‘I don’t care about the upper hand!’ he said, his composure unfurling almost as fast as mine. ‘I care about lives! I care about your life! At least one of us should!’
‘What the hell is that supposed to mean?’ I hissed, venom pooling on my tongue.
He glared at me. ‘It means you have a life outside of this war, Sophie. You have possibilities. I want you to stop looking at all the things you want to damage and start looking at all the ways you can be happy. That life you imagine for yourself? The one we talked about? You can have that. You can still have all of it. Start thinking about that. Start thinking about possibility.’
There he was, on that damn pedestal again, and it made me so mad that he couldn’t understand how badly I needed this. How badly I wanted Donata to pay.
I reeled my temper in, made myself sound calm as I said, ‘And what if I want something different? Does that count for anything?’
‘We’re calling a truce,’ he said firmly. ‘This isn’t a negotiation. I just wanted to let you know. Stupidly, I thought you’d be pleased.’ Before I could respond, he turned from me and stalked out of the room.
I marched after him. ‘Hey! Get back here!’
He turned around, his eyes flashing in the dusky hallway. ‘What?’ he spat.
‘Is that it?’ I said. ‘The blood war is over, so you’re just going to go back to ignoring me. Pretending I don’t exist.’
He took a step towards me. ‘When have I ever pretended you don’t exist?’
‘When you don’t look at me for days at a time!’ I shouted. ‘When you don’t talk to me. When you make decisions without consulting me! When you walk around here acting like I don’t exist! When you spend days not even thinking about me.’
He scraped his hands through his hair, then flung them down by his sides. ‘Sophie, I’m always thinking about you! Don’t you get that?’ He took another step, frustration tripping through his voice. ‘I can’t do anything but think about you. I spend all my time worrying about your safety, whether you’re happy, whether you’re healing, and you’re standing here asking me to throw you back into the fire!’
His words slapped the retort right out of my mouth. I just hovered there, marbled in my surprise as he stood in front of me, waiting for his breathing to slow.
He came a little closer, and I stayed still, wanting him to explain. He took his switchblade out, brandished the handle between us, his name scrawled on top. A piece of paper came with it, upheaved from his pocket.
‘I gave you my knife,’ he said, as I caught the paper fluttering to the floor. ‘I gave you the most important thing I own.’
I held the paper between us like a white flag. ‘What’s this?’
‘Oh,’ he said, frowning at his pocket. He stowed the knife away, his voice falling quiet. ‘That.’
I unfolded it slowly, waiting for him to stop me. He didn’t.
It was a note.
It was my note.
From a million years ago.
Aren’t you glad I have no respect for your authority?☺
I held it between us and stared at it, my fingers shaking.
‘I’m always thinking about you,’ he said, his voice resigned.
‘I’m just trying to make it right, Soph.’
I looked up at him. ‘You kept my note?’
‘Yeah. I did.’
I could sense he was embarrassed, so I folded the note up and handed it back to him. He slipped it into his wallet and stashed it in the back of his jeans. I didn’t want to argue with him any more, about this, about anything. He was too important to me. I just wanted to see him smile and hear him laugh. I just wanted to be near him. When I was around Luca, my heart opened a crack, and I became less afraid of my true feelings. Sometimes people pretend they’re listening, but really they’re waiting for a gap in conversation to say something about themselves, or until you are finished talking about your sadness so they can move on to brighter topics. Luca really listened to me. He really cared.
‘I don’t want to fight with you,’ I said.
‘I don’t want to fight with you either.’
I made the mistake of trying to hold his gaze. It shot right through me, into my heart.
‘Truce?’ I said, my voice ragged with a sudden flare of desire.
‘You know, you’re very confusing, Luca,’ I said softly. ‘I feel like I need a cheat sheet sometimes. I never know what you’re thinking or what you want.’
The whisper of a smile spread across his lips. A beat of silence, and then he came a little closer. ‘Do you want to know what I want, Sophie?’
I nodded. ‘Yes.’
‘I want to kiss you.’
I swallowed hard. ‘Then why don’t you?’
He didn’t move. ‘Because I’m not supposed to.’
I hesitated a beat too long, distracted by the raucous thudding in my chest. He straightened up, as if remembering himself, and took a step away from me. Then another one. He regained his composure, wiped the look of indecision from his face, and cleared his throat.
I came towards him. ‘You think too much, Luca.’
‘Yes,’ he said.
‘You’re used to making all the decisions.’
‘Well, there’s two of us in this, you know.’
‘Then I’ll decide.’ A rush of desire seized me, and before I could stop myself, I was grabbing the collar of his shirt and pulling him towards me. He responded instantly, wrapping his arms around my waist, his body curving against mine as he walked me backwards with him.