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  • Home > Samantha Young > Fire Spirits > Smokeless Fire (Page 20)     
  • Smokeless Fire(Fire Spirits #1)(20) by Samantha Young
  • “Look, that’s very noble but the less people involved in that part of your life the better for everyone.”

    “You can’t talk me out of this.” Ari jutted her chin out defiantly and swooped past him, her long hair billowing at the back of her like a banner in the wind.

    “Your uncle would be pissed.”

    “Don’t call him that.”

    “The Red King then.” It was now Jai’s turn to reach out to her, his large hand clasping around her upper arm, the callouses on his palm rubbing against her skin and causing an involuntary shiver to wriggle down her spine. She stopped, jerking her arm from his. She met his stubborn look with one of her own. “Ari, the king might come across all cool and human and nice but he has his own agenda. And you do not want to cross The Red King. You don’t want to cross any of the Seven Kings of Jinn.”

    She nodded. “I get you’re doing your job. I get I can’t get rid of you. But, other than making things right with my friends, I don’t want anything to do with the Jinn world. I am going to pretend that none of it exists until I have no choice but to. I don’t want that world, Jai. I want this one. I want my friends to be OK.”

    Disgruntled, Jai shook his head but didn’t argue. He fell into step beside her and despite what she’d just said, she was kind of glad to have him there, now that she knew there were Jinn out and about trying to destroy the lives of the humans of Sandford Ridge. Nick was the next on the help list.

    When they reached Charlie’s street, Ari pulled Jai to a stop. “You need to hide for now.”

    He shook his head belligerently. “I’m not going anywhere.”

    “Question: what happens when I need to pee?”

    Jai narrowed his eyes. “You’re so juvenile, you know that.”

    She smiled sweetly. “Go away.”

    “No. I’ll go into the Cloak.” He tried to appease her.

    Ari shook her head. “Nah, after Ms. Maggie it kind of freaks me out.”

    “Fine.”

    Before she could question that resigned sigh of his Jai surprised her by glancing surreptitiously around. He strode away from her, slipping in behind a large tree that hid him from the rest of the street. Ari frowned. “What—” she cut off at the hiss of flames, flickers of reds and oranges and yellows peeking out from behind the tree. Just like that it was gone and her eyes grew wide as a huge Great Dane padded out from where Jai had been standing. Ari gulped, remembering The Red King telling her that the Jinn could take the form of different animals. “Jai?”

    He barked at her so she took that as a yes.

    Eyeing him as he found step beside her, Ari had to curb the urge to pat his head. He was a white Dane with black spots all over him. His soulful black eyes still managed to contain a hint of disdain and Ari snorted. “Trust you to choose a Great Dane.” Walking, Jai came up past her waist. She imagined when sitting his head would reach her shoulder. Ari had only known Jai a few hours but she already knew he exuded one word. Intimidation. She tutted. “How am I supposed to explain you to Charlie?”

    He cocked his head up and Ari had to hide a smile at his comical expression. It pretty much said, ‘Does it look like I give a shit?’

    Not wanting to admit she was beginning to enjoy Jai’s dry company, Ari picked up the pace and wasn’t surprised to see Charlie waiting on the front porch for her. He moved towards her as if he were going to hug her and then seemed to think better of it. Her chest ached at the panic in his eyes and she hated herself for worrying him so much.

    In a weird way, though, it was nice to know he still cared.

    “Where the hell did you go?” he snapped and then his eyebrows drew together in puzzlement when his gaze dropped to the dog at her side. “What the hell is that?”

    “That…” Ari shared a look with Jai. “That is… Hamlet.”

    “What?”

    Ari shrugged, smiling stupidly. “Hamlet. He’s a Great Dane. Get it?”

    Charlie jumped down the porch steps, shoving his hands into his pockets as he glared at her. “Witty.”

    Trying to remind herself that he was just being a jerk because she’d worried him, Ari nodded her head in the direction of Vickers’ Woods. “Can we go for a walk? Talk?”

    He strode past her with a grunt.

    Taking that as a yes, Ari smiled and followed him out of the drive. Feeling mischievous she turned back to Jai and patted her leg. “Come on, boy.”

    At Jai’s little growl, Charlie threw the Great Dane a dirty look, gently moving Ari so the Dane walked beside him and not her. “That dog is freakin’ me out.”

    Confused, thinking Jai was pretty cute as a Great Dane, Ari frowned. “Why?”

    “It’s so…” They both watched as Jai’s eyes darted around the street, watching vigilantly for any signs of attack. Charlie made a face. “…human.”

