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  • Home > Samantha Young > Fire Spirits > Scorched Skies (Page 22)     
  • Scorched Skies(Fire Spirits #2)(22) by Samantha Young
  • A knock at the door startled her and her heart started pounding fast against her ribs. Was that him? Oh god, oh god, oh god.

    “Come in!” she called, trembling fingers smoothing down the front of her dress.

    To her surprise, Charlie walked into the room. He was wearing a plain t-shirt and black pants instead of a ratty slogan shirt and knee-bitten jeans, and with his hair so short he looked older. Stronger. More appealing. Jerk.

    “Whoa.” He drew to an abrupt halt, his dark eyes wide as they soaked in the sight of her. When his gaze finally returned to her face, Ari was sure she was blushing like crazy. Charlie had never looked at her with such blatant interest before.

    “Don’t look at me like that.” She squirmed uncomfortably.

    “Then poke my eyes out because I can’t look at you any other way.” His eyes darkened with melancholy. “You look amazing.”

    “Thank you.” Why did he have to look like a kicked puppy all the time? This was how she kept getting drawn back in. Deliberately avoiding his gaze, Ari puttered around the room, gathering her phone and some make-up to put in her clutch purse.

    “You sure you want to do this?” Charlie asked quietly. “It could be dangerous. We don’t know who’s following you or if that Dalí guy knows where you are.”

    “It’ll be fine.”

    “What about Jai?”

    Ari’s heart kicked into overdrive. “What about Jai?”

    “Well, I don’t trust him with you any normal day. You with him, dressed like that? I don’t think so.”

    Stupidly pleased at the insinuation that Jai was attracted to her, Ari hid a hopeful smile and waved Charlie off. “It’s Jai, OK. He takes his job seriously. I’m like an inanimate object to him.”

    Charlie snorted. “Yeah, right. I’m serious, Ari. You should see the way he looks at you when you’re not watching.”

    Another thrill shot through her and this time she couldn’t contain the little shiver that rippled down her spine. “He doesn’t see me like that,” she insisted.

    At the silence from her friend, Ari turned around slowly and met Charlie’s suspicious, narrow-eyed gaze. His jaw was taut and she noted the flicker of hurt in his eyes. “Do you want him to?”

    Feeling guilty and flustered, Ari shook her head frantically. “No. Look, I’m not talking about this. Not with you.”

    “You’re kidding, right?” Charlie’s eyes sparked with realization. “You’re into him? He’s too old for you!”

    “He’s only twenty three,” she argued stupidly before she remembered she was supposed to be hiding her feelings for Jai from everyone, including Jai. “That’s not even the point. There is nothing between us. There never will be.”

    Charlie’s expression softened with an empathy that gave her a bad feeling deep in her gut. “Yeah, you’re right. There never will be. Because he’s not a relationship guy, Ari. Trey told me about the crap the two of them get up to with women and, well, men I guess too for Trey. Jai might find you attractive, and to be honest he’d have to be dead not to, but there won’t ever be anything more.” His mouth twisted bitterly. “I just didn’t realize you wanted more from him.”

    The words hurt and they were meant to. He was saying it out of his own jealousy and Ari knew that. But there was truth in there too. Jai had already told her the same thing, but Ari resented Charlie for reiterating something she’d prefer to be deaf to. Suddenly remembering her oath to herself as she’d stood at her dad’s graveside, Ari grew calm, letting all her emotions freeze up somewhere inside her. Giving Charlie her best blank look, she shrugged nonchalantly. “I don’t want anything from anybody anymore. You see, when you expect things from people they inevitably disappoint you.”

    The retort found its mark and Charlie stepped back from the impact, his hands raised defensively. He nodded, letting her know he got it and he backed out of the room, slamming the door shut in his wake.

    The look on Jai’s face was priceless. Ari wished someone would record it so she could watch it over and over again, especially on days when he’d been particularly jackass-like. The way he made her feel as she walked towards him in the entrance hall was indescribable. Not only did it distract her from the guilt she felt for how she’d spoken to Charlie but it made her feel… wanted. If she could bottle that burning, intense, lush need in her gut she’d be able to make a fortune on it. Every woman in the world would feel like the most beautiful creature that ever lived. Proud of herself for not flushing under Jai’s heated gaze, Ari drew to a stop inches from him. He was wearing a black t-shirt and black jeans, the tiny little diamond in his ear winking under the light from the chandelier above them. Her guardian looked and smelled amazing and Ari had a hard time keeping her hand from reaching out to stroke his strong jaw; a jaw that was clenched with unnamed emotion as he looked at her so fiercely.

    Possessively.

    Ari shivered.

    “You ready?” Jai asked, his voice all hoarse as he handed her the fake ID.

