Firelight, p.34
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       Firelight, p.34

         Part #1 of Firelight series by Sophie Jordan
Page 34

  Author: Sophie Jordan

  I stare starkly into his eyes, conveying what I don’t dare say in front of Cassian. He totters too close to the brink already. I love you. Even if I shouldn’t. Even if stolen draki blood feeds your life.

  Will understands. I see it in his eyes. And his pain. The same pain I feel.

  Staring hard into his eyes, I shake my head, sorry for the chance we lost. The chance we maybe never had. But not for saving him. I would do that again, no matter the cost.

  I leave Cassian’s side then and rush to Will. Don’t care that Cassian watches me. Quickly, I speak close to his lips in my language, “I love you. ” I yearn to kiss him, to press my fiery lips to his but dare not try it.

  He stiffens against me, pain written all over the mess of a face. He grabs my face in his hands. Holds me. “It’s not over. We’re not through, Jacinda. ” His eyes blister, glitter darkly. “I’ll find you. I will. We’ll be together again. ”

  “Let’s go!” Tamra shouts.

  My eyes ache, burn. Impossible as it seems, I want it to be true. And I shouldn’t. Because it can’t be. He can’t come after me. He’ll die if he does.

  I shake my head no, but the gesture lacks conviction.

  His fingers press deeper into my sharpened cheeks. “Never doubt it. I’ll find you. ”

  “Jacinda!” Cassian snarls. “They’re coming!”

  I pull away, the pain in my chest so deep, such a coiling, twisting mass that my lungs can’t squeeze out a breath. Will’s hands slide from my face.

  Cassian’s already lifted off, rising on the air above me with Tamra in his arms.

  I watch Will as long as I can, holding his stare as I work my wings and push off the ground, ascend into brittle-thin air. Still, I look down, watch him until he’s barely distinguishable. Until he’s gone from sight completely.

  We fly a few miles until Cassian motions downward and we descend to the car he left parked along a forgotten road.

  In a blink, he demanifests.

  I struggle to do the same, resting a hand on the car for support. It takes me longer because I’m too upset. Shaken. I close my eyes and concentrate. See myself human. Finally, I feel my wings fold back inside me. I gasp at the intense pressure.

  Heat fades from my core, and I open my eyes to find Tamra glaring at me.

  “How could you?” She trembles, so pale, and I worry that she might collapse. I’ve never seen her this way, and guilt stabs my heart. For all I’ve put her through…

  “Get in. Both of you,” Cassian growls, pulling open the driver’s door and taking the keys from where he tucked them in the visor.

  Tamra gets in the backseat.

  I don’t budge. Remain standing near the driver’s door, shivering in the desert night, my clothes lost, lying ripped somewhere on the desert floor.

  He jams the keys into the ignition with his big hand. Stares up at me. “Jacinda. ” Like he’s talking to a child. And I hate him. Truly hate him. “Get in the car. Let’s go. ”

  “You did this!”

  He rolls his eyes. “Not on purpose. But am I glad I ruined your little romance with that murderer? Hell yeah. You bet. ” I shake my head even as he nods roughly, his face harsh in the flat dark. “What is he? A hunter?” His voice lashes me in a clawing swipe. “How does he have the blood of our kind, Jacinda? How?”

  “Will’s not a murderer. ” This I know deep in my soul. Because I know Will. “He’s…not. ” That’s all I can say, all I can defend. Because I can’t deny the truth. Will is a hunter. And more. So much more.

  “Murderer?” Tamra calls from the backseat, her voice shrill. “What are you talking about?”

  “He’s a butcher,” Cassian announces.

