Home > Rhapsodic (The Bargainer #1)(15)

Rhapsodic (The Bargainer #1)(15)
Author: Laura Thalassa

He had to go straight for the killing blow. My heart feels like it’s at the back of my throat, and I swallow down my emotion.

I draw in a ragged breath. The past can’t hurt me anymore. None of it. It only exists in my memory.

“Des, what does it matter?”

His magic flares up in my throat, though it’s not painful like it was before. Just a reminder that I have to answer his question.

He waits, letting his rising magic speak for him.

My fingers pluck at a loose thread of my comforter. “I forced your hand.” I lift my gaze. “I pushed you too far and made you leave.” I feel the spell release me as soon as the words are out of my throat.

The past might not be able to hurt me, but it sure feels like a living, breathing thing. Amazing that something and someone who entered and exited my life close to a decade ago can still have this kind of hold on me.

The Bargainer’s eyes search mine, the silver of them glinting in the moonlight. I can’t read his expression, but it makes my stomach clench uncomfortably.

He nods once and stands. The man is almost to the balcony door before I realize he’s leaving.

That thought sends a stab of pain through me. I am so damn fed up with my stupid heart. If I could, I’d break it myself simply for being foolish enough to soften for this man when my mind wants to push him as far away as possible.

“Really, Des?” I call out. “Running again?”

His eyes flash as he swivels to face me, one hand on my sliding-glass door. “You’re righter than you know, cherub. You did force me to leave you. Seven years is a long time to wait, especially for someone like me. A word of caution: I’m not leaving again.”

Chapter 6

November, eight years ago

One wish becomes two, two wishes become four, four become eight … until somehow a whole row of beads circle my wrist.

It was just supposed to be one evening. But like an addict, I came right back to him for more. More nights, more companionship. I don’t know what the Bargainer’s story is. He has no reason to keep indulging me.

And yet he does …

I look at my beads and remember the Bargainer’s warnings.

Anything I want, you would have to give to me. Tell me, cherub, could you give me anything I wanted?

… Could you give your body to me?

I should be afraid of that threat. Instead, a restless sort of anticipation gnaws away at me.

I am not right in the head.

“What are you thinking about, cherub?” he asks.

Tonight, the Bargainer makes himself comfortable on my bed, his body so large his feet hang over the edge. The sight of him lounging there, combined with the train of my thoughts …

I feel heat crawl up my cheeks.

“Oh, definitely something inappropriate.” He settles himself against my pillow, sliding his hands behind his head.

Just when I think he’s going to taunt me about it, the Bargainer’s eyes move over my room. My gaze follows his, sliding over the rack of my cheap jewelry and the bag of makeup sitting on top of my dresser. I take in the posters hanging on my wall—one of the Beatles, another a black and white picture of the Eiffel tower, and that dumb Keep Calm and Read On poster. My textbooks are piled on my desk, alongside my mug and cans of tea bags.

Dog-eared books, clothes, and shoes litter my floor.

I feel young all of a sudden. Young and inexperienced. I can’t imagine how many women the Bargainer has visited, but I bet their rooms looked far more mature than mine, with my thumbtacked posters and sad little tea set.

“No roommate?” he asks, noticing the foldout chair I have situated where another bed should be.

“Not anymore.”

She moved in with her friend, who’d been placed in a single and wanted a roommate. I was both disappointed and relieved to see her go. I liked the companionship, but the two of us hadn’t really hit it off. She’d been funny and chirpy, and I was … troubled.

The Bargainer gives me a pitiful look. “Struggling to make friends, cherub?” he asks.

I wince. “Stop calling me that,” I say, sliding into my computer chair and kicking my legs up on my desk.

Cherub. It makes me think of fat baby angels. That makes me feel even younger.

He just smiles at me, really making himself comfortable.

“What even is your name?” I say,

“Not going to address the friends issue?” he asks.

“It’s called deflecting,” I say, tipping my chair back as I talk to him, “and you’re doing it too.”

His eyes dance. I doubt he’ll ever admit it, but I’m beginning to believe he likes visiting me. I know I like having him around. It keeps my demons at bay for just a little bit longer than it otherwise would.

“You really think I just give clients my name, cherub?” He picks up a stray piece of paper from my bedside table.

“Stop. Calling. Me that.”

“Who’s George?” he asks, reading off the paper.

And now I want to die. I snatch the note from him, crumpling it up and throwing it in the trash.

“Oh, my. George.” Just the way he says that is enough for me to fight off another blush. “Is he the one you’re thinking inappropriate thoughts of?”

If only.

“Why do you care?” I ask.

“When a boy gives you his number, it’s because he likes you. And you kept it. On your nightstand.” The Bargainer says that like the nightstand is the clincher.

What was I supposed to say to him? That the only guy I was fixating on at the moment was the Bargainer himself?

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