Xander's Curse (A Cursed Novel)

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Chapter 6: Memory Lane

I rolled over in bed to see Damien fast asleep. My fingers splayed across his cheek, trailing down to the tattoos on his neck. The ink inched across his skin like marching ants, and I smiled at the thought of him old beside me, with gray hair instead of dark brown. I rarely let myself think of that, about growing old with him. Our entire relationship has been about trying to survive until the next day.

His eyelids fluttered open, and a smile teased at the corner of his lips. It wasn’t mischievous like usual; this was laced with sincerity and adoration. All of the drama from the past few weeks faded away, and I was only left with the boy that stared at me the same way he did so long ago in a ballroom dressed in a tux.

“Good morning, angel,” he smiled.

“Hi,” I grinned.

“That was…”

“Yeah,” I agreed.

“That was yeah?” he scoffed. “The first time I make love to you in months, and you describe it carefully as ‘yeah’? I need to step up my game.”

“You are out of practice,” I shrugged, giggling as I poked the dimples that emerged in his cheeks.

“The full moon is in less than two weeks,” he blurted.

The warm energy in the room fizzled out like the end of a fireworks show. For the past twelve hours, his brother hadn’t existed. It felt like when she first met him, before he stepped out of that obnoxiously black limousine and introduced himself with that devilishly handsome smirk.

“We talked about this; we’ll increase the guard and no one from town will get in,” I assured.

“The guard there isn’t what I’m worried about. What if that’s what they want, for all our people to be there so that our defenses are down?”

I straddled his hips as he set his hands gently on my upper thighs. I caged my arms on either side of his head, and smiled down at him.

“You never used to worry like this,” I observed.

“I used to think that we were safe with him behind those walls.”

“If you’re so worried about our safety here, then let’s take a trip.”

“You want to run away from our problems? You’re beginning to sound like Xander,” he frowned.

I rolled my eyes, propping myself off of him.

“Way to ruin the mood, Damien.”

“No,” he clawed after me, wrapping his heavily inked arms around my waist before I could make my way off of the bed. “Vacation sounds like an amazing idea, should we take a trip to your cottage?”

“You read my mind,” I grinned, peeling away as I finally stood.

It was late in the morning, and as I pulled his sweatshirt over my head, I shimmied on my shorts and headed towards the direction of the kitchen for food. I was nearly shaking in my skin when I saw a familiar set of blonde tresses twirling to lock eyes with mine. I wanted to screech with joy, but I was tackled to the ground in a hug before I got the chance.

“You’re back!” I screeched, scanning her face over and over again to make sure that it was really her.

“You are capable of missing me, who knew?” Alessia grinned.

“How was the retreat training thingy?” I asked. I was trying to soak up all of her presence that I had missed over the past couple of months. The only thing that had made all of this lonelier was not having her here.

After Ace’s death, Alessia had spent the past couple of months travelling to other packs as a patron of the moon goddess. They hosted mating galas and served as witnesses in wedding ceremonies. Sometimes, I forgot that much out of this kingdom existed at all. I had never travelled outside of it, not one bit. I always feared that I was going to be taken by some werewolf outside the walls, as if I was safe inside them. Little did I know, the one that would really take me was only a mile down the road through a pair of fancy wrought iron gates.

“I watched people fall in love for six months, it was amazing,” she grinned. I felt myself grow awkward as I tried to analyze what she said. “I really mean it, Cyan. All my pain is gone. I just feel happy whenever I serve at a wedding or watch mates find each other at galas. It’s nice, watching other people become whole again too.”

“Why did you come back? Don’t get me wrong, I’m happy you’re here, but you had a whole six more months to go.”

She shifted her gaze briefly to Lyon, who was sitting at the bar.

“They told us, about the threats that were being sent, about the girl that was murdered by Xander. My best friend needed me more than the Moon Goddess did,” she reasoned.

“Only you would ditch the holy commands of the Moon Goddess for a human,” I laughed.

“She’s got nothing on my best friend,” she shrugged.

Damien entered behind me, fully clothed himself. He had a smirk that told me that he was fully aware of her return, and I couldn’t help but smile back at him.

“You go up to the house with Alessia for the next few weeks,” he suggested.

My smile dropped. Was he trying to send me away? As if reading my mind, he crossed the kitchen tiles and cupped my face in his hands. He was oozing comfort through his touch.

“I need you to be safe, so the further you are from here the better. I’ll send Lyon with you, okay? You’ll be as safe as you could possibly be, and after the full moon, you’ll come home. As long as I know you’re safe, I’ll be fine.”

“We sleep together for the first time in months and you send me away? There’s a confidence booster,” I poked his chest jokingly.

“I’m doing this because I would like to continue to sleep with you, actually. But you need to be alive in order for that to happen,” he grinned.

