Kash was half fish.
* * *
“Did you have fun, earlier today?” Kash came to my bedroom, his hands in his pockets, as he gave me a hooded look.
“I did, yeah. You?”
We’d come back earlier to shower and change. Quinn had a charity event that Peter was meeting her at, so it was a laid-back sort of dinner again. That meant chicken nuggets or pizza for the main course. I’d just finished changing into leggings and a white top. The top was light enough to be transparent, so I had on a white tank underneath. I wasn’t going for dressy, but both shirts had my back exposed, and I was feeling enough of the girly-girl ways to look nice for Kash.
Reaching behind me for a hair tie, I turned back. Kash’s eyes were on my ass.
My body heated, and I looked down as I reached up to pull my hair up in a messy bun. I was feeling the butterflies again. I hated those things, but I hadn’t felt them in so long.
“You look nice.”
He hadn’t answered my question.
I lifted my eyes, seeing that his had darkened—and, oh boy, the butterflies fled to all my extremities. I was in for a world of hurt. I just knew it, but I couldn’t stop it. He was looking at me that way, I was feeling how I was, and there was only one way we were heading.
I didn’t know those secrets he harbored, but I had a feeling this was a rare moment in my life.
I was now here for four people.
“What?” I tried to remember. Oh, yes. He said I looked nice. “Thank you. You look good too.” Because he did, deliciously. Charcoal-gray sweatpants, riding low on his hips, and a white T-shirt.
My blood was heating.
“You’re not human.”
The words were out before I caught myself. I cringed, hearing them. “I mean—” What did I mean?
The ends of his mouth tugged up and there was a faint amount of amusement in those eyes, but he only propped his shoulder against the door frame. His head tilted to the side and he raised an eyebrow in a “Come on” motion.
I groaned. “I mean—” Again. Fuck it. I faced off against him, or I felt like I was. “Why do people in this world deem you as important when the media has no idea who you are?” I motioned to him. “You’re hot. Like seriously fuck-my-ovaries hot, and you live with Peter Francis’s family. You have a supermodel wanting to date you. How is it that you’re not on the gossip sites with Matt? How is it that you say you grew up with this family and you’re working to help find the Arcane group who kidnapped me?” The dam broke in me. “You put yourself as an ‘us,’ when you’re not. You’re not like me. You’re not normal. You’re like them.” I gestured beyond him, beyond this room. “You’re powerful. How do you have the power to tell my biological father what to do? And he listens to you.”
I—I had more.
Who was he to make me feel alive? safe? protected?
Who was he to pick me up?
Who was he to make me feel things I shouldn’t?
But I couldn’t ask any of those. If I did, game over. I’d be giving him everything in me, and I couldn’t do that. Everything else had been stripped from me.
I turned away, hugging myself. The tighter I grabbed the back of my arms, the harder I tried to hide.
“Bailey.” A soft request from him.
My heart ached. Even that sound from him dug through my pain and pulled on that organ I needed to live. I started shaking my head. I couldn’t look at him anymore. I did, I was done. Not now.
I was too exposed.
My insides were twisting around. He wasn’t going to tell me. I knew him. I blurted out all those questions for no reason. He wouldn’t let me in. He wouldn’t share, and I was slowly dying of embarrassment.
I needed to get out. Now. I needed to get away from him.
Retreat. Back up. Run!
“Anyways.” Thank goodness, my voice came out chipper and upbeat, so not what I was feeling. I shouldered past him. “I’m hungry. You ready to go?”
I got two steps. His hand touched my arm. I tried to pull free, pretending it wasn’t there, but it only tightened, and he drew me back to him. Not all the way to him. Oh no, because that would’ve helped. I think? Maybe not. He pulled me just enough so it was still mortifying as he was looking down at me. I could feel the concern from his eyes, even though I wasn’t looking. I looked, and I’d fold. It was taking everything in me to keep from lifting my head up, so I kept my eyes trained on his chest.
He shifted closer.
So not helping.
His hand began running up and down my arm, soothing, feeling nice, and the flutters were back. Damn it.
No. If I did, I was a goner.
“I know things are in a weird place between us.”
I wanted to scoff. “Weird” was putting it mildly. But I kept my lips pressed tight. No sound came out.
He tugged me even farther in, until my head was against his chest. That hand moved to my back, and his other arm wrapped around me, resting on the small of my back. He began rubbing up and down.
Did that have to feel so good?
He rested his chin on top of my head, then turned so it was his cheek instead. “I know you have questions about me. I know last night was intense.” His arms tightened around me. “I know there’s a lot of other shit happening right now. Just, trust me?” He pulled back. His finger was under my chin, and he tipped my face up. Our eyes met. His hand moved to cup my cheek and his thumb smoothed over it. “I want to get these assholes, and then you and me, we’ll figure everything out. Okay?”
I didn’t know what that meant, but he was so fierce. I whispered back, “Okay.”
He dipped his head, his lips finding mine, and I gave in.
I was gone.
“We are never going to find these kids.”
I elbowed Matt later that night, tiptoeing through the mausoleum. Why I was tiptoeing, I had no clue. The seeker in this game didn’t need to be secretive, but there we were, at nine at night. After two large pizzas, after Ferdinand had been watched, after Marie and Theresa went home, after the night nanny was on duty, Kash had the brilliant idea to play hide-and-seek.
Seraphina and Cyclone squealed and took off.
And two seconds after they were gone, Matt rounded on Kash. “Are you kidding?! You grew up here too. This place has a million hiding spots. And we’re trying to get them to bed.”