FRESHLY SHOWERED AND CLEAN I dressed in a pair of loose sweats and fitted tank before heading back up to the attic. Once inside I started for my bed, but halted when I noticed a shaded figure occupying the edge, gazing down at the sheets.
Everything in me came alive with alarm.
Looking over to the kitchen I cautiously inched towards the rack of knives on the island counter, at the same time tracking the form with his back to me.
"There's no need for violence, Poe." All the tension left my body at the familiar sound of his voice.
I let out a breath of relief. "Kieran. Why didn't you speak up earlier?"
He stepped into the light. His attire was still the same, but the jacket and tie were gone. His hair was ruffled as if he had continously swept fingers through the untamed strands. The buttons on his shirt were undone in such a haste I came to the conclusion he must have gotten into an arguement with Ridley after we came back to the campus, which explained his unkempt appearance.
When he didn't answer, I asked, "What are you doing here, Kieran? You look wild."
He slumped down on the edge of my bed, elbows arranged on top of his knees.
"Let me sleep with you tonight," he said, a sense of desperation on the edge of his tongue.
"If you want sex this is not the night to ask-"
"Don't be daft, Poe." He looked up at me, eyes dark and vulnerable. "If I wanted sex we would not be talking right now. I simply want to sleep. Actual sleep where sexual desires are not implicated and we embrace each other with the adoration of two lovers."
My brows went skyward at his forwardness. "You sound so sure that I will let you touch me."
Kieran grabbed my hips, reeled me between his long legs. The wide space lessened more and more as I stood before him, trapped by the power of his thick thighs and big hands. His touch sent flames up my arms; tiny jitters sent flutters to my belly, and warmth throughout my libido.
"I am positive." He laid his forehead on my abdomen and stayed that way for several minutes to take comfort in me. "But that is not why I came. I promise lust is not on the agenda tonight."
"Is that all you came for?" I closed my eyes, sleep on the brink of consuming me.
Kieran nodded. "I want to sleep next to you. Hold you and never want to let go. Will you let me?"
"What?" I was stunned for a minute.
He lifted his head and stared into my eyes. "Let me sleep here tonight."
"What about the Hall Monitor? She might see you-"
"Already paid her off." He shrugged like bribery was a common occurrence for him.
I had no doubt it was. Too tired to argue I let him stay and crawled under the blankets. He stood up and removed the remainder of his clothes, stripping down to only his briefs. I tried my hardest not to be a total creeper and stole a few looks over my shoulder before turning away to turn out the lampshade on my bedside as he climbed in beside me.
In the quiet of the night we stayed silent. Me on one side and Kieran on the other facing the ceiling, strips of moonlight danced across the walls and window, illuminating us in small fragments of silver and shadows. Somehow sleeping in the same bed as Kieran felt more intimate than when we had sex for the first time.
He told me he was a virgin.
So was I.
Pleasure was one emotion, but intimacy without sex was something on a whole nother scale.
We only slept together once, and to an extent, mindless inhibition played a part. We were free of all that. Right now, it was just us.
But that was the problem!
I groaned inward. How the hell was I suppose to relax when my mind was full of restless thoughts and devious sins that involved the darkly beautiful boy laid out behind me? Then I reminsiced on events which unfolded tonight.
I have a twin brother.
A murderer for a father.
A uncle who may or may not be dead.
And a mother wanting to kill me.
None of that could be too easily ignored.
Not for me.
Kieran's sigh broke through the thick tension. "I can hear your thoughts, Poe."
"What?" I became suspicious of myself. Had I spoken aloud?
"I can feel your discomfort. Is there something you want to talk about?"
I hesitated. Should I confide in him? Now that we had sex it didn't seem like the type of heartfelt conversations I imagined we'd have. There also remained a constant seed of doubt which took root after what Monster tried to hint about the Sparrows, and their changed plans for me because of Kieran.
What plans did they have for me? Other than the ridicule and crazed fangirls wanting to destroy me because the boys took an interest in me; I could not think of any more tactics they might have used to hurt me.
Well not completly true. There was still my heart.
I shook those bad thoughts out my head. No. I couldn't think like that. Besides, Kieran promised that was all over. He chose me.
So why do I not feel relieved?
"Madelyn-" he started.
"You would never lie to me, right?" I blurted.
