This is a companion piece for In Repair. You don’t have to have read that one to read this one. 😀
Back to You
Five months ago, I tricked Rosa into kissing me. I’ve been lying to her ever since. That’s not entirely true. They’re not lies. They’re omissions. I omit pieces of the truth because she hunts creatures like me. So far she doesn’t know what I am, so well rehearsed are my stories. I kill hunters like her, but none of them ever caused my pulse to thrum at the base of my wrists. None of them had salted caramel taffy skin, sun-warmed, and soft. Soft in the way only a fawn’s coat should be soft.
We sit shoulder to shoulder at the edge of a neighbor’s pool, water laps against our knees, passing a cigarette back and forth. Sunlight glints off the water, off the drops running down her bare arms. Over the sharp chlorine and cloves, she smells like a field of sunflowers and coconut sunscreen. Rose kicks a leg and water sparkles in an arc. The splash silences the hum of cicadas for a split second.
It’s taken five months to convince her to break into backyards with me. The danger didn’t keep her away, no. She stayed out because she respected the people that live here. She hid her Scout motorcycle along the side of the house. Rosa relaxes against me. Like she’s home.
“Ever been skinny-dipping?”
Rosa laughs in that deep throaty way that’s only for me. I kiss her neck, drag a canine along the tender skin at her throat. Her laughter catches between my teeth.
“Wanna race instead?” She hops up in one fluid movement. If she weren’t a hunter, she would’ve been an athlete. A pole-vaulter maybe. I lean back to better enjoy the view. Rosa’s limned lines and shadows against the sun. “There and back.”
“I’ll win,” I say, dragging the vowels. “Where’s the excitement?”
She flicks water off her fingertips at my face. Her lips quirk up at the corners. “Loser has to wear the winner’s swimsuit and parade around.” Rosa’s getting better at dares. At some point, both of us will be naked.
“Agreed.” I hold out my hand, and she pulls me up against her. I feel her every inhale, the press of her hipbones against mine. Her eyes are fathomless pools of black to lose myself in. Before I claim her mouth, she pushes me back — not cruelly — eyes gleaming and hungry.
“Ready?” Rose lines her front foot along the pool’s edge. Curls her toes against the tile. I almost forget to join her, so eager to watch her take off. “Go!”
I dive off the edge and hit the water, gliding for a bit before breaking the surface. I’m breathing to the right, Rosa’s on my left. I won’t see her until after the turn. The water streams off my face when I breathe, spouting air like a whale. My eyes burn when I open them, so I keep them shut until I feel I’m close to the other side. I flip turn, expecting to see Rosa swimming toward me. Ahead are her feet, kicking strong and steady, leading her farther and farther away.
Damn, she’s fast!
By the time I hit the mid-point of the lap back, my shoulders and thighs burn with use. Instead of breathing every fifth stroke, I’m breathing every other. My hand smacks against the tile. I rise to my feet to find Rosa, barely out of breath, grinning from ear to ear.
“Are you part fish?”
That throaty laugh again that sends shivers down to my knees. “I live near a lake. Been swimming longer than walking.”
She tugs the hot pink strap of her bikini. Submerges enough to keep herself covered and tosses the top to me. It lands near my chest with a slap. I pull it over my head and get tangled in all the straps. Rosa moves close and helps me straighten out the top.
“Pink brings out the color in your eyes,” she says. I want to kiss the smirk off her face.
I step close to her, and she stands her ground. A couple of tugs later, and I’m no longer wearing my shorts. There’s nothing between my balls and the water. I hold my trunks above her head, hoping she’ll jump to get them. She does. I sink into the water, burning with need.
Rosa removes her bikini bottom with one hand, twirls it around her finger before flinging it at me. She steps into my shorts, that hungry look in her eyes the entire time.
“There’s no way I’m going to fit into this,” I say, holding up the bottoms.
“A dare’s a dare.” She hikes up the shorts and then hops up onto the edge of the pool. I’m definitely not going to fit into her bikini now.
I wade toward her. She sits up straighter, still slightly out of breath, but I don’t know if it’s from our race or because she’s nervous and bold and gorgeous. Water glistens down her skin. Rosa wraps an arm around my shoulder, pulls me closer. I press myself up on my palms. The surface of the water laps at my bared ass. We’re pressed skin to skin, mouths open an inch apart. Her eyelashes flutter closed. I close my own. Our noses touch, and I angle my head to press my lips to hers.
We both freeze, the lap of water against tile and our ragged breathing the only sound. Rosa’s arms go rigid around me. I turn in her embrace to block whoever knows her from seeing her perfect, very naked breasts. She presses herself against my back, almost undoing me. Places a protective palm on my breastbone.
A guy, my age or older, stands on the grass. He’s tall and lean like Rosa. They must be related. He has the same dark eyes. The same don’t-fuck-with-me body stance. I notice the silver knife attached to his belt, the gun in his palm. He doesn’t aim it at me. He just wants me to know that he has it. That it’s an option.
