“Why is this happening now, then?” I don’t realize I ask that question aloud until Kai’s eyes soften, his hand comes up to my face, and his thumb runs over my cheek, sliding away another tear.
“There is so much you don’t know, Myla.”
“Like what?” I whisper.
“When the time is right, I will tell you.”
A part of me wants to demand him to tell me what he knows, but there is another part of me that wants to ignore everything happening around me and leave all of this behind.
“How difficult is it to get a new identity?” I mutter, surprised when I hear a chuckle come from Kai. “I’m serious,” I complain, turning my head to catch a smile that makes my heart constrict from how beautiful it is on Kai’s face. I swallow hard and look back out the window, trying to ignore the feeling I have from knowing I made him smile.
After a moment, the car fills with music, and my body relaxes into my seat as The Fugees’ “Killing Me Softly” fills the air. When I peek at Kai out of the corner of my eye, I wonder if he’s hearing the song like I am in that moment and if he knows that the lyrics of this song say so much more than I ever could.
Looking in a Mirror
My shoulder is nudged. I lift my head just in time to see a group of laughing kids run in front of the car.
“Where are we?”
I turn and look at Kai, who is watching out the front window of the car. When his head turns and his eyes meet mine, he smiles, and then his hand lifts and his finger runs down my cheek.
“You need to learn not to sleep on your hand. Every time you wake up, your ring is imprinted in your cheek,” he mutters.
My hand goes to my face, my fingers running over the skin. I swear I can still feel the tingle from his touch.
“It’s a big ring,” I point out and glimpse at him when he doesn’t say anything. His eyes are on the ring on my hand, and regret is bright as day in his eyes.
I pull my eyes from him, tug the visor down, and look at myself in the mirror, wanting to ignore the feelings seeing that look on his face caused. I thought at first that the ring was just something he had picked up in Vegas, but then I noticed an inscription on the inside of the band that reads, In this lifetime and the next, with the initials B and N.
After I saw the engraving, I knew that the ring that now sits on my finger had once meant a lot to someone, and even if I had hated it at first, there was something beautiful about it now. I also understood why Kai hates that I have the ring. Before me, the ring was a representation of love, and now, it’s the symbol of a lie.
“Are you ready?”
Without looking at him, I nod and unbuckle my seat belt, and once I’m out of the car, I look around. Kids are playing in the sand, building sand castles, or chasing each other near the water’s edge. There are teenagers in small groups scattered along the sand, some sunbathing, others talking in groups, while the adults stand around chatting and laughing. I run my hands down my dress, feeling a little overdressed since a lot of the women are only in their swimsuits while the men are dressed similar to Kai.
“Ready?” Kai asks again when he reaches my side.
“Yep,” I tell him with more certainty in my voice than I actually feel, shocked when he takes my hand. “What are you doing?” I ask, trying to pull my hand free from his grasp.
“Holding your hand,” he replies, entwining our fingers.
“We’re in public,” I hiss.
His head dips, his sunglass-covered eyes meet mine, and his energy changes, beginning to beat against me. “What does that have to do with anything?”
I look at him like he’s crazy and then around at the people on the beach. “All of these people can see us.”
His frown grows deeper. Then he drops my hand, lifts his sunglasses to the top of his head once more, and turns his body so he’s standing right in front of me.
“You’re my wife.”
“Pretend wife,” I remind him quietly.
His eyes flash with something I haven’t seen before and his jaw goes hard, making my breath catch.
His face dips and he whispers against my ear, “None of these people know that it’s pretend.”
It wouldn’t be so bad if the effect he has on me was also pretend, but when he’s touching me in any way, it’s difficult to keep things separate.
I let out the breath I was holding and pull back so I can look into his eyes. “You’re right,” I acknowledge, hoping he will let me go.
He searches my face, and without another word or giving me any other option but to walk with him, he takes my hand, intertwines our fingers, and leads me towards a giant fire that is set up in the middle of the beach. As we approach the bonfire, I notice the men lifting their chins to Kai. He does the same in return. I also notice that the women we pass all devour him with their eyes before shooting daggers at me.
I’m so caught up in watching the people we pass that I don’t notice that Kai has stopped until my hand is tugged. I turn my head to see what’s holding him up.
“Kai!” a beautiful woman wearing a gold bikini yells, running up to us, looking like she just stepped out of an episode of Baywatch. Her hair is dark brown and down around her shoulders. Her body looks like she spends her days counting calories and working out. Even from just looking at her, I feel insecure.
As she nears us, a smile lights Kai’s face up, and he drops my hand just in time to catch her as she throws herself into his arms. Jealously like I have never felt before ignites in my stomach as I watch them embrace. She is the first to release him, but even then, his arm stays around her. I have never been one for violence, but the urge to rip his arm off and beat him with it causes me to fist my hands at my sides.
“Myla.” Kai says my name and the woman’s face lights up again.
She catches me off guard when she steps away from Kai and throws her arms around me. My hands go out to my sides, and I stand there awkwardly, not knowing what I should do.
“I’m so happy to finally meet you,” the woman tells me as she releases me and steps back to stand near Kai.
“I—” I look at Kai when I have no idea what I should say or who this woman is.
“Meka,” Kai says warningly, grabbing my hand again and pulling me closer to his side.
The woman looks up at him, and I realize she is not quite as old as I first thought she was. And she has the same lips and eyes as Kai.