Kate didn’t know why she kept in touch with the conman that had kidnapped her family. Most people would have called her insane. Kate called it being a good Christian. And besides, anyone that had met Seth Gecko would find it hard not to be charmed by him. But he was one of the few people alive in the world that understood the hellish nightmare she’d survived in Mexico. And had been her only friend during those dark months after. Until, after a run in with a monster that pointed a gun at her face, he decided she needed to be as far away from him as possible.
The years in between had been a mess of trying to save Scott and working with Ranger Gonzales to stop the Lords.
Yet somehow the two stayed in touch. Frequent text messages. Always from an unknown number with the initials SG attached. He had been the one to start it. Checking in on her. And somehow she had never been able to stop.
She knew that he and Richie had sorted out their differences and ran a place called Los Hermanos Geckos. Though Seth had been vague about the details of their reconciliation and muttered something about keeping him in line.
It had been several years since she’d seen him. Several years of being on the run and tracking culebras. And finally, when the last of the Lords was in the ground, Kate thought about what she wanted to do with her life.
“College?” Freddie said as he sat across from her at the diner. “That’s great.”
Kate smiled. She had never felt more sure about anything. She’d spent the past week looking at colleges. And it was the first time in several years she’d felt normal. “Well, I got my GED while hunting monsters. So this is should be a piece of cake.”
“You need help with scholarships? I did all of that stuff. It’s been a while but I know I’ve got some old books somewhere.”
“That would be great.”
“Thought about your major?” he asked, as he took a sip of the coffee in front of him.
She smiled. “You already know the answer to that. It’s still theology.”
“I still say you’d make a great Ranger.”
She gave him a look. “You know I don’t want to deal with that. I’ve had enough chaos. I just want nice and normal.”
“Nice and normal huh?” he said. “Is that why you still exchange texts with Seth Gecko?”
Kate stabbed the pancakes that she’d been eating. She shrugged. “He’s the one that started it. Besides, someone has to be Seth Gecko’s voice of reason. And you know he’s not going to listen to Richie.”
Freddie frowned. “That doesn’t mean that it has to be you.”
“Well is it going to be you because Seth Gecko doesn’t have much in the way of friends. He’s more of an enemy person.”
Freddie snorted. “I wouldn’t call us friends. We’re more in the way of acquaintances. That’s when he hasn’t shot me.”
“It was only the one time. And it was so the other guy wouldn’t shoot you some place worse.”
“Don’t remind me.” Freddie put his cup of coffee back down on the table. “What are you going to do about the living situation? You know that you always have a place with me and Margaret. Billie does love her Aunt Kate.”
Kate smiled at the mention of Freddie’s young daughter. “That’s sweet. But I think I need to be on my own now. I got an apartment that’s off campus. It’s just easier that way. And I already hired movers. So I’m moving in this weekend. Everything will be fine.”
“I’m really proud of you, Kate.”
She was taken aback by his words. “Thanks, Ranger Gonzalez.”
“You’re welcome. You’ve done awfully well for yourself for someone that lost their family so young. And hey, if you need help protecting the apartment---“
Kate grinned. “Don’t worry. It’s already taken care of.”
And there were only two people in the world that knew Kate’s plans. Scott, who was helping her move. And Ranger Gonzalez. That was why when she moved in and found the toaster sitting on her apartments kitchen counter she was a little confused.
“What the hell?” she took the gun she kept on her out of the back of her jeans.
“Everything alright, Kate?” her brother asked as he put one of her boxes down on the living room floor.
It was night. The only possible time Scott would have been able to help her move thanks to his culebra status. And no one else knew her address.
“There’s a toaster,” Kate said. She gestured to the box on the counter.
Scott raised an eyebrow. “So? It was probably left behind by whoever lived here before.”
“Scott, its brand new. It doesn’t even look like it’s been opened. What the hell is-----“she stopped mid-sentence, remembering an old fight she’d had with Seth.
“What the hell was that?” she demanded.
“That was you obfuscating.” He waved his gun like the robbery gone bad wasn’t a big deal.
“No, that’s not what I meant. I meant the check cashing store. What happened?”
