Chapter 17: Rainfall

Rain washes away all the mud we use as masks. — Halador Masin, Dance of Children

The bells rang out across the city, the ringing muted by the rain that had continued to hammer the streets. It was late—much later than she wanted it to be. However the rain had not subsided since it had started. Fat droplets sloshed into shallow puddles. Rivers bubbled along both sides of the roads, flooding the gutters. The raindrops came down in a steady drum, the glass behind her vibrated with the countless impacts.

Lily sighed and glared into the dark street. It was getting late and she needed to be home. She was anxious and her mood had soured. Even fantasies or her work couldn’t keep her distracted from the time slipping between her fingers.

A carriage drove by, splashing water in both directions.

She cringed as the water sheeted toward her but fell short. It poured across the sidewalk to lap against the raised stoop.

Lily breathed a sigh of relief.

A peal of thunder shook the street. The clouds were rolling darkness punctuated by the flash of lighting and peals of thunder. The streetlights pushed back the gloom on the street, but the magical flames weren’t enough to push it back completely. The sheets of rain sparkled in the light.

She was too tired and anxious to enjoy the beauty. She crossed her arms across her chest, squelching into the soaked fabric. She glared at the rain, cursing it to end as soon as possible.

Lily had worked herself into a foul mood when three men rushed down the street right on front of her. Their boots smacked loudly through the puddles as they raced by.

She gasped and stepped to protect her sewing. As she did, she caught only a sight of their swords still in sheaths and a flash of the Martin crest on their chests.

Before the water finished splashing, they were out of sight. The steady drum of their boots and hiss of water flying everything ended seconds later as they ran out of earshot.

Curious, Lily leaned out of her shelter and into the rain. The Martins were standing in front of an alley two blocks down. Without a word, they spread into a wide arc to cover the entrance. Rain bounced off their top hats and soaked into their black jackets.

The three men drew their swords. One by one, they filed into the alley.

She blinked and wiped the rain from her face to get a better look.

A heartbeat later, there was a muffled boom and water exploded from the alley. It shot out like a geyser, arching clear across the street before cracking the glass of a store on the opposite side. Two of the Martin men flew out. They hit the ground hard and rolled over.

Lily jumped at the explosion and then gasped as the Martin men slumped to the road. The rain soaked her head as she stared, looking for any sign of movement in the two fallen Martins.

One of the men pushed himself up. Blood dripped down the side of his face as he staggered to his feet. He limped over to the other one.

She held her breath as the man reached down.

When the second man reached up, she let out her breath with a gasp.

The third Martin backed out of the alley. He had his sword out and it crackled with lightning. He had it up to parry a blow. “Kal, you okay? Domin?” he yelled through the sheeting rain.

“Yeah, Mark,” said the first guy as he straightened. “Domin got some wind.” He reached down for the Domin before speaking up. “Tell me you at least nicked that shit Kendrick?”

Lily’s heart beat faster at the name.

“You are still an asshole.” The rain muted the voice from the alley. The speaker backed out, his blade brandished in front of him.

“Then stop following me!” bellow Kendrick as he stepped out. Water spiraled around him in ribbons of sparkling water. It cut into the sides of the alley, carving away the bricks as he came out of the darkness. Above him, a shimmering curved line marked where the rain stopped falling before it joined into the swirling water.

Lily froze. Kendrick looked haggard, as if he hadn’t been sleeping well. He had a fresh cut on his cheek. His suit, on the other hand, looked untouched from when she repaired it. It gave her a little hope.

She abandoned her sewing and stepped out into the rain. It poured down on her body, soaking her instantly. She clutched the side of the wall as she inched closer, straining to listen.

“We just want to talk, Kasin,” said Mark.

Water ran down Kendrick’s face, it traced along his scars. The droplets fell from his chin. Instead of soaking into his suit, the water beaded on the surface and continued to fall. He lifted his hand and the rain around him gathered into a sphere.

Lily was stepping away from the wall before she realized it. “Kendrick?” she called out, her voice too quiet to be heard over the rain.

Kendrick glanced in her direction. Their eyes met. Then he looked away. His image blurred from the rivulets rolling down her face.

He looked back, this time with wider eyes.

Panting, she reached out for him. She took a few steps down the street, stopping in a deep puddle.

A quick peek confirmed the Martins were also looking at her but she only had the attention for Kendrick. She stopped, panting softly. The water sheeting down her face caught on her lip, caressing it like a kiss.

“Kal and Domin, go,” ordered Mark. “We’re done here.”

Domin staggered to his feet. “Just like that?”

“Domin, now!”

Kendrick glared at them, the sphere in hand growing larger.

Mark made a show of sheathing his sword. “We will talk later. I will not do this in front of her.”

Kendrick glanced at Lily and back to the Martin.

