I double-checked, left and right, before I lifted the door to the shabby, abandoned auto shop on Cork’s Corner. I grabbed his wrist and quickly yanked him inside as I threw the door down. To my surprise, he jerked his arm away, causing me to lose my balance. Through the dim lighting, I saw him glare at me. The look was so cold that I had to shift my gaze elsewhere.
“Home sweet home,” I muttered half-heartedly with a frown.
I could feel his eyes on me. Why I even thought to glance up at him was beyond me, but I immediately regretted it. The look he continued to shoot in my direction was murderous, and for a split second, I feared for my life.
“Don’t ever touch me again,” he said in a low tone.
Again, I avoided his gaze, keeping quiet so as not to upset him further. Normally, I wouldn’t cower before anyone. Had we not been in a secluded area, I would have stood up to him, but I bit back the fire burning inside me. Considering I had no idea what his strengths and weaknesses were, it was best to play the game safe.
I could hardly believe all this had happened to me. It wasn’t even lunchtime yet and I had managed not only to bring home shame, but a psychopath as well. So many questions ran through my head as he turned away from me to explore his new environment. How long would he be staying? What did he do to make him this desperate for a sanctuary? Did he ever say what his name was? I didn’t even know his name, and yet here I am, promising him a place to sleep, food to eat, and god knows what else. When did he show up in Jev City anyway? How long had he been here before he found me? Why did his voice sound so strange? I couldn’t get my head to stop buzzing, which had half to do with the flurry of thoughts and half to do with the fact that I nearly busted my head open earlier. There were too many things left unknown for this situation to be okay. Then again, nothing about this situation would ever be okay in any standard known to my world.
Gradually, my mind tumbled down the path to nowhere as my eyes followed where he went. He moved soundlessly across the room, closely examining every little detail as if it were an abstract piece of art. It surprised me when he stopped in front of the old, torn photo of me when I was six and the woman I had reason to believe was my mother. I tensed when he lingered there, staring at it with increasing interest. I then wondered if I should say anything or not.
“That’s me,” I said finally, after what seemed like an eternity. “And I think that’s my mother beside me.”
“You think?” he said, remaining as still as a statue.
“Yeah. I don’t remember her at all. Actually, I don’t really remember anything up until the age of six. That was the only thing I found in my pocket when I woke up one night.”
He didn’t pry after that, which I was thankful for. Instead, he carried on, looking at the rest of what I had to offer. The silence was so unbearable that I couldn’t help but fill it with my voice.
“As you can see, I don’t really have a lot. I don’t know why you thought it would be a good idea to ask me for help. Do you even know who I am?”
It felt like I was talking to myself, considering he seemed to not even acknowledge my existence. Finally, he looked at me.
“I know what you are,” he answered.
I bit my lip to control my frantic heart. “I don’t know what you’re talking about.”
“Already breaking the rules now, are we?” he said, his eyes becoming rigid with annoyance. “There will be no lying. I will always know when you are lying.”
My jaw clenched.
“You’re an open book,” he added. “You were the first person to catch my attention among the few that were present at the time. Your body was screaming for the pretty jewels laying out on their displays. It couldn’t have been more obvious.”
“I wasn’t doing anything,” I argued.
“Exactly my point. You must move to blend in with daytime in a city, and be still at night. Any master thief would know that.”
I flinched when he called me a “master thief”, as it sounded venomous when he said it. But then everything that came out of his mouth did. A loud crack of thunder caused me to jump and I blushed with embarrassment at my skittishness. I crossed my arms over my chest to keep myself together. Unexpected occasions like this were rare. To make matters worse, he was completely unpredictable as well. That combination was enough to keep me on edge, wishing I had waited to scope out the score.
He turned and faced me, shrugging off his coat. “Do you have somewhere I could rest?”
“Uh…” I glanced at my cot. Yeah.”
So much for sleeping.
Technically, I could have made him sleep on the floor. I mean, it wasn’t as if he had made me forfeit my own bed. He didn’t exactly argue with me, either. It had been hours since he laid down to rest his head, and I still haven’t managed to get a wink of sleep. On the contrary, the psychopath slept soundly in my cot, most likely dreaming of world chaos and killing babies. I shivered in the corner for the hundredth time as I watched him from the other side of the room. The cold would surely take its toll on me by tomorrow morning. Unfortunately, I couldn’t afford being sick. Abundance was supposed to be my main source of income this month. Of course, nothing had gone right and I ended up taking home something worth less than trash.
A sudden thought came to mind. Could he possibly have anything in his jacket? Before he had slipped beneath the covers, he had practically stripped buck-ass nude, leaving his clothes strewn out across the floor for me to pick through. It was possible he didn’t have anything of value on him if he had done such a careless thing, but it was always worth a shot. Besides, it wasn’t like I had anything else better to do. It was also the only chance I’d get before he woke up.
