TTD: Part 2, Chapter 6

Sialuk seems perturbed as we walk back inside. I’m struggling to keep myself under control after eating mana with her, though. If I’d wanted to hold her eye contact again before, now I’m craving it.

It’s not like I’m looking for the thrill again or something, by the way. There’s a part of me that never wants to relinquish the reins ever again, too, but remember how I said Sialuk doesn’t make me scared the way Ojistah does?

I want to hold her eyes again because it feels like the more I touch that power, the more I can understand how her magic works, the more I can figure myself out, too. Like with eating the mana, there’s just something different about her compared to everyone else.

And now that I’m not starving for mana, my mood is much improved. I’m trying to walk round with a grin on my face, though, because Sialuk is definitely upset. She won’t say it, but I can feel it radiating off of her as I’m walking at her shoulder.

Right as we’re turning toward the kitchen, one the CNA’s few guards they could spare lets us know her guest is here already.

Peeking out of the corners of my eyes, I watch her expression turn grim. She doesn’t say anything as she pivots and walks out the front door.

You won’t believe who it is.

The words come flying out of my mouth before I can control my temper.

“Wait, dinner is with him? Nah-uh. He is not welcome here.”

I’m glaring at the Golden Ass Hat, but it doesn’t seem like he’s paying me any attention at all.

“I’m probably even less happy to see him than you are, trust me,” she says.

Fat chance. No matter what had happened between the bears in the past, it has nothing on the beef between Jason and me.

“But I need to know what he knows,” she keeps going. “And he owes me. Big time. So we are going to have dinner and we are going to be polite and everyone will go home clean and not bleeding.”

I’m a little taken aback by how specific her language is. 

“Wow. Okay mama bear, you need to chill.” I remember that she’d been a little vague about naming their relationship. I go out on a limb, because given how she looks like she wants to punch something, the brotherly sisterly thing seems off. 

“What’d he do to you? Dump you?” I ask.

“In a way,” she says.

I chuckle, confident I’ve figured them out. Then, I tuck my chin down further because I feel bad.

Hating Jason isn’t a competition—but let the record show that if it was, I would totally win.

I try to keep my mouth shut as the Golden Butt Crack gets out of the car. He doesn’t even glance at me, just waves at Sialuk.

“Hey, Luck!” he calls.

Luck? I’d be pissed at him too if he gets my name wrong after all that time. See-uh-look. Either he’s in the rarest of awful forms tonight, or I might have to reconsider my sole-claim to hate on the Golden Bear.

I peek up at Sialuk’s face… and a take an unconscious step back. There’s nothing I can point to that tells me I need to give her some space, but I know it the minute I’m looking at her.

I definitely have to reconsider my top spot.

“Can you help with the bags?” Jason says.

He gestures to the carry-out in the backseat. Sialuk doesn’t budge, so I stay put, too.

 “Come on, please?” he asks. 

Even though there isn’t a rune nearby, I think I can feel Earth magic rumbling in the ground beneath our feet. 

Slowly, so, so, so slowly, Sialuk walks around toward him. I don’t dare move, my eyes fixed on her body language. I can’t explain why I know I need to watch her right now, but I do.

When they’re finally standing close to one another, I can hardly breathe with the thick tension clogging up my throat.

“It’s good to see you,” he says first.

He leans toward Sialuk, but she moves away from him, not backing away but not encroaching o his space either. She moves to the other side of the car.

Jason still hasn’t spared a look my way. He doesn’t hide his crestfallen expression, but his tone still sounds friendly and easygoing.

“I got Tex-Mex. You still like tacos, right?” he asks.

“Who doesn’t like tacos?” Sialuk says in a quiet voice. 

She opens the door, picks up the bags, and slams the door after her. She turns toward the house without another word.

Jason’s either the stupidest or the bravest shifter I know. I can tell from Sialuk’s shoulders that she’s not interested in continuing the conversation, but that moron is walking side-by-side with her like she isn’t giving him the cold shoulder.

He finally makes eye contact with me when Sialuk doesn’t immediately tell him off.

I can’t help myself because he’s smirking at me—

Sweet Earth, Sialuk ruined that word for me. I can’t say it ever again. Ever.

—and nothing else matters when his stupid face makes that stupid expression at me.

“Aw,” I say in my most mocking tone of voice. “You guys look so cute together! How could you ever break up with such a charming and cheerful lady, hm?”

I regret it the moment Sialuk glares at me, but I’m even more frustrated with myself when Jason isn’t goaded by my brilliant quip.

Instead, he laughs. Like a big-bellied, booming laugh. It’s soooooo annoying. Worse, he doesn’t even address me.

“You said we dated?” he asks Sialuk. “Gross.”

Sialuk’s voice almost growls. “I didn’t. I just didn’t bother to explain.”

Jason quickly says, “She’s my sister.”

Damn. I thought for sure… Jason must have crossed an unforgivable line. It’s the only explanation for the intensity of Sialuk’s reactions. I mean, I can feel mana even though we’re nowhere near the runes, and I know that’s not me making Earth magic all quivery.

“Like a sister.” Sialuk’s voice is so gravelly it sounds as if her animal skin had voiced those words.

I think I’ve been doing pretty well at being on my best behavior, all things considered, so I can’t help but feel annoyed.

“Why d’you say he dumped you, then?” I ask Sialuk.

Her voice softens because she’s talking to me, so I hear the hurt she’s hiding in the raspiness.

“He ran away from home and never came back and never talked to me again.”

