“Don’t talk about things you know nothing about. You sound like a prat when you do.” Harper spat.
Xavier’s eyes flashed dangerously as he turned to face Harper, one hand on his jaw. “And boys who don’t know what they’re talking getting themselves into should walk away.” He warned, his voice drenched in venom.
“Don’t tempt me, little boy.”
“I don’t think you’ll do anything. I think you’re all talk.” Harper goaded.
“This is your last warning.”
“I’m sure it is.”
“Both of you! Stop it!” I snipped.
“Harper, you need to leave before I do something rash or crass.” Xavier growled.
“Let’s see it then. You aren’t going to do anything but run your mouth.”
Xavier took a calming breath before he turned to me. “Juliet, I think it’s best you along to bed.”
“I told you.” Harper egged.
I saw Xavier take another deep breath, I thought it was just another calming breath, but that was before I had time to blink and he spun around and punched Harper in the jaw. I watched Harper fall to the ground.
“Why did you hit him?”
“He was asking for it.”
“You didn’t react this way when he hit me.” Xavier pointed out.
“He didn’t knock you unconscious.”
“You son of a bitch!” Harper shouted me, which surprised me almost as much as the punch he threw right past me to Xavier’s face.
The next thing I knew I was shoved to the ground and the two of them were freely throwing punches at one another. “Stop it! Both of you! You’re acting like children!” I shouted as I picked myself up. Neither of them were listening to me. “Guys! This is stupid!” I let out a sigh. I was about to do something stupid. I lunged in between the two of them, ending in both of them hitting me. One fist connected with my side, the other with the side of my face. I let myself fall to the ground.
“JULIET!” they both shouted and in a moment they were both by my side.
“This is all your fault.” Harper snapped at Xavier.”
“That hurt.” I groaned. My head was pounding and my ribs hurt.
“Why on earth would you do that?” Xavier asked, his eyes locked on mine.
“What were you thinking?” Harper sighed.
“That was reckless and foolish.”
“Jules, are you hurt?”
“Stop! Noise doesn’t feel good right now.” I groaned. “Now listen to me. First, help me sit up.” I felt hands on my back as they helped me up. Xavier traced around the sensitive spot on my face and I winced.
“Juliet, look at me.” I tried and he sighed. “How are you feeling?”
“Like I got run over by a train. Everything is spinning and I’m nauseous.”
“I think you may have a concussion.”
“Okay, shut up and listen to me. Harper, Xavier, both of you need to quit whatever pissing match you two are in because it’s really starting to piss me off. I need to remind both of you that I have to sneak back inside, wash off all twelve pounds of make-up Gwen put on me, and be back in bed, now with an excuse for this.” I indicated the side of my face. “And we have about all of thirty minutes to do this as the sun is coming up and James is an early riser.”
“She’s right. I have a feeling that’s usual for you.” Harper sighed. “I think it’s best I’m off then.” Harper laid a gentle kiss on my unmarred cheek. “Text me any time, love.” Harper stood and Xavier mirror him. “Take care of her.” Harper offered his hand and Xavier shook it. “Whatever this is, it isn’t over, but I know you’ll take care of her. Feel better Jules.” Harper started off back the way we came.
“I’m going to carry you inside. If you do have a concussion, your balance will be off and time is of the essence as you reminded us.” Xavier gingerly lifted me and I relaxed in his arms. “How badly are you injured?”
“It hurts to breathe, so I’m pretty sure I either have cracked or bruised ribs, and the way my head feels right now tells me I’m going to feel worse when I wake up tomorrow.”
“Probably, but we’ll get you taken care of.” Xavier snuck through the servant’s passageways back to my room and handed me some clothes and stood guard at my door.
I washed the make-up off, which was difficult with my face being tender and starting to swell. I washed my hair and felt normal again, wearing an oversized t-shirt and plaid pajama bottoms. “Does it look as bad as I think it does?” I asked as I peeked out of the bathroom.
Xavier winced. “I’m afraid so. This is going to be difficult to explain.”
I groaned. “I have got to start thinking things through.”
“That you do.” Xavier agreed as he came over and examined my face. His hands carefully traced around my jaw. “I hate to see you hurt.”
“If you and Harper had listened, this wouldn’t have happened.”
“If you had listened, this wouldn’t have happened.” Xavier chuckled right back. “Now, there is more going on than you are letting on. I need to know some of it. I know you needed tonight, and that is why I gave it to you. But this cannot go on. I can’t keep letting you put yourself in positions like this. If you had arrived much later, if I hadn’t called when I did, if anything had been different, things could be very different right now. There are much worse things that could happen to someone like you other than your father finding out. You do not fully understand the repercussions of your actions. Everything you do from here on out effects every other decision. You have to understand that.”
I nodded. “I can try.”
