Revealing Kia (The Lost Girl Duology, Book 2)
The events of Claudia’s party were nothing more than a distant memory as far as Kia was concerned. She was ready to resume her life as though that night had never happened. But it’s a slippery slope keeping a secret and Kia’s about to learn just how hard when she’s faced with the truth and the consequences of her decision.
Adam Chaves was no stranger to girls wanting him. He was no stranger to breaking hearts, although never intentionally. What he didn’t understand was how Kia could undress him, touch him, burn him with her eyes and still keep him at arm’s length when it was evident how much it cost her. But what Kia didn’t realize was that he had never given up on anything in his life and he wasn’t about to start now. He would have his girl even if it meant he had to kidnap her to do it.
I sold my soul to the devil in exchange for a cupcake. But I had no idea being a girl was so torturous. Had I, I probably would have gone with a different gender, one that didn’t require slapping packets of vomit onto my face and calling it fun.
“Stop scowling!” Possessing some wicked Jedi powers, Vanessa Chaves managed to hiss the two words without even moving her lips. Now that was talent. I would have clapped if I hadn’t been afraid I’d lose control and hit her like I wanted to. “You’ll make cracks in the mask.”
All I had wanted was a freaking cupcake. Had I known that would involve me getting stripped naked in a room full of strangers, plucked hairless in places that should never see hot wax, scrubbed down with salts and then left to marinate in a vat of mud like some chicken dinner, I probably would have saved everyone the trouble by throwing myself into a wood chipper. Apparently some women considered the ritual soothing. I considered it a one-way trip through the nine gates of hell. Also, I had yet to see the cupcake I was promised, so it was doubly bullshit.
I squinted in the direction of the alarm clock someone had helpfully placed on the table across from me, another torture method no doubt; to watch my life slowly tick away as twigs and leaves crept up into places that made me want to blush and demand them buy me a drink first.
Fifteen minutes, the woman had told us. Fifteen minutes of calm and relaxation in their mud room while she got our next activity set up. I was neither calm nor relaxed, nor was I looking forward to any more activities. I wanted my cupcake and a shower … in that order.
Nessie had no problems lounging in the sunken tub as though it were nothing more than a poolside patio chair. She had cucumber slices over her blue eyes and a disgusting mask in puke green slapped over her face. In desperation and fear that they were starving me, I’d eaten my cucumbers the minute the woman had left us alone. The stupid little salt-free crackers and mint leaves they’d given us five hours ago had long since been digested and I wanted food. I was ready to gnaw on my own arm, and would have if it hadn’t been covered in mud.
“You’re not relaxing,” Nessie said in an irritating sing-song tone that sounded especially buoyant when hummed through her closed lips.
I had to resist the urge to slap mud in her face and into the snazzy little up-do she’d twisted her glossy mane of ebony locks into. The white band she’d pushed into place was still white and was doing its job perfectly, keeping bits of hair off her face and neck. Mine was stained and slipping down my forehead, which kept making me nudge it back with dirty fingers. Bits of hair had slipped free of the erratic ponytail I’d shoved my hair into and plastered to my neck and temples, crusted with mud and sweat. I was itchy, hungry and grumpy, and there was still five minutes on the clock.
“Why are you making me do this again?” I demanded, breaking the something-something cream seal they’d lathered on my lips for moisture. “I thought we were friends.”
“We are friends,” she mumbled.
“Friends don’t let friends stew in mud pits.”
Without options, I slumped back. It would have been more dynamic and showy had it not been like lounging in a tub of syrup. My progression was slow and not nearly dramatic enough. It only added to my dismay.
Caroline, our hostess, sashayed into the mud room one whole second before the five minutes were up. Her Stepford Wife smile was perfectly in place as she beamed down at us.
The woman was several layers of creepy with her mane of teased blonde hair and redder than red lipstick that looked even redder against her paper-white complexion. Even her eyes were a calm gray. It probably didn’t help that she wore an equally pale dress and stockings. Seven-inch pumps were strapped to her feet, matching her lipstick. All the women at the Tranquility Glen were dressed the same, reminding me of robots.