With a short bow, the lead Martin gestured for the others and walked in the opposite direction from Lily. They turned at the next street and were quickly out of sight.

Lily turned to look back at Kendrick but he was gone.

“Oh, not again.” With a glare, she stormed toward the alley, splashing widely with every step. She had to hike up the bottom of her dress to keep it from dragging her down. At the entrance, she peered inside. “I know you’re there! Stop disappearing on me!”

Only rain answered.

“Kendrick, I’m going to hunt you down if you don’t come here!” She felt a bit foolish but he kept disappearing on her. “Even if I have to use the Martins to find you! I swear—”

Wind rushed out of the alley toward her, sending rain and water. She gasped and threw up her hands to shield herself but not a single droplet struck her. Instead, it parted and streamed around her for a moment before splashing loudly to the ground.

Heart pounding in her chest, she straightened up and planted her hands on her hips. “Ken! Get out here right now!”

A low chuckled as his silhouette oozed out of the darkness. He looked menacing and terrifying, a walking shadow.

She stood her ground with her stomach twisting and her hands trembling.

When the light peeled away from him, he was only inches from her. His black hair clung to both sides of his faces, the darkness merging with his scruff. His scent somehow overpowered the rolling rain around her. The roar around her faded as the droplets stopped.

She looked up, blinking at the water on her face. Not a single raindrop struck her face as she watched it curving away from her only a few feet above her head. She let out a soft breath and looked into his face. “Kendrick?”

“You were always hard to walk away from.”

“You shouldn’t keep running away.”

“I don’t want to hurt you.”

She exhaled. “It does every time you disappear.”

His eyes softened for a moment. Lifting one soaked hand, he ran it along he cheek. “Lily, I’m not a good man. I don’t think I ever was.”

Lily leaned into his touch, just to feel his finger trace along her cheek and then to the side of her neck.

“I’m a coward. A gutless man who can’t even say the things he wants to.” His hand slipped around her neck, cradling the back of her head.

It only took a tiny step on her part to bring their bodies together. Her breasts bumped against his muscular chest, nipples already hard from the cool rain suddenly ached at the touch. She tilted her head even more to look into his eyes. “Why not?”

“I don’t want to drag you into my mistakes. I’ve made too many and you are too important.”

“I’ve made mistakes too, Kendrick.”

“Not like these.”

She thought for a moment. “What if I don’t mind?”

He tightened and started to pull his hand away from the back of her head. Desperate not to break the contact, Lily pushed herself up on her toes and pressed her lips tight against his.

The world grew hot around him as she tasted lightning and rain on his kiss.

Kendrick hesitated, his fingers dancing along the nape of her neck, but then he held her tight and kissed back.

Heat rolled threw her body, surging through her heart and spreading out to her limbs. The cold from waiting in the rain melted away, leaving her as hot as a summer day.

His other hand slipped around her waist, pulling her tight to his body.

Lily moaned into the embrace. Her body was flushed and she could feel the same with him. Even his hardness, a thick rod grinding above her hip, was pulsating through the many layers of fabric. She smiled and kissed him again and again.

The rain fell again, splashing on her head and face as he grew more confident. His lips parted, his breath washed over hers. It left a wave of heat to ripple through her body.

Lily tried to grab his chest, to hold him close, but her fingers missed. She bumped against the fabric of his suit. Unwilling to let him go, she clutched it tightly. She opened her own lips to drink from him, flooded by the heat and smell of his body.

His tongue flashed out, caressing her lips. It was a surprise and intense, stealing her breath away.

She moaned and held him tight, her body trembling with the effort.

Lily didn’t know who broke it, but when they parted, they were both gasping for breath. She smiled and released his jacket. Her knuckles were sore. Wiping her face, she looked into his eyes again. “You don’t have to run.”

His thick lips moved for a moment. She could feel the tension in his body, it grew tighter with every passing heartbeat.

She shook her head. “Kendrick?”

He looked away for a moment. “Why are you out here?”

“I got caught in the rain. I was trying to head home.”

When he looked back, the moment had broken. The rain stopped again, halted by the invisible force above his head. He stepped away, slowly drawing his arm from her waist and his palm from her neck. The cool air rushed over her, erasing the touch they had just enjoyed.

“Kendrick?” she whispered. “Please don’t disappear on me. My heart can’t take it right now.”

He stared at her for a long moment. Water dripped down his face, tracing the line of his nose and cheek before clinging to his lips. They were pressed together but she couldn’t help but long to kiss them again.

Lily’s heart beat faster.

“I’ll walk you home. It’s too wet for you.” Kendrick turned away from her but then held up his arm, elbow crooked and waiting.

With a blush, Lily rested her fingers along his muscular arm. She gestured to her hiding spot. “I have some dresses that can’t get wet. They are important.”

“Then they are important for me too,” he said in a low growl. Somehow, his voice made her heart flutter.