Chapter 24 and onwards from Everard's POV
"Does it open from the inside?" she asked me.
She furrowed her brow and bit her lower lip that was still swollen from when we kissed. My stomach flipped and I had to forcibly stop myself from pulling her to me and crashing my lips against her. I never had this problem before.
"It wasn't always used as a closet," I explained.
Her brow furrowed deeper, not liking how I read her, I guessed. And wondering if I knew what else was going on. I did, from the way her brown eyes were a storm today, but I still couldn't figure out why.
"Going in there," I finished, surprised at myself. I had always wanted to finish her sentences, because for the past weeks now, I had known exactly what she was going to say before she did. Usually, I controlled the urge. "Do you have a death wish?" I asked her.
"Fine, if I hear someone coming up, I'll go in there."
I raked my hands through my hair. I couldn't risk her being found. And not only because I needed her to heal him, but because I couldn't bear the thought of her being taken away and used to create soldiers with her abilities. But I wasn't going to force her into the room. "Fine."
I turned and went to the door, then changed my mind. Damn restraint. I turned around and pulled her to me, kissing her soft lips hardly and quickly. I wanted to wrap my arms around her waist and pull her flush against me, I wanted to taste her and feel her skin against mine. I pulled away instead. At that moment, her expression was unguarded, lips parted and eyes wide in surprise.
"Don't forget that," I whispered, stroking her swollen bottom lip.
I left before she could say anything, half afraid of what she would've said if I had stayed and confused as to why I felt that way. My body had always been my own tool, my desires something always under my control. Never before did I care if someone rejected me, rarely did I stick around long enough for that anyway.
When the elevator doors opened, I cleared my mind of any thought and put on a blank expression, not letting anything show through the mask. My uncle would use anything he could against me.
"Took you long enough," my uncle grunted when he saw me.
As usual, his salt and pepper hair was pulled back, beard trimmed neatly and clothes impeccable. He radiated authority.
I didn't ask why he was here, or where Daniel was. Now, I was the perfect soldier. And the perfect second, the one thing he required of me to keep him alive. To keep Easton alive.
I stood there, my spine rod straight and arms folded neatly in front of me, maintaining eye contact with the Commander. His black eyes, always reminding me of a shark were more sharp today. Like a predator that caught its prey and had it dangled in front of him. Worry pricked my insides.
"I'll cut to the point, Everard. Where is Cerise?"
For just a moment, my composure cracked, worry tightening my insides like a snake coiled around my gut. He caught it, he always did.
"Dead," I answered smoothly. "Like I told you when you asked."
The last part was a mistake. I shouldn't have said that. "Dead, Commander." was what he wanted to hear.
"Are you really going to make me do this?" he asked, shaking his head. "The truth, Everard. You don't want Easton to pay for your mistakes."
Easton. He didn't deserve this. An uncle who used him for a leverage and a brother who was never present. But that's why I kept Cerise a secret from the Commander. Why I needed to. For Easton and to keep the one thing needed for war away from my uncle.
I raised a brow. Another mistake. "Do what?"
He laughed. "Well, I was waiting for the mouse to show its true colors and turn into a lion." He walked past me and into the elevator. "Come on, let's get this over with."
I entered the elevator and held my tongue from snapping another retort. A few moments later and we arrived at the fifth floor. Get in the room, Cerise.
My uncle turned and pinned me with a look. "Are you going to stop being a fool and tell me or are you actually going to make me start looking for her?"
"If it's Cerise you're talking about, I promise I don't keep dead bodies lying around my rooms."
He grunted and glared at me before opening the first door; the one that led to my living room. After searching the entire room meticulously, he went to the next, and the next. I had to admit, I enjoyed the sight of him getting to his knees even to search. Of course, I removed any trace of her too in the rooms, anything that might have given away that she was here; her books, the gadget she was making, and of course, her clothes.
When he reached my office, I tensed and waited. I didn't look at the fake light switch or do anything else that might have given it away. He went over and pressed it anyway, being the thorough person he was, but nothing happened. He had to have pressed it three times in a row, then pause and press it again for it to work.
After that, he checked my bedroom, opening the armoire and checking for anything that could've given away that Cerise was here. When he found nothing, he took a deep breath, like he had been doing after he inspected each room, trying to smell if anyone else had been here. Like him, I was no fool, there was a reason why all the shampoos and soaps in my bathroom were heavily scented and the same soap I used. If Cerise knew that she probably would try punching me in the gut.
"I thought you didn't like bringing Easton here?" he told me eventually.
What? What did Easton have to do with this?
"I usually don't," I answered.
Now I wanted to take a deep breath and find out what he meant, because Easton only set foot in this room once and that was weeks ago, his scent would've faded long ago. Unless....
"Well, either you've got her hidden somewhere else. And make no mistake, if you do, you know I'll find her eventually." Now that he had his doubts, he would look for her like a hound. I had to find someplace in the city for her. "In the meantime, I want Daniel fired and executed next morning."
I gritted my teeth and tried to keep the bite out of my tone. "Excuse me asking, Commander, but he's my second and a good one at that."
"He's no good if he lies to me, and no good to you either since he went behind your back and told me you lied about Cerise being dead."
He did what? That made no sense, Daniel was loyal to the core, or hated the Commander at least and that was the one reason I made him my second. And he was loyal to Cerise. I knew he wouldn't want her in the hands of the Commander. Dread pooled in my stomach as I began to figure out what that meant. My uncle had to leave, now.
My uncle grinned. "Dawn."
I nodded briskly and followed him out the room and to the elevator even though I wanted to run to my office and check if Cerise was there. When the elevator finally reached the first floor, the Commander stepped out, the look in his eyes still there. The look of someone who just got a treat.
"I know she's alive, Everard. And that only means two things; either she means something to you or there's something about her that you don't want me to know about."
"And you have been made into a fool tonight. An infatuated fool who just lost two things. Good luck."