“Are you ladies ready for your massages?” Her heels clacked as she hurried to fetch us towels from the heating rack in the corner.
I was on my feet before she even had a chance to turn around. “Ready!”
She giggled. “Someone’s excited.”
I snorted, accepting the towel she offered me. “Someone’s ready to shower.”
Caroline clicked her tongue. “Someone disturbed the healing cream on their lips.” Seriously, the tone she used was one a mother would use on a petulant child.
“Someone doesn’t need a healing cream,” I retorted, daring her with my eyes to argue.
She didn’t. She turned to Nessie instead. “I have Pablo waiting for you, as per your request.” She shook out and held the towel open as Nessie plucked the cucumbers off her eyelids and rose as gracefully as a swan. “You’re very lucky. He’s our most requested masseuse and can very seldom accept.”
Nessie slipped out of the tub, barely making a splash or getting a speckle of dirt anywhere. I tumbled out, emptying half the tub with me. It poured off me in thick, heavy splats that oozed over the lip and across the once gleaming floors. My grappling to hop over left clumsy handprints against the white marble ledge where I’d steadied myself. There was nothing graceful about my exit and Caroline looked barely in control of her pretty smile. It wobbled.
“I’m sorry,” I said, trying not to wince. “I’ll clean up.”
A muscle spasmed in her right cheek. “It’s all right,” she said, her lips stiff, her teeth clenched. “I’ll have someone take care of it. Why don’t I walk you to the showers?”
I won’t lie, my massage with Rrrramón (emphasis on the R) was amazing. The man had ten fingers made of pure heaven and he played every tense muscle on my body like a maestro. I would have happily died right then and there if our twenty minutes hadn’t chimed, bringing to end our girls’ day out. I couldn’t say I was overly disappointed, as awesome as Rrrramón may have been. It felt good donning clothes and walking out the doors at last.
“Tell me you didn’t love that,” Nessie said, adjusting the strap on her purse.
“Rrrramón was brilliant,” I said, rolling the R as he had specified to do so.
“And the rest?” Nessie pressed.
“The rest — especially the waxing — I could have lived without ever having experienced.”
Nessie laughed, turning her eyes towards the canopy of white clouds overhead. Glittering snowflakes fluttered down and landed on her dark lashes and clung to her rosy cheeks. She looked refreshed and radiant. Then again, Nessie never looked anything less than beautiful with her golden complexion and exotic features. She reminded me of some Spanish rose that belonged on the glossy pages of magazines, not holed away in some forgotten town in the middle of nowhere. Next to her graceful beauty, I couldn’t help feeling drab and awkward.
“Well, how about lunch to make up for the torture I placed upon you?” she decided, starting towards the road and the bus stop.
“Now you’re talking my language,” I said, stepping into place at her side. “I’ve been starving for hours. Plus, you owe me a cupcake.”
Nessie laughed again, shaking her head and sending dark tendrils bouncing around her shoulders. “I had to say something to get you to come.”
I glowered at her. “So you used my weakness against me. That’s low.”
She said nothing for a moment as the bus rolled to a stop in front of us and we piled in. We took a seat at the back.
“Actually,” she said, dragging the strap of her purse down her shoulder. She set her purse into her lap and folded her hands on top. “I wanted to ask you for a favor.”
I could feel my eyebrow lift in curious amusement. “So you torture me for eight hours to soften me up first?”
Nessie shouldered me good-naturedly. “No! But I knew that if I just asked, you’d find some lame excuse to turn me down and you really needed a pick-me-up. You’ve been so down the last few days and I don’t like it.”
Something tightened in my chest, but I narrowed my eyes playfully. “I don’t think I like that you know me so well.”
She frowned at me.
I gave in with a dramatic huff. “All right, fine! What is it?”
