“Explain to me what a dalliance is.”
I sighed, resting my head on the pillow as he sat on the edge of the bed beside me. A dalliance is the only thing Skelts use to describe a relationship between two people. It is exactly how it is defined: a brief romantic, or intimate, relationship. When I told Killian this, he watched me intently, listening to every word I was saying. I told him that Skelts could have many “sexual partners” without it being an issue, which was apparently not acceptable on Earth. Nevertheless, I could tell he liked our idea of love.
“It is as it should be,” he said. “That is the animal kingdom at its finest.”
In addition to that, I explained how everyone’s first dalliance is special. A celebration usually follows shortly afterwards, since it is the first step to adulthood. After that, they are free to have other dalliances with different people as they choose.
“What if one chooses to go their whole life without having a dalliance?” he asked. “Do they ever mature?”
“Physically, yes, but they are not considered adults,” I replied, lulling my head to the side to look at him. “Dalliance is a very important part of growing up here. You could be a century old and the wisest Skelt on Acadia but still be considered a child.”
There was a silence that followed. Killian’s expression was unreadable as I looked at him. He blinked slowly, measuredly, his brow furrowing. For once, he looked like a normal man, who was actually very beautiful if you caught him at moments like this. Any tension that had been trapped inside of me was now finding its escape through him. It must’ve been nice to be a psychopath and still have so much charm. Had his people been left alone, he probably would have been very popular among society.
Maybe that was the reason for his insanity. If Killian was telling the truth, he had been deprived of any form of interaction for three hundred years. That certainly had to do a number on one’s mental state. I felt bad for him. He never asked for any of this. Nobody deserved to be frozen in a tube for centuries. And for what? What exactly did Killian and his people do to get that kind of treatment? Now I was starting to feel my cheeks burn from the sudden rage I had deep inside me. I would hate the humans, too, if they had done something like that to my family and me. Killian suddenly wasn’t the evil one in all of this. As I’ve pointed out many times, to him and to myself, it wasn’t right for him to drag me into an alley like that just to force himself into my life. However, it was understandable now that I knew why he was here. I probably would’ve had this sort of compassion for him had I just listened to him.
“Are you still considered a child, Jianna?”
I blinked at him. I had been too wrapped up in my emotions and thoughts to remember what we had been talking about in the first place.
“What do you mean?” I said.
“Have you ever had a dalliance?”
I swallowed and looked away quickly.
“No,” I said. “I’ve never really had time to think about it.”
The truth is that I had wanted Hyler to be my first. After what had happened, I had never given it a second thought, much less a first, but if he were alive now…
“So, you’re a virgin,” he stated.
“No, I’m pure,” I said defensively.
“I didn’t realize ‘virgin’ was a derogatory term.”
“It is. Virgins purposely avoid having dalliances, therefore choosing to be children. Purities, on the other hand, plan to have dalliances. They’re just waiting for the right one.”
We sat quietly for a while, then I decided to ask a question I had, admittedly, been curious about since we started this conversation.
“How many…sexual partners have you had?” I asked awkwardly.
“Many,” he answered without hesitation.
I rolled my eyes at his immodesty. It was so typical of him that I almost wanted to laugh.
“Would you like to be one of them?”
“No,” I said quickly, holding my arms tightly against my chest.
He chuckled. “Would you ever consider a dalliance with me?”
Something stopped me before I could say no. I was always torn between listening to what my heart wanted and what my gut told me to do. This was one of those moments. While my gut said no, my heart said otherwise. Everyone says to listen to your gut, but Hyler always said the heart knows what it wants. Then, there were the facts. Killian was a psychopath. I had already established that countless times. He practically forced himself into my life without much of my consent. All we had was a feeble deal that was ultimately forgotten after a short amount of time. In the few hours our deal no longer applied, I had let him lure me out in the middle of a forest. That, I must say, could’ve been prevented if it wasn’t for my poor judgment, but that was beside the point. Not only was he a psychopath, he was also a fugitive. Despite how hypocritical it sounded, it made sense to have this counted against him. As a fugitive, he has murdered quite a few people, from what I’ve gathered, and I was positive he wouldn’t mind murdering me either if he wanted to. That is, if I ever got in the way of him and his people. With me being pure, I hardly think that qualified him as a good first dalliance, even if I did understand why he was the way he was. It wass my gut’s job to look at these facts. However, my heart liked to acknowledge all the good.
