Chapter 12 "Coming to Terms"
His lips were great; they felt fantastic and tasted amazing.
Her heart picked up. She'd done it, for real. She'd kissed Hunter.
Kisses were supposed to be something to be happy over; she felt panic with a mix of excitement. One side of her head told her she was going to regret it, the other was humming for more.
"Are you cold?"
Those were not the words she had expected him to say after they'd kissed; Hunter saw it.
"I'm not sure what to say." He confessed, sorting out a strand of her hair.
She still couldn't believe what she'd done; Tori would throw a balloon party when she found out… God helped her.
Hunter leant closer to her.
"Did you like it?"
Ruby brushed his skin with the tips of her fingers.
"I'm not going to grow your ego."
He smiled at the grungy remark, sneaking his arms around her waist closing any distance; at this point he felt no injuries.
"I love your jokes."
"Who said I was joking?" She teased, backing away.
Hunter laughed, she rolled her eyes.
"We should go some place warm, before you turn into a Popsicle." Hunter helped her up, and then rounded her shoulders with an arm. "Let's go to the UNSEEN base, I don't think I can go home."
He led them through a dirt road, Ruby didn't say anything about the argument with his mother. Along the way she tried not to press into his side much; it was difficult since he kept pulling her like a planet with its own gravity pull.
"This can't be good for your bruises."
"I've been through worse." He flashed a short smile. "They'll heal sooner or later."
A vast area of nothingness showed up at the end of the trail.
"We're here." Hunter went around the perimeter to a tree; not just any tree, a mechanic one.
After he touched all the right places the shields around the base went down, at least the ones making it invisible, but it would only last one minute. It was enough time to get their bracelets scanned and enter.
Ruby kept her pace with Hunter once they were on the inside. It was mostly like headquarters, only much warmer.
He took her hand.
"Ruby, you okay?"
No; she was still thinking about their kiss. He seemed alright, accepting that it happened and he'd just enjoyed it. She wished it was that simple for her.
"I've been looking for you, Hunter."
Ruby's heartbeat went on a rampage.
"I've been avoiding you, dad."
Dad? Dad!? Conner was Hunter's father so… what?
"Who's your friend?"
Hunter made for her to turn with a tug of his hand. Ruby was then face to face with… someone who looked nothing like Conner.
"I don't know what's wrong with her, she's never shy."
Faintly she felt her cheeks burning.
"I'm Ruby Cromwell, his partner,"
The man with rusty hair shook the she held out for him.
"I've heard about you; my brother says you're the best shooter he's seen in a while."
Hunter nodded along with what was said.
"Anyway," He muttered. "This is my mom's husband, my father and Luke's brother."
"Big introduction…" Ruby murmured to herself when it hit her. "Luke's brother?"
Hunter looked like someone had just cut his air supply.
"Yeah…" He scratched the back of his head. "Luke's sort of my uncle."
Ruby was getting redder than a tomato, and it had nothing to do with shyness.
"You hid from me that Luke's your uncle?" She hissed, making him step away. "Do you know what I've gone through to get myself to trust you!?"
"There was never a conversation about—"
"Couldn't you have told me that on your "death bed" ?"
"Death bed?" Rick interjected.
Hunter shook his head.
"Just a fever—"
"Don't change tracks, Hunter!" She sounded very mad. "You lied to me."
"Omitted a fact," He corrected.
Ruby was marching away huffing; she didn't where she was going but certainly there was an empty common room.
"She seems like a handful."
"It means she's worth it."
"What was that?" Rick leaned in, as if to hear better, clearly teasing.
"Nothing," Hunter guarded himself. "Why have you been looking for me?"
Rick seemed shocked by his step-son's words.
"Can't I enjoy a good talk with my son after a month of hearing nothing from him?"
Hunter gave him an unconvinced look, Rick let out a sigh.
"What if I add to that reason that your mom talked to me about what happened?"
Hunter uncrossed his arms.
"Alright then… you shouldn't have stormed off the way you did." Hunter responded with a cutting glare and silence. "Listen. I know your mom didn't act correctly, lying about her past, your aunt… But she did it to keep you safe."
Hunter wasn't easily demoted from his cold demeanor.
"What about the damn ultimatum?"
Rick shook his head.
"I told her it wasn't a good idea, that'd you'd join either way."
"I'm not going to forgive her just like that… I need space."
Rick presented him with a pat on the shoulder.
"I know, kid." Rick stopped Hunter before he took off searching for a very moody partner. "I'm proud that you face these people when 'Marquinn' last name."
Hunter didn't fight down the gentle smile.
After going into every common room he knew he found her in the one in the last floor.