    “Oh no,” Ari replied dryly. “He’s definitely not human.”

    Ari knew Charlie would bug her and bug her to tell him what the hell had happened to her that night of her party but she remained silent until they found one of the many rough paths that led into the woods. They passed the cherry trees someone had planted years ago without permission, the blossoms adding perfume to the dank smell of the dark soil. Settling on a large fallen trunk, Ari tried to relax, letting her mind and body calm, listening to the familiar sound of the interstate in the distance. Charlie stood before her, his legs wide, his arms crossed over his chest. She winced, noting that the dark circles under his eyes were even more prominent today. It looked like he hadn’t slept a wink since she’d disappeared. Dried leaves and twigs cracked under Jai’s paws as he padded over to her, sitting on his haunches, watching Charlie with a clear hint of disapproval in his eyes. Charlie saw it and eyed the dog with narrowed eyes.

    “Where did you say you got the dog?”

    Ari held up a hand. “I’m about to explain. It’s just… really difficult to explain. You might think I’m crazy.”

    “I think your dog might be crazy,” he mumbled, stepping back a little warily. “I get the feeling he doesn’t like me so much.”

    “Charlie.”

    “What?” He finally dragged his eyes from Jai. “Sorry. You were saying?”

    Ari suddenly realized something as she took in his overall appearance. His pupils weren’t dilated and except for the dark circles under his eyes his skin had an almost normal color to it. “Are you sober?”

    His brown eyes flashed at her. “Yeah, Ari. I’m sober. You disappeared out of your own bed two nights ago and I couldn’t find you anywhere. I called your friends, I called your dad. No one knew what happened to you. Yes. I’m sober. I’m sober because I’ve been looking for you!”

    She tilted her head, eyeing him sadly. “You should be sober because you’re eighteen, Charlie.”

    He shook his head, his unkempt hair sliding into his eyes. “Look, I didn’t come here for a lecture,” he told her wearily. “I came here to find out what happened to you.”

    “What happened to me…”

    Here goes…

    “What happened to me… is… I met my real father.”

    For the first three quarters of the story Charlie watched her in taut silence, his eyes concerned and wary. She knew as she went on about being pulled into the realm of the Jinn, being attacked by a Nisnas, meeting her father, The White King, and discovering she was Jinn, that he thought she’d gone crazy or was maybe on some kind of drug. Then as she told him about coming home and finding her uncle, The Red King, in the house with a bodyguard named Jai, Ari noted his eyes grow anguished. Like he had lost her somehow.

    The sadness turned to anger as she told him about Ms. Maggie being Jinn, about Nick being possessed by one of the Jinn and Mike… he grew so furious as she talked about Mike.

    When she was done explaining about the Labartu who killed Mike, the silence between them pulsed with raw fury. She braced herself, determined to be brave.

    “You think that’s funny,” Charlie hissed between clenched teeth. “You think that’s f**king funny, Ari!”

    Jai growled from beside her, standing up from his haunches to pad in front of her, guarding her. “Jai,” she begged. “Show him. Please.”

    The Great Dane’s head turned to her, his big eyes indignant.

    “Please, Jai.”

    “You’ve gone nuts.” Charlie stumbled back from her. “Only sane person in my life and she’s gone nuts.”

    “No!” Ari jumped up, terrified she was losing control of the situation. “Charlie, I’m telling you the truth, you have to believe me. I know it sounds insane. I know. But it’s the truth. You didn’t kill Mike. One of the Jinn did. Because of me. And I’m so sorry,” she choked. “I am so sorry. But I can prove it. The guardian I told you about. The Jinn. Jai. That’s him.” She pointed at the Great Dane.

    Charlie’s shoulders slumped, his face crumpling, his eyes glowing bright with unshed tears. “Ari… please.”

    “It’s him!” she cried, turning on Jai. “Please. Help me.”

    The dog stared at her for a minute more and then the air around him shimmered. Ari released a breath of relief. Fire erupted in the air before them, crackling and spitting, the heat licking Ari’s chilled skin. And then it was gone, leaving Jai standing in its place, his surroundings untouched by his magical flames.

    He crossed his arms over his chest. “You owe me.”

    “Holy fu—” Charlie breathed, taking a few steps back, his eyes blinking wide.

    “Charlie.” Ari rushed at him, clasping his face in her hands. “Charlie.” She shook him until his shocked gaze unglued itself from Jai and fell down on her face, so close to his. “Charlie, I told you I’m telling the truth.”

    “This is real?” he whispered, amazed, hurt, shocked, scared.

  • Romance | Fantasy | Vampire