#Chapter 81: The Watcher
The lodge that we were supposed to stay in for the duration of the first match of the tournament was old and dusty, but that wasn’t the most disconcerting thing about the place.
The most unsettling thing was that I sensed a shifter somewhere very close. Were the Crescents already starting to spy on us? I suspected that they would start spying and plotting some sort of sabotage at some point, but not this early on in the tournament.
I decided to ignore it and not mention it to Nina for the sake of not scaring her. Instead, for our first day at the lodge, I tasked everyone — myself included — with cleaning the place up. If the state of this place really was intended to throw my team off our
game so we wouldn’t perform well in the match, I wasn’t about to let that happen.
“Alright,” I said, clapping my hands together once everyone had time to look around and bring their things inside. “Let’s clean this place up.”
My team looked a bit shocked, but no one complained. We started by opening up all of the doors and windows to let in some fresh air, then got to work
sweeping, dusting, and scrubbing. Matt played some music on his bluetooth speaker, and soon enough, we were all dancing around and singing to the music while we worked. Even Nina seemed to be having fun, which made me smile as I had been secretly worried about her since the last time we spoke. As I watched her quietly humming to herself as she cleaned, I could almost still feel our kiss in the rain on my lips…
She must have felt me watching her, because she suddenly looked up and met my gaze I quickly averted my eyes back to cleaning the bar, trying to push the memories of our last kiss out of my head. It hurt like hell to be so distant with one another, but I had to do it There was no way out of this arranged marriage
We finished cleaning by the time the sun went down, finally relaxing into the comfortable couches in the living room and resting our tired limbs. There was still no electricity, but Nina started a fire in the fireplace and found a stash of candles, which illuminated the lodge and created a cozy atmosphere Soon, everyone had either retired to their rooms to get some sleep or had fallen asleep right there on the couch
I looked over at Nina, who was nestled into a large armchair with a book in her lap and her feet curled up on the couch like a cat. She had fallen asleep at some point while she was reading, and the book was beginning to slip out of her fingers.
Making sure to stay quiet so as not to wake her, I slowly stood and grabbed a blanket off of the couch before walking over to her. She looked so peaceful as she slept in the firelight, as though she didn’t have a care in the world. I wished that I could find a way to make her feel that same peace during her waking hours.
A pang hit my chest as I realized that the only peace I could offer her would be if I walked out of her life.
I shook my head, dismissing the negative thoughts from my mind, and gently took the book out of her hands and placed it on the coffee table I laid the blanket over her, hesitating for a moment as I looked down at her
“Mm…” she muttered, nuzzling down into the blanket. I quickly stepped away, feeling my face get hot, as her eyes fluttered open. “Enzo…”
“Sorry,” I whispered, backing away. “I didn’t mean to wake you.’ ”
“It’s okay,” she whispered, sitting up in her chair and rubbing her eyes, yawning. “Sleeping in a chair all night probably isn’t the best idea.”
“Yeah, probably not,” I said with a quiet chuckle. “Do you need help getting to your room?” Nina shook her head and stood, wrapping the blanket around her like a cape. She flashed me a sleepy, yet adorable, smile before waddling off toward the stairs.
I stood in the middle of the living room as she started to ascend the stairs. She stopped halfway up, pausing and staring down at her feet before suddenly turning toward me with rosy cheeks.
“Are you going to bed, too?” I nodded. “I was planning on it.”
My eyes widened at her next words. ” Will you stay with me tonight?” she asked. “I don’t like sleeping in new places.” I hesitated for a moment, staring up at her, as I wondered what to say. Was she inviting me to sleep with her as a supportive friend, or something more?
“It’s nothing sexual. I just don’t wanna sleep alone. But it’s okay if you don’t want to,” she said. The way she was wrapped up in the blanket like a burrito, with her head of dark hair poking out and her big brown eyes, made her look almost childlike
I shook my head. “It’s okay,” I said, walking over to the stairs and climbing them to meet her “Come on. You can sleep with me ”
Nina and I walked up the stairs the rest
of the way and made our way down the hall toward my room. I opened the door and went in, gesturing for her to follow. She stayed by the doorway, looking at me almost warily.
“Hey, you’re the one who wanted to sleep with me,” I said. “Your room is right down the hall if you’ve changed your mind already.”
Nina shook her head. Stifling a chuckle, I walked over to the opposite side of the bed and sat down, removing my shoes. I felt the mattress move next to me and glanced over my shoulder to see her curled up as far on the edge as she could get, still wrapped up in the blanket I had given her
Before I could ask her if she wanted a real blanket and not just a throw blanket, I heard a soft snore escape her lips.
She was asleep already I wasn’t sure how long I was asleep when I was suddenly awoken by the feeling of being watched. I jolted awake, feeling my eyes glow as I scanned the dark room, it was empty and quiet, save for Nina’s gentle breathing beside me. I looked down at her, feeling a sense of protectiveness as I looked at her sleeping body and the way her chest moved up and down in the moonlight with each breath.
I still had the feeling of being watched, though, there was no doubt about it, and it was the same sensation that I felt earlier when I sensed the shifter nearby. It must’ve been the same shifter. I moved slowly, keeping my eyes fixed on the open window, and quietly made my way over to look out
It was still quiet and peaceful outside as ever I took a deep breath, feeling the breeze on my face, but I couldn’t shake that feeling… There was a shifter out there, and they were close.
But as I looked harder, scanning the forest with my night vision, the shifter must’ve seen me looking for them. The feeling of being watched quickly faded, replaced only by the emptiness of the quiet night and the sound of Nina rolling over in bed.