Desert Fire

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I stare out the window, My Chemical Romance blasting through my brain, while Cadmar speeds out of the neighborhood. This is the perfect music for my mopiness. I have so many questions and want the answers, but I’m too pissed to ask right now. Towering buildings fly past us while he drives through the city.

Dallas is pretty cool, with the mixture of goofy, industrial buildings and old school, vintage ones. My favorite part of being here, surrounded by buildings, is it’s nothing like Colorado. I never want to go back there, never want to live anywhere that reminds me of it. If we get out of this alive, I think I might move to New York or maybe across the sea to China or something. Somewhere with tons of buildings and no green. That would be perfect.

I glance up front, making sure to throw a seething glare at Cadmar, even though he doesn’t see it. I can’t believe he made me stand back again, as if I’m a baby or not good enough to help. He doesn’t know anything. He glances in the rearview mirror, probably making sure Payton’s still behind us, then his gaze moves to Kay, who’s saying something. I pull one earbud out, in case she’s asking important questions.

I didn’t get to hear her question, but Cadmar’s knuckles turn white and the little muscle, which is constantly working in his jaw, twitches. “I’m not sure yet,” he grounds out. “I want to try getting as far as New Mexico tonight.”

“New Mexico?” I groan, leaning forward on the center console, forgetting my mission to stay pissed. “That’s the most boring state ever! What are we going there for?” Kay shoots me a look, but I ignore her. She can think I’m irritating or annoying, but the feeling is definitely mutual.

“It’s just going to get us closer to where I think we need to go,” Cadmar replies in his cryptic way. Can’t he just give me a straight answer?

“That doesn’t explain anything,” I complain, slumping in my seat with my arms crossed over my chest. “It’d be awesome if you gave us some real answers, you know.”

“I’m guessing you didn’t sleep so well?” A smirk tugs at his lips and I glare harder. No, I didn’t, but I won’t be admitting as much to him. “You’re a lot crankier than usual.” He looks at Kay, who nods her agreement.

“Getting left out of a fight makes me cranky,” I retort, glancing out the window, dismissing them.

While watching the buildings and afternoon traffic move by, Kay starts talking about some of the buildings and the city’s history. She does this in what I like to call her ’teacher tone,’ probably trying to fill in the awkward silence, but I’m sure we could go without the history lesson. If his wide-eyed, glassy stare is any indicator, Cadmar must feel the same way.

I still want to know where he plans on going after New Mexico and what he plans to do with us for the foreseeable future, but there’s no way he’ll tell us unless he absolutely has to. Stubborn bastard. I would think he would want to leave the country or something, but he has apparently come up with a plan while we were lying low. So long as said plan keeps us far away from she-who-must-not-be-named, I’m happy.

What I really want to know, more than anything, is about my real parents. While Kay drones on and on, Cadmar takes on this far-off look, which makes me think this is the perfect time to change the subject. I try to organize my thoughts first, because if I throw it out there like I really want to, he’ll either get pissed or brush it off and I’ll never get to know. Who am I kidding? I want to know! We’re a couple hours from the border of New Mexico when I finally work up enough courage to bring it up, and Kay is still droning on.

“Hey, Cadmar.” I clutch the seat to keep from bouncing when his hopeful gaze meets mine in the mirror, making a laugh bubble up in my throat. I’m barely successful at covering it with a cough. Yeah, that look’s gonna be gone in a second. “So, you know how we all ask you questions and you never give us real answers?” I ask and a smirk tugs at his lips again, his eyes sparkling with amusement, which makes me want to whack him upside the head.

“I give you answers…when I want to. Was there something you wanted to ask?”

“Are you like, going to give me a real answer?” I hitch up my pierced eyebrow.

“If I want to.” He shrugs while Kay watches our exchange, twisting her braid around.

He watches me, waiting for my question, making me squirm. “So, umm,” I begin, but look out the window in order to avoid his reaction. “I overheard your conversation with Payton last night.” I can’t help glancing back at him.

His hands grip the steering wheel while Kay looks between us with her dark eyebrows drawn together. “By overheard, you mean eavesdropped,” he grits out, his accusing gaze piercing me.

“I’m only human.” He can be mad. I heard what I heard. Whatevs.

Kay continues looking confused, which has a slight twinge of guilt working through me. But it wasn’t like it was my secret to tell. It’s Payton’s secret. Besides, it’s not her parents I want to talk about.

“Did you have a specific question?” Cadmar bites out, eyes back on the road while he swerves through traffic going way over the speed limit.

He’s pissed I heard, but I’m glad I did. Who knew if Payton would have told me about any of it? If I hadn’t heard, I wouldn’t have ever chanced asking him the question I’m about to. “Well, what about the rest of us? Are you going to tell us about our parents, too?”

He hisses out a breath, but Kay speaks before he’s able to. “You told Payton about her real parents?” she asks with wide eyes, her voice going up an octave.

Her interest is surprising, because she’s always seemed to be the most content with our lives the way they are. Who knew she would want to know about her parents? Cadmar gives her a sideways glance of pure loathing. Probably not directed at her, but at her question. He might not like the topic, but we have the right to know. It’s only fair.

“I only told her because her mom was following her in Chile and Scarlet let it slip it was who she was.” He pauses, jaw clenching, eyes hardening while watching me in the mirror. “That does not mean I am going to sit here and talk about all of your biological parents.”