Quietly, I crawled over to his pants first, fishing through the pockets to see if anything was in there. They were completely empty. I scooted closer to him and went through his jacket. Surprisingly, I had just as much luck. At that moment, an evil thought crossed my mind. What if there’s a bounty over his head? Specifically, what if he was wanted dead or alive? With a quick glance, I studied my dagger, which sat on the nightstand beside him. Since the beginning, I had made a vow to myself that anyone who threatened my safety should be put down without a second thought. While it was true that this man had not threatened my life, it was only a matter of time before he would. I was no murderer, but he was a danger to me, and I needed the money.
Uneasiness was the number one sign to look out for when dealing with people like him. At this point, I should kill him and get it done and over with. No one knew him here, as far as I could tell, except for the law. That made him a dead man anyway. Excitement bubbled up in my throat and threatened to release strange sounds from my mouth, but I caught them between my lips as I stood to reach for the blade.
I had found it while I was robbing a baker’s shop, around the time when I had first become a thief. It was the only thing I ever kept in all my years of hiding. So far, it only had the blood of three people stained on its steel. As I grabbed it and brought it to the base of his throat, I became distracted by the dark fringe that covered his eyes. It took me a while to realize he could’ve been watching me the whole time and I wouldn’t have even known it. Even now, I couldn’t see if his eyes were open or shut. My body froze in fear for the worst. Surely, he would’ve attacked by now. However, the chilling fear in the pit of my stomach grew worse. I broke the ice in my joints, and slowly reached over with my free hand to lift his hair out of his face. A glint of aquamarine was enough to force a whimper past my lips. Slowly, I backed away as he stared at me, keeping abnormally still for someone whose throat was almost slit. My legs buckled from underneath me, and I dropped the knife in the process. I waited for him to shout. I waited for him to put me in my place. To my surprise, he didn’t do either of those things. Instead, he looked intent on making me feel excruciatingly uncomfortable—and it worked. For what seemed like hours, he stared at me until I squirmed, and even then, he still kept quiet. His eyes told me everything. It was one of those if-looks-could-kill moments, only in this case, it seemed more literal.
At some point, when I concluded that he wasn’t going to kill me, I finally calmed myself enough to ask a rather daring question. “Are you going to say anything, or are you just gonna give me the death glare all night?”
He remained silent. It was at that moment that I realized he hadn’t blinked at all. Then I wondered if he was really awake or not. Could he be dead? The longer he stayed like that, the more I started to believe it. When he spoke, my heart jumped.
“Did you really think that would work?” he murmured softly.
Just do it now, the little voice inside my head screamed at me, what are you waiting for? He was half-naked and defenseless, how hard could it be? Aside from the fact that he terrified me, he had no other power against me. All I had to do was snap out of it and gut him. I glanced at my knife, which lay beside my leg. It was an easy grab if I could just—
“I wouldn’t do that if I were you,” he said, his voice interrupting my thoughts.
Ignoring his warning, I snatched the knife up off the ground, jumping up to lunge at him. He sat up quicker than lightning, batting the weapon out of my hand before I could even take one swipe. He manhandled me to the bed, straddling my hips and pinning my arms above my head as he looked down at me with a bored expression on his face.
“I feel as if I’m dealing with a child,” he said.
I bucked my hips in an attempt to throw him off, but he wouldn’t budge. I tried to kick and knee at him, but he had put himself in a position where that was nearly impossible.
“Get off me,” I grunted as I struggled to move my arms out from his tight grip.
“Why should I? Are you going to try to kill me again?”
"Yes,” I spat.
“Then I shall stay here until you come to your senses.”
I sighed frustratedly. “Can I ask you a question?”
“Why are you such an asshole?”
He chuckled. “I believe we got off on the wrong foot. Clearly we lack communication—”
“So, I propose we take a day to introduce ourselves.”
I paused. An entire day?
“No,” I said. “I don’t care to know you, and I’m not exactly fond of you knowing me. You won’t be here for long, so let’s just keep things the way they are.”
“That is precisely my point. You are wrong if you think I will only be staying for tonight. It would be better for the both of us if we took the time to get to know each other better. Less annoying for me, more peace of mind for you.”
That last part went over my head. I was still stuck on the part where he said he would be staying longer than a day. I began imagining the many nights like this one that were soon to come. I would be lying if I said that didn’t bother me. It bothered me enough not knowing his name. To be true to myself, though, giving out information like that wasn’t something I was willing to do.
“There is no losing side to this,” he added, noting my prolonged silence. “I tell you who I am, you tell me who you are, and just like that, we would be on the same page.”
I don’t know what it was about him that made him so different from others—how easy it was for him to sound so convincing. There was no insincerity in his voice, which made it easier for me to accept his proposal.
“Hi,” I started slowly, unsure of how to even start. “My name is Jianna.”
The corner of his mouth twitched up as he said, “It’s a pleasure to meet you, Jianna. My name...is Killian.”