Chapter 10: All Hell Broke Loose
We didn’t risk taking a car back, and there was still tension as we walked back through the woods. Dusk had past, and now the moon was looming over us. I watched as Xander kept doing scans of his own body to make sure that he wasn’t shifting involuntarily. Eventually, once he finally believed that it was true, he stopped in his tracks and turned to me. The palace was in the distance, so I was relieved that we were at least close.
“How did you know?” he asked.
I tried to give the most dismissive look possible as I took his hand, attempting to pull him along. I didn’t like being out here in no-mans-land, riddled with rogues.
“Know what?” I rolled my eyes.
“That I could cross that border, that the curse was lifted? Did you talk to the Moon Goddess?”
“It’s a long story, and I need you to shut up and get inside right now. When that sun rises and they find out you’re gone, it won’t end well.”
“They’re still my people—”
“Your people have been stringing you up like a pet murderer. They’re not your people anymore. We’re your people.”
He begrudgingly followed beside me, keeping our fingers intertwined.
“Do you really think that your husband will accept me with open arms?” He was laughing at the thought.
“I think that he doesn’t have a choice once he finds out what’s coming.”
He followed in silence after that, and I was tentative as we came to the front doors of the palace. They must have been searching everywhere for me, because I saw Damien standing at the guard’s post right inside the gate. When his eyes raised and met mine, at first I saw joy. Upon him seeing his brother next to me, there was confusion mixed with anger. It only took a matter of moments for Xander to be seized, but as I watched him get dragged away, he didn’t have the usual smirk or smart comment for his brother. He was simply looking at him with pleading eyes.
“The hell have you been,” he growled, pulling me with an oof against his chest.
“Saving him,” I muffled into his chest.
“How the hell did you break it?” he pulled back, letting me enunciate clearly.
“When I got there, he was already free,” I lied. When did this become a thing?
I had to protect my own ass as well as Xander’s, I just hoped that he wouldn’t say anything in the interrogation he was bound to be dragged to at this very moment. Damien glanced around the street before ushering me in, closing the gate firmly behind us.
By my guess and due to the lack of guards, he had found even more moles. I started to tell him about the one I suspected in the security line, but he assured me that they had gotten me to him. He took me into a room in the center of the castle with no windows, with two guards posted outside.
“We’ll be staying in here for a while.”
“Where did they take Xander?” I insisted. “We need to speak with him,” I urged.
“Why?” He had a distasteful look on his face, clearly upset by the thought of having to talk to his brother about anything other than his imprisonment.
“Because, the war is coming, soon, and your brother isn’t the one we have to worry about.”
On our way to the interrogation chambers in the basement of the palace, I brought him up to speed about who Ella really was and what she was planning with other rogues that were outside of our territory. He stayed surprisingly silent, not seeming to have an opinion about any of it. Then again, he never really was a vocal man. I just so happened to leave out the part where I kissed Xander in order to save his life. Only I knew the key to breaking the curse, so that meant that I didn’t need to share it with anyone. Sometimes, ignorance is bliss, right?
True love’s kiss goes both ways, idiot.
I turned to see Lyon enter the interrogation chamber behind us, but he didn’t make eye contact with me. I felt a pang in my chest as I felt his anger towards me. People could be angry with me all they want, but in order to be angry at me they have to be alive. I’ll gladly take the lesser of two evils.
Xander was extremely bloody, already having the living daylights punched out of him in twenty minutes. I lurched in front of the man, holding my hand out. He looked at Damien quizzically, as if asking for the right to punch me.
“You will stand down when your Luna asks you to,” I grunted.
I could see Xander smirking with pride out of the corner of my eye, but I tried to ignore it. Only when Damien gave him a nod did he truly back off. Men.
“Are you okay?” My eyes scanned over him for new wounds.
“I heal fast, Princess,” he assured.
I turned back to Damien and Lyon, my hands on my hips.
“The hell is this?” I gestured to his well-beaten brother.
“We needed to know what he knew,” he said simply.
“Did you ever think of oh, I don’t know, asking him? In a civilized manner?” I snapped. I called in one of the maids from the hall, and instructed her to bring him a hot meal and a pitcher of water.
“The hell is going on with you?” Damien growled, pulling me back.
“I’m helping him,” I replied.
“You’re helping him more than usual over the past month,” he observed.
“I’m trying to make sure that we don’t get dethroned and your kingdom isn’t thrown into chaos.”
“Drop the attitude,” he insisted. I watched him as his eyes clouded, and broke my gaze as I stared at the corner of the room. When he snapped out of his mood, he sat on the edge of the table as he peered over at his brother. “You aren’t your usual obnoxious self.”
“I’ve been a little busy murdering your people,” he teased.
Damien swiftly brought his brother off the chair and up the wall, holding him by his neck. For the first time, Xander looked physically inferior to his brother. He was grasping Damien’s hand for air, kicking his feet. I went after them, but Lyon tried to hold me back. I elbowed him in the chest, knocking the air out of him as he fell to his knees to recover. Hitting Damien’s pressure point on the back of his knee, he buckled and let his grip loose. He looked back at me with a type of aggression that I hadn’t seen before.