Seth walked around her and looked out the window to make certain the cops that had been chasing them were gone. “Nothing. Thing’s just got a little dicey, that’s all.”
Kate went over to the table and put the money bags on them. “A little dicey? I thought you said everything was going to be lean and mean.”
“I don’t know that I used those exact words.”
“Stroll! That was the word you used. You said Kate I’m gonna stroll out of there like Paul Newman, you’ll be waiting the car and then we’ll drive away. Like we just got a free toaster.”
He looked at her with a shit eating grin on his face and put his jacket on the table. “I owe you a toaster.”
The memory flooded back to her like it was yesterday. She looked from the toaster to her brother. Then glared. “You told him didn’t you?”
Scott smiled sheepishly. “I don’t know what you are talking about.”
“Scott, come on. It’s no secret that you two are friends. You work at their bar. You rent from them. Just tell me if you told him. I won’t be mad. I promise.”
He tilted his head to the side. “The look on your face says otherwise. Besides, how do you know it was him that left it? It could have been a gift from anyone.”
“There are approximately two people in this world that knew about this apartment besides myself. Do you know what you did by telling him Scott? I lived with him for three months. He’s Seth Gecko! He wouldn’t know the word privacy if it smacked him in the face. He’s going to come looking for me, you know.”
“It could have been Santanico. She has her ways of knowing things too.”
Kate rolled her eyes. “Did you tell Santanico?”
He huffed. “No. I mean, we’re not exactly exchanging friendship bracelets, Kate. She just shows up at the bar every now and then to make sure Richie stays in line.”
“No, but you are sleeping together.”
Her brother blushed. “Hey now! I don’t kiss and tell.”
“You don’t need to. Anyway, just because you embraced your darkness doesn’t mean I have to embrace mine. I still like sunlight.”
Scott whistled. “So Seth’s darkness huh?”
“Don’t act like you weren’t on our little 2014 summer vacation. He held a gun to my head. And yours.”
He took a breath. “I remember. But he’s also spent a lot of time trying to make up for that. Mainly one of the reasons I haven’t snapped his smart ass neck yet.”
Kate glared at the yellow toaster as if it had offended her. “The last thing I want is him back in my regular life.”
“Kate, you text him.”
It was Kate’s turn to blush. “How do you know?”
“Because I called him out about it because I thought he was texting his ex-wife. And he told me that calling you Vanessa was an insult. And not to insult my sister. You don’t want him in your life, maybe let him go and you won’t get kitchen appliances.”
Kate’s cell phone had been in her pocket the entire time. Yet somehow, it felt heavier than it had just then. Did she really want Seth Gecko out of her life? That wasn’t a question she had considered until the toaster showed up on her counter.
She sighed. “You’re right. It’s just a toaster. It’s not like he wrote a love letter or something.”
Scott shrugged. “Yeah, sure. But Seth Gecko doesn’t really do love letters Kate. He just kind of…. does things like that.”
Kate bit her lip. She took the toaster and put it in one of the cupboards as if that would make it go away. “Come on. Sunrise is going to be coming soon. We need to get all of my stuff unpacked before then.”
Scott nodded and the two of them returned to setting her apartment in order. And before the sun was up, Scott hugged her then left.
Kate tried to put the toaster out of her head. It didn’t mean anything. She had a new life to start. College to think about. There would be no Geckos involved. Tired and exhausted from a night spent moving boxes and furniture, she collapsed on the couch.
And that was when she heard the door slam shut behind her making her jump.
“Took you long enough,” a voice said.
Kate grabbed the gun she kept off of the night stand and pointed it at the intruder. She stared, shocked, as Seth Gecko leaned up against her door. His hands were up in a ‘don’t shoot’ position. And his eyes glinted with mischief. It had been four years since she’d seen him. He was in his thirties now. Older, and still as handsome as the devil.
“What the hell are you doing here, Seth?” she demanded.
“A little birdie told me you were moving in here.”
She frowned. “Scott or Richie?”
He grinned. “Richie.”
“I knew I shouldn’t have asked him for help on that college essay. I told him not to tell you.”
