Firelight, p.20
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       Firelight, p.20

         Part #1 of Firelight series by Sophie Jordan
 
Page 20

  Author: Sophie Jordan

  I’m lost to sensation, to the taste of him, the scent of his clean skin, the mint of his toothpaste. And then there’s me. The arousing vibrations in my chest. The invigorating pull of my bones. The dancing tingles in my back…

  Oh, God. Not again.

  I break away, sever myself from him with an agonized gasp, pressing myself against the cold, unforgiving railing, letting the hard metal bruise my back, punish the wings that would dare surface. For now, they’re suppressed.

  He buries his face in my neck, holding me close, whispering my name.

  My face ripples, stretches tight. The bridge of my nose pushes, the ridges thrusting forward. I glance down at my arms. My skin blurs in and out, shimmering faintly. Gold dusted.

  With a small cry, I twist around and bury my face into the cold bite of metal railing. Panic coats my mouth. Fear edges in. Like the night in his car. I can’t believe I let this happen again. Can’t believe that I could have so little control. Be so stupid. Did I learn nothing the first time?

  I breathe steadily through my nose, determined to hang on, to recover myself in front of him. I won’t be the one to reveal the greatest, most carefully guarded secret of the draki.

  Peeking down at my arm, I detect only the barest gold shimmer. I flex my cheeks, test my face and find the skin loose again, normal. Human.

  Will’s hand closes gently over my shoulder, his fingers squeeze hesitantly. “Jacinda—”

  After several more moments and I’m certain it’s safe, I turn around, breathing carefully, slowly, calmly….

  He watches me, the misery vivid in his changeable eyes. My throat aches. He’s the only bright light I’ve found here. It’s not fair. In this case, my draki is working against itself. I touch my lips. They still burn, still taste of him.

  His voice rumbles deep and smooth, like that day in the mountains, when emotions flowed as thick as mist. “I’m sorry. I guess I got carried away. I thought…” He shakes his head, dragging both hands through his hair, clearly misunderstanding, reading something else on my face. “With you, I just…Jacinda, I didn’t mean—”

  “Stop,” I say.

  Because I can’t stand for him to apologize for kissing me.

  Not when I wanted him to. Not when I want him to do it again. I drag a deep breath into my lungs, satisfied that I have regained control of myself and stopped the manifest.

  This is good, I remind myself. My draki responds to him. My draki lives. Just a little too well. I’ll learn better control, I let myself think. Because I need him. He’s all I have. Not Cassian. I don’t need Cassian to rescue me.

  I have Will. Here, he’s my way back to the sky.

  Will keeps babbling, like he can’t help himself. “I don’t blame you for thinking I’m a user, a player. I’m trying to get with you in the school stairwell like some—”

  I stop his mouth with another kiss. Nothing smooth or deft. Just pull his face to mine and press my lips to his. Partly because I want to, and I can’t stop wanting to. Partly because I don’t need to be reminded how much I really should avoid him. And partly because I have myself under control and want another try.

  My lungs are cool. My skin is relaxed and loose. He doesn’t seem to mind my clumsiness. After a moment of shocked stillness, his hands slide around my back. Instantly, the skin there starts to tingle again, the muscles tightening in readiness.

  Proving, again, how wrong I am. I can’t control myself. Can’t stop my draki from surging to the surface around him. Bad, bad, bad, Jacinda.

  His kiss grows crushing, devouring. He seems out of control, too. Before I have time to tear away again, the doors above us swing open, banging against the concrete wall. The heavy sound jars us both. Shoes skid and voices fill the air.

  Will jumps away from me.

  I press back as far as I can against the steel railing. My fingers curl around a paint-chipped rail.

  Two guys and a girl trot down the steps. They look us over as they pass.

  “Hey, Rutledge,” one of the guys says, a nasty smirk on his face as he surveys us, smug and knowing.

  Will nods once, his face grim.

  We remain frozen, sitting apart as they descend, their feet loud slaps on the steps. The door below opens and clangs shut, sealing us in again.

  “We better go. ” Will stands.

  I push up off the rail, legs wobbly.

  “You gonna be okay now?”

  “Sure. ” I try to sound airy and offhand. “It was just a kiss, right?”

  His face is expressionless. “I meant about the pep rally. You’re not feeling sick anymore?”

  “Oh,” I say. “No. I feel fine. Thanks. ”

  He looks away and starts down the steps. I follow reluctantly, not sure what comes next for us. The bell rings as we emerge from the stairwell.

  “Pep rally’s over,” he says unnecessarily. The hall is still empty, but it won’t be for long.

  “I’ve got English,” he adds.

  I cross my arms over my chest like I’m cold. And I am shivering, despite the heat.

  My draki likes him too much to stay hidden. No matter how I try, I can’t control myself around him. I won’t kid myself that I can anymore. I can’t risk exposing the pride. Not even to keep my draki alive. And I can’t risk seeing the contempt in his eyes if he learns what I am. Not to mention what his family will do if they find out. And there’s Cassian…somewhere out there. Waiting. Watching. He could show at any time. He and Will can never meet.

  I nod, my chest tight and aching. “I’ve got Spanish. ” On the other side of the building. “I’ll see you around. ”

  I say this first, an empty promise.

  The hall comes to life. Fills with students slamming lockers. Voices seem louder, bodies faster, scents stronger.

