For hours, it seemed, I tugged and pulled and yanked at the knots, causing my wrists to rub against the satin. One would think the material would be gentle and harmless, but I learned it was quite the opposite. Though I couldn’t see the damage that had most certainly been done, I could feel the heat of the rub burn I had ultimately caused. Surely, there were bruises, too. Luckily, Killian was the one to wake me in the morning. After growing tired of the struggle in those early hours, I had surrendered to sleep in the most awkward of positions, so when he woke me, I felt the aching pain in my neck and the numbness of my arms from how I had slept on them. I grunted as I struggled to sit up by myself while he occupied himself with untying me from the bed. All the while, I glared at him. As soon as I was let loose, I pushed passed him to crawl out of bed. I could feel his eyes on me as I examined the damage on my wrists.
Today would undoubtedly be a long sleeve day. They didn’t look too bad, but they were noticeable, and I couldn’t risk Na-Na seeing me like this. She would think Killian did it, and that would be the end of his stay here. If he hadn’t tied me up like some savage beast, though, I wouldn’t be in this state. Then again, I had acted quite savagely (and recklessly, might I add) when I attempted to seduce him. Which reminded me…
“You passed the test, by the way,” I muttered.
He was silent.
“I meant to tempt you last night,” I continued. “However, even with my ruthless attempts, you still didn’t take advantage of me. Do you know what that means to me?”
Again, he was silent. I turned to face him, and I found that he had been standing right behind me, staring down at me like a predator. I had to force myself to stand my ground.
“You really do care about me,” I said quietly.
“Don’t confuse my sparing you as an act of caring,” he said. “The only thing I care about is that I have you completely willing, and not just in the spur of the moment. Now get dressed. I shall be leaving with your father shortly.”
“I intend to ask for his blessing.”
“Why do you need his blessing?” I replied, crossing my arms.
He hesitated. “Because, Jianna, I wish to have a dalliance with you.”
“I like him.”
I jerked out of my dream-like state to join the present again. It’s been a few hours since Killian left with Poppy. Since that time, I’ve been helping Na-Na around the kitchen. We had been talking about everything that had happened since I left three years ago. She told me how she and Poppy had struggled to move on from the loss of two children, and that they hadn’t done much with their lives because of it. I told her how I had gone down the path of thievery, which she wasn’t exactly very happy to hear, and I told her how I had met Killian (excluding the fact that he had forced his way into my life…and that he was an alien…and that we have had many incidents of physical fights). After that bit, we had stopped talking. When she spoke again, she had caught me in a daze as I was drying plates. She washed the dirty ones as she looked back me. I blinked several times, struggling to comprehend what she had just said.
“Who?” I replied.
“Killian,” she said with a smile on her face.
Something fluttered inside my stomach at the sound of his name. Yes, I had been thinking about him before Na-Na spoke. Honestly, I had been thinking about last night since he left this morning. I recalled the details of his body—how he moved, how he looked, how he felt. Everything about him was otherworldly. His smoldering gaze, his solid frame, his beautifully pale skin. The thickness of his soft, black hair when I combed through it during our first true embrace. Looking back on it, I realized the romance of it all had been so incredibly strong and intense that I immediately found myself aroused. I felt guilty for having such feelings when it had been such a heated moment full of raw emotions. He had shed a tear—Killian, the inhuman human, who never gave a second thought to murdering an innocent person, had cried. It was only one, single tear, but it had given me every reason to believe that, deep down, he was a sentient being, and if that hadn’t proved it, his feelings for me did. Try as he might to hide these feelings, some managed to slip past him last night. He had let his guard down, which might be bad for him to do in some cases, but I could tell it had been liberating for him. His words began playing around and around in my head.
“I wish to have a dalliance with you.”
It had been so unexpected—so out-of-the-blue that it had my head spinning. Surely, there was a catch.
“You like him?” I asked Na-Na in a surprised tone, continuing to dry the plate in my hands.
“He’s very charming.”
She was silent for a moment or two before saying, “You do have a dalliance with him, don’t you?”
My body went rigid as I replayed the scene earlier this morning.
“Because, Jianna, I wish to have a dalliance with you.”
In that moment, time stopped, and the universe focused in on just the two of us. It felt as if all the air had been taken from me, and at first, I had no words. Then, a spike of anger flickered inside of me.