It was clear Killian loved his people unconditionally. He had gone through so much to come this far for them, and I knew that once he found a way back to them, he wouldn’t hesitate to leave me behind. It was this that I admired most of all, and it was what made him real. He was able to take care of himself. Like me, he was a survivor. That alone was rare enough. People in this city die from starvation or lack of shelter, but Killian and I could survive. That alone qualified him as a good first dalliance.
So, what was it, then? At this point, I was torn in two, but he was asking me the question now.
“I don’t know,” I decided to answer honestly.
It wasn’t the answer he deserved, but it was the only answer he was going to get. With that, he let the subject rest, at least for now. He hummed a sigh as if he were thinking about something deeply. As he breathed steadily, I was beginning to feel drowsy. I willed myself to stay awake, but that was asking too much. Like a switch, I blacked out. Before I slipped into unconsciousness, it was around midday. When I woke up, though, I could hardly see through the darkness of night. Immediately, I started to panic. Forgetting that I had fallen asleep next to Killian in my bed, I tried to stand but instead tangled myself in the sheets. Still not entirely aware of where I was, I started hyperventilating as I struggled to get free. Suddenly, I was aware of his presence next to me. I sat straight up and reached in front of me blindly to find him. For some stupid reason, I thought he was dying (it must’ve had something to do with my dream) so once my fingers touched his soft, thick hair, I leaned down to lay my head on his chest. He was breathing perfectly fine and his heart thumped steadily against my ear. That was when reality finally settled in. My breathing finally slowed after a minute or two, my hands no longer shook, and my body relaxed as I realized everything was okay.
I sighed in relief as I laid back down on my pillow. But as I shifted to move away, an arm snaked around my waist, securing me tightly against his body. I still couldn’t quite see his face, but I imagined his bright, aquamarine eyes were watching me now—or maybe they had been this entire time.
“Why didn’t you light the candle?” I whispered.
Since the first night he stayed, he learned quickly that I wasn’t overly fond of the dark, seeing as I lit a candle every night just before sunset. It usually did the trick because it managed to give the whole room a soft glow. That also could have been why I had awakened so startled and confused just now. For once, I didn’t even mind that he had trapped me so close to him. I just wanted that candle to burn. He never answered me, though, and never made a move to do what he knew I wanted him to do. Before, I hadn’t realized our hips were lined up perfectly…until he shifted underneath me. A small whimper dared to escape my lips and I slapped a hand over my mouth.
He pried my hand away, and said, “No. Don’t hold back.”
Since my eyesight was useless, my other senses, including touch, were heightened. I gasped at the sensation as a familiar heat coiled in my stomach. Even though I wanted to scream for him to stop, my body wouldn’t allow it. I felt helpless in my own skin. He knotted his fingers in my hair to tilt my head up slightly, and before I could protest, he pressed his full, tender lips to mine. Our mouths moved in perfect synchronization. Despite how unfamiliar I was with this kind of physical contact, it felt like I had been doing it for years with him and him alone. At the same time, it felt so new. It was electrifying, exciting, nerve-racking, and scary all at the same time. Each tiny, lip-sucking kiss melted my core, turned my brain into mush, and caused so much pleasure it hurt. His free hand slid down to rest on my rear so that he could trace circles there, using it as a distraction to slip his tongue past my lips. I groaned when his plan to seduce me prevailed.
I pulled away from him to kiss every inch of his face, down his jaw and over the base of his throat. His grip on my hair tightened, causing me to cry out in pain. A groan rumbled from his chest.
“Dammit, Jianna,” he whispered harshly.
For a moment, I wondered why he had reacted so fiercely. Then I realized that I had started grinding against him shamelessly. Killian’s body was tense underneath me as I refused to stop. It was an addicting feeling—one that I just couldn’t get enough of.
“Stop, Jianna,” he growled. “I will lose control of myself.”
