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“I was in a fire.” I blurted it out in the hopes it might distract those two from coming to blows. But I had no idea what came after that fact.

Atlas turned back to me. “When?”

“I was eight. We still don’t know exactly how it started.”

Kai let one hand drop away but left the other on my neck, his thumb stroking back and forth. “But you got out.”

“I almost didn’t.” The words were barely a whisper. “I got trapped in my bedroom. The window was too high to jump out of. The fire was outside my door. I hid in the closet. The floor beneath me collapsed and I fell through to the basement, and a beam landed on top of me. Thought I was going to die.” I rubbed at the raised skin on the inside of my arm.

Phoenix stalked forward, grabbing my arm. He let out a string of curses. “Why didn’t you tell me?”

I shrugged. “I told you I didn’t like fire.”

“But not that you’d been burned. I wouldn’t have pushed so hard if I’d known you’d been through this.”

I tried to tug my arm free, but he held firm.

Atlas studied the scars leading up my arm as Phoenix held it. “You’re okay? Those look bad.


I gave my arm a hard yank and finally broke away from Phoenix’s hold. I wanted a sweatshirt more than anything right now, but I hadn’t shoved one in my bag this morning. “I know they look gross, but they aren’t that bad.”

Atlas got right up in my personal space. “That wasn’t what I said and it sure as hell wasn’t what I meant.” He lifted my arm gently and traced his fingers over the mottled and twisted skin. “There isn’t a thing about you that isn’t beautiful. But I know these mean you were in excruciating pain. That you were terrified. That’s what I meant by bad.”

I swallowed against my suddenly dry throat. “Oh.”

His lips twitched. He tucked a strand of hair behind my ear, his fingers tangling in the waves. “I could only ever see beauty when I look at you.”

Atlas leaned forward and my breath caught, but this time for an entirely different reason than panic. He pressed his lips to the corner of my mouth.

The buzz that lit my muscles was like nothing I’d experienced before. It was its own form of fire that terrified me in a completely different way. Sensation swept through me like a flood on the heels of the buzz.

Atlas jerked back, his fingers flying to his mouth and eyes going wide.


“What the hell was that?”

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