The echo of my heartbeat pumped loudly in my ears as I waited for him to respond.
Then, "What would I have to lie to you about?"
I shrugged. "Monster said something...something about plans you and the others had planned to hurt me with. He was lying, right?"
Kieran flipped me onto my side. Face to face he cupped one side, stroking loose curls behind my ear. "Yes. But those plans do not matter anymore to us. We wanted you gone at the start of this year because we had thought you to be sick for killing your mum."
I gravitated my gaze down, but Kieran would not allow it. "Wait. Let me finish what I need to say before you judge ahead."
I kept my eyes downcast despite his efforts to lift my chin. "Maybe you are right to think that. But...did you really believe I killed my mother?"
It hurt to know these boys thought of me as a killer.
Maybe I was.
"In the begining, yes. Beau had us convinced you were responsible because of records Morris kept hidden in his office. That was how we knew about you beforehand. I set out to protect the reputation of our school, so I declared an open season on you. We wanted you gone, but when strange gifts started to show up for you, things changed. I made the initiative to scrutinize more on your mum's case."
I gaped up at him. "How did you get the files? Charlie said he stored it all in evidence back when I still attended the institution."
Kieran smiled. "Cassidy's father gave it to me. He worked as a trainee constable with my father before I was born, so to ask him was no meaningless favor. He did it without demanding anything in return. Sometimes, I feel he treats me better than what I deserve."
"As what?" I asked, curious. This was the longest conversation I have had with the student council president without him shutting me down.
"As a son of his own."
"Is that why he arranged a business marriage between you and Cassidy?"
"She told you," he stated rather than asked.
I nodded. "It was the reason she decided to join Tobias and Monster. To get me out of the way so you two could be together."
Kieran moved onto his back, cradling my head under one arm, and wiped his other free hand down his face. "That crazy bitch."
"She'll come back to claim you."
"She has no right to claim me. We have no relationship." He looked down at me.
"But you will. Her father still has no idea what his daughter is capable of. None of the parents know about tonight except for Morris," I said, glancing up at him through thick lashes. "What will Headmaster Sweet tell them?"
"Chief Burke decided to make a public announcement tomorrow morning, so soon everyone will know. We are prepared for the school to come down under heavy fire, but know so will your father. The Mayor as well as you and your brother."
Oh, how that title no longer applied to him. Kieran did not know that, but he will. Later.
I laid my head in the crook of his arm, cushioned underneath me like a pillow. "The only person I am worried about is Beau."
"Beau will be fine. He has loads to think about now that he has the validation to who his real mother was. Maybelle Monroe. Your mother's sister, no less."
I maneuvered my head to look into his eyes, mine widened with shock. "He told you?"
Kieran shook his head. "No. I had suspicions Beau was not your brother. So did Ridley. I inspire to follow in my father's footsteps to be a chief detective, so we explored Mayor Sinclair's background before his life here in Seattle. We didn't find much but photos."
I sat up and turned to look down at the boy laid out next to me. He was too handsome atop the light purple sheets, both arms cushioned beneath his head. A wall of muscle shifted under the movement and drew my eyes to the sculpture that was Kieran Holmes. His stomach wasn't too defined, but what outline of his formed abs visible were not hard to miss when my palms could still feel them.
I shook myself back to reality and met Kieran's amused face. "You mean Phoenix hacked into medical and personal files on Morris and Charlie. What did you find?"
"Having trouble concentrating there, Poe." He teased.
I shoved a pillow in his face. He laughed, shaking the bed with his weight.
"Just answer the question, pervert."
With a chuckle he replied, "Not much. Childhood for them was tough. It took fifteen foster homes to settle into a home of their own. Mother died of overdose and the father was locked up for several charges related to murder. The day after Beau tossed you into the falls at Snoqualmie I put the pieces together his issues were not because of you."
"Charlotte," I answered for him.
Kieran's dark eyes took to another world. He looked troubled. "Yes. He seemed to harvest a certain kind of hate for her. That is when the brainstorm started. I was curious about the details of your mum's case." He became unhumorous in the spanse of a second. "Everything about her disappearance, to the blood found on your clothes and arms-"
Kieran reached for my wrists, and I flinched back reflexively. The small action did not go unnoticed by him and a frown pulled at the corners of his lips.
