As the suns sank below the horizon, we stopped to set up camp by one of the biggest trees in the forest. Before I knew it, Killian and I were sitting beside an orange flame, staring into the embers as we lost ourselves in our own thoughts. I recalled the memory I had had just before I died earlier today.
“I’m not going to be here forever, and until you find someone who can promise what I am promising you, light a candle to guide you.”
For the first time, I realized that I had failed to light a single one since I met Killian. So, did that mean what I thought it meant? Was Killian the one to light my way through darkness? I glanced up at him from across the fire pit. He was already looking at me. I swallowed hard and ducked my head down again to avoid his gaze. Why him? I hardly knew anything about him. Worst of all, he wasn’t even from my world. He wasn’t a Skelt. Hell, he wasn’t even human. A science project—that’s what he had told me at the brew. But what did he mean by that?
“You should get some rest.”
I jumped at the sound of his voice and looked up to meet his eyes once more. Without much thought, I crawled over to where he sat and climbed into his lap. His body tensed as I wrapped his arms around my waist and leaned my head back into his shoulder. I watched him with half-closed eyes as he gazed into the fire. He didn’t know what to think; I could tell by the way he was trying to ignore me. Not that I was trying to provoke him, but I didn’t exactly want him to pretend as if I didn’t exist, so I spoke to him directly about something I would never have brought up before.
“Did you ever have a true dalliance with someone on Earth?”
His eyes were vacant as he stared straight ahead into the night, and his jaw was clenched. I immediately regretted asking the question, and wished I could take it back. Before I could apologize, however, he finally spoke up.
“No,” he said nonchalantly.
“Killian,” I said. “Don’t lie to me.”
He looked at me with a hint of sadness in his eyes. “It doesn’t matter.”
“It matters to me.”
He turned away again, but I wasn’t about to let him pass on this, so I straddled his hips and placed both of my hands on either side of his head, forcing him to look at me.
“Jianna, you are treading on very thin ice right now,” he said calmly, but his irises spat fire.
“Well, I was hoping to break that ice with you.”
“Trust me, you don’t want that.”
“Why?” I said, raising my voice. “What will you do? Would you really hurt me over something like this?”
Suddenly he got to his feet, never minding that I could have fallen into the fire if I hadn’t caught myself at the last second. I gasped out of shock, desperately clinging to his body so that I wouldn’t fall down. I probably looked ridiculous, hanging off him as if I were a child.
“Killian!” I scolded, wrapping myself around him tightly.
I climbed him like a tree, flinging my arms around his neck as I situated myself into a secure position. It was difficult to hold on since he refused to support me, but I managed.
“Stop this,” he said.
“Not until you tell me the truth.”
“No,” I interrupted sternly. “You interrogate me against my own will all the time. Now it’s your turn. I hardly know anything about your personal life.”
“Because I don’t have one.”
He glared at me Then, his facial features softened.
“Maria,” he said softly.
“Maria?” I repeated.
“My wife.” Those two words echoed inside my skull like a horrible scream travelling through a cave. Killian was married? As if he had read my thoughts, he added, “She died some years ago.”
I should have expressed my condolences, but couldn’t bring myself to do it. What was this anger bubbling up inside me? Was it anger I was feeling, or was it…?
I refused to accept that I was jealous of anyone, much less a dead woman that I never even knew.
“Okay,” I said, nodding my head.
Before it got too quiet again, I moved to get off him, but he placed his hands under my thighs to keep me there. When I looked into his eyes, I could tell he was suffering. I embraced him warmly, and even though he didn’t return it, I felt his entire body relax. I took it as a thank you, squeezing him tighter to let him know that I understood. There things I wanted to ask him—about his wife, and if he had had any children—but now wasn’t the time.
Right now, he needed to be comforted.
Killian was back to normal the next morning, as if last night had never happened. In fact, he actually seemed happier. As a result, I felt good about myself for making even the sourest man turn his attitude around. Practically drunk off his vibe, I giggled to myself. Every step he took, every move he made, I watched, admiring the way he climbed over rocks and tree roots with ease. Tag was starting to sound like the only option here, considering it was the only thing to do, so I asked if he would play. He glanced over his shoulder briefly before turning his attention ahead of him again.
“I don’t play children’s games,” he replied, but I could hear the smile in his voice.
“So, you do know how to play?”
“Yes, of course I know how to play, but I refuse to indulge your fantasies.”
“Like I said, it’s a children’s game.”
“What does that have to do with anything?” Before he could answer, I slapped his arm and yelled, “TAG! You’re it!”
“Jianna, I’m not—”
He was cut off by my laughter. At first, he refused to participate. Then, after several seconds, I heard his running footsteps falling close behind me. Adrenaline pumped through every vein in my body as I dodged trees, cleared logs, and ducked under low-hanging branches. I was surprised I lasted as long as I did before I felt his hand touch my arm.
Now I was it.
However, as I stopped and turned around to chase after him, he was already gone.
