To tide fans of the Fire Spirits series over until the release date [still to be announced] of Darkness, Kindled (Fire Spirits #4) I've put a fairly long excerpt of DK in Stocking #7.
*Warning: Spoilers from the previous books in the series within this excerpt.
Darkness, Kindled (Fire Spirits #4)
Chapter 1 and half of Chapter 2
The Sky is Grave in this New World
Ari, duck! Jai yelled telepathically, and Ari’s reflexes kicked in instantly. She hit the floor, chin down, eyes raised as she watched the knife hiss through the air and imbed itself in the wall inches from Jai’s head. Ari rolled onto her back and jarred her hands forward, palm outwards, sending two bolts of defensive magic out toward the Qarin. The guy-next-door-looking Jinn whipped to the side to avoid Ari’s attack and stepped right into Jai’s magic. The handful of ember he’d sent, seconds after Ari’s, hit with the force of a freight train. The Qarin’s body lifted off the ground and slammed through the paper thin wall of the house in small town, Milwaukee.
Ari scrambled to her feet.
“You okay?” Jai asked sharply as he strode past her, his body automatically shoving her behind him despite the countless times she’d told him to stop doing that.
“I’m fine,” she muttered, brushing debris off her t-shirt.
Jai didn’t bother to spare her a look in response to her tone and Ari wasn’t surprised. Now wasn’t really the time to try to figure out why his girlfriend was being pissy with him.
Michael had told them the group he had hunting the dopplegänger Jinn of Sam Shepherd, the art teacher, had finally tracked him down after two months of searching. Ari and Jai had come after him and she’d used the time in close proximity to make it clear she was annoyed with her boyfriend. However, Jai hadn’t broached the subject of her one word answers and heavy silence, and that only pissed her off more. Which meant dopplegänger bitch was in for a world of pain if this didn’t end fast. Ari and Jai had used the Peripatos to arrive at the coordinates the Guild Hunters had given them. That had been half an hour ago. With the human Sam Shepherd knocked out upstairs (Jai’s handywork), they had been playing hide, seek and find, then hide, seek and find again with the Qarin for too long as far as Ari was concerned. She had two healing cuts—one on her forehead and a deeper cut along her ribs that hurt like hell. Jai of course was unscathed. The Qarin was playing with them though, and Ari got the distinct feeling he was determined that Jai was going down with more than a simple cut.
Well, Ari was done playing.
She growled as she stopped by Jai to see the spot on the debris-littered floor where the Qarin should be was empty.
“Shit,” Jai muttered, his jaw clenching. “I’m go—”
“Be quiet,” Ari snapped, ignoring Jai’s raised eyebrows. The ‘excuuuse me?’ look on his face would have been comical if she wasn’t so annoyed. Give me a minute, she tried to explain less tersely using telepathy and was thankful when Jai remained silent.
Ari closed her eyes. Back when she and Uncle Red had been on somewhat more stable ground with their relationship, he’d told her even without her abilities as The Seal, she was a powerful Jinn. Her mother Sala had been an old and potent Ifrit, and her father was The White King, one of the most powerful Jinn in existence. If Jinn were socialites, she’d be the Blair Waldorf of Mount Qaf, the Jinn Realm. Red had insinuated that meant she hadn’t even tapped into the full scope of her abilities yet. Jai was trying to get her there with training, and they’d been on a few hunts together where she’d discovered more and more about herself. It was time to unravel more though. She’d seen her uncle sense Jinn that were in another state for Christ sakes. Surely, she could find this jackass of a dopplegänger so she and Jai could do the unsavory thing they’d come here to do and then get the hell out of there.
Ari focused. She felt the movement of the debris as it shifted in increments against the soft breeze blowing in from an open window. She felt the air to her left dance sideways as Jai moved just the tiniest bit and her senses latched onto his magic. Taking a deep breath she let the richness of his signature overwhelm her. Jai’s pull was unlike any other Jinn she’d ever felt. A full-blood and extremely strong guardian Ginnaye, Jai’s magic pulsed out in deep, throbbing waves. But unlike many, his had an all-encompassing rich warmth that came from his natural protective instincts. He would either use that powerful energy to wrap you in its safety, or he’d use it to destroy you.
