Chapter 16: Military Rule
I felt like I was outside of my body, looking down at me as I made my way back to the palace. How could I just walk through those doors and pretend like tomorrow wasn’t going to change anything? I made my way over to the side window where I had previously jumped out, and heard voices creeping out from the inside.
Rustling in the bushes turned my attention, and I turned to see Lyon emerge from around the corner. Clutching my chest, I let out a breath I didn’t know I was holding. He pressed his index finger to his lips, and ushered me to follow him. When the guards were goofing off with their back turned, her led me in and closed the door behind him with an oof.
“He’s been trying to find you for the last hour, where the hell were you?”
“I got caught up, he caught me. I’m really sorry, Lyon.”
“Well, what am I supposed to tell him?” he growled.
“I’ve got this,” I assured, brushing past him. He went on to try and ramble about a solution, but I calmly made my way to the room, and pushed open the door.
“Thank god,” was all I heard before a hard chest slammed into me. Damien wrapped his arms around me and hugged me tighter than he ever had before. I stood there awkwardly, struggling to breathe. As he finally stepped back, his eyes searched mine for an explanation.
“Where the hell were you? I was about to lock down the entire kingdom,”
I knew that those words held power behind them.
“I was just out,” I shrugged, trying to brush past him. He didn’t buy it, barring me from walking any further with his body.
“Visiting Ace,” I murmured.
Instantly, his threatening posture ceased, and he wrapped me in another hug. I gave myself a small pat on the back for pulling the pity card, despite the deception.
“You should get some rest, I’m going to shower and then I’ll join you?” I suggested hopefully. He nodded, and started back towards our room to rest.
Finally, my body relaxed, and I emerged back into the corridor to find Lyon again. He had his arms crossed over his chest, deep in thought. I snapped my fingers in front of his face to pull him out of it.
“Using my dead best friend as a cover up?”
“You’re the one who told me to sneak out,” I shot back.
Accepting that we were both at fault for the past couple of hours, he digressed. He bid me goodnight, and I made my way back to the library to grab my sketchbook. Making my way over to the couch, I jumped at the sound of a voice. I turned and saw Ace lounging on the couch behind me.
“How often have you used my death as an excuse?” He smiled.
“Aren’t you supposed to be following your ex girlfriend around?” I frowned.
“The events that have been transpiring on your end over the past couple of days have been much more interesting. So naturally, I followed you to Xander’s.”
“So you know, then,” I looked at him like a deer caught in headlights. When he nodded, I relaxed, relieved that the secret was out to someone. Immediately after, however, I felt my body tense up again at Ella’s words that echoed through the palace only hours earlier. When I made eye contact with him again, he had seemingly caught on and held his hands up in defeat.
“I know, you’re mad,” he started.
“Mad doesn’t even begin to cover it,” I hissed, hearing my own voice escalate. I glanced back at the door, hoping that Damien wouldn’t choose to make his appearance when I was talking to a couch like a madwoman.
“I am on the side of life, Cyan.”
“You’d plan your own King’s mutiny because of it?”
“Take a moment to look at the facts, okay? It’s no longer the rogue army that wants Damien dethroned. Our species is built off of unification and devoted love, and let’s be honest, the past year of your marriage has not proven that you’re Romeo and Juliet.”
Despite the fact that he was right, I didn’t enjoy being on the stand of belittlement.
“The original plan was to storm the castle, dethrone you, and execute you and Damien there and then. Adonis Lockridge was going to take over the eastern region entirely and consolidate it with his own. Unlike your for-all-intensive-purposes ‘husband’, I was the one who was good at politics. I’m dead now, it’s not like Damien can kill me, so I’m going to save his life whether he likes it or not.”
“How is this saving his life?”
“Because, now they aren’t going to murder either of you, if you agree to Xander’s proposal.”
“So I betray my husband with an anger problem, marry his brother, and rule my kingdom as Adonis’ puppet?” I frowned at the idea.
“Don’t act like after all this time, you hadn’t wished it was him in the first place,” Ace replied knowingly.
A soft knock behind me pulled me out of my conversation, and I turned to see a groggy looking Damien. He had his sleep pants sitting low on his waist, and it was clear he had spent some time looking for me.
“What are you doing in here?” he asked.
