Kissed by Fire(9)

By: Kimber White


“Except for the part where she can’t leave,” Kian said, snarling. There was no denying it. My brother was having an even harder time controlling his dragon rage than I was. It was getting worse.

“I’ll explain it,” I said. “Somehow.”

“Terrific,” Finn said. “The rest of us will figure out how to explain this to Avelina.”

I let out a sigh, dropping my shoulders. That was a battle I’d fight tomorrow if I had to. For now, I wanted only two things. With a fiery intensity that turned my dragon inside out, I wanted to be by Shae’s side and to keep my brothers as far away from her as possible.





Chapter Four





Shae





I don’t know how I made it through the rest of the night. Grief wrapped itself around me until I felt numb from it. I went through the motions. Twice someone offered to bring me food. First it was Loch, one of Xander’s brothers. He kept an odd distance, calling me from the long hallway leading to another set of elevators. Then, an older woman with a kind face and steel-gray hair came in. She found me with my forehead pressed against the window glass, staring out at the lake.

I watched normal people, doing normal things. Boats churned by. Colorful kites caught the wind flying high across the horizon. Centennial Wheel at Navy Pier made its steady circles.

“You sure I can’t get you anything, honey?” Marie. Her name was Marie. I forced myself to remember and smile back at her.

“I’m okay,” I said.

“Okay. You just buzz that intercom on the coffee table. I’m line one. I’ll be here until at least nine tonight. Mr. Brandhart has a room prepared for you. First door on the right down the hall. You should find everything you need.”

I fingered the gold, round locket around my neck. Its solid warmth grounded me. I knew on some level I should be terrified. I suppose I was, but it mixed in with the grief and it was all too much to process.

“Thank you,” I said. “I’ll be all right.”

Marie smiled then turned on her heel. I watched her brisk steps as she moved down the hall and disappeared into the elevator. When the doors closed behind her, I finally ventured into the hallway.

I’d jogged by the Brandhart Building at least a hundred times on the trails near the water. There was nothing outwardly special about it. Just a twenty-story high-rise with mirrored glass windows. There were dozens like it. I had no idea anyone lived here. I suppose I’d never really given it thought. But, Marie was right. The place had everything I needed.

I couldn’t help but gasp as I opened the first door on the right. It led to an apartment just as opulent as the sitting room Xander brought me to. Floor to ceiling views of the skyline, rich creme-colored leather furniture. State-of-the-art appliances in a kitchen that looked straight out of Architectural Digest. This was the kind of place I could never afford in a million years. The monthly rent had to be more than Professor Marvin and I made in a year.

At the thought of him, my fingers flew back to the locket I wore. That and the oversized man’s watch on my right wrist were the only things connecting me to my blood family. They’d done nothing but reject and disappoint me. Sometimes, I didn’t know why I held on to these things. The watch had never kept time since I took it. It belonged to my real father. I’d lived with him until I was five years old. Then, one day, he took me to a park and left me there with two social workers. It took weeks before I finally accepted he was never coming back. When they brought me back to my house to pack some things, I took my father’s watch from the nightstand and the locket from where he hid it under his mattress.

I opened it now. Inside was a faded picture of a woman with red hair like mine and a beautiful smile. She held an infant in her arms. Me. At least, I think. You could only see the back of my head as I nuzzled against her shoulder.

Everything in that picture had been a lie though. Years later, after I turned eighteen, I saw my case file. My mother had been a drug addict. She’d abandoned me with my father probably days from when this picture was taken. Until I met Professor Marvin, everyone in my life had abandoned me just like she had.

“Oh, Marvin,” I whispered. I went through the motions. I found the master bedroom. Someone...probably Marie...had laid out several sets of clothes on the bed. Jeans. T-shirts and blouses. A few summery dresses that looked like they might have been on some runway model. I checked the tags and let out a low whistle. These were brands I could never hope to afford and she’d guessed my sizes perfectly.

I went to the bathroom and stepped into the walk-in shower. Rain jets blasted warm water from three directions. I washed away the dirt and grime and blood. Afterward, I slipped into the plush, white robe hanging on a hook by the door. I barely remember making it to the bed. I sank into a deep, hard sleep.

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