Obligation, p.10
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       Obligation, p.10
 

         Part #2 of Underground Kings series by Aurora Rose Reynolds
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“I know you’re upset.”

  “No, Kai, I’m not upset.” I franticly shake my head back and forth, knowing I probably look insane.

  “If you’ll just listen for a moment, I can explain everything.”

  My body stills and I force myself to relax as his hold on me tightens almost painfully. “Okay,” I breathe, wanting to hear what he’s going to say. I so badly want him to make this right, to make me understand so the pain in my chest will go away.

  “I needed the people who were trying to harm you to believe we were no longer together.”

  My gut twists, and I know that, even if that were the case, even if he was doing it as a way to protect me, no one would have known he’d left me a note. No one would have known he told me that his lawyer would be in touch. No one would have known I cried for hours, alone, in our bed, surrounded by his smell. He could have spoken to me, could have told me what he wanted to do, but he didn’t even give me a choice in the matter. He left me without so much as a “fuck you.”

  “You did a good job,” I say snidely.

  “You have to understand,” he says quietly, giving my waist a squeeze.

  I jerk away and turn to face him. “I understand I told you before that I needed you to be up-front with me about everything.” I accentuate the last word. “I understand that you could have talked to me, but you chose not to. And I also understand that what we had was never real, so the fact that it ended shouldn’t really hurt.” I shove past him and head towards the kitchen.

  “Myla, I’m not going anywhere!” he shouts down the hall.

  I turn to look at him. Words get stuck in my throat, so without another word, I turn away and head towards the kitchen. There, I grab a glass of water before making my way down to the beach, where I sit staring off into the ocean until a chill fills the air and I’m forced to go inside.

  *

  I get out of bed, pulling on a pair of shorts and a hoodie before heading to the kitchen, finally giving up on getting any sleep. I have tossed and turned for the last hour, unable to turn my brain off. I finally decided I would just get up and bake something.

  Since I was young, baking has been an escape for me, and I know it’s the one thing I can do right now that will help me clear my head. I make it to the kitchen and turn on the light. Then I pull out all the ingredients I need to make pineapple cupcakes with rum cream frosting. Just as I begin to crack eggs into the bowl, I see movement out of the corner of my eye. My belly does a flip, expecting to see Kai, but instead, my eyes connect with Pika’s.

  “I see you,” I tell him, going back to putting the ingredients into the bowl.

  “How are you feeling?” he asks, coming to sit on the counter next to me.

  I think about his question for a moment then think about the way my stomach felt every time I thought about Kai, and I honestly didn’t know how to answer.

  “I don’t know.” I shrug, pull out a baking pan, and fill the holes with cupcake liners.

  “I have known Kai for a long time.”

  I swallow but don’t look at him.

  “I know you don’t want to hear this right now, but he was right in his actions.”

  My head lifts and my eyes meet his. “You don’t think he should have told me something? Anything? At least given me some kind of clue he was coming home and we were not over?” I feel the pain in my chest expand. “I’m sorry, but I cannot imagine being with someone, caring about them, and then leaving them without a backward glance…without even a proper goodbye.”

  “Myla, think about where he’s coming from. You meet this girl, and out of nowhere, your life changes and she becomes someone worth fighting for, worth protecting. Think about the kind of guy you know him to be, and then tell me he wasn’t doing the right thing.”

  “He didn’t do that, Pika. He didn’t fight. Not for me,” I whisper and then look down at the bowl in my hands. “So if youre going to stay in here and try to convince me that what he did was okay, you might as well just go.”

  “I’m here for you as your friend,” he says then tugs on my arm until I go to him.

  My waist goes between his legs, my head leans on his chest, my arms wrap around him, and I feel his lips on the top of my head.

  “One day, Myla, you will see he was right.”

  *

  I look out the window, down at the rain falling into the ocean, which makes it look as turbulent as my emotions. Kai came to my room an hour ago and knocked on the door, yelling through that his mom would be here at noon. I ignored him and the feeling I got when he didn’t say anything else or try to and kick down the door to get to me.

