Chapter 32 - Answers
My palms are uncomfortably sweaty as I grip Gray’s hand, my fingers holding onto his for dear life as he leads me into the dining room. Despite his assurances that there’s nothing to worry about with his father, I can’t stop myself from feeling wary regarding the whole situation.
From what I’ve gathered during my short time here, Lust is a sneaky, unfriendly man. I don’t trust that his visit today is purely coincidental, especially since he’s coming at a time when Aziel’s gone.
Silas is the first person I see when I enter the room, his expression calm and relaxed as he turns to look at us. He sits at the head of the table, taking Aziel’s place in his absence, and to his left sits Lust and some female I don’t recognize.
She’s unnaturally beautiful, and with an internal sigh I realize she’s a Succubus. Lust probably brought another one of Gray’s past lovers in the hopes of making me upset.
Both turn to look at us as we enter, but I avoid eye contact as Gray leads me to the other side of the table and plants me directly between him and Silas.
The Shadows have prepared a meal I’m unfamiliar with, but Gray seems more than comfortable with it as he reaches forward and begins to fill both his and my plates. Silas snorts at the rude entrance, but says nothing as he too begins to serve himself.
Lust grunts as Gray starts shoveling food down his throat, his disinterest in having to sit through a meal with his father quite clear. I’m glad to note, though, that Lust is keeping his essence at bay this time around.
Maybe the boys were right in saying he’d leave me alone now that Aziel’s made his claim. I relax slightly at the thought, my fists unclenching at my sides as I reach up and grab my fork.
“Care to share why you decided to invite yourself to dinner?” Silas questions after a few minutes of unbearable silence.
Lust gestures to the woman sitting next to him. She straightens up as she awaits her introduction, her eyes darting between Gray and Silas as a sly smirk spreads across her face.
“I came with a trade.” He states. “I could tell Alex has not bonded with your female yet, and thought this would be a good opportunity to propose he take Valentine instead.”
Gray snorts and shovels another forkful into his mouth. I go rigid. A trade? They wouldn’t do that, would they?
My palms grow clammy as I wait to hear the response.
“Our plans to bond the same female were made clear over a hundred years ago. Do you seriously want to suggest that the female be my fucking sister?” Gray’s quick to snap. “And you can go fuck yourself if you ever think we’ll give you Charlie.”
I hold back a smirk, glad he’s not considering it and also slightly satisfied to learn that this woman is his sister and not some high-bred Demon woman he’s slept with.
Gray huffs before continuing. “And he’s going by Aziel again.”
Lust shrugs, seemingly unconcerned as he ignores Gray and brings his focus back to Silas. It’s clear the Fate’s the one in charge when Aziel’s gone, but I’m surprised that Lust expects him to make a decision of this caliber on Aziel’s behalf. Is this typical for them?
They’ve known one another for long enough that making decisions involving money or other simple things is unsurprising, but this feels extreme. I couldn’t imagine ever letting Gray barter away my relationships without my input.
“My proposal is for Gray to have Charlie without interference from the den if Aziel claims Valentine.” Lust clarifies. “She’s set to inherit my throne, as I’m sure you’re already aware. This is a good trade. Gray was a mistake that can easily be pushed aside. The people will be able to overlook that he has an involuntary bond with Aziel, and given that it’s been over a hundred years and the two have not fully mated, most do not even recognize it anymore.”
I don’t have to look at Gray to know he’s hurt by his father’s words, the man cruel and vindictive as he so openly talks about how easy it would be for Aziel to cast him aside.
As much as I’d like to reach out and grab Gray’s hand for comfort, I resist. He may have held mine when we entered, but I’m still unsure how far we should push it in front of Lust and Valentine.
“We all know how bad it looks for him to be claiming the Human as his own, and I′m not foolish enough to believe he truly wants her. He’s doing this for you, Gray, and I’m giving you both the opportunity for an out.” Lust continues.