  Will still stands in front of me, looking at me like he wants to say something. My eyes tell him no, tell him to not say anything. What would be the point?

  I have to end this thing between us for good…even if it means leaving this town without Mom and Tamra. I can’t keep this up, and I can’t bring myself to tell Mom that I’ve been consorting with the enemy. Both enemies. Will and Cassian.

  In my mind, it’s settled. When Cassian comes back, I’ll be leaving with him.

  Will shakes his head, frowning at me. “You can’t run from me anymore. I’ll see you later. ” He utters this firmly.

  I smile sadly. Because I can keep running forever if I need to. At least I can run where he can never find me. Students flow past us, like fish in a stream. Turning, I disappear into the current.

  19

  “What,” Catherine demands as she slides in beside me in study hall, “was all that about?”

  I try for an innocent, blank look, but she just drops her notebook and copy of To Kill a Mockingbird on the desk with a slam and squares off in front of me. “Spill it. I thought you were over him. ”

  “What are you talking about?” I try to stall, grasping for some explanation. She deserves one. I haven’t made too many friends in this town. Just Catherine and Brendan. I realize with a sharp pain that I’ll miss them when I’m gone.

  “Uh, pep rally?” She bobs her head, choppy bangs bouncing. “You. Will. Whole school watching? Ring a bell?”

  “Oh. ” I glance at the door, hoping he doesn’t arrive the exact moment we’re talking about him. “That was nothing. He saw I looked sick and helped…” My voice fades. I lift my shoulder in a pathetic shrug.

  “Oh. ” She nods with mock seriousness. “Sure. I see. And the two of you making out in the stairwell was just his way of making sure you were okay?”

  I close my eyes in a slow blink. Great. Now all the stares I’ve been getting make sense.

  “News travels fast,” I murmur.

  “Well, news like that anyway. ”

  “It was just a kiss. ”

&n
bsp; “Uh-huh. Well, that’s more action than any other girl’s ever gotten out of him. ”

  It shouldn’t, but my heart thrills at this. I duck my head to hide my smile. Catherine nudges me playfully with her elbow. “Huh. You like him! I knew it. Since that first day. Hey, he can’t be that bad if he likes you. Got taste, at least. And Brooklyn can just suck it—”

  “Shh. ” I look up, tensing, sensing his approach, waiting for him to enter.

  He clears the doorway.

  Only he’s not alone. His cousins are with him. Perpetual shadows. My heart sinks.

  It won’t be Will. Not really. Not the Will who talked to me in the stairwell. Kissed me with such desperation—like I’m the oxygen his lungs need. Not with his cousins at his side. He won’t be the Will who sets my draki free. And he can’t be. I no longer even want him to be the boy I can’t resist. It’s cruel and senseless when I can’t control myself enough to be around him.

  This way is best. I need to see him with them, remember that he’s my enemy. Wedge a wall between us until Cassian comes for me and I leave Chaparral.

  I peer down at my hands on the table, hoping to avoid the moment when they pass my table. But looking down, I see Xander’s shoes stop at my table. Pause. “Hi, Jacinda. ”

  A dark shiver scrapes my spine. I fold my arms across my chest and lift my face. Don’t care that my stare is less than friendly.

  With a twisted curve of his lips, Xander glances at Will. “Aren’t you going to say hello, Will?”

  Angus studies me like I’m suddenly worth his attention. Like I’m a piece of meat that needs inspecting, weighing.

  “We said hello earlier,” Will says stiffly.

  “Yeah. ” Angus laughs. “I heard about that hello. Didn’t realize she was so much fun to hang with. I might have made a play for her myself if I knew just how fun. ”

  Air hisses from Catherine. She surges forward. I grasp her arm, stopping her from doing anything.

  “Shut up,” Will growls.

  I remember what Will said about his family in the car the other night. Poison, he called them. I remember that room, the tiny red and black flags scattered across the North American continent—and Xander’s face when he caught me in there.

  Angus laughs again, his mouth wide in his brutish features.

  “Well,” I begin, hardly recognizing the strangeness of my voice, as thick as molasses in my mouth. “It wasn’t all that memorable. ” It hurts to say the lie, something cruel and untrue, but I have to.

  Xander looks confused, unconvinced as he glances back and forth between me and Will.

  Will’s stare burrows into me, probing. For a moment, I imagine a flash of hurt there. Then, it’s gone.

  “Maybe you should try a different Rutledge. ” Angus waggles his thick red brows.

  “Aren’t you all interchangeable?” I ask. “Try one, you know them all. ”

  He frowns. The word interchangeable is lost on him.

  “Pig,” Catherine mutters.

  I give her wrist a warning squeeze.

  “No one was talking to you, freak,” Angus shoots back.

  And I don’t like that. I don’t like the wounded ripple that passes over her face before she’s able to look stoic and tough again. The familiar smolder begins at my core.

  “Ow. ” She looks at me with bewilderment, tugging her arm. I forgot that I’m still touching her. Quickly, I release her. She rubs her wrist, and I know that she felt my building heat.

  Great. First, I almost reveal myself to Will when he kisses me. Now, this.

  Maybe tonight would be a good night to try the golf course again.

  “Take your seats,” Mr. Henke calls from the front.

  Angus moves to the back of the room. Xander studies me for a moment with those demon-dark eyes before joining him in the back.

  Will lingers, watching me like he expects me to do something. Say something. “Guess you’re not interested in me sitting with you. ”
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