Blood Prophecy Page 79

Kieran.

He was standing right there behind me, on the edge of the roots. I had no idea how long he’d been there. The wind had covered his scent and my own misery had muffled the sound of his heartbeat. He was perfectly still, wearing a dark gray fisherman’s sweater and his usual black cargos. His dark hair was ruffled by the wind and there was the faintest scrape of stubble on his jaw. I couldn’t look away, even as scared as I was to see what might be reflected in his black eyes. I expected anger, disgust, even fear. But he only looked as startled as I felt, as if he wasn’t even sure I was real.

Nicholas came around the tree and we still hadn’t moved.

“Kieran.” He was the first to speak, breaking the silence that was starting to feel like a spell, weaving around us. Kieran and I might have stood there staring at each other for the rest of the night otherwise. If he didn’t speak, I couldn’t hear the recrimination in his voice. I straightened my spine, wanting to hear whatever he had to say. I owed him that much, at least.

“Hey, man,” Nicholas continued, as if he wasn’t surrounded by frozen mimes. “It’s good to see you.”

Kieran tore his gaze from mine as if it was physically painful. “Nicholas.” They didn’t shake hands but clasped forearms as usual, like fellow warriors.

“Well, I guess it’s safe to leave you here for a bit,” Nicholas said. He eyed Kieran’s friends, who were equally frozen behind him. “I’m going to go for a walk.” He tossed me a grin before loping away and becoming just another shadow in the forest.

What exactly did you say to the boy you’d kissed senseless and then nearly killed?

I licked my lips. “Hi.”

Oh my god, I really was an idiot.

Kieran blinked. A ghost of a smile nearly tugged at the side of his mouth. “Hi.”

We stared at each other for another interminable moment, longer than any history exam Aunt Hyacinth had ever set me. I squirmed. He slipped on a pair of nose plugs.

“I’m learning to control the pheromones,” I said quietly. He didn’t take them off.

But he also didn’t look away, even as he spoke to his friends. “Go away, guys.”

I could hear them leaving, one of them whispering, “That’s her? She’s so tiny.”

And then it was just Kieran and me alone in the woods.

I’d literally never felt so awkward in my entire life.

“Are you okay?” we both blurted out at the same time.

“I didn’t kill those people,” I added miserably. “The ones in the paper. I promise. Though I don’t know why you’d believe me.”

“I believe you,” he said quietly. “You’re as much of a victim of Viola as the rest of us. More so.”

“But I . . .” I motioned vaguely to his neck. There was a scar from where my incisors had ripped through his skin, just barely visible above the neck of his sweater and the collar of his coat. “I’m so sorry.”

“It’s okay,” he said. I could tell he meant it and it nearly undid me.

“I could have killed you. You should hate me.”

“I could never hate you,” he said quietly. “And I know what it feels like. After my dad died and I was on a vendetta, I did some things I’m not proud of.”

“Did you throw your own brother into a tent post and threaten to snap your best friend’s neck?”

“Who’d you throw?”

“Duncan.”

He whistled, looking briefly impressed. “Bet he loved that.”

I wrinkled my nose. “He still looks at me like I might do it again.”

“He’ll get over it.”

“I’m bad luck, Kieran. Without me and that stupid prophecy, so many people would be better off. London would still be alive.”

“Without you,” Kieran pointed out, “Logan wouldn’t have met Isabeau, Hunter wouldn’t have met Quinn, and Connor wouldn’t have met Christabel. Did you ever think of that?” He paused. “And we wouldn’t have met either.”

“But I drank from you. And you’ve been attacked too many times because of me.” I wasn’t sure why I was arguing. But I had to make him understand.

“It was worth it.”

“How can you say that?” I gaped at him even as he stepped closer, bridging the distance between us.

“Because it’s the truth,” he replied hoarsely, his thumb trailing softly over my jawline. “You’re worth it, Solange. All of it.”

I bit down on the inside of my cheek to stop my lower lip from wobbling embarrassingly. Of all the things I’d ever imagined him saying to me, that had never even made the list. The sob trapped in my chest morphed into a laugh. But I couldn’t let it out. Not quite yet. “How can you still be so nice to me?” This was the part I’d been dreading, the reason I’d avoided him. Hearing him say that final good-bye. I clenched my fists. “Your friends and family, the entire League; they’ll hate me even more now—and you if . . . if we . . . if we stay together.”

“To hell with them,” he said roughly.

“I know why I want to be with you,” I said. “You’re strong and honest and forgiving. But how can you still want to be with me?” I whispered. “When I’m like this?” I lifted my wrists showing him the blue veins under pale skin, knowing my triple set of fangs were extended, my irises ringed with red.

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