“Never.” I sat down on the edge of the bed.

“What happened here?” The picture she was pointing to was mostly metallic silver.


“My friend Michael’s room. We wrapped everything we could in aluminum foil.”

“I’ll have to remember that.” She moved closer. “Who’s he?”

I looked over her shoulder. “Nate. You’d love him. He’s a dancer, too.”

“And has good hair. Hold on a second.” She pointed at another picture. “Speaking of hair … you had dreads. How long did you have dreads?”

“Pretty much always.”

She turned around, her hands on her hips. “When did you cut them?”

“Right about the time I decided to come here. I didn’t want to give your dad any reason to turn me down. I wanted to help you.” I shrugged.

“You had to give things up. Your home, friends—and your hair—all to come to New Orleans. For me.”

“Coming here wasn’t mandatory. It was my choice. And don’t doubt for a second that I wouldn’t do the same all over again.”

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“The dreads were hot.” She bent toward me, smoothed her fingers over my hair. “But this … being able to slide my hands in and keep your face where I want it? I like that better.”

I met her eyes. “I might need a demonstration.”

She smiled, slowly, and pulled me in for a kiss.

Chapter 15


I wasn’t done with the kissing by any means, but I couldn’t stop thinking about the pictures or his life in Ivy Springs. I took the corkboard off his desk and climbed into his lap.

“Who are they?” I pointed to a group picture. “Them first.”

“Kaleb and Lily,” Dune said. “She can find things; he can read emotional time lines.”

“That’s a lot of sexy in one couple.” Kaleb stood behind Lily, with his arms around her waist.

Dune laughed. “You got that right.”

My jealousy tweaked a little. “And these two?”

“Emerson and Michael. Travelers. They set off electrical equipment when they touch.”

“So do Amelia and Zooey. Imagine how their mom felt when they were in her womb.”

I refocused on the photo. Tall, dark, and handsome held hands with short, blond, and cute, and they both looked fierce, like anyone who tried to come between them would get taken out.

“And you never had anyone?”

“I hadn’t met you yet.”

I turned around to face him. “Why are you giving me puppy eyes?”

“I thought you were going to kiss me.”

“Oh, keep looking at me like that and I can do better than kiss you.” I put the corkboard down and slid my hands inside the short sleeves of his shirt and up, just to touch skin I hadn’t before. I stopped when I saw the tattoo that completely covered his right shoulder. I pulled up the fabric and stared at the intricate lines.

“A tattoo?” The sexy surprises never stopped with this one. I wondered if there were more and made the resolution to go exploring.

“It’s Samoan. Descendants of chiefs usually get the traditional pe’a.”

“What’s a pe’a?”

“The pe’a goes from the waist to the knees. Everywhere between the waist and the knees.”

I blinked. “Do you …?”

“I opted out.” He grinned. “It takes ten days. If an intended chief received it and didn’t cry from the pain or die from infection, he was fit to rule.”

“That’s … terrifying.”

“I’ll never be a chief, so the shoulder was the better option.” He looked down at it. “It stands for a lot of things. All of them important enough for me to carry around for life.”

I pushed him down on the bed. “Who are you and where did you come from and how did I get lucky enough to be here with you now?”

His answer was his fingertips on my face, my neck, the small of my back. So gentle, so careful. He found sensitive spots, teased me with his touch, and then brought every ounce of focus back to our joined mouths.

When my explorations got a little adventurous, he rolled me over, took my wrists in his hands, and put them over my head. Then he adjusted our bodies so nothing but our lips were touching.

“Dune.” I pressed toward him, yearning for more. I’d have begged for him in the middle of the Saint Louis Cathedral during Easter mass.

“You sound winded.”

“You’re withholding.”

“I’m delaying gratification.” He lowered his body half an inch.

I was two seconds away from levitating.

“Delay this.” I managed to work one leg free, and I hooked it around the back of his knee.

His answering groan was bliss. He turned on his side and pulled me to his chest. “We have to talk.”

“No idea where you’re going with this, but I can already tell you I don’t like it.” I started wiggling.

“Stop.” He held me closer, kissing me on the forehead. “It’s not bad. It’s just not your usual MO. A few people from the Hourglass are coming to help us.”

“A few people?” I said, stunned.

“Yes. The ones you saw in the pictures. Except for Nate. He’s on a job with another friend, Ava.”

‘That’s a lot of people.” I twitched. “Why can’t we handle this on our own?”

“I don’t work alone, Hal. The Hourglass was always part of that for me, and you’re part of it now, too, whether you like it or not.”

Overwhelmed didn’t touch my emotional state. “I’m not really a team player.”

“I know.”

“I’m not good with groups.” I stood up.

So did he. “I hear you.”

“I don’t depend on other people. Not really.” Not since Benny.

“Now you can.”


“Talk to me. Where’s your head?” I asked.

She started laughing. “It’s just sad. I need help to handle my own mother.”

“Have you ever called her out on the way she treats you?”

“What am I supposed to say? ‘Hey, Mom. You suck at this. Love me more. For once, put me first. Make five minutes about me instead of always making it about you. Hear me. Damn it, just look at me.’ ”

“You could start there.”

“There’s no point.” Hallie threw up her hands. “She’ll never hear it.”

“Maybe it’s more important simply to say it.”

“Right.” Her expression closed in on itself. “If you want the Hourglass here, you’re going to have to ask Dad.”

“Don’t change the subject.”

She gave my floor a good stare-down. “Do you know how demeaning it feels to talk about how little your own parent cares for you? Especially to someone who matters?”

“Nothing you ever say should make you feel that way.” I lifted her chin with my hand, saw the emotional wound in her eyes. It wasn’t the kind she could heal in a second. “Especially since I care about you, too.”

“You mean that.”

“I do. I want you to believe it.”

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