    Feeling an unexpected giggle in the back of her throat, Ari cleared it away. So he wasn’t going to mention the dress. She shrugged inwardly. Didn’t matter. Charlie was right. Jai thought she was pretty (he’d told her that once) but that didn’t mean anything. He’d been with lots of girls (how many?) and he wasn’t a relationship guy. In fact he’d actually screwed over a girl to get even with her father. Ari frowned at him.

    He frowned back. “What?”

    Not wanting him to know what she’d been thinking, Ari shrugged. “I’m bringing Ms. Maggie, I hope you don’t mind.” The hum of Ms. Maggie’s presence pulsed beside her protectively. It was nice having a poltergeist.

    “Fine. Extra protection I guess.”

    They were quiet in the car. It was a sleek Mercedes SL Roadster that belonged to Luca. He’d let them borrow it since it helped them play their part. Ari shivered as they drove out to L.A. They could have used the Peripatos but Jai liked driving and thought they’d both enjoy the break from the house for a while before their assignment started. Well he was wrong. They were still uncomfortable with one another and it didn’t help that Ari’s dress wouldn’t stop riding up as she sat in the sports car despite her attempts to tug the hem down. When Jai shot a look at her legs and tightened his hands on the wheel, Ari almost died from the thick tension between them.

    It was with relief when they pulled up to the hotel where they were meeting with Jennifer and her security detail.

    Jai was all business as he met with the head of security at the elevator. The human guy was just as tall as Jai but even more muscular, his thick neck disappearing under his massive square jawline. His shrewd eyes ran over Jai as he introduced them, and Ari had to admit Jai was an impressive sight. His eyes were cool and determined and the air around him zinged with competence, his questionable youth disappearing under the weight of his intelligent gaze. The head of security gave them both a brisk nod as they shook hands. “I’m Brian. Let me introduce you to Ms. Hadley and go over protocol for this evening.”

    The elevator ride was quiet with tension. Ari wondered if her frayed nerves were sucking all the oxygen out of the air. Shoving back the urge to cling onto Jai’s wrist as they headed down the hotel’s plush corridor, Ari tried to walk like she belonged there. Two guys standing outside the hotel room door nodded at Brian as he knocked and waited to be allowed entrance.

    The hotel suite was out of this frickin’ world. Not quite the penthouse but still. Ari didn’t know where to look, eyeing the plush sofas and huge fireplace, the enormous flat screen TV pinned to the wall, and of course the row of floor-to-ceiling windows that looked out over the city. Wow.

    “Ms. Hadley, this is Ari and Jai, your security for this evening.”

    Ari’s gaze swung back to Brian and to the couple he was standing with. Holy macaroons, it’s Jennifer Hadley! Laughing inwardly at how absurd it was to find meeting a famous person surreal when she’d met the immortal Sultan of all Jinn, Ari tried to control her expression as she reached forward to shake Jennifer’s hand. The short blonde actress grinned widely at them, her famous dimpled smile so friendly and so surprised.

    Jennifer nudged her boyfriend and then laughed. “These two don’t look like security. They look like film stars.”

    Ari blushed at the compliment and threw a look at Jai. His expression hadn’t changed. Ari grimaced. He was so stuffy when he was on a job.

    “I assure you, Ms. Hadley, you’re in good hands,” Jai replied, his gravelly voice cutting into the room and drawing all eyes to him.

    Jennifer’s eyes widened a little. “Good to know.”

    Charlie hit end call and sighed. His mom was still pissed at him for taking off with Ari. At least she was answering his calls. Although, the conversation couldn’t really be classed as such since it mostly consisted of them responding in grunts and mumblings. He threw his phone at the coffee table, eyes watching the film playing across the small home cinema. It was funnier on mute. Groaning, Charlie ran his hand through his hair and felt frustration burn when he didn’t feel the usual mass of shaggy locks. Why did he cut it off again?

    Why was he even here? Left behind. Ignored.

    You’re here to learn, he reminded himself. And so far that wasn’t going great, but it’d go even crappier if he went it alone right now. Plus… there was Ari. He had to make sure she was OK. The image of her in the red dress made him groan again. She was out in that thing. With Jai.

    For a moment he just sat there trying to think about anything but Ari with her guardian.

    He glanced around the room, feeling the echo of the quiet of the mansion ring inside it. Jai hadn’t been kidding when he said people scattered when he came home. Surprisingly, Charlie actually felt bad for the guy. Knowing what it was like to be ignored by the people who were supposed to take care of you, Charlie winced sympathetically every time someone talked to Jai without looking at him or called him ‘boy’. OK, maybe he didn’t feel sorry for him about that. The guy did insist on calling him ‘kid’ after all.

  • Romance | Fantasy | Vampire