The Guild – Chapter 75 – Kaitlyn

    Relieved is an understatement of what I feel as we leave the cafeteria. Andrei’s jealousy took me off guard, to say the least. Does he think Nik would try to steal me away? Or does he not trust me, that I would cheat on him? I don’t understand it. What would give him that idea?

    I find myself wishing Rhoan was here. He would know what to do. I wonder if he’ll even speak to me, after what I said in the crypt…

    I sigh to myself. Another thing I screwed up, in a long list of screw-ups. The most pressing one, however, is that mystery girl that we brought to the guild. I look at every face as we pass. They greet me, welcoming me home. I smile and nod at them. Why can’t I remember her face?

    I try to bring up the memory, shoved to the back of my mind for so long… but all I can see is Ryan. Her face, twisted in pain, black magic spreading through her veins, leaving a spider-web across her skin. I bite the inside of my lip. Crying won’t help anyone right now. I need to find Caroline.

    At the great wooden door, etched with images of the sea, I hesitate. “I hope that professor isn’t here,” I mutter to myself, hand shaking as I reach toward the door. Just like the last time, the water image recoils from my touch with a quiet hiss. I roll my eyes.

    Inside, the room is eerily quiet. As I step around the first water column, I see the form of a woman, made of pure water standing by the pool at the back of the room. To the left, Kaede stares at a watch in his hand. I stare at the water figure for a moment before it clicks. That’s Caroline. She’s figured out the same thing I did. A smile crosses my lips as I approach her.

    “You’ve come so far since the last time I was here,” I state loudly, teasing. “I wonder how you would fare in a fight now.”

    The water figure dissolves into the pool and Caroline climbs out, wearing her white bikini. “Kat! Andrei! What are you doing here?”

    “Looking for a fight, obviously,” I respond with a cheeky grin. “Why else would we come here?”

    “Well, if it’s a fight you want, she’s got some sick new moves,” Kaede jokes, eyebrows wiggling.

    “I don’t want to fight, but if you want to train I’d be more than happy to join you,” Caroline smiles.

    I tilt my head. “What’s the difference?”

    “Well, I suppose one is because you’re angry, and the other is with a friend,” Caroline purses her lips.

    “You shouldn’t be training so soon after being injured. We just healed your shoulder yesterday,” Andrei speaks up, his expression disapproving.

    I force my grin to stay in place as my hands slide into the pocket of my hoodie. “A little skirmish never hurt anyone… but maybe just to be safe,” I concede,  fingers playing with the little cardboard box, hidden in the pouch.

    “What? I thought your shoulder was healed by Nik?” Caroline asks with worry.

    “It was, but he left the bullet in there, which was causing the lead poisoning,” Andrei grumbles.

    “Oh, that’s horrible. I’m sure it was just a mistake,” Caroline replies.

    “Actually, a skirmish might help her build her muscles back up and speed the rate of healing,” Kaede informs, quite matter of fact. We turn to look at him at the same time. I actually knew that. It’s usually what I do, but I don’t want to argue with Andrei anymore today.

    I cough. “Um, yeah. So, anyway, we wanted to ask you something. Well, a couple things, actually.”

    “Oh?” Caroline perks up. “What can I help with?”

    I glance at Andrei from the side of my eye. “Well, he has this dream sometimes, and there’s a woman there… She said to ask the elements about the artifacts. I think she meant it literally. Could you maybe… talk to the water?” I scrunch my face as I ask. I know how weird it sounds.

    “A dream?” Caroline hums.

    “Of another woman?” Kaede smirks, walking up to us. Caroline elbows him in the gut.

    “Not like that, Kae,” Andrei growls.

    “Mm, yeah, I talk to the water all the time. It won’t actually shut up,” Caroline pouts.

    I sag my shoulders. “I know the feeling.”

    “You do?!” She bursts. “God, I thought I was the only one!”

    I laugh. “No, you’re not. I’m just used to ignoring it,” my fingers twitch. It quivers somewhere in my chest, annoyed at my comment.

    Kaede starts. “Does she look like S-”

    “Shut up!” Caroline snaps. Andrei glares at Kaede.

    I glance between the three of them, surprised. “Did I… miss something?”

    “Ignore him,” Caroline waves dismissively. “Kae’s just being a bug today. Anyway, you’re looking for the last two artifacts, right?”

    I frown. Something is weird. “Um… yeah, and another thing,” how do I explain this without sounding like a basket case? I pull a cigarette out of the box in my pocket, twirling it in my fingers in the pouch. God, I wish I could smoke right now.