“Promise not to say no?”
I scoffed. “No!”
Nessie groaned deep in her throat. “You don’t even know what it is!”
“Tell me then,” I said, laughing.
She took in a deep breath and then exhaled, before plunging in a rapid fire of words I barely caught. “ComewithmetomycabinforChristmas.”
I blinked a few times as my brain tried to filter the jumble of words. I was sure I heard Christmas and something about a cabin…
Breathing hard, Nessie sucked in more air, but said more slowly, “Come with me to my parent’s cabin for Christmas.”
I heard her that time, but I still didn’t quite understand what she was trying to say.
Nessie pursed her lips and glowered. “You heard me!”
“But I don’t understand,” I said.
She rolled her eyes. “Every year my parents drag Adam and me to our cabin up in Whistler to celebrate Christmas. It’s basically the only time we get to see them and it’s a whole lot of arguing and reminding me how I’m the worst mistake they ever made. I usually want to jump in front of a bus by the time we leave, but it might not be so bad if you come. Please say you will.”
A whole week in the mountains with Adam. A whole week of seeing him, being close to him and remembering every moment of being in his arms, but not being allowed to touch him. Already it hurt and he wasn’t even there. It had been a week since I walked away from him, yet I felt the sharp stab in my chest as though it had been only yesterday. I bit my lip hard, stifling the prickle of tears.
Damn it! I had been so sure I was past that.
“Say something,” Nessie prodded.
I swallowed back my emotions, refusing to let them show. “I can’t.”
Nessie moaned. “I knew you were going to say that!”
“Why?” she demanded.
I shook my head, keeping my gaze fastened on my knotted fingers in my lap. “I just can’t.”
“It’s just one holiday,” she protested. “Please, you don’t understand. It’s like the worst week of my life and I could really use a friendly face.”
The friend in me demanded I say yes, that I should go and be there for her even if she was probably being overdramatic the way only Nessie knew how. But the dull ache in my chest was too new. The wound was still too fresh. I knew I wouldn’t be able to make it a day with Adam being so close. I wasn’t that strong.
“Christmas is a family thing,” I lied. “Mom’ll want me home.”
“But it’s only one Christmas!” she exclaimed a bit too loudly, drawing attention from the other passengers. We ignored them. “Please? Can’t you tell them my sanity is on the line? That I will seriously go homicidal if I have to sit through one more game of How Adam Is Better?” She grabbed me, digging her fuchsia tipped fingers into the sleeve of my coat. Her blue eyes were enormous and shiny with desperation. “You have no idea what it’s like … please, Kia? Please? I swear I will never make you go to another spa again. I’ll buy you all the cupcakes you can eat. I’ll—”
I pried her off me. “Will you stop? It can’t be that bad.”
Her shoulders sagged. “It’s worse.”
I’d yet to meet Mr. and Mrs. Chaves. After my showdown with Claudia in the school halls and my near confession to Adam, I had fought tooth and nail to avoid going over to Nessie’s house again. But it had nothing to do with her parents possibly being insane. It had to do with facing Adam again and seeing the truth of my deceit in his eyes.
“I’m sorry,” I told her. “I can’t.
Nessie pursed her lips, folded her arms and stared stubbornly out the window. “We’ll see about that.”
I should have taken her threat seriously, but maybe a small, pathetic part of me had actually wanted to see Adam again. Maybe somewhere inside me, the loneliness had finally won. Whatever the reason, I didn’t argue or push harder to change Nessie’s mind. I stared out the window and thought how beautiful his smile was when he was being mischievous and how it differed from his amused smile and the smile he gave others. Then there was the smile he would give me and only me. The smile that made my stomach hurt and my legs shake. I loved that smile best. Just thinking about it made me want to find him and touch his lips, to trace them, kiss them and watch as they winged up in that special grin.
I sighed, my chest aching.
“Okay, what gives?” Nessie gave me a shove, jostling me from my coiling misery.
