Chapter 11: Secrets
I was tossing and turning that night, but not for the reasons that Xander predicted. Turning my head, I saw Damien fast asleep. The moonlight that streamed in through the window illuminated the tattoos that swirled and weaved up his neck and down over his chest. When he was sleeping was truly the only time that his muscles relaxed. His lips were slightly parted, and his arms were reaching out across my torso.
I peeled myself out from under him, laying his arm gently across a pillow that I put in my place. I creaked the door open and slipped out, maneuvering my way through the hallway until I reached Alessia’s room. She was originally living with the rest of the patrons of the Moon Goddess, but I had insisted that she stay here until the fighting was over.
She perked up immediately as I knocked on the door, cracking it open.
“Can’t sleep?” She rubbed her eyes, putting on her glasses as she sat up. I nodded, coming to sit on the other side of her bed.
“Can you keep a secret?” I propped my head back against the pillow, staring up at the canopy that draped over the bed.
“I’ve kept all your secrets since high school,” she smiled.
“I mean like a real one, like one that only you and I can know,” I said.
Her smile faded, and she sat upright looking over at me. For the first time in a while, she looked genuinely concerned.
“I…I kissed Xander.”
“It’s about time,” she rolled her eyes. I expected to be hit, or be yelled at, or scolded like a mother would to her child. Instead she seemed like she already knew. “You wouldn’t have snuck out to see him that many times if there wasn’t something going on.”
“Does anyone else know? I didn’t think it was obvious…” I murmured, trailing off.
“No, this place is drowning in boys, they’re oblivious as hell,” she assured. “How many times?”
“Twice,” I admitted.
I was tempted to tell her the rest of it, that kissing him was how to break the curse, but that secret was one that couldn’t be explained. If Damien found out, he would ask me why I even wanted to save his brother in the first place. His suspicions would arise once more. I had played both of them for politics before. I wish that it had been different, the more I thought about it. I wish I could have met them under different circumstances, human circumstances.
Damien would have been brooding in the corner of a club that Alessia dragged me to, and snuck up behind me on the dance floor. Xander, on the other hand, would have been bolder. I would have been hiding away in the bookstore, and he would sidle up beside me and deliver some smooth one liner that’s way too overused. I smiled at the thought of things behind normal for once.
“What are you gonna do about it?” She kicked her legs over the edge of the bed.
“I don’t know, my plan was to come in and tell you, and that was about it…” I murmured.
“Helen of Troy, look at you,” she wiggled her eyebrows.
“I am hardly comparable,” I scoffed.
“I wouldn’t be so sure about that,” she warned.
A soft knock on the door interrupted us, and I saw Damien in the threshold. His gray sweatpants sat low on his hips, and I scrambled to my feet.
“Is everything okay?” His voice came out raspy. I nodded, folding my arms across my chest.
“I just couldn’t sleep, and I didn’t want to wake you, so I came to see Alessia,” I explained.
He made his way into the room, cupping my face in his hands as he searched my eyes. There he was, with that worried look on his face again.
“You can always wake me up,” he said.
I nodded, turning to Alessia as I waved goodbye and swiftly lead him away from the room. When we got back to ours, he wrapped his arm around my waist and pulled me close against his chest. His fingers ran through my hair, and eventually I succumbed to sleep.
In the coming days, Damien spent most of his time aiding in fortifying the palace, and was nowhere to be seen. I had been omitted from council meetings due to my ‘trauma’, which I had yet to agree with, but it gave me time to think. Alessia had been badgering me all day about what I was going to do, who I was going to choose, and I tried to insist that I wasn’t the bachelorette.
“Well, you certainly can’t continue to see both of them,” she frowned.
“Let’s handle this whole Ella situation first, and then we’ll figure out which bachelor I choose,” I joked.
Even though I wasn’t let inside the council meetings, when Damien went to training sessions I slipped into his office to overlook the notes. So far, since I had released Xander, Ella was nowhere to be seen. They might have taken comfort in that, but that meant that she was meditating on something. That girl was the most dangerous when she was planning. Xander was persistent about asking to go back to the mansion, but he was under lock and key in this place as much as I was.
My ‘outdoors time’ so graciously supplied by my husband was just the garden, and I spent most of the day out there until sunset.
“Welcome to the boredom club,”
I whirled around to see a familiar face sitting on the wrought-iron bench behind me.
“Population, 2,” I joked.
“How do princesses do it, in the fairytales? They just sit in their towers, all day long, waiting to be saved from the fire-breathing dragon. They’re confined to one room, and I had an entire house and I lost it within the month.”
“You didn’t lose it,” I assured.
“Well, I’ll admit, I’m still the same smooth lady-talker I was before I got locked up,” he smirked.
Xander was still obnoxious as per usual, but it was different things that were beginning to irritate me. It was the way that his hair was perfectly tousled, or maybe how his face seemed to be lacking any form of pores whatsoever. It was how despite being locked up and malnourished for nine months, his skin still seemed perfectly tan and his arms spitefully toned.
I felt a pang in my chest at the thought of all the women that had filtered in and out of his bedroom throughout his brief captivity.
“Sure you were.”
“Jealous that I’ve bedded so many women?” He rose from the bench, towering over me.
“Ah yes, I’m extremely jealous that you’re such a man whore,” I teased, whispering the words in his ear before tearing away.
When I turned, I saw Lyon standing right outside the palace entrance with his hands on his hips. I felt blush creep over my cheeks.
“Damien needs to meet with both of you, now.”
I felt like I got caught kissing someone under the bleachers, but Lyon couldn’t imply anything from our close proximity, could he? I pulled away from Xander and shimmied past him, but not before he got a handle on my upper arm. Giving me a look, he set me free, and I kept myself a few steps ahead of them.
When we made our way back into the office, and Damien was lounging back in his chair, looking as dominant as ever. It made me think back to the day that I first met him, when he was dressed in this same suit with the same brooding expression. Only this time, he didn’t smile when I walked through the door.
“What’s going on?” My eyes shifted from him to Lyon, intentionally passing over Xander.
“Ella left us a nice little note,” irritation laced Damien’s voice.
I craned my neck to look at the desk, rounding the table to view it upright. It was another one of those disgusting notes, only this one wasn’t soaked in blood.
You have three days to recede the throne. We’re coming.
“So she just thinks we’re going to dethrone because she tells us to?” I frowned.
“I highly recommend you follow her advice,” Xander chimed in.
“You’re only here because she’s tied to you, not because we actually value your opinion,” Damien snapped.
“She’s obviously gathered enough outsiders to storm the palace, and since you’ve weeded out the ones you don’t trust within the walls, our numbers are slimmer than they were before,” Xander reasoned.
“So what, do we run and hide?” I didn’t like the sound of this. I wasn’t exactly itching for another two-week vacation locked in with both of them.
“An alpha doesn’t hide,”
“Alphas,” Xander exaggerated.
“You lost that title when you went rogue.”
“Here I am, back and loyal again like the good pup I am,” he smiled. I tried not to laugh.
“So we stay, and we fight,” I agreed.
In all my time with Damien, he had always been the totem face of his species. He attended council meetings, and sat on the throne at balls with that pretty golden crown atop his head. I had only seen him in action when we did training sessions together. Things were going to change, and I wasn’t sure that I would like the direction that it was going in.