I stop in the middle of asphalt path, taking a gulp of fresh air. Cold licks at my face and creeps under my clothes, spreading across my skin like the lacy tide on a frigid winter beach. The outside is covered up in dusk, though it stopped snowing, I still feel the tip of my nose freezing. I’m not used to this weather, neither do I have clothes for it.
Kai just had some business with the gun dealers, looking for some more weapons before we leave the city. He asked to meet me in the park; immediately making me anxious, why he is not coming back to the hotel.
The park is covered in a thick blanket of white, statutes peeked out under their new white caps, footsteps and paw prints crisscrossed each other around the labyrinth of paths. It’s too quiet; it’s not okay in the city that never sleeps, right?
I hear something crackling behind me; like it were footsteps down the thick snow. They’re slow, like the person was trying to be unnoticed. Someone is sneaking towards me.
My hand reaches for the dagger in a leather bag under my jacket; ready to fight. Something must’ve happened to Kai.
But as soon as I turn around a white, cold ball splashed on my face; getting everywhere in my eyes, in my nose and mouth. I lose my balance and fall down, straight onto the white winter blanket, letting snow to get everywhere under my clothes.
As soon as I rub my eyes to clear the snow on them, I notice the sky is is thick with snowballs so compacted that several feel solid and icy. I look around, seeing all of them are here - Kevin, chasing Brooklyn, Lexi, hiding behind the tree and throwing snowballs at laughing Aaron. And Kai, molding a perfect snowball between his palms, looking at me.
“Don’t you dare, Kai Woods.”
“Watch out, Beverly Greene.”
I smile and quickly pick up some snow; frozen crystals dangling from wild loose fibres I’d never normally notice. Coldness of the snow has frozen my fingers to a point where they no longer wish to bend, but no backing up. Kai might be a badass assassin, but I’m going to beat him up in a snowball fight.
“Bring it on, princess.”
I’m quick as I can be, throwing the snowball at Kai. He moves his head away, but it splashes on his shoulder; it shatters like glass, little pieces of snow flies everywhere it can reach. Kai’s laughter explodes. Not a chuckle, or a smirk, but blissful, whole-hearted laughter. And I can’t help myself but smile, hearing a sound of joy that I’ve missed so much on these dark times.
I got used to move a lot. Being an assassin has its perks. A new city every week, hotel life with no dishes or chores, new clothes every day - the old ones are always burned to the ashes. Probably it would suck not to have home. But home is where the heart is, and my heart belongs to Kai. It belongs to all of them.
To Brooklyn, my younger sister; my only relative that feels like one. That stood by my side, forgot about her dream to become an actress and instead, became an assassin. And she seems okay with that; actually, she looks happier than all of us are.
Maybe because of Kevin.
“Afraid of a bit of snow?”
Brooklyn lays on the ground, in the middle of the white winter field as Kevin keeps rubbing snow under her clothes, they’re both laughing.
After the kiss, it kind of turned weird between them. They continued to be friends and nothing more; because I think Kevin wasn’t ready yet. Though all this time Brooklyn stayed by his side; after 8 years being a lab rat, he had to gain more weight, to get some tests if the drugs didn’t make any damage to his system. There is a spark between them; but probably they’re not ready for it to come out.
My heart, of course, also belongs to Lexi, who was so unsure about staying with us. But its been a year. A whole year together with the team, and I really see how she started to change. How she slowly, step by step, started to trust me. Started to trust all of us. Well, except the fights with Aaron, always trying to show how they hate each other.
“Catch this, Red!”
“I’m not fucking Red to you!”
Lexi throws a snowball right at Aaron’s face and he falls down on his back, making her let out a beautiful, genuine sound of her laughter.
Despite of that hate, teasing and pranking each other I think there’s a little crush hiding under those cold eyes. She started to feel again, and most of all, a girl wants to be loved; but she’s too afraid to let someone in. Especially a guy like Aaron, who has a reputation of a fuckboy.
But everyone can see how he actually looks at her.
We all look like a simple group of friends, having a fun snowball fight on a Tuesday evening. No one could think that under those rare smiles, under that genuine laugh is a group of assassins, who kill people for living. Each one’s hands are stained with blood, no one could avoid this to happen.
But we’re kind of happy. As long as we have each other.
Drowning in my own thoughts, I haven’t noticed how Kai sneaked towards me; and before I could come back to reality, his masculine frame pulled me into his embrace, rubbing my face with cold, wet snow.
He holds me tight, laughs with the happiest sound I’ve heard in a past few weeks; until my clumsiness gets out and I trip, both of us falling on a icy white blanket, covering whole city. I feel how I’m getting wet, my lips probably turning blue already, but I don‘t care. As long as Kai is with me, the cold disappears.
