“What are you still doing up?”
I twisted around, spotting Hayden in the doorway. “Watching the… uh,” I turned back, frowning at the screen, “the… way tigers mate.” I sighed. Damn you, Discovery Channel.
He chuckled deep in his throat. “Didn’t know that kind of thing interested you.”
“Oh. Yeah, always wanted to know how they picked their boyfriends.”
“You quoted Oscar Wilde.” I smiled.
Hayden laughed. “Yeah, that was, like, the height of geekdom.”
“No. It was kind of cool.”
“Listen to me, Ember. I couldn’t hurt you. I can’t.” Hayden settled his eyes on me. They were softer than I’d ever seen. “I love you— I’ve loved you since the first time I saw you.”
“I admitted. If I was going to hallucinate, then at least it was some hot dude instead of something gross.”
“Hunger gnawed at my stomach, but I was afraid someone would be in the kitchen again. So I found myself staring at the front door. Freedom seemed just a doorknob-turn away.
When I did open the door, freedom didn't wait — a half-naked Hayden did.”
“For a brief second, I entertained the idea of ripping off my gloves, rushing down the hall, and jumping on Dustin’s back like a psychotic monkey.”
“Don’t ever touch her again,” Hayden growled.
Kurt looked up, eyes wide. “Are you threatening me— over her? I’m like your brother, Hayden!”
“My brain must have felt sorry for me, so it’d created the only type of guy I could touch—a fantasy one.”
“Hayden’s gaze fell to my lips.
My heart did a stupid little jump that made me all warm and fuzzy. He liked me— really liked me. Even after seeing my scars. It was like hitting the jackpot of awesome guys.”
“His gaze lifted as he leaned in, placing his mouth an inch from mine. The air was sucked right out of the room, and I felt dizzy again. “Ever since I first saw you.” He moved so that his mouth was angled with mine. “And right now I want to so badly it hurts. You have no idea, Em, but I don’t want to hurt you.”
My gaze dropped to his parted lips. What would it be like to feel them against my own? Unable to stop myself, I brought my mouth within a hair’s breadth of his. “I want to kiss you, too.”
“We always have something running in the back of our thoughts. What's running behind yours?"
Right now I was thinking about how nice his eyes looked, but I'd shave my head before I admitted that.”
“You can hate me forever, but it won’t change how I feel.”
“Em, you have a soul.”
“How can you be so sure of that, Hayden? How many people die and come back?”
“No one dies and comes back. You did because of your sister, and you have a gift. Maybe that played a role in your coming back, but you have a soul. You aren’t evil. There’s nothing you can say that will make me think that.”
I looked up and our gazes locked. “And there’s nothing you can say to make me feel differently.”
He lowered his eyes. Thick lashes fanned his cheeks. “I know you do, because I wouldn’t want to… to kiss you if you didn’t have a soul.” I froze.
“You… you want to kiss me?”
“I like your hair down." He twisted his fingers through the curls.
My eyes drifted shut as I relaxed next to him. "It's a mess. I need to get a haircut."
Hayden's fingers stilled. "No. You shouldn't cut your hair. It's beautiful."
I would never cut my hair. Ever.”
“I glanced at my reflection and forced a smile. It was broken.
And I also had the hugest zit ever on my temple.
“Gabe slowly backed out of the kitchen, hands raised. "Wow. That takes family drama to a whole new level."
Hayded stared at him.
"And I think I'll go to my room now." Gabe said.”
“You worry about hurting me, but you never seem to worry about me hurting you. And I’m the one with the killer touch.”
“...Cromwell informed me I’d only have the keys to my car once I’d earned his trust back. His trust? Like I was the creeptastic person who whipped kids off the street and collected them like figurines?”
“Ember, he’s not going to—” I pushed off the car. “Please. Hayden, please don’t tell him. I’m all Olivia really has. Please.” My voice cracked, and I looked away, embarrassed. “She’s all I have.”
Hayden made a soft noise deep in his throat. Then he clasped my elbows and pulled me right up against him. His arms carefully snaked around my waist, trapping me in a hug. It could have been the bunny. Hell, it could’ve been the last two years that suddenly made me want to stay in Hayden’s embrace. Surely— surely not the way his heat thawed the ice encasing my entire body. Or how hard his chest felt under the sweater… or how perfectly I fit against him. And he was a chivalrous type of guy. Right? He wanted to help me control my gift, as ridiculous as that sounded. Comfort— he offered comfort, and I needed to remember that. His arms around my waist made it hard, really hard to keep that in mind, though.
“Okay.” Hayden’s breath stirred the hair around my ear. “Even though I think I should tell him, I won’t. But I will figure out who did this.”
“...soft light ate away at the darkness and revealed a rather large room outfitted with a small kitchen, an antique-looking couch, and a… a bed. Nervously, I turned away and folded my arms. The place reminded me more of a love-nest than anything else. Then again, the stockpile of rifles hanging on the wall kind of ruined the cozy feel.”
“This is you." She pointed at the stick figure with enormous red curly marks and blue eyes.
Did my hair really look like that? I ran a hand over my head, feeling a bit like Little Orphan Annie.”
“Hayden gave me a lopsided smile before turning to Olivia. “Aunt Liz is baking cookies.”Her eyes lit up like someone shoved a diamond in her face. “Cookies? Coca chip?”“Uh-huh, but isn’t it your bedtime?” asked Hayden. “You probably missed out on the chance.”“Nooo.” She dragged the word out, eyes wide.I shook my head, smiling. “So wrong.”
“What are you still doing up?”
I twisted around, spotting Hayden in the doorway. “Watching the… uh,” I turned back, frowning at the screen, “the … way tigers mate.” I sighed. Damn you, Discovery Channel.”
“¿Sabes que? No me importa lo que pienses o lo que quieras. La única forma en que me iré sin Olivia es si me arrastan fuera de aquí. Y me gustaría verte intentarlo.”
“Petersburg was the kind of town people missed if they sneezed.
Armentrout, Jennifer (2012-09-18). Cursed (p. 86). Midpoint Trade Books. Kindle Edition.”
“and out of his life. As he”
“All killer whales are named Kevin. You knew that, right?”
“He was always on the job early. Some mornings, at his desk before the staff arrived, he would answer the phone himself, telling callers what the library hours were, or, in reply to further questions, saying he knew because it was his library. “This is the old man himself.”
“How could you beat an enemy you couldn't see?”
“It is possible to make family any way you like. It is possible to love men without rage. There are thousands of ways to love men.”
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