Eight

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"You're staring," Alexander said with a slight smile and an affectionate glance in her direction.

Charlotte shrugged, propped her chin in her hand.

"After everything that has happened, I believe I'm allowed that luxury."

"I didn't say I was complaining."

She sat across from him at the thick oak table in the kitchen. A simple meal of bread, cheese, apples, and tea was spread out before them.

"Is Jonathan here?" Alexander said, turning to look over his shoulder.

Charlotte reached across the table and took his hand, drawing his attention back to her. Until she was certain, absolutely certain, that it was safe, Jonathan would stay in his room behind a warded door.

She didn't put any faith in her judgment yet.

The logical part of her mind insisted that something wasn't right and she knew she couldn't afford to ignore it.

Her heart said otherwise.

For that reason, despite Charlotte's fatigue, she hadn't removed the wards around The Endless One's room or Jonathan's room. Though she couldn't sense his presence, she hadn't carried out a thorough search yet either.

Alexander mirrored her position—elbow on the table, chin in hand—and fixed her with a steady look. She held his gaze, studying him openly. His dark brown eyes were clear, bright, and only belonged to him. No lingering shadow.

"Papa is fine," she said. "He wasn't harmed at the wedding."

She slid her chair around the table, set it down beside him. She turned his hand over, absently reading the lines across his palm as she had done thousands of times before without thinking.

"I know what you're doing," Alexander said quietly.

Charlotte hummed in question as she smoothed a lock of hair away from his forehead.

"What do you mean?" she said.

She couldn't stop touching him. Drifting her palm over the line of his shoulders. Fingers curling into the crook of his elbow.

Did she hope to find something? Some mark? A scar? After the brutality of The Endless One, after the crossbow bolt in his heart, it was hard to believe he would come away unchanged.

Or was it to reassure herself? To gather enough proof that she wasn't dreaming and she could finally relax?

Despite her constant vigilance, she saw no existence of the curse or the fallen god who had possessed him.

Alexander took her hand in both of his, thumbs brushing back and forth over her knuckles. His hands were so large, wrapped around hers in warmth and solidarity, as if he could protect her from the horrors she had already witnessed, the dangers she had already faced to free him from his bonds.

"You don't have to worry," Alexander whispered. "I can't feel him anymore."

"I can't either," Charlotte replied. "But The Endless One has plagued your family for generations despite many attempts to throw him out. You must forgive me if I don't believe he's gone that easily."

"There has never been a witch in the Prescott family before. We were mere humans attempting to do away with that...that...thing. You know better than I do what a useless effort that would be."

Charlotte smiled faintly, leaned over and pressed a kiss to the back of his hand as she had done on the altar days ago.

Although Alexander must have seen the doubts still written so clearly on her face.

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