  I hate that I am feeling so confused. I can’t figure out what I want him to do. Do I want him to fight for me, or do I want him to just leave me alone?

  I shake my head at my own stupid thoughts and turn towards the mirror to look at myself. I want to look decent for Kai’s mom. I don’t think she would understand my showing up in a pair of sweats with dark bags under my eyes from not being able to sleep properly over the last month. Actually, I know that, if I showed up like that, she would have a million questions I’m just not ready to answer.

  So, instead of sweats, I pull out my favorite jeans. They have seen better days, and those days were about ten years ago. They are a pair of medium-washed jeans with holes along the front. I bought them that way, but over the years, those holes have gotten bigger and bigger—some from normal wear and tear, and others from me and my constant picking at the material when I have them on.

  I put on a plain, white tank top, and since it is raining, I put on my favorite orange sweater that has bell sleeves and little white polka dots on it. Then I put my hair in a bun on top of my head and dab on some concealer, a little blush, and some mascara. I sigh, slip on my flip-flops, and head for the door.

  If you would have asked me a month ago to sit down with my real mom’s best friend and talk to her about the kind of person she was when she was alive, I would have jumped at the chance, but today, I don’t feel like doing that. I don’t want to talk about my past. I don’t want to talk about anything. I want to lie in bed and feel sorry for myself. Or maybe lie in bed, turn the air conditioner on high, bury myself under a million blankets, watch movies, and eat ice cream.

  I open the door, and my eyebrows pull together when I come face-to-face with a man I have never seen before. He is large—at least three hundred pounds and six two. I would guess he’s in his early forties. His skin is the same color as Kai’s, and his hair is long and slicked back from his face. He is wearing a bright floral shirt with the top two buttons undone, showing off the mass of hair on his chest and a thick, Cuban-link, gold chain. My eyes travel farther down and take in his beige khaki pants and a pair of leather sandals on his feet, which have thick black soles and large straps that wrap across his feet then around his ankles.

  “Who are you?” I ask, taking a step back.

  “Frank.” He smiles, showing off a set of perfectly straight, white teeth with one of the front two outlined in gold.

  “Um…” I look at him, confused, and his smile gets bigger.

  “Uncle Frank,” he says like I should know exactly who he is. “Aww, come on!” He throws his hands up in the air, and I notice that every one of his fingers has a gold ring on it. “That damn boy never gives me any credit.” He shakes his head. “Kai’s my nephew. His mom is my sister.”

  “Oh,” I mutter, still confused on why he is standing outside my bedroom door.

  “He sent me to look after you.”

  “What? Where’s Aye or Pika?” I question, and his face changes slightly.

  “They were needed elsewhere.”

  “Where’s Kai?”

  “Don’t know.” He shrugs then smiles again. “You ready to do this thing?”

  “What thing would that be?”

  “Go down to the library,” he explains like we are going to be doing something much more exciting than just going to the library.

  “Sure,” I mumble
, still confused.

  He smiles bigger then pulls a gun out from behind his back. When I see it in his hand, I scream then back up into the room and quickly shut the door. My heart is pounding hard as I get down on the ground and crawl over to the window, not wanting to be shot if he decides to shoot through the door.

  “Aw, geez. I’m not going to shoot you, girl! I’m here to protect you!” he yells through the closed door.

  “Go away! I have a gun and I’m not afraid to use it!” I yell back, knowing damn well I don’t have a gun. I don’t even know how to shoot a gun, and God forbid I ever be given a gun. I would likely shoot myself by accident.

  “Fucking great,” he mumbles, and then he lightly knocks on the door. “Please come out. I put the gun away.”

  “Go away!” I yell then open the window and look down to the ground below, realizing I’m stuck. If I jump out the window, I would likely fall to my death, but if I go to the door, I might be shot by a crazy man.