“Hey,” I say, showing him my palms. “I’m Kit. You obviously know Rosa. I know how this must look, but —”
“Get dressed, Rosa!” He doesn’t acknowledge me. His jaw clenches, lips open to reveal his teeth’s whiteness. “You’re done here.”
I think about climbing out of the pool and punching this guy in the face. Then I glance down to see Rosa’s hot pink bikini on my chest. Remember that I’m naked from the waist down. I stay in the pool, but walk toward him. I’m bold and brash, sure, but bold and brash doesn’t replace pants. Rosa releases me.
Confident as anyone, she gets up. The guy averts his eyes, stares at me, glares at me. “This doesn’t involve you, Elías.” Ah, I meet her famous brother at last. Not at all the way I’d have liked, of course. Life is never that casual.
“The hell it doesn’t! You know what he is!”
And what I am? I’m in love with Rosa Santiago. That’s all that matters.
“He’s not what you think,” Rosa says.
“Don’t lie to yourself, mi hermana pequeña. I saw his scars. Same as you.”
“It was a bike accident. Not a … . He’s normal.”
Oh, Rosa, I’m anything but normal.
She walks toward him, clutches the waistband of my shorts to keep them from slipping off her hips. I remove her top off my chest. Being stark naked feels less empowering than wearing a hot pink bikini, weirdly enough.
“Give us a minute,” she says. Elías won’t look at her, even to meet her eyes. He nods once and stomps to the gate. It slams behind him.
Rosa’s shoulders sag. She spins on the ball of her right foot and heads to the pile of clothes, fishes out her shirt and pulls it over her head. I wring out her two-piece and throw it over. It lands with a heavy splat near her feet. My brain races through possible courses of action, but I discard each and lean my forearms on the tile.
We didn’t bring towels. It’s hot enough to air dry. Naked air-drying. I consider it. “Can I get a rain check on that kiss? And maybe my shorts too?”
Rosa jumps, as if she’s forgotten I’m here. “Sorry.” She shimmies out of my shorts and into her own with the least amount of skin flashing my way. My trunks hit me in the face with a wet slap.
She turns to me, and even from twelve feet away — my eyes burning from the chlorine — I know she’s crying. I jump into my shorts with both feet at once, buoyed up by the water. Then I’m out of the pool in another quick motion. Water spills down my chest, my legs. It runs against the scars on my back. The ones that Elías saw for what they are: the mark of a werewolf. Rosa believed it too until I wove a web of lies and omissions. What they don’t know is that I’m not like the mindless animals they hunt.
I’m much, much worse.
I touch her shoulder, gentle as a summer’s breeze, run it along her arm. Feel her tee shirt move under my hand. Rosa stares at the space above my collarbone, holding it together for my sake. Her eyes, dark like the new moon that controls me, find mine. I feel her gaze pierce me deeper than any change. Mine. Mine. Mine. She places a cool hand around my bicep, runs a thumb over the three jax tattooed there. They represent her. She doesn’t know, yet, how to translate all the ink on my skin.
“I have to go. I’ll talk to my brother. Elías isn’t a bad guy once you get to know him. Although, he’s never caught me half-naked with a boy before.”
“I should talk to him.” I tug the edge of her sleeve above her elbow. “I’m good with explanations.”
Wrong thing to say. Rosa squints at me. For a split-second, distrust sparks across her irises before it’s gone. Her hand drops to her side. The absence of her palm’s heat against my arm sends a warning signal through my core.
She shakes her head, steps back, gathers up her things. “I’ll talk to you later.” Then she’s gone. The crash of the gate sounds like a slap.
I pick up my own shirt, throw it over my shoulder. Slip into my sandals and find my cigarettes. I’m two flicks from lighting one when Elías seems to appear as if by magic in front of me. I didn’t hear him sneak back here. You’re getting sloppy, Kit.
I offer him the pack. He raises the gun, presses the barrel against my chest. Bruises the space over my heart where two fading Xs are tattooed. I’m sure the gun’s loaded with silver bullets. Elías isn’t a fool. Good thing silver bullets can’t kill me.
Anger roars inside me, burning hot up the back of my throat. My focus zeros in on the muscles in his hand holding the gun. I could disarm him in one quick twist. Rip the weapon out of his hand and point it at him. But he’s Elías. He’s Rosa’s kin. I take a step back; he follows.
“I know what you are,” he says through clenched teeth. “You might fool my sister but not me.”
I move to raise my hands in supplication. Open my mouth to deny the accusation. The crack of a bullet ricochets across the backyard. Gun powder burns my skin. The bullet tears through muscle, tendon, and the thicker walls of my heart. The heart that saved this idiot guy because if he weren’t Rosa’s brother, I’d have snapped his neck.
I stumble back from the force of the shot. Elías’s eyes shoot hate, as if the bullet weren’t enough. Rosa screams my name as my body hits the water. Blue sky goes on for miles above me. Hot, thick blood pours up past my fingers, clutched over the wound. Turns pink as the water dilutes it. Damn, this hurts.
Before I lose consciousness, I feel lithe arms wrap around me. Lips brush my ear and her voice fills my head. “Hold on,” she whispers over and over.
So I do.
Stay tuned for Julie’s No Rules Friday next week.