“Oh, come on!” I whined.
There was no answer. I sighed as I began trudging through the dead leaves. Surely, he couldn’t have gotten very far. In fact, he should be hiding behind this tree…yet as I jumped around it, there was nothing there.
“Alright, Killian, this isn’t fair,” I called out. “This isn’t hide-and-go-seek tag.”
Still, there was no answer, but I wasn’t about to give up just yet. I just had to look in the right places. Without any solid method of searching, I aimlessly walked around, peeking behind trees and even looking up into the treetops to see if he had freakish climbing powers, too. To my disappointment, he was nowhere to be found. Had he abandoned me? If so, what had I done wrong? If he was throwing a tantrum because I wanted to play a game with him, I was going to—
I screamed as a hand grabbed my arm, and I was pulled behind a large tree. Before I knew it, I was suddenly face-to-face with the psychopath himself. He lifted me up and pinned me against the bark with his body, and positioned himself between my legs. With one, swift motion, he put my arms above my head with one hand and supported one leg with the other. His breath was hot on my face as he leaned in close, staring directly into my eyes with steamy desire.
“Is tag on Earth considered a…sexual activity?” I panted softly with wide eyes.
“Not normally,” he murmured. “But the chase is what gets me…excited.”
I swallowed hard, preparing myself to say the most daring words of my life.
“Well, then, come on, bad boy,” I whispered. “Chase me.”
He chuckled darkly, shaking his head.
“I don’t think you realize how hard this is for me,” he replied in a low voice.
I shrugged. “It wouldn’t be so hard if you would just prove to me that you cared. It’s quite simple, really. You’re just too stubborn.”
“You can’t expect me to look but not touch, Jianna. You know you shouldn’t tease me like this. It’s dangerous. You’re lucky I’m giving you such a kind punishment.”
“Do you know what I want to do to you right now?” he said, cutting me off. “Go on. Guess.”
“If you can guess, I might reconsider giving you a punishment at all.”
“I can never tell what you’re thinking. Just please, put me down. I won’t do it again, I swear.”
“The only way you can learn is if you’re taught a lesson. Perhaps after this, you won’t need to be treated like a child again. You will be, according to your Skelt standards, an adult.”
“Then guess,” he hissed.
It was only a matter of time before he erupted, so I racked my brain, taking into consideration the current situation I was in.
“I suppose I have an idea,” I said cautiously. I took a moment to breathe. My heart was beating too fast for me to handle, and it didn’t help that my throat was starting to close up from the pressure building inside my chest. I swallowed before I spoke. “Do you want to punish me, Killian? Is that what you want?”
He didn’t answer, but before I could react, he leaned in, attacking the weak spot on my neck with his plush lips. I moaned, managing to slip one hand out of his grip to tangle my fingers in his hair. My back arched, pressing our bodies closer together. He nipped at my skin, eliciting a sigh of pleasure from my lips. His hand released my other wrist so that he was able to support both of my legs. With my other free hand, I gripped his arm, pushing myself up to cause some friction. Suddenly, I was lying on the ground underneath him. How I got there was totally beyond me, but the next thing I knew, he was peeling his shirt off, tossing it aside carelessly. The sight of his incredibly tight body made me feel soft and I blushed, embarrassed by the state of my appearance. He must have noticed because he lifted my dress, and pressed his lips to my naval to comfort me. Then, he kissed all the way up my body until he reached my lips. That was when I felt his fingers trace the outline of my underwear. I snapped out of my daze to cover his hands with mine, causing him to break away.
“You want this,” he said softly with confusion in his eyes.
“I do,” I replied breathlessly, “but I can’t let you do this unless you prove it to me.”
“That you care about me.”
“I do care about you.”
I sighed, pushing out from underneath him. When I got to my feet, he pulled me back down by my hips, causing me to land straight into his lap.
“You’re just saying that,” I grumbled, shoving him off so that I could stand up again.
That didn’t stop him from pulling me back down the same way he did before.
“Don’t,” I said firmly.
He rested his arm between my breasts as he wrapped his long fingers around my neck. I whimpered out of both fear and excitement. He forced me to my hands and knees. For a split second, he did nothing. Then, he grunted as his hand made contact with my ass. I screamed, recoiling from the blow. Then, gently, with utmost care, he traced patterns over the spot he had hit with his fingertips, and I felt him lean over me as he pulled my hair away from my ear.
“I’m sorry…” he whispered.
I hiccupped softly, sniffing (I hadn’t realized I had been crying) before turning my head to the side. I meant to smile at him reassuringly, but instead, I winced at the lingering pain on my rear end.
“That should never have happened,” he added.
“It’s okay,” I replied. “This wouldn’t be the first time you’ve physically assaulted me. Although, I don’t think I’ll be using my ass any time soon.”
“I’ll carry you the rest of the way, if you want me to.”
I nodded and said, “Yeah. I think you owe me that much.”