Fated

Fated by Alyson Noël

Book: Fated by Alyson Noël Read Free Book Online
Authors: Alyson Noël
address for Jennika and my box at the UPS store, then write:
Dear Jennika—
Thanks for sending me to this dump and then refusing to take my calls.
I don’t feel at all abandoned by you.
Nope, not one bit.
Your kind consideration is very much appreciated.
Your loving daughter,
Daire
xoxo
    Even though I know I’ll be well out of here before the card has a chance to reach her, the small burst of sarcasm makes me feel better.
    The line moves quicker than expected, and it’s not long before I’m inching my way toward the counter. Warning myself not to look at the magazine rack, no matter how tempting, but I can’t seem to obey. My gaze keeps getting pulled to the one featuring Vane and me on the cover. All too aware of that annoying pang in my gut the moment I see him—only this time it’s more a pang of anger than weakness, and I consider that progress.
    I lower my sunglasses and tuck my chin to my chest, hoping no one will make the connection between me and the glowering girl on the tabloid’s glossy cover, though it’s probably not necessary since from what I can tell, they’ve made the transition from gawking at me to ignoring me, which I truly appreciate.
    “Help you?” the man asks, as I edge my way to the front and lean against the gray Formica counter. His snug jeans, Western-style shirt, and big silver belt buckle make him look like some old, retired ranch hand. Though his clipped East Coast accent hints at a whole other life before he found himself here.
    I perch my bag on my hip and slide the card toward him. Digging for my wallet as I say, “Just the postcard, some postage, and hopefully some directions as well.”
    He hums under his breath and affixes a stamp to the back. Shamelessly pausing a moment to read what I wrote, before his eyes meet mine and he says, “Planning a jailbreak, are you?”
    I quirk a brow, wonder why he chose to phrase it that way.
    But he just shrugs and hooks his thumb toward the door. “You’ll find the bus stop at the end of the block. Bus to Albuquerque leaves every two hours.” He consults his watch. “Unfortunately for you, one just left, which means you’re stuck with the likes of us for just a little bit longer.” He laughs in a way that causes his eyes to disappear into a riot of wrinkles, and though I’m sure he means well, I’m in no mood to join in.
    I just pay for my stuff and shoot for the door. Squinting into the fading sun, searching for a good place to hide so Paloma can’t find me before I’ve had a chance to run.

eleven
    I make my way down the street, passing a bakery displaying elaborately frosted birthday cakes, a used bookstore featuring a random assortment of dog-eared paperbacks, and a small clothing boutique with sad sagging hangers bearing the kind of sparkly clothes I would never think to consider. Pausing before the corner liquor store, waiting for traffic to clear so I can see what lies just beyond, I sense the strange weight of someone looking at me, and turn to find a guy about my age leaning against a brick wall.
    “Got a light?” His voice is low and deep as he waves an unlit cigarette at me.
    I shake my head. Fingers picking at the ends of my ponytail as my eyes greedily roam the length of him. Taking in brown leather boots, faded jeans, a light gray V-neck sweater, damp black hair that’s combed away from his face, a square chin, a strong brow, eyes that remain hidden behind a pair of dark glasses, and widely curving lips that smile flirtatiously.
    “You sure?” He cocks his head, allows his smile to grow wider. Revealing a perfect set of flashing white teeth that stand in sharp contrast to his gorgeous brown skin.
    It’s the move of a charmer—a guy who knows he’s good-looking. A guy used to getting his way.
    I shake my head again, try to force my gaze away, but it’s no use. My instincts warn me to leave, while my curiosity insists that I stay.
    “That’s too bad,” he says, mouth quirking at the sides. His smile growing

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