“Our relationship is … difficult.”
“My dad was dead.”
I jerked my head around. “Was?”
“He’s a time traveler. Explosions, continuum issues, search and rescue.”
“The Hourglass seems to have a special talent for … bouncing back from death.”
“True. But we’ve all had a rough year.” He pointed to the tiny scars from previous piercings in his nose and eyebrow. The studs in his ears remained. “There are even war wounds.”
I noticed the edges of a tattoo at his sleeve cuffs and collar. It made me think of Dune’s, and the feel of his skin. Kaleb caught me staring. “Dune and I went to the tattoo parlor at the same time.”
“I love his. I bet Lily likes yours.”
“Lily accepts me for who I am. It took a long time, but so do I, and so does my dad. We’re going to pull you through this. The Hourglass has a special talent for that, too.”
I bit down on my lower lip. I didn’t want any more waterworks.
As if Kaleb knew, he gave me a pat on the shoulder, stood, and left me to contemplate the steam rising off the water.
Kaleb told me I could find Hallie at the pool. When I’d stared at him for a few seconds, he’d told me I should find Hallie at the pool, and then he pushed me in the right direction.
I surprised her when I sat down.
“What are you doing?” She looked at the water like it was alive and ready to come out of the ground to swallow me whole.
My stomach crashed to my feet when I considered her motive for being where she was. “Did you come here because you hoped I wouldn’t follow you?”
“No. No!” She grabbed my knee when I started to stand up. “I came outside barefoot without thinking about it, and the water is heated.”
Logic, not purposeful avoidance.
We both leaned back, hands behind us. Hallie’s feet were in the pool, mine folded uncomfortably. She gave me a side glance, and I turned around, back to the water, legs stretched out in front of me. We were still shoulder to shoulder, but I liked this position better. I could look at her face.
“There’s a pool outside the Hourglass. I actually live in the pool house.” I grinned. “How’s that for irony?”
“I’m glad pools don’t bother you.” She gave me a shoulder bump. “I bet you play a mean game of chicken, and we need to incorporate pool time into our first vacation together.”
“First vacation?” I watched her expression closely. “Does that mean you’ve reached a decision about how to handle the rip situation?”
“I talked to my … dad.”
That explained why she’d grabbed her phone and run outside so quickly, and was probably the reason why Kaleb had followed shortly thereafter.
“What did he say?”
“He agrees with your plan, thinks she should share the load. He wanted to drop everything and come home.”
“Did you think he wouldn’t?” I asked.
“I have a lot to think about. I asked him to trust me.”
“I’m sorry that it’s come to this, but the choice is crystal clear to me.”
“There’s a part of me, a really stupid part, that still wishes things could be different. That she’d be the cookie-baking mom, the kind that was a hundred percent in my corner. But I know that’s not the case, and it never will be.” She took a deep breath. “And Dad used to love her. I asked him if he knew about the genetic engineering. He said he didn’t. He also said he didn’t love her anymore.”
“Is he your—”
“Yes.” Her conviction was accompanied by calm. “In every way that matters, and biologically. She didn’t pick my dad to be her husband by accident.”
“I’m sorry you had to find out this way.”
“I’m not. It’s one of the best things she did. Maybe the best.”
“It resulted in you.” I leaned in, and then stopped a millimeter away. She closed the distance.
It was a slow kiss. I savored her mouth, concentrating on it and nothing else. I wanted us to live our lives in seconds instead of hours, because no one knew how many we had left.
“There are too many people in this house,” she murmured against my lips.
“So let’s get a plan together and get rid of them.”
She pulled away. “Do you have ideas?”
My gaze traveled the length of her body. “So many.”
I got an eye roll, but she didn’t mean it. “About the rips?”
“I think so.” I stood up and held out my hand. “Your mom is out there somewhere, and I’d rather we find her than vice versa.”
She put her feet on the ground and let me help her up. Once she was standing, I turned around. “Piggyback?”
“Yeah. I don’t want your toes to get cold.”
She put her arms around my neck and jumped. When her legs went around my waist, I wrapped my hands around her feet and started for the house.
Her breath was warm on the back of my neck. “Yeah?”
“I’m falling in love with you.”
I didn’t miss a step. “Good. Because I’m already there.”
After Dune’s breathing was deep and even, I slipped out of bed. I was too nervous to read, and listening to music only made me want to dance, which wasn’t conducive to other people’s sleeping patterns. I was supposed to contact my mother the next morning and ask her to meet us at Poe and Dune’s apartment, where Poe would pull her into a veil.
Poe had disappeared after agreeing to the plan. I’d tried to talk to him, to make sure he knew that whether he helped or not was his choice, and that he shouldn’t feel pressured. He’d just shaken his head and walked away, carrying blame on his back like fully stacked free weights.
I stared out the window at my studio, my usual solace in times of stress, and grabbed my toe shoes. I slipped downstairs and outside in less than a minute. I’d just passed the courtyard when the bottom dropped out.
The wrought iron gate made a clanging sound, and I stopped dead.
“Hallie! Get down!”
Carl, head of security, had followed me out of the house. I remained frozen as he lurched toward me. The sound of a silenced gunshot echoed three times, and he clutched his chest and hit the ground.
Memories broke free from my subconscious. Benny’s blue eyes, wide open and empty. The devastating feeling that it was my fault.
It covered the pavers now, just as it had covered the gray stones outside Jackson Square. The difference was that Carl still had light in his warm brown eyes, and he was talking to me. I dropped to the ground beside him.
“Run. Your dad will never … forgive …”
“I’m not leaving you.” I searched the dark, hoping for help, but fearing more violence. “Someone heard the shots, they had to—”
My head jerked back as a hand wrapped around my hair and pulled me to my knees. I looked up, expecting to see a guy holding a semiautomatic, some thug my father had crossed finally getting his revenge.
It was my mother, holding a handgun. A shadowy figure stood behind her, but I couldn’t make out any features.