A Fistful of Charms
A Fistful of Charms
Жанр: Фэнтези про драконов
Год издания: 2019
I ducked back inside and shut my underwear drawer just before Kisten came in, the soft and certain steps of his dress shoes distinct on the hardwood floor. The scent of pizza and someone else’s perfume hung about him, and by his carefully styled hair, clean-shaven cheeks, expensive dress slacks and silk shirt, I knew he had come from work. I liked the respectable, financially successful club manager aspect of Kisten as much as his rougher, bad boy image. He could do both equally well.
“Hi, love,” he said, hitting his fake British accent hard to make me smile. A rain-spotted paper grocery bag was in his hands, the top rolled down. I padded forward in my sneakers, having to reach to give him a hug. My fingers played with the damp tips of his hair as I drew away, and he smiled, enjoying the tease.
“Hi,” I said, reaching for the bag. “Is that them?”
Nodding, he gave it to me, and I set it on the bed, opening it and peering inside. As I had asked, there was a pair of sweatpants and a soft flannel sweatshirt.
Kisten looked at the bag, clearly wanting to know why, but all he said was, “Ivy’s out?”
“She went to get Jenks because of the rain.” Pensive, I opened a lower drawer and packed another T-shirt. “She missed him as much as me,” I finished softly.
Looking tired, Kisten sat at the head of my bed, his long fingers rolling the top of the bag down. I closed my suitcase but didn’t zip it. It was unusual for him to leave Piscary’s club mid-hours. Clearly something was bothering him. I straightened, arms crossed, and waited for it.
“I don’t think you should go,” he said, his voice serious.
My mouth fell open, surprise shifting to anger when I pieced it together. “Is this about Nick?” I said, turning to my dresser to pack the ungodly expensive bottle of perfume that kept my natural scent from mixing with a vampire’s. “Kisten, I’m over him. Give me some credit.”
“That’s not why. Ivy—”
“Ivy!” I stiffened, glancing into the empty hall. “What about her? Is Piscary…”
His slowly moving head said no, and I relaxed a notch. “He’s leaving her alone. But she relies on you more than you know. If you go, things might shift.”
Flustered, I jammed the perfume into a zippy bag and dropped it into a pocket in my vanity case. “I’m only going to be gone for a week, maybe two. It’s not as if I’m her scion.”
“No. You’re her friend. And that’s more important than anything else to her right now.”
Arms crossed, I leaned back against my dresser. “This isn’t my responsibility—I have my own life,” I protested. “Gods, we share rent. We aren’t married!”
Kisten’s eyes were dark in the dim light from my table lamp, his brow pinched with worry. “You have coffee with her every day when she wakes up. You’re across the hall when she shuts the curtains before going to sleep. That might not mean much to you, but it’s everything to her. You’re her first real friend in…Damn, I think it’s been over ten years.”
“You’re her friend,” I said. “And what about Skimmer?”
“You’re her only friend not after her blood,” he amended, his eyes sad. “It’s different.”
“Well, just crap on that,” I said, picking up my last favorite earring but not knowing what to do with it. Disgusted, I threw it away. “Ivy hasn’t said anything to me about not leaving.”
“Rachel…” He stood, coming to take my elbows in his grip. His fingers were warm, and I felt them tighten and relax. From the living room, jazz rose and fell. “She won’t.”
I dropped my head, frustrated. “Never once did I tell her I’d be anything but what we are now,” I said. “We aren’t sharing a bed or blood or anything! I don’t belong to her, and keeping her together isn’t my job. Why is this all on me, anyway? You’ve known her longer than I.”
“I know her past. You don’t. She leans on you more because of your ignorance of what she was.” He took a hesitant breath before he continued. “It was ugly, Rachel. Piscary warped her into a viciously savage lover who couldn’t separate blood from lust or love. She survived by becoming something she hated, accepting the pattern of self-abuse of trying to please everyone she thought she loved.”
I didn’t want to hear this, but when I tried to move, his grip tightened.
