Today’s Story a Day prompt is to pay attention to tone. I tend to write a more serious/emotional tone. And the beginning of Defending the Heart is pretty much perfect for that. Piers and Xavier are dealing with pretty much the same feelings. This happens right after His Own Fault, from back on Day 12.
Piers couldn’t stop searching the crowd under the tent. He needed to stop. it didn’t matter if he came in here or not. Piers wasn’t going to talk to him. He couldn’t handle it again.
He needed to stop letting Xavier hurt him.
Declan didn’t leave his side. It didn’t matter how terse Piers was. Declan still wouldn’t go away. Could he have a better friend? “Go back to your wife and that little girl,” Piers said. “I know you don’t like to leave them alone.”
Declan had nearly lost both of them not that long ago. Piers knew he hadn’t quite gotten over the lingering fear of that. Maybe he never would.
He started scanning for Xavier again. “He’s outside,” Declan said. “With his sister.”
Heat washed over Piers’ skin. Of course Declan would notice. Sometimes he thought the man noticed absolutely everything. It’s not like Piers was the one trying to hide who he was. Not anymore.
Piers would have sworn something in the air changed a moment later. He looked toward the back of the tent again, and there he was. His whole body went taut at the sight of him. He looked more disheveled now than he had during Casey’s wedding. Like he’d been running his hands through his hair. Xavier never had been comfortable in formal wear, and even now he was reaching up to adjust his tie. Piers wanted to smooth it down, fix his hair.
Then, take him somewhere and mess it all up again.
Xavier’s gaze shifted and for just a moment, he locked gazes with Piers. It sucked all the air out of his lungs. Then, Xavier broke the link, said something to his sister, and turned away sharply, leaving the tent again.
It hurt to breathe now. He swore it hurt worse than the first time he’d broken a bone. Probably an exaggeration, but he couldn’t remember. He’d been four or five and had fallen out of a tree. His mother had always said he was too adventurous. That had healed a lot cleaner than any of the times Xavier had broken his heart.
“Come sit with us,” Declan said. “You know Eva loves her Uncle Piers.”
Piers didn’t have any desire to sit down. He didn’t have any desire to eat any of the food sitting out, or make small talk even with people he’d called friends, called his brothers, for years. “I need to get some air,” he said.
“We’ll be just over there when you’re ready to come back,” Declan said, gesturing toward a table off to the side.
Piers nodded, though he barely processed the words. He just needed to get out, needed to be able to drag in a full breath again. It shouldn’t hurt just to breathe.
He stepped outside and instantly saw Xavier bracing a hand against a fence post. Like he was having trouble with this as much as he was. But, how could that be true? Xavier was the one who always turned away, who wouldn’t admit to anything. Xavier was the one who had broken them apart.
Piers took one step toward him then forced himself to stop. Hadn’t he told himself he wouldn’t do this? That he was going to be smart this time and guard his own heart. He had to repeat it three times, though, before he could make himself turn and head back into the tent. He could deal with the people in there a lot easier than letting Xavier break his heart one more time.