"I thought you were leaving," Giacinta said casually from her place by the window. She didn't look at him, but continued to keep a watchful eye on Morgan as she played with an adorable human boy. The child was quite skilled at finding her own dinners anymore.
"I am." Kieran didn't look at her, either, instead gathering various items from around the room. "I leave for Ireland tomorrow and I'm not coming back."
Surprise made her face him, her full mouth falling open. "But I thought you said--"
He shrugged. "I changed my mind," he replied. He finally looked up at her and she saw the determination and hurt written on his face.
"What happened?" she asked, concerned. One black eyebrow arched questioningly. She didn't know it, but somehow her expression became condescending instead of caring.
A corner of his mouth twisted. "Nothing."
Her eyes narrowed suspiciously. She glanced out the window briefly to check on Morgan, to give herself some time to figure out what was really going on, but the children had disappeared. "Something happened. And what do you mean you're not coming back? You have to."
"No, I don't," he retorted, "and I’m not going to." He glared at her from beneath heavy lashes that hid the touch of desperation in his eyes. He was not as successful at keeping it out of his voice.
Her lips pursed, she asked the question that had been bothering her for the last several weeks. "Why aren't you killing Kian's soulmate?"
He knew the question shouldn't have startled him, but it did. "Why should I?" he countered.
"Because you always do," she replied disbelievingly. "Why would you stop now?"
He hesitated a moment, his lips barely moving to form words she didn't understand. Then he sighed. "It's gotten boring."
Her black eyes were sharp, burning like coals and snapping with sudden insight. "You're never bored, Kieran Redfern. What are you not telling me? What is this human girl to you?"
"Nothing," he answered just a little too quickly to be believable. He met her eyes and regarded her blankly, keeping all traces of emotion from his face.
It didn't work. She smirked, one corner of her mouth curving gleefully. "Why, Kieran, you're in love with her, aren't you?"
His eyes went flat and cold. "No," he said shortly. "I'm not."
She laughed delightedly. "You are! That's why you're not going to kill her!" She laughed again and her eyes sparkled. "I'm sure Kian would love to hear this."
"I'm sure he would, too," he stated slowly. "But if you tell him, those will be the last words you ever speak."
Her grin faded. "Don't threaten, Kieran. Didn't your mother ever tell you it isn't nice?" She paused, waiting just a split second to let those words sink in, then she continued, "Don't make me take away your toys, my love."
He shot her a moody look from eyes the color of blood-drenched sapphires. Catching the light, they seemed neither blue nor red, but that startling color in between, vivid and sharp. "I'm not your love," he said viciously. "And if I were, you wouldn't know what to do with me."
"Wooden nails and a sledgehammer would do nicely, I think," she responded, her voice tranquil and undisturbed. She smiled angelically.
"And if you were my soulmate, I'm sure I'd agree with you on that one." He returned her smile easily, but his expression was cruel. "In fact, I'd probably suggest it myself."
She stood abruptly. "Kian told me centuries ago that I wouldn't bother wasting my time on him if I found my soulmate. Perhaps I should offer the same advice to you. Stop wasting your time, Kieran. Kill the bitch and spend the next few years looking for your soulmate, not his."
"Ah, but if I found mine, why would I bother to kill his?" he countered. He lounged back against the table and folded his arms across his chest. He already knew the answer.
"Consider it a personal favor," she answered sweetly. She tossed her dark hair back over her shoulder and smiled at him. "You always were the nice twin."
He laughed so hard the table shook. "Flattery will get you nowhere, especially with me." He sobered, the laughter dropping from his eyes as quickly as a pebble off the Empire State Building. "I don't do favors."
"You do for me, Kieran dear," she murmured, gliding towards him until she was almost leaning against him. A red-tipped nail rasped against his shirt and toyed with one of the buttons. "And in return, I'll help you look for her."
His voice was almost taunting as he replied, "I've already found her." He laughed at the fury written on her face.
Winding her fingers into the fabric of his shirt, she maneuvered his face until it was inches from hers. He let her do it, not bothering to fight or move away. "Who is she?" she demanded, infuriated that he hadn't told her before.
He shrugged, easily disengaging himself. "It amazes me sometimes how remarkably dense you are, Giacinta." One corner of his mouth quirked. "Haven't you figured it out by now?"
She stared at him, searching his chiseled face for some clue. He stared back at her impassively, the mid-afternoon sun glistening like teardrops on those heavy lashes and illuminating the planes of his face. "Who is she?" she repeated.
"You don't really think I'm going to tell you, do you?" he answered. "It's not any of your business. And I don't exactly relish the idea of giving you something to hold over me."
Sadness washed over her features. "You really don't think much of me, do you?" she asked quietly. She stepped back, turning away and walking to the window, where she stared into the yard. Morgan and the human had reappeared. The human child was playing much more docilely than before. She would even venture to say that his movements were sluggish. When Morgan learned a lesson, she learned it well.