“No, Juliet. You have to do better than try.”
I nodded. “I’ll do my best.”
“I hope that you do. Now, how are you at concealing makeup. Your jaw is clearly bruised, but with a bit of makeup, we might be able to hide it.”
“Let me see what I can do.” Twenty minutes later, the bruising was covered, the swelling was still there, but much less noticeable and Xavier had an ice pack waiting for me.
“This should help with the swelling. There is much we need to discuss.”
“I need to know what’s really going on inside that head of yours.”
“I need to know, or at least have some idea, of what really has you this upset. You’re bottling things up and clearly, that alone isn’t healthy, but add to it the way you choose to vent. We need to find a better way.”
I nodded and thought about it. “I’ll make you a deal.”
“I’ll give you a truth for every one I get in return.”
Xavier smiled and cocked his head to the side. “Very well. You start.”
“Where’d you learn that wicked right hook?”
Xavier chuckled. “I’m very sorry about that. I’ve been boxing since I was fourteen. It’s actually how I supported myself while traveling. Underground boxing matches. Naturally, I bet on myself.”
“It’s kind of hard to picture you fighting.”
“I don’t know. It’s just hard to imagine you throwing down. I mean I don’t know that I’ve seen you in a shirt that wasn’t pressed. It just seems too…I don’t know, unprofessional. Hell, watching you and Harper duke it out was really weird.”
“Yes, well, that wasn’t an occurrence I planned, but there’s only so many times you can kick a dog before he bites. Besides, boxing, as it’s intended, is a noble sport. Now, what happened tonight?
“What do you mean?”
“What did you do tonight? And how did you forget to be on time?”
“Well, I went out with Gwen. She took me to the bar where Harper’s band was playing. We drank, we chatted, we played some music. I lost track of time, and then I got your phone call. Harper dropped everything he was doing and took my home.”
Xavier nodded. “And that’s everything?”
“I think so.”
“What has you so upset?”
I shrugged. “I don’t know. Everything, I guess.”
“This is just a lot. I really don’t know how I’m feeling anymore. I’m going numb, to be honest.” Xavier gave me a concerned look and I suddenly felt self conscious. I wrapped my arms around myself and felt overexposed.
“Juliet, that worries me a bit.”
“Look Xavier, I just need time. None of this makes sense. Try to fathom this, never knowing you have a whole family, then all of a sudden, you have not only a father, but a step-mother, and a half sister, and a massive gaping hole where your mother used to be. Just think about that for a hot minute. Okay? Do you get it now?” I snapped. I was losing my temper, and not complaining about it. Anger I could use. “I really don’t want to talk about this right now. I just want to go to bed.”
“I’m afraid I can’t let you do that.”
“If you have a concussion, you can’t go to sleep.”
I groaned and lowered my head into my hands, then jerked it back up as I touched a tender area.
“Let me look at it.” Xavier’s hands were gentle but firm under my jaw. “I cannot believe I did this to you.” He muttered as he looked it over. “There are no words to excuse what I did and I can’t explain how sorry I am. There is nothing I can do to fix what I’ve done. This never should have happened. I never should have lost my temper. If I had done my job properly we wouldn’t be here right now.” Xavier removed his hand and shook his head. “I feel like a monster.”
“I hit you. A man should never strike a woman, no matter the reason.”
“Xavier, you didn’t hit me, well you did, not like that. I knew what I was doing was stupid. Neither of you were listening so I jumped in the middle. If someone jumps in front of a moving train, is it the conductors fault or the person on the tracks? You didn’t do it on purpose. Granted, you and Harper never should have started fighting in the first place, but I can’t really hold this against you considering I jumped in front of your fists. That’s on me.”
Xavier sighed. “You don’t understand.”
“Then explain it to me.”
“That is a very long story.”
“Well, it’s not like I can go to bed.”
Xavier sighed. “It’s not a pleasant story either.”
“I’m still listening, aren’t I?”
“Juliet - ”
“Truth for truth.” I replied firmly. He wanted trust from me, but trust is earned. If he couldn’t trust me, I couldn’t trust him.
“You don’t understand.”
“Oh, I understand enough. You can leave.”
“You can leave. You obviously don’t trust me. Get out.”
“You can’t be serious.”
“Do I look like I’m joking?”
“No. I told you to get out, so get out.”
I heard a soft knocking on the door and James opened it. “What is going on in here?” he growled, his eyes on Xavier.
“I was sick last night.” I spat out quickly. “And Xavier helped me out with all the adorable bits. I slipped and hit my head on the toilet as I fell. Cute, right? So Xavier was worried I might have a concussion and he stayed with me and made sure I stayed awake all night, just in case.”
James crossed his arms over his chest, a skeptical look across his features. “Is that really what’s going on in here?”
