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  • Home > Samantha Young > Fire Spirits > Scorched Skies (Page 27)     
  • Scorched Skies(Fire Spirits #2)(27) by Samantha Young
  • Sleep had evaded Ari for hours as she’d lain in her bed, thinking about what Derek had said to her, Charlie’s actions, Jai’s stubbornness… and finally that promise she had made to herself at her dad’s graveside.

    That was it. She was done whimpering after men who didn’t care enough. This time she really was.

    When the ghostly specter of sleep finally swept into the bedroom, Ari had fallen into another restless slumber, her mind tumbling back into the original dream she had of the giant Jinn brother and sister fighting to the death. Why did she keep dreaming about them? And was the woman in the dream this Lilif person in the painting downstairs?

    “You’re good at this,” Trey grumbled bringing Ari’s attention back to him.

    She gave him a weary smile. “My dad was kind of immature. We used to play this game a lot.”

    “I see.” He shrugged up from his position to waltz slowly over to her, his hand braced against one of the posts of the bed. “I spoke to Jai.”

    Her heart pounded a few hard warning beats against her ribs as if to say ‘stop him, I don’t want to hear this’. “I gathered that’s why you woke me up at this ungodly hour.”

    The guardian’s sympathetic smile killed her. It wasn’t possible for her to feel any more vulnerable right now. “Ari, he feels terrible.”

    “Is this the part you tell me not to give up on him? Because you’re too late.”

    “Don’t say that,” Trey groaned, “I’ll owe Charlie money.”

    Jaw dropping in indignation Ari squeaked, “You bet with Charlie that Jai and I would end up together?”

    “Yeah, he bet against it.”

    Horrified, Ari shook her head. “There’s nothing going on with Jai and me. Nothing. Never. He’s… an idiot. Just like all of you.”

    “Hey,” Trey threw his hands up defensively, “Some of us are fantastic.”

    Too angry to smile at him, Ari glowered and looked away.

    “Come on,” Trey said softly, easing down beside her. “You have to see things from Jai’s point of view. His life has not been easy. He doesn’t understand what he’s feeling.” At her silence, Trey touched her shoulder and his expression softened when he saw the hurt in her eyes “You still have a lot going on right now and you need to trust him.”

    “From now on I rely on no one but myself, Trey. No one. I walk into these situations with my heart splayed open like an idiot asking to have it cut out. Well, I’m done. I’m pissed off being the girl whose daddy didn’t love her enough, who’s best friend doesn’t love her enough… who Jai will never love enough to work out his crap and put it behind him.”

    “You don’t even know what that crap is. Maybe if you knew-”

    “He wouldn’t tell me.” Ari shook her head. “I’m not important enough to confide in.”

    “Ari-”

    “No!” Ari stood up, whirling around, her eyes blazing. “I feel like a crumpled up piece of paper that has something really important written on it. But no one will ever know what that is because all they see is something that’s been discarded. I’m done feeling like that! Last night was… well, it was a wake-up call.”

    She was trembling so much with hurt and determination that she knew Trey could see it. After a moment’s silence, he stood up and pressed an understanding kiss to her cheek. She gave him a weak smile and he turned quietly and left her to her thoughts.

    Ari had just finished blow-drying her hair when the knock came at her bedroom door. What does Trey want now? She rolled her eyes as she grasped the door handle.

    Her heart froze in her chest for a moment and then plummeted into her stomach with a sickening ‘oof’. “Jai,” she said quietly, surprised to see him standing outside her door. Willingly.

    Looking as uncomfortable as she felt Jai gestured inside. “May I come in?”

    Stepping aside in answer, Ari ignored the way her stomach fluttered as he brushed past her. She hated how aware she was of him. “What’s up?” she asked quietly, her breath escaping her as soon she closed the door on them. The room felt tiny now that Jai was in it.

    Looking adorably unsure, Jai shrugged. “Uh… I thought maybe we should talk after all.”

    Deep suspicion took a hold of Ari and she pinned her guardian to the wall with a deadly look. “Trey sent you.”

    “No.” Jai shook his head quickly, looking anywhere but at her.

    “Do you really want me to use the Seal against you cos’ I will,” Ari lied, standing arms akimbo with defiance.

    At the threat, the old Jai melted back into place and he shot her a warning look. “Fine,” he snapped. “Trey sent me.”

    She pointed to the door. “Get out.”

    “No.”

    “There’s nothing to talk about.”

