Mage's Fire

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Twenty-Two: Nadia

I tried avoiding Jack and Sierra the next day, but in a town like Wolf Valley, that was kind of hard to do.

Riley seemed different. After she and Kai told us about the rabid wolf at lunch, I couldn’t help but notice the way her eyes flicked over to him when they told us about how she patched him up at my dad’s cabin, or the way her cheeks turned red. He grinned cheekily down at her, causing her to roll her eyes.

Later in Anatomy, I confronted her. “What happened yesterday?”

She frowned. “What do you mean?”

I sighed. “Something more happened yesterday than either of you are telling us. So? What was it?”

She smiled, a slightly dreamy look in her eyes. “I’ll tell you later,” she said.

“Why not now?” I whined.

She laughed. After thinking silently for a moment, she said, “You know what? We haven’t had a girl’s night in a while. Why don’t you come over tonight? Kate’s working. We’ll eat junk food, binge watch The Walking Dead, and I’ll tell you.”

I grinned. A girl’s night with my best friend? I couldn’t pass up on this opportunity. “Hell yeah,” I said.

Hours later, Riley and I were stuffing our faces with chips, cake, ice cream, and pizza. We ordered two of them, deep dishes with stuffed crust, and Riley still ate an entire one by herself, while helping herself to two of my slices.

I groaned as we leaned back on her bed, watching Netflix on her laptop. “I’m so stuffed,” I moaned while glaring at her. “I kind of hate you.”

She grinned. “No you don’t,” she said. “You must hate that you can’t eat as much as me.”

“Exactly!” I exclaimed. “So I might as well hate you.”

She laughed. We spent hours on Netflix, watching The Walking Dead, Fuller House, and Gabriel Iglesias’ I’m Sorry For What I Said When I Was Hungry. I spent five minutes laughing at the title alone. It sounded so much like Riley. She was cranky on steroids when she hadn’t had anything to eat.

“Okay,” I said. “What happened yesterday? You’re all… gooey around Kai now.” I had a feeling I knew what happened, but I wanted her to say it.

She blushed and grinned, ducking her head as she tucked a strand of hair behind her ear. “Well, I took him to the cabin and patched him up. We both slept for a while, and then after he woke up, I kind of… um… well, I kissed him.”

I shrieked in glee, clapping my hands together. Riley winced at the high-pitched noise, but she grinned. “Finally!” I exclaimed.

She frowned. “What do you mean?”

“One: finally you kissed him! You haven’t really been the same since that Guardian showed up. And two: it’s about time you kissed someone!” We used to spend hours in our rooms talking about boys, who we thought was the hottest guy at school, who we had a crush on, who we thought had a crush on us… of course, this was all before I met Sierra.

I pushed thoughts of her to the back of my head, focusing on Riley instead. I didn’t want to think about myself or the crap I was going through right now. I hadn’t stopped thinking about what Jack said since last night, and the thought that I might be… that I might like girls was terrifying. I wanted to have simple, easy girl talk about boys like a normal teenage girl.

Except, I couldn’t fully enjoy it. My thoughts kept traveling to Sierra, and I couldn’t help but wonder what she was doing. Was she thinking about me, too? Had she almost kissed me yesterday outside my front door?

“Hey,” Riley said softly. I looked up at her and she said, “Are you okay? You seem a bit… off.”

I nodded. “Yeah,” I said. “Yeah, I’m fine. Let’s watch more Gabriel.”

She frowned and gave me a strange look, but then she nodded and pressed play on her laptop. We ended up binge-watching every special that he had made, and when Riley and I were rolling around on her bed in laughter, something happened. We rolled towards each other at one point, laughing our heads off, and then the next thing I knew, I was pressing my lips against hers.

Almost as soon as my lips touched hers, I jerked back. Her eyes were wide in shock, but there wasn’t a look of horror on her face. Guilt, shame, and dread spread through me, and I felt paralyzed. What the fuck just happened?

“Nadia,” Riley started, but I ignored her. I jumped to my feet, grabbing my shoes and keys as I barreled through the door, down the stairs, and out the front door.

“Nadia!” Riley called after me. I ignored her as I jumped up into the Beast, my heart racing at a million miles per hour. I turned the key, my hands shaking violently. I cursed when the engine stalled, tried again, and once the engine roared to life, I sped away from Riley’s house, leaving her standing in the dust.

When I got home, I didn’t bother locking my doors or grabbing my shoes from the passenger seat as I hurried inside.

“Hi, Nadia!” Dad called as I stormed inside. “We’re watching America’s Got Talent. How was your girl’s night?”

I ignored him, stomping up the stairs as I hurried to my room. Delta barked and followed me. I could feel his hot breath on my heels as I entered my room, slamming the door behind us.

I threw myself onto my bed face first, holding on tightly to my pillow. Delta barked and whined, jumping up onto the bed. He sniffed and licked at my face, and when I didn’t respond to him, he whimpered and rested his paws and head on my back. I sobbed into my pillow, and while it felt like my world was falling apart around me, Delta’s weight on my back kept me from drifting off.

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