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  • Home > Samantha Young > Fire Spirits > Smokeless Fire (Page 19)     
  • Smokeless Fire(Fire Spirits #1)(19) by Samantha Young
  • She blinked, trying to remember the last time he had hugged her. “I’m sorry, Dad.”

    Derek shook his head, his eyes darkening as he stepped back, his features tightening. Ari’s heart sank. She wasn’t off the hook yet. “Sit.” He jerked his head at the couch and Ari promptly dropped onto it. She watched anxiously as he shrugged out of his jacket and loosened the tie around his neck. Finally, he collapsed onto the armchair Jai had only minutes before vacated. And then it came. He fired questions at her, not waiting for her to answer, lamenting her poor judgment, vocalizing his disappointment, creating criminal scenarios as reasons for her stupidity, his voice rising and rising until he was shouting, his face mottled red with anger. He wasn’t ready to hear her answers. Ari wasn’t even sure he wanted answers, he just wanted her to know what an inconvenience the worry he had felt for her was. As she sat there, gripping her hands tightly together on her lap, aware of Jai upstairs listening to every word, Ari grew angry too. Her dad’s worry wasn’t supposed to be an inconvenience. It was supposed to be a natural element of fatherhood. And true, he might not be her real father, but he didn’t know that.

    Where had he been? Was he really surprised that something like this had happened? He had been leaving her alone for years. He was lucky something bad hadn’t happened before now. He was lucky she could take care of herself.

    As Derek ranted on and on about the humiliation of having to call the Sheriff’s Department and tell them that she was fine, that she’d had a bad period and didn’t want to answer the door or the phone, Ari’s fears began to gnaw at her insides. Would he walk away from her if he knew the truth? Would the dad she loved, who had loved her when she was a kid… would he love her enough to still want her if he ever discovered the truth?

    “I just can’t believe that you would act so carelessly, so inconsiderately over… nothing. I didn’t raise my daughter to act like that and she never has before. So tell me, Ari… what are you hiding from me?”

    Gulping down the truth, Ari shook her head, the build-up of anger in her throat making it difficult to speak. “Nothing.”

    Derek’s eyes narrowed, his lips pinched white. “No, I don’t accept that. You never lie to me. Do not start now.”

    She scoffed, the noise escaping her before she could stop it. Her father’s nostrils flared at the sound and she narrowed her own eyes on him, feeling dangerous. Feeling weightless and dangerous. “I never lie?” She shook her head, daring him to hate her. “Right.”

    “What’s that supposed to mean?”

    “It means… How would you know?” her voice rose an octave on the last word as she jumped up from the couch. “You’re never here. And when I complain you’re never here you just call me a brat who doesn’t know how lucky she is to have such nice things in her life because her dad works hard to give them to her. Lucky?” she whispered, eyes blazing, daring him to hate her and wanting him to love her all at the same time. “I’m all alone, Dad. I have no one, no one but Charlie and he doesn’t want anyone to have him. So no… I’m not lucky, Dad. I’m eighteen and I’m alone because you’re never here. You’re never here and I made a mistake. I’ve made a few of those.” She shook her head, watching the color leach from his cheeks and his eyes dim from anger to sadness. “You think I never lie? I lie, Dad. I lied about Penn. I don’t want to go there. I don’t want a business degree. And worse… I don’t know what I want. I don’t know who I am. And I lied about that. I lied because I want you to love me even though you’re never here. And…” she sucked in a breath, that old lie still biting at her conscience. “I lied about your girlfriend Michelle.”

    Derek jerked back, the confusion on his face crumbling Ari’s resolve a little. “Michelle?” he asked softly.

    “Your girlfriend that I told you hit me.”

    His eyes lit up with recognition. “Michelle.”

    “You really liked her. I knew that even then. And you hadn’t liked anyone so much before. I got scared. I didn’t want a mom and I didn’t want to share you. So I lied. She didn’t slap me. She didn’t slap me at all.” She exhaled shakily. “I’m sorry. But I lied. I lied because I didn’t want another mom abandoning us. I didn’t want you abandoning me.” She laughed humorlessly. “And that is just such a joke because… you abandoned me anyway.”

    The silence between them was so thick, so fragile. Ari waited, tense, her whole body – muscles, bones, nerves and blood — frozen as she waited for him to respond.

    Finally, Derek lifted his head, his soft features hard, his skin stretched taut across his face. His dark blue eyes blazed at her as if he didn’t recognize her. Without another word, he rose to his feet and walked past her. The front door slammed and Ari jumped at the noise, staring blindly down at the armchair he’d left empty.

    Well, you wanted to push. You wanted to punish. Someone. Anyone.

    Ignoring the ache in her chest, Ari turned slowly around only to come face to face with Jai as he entered the living room. His eyes glittered at her unfathomably but she noted a softening in his features that hadn’t been there before. She dropped her gaze, not wanting his sympathy.