    “The roman woman mentioned the elements with attributes like Fire’s Wrath and Wind’s Mirror. She said, Water’s Tears and Earth’s Delicacy,” Andrei explains. I feel his gaze in the corner of my eye.

    “Sounds cryptic. It’s hard to get a straight answer out of the water but I’ll see what I can do. I assume you’ll be asking Nik about the earth one?” Caroline asks casually.

    “Already did,” I answer quickly. “He’s on it. So, if you wanna…” I gesture toward the water around us.

    She blushes. “Okay… I’ve never done it with so many people watching.”

    “We could go if that helps,” I offer, turning away. “Oh. Um, before we do… I was wondering,” I chew my lip. “Do you remember… when we were in that coffee shop. There was someone else there?”

    “Coffee shop? Oh… The coffee shop. Yea, what of it?” Caroline asks, suspicious.

    “Did she… come back here with us?” I stare at the floor.

    “Yes, she did,” Caroline’s voice shakes. “It was Samantha, but uh… she went out on a mission. So I haven’t seen her around.”

    “Damn it,” I hiss under my breath. “If you do… don’t let her back in,” I look up, trying hard to keep my face composed. “She had the dart. She killed Ryan.”

    “What?!” All three of them yell at the same time. I flinch.

    “How do you know this?” Caroline demands, brows forming a deep line between her eyes.

    My lip trembles. “Ryan told me. She… She knew there was someone else there. She tried to tell me, before she…” I can’t bring myself to say it. They know what happened. “I saw her in that place. The dream world, or whatever it was.”

    “That’s awful… She tricked us all,” Caroline says quietly, her eyes focused on Andrei. I look to see him staring into space, his face like he’s seen a ghost.

    “… All?” I repeat. How does Andrei know that girl? He wasn’t even in the same time when this happened.

    “Well, she was here after you left. Andrei came back just after,” Caroline states vaguely.

    I frown at her. That doesn’t explain anything. “What did she do?” I get the feeling I’m missing something huge. I look at Kaede. He’s got a big mouth, maybe he’ll tell me what they’re not.

    “He was bound to meet her but she left. So, there’s nothing to worry about… now…” Caroline trails off. “I’m going to go ask the water now, you can stay if you want.”

    I glance between her and Andrei. “I didn’t ask if it was about him…” I mumble. Why would she say something so weirdly specific? “I need to go,” I spin on my heel, heading for the door. Don’t they trust me? Why are they protecting this girl?

    “Kat, wait up!” Andrei calls, catching my wrist as I step into the hall. I stop, but I don’t look back. Is he angry again?

    “Aren’t you going to wait for Caroline to get her answer? What’s wrong?” he asks, his hand still clamped around my wrist. I can hear Caroline’s voice in the room, talking to herself.

    “You don’t trust me… I guess I deserve that. I betrayed you, and I left you here with a murderer. I should… at least make sure she can’t come back,” I mumble. “I’m such an idiot.”

    “Why would you think I don’t trust you? Of course, I trust you,” he insists. “She’s not coming back. Her mission… She’s not allowed to come back. I don’t know the details…”

    I glance back to study his face. He looks torn, and the words don’t make any sense. “Which is it? Is she on a mission or is she banned from the Guild?” I ask, harsher than I intended. “I understand if you don’t trust me, but you don’t have to lie to me,” I pull my arm free and head down the hall. I don’t know where I’m going yet, but I can’t hold back the tears as my eyes sting. Maybe coming back was a mistake after all.

    I find myself in the training hall. At least things make sense here. I pull out a cigarette before pulling my hoodie off. Underneath, I’ve got a black tank top and tights. Those who are working out in the gym drop their weights and fall in line behind me. I drop my sweater, grab a hair tie, and make a beeline for the danger room. I need to burn something.

***

    I pant, wiping the sweat off my brow as I step out of the danger room. The room erupts in cheering and clapping. I cover my ears. A few hands pat my back before the questions start.

    “Leave me alone,” I snap. “I’m not in the mood.”

    The students’ faces crack, they’re hurt, but they obey. The crowd files out of the gym slowly. I gather my sweater from where it hangs on a machine and pull out a cigarette, glad to be alone.

    “You’re not very nice to your adoring fans,” someone teases. I glance over my shoulder to see Kaede, casually leaning against the wall. “That was wicked cool, by the way.”