“Yes, we just had a minor argument. He actually said that Vivaldi’s “Spring” is better than “Winter.” I told him he was wrong and needed to leave.”
“Right…” James looked like he didn’t believe me. “Well, are you feeling alright now?”
I shook my head. “Not really. My head is pounding, and honestly, all I want to do is sleep.”
“Right, well, I’ll ring the doctor. Xavier, thank you, I think. Keep an eye on her until the doctor comes. Unfortunately, I have a meeting in an hour, otherwise, I would wait with you. Feel better.” James closed the door, the suspicion etched on his face.
Xavier and I let out a collective sigh.
“You didn’t have to do that.” Xavier murmured, an appreciative smile on his face.
“Neither did you.” I replied looking into the depths of his deep brown eyes. “But I wasn’t kidding. Xavier, if you want me to pour my heart out to you and confess my deepest fears and thoughts to you, I’m going to have to be sure I can trust you. If you can’t trust me, how can I possibly trust you? If you really want to know what’s going on with me, I want to know what’s going on with you. I can be an open book, but only if you are too.” I gave him a hard look as unwelcome memories flooded my mind. “I’m no one’s tool and I won’t be used. Are we clear?”
“You think I want to use you?”
I shrugged. “Xavier, if you can’t trust me, that tells me not to trust you either. I don’t know what reasons I’ve given you to make you think I’m not trustworthy, but I have a lot of reasons not to trust people in general. Okay?”
“Juliet, what in the world makes you think I don’t trust you?”
“You won’t tell me what going on.”
Xavier smiled. “You are a silly, little fool sometimes.” Xavier chuckled.
“For the record, name calling and laughing at me doesn’t earn you brownie points.” I snapped.
“Don’t misunderstand, I meant no offense. I merely didn’t want to burden you with the horrors of my past. That is all. If you truly wish to know, I will tell you, but in good time. It’s a lot to take in all at once.”
“And let me guess, you decide when that time is.”
“As do you. You choose when and where to tell me anything.”
I nodded. “Okay, I’m a little less pissed at you.” Xavier and I stared at each other before we started laughing and the tension dissipated between us. “Okay then, so if you won’t tell me about that, tell me something else I don’t know about you then.”
“What would you like to know?” Xavier gave me an easy smile.
“Everything and anything.”
Xavier let out a warm chuckle that made me shiver. “Where would you like me to start then?”
“How about the beginning?”
“Very well, I was worth November 19th twenty-four years ago.”
“Eww, you’re going to be twenty-five. You’re going to be old.” I teased and I watched his brow creased in annoyance.
“Ehem,” Xavier cleared his throat. “As I was saying, I don’t have any siblings. I didn’t have much of a family life. As soon as I could I went off to University. As you know, I went to Cambridge and I got my degree in Political Studies and Psychology. When I finished, I decided to travel, then I got that call from Lana and here I am.”
“Wow, you summed your life up in what, five sentences?”
“Is that a problem?”
“That’s like a sandwich that’s only bread; no meat, no cheese, no condiments; no lettuce or tomato. What the hell kind of sandwich is that?”
“I’m not sure what you mean?”
“Details, man, details! I went to college tells me nothing.”
“Then what about yourself?”
“Fine. I was born on August 22, and my mom raised me alone. I didn’t have any siblings until I found out about Angelica. I grew up on the beach and was always around water. If not at the beach then you could find me poolside. I broke my arm when I was seven because I was convinced a grocery bag would work like a parachute, it doesn’t by the way, and I jumped off the room of my apartment complex. I graduated with honors and a 4.0 GPA from high school and college. I’m a cellist at heart, but I love to play just about anything and the steel drums are a ton of fun. I managed a fast food restaurant back home. When I get back, I’m next in line for a store of my own, if I want it. I get a letter that I thought was a hoax not long after Mom died from James and now, here I am. There. That’s not even scratching the surface, but at least there’s a little something to it.” I replied, a smug smile on my face with my arms crossed across my chest. “Now, tell me something; a favorite childhood memory, your first love, your favorite color for goodness sake.”
After a moment of silence Xavier finally answered. “Green. Not just any green either, granny smith apple green.”
I burst into laughter. I couldn’t help it and the more I tried to stop it, the harder I started laughing. I had tears in my eyes and Xavier scowled at me, a sour look on his face. “It’s, it’s not funny,” I breathed out between laughs. “but it is.”
“I fail to see the humor in this.”
“You thought that long to say…green!” I couldn’t control myself. I was laughing too hard, I couldn’t breathe. “You are too intense sometimes.” I managed after I caught my breath.
“I’m glad I could amuse you.” Xavier replied, his tone flat and his face very unamused.
“Dude, seriously, you need to relax and be less serious every once in a while.”
