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Kian(3)
Author: Tijan

My foster father was bewitched by my eyes. On a good day, I was a goddess to him. On a bad day—and there had been a lot of them—it was as if I had been sent by Lucifer himself.

Everything went kaput on one of those bad days.

“Jo?”

Jake was frowning at me.

Oh, yes. Date. Erica—crap, Erica lost the job. “I have to find Erica. I need to be with her when she finds out.”

“What?”

“I have to go.” I started to leave.

“Wait.” He reached out for me, but I was hurrying toward the door. He called after me, “So, no date then?”

I held up a hand in an absentminded wave. Jake was the least of my…whatever he was—problem, person of interest. I didn’t know. I wasn’t going to think about him, not until I found Erica.

It didn’t take me long. I found her by the food court. She was standing behind a group of students, huddled around another television.

“Hey.” I tugged on her shirt when I got to her side. I had an insta-frown on my face. This wasn’t going to be good. Should I break the news to her? Or play dumb and wait for the phone call?

“Hey,” she mumbled back, distracted. Her eyes were narrowed, focused solely on the television in front of us.

I didn’t want to look. From the corner of my eye, I knew it was my face again. By now, the shock wore off. I remembered it was the anniversary of my case. I should’ve assumed to see my old face today. The trial had been all over the news, but it faded once I went into hiding. My case was solved. There was a dead body, and someone was in jail, but I was the only unknown. Every now and then, it’d pop back up on one of those shows about what had happened to so-and-so.

I shoved that out of my head again. “Erica?”

“Yeah? What?” Her attention was still zeroed in straight ahead.

I waved my hand in the air. “Roomie?”

“What?” She turned sharply to me, then softened her voice. “Sorry. What is it, though?”

I moved back a step, but I saw something in her eyes that I rarely saw. Hurt appeared there. She took her glasses off, and I saw it more evident. I rarely saw my roommate without her eye equipment. Her glasses seemed permanently attached. I even found her sleeping with them a few times.

Crossing her arms over her chest, Erica shielded the hurt, so she was just hostile now. When the full effect of that was coming at you, you’d need to be wary. My roommate was only five feet four, but she was a feisty five feet four. Weighing a hundred twenty-five, she might look like a book nerd with her glasses, choppy short hair, and pale skin, but her looks were deceiving. She had a reporter’s nose, intuition, and concentration that would outdo a bird dog on a bird trail. When something piqued her interest, nothing and no one had better get in the way…like I had just done.

I glanced at the phone she was clutching in her hand. “Any calls yet?”

“Why?” Suspicion formed on her face.

“Uh…”

She jerked her head back to the television. “They called thirty minutes ago.”

“I’m so sorry, Erica. You weren’t planning on going to Sids tonight, were you?”

“What?”

“Susan’s going to be there tonight.”

“How do you know that?”

Well. Shit. I glanced to the floor for a moment. My roommate was not a fan of my ex-fling-whatever-he-was. “Jake invited me to it, to the celebration.”

“Jake?” Her eyebrows pinched together. “What celebration?”

“For Susan. She got the job at the paper.” Ah, crap. I thought she knew? “You did know, right?” I touched her arm. That’s what I heard from her, wasn’t it? “That Susan got the job? I didn’t break that news to you?”

She nodded, chewing the inside of her lip. “I can’t believe her nerve. Did she ask Jake to ask you? And holy shit, Jake asked you out? After the last time you saw him? Asshole! That’s something Susan would totally do. I bet she made him ask you just to piss me off—you know, kick me when I’m down, pour salt in the wound.”

Erica was the one who helped me get over him, promising to ruin him with the power of a thousand suns. Those were her words, not mine. I knew she’d exacted some revenge on him—hacking into his school email and changing his passwords to everything in the system—but she toned it down when I told her I didn’t want to hear his name again, which included any revenge she had taken out on him.

“Or did he ask you out on his own?” She pinned me down with that question. “He humiliated you last winter.”

I moved back a step. “Well…I mean…that’s putting it dramatically.” It was true, but I glanced around. She didn’t have to broadcast it to everyone.

“You slept on your bathroom floor for an entire weekend.”

Yep, we were getting attention now. A rush of blood went to my face, and I was becoming redder as she kept talking by the minute.

“Hey, now. Can we lower this conversation just a small bit?”

“I had to buy twelve cartons of ice cream for you.”

“That’s a lie,” I told our newfound audience. “I don’t even like ice cream. It’s a complete lie. She’s making things up.”

Erica rolled her eyes but quieted her voice. “Don’t go with him—” She stopped and latched on to my arm. “Wait. Did you say they’re going to Sids tonight?” She squeezed my hand.

   
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