Chapter 27: Complication
A while after Ian’s two weeks of laundry duty ended, I lured him into another laundry wager in training. He lost again, but only barely. He was getting good fast.
Late that evening, I made the trek back to my room from the showers wrapped in a white towel. My hair was still dry, thankfully. It rebelled if I washed it every day.
I went to my loft and dropped my towel, browsing through the armoire. My purple nightgown was nowhere to be found. Several other articles of clothing were missing, too. Ian was slacking on laundry duty. It was tempting to barge in on him and demand my laundry be finished, but I thought better of it. He must’ve fallen asleep already.
A chill brushed across my naked skin as I grabbed my dirty clothes and made my way downstairs to the laundry room to put them in the hamper and check for my pajamas. Maybe Ian had just forgotten to hang up my clothes. And besides, there was something liberating about walking naked through your home, not worried about anyone seeing you.
Then Ian slipped in the door and saw me.
I jumped and let out a small shriek. Blushing furiously, I pulled my hand full of wadded-up clothes in front of me to cover myself.
Ian gasped, wide eyed.
“Ian!” I shouted.
“Sorry!” He hesitated, staring for a quick second before he turned his back to me.
“I told you to knock.” I was every bit as contemptuous as I could muster, but part of me wondered if he liked what he’d seen. Regardless, that wouldn’t stop me from making this as uncomfortable as possible…just to see him squirm.
My laundry was in a basket in his hands, so I eased up behind him trying to figure out how I’d keep myself covered and reach around to the basket to get my nightgown.
There weren’t many options at that point, so I dropped my clothes and pressed my naked body against his back, reaching around him to grab whatever was on top of the laundry basket.
“Um…” He went ridged for a second. Good.
I pulled the first article of clothing around, but it was a pair of shorts, so I put it back and sifted through the clothes, feeling for more silky material. His warm body against me was starting to mess with me. I almost didn’t want to find what I was looking for, and just stay here for a while. But there was no way I was giving him that satisfaction right now. He was in trouble as far as I was concerned.
My hands brushed across something silky and I snatched it around him. I threw on my nightgown and brushed my hands through my hair to make myself a bit more presentable. My dirty clothes still lay on the ground. I grabbed them and stepped back a pace.
“Okay, I’ll knock from now on,” he said. “Are you…decent?”
Ian turned around with a sad-puppy-dog look on his face.
“Oh, come on. Don’t look at me that way.” I cocked my head reluctantly. “You’re forgiven.”
My aspirations of giving him a hard time would go unfulfilled tonight. I threw my clothes in the hamper inside the laundry room, then headed up stairs. Ian put the laundry basket inside the laundry room door and followed me up the stairs.
“You just gonna leave my laundry down there wet?”
“Nah, I’ll get to it in second.” His more playful smile replaced his sad expression, relieving the tension in the room.
When we reached the loft, he wrapped his arms around my waist, pulled me close, and kissed me. I savored every second, feeling his hands on me, his body pressing into mine.
He broke the kiss earlier than I expected and grimaced. “Have you been in my quarters?”
“No.” I gave him a puzzled look. “Why do you ask?”
“Your journal’s gone.”
“What? Are you sure you didn’t just leave it somewhere?”
“I’m positive,” he said. “It hasn’t left my room. It’s been next to the couch…until today.”
My posture sank a little. “That was several years of recorded data about the language and the writings.”
“I’m sorry.” Ian’s smile oozed with regret. “Was there anything in there that can’t be replaced?”
I thought about it for a second. “I don’t think so. But who would wanna steal that? Why not just ask me for it?”
“I don’t know.” Ian headed down the stairs.
I followed him into the laundry room where he began hanging my clothes on the line to dry. Feeling a little awkward just watching, I picked up a dress to help.
He gave me a comical sideways glance. “So, you and Jesse were a thing once?”
My eyes went wide. “Who told you that?”
“Well…it kind came up while your mom was helping me figure out my powers.”
“How does that subject come up?” I turned away for a second to hide my embarrassment.
He shrugged. “It was when you were avoiding me and it kept distracting me from training.”