    “Thanks, I think,” I roll my eyes. “Doesn’t seem to do me any good when I actually need it. All the fighting skills in the world can’t help me now.”

    “What, the fans? Yea, fans are a bother,” he chuckles.

    “No,” I sigh, “They’re… fine. One day they hate me, the next, I’m some kind of hero or something. If they knew anything, they’d go back to hating.”

    “Shooting fire can have that effect on people, you know. Good thing there is free choice. Anyway, have you seen your number one fan? I’ve been looking for him,” he asks casually.

    I take a drag of my cigarette. “I don’t think he’s a fan anymore.”

    “Are you kidding me? You’re horrible at joking, Kat. You should definitely not quit your day job,” Kaede shakes his head.

    I turn to him, exhausted. “He can hardly touch me without flinching away or having this pained look on his face. It seems like he’s forcing himself to be with me, but I don’t know why. What did I do?”

    “It’s… not really something you did, and it’s not his fault either,” he steps away from the wall. “If you don’t know already, Andrei is horrible with words and has really good looks. It’s almost like he was born to be a model or something.”

    I feel my cheeks flush at the thought. He’s not wrong. “Get to the point.”

    “I don’t know all the details about what happened while you were gone. I was honestly more focused on tracking you down, using your phone,” he grins.

    “Oh, right… I think it died,” I sneer at the memory. I left it on my dresser when I put my jacket away this morning. “So then what?”

    “Tech needs a plug, you know,” he laughs.

    “I don’t think that was the issue,” I shake my head. “Not important.”

    “Fine, fine, I’ll get to the point. Caroline promised Andrei she wouldn’t tell, but I made no such promise, so my conscience is clear,” he puffs his chest out proudly. I raise an eyebrow. “You know she’s loyal and all, not that I’m not, but sometimes a roomie’s got to do the hard stuff to keep his bro’s back.”

    “Sometime in this century, please,” I groan, rubbing my temple. One cigarette was not enough to calm my nerves.

    “Where should I start… Samantha is… old business to Andrei. No one’s ever seen her before, except him, ‘cause she was his ex. But, besides that, when she came here, she caused us a lot of problems, especially for Andrei,” he leans in closer, whispering. “What the other two won’t tell you is that she used a spell on Andrei, made him forget you even existed and made him fall in love with her again. I don’t know what else happened. I was busy, remember? But I do know Car and Andi found out and got back at her. They sent her packing. So, they weren’t lying when they said she won’t be a problem anymore.

    “I personally think Andrei blames himself, though,” he says, leaning back against the wall. “When he got back, he was pretty torn. Selene said some choice words to him and he passed out and didn’t wake up for like, a day. If you ask me, he was mentally weak and Sam took advantage of that. I still have no idea what her magic is, but she’s not one to mess with lightly, especially if what you said about her killing Ryan is true.”

    My knees feel like jello. I slowly sit down on one of the work-out benches, my mind running a mile a minute. He fell under a love spell, and forgot about me? Is that even possible? I thought that love was supposed to be stronger than that. Did he not love me, really? Or did I just hurt him that badly?

    “I did this. Poor Andrei,” I whisper. “No wonder he can barely look at me. I did this to him.”

    “Yeah, but now’s not the time for blame,” he says so blatantly.  “Andrei won’t tell you cause he’s a baby and thinks you’ll leave him if he does. He’s got no social skills, other than flirting, and flamboyancy when it comes to fighting. Oh, and that time jumping stuff,” he grins as he kneels in front of me. “I’m not supposed to know, or tell anyone. So if you find him, take off his glasses, k?”

    I blink. “Glasses?”

    “It’s a metaphor,” he rolls his eyes.

    I glance at the door of the danger room. “You think I have the energy for metaphors? Besides, if you’re not supposed to know, how am I supposed to know?”

    “That’s the beauty of a relationship. You read each other’s actions and figure out what they aren’t saying, and what they need. Why do you think Caroline is still with me?” Kaede winks. “Andrei is like a crab. He’s got a tough outer shell but he’s soft on the inside. Say the right thing and he’ll crack for you. It shouldn’t be that hard. You’re Kat, after all. He’d be lost without you.”

    I’m not so sure I believe that. “What if I say the wrong thing?”

    “What could possibly go wrong?” he shrugs.

    I narrow my eyes. “Have you seen my track record?”

    “Point taken,” he nods.

    I stand up. “Okay. I’ll give it a shot… I guess it’s up to you guys if I mess it up.”

