Excerpt: Chaspter 1
“Just spit it out!” I slammed the table with my hand and caused him to jump. Even though my palm stung from the impact I didn’t flinch. My temper was beginning to become an issue, but at that point I really couldn’t care less about trying to keep it in check.
The large wooden clock that sat against the wall was beginning to sound like it was taunting me with its incessant ticking. It only added to my frustration as I sat in the chair across the table from Lacal. I had lost track of how long I’d been watching him try to avoid eye contact with me. This was only making me more upset. He still had yet to explain the mystery of Jocelyn to me. Every moment that I spent sitting there waiting for him to spit out what needed to be said was a waste of valuable time that should have been spent searching for Jazz. She needed me. Waiting for him to pull it together was quickly making me lose my patience. His tactic took my thoughts back to the exhausting way he explained the truth about what we were. Just like back then, I had the feeling that something bad was coming. I didn’t need to feel this way right now with so much already on my plate.
“She’s my ex,” he said so low that it barely registered. When it hit me, I started to burn, blazing hot inside and out. I knew he could feel the burn through our bond. I made no attempt to extinguish the flame, letting it grow only seemed fair. I couldn’t believe that he’d just drop a bomb like that on me after making me sit there waiting for so long.
“Your ex? Are you kidding me right now? My best friend’s life is in danger because you have some psycho ex-girlfriend?!” His continued effort to avoid making eye contact started to bother me a whole lot more, now for an entirely different reason. He had already slapped me in the face with his confession. There was no reason for his continued display of cowardice. I needed him to look at me so that I could see the pain in his eyes to satiate my own. It would help keep my sanity from slipping further to know that he was hurting as well. Perhaps this was one of those red flag warnings that something was wrong with me. I knew I should have done something to correct it but I didn’t. “Look at me Lacal and answer me. I don’t have time to sit here and watch you act like a scared little child.” My words were scolding, and possibly a bit harsher than the situation called for. So, I didn’t know every little detail about him. Just because we had bonded didn’t mean we couldn’t have secrets. After all, I hadn’t really known him that long before he whisked me away to this new life.
“It isn’t that simple, Alexa,” He was still avoiding telling me what the real issue was, but he had no choice. There was no way he could continue keeping things to himself, especially now that his secrets were affecting everyone around him. I couldn’t allow Jazz to die because of his personal issues with someone from his past.
“Then simplify it for me, Lacal,” I crossed my arms over my chest and leaned back in my seat. I tried rubbing my hands on my arms to help ease the sting that still lingered in my flesh. I didn’t want him to notice, but he had, I could tell by the way his eyes darted from my arms to the floor.
“Yes, she is my ex,” he sighed, “but she didn’t take Jazz because of me.” He looked at me now with regret in his eyes. This was just great, all I needed was for him to pile on more complications!
“Then why did she take her?” I knew his answer would destroy me, which was probably why he was avoiding spilling his guts. He wasn’t any good at delivering bad news. He tried to soften the blow, but his labored delivery only made the impact that much more painful.
“My guess is that she took Jazz because of her importance to you. This isn’t an attempt to get back at me. I doubt she ever cared enough about me for that level of revenge. The only reason Jocelyn was even interested in me was because she had some ridiculous idea that because the High Arc was missing, a replacement would eventually have to be named. Our people couldn’t continue to live without a leader. I think she had the deluded notion that if she stuck with me, it would give her a better chance when the decision was made. Before it was revealed that I was your Serve, she was like Jemal’s puppy. She followed him everywhere. I guess she figured his being the ‘chosen one’ would work in her favor. As soon as she found out that he wasn’t what we all thought he was, she attached herself to a new meal ticket, me.
I admit that it was stupid of me to be with her, but it barely lasted a week. I regret it every day, because it is a really big part of the reason why Jemal and I are no longer friends. Actually, it’s quite possibly the only reason. He wasn’t chosen to be the Serve as we had all assumed he would be, but neither of us had any control over that. He would always say that there was nothing real between him and Jocelyn, but I think he cared about her a lot more than he ever admitted.” His slouched position showed all the shame that he was feeling, and he should have been ashamed. What he had done to his best friend was the lowest of lows.
“Wow, I don’t even know what to say to that,” I rolled my eyes at him. I ignored the strong sensation trickling down my arm. It was the beast inside trying to convince me to reach across the table and knock him square across the face.
“Why are you looking at me like that?” He really didn’t understand what the problem was and that just made it worse. I know that sounds like a complete girl thing to think, one of the biggest clichés out there, but with our bond I felt I had the right to expect him to be more in tune with my feelings.