  “I’m going to get my sister,” he says, knocking on the door again. “Could you please not tell her or Kai about the whole gun thing?” he asks, and I begin to wonder if he is fricking crazy. “I’m going to take that as a yes,” he says, and then there is silence.

  I look around the room. It’s huge, with a king-size bed, two nightstands, two dressers, a large closet, and its own bath. But what it doesn’t have is someplace to hide. I look at the door again and know that “Frank” could be trying to trick me and still be standing outside the door, waiting for me to be like all the dumb chicks in every scary movie ever made and walk out into the hall, right into his grasp.

  “Myla,” the familiar voice of Kai’s mom, Leia, calls though the door, and my stomach pitches, because now, she’s in danger. “Myla, honey, please open the door. My brother is an idiot. He didn’t mean to scare you,” she says, and I swear I can hear the smile in her voice.

  “I told you, girl. I’m here to protect you,” Frank says, and I hear a loud thwack!

  “Can you please stop until I get her to come out here?”

  “I just want her to know that I’m her bodyguard,” he whines.

  “You already said that, Frank, and you obviously scared the poor girl to death. So why don’t you let me take it from here?”

  “Fine, fine.”

  “Myla, honey, please come out.”

  I look around the room for some kind of weapon, and the only thing I can find is one of the lamps from the bedside table. I pick it up, take off the shade, unplug it, and carry it to the door. If I needed to, I can try to at least save Kai’s mom. I slowly open the door, and my eyes lock on Leia’s.

  “Ah, thank fuck,” Frank mutters, throwing his hands in the air and looking up at the celling.

  “You will have to forgive my brother. He can be a little”—she pauses, searching for the right word—“excitable.”

  I look at her then Frank and shake my head, thinking “a little excitable” is a giant understatement.

  “Sorry, girl,” Frank says then smiles, throwing his arm around his sister’s shoulders. “She’s cute,” he tells her, and then his face goes serious. “Don’t tell Kai about this.”

  “Ugh…sure.” I bite my lip to keep from laughing at the look on Leia’s face. I can’t believe that someone as elegant as she is is related to this guy.

  “You’ll learn to love him,” she mutters, taking the lamp out of my hand and setting it inside the room. Then she takes my hand and leads me down the hall.

  “Hold up,” Frank says, and we stop in our tracks.

  He gets in front of us and begins walking down the hall, looking right and left like he is making sure the coast is clear. Kai’s mom wraps her arm around mine and leans into my side, and I feel her silent laughter as we watch her brother the whole way to the library.

  I look at the picture that was just handed to me, and I can’t believe how absolutely stunning my mom was. She looked like she could have graced the cover of Vogue. Her hourglass figure, beautiful, porcelain skin, and long, thick, blond hair were all perfect in a way that people today pay loads of money for.

  “You look just like her.”

  I look up from the picture and into the smiling face of Kai’s mom and shake my head.

  “You do. You have your dad’s nose, but everything else is all your mom.”

  I look down at the picture again and notice that my lips are the same as hers, the bottom one full and the top one slightly thinner. Her cheekbones were pronounced, just like mine, and her eyes were almond-shaped, also like mine.

  “See? Your nose is all your father’s.” She smiles, handing me another picture, this one of a handsome man wearing a suit that fit him well, showing off his toned physique.

  I can tell, even through the photo, that he took care of himself. His hair was dark brown and styled in a way that said that he took his time to tame it, and his skin was naturally tan. I look at his face, my eyes zeroing in on his nose, and I can see we do have the same one.

  “How old were they in these pictures?” I ask, still staring at the photos.

  “This was right after they were married, so I would guess early twenties. Your mom was about a month pregnant with you when this picture was taken. She had griped that she looked terrible because she had been having horrible morning sickness. I told her she was crazy. I had never once seen your mother look anything but perfect,” she says with a giggle.

  “She was really beautiful,” I whisper, taking another picture when it’s handed to me, this one of my mom and dad together, my mom with a large, round belly that looks like a perfectly shaped basketball under her form-fitting dress.