Giving herself a slight shake, Ari pushed past Jai’s aura and felt through the dark memory of the house in her mind. She searched every corner, every nook, taking the stairs silently to the second floor.
In the upstairs bathroom.
Ari took a deep breath, her stomach suddenly churning with her decision.
The truth was she’d been playing with the Qarin as much as he’d been playing with her. Trying to stall.
The two hunts she’d been on had been for training more than anything else. Jinn that merely needed to be tagged and moved on from the towns they were misbehaving in.
This was different.
The Qarin dopplegänger was to be her first kill.
Jai wanted to do it. He didn’t want this weight on her shoulders.
But who was Ari kidding? She was the daughter of a Jinn King who was on a mission to release the most dangerous being in all the realms out of imprisonment; she’d barely spoken to her one ally (Red) in weeks; her best friend was enemy of the state, and there was a certain ancient Marid who happened to be the Sultan’s Lieutenant who had been paying little visits to her dreams lately.
She was going to end up killing someone sometime in self-defense.
It looked like today was the first day in a new world…
Her magic tingled in her hand until she felt the knurled grip of the F-S fighting knife she’d chosen from Michael’s weapons cabinet.
She heard Jai’s indrawn breath seconds before she used the Peripatos. The flames were still flickering around her as she appeared in the bathroom, her eyes meeting the Qarin’s in the mirror—his wide, Ari’s blank.
The blade of her knife sunk in and up through his back and into his chest, powered by Ari’s Jinn magic and strength. A stab to the heart. She’d trained to do this on dummies.
It felt different stabbing through flesh and muscle.
His eyes widened in horror, blood trickling out of the corner of his mouth.
And then his body relaxed, slack, tumbling to the floor like a puppet without a master.
The bloody knife fell from Ari’s hand, clattering to the tiled floor as she stared at the dead Jinn. She stood frozen for a moment, staring down at the body and the pool of blood gathering around it. She’d just killed someone. Her stomach lurched.
Stumbling over his body, Ari grabbed for the sink, her hands braced on either side as the cold nausea climbed through her and she vomited the horror of what she’d done up.
She felt his energy before she felt his hands brushing the loose strands of hair back from her face. “Baby,” he whispered hoarsely, his warm breath on her ear.
Ari turned the cold tap with shaking fingers and though she barely felt the coolness of it, she dipped her mouth under it, drinking. Then she splashed some on her face and straightened, leaning back into Jai’s chest. Their eyes met in the mirror, hers round and hollow, his soft and concerned.
“I told you I’d do it. I’ve done it before. You didn’t need to.”
She gave a slight shake of her head, trying not to shut her eyes as she felt the slice of the blade through the Qarin’s chest again. She’d been nervous about assassinating a bad guy. She’d just never realized that taking a life would affect her this much. She should have. “I’d have to do it eventually. I wanted to get it over with.”
Jai’s hands slid up her arms to curl gently around her biceps, holding her closer to him. “You did good.”
“Did I?” Ari asked numbly.
He kissed her hair. “You wouldn’t be you if you didn’t feel this bad about it. Just remember, he did a lot of terrible things to humans, Ari. Humiliating, horrifying, murderous things.”
She knew that. She knew she’d just taken one less bad guy off the street. Ari just needed her guilty conscience to play catch up. Wincing at the sink, Ari turned around in Jai’s arms, his hands falling to her hips to keep her close to him. “Don’t tell anyone I upchucked okay?”
“No one would think less of you.”
“Just don’t.” Michael and Caroline might accept her but some of the other Guild Hunters were still wary of her. She needed to prove herself to them. If they found out she’d vomited after her first kill… well… she didn’t know what they’d think.
