Mouth Full of Ashes: Part 12

Sorry for the delay! Enjoy!

“Callie,” said Elijah. “What do you think?”

What did she think? She was in over her head. Like, way in over her head. Her mind wasn’t in the right place for her to be making decisions. In all honesty, she felt tipsy, although she hadn’t had any alcohol. She was just drunk on Elijah.

The thought flipped her stomach, and not in a good way. Callie swallowed.

“Might be fun,” she offered weakly. “I haven’t been to a club in a while. What do you think, Ram? I’m game if you are.”

Something flashed in Ramsay’s eyes. Callie couldn’t place it. Nevertheless, he put on a smile. “Yeah, why not? A club sounds fun. Jabari’s been dying to teach me to dance.”

Jabari grinned like he couldn’t sense the tension, but Callie was sure he could—it would be impossible to ignore it. He pulled Ramsay into a hug and whispered something in his ear. Callie wanted to roll her eyes, but she held back. If she was trying to repair their friendship, she had to be cool.

Elijah slipped his arm around her waist and pulled her against his side. His skin was hot even through his clothes. How would it feel against hers?

She blushed again. Jesus. What was going on with her? She’d never felt so sensitive around a guy before. Maybe his cologne was messing with her head or something.

“Okay,” said Elijah. “Let’s head out to Indigo.”

“We can’t get in there,” Callie said. “The wait list is like six months out.”

“Not for us.” Maeve smiled. “Elijah calls in favors.”

Callie looked at Elijah. She almost expected him to look smug, but if anything, he shied away from the attention. Maybe he was humble after all. Although… what kind of favors did he have to call in, and what gave him pull over anyone outside the Starlight Carnival?

Then again, she had essentially just met him and already wanted to give him everything she had. There was something to be said for that kind of charisma.

“Okay then,” Callie said. “Let’s go.”

Part of her hoped that Ramsay would object so the two of them could go home and talk about how bizarre this situation was. But Ramsay still seemed mad at her, and she’d presumably come to the carnival for… something. She still couldn’t remember and maybe that should have bothered her more, but it didn’t. It was an unscratched itch at the back of her mind. Nothing more.

They all ended up walking to Indigo. Callie shouldn’t have been surprised. No one in the group had a car besides her, and they couldn’t all fit in her vehicle. The air was balmy. Callie let Elijah hold her hand even though her palm was sweaty, and it was way too hot for physical contact. It felt nice, holding hands. It had been a while.

As they walked, her thoughts wandered to Lola. Had she thought of Callie, at the party? Had she missed her?

Elijah caught her eye. He winked.

Maybe she’d made the right choice.

Elijah squeezed her hand. Callie smiled.

“Something the matter?” he asked.

She shook her head. “Just thinking. How much farther is it?”

“Not too much, darling. You don’t mind the walking, though. Gives us the chance to get to know each other better.”

How did he know her so well? It didn’t matter how long it took them to get to Indigo. Her feet had hurt, but they didn’t hurt now. She wasn’t sure what had changed. Elijah had a point, though—it was a lovely nice, and it was nice to talk to someone other than Ramsay for a change.

She looked back over her shoulder. Ramsay and Jabari held hands, too. Ramsay whispered something in Jabari’s ear, but pulled back when he made eye contact with Callie. She faced forward again, frowning. What had happened to them? How had they let some boys come between them?

“Don’t worry about them,” Elijah urged. “Your friend’s in a bad mood, but we can pull him out of it, right?”

Callie wanted to believe him, no matter what he said. He made it so easy to believe him. But he didn’t know Ramsay like she did, and he had no way of knowing what he was like when he became part of a couple. He tended to get all wrapped up in the other person, ignoring any other key people in his life.

She felt the heat of someone’s gaze—someone other than Elijah—and looked to their left. Maeve and Tahlia had been walking and talking together, but now Maeve had her attention fixed on Callie. Her eyes were wide. Was it Callie’s imagination, or did she look concerned? If she’d known Maeve better, maybe she would have asked about it. As it was, she looked away from Maeve and tried to return to Elijah.

He stroked the back of her hand with his thumb. Her head was starting to hurt. Looking at him seemed to make it worse somehow.

“I don’t know if I feel up to clubbing,” she admitted.

“Sure you do,” he said. Pain flared in her forehead, and she winced. He kept going. “We won’t stay all night, and you’ll have a good time. I promise.”

A memory of Becca, sweaty and smiling, lurched to the front of her consciousness. “Raves go all night, Cal. Gotta keep up with me and Ram.”

Becca. Callie froze. That was the reason she’d gone to the carnival. She’d gone looking for her lost bracelet.

Elijah halted with her. Ramsay and Jabari almost slammed into them, and Jabari swore. Tahlia and Maeve slowed to a stop and looked over.

“Darling,” Elijah prompted.

“I have to go back. We—me and Ramsay—need to head back to the carnival.”

“Like hell we do,” Ramsay said. “I have everything I need right here.”

But he didn’t. He didn’t have Callie, not anymore. And if she could tell him that she’d gone back for the bracelet, he would understand.

But she couldn’t find the words. They were trapped inside somehow.

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