He was dead. Kieran hung up on the last relative and picked up his pen to cross their name off his list. They’d have to put something in the papers, wouldn’t they?
He sat back in his office chair and rubbed his eyes. It was nearly two in the morning and he’d been making phone calls for the last two days. Matt’s death was newsworthy and he didn’t want his stepfather’s family and friends to hear it from an impersonal news reporter. An email seemed too cold as well, so he’d tasked himself as the bearer of bad news.
Now that it was done, the weariness was replaced with a need to move, to do more. All thoughts of sleep faded from his mind. He needed to do something.
Twenty minutes later, Kieran found himself in front of her door. Taking his phone out of his pockets, he dialed her number. If it occurred to him that it was two in the morning and that he might be waking her up, he didn’t let it stop him.
“Alistair? Are you okay?” Her voice was husky with sleep but she sounded alert. She didn’t know. She hadn’t been on his call list. She was as innocent to this as she was with everything else. Was it right to involve her? To ask her to be complicit in his tragedies?
“I’m outside your house. Tell me to go home, Claire.”
“I’ll be there in a minute. Just give me a minute.”
He thought she’d hang up but instead she kept the line connected and he heard rustling – her getting dressed probably. Five minutes later, she stood in front of him in shorts and a t-shirt. Her hair was up in a bun and she was wearing glasses. He stared at her, phone still up to his ear. Now that she was in front of him, he didn’t know what to say.
Claire took his hand and led him inside. “Do you want something to drink,” she asked.
He stepped close and took her hand. “I want you.”
Startled, Claire pulled her hand away, looking as shocked as he felt. He hadn’t meant to say that. He hadn’t come for that – had he? The thought of apologizing, of going home to his grieving mother, his cold wife was… unappealing. He needed the comfort of someone who expected nothing from him because he was running on empty. He needed Claire.
“Alright,” she said. She took his hand again and walked with him up two flights of stairs to her bedroom. He had the impression of soft, cool colors but right then all his attention was focused on the woman in front of him who was offering him what he needed, no questions asked.
Standing in front of her bed, she finally let go of his hand and leaned forward to place a soft kiss on his lips. It was tentative as if she was asking if he was sure. He’d never been more certain of anything in his life.
Letting his hands slide underneath her shirt, he swept it off her. Stepping in close and deepening their kiss, he undressed them until they were both naked. His desire for her made him urgent, a bit frantic. How long had he lusted after her? How long had he thought about being with her? And now here she was, offering him everything he wanted.
He forced himself to slow down, to gently press her down on the bed. Again, she went willingly. Still, he felt he needed to ask, to give her an out. “Are you sure? I don’t want –”
She cut him off with a kiss, her legs sliding up to wrap around his hips. She pulled him closer to her and he went.
“Why didn’t you tell me?”
Claire closed her eyes at the censure she heard in his voice. “I didn’t think it was important.”
Alistair turned her head towards him so he could see her face. “Claire, you being a virgin is important! If I’d known…”
“What? You wouldn’t have slept with me? That would have defeated the point of you coming here.” She would not feel bad. He’d come to her and she couldn’t turn him away. She’d wanted this, damn it! “I won’t apologize for it, Alistair.”
He stared down at her a little longer and then sighed. He kissed her, a slow, lingering kiss and then pulled away. “I have to go.”
“Oh,” Claire said. “I thought maybe you’d want to talk.”
Shaking his head, Kieran got out of bed. “It was a mistake to come here.”
“Oh…” Sliding deeper under the covers, Claire glanced away. She felt the bed dip as he sat down beside her.
“I didn’t mean it like that. It’s four in the morning. I shouldn’t have snuck over here in the dead… so late at night. That wasn’t fair to you.” He waited until she looked at him. “You were not a mistake.”
Fiddling with the sheets, she nodded. “I’m here if you want to talk. I know it must be difficult for you right now.”
She moved to a sitting position as he sat, silently watching her. Was she stepping over a line? She wanted to laugh. They’d just slept together, that line was obliterated now.
“My father was murdered,” Kieran said suddenly. Claire stopped her fidgeting, stunned into stillness. She hadn’t known that.
“I thought there was an explosion?”
“There was – someone caused it.”
“Oh, Al…” Forgetting her nudity in the wake of this new revelation, Claire reached for him and pulled him against her. “I am so sorry.”
Kieran wrapped his arms around her and as if he’d just been waiting for someone to offer comfort, broke down and sobbed. Claire made soothing noises and held him tight. The situation was regrettable but for the first time since she got her sight back, she felt as if she was where she belonged.