“Why?” I said angrily. “If you really don’t care about me, then why would you want a dalliance with me? What makes you think I’ll say yes?”
“Because you adore me.”
I gave him a disgusted look.
“You obviously don’t know what a dalliance is,” I muttered.
“Trust me when I say this won’t be a normal dalliance.”
I suppressed a sigh and said to Na-Na, “Yeah, we have a dalliance.”
“I knew it!” I could hear the smile in her voice. “Is he your first?”
“What do you mean it won’t be a normal dalliance?” I asked him with a skeptical look.
“I will take you to Nou Vil,” he said. “However, in return, I ask that you be mine.”
“Yeah, he’s my first.”
“Yeah,” I faked a laugh.
She turned to face me then, giving me a look.
“Is something wrong, Jianna?” she asked, grabbing a towel as she left the sink.
“N-no…it’s—everything’s okay,” I stuttered.
“Jianna,” she said, giving me a stern look.
“Well…it’s just that…”
She stood beside me, wiping her hands dry before she took my hand in hers.
“You can tell me,” she said comfortingly.
Well, here goes nothing…
“Killian and I,” I began. Then I had to start over. “I mean, I know I’ve only just returned, but, we want to go to Nou Vil together.”
I dared to steal a glance at her, and I was shocked to see a soft smile on her face. Though there was some sadness, which hurt me to see, she still had a look of understanding.
“You’re grown up now,” she said. “You can go wherever you want, whenever you want. I never expected you to stay. If Hyler was here now, I wouldn’t have expected him to stay here, either.”
The mention of Hyler caused me to tear up. She embraced me warmly, rubbing my back soothingly.
“I don’t want you to dwell on the past,” she continued. “That’s not what life is all about. Spending time with your partner and seeing the world is what makes it worth living. Don’t let Poppy and I hold you back from that. Be with Killian, if that’s what makes you happy. You have my blessing.”
That had gone much easier than I expected. I couldn’t help but wonder if Killian had had the same luck. They had been gone for a long time.
“Thank you, Na-Na,” I said as we parted. “For everything.”
“Oh, you don’t have to thank me,” she laughed. “If anything, I should be thanking you. You’ve given Poppy and I closure since you came here with Killian. We had a long discussion last night before going to bed. You should know that we are both so happy to see you with him.”
If only they knew.
“You know what that means,” she said with a grin.
“No, Na-Na, you don’t have to do that for me.”
“It’s traditional! Please? At least let us do this one thing before you go.”
The celebration after having your first dalliance. That’s what she wanted to do. It didn’t feel right to me, considering my dalliance with Killian was, as all other things with him were, forced. He knew I couldn’t say no to his offer. He knew I would be desperate enough to agree on his terms. However, I was the one to say yes when I could’ve said otherwise. This was the price I had to pay. In addition, it would make Na-Na happy.
“Okay,” I said, feigning a smile when the word stung my mouth like venom.
I should have been grateful for her happiness. Instead, I could only feel bitter about the whole situation. She deserved the truth, but I was too much of a coward to tell her. Maybe it just wasn’t the right time. Maybe, once I find my real Killian leaves this place for good, I can tell her the truth. There was no need to sound like I was leaving her and Poppy forever. I’d come back one day to visit. For now, I’d let her spoil me.
For the next hour or so, we finished the rest of the dishes and tidied up afterward before the men came home. Later in the day, they both came in through the front door, all smiles, and chuckles. Killian lifted his eyes to catch my gaze, and he grinned. The gesture took the air from my lungs, as this was the first time he had ever smiled directly at me. For a split second, he had me fooled.
“Good news,” he said in his Skelt accent.
I arched a brow after I quickly composed myself and grinned back at him. “Oh? And what good news may that be?”
“You have my blessing,” Poppy answered.
Like any normal girl looking for her father’s approval of her partner, I beamed and ran over to hug him. Gods, this was sickening.
“And mine as well,” Na-Na said to Killian.
“Thank you,” he replied. “It truly means everything to us.”
I hoped that I wouldn’t have to get used to this version of him. It was downright strange.
“Na-Na says there is to be a celebration before we leave,” I told him.
Something flashed in his eyes, but I couldn’t quite tell what it was.
“That should be exciting,” he said, now walking towards me.
By sheer instinct, I was tempted to back away, however, I forced myself to stay put and let him hold my hand. His skin was ice cold.
I looked away from him to catch Na-Na’s gaze. “When will it be?”