I spent the rest of the afternoon packing an oversized suitcase. It was going to be strange, going back. I hadn’t visited the cottage since the wedding. As I struggled to close it, a soft knock on the door interrupted me. I turned to see Damien leaning in the doorway, a soft smile on his face.

“You haven’t moved that fast in any of your training sessions,” he observed. “If I didn’t know any better, I would say that you’re excited to get away from me.”

“I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t excited to get away from all of this,” I gestured around to the palace, but he was following my train of thought. There was no opportunity to know if he was offended by that statement, because Alessia burst through the door with a grin. The car was outside waiting to take us to the cottage.

Giving Damien a kiss on the cheek, he watched our car until we were out of sight. I don’t know how after locking me away for so many months before, he was simply ushering me out for two weeks with Alessia and Lyon into the unknown. Lyon was shifting around in his seat, seemingly struggling to get comfortable.

“What’s up with you?” I raised an eyebrow.

“I…she’s…somewhere.”

I was confused by what was going on, but Alessia got wide eyed and excited, bouncing in her seat.

“What are you talking about?”

“His mate, dummy,” Alessia nudged.

Now my eyes widened; we were all beginning to worry that Lyon didn’t have a mate. For the most part, you found them far beyond Damien’s age, and they were only a few months apart. The entire kingdom was beginning to doubt that he had a mate before I stumbled in that evening.

“Somewhere like here-somewhere?” My eyes started scanning the streets as we rode through town.

“No, back at the palace,” he said.

“Why are you here? Why didn’t you—”

“He left on purpose,” Alessia lounged back in her seat as she looked over at him. “He knows who she is, and he doesn’t want to be with her.”

“That’s not true,” he groaned. “She isn’t always there.”

“Is she…Lyon is she a rogue?” For some strange reason, I felt my cheeks growing red at the thought of him being with someone like that. Things were finally becoming uncomplicated, and here he was.

“I don’t know, okay?” It was clear that he was embarrassed about it, and he didn’t truly want to know.

“Well the good news is, you don’t have to see her for another two weeks. Then we can worry about it, one problem at a time, right?” I smiled at him as brightly as I could, but he gave a discouraging nod.

Before Alessia had the chance to really lay out a speech for the guy, we rolled up to the cottage. I expected it to look creepy, or disheveled, but to my surprise it was perfectly groomed. I opened my mouth to ask Lyon why, but he gave me a knowing look that told me Damien had the place kept up and cleaned weekly. The bushes were perfectly round and the grass had even lines in a diamond pattern across the lawn.

When they emerged inside to the house, it was equally untouched. There were still lines from vacuuming on the carpet, and not a speck of dust to be seen. Whoever he sent to take care of this house, I needed to make a mental note to have this person start cleaning my own bedroom.

“Who’s ready for a two-week vacation?” Alessia started dancing around with two bottles of orange cream soda in her hands, accompanied on the kitchen table by plenty of bottles of wine and liquor to match. Lyon rolled his eyes, being the obvious downer of the group.

“It’s not going to be a bender of endless partying,” he warned.

“Why of course it is,” she grinned. “I’ve spent the past six months wearing nothing but white, looking as angelic as possible. Loosen your corset, Lyon.”

“I hate it when you tell me to have fun,” he huffed.

“You’ll love it when you’re drunk.”

She began pouring shots, and as the rest of them got rowdy, I meandered back to my old bedroom. The walls were a pale purple, untouched from when I was in high school. The carpet was matted from all of the nights that Alessia spent on my floor hiding from her parents when she snuck out to see Ace. A smile teased at my face as my fingertips trailed over a frame of Alessia and I at a school dance. We seemed so tiny, so young. We had no idea what the real world had in store for us.

More polaroids and photo booth pictures lined the cork board that hovered over top my desk. I had left most of my high school memorabilia here when I left to go live at the palace; holding onto the past wasn’t going to do me any good in my new role. Here I was, wallowing in nostalgia.

“I missed this place,” I turned to see Alessia trailing her hand over the molding around the door. At the edge of the wall was the teasing hint of many layers of paint that I had painted over. When I had been incredibly young, it was a hot blazing pink, and after that, lime green. I was certainly not destined for interior design.

“It feels like eons ago that we were in high school, doesn’t it?” I said.

“Yeah,”

As her eyes glossed over, I knew that she was reminiscing about Ace. I know that the Moon Goddess had removed her physical pain that she felt when she thought of him; she had assured me of it. Still, there was no cure for strolling down memory lane, and for mates, it was a one-way street.

“It’s okay,” she assured, catching on. “It was a lifetime ago.”

“A lifetime is not equivalent to six months, Alessia. It’s still fresh, you don’t have to act like it isn’t.”

“I don’t have to, but I will!” A fake perky smile came across her face, and she downed another shot before I could continue my heartfelt speech.

I was about to find out what happened when you combined a heartbroken girl and a man avoiding love, with a woman facing death threats from her own people and a handle of vodka.

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