stare he’s giving me.
I’ve never seen this side of him. Now I understand what Nala meant.
“If you fall in love,” he says, his voice dropping an octave lower than usual, “return the ring, and I’ll know that the deal is off. What do you think?” he asks, intertwining our fingers together. “Deal?”
The heated look he’s giving me right now destabilizes me. He can be very persuasive when he wants to with those glowing eyes.
What’s the worst that can happen anyway?
With a small nod, I softly kiss the palm of his hand. “Deal.”