I blinked. “What?”
She squinted at me warily. “You’ve been moody and depressed and I want to know why.” She didn’t wait for me to answer as she went on. “Is this about Claudia? You haven’t been the same since that incident at the school last week. What did she say to you?”
“Nothing,” I said as I always did when the topic of that day came up.
Her eyes only narrowed further. “She said something because you’ve been acting weird ever since, and I have a feeling Adam knows, but he won’t tell me either.” She exhaled heavily. “What kind of friend am I if I can’t be there for you when you need me, especially if it involves beating the shit out of that twiggy bitch? I need you to let me be that friend. It’s very important to me that I get an imprint of my boots on her ass.”
I would have laughed if she hadn’t looked so serious. Instead, I sighed and hugged her. “I’m okay. But thank you for wanting to beat someone up for me.”
She held me tight for a moment before drawing back. “I really would, too.” She offered me a lopsided grin. “What are besties for?”
Apparently, I learned later, they were also good for making your blood pressure rise and your violent tendencies emerge.
I forgot all about our discussion on the bus as we wandered the mall. I bought a new pair of boots and a new novel before following Nessie onto the bus home. I had no recollection of asking her over, but I didn’t complain when she followed me home. We chatted the whole way there, paying no mind to the soft flurry of snowflakes swirling down around us with the biting winds. We huddled beneath our jackets and kept our heads down the whole way to the front door.
“Mom? Joanne? I’m home!” I shouted, stomping into the narrow foyer. I kicked chunks of snow from my boots and moved aside to let Nessie in.
She slammed the door behind her and shook the snow from her hair and jacket. I unwound my scarf and draped it over my designated hook on the wall. My jacket followed.
“Mom?” I called again, glancing up the stairs while kicking my boots onto the mud catcher. Nessie did the same with her boots, but kept her coat on.
“Kitchen!” I heard and motioned Nessie to follow as I led the way down the hall.
Mom and Joanne were at the island, heads bent low over an IKEA catalogue. Each had a pen in hand, one red and one black, and they were circling things. Both glanced up when we walked in.
“Hello girls,” Mom said, smiling. “Fun day?”
We both nodded.
“What did you get?” Joanne asked, craning her neck as though she could see into my bag.
I held it up. “A new pair of boots and a book.” I let my arm drop. “I’m going to take them upstairs.” I turned to Nessie. “Coming?”
She nodded. “Let me take my coat off. I’ll meet you up there.”
Thinking nothing of it, I left. I went upstairs and pulled my new boots out of the bag. I tucked the box into my closet next to my other collection of shoes and closed the door. I left the book in the bag and dropped it onto my desk. Then I threw myself down on the bed and stared up at the ceiling.
How much longer would I have to play the hiding game? Eventually I knew I would run into Adam again. I knew that. Mayferd was barely big enough to hide a needle, never mind a fully grown person. It was only a matter of time before our paths crossed and I was scared to death of that happening. I had no idea what I would do or what I would say. I had a disturbing image of myself diving head first behind a snow bank to avoid him, assuming he hadn’t seen me already… maybe even then. I was just not ready to see him again. I didn’t think I ever would be.
“Kia!” I heard my mom bellow from downstairs.
I pushed upright and glanced at the doorway, puzzled to find it void of Nessie. My curiosity propelled me downstairs and the trio sitting around the island … watching me. What was even more disconcerting was Nessie’s grin. It was a little too cat-like for my peace of mind.
“What?” I said, glancing from one to the other warily.
“What’s this about turning down Nessie’s invitation to join her family for Christmas?” Mom demanded.
My gaze swung to Nessie and narrowed. She continued to smile pleasantly, her legs swinging beneath her stool. She was the perfect picture of angelic innocence. My ass!
“Christmas is a family thing,” I said through gritted teeth. “I thought you would want to spend it together.”
Mom and Joanne exchanged glances. Both shrugged.