    Picking up a photograph of Derek that she’d placed on the dresser, Jai seemed to relax again as if he’d remembered what he was doing there, what he could say. He put the photo down carefully and turned to her. His vivid eyes held her in place, her heart pounding as she waited for him to say something. Anything. “Trey told me you don’t trust me anymore.”

    Trey has a big mouth. Using cold composure as armor, Ari sauntered past him to put her hairdryer away. “I trust you to do your job.”

    “But you don’t trust me entirely, Ari, and I can’t have that. We need to trust each other for this to work.”

    Sighing wearily, Ari slumped down on a footstool and Jai took that as permission for him to sit too. He sat down on the end of the bed, his hands clasped between his knees. He was looking at his feet as if trying to gather his thoughts and Ari hated the way butterflies started trying to kill each other in her stomach at the sight of his long lashes fanned against his cheeks, the way the dim light of the room cast deep shadows across his cheekbones. Could a guy be beautiful? She bit her lip to stop a sigh escaping.

    “I don’t do… talking.” Jai looked up at her ruefully. “I get on with stuff, you know. Shit happens, I move on. But you deserve an explanation for last night. And I guess I need you to understand me a little… in order to trust me.”

    Hating to see him so uncomfortable, Ari shook her head. “Jai, you don’t need to do that.”

    His expression sincere, Jai held up a hand to quiet her. “I do. And I will… because I trust you.”

    Trying not to let that warm her insides, Ari leaned back against the wall. “OK.”

    Heaving the biggest sigh she’d ever heard, Jai dropped his gaze. He may trust her but this was clearly still hard for him. She suspected this would be the longest she’d ever hear Jai talk. “I don’t need a psychologist to tell me why I am the way I am. I was…” he sucked in a breath, “I was beaten, battered, kicked, neglected, toyed with and stomped on as a kid.”

    A slice of pain cut open inside her for him. “Jai…”

    He shook her off. “I don’t want pity or sympathy, Ari. It’s in my past and I came to terms with it a long time ago. I’m just trying to…” Jai frowned. “I’m trying to build you a picture, a history, so maybe you can understand me better.” He sighed again. “Nicki and David were the worst. But I could take the physical abuse. The slaps, the belts, the punches, the kicks. Thankfully never magic. It was the bad stuff like Nicki forcing Luca to hit me to prove he loved her more than me that kind of messed with my head.”

    A gut churning anger was beginning to build in Ari as he spoke, that ugly knot inside her chest wanting to separate from her and take control, hunt Nicki and chew her up and spit her back out.

    “Most everyone else followed by Nicki and Luca’s example. Don’t get me wrong there were some of my tribe that clearly didn’t agree with my treatment, but they did nothing to stop it. There were others who were afraid of me, of my heritage. And there was one who tried to protect me as much as he could.”

    “Trey.”

    Jai gave her a humorless smile. “I could kill him for sticking his nose in where it doesn’t belong but he means well. He just wants… you know…”

    God he was such a guy. “He wants you to be happy,” Ari finished for him.

    Giving her a ‘whatever’ shrug, Jai continued, “What I’m trying to say is that I never had non-dysfunctional relationships. Trey’s the only person I ever trusted. People thought I was a piece of garbage for a long time but I proved them wrong. I’m one of the best guardians in this tribe and they all know it and they have to respect that. My father has to respect that. Having something I’m good at, having a good reputation has come… to mean a lot to me,” he admitted and finally he looked at her. “Ari, it’s not just that I don’t do relationships, and believe me I don’t because it would get in the way of my job too much, but it’s also about you specifically.”

    Feeling sick, Ari waited.

    Jai suspended the moment, groaning as he scrubbed his face with his hands. Finally he dropped his hands to stare at her, as if he were making sure she was really listening. “We’re attracted to each other,” he admitted hoarsely. “There’s no point lying about that. But I respect you too much to mess around with you. Ari, you’re innocent. You’re still a kid in so many ways.”

    Ari flushed, tearing her gaze away as she remembered he knew about her virgin status.

    “I’m not going to jeopardize my reputation and risk hurting you for something that can never be anything… more. I don’t have it in me to give more.”

    He’d said it before but now, somehow, it was clearer. For Ari it well and truly sunk in and only strengthened her resolve to be more independent and to stop chasing men that didn’t want her the way that she wanted them. She blanched inwardly, wondering if they all saw her as this desperate lonely little girl just trying to make a connection. That wasn’t the way it was, she thought, pain crushing heavily on her chest. She was in love with Jai.

  • Romance | Fantasy | Vampire