    Kaede laughs. “Deal.”

    ***

    I’ve looked everywhere I can think of. The rooms, the baths, the library, cafeteria. I’ve got my sweater tied around my waist now as I jog down the halls.

    “Where the hell?” I gasp, talking to myself. I lean over, hands on my knees, trying to catch my breath.

    “Have you tried the roof?” a voice catches me off guard. I jump, spinning around. The hall is empty, most people are probably eating dinner by now. A little orange cat sits on the marble floor, green eyes glowing in the evening sun.

    “Rhoan?” my voice cracks. “What are you… I mean… I’m sorry, for before, and everything.”

    The cat licks its paw. “No need to be sorry. There was a lot going on. I should be sorry, that I did not stop you,” I drop my gaze. I don’t know if he could have. “That’s not the issue at hand, however. Have you checked the roof?”

    I tilt my head. “No. How do you know what I’m looking for?”

    Rhoan’s deep voice chuckles. “There seems to be only one thing you look for these days. Go on. We can catch up later.”

    “Um… Okay.” I turn slowly. “Thanks…”

    He was right. On a relatively flat area of the castle roof, I spot a figure. It’s starting to get dark, but there’s enough light to make out a silhouette. I walk along the tiles carefully. My legs are sore and unsteady. As I get close, he notices me. His eyes grow wide and he turns his face away.

    As I get closer, I crouch down and crawl across the roof. I sense a tingle across my body, and notice the breeze all but disappears. My body moves slower than I expect, and I recognize magic at work.

    “Andrei?” I speak slowly, my voice sounds off.

    “You found me,” he mumbles. “Why?”

    “Why did I find you?” I ask. “What does that mean? You’ve been gone for hours. Everyone is worried.”

    “I have?” he sounds confused.

    “You’re the time mage,” I point out. “Can’t you tell? It’s already sunset.”

    “Oh…”

    I clench my teeth. Why is he acting like this? I grab the front of his shirt, yanking it towards me. “Cut it out! Whatever this is, stop it!” my eyes sting with frustration.

    “I don’t know how!” he shouts back.

    “I don’t care what happened with that girl,” I yell and immediately bite my lips together. I hate yelling. “Whatever happened between you, it wasn’t you. Not really. Charm spells are banned for a reason.”

    His eyes grow wide and he looks in pain and shocked at the same time. “How do you- You would care if you knew what she did… What we did,” he whispers.

    It doesn’t surprise me. I wouldn’t expect any less. “No, I don’t,” I relax my grip on his shirt. “Do you still want her, now that the spell is broken?”

    “Of course not. I hate her,” his eyes burn with sudden fierceness.

    I shake my head, relieved. “Then why would I hold against you what she made you do? That doesn’t make any sense, Andrei,” he bites his lip, still torn, as though holding back. I heave a sigh. “Yes, even if you had sex. I don’t care.”

    His eyes bulge, his face turns bright red. It takes a long moment before he speaks. “I cheated on you. Even under her spell, I couldn’t prevent it from happening! Kat, I’m so sorry. You must hate me so much. I don’t deserve you. I wanted you back so bad and… and she made me forget about you and I tried to say no. I don’t know what came over me, all I know is everything feels awful and wrong.”

    “She took away your ability to say no,” I say, very bluntly. “The fact that you overcame it, and chased her off is enough to show you didn’t want her. You still came for me in the end, right?”

    “Caroline helped me with that. She made me read my journals, the ones with you in them,” he admits, hanging his head. “I made her promise not to tell you, I’m sorry about what happened in the hall of water. That was my fault too.”

    I shake my head, hands now resting on his chest. “Sometimes we need help. I’m just sorry I wasn’t there to stop it from happening.”

    He grabs my arm, pulling me into him, squeezing tightly. “The last thing I wanted was to make you feel like I couldn’t trust you,” he mumbles into my hair.

    I slide my arms up his back and hook onto his shoulders. “I could never hate you, Andrei. No matter what.”

    He remains silent for a long while. When he speaks I almost jump. “I should tell you, you should know,” he sighs, holding me tightly. “Samantha is my ex. She’s the only one I ever told I had time magic,” he speaks slowly like he’s choosing his words very carefully. “She was the only one who didn’t leave when I disappeared and she was really interested in me. This was back in high school, before I dropped out.  She made me feel alive back then. Rebellious, even.

