Authors: M. Lathan
Tags: #Young Adult, #Romance
Emma peeked through the window next to the door. I waved, and she ran out of the house. Her makeup had melted off and she’d slung her pretty hair into a messy ponytail. She’d had a hard day too, it seemed.
She pointed over her shoulder with a curious look on her face. "Please tell me you did not buy that for him." I shrugged, feeling like an idiot for misreading his birthday wish.
Paul dashed out of the house and straight to the car with the keys in his hands. I guessed Nate had given them up freely, officially declining the car.
“Chris, why didn’t you tell me about this?” she asked.
“I wanted it to be a surprise!”
And to make my own decision for once.
Apparently, I wasn’t good at that.
Paul zoomed out of the driveway and sped down the street, yelling, “
,” out of the window.
Emma ordered me to follow her to our pillow room. She closed the door behind her and pointed to the floor.
“Sit,” she said. I plopped down and crossed my arms. “A car?”
“What’s wrong with that?”
“Are you kidding me? Were you dropped on your head as a baby?”
“I don’t know. I’ll go ask the nuns at St. Catalina, or we’ll find out if my parents were clumsy when you get the candles.”
She frowned, and I looked away as I realized I’d taken sarcasm too far, too deep into my painful past. She sat next to me, as close as she could get without touching.
“Sorry for saying that. I wasn’t thinking. Forgive me?” I nodded as I toyed with the tassels on one of her pink pillows. “What did he say?” she asked.
“A lot of stuff about money, the job, and my phone. Which isn’t fair. He threw me into the pool with my old one in my pocket. What was I supposed to do?”
It stung even more when I realized he’d been keeping things to himself for three months and compiling a list of things that annoyed him about me. What else wasn’t he saying?
“He’s overreacting about the phone, but he has a reason to be upset about the car.” I almost walked out on her. I was always on her side with Paul, right there listening to her cry after she’d put herself in the same compromising and uncomfortable position time and time again, but when it came down to it, she didn’t extend me the same courtesy. “Don’t get mad when I say this, but when I let myself think about it, being your friend feels weird and … wrong.”
Her words plowed into my chest. I looked at her slowly, praying that my face wasn’t showing how much that had burned.
“You think I’m going to do something to you?”
She reached her hand to my
nearly touching me, then yanked it away. That burned even more.
“No, Chris. Of course I don’t think that. It’s not your
powers that makes
us feel awkward. It’s your money. Sophie has always been the richest person in the world to me, and you … make her seem poor.” She sighed and picked at her nails that were not so grungy and chipped this morning. “And we’re living here and haven’t been able to pay you a dime until now. That’s not right. Sometimes, it feels weird being friends with someone who has so much. I have one hundred and twenty three dollars. You have millions. I have to work. You’ll never have to. If a hunter captures me, I would be priced at eight thousand dollars like I always am. If you were …”
She paused, approaching highly uncomfortable territory – what I would be worth to hunters and what they would do to me.
“It would be millions,” I said. “My mother was worth three million.”
That was why CC had run away from Julian. In her diary, I’d read that he’d tried to auction her off, and her highest bid was three million dollars.
I was starting to see the real things Nathan said I didn’t value. Important things like how much a person could cost. Witches and wizards around our age went for a few thousand.
Shifters, a few hundred.
I had a price too. I prayed I’d never know exactly what it was. Because I wouldn’t sit in a cage until someone came for me. Girls with powers were sold like well bred animals, to make more well bred animals.
“I don’t know why I assumed you’d do something simple and sweet for him,” she said.
“Is a car not sweet?” She chuckled and shook her head. “I just wanted to make him happy, Em.”
She snapped and a white rose appeared in her hand. “Christine, my love,” she said, in a better imitation of Sophia’s voice. “He was already happy.” I took the rose, chuckling, and her phone rang. “It’s my parents. I’ll be talking about the job they’re so surprised I have for the next few millennia. Goodnight, hun.”
She answered her phone, speaking in full speed French. She managed to sound bored despite the beauty of the language. In addition to the one with Paul, she also had an awkward relationship with her parents. They were waiting for her to turn into her sister, an evil witch who was killed for the crimes she’d committed. I’d bet feeding the homeless would help with that.
I searched downstairs for Nate so I could apologize for giving him the worst gift ever. When I didn’t find him, I checked the pool house. Not
I found him in my room, curled up at the foot of my bed with his paws under his snout. He’d left a note on my pillow.
I need a minute to calm down, but you’re what
me. Put me out if you’re too mad.
I dropped the note on my bed and petted his head. I couldn’t apologize now. He’d remember it, but it wouldn’t have the same effect. In this form, I was just a girl he liked to follow around and play fetch with, not his girlfriend. I should apologize as me after he shifted back.
I went into the closet to dig up my diploma. It was in the corner under a pile of shoes that never seemed to make their way back to the shelf if Sophia didn’t put them there.
I rubbed my fingers across the embossed words.
Christine “Leah” Grant
A graduate of St. Catalina Preparatory Academy and Boarding School
He was right. I didn’t value this. I’d toiled day and night in that place. And that name, Leah, on this insignificant piece of paper had the power to bring tears to my eyes. My mother had left me there in preparation for her death – that Julian either caused directly or … indirectly. I hadn’t known how expensive it was until Nate found the invoice in the package with the diploma. Twenty thousand a year, for eighteen years, was paid on the day she left me there.
I guessed I could buy a lot of Nathans with this. I propped it up on my desk, my eyes still wet with the tears I wouldn’t let fall. But if it meant making Nate see that I wasn’t a brat, I’d cringe at Leah’s name in secret every time I passed it.
