“Want to take a walk?” Ella asked, pointing at my footsteps in the snow. “It’ll give us time to talk. Out of all the times we’ve spent together, I don’t think we’ve done much of that.”
It was either yelling, fucking, or saying we were going to kill the other.
“Sure,” I said, taking her hand.
We started around the lake and ventured through the trees toward the mountains.
“Tell me something nobody knows about you?” Ella called out.
That made me laugh. That was everything about my life.
“That’s a long list, Ella. I don’t talk to people.”
Ella smirked. “I can see that about you. What are some things you like? Take, for instance, your favorite foods and your favorite color. What do you like to do on weekends?”
No one had ever asked me those questions. The only person who ever showed an interest in my life was my mother and I had shut her out.
I’ve ignored the guilt for so long that I thought I could forget about it, but there it was, weighing on my chest like a ton of bricks.
Ella squeezed my hand. “Kai? You okay?”
Stopping midstep, I looked behind us at our tiny cabin in the distance. “No,” I confessed, staring over at her. “There’s something I need to tell you.”
Her back stiffened and I could see the guarded look in her eyes. That was what I despised about our situation. She would always be skeptical of me because of who I am. I couldn’t blame her. I knew the day would come when I’d have to send her away; it wouldn’t be safe for her to be with me.
“There was a night not long ago when you helped a woman cross over to the Hereafter. I know you felt me in the shadows.”
She nodded. “I remember. I knew you were there. I was expecting you to attack, but you didn’t.”
There was a gnawing pain in my chest, and I fought the urge to rub it. “I wasn’t there for you,” I said.
Ella cocked her head to the side. “No? Then why were you?”
Unclasping my fingers from hers, I brought my hands up and cupped her cheeks. “I was there to see my mother.”
Ella gasped and grabbed my wrists, holding them tightly. “Linette was your mother?”
It seemed like ages ago since I heard anyone say her name.
“You remember her?”
Her eyes misted over. “Of course I do. All the people I help cross over are special to me. It’s like they stay imprinted on my mind.” Ella flung her arms around my neck. “Oh, Kai, I’m so sorry.”
I held her to me, breathing in her Winter scent. She smelled like fresh sparkling snow and frosted leaves, all mixed with the sweet scent of candied orange. I couldn’t get enough of her.
Turning my head into her neck, I kissed the tender flesh behind her ear. “It’s okay. I knew she was dying. I’m glad she saw you during her last breath instead of me.”
She stepped away, looking at me with such sadness. “Why would you say that?”
I shrugged. “Because it’s the truth. It changed me when I finally gave in and let my father’s words corrupt me. After that, I didn’t love anything or care for anything besides power. I don’t even remember what it was like to be a little boy, to enjoy the small things in life. My mom tried to help me, but I pushed her away. The last words she said to me were ‘I love you,’ but I couldn’t say them back. I didn’t know how.”
Ella grabbed my face in her firm grasp, her genuine brown gaze full of sorrow. “There is nothing wrong with loving people, Kai. Love makes people stronger, not weaker. I’ve seen it with my own eyes.”
“Do you think you could ever love me?”
Tears fell down her cheeks. “Couldyouever loveme?”
I wiped her tears away. “I think I already do.”