A Gift from the Goddess Book Two – Chapter 7

Kieran Lycroft… Victor Lycroft, my target’s, very own son.

How had I managed to screw things up this badly? Within twenty-four hours, it felt like my life had gone from being careful, structured… precise, into what I could only describe as complete erratic shambles.

And worse still, it was as if I had no control. Control over my situation, over myself… and especially no control when it came to this man, Kieran.

“Unfortunately, my father wasn’t able to make it tonight,” Kieran replied. “He had an important matter come up and sent me in his stead to extend our town’s support.”

I could smell his scent so vividly, the wind now no longer masking it from me. So intoxicating yet inviting… I’d never come across anything like it before.

“A shame. But nevertheless, I’m glad you could join us. I’ve heard that you’ll be taking his place upon his retirement. Is it common to elect representatives based on family in your town?”

Kieran gave a half laugh and looked around for a second, almost as if the question made him uncomfortable. “We’re just all very close up north in Ashwood. My father is a great role model and inspired me to take over for him. I’m honoured that the people of my town agree.”

…His eyes then flicked back to my own, a look of curiosity and… something else that I couldn’t quite place mixed in. But whatever it was, I wanted more of it.

“Oh, apologies, where are my manners?” said my father, extending a hand towards me. “Allow me to introduce you to Raven.”

“Raven? I’m glad to finally catch your name,” he said, then turned back to Eric. “You know, we actually had a moment to meet in the gardens just now.”

…Oh no… please, no.

My father raised a brow in confusion. “Oh? Is that where she ran off to?”

“You wouldn’t believe it but…,” Kieran chuckled lightly, apparently finding the whole thing hilarious, “she must have gotten quite the scare because….”

And it was then that Kieran finally looked back towards me, his sentence slowly coming to a stop as our eyes met.

“…Because…?” my father prompted.

“Oh… She ah…,” Kieran stumbled, quickly clearing his throat. “…She jumped in surprise. I guess I accidentally snuck up on her.”

“That’s certainly uncharacteristic of her. My daughter is normally a hard one to take unaware.”

“Your… daughter?” Kieran asked, confused. “Raven is your daughter?”

“That’s right.”

“And… and she grew up here in Lockdale City?”

“Yes… why?”

Why indeed, was what I wanted to know too. What business did he have questioning something so personal? Clarification once should have been sufficient, if needed at all. He didn’t need to know my life story.

Kieran was now staring at me with a more serious expression, the joking tone now gone. “Oh, nothing. She just… doesn’t act like most of the people I’ve met in the city.”

And what was that supposed to mean?

But laughter erupted from my father, clearly not bothered like I was “No, I don‘t suppose she does I raised her with a good head on her shoulders I‘m happy to hear she doesn‘t act like most overbearing city people do.”

“Right..” Kieran agreed, but his voice still sounded distant in thought.

“Raven actually adores the outdoors and nature, something I know Ashwood has a lot of. Can‘t seem to keep her away from wanting to always be in the fresh air. Isn‘t that right, Raven?”

Love the outdoors? Sure, I went running occasionally, but I wouldn‘t say it was a hobby or a defining trait of my personality.

I was puzzled by that comment, yet still too focused on trying to figure out Kieran‘s reactions, that I didn‘t immediately understand what my father was doing. How he was lying in order to establish common ground between us.

And in doing so, he was telling me that my target had changed for the evening.

With Victor now not attending the event, I would be needing to utilise the closest thing to it

His son.

I couldn‘t remember the last time I‘d been this stressed.

“Raven?”

My father‘s voice pulled me from my head after I still hadn‘t spoken.

I wasn‘t acting in the way I was meant to be and he knew it. Hell, even if I were successful in finding out about the documents, I wondered if I was still going to face some sort of repercussion for my odd behaviour all night.

I weighed up my options quickly, debating which outcome here would be worse, and ultimately, I made a choice I never expected to make. Especially not since I was so sceptical of him. But something inside pushed me on, and I wanted to have faith in that feeling,

And so I decided to trust the man I‘d only just met. Trust in the fact that, if he hadn‘t instantly exposed me as I thought he would, then he probably wouldn‘t do so.

“Oh right, I‘m so sorry,” I said, acting out a small head shake and overly polite smile. “I seem to be a bit out of it tonight I should have given you my name before, that was so rude of me.”

Kieran’s eyes narrowed ever so slightly but I kept my smile in place, hoping I could do enough to turn this situation around. And, quietly, I held my breath.

Before the silence could elapse too much though, his lips turned in a smirk and he held a hand out towards me.

“No need to worry, it’s never too late for introductions,” he said. “Kieran Lycroft, pleasure to meet you, Raven.”

I stared at his hand for a second before extending my own… and instantly regretted it.

That same feeling of marks began to spread through the contact with his skin, making me lose Concentration. And his touch… it felt so nice and warm, making me painfully aware of thoughts that was coming so desperately to suppress,

After planting a small k!ss on the back of my hand, he let me go, and I found I‘d forgotten Whatever I was meant to be saying

See All is forgiven,” he joked I took a second to blink and clear my head before scrambling to put back on the face I needed to show, trying to not let on just how affected I really was.

