Home > Fated (Relentless #6)(15)

Fated (Relentless #6)(15)
Author: Karen Lynch

“Happy birthday, Dove.”

I smiled and accepted the gift from him, trying to quell my disappointment when he took the chair across from me instead of sitting beside me like he always did.

“I’m sorry I missed your birthday,” he said as I unwrapped the box. “But I hope this makes up for it. As soon as I saw it, I thought of you.”

I lifted the lid on the white box, and my breath caught at the sight of the dainty silver necklace inside. He’d never brought me jewelry before. I swallowed at the thought of what this could mean.

With trembling fingers, I lifted the necklace from the box and gazed at the silver pendant in the shape of a dove taking flight.

“It’s perfect!” I held the necklace to my chest. “I love it.”

He smiled, showing his dimples. “I thought you might. Put it on, and let’s see it.”

I stood and held up the necklace. “Will you help me?”

He hesitated for a moment before he got up and came over to take the necklace from me. I turned, and he lifted the chain over my head, his warm fingers brushing the back of my neck as he secured the clasp and sent a delicious shiver through me.

I looked down, admiring the pendant lying just above my breasts, before I turned to face Chris.

“How does it look?” I asked him.

For a second, he wore an indecipherable expression. Then it was gone, and he smiled at me again as he took a step back. “Beautiful, just like the girl wearing it.”

Joy radiated through my body. Chris thought I was beautiful and grown-up, and he’d brought me jewelry. I threw my arms around his neck and hugged him tightly.

“I love you, Chris.”

“Love you, too, Dove.”

Taking a deep breath, I leaned back to look up into his green eyes. “No, I mean I really love you.”

The smile faded from his eyes, and his face took on an almost pained expression. His hands came up to my shoulders, and he gently set me away from him before letting his arms fall to his sides.

“Beth,” he began slowly. “You don’t mean that.”

“Yes, I do,” I said in a quieter voice.

His expression softened. “You’re only sixteen –”

“I’ll be eighteen in two years,” I pressed.

At eighteen, you were an adult and you could become a warrior. Age difference no longer mattered once you reached eighteen.

“I know. But so much can happen in two years, and things you like now might not matter to you by then.”

My chest constricted, making it hard to breathe. “It won’t change how I feel about you.”

He looked away, as if searching for what to say. When his gaze returned to mine, the anguish in his eyes told me his answer before he spoke.

“I’m sorry, Dove. I love you but not in that way.”

Tears scalded my eyes, blurring my vision as I backed away from him. His hand reached for me, but I turned and ran for the door.

“Beth, please understand,” he called after me in a voice laced with regret.

I didn’t look back. I ran home, trying to hold together the edges of my broken heart.

I watched Sara’s and Jordan’s faces as I finished my story. My telling was less detailed than the actual events of that day, but it was enough to paint a clear picture for them.

Understanding filled Jordan’s eyes. “You can’t forgive him for breaking your heart.”

I shook my head. “I would have forgiven him for that eventually.”

“Then what is it?” Sara pressed gently.

“He left, and I never saw him again after that day. He walked out of my life and didn’t come back.” I swallowed painfully. “That hurt more than anything else he could have done.”

“So that day he showed up here…” Jordan began.

“That was the first I’d seen him since my sixteenth birthday.”

“Well shit.” She sat back heavily. “No wonder you’re giving him the cold shoulder.”

Sara’s brow furrowed. “Why would Chris do something like that? Has he said anything about it since he got here?”

“He said he’s sorry for the way he left and that he thought he was doing what was best for me, but now he realizes he handled it wrong.” I toyed with the stem of my glass. “He asked if we could be friends again, but I don’t know if we can after all that’s happened.”

Sara smiled kindly. “Maybe just give it time.”

I wished it was that easy. Sometimes when Chris smiled, I remembered the man I’d adored before that day in his apartment. But it was always followed by the memories of the pain after he’d left, the feeling of abandonment and betrayal when he never returned. He might be sincere in his wish to rekindle our friendship, but he also had the power to hurt me deeply. I couldn’t let him do that to me again.

Jordan let out a deep breath. “I think that’s enough serious talk for tonight. We’re supposed to be having our wild girls’ night, and you two are depressing me.”

Sara’s eyebrows shot up. “When did this become a wild girls’ night?”

Jordan made a pfft sound and lifted her glass. “Is there any other kind?”

Sara frowned.

“Come on, bestie. I promise it’ll be fun,” Jordan said with a playful pout.

I hid my grin behind my own glass. It was impossible to stay sad for long with these two.

“Just dancing. No crazy stuff.” Sara fixed Jordan with a hard look.

Jordan held up a hand. “No crazy stuff. Scout’s honor.”

* * *

“Son of a bitch!”

I looked up from the first aid kit I was rummaging through to see Jordan throw her shoes down in disgust.

“What’s wrong?”

“I broke a heel on my new Jimmy Choos.” She stomped barefoot over to where I sat on the couch beside my bleeding patient. “He going to live?”

I pressed a wad of gauze to the shallow cut near the man’s hairline. “Just a flesh wound. He won’t even need stitches.”

“This one might need a doctor,” Sara called from the other side of the room.

I took the man’s hand and pressed it to the gauze. “Hold this here.”

Standing, I made my way across the room to Sara, skirting an upended side table and stepping over two bodies. She was kneeling behind a white grand piano that listed to one side, its polished surface marred by blood splatter.

I crouched beside Sara and the red-haired woman she was tending to. The woman’s eyes were closed, and her skin was almost pasty white, except for a bruise forming on her right cheek.

“Cecelia,” I called, remembering her name from earlier in the night. “Can you hear me?”

The woman’s face twitched, but she didn’t open her eyes.

“What the hell?” A loud male voice filled the room. “Sara?”

“Over here,” Sara called.

I stood to see Nikolas striding toward us, his expression a mix of anger and relief.

Raoul stood on the other side of the spacious living room, and I could only guess what he was thinking as he took in the scene before him. Almost every one of the windows was broken, and there were blood sprays on the white walls along with a person-shaped scorch mark – Sara’s handiwork. Any piece of the expensive furniture not overturned had an injured or drunken human draped across it.

Nikolas reached us and crouched beside Sara. “Are you okay?”

“I’m good. But we have people here who need medical help.” She gave him a wry smile. “Or a good dose of gunna paste.”

His face softened, and he smiled as he reached inside his jacket, producing a can of paste, which he handed to her. Then he stood and assessed the situation before looking from me to Jordan. “How many?”

“Six,” Jordan answered. She walked over to check on a blonde girl who was retching behind a potted plant that had miraculously survived the carnage.

I heard running feet, and Chris appeared in the doorway, his hair windblown like he’d ridden without a helmet. His gaze searched the room until he found me, and my breath caught at the intensity of his stare as he took in my torn dress and bare feet. The blood on my legs wasn’t mine, but it probably made for a pretty gruesome picture.

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