He sighed, striding across the room to join her. "Just accept it, Giacinta. Let the girl live this life in peace and let her be happy with Kian. They deserve it." He stopped then, wondering if he'd really just said that. Let his brother live in peace? With his soulmate?
He must be crazy.
"So what do you do now?" she asked moodily. She glanced at him. "Go back to Ireland and live happily ever after with your soulmate?"
He shook his head negatively, almost wishing she knew how wrong she was. Kieran didn't believe in happily ever after. He had no reason to. Abruptly, he turned away. "There is no such thing," he told her seriously. "Maybe for some people, but not for me." A wry grin. "Never for me."
"Doesn't your soulmate like you, Kieran?" she questioned coyly. She swiveled to face him, her gamin face alight with curiosity.
The violet lights in his eyes twinkled sardonically. "No more than she'd like jumping from a plane without a parachute."
Giacinta was startled at his candor. "Why? What did you do?"
"This and that," he answered evasively. "Twisted a few knives, sucked a little blood… All in all, nothing that unusual."
"Is she human?" she asked sharply. She watched him for a reaction, hopeless and hopeful all at the same time. Hopeful because Kieran deserved a human soulmate, just to teach him a lesson. Hopeless because he probably wouldn't get what he deserved. Ironically, it was because she cared about him that she hoped the girl was human.
His upper lip curled. "No, she's not." A scornful sweep of those intense and somewhat tragic eyes. "She'd be long dead were that the case."
Giacinta lifted one sculpted eyebrow. "You'd kill your soulmate? How… sweet… of you, Kieran." She stared at him while he met her eyes impassively, as chilling as she had ever seen him. Something clicked in her mind just then and she had to suppress a gasp. What if… Her sparkling black eyes were suddenly calculating.
"I wish you luck, mon cher." She turned abruptly, fingers thoughtfully smoothing the length of her skirt. "I have to go teach Morgan some manners. It's not polite to play with your food."
"I rather enjoy it," he responded lazily, wondering what prompted this. He watched her, surprised, as she glided quickly to the door.
"I don't think you do it quite the same way Morgan does." She stopped on the threshold, just for a moment. "I'm going out of town myself today," she informed him suddenly. "I probably won't see you before you leave." A moment's hesitation, then she continued, "Have a safe trip. Whether you come back to the States or not, I do intend to see you again."
"Thanks for the warning." He winked at her. A brief responding smile flitted over her face, but quickly disappeared as he continued, "I need some time to disappear before you get there. Make sure you call first."
She blinked. "I wouldn't think of it," she answered, eyes narrowed in hurt for the second time. "There's nothing I enjoy more than making your life difficult -- except maybe ruining Kian's."
His mouth tightened angrily. "I've told you to leave Kian alone."
She nodded. Gliding softly towards him, more of a predator than a person, she only stopped when she was nearly touching him. "I won't touch Kian," she promised softly, knowing that her promise would be kept. She hadn't promised not to hurt him; she'd promised not to touch him. And in those two things lay a world of difference.
Before he could react, she leaned forward, her mouth closing over his sharp cheekbone in what should have been a kiss. But instead her teeth scraped roughly over his skin until it broke and blood sprang from the marks. Then she pulled away.
"You bit me, you bitch!" he swore, more shocked than angry or hurt. He shoved her away from him. The sting was already fading and he knew the mark had nearly disappeared, but the trickle of blood down his cheek was still heady to his senses -- even though it was his own.
She smiled. "All's fair in the game of love and war," she answered softly, reaching to wipe away that glistening trail of blood and leaving a vibrant scarlet smear on his cheek. She brought her fingers to her lips, her tongue flicking out lazily to lick away his blood, savoring the exotic taste. Her eyes slid shut in drowning ecstasy. Sliding one finger in her mouth, lapping away all traces of the burning liquid, she murmured, "And I've just taken your pawn."
"I can't believe you," Jessa continued, as though Cameron hadn't said anything at all. "Maybe you should tell me that one more time just to make sure I got it."
Cameron gritted her teeth. "I could say it seven times or seven thousand times and you're still going to hear the same thing. Telling you again isn't going to change it." She pushed a silky fall of black hair away from her forehead and glared.
"Let me just make sure I've got this straight. Kieran Redfern offered -- no, 'begged' seems to be the more correct term here -- that you kill him and instead you kissed him? What could you possibly have been thinking? 'Maybe if I seduce him he'll let me live?'"
Her blue eyes sharp and luminous with anger, Cameron answered flatly, "I couldn't kill him. I tried."
Jessa nodded. "Right. I understand. Of course, next time he attaches himself to your neck, you might want to remember how you tried to kill him and try not to bleed to death, too." She laid her hands flat on table in front of her, itching to wring Cameron's lovely white neck. "I don’t know why he hasn't killed you yet, Cam, but he will. You know that."
"I know what he plans to do," Cameron said softly. "He hasn't exactly made a big secret out of it."
"Well, what do you need?" her friend snapped. "A billboard? Because you certainly haven't seemed to grasp the concept."