I sink in my seat and turn to Silas, nervous to hear his response. The thought of no longer having to pretend to be Aziel’s is admittedly one I enjoy, but I don’t trust Lust enough to believe he’d ever truly leave Gray alone.
His apparent distaste for his son is concerning.
“No, Lust, I believe this situation only looks bad for you. We’ve heard the rumors. Your people are angry you’re not securing an alliance with your son. Gray is bonded to the future king of Wrath, yet he holds no allegiance towards you or your people.” Silas crudely states. “They want their next ruler to be bonded to Aziel, and they don’t care which child of yours it happens to be with. You’re the one who’s desperate for it to be Valentine, but Aziel has already chosen Gray.”
Lust and Valentine frown simultaneously, both looking equally angry at Silas’s rejection.
“Gray and the Human do not even service Aziel.” Lust argues, his eyes darting to me before letting out an abrupt laugh. “Valentine will be able to give both of you what you need.”
Silas chuckles, gesturing to Gray.
“Aziel is happy with the arrangement that’s been made. Gray and Charlie are his, and he has no interest in changing that.” He states.
“And what about you? You stand by Aziel’s side yet you’re unable to convince him to take a Female you can take comfort in.” Lust deadpans, his eyes cutting over to me with a scoff. “We both know Valentine will happily serve you better than the Human ever could.”
Silas shrugs, remaining silent.
I tell myself not to be offended as a hot spike of jealousy flares within me. I know Silas isn’t exactly interested in me, but I didn’t realize he was so opposed to Humans that he can’t even argue the point on my behalf.
I’ve got the same holes she does.
Gray reaches forward and grabs my hand as I glare at Silas, his grip tight as he leans in and presses his face into my neck. I remain still as his lips make contact with the sensitive skin there, his actions clearly to bring me comfort.
Valentine turns her attention to Gray and me, her lips pulled down at the corners. It’s hard to tell if she’s genuinely as angry as she appears or if that’s her natural expression, but I doubt I’ll be finding out today.
“Don’t be stupid, Silas. I’m better suited to rule by yours and Aziel’s side than Gray and the Human. Gray will get to keep her, and Aziel will no longer be burdened by the shame that comes with bonding them. This is a good deal.” She argues her point.
Silas sucks on his teeth, his hesitance making my palms sweat. Is he considering her offer?
“Plus, we both know how well acquainted I am with your desires. If you’d like a refresher, I’m more than willing.” She continues, her words seeming to capture Gray’s attention as he pulls his face from my neck and scowls at her.
“I can give Silas what he needs better than you can.” He snaps.
Silas visibly looks uncomfortable as he leans back in his chair and pinches the bridge of his nose. He sucks in a deep breath as the two begin to argue over him.
“Silas does not like men.” Valentine retorts.
“Silas doesn’t care.” Gray shouts, his voice rising in volume each time Valentine insists he can’t adequately serve the other man. “The gender doesn’t matter as long as he’s being held down and called a good boy.”
My eyes widen, and I swivel my head toward Silas to catch his reaction. He hardly has one, and only lets out another sigh as Gray stands from his chair and calls his sister a greedy whore.
“Enough!” Silas finally shouts, putting a halt to the bickering. “Gray and Charlie are staying. We aren’t interested in making any changes to our arrangement.” He firmly states.
My posture straightens at the public claim, and my chin tilts upward in pride. It’s about time he defends us.
Lust scowls at Silas’s rejection, and Gray plops down in his chair with a fat grin. His hand’s returned to mine as he hums loudly to himself and resumes eating his food. I’m still reeling over the information about Silas, but now’s not the time to appear too shocked and confused.
Valentine and Lust exchange glances before returning their attention to Silas. It’s tense and awkward, and I silently shove another forkful of food into my mouth as I wait for somebody to make a move.
After another unbearable couple of minutes, Lust calmly states that he’ll be back to speak to Aziel about this and that he should have known better than to try to do business with a Fate. The way he spits the word shocks me, making me turn to Gray in question.