“I won’t tell anyone,” Jai assured her, but the muscle in his jaw flexed. “But you’ve got nothing to feel ashamed of. Assassination isn’t in their job description, so most of them have got no idea what it feels like to take a life. They have no right to judge you.”
No longer pissed off at him, Ari squeezed one of his hands gratefully. What Jai had said was true. The Guild Hunters were half-blood Jinn —half-human, half-Jinn created by the Gilder King as a measure of balance against the evil Jinn. Guild Hunters could hunt and tag evil Jinn, but if they ever killed one, the Law Makers on Mount Qaf would know and would bring them to be tried. Unfairly, on Mount Qaf, it was a crime punishable by death for a half-breed to kill a full-blooded Jinn. It was also proclaimed that full-bloods weren’t allowed to kill one another either without facing trial, but Red had slipped that that wasn’t really a law created by the Law Makers, and trials were only held every now and then to discourage infighting.
That meant Michael Roe, the leader of the Roe Guild of Hunters, had in his possession three full-blooded Jinn— Ari, Jai and Jai’s best friend Trey. After Charlie went A.W.O.L once he’d killed Akasha, the Labartu who’d murdered his little brother, Ari had decided joining the Guild with Jai and Trey was the best move forward. Michael decided he liked the idea of having Hunters in his Guild who could actually assassinate a bad guy for once. He’d also told them Charlie was a priority kill now that he was a wacko Sorcerer with a dangerous piece of Mount Qaf emerald powering his juice. To Ari’s everlasting relief, Charlie had gone underground these last two months and none of the Guilds could find him. She hoped he stayed there.
“You’re right.” Ari smiled wanly. “I just did them a favor. Who gives a crap what they think?”
“Good.” Jai nodded, his eyes hardening again. “Now let me clean up this guy, call the Guild to come take care of the human Sam Shepherd, and then we can get you home. How’s the rib?”
Ari looked down at the Qarin, her stomach feeling a little steadier. “It’s healing. I’m…okay.”
To Ari’s relief, she and Jai were kept busy cleaning up the mess, handing human Sam Shepherd over to the rest of the Guild to brief him before sending him back into the human world, and then she and her boyfriend had to return to Michael’s to debrief him on the situation. Talking it out actually helped her deal with the immensity of what she’d done. Michael’s eyes got all fatherly and concerned when he learned Ari was the one that did the killing, and Ari wanted to ask what the hell he was playing at? He wanted her to assassinate Jinn, and when she did he got all soft on her about it? It was nice that he was concerned… but also confusing.
Ari didn’t say anything though. After losing his daughter Fallon in Charlie’s war against the Labartu, Ari hadn’t the heart to call him out on his convoluted leadership skills with her.
Caroline fed them all as they gave Michael the run down and when it was over, they sent Ari and Jai on their way with another concerned look. The fact that Ari had chosen to shack up with Jai and Trey in the house they’d bought a couple of blocks away from Michael’s had worried them. Yeah, Ari was eighteen and legally could make her own decisions, but they were worried what their other employees might think of a young girl living with two extremely hot, slightly older men.
They could think what they wanted.
Trey was like her best friend now. And Jai… well… Jai was being weird.
Hence, the pissiness earlier.
Still shaken from what had happened, Ari was too exhausted to deal with her frustration with Jai. They entered the quiet four-bedroom detached house and immediately sensed Trey wasn’t home. Not surprising. With him having taken up as a fighting instructor for the Guild, and just because he was Trey and blessed with an abundance of charm, he’d made friends easily among the hunters and was probably out at a bar with a few of the guys.
“You should eat,” Jai told her as she headed towards the wide staircase.
Dragging herself up them, she shook her head. “I’m not hungry.”
“I’ll eat in the morning.” She turned around at her door. Her bedroom was down the hall from Trey’s and directly across the hall from Jai’s.
The root of her exasperation with him?
