Chapter 18: Goodbye
I watched in awe during the days to come as Xander stood up like a leader. He did press conferences, announced ‘funeral’ arrangements, and dealt with everyone who was attempting to get in my face. I hadn’t shown my face to the public yet. Adonis insisted that I only show it beneath a black lace veil at the funeral. I had no kind of poker face, so I was okay with that notion.
They had ordered Damien’s things to be packed away into storage, so Lyon and I had spent the day moving them to the biggest storage room in the palace. As I watched Lyon take the box that held Damien’s wedding ring into a safe, I felt my heart strings tug. My lingering gaze caught Lyon’s attention, and he snapped his fingers in my face.
“I’m making progress, you know,” he said encouragingly.
“How?” I sighed.
“Ella got assigned to duty in front of the room we think he’s being held in,” his tone was hopeful. I immediately looked at him with wide eyes.
“No way,” I shot him down.
“This is worth it, I promise,” he attempted to assure me, but I wasn’t having it.
“You don’t want to be around her, we’ll find another way, Lyon.”
“Well, that’s too bad, because I already have a date with her tonight and I’m going to swipe her key then.”
I hit him somewhat playfully on the shoulder.
“I don’t want you burying a coffin tomorrow thinking that he’s really in it. You need to see that he’s alive, Cyan. I need to know how he’s doing.”
Now, it seemed like he was pleading for his own case. I relented in my efforts to hit him, and we tucked the last of his things away before he disappeared to get ready for his night. I remained in the storage room, deciding to poke around in the room a little bit more before I went back to my unspoken captivity.
When I thought of the Royal Family before, I had expected them to all be eloquently reading books in a circle and wearing tuxedos all the time. As I rifled through the boxes around me, I found that this was not the case. Damien and Xander had sports jerseys and had shot glass collections. The further back into the room I got, the further back the years went. Eventually, I got to their things from when they were little boys. I peeled back the top of a box that held labeled video CD’s, and I couldn’t help myself.
I turned and saw the deserted television underneath a bed sheet, and pulled it back to reveal the screen. Plugging it in, I inserted the first CD and watched the image crackle across the screen as it came to life.
I analyzed the background and saw the ballroom where I first met Damien. Him and Xander had to have been just past the age of toddlers, and they were running around in little tuxedos. There was the sound of a woman yelling at them, and as the camera panned up there was a large Christmas tree in the room. They continued running around, dancing until the recording cut to Christmas morning.
“I got a brand new bicycle that year. Damien was furious when he didn’t get one, he stole mine and ran it into a pole. I didn’t talk to him for weeks.”
I turned and saw Xander only a few feet behind me, making me nearly jump out of my skin.
“You scared me,” I breathed.
“You’re rifling through my childhood memories, I think we’re even,” he winked as he sat beside me.
I don’t know how much time passed by, but I spent most of the next few hours watching Xander grow from a little toddler into an awkward preteen.
“I didn’t know your mother made home videos; Damien never mentioned it,” I observed.
“Damien didn’t mention a lot of things,” he pointed out.
I paused, and looked over at him. He had clearly had a long day; his hair was tousled just the right way and his dress shirt sleeves were rolled up. He had the top button on his shirt undone, and I watched my gaze draw a line up to his lips. Before I had the chance to open my mouth to try and defend Damien, he pressed his lips firmly against mine.
I didn’t push him off, I didn’t try to stop him, I simply let him continue as he wrapped his arms around my torso, letting one trail up into my hair. He gently laid me back against the hardwood floor as he caged himself overtop of me. His lips travelled down my jawline and dribbled down my neck to my collarbones. I felt my breathing growing heavy, and as I drifted out of this world I was shot back by an open door.
A squeal erupted from my lips before I scrambled to sit upright, pushing Xander off of me. I turned to see a distasteful Lyon dangling a key in front of my face. Xander looked unbothered by our interrupted session.
“I waited in your room for an hour,” he said. “I can see you’re busy.”
As he turned to leave somewhat angrily, I chased after him. The last thing I needed was another witty comment from Xander.
“I didn’t know you were waiting—” I started.
“Clearly,” he scoffed.
I stopped chasing, and eventually when the sound of my footsteps faded, he stopped too.
“This soon? You haven’t even fake-buried him yet,”
“There was something there even before they decided to cast Damien out, you know that,” I coerced. “He’s my future, Lyon, whether the reciprocated feelings are there or not. I may as well try.”
“Let’s go,” he grumbled.
We walked in silence as he took me to the other side of the castle, where they were holding Damien. When we got to the door, Ella was nowhere to be seen.