I instantly regretted that move. "I'm sorry."
"I know this may not be the appropriate time to conjure the past, but when it comes to you all I want to do is protect you," he continued. "I understand your rejection. It is not because of me, but something else. Tell me what I can do to ease the pain."
My heart fluttered at his words. No one has ever said that me and shown it. Not even Hannibal, but I suspect he didn't get the chance because of the night that changed our lives. We have yet to have that talk, and I think it has been avoided long enough.
"I appreciate the sentiment, but protection from what happened to me is not the answer. I can no longer run from it. I need to find out the truth. I need to face this invisble monster under the bed to know if my mother tried to kill me, or if Monster did save me that night with Hannibal."
Kieran sat up beside me and cupped my cheek. "We can find out together. Me and the others will assist you. If that is what you need?"
I saw the loyalty in his eyes. He would help me. "What about Ridley? He hates me more than ever now because Atticus was put in danger. I don't blame him, and I don't think he will agree to help me."
Kieran massaged the back of my neck and spine with smooth hands, dragging me back to the sheets and within the warnth of his arms. "Ridley cannot express his feelings well with anyone. Give him time."
I raised a brow. "Do you think that will help?"
"It will give him the space he needs right now. He believes Atticus is in danger because of what happened, but more can be read between the lines of his fear. You just have to look deeper."
"It's because of me," I rectified, knowing he tried to avoid the truth. "He knows I'm dangerous to be arround. Atticus was kidnapped tonight. All of it was because I told him to find you."
"No one can control Atticus. The boy finds trouble becasue he likes to be like his older brother."
"Let's hope not. Ridley has a lot of aggression towards me that I would hate to be passed down to him."
"That is not the whole truth." He pressed his forehead to mine, closed his eyes and started to breathe even. "You are not the only technicality on his mind. The beloved Carnation's aniversary is on the horizon, and I am assertive Ridley will have no mind to talk to anyone."
Beloved? I didn't like that word. It made her sound like she was still something more to these boys than what Kieran told me. Hell, maybe she was.
Who was I to judge?
"Maybe I should talk to him about the whole situation-"
Kieran opened his eyes and shook his head. "Leave him be. You will get nowhere if you try to press the issue. He is not in the right state to be consoled or have you explain yourself."
Kieran underestimated me. I could find ways to make the blue haired demon hear me out.
"You haven't tried to talk to him about it?"
He thought it over, eyes falling back in time. "Once. A month after Carnation died and the funeral reception finished. I pulled him aside to talk to him because I noticed his character was out of routine, and in turn I was given a bloody good right hook to the face. We never spoke of her again."
"Why do you think he avoids it?"
"She was his sister," he said as I played with the blue sparrow charm around his neck I never noticed before this. "They were extremely close as children, but as the second year of prep came about Cara changed. She hung around Molly and her mates too often than Ridley preferred. They got into fights about it more times than I could count, but eventually Cara won over the battle with him. He wanted to preserve their relationship as siblings, but I saw what she was in that moment."
I squinted up at him. "What do you mean?"
"Manipulative. She started to use it more and more between the six of us. That is when I stopped seeing her as someone I adored."
"You make sound like it was the end of your relationship."
He hesitated. "It was."
"Sorry," I told him, not knowing what else to say.
"Don't be. I believe things happen for a reason." Kieran stroked a hand down my side, slowly taking perusal of my body, and stopped at my thigh; he angled my leg to wrap around his waist, fitting me into his chest and rubbed our noses together like that of a lover. "I found you after all."
I grinned. "That was smoothe. I think you might be trying to make a move, for sure now."
We shared a laugh and finished off the night with a soft kiss goodnight. He closed his eyes again and the slow beat of his heart told me he was asleep.
That night I couldn't fall asleep. I tried hard to let the exhaustion blanket over me, but my thoughts were too bothered with the faces of a brother who looked so much like our mother, and a father who promised to come back for me. Eyes cruel like the monster I did not know I keep locked away in my forgotten dreams.
Was I ever going to be safe?
So much love, and yet not enough trust. Can these boys be trusted with her journey to find answers about her mom? What do you think Kieran and the others are hiding? Is Charlotte really out to kill her daughter, or did Tobias and Monster spill more lies?
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Until then, see you all next weekend!