God, what was I doing?
I sat heavily on the bench, cigarette dangling from my fingers. I huffed a laugh—I didn’t even smoke. Well, aside from the couple times, years ago, when Kyle and I had swiped his dad’s pack from his car and lit up in the woods… Hell, we didn’t even really inhale. Or at least I didn’t.
Bumming a cigarette from the group of students outside the café… I couldn’t even say why I’d done it. I was supposed to be with Maddock on our date. But instead of meeting him in front of his building, I’d taken off the other way—the phone conversation I’d had earlier with Kyle filling my head. Increasing every doubt I had about Maddock and dating him. As I’d passed the hazy cloud the kids stood in, something inside me had snapped and I’d asked if I could have one. A cute blond had grinned at me, handed me a cigarette and lit it up.
I licked my lips, grimacing at the taste clinging. Yeah, stupid move all around. Stupid and childish. So what was I doing? Apparently, proving my mother right.
And that sure as hell didn’t make me any less angry. At her. At myself. At the whole fucked up situation. I wanted to be with Maddock. I like him, so much, but as much as I hated to admit it, Kyle was right. It was dangerous—dangerous to be around Maddock, dangerous to date him, dangerous to fall for him.
I pressed a hand to my stomach and inhaled shakily. And I was. I was falling so hard for him. Hard and fast. Maybe that—more than what Mom did, more than Kyle’s accusations and warnings—was what had me running scared. I sighed and let the cigarette fall from my fingertips. As I crushed it beneath my boot, someone sat beside me. I didn’t have to even look to know who it was. My magic buzzing beneath my skin told me all I needed to know.
He didn’t say anything at first, just leaned back, his knee pressing against my ever so slightly. And my magic sure liked that. It liked everything about him. I’ve never had a reaction like this to anyone; never had the secret I kept locked away inside me reach out for someone before. I drew in breath after breath, trying to push it down, keep it inside and safe.
“I almost didn’t come over,” he said quietly after a few minutes. “Figured you not showing might be your way of letting me down easy.”
I shook my head, almost violently, turning toward him finally. His lips quirked just a bit, and his green eyes were so damned sad as he met my gaze. I felt my own eyes burn with tears and blinked rapidly.
“I walked around for a while, wondering what the hell I’d done wrong.”
“Nothing. God, Maddock…” I sniffed. “It’s not anything you did. It’s just…”
I shook my head again, slowly this time. He lifted a hand, stopping the movement, and cupped my face. I closed my eyes a moment and leaned into the touch, shivering as his thumb swept back and forth over my cheekbone. When I didn’t answer, he spoke again.
“You can talk to me, you know? I don’t know if you noticed,” he leaned forward, brought his lips close to my ear, “but I like you, Delia—more than just like, really—and I don’t think there’s anything you can say to me that will change that.”
Oh, if only that were true. I frowned slightly at the negative thought. What was I doing? I was doing exactly what Mom and Kyle were—assuming things about Maddock with nothing to back it up. I believed what I’d said to both of them. Maddock wasn’t as anti-magic as he’d seemed at first. He was listening; he was willing to hear our side of things, to consider that what he’d grown up hearing was wrong. I may not be ready to tell him about my magic, but I did trust him, and I wanted tell him…at some point. And wasn’t that a terrifying thought?
“I’m…” I opened my eyes, met his gaze fully. “I’m fighting with my mom right now.”
“The phone call the other day?” He turned, angling his body toward me.
I nodded. “She got on my case about…”
“What?” I pulled back, and his hand dropped into his lap. “No, of course not.”
“Oh, Delia. You need to work on your lying skills.” He reached out and twined our fingers together. “So, is it having a boyfriend in general, or me specifically?”
“Boyfriend?” I gasped. “Is that… Are we…”
He cocked his head to the side, and I had the overwhelming urge to kiss the smirk off his lips.
“Aren’t we? I thought we were. But maybe I shouldn’t have assumed.” His grip tightened and his smirk blossomed into that wide smile that made my stomach jump and my magic pulse. “You wanna be my girlfriend, Delia? ‘Cause that’s what I want, in case that wasn’t clear.”
“Yeah,” I breathed. “I really, really do.”
“Thank God for that,” he murmured. “So, your mom? Is it me she has a problem with or would she have a problem with any guy?”
“You’re not going to let this go, are you?” I couldn’t help but smile at the concern on his face.
“If it’s bothering you this much, not a chance,” he confirmed.
I nodded, warmth spreading through me despite the chill in the air, and decided to give him a fraction of the truth. Even if I couldn’t give everything, he deserved it.
“My mom—” My voice cracked, and I had to clear my tight throat. Maddock just scooted closer and waited patiently. “She’s always been supportive of magic users and their rights.”
“Ah, so you come by it honestly.” His smile faded, and he slumped slightly. “And she’s heard of my family and…their stance on magic.”
I didn’t think he even noticed his wording—“their stance”—but I sure did, and it made me fall a little more. Okay, a lot more.
“Yeah.” I shrugged. “But it doesn’t matter. I—”
“Of course it matters,” he said abruptly, though his tone was flat, sad. “She’s your mother.”
“True. But she doesn’t control who I’m with or how I feel. Your parents probably want you to be with someone…someone like them, right? Who thinks like them? Does that change your wanting to be my…my boyfriend?”
“No, not a bit.” He straightened and after a moment he nodded. “I guess I’ll just have to win her over, won’t I?”
I couldn’t help but laugh at his determined expression. “If anyone could do it… But I don’t want to think about her, right now. Or even anytime soon.” I sobered and placed a hand on his biceps. “I’m sorry I ruined our date.”
“Eh,” he shrugged, “not ruined at all. I’m with you.”
“Yes, you are.” I caught my lower lip between my teeth as my stomach clenched and my magic skittered through me.
He dragged his thumb along my mouth, pulling my lip free as he leaned in. Moving my hand to his chest, I stopped him before he could kiss me.
“Let me get some gum, a breath mint, go brush my teeth,” I said a bit desperately. “I may not have smoked the whole thing but not at my best here, Maddock.”
He hummed, but didn’t pull away. In fact, he pushed forward, whispering against my mouth, “I don’t much care, sweetheart. Just want to kiss my girlfriend,” before settling his lips over mine.
I lost track of time, forgot all my objections as he pulled me closer and delved inside, licking, nipping, driving me mad.
When he pulled away, gasping, he rested my forehead against mine. “Come back to my place?”
My trust in him, my magic clearly approving as it danced along my nerves, everything I felt for him overrode the doubts—mine, Mom’s, Kyle’s—and I nodded. Grinning, he stood and helped me up. His arm wrapped tightly around me, we headed toward his building. The fear was still there, simmering beneath everything else. Only because I knew, I just knew, this man had the power to hurt me. And it had nothing to do with whether or not he found out about my magic. He had the power to completely destroy me…because I loved him.