Home > Kian(9)

Author: Tijan

“That wasn’t a riot act. That was the disclaimer for the riot act. No, no, Jake dear, I’m just warming up.”

He let out a sigh, glancing over his shoulder. “I can leave, if I’m upsetting you that much.”

That shut her up. Her mouth flattened, and she sent me a look. I didn’t know what to say. I wasn’t processing a lot that night, so I held up a hand and waved it around. He could do what he wanted. Her eyebrows dropped, all in one line, and she gave me an incredulous look. Yes, I was chickening out. I did not want to make any decisions about Jake then and there. My energy was being used by avoiding a certain other face, one that was literally smack dab in the middle of our table.

There was a standoff between Jake and Erica, but Wanker decided. He poured some of his wine into one of the glasses before nudging it to Jake.

Dipping his head low, he pointed to it. “There you go. It’s a white wine, but it has some sweetness too.” He waited until Jake took a sip and then nodded enthusiastically. “Right? Can you taste the sweetness?”

As if sensing I didn’t want to talk, Erica turned her attention to Wanker, and soon, he was explaining what a tannin was to Jake.

With the attention not on me or about me, I glanced down at the table. Kian’s face was still there. The news had a video looped in, showing when he was released. He was shown leaving the prison administration office and hurrying into a waiting vehicle. I recognized the others with him—his mom, sister, and two of his lawyers.

That was…lovely.

During the trial, Sonya, his mother, and Felicia, his sister, were the two who had always sat in the courtroom. I hadn’t gone every day. I didn’t remember seeing his father there, but he must’ve been.

As dark as Kian was, his mother was the opposite. She had beautiful, sleek almost-white hair, but it wasn’t white from her older age. She was only in her late forties. That was just the natural color of her hair. It was shiny and fell to her shoulders, and that was where the differences ended between herself and Felicia. While Felicia had the same dark hair as Kian, she had the same graceful and petite body frame as her mother.

I remembered hearing that Felicia used to ride horses for shows, and I could imagine it—with the white pants, gloves, sophisticated boots, and a riding helmet with the strap secured under her chin. She gave off a prestigious Hamptons air.

I never spoke to them. They never spoke to me. They never even looked my way. There I had been, the girl their son/brother had saved and the reason he was going to prison.

Seeing them now at his side, my insides were a mess. The storm that I had been trying to ignore was threatening to spill to the surface again. I was going to lose it. Even now, the hair on the back of my neck stood up. I felt I was being watched, just like back then.

“Jo.” Erica’s voice broke through, and she took the bottle of wine from my hands.

No, make that an emptied bottle of wine. I’d drunk that whole thing while glaring down at Kian’s press release.

“What?” I asked her.

She held the bottle out to the waiting server and asked me, “Do you want another bottle…or maybe not?”

Wanker tugged at his shirt collar. “I think we should have champagne next.”

Erica’s eyes lit up, and like that, I was off the hook.

She clapped her hands together. “Champagne! Yes, please.” She turned to the server. “Two bottles. I’ll pay with my cr—”

“You will not.” Wanker’s hand jerked out, but it wasn’t steady.

He was reaching for the credit card Erica was handing to the server. Instead of hitting it down to the table, he had some extra oomph, and it fell to the floor instead. The redness from his face and neck spread to his hands now.

He winced. “I didn’t mean to do that.”

Erica shot him a confused look before hopping off her stool to grab her card.

When she straightened back up, Wanker said, “Put it all on my tab.” When the server left, he said to Erica, “I gave them my card already. This is your night.”

“My night?” She gestured to me. “We’re all drowning our sorrows tonight.”

The two started a debate about if we were celebrating or not that night, when Jake leaned closer. “Hey, uh…are you okay? You don’t seem like your normal self.”

I almost started laughing. He didn’t know my normal self. No one did.

As Jake was waiting for my answer, I couldn’t look away from the most recent image of Kian on the screen. His dark hair had been cut down, almost as a crew cut. He seemed even leaner and fitter than what he had been before going in. Everything about him emanated power. He looked strong. He was always athletic, but this was more. I saw it in his eyes. They could always see through me. I never noticed before it had happened, but every time he’d looked at me in the courtroom, it was the same thing. He knew me. Somehow, he could see inside of me. I felt it again, but there was an edge to him. He was like a feral animal that had been leashed.

As Jake’s dark eyes stared back at me, I felt him talking to me. I felt him saying to me that they didn’t know the only me that mattered—the broken me. They didn’t know the me that only he seemed to know.

“Yeah,” I forced out. “I’m fine. Just had a bad exam, that’s all.”

Kian’s face was everywhere so I went back into hiding. Erica invited me to get sushi with her and Wanker the next night, but I stayed home. If I didn’t go out, I couldn’t see his face plastered on magazines and newspapers. He was on my email site, so I used my phone to check emails. I wouldn’t have to see the ads or news then. It was dumb and maybe a little immature, but I still wanted to hide.

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