When they’d moved in two months ago, Ari had been touched by Jai’s thoughtfulness when he opened the door to the largest bedroom in the house and told it was all hers. By giving her, her own bedroom he was telling her he wasn’t pressuring her into having sex, or forcing their relationship to move too fast. It was thoughtful and considerate and so sweet.
But two months of barely-there kisses from him and no sneaking into her bedroom at night was driving her insane! Okay, so it wasn’t barely-there kisses, but anytime anything got too heated, he’d back off and tell her to go to her bed like she was a kid or something. There had been none of the good stuff like what happened months ago on Mount Qaf after Charlie’s trial. He’d barely freaking touched her and she was beginning to feel like a not so hot leper.
The gentle touch of Jai’s knuckles stroking her jawline brought her out of her foggy thoughts, and she took hold of his hand, her eyes catching his. His eyes were searching, worried about her. She felt a rush of love, lust and confusion.
And she wasn’t in the mood to deal with it. She’d just killed an evil Jinn. Boyfriend trouble would have to take a backburner for the night. “I’ll see you in the morning.” She pulled back from him, dropping his hand gently.
“Hey.” She felt his fingers grip her bicep a little tighter as he pulled her back toward him. Jai frowned down at her. “You need me to stay with you tonight?”
Tonight of all night’s, he asks that? When I’m so exhausted I can barely stand.
Ari shook her head, biting back her frustration. “I just want to sleep. I’ll be fine.”
His strong fingers flexed around her arm and he stepped closer until his chest was brushing hers. He gave her a rueful, unsure smile that didn’t quite eliminate the surprisingly vulnerable look in his gorgeous eyes. “Can I get a kiss goodnight at least?”
An ache throbbed in her chest and Ari felt her lips curl up softly at the corners. “For future reference, that’s a question you never have to ask me.”
Jai’s smile deepened, melting Ari’s insides and thankfully the weird look that had been in his eyes moments before. “Good to know,” he murmured against her mouth before softly pressing his to hers. She expected it to be sweet and short. Instead it was… emotional.
Jai held her lightly to him, his hand wrapped around her nape and Ari let her lips fall open as Jai brushed his back and forth over hers, his tongue teasing her lips before licking inside—light, quick strokes against her tongue that made her breath catch, and caused the weariness to flee. She arched her body up into his and breathed him in, her heart speeding up at the hot taste of him.
But Jai refused to speed the kiss up. It was a seduction of deep strokes, teasing, nibbling, brushing… an imprint of him on her. A possessive kiss without the aggression. He was handling her gently but telling her she was his.
As he reluctantly pulled back, Ari’s hands fluttered to his chest, her eyes closed, her lips tingling and swollen. “I’ll see you in the morning,” he told her hoarsely, clearly as affected by the kiss as she was.
Slowly opening her eyes, Ari sucked in a breath at the heat in his. There it was. Every time they got to the point in fooling around when his eyes did that… that scorching, I want to ravish you like a dude in a romance novel look in his eyes, Jai backed off.
With a predictability that was growing annoying he took two steps back. “Night.”
She gave him a smile that didn’t quite reach her eyes and hurried inside her bedroom, closing it behind her. After a few seconds she heard Jai’s footsteps move away from her door and his door opened before quietly shutting. She sighed deeply and flicked on the light.
The room Jai had given her was beautiful and it was huge. A massive, four poster bed sat in the center of the room and was flanked by a large wardrobe, vanity table and matching bedside cabinets. The furniture was modern chic with a twist of Morocco. She had her own bathroom and even a walk-in-closet. He was trying to give her a home again, and for the most part he was succeeding. Ari was just tired of that strange distance between them. And it wasn’t just about sex. It was about his family. Every time she tried to talk to him about his dad, Luca, keeping him locked in that bottle for The White King, he’d shut her down and tell her he was fine. She knew he wasn’t fine. How could you be fine after a momentous betrayal like that?