I gripped my journal, looking at the couch one last time only to find that Ace had faded back into nothingness. I smiled at Damien, assuring him that it was nothing, and followed him back to our room. When we went to bed, he made no effort to attempt to pull me close to him; no effort to make a move of any kind. I stared regretfully at his tattoo-covered torso, watching his chest slowly rise and fall. It began to settle in that tonight was probably the last night that I would ever spend beside him, like this.
Memories washed through my mind, memories of him in that tuxedo, bright eyed and wild. The happy memories were quickly clouded by those of him slamming me into walls and pinning me down on his bed. I closed my eyes, trying to shake the thoughts, but it wasn’t sunlight that awoke me, or the chirping of birds. It was the sound of gunfire.
Damien shot up like a rocket and crossed his arm over me protectively. The alarm sounded off throughout the entire palace, and even though I knew this was coming, I still found adrenaline pumping through my veins. Part of me was hoping that they would hold off until morning, but I knew that wasn’t Adonis’ way.
I had heard vague tales of Adonis Lockridge. He wasn’t a cruel man, not at all. In fact, he was the most well loved of all the factions. He controlled the biggest plot of land second to Damien, and that made him powerful. It made sense that he had been elected the head of this operation.
As Damien rose from his bed, I started behind him but he shot me a daring look to stay back as the sounds of chaos got closer to our bedroom.
He dove out into the hallway before I could stop him, and I heard a final shot erupt.
Pushing my way out to see what had happened, I watched him crumble to the ground. Blood began to ooze out underneath him, and I couldn’t even make a sound. I looked up to the end of the smoking gun, and saw Adonis Lockridge at the end of it. I expected some kind of sick smile on his face, but all I saw was remorse.
Lyon rounded the corner, and he instantly raged towards Adonis’ direction. One of his many body guards stopped him, and he was dragged back. His eyes never made contact with mine.
“The agreement was not to kill him,” I screeched.
“He’s not dead,” Adonis stated, waving out two men to come take Damien away. He was unconscious, and still bleeding, but I was holding onto Adonis’ every word.
“He looks dead to me,” I hissed. Now I was in his face. Why did I even feel protection towards the monster behind me?
“It was laced with wolfs bane to make him look weaker than he was. Lyon saw him like that, which was exactly what I wanted.”
“You should have let me explain it to her,” Xander emerged behind him, quickly coming to my side as he took a protective stance beside me.
“We needed her reaction to look believable,” Adonis dismissed. “You’re a lovely woman from what I’ve heard, Cyan, but I trust you about as far as I can throw you. I know that Xander here promised you a different outcome, but the only way I can get him to take the throne and for you to sit on him with it, is if the world believes that your husband is dead. It’s the only way he can stay alive.”
I opened my mouth to object, but Xander interlaced his fingers with mine and gave it a squeeze, and I let Adonis win. As quickly as the man appeared, he had gone, which left only Xander and myself staring at the puddle of his brother’s blood.
“How do we know he won’t die?” I murmured.
“Adonis was a soldier before he took his place beside my brother. He doesn’t miss.”
My sight kept flickering back to the day I stood on the altar with him, and watched him clutch his abdomen in the same way. That time, however, Xander had been at the other end of the gun. Noticing me sink into my thoughts, he tugged me down the corridor and over to the foyer. I saw all of Damien’s soldiers being escorted out of the palace by rogues, with Ella at the head of them. She winked at Xander before disappearing through the front doors, and as I began to ask where they were taking them, I already knew. They were going to take them all under the firing squad, just like Damien had done to their people for years on end.
I couldn’t help but let her wink crawl under my skin. I was trying to force myself to believe that this whole arrangement with Xander was purely political, but even Ace could see through my façade.
It was some hours later when Lyon was finally pulled out to a podium on the steps, shackled like a prisoner. I was tucked away right inside the doors as I was forced to watch. There were cameras everywhere, inside and outside the gate. I could see him shake as he believed that his second best friend on the planet was murdered in front of his eyes. His lip quivered before he opened his mouth to deliver his carefully-cultivated speech by Adonis.
“I stand before all of you today, to alert you that last night the palace was attacked. I am the only remaining survivor of the Averell faction.” He sent a look back at me, and I wasn’t sure if it was coated with anger or with pity. Regardless, the next words he spoke erupted him into a sobbing mess; “The King is dead.”