I stared straight into the head of the spear that was inches from my face. My breathing grew rapid, and my vision fuzzed with adrenaline. Gripping the wooden extension with my left hand, I twisted and pulled Damien into a neck hold. I grinned victoriously.
In the blink of an eye, he had twisted out of my grasp and pinned me straight underneath him. I wriggled to try and overtake him again, but I was no match for his strength.
“Just where I like you,” he replied. He pressed his lips gingerly against the mark on my neck, and hopped back up, reaching a hand out. I shot him a glare before taking it, and he yanked me up with such a force that I was pressed solid against his chest. “You’re getting there. You could take down any human man without issue.”
“It’s not the human men that I’m worried about,” I mumbled, brushing myself off. He hung the spear up on the gridlock wall, and cupped my face in his hands.
“Xander is locked far, far away in a mansion untouchable by man.”
“Xander isn’t the one I’m worried about.” My eyes glanced all around the room before settling on him again. “The Moon Goddess seems to have another agenda that none of us are aware of.”
“You were created for me from birth, now stop worrying, and go take a shower.”
He set a reassuring hand on my shoulder, and I turned to leave in frustration. My paranoia in the months following the curse that the Moon Goddess set on Xander had left Damien and I somewhat estranged. Despite our political marriage, I remained unmarked which left me technically unspoken for.
If I had to guess, the only reason that Damien trained me how to fight was so that I would spend time with him. I had given up painting nearly entirely, and spent my days walking in circles around the garden. When I came back, it was late into the night after he had fallen asleep, and when I left, the sun hadn’t even risen yet. I knew he was growing tired of me being this way, but it was all I could do to keep from going mad.
The steam from the shower filled every ounce of my body, and I smoothed my hair against my body under the hot water. I was broken from my brief period of serenity when bells rang throughout the palace. I quickly shimmied into the clothes that I had set out, and wrapped my robe around my body. Racing down the stairs without so much as shoes on, I was held back by Lyon’s protective arm.
“Is Damien out there? Why are they sounding the warning bells?” I tried to shake him so that he could talk to me, but he continued gazing ahead. “Lyon, what’s going on?”
“Stop it,” he grunted. I shrank in my place; I had never seen Lyon even remotely serious before.
“Tell me,” I pressed.
His eyes darted down to me, looking at me with half-pity, and something else that I couldn’t quite place.
“Xander has killed a girl.”
I didn’t even listen to see if he had anything else to say as I ducked under his arm and ran out onto the steps of the palace. One of the women that she recognized from the rogue party that attacked them was carrying a body wrapped in canvas. She set it down gently on the steps, her hands up as she backed away.
“Why did you come here,” Damien’s voice boomed through the open courtyard. Normally, Xander’s people looked smug and exuberantly cocky when they made visits to the palace, but for the first time in a long time, if I wasn’t mistaken, this girl looked afraid.
“This is the first girl of yours he’s killed. She wandered too far past the boundary on the full moon.”
I tugged Damien’s sleeve like a child.
“Why would she do that? The whole public knows about the mandate…”
“She was a kid, probably went out on a dare,” the girl replied. I had forgotten about their excellent hearing.
“How young?” I breathed.
I felt my heart trying to rip itself out of my chest.
“Not that either of you particularly care, your majesties, but he has murdered eight of my people in the last nine months. I recommend you start waking up and realize that soon, that mansion will not be able to hold him.”
As quickly as the mystery girl had arrived, she departed, leaving the body of the girl on the ground. Damien called men to move it, and quickly pulled me inside as he saw me grow upset. He guided me stiffly back to our bedroom, locking the door behind us as he let me go.
“Did you hear her? Even when he’s in captivity, he’s hurting others,” I croaked.
“I cannot save my brother even if I wanted to, Cyan. He’s a murderer, and he would have had his way with you if he could. He has completely succumbed to the animalistic side of himself. He deserves the curse that the Moon Goddess placed upon him. You have to let him go and realize that you can’t save him.”
“I guess you don’t know your wife as well as you think you do,” I muttered.
I unlocked the door, walking out down the corridor to the garden again. My fingertips grazed over the flowers, and I closed my eyes as I tried to forget. I was disrupted from my own thoughts when I saw Lyon standing a few feet behind me, holding out car keys.
“Late wedding gift?” I raised an eyebrow. He chuckled, and held them out further.
“The full moon is over. Damien refuses to see what this will do to his people, but you’ve always been the smart one. Go to him,” he nodded.
“You want me to go to see the monster that just killed a fifteen-year-old girl, murdered my best friends mate less than a year ago, and tried to kidnap me from my own wedding?” Part of me wanted to laugh at the absurdity of what he was suggesting, but the other part of me knew what wasn’t being spoken between either of us. Xander would only listen to me. The fact that his own people were terrified of him now showed that.
“Damien is going to be meeting with people from the city all day, trying to calm everyone’s nerves about what just happened on the palace steps. You take it out of the garage at the back of the grounds, and be back before anyone notices you were gone.”
“If he kills me, Damien will have your head,” I reminded.
“It’s not the full moon anymore, Cyan, he won’t.”
“You act like he needs an excuse. I married the man that helped him get locked up for an eternity.”
“Use that everlasting charm I know so well, then,” he grinned.
He tossed the keys in the air, and I caught them. I didn’t even look around to see if any other guards were nearby, I simply headed to the parking garage around the backside of the grounds. I gave a smirk of approval at the luxury car that Lyon had picked out for himself, but didn’t waste time admiring the engineering. I didn’t remember the road to the mansion that well, seeing as I was always being driven, but the more guards that I saw, the more I knew I was getting close. I expected to be stopped, but the windows were tinted, and I suppose since they thought I was Lyon, they thought the visit was sanctioned.
Once you got close enough to the mansion, the guard patrols had ceased entirely. I pulled the car into the circle at the edge of the mansion property, and felt a pang in my chest at the sight of it. Ordinarily, Xander had kept the grounds extremely clean. Now, ivy had crept its way up the walls of the preserved outside walls, and wild grass peeked up through the cracks in the cement porch. White paint chipped off the columns.
I emerged slowly from the car, looking for his people, but they were nowhere even remotely nearby. My fist paused over the door, and I sounded three firm knocks. At first, I thought that no one was there, but then the door swung open.
“Well, well, well, what do we have here.”