Head pounding, eyes drooping, Ari decided tomorrow was a new day to worry about this stuff. Thankful she was too tired to dwell on the Qarin she’d just assassinated, Ari clumsily stripped and reached for her new silk nightie. Once she’d slipped it on, she dove under the covers and snuggled her head deep into her pillow, smelling her own perfume on it. Comforted, she let the world disappear…
The water was still in the moonlit lake, the mountainous rocks surrounding it providing privacy to the mystical cove. As soon as Ari took it in and felt the rough sand against her skin, she groaned. She’d been here before.
“Asmodeus,” she griped, spinning around from her seat in the sand to peer into the dark.
As expected, he melted out of the shadows, coming towards her wearing only black loose pants. He wore nothing on his upper body except for a bronze circlet around each strong bicep, his long dark hair flowing freely for once over his broad shoulders. Ari tore her eyes away from his ripped physique and glared into his hauntingly beautiful face.
It was so unfair someone so psychotic was so fantastic looking.
Asmodeus smirked at her as he approached, his bare feet kicking the sand. Ari stood up, and scowled down at the revealing white fabric he’d dressed her in. It showed a lot of cleavage and a lot of leg. Disgusted, she crossed her arms and tilted her head back to stare up at the handsome giant of a man.
“Stop messing with my dreams and let me out of here. For the hundredth time!”
His smile deepened, a flash of white teeth in the dark as he stepped around her, two fingers sliding down her arm. Ari shivered and pulled away.
“I know,” he replied nonchalantly as he came to a stop.
“Why won’t you stop tormenting me?” For the last two months, Prince Asmodeus had been ripping her out of her own dream world and pulling her into his. After determining that she really had no clue why she was just as impervious to the command of The Seal of Solomon as he was, Asmodeus kept returning her here. There seemed to be no purpose to these visits other than to tease and try to charm her, and occasionally threaten Jai’s life.
“I’m too tired for this. Every time you visit my dreams, I’m exhausted in the morning.”
A wicked glint entered his dark eyes. “I think if you’re going to be exhausted you should be exhausted for a reason… and since the Ginnaye isn’t willing to accommodate you, I’d be more than happy to see to any of your… needs.”
“Not even in your dreams.”
Asmodeus chuckled and crossed his arms over his chest as he studied her. As they stared at one another, his smile slipped. “You killed today.”
Ari flinched back from him. “How did you…?”
“I make it my concern to know.”
“You’re watching me?”
“Whenever I’m bored, yes.”
Disgusted, Ari shook her head. “You’re a creepy son-of-a-bitch.”
His eyes narrowed on her. “Be careful.”
A shot of fear tingled down her spine and she had to bite her lip to stop herself from saying something even more foolish.
Satisfied, he turned and sat down in the sand, his arms dangling over his braced knees. “Sit.”
“You have no manners, you know that right?” Ari grumbled as she lowered herself to the ground, keeping a careful distance between them.
The Marid sliced her an amused look. “Stop deflecting. You killed today.”
Ari sighed. “Yes, I did. Am I in trouble?”
“Not with me.”
“There is no one to care about the Qarin’s demise.”
Ari breathed a sigh of relief. “Well, that’s good to know.”
After a moment’s silence, Asmodeus picked up a small rock and with a flick of his wrist sent it skimming over the water. “You shouldn’t be doing it.”
“Working for the Guild?”
“Turning yourself into an assassin.”
Ari tried not to wince at the word. “Why? I’m doing good. I’m ridding the human world of evil Jinn.”
He raised an eyebrow at her. “Is that worth the loss of your purity?”
She wanted to roll her eyes. “I’m not pure, Asmodeus.”
“Your soul was clean, Ari. You’re marring it with this need to hunt Jinn.”
“It’s not a need,” she lied. “It’s a want. Even before all this…” she gestured to her surroundings, “I was a high school graduate with a serious identity crisis. I didn’t know what I wanted out of life. I didn’t know where I fit in. Despite all the bad stuff that’s come with finding out who I really am, at least I’ve also found my place in this world.”