“Where is she?” I asked suspiciously, looking around the darkened corridor.
“Sleeping,” he assured.
“You what?!” The words came out louder than I intended.
“We didn’t do anything. I got food with her and paid a servant who’s still loyal to Damien to drug her wine. All hell will break loose when she wakes up, but that’s something to worry about at another time,” he dismissed.
I didn’t want to hear any more details about how he got this key. He turned the lock, and when he opened the door the room behind it was dark. My hand grazed the wall until I ran over a bump that I recognized as a switch, and I flipped it on.
The man that sat in the corner across from me looked withered and small. In the short week that he had been inside here, it looked like he hadn’t been offered a scrap of food. He wasn’t looking up at me; his eyes were sunken in and he had his head down between his knees. When the light flicked on, he raised his hand to block the light as he looked up at me. His eyes widened at the sight of me; partially in joy and partially in fear. I was the only one who had physically seen what happened to him.
“Damien?” The words hesitated at the brink of my lips.
There was no response, just as I had expected. I took one step, and then another, with the echoing click of my heels on the concrete floor. He had been kept in a concrete box with absolutely nothing; no bed, no windows. How could Xander have allowed this?
I bent down and placed myself on the floor beside him for a moment, not saying a word.
“What have they done to you?” Lyon finally said, breaking the silence as he shut the door behind him.
“They planned the assassination of a King.”
“No, Damien, it was—” Lyon started.
“Staged, Adonis doesn’t miss, I know,” he grumbled. “I could hear things in and out during my surgery.”
“Thank goodness you’re okay,” I breathed.
“I also know that you were a part of it,”
When he finally turned to look at me, his eyes were black. Not with lust, not with desire, but with intent to kill. He lunged at me, and before I could dodge out of the way, he pushed me up against the wall by my throat. I clawed at his hands to no avail; even in his weaker state he was still stronger than me.
“Knock it off,”
He was no match for Lyon as he flung him back against the concrete wall. I fell to the ground, grasping and clawing at my neck to try and let more oxygen in.
“She’s a traitor,” Damien growled.
“She saved your life,” Lyon corrected.
He stopped fighting and looked at me quizzically, and all I could do was nod. I tried to stand up straight with my shoulders back and show I wasn’t afraid, but that was going to be hard. He wasn’t going to be my person anymore; that left him no reason to keep me safe.
“He’s lying,” he said the words as if he wanted to believe it himself.
“They were going to kill you. That was the original plan,” I felt tears welling up in my eyes.
“Is this life truly any better?” he growled.
“I’m going to get you out of here, into hiding—”
“So I can exchange lives with my brother? You can try and act all high and mighty all you want, you can even pretend you saved my life, but you’re just trading me in like a used car for the new shiny King,”
The black clouds in his eyes didn’t waver, and without another word Lyon started pulling me from the room before the loud slam of the door echoed throughout the hall. I felt my heart slamming against my ribcage as I was drifted down the hall and up to my room. I wasn’t sure if we had passed guards, or who Lyon had interacted with; all I could hear was the blood in my ears.
I was set lightly on the edge of my white comforter, and I heard yelling. I saw a blur of Ella yelling at Lyon in the hallway, and then Xander appearing out of thin air to pull them apart. When he caught sight of me, I first saw anger in his eyes, but the anger immediately softened. He knelt before me, taking my hands in his as he moved his lips. Words came out, but I didn’t hear them. I saw two guards come and wrap their hands around Lyon, and that’s when I screamed.
“Please,” the screams faded into pleas. “Don’t take him away too.”
The guards paused briefly, looking to Xander for guidance on what to do. He simply nodded, raising himself to his feet as he stood beside me.
“Restrict him to his chambers for now,” he said lightly.
As soon as he was gone, I felt my senses return. They escorted a very unhappy Ella away, and I was left alone with Xander at the click of the door closing. There was a blanket of silence for quite some time before he finally broke it.
“You went to see him,” was all he said.
“How could you keep him locked up like that?” The words came out like an echo.
“We can’t risk the public seeing him before the funeral,” he tried to explain.
“That’s bullshit and you know it,” I felt sarcastic laughter bubbling up in me. “There’s one-way glass and plenty of security—”
“The cell was special request of Adonis,” he finally admitted.
“When is it that you’ll finally stand up to him?”
“Once I have that crown on my head, things will be easier.”
“You’d better pray you’re right, Xander,” I muttered, getting to my feet as I brushed the dirt off my dress as best I could.
“I’m trying, can’t you see that?” The pleading tone in his voice was back.
I let my gaze land on his eyes one last time. Those eyes would be the death of me.