I knew Fates were hunted by the other breeds, but didn’t realize that they weren’t liked by the Demons either.
Gray hardly seems to react to the derogatory tone, and if anything, looks to be holding back a laugh. He’s always so quick to defend Aziel and Silas, though, so I take it as a good sign that he’s not upset.
Turning towards Silas, I’m happy to note that he appears to be as unaffected as Gray.
Lust and Valentine both turn to give me another slow once over, their heated gazes evaluating and probably dissecting every flaw they see and imprinting it to memory. I refuse to let myself cower under their judgment, and stare straight ahead until Lust shifts away.
Valentine’s quick to follow, her body there one second and gone the next. I release an audible sigh when we’re left alone, relief flooding my system as my shoulders relax and toes uncurl. They didn’t even bother serving themselves any food, and the shadows slide in and take their empty plates from the table.
Gray’s humming comes to an abrupt halt as the shadows move around us, his hand tightening around mine before he releases it and stands. I turn to him, frowning as I take in the glare he’s shooting in Silas’s direction.
“It wouldn’t have killed you to say that we please you, too.” Gray snaps.
Silas shrugs as he slips another bite of food between his lips. He chews it painfully slow, and if I didn’t know any better, I’d say that he’s stalling. Gray seems to notice it as well, and scoffs at the older Demon.
“I’m going to the bathroom.” He abruptly states, his fury evident in his voice as he pushes back his chair and stomps out of the room.
I watch him leave, knowing he probably doesn’t actually have to use the bathroom and is just trying to take a moment for himself. It’s understandable. Gray’s sensitive about his ability to keep everybody in the house happy, and given his constant rejections whenever he tries, I wouldn’t be surprised to learn that he harbors genuine fears that the two Demons will leave him one day.
What I never realized was that there’s an expectation for Gray and I to be intimate with both Aziel and Silas. I suppose it makes sense for Aziel considering that he’s bonded with Gray and has claimed me, but I don’t understand how Silas fits into the mix.
“Are Gray and I expected to serve you and Aziel?” I question.
“Yes and no.” Silas sighs. “Since Aziel has bonded Gray and claimed you and me, the assumption is that we are all serving him. Since I’m, uh, older than you and Gray, people expect that you both are also serving me.”
“That’s obviously not how it works between us all, though.” He continues.
I bite the inside of my cheek as I absorb the information. It feels like the more I learn about their culture, the more confused I find myself. I know how important hierarchy is in this realm, but didn’t realize it existed so heavily within relationships, too.
It’s barbaric that they think of intimacy as one person serving the other rather than both taking pleasure. Thankfully Gray’s not like that at all and, if anything, is the one serving me.
“Why have none of you taken a female before?”
“When you live to be thousands of years old, there isn’t a huge rush. Our relationship is also a bit unconventional. We decided long ago that when we’re ready to truly bond with a female, we’ll share one. It’s easier than trying to navigate having three.” Silas explains, letting out a dry laugh.
“We’ve always made it clear we aren’t actively seeking one, but now that you’re in the picture they think we are and want to throw their daughters into the ring before Aziel bonds you and it’s too late.” He continues.
I clench my jaw shut and look away, not wanting him to see my budding tears. I understand that my purpose is to keep Gray occupied for a couple of years, but it still hurts hearing how little I mean to them in the grand scheme of things.
“And I’m just the short-term entertainment.” I state lowly.
Silas sighs, and moments later my chair is being pushed back and he’s ducking down at my feet. I refuse to make eye contact with him, uninterested in seeing his pity.
“Would you rather I lie to you, Charlie? I’m not going to coddle you as Gray does, but take a step back and look at the position you’re in right now. You have Gray, and Aziel’s clearly taken a liking to you. The ball’s in your court more than you think it is.” He states kindly.
“And when I die in sixty years?” I probe.
Silas laughs, but stops when he realizes I’m being serious. With a dramatic pained groan, he rocks back on his heels and bounces up to his full height. I watch as he sits in the chair previously occupied by Gray and turns it to face mine.
