Drip Drop Teardrop Page 15

“What?” she snapped.

His eyes narrowed to dangerous slits and then he was sitting down on the opposite sofa, his elbows braced on his knees as he leaned towards her.

“What’s going on?”

She shrugged.

“Avery… why are you pulling away? Is it because of last night?”

“I’m not pulling away,” she huffed. “Maybe I’m just not a very nice person.”

When he rolled his eyes at her, Avery had to hold back a smile. It was such a un-Brennus-like expression it was comical on him. “Right,” he replied sarcastically. “Or maybe you’re just writing this off before it’s even begun.”

Anger rippled through her at the suggestion. “Writing this off? I have the chance to save Aunt Caroline’s life… you think I’m writing this off?”

At her retort Brennus’ expression darkened, a sad rejection entering his eyes before he thought to curb it. A twinge of pain originating from her chest drew into a battle with her mind. She had to stop feeling bad every time she hurt his feelings!

“This can’t just be about saving Aunt Caroline, Avery. It won’t work. It has to be about you and me too.”

Avery shook her head. “Brennus, Caroline is everything to me. If I do this, then it’s because of her.”

“You would trade your life for hers in a sense then?” He frowned. “Why? Why is she everything?”

It seemed like such a silly question. But then she took a moment to remember that Brennus had only ever had people in his life that had betrayed and hurt him. When he had traded his life… in the end it had been for the wrong person.

She leaned back more comfortably into the sofa and smiled at the thought of her aunt. “Because… she gave up a free and easy life to raise a pre-pubescent child. She taught me to be a person with good values and principles. She’s never cared what anyone else thinks about her and she’s never judged me because I do care. She’s always pointed me in the right direction. She helped me make decisions that have made my life better. In school she was on the school newspaper and she said it was really fun, so I joined the school newspaper and I met Sarah. Aunt Caroline played volleyball, so she taught me, and I tried out for the team and I played for the last three years in school and met some really great people. She had such an amazing time at NYU doing journalism that I knew I would too, and I did, the little time I was there.” It was true. She wouldn’t know how to be without Caroline. All the biggest decisions in her life had been shaped by her. Suddenly her chest felt tight with panic.

“What about your parents?”

Avery frowned at the abruptness of the question and the question itself. “What about my parents?”

He shrugged slightly. “Well, what was your relationship with them like?”

The vice on her chest tightened. “I don’t know. I was a kid.”

“You were ten. You must remember them.”

Her skin felt too tight. She scratched the nape of her neck and looked into the fireplace, escaping the penetrating darkness of Brennus’ gaze. She got the creepy feeling he knew her thoughts before she did. “I don’t know. They were great. They loved me… I don’t know.” She shrugged again and her eyes prickled with frustrated tears. Angry tears. Self-directed angry tears. “I guess I was kind of a brat.”

“Brat, how?”

Avery laughed hollowly. “They did a lot of things for me. Mostly because I would throw a fit otherwise.”

The corner of Brennus’ mouth quirked up. “Sounds like every kid on the planet.”

She shook her head. “Not every kid. I mean… I really pushed them.” She snorted thinking back. “When I was six we were in the department store and I saw this gorgeous doll house, big enough for me to fit in. It must have cost a fortune because when I said I wanted it, my mom, who spoiled me rotten, said maybe for Christmas. So I got inside the doll house and wouldn’t come out. The manager came over, other customers were looking. Ugh. My mom was so embarrassed she bought the house. I think I played in it twice.” She shook her head, that deep buried guilt starting to burrow its way out. “When I was eight, I watched Something to Talk About with my mom and decided I needed a pony. I gave my parents the silent treatment for an entire month.” She raised her eyebrows ignoring his smirk. “Do you have any idea how difficult that is for a little girl? A month of no talking. My parents were going out of their minds, arguing with one another, my dad telling my mom to give in, my mom telling him they had to have some boundaries. God, I remember it like it was yesterday. Anyway… they eventually signed me up for riding lessons and the first time they put me on the horse I screamed and cried, terrified of the damn thing. My mom was pretty smug about that to my dad.”

Brennus was shaking with laughter. “You sound horrifying.”

She wanted to laugh at herself. But she couldn’t. “And then when I was ten, our class did a project on capital cities and I was given London. I did all this stuff on Buckingham Palace and the Royal Family, on the Royal Ballet, on the West End… you know, the stuff little girl’s dreams are made of,” she whispered now. “So after another endless semester of tantrums my parents cancelled our annual trip to the Cape and booked us a trip to Europe.”

A chill fell over the room and this time Brennus had nothing to do with it.

She couldn’t meet his eyes.

“Avery-”

“You know what!” Avery stood up abruptly, a false smile pasted on her face. “I could go pizza for lunch. I know this great place… in Westchester, believe it or not.”

When he smiled softly and stood up to take her hand without saying a word, without forcing her to admit what was buried deep down inside, without forcing her to wonder if she became a person at all or was merely moulded into someone who already existed because she was the kind of girl who hadn’t gotten her parent’s killed, Avery’s heart seemed to miss a couple of beats. Willpower, she whispered inwardly, willpower.

***

“You know I was a real dick when I was a mortal.”

Avery nearly choked on her pizza at Brennus’ random comment. She snorted and coughed, trying not to laugh harder as he grinned wickedly at her.

They were sitting in Papa’s Pizza eating the most delicious pepperoni pizza she had ever tasted, munching in comfortable silence as she tried to shrug off her moment of naked vulnerability with him. He had gotten things out of her that no one had. And he hadn’t even done anything but ask a couple of ‘innocent’ questions. So when he called himself a dick in a family restaurant, it made her feel better. Just as he intended.

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