“Those fuckin’ guys,” David cursed from the drivers’ seat, lighting a cigarette. “Little shits, all of ‘em.”

“Connected little shits,” Ilia added.

I sat behind him on the passenger’s side, staring out the window as they went on talking about people they didn’t know. In was common to have that animosity for the people they worked for. And I felt the same about the girls at the party, even though I shouldn’t have made assumptions.

But it was easy to be bitter when you knew you’d never have a chance to own the types of cars you were paid to wash every day. Or hate people who were simply winners of the birth lottery, lucky enough to be born into money and never knowing what it was like to work for anything.

But Kai was different. He was nice.

Part of me wanted to explain what actually happened when I was dropped into the grave, and hey, I could even turn it around and blame it on them, but…no. I didn’t feel like apologizing for something that wasn’t my fault and something I wasn’t sorry happened.

I had my first kiss at the bottom of an empty grave. I’d always remember that, wouldn’t I?

“Hey,” I heard David say.

I turned my head and looked up, seeing his eyes on me through the rearview mirror.

“Don’t think I don’t see that little smile on you like you think he’s gonna give you something good.” He shook his head once. “Not happening. Ever. Chances are, Damon will either bolts your knees together for the rest of your life, or you’ll be marrying one of us. That’s as good as you got to look forward to, Little Girl.”

The smile I didn’t realize I had fell, and I turned my eyes out the window again, somber as we passed the gates and left the cemetery.

There was no way I’d stay here and live this life forever.

“Lots of people come from nothing and make something of themselves,” I replied more to myself.

But Lev laughed next to me as he leaned back in the seat. “Yeah, like me. Look at me.”

“And totally, me, too,” Ilia chimed in.

“Yeah, we all came from nothing and made something of ourselves,” David mocked me in the rear view mirror. “I hold down three fucking jobs, including delivering pizza part-time at night to scratch together enough to get myself a fucking teacher education and change the world, right? I do my homework on the bus to city college every day. That’s me.”

I shook my head, averting his eyes.

“Yeah,” Lev joined in with a French accent. “I’m going to go to culinary school and make ze best dishes for all ze starving children in Ah-frica.”

He kissed his fingers. “Muah!”

“And me, I’ll just get a factory job,” Ilia played along, “a good, honest living to support my church-going wife and my kids, Betty Sue, Tommy, and Vlad.”

“Vlad?” Lev asked, perking up.

Ilia shrugged. “Should have at least one good Russian name in there.”

They all laughed as if I was so naïve. Like the idea of hope was a ridiculous waste of time. But they had to want more at one point, didn’t they? How did they become so jaded?

“Thing is, baby,” David said, and I met his eyes in the mirror, “when you got no money, life can just get too damn hard. Some people make it out. Most don’t.”

Lev sighed next to me. “Shit just gets too damn hard, and Gabriel pays.”

“And a month turns into two years really fast,” Ilia added.

I frowned, staring out into the night and the trees blowing past my window. The car was becoming suffocating, the air thicker and thicker.

No wonder they drank all the time.

No wonder they fought and did everything and anything they could to numb themselves. As far as they were concerned, it was all over already. Nothing would ever be better than it was right now.

And no wonder I’d been so smitten with Kai Mori. He was different.

And he was the only one, aside from Marina, who made me feel like the world could be bigger.

David pulled up to our gate, and it immediately opened, allowing him to pull through. Everyone remained quiet as he continued down the long driveway, and I peered up front to see the digital clock read just after ten p.m. 

My brother wouldn’t be home until at least dawn. Was Kai still planning to go to the Pope tonight? He must’ve gotten that key after our conversation this morning, before he knew that he’d run into me again.

I didn’t like the idea of him there without me.

David parked around the back of the house and shut off the headlights, killing the car.

He looked at me over his shoulder. “Get to your room and stay there.”

Yeah, yeah…I pushed open my door, and we all got out, David, Lev, and Ilia heading toward the shop and their bunks, while I opened the back door, leading into the kitchen.