“With the Ginnaye, assassinating Jinn?”
“With Jai, hunting bad guys.”
He grunted. “You are so naïve it physically pains me.”
“Then stop pulling me into your dreams.”
Ari tried desperately to rein in her irritation. “What do you want, Asmodeus?”
His dark, fathomless gaze sliced back to her and Ari couldn’t help her eyes as they roamed his strong face. Black eyes framed by long, dark lashes, darkly tanned, blemish-free skin, sharp cheekbones, a strong but straight blade of a nose, and a perfect mouth—a full lower lip and a slightly thinner upper lip. If a human met him they’d think he was an exotic but young twenty something. Not a twisted, ancient Marid that had been around for God knew how many centuries. “Tonight I wanted to see how you were faring after your first kill?” Surprise shot through her, forcing her head back and he caught her reaction. His dark eyes glittered. “I’m not playing games with you.”
Ignoring the curiosity writhing inside, Ari gave him a cynical smirk. “Whatever this is, can we at least be honest with one another?”
“Okay,” he nodded. “I like playing games with you. But I’m not playing a game tonight.”
Ari gazed directly into his eyes and found herself confessing, “I was sick at first. It was horrible. I didn’t expect to feel so ashamed.”
“Jai reminded me of all the things that the Qarin did. I feel proud I was strong enough to do something about it.”
“So no guilt?”
She looked away. “There will always be guilt, Asmodeus. I’m quickly learning to set it aside for the bigger picture.”
He shot her a narrow-eyed look and suddenly drew up to his feet. His eyes bore down into her. “That’s how it begins. Setting aside things for the bigger picture.”
Confused as she always was after one of their encounters, Ari stood to her feet too. “Why do you care?”
When he reached out a hand, Ari braced herself from flinching back, knowing from past experience that he didn’t take rejection lightly. His fingers brushed against her cheek. “I can’t decide whether I want you to change or not.”
She scowled at him. “Whether I change or not really isn’t any of your business.”
At the sudden dark heat and annoyance in his eyes, Ari tensed, her breath catching as he leaned into her, his mouth brushing her ear. “I’m making it my business.”
Ari’s eyes flew open and she struggled to draw breath, panting with fear and something else as she stared up at her bedroom ceiling in the dark. She turned quickly on her side, pulling the covers tightly around her. She didn’t know what to do about Asmodeus. She hadn’t told Jai he’d been visiting her dreams. She hadn’t told anyone. But Ari knew his increasing attention was a worry and the only person she found she wanted to tell was her Uncle Red. He’d know what to do. It was whether or not Red wanted to talk to her. And if he would help her if he did.
The I that I am is not Me
Emotionally exhausted Ari managed to drift back to sleep, but her conscience couldn’t seem to rest and she woke up at 6am, an hour earlier than usual. Mouth dry Ari shuffled sleepily out of her room with thoughts of getting a glass of water from the kitchen. It would have been easy enough to conjure one, but Trey and Jai had been raised to only use their Jinn abilities when it really mattered, or when it was really the only convenient solution. Otherwise, they lived their lives like humans. It was partly an attitude —the Ginnaye believed using Jinn magic for everyday living was lazy— and partly about living as a human so they wouldn’t slip up in front of one of them.
Tired eyes to the floor, Ari was just about to hit the stairs when Trey’s bedroom door opened. She glanced up, eyes widening slightly at the sight of a huge, gorgeous blue-haired guy wearing jeans and a slim-cut t-shirt. “Glass?” She said loudly, more than a little shocked to see him there. It wasn’t that she didn’t know The Glass King—a.k.a one of her uncles, a.k.a. an all-powerful, scary Jinn King —was seeing Trey romantically, it was just that she’d never seen him in the vicinity of Trey’s room before.
It caused her a note of panic on behalf of her friend. She didn’t want Trey to get too deeply involved in the dangerous world of Jinn royalty but he seemed smitten with his new boyfriend. And frankly, more alarmingly, Glass seemed completely into Trey.