“We don’t mind if you want to spend it with your friend,” Joanne said. “Christmas isn’t just about family, but about friends and those closest to us.”
“So you wouldn’t mind if Kia came?” Nessie asked. The question was for my Mom and Joanne, but her eyes were trained on me, quietly rubbing it in.
Mom shook her head. “Not if she wants to.”
Nessie batted her eyes. “Don’t you want to?”
My teeth creaked beneath the force of my grinding. Nails bit into my palms as I fisted my fingers. Damn her!
“Is going to Saskatchewan with Dallas to spend Christmas at her parents’ this year, remember?” Mom said, cutting off my last flimsy excuse.
I did remember, but I’d been hoping she wouldn’t.
I exhaled gruffly. “What about your parents?” I said, turning to Nessie. “Won’t they mind you just inviting me? What about…” I moistened my lips nervously. “What about Adam?” I tried very hard never to mention his name around Nessie on the off chance she caught something in my voice or on my face that may tip her off to my true feelings towards her brother.
Nessie shrugged. “My parents have wanted to meet you for ages and Adam won’t be there this year. So…” She gave another shrug. “You have to come, or I’ll be completely alone and at the mercy of my parents and their constant reminder that I’m not good enough. And as my bestie, it’s your duty to keep me from committing murder.”
My heart rose and plummeted at the same time, making me momentarily nauseous. “Why … where’s Adam?”
She buffered her nails on her jean-clad thigh, peeked at them absently. “Some resort getaway thing with his school friends.” She rolled her eyes. “They invite him every year. It’s like some ski thing they go to up in Whistler. It’s not far from the cabin, but they book a hotel for like a week and party. It’s lame. A bunch of kids getting drunk and doing stupid things.” She waved a hand dismissively. “This is the first year Adam actually accepted so my parents are all freaked out that we won’t be together.” She rolled her eyes again, making me dizzy. “Like having just me around is the worst possible thing to happen to them. Bet they wouldn’t think so highly of their golden boy if they knew Vina girls have no morals, or panties, once you get vodka into them.”
I felt queasy at the thought of Adam with some long-legged blonde wrapped around him. The very thought made my stomach hurt.
“Kia?” It must have shown on my face because Mom was out of her seat and at my side in a flash. “Are you all right? You just turned a weird green color.”
I nodded and squeezed my eyes closed.
“Maybe you should sit,” Joanne said, pushing back a stool for me.
“I’m okay,” I lied, clutching my knotting gut. “We ate at the food court. I probably picked something weird up.” Yeah, jealous- initis. I wondered if there was a vaccine for that.
“Liar.” Nessie flipped a coil of hair off her shoulder. “This is exactly what I’m talking about,” she said looking at my mom. “She’s been weird for weeks. This trip is exactly what she needs.”
Mom stroked my hair. “What do you want, baby?” she asked me.
I wanted to shrink a foot, slim down around the hips, marry Adam and have a dozen blue-eyed babies. But I was sure she was talking realistically, in which case … I had no idea. I shook my head, indecision a tight fist in my throat.
“Please come,” Nessie said.
Why not? I thought. It would be a change of scenery. I would be hanging out with my best friend. Plus I knew Mom and Joanne wanted a Christmas alone, not that they ever said as much, but I knew. Dad and Dallas would be gone. And Adam wouldn’t be there.
What did I have to lose?
“Okay,” I said at last.
Nessie screeched, leaping off the stool and tackling me in a hug. “You’re the best!” She pulled back, hands gripping my shoulders. “It’s going to be so much fun! We’re going to do a million things together.” She squealed again, hopping up and down on the balls of her feet while shaking me. “Our first sleepover! How cool is that?”
I forced a smile that probably looked like a grimace. “Super cool?”
She released me and did a twirl towards the door. “We’ll pick you up Friday! Bye!”
With a final squeak, she whirled around and disappeared down the hall. A moment later, we heard the front door bang closed. I flinched before I caught myself.
What could possibly go wrong?