Home > Fated (Relentless #6)(9)

Fated (Relentless #6)(9)
Author: Karen Lynch

“Do I want to know what that was about?”

I turned to find Nikolas crouched beside his bike again.

“What?”

“You and Beth. She’s usually more talkative.” He gave me a sideways glance. “You didn’t…?”

The unfinished question hung in the air for a few seconds until the meaning sank in.

“Jesus, no.”

His eyebrows shot up at the vehemence of my denial.

“It’s Beth,” I said.

He gave me a confused look, and I sighed. “You remember Beth. I found her at that fire in Seattle.”

Recognition dawned in his eyes. “The one you were always buying gifts for?”

“Yes.”

Beth’s transition to her new life had been difficult, and I’d stayed at Longstone for a week to help her settle in. I’d never done that for another orphan, but there’d been something about the angel-faced waif that had stirred my protective instincts. Eventually, I’d had to get back to work, and she’d cried when I left. I’d made sure to pick up a little toy or trinket for her whenever I went on a job. I hadn’t made it home every month, but she’d always been excited to see me. I’d loved watching her reaction when she opened the gifts I’d brought her.

Nikolas picked up a socket wrench. “I take it you haven’t seen her in a while. How long has it been since you last went home?”

“Four years.”

“Well, she’s not a little girl anymore. And she doesn’t look as happy to see you as she used to be.”

“I know.”

I stared at the door Beth and Jordan had gone through, but all I could see was sixteen-year-old Beth, her gray eyes filled with hurt. I didn’t know how yet, but I was going to make things right with her again.

Beth

As soon as the door closed behind us, I sucked air into my lungs and eased up on the death grip I had on my shopping bags. I was grateful Jordan was ahead of me and couldn’t see my face. I needed a moment to recover from seeing Chris so unexpectedly.

Ever since I’d realized he could show up here, I had told myself I was ready to face him again. God, I was such a fool. Coming face-to-face with him had sent me right back to that day, and it was all I could do not to run to my room and cry like I’d done back then.

I schooled my expression as we entered the kitchen. Jordan tossed her bags onto the table and went to the fridge for a bottle of water.

“Back already?” Sara walked into the kitchen. Her eyes fell on the bags, and she grinned. “Forget that last question. Did you leave anything for the other shoppers?”

“Only the stuff we didn’t want,” Jordan joked. “You should have come with us. We found the most amazing outfits.”

Sara made a face. “I have more than enough clothes, thanks to you. I still haven’t worn the stuff I bought the last time you dragged me with you.”

Jordan’s eyes took on a gleam I was starting to recognize. “That’s exactly why we need to do a girls’ night out.”

“Define ‘night out,’” Sara said with a hint of wariness. “Are we talking dinner or another one of those underground dance clubs you tricked me into last week?”

“What was wrong with Aro’s?”

“Nothing, if you don’t count the pixie who asked me to join him and his friends for a foursome,” Sara said with a shudder.

Jordan laughed. “You should be used to faeries, as much as you hang around with Eldeorin.”

“Eldeorin is my mentor, and he’s like a cousin to me,” Sara protested.

Jordan snorted. “If you weren’t happily mated, he’d be trying his damnedest to get into your pants. Right, Beth?”

“I…can’t say. I haven’t met him yet.”

Sara frowned. “You okay, Beth? You look a little flushed.”

“Yes. I mean, I’m fine.”

Jordan smirked at me. “Chris has that effect on most women.”

Sara’s mouth curved into a big smile. “Chris is here?”

“He’s in the garage with Nikolas.” Jordan finished off her water. “All we need are Emma and the wolf boys, and the whole gang will be here.”

Sara chuckled. “Good luck getting any of them out of Maine these days, especially Roland. If I hadn’t seen it with my own eyes, I never would have believed he would settle down.”

“Yep. Emma even has him housebroken.”

“Jordan!” Sara shook her head and started for the garage.

“Hey,” Jordan called after her. “Thursday night is girls’ night, so don’t make plans.”

Sara mumbled something that sounded like “whatever.” She reached for the door, but it opened before she could touch it. My stomach lurched when Nikolas entered, followed by Chris, who immediately pulled Sara into a hug.

“How was Germany?” Sara asked Chris when she pulled away from him.

He didn’t answer immediately, and I looked up to find his eyes on me. My stomach fluttered despite the tightness in my chest, and I grew angry at myself for letting him have any effect on me.

“Germany was great, but I missed you guys,” he said, still looking at me.

My jaw clenched. If Chris thought a few smiles and sweet words could undo the past, he was sadly mistaken. A few years ago, his charm would have worked on me, but I was no longer the naïve girl he used to know.

Sara said something, drawing his attention back to her, and I used that moment to make my escape. If anyone noticed me leaving, they said nothing.

Back in the guesthouse, I threw my shopping bags onto the couch and paced the living room, allowing my calm façade to slip.

I couldn’t do this. I couldn’t see him every day and pretend I felt nothing.

I’d told Mason I could deal with it if Chris showed up, but I’d been lying to both of us. I could leave, but it would raise questions I didn’t want to answer. Plus, Mason would insist on going with me, and I would not let him give this up for me. He loved Los Angeles and working with Nikolas, and I’d never seen him so happy.

I sank down in a chair and put my head in my hands.

What am I going to do?

* * *

I yawned and rubbed my tired eyes as I walked into the kitchen. For the second night in a row, I’d done more staring at the ceiling and punching my pillow than sleeping. I needed coffee, stat, and I was grumpy enough to maim anyone who got in my way.

Some people liked a big breakfast to start the day. I was a coffee person, and I kept the cupboard stocked with my favorite French roast beans from New Guinea. Even Mason, who usually woke up with the appetite of a pack of ravenous bazerats, wouldn’t dare touch my coffee beans.

He would, however, drink all the milk.

“Mason,” I growled when I opened the fridge and saw nothing but bottled water and juice.

I looked longingly at the coffee pot then down at the camisole and short cotton pants I’d worn to bed. Coffee or shower?

It was no contest. Pulling my bed hair back into a messy bun, I left the house, not even bothering with shoes. It was still early and the sun hadn’t yet risen above the trees, but there were lights on in the main house. Someone was always up here, manning the control room.

The house was quiet when I entered the living room through the French doors, except for the faint murmur of voices coming from the direction of the control room. I moved silently to the kitchen, not wanting to disturb anyone still sleeping, and I let out a happy sound when I opened the fridge and saw four large cartons of milk. Jackpot.

I was grabbing one of the cartons when I heard voices coming toward the kitchen. I grimaced at what I must look like, and then shrugged it off. No one could possibly expect me to look civilized before my first cup of coffee.

Raoul’s voice drifted toward me. “I’m going to recon the place for the next day or so.”

“Sounds good,” Nikolas replied. “Who are you taking with you?”

“Whoever is available.”

I turned as the two men walked into the kitchen. Raoul smiled when he saw me with the milk carton.

“Did your roommate drink all the milk again?”

I made a face. “Yes.”

   
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