“Come on!” I lean forward, gripping the center console. “We have every right to know! It isn’t as if we didn’t know we were adopted or some shit. That wasn’t a secret, so you shouldn’t be surprised we want to know about our real parents.” My blood boils, probably turning my face bright red, which isn’t uncommon when I get riled up. If he thinks he’s going to get out of this without some added grumpiness, he’s dead wrong.

If possible, his jaw tightens even more. Maybe he’ll break some teeth. Might be entertaining, teach him a lesson. He stays silent and I just about shake the center console out of frustration, but Kay speaks up again. “Reiley is right.” She purses her lips. Well that’s a first! She’s usually shushing me or giving me the disappointed eyes. “We have the right to know about our parents if it’s something we want.”

This dismissive or disgusted noise comes out of his throat while he gives her a dark look. “You don’t need to worry about your parents. They were your

typical degenerate teenagers, who got pregnant and couldn’t take care of a kid.”

Ouch. That was harsh, even for him. He goes back to watching the road for a second while Kay’s mouth pops open, eyes widening. I kind of want to comfort her, but what the heck would I say? Instead, I give Cadmar the stink eye. Freaking douche-canoe! He could at least pretend to care. While her eyes well up, he finally glances at her again, his mouth popping open then snapping shut.

“Goddammit!” He slams his hands on the wheel, making us jump. “I don’t want to talk about this shit! Dredging up the past for no damn reason.” He pauses, looking at Kay again, who shifts around in her seat, blinking rapidly. “You know I didn’t mean to hurt you. You’re all mine, end of story.”

“That isn’t fair!” I shout, shaking the center console. “You tell Payton, but you won’t tell us? That’s bullshit!”

“Reiley,” Kay chides and I literally snarl, not caring one bit about her sad eyes.

Don’t ’Reiley’ me. You wanted to know just as bad. You’re just mad there wasn’t more to your shitty story.” She sucks in a sharp breath, yanking back as if I slapped her. I should probably feel bad, but I don’t. “I’m tired of being treated like a kid. It’s about damn time you guys saw me as a grown up, so I’ll talk however I damn well please.”

“Reiley,” Cadmar barks out, making me jerk back slightly. “We are done with this discussion. Period. And if you want to be treated as an adult, consider holding your tongue, rather than lashing out like a spoiled brat who isn’t getting exactly what she wants.”

I pull back, my eyes flashing with anger. How dare he call me a spoiled brat? It’s not like I get whatever I want, not even in the slightest. He favors Payton—we all know that—but that doesn’t mean it’s fair he tells her stuff then keeps the same info from us. I want to shake the center console again, or scream, or argue. Maybe gnash my teeth at him. Anything to pry the story from him, but it won’t work, won’t change his stubbornness. He’s an immovable rock.

Sagging back in my seat, I put my earbuds back in. I blast Avenged Sevenfold, crossing my arms and pouting like a real big girl. The vibe in the Jeep is a giant cloud of pissiness with a dash of turmoil. Cadmar was so forthcoming with Payton’s awful story; it makes me wonder how much worse mine could be. It’s not as if I have any memories, since I was adopted as a baby. I wonder if he knew my parents. Like maybe he has a history with them too, and maybe not a very nice one. Too bad I’ll never find out.

We finally stop, after what seems like forever, to get gas and all I want to do is flee. This damn Jeep makes me claustrophobic and irritable. Payton and Conner pull up to the pump behind us. I hope to God they’ll let me ride with them now. When Cadmar puts the Jeep in park, I bolt for the store, right behind Payton, who follows Conner at a hurried pace.

I find her at the soda machine, making jerky movements while she mumbles under her breath, but I write it off as stress over our current situation. When she spots me, I’m pretty sure I look like a panicked little kid, but I don’t care. I’m angry and need to get my whine on a little.

“Everything okay?” she asks, raising her eyebrows while filling a huge cup with Dr. Pepper.

“He won’t tell me,” I grump, all but stamping my foot. Tears prick at my eyes, which is humiliating, but I shake it off. I’m not going to let Cadmar’s assholery make me cry.

Her eyes shift back and forth, studying mine, probably noticing the stupid tears. Ugh. “You probably should have waited a little longer, Reiley,” she tells me in a light tone while she puts the lid on her drink then grabs a straw.

She’s trying to be careful about bossing me or chastising me because she knows it will only set me off. Too bad for her, it still sets me off. Gaze boring into mine, her lips mash together in a pitying way, making me glare. “You really want to know, I get that, but it’s been a rough day…on all of us.”

She pauses, glancing over her shoulder when Conner comes out of the bathroom. He gives her one hard, slightly uncomfortable look, before averting his gaze and going over to the snacks. She sighs before her eyes return to me, and she places a hand on my shoulder. “Just give him some time. Let him calm down a little; then approach him again, okay?”

I keep my mouth shut while considering this to refrain from snapping at her. But her focus has already gone back to Conner, watching him while gripping her cup tightly enough she may crush it. Something’s up with them for sure. I don’t know what happened during the drive, but he seems pissed and she’s obviously worried. Maybe I won’t ask to ride with them after all. Being in the middle of their dramastorm while I have my own stuff to think about would not be fun times. Once she walks away, I grab a bag of Cheetos and a bottle of Mountain Dew, hoping they’ll help me survive the rest of the drive.

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