I went back into the closet, picked up my expensive shoes, and put them in their place. I wrangled up the clothes I hadn’t worn to give to Emma. Wearing a sign that said:
Look, Nate, I’m charitable. Don’t be mad at
would’ve been less obvious.
After my shower, I slipped on a tank top and a pair of Emma’s little shorts that had gotten mixed in with my laundry. The white dog was missing from my room.
I went out on my balcony and leaned over the rail. I stared at my horrible gift, wishing I’d never bought it.
A freaking BMW.
What was I thinking? He didn’t even have a license. He knew how to drive, but he didn’t have the proper IDs to get one. He needed his birth certificate and a social security card and didn’t want to go to John and Theresa to get them.
I heard him come in, but I didn’t turn around. The door slammed, so he had hands now.
He wrapped his arms around my waist, and we stared at the M3 in silence. I could feel his bare chest against my back. Nate rarely wore shirts. He hated the feel of them and had put his foot down on the matter, even with Sophia.
“You were so happy when you got home,” I said. “I ruined your first day of work.”
He kissed my ear. “You didn’t ruin anything, babe.”
“I wasn’t thinking. I didn’t mean to make you feel … less fortunate. I just love you and wanted to do something nice. And you tried to walk away, but I kept pushing you to talk about something really uncomfortable. You never push me like that. I’m sorry.”
He turned me around in his arms, leaning us into the rail. “I should’ve said thank you and meant it. I was rude and ungrateful, and I just tried to walk away after pissing you off like you weren’t going to react to that.
sorry.” I pressed my face against his chest to avoid his eyes. “I still can’t accept the car. Do you forgive me?”
“Yeah. Do you forgive me for buying it?” He raised my chin and kissed me, so passionately that I might have fallen over the rail if his hands weren’t digging into my sides.
“It’s over and done with,” he said. We held each other in the steamy summer night, mending from the tiff that had disturbed the usually calm waters of our relationship. “You didn’t have to display the diploma. That was an insensitive thing for me to say. I know you hated it there.”
“I’ll keep it out. My mom bought it.”
We walked into the room, and I locked the balcony doors behind us. I hugged him from behind and rested my head on his so-called birthmarks, four long scratches that covered most of his back. They looked more like ancient injuries to me, but he was sure that they weren’t.
I was still holding him as he reheated the leftovers from last night, and we ate standing up, still pressed against each other, like letting go was not an option.
After dinner, he carried me to my bed. At first, we just held hands and stared at each other. Then his leg brushed mine, my hand gravitated to his chest, and we stopped pretending we could cuddle in bed and not kiss.
“Where did you get these shorts?” he asked, his hand on the back of my thigh where the tiny shorts ended.
I hooked one of my legs around his waist, cranking up the heat in the bed.
He wanted more. I wanted more. But I had to stop us. I’d missed many typical parental moments with Raymond and CC. Walking, talking, riding a bike. At the séance, I planned to speak with Raymond first and ask him more about his life. Then, I planned to summon CC and give her the only parental moment she could ever have with me –
She wrote about her sex life for pages upon pages. My mother was the perfect person to talk to about sex, and I wanted to do that before I experienced it. I would ask uncomfortable questions and probably defend Nate for not being human. I fantasized about what she’d say all the time. But I couldn’t have the talk until we pulled off the séance, so that part of our relationship was on hold.
Nate sniffed loudly and his lips slowed, like blades of a ceiling fan coasting to a gentle stop. My mood had flipped his switch. His amazing senses always detected when I wanted to stop. I never had to push him away. “Sorry, baby,” he said, as he rolled to the other side of the bed. He landed face down in the pillows.
“Don’t be sorry,” I said. He chuckled through a groan, still not looking at me. “
am. I know this can’t be easy for you.”
“We have forever. No rush.”
I wasn’t sure if he realized he said those same five words at least once a week. They flowed out of his mouth now, automatic, rehearsed.
After a minute, he rolled back to me and moved us to a much cooler position. He patted around the bed and found the remote. The television was awkwardly far away, and if we were in bed, it really only served as background noise.
“Nate,” I said. “Do you think it’s hard to be around me? Like you don’t belong here? Or I don’t belong around you guys?”
“Sort of,” I admitted.
He linked or fingers and kissed my hair. “I can see why you would think that. It’s hard being different. I remember feeling that way before I left my house. Like no one understood me, like an alien.” I nodded. It was exactly how I felt.
Foreign in my own home, around people who loved me but couldn’t fully relate.
“You’re more powerful than any of us could imagine being. Your brain can literally tell this bed to move out of this house and it would. I won’t lie. Sometimes, it’s strange being with someone who can have anything she wants.
Whether by buying it or speaking it into existence.
It makes me wonder what the hell she is doing with me.”
I reached a hand to his cheek. The tiniest hairs pricked my fingers, signs of Nathan, the man, replacing the boy.
“I am with you because you are the best person on this planet. And I would do anything to stay here. Right here.” I rubbed his side from his armpit to his waist. His nook, a place where I couldn’t deny how well I
“I already don’t use my powers. If I had to, I’d give away all of my money to fit-”
“That’s nuts. You don’t have to do that. Nothing can break us up. Not money. Not magic. Not even deadly brains.” He took a deep breath and let it out with a chuckle. “And I’d stalk you if you ever left me, so don’t even try.”
“You’re such a creep.”
We laughed, and I burrowed deeper into his nook.
“I’m kidding about the stalking. But I know we won’t ever break up. I think you’re my soul mate. I’d bet I would’ve found you eventually, even without Sophia’s help. I always wanted to go to New Haven.”