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  • Home > Samantha Young > Fire Spirits > Smokeless Fire (Page 8)     
  • Smokeless Fire(Fire Spirits #1)(8) by Samantha Young
  • “She was just a friend.”

    Oh this conversation was going downhill fast.

    “Ari! We need more chips!” Rachel shouted from the living room.

    I love you, Rache . She shrugged, grabbing them up off the counter. “Duty calls.” She brushed past him, hurrying from the conversation as if the hounds of hell were nipping at her heels rather than a cute guy with a crush on her. What was wrong with her?

    For the rest of the day Ari never made the mistake of being in a room unattended again. Nick gave her a hug when he left and she couldn’t stop herself from tensing in his arms. He noticed, shuffling back awkwardly from her and making her feel like the worst person alive. A.J. glared at her, the blow of that look softened by his girlfriend’s sympathetic smile and Rachel’s grimace that said ‘when will that dude take the hint?’ She was never so thankful to be left alone in her empty home. Well… almost empty.

    “Ms. Maggie,” she called out, leaning against the front door. “You got a poltergeist friend who’s corporeal but invisible?”

    Knowing the poltergeist was unable to answer only added to her frustration because she could not get what happened on that street out of her mind.

    “Knock the phone off the side table if you do have a poltergeist friend who can touch me.”

    Nothing.

    “OK. Is there a poltergeist out there that can touch me who isn’t a friend?”

    The phone clattered to the ground with a sickening thump. Ari’s stomach roiled, her heart racing hard and fast inside her chest. “Oh God,” she whispered. “Way to scare the crap out of me.”

    The door reverberated against her back with three loud bangs and Ari yelped in horrified surprise.

    “Ari!” Charlie’s concerned voice shouted from outside.

    “Holy macaroons!” she yelled, pulling the door open. “You scared the bejesus out of me!”

    A frown wrinkled the skin between his brows and his eyes washed over her looking for injury. He shoved past her, glancing around the hallway. “You OK? What’s going on?”

    She slumped, suddenly feeling exhausted. It was too crazy to explain. He’d probably think she’d finally lost the plot. “I was just talking to Ms. Maggie. I wasn’t expecting anyone at the door.”

    Charlie’s shoulders seemed to drop, relaxing as he shut the door. “I thought you were being murdered or something.”

    “No. Ms. Maggie wouldn’t let that happen.”

    “Yeah.” He curled his lip teasingly. “Thank God for Ms. Maggie.”

    Now that her heart was returning to its normal rate it suddenly occurred to her that Charlie was here. At her house. Of his own accord. “What are you doing here?”

    He shrugged, heading towards the living room, eyeing the empty beer bottles and chip packets. “Thought maybe we could watch a movie.” When he turned back around his dark eyes blazed, goading her to ask him why. There were two paths in front of her here. She could ask him and he’d start an argument and leave. Or she could just watch a damn movie with him. Easy answer.

    “What do you want to watch?” she asked nonchalantly, heading over to her collection.

    He seemed to let go a sigh of relief behind her, the couch groaning as he thumped himself down into it. “Action.”

    “ Universal Soldier ?”

    “Sounds good.”

    Taking the classic Jean-Claude Van Damme movie her dad loved out of its case, Ari tried not to smile, the stone that had been in her stomach all day completely dissipating. Forcing herself to remain casual, she flopped down on the couch next to him and handed him the remote.

    They watched the movie in perfect silence, the heat of Charlie next to her so unbelievably relaxing Ari had to fight not to curl into him and fall asleep.

    At the end, as the credits rolled up, Charlie muted the television and stood up. He looked down at her, his dark eyes enigmatic and so deep Ari could feel herself falling into them as they locked onto her own. “Ari?”

    “Yeah?” she whispered, not wanting him to leave.

    “If you don’t want to go to college, then don’t go. It’s a lot of money and you should know what you want to do with your life first. Talk to your dad, OK. Make him understand.”

    She nodded slowly, her heart hammering as she listened to his footsteps fade, the door opening and shutting behind him with a click that told her he’d put the lock on.

    Before, when she’d thought Charlie wasn’t Charlie anymore, the pain had been hard and deep.

    Somehow, it was worse knowing Charlie was still in there behind this iron cast wall no one could get through. Today was just one of those lucky days when he slid back a little window to talk to her. But when her front door closed, she knew that window had closed with it.

