Chapter Twenty-four

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Kita awoke to the sound of a phone ringing on Kimmy's nightstand. Kimmy let go of Kita, sat up, swore, and grabbed the offending device. Curious, Kita rolled over and wrapped herself around Kimmy.

"Do you know what time it is, James?" said Kimmy in a harsh voice.

Kita was close enough to the phone she could hear.

"It's eight thirty. Do you know what I'm staring at?"

"It's goddamn three thirty in the morning," Kimmy snarled. "I don't give a damn what you're staring at."

"You better. It's all over the news and tabloids."

What news bridges those two things?

"It's too early. I just went to bed. I don't care," said Kimmy.

"Too busy with your jailbird whore?" James retorted.

Oh, slag. Kita sat up, fighting the tears in her eyes.

"Don't you dare call her that," Kimmy hissed.

"What the hell are you doing, Kimberly? You're supposed to be forging an alliance with the Autobots. Not disgracing yourself with some local whore. You're supposed to be passed this."

"I'm finally living my life," Kimmy snarled. "You call her a whore one more time, and I will fire your ass."

"What would your father say?"

"If you can wake him up, feel free to ask. I'm no longer his to control. I make my own decisions. Not you—not him. I will choose whom I spend my time with."

"A goddamn slut, Kimberly? You said you were ready to be an adult. If you're so hard up, there are men lined up waiting to court you."

Kita burst into tears. A slut? Is that what I am? She didn't want to hear the rest and rolled across the bed.

"Kita, wait," cried Kimmy.

Kita rushed out of the bungalow right into Arcee's arms.

"It is ok, Kita," said Arcee. "Do not listen to him. He does not know you or care about you. He is just trying to get to Kimmy."

Kita wrapped her arms tight around Arcee and buried her face in Arcee's midsection.

"Kita, I know it stings, but it is not the truth. You cannot let it affect you." Arcee stroked Kita's back. "If you react, they win. And you do not want them to have that kind of power over you, do you?"

Kita sniffed. "No," she whispered.

"Then gather yourself. Kimmy will need you when she is finished."

Kita let go of Arcee and wiped her eyes. Arcee sat down and offered her lap. Kita took it and snuggled against Arcee.

"No one has ever called me a slut before," said Kita.

"From my understanding, it is a word to describe girls who sleep around a lot, but there is no equivalent for men. The practice seems actively encouraged in men. It is a stupid double standard."

"What...what if they take her from me?" whispered Kita.

"I do not think Kimmy would allow that. I do think this is a test for her—the first step in consolidating her power and Kimmy is fighting hard. I think whomever James is his life is over. It does sound like a relationship with you will have far-reaching consequences."

"What do you mean? Am I too much of a problem?"

"That is up to Kimmy to decide. I think in her mind you are not, from what she is saying. Oh, here she comes."

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