“You made Jemal look like a total ass, when actually you were the one being a horrible friend to him. You were his best friend, and you stole his girlfriend. Don’t even sit there and try to say that it wasn’t like that, because we both know it doesn’t matter how all the little details played out. Maybe I don’t have the right to feel this way, and maybe it is naïve of me to think that I do, but I feel so betrayed by you right now. By you Lacal and that is something I never thought I would have to worry about.” I stood up to leave the room.
“What do you have to feel betrayed about?” He looked at me with pleading eyes. One of the things he hated most was for me to walk away from him angry, especially if he was the cause of my anger. “I know Jemal has a reason, what I did to him was wrong and I have no excuse for that, but you? Can you even tell me how I’ve hurt you?”
“You were with her, after you found out that you were my Serve. After all that crap you said about how our spirits were connected; your heart belonging to me and mine belonging to you. How could you just hand yours over to someone else? I thought we were meant to be with each other only.” Tears began to collect in my eyes, but I forced them back. Even though I didn’t allow the drops to spill over, I made no effort to contain the disappointment, which shot out of me like daggers into his chest. That was something I would make no effort to contain.
“They were then, and they are now.” He got up and walked around the table to my side, but left space between us. I didn’t even want him that close to me, but I didn’t move away. “I am yours, you know that.”
“So how could you just replace me? Was it that simple for you?” It hurt so much to get the words past my lips. I nearly lost my hold of the tears that threatened to fall. I knew if I didn’t ask the question I would never stop wondering about the answer, and that alone had the potential to destroy me.
“I didn’t try to replace you Alexa. You have to know that I would never try to do something like that. I had no feelings for her. She was just a not-so-welcomed distraction from an extremely painful reality that I was trying desperately to avoid. I felt like a complete failure because I wasn’t able to feel you. I thought there was something wrong with me. You can’t possibly understand how horrible it felt and how embarrassed I was to be known as the ‘broken Serve’. You know that is what people were calling me. ‘The Broken One’ I pretended not to notice, not to hear the whispers, but I did and it made me completely miserable.
She took some of that away or at least made it easier to ignore my growing feelings of failure. As soon as I figured out what she really wanted, I told her she was out of her mind and I ended it.” He tried to close the space between us, but this time I took a step back.
I hated the hurt that my moving away from him caused which skewed the features of his face. That same hurt shot through our bond. Our emotional bridge worked both ways and I was trying to block out his feelings. I couldn’t stand it. Even with that, it was just too soon for him to touch me again. Him hurting because of his past actions was fine with me. I just never wanted to be the cause of his pain. His inner turmoil that clouded and darkened his eyes fell completely on my shoulders, but he couldn’t touch me, it was wrong. Yes, my thoughts were irrational but I felt that she was all over him and I didn’t want her on me. He dropped his head and stepped further away from me.
“How did you figure it out? I can’t imagine that she would have just come right out and admitted it to you.” I needed to know more. I told him it was to help me find Jazz, not for my own sanity.
“No she didn’t, but it was all she ever talked about. It started with her just saying that she wanted to comfort me. She was always telling me that my connection issues with you were no big deal. She told me that everything would be fine, and at the time that was all I wanted to hear. It didn’t matter who was saying it. I wanted to feel like I still had a chance to make everything right.
Then she started talking about there being another option, other ways to ‘fill the High Arc seat’. She even asked me to suggest it to my father, because he was on the council. What she never seemed to understand was that the council does not control it. That amount of power would never be ‘given’ to anyone. It is too dangerous. If you never would have shown up, genetics would have chosen the next in line.
The few times I did try to engage in a real conversation with her, it took her about four seconds to shift the topic back to my status and how ‘cool’ it would be if we could rule together. I am almost completely sure that if she was able to get the power she was after, she would have gotten rid of me as soon as possible, with no hesitation.”
“So, you’re saying that she took my friend to piss me off. Why would she do that?”
“I don’t know,” he looked away. “I wish I did. Maybe that would fix this for you, or at least take some of the anger out of your eyes.”
Witnessing how upset Lacal was over this situation was nearly unbearable. It took everything I had to stop myself from comforting him. That was all I ever wanted to do, our bond made it nearly impossible for me to accept him suffering in any way. I had to convince myself that at the moment his sadness was irrelevant to the situation. It had to be. My anger towards him, though already starting to subside, was still in some way justified.
I began to try and figure out what could the motivation be behind Jocelyn’s actions? What could she possibly get from causing this pain? I wondered if she wanted something more from me. As if on cue I got the answer I was looking for.
“She wants you to give up your birthright. She wants to be Queen.” We both turned to see Lamar standing in the doorway.
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