Glass raised a finger to his lips hushing her and she winced apologetically. He gestured to the stairs and Ari hustled down them quietly, feeling the potency of the Jinn behind her but not hearing his movements at all. She entered the kitchen in the back of the house, a huge space with an island in the middle and a large dining table on the far left next to sliding doors that opened out onto a decent-sized back yard. “Would you like some water?” she asked politely as she pulled a chilled bottle of water out of the fridge for herself.
Glass shook his head. “I will get myself a coffee.”
This was so weird.
Ari nodded, not really meeting his gaze.
It wasn’t that she didn’t like Glass, it’s just that she’d never become as comfortable with him as she was with Red. Red smiled and joked with her, whereas Ari had never seen Glass smile unless it was backed by sinister intent. Trey really was his opposite in every way.
Thinking about Red caused Ari to ask Glass for the fifteenth time, “Have you heard from Red?”
As the Jinn King lifted the mug of coffee he’d conjured (clearly he was okay with taking shortcuts in life), his eyes grew more focused. He took a sip of his drink and then pulled back to study her. “I have.”
She just refrained from rolling her eyes. The thing about a Jinn King… they never answered unspoken but obvious questions. “How is he?”
“He’s fine, Ari.”
“Will you tell him I asked for him?” Again.
Glass bowed his head in answer, letting her know he would honor her request. Despite her stomach knotting itself up inside over the distance between her and Red, Ari couldn’t help but thinking that was a pretty cool and dignified way to answer somebody.
Before Ari had to think up some kind of conversation to start between them, she was relieved to hear footsteps on the stairs. Two seconds later Trey wandered into the kitchen showered and dressed for the day. As always, Ari felt an affectionate squeeze in her chest, as well as an honest appreciation for his masculine beauty. Trey was tall with an athletic, rangy build, messy dark blonde hair and tip-tilted gray eyes. His face was an artist’s dream and he dressed like a modern-day James Dean. In other words he was Hot with a capital H.
Trey’s eyes immediately rested on Glass and he grinned at him. “Morning.”
To Ari’s utter surprise, she watched Glass’ lips twitch as he muttered, ‘Morning,’ before taking a sip of his coffee. Almost immediately he put the mug down and it disappeared. With a casual nod to Ari, he passed her and then stopped at Trey’s side. “Until later.” He squeezed his shoulder and Trey nodded, his eyes burning into his in such a scorching manner, Ari couldn’t help but shift a little uncomfortably. She felt like she intruding on something pretty personal. Then to not just Ari’s shock, but clearly Trey’s, Glass bent his head and brushed his mouth over Trey’s. Without another word the Jinn King stepped back into the Peripatos.
Trey looked adorably dumbfounded for a moment and then he glanced over at Ari with an almost shyly boyish smile. “He’s definitely warming up to me.”
Ari laughed. “Yeah, I think so.”
Just as quickly as he’d flashed his smile, Trey’s face grew serious, and his long strides ate up the kitchen floor until Ari was held tightly in his arms. She felt his lips press a kiss to her head and she wrapped her arms around him, feeling safe and loved. It was a wonderful feeling to have after everything that had happened to her.
“Jai told me what happened. You sure you’re okay?”
She nodded against his chest, not ready to let go. “I’m fine. Honestly. It was a shock at first but I got over it.”
“Well, at least you weren’t lying to me about that,” Jai’s voice broke through the comforting, warm fog of Trey’s embrace.
They pulled back from each other to find Jai leaning against the wall, his features hard and his green eyes spitting gold angry flints at them. “Can we have a minute?” he asked Trey but didn’t take his eyes off of her.
Ari’s heart rate sped up a little. What had she done now?
“Sure thing.” Trey held up his hands almost like he was surrendering. “I’ve got training this morning anyway. I’ll catch you guys later.”
