By: Sara Wolf

And I can't do that. I can't touch her at all. If I so much as look at her wrong, Kiera will let loose her hounds of debauched war. Her father's criminal clients would jump at any amount of money Kiera threw at them, and he'd be none the wiser.

If I don't protect Rose by ignoring her, by stamping down the fire that burns for her in my body, Kiera will torture her, emotionally, psychologically, and physically.

"Lee?" Kiera's voice filters in from the room. "There you are!"

She storms up to me, in her pajamas and with minimal makeup. She never really takes her make up off, it just sort of downgrades depending on where she is. In the bedroom she wears a bit. In private she wears hardly any, but she still wears it. It's like her armor, her way of affirming her beauty over everyone else, even when she's alone. It's her vanity at its finest.

"What took you so long?" She snaps. "I told you not to hang around them."

"Grace is my sister, Kiera," I sigh and take my tuxedo overcoat off, throwing it on the bed. "She's family. I'm not just going to drop everything and ignore my family."

Kiera taps her foot and crosses her arms over her chest, thinking for a moment before rolling her eyes.

"Fine. Do what you want. But don't forget - Farlon and I are close. If you tell Grace anything, I'll know."

I unbutton my shirt slowly and scoff. "Tell her what? That you're blackmailing me into marrying you? That I'm being a bastard to the girl I love -"

"Used to!" Kiera shrieks. The volume startles me, and it must startle her, because she looks surprised at herself. Her eyes widen, then narrow, and she lowers her voice.

"The girl you used to love."

"No," I correct, and undo my last button. The cool night air tickles my stomach. "I still love her. No amount of blackmail can change that."

I feel the antagonistic tension in the room thicken. Kiera's moods are almost tangible - even if she is a liar and an actress, she's miserable at hiding how she really feels. It taints the air with sourness and fills up the whole room with an angry cloud.

Nothing about her is attractive to me, anymore. But sometimes, if I look hard enough, I can see the old her - the pretty girl who, even though she was spoiled, never set out to intentionally hurt anyone. She was different then, softer and less tinged with darkness. I don't know what happened to change her. Maybe that darkness was always there, and I was too naive to see it beyond the glitz and glamor that she radiated at all times. Maybe that's how she hides it. But somewhere beneath the cruelty, I still glimpse fragments of the old her, and that hurts me. She's still in there, but she's being unforgivably evil.

Then again, I never properly broke up with her. It was a physical thing, and as far as I knew she was fine with it. And then I was sent to UCLA and met Rose. I told Kiera I was leaving, of course, but I never said I wanted the thing between us to be over, even if it was in the midst of deteriorating. I wasn't brave enough. I didn't give her a clear boundary.

She never got a proper goodbye from me.

She's moved now, sitting on the bed. She hugs her oversized t-shirt around her, and before she sneers, her face is utterly helpless and sad. Pathetic, almost.

"It's too late," she says. "I'm not sorry, and it's too late. So don't even think about going there."

She takes the right side of the bed, and buries her head under the covers.

"Did something go wrong?" I ask lightly. "Did Grace and Rose say something you didn't like?"

"You heard it," she snarls. "The whole restaurant heard it."

"I didn't hear anything."

"I know you did," she says. "She called me ugly."

I feel my heart skip a little half-beat. Rose? Talking back? She seemed petrified of Kiera at the Christmas party last year. And she hates insulting people who aren't me. I'm almost proud of her. Kiera's usually good about not letting insults get to her, but apparently this one was a little too much for her, even if it is juvenile. She knows she's not ugly, and her confidence is through the roof, so her reaction must be because it was Rose who said it. I have to calm her down before she decides to do something to Rose.

"But you're not ugly. Clearly," I use my best soothing voice. She throws the covers off to glare at me for a long moment, before she snorts and ducks back under.

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