The Touched (Descendants Book One)
Decker Decks The Halls
I’ve never wanted something as bad as I want her. I can’t shake the feeling of warmth that spreads between my ribs and up my chest whenever I see her. I’m a fool whose fallen for a girl who drives me crazy and for the first time in my life…I wish I knew how to actually tell her. I don’t want to pretend I’m not affected by someone who has entranced me in ways I can’t even begin to describe.
Its part of why, on the longest night of the year, instead of heading out to my usual haunt, I’m lingering in the doorway debating whether to fully enter or disappear all together before someone spots me. My palms slick with sweat, clutch the small red wrapped parcel, wishing I had thought this through further. It’s only been a few weeks and in those weeks, I’ve been nothing but antagonistic towards her…but it’s Yulemas, the one time of the year, where wrongs can be righted.
As if sensing me, Arabella looks up from her steaming mug of hot chocolate, her gaze landing on mine. Her cheeks in flame as she catches me staring and the stupid beat of my heart quickens with the small smile that she gives me. Lightly brushing her hand against Rob’s shoulder, she whispers something to him before moving slowly through the crowded room and towards me. Father surely has outdone himself with this years Winter Solstice celebration.
Hundreds of candles align the room, casting a beautiful glow across the many guests Father has invited. A roaring fire warms as servants roam with silver trays alined with glass flutes filled with blush pink pomegranate cider. Laughter flounces off the room as everyone celebrates the beginning of Yulemas. Holly and evergreen hang from the ceiling, their scent lingering offering the familiar feeling of comfort and joy that accompanies with this time of year.
Ara moves closer, her features brightening she fumbles with a light blue wrapped package. “Happy Solstice, Carter.” she says gently as she stops before me. Holding out the box towards me, she nods her head. “It’s early I know, but I wanted you to have it on this night so that during Yulemas, you’ll have a small part…well, just open it.” Thrusting the box into my chest, her cheeks inflame once more before she bites her lip. Tucking the small wrapped box underneath my arm, I accept the box from her and stare at it stunned. “What’s this?” I ask, once I find my voice.
With a lift of her shoulders, Ara breaks her gaze from mine. “What does it look like?” Wringing her hands together, she rocks back on her heels. “I didn’t know what to get you. Trinity says you have everything—”
“Not everything.” I hear myself say.
“I don’t have everything…” I begin, but stop myself from saying something I’ll regret. I know I should just tell her. Confess everything she stirs up inside me. I just spent the last two weeks obsessing over what sits inside the small box under my arm…but when it came to her, I just couldn’t bring myself to fully admit that I had.…feelings. I was Carter Decker. Midnight City’s infamous player. I liked having a good time, I didn’t fall in love…
Lifting up the box, I shake it gently. “You didn’t have to do this.”
“I know…but it’s Yulemas…a magic all on its own.” My lips twitch as I watch her nervously tuck a raven curl behind her ear. “Just open it.” Pressing her lips together, she looks away. Tearing into wrappings and allowing them to fall to our feet, I find a white lid box. Tugging on the lid, tucked securely in red tissue paper is a snow globe. A small wooden cottage sits center, snow glistening around it. Pulling it from the box, the water jostles, tossing white glittered flakes around. “It plays music.” Ara offers quietly. Fumbling with the bottom, I find the key and turn it. Soft whimsical music begins to chime. A familiar song that Mother used to sing to me during Yulemas.
Glancing up with complete astonishment, Ara smiles weakly at me. "Last week, Rob told me that your mother used to sing this song to you when you were little. I just thought," pausing she wrings her fingers together. "I miss my mother so much and with this time, it’s the hardest, I just wanted you to have piece of your childhood back."
Swallowing hard, I watch her as she looks nervously to me. Never has anyone ever given me such a very valued and emotional gift before. I would give anything to have Mother back with Father and I. And here stands the girl who's nation took her away, and she wants to give me her. I have no words. Looking away from her, as the emotion of missing Mother and the significance of Ara's gift begin to cause my eyes to tear, I place the globe back in its box.
"Thank you," I say with a husky voice. Clearing my throat, I laugh nervously behind the blurred eyes. "You--I can't even begin to tell you what this means to me." Searching my gaze, looking for the ass she knows is there and coming up empty, Ara smiles at me. Returning it, I pull the box I’ve been clutching beneath my arm and offer it to her.
Ara gently accepts it, our finger grazing as she gingerly slides it’s wrappings off. Pulling on the lid of the box, she gasps as she stares down at the round diamond pendant secured delicately on a white chain. Lifting it up, her eyes glisten as she runs her thumb over the pendant.
Weeks ago, I learned that she kept a necklace of her mother’s tucked beneath her pillow. The chain had broke long ago, but Ara never repaired it, and kept as it was. I don’t know why, but it bothered me that something as important to her as her mother’s necklace wasn’t with her at all times. I had made the decision to replace the chain and swiped the necklace this morning. Now, looking at it in her hands, her eye’s tearing as her gift had made mine, I knew I was giving her something more than just her mother’s necklace, I was giving her part of her mother back.
“Carter,” she whispers breathlessly. “It’s beautiful. I can’t believe you did this. Thank you.”
Wrapping the necklace around her neck, she glances up at me and my heart actually begins to grow. I don't know how much longer I can keep up this charade with her. Stepping up on her toes, she presses her red lips to my cheek, lingering for a second longer, making me desperate to turn my head to catch those lips with my own.
"Ara?" Rob asks appearing at her side. ”Everything okay?"
Wiping her cheeks, she smiles quickly at me, before turning to Rob. "Everything's perfect," she responds lightly.
Looking between us both, Rob nods. "Carter, I know you normally head out, there is still the toasting and the feast to attend, feel like sticking around this year?” Glancing quickly at Ara and then back to Rob, I make up my mind instantly. “I wouldn’t want to be anywhere else.”
Watching Ara turn to smile over her shoulder at me as she gently touches the necklace around her neck, I make my mind up right then and there. I will do anything to see that look upon her face again.
And next Yulemas, I won't wish to kiss her. I will.