    “She left me one day. Didn’t say a thing, only left a note. I still lived at home at that time. I took it bad back then until Kaede met Caroline and she helped me out of my depression. I was starting to feel like my old self again, just before I met you and what not. This… this mess just undid a lot of what I’d been working so hard to become. And what with everyone one turning into Guardians around me and moving on, I just… I feel like… like I’m not good enough to be on the team anymore,” his voice cracks a bit.

    “I’m afraid of being used like she used me. I don’t want to be just another pawn. I want to be part of the team…” he finally stops, heaving a heavy sigh.

    “Andrei,” I sit back and take his face in both hands, it feels rough against my palms with the beard. “You’re the most important part of the team. Everything falls apart without you. I mean, let’s be honest, I can’t do anything on my own. I… I need you.”

    He looks at me, lip trembling. Silence falls between us, only to be interrupted by a loud rumbling. My cheeks flush and I can’t help but laugh, embarrassed. My stomach has the worst timing!

    His face cracks into a weak smile. “You haven’t eaten since morning have you?”

    I try to pout, but I don’t think it works. “My point exactly. I was… well, I was working up an appetite, I guess you could say.”

    “How did you even survive those two and a half weeks?” he snickers. “What did you eat?”

    “Two weeks? I thought it was almost a month… um, bar food, like chips and stuff I guess. Whatever was there,” I shrug, “I don’t really remember anything else.”

    “Was it? That’s strange, I don’t recall that many days…I usually remember each day… Kat, that’s all fried food! That’s so bad for you!”

    “At least it was something?” I argue. “I probably would’ve starved otherwise.”

    “Good point,” he sighs looking up into my eyes. “I’ll make sure never to jump without first letting you guys know. That way we can not have any more accidents or misunderstandings.”

    I smile, relieved. “I’d appreciate that… though I hope you’ll take me with you if anyone. I was so afraid when you two disappeared. I know how taking another person is hard on you.”

    “Nah,” he dismisses. “It’s not that hard. I feel like I am getting better at managing the power. I’d like to try it again sometime. I wonder how taking more than one person feels.”

    I frown. “Let’s not get ahead of ourselves, ok? We still have those artifacts to find,” I look around. The sun has almost set completely. It’ll be dark in a few minutes. “Are you ready to come back inside?”

    “No,” he states simply as his hands reach up and twine themselves into my hair. He turns my face back toward him and then pulls me down close. His lips press against mine, gently, like the first time. His beard tickles my nose but I try to ignore it.

    I slip my arms around his neck and press my body against his chest. A flood of emotions wash over me. I didn’t realize I’d been waiting for this so badly. I don’t want to let go.

    Unfortunately, my stomach has other ideas. It roars, and I’m sure he could probably feel it against his chest. I break the kiss and lean my forehead against his. “Damn it… Why’d I use so much energy today? Stupid Kat…”

    “What did you do?” he asks.

    I make a noise something similar to a squirrel trying to escape a trap. “Ummm…. You know, how Kaede was saying that training would help like, rebuild muscles and stuff… and the fire was really bugging me to use it and all. It gets lonely sometimes. So I went to the d-er… training room.”

    “D what now?” his eyes narrow.

    “Nothing,” I sing, sort of half standing up, half crouching. “So, food? Inside? Yes?”

    “Riiiight,” he eyes me suspiciously. “What do you say to Ramen? Fast, healthy and sort of… reminiscent, yes?”

    I feel a bit of blush return. “You may have to show me how the sticks work again.”

    ***

    The cafeteria is relatively empty when we get there. Andrei makes quick work of the kitchen and emerges with a pair of steaming bowls. He stands behind me, reaching around my shoulders to manipulate the pair of sticks in my hand. I feel the same butterflies as I had the first night we’d met.

    As we head back toward the dorms, I notice that I’m still sweaty and kind of gross from spending hours training. At the same time, I want to get back to our room… He walks beside me, his fingers laced with mine, quiet.

    “Andrei?” I start, getting his attention. “I think I’d like a bath… would you join me?”

    He looks down at me from the side with a happy grin. “Like Camelot? I’d love to. Why are the dorms so far away…”

    “Cause it’s a castle?” I ask rhetorically.

    “I don’t want to wait. Do you want to see how fast I can go?” he asks slyly.

    I raise an eyebrow, not entirely sure what he’s implying. “Okay.”

    He wraps his arm around my waist, holding my hand with his other hand. “Now, just step normally, I’ll take care of the rest, ‘Kay?”

