Chapter 9: Politics
I waved the paper obnoxiously in Alessia’s face. I hadn’t dared to bring this to Lyon’s attention. I loved the guy, but on the other hand I suspected that he would run straight to Damien like the little lapdog he was. I was unnerved with the way that she looked at it.
“You found it in your sketchbook?”
“It was in the bag that got checked when it came in. I was looking through it at the cottage, and it wasn’t there then. Someone put it in there when we got back. There’s someone else in the palace that they haven’t discovered yet.”
“Well, you’re going to tell Damien, right? You couldn’t possibly risk going back to Xander so close to the full moon. He’s a lost cause, Cy.” She was semi-pleading with me, and everything that she said was registering in my brain as true. Regardless of what my brain was thinking, my heart had another agenda.
“Yeah, I’m going to go tell him now. Just…don’t tell anyone else in the palace, okay? Not even Lyon.”
“Lyon isn’t the mole, Cy,” she rolled her eyes.
“Promise me,” I pressed. Her annoyed expression dropped and she nodded, and I let out a breath that I didn’t know I was holding in.
Contrary to what I had just promised my best friend, I took the same path that I had both times prior. There was no way that I could drive Lyon’s car out of here without attracting attention. Since Damien chose to call me a teenager, that’s exactly how I was going to act. I jumped the fence like I used to do at the football field after dark, and headed out in the same direction that I saw Ella from the garden balcony.
The trip from the palace to the mansion was a lot longer than I anticipated, although it was a lot less heavily guarded. The sun was setting, which left a glowing yellow hue on the grass as the sunlight waded through the trees. The air smelled of sickly sweet flowers, and birds gathered amidst the branches in the woods.
I felt a pang of relief when I laid my eyes on the mansion, and that feeling deepened when I saw that there were no guards present. Upon further investigation, even rogues weren’t present. I suspected that as soon as it was within 48 hours of the full moon, they pulled as far away as they possibly could. It felt sad to me, to think of Xander alone during the most painful twelve hours of the month. I went to knock on the door, and this time I did it with conviction.
Xander swung open the door, and I expected that sly smirk on his face, but this time, it was confusion.
“What are you doing here? It’s dangerous,” he hissed at me, looking around outside. He gripped my arm and yanked me in, closing the door in a hurry behind me. “Did anyone see you come in? You can’t be here, Cyan.”
“If I didn’t know better, I’d say that you were actually concerned about me,” I smirked. “Of course I came, I got your note.”
“What note? I never sent you a damn note, Cyan. You can’t be here this close to the full moon, not anymore.”
I dug into my back pocket, and pulled out the bone-chilling note once more. When he read it, I saw him stiffen, and he took a step or two back from me. His eyes kept flickering up to me, as if I was no longer human.
“What are you so nervous about?” I asked.
“They found a note just like this on the girl I slaughtered, Cyan. I thought she came here on her own but she must have…she must have been told to come. God, she walked to her own death.” He was clearly distraught as he ran his hand through his hair, and he backed up further before knocking into a table. “You need to go, you need to go now.”
“What? No, if they sent this then they’re watching the house. If I leave, they’ll send someone worse, someone who can’t defend herself.”
“Are you mad?!” He was screaming now. “I’m not some guy at a frat party, Cyan. I could rip you to shreds beyond recognition, and they would spend weeks trying to identify you.”
“I’m not sending another girl here to die!”
I wanted to scream at him that I knew how to end this, that I knew how to stop him from shifting and losing control at all. Saving him would mean setting myself on fire. If this continued, we would all burn. I wasn’t given time to save him, however. That’s the thing about sacrifice. When you’re the hero, you’re supposed to do things without hesitation. Emotions distract you from what needs to be done, and I was caught in a whirlwind of them. For this reason, I didn’t hear the door open, and I didn’t see his eyes widen in fear. I did, however, feel the whack overtop of my head that made the world around me fade to black.
When I awoke, my muscles ached dully enough to tell me that I had been strung up for hours. My arms were raised above me with cool metal chains that nipped at my skin. I was slumped on the floor, and as I gathered myself to my feet, the chains gave me a small amount of slack. My eyes began to adjust to the light, and I could make out Xander on the other end of the room. Blood was washed from all of the cement surfaces of the room, but stains remained nonetheless. We were most definitely in a basement, and there was a collar clasped around his neck like he was a dog. His skin tinged red where it touched him and I knew it was burning his skin, but he showed no signs of pain. He had been awake seemingly longer than I had, and he looked relaxed, like he had already figured out what was going on.
“Breathe, Princess,” he cooed.
“This is kinky, even for you,” I joked. My heart was beginning to ache as the truth settled in. “Who did this?” My voice croaked.
“Funny you should ask,”
I saw the same obnoxious blonde emerge from the four plywood steps to the door. She had been sitting there the whole time, and I jumped back from where I stood. She was dressed like an obnoxiously beautiful sorority girl with heels and a short denim skirt, with a plunging blouse to match. The only thing more sadistic than this setup was the fact that she was dressing up for it.
“Truthfully, I didn’t think you had it in you,” she shrugged. “They told me it was a longshot, but I had faith that sweet little Cyan still had room in her heart for Xander.”
“So what, I’m live bait now? Did you know about this?” I seethed towards Xander.
“Don’t get your wires crossed,” he growled. “They have me knocked out until I shift, normally. Last time was the first time they stopped.”
