I don’t wake up screaming anymore. I do not feel ill at the sight of blood. I do not flinch before firing a gun.
I will never again apologize for surviving.
I’m startled at once by the sound of a door slamming open. I silence a gasp, spin around, and, by force of habit, rest my hand on the hilt of a semiautomatic hung from a holster at my side.
“J, we’ve got a serious problem.”
Kenji is staring at me—eyes narrowed—his hands on his hips, T-shirt taut across his chest. This is angry Kenji. Worried Kenji. It’s been sixteen days since we took over Sector 45—since I crowned myself the supreme commander of The Reestablishment—and it’s been quiet. Unnervingly so. Every day I wake up, filled with half terror, half exhilaration, anxiously awaiting the inevitable missives from enemy nations who would challenge my authority and wage war against us—and now, finally, it seems that moment has arrived. So I take a deep breath, crack my neck, and look Kenji in the eye.
He presses his lips together. Looks up at the ceiling. “So, okay—the first thing you need to know is that this isn’t my fault, okay? I was just trying to help.”
I falter. Frown. “What?”
“I mean, I knew his punkass was a major drama queen, but this is just beyond ridiculous—”
“I’m sorry—what?” I take my hand off my gun; feel my body unclench. “Kenji, what are you talking about? This isn’t about the war?”
“The war? What? J, are you not paying attention? Your boyfriend is having a freaking conniption right now and you need to go handle his ass before I do.”
I exhale, irritated. “Are you serious? Again with this nonsense? Jesus, Kenji.” I unlatch the holster from my back and toss it on the bed behind me. “What did you do this time?” “See?” Kenji points at me.
“See—why are you so quick to judge, huh, princess? Why assume that I was the one who did something wrong? Why me?” He crosses his arms against his chest, lowers his voice. “And you know, I’ve been meaning to talk to you about this for a while, actually, because I really feel that, as supreme commander, you can’t be showing preferential treatment like this, but clearly—”
Kenji goes suddenly still.
At the creak of the door Kenji’s eyebrows shoot up; a soft click and his eyes widen; a muted rustle of movement and suddenly the barrel of a gun is pressed against the back of his head. Kenji stares at me, his lips making no sound as he mouths the word psychopath over and over again.
The psychopath in question winks at me from where he’s standing, smiling like he couldn’t possibly be holding a gun to the head of our mutual friend. I manage to suppress a laugh.
“Go on,” Warner says, still smiling. “Please tell me exactly how she’s failed you as a leader.”
“Hey—” Kenji’s arms fly up in mock surrender. “I never said she failed at anything, okay? And you are clearly overreact—”
Warner knocks Kenji on the side of the head with the weapon. “Idiot.”
Kenji spins around. Yanks the gun out of Warner’s hand. “What the hell is wrong with you, man? I thought we were cool.”
“We were,” Warner says icily. “Until you touched my hair.”
“You asked me to give you a haircut—”
“I said nothing of the sort! I asked you to trim the edges!”
“And that’s what I did.”
“This,” Warner says, spinning around so I might inspect the damage, “is not trimming the edges, you incompetent moron—”
I gasp. The back of Warner’s head is a jagged mess of uneven hair; entire chunks have been buzzed off.
Kenji cringes as he looks over his handiwork. Clears his throat. “Well,” he says, shoving his hands in his pockets. “I mean—whatever, man, beauty is subjective—”
Warner aims another gun at him.
“Hey!” Kenji shouts. “I am not here for this abusive relationship, okay?” He points at Warner. “I did not sign up for this shit!”
Warner glares at him and Kenji retreats, backing out of the room before Warner has another chance to react; and then, just as I let out a sigh of relief, Kenji pops his head back into the doorway and says
“I think the cut looks cute, actually”
and Warner slams the door in his face.
Welcome to my brand-new life as supreme commander of The Reestablishment.
Warner is still facing the closed door as he exhales, his shoulders losing their tension as he does, and I’m able to see even more clearly the mess Kenji has made. Warner’s thick, gorgeous, golden hair—a defining feature of his beauty—chopped up by careless hands.
“Aaron,” I say softly.
He hangs his head.
He turns around, looking at me out of the corner of his eye like he’s done something to be ashamed of. I clear the guns off the bed and make room for him beside me. He sinks into the mattress with a sad sigh.
“I look hideous,” he says quietly.
I shake my head, smiling, and touch his cheek. “Why did you let him cut your hair?”
Warner looks up at me then; his eyes round and green and perplexed. “You told me to spend time with him.”
I laugh out loud. “So you let Kenji cut your hair?”
“I didn’t let him cut my hair,” he says, scowling. “It was”—he hesitates—“it was a gesture of camaraderie. It was an act of trust I’d seen practiced among my soldiers. In any case,” he says, turning away, “it’s not as though I have any experience building friendships.”
“Well,” I say. “We’re friends, aren’t we?”
At this, he smiles.
“And?” I nudge him. “That’s been good, hasn’t it? You’re learning to be nicer to people.”
“Yes, well, I don’t want to be nicer to people. It doesn’t suit me.”
“I think it suits you beautifully,” I say, beaming. “I love it when you’re nice.”
“You would say that.” He almost laughs. “But being kind does not come naturally to me, love. You’ll have to be patient with my progress.”
I take his hand in mine. “I have no idea what you’re talking about. You’re perfectly kind to me.”
Warner shakes his head. “I know I promised I would make an effort to be nicer to your friends—and I will continue to make that effort—but I hope I’ve not led you to believe I’m capable of an impossibility.”
“What do you mean?”
“Only that I hope I won’t disappoint you. I might, if pressed, be able to generate some degree of warmth, but you must know that I have no interest in treating anyone the way I treat you. This,” he says, touching the air between us, “is an exception to a very hard rule.” His eyes are on my lips now; his hand has moved to my neck. “This,” he says softly, “is very, very unusual.”
stop breathing, talking, thinking—
He’s hardly touched me and my heart is racing; memories crash over me, scalding me in waves: the weight of his body against mine; the taste of his skin; the heat of his touch and his sharp gasps for air and the things he’s said to me only in the dark.
Butterflies invade my veins, and I force them out.
This is still so new, his touch, his skin, the scent of him, so new, so new and so incredible—
He smiles, tilts his head; I mimic the movement and with one soft intake of air his lips part and I hold still, my lungs flung to the floor, fingers feeling for his shirt and for what comes next when he says
“I’ll have to shave my head, you know”
and pulls away.
I blink and he’s still not kissing me.
“And it is my very sincere hope,” he says, “that you will still love me when I return.”
And then he’s up up and away and I’m counting on one hand the number of men I’ve killed and marveling at how little it’s done to help me hold it together in Warner’s presence.
***P/S: Copyright -->Novel12__Com