Firelight, p.14
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       Firelight, p.14

         Part #1 of Firelight series by Sophie Jordan
 
Page 14

  Author: Sophie Jordan

  “Your skin. ” His thumb strokes again.

  My belly tightens, almost hurting.

  He frowns. “It’s so hot. ”

  And I am, I realize, feeling the deep fume building inside. Steam expands my lungs. I need to stop him. Pull away from his touch. The familiar shaking vibration starts at my core, and I know what’s coming if I don’t break away.

  So many things about this—about him—should fill me with fear. Should make me want to run. But I only want more. More Will.

  My stomach clenches at the sensation of his hand on my thigh. His thumb brushes me, wipes the blood clean, then lifts away. I inhale through my nose.

  He lifts his shirt from my hand and examines my injury. “It’s not bad,” he announces.

  I nod, my heart racing too fast for me to speak.

  He continues, “Do you have antiseptic at home?”

  I still can’t speak. Is he really talking about first aid? My leg tingles, throbs where he touched me. His gentle grip on my hand has the same effect.

  At my silence, he looks up. Traps me in those hazel eyes, the pupils dilated, large and tar black. Strange but beautiful. I wonder then if he’s on some kind of drug. Something inside me denies this though. Either because I can’t sense it in him, or I simply don’t want it to be true.

  “You’re different,” I whisper, staring, forgetting about his question. My palms prickle, tickling at the centers, yearning to feel him…to touch his face, the broad expanse of his chest.

  He stares back, consuming me with his eyes.

  You’re different from your cousins, I think. Different from anything I ever heard about hunters. Different from the draki boys I’ve known. Cassian’s watchful eyes never made me breathless. Never brought my draki to life, made me pulse with awareness.

  I wet my lips and take a deep, shuddering breath. “Where are your cousins? Don’t you pretty much do everything together?”

  Because I need to remember this. Always. Because even if I don’t think he’s a threat to me, they are.

  A shutter falls over his eyes. He pulls back, releases my hand. “Someone’s been educating you on me and my family, I see. ”

  “You’re the one who told me to stay away from them. Naturally you provoked my curiosity. People talked, I listened. ” Well, Catherine at least.

  He nods slowly. “Yeah. I said that. And you should. ” Sighing, he drags a hand through his hair. “And while you’re at it, I guess you should stay away from me, too. That’s what I should be telling you. ” He drops his head back on the headrest and closes his eyes, his expression suffering and intense. Again, I want to touch him, to stroke a hand down the plane of his cheek and ease whatever it is that gnaws at him.

  His words echo inside me. You should stay away from me. Something I already know, but sitting in the front seat of his car, I’m not quite succeeding at that. I wish I could. Wish I didn’t feel this pull, this constant tug toward him. Wish my draki didn’t revive around him. I slide my left hand beneath my thigh, trapping it there.

  “You’re the one who chased me down,” I remind him, then wince. I slip my hand free to rub my thigh, where the burn of his touch still pulses.

  “You’re right. ” Opening his eyes, he puts the Land Rover in drive and rolls away from the curb. After a few turns, I realize he’s driving me home. Desperation spikes inside me, makes me ask quickly, “Why did you come to my house tonight?” In the middle of the night?

  His knuckles whiten where they clutch the steering wheel. “I didn’t expect to see you outside, but…”

  “Yes?” I prompt.

  He slams the vehicle to a stop in front of my house. Kills the lights. Twists in his seat to face me. Leaning close, he stretches one arm along the back of my seat, nearly touching my shoulder.

  His expression is inscrutable. His eyes look strange with their pulsing pupils. “You’re not like other girls. You’re special. ”

  Intoxicating warmth crawls over my cheeks. I’m glad at this confession. Glad that I’m as unique to him as he is to me. Back home, I only ever felt safe, protected, and revered. Even with Cassian, I never felt like he liked me for me, but rather for what I brought the pride.

  Every moment with Will, I feel at risk, exposed. Danger hangs close, as tangible as the heavy mists I’ve left behind. And I can’t get enough of it. Of him. I crave his nearness still. Like a drug needed to survive, to get by each day. An addiction. A powerful, consuming thing.

  “I’ve tried to deny it,” he continues, “but it’s there, staring me in the face every time I see you. If you were like other girls…” He laughs hoarsely. “If you were like other girls I wouldn’t even be here. ”

  Suddenly self-conscious, I fidget, flex my fingers around my knees. He wouldn’t be here if he knew the truth. Who I am, what I am.

  I wet my lips. “I’m not what you think…”

  It’s close. Too close. As close as I can ever get to admitting the truth to him.

  “I thought maybe—” He stops, shakes his head.

  “What?” I barely recognize my voice it’s so strained, so tight. The beat of my heart fills my ears. A hope I can’t understand, never felt before, flutters inside my belly.

  “Never mind. It’s stupid. ” His voice drops, hoarse and nearly inaudible. “Just forget I came to see you. ” He mutters something so low I can’t make it out, but I think it’s a curse. “This can’t work. Not with my family. They’re…different. ”

  “What’s wrong with your family?” I ask even though I already know. Well, I know what’s wrong with them according to me. Will’s reasons may differ.