    “If you say so…” I take a hesitant step. The walls fly by in a blur. I feel like I should be falling, but he gently pushes me to keep going. In less than a dozen steps, we’re outside the baths. “Wow…” I breathe, stunned.

    “How was it? Too fast?” he asks, still holding me as though I may fall.

    “That was… interesting. How does that not make you dizzy?” I gawk at him.

    “Well, I have a trick. Usually, I slow down the larger space around me a bit so I can anticipate others actions, and I speed up my own time so I appear even faster to those around me. Otherwise, I just focus on my goal, or a point of reference and ignore everything else around me… try not to see it,” he smirks.

    “I’ll try to remember that,” I muse as I head into one of the baths. There are a few that are co-ed, though I don’t think it’s intended for this purpose. When he follows me through the door, I lock it behind him and make sure no one else is in the small change room.

    I feel hands on my hips and I’m spun around. The cold metal of the lockers presses against my back at the same time his warm body presses against my chest. He kisses me, harder than on the roof, stealing my breath.

    My sweater falls away from my waist, his hands finding their way under my shirt. I shiver as his palms caress my sides, sliding upward slowly. I find the button of his jeans. It pops open without a fuss. He smirks against my lips and breaks away just long enough to pull my shirt over my head.

    He kicks off his jeans and pulls me away from the locker. I walk backward at his direction, I assume toward the hot spring bath. His fingers unhook my bra and it too falls discarded on the tiles. I grab handfuls of his shirt and push it up.

    He breaks away to allow me to pull it over his head. Before he has a chance to swoop back in, I notice something. On his chest, about where his heart should be, is a small round mark. It looks almost like an ornate pocket watch, and it glows with a familiar light.

    I dodge his kiss, tracing the outline with my finger.

    “What?” he pouts.

    “Where did you get this?” I whisper.

    “Get what?” he looks down, confused.

    “It’s… a Guardian mark,” I realize. I lean back, studying his aura more closely.

    “I’ve never seen that before! I swear! When could I have…”he trails off.

    “When was the last time you saw yourself undressed?” I ask. It’s a weird question. “What happened between now and then?”

    “Just before we left here to go get you. I haven’t looked at myself in a mirror since then,” he states. “As to what happened…” he shrugs, staring at me.

    “The dream world… I guess forcing your way into that place, maybe it awoke the power,” I suggest.

    “But… I did that before when I passed out after Romania. I don’t know how, but I woke up there first.”

    “Subconsciously waking up there, and forcing your way in I think are two different things,” I muse, as though it should be obvious. “I guess you were worried about nothing. You are a Guardian after all,” I pull his bare chest against me, relishing the warmth of his skin.

    “I guess you’re right…” he hums, wrapping his arms around my shoulders. “It’s thanks to you then,” he looks down at me, his eyes almost glowing.

    I grin, as I slide my fingers under the waistband of his boxers. “I guess you should thank me then.”

    He gulps, blushing at my touch. I move slowly, watching his face. In the back of my mind, I’m keenly aware that he may feel uncomfortable at any moment.

    He leans in close to my face, noses not quite touching, as he slides his hands under the waist of my tights and pushes them down carefully. I lean back and perch on one of the rocks around the bath and watch him peel the tights off my legs.

    As he starts to stand up again, his fingers trace the new scars that mark my skin, still pink. He leans down and kisses each one, leaving a trail along my stomach, across my chest, and finally, his hands rest on my jaw, his hazel eyes boring into me. It’s hard to tell with the beard, but I think he’s frowning.

    “I wonder if time can make these disappear?” he hums lovingly.

    “Only time could tell,” I reply, hooking my legs around his hips and pulling him closer.

    “Hmm, good thing I’m it,” he leans in to kiss my lips, greedily.

    Clothes forgotten, I carefully maneuver myself back until I feel the water. I pull my legs back, leading him by the lips to follow me into the steaming pool.

    He breaks away to climb over the rocks. I sink into the water, admiring him shamelessly. He probably could be a model, if he wanted… but I want to keep him to myself.

    “Thank you,” he says as he lowers himself into the water. “For smoking that cigarette outside the library, even though the sign said not to.” he winks.

    It takes me a moment to catch on. At first, I think he means today. Then I remember, the first day on that university campus. I crawl into his lap, resting my arms around his neck.

    “Even then, you were the one who saved me,” I flick his nose with my own. “Mister Hero.”

 

aBy Krystyna Yates

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