He runs his hand down the side of my head, trailing my dark hair through his fingers. It’s gotten longer since we arrived in Columbus, down to the middle of my back, and when his hand reaches the end of my hair, his fingers brush against my arm. My skin tingles, and I take a deep, calming breath. How does he always do this?
“Moonchild,” he whispers, leaning even closer. “What’s with that name, anyway? I’ve been asking you for months, and you never answer me.”
His eyes burn into mine, and I swallow. I don’t like to share. I hate being vulnerable. Especially with Asher. But my head is spinning and he’s so close, and before I have a chance to even think about it, I blurt out the words, “It’s a nickname my mom gave me.”
He freezes and his eyes hold mine, but his expression is unreadable. “Your mom?”
A tiny voice buried deep in my brain tells me to stop talking. This is what I’ve been trying to avoid for the past five months. Opening myself up to Asher. Making our relationship more real. Sharing. He’s given so much of himself to me. Shared his entire past. His mom’s murder, his time in the pits, the murder he committed that got him sent to the mines. His father. All the details and painful memories and how they’ve affected him. But I’ve told him nothing other than general facts. My parents were killed, I was sent to an orphan home, I ran away and spent time picking pockets before being caught and sent to the mines. I’ve intentionally kept out all the emotional details.
But for some reason, right now, I don’t want to listen to that voice. Not while Asher’s eyes are burning into mine, making everything hazy. I feel drunk. Drunk on Asher.
“I’ve never been a good sleeper, even as a baby. I got my mom up at least three times a night until I was four. My dad called me a night owl.” I smile despite the stinging that has started at the back of my throat. “But my mom corrected him. She said I was just a child of the moon. Her own little Moonchild. It stuck.”
Asher’s expression is still blank, and he seems to be holding his breath, almost like he’s afraid the littlest sound will break the spell and I’ll curl into myself. He doesn’t want me to pull away from him, and even though I know I should, I don’t want to either. No one has ever been as welcoming and warm as Asher is.
“How did it end up on the wanted posters?” he whispers. “How did they find out about something like that?”
I wince and want to look away from him. His expression is unguarded, and it’s like he’s looking at me through a microscope.
“I don’t know,” I say softly. “Probably a neighbor or friend. Someone who knew my parents. I never told anyone at the orphan home or in the mines… I don’t know how they found out. But it hurts when I see it on the posters. It twists the memories I have of my mom into something ugly and—” I slam my mouth shut.
No. I’ve gone too far. I need to keep some of myself tucked away, hidden from Asher and his disarming smile.
The expression in his eyes is different now. There’s hope swimming in them now when he brushes my hair back, away from my face, the tips of his fingers barely grazing my cheek. A tremble moves through me, and I suck in a deep breath. I should leave while I still can. Being this close to Asher is never a good idea.
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