“Hey now, I wrote you a letter,” Jason says indignantly. “And I was seventeen. Neither of us were perfect.”

Still sounds more like a boyfriend-girlfriend thing to me, but I recognize that I haven’t stuck my foot in my mouth yet, so it’s a good time to shut up. I keep looking between the bears, trying to figure out their dynamic.

Jason’s still not giving her any personal space, but I notice he’s checking her expression openly the way I’m doing in my periphery. He’s trying to catch her eyes, and she’s refusing. Every step.

Jason’s smile finally falters. “Come on, Lucky. That’s all in the past. Can’t we just enjoy dinner together?”

Lucky? His nickname for her is… Lucky? Better than the unspeakable S-word Sialuk gave me, but not by much. Pretty cliche, if you ask me.

Sialuk sets the carry-out on the porch and turns to face Jason. She maneuvers so smoothly that I don’t realize until she’s already talking that she’s been staying between Jason and me the whole time. Keeping her body between us.

“I’m not here to forgive you,” she starts. “I’m working. Why did you recommend me to Chetna?”

Jason puts on a placating smile. “You’re pissed, I get it. I probably shouldn’t have come over so late the night you got in. But let’s just have a nice meal and we can talk it over.”

“No. I’m not interested. What strings are attached?” Sialuk presses.

He scoffs. “Strings?” 

“I find myself, a head coordinator for my firm, out in the field miles away from my home and my resources, between the only two mythic shifters on the North American continent, contracted to one and acquainted with the other. I know I have nothing to gain, but maybe you do.”

Sialuk’s tone has grown more and more serious as she’s talking. I never considered that Jason had an ulterior angle for suggesting her name as my bodyguard, but I wouldn’t put it past him. He’s not exactly been helpful to me this whole time, and I remember when he and I first spoke on the phone, he acted as if I was making my shift up.

As my suspicions of Jason grow with Sialuk’s words, Jason’s smile fades into a frown.

“Acquainted?” his voice cracks. “Lucky, that’s low.”

“Like you have any right to talk to me about how to treat people.”

Oof. I’ve said worse to his face many times, but Sialuk’s words actually do damage. His chest caves in like a deflating balloon and he drops his eyes.

He stops walking. So does she. I linger behind Sialuk’s shoulder, watching.

“I think I misread the situation,” he says to the ground.

“Oh?” Sialuk’s tone grows hotter with anger. “Just figuring that out now?”

Jason pauses. “I still climb onto the roof when I need a minute.”

I can’t see Sialuk’s expression, but her shoulders creep higher and the bags she’s carrying crinkle under the pressure of her hands. She says nothing.

“Just get up and feel the air. Look at the stars.” 

They stare at one another, but I can only see Jason’s face. His blue eyes are wide, his jaws slack, his brows pinched.

He looks like a heartbroken puppy, and it makes me sick to my stomach that I feel even one iota of sympathy for him

But Sialuk doesn’t say anything, her back stiff as a board.

Finally, Jason shakes his head and sets the bags he’d been carrying down on the ground at Sialuk’s feet.

“Enjoy the food.”

There is no warmth in his words. Sialuk still keeps her silence.

Jason gets back into his car and drives away down the gravel road. Sialuk doesn’t move or make a sound until his engine is a gentle hum in the night.

Then, she takes a deep breath and lets it out in one big whoosh.

“Please get the rest of the bags,” she asks me.

She walks forward fluidly. She holds the door for me as I scamper to pick up the bags Jason had set down and follow her.

I walk in front of her this time, keeping a quick step to make sure I don’t get in her way. It’s a good thing. If I were walking at her shoulder, I’d be too tempted to encroach on her space and check her expression.

I can’t stand Jason. No one would blame me for holding a grudge against him.

I don’t have siblings, so I don’t know what it’s like when brothers and sisters fight. What I witnessed between them, though, that’s more than a grudge. That’s betrayal. That’s years of letting it fester.

I remember Sialuk said he’d left her behind. I feel kind of the same. Jason’s the only shifter alive who can relate to what I’m going through, and we get along about as well as oil and water. I walk away from any time I have to spend with him feeling like he couldn’t care less about me.

As I’m muddling through everything I’d misread that night, Sialuk surprises me by breaking the silence first. We’re stacking the food on the counters when she clears her throat.

“I’m sorry,” she says. “That was really unprofessional. It won’t happen again.”

I meet her eyes hesitantly—excitedly. “I’m sorry I teased you about him.”


I’m relieved she isn’t mad at me, or at least isn’t showing me she’s mad.

“If it makes you feel better,” I keep going. “He stormed his way into ‘helping’ Chetna and me, and then left us hanging out to dry on our own. I kind of know how you feel.”

She… smiles. It’s a somber expression, and I feel like memories are flooding through her head. Finally, she sighs.

“At least he brought good food.”

“Yeah,” I say.

I don’t think I should push my luck—

Oh. No. The Golden Ass Hat better not have ruined that word for me. Ugh.

—so I keep my curiosity to myself.

It’s mostly because Jason showed up to be the bad guy, but I think I’m salvaging my reputation in Sialuk’s eyes. We share enough food that I feel as full in my belly as I do in my spirit before Sialuk goes all bodyguard on me and sends me to bed for my own wellbeing.

The whole time while we’re eating, though, she lets me make eye contact with her. Just little moments with small comments, that kind of thing. She’s not forcing the eye contact, and I’m getting more used to that electric feeling running through me when our eyes meet.

Who would have thought that Jason of all people would end up being helpful to me after all?

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