“Well, when do you plan on leaving?” she said.
I glanced at Killian as I shook my head, shrugging my shoulders.
“We’ll stay a few more days,” he said. “If that’s alright with you.”
“Oh, yes, yes,” she replied. “Stay as long as you want. I’m sure I’ll have everything ready by then. I’m sorry it won’t be as big as it’s supposed to be. I’m afraid we don’t know very many people.”
“That’s okay, Na-Na,” I said with a smile. “We don’t need anyone else but the four of us.”
The next few hours were mentally tiring. At some point, I thought I was going to go insane from all the fake laughs and smiles and little gestures to convince Na-Na and Poppy my dalliance with Killian was legitimate. Eventually, our conversations wore me out completely, and I apologized for feeling so fatigued when the night was still so young. To spice it up a bit, I added that I was somewhat feeling queasy. Na-Na asked if I needed anything, and I told her I just wanted to lie down upstairs. So, I did. I sat on the edge of Hyler’s bed with my arms crossed. In my head, I hoped that Killian would stay down there to keep them company, but knowing him, he’d probably come up to “discipline” me, or something. While the thought of me being his pet was amusing to me now, it still rubbed me the wrong way. Even though he wouldn’t admit it out loud, he, without a doubt, had real feelings for me. It had been a dead giveaway when he had said:
“What is it about you? What makes you so different?”
With a sigh, I strew myself out across the pile of blankets. Just last night, this had been an arena of passion and angst for both of us. Now, it was just Hyler’s bed. I made a mental note to sleep in my own room tonight, hoping that that would lure Killian away from creating careless disrespect for the dead and their things. For now, though, I snuggled against the pillows that now smelled of Killian’s rose and spice with a mix of my ordinary clean scent (soap?). The mixed aroma must have drugged me to sleep, because when I woke up again, the sun was well below the horizon. I didn’t have time to react when the door opened quietly and Temptation himself walked right in. His eyes found mine immediately, and they dug deep into my soul, practically eating me alive. I sensed something different about him as he slowly walked towards me. I sniffed, stirring in the sheets as he approached the side of the bed.
“Can there ever be a waking moment in my life when you’re not here?” I croaked.
There was a glint in his eyes, a smile twitching at the corners of his mouth.
“I’ve given you plenty of free time today,” he said quietly. “You should thank me for allowing you to sleep for nearly three hours while I conversed with your parents.”
“They’re not my real parents, you know,” I said as I rolled around so that my back faced him.
“They have clothed you, fed you, and—”
“Cared for you,” I finished. “Yeah, I get it.”
There was no point in arguing. I’ve known him long enough to know there would be no end to it. However, he wasn’t about to come into bed with me. Not in this bed, anyway. I heard the sound of his shirt being stripped off when I quickly got up and said, “No. Not here. We’re sleeping in my room tonight.”
I didn’t wait for his response. I simply walked out of the room and entered the one next to it. A burst of pink gifted memories from my childhood when I entered. The feeling of nostalgia was almost overwhelming, but I ignored it. This was something I had wanted to forget, only I couldn’t. With a sigh, I entered further, letting it consume me. After a while, he decided to follow me, closing the door behind him just as I was stripping down to my bra and underwear. I inhaled sharply through my nose, as if I had been electrocuted, when he wrapped his arm around my waist from behind. His body pressed flush against my back. The heat he gave off warmed my naked skin, and he tangled his fingers in my hair, gently pulling my head to the side, exposing my neck.
“This isn’t an invitation,” I said, voice quivering.
“Yes, but you are willing to do more in your own room, aren’t you?” he purred, his breath brushing against the sensitive part.
“Killian,” I tried to say with a warning tone, but it came out weak.
“Your body betrays you,” he said, brushing his fingertips along the frame of my body.
Just like that, my knees give out from underneath me. Right before I hit the ground, Killian caught me. What the…?
I pushed away from him, stumbling back until I stumbled back into my bed.
“By the way,” he said, crawling on top of me. “You are painfully bad at acting. I’m surprised they believed you when you said we had a dalliance together. Perhaps we should commit to make it seem more convincing.”
“If you think that would help anything, you’re wrong. You should know that I’m still not ready.”
“Hmm, yes, but again, you are dangerously close.”
I scowled at him.
“Is this a competition to you?” I snapped.
“It is hardly a competition when I’ve already won.”