I forced myself to stop. This wasn’t right. It was so wrong on so many levels, and I knew this. I panted, squeezing his legs with my thighs to keep myself from moving. This, apparently, wasn’t a good move on my part. He hissed, and before I knew it, he had me flipped over on my back as he hovered over me. He swiftly opened my legs and positioned himself in between them. I couldn’t say anything because his mouth was there again, coaxing my lips apart to invite himself in. I pushed against his chest gently to pull away from him.
“Killian,” I whispered. “Please…wait.”
He had moved down to my neck, nipping at the sensitive skin, which elicited a deep moan from my chest.
“Stop,” I said louder, trying to push him away again.
“You want this,” he breathed into my ear, seizing my wrists as he pinned them above my head.
“No, I don’t,” I said, my throat constricting from the lie that stung my mouth.
“You’re lying,” he growled, and he bit down on my earlobe.
I cried out, heaving my body up to throw him off, but he didn’t budge. My nails dug into my palms at the friction, resulting in the gnashing of my teeth as I tried to keep myself from giving him any reaction. He knew exactly how he was affecting me. Some of my self-control slipped after a short amount of time when I started grinding on him again. He wrapped me in his arms to sit upright so that I was sitting in his lap.
“Say you’ll have me,” he said.
My heart was beating savagely like an untamed animal just begging for salvation. Despite this, I shook my head and whispered, “No.”
He grabbed my arm harshly and pulled me closer to him. “Why?”
His warm breath made my lips quiver. In truth, I didn’t really know why. Killian is the only person I’ve associated with aside from Hyler. No one else had paid me any mind. That said, I didn’t have much to go off of when it came to having friends. Was Killian considered a friend? Isn’t that usually how dalliances start—with friendship? I couldn’t remember. Hyler had been my friend and he would have been my first. That said something, right?
“I don’t know,” I said hopelessly, now confused by my own thoughts. “I don’t know why you want me like this and I don’t know why I’m feeling this way—I just don’t know.”
He shook his head, saying, “No. That’s not good enough.”
I felt like I was going to cry from all the mixed feelings I had inside me. “What do you want me to say?”
“I want you to answer yes or no,” he said. “Tell me what you really want in this very moment.”
“Yes, I do want this, but…” I trailed off.
“But what? Give me one good reason why I shouldn’t take you, right here, right now.”
This was a Killian I had never seen before. Acting on impulse was not how he normally did things, since he always seemed to have some kind of plan, but it controlled him now as he looked at me hungrily. I said the first thing that came to mind.
“I’m not ready yet,” I replied softly.
It surprised me when he didn’t push the matter any further. We were quiet for a long time in the darkness of the room. Then he sighed frustratedly, falling back into the blankets at the foot of the bed in a defeated fashion. I closed my eyes, taking a deep breath in and slowly exhaling. Everything had happened so fast. My mind felt numb, as did my body. Even though this night had taken a wild turn, I still felt as if I had accomplished something. Tonight was proof that I still had some power over myself and that I could still say no if I wanted to. Killian, I think, proved something to himself as well, even if he wouldn’t say so. He had demonstrated his respect for my decisions, and me as a person, which was more than I could ever ask for. I would be ignorant, though, if I didn’t keep his deteriorating patience in mind. I could tell it was wearing thin with each passing day, and I felt as if it could have snapped tonight had I not been so truthful to him just a moment ago.
I lay down beside him on my side to watch him stare up at the ceiling. His eyes were unblinking, his breathing was uneven, and his body looked as rigid as a board. He deserved at least some praise for sparing me as I asked him to. When I reached out to lay my hand on his shoulder, however, he smacked it away. I flinched. Maybe I had spoken too soon.
“I don’t understand you,” I snapped.
“Good. Keep it that way.”
He stood from the bed, and without a single glance back, he walked out of the room and into the office where he slammed the door shut behind him. I blinked furiously after him, biting my lip as hard as I could to keep myself from screaming and crying like the childish little girl I had become. Just as any stubborn child would do, I turned away from the door to face the other wall, almost pouting. I was too mad to think about him at all. All I wanted was to sleep. So I did.
I didn’t even get up to light the candle.