He knocked, and without waiting for a response, opened Kiarra’s door. Inside, Kiarra was on the bed curled on her side, facing the wall. The sight made him uncomfortable.
Before he could think of how to approach the situation, Kiarra said, “I didn’t give you permission to enter. Get out of my room.”
Jaxton took a few steps toward the bed. “Technically, this is my house.”
Kiarra rolled over and glared. “I doubt you’d barge into Darius or Marco’s rooms.”
Her eyes were red and puffy from crying. Part of him wanted to comfort her like he’d done earlier and drag her close, but he ignored it. Jaxton was her trainer and forcing her back into a routine would hopefully erase this backtracking of her progress. “They can take care of themselves. Until you can do the same, think of me as your shadow. I’m going to show up when you least expect it.”
Kiarra rolled back toward the wall. “I can’t do this right now, Jaxton. Just leave me alone.”
“I know that I said you could have the evening free, but I’ve changed my mind.” He strode over and yanked the pillow from under her head. “You’re eating dinner with me, so get up.”
Kiarra made a noise of frustration, turned around, and sat up. “I know you’re used to getting your way, but not this time.” She reached for the pillow and tugged. “Give me back my pillow.”
Jaxton tightened his grip. “No.”
He tugged hard and pulled Kiarra up off the bed. She crashed into his chest before taking a step back and slapping him on the chest. “You’re an asshole.”
He pinned her hand against his chest with his own. “If you’re going to swear, you’d better bloody well try harder. My great-aunt could do better.”
She curled her fingers into his chest, her nails biting through his shirt. “You’re a fucking asshole.”
“That’s better. Ta for the compliment.”
Kiarra stared at him with narrowed eyes. Neither one spoke, and despite the thin layer of material between his skin and hers, her touch seared his chest. Kiarra must’ve felt it too, because she darted a glance to her hand on his chest, her brows briefly drawing together.
He took a step toward her. Their bodies were now only a few inches apart. “You feel it too.”
Kiarra looked up. “I don’t know what you’re talking about.”
“Liar, and I’ll prove it.” He lifted his free hand to cup her cheek, the skin-to-skin contact sending a jolt through his body. She tried to hide her reaction, but her pupils dilated a fraction, betraying her emotions. “You sure your elemental fire is gone?
He rubbed his thumb against her soft cheek, the heat intensifying with each stroke—warm, but not unpleasant. Kiarra’s hand relaxed against his chest. Somewhere in the back of his mind, Jaxton knew he should step away, but he convinced himself that this was the only way to solve the mystery of Kiarra’s touch.
Each stroke of Jaxton’s thumb left a trail of heat on her skin. She’d dismissed the same feeling during training, blaming her imagination and her yearnings for elemental fire. But the feeling had returned, and she wasn’t sure
what to make of it.
When she’d had her abilities, her fire had always radiated outward. She’d never heard of heat flaring at another person’s touch.
Even now, she moved her hand a fraction to the south, hoping to feel the tingle of elemental fire particles. But nothing happened.
Jaxton’s thumb stilled and she looked into his eyes. He continued to cup her cheek as he said, “Reaching to the south didn’t work, did it?”
“How did you—”
The corner of his mouth rose in a half-smile. “I’m your shadow, remember? It’s my job.”
It’s my job. Ty had said the same words to her after her flogging, when she’d asked why he hadn’t done anything to stop it.
The past was a cold slap in the face. She became acutely aware of Jaxton’s touch and the scant inches separating their bodies. She’d walked this road before, allowing someone to get close to her before she really knew much about them. After Ty, she’d vowed never again.
Kiarra shook her head and tugged her hand. “Let me go.”
He must’ve seen something in her expression, because Jaxton released her hand and allowed her to take a few steps away. She put a clenched fist over her heart, as if the act could protect it from the memories of betrayal.
“What’s wrong, Kiarra?”