“She’s better now,” he said, his blue eyes pleading for me to listen. “It took her a long time to break the pattern, and even longer to start to feel good about herself. I’ve never seen her happier, and like it or not, it’s because of you. She loves Skimmer, but that woman is a big part of what Ivy was and how she got there, and if you leave…”
My jaw tightened and I stiffened, not liking this at all. “I am not Ivy’s keeper,” I said, gut twisting. “I did not sign up for this, Kisten!”
But he only smiled, soft and full of understanding and regret. I liked Ivy—I liked her, respected her, and wished I had half her willpower—but I didn’t want anyone relying on me that heavily. Hell, I could hardly take care of myself, much less a powerful, mentally abused vampire.
“She won’t ask more than you can give,” he said. “Especially if she needs it. But you did move in with her, and more telling, you stayed when your relationship began to evolve.”
“Excuse me?” I said, trying to pull away. He wouldn’t let go, and I jerked from him, falling two steps back.
Kisten’s expression had a hint of accusation. “She asked you to be her scion,” he said.
“And I said no!”
“But you forgave her for trying to force you, and you did it without a second thought.”
This was crap. He had heard all of this. Why was he making such a big deal about it? “Only because I jumped on her back and breathed in her ear when we were sparring!” I said. “I pushed her too far, and it wasn’t her fault. Besides, she was scared that if she didn’t make me her scion, Piscary was going to kill me.”
Kisten nodded, his calm state helping to dissipate my anger. “It was a no-win situation,” he said softly. “And you both handled it the best you could, but the point is, you did jump on her knowing what it might trigger.”
I took a breath to protest, then turned away, flustered. “It was a mistake, and I didn’t think it was right to walk out because I made a mistake.”
“Why not?” he insisted. “People leave all the time when someone makes a mistake.”
Frightened, I went to push past him. I had to get out of there.
“Rachel,” he said loudly, jerking me into him. “Why didn’t you leave right then? No one would have thought any less of you.”
I took a breath, then let it out. “Because she is my friend,” I said, eyes down, and keeping my voice low so it wouldn’t shake. “That’s why. And it wouldn’t be fair for me to leave because of my mistake, because she…relies on me.”
My shoulders slumped, and Kisten’s grip on me eased, pulling me closer.
“Damn it, Kist,” I said, putting my cheek to his shirt and breathing in his scent. “I can hardly take care of myself. I can’t save her too.”
“No one said you had to,” he said, his voice rumbling into me. “And no one says it’s going to stay this way. Helping to keep you alive and unbound with that scar of yours makes Ivy feel worthwhile—that she’s making the world a better place. Do you know how hard that is for a vampire to find? She leans on you harder than me because she feels responsible for you and you owe her.”
There is that, I thought, remembering how vulnerable my unclaimed vampire scar made me. But my debt to Ivy wasn’t why I hadn’t left. Nick had said I was making excuses to stay in an unsafe situation, that I had wanted her to bite me. I couldn’t believe that. It was just friendship. Wasn’t it?
Kisten’s hand across my hair was soothing, and I put my arms around his waist, finding comfort in his touch. “If you leave,” he said, “you take her strength.”
“I never wanted this,” I said. How had I become her lodestone? Her savior. All I wanted was to be her friend.
“I know.” His breath moved my hair. “Will you stay?”
I swallowed, not wanting to move. “I can’t,” I said, and he gently pushed me back until he could see my face. “Jenks needs me. It’s just a quick run. Five hundred miles. How much trouble could Nick and Jax be in? They probably just need bail money. I’ll be back.”
Kisten’s face was creased, his elegant grace marred by sorrow. The caring he felt for me and for Ivy were mixed together and somehow beautiful. “I know you will. I just hope Ivy is here when you do.”
Uncomfortable, I went to my closet and pretended to shuffle for something. “She’s a big girl. She’ll be fine. It’s only a day’s drive.”
He took a breath to say something, then stopped, shifting from foot to foot as he changed his mind. Going back to the bed, he opened the crinkling bag of sweats and looked inside. “What do you want these for anyway? A disguise? Or is it to remember me by?”
Glad at the shift in topics, I turned with my butt-kicking boots in hand and set them by the bed. “Remember you by?”