  I want to hit him. Hurt him. The way I hurt. A surge of burn fuels my lungs. Scared that I might do just that, I take a step back from the car. “You don’t understand. ”

  His eyes glitter purple, the pupils shrinking to slits. “Get in the car. You can’t stay here. Not after tonight. ”

  I swallow down the burn from my lungs. Nod. The choice has been made for me. “I know that. ” Moving around the front of the car, I mutter, “Hurry. We have to get to Mom. ”


  I stop for a moment, glare at his shadow through the grimy windshield before hurrying around. “They could kill her for her connection to me. ”

  “Who? Xander?” Tamra demands from the back. “Why would he kill Mom? Just because he saw Jacinda manifest? He can’t know what he saw, can’t understand it. ”

  Cassian ignores my sister’s confusion. I’m grateful. Now’s not the time to explain Will and his family to her.

  “My only concern is you,” Cassian replies in an even voice. “Bringing you back home. Tam is welcome—”

  “Gee, thanks,” she mutters.

  “But your mother is the one who took you away. They won’t welcome her back. ”

  “Either you get my mother or I’m not going anywhere,” I threaten, my hands knotting to fists at my sides.

  “Fine. But they won’t welcome her…and she doesn’t even want to be part of the pride any longer,” he reminds me in succinct tones. Like I ever forgot that fact.

  “Neither do I. ” Tamra punches a fist against the back of Cassian’s seat.

  Cassian flicks his attention back to her for a moment, his expression flat, unreadable. In that moment he looks nothing like the guy who stood in the pool house with me. The softer, caring side I glimpsed of him is nowhere to be seen. This Cassian doesn’t look like he possesses a heart.

  I open my mouth, ready to flay him with words. Ready to insist that my mother and sister would choose to come with me. It’s my mom. My sister. We stick together.

  But I say nothing. Because I simply don’t know. Because the truth, hard as it is, drums me in the face. I’ve been functioning without thought or concern for them for some time now. Maybe I don’t deserve them.

  They have to know what happened. Everything from the beginning. Finally everything. I look back at Tamra. “Whether you and Mom want to come with me or not, you can’t stay here anymore. Not after I’ve exposed myself. ”

  She stares at me, her pasty pallor starting to seriously concern me. “Well, isn’t this perfect for you. You got what you wanted from the start. ”

  Leaving Will? Not really.

  “Let’s not do this right now, Tamra. The fact is, you have to run, too. ” Because of me. What I’ve done makes certain of that. Only the question remains: Will they hate me for it later? Will they leave me to Cassian and the pride and start fresh someplace else among humans?

  Or will Mom sacrifice her life all over again? And Tamra’s? For me? I don’t expect it of them. Don’t blame them if they run in the opposite direction without me.

  I’ve lost my freedom tonight. I’ve lost Will. Will I lose Mom and Tamra, too?

  As Cassian turns the car around and heads back into town, I stare out the window into the night, remembering the awful car ride I took over a month ago when we left the pride. I was so afraid, so unwilling.

  Now it’s the same. I’m sitting in the front seat of a car and heading into an unwanted future all over again. Hating that I must go with Cassian, I wonder if I’ll ever find a way back to Will. I don’t expect him to find me despite what he said.

  “There will be a reckoning for your actions tonight,” Cassian declares as we race headlong into the dark.

  No surprise there. A reckoning. For revealing the greatest secret of my species. For running away in the first place. For Will. Yeah, for Will.

  I slide a slow glance at Cassian. An oncoming car casts his face in harsh light. There’s no missing the grim press of his lips. I swallow past the tightness in my throat.

  “I’ll try to protect you…. ” His voice swirls through the air, thick as smoke.

  “Don’t let them clip my wings,” I plead.

bsp; His dark gaze brushes over my face, softens for a moment. “I’ll try, Jacinda. I’ll try. ”

  Not much for reassurance. I draw a ragged breath and stare out into the night again. I glance over my shoulder. Big Rock rises behind me, a great slumbering shape.

  A sound rises on the night, above the low rumble of the car’s engine. My skin shivers at the bird’s broken call, desperate and unremitting. Lost. Desert quail, Will called it. Searching for its mate. For family. For home.

  I can relate. At the pitiable sound, I close my eyes and lean back against the seat. We’ll be there soon.

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