I let out a sigh. “It was stupid, really. Jesse started having feelings for me for whatever reason and I felt really bad for him. Almost guilty. So I gave him a shot to see if anything were there. I owed him that much. And besides, there were no other guys my age in Winter’s Edge and might never be.” I shook my head. “It didn’t take long to see I had zero feelings for him like that, so I broke it off. Not even sure I’d say we had a relationship.”
Ian nodded. “I was just curious is all.”
I nodded back. “It’s okay. I guess I should’ve mentioned it before.”
“Nah, it’s fine. I understand.” He gave me an inquisitive look. “Speaking of your mom, has she figured out how Telekinetics works?”
I cracked an entertained smile. “No.” I always found it a little funny when my mom got stuck trying to explain something. Understanding how the world worked was her way of feeling safe. Ian seemed to be a little like her.
“It’s a tricky one,” he said. “I can’t think of a scientific explanation for it.”
“Ask her sometime. She’d probably say something like”—I put on a light British accent—“‘Probably something to do with the quantum field. There’s much we have yet to discover about the human body. As science advances, we’ll figure out how telekinesis works’”—my voice returned to normal—“or something like that.”
Ian laughed. “Nice.” An endearing smile graced his lips, filling me with warmth. “You sound just like her.”
I smiled, pleased. “You’re right, though. That’s a tricky one.”
“You know,” he said. “I can’t think of a way to explain your power either.”
That gave me pause. I hadn’t given it any thought.
An old book came to mind. “I read a few books written by a psychologist who studies near-death experiences. He’d interviewed tens of thousands of people who’d died but were resuscitated later. All of them gave details about events they’d witnessed from outside of their bodies after they’d flatlined. One man even claimed to have talked to a newborn girl, telepathically, while he was out of body. He said the doctors couldn’t figure out why she was crying, but the baby could see him and told him her hip was broken.”
“Wait, wait, you’re saying the baby knew English fresh out of the womb?”
“No, of course not,” I said. “And these people were Ukrainian, but language isn’t important. Everyone who has these experiences says that telepathic communication needs no language. It’s more like people’s hearts are communicating and everything is understood.”
Ian frowned but seemed to accept it as much as he could.
“So, anyway, when the man was resuscitated, he told the doctors about the baby’s hip. And when they took x-rays, sure enough, the baby’s hip had been broken during the delivery. The parents and doctors could hardly believe his story, but they didn’t have any other explanation.”
“You’re kinda creeping me out, right now.”
I continued, not paying him any mind. “Now that I think about it, the people all said they felt no pain when they were separate from their physical bodies, and that they had a sense of weightlessness.” Memories of the sensation washed through me sprouting goosebumps all over. “That’s exactly what it feels like when I’m separated.”
“So you think your spirit’s separating from your body?” Ian cocked his head in contemplation. “I don’t usually buy into things like that, but I have to admit, that does makes a lot of sense.” Ian pinned up the last shirt. He put a few dried shirts on hangers from the night before, and we headed upstairs. “All of this training using my abilities is exhausting, but it’s getting easier. My endurance is much better now.”
I was worried at his excitement. “You could shave a lot of years off your life if you keep training with your powers every day.”
Ian opened my armoire and found places for the shirts, hanging them. “Your mom and Reilly both say I won’t have to train this way much longer.”
“I know, but I still don’t like it.”
“I’ve hardly used my powers until recently. I’ll be okay to use them a little more before I cut back to once every couple of weeks with everyone else.” He had a reasonable point. “I could say the same about your powers, too.”
I sighed. “You’re right…and I’d use the same excuse.”
Ian closed the armoire, finished with his laundry duty for the night. As he turned to head for the stairs, I startled him by blocking his way with a sad smile. He put his hands on my waist and easily pulled me closer. I loved it when he did that. My arms found their way around his waist, too.
He looked down at me, mirroring my sad smile. “I don’t like the idea of you shaving years off your life either. Selfishly, I hope you outlive me.” It was both a sweet and a sad gesture. He gave me an affectionate kiss on the forehead then. “I can’t imagine living without you.”
