Home > Love's Cruel Redemption (The Ghost Bird #12)(9)

Love's Cruel Redemption (The Ghost Bird #12)(9)
Author: C.L. Stone

He didn’t want me to say anything else. Maybe I was adding to lies. It was hard enough to lie to her now, but I didn’t want Nathan to be blamed for something far worse than just trying to kiss his best friend’s girlfriend.

Kota waved his family members away. They backed out into the hallway and retreated. Kota stayed with me, hugging me for a minute after they were out of sight.

It gave me a moment to breathe. We couldn’t stay long, but it helped. I want to ask him what happened just now with Nathan, but when I pulled back a bit, I caught sight of his knuckles, one edge split and bleeding, the rest very red.

Instinct had me reaching to touch the red knuckles. When I did, he pulled back, hiding his hand behind his back.

He looked at me, shaking his head slowly and putting a finger to his lips.

Don’t talk about it.

If that was the case, then it had to be something to do with Nathan. He probably couldn’t say much with Erica and Jessica near.

What were we going to do now?

The Past Unforgotten

When Luke arrived with food from Bob’s, Kota pretended to get a phone call that there was a lecture at the university he forgot he volunteered to help host.

“Want to go with me, Sang?” he asked.

It was very unlikely I’d stay without him at that point, but I had a feeling he knew we needed to get out of the house. “Yes.”

“It’ll be good for the two of you to go out,” Erica said. “Take her someplace nice after.”

Kota turned to Luke. “I’ll drop you off at the diner, or at home, if you’d want?” His tone was awkward, and I had a feeling he was asking Luke not to refuse the offer.

“Uh, sure,” Luke said. He picked up our containers of pancakes. “Let’s take this on the road.”

Leaving the Lee house felt like escaping. I dressed quickly in jeans, a simple T-shirt that I was sure wasn’t mine, and wore one of Kota’s green hoodies.

We piled into Kota’s sedan, with me in the front seat and Luke taking food containers into the back. “Please tell me I can eat in the car,” he said. “And where are we going?”

“Hang on a second,” Kota said. He buckled his seatbelt and started the car.

In moments, we were pulling out of the drive. I sensed we were just waiting until we were out of visual range.

Kota released a long breath, almost making a whistling sound with his lips in an o shape. “I am so sorry about her.”

“What happened while I was in the bathroom?” I asked.

“I was gone for two minutes, and we’re already in trouble?” Luke asked, a blond eyebrow raising.

Kota quickly went over Jessica showing up to tell him Nathan was kissing Sang in the bathroom. Then he caught us up about Nathan and him discussing it out on the front lawn, and how they fake fought to make it look like Kota was angry with Nathan.

“We didn’t know how else to handle it.” He pushed a palm against his cheek, rubbing, but focused on the road. “Can I ask you something?” he asked me.


“Nathan didn’t...really...make you do anything, right?”

I gasped. “No! Of course not!”

He released the wheel shortly to wave his hand at me. “I trust him. I do. But...I have to ask. Not that I don’t trust him, but we all make mistakes. So if you ever feel pressured to do something you don’t want, like going out with me if you don’t feel in the mood...”

I conceded. “I know you wanted to get out of the house. I did, too. And maybe it’s a good thing right now.”

“I’m not sure where to take you.” He looked over at me. “With Volto out there and the chance of being followed by one of Mr. Hendricks’ guys...” He checked the rearview mirror. “Speaking of which...”

There was a dark sedan behind us, similar to Kota’s car. I didn’t recognize it, and we all paid attention to the cars on Sunnyvale Court. When we turned right, it followed. It was too close, too obvious it was following.

We were all quiet, watching the car as Kota drove into another neighborhood and made a couple turns.

Eventually, it turned off, either we were spooked and wrong about it, or the driver realized we knew and stopped following.

I breathed out a sigh. “For a while, I forgot about Mr. Hendricks.”

“Maybe that’s good,” Luke said. I turned to look at him. His usually cheery disposition had darkened into something much more serious. “It’s been a crazy couple of weeks. And you were supposed to be resting. Doc’s orders.”

“I can’t be restricted to rest forever. I feel better.” I looked back at him. “I mean, things are better than they were. By a lot.”

“We’ll all lay low for a few days,” Luke said. “This will blow over, too. It’ll be fine.”

Kota’s phone on the dash rang. He handed it to me. “Answer it?”

I blinked rapidly. Me?

I slid my finger across the screen to answer the call and put it on speaker.

“Kota,” Dr. Green’s voice came through immediately. “Tell me, who takes a man’s fine, leather notebook out of a section of notebooks clearly set aside as pristine...”

“Dr. Green...” Kota said, sounding exasperated.

“...examples of fine notebooks and scribbles a shopping list on the front page?”

Kota shook his head, and the corner of his mouth tilted up in a small smirk. “Mr. Blackbourne did this?”

“My mother. But do you know what Owen said?”

He dropped the smirk and winced during his response. “That they are... just notebooks?” Kota replied.

“He said it was good for me! That I’d never write in them because I treat them like Bibles.”

“I don’t know—”

“I just like them. I’ll write in them one day when my handwriting doesn’t look like a toddler still learning ABCs. They are way too nice for shopping lists.”

“Be nice to your mom,” Kota said, looking over at me.

“What?” Dr. Green blew a raspberry into the phone. “You’re sounding more like Owen every day. And not in the fun way.”

“Well, my mom just caught Nathan trying to kiss Sang,” Kota said, glancing at me once more before refocusing on the road.

“Oh.” Dr. Green was quiet for a couple of moments. “Oh...Bad.”

“Yeah, bad,” Kota said. He caught him up on what happened. “I don’t know what to do. I lied to her, but I can’t tell her about...I mean...”

“About Nathan also wanting to date Sang?”

“Yeah. We can’t tell her that. Right?”

“Why not?”

Kota snorted once and looked at me. “Tell him.”

“I don’t know what to do,” I said.

“Oh, is pumpkin there?” Dr. Green asked. “Hi pookie.”

“I’m here, too!” Luke said.

I made a small chuckle but refocused. “I don’t know her that well, but if she knew, what would she say?”

Dr. Green spoke, “She’d probably...think it was a phase, yeah? You should tell her.”

“It’s not like you’re telling your mom,” Kota said.

“Good point,” Dr. Green said. “I don’t even know if I should.”

Everyone was quiet for a moment. It was strange to consider what was happening. We were facing a reality. I’d nothing to lose with my family, because they didn’t want me. But Kota...would Erica or even Dr. Green’s mom...would Mrs. Midori ever understand? What about Uncle?

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