Lying in bed again, Kieran untangled himself from a sleeping Claire and slipped out of the bed. Finding his pants and shirt, he headed for a closed door, hoping to find a bathroom behind it. Successful, he quickly dressed and washed his face. He needed to go home. His mother and wife – he cringed at the thought of Lorde – would be wondering where he was. Running his hands through his hair until there was some semblance of order in his appearance, he walked back out into Claire’s bedroom.
She was still sleeping and he felt a twinge of guilt. He’d woken her up and then kept her awake for most of the night. Shame at his loss of control coursed through him. He should have never put her in that position. Should have never taken advantage of her like that. It was something Glasgow would have done and he didn’t need that reminder of his father, not now while he was mourning Matt.
Kieran quietly found his socks and shoes and put them on before he tip-toed out of the room. Quickly he headed down the stairs to the front door. He needed to be home. He was sure Lorde knew he was gone by now.
Opening the door, Kieran was momentarily blinded by a flash a light.
“Alistair, do you know who tried to kill your stepfather?”
“Why aren’t you at home, grieving with your family?”
“Who lives here?”
Kieran stood rooted to the spot. The news was out then, about Matt. It’s a good thing he’d stayed up late making those phone calls.
Knowing he couldn’t stand there much longer, he raised a hand to shield his eyes from the bright lights and bullied his way past the paparazzi and towards his car. How the hell had they found him? Slamming his car door, he placed his key in the ignition and revved the engine. It was the only warning he gave before shifting into drive and peeling out of the driveway. He was fuming by the time he pulled up to his house. There was a line of vans on his block and he had to inch his way past the reporters to get into his garage. Fucking vultures!
“Daddy!” Kieran smiled as his son ran down the hall to greet him. He scooped Colin up into a hug, relishing the feel of his little boy’s warmth. “Daddy who are those people outside?”
Kieran sighed. “Reporters. They want to ask us questions and take pictures of us.”
“Reporters,” Colin repeated. “They woke the baby up.”
“Where’s mama?” Kieran walked into the kitchen with Colin still in his arms.
The little boy squirmed to get down and once on the ground, ran out into the living room. Kieran watched him go with a mixture of sadness and amusement. There went his sidekick. Lorde must be in a pretty shitty mood then.
He glanced over and sure enough, there was his wife, glaring at him from the breakfast table. Sighing again, Kieran walked over and sat down. “Hi.”
“I take it you saw the reporters.”
“One of them rang our doorbell. At six in the morning. Six o’clock! Their lights woke everyone up.” She stood and took her plate to the sink. “What are you going to do to fix this?”
“What can I do? They have the right to stand outside in the street. It’s public property.” He was suddenly tired. All he wanted was to take a shower and crawl into bed. The bit of sleep he’d managed at Claire’s hadn’t been enough.
“Are you even listening to me?” Lorde closed the dishwasher with a bang. “Unbelievable!”
He watched her storm out of the room, unable to muster even a small amount of energy for her. His hand twitched as the temptation to call Claire flared up.
Claire sat down to breakfast, very aware of the fact she’d just had sex with Alistair. She’d heard the reporters when he’d stepped out and was glad she hadn’t given in to the urge to rush down after him and kiss him goodbye. She looked down at her phone and sipped her coffee. Matias King’s death was already news, mostly because the crowned prince and heir to the throne of Cape Verde died in the explosion as well.
Claire wished there was more that she could do for her friends. Even before Alistair had come to her door, she’d known the devastating news. She’d known before anyone.
She’d had a vision of it. The fairy queen had been very explicit in her instructions. Never tell anyone or bad things would happen. Claire always wondered what the purpose of the gift was if she couldn’t share it with anyone. She’d tried to tell her mother. She was sure it was the reason Cathy had left her family when Claire was fourteen. She’d stopped trying to tell people after that, the lesson truly learned.
And until she’d met Matias last fall, it had never been a problem. She’d known, even then, that he was going to die. And now, with the grief swirling around her home, she’d had several visions in as many days. They were one unlucky family.
Seeing Alistair last night had broken her heart and she’d almost told him too much. But what good would it have done to admit that she knew what was going to happen but said nothing? He’d come for comfort not to hear her confession.
She’d given him all she could but knew it could never be enough. The man she’d loved even before she’d met him needed her and she couldn’t be there. She was stuck miles away, unable to hold him or bear some of the burdens he was carrying. She couldn’t sit with him and hold vigil for the father he’d just lost.
Claire took one last sip of coffee before standing up from the table. She had to go open up the bakery. Maybe keeping busy would help with all the swirling emotions going through her mind right now. And hopefully keep her from checking her phone every few minutes, praying Alistair would call.