“I promise I’ll stop using my powers when you stop using yours. In fact, I may stop before you.” I gave him a clever grin and let go of his waist, stepping back, toying with him. “Maybe I want you to outlive me.”
“Hey!” He playfully poked my stomach, laughing. “That’s my idea.”
I fired back at him with both hands, poking his sides and stomach. He lashed out, full-on tickling me. We laughed wildly until we toppled onto the bed. He pinned me and the laugher abruptly stopped.
We were left with only our eyes locked on one another, his breath caressing my cheek. My heart seemed to flutter.
I wasn’t sure I’d ever felt this vulnerable with anyone before. He could do whatever he wanted to me.
And I’d let him.
In light of the feeling, I turned the tables on him.
Reaching up, I grabbed his head and pulled it to mine. As our lips pressed together, I kissed him with a fire like never before. He met my intensity. A dam broke inside of me sending unrestrained passion coursing through my veins. I wrapped my legs around his waist and used my hips to turn him over. Without breaking the kiss, I came up on top of him, straddling his waist. I was in control now, but the sense of vulnerability didn’t subside.
Something smashed into me, jarring my entire body, throwing me through the air. I bounced hard off the ceiling and dropped toward the first floor.
I reached out to grab the retaining wall as I dropped beside it, but my hand just bounced off of it. The thirty-foot drop from the ceiling would break me—maybe kill me—and there was nothing I could do about it. I was in freefall.
Something caught my wrist tight, jerking me to a stop, my body thudding hard against the retaining wall. Ian pulled me up almost effortlessly. My god, he was strong.
As I crested the ledge, my foot caught it and pushed me over, right into Ian’s arms. He held me close, breathing heavy. My body had been shocked out of its enticement, but teasing death tempted it back that direction.
“Are you okay?” he said.
I stared up into his gorgeous, worried eyes and nodded.
“I’m so sorry,” he said. “I don’t know what—”
I put my finger on his lips. My voice was nearly a whisper. “It’s okay.” I smiled, trying to ease his guilt. “It’s my fault.”
“I lost myself there for a minute.” My expression became solemn. “I should’ve warned you about…that. Intimacy can be a challenge for our kind.”
“What do you mean ‘challenge’?”
“Have you noticed that no one here is married, and hardly anyone dates?”
His gaze dropped, then he nodded.
I flushed, looking down, too. “Well…powers can lash out unexpectedly in moments like that.”
Ian’s frown deepened. “So, we can’t ever…”
I eyed him with a raised eyebrow. “I wouldn’t have been born if that were the case.”
His expression softened and he drew in a breath, visibly relaxing. “Oh. Right.” He half-smiled, a hint of a frown still present. “So…what do we do?”
“There are different theories on why it happens.” I pulled back from him and took his hand, going to the bed. We sat down. “The deeper the intimacy, the deeper the connection to another person. But most people here are afraid to be too deeply connected with others. It opens them up to a lot of pain if they’re rejected, and who knows what that might do to someone with powers. That kind of pain could drive them mad, cause their powers to lash out and kill someone. So, it’s like there’s a fearful subconscious defense mechanism that lashes out to protect them before they go too far.” I looked away for a moment. “My parents are the only ones we know of who’ve managed to overcome it.”
“Mom says she trusted my dad so entirely that she had no fear of him ever hurting her.” My gaze sunk to the ground. “But you know how that turned out.”
“So, it’s a trust thing?”
I shrugged. “That’s Mom’s theory, but no one really knows for sure.”
Ian turned away for a moment, worried.
I put my arms around his waist and pressed into his back, his tension releasing a little. “It’ll be okay. If my parents could do it, we can too.”
He turned around in my arms. “Are you sure?”
I gave a not-so-convincing smile and nodded. “I think when you find your soulmate, everything falls into place…eventually.”
“You believe your mom and dad were soulmates even though he left?”
“Just because a person leaves their soulmate doesn’t mean they weren’t meant to be together. Everything happens for a reason.”
Ian drew in a deep breath and released it, thoughts racing behind his brooding, unfocused eyes. “I hope you’re right.”