“Why the hell not?” he asked, a wounded look appearing on his face. “We were partners once, Kate. Is it so wrong that I want to check up on you?”
“It’s not wrong. But the whole point of this was to try to get away from the chaos. And you bring chaos, Seth. Always have. Always will.”
He shoved his hands into his pockets and sighed. “Look. I know you’re right. But I didn’t come to bring chaos. I came to make good on a promise. I owed you something, and I wanted to get you one before someone else did. I even read the reviews online for them beforehand to make sure I got you the best one.”
Kate glanced at the cupboard that the toaster was hiding in. She smiled slightly. “You know that you didn’t have do that right?”
“Yeah, I did. I took a lot from you Kate. And no amount of kitchen appliances is going to make that up to you. But at least I can try to set you up with the life that you deserve. Starting with making sure you have everything you need. And don’t even think about paying for school. It’s all set.”
She narrowed her eyes. “Tell me you didn’t do what I think you did.”
He grinned. “It was all dirty money anyway. Needed to go somewhere.”
“Seth, that’s insane.”
“Trust me, the drug lord I stole it from isn’t going to miss it.”
“No, but I’m going to miss you if he decides to shoot you in the head.” She regrets the words almost instantly.
But Seth looked at her like a kid on Christmas morning. “What’s that?”
Her face flushed and she balled her hands into fists. Stupid, Kate. He would never let that go. Not in a million years. He would hold that over her head until the day that she died. And whatever kind of afterlife they had, he’d remind it of her there too.
“You heard me,” she mumbled, not willing to say it again.
“I’ve missed you too, Kate.” His words hung over her like an invitation. She was supposed to do something, anything. But Kate could only stare at him.
In years of hunting monsters, there were some lines Kate had promised herself she’d never cross. Seth Gecko was one of those lines. The conman that had kidnapped her family. That had taken her on the world’s worst car ride to Hell. She could not and should not want the man that stood before her. It was fucked up on so many levels.
Except that for a while he’d been her safe place. It might have been Seth that had gotten her into this mess of a world with monsters, bullets, and blood. But it was also Seth that had helped keep her alive in it.
It was early morning. The sun was just coming up. It cast a shadow alongside the door where Seth still stood.
Seth broke the stand still that they had reached finally by stepping forward. He wrapped his arms around her waist. And soon they were tasting each other. He tasted like cigarettes. And she tasted like the cherry chap stick she wore. They kissed each other only to become a mess of clothes being pulled away and tossed to the floor.
The two of them stumbled to the bedroom where Kate’s freshly made bed was, with too many pillows she realized. Pillows that didn’t seem to concern Seth as he laid her down on them. He helped her remove her bra, then sucked her nipple. He sucked hard as his fingers lightly caressed either side of her waist making her tense all over.
And then from her nipple, he trailed kisses down her stomach until he was at her entrance. With his tongue, he licked her pussy. Kate had to grab hold of one of the pillows as a shudder went through her. He made her lose control and that was just with his mouth.
He hadn’t even gone inside her yet.
“I want you inside of me,” she said, “Just take me now.”
He grinned. “I’m a thief. I always take what I want.”
So he took her. And Kate clenched herself around him as he thrust into her. They rocked each other so hard that the bed rocked with them. There wouldn’t be much bed left once they were done, she suspected.
But then she didn’t have time to think or feel. He put a flame inside her. And all she saw was Seth Gecko’s fire. Like his flame tattoo, he was inside of her. Under her skin. There was no going back.
She didn’t think that she wanted to.
Finally, when he pulled out, the two of them lay wrapped around each other. “Well,” Kate said, “I’d say that was the best housewarming present a girl could ask for.”
He laughed, and kissed her on the forehead. “Come on. But what about the toaster? Did you like it or not? Because I could always take it back.”
“You’re better than the fucking toaster.”
“I don’t think the manufacturers are going to appreciate that review as much as I did,” Seth said with a chuckle.
“Screw the manufacturer.”
“How about I just screw you instead?”
“Sounds like a deal.” She kissed him, and the two fell back to bed once more.