    ~4~

    Solace is Looking For You, Stop Hiding

    It was divine providence that’s what it was, Ari thought, looking down at the cell in her hands. Charlie’s cell. Clearly it had slipped from his pocket while he was watching the movie last night all so Ari would have an excuse to see him today. She clutched it tightly in her hand, tempted to scroll through the numbers and see how many girls his contact list had accumulated over the last two years. But that would be wrong. She shook her head. She wasn’t that far gone yet. Smiling, Ari dropped the cell into her bag and set off outside, texting Rachel again to let her know she didn’t need a ride to school. Her stomach growled from lack of breakfast and Ari grimaced. The sacrifices she was making for love.

    Feeling lighter than she had in some time (and all because she’d clocked more Charlie time this week than she’d had in the last two months), Ari turned up the volume on her iPhone, letting Metric sweep her through the suburban streets. Her neighborhood was quiet and neat. Very neat. The houses were pretty big but modest in appearance with lush lawns and white fences and lots of space between each one. The street curved around in a huge bend until it split off into two directions. To the left the town stretched out from the moderately well-off, to the rich, to the wealthy, to the even wealthier, and then to a couple of farms on the outskirts of town, like A.J.’s parents’ grain farm. As for the center of Sandford Ridge it was literally that. The center. Stores, two ‘malls’, small businesses, a large car manufacturer factory… the usual. And best of all The Smoothie Place on Main Street, Ari’s favorite place to chill out.

    Ari took the right towards Charlie’s house and the school. The Creaghs lived three blocks away in a noisier neighborhood that seemed much more real to Ari. She’d loved hanging out there. Unlike her street, where the only activity consisted of people jogging by quietly alone or with their dogs, Charlie’s street was abuzz with the sounds of children’s laughter and shouts as they played in one another’s yards. Lawnmowers growled, dogs barked, music blared from car radios. It was like walking out of Stepford into Sandford. Charlie’s neighborhood was still considered the west side, as was their high school, but only four blocks over from the high school was all the low income housing and two well-kept trailer parks. Overall Sandford Ridge wasn’t a bad place to live. It just… wasn’t great either.

    Just as she was taking her first steps onto Charlie’s street the smell of sandalwood and spices floated up her nose and Ari skidded to a halt, her heart suddenly thumping in her chest. Sniffing the air to catch the scent again her skin prickled as if someone were staring at her. Or standing right over her shoulder. Heart hammering now, Ari twisted her head around and stared. No one there. She sniffed again and couldn’t find the scent. Thoroughly freaked out at the reminder of the invisible hands that had rescued her, Ari curled her arms around her waist, hunching over and picking up her feet.

    Jittery, Ari felt her heart kick into super speed as she strode up onto Charlie’s porch. She blew out nervous air between her lips, glanced once more to make sure there was no one behind her and rapped on the porch door. When there was no response she rapped again, only harder this time.

    Mrs. Creagh appeared at the door, pulling it open and shoving the screen door open so hard it almost whacked Ari on the nose. Charlie’s mom’s expression cleared somewhat at the sight of her but Ari missed the huge smile she always used to bestow on her when she came around. “Ari. Haven’t seen you in a while.”

    Ari shrugged apologetically. “Yeah, I know. Things have been… busy. I’m looking for Charlie, is he still home?”

    Mrs. Creagh snorted and stepped back. “You’ll be lucky. You can go on in and check his bedroom if you like. I’m late for work.” She grabbed her handbag and keys and scooted past her, patting her shoulder almost affectionately before she left. Ari stared after her, watching her walk to her car with slouched shoulders and angry lines around her eyes. The bubbly, mothering woman who would have known whether or not her son was safe and home in his bedroom every night and every morning was gone. She’d died two years ago along with her youngest. Feeling anger at her loss and her subsequent treatment of the son she had left, Ari swallowed hard, trying to force the choking sensation in her throat away.

    “Mrs. Creagh!” she called out before she could stop herself.

    Charlie’s mom nearly dropped her keys, her head jerking up in confusion. “Yeah?”

    “He’s not good,” Ari told her, her voice cracking on the words. “Charlie.” His mother gulped, her skin seeming to tighten even more across her cheeks, her lips trembling. Seeing the emotion Ari took a step towards her. “He still needs you, Mrs. Creagh. The way he’s going… you’ll be lucky to have any kids left.”

    Rearing back like Ari had slapped her, Mrs. Creagh’s face darkened, her eyes narrowing. Ari waited for her to say anything, even if it was to tell her to mind her own business, but instead she jammed her keys in the car door before hauling ass into it as if she was running from a wall of flames. Feeling almost bad for what she’d said, Ari turned away and peered into the house. If Charlie was in, she hoped he hadn’t overheard that.

  • Romance | Fantasy | Vampire