“Enough,” I urged.
“He’s admitting to slaughtering our people and you’re defending him?” he boomed.
My eyes flickered to Xander, who had a sly look re-emerging onto his face. If he told Damien about what happened in that basement, we were both as good as dead.
“Ella isn’t just coming for you and me, Damien. She’s sending them after the entire royal family. She won’t stop until everyone of importance in this palace is dead, are you getting that?”
“Call the Council, now,” Damien huffed. Although he knew I was right, there was no way he would admit it for at least 24 hours. He burst through the door back into the corridor, and Lyon followed him silently.
I waited patiently behind as the maid brought Xander a meal, as well as an infirmary kit for me to clean him up with. After giving us a soft smile, she left the room, leaving it ajar. I didn’t want him to feel trapped here, like it was the same kind of prison his own home was. I wouldn’t let Damien force him to stay in here. I looked over to him, expecting some type of comment, but he was digging straight into his food and hardly stopping to inhale. I yanked the plate back, and he glared up at me.
“If you eat too fast, you’ll throw up,” I scolded.
“Okay, mom,” he scoffed.
He was silent while he ate, and I began to tend to the wounds on his chest and face. He winced a little at the pain, and now with his shirt off in dim fluorescent lighting, I began to notice just how malnourished the man was.
“What else happened in there?” the words came out barely a whisper.
At first, his gaze only lingered on the floor before it raised to my face.
“Things you don’t want to know,” he assured.
“Oh please,” I sighed.
“If you knew, you’d never kiss me again,” he chuckled.
There was a clang behind us, and I saw water spill all over the concrete floor. I looked up to see the maid standing there, sputtering for words. She was looking to Xander in fear, and I for guidance. I held my hands out, standing up from his side.
“Fuck,” Xander muttered.
“I’m sorry, Your Majesty, I promise I didn’t hear anything,” she tried to assure.
Before I could blink, Xander had came around and pulled her inside, yanking the door shut. He clicked it until it locked, and I looked at him with wide eyes.
“What are you doing?”
“She heard that, she’s just afraid to die,” he dismissed.
“We’re not going to kill her, you asshole,” I warned.
“Well, you don’t have to,” he shrugged. “Go.”
The girl was practically shaking in her pleated skirt. I turned to her, reaching out to hold her hand, but she pulled it away from me. Did she really think the same of me as she did the monster that was standing behind me?
“I trust that you won’t speak of this,” I said gently. I went to pull the door open, but Xander remained a firm blockade. After a long glare, and him finally realizing that I held the power in this palace, he sidestepped and let her go. She walked quickly, not even daring to look over her shoulder in case I reconsidered.
“You’re mad,” he said.
“I saved your life, do you really think I’d let another innocent girl die at your hand?” As soon as the words left my lips, I regretted them. I saw the sting of pain in his eyes, and he walked back over to his food on the floor. “Xander, I…”
“No, I get it,” he assured. “I’m just the beast in the castle that murdered everyone in his path, right?”
“You’re not. Everything you said…”
“Scared the living shit out of you,” he finished.
“Would you stop finishing my sentences?” I growled, falling to the floor next to him as I pulled my knees to my chest.
“I thought me annoying you was our thing,” he wiggled his eyebrows. The food had obviously brought back some bits and pieces of his former self. His smile looked more real. “There is no ‘our’, or ‘we’,” I corrected.
“Ah, right, because you married my brother out of love, not because it was a diplomatic move that was made to prevent a civil war that is already coming anyway, isn’t that right?”
His words stung a lot more than I thought they did. Was I so easy to see through? The past year, I had been living by the campaign of learning to love what’s best for you. I thought I had pulled it off, I thought that I had fooled even myself, but maybe he was right. Nothing about my relationship with Damien was organic, but this, this was.
“You don’t know what you’re talking about,” I shuddered.
He placed one of his hands beside me, leaning closer to me. Caging me in with another arm, he leaned in and I leaned back until I was flat on the floor and he was hovering overtop of me. I felt my breathing quicken, and the sly grin on his face confirmed that he noticed it too.
“What are you doing,” I murmured.
“Showing you what something that’s real feels like,” he whispered, his voice raspy with lust. He trailed the pad of his thumb over my lips before crashing his against mine. He dipped his hips, grinding them into mine and I felt a moan escape my lips. My stomach churned with butterflies, and I got lost in him before coming back to my senses. Shimmying out from underneath him, my eyes were wide and my circulation was better than ever.
“What…what was that?”
“That was you, actually wanting a man for the first time.”
“Don’t flatter yourself,” I scoffed, getting to my feet. He chased after me when I made it to the door, opening it a smidge. He leaned down and placed his lips beside my ear.
“He’ll undoubtedly put me on the other wing of the palace, so I’ll leave you with this. When you can’t sleep tonight because you realize you’re laying next to a man that you only loved out of obligation, I’ll be waiting.”
Pressing a feverish kiss against my neck, he pushed me out the door.