As soon as the front door slammed shut, Ari crossed her arms over her chest. “What was that all about?” she demanded snippily.
Jai pushed himself up off the wall and took a few short, anger-infused steps towards her. His gaze travelled down her body meaningfully before coming up to her face. “What are you wearing?”
Feeling completely sideswiped, Ari glanced down at her nighty. “Uh… a nighty?”
“Where are your pajamas?”
She quirked an eyebrow at his caustic tone, not at all impressed. “Probably in my drawer.”
“Why are you wearing that instead of them?”
“I just bought it. I liked it.” She shrugged. Truthfully, she’d bought it to try and entice Jai. It was a short lilac silk nighty with a low neckline trimmed in lace. The hem, which barely covered her ass was trimmed in lace too. She’d bought five in different colors.
Ari wasn’t going to tell him that though.
Unease crept over her as Jai’s face grew even darker. She’d thrown it on last night because it was the closest thing to hand and she’d been too sleepy that morning to really think about what she was wearing. Crap.
“Jesus Christ, Ari, it barely covers anything,” he snapped. “Can you not wear it in front of my best friend?”
“It’s just Trey,” she argued, trying to make it seem not so bad. “He’s like a brother.”
“Except he’s not. And I know for a fact that he doesn’t see you as a sister.” Jai’s jaw clenched as his eyes ate her up. “You may be friends but that doesn’t mean he doesn’t appreciate a hot girl when he sees one.”
Suddenly feeling a little resentful, she turned away from him to put the rest of her water back in the refrigerator. “At least someone thinks I’m hot,” she mumbled under breath.
“What was that?”
“No. I heard what you said,” she heard the obviously deepening anger in his voice. “What the hell does that mean?”
Ari’s shoulders hunched up at the question, not sure she was ready to talk this out with him after all, but saved by the bell, Jai’s cell rang and he cursed in frustration before answering it.
Turning around she watched him as he gave one-word answers and nothing away. “I’ll be right there,” he finally said. He hung up, and looked at her with grave eyes and taut features. “That was Michael. He needs my help on something, but when I get back, we’ll talk.”
Great. “Can’t wait,” she answered sarcastically since he was speaking to her like she was a child.
With an un-amused sigh, Jai stepped back into the Peripatos.
Stomach in knots over their disagreement, Ari rushed up to her room to shower. Having lived with Jai temporarily months ago when they first met, Ari already knew some things about him. He was incredibly organized and tidy and he didn’t have a lot of ‘stuff’. Ari on the other hand liked to ‘nest’ so she’d bought a lot online for the house using her Guild Hunter money. Jai didn’t say anything as she gradually filled what had been a fairly modern but masculine house with little girly knick-knacks— cushions, candles, ornaments, vases…
They didn’t share a bathroom so she hadn’t been introduced to the intimacy of that but she had on occasion watched him as he shaved. She knew he made his bed every morning like a soldier, that his bedroom was filled with only two things— clothes and books— that he ate well—protein shakes, fruit, nuts, oatmeal, vegetables, grilled chicken, fish— and that he rolled his eyes every time he took in Ari and Trey’s side of the refrigerator —pizza, burgers, pudding, diet soda. She knew he worked out every day for two hours and if he worked out longer than that then something was bothering him. Sometimes she got that ‘something’ out of him, other times he just pulled her onto the sofa and switched on a movie. All these things she knew and yet she still felt like she didn’t really know him. He was holding back and she didn’t know why and the thought of talking about it scared the hell out of her because she was so terrified he was going to tell her this had all been a huge mistake.
Trembling at the thought, Ari shakily got out of the shower, wrapping a towel tight around her. When she stepped out into her room, the steam cleared and the sight before her winded her.
“Looking good, Ari.” Charlie grinned at her from his position lounging on her bed. The grin was wide but not wide enough to reach his eyes. “Nice towel.”
Darkness, Kindled (Fire Spirits #4) To be released 2013 - Month and day still to be announced.