Reveal Me Page 2

I’m not mad that we’re celebrating Warner’s birthday. Honestly, I’m not. It’s nice, I get it, dude’s never had a birthday before. But right now I’m just not in the mood to celebrate. Right now I’d like to punch that piece-of-shit sheet cake and throw it at the wall. I’d like to pick it up and throw it at the wall and then I’d—

Electric heat shoots up my spine and I stiffen, even as I watch, as if from miles away, as a hand curls around my fist. I feel her tugging, trying to pry the fork from my hand. And then I hear her laugh.

I feel suddenly queasier.

“You okay?” she says. “You were holding this thing like a weapon.” She sounds like she might be smiling, but I wouldn’t know. I’m still staring into space, my vision narrowing into nothing. Nazeera managed to get the fork free of my hand and now I’m just sitting here, my fingers frozen open, still reaching for something.

I feel her sit next to me.

Even from here, I can feel her heat, her presence. I close my eyes. We haven’t really talked, she and I. Not about us, anyway. Not about how hard my heart beats when she’s around, and definitely not about how she’s inspired all the inappropriate daydreams infesting my mind. In fact, since that brief scene in my bedroom, we haven’t discussed anything that wasn’t strictly professional, and I’m not sure why we would. There’s no point.

Kissing her was stupid.

I’m an idiot, Nazeera is probably crazy, and whatever happened between us was a huge mistake. She keeps messing with my head, confusing my emotions, and I keep trying to remind myself, keep trying to convince myself to understand logic—but for some reason my body doesn’t get it. The way my biology reacts to her mere presence, you’d think I was having a stroke.

Or an aneurysm.

“Hey.” Her voice is serious now, the smile gone. “What’s wrong?”

I shake my head.

“Don’t shake your head at me.” She laughs. “You murdered your cake, Kenji. Something is obviously wrong.”

At that, I turn an inch. Stare at her out of the corner of my eye.

In response, she rolls her own eyes. “Oh please,” she says, stabbing my fork—my fork—into the collapsed cake. “Everyone knows you love food. You’re always eating. You rarely stop eating long enough to speak.”

I blink at her.

She scrapes a bit of frosting off the plate and holds up the fork, like a lollipop, before popping it in her mouth. And only after she’s licked the thing clean do I say:

“That fork was in my mouth.”

She hesitates. Stares at the cake. “I thought you weren’t eating this.”

“I’m not eating it anymore,” I say. “But I took a couple of bites.”

And there’s something about the way she straightens—something about the mortified way she says, “Of course you did,” as she puts down the fork—that unclenches the fist around my spine. Her reaction is so juvenile—as if we haven’t already kissed, as if we don’t already know what it’s like to taste the same things at the same time—that I can’t help it. I start laughing.

A moment later, she’s laughing, too.

And suddenly I feel almost human again.

I sigh, losing some of the tension in my shoulders. I rest my elbows on the wooden table and drop my head in my hands.

“Hey,” she says quietly. “You can tell me, you know.”

Her voice is close. Warm. I take a deep breath. “Tell you what?”

“Tell me what’s wrong.”

I laugh again, but this time the sound is bitter. Nazeera is the last person I want to talk to. It must be some kind of cruel joke that, of all the people I know, she’s the one pretending to care.

I sigh as I sit up, frowning into the distance.

I spot Juliette across the room—long brown hair and electric smile—in less than a second. Right now my best friend has eyes only for her boyfriend, and I’m both annoyed and resigned to the fact. I can’t blame her for claiming a bit of joy tonight; I know she’s been through hell.

But right now I need her, too.

It’s been a rough night, and I wanted to talk to her earlier, to ask her what she thinks about the situation with Adam and James, but I’d only made it halfway across the room when Castle pulled me back. He made me promise to leave her alone tonight. He said it was important for J to have alone time with Warner. He wanted them to have a few moments of peace—an uninterrupted night to recover from everything they’ve been through. I rolled my eyes so hard they nearly fell out of my head.

No one ever gives me an uninterrupted night to recover from all the shit I’ve been through. No one really cares about my emotional state; no one but J, if I’m being honest.

I keep staring at her, my eyes burning holes in her back. I want her to look at me. I know if she could just see me, she’d know something was wrong and she’d come over here. I know she would. But the truth is, it’s not just Castle keeping me from ruining her night; after everything they’ve been through, she and Warner really do deserve a proper reunion. I also think that if I tried to pry her away from Warner right now he’d try to murder me for real.

But sometimes I wonder—

What about me?

Why don’t my feelings matter? Other people get to experience a full range of emotions without judgment, but I can’t be anything but happy without making most people uncomfortable. Everyone is used to seeing me smiling, being goofy. I’m the fun guy, the easygoing guy. I’m the one everyone can count on for a good laugh. When I’m sad or pissed off no one knows what to do with me. I’ve tried talking to Castle or Winston—even Ian—but no one has ever clicked with me the way J does. Castle always tries his best, but he doesn’t approve of wallowing. He gives me thirty seconds to complain before he’s offering me a motivational speech, telling me to be strong. Ian, on the other hand, gets itchy when I tell him too much. He tries to be sympathetic, but then he bolts the first chance he gets. Winston listens. He’s a good listener, at least. But then, instead of responding to what I just said, he takes a turn talking about all the things he’s been dealing with, and even though I understand that he needs to vent, too, by the end of it I feel ten times worse.

But with Juliette—


With her, it’s different. I never even realized just how much I was missing until we really got to know each other. She lets me talk. She doesn’t rush me. She doesn’t tell me to calm down or feed me bullshit lines or tell me everything will be fine. When I’m trying to get things off my chest she doesn’t make the conversation about her or her own problems. She understands. I can tell. She doesn’t have to say a word. I can look into her eyes and know she gets it. She gives a shit about me in a way no one else ever has. It’s the same thing that makes her a great leader: she genuinely cares about people. She cares about their lives.


Nazeera’s touching my hand again, but this time I pull away, jerking awkwardly in my seat. And when I finally look up, into her eyes—I’m surprised.

She seems genuinely worried.

“Kenji,” she says again. “You’re scaring me.”


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