“One of us has to be serious.”
“When was the last time you had fun?”
“When was the last time you had fun? Took a little time to yourself with no other agenda? Just to do it?”
“In other words, never? Or it’s been so long you can’t remember?”
“You’re overdue.” I cut him off. “No wonder you went a little crazy this morning.”
“Dude, you need an outlet worse than I do.”
A soft knocking distracted us and Laurel walked in. “What’s going on? Master Eastgate said you have a concussion? He told me to come keep an eye on you and he wants Xavier to meet him in his study.”
Xavier bit his lower lip and took a deep breath. “I best not keep him waiting.”
“Thank you, Juliet.”
Xavier reached up to straightened his tie, only to realize he wasn’t wearing one. After he straightened his shirt, he stood ramrod straight and walked out.
Laurel gave me a knowing look. “What happened?”
“I might have gone out again.”
“Juliet!” Laurel scolded. “What did you do? Master Eastgate is furious.”
“I went out drinking, and when I got back Harper and Xavier got into a fight.”
“Harper? Oh my.”
“How badly is Xavier hurt?”
“Not much, I’m pretty sure Harper is worse for wear.”
“And how did you get hurt?”
“I jumped in the middle to stop them.”
“Juliet! That was stupid!”
“Yeah, I know. Trust me, it’s not something I’ll forget quickly.”
“Good. Hopefully, you’ll think next time.”
“Hopefully, but let’s face it, not likely.” I sighed. “And to be honest, I really don’t want to need another lecture today.”
“Well, you certainly do not allow this place to get boring.” Laurel sighed. “I’m just glad you’re alright. Let me take a look at you.”
Not much longer after that, a portly balding man with glasses came in. “I’m Dr. Buroughs, I’m please to meet you. Your father called me. He fears you may have a concussion. Let me take a look at you.”
After several questions I knew the answer to and about thirty minutes of me feeling like an idiot, Dr. Buroughs gave a contented sigh. “Good news, just a bump on the noggin. You’ll be right as rain after some rest. Now off to bed, doctor’s orders.” He chuckled at his own joke.
I laughed nervously and watched as he walked out. He made me feel very awkward and uncomfortable. After a few more minutes, Xavier walked in; looking much more worn than he had about an hour ago.
“Been better. How are you feeling?”
“I don’t have a concussion.”
I saw him visibly relax. “That is very good to hear.”
“Why do I have this feeling something really bad is about to come out of your mouth?”
Because I’ve been asked to remove myself from this situation. I’m being set up in a flat not far from here.”
“Wh-what?” I felt my heart catch in my throat.
“That is your father’s wish. I am his employee. I have no choice but to abide by his wishes.”
“Why does he want you to leave?”
“He believes I am becoming too attached to this situation.”
“Oh…are you still my advisor?”
“I - I don’t want you to go.”
Xavier gave me a sad smile. “I won’t be that far away. I just won’t be sleeping here any longer.”
“I still don’t want you to go.”
“I have to, Juliet.” Xavier took my face in his hands and I winced. “I-I’m sorry.” He laid a gentle kiss on my forehead and walked out. “Get some rest.” He muttered as he closed the door behind him.
“I suddenly felt cold and sunk down on my bed. Why did I feel like crying all of a sudden? This didn’t make any sense.
I was so absorbed in my thoughts I jumped and made a squeak when I heard someone clear their throat behind me. “Oh my god! Way to sneak up on a girl!” I breathed. “Hi James, what’s up?”
“Are you alright?”
“Something like that.” I sighed, still relearning how to breathe.
“What really happened this morning?”
“What do you mean?”
“I mean, I don’t buy you hit your face on the toilet.”
“Exactly. Now tell me, what is really going on here?”
“Juliet, you are my daughter. I want to know what he did to you and why you are covering for him.”
“He didn’t do anything to me. I’m not covering for him.”
“Juliet, someone hit you. I’m not daft. I don’t know who you’re lying for, but until you tell me, you are not leaving this room.”
“I believe you’re familiar with the term grounded. You are not to leave this room for any reason.”
“Are you serious?”
I shook my head. Every day I add another reason why I never should have left America. “Wow, okay, thanks. You do realize I’m an adult right? I survived twenty years without you. I cannot believe you right now. Doctor said I should get some rest, I’m going to get some sleep now.”
“See to it that you do.”
“This isn’t over.”
“Juliet, you have to understand that this is for your own good.”
“Of course. Everything is.” I smiled sweetly, and James caught the sarcasm.
“I’ll have something sent up for you.” James stormed out slamming the door behind himself.
I flopped against the bed. I was going to go insane. I heard a buzzing sound and then I remembered Xavier had given me a phone. I went over to the buzzing and opened it up. There were several new text messages. I had access to the outside world.