  “She was beautiful.”

  I look up from my position on the floor and see a sadness in her eyes that makes my heart hurt. “We don’t have to do this,” I whisper, not wanting to cause her any more pain.

  “Oh, honey.” She shakes her head, her hand coming down, running over my hair. “Even though this hurts, it feels good. Your mom was my best friend. She was someone who could walk into a room and everyone would stop to take notice that she was there. It wasn’t her beauty that did that, either. Her spirit called to you, made you want to be around her. I’m sad that you will never know what it was like to be in her presence, to have her shine her light on you. So if this is the only part of her you will be able to experience, then I’m so happy to be the one to share it with you.”

  Wow, I think, loving Leia just a little more than I already did.

  “Thank you.” I clear my throat as tears begin to clog it.

  She smiles then hands me another picture, this one of my mom sitting on a bed with my dad next to her, one arm holding her close, the other wrapped around a tiny baby.

  “You see what I mean? Your mom had just given birth, yet she looked absolutely perfect,” she says, and she is not wrong.

  My mom’s hair was on top of her head in a tight bun, and her makeup was still perfectly in place. She looked like she had just gotten through with a day at the spa, not just given birth.

  “They look like the perfect couple,” I say wistfully.

  She laughs and her face lights up. “They were crazy about each other. Your mom told me she was going to marry him the first night they met.”

  “Really?” I ask, looking at the picture again.

  “Oh, yeah. We were both in our freshmen year of college and had just passed our first semester exams, so we decided to go out to dinner to celebrate. The moment we walked into the restaurant, your mom stopped dead in her tracks, causing me to plow into her. I looked around to see why she was stopping, but then I noticed a tableful of men. All of them were handsome. I told her she was staring, and she whispered that she couldn’t help it—her future was sitting right in front of her. At this point, I swore she was crazy. Honestly, who sees a man and says something like that? But then your dad’s head turned our way and his eyes locked on your mom, and without another word to the men at the table, he came over to us, stopped in front of your mom, took her
hand, and led her to the bar.”

  “No way.” I smile. My dad had balls.

  She laughs hard and her eyes go soft. “Yes way. I stood there for a few minutes, wondering if I was seeing things, but I wasn’t. A few minutes later, your dad brought your mother back to me, introduced himself, and then went back to his table.”

  “What happened next?”

  “It’s like you say—the rest is history. Your dad made plans with your mom for the next night, and from that moment on, they were inseparable.”

  “That quickly?” I ask, running my finger over another picture of my parents, this one of them laughing while looking at each other.

  “That quickly. Sometimes, you just know, and your mom and dad both knew. It was almost as if, the moment they saw each other, their souls had recognized the other as their perfect match.”

  “That really sounds crazy,” I murmur, but an image of Kai flashes through my head and how something deep in me knows him and went to him without a fight the moment I saw him. I think about how, every time I have been with him, it has been easy, about how he makes me feel. I shake off that thought, not wanting to feel the pain I feel every time I think about him now. Not right now, when I have the opportunity to learn about my parents.

  “Sometimes, you just know,” she repeats. She smiles then pulls out another stack of pictures.

  For the rest of the day, I sit on the floor while she sits on the couch, and she shares pictures and stories of my parents with me. By the time she leaves, I feel like a weight has been lifted off my shoulders. She unconsciously helped mend some of the pieces of my heart back together again.

  Chapter 9

  One Day at a Time

  “Where’s Pika?” I ask Aye.

  He looks at me, presses his lips tighter together, and then looks back to the TV.

  “What does that mean?” I question, confused by that response.

  “He’s not here.”

  “I obviously know that. He hasn’t been here in two days, but I’m asking you where he is.”

  “You’re going to have to speak with Kai about that,” he mutters, not taking his eyes off the TV, knowing damn well there is no way in hell I will be speaking to Kai about anything, let alone where Pika is.

 
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