In his embrace the world stopped. There was no time, no wind, no snow, creeping under my clothes and making me feel cold. When his eyes lock on mine and his smile disappears, my mind is at peace. Only one glance and all the love is written on those emerald eyes. Pure. Unselfish. Undemanding. Free.
I feel his lips press in, soft and warm, when no words are needed anymore. Nothing more but Kai’s kiss makes me calm down, makes all either good or bad thoughts go away. Only setting my brain on fire, and it feels like the snow melts under me; like spring just came.
Kai is my spring. He makes the best parts of me blossom out; after a year with him, I know that it’s true, when they say that a woman looks the way her man treats her. And I bloom. I glow, I sparkle like the rarest diamond, and there’s nothing I need more. I have everything that I need.
And it’s Kai.
Though times were tough.
“Is something wrong, Beverly?”
I’m an open book for Kai, and he can read me even if I don’t want him to. He knows me better than I know myself; and most importantly, he knows what to say.
“When are we going to catch him?
It’s been a very long time since I saw Leonardo; the night he raped me. And a year since we started looking for him. It got us nowhere. Like he disappeared; like we were chasing a ghost.
Every time rumors reach us, every time other people from different cities inform us that they saw him or know where he is; every time it seems like he’s almost in our hands... we end up finding nothing. No traces. No Leonardo. Nothing.
“I wish I knew the answer, baby. I want to find him as much as you do.”
“We tried so hard. And we’re in the same place we were a year ago.”
Sometimes it even feels like he’s watching us, our every move, every step, and when we get closer he runs away. Kai even started to think there’s a traitor between us... but I couldn’t believe that. He’s not a powerful mafioso that could do something to us. He’s just a bad person, who needs to pay for what he did to me a long time ago.
But after all, none of us are the same. Kai changed, too, even if he doesn’t want to show it. Sometimes I catch him being far away from us, with his own thoughts. He thinks about his best friend. Every single day, especially when it gets tough; like thoughts about him helped Kai to be stronger. Like Brent, who’s not with us anymore, helped him to get through everything; just like he did when he was alive.
“He won’t be hiding forever, trust me.” Kai places a soft, warm kiss on my forehead. His low, quiet voice always does magic; my tensed muscles relax and I calm down. I believe him. He would never fail me. “Soon, we will find him. And his death will last longer than this run.”
I saw her again. Tonight, when I was calmly sleeping next to Kai, feeling his warm hands wrapped around me; I saw her again. It was a dream, almost the same like all of them were. But this time, I could see everything more clear.
Like it was actually happening.
I was in the mountains. Its path ahead is loose rock, each one washed smooth by the river that once ran freely over them. I brace my feet, attempting to guard against the inevitable rolling in random directions, but my ankles tumbled left and right regardless. Until I saw a huge oak, probably a century old; and her, standing right next to it.
Her golden hair, slowly dancing in a light wind; but her face was sad. Anxious. Like all the happiness was drained out of her.
Not like it was happy ever before. But this time she looks even more sad, scared, maybe even terrified. I notice her watery eyes when she turns to me and whispers.
Her voice is quiet, so silent that if you were distracted you wouldn’t hear it. But for me it’s like an echo, blowing me back to reality, making me wake up.
And it happens every time she talks. Her sentences are very short, and she doesn’t always speak. But when she does, I immediately wake up.
And it’s been happening for a year.
I left, in a need of cup of coffee and a moment alone with my thoughts, because that girl freaks me out. No one knows about those dreams, because if I told someone it means that it’s real; it would probably drive me insane. I’m glad Kai is not that overprotective anymore; he knows I can protect myself if something happens.
I wrap my fingers around the coffee cup when I walk outside at the park; the same one we were having an snowball fight just last night. There are still our footsteps, spots of rubbed off snow where we were laying, Brooklyn’s unfinished snowman standing alone on a winter white blanket. I can’t help myself but smile; that was a moment of pure happiness, genuine smiles and laughter. Kai knew we all needed this. He made sure we would all forget; if only for one night.
Because the wish to find Leonardo and get my revenge haunts me every day. How a coward, a dumbass like him can hide from us all year?
But my thoughts are interrupted by a man, sitting on the bench. All of my limbs grow numb and my breath stops, like all the oxygen was drained out of my lungs. My hands start to shake and the cup falls down, spilling the coffee all over the snow.
No. I’m still dreaming.
The man looks at the snow, not moving; like a statue. He wears dark sunglasses, but I can’t be wrong. Or could I? Is my mind going crazy?
But just as he takes off the sunglasses and sighs, he notices I’m watching him. His head slowly turns to me and his blue eyes lock with mine. My heartbeat stops. My mind goes dark. And I don’t know how to breathe again.