“You were fully aware you were going to slaughter that girl?”
“I can’t control it, Cyan,” he snapped.
I ducked my head down, not wanting to fight anymore.
“Why me?” I shot my question up at Ella.
“When feisty old Damien discovers that Xander lured his wife into the mansion with this little note,” she peeled the false note from her back pocket. “He’ll be mad. Furious, actually. Furious enough to start a war against the rogues, one that I entirely plan on winning.”
“Like you have enough men,” I scoffed. She squatted in her heels, her knees pressed together as she traced Xander’s cheek. He pulled away, and she stood with a smile.
“That was a problem at first, yes. When word got out that Damien let one of his own protected citizens get into the mansion of a rabid wolf, rogues spread all across the country began to see how justified we were. They want to take the throne back, you see.”
“Who are you going to put on the throne? Xander can’t leave this house,” I taunted.
“You’re right,” she pouted. “Well, you know what they say, any job fit for a King a Queen can do ten times better.”
“Sick bitch,” Xander spat. “You’re going to just let them sacrifice me so that you can take my place?”
“It’s just politics, sweetheart, nothing personal,” she assured.
Her prissy ass turned on her heel and disappeared from the room, and we heard the soft lock of the door. I wanted to be angry at him for knowing, I wanted to be angry at him for being fully aware of what he was going to do to that young girl. As I felt the chains tighten around my own wrists, I realized that he was not as free to make his own decisions as I thought. A curse is a curse, after all, and whether it’s a young child or Luca, it didn’t matter who was in front of him when the moon swung high.
“I need to get free,” I hissed.
“That’s not going to do any good,” he assured. “You can get out, sure, but she locks the door pretty heavily. Only I could get out and this,” he gestured to the collar, “is pretty sturdy.”
“How do I get free?”
“Just wriggle out, that’s what the other girl did,” he shrugged.
I could see it, I could see him trying to numb out. I worked and tried to pull my way out of the chains, but they were beginning to rub my skin raw. Finally, after huffing and puffing, I stopped fighting and looked to him.
“You aren’t going to hurt me,” I promised.
“I can’t think about this right now,” he replied, emotionless.
“Just envision me as that girl dressed in white on the altar choosing the other man, and I’m sure it will be plenty easy to rip my heart out,” I replied sassily.
“I dream about it sometimes, you know,” he said.
“What?” This is not where I thought this was going.
“Sometimes, when I’m sleeping, I dream about that day. I dream that it ended differently. I dream that I didn’t hurt Ace, or you, or Alessia all over again. I dreamt that I burst through that door, and you ran from his arms and into mine—”
“Xander, stop,” I pleaded.
“—and I dreamt that we rode into the sunset like some pathetic animated cartoon,” he laughed.
I slumped to the ground again.
“You made me believe again, you know.”
“That I was capable of loving like humans.”
“Xander—” I began.
“I spend a lot of time in here alone, and I picture dumb high school things like holding your hand and walking on the beach, and watching you graduate university. I picture moving in with you, and you getting all excited, and kissing you—”
“God, I swear when our lips touched, I could taste the next sixty years of my life, Cyan.”
I stopped wriggling against the chains again, and looked up at him in disbelief. I wanted to tell him to shut up, to stop talking to me like he’d never see me again. I wanted him to stop talking me like he had accepted the fact that he was going to murder me. One wrist slipped out, and then the other, and before I could logically think through what I was about to do, I decided not to think at all. I knelt to the ground, placing one knee on either side of his waist, and half-expected him to push me away. He didn’t, however, and he placed his chain-wrapped hands on the sides of my thighs, gripping me like he would never let go.
I ducked my head down as I leveled my body with his, and I pressed my lips firmly onto his. He hesitated at first, as if he was unsure that it was happening, and then kissed me back feverishly. His hands slithered up my sides and into my hair as he pressed my body firmly against his, leaving nothing to chance.
I could tell that he was disappointed and a little lost in it when I pulled away, fiddling at his own chains and collar. Once they were undone, he looked at me questionably.
“What’s the point?” he almost whispered the words.
“I need you to trust me for the next 90 seconds, can you do that?”
He nodded his head, feeling dazed and a little high; I knew because I felt it too. In all the times I kissed Damien, in all the times I made love to him (albeit there were very few), never had a kiss felt like that. The last time that Xander and I had kissed, it was one-sided, and the entire time I had been trying to get away; reluctant. It felt strange for it to be reciprocated, but it was something I couldn’t think about until we got the hell out of here.
He pulled himself free from the tangled chains, and kicked down the door with vigor. It took him a few tries, but eventually the locks blew, and I took his hand firmly in mine as we came up from the basement and into the hallway. I opened the front door, stepping out onto the porch, and he eagerly followed until we got to the property line.
“You should go,” he ushered.
“We will,” I assured, tugging him after me.
“Cyan I can’t—”
With a final tug, he was dragged over the property line, and he braced himself to be ricocheted backwards, but was shocked when he landed flat on his face. I couldn’t help but let out a chuckle as he scrambled to sit upright, looking at me in awe.
“I…is this…am I…”
“You don’t have to shift tonight, Xander. You won’t hurt anyone anymore,” I promised, holding out my hand. As he got to his feet, I traced my fingertips along his cheek, and lowered my hand as I felt myself blushing. “Let’s get you home safe, before all hell breaks loose.”