  His lips twist, make him look almost cruel. Like the hunter I don’t want him to be. “Let’s just say we don’t get along. ”

  I try for an innocent look. “Your father—”

  “He’s not exactly the toss-a-football-in-the-backyard type. As soon as I graduate, I’m gone. ”

  Relief runs through me. This confirms that he’s not like them. Not a hunter, not a killer. I try not to look too happy. To keep what I’m feeling on the inside from surfacing.

  Wetting my lips, I ask, “And in the meantime, you can’t have any friends?”

  He drags a hand through his hair. The gold-brown locks feather, then fall back into place. “It’s a bit complicated, but yeah, I don’t want to get close to anyone…bring anyone around my family. ” His gaze locks with mine. Grim. Resolute. “They’re poison, Jacinda. I can’t expose you to them. I wouldn’t expose anyone I care about to them. ” He shakes his head. “I didn’t mean to lead you on. I’m sorry I asked you out, sorry that I can’t…” His fingers flex on the steering wheel until he regains his voice. “I’m just sorry. ”

  My chest aches. Because he feels it, too. This thing, the connection between us. He feels it, and he would kill it, deny it. Whatever impulse brought him here, he won’t act on it.

  I suppose that’s a good thing, but I can’t muster up much gratitude.

  He motions to Mrs. Hennessey’s house. “You better go inside. ”

  Angry heat tightens my skin. “Never took you for a coward,” I blurt.

  His head snaps in my direction. “What do you mean by that?”

  “You came here tonight for a reason. Why don’t you own up to it?” Before I can think about it, I lean across the center console and stare him directly in the face. “Do you always run from what you want?”

  Maybe I’m going out on a limb to imply he wants me, but the pulse throbbing at his neck tells me it’s so. And he is here, after all.

  His gaze drops to my mouth. “I can’t think of the last time I had anything I truly wanted,” he says huskily, so low I could hardly hear him. It’s more like I felt him.

  His words echo through me, striking a chord so deep that I’m sure there’s a reason for all this. A reason we’ve found each other, first in the mountains and now her
e. A reason. Something more. Something bigger than coincidence. “Me too. ”

  He leans across the console. Sliding a hand behind my neck, he tugs my face closer. I move like fluid, melting toward him. “Maybe it’s time to change that then. ”

  At the first brush of his mouth, stinging heat surges through me, shocking me motionless. My veins and skin pop and pulse.

  I rise on my knees, clutch his shoulders with clawing fingers, trying to get closer. My hands drift, rounding over his smooth shoulders, skimming down a rock-hard chest. His heart beats like a drum beneath my fingers. My blood burns, lungs expand and smolder. I can’t draw enough air through my nose…or at least not enough to chill my steaming lungs.

  His hands slide over my cheeks, holding my face. His skin feels like ice to my blistering flesh, and I kiss him harder.

  “Your skin,” he whispers against my mouth, “it’s so…”

  I drink him in, his words, his touch, moaning at his taste, at the sudden burning pull of my skin. The delicious tugging in my back.

  He kisses me deeper with cool, dry lips. Moves his hands down my face, along my jaw to my neck. His fingertips graze beneath my ear, and I shiver. “Your skin is so soft, so warm…”

  And then I grasp what exactly the tingling itch in my back means. My wings are awake. Ready and eager in a way I haven’t felt since arriving in Chaparral. They push at my back, on the verge of bursting free.

  I break away with a cry and reach for the handle. With a pained gasp, I fling open the door and stumble out, land hard on my knees on the lawn.

  I get to my feet and don’t bother shutting the door…just rush away.

  His desperate shout follows me. “Jacinda!”

  Several feet away, a safe enough distance that he won’t be able to detect any of the subtle differences in my appearance, I stop and look back, my chest rising and falling with deep, overheated breaths.

  He leans across the console, practically in the passenger seat. Something passes over his face. An emotion I can’t read. Can’t understand. “I’ll see you at school,” he calls with such decisiveness, it’s like there’s no question of this.

  Without answering him, without agreeing, I turn and storm up the driveway as fast as my legs can carry me. Right.

  “Jacinda!” he bellows my name, and I wince, hoping he doesn’t wake Mrs. Hennessey or the neighbors.

  I didn’t say it, but my answer was there, in my face, in my stumbling haste to get away from him. He heard it loud and clear, and apparently he didn’t like it. Apparently, our kiss only convinced him that we needed to pursue this thing between us.

  Except, our kiss told me the opposite. Kissing him told me what I already knew, but had been denying. I can’t risk being with him. Even if he got over his hang-ups about being around me, I still have plenty of my own. It’s one thing to draw strength from him…another thing entirely to become so swept up that I manifest in his presence. I know that now. Know what I have to do.

  At school, I won’t talk to him, won’t look at him…and I certainly won’t ever touch him again.

  If it kills me, I’ll ignore him and forever keep my distance.

  As I hurry down the path, my fingers curl inward and brush my injured palm, lightly, idly tracing the torn flesh, stroking the dampness there. Blood. My blood. Evidence of what I am.

  Panic claws my heart, squeezes tightly in my chest.

  I jerk to a stop and whirl around like I still might find Will at the curb, but he’s gone. The shirt…is gone. Gone and headed into the den of my enemies.

  Closing my eyes, I shake my head, dread clawing up my throat. He’s gone. He left with a shirt covered in my blood. My purple-hued draki blood.

  When he sees it he’ll figure it out. He’ll know exactly what I am.
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