As I drove through the backstreets of Poehler and headed out of town, I saw Leah and a few others leaving one of the pizza places, like a normal teenager enjoying time with her friends.
I’d never been a part of that world. None of the Bradens had. And for some reason, it never bothered us. We were meant for different things. Still…a part of me wished things could’ve been different. That I could’ve grown up as a normal girl with a normal family and even a normal boyfriend.
When I slowed and turned onto the gravel road that led to my home, I knew it was useless to wish that.
I wasn’t normal. No one in my family was, but it would’ve been nice to know what normal felt like.
We lived in a three-story brick house. And as I parked to the left of the garage, I cursed when I saw that every single light was off. That didn’t mean everyone was asleep, not in my family. It meant that they were outside, probably down by the river.
It was a little reprieve for me.
I let myself in to the empty house, kept the lights off, toed off my sandals, and moved into the kitchen. The bare tile felt cool underneath my feet. As I opened the fridge, I pulled out a container of orange juice and then screamed.
Kellan stood right behind me, a foreboding expression on his face.
“Oh God.” I laughed, weakly, as I set down the orange juice. “You gave me a heart attack just now.”
Kellan cocked his head to the side, his eyes on mine.
When I shut the door, the fridge’s light was replaced by the moonlight. It fell over his face and gave him a shadowed, mysterious look. Anyone else would’ve shuddered in scared anticipation. I just shuddered because it was cold.
“What?” I asked. Kellan had something to say, I could tell. I didn’t have the patience to play his games.
“Where were you?” he asked, his voice low and gruff, almost raw.
“I had things to do. What are you talking about? I told you that.” I wanted him to leave it alone. I didn’t want to tell him about the painting, not after so many years of secrecy.
“No, you didn’t tell me anything. And I knew you didn’t want me to ask, just like you never want me to ask.” Kellan moved forward and leaned against the fridge. I knew he didn’t intend it, but his stance seemed predatory.
“I saw Leah leaving the pizza place tonight. You sure you want to miss out on that?” I asked nervously. I downed the rest of the orange juice, and when I turned toward the sink, Kellan grabbed my arm and hauled me back.
“What?” I asked. Kellan had never been intentionally rough with me. I’d never seen it, but I knew he had it in him. In fact, something told me that he had a lot in him that I wouldn’t want to know.
His fingers tightened on my arm. “What were you doing tonight?”
I looked at his hand, almost distantly, though I felt the pain intimately. “Don’t ask me that.”
“Why? Are you going to tell me the truth?”
I looked up and met his gaze. His eyes were a piercing blue, so beautiful to look at, but I swallowed and steadied myself. “I would lie. And I don’t want to lie to you.”