Home > Love's Cruel Redemption (The Ghost Bird #12)(4)

Love's Cruel Redemption (The Ghost Bird #12)(4)
Author: C.L. Stone

It was another reason I needed to be more careful, especially if this was going to be my life from now on. Living between houses like this to split my time between them was going to require some adjustments. I had to remember where I was, follow the rules, mind the other people in the house.

I used the facilities and then ran the sink, splashing my face. I lingered there over the cool water, wanting to give a little time for Erica to have her talk with Kota. Hoping I hadn’t caused any trouble between them.

I surveyed the bathroom, trying to pull my mind out of it, for now, to focus on waking up. I borrowed a brush from a drawer and detangled my hair before twisting it again and putting it back into the clip. I was still in pajamas but planned to return upstairs to change once Luke came down.

There was a gentle knock at the door, and I opened it.

Nathan stood on the other side, his eyebrows up in surprise at seeing me, but then he smiled broadly. “Thought you were Jessica.”

“Nope,” I said. “You didn’t see her in the living room?”

“I didn’t see anyone. I just heard you making noises...” He came into the bathroom, leaving the door open. He wore jeans and a red hoodie, and some Nike sneakers. His reddish hair was a little wild, as it was getting a bit longer these days. He stretched his arms over his head, flexing, and his broad chest became more defined through the clothing. “I didn’t even see Max. They must be upstairs or in the garage or back porch or something. I came over to see you, anyway.”

“Is there something we need to do?” The question was generic, but I hoped my tone conveyed the true reason I was asking. There hadn't been word from the Academy in the past week about anything regarding my joining or the promise of looking in on me. There had only been updates about my parents. This left me feeling I might be racking up favors of some sort that I’d have to repay, or that they may reconsider I was too much trouble for the Academy to take on.

“I’m just hoping to get you out of the house,” he said. “You’ve been cooped up for a while. I’d go stir crazy.” He nodded toward the hallway. “Have you eaten?”

“No, but Kota was ordering in from the diner. If you go ask, he can get you something.”

“Sounds good to me.” He angled himself around me and leaned his butt against the sink. He leaned over, looking at me directly as I was facing the mirror. His blue eyes took on a glow when he looked at my face that had my blush returning. “How about after that we go for a walk? Or maybe we can take someone’s car downtown? What do you want to do?”

I loved the idea of getting away, even just for the day. I found it wonderful he seemed to know what I needed. He got used to my moods, I thought, when we were staying together for so long.

However, I still wasn’t sure if Kota or the others planned anything. Or if the Academy might call on them and we’d need to rush off to do something. “I think we should get out... If there’s nothing else we need to do. Luke and I were just talking about where to go today.”

He leaned against me a bit more, brushing his shoulder against mine. “I wouldn’t mind hanging out a little at some point, just the two of us. It feels like you’ve been gone awhile.”

For a long while, we spent most every night together, or hanging around the house, usually just the two of us. As it was now, being alone with one of them was hard to pull off. “If I’m not restricted to resting anymore, let’s go out after breakfast.” It was easy to say. However, I wasn’t sure how we were going to get away by ourselves. Would Kota want to go with us? Would the others want me to do something else?

I had to figure out how to spend time with each of the guys and in different ways. It was one of the things Mr. Blackbourne and others had mentioned.

And Nathan, and a couple others, were having a hard time with the idea of the relationship.

I did, too. I was still unsure I wasn’t making them unhappy, even if most said they wanted to try. We weren’t sure how this new relationship was going to work, but it wasn’t going to work at all if I didn’t get a chance to spend time with them.

“It doesn’t have to be for long,” Nathan said. He brightened up, and he leaned in, kissing me briefly on the cheek.

He lingered there, his lips brushing my skin.

Instinct had me tilting my head just enough until his lips met mine. I wanted to kiss him. I missed him. A lot.

He kissed me with his familiar, strong kisses that sent my mind spiraling. He leaned into it and enclosed a hand around my elbows. He tugged it gently to urge me close to him.



He always made me feel protected and safe. He was a rock, always there, always ready for anything.

Slowly, I eased back, remembering the problem with Erica. “Hang on,” I said quietly. I needed to tell him about it.

His eyes widened and he appeared concerned. His breath was hot near my face. “Did I do something wrong?” he asked very softly.

“No!” I gasped, probably a little loudly, but I didn’t want him to get the wrong idea. “No, no, no, no.” I struggled a little, wondering how to explain to him about what happened with Luke earlier. I tried to smile for him so he knew it wasn’t too serious. “It’s something else,” I said a little softer. I touched his lips gently with a forefinger, to indicate the kissing. “Not this.”

He kissed gently at my fingertip then turned to me fully and held me by the elbows. “It’s okay...” He paused. “I think I know. Give me a kiss and I’ll go find the others.”

“Don’t let me give you the wrong idea...” I wasn’t totally sure he knew what I was thinking, and clearly my touching his lips didn’t tell him what I meant. He was thinking of something else. Should I just tell him about Erica now?

Yet, I wasn’t sure how to explain what happened without telling him about kissing Luke. The relationship between us all was a sensitive topic. I struggled to stay it delicately, but my brain was still waking up, trying to formulate words.

“Listen, I trust you,” he said. “If it is about Kota... I mean.” He shook his head. “Never mind. Should we wait until after breakfast?” He leaned in, lips puckered, aiming for my cheek close to my mouth.

I waited, ready to accept this and just talk to him later when we hopefully would get out of the house. Probably for the better.

Nathan connected shortly with his kiss.

“Hey! Stop it!” Jessica’s voice called out from the hallway.

Nathan pulled away from me instantly and spun around. Jessica stood just shy of the slightly open bathroom door, looking in. Her eyes were wide, her hands at her cheeks.

Exactly how long had she been standing there? It was obvious from her expression she had witnessed Nathan leaning in with lips puckered and intent to kiss, and from her angle, it might have been hard to tell if we connected.

“Jessica...” Nathan said. He moved his hand slowly up, showing his palms to her. “I don’t know what you might’ve heard but...”

Her eyes widened, and she opened her mouth again and shouted, “Kota! Kota!” With that, she turned and bolted.

My mouth wrenched open, ready to call out to her, to tell her it was okay. That what she saw wasn’t what she thought was happening.

As we peeked out into the hall, she was already gone. Too late to catch up with her.

I shared a look with Nathan. I had no idea what Jessica might be telling Kota right now.

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