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"Come again?"

Ava watched him with raised eyebrows and pursed lips. Sometimes, she looked just like her mother instead of the teenager she was.

"You heard me. You're gifted but you're stupid."

Her bluntness shouldn't still shock him. He'd only known her for two years now, yet her words hit him like a sledgehammer.

He opened his mouth to speak only for her to raise her hand and cut him off. "Has it ever occurred to you that everything is going wrong for a reason?"

Yeah, I met your mother, he thought snidely.

"Every time you get involved in the paranormal world, something happens. Isaac and I nearly died twice. Mom could have lost her baby because of you playing both sides of the fence. I'm not saying I'm not grateful for your help, but I think it's time for us to move on to other things."

Eh, technicalities.

"And yet you're all here."

Ava glared. "You're something else!"

She jumped to her feet and stomped across the room toward the exit. Desmond turned in his seat. "Where are you going?"

She halted, turning in a slow circle to face him with an exasperated expression. "I'm going home where hopefully Mom and Isaac aren't having sex on the couch again."

Not an image he wanted to visualize.

"I thought you were having dinner with us tonight."

Ava blew out a sharp breath. "Edie can come to my place. I hate when you're like this. I wanna...punch you in that stupid face of yours!"

He was only glad she didn't mention the man-bun. Still, she hadn't explained her previous statement about his ability being stolen faster than Jack Daniels on a shelf full of pink liquor.

"Wait, real quick, isn't there a way to stop whoever's on the other side from draining my ability? I can't just move on when this is all I've ever done. I help people!"

Ava's voice had risen to a shriek so high, the only animals capable of hearing her soon would be dogs.

"By extorting insane amounts of money and pretending you actually give a shit? You don't help anyone but yourself! You take credit for everything that goes right and blame everyone else when it goes wrong.

'If my mom hadn't paid you all that money, you never would have offered your services. You'd have told her it was just business and moved on with your stupid-ass fakery.

'And if you really want to know why I don't want to go on the show, it's because of people like you taking advantage of everyone else while you sit on your little throne, counting your money. I refuse to become a greedy little shit like you."

Yikes. What the hell had brought this on? All he wanted to know was if there was a way to fix what had been taken from him.

"Don't you think you're being a bit dramatic?"

The fire in Ava's eyes would have melted the iciest heart. It was a good thing Desmond's was made of stone. Life had taught him to never fall apart, no matter how hard it hit him in the gut.

Ripping off her mic still attached to her black crew neck shirt, she chucked it across the room. "You and your hipster little man-bun can shove it. I quit!"


"Hey! Man-buns are awesome!" he said, scrambling to his feet to go after her as she stormed out of the studio.

She was already halfway through the building, barreling past people jumping out of the way with him hot on her heels. It didn't take long for him to catch up since she still walked with a slight limp from her old hip injury.

He placed his hand on her shoulder to stop her, only for her to spin around to throw her fist at him, which he caught on reflex. "Ava, calm down. You can't just quit. I need you."

"I'll cut you," she threatened in a low voice like the true Scorpio she was.

What was the saying someone once wrote on a free online platform: never piss them off, or they'll cut a bitch?

Desmond released her with a sigh. "Come on, you secretly love making people happy. And half the time, most of their loved ones didn't kill someone or cheat on their spouse. You can't say that doesn't bring you just a little bit of joy."

When she didn't relent, Desmond tucked away his pride and did the one thing he swore he'd never do. "Please?"

Ava rolled her eyes. "You're pathetic."

Maybe, but that was beside the point. He wanted his livelihood back, so if he had to beg and plead for it, he would do so without shame. "Well, what if I could get my psychic ability back? You wouldn't have to work here anymore and I could keep bringing people happiness through communicating with their loved ones."

"Do you even hear yourself?"

"Not really." He tended to just make things up as he went.

Ava brushed several thick strands of hair from her face and groaned. "Ugh, I don't know why I bother with you."

"Because I'm useful when it matters and Edie can't go anywhere if I tell her not to."

Ava's mouth fell open at his audacity, but they both knew he had her trapped. Ava wasn't willing to cross lines with her girlfriend while Desmond had no problem doing what needed being done to achieve his goals.

He arched an eyebrow and smirked. "So are you gonna help me or do I need to tell my granddaughter you have a headache?"

Translation: I really don't feel like spending time with you tonight when I could be doing other things.

With their gazes locked onto each other like little missiles in jet fighter planes, they stood in silence, each behind their own line in the sand until Ava broke. She threw her hands on the air with a scream. "God, you're such a self-centered asshole!"

"Language," he tsked in satisfaction. "Meredith wouldn't approve and I'm pretty sure Isaac doesn't want your little sister's first word to be something vulgar.

She narrowed her eyes into thin slits. "He would find it funny. Mom, not so much."

She ran her fingers through her hair with a loud sigh. "Okay, fine. I'll help, but then we're done. No more asking me to go on your stupid cable show or rambling about me wasting my talent. Oh, and no more coming between me and Edie. I want a normal life with just me, my girlfriend, and my family."

Oh, but Ava was never normal. Like him, she was born for great things. All he had to do was open her eyes.

He smiled and held out his hand while she stood back as if he were a venomous snake.

"Come by tomorrow. I know just the ritual, and you're going to perform it. Then we go our own separate ways."

Despite the color leaving her face the moment he said the word ritual, she tentatively reached for his hand before jerking back. "Alright, but I want all the details on it first. I'm not doing anything without understanding the potential consequences first. And Des," she said, turning toward the exit. "The second things get weird, I'm out. I don't care if Edie breaks up with me. I mean it when I say I want nothing to do with the supernatural anymore."

Desmond watched her stride into the parking lot until she disappeared in her car and drove off. She was too young to understand that this was her calling, just like it had always been his.

Tomorrow night would prove what she refused to see. All he needed were a few items from his shop, her ability, and a little luck.

Then everything would be right again.

Knight of Fire | ONC 2020 | Round One Runner Up | Honorable MentionWhere stories live. Discover now