XI | Loneliness Is Chronic

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So, this is the first chapter that sort of follows Kaleb instead of Kaia. They'll be mixed in between the Kaia chapters, but let me know what you think about it, so I know whether or not to keep doing it in the future. :)

A weary sigh left Kaleb as soon as the doors thudded shut, but it was as much made of relief as it was of exhaustion. He could feel Kaia's eyes as he approached the desk, tracking his movements and analyzing them. 

That was something that he had noticed about her. Kaia was always watching him. And he could always tell when her dark doe eyes--those deep pools of near-black that Kaleb swore he could lose himself merely staring into--were following him. There was a feeling, like sparks dancing across his skin, when she looked at him. 

When he finally turned around, letting himself fall into the chair behind his father's desk, Kaia was still staring at him. She lingered a few feet away, shifting from one foot to the other, her arms wrapped around her middle as if she were trying to comfort herself. Kaleb watched her for a long moment. 

He let the sight of her fill him up, so beautiful it pained him. She was like a ghost still, or maybe an angel; Kaleb didn't even bother scolding himself for thinking such a popular thought because it felt like the only word that could adequately capture her. She was ethereal, beyond this world. She looked like she belonged high above it, peering down and laughing sweet bells at the goings and comings of the messy world below her, the world filled with lies and secrets, blood and grime. With death. 

"Thank you," she said suddenly. When Kaleb met her eyes, he realized that she was desperate for him to understand how sincere she was, how deeply she felt her gratitude. It confused Kaleb. 

"What do you have to be thankful for?" Kaleb asked, his voice heavy. He genuinely wanted to know. Kaleb had watched her for days before he revealed himself to save her in the woods. He didn't regret it at all, of course. Kaleb would have lost her if he'd elected to remain hidden. But, in doing so, he had dragged her into his Pack, his world, into the web of alliances he had to manage. Here, one had to watch his back else a knife end up in it. 

But it was more than just his relief at her survival that kept regret from his heart when he remembered rescuing her; he was selfish, perhaps. He'd pulled her into the middle of his mess when he should have pushed her away, far from any lycanthrope that would be tempted to hurt her. Instead, she was here with him. 

That was how selfish Kaleb was. Because, even if he had wrecked her, Kaia stood with him in the ruins of his life. She stood beside him on the balcony where his parents had once announced the truce between humans and lycanthrope, on the stage he'd been forced to mount alone. She'd brushed past him like the sweet smell promising food to the starving man, a flare of hope, a flash of light in the painful, lonely dark. 

Such a deep pleasure came with having her here, at seeing her wrapped in his clothes, her pale, delicate body light against the dark fabric. She was here, enveloped in his clothes, in--Kaleb felt the moment he saw her standing there--him, his scent and all. He couldn't stand the thought of her borrowing someone else's, even a woman's; Kaleb wanted Kaia to be his and having Rosy bring her his clothes was just one way of asserting himself. Yes, it was selfish, but Kaleb would expose her to the dangers of the lycanthrope world to have her close to him. 

Kaia gave Kaleb a small, shy smile, looking up at him from behind her long lashes, "What should I be grateful? You mean, besides your saving my life? Twice?"

Kaleb barely even noticed it, but the front that he always put up fell away the moment she smiled at him. He found himself smiling back and nodding. "Besides that."

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