Felt like sharing some more of book 2, working title “Sparks Ignite”. This is unedited, so bear with me, I just really wanted to share.
“Why didn’t you tell me everything before, when we were here?”
The question hung heavy on the air, and I breathed in a long breath, inhaling the sunset, the golden light playing through my outstretched fingers, wind ruffling across my palm.
“Tell you what?” Mateo cocked an eyebrow in my direction before returning his focus to the road, the sunlight filtered between the scraggy pines, a flickering slideshow across his face.
I brushed the outstretched tip of a pine bud that nearly touched the window as we slowed to a stop. Why was there even a stop sign here?
“About the rest of this. About the past. About Rowan. The pull this place had on you,”
I squinted up into the trees, scanning the dark branches as Mateo pulled the van ahead once more, urging the lumbering vehicle back up to speed.
Mateo chewed his lip briefly, considering his thoughts.
“Would you have wanted to hear it? You knew nothing about this place, except it was where your world shattered. Why would I spring it upon you also that it was where your family was bent and broken before you were even born?”
I settled back in the seat, folding my hands together and staring back out the windshield at the twisting road ahead. The ground cover was becoming scrubbier between the trees, waving broad bladed grasses that glowed in the lowering light.
“I never thought I’d be back here. Never thought we’d end up chasing Reggie again, following him to the end of the earth. Last time was supposed to be just that. The last time, but here we are, and I wonder if it’d be different if I’d just known,”
Mateo sighed, clapped a hand on my knee before returning it to the steering wheel.
“That was a choice Reggie made. It wasn’t right, I’ll never say it was, just as Clara’s choice was never the right one. But you’re here now, and without either of them, so it goes to show, you know what they say about hindsight,”
“You’d think after all that, and all the problems that stemmed from lack of communication, you would have explained everything so it didn’t happen again,” I commented dryly, looking back out the window.
The trees had faded away, replaced by dunes, the sunset momentarily blocked by the hillocks, their crests golden with sea grass.
A note of exasperation escaped Mateo’s nose.
“And when mariposa, pray tell would I have done that? When you sat catatonic on the hillside for two days, ignoring us entirely? Or how about when in a fit of rage you lit Levina’s house on fire, rampaging around with gasoline and matches? Or, oh this would have been perfect, when you refused to get out of bed for three weeks after the funeral? I’ve yet to figure out how you survived on stale pizza and gummy bears but I’m still of a mind to make Deke learn a lesson for it,”
I rolled my eyes. Deke had tried, he really had. But he’d lost someone too, and misery loves company. Especially when it boils down to darkened rooms and lazy fans, and sleeping for what only felt like days on end. I couldn’t handle the sun shining on another day that didn’t have my brother and my sister in my life. It wasn’t until Mateo had stormed in that day, sick of knowing I’d locked myself away, and dragged me kicking and screaming back into the light that I’d finally realized I did in fact have to keep on living. I did relapse a few times. I’m not going to lie. But that October was the end of it. I’d promised myself. Mateo smirked, hazel eyes gazing along the horizon, idly, then continued,
“What it boils down to, is there was never a right time, and as much as I love you I didn’t want to rip those wounds open again. You’re all I had left, and I needed you whole,”
Mateo slowed the vehicle down, signaling his turn toward the beach.
“At least I made sure to get anything useful out of the mansion before I toasted it,”
I sounded petulant. I didn’t care. I crossed my arms across my chest, rubbing at my elbow.
Another indeterminate sound escaped Mateo.
“I should have done the same. About thirty years ago,”
I chuckled, quiet and adrenaline driven. It sounded weird in the car, sounded weird as soon as it escaped me. We were almost at our, my, final destination.
“And yet unlike me, you resisted the call of arson, and you became a cop instead,”
Mateo shrugged resignedly, peering through the windshield for the cut-off to the parking lot, the sand drifting across the road in the high wind.
“It’s what she wanted. She needed someone on the inside that could work around the corners where they were blind. In exchange, you three were safe and provided for. Still provided for, thankfully. I can’t imagine where the bunch of you would have been, fending all on your own,”
I shifted uncomfortably. It was true that Mateo had ensured, through careful coercion and outright lies that Levina should ensure that a portion of her amassed wealth and fortune through her hundreds (thousands?) of years on this earth be allocated toward the only blood ties she had – us, but the thought of it still made me uncomfortable. It was blood money, however it was obtained. But as much as I liked to insist to myself that my freelance work was enough, and would be enough, with the addition of several more people to my home, I’d come to lean on the income much heavier than I ever had growing up. Keeping my head down and ignoring where it could have come from had always been the unfortunate truth.
“Point taken,” I muttered.
“Well, I’m sure eventually, the insurance money will come through as well, and then you’ll definitely be in a good spot, right?”
“As long as they never prove I was here, pouring gasoline on everything,”
The van slowed to a stop, lonely at the crest of the hill, looking down on the rushing blue of the ocean, the waves cresting and disappearing rapidly, a lone gull swerving away overhead. I worriedly ran my fingers through my hair, chewed my lip nervously.
Mateo engaged the emergency brake.
“Don’t worry, I erased all the gas station tapes,”
He threw a wink at my gaping mouth as I swiveled in toward him in disbelief, and clicked his seat belt open, hauling himself out the door, groaning from the cramped driving position. I stared at him through the window, appreciating just for a moment everything that he was.
Maybe I should forget about this. Just go home.
Mateo rubbed a hand across his chin, and shook his head, moving toward the beach.
I scrambled out of the car after him, and joined him where he stood at the top of the nearest dune, the wind whipping his clothes around his lean form, eyes narrowed against the brilliant glow of the sunset.
“Are you ready for this?”