Cameron sat back in her chair, hurt. "I don't think anyone understands better than I do." Tears welled in those sky colored eyes, the watery sheen bringing emphasis to heartbreaking pain. Softly, she repeated, "I couldn't kill him."
"Did you not have a stake?" Jessa demanded, searching for some explanation that made sense. She yanked absently at the golden waterfall of her hair, fingers sliding through sheets of flaxen strands, and she bit her lower lip in frustration.
Cameron sighed. "That really isn't the point, Jessa. You know damned well I would have found a way around that if it had been a problem. I…" her voice trailed off, seeping into the air like water draining through dry sand.
After several seconds of silence, Jessa shoved her chair back from the table and rose, resuming her patrol of the path between the stove and the refrigerator -- all six feet of it. "Lovely. So Kieran's not dead. We can work with this. What about Kian? He's still alive, right? You didn't decide to let the murderer go but kill your soulmate, did you?"
Cameron tried to keep the guilt from creeping across her face. "He's still alive," she muttered. "I can't kill him, either, no matter how much I want to." She avoided Jessa's bottomless chocolate stare.
"You don't want your soulmate dead," Jessa responded bitterly. Her eyes slid shut for just a second before snapping open to meet Cameron's own. "Maybe he can figure out a way to keep you alive."
Grimacing, Cameron replied, "Now might not be the best time to ask him about that. I would venture to say that I'm not anywhere near even the bottom on his list of favorite people." She glanced to where Jessa had abruptly stopped pacing, her expression apologetic. She nervously twisted the ring on the third finger of her right hand.
Jess' reaction wasn't long in coming. "What did you do?" she asked tiredly. She sounded almost like she'd been expecting this. Her hands crept to rest imperiously on her hips as she waited for an answer.
"I told him never to come back," Cameron answered bravely, hoping Jessa's reaction would be on a smaller scale than the firework display they'd seen last July.
No luck. "You what?!" Jessa gasped, her voice somewhere between a shriek and a growl, or maybe an odd combination of the two. Whatever words you wanted to use to describe the sound, it wasn't pleasant. She resumed her pacing and skeptically demanded, "Why would you do that?"
Cameron decided that her reasons should probably be kept to herself. Jessa didn't seem highly conducive to her thought patterns today. "It doesn't matter," she said firmly. She hoped Jessa wouldn't argue with her on this one. "I don't know if it worked, but if it did, he won't be coming anywhere near me before I die. I don't think I was convincing enough to keep him from the funeral, but you never know."
A look of utter shock washed over Jessa's face and she paused for a split second before regaining her composure. She eyed Cameron disbelievingly. "Third time's a charm, Cam. Maybe this time he'll actually stay away, whether it's your funeral or your birthday."
"And Jean-Luc will suddenly start calling Remy and sending flowers," Cameron snapped. "Hell might freeze over, too." She shook her head, sitting up straight in the chair. "I really don't think it will really stop him, but I had to try."
Jessa suddenly stopped pacing, hoisting herself onto the dove gray countertop. Cameron could tell she was trying not to fidget. "Why?" she asked.
"I'm sick of dying!" Cameron's eyes dropped briefly, staring painfully into the wall's blank canvas. "I want to live my life and not concern myself with either of the twins or their damned games. I never asked for any of this. Just because I'm their soulmate --" The words died abruptly as she realized what she'd said.
"Their?" One perfectly golden, perfectly sculpted eyebrow rose questioningly. "Did I just hear that right?"
Cameron brushed her question aside. "It was a slip of the tongue," she muttered. "You know what I meant."
"No, I really don't," Jessa argued, determined to pry any information she could out of her charge. Their? Something told her that was the first truly honest thing Cameron had said to her all night. "Why don't you enlighten me?"
"About what?" She denied the accusation that there was more to tell doggedly. Silently, she cursed herself for not watching her mouth. Wonderful, Cameron, she thought. Why don't you just tell her everything and get it out of the way before you really screw it up?
Jessa watched her, unmoved and unsympathetic. "I'm waiting."
She wasn't going to get away with it. Sighing, she finally gave up, asking, "What exactly do you want to know?"
Only one word, but it prompted Cameron enough to answer honestly. "Kian and Kieran are both my soulmates. Happy? Now all my secrets have been revealed and you know why I didn't kill him tonight."
"You could have said," Jessa accused. "Do you realize how much easier that would have made everything?"
Cameron wasn't sure what she referred to. "Easier?"
Jessa paused, disconcerted. Had she really said that? You should know better, Jessa, she scolded silently. "I wouldn't have made all these plans to find Kian, kill Kieran, et cetera. It would have saved a lot of work."
"I suppose so," Cameron agreed. She flushed, embarrassment creeping over her features. "I just didn't want to tell you that you couldn't kill that twin either and ruin all your fun."
Jessa slid off the counter, still reeling from Cameron's revelation, but trying her best to hide it. How was this possible? What…? She shook her head, hoping to clear it, but it didn't work. "So now what do we do?" she wondered, all her answers suddenly gone.
Cameron didn't know how to answer her.