“Has Gray not explained claims and bonds to you?”
I shake my head. I know they exist, but the intricate details are still a bit confusing to me.
“What do you know?” He questions.
“I know Aziel and Gray are bonded, and that Aziel has claimed me and you. He’s bonded to Gray because Gray got him off, and that’s what triggers it for him. I don’t know the difference of a claim.” I quietly share, feeling slightly embarrassed at the lack of knowledge I have surrounding them.
Silas nods, confirming that what I’ve stated is correct.
“Yeah, so a claim would be like a marriage to your kind, and a bond is a soul tying. All Demons can bond, but most choose to settle with a claim since it’s less commitment. The Wrath bloodline is strong, and nature needed to balance the power, so Aziel has to bond if he wants to have children.” He explains.
“How does that balance his power?” I question, leaning forward slightly in interest.
“Gray can calm him. He’s not very good at it because he’s always starving and Aziel loves to fight him on it, but the ability is there. Aziel will need to bond with a female if he wants to have heirs, and many are desperate for that guaranteed power. The female will share his lifeline, meaning that she′ll live and age as he does, and have access to his essence.” Silas states with a shrug. “The latter doesn’t mean much to you since Humans don’t survive off it, but to Demons, it means a whole lot.”
“And where do you fit in that?” I can’t stop myself from asking.
Silas snorts. “I’ve been by Aziel’s side for over a thousand years, and don’t expect that to change. I’ll bond myself to him and the female when the time comes. Since I have desires unique to men of my status, most expect that we’ll pick a woman from Lust’s den. Valentine and I had a brief relationship many years ago, and Lust has been pushing her on us ever since.”
I’m sure my eyes are comically wide as I watch him take a bite of Gray’s food. I turn and look for the Incubus, my pulse picking up as I spot him standing in the doorway watching us. He nods in my direction, a soft smile on his face.
I offer him a weak one before turning back to Silas.
“Why don’t you get your own female? And why don’t you just bond with Aziel now instead of waiting?” I continue with my line of intrusive questioning.
“The Fates told me I’m to share, and I trust them. For the second part of your question, bonds are meaningful to us, and I’ll honor our female with my first one. I’ll bond Aziel and Gray after.” Silas explains before perking up and waving over Gray.
I listen to Gray’s approaching footsteps as Silas scolds him for not explaining anything to me. Gray sounds unapologetic as he shares that some Humans don’t like when males are intimate, and didn’t want to say anything until he knew where I stood.
His voice goes hushed when he asks Silas if he truly plans to bond with him too, but Silas ignores the question and instead lectures Gray for keeping me in the dark on the details of their relationship.
Gray sounds hurt as he snaps that there isn’t a relationship, painfully pointing out that Silas has never fed him. His voice grows in volume as he brings up Silas fucking his sister, and I can tell by the tone that this isn’t the first time they’ve argued about this.
Not wanting to listen any longer, I jump to my feet and wrap my arms around Gray’s stomach. He’s quick to return the hold, his stiff posture softening in my arms.
“Let’s go watch a movie upstairs.” I whisper, wanting nothing more than to sit in a dark room and worry.
“Good idea.” Gray agrees, his voice cold as Silas sighs and leaves the room.
There’s clearly some unspoken, hidden tension between these two men, and I don’t want to be here when it finally explodes.
From what I’ve gathered, it seems like Silas is open to the idea of being bonded to Gray but isn’t exactly rushing to make that happen, which is understandably hurting Gray’s feelings. He’s an Incubus surrounded by two men who string him along and refuse to feed him.
I’d have blown up long ago if I were him.
Gray throws me over his shoulder and carries me up the stairs when I get lost in thought and slow my steps. I don’t even want to think about what Silas meant when he claimed that the ball’s in my court, and refuse to allow myself to ponder the thought of being with all three of these men.
I’m going to tuck that information deep down inside and wait until it bubbles up and explodes out of me like a normal person.
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