    The shrill call of the phone broke the awkward moment and Ari reached over to answer it.

    “Ari?” Charlie’s warm voice asked in disbelief and relief.

    “Yeah.”

    “Yeah? That’s all you’ve got to say. Ari, I’ve been going out of my mind. What the hell happened the other night?”

    She glanced out at the darkening day and sighed. “I’ll tell you in a minute. You at home?”

    “Yeah.”

    “I’ll be there in ten.”

    This was not at all what Jai had imagined would be his assignment. One, the actual assignment — the girl — was a bigger situation than even he could have imagined. And two, she was different than he’d thought she’d be. Usually Importants were surrounded by people, had busy lives, were focused and driven. But then Ari wasn’t exactly an Important. Not precisely. Jai watched her as she grabbed her keys, shoving her feet into white flats. She turned back to him, her long hair sliding like dark warm chocolate across her back.

    “We’re walking. I feel like walking.”

    Jai shrugged. Walking worked for him. It was just the destination that bothered him.

    For over a week now he’d been following Ari, protecting her. He’d been surprised by how lonely she was, how abandoned she was by even the people who were supposed to love her. Her dad was an idiot, Jai thought so even more now after overhearing their argument. Her friends were typical teens too wrapped up in their own lives to see Ari was drowning, and her so-called best friend, Charlie, who she talked about all the time (even with that damn Ifrit who’d tried to bar him from the house) wasn’t there for her. He seemed to come in and out of Ari’s life, playing with her feelings, pulling her in, pushing her out. Jai felt like the punching the kid, but part of him also got where the guy was coming from. Anger, especially over something like losing your little brother, wasn’t easily dealt with. Whereas some wanted an escape from it anyway they could, others, like Jai, channeled it into something productive. He guessed it all came down to how you were wired. Still, it bothered Jai, for some inexplicable reason, that the first person Ari wanted to run to after all that she’d been through was Charlie. Charlie who was too messed up to give her any kind of support.

    He shot a look at her as she breezed down the sidewalk, her long legs working to get away from him. She better not be thinking about telling that kid any of this stuff. Jai sighed, rubbing the back of his neck. He shouldn’t care what she did with her personal life, that wasn’t part of this. But something about her had drawn him in since he’d been charged with following her. He understood what it was like to be all alone. And Ari was a nice girl. She was. Contrary to how she was reacting to him (but hey he was used to that), she was a nice girl.

    With eyes a guy could drown in.

    Jai frowned at that. Ari had Jinn eyes, clearly inherited from her mother. Those were powerful eyes, indistinct in color, but startling. She shot him a sideways glance, checking him out, and Jai hid a smile. She was only eighteen (and a virgin, according to her friend Rachel), she came from small town Ohio and she didn’t really know herself. Jai sighed inwardly. She was an innocent. In every way, his thoughts suddenly depressed, darkened. It was unfair. The Red King should have armed her with the truth. Given her a chance to prepare. Jai glanced at her again. The Red King said he couldn’t tell her… but that didn’t mean he couldn’t hint at it. Right?

    ~10~

    Easing You Cuts Me

    Jai hadn’t said a word to her when she announced she was going over to Charlie’s. He had followed her out of the door, past the now empty driveway (she’d put her own car in the garage before she’d been whipped into the genie realm), and down the sidewalk that would lead her out of her neighborhood and into Charlie’s. An awkwardness still clung to them after what Jai had overheard between her and her dad and Ari kept shrugging as if that would somehow rid them of it. She glanced at him out of the corner of her eye, wondering how she could talk him into helping her.

    When he sighed she realized he was going to break the uncomfortable silence first. “You know you can’t tell Charlie anything right? Nothing about me, you, or any of the Jinn.”

    Her eyes widened and she drew to an abrupt halt, staring up into his dark, handsome face as if he’d gone mad. “Are you kidding me?”

    Jai’s jaw twitched and he leaned down so their faces were at eye level, his warmth breath whispering across her face. “No,” he replied sternly before straightening back up. “I don’t kid.”

    She grunted. “There’s a surprise.”

    “So are we clear?” he ignored her jibe.

    Ari reached out to pull him to a stop, feeling how hot his skin was under her hand. Fire Spirits seemed to run at a higher temperature than everyone else. She wondered if she’d also start radiating abnormal amounts of heat if she were to ever tap into her own Jinn abilities. It was ironic because she was much more of a rain and water person than a sun and fire person. The rain made her feel better, new, refreshed. She always imagined it gave her power somehow. “No, we’re not clear,” she argued. “I’m telling Charlie. I have to tell Charlie. He deserves to know that he isn’t responsible for his brother’s death.”

  • Romance | Fantasy | Vampire