*p bow about i buy you a drink in apology?” I managed to say, acting on auto-pilot. Though I silently cursed the slight slutter in my voice. “I would love to hear more about Ashwood.”

Oh, you would? sure, I‘d love a drink”

I couldn‘t be certain, but it was almost as if he found this funny. Borderline mocking me. But I suppose laughing at me for whatever reason was better than the alternative ways this encounter could have gone. And yet even though I knew that, I still couldn‘t help but feel mildly bothered by it I didn‘t enjoy feeling like I was a joke

I’ll leave you two for now, then,” my father paid, touching my arm, “It would be best if I checked in with some other acquaintances anyway. I‘ll be around if you need me.”

His grip tightened on me without warning, though not obvious enough for anyone to notice, and I picked up on the double connotation of his words. I‘ll be around if you need me‘ meaning he was around and would be keeping an eye on me,

I gave him a small nod and hoped that it showed confidence that, in actuality, I was so badly lacking in that moment

*Shall we?” Kieran asked behind me once my father had left

And with that, the two of us walked to the bar and ordered our drinks.

I knew now was the time to do what I did beet. It was the time to stop letting myself become overwhelmed and just focus entirely on the task at hand. Something that, with my track record to date, I was yet to fail even once in doing One of my specialties had always been in this particular ates of int!mate persuasion.

*I‘m so sorry again,” I said as we waited, making sure to sound as friendly as possible “I really don‘t know what came over me earlier and hope that you don‘t think I‘m some sort of unhinged,

I timidly laughed a little at myself and tucked a look of halt behind my már, hoping that he was. subconsciously picking up on the social cue Normally, I would have reached a handout and gently touched his arm but the thought of those sparks possibly being there made me keep my hands to myself

“No not at all,” he replied “The whole thing was a bit funny and will make for a great story *

My smile froze in place at that:

Story? 0-oh… no, you don’t need to tell anyone about that, it‘s so terribly embarrassing, “I unid stiffly “How about we keep it a secret just between us? Like our own little inside joke? I would really .. appreciate it.”
Touch his hand. Raven, ‘I told myself, knowing I needed to commit to this,

But I really didn’t want to Thai feeling of losing control was one I despised, and even being around him was proving to be difficult.

Thankfully, the drinks arrived at that moment, and I used grabbing the glass as an excuse to do something else

*Cheers,” I said, quickly taking a sip. Maybe another five of these and my nerves would finally be calmed

But Kieran was slower to follow suit, his eyes watching me closely in a way that made me nervous Definitely not in the way I would expect a man to be acting around me by now. He seemed almost. Wary.

“You know you can drop the act already?” he said suddenly. It was so out of the blue that it almost made me choke on my drink.

I coughed and quickly grabbed a napkin nearby to cover my mouth, trying to clear my airway.

What do you mean? I finally managed to ask after a moment.

*I mean that your father isn’t here so you can relax,” he said. “Or is it that you‘re scared of something else?” He then leaned in a little closer.” .Is it that I scare you, Raven?”

Had I been too forward? Or maybe I wasn’t coming across genuine enough? No one had ever called me out for pretending before.

But he wasn’t entirely wrong. On either assumption. Something that only added to that fear,

I don’t know where you got that impression,” I said, still trying to smile. “I‘ve been enjoying your company immensely. In fact, I was really hoping you‘d tell me more about Ashwood–.”

“How about we play a game then,” he said, cutting me off. “How about… if I can guess exactly what you’re thinking, then you’ll stop the pretences and just talk to me normally? No more fake smiles or batting your eyelids just normal. Like that girl who pulled the knife in the gardens.”

I’m not pretending-,” I tried to object.

*But, if I’m wrong.,” he interrupted again. “If I’m wrong, then I‘ll give you your dagger back.. and

I‘ll tell you whatever it is you are clearly trying so hard to find out about me.”

I froze for a second as I heard his terms of the bet, wondering how the hell he could have picked up on my true purpose so easily. Would a stupid game really give me the answer I wanted?

Oi, at least, I *could do that… Oh I could just switch up my approach.

“Fine, fine,” I said, sighing. “You got me. I was trying to be polite for the sake of my father. But it‘s true that you showed some great skill in deflecting though. I was surprised Do you enjoy fighting too? Is it common where you’re from to learn that or-.

*-_And you’re still acting,” he said in disappointment, leaning back to take a sip of his drink. “But it’s almost impressive how quickly you can change faces. Just a bit unnecessary, if I‘m being completely honest.”

My eyes narrowed at him.

Just who the hell was he? If he was a keen fighter and could pick up my mannerisms so easily, was he also trained in a similar field?

Obviously, there was something missing here and it was something that was definitely not mentioned in the information folder for his father, Victor.

“My bet still stands,” he continued. “I don’t know about you, but I would much rather have a conversation without the theatrics.”

I tried to come up with another idea, wondering if I could somehow still spin this around, but eventually I found myself contemplating the game once more.

“So, let me get this straight… you’re going to try and guess exactly what I’m thinking?

“Yep.”

“And I can be thinking of anything I want?”

“Sure can.”

I was silent for another few seconds, trying to figure out how he could rig this unfairly, but ended up deciding that the odds were in my favour.

Because, after all, what was the worst that could happen?

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