The lights were low and the whole room was warm.
Hunter barely made a noise when he punched a code into the panel.
"You are hard to find."
She stayed mute, eyes on the ceiling.
"I didn't tell you, I didn't tell anyone because it was bad enough being Conner's son, I didn't want people to think I'd gotten in because Luke was pulling strings with the other instructors. I wanted to be treated like you, as much as possible." He poured out insecure. "Insulting me is better than silence."
Bourbon irises drifted to violet ones.
"Did I mention the part where I lost sleep thinking about how Luke trusted you so completely?"
Hunter nodded, the corners of his lips twitching until she sat up, lifting a finger.
"Don't, Hunter." She warned. "I hate lies, do you understand?"
"Yes," Hunter's shoulders sagged a tad.
"Jake lied to me about what happened between you two in the cafeteria and I haven't forgiven him. Even if I do, I'm not sure if I'll trust him like I used to." She racked her hands through those wavy locks. "Trust isn't something I... give easily."
Her partner tilted his head, having a good idea why. It all went back to her parents betrayal which was all caused by his father... what a circle.
"You..." Ruby lifted her head to look at him, it was like watching a kicked puppy, damn. "I understand, even if I don't approve, I guess I understand."
Hunter didn't smile, only rubbed the side of his neck. That made Ruby remember the horrible hole he'd have that night, how it was bleeding and oozing... It wasn't only that, that made her scoot aside to give him a seat, it was something more. It wasn't easy to stay angry at Hunter, with Jake there was dislike and rooted anger.
It didn't' exist with Hunter. With Hunter there was understanding... identification. She identified with him, in some weird way she understood all too well what it was like being betrayed by parents. Jake had a good family, they knew their sons were in UNSEEN and thought it was the right thing to do.
Jake didn't get her. He couldn't.
"I won't lie again." Hunter sagged into the couch, laying his head on the backrest. "I won't."
Lacing up her hand in his, tracing a light pattern. His tan made her feel warmer.
"You better not." She held up her finger to his face. "I won't let it slide."
"There won't be a next time..." She glanced into his eyes, then knotted her fingers in the platinum mess.
She twirled his hair, combing it slowly. How tired was he?
"We came here on vacation, I don't think you've had any rest since we go here."
"We got here yesterday."
His head moved down as Ruby tugged it to her lap. Hunter was piratically stretched now, taking up the whole couch.
"Your hair's a little wet." Ruby studied their surroundings for a while. "What are we going to do now?"
"Us," Her hand stopped the stroking motions. "We kissed..." She blushed when Hunter roamed her face with twinkly eyes. "What did that, you know, mean?"
Hunter twisted to reach up with a hand, for the first time he touched her hair. It was lush to him, soft as cream.
She was beautiful, he graced her with a smile.
"What did it mean?" He mused. "I wanted to kiss you, if that's what you want to know."
Ruby shifted somewhat.
"I guess, I did too." His thumb trailed down her cheek, Ruby turned her face away.
"What's wrong?" He eased himself back up, facing her. "Do you regret it?"
"No," She frowned. "It's just... weird."
Okay, yeah, it was a little weird. Ruby was the last person he'd expected to feel attracted to simply because it was stupid to feel that way for someone who hated you, but she didn't hate him, did she?
"You don't hate me," She shook her head giving him confirmation. "I definitely don't hate you..." He leant into her face.
Ruby couldn't help herself. Her lips were on his, this kiss was more gentle than the last. It went on perfectly fine, until he winced into her mouth.
"My ribs..." He pulled away massaging his chest.
Ruby refrained from chuckling, rearranging her sweater.
"I think it's a sign on how you should be resting, not making out, taking long walks or running out."
"Or saving my girlfriend's life?"
Oh crap. Did he say that?
If Hunter was turned to stone, Ruby was made of it. Their gazes didn't met for a long while, it was incredibly awkward, enough for Hunter to clear his throat and rub his hands up and down his face.
"That was... I don't know what that was."
He didn't? Oh who was he kidding, he liked her. It wasn't like he was stupid. Hunter knew what it was that he felt about Jake. Jealousy. He'd been jealous when she'd believed Jake over him, jealous of seeing how Jake got to get close to her and then he was happy when she didn't forgive Jake. It was wrong, selfish even, but he felt it.
"I like you, Ruby." Hunter's violet irises drew her bourbon ones. "I mean, really like."
She could see the sincerity in his words, the nervousness in his pose. He was putting his feelings out there.
They were real.
What about her?
Biting the inside of her cheek, slipping towards him, Ruby took his hand and met their eyes strongly.
"I really like you, too."