Like many people, I have recently grown obsessed with the TV show The Nine Lives of Chloe King. With that obsession came another, one for a certain British boy. This is a result of the two obsessions.

I do not own The Nine Lives of Chloe King.


It was the rambling that did him in.

Whenever Chloe got nervous, she began to ramble. Total nonsense would just tumble out of her mouth, as if she were a girl from a Russian fairy tale that he'd found in Jasmine's room a few years back—the girl in the story had been blessed by a trio of dwarves for being kind, and so whenever she spoke showers of diamonds and rubies would fall from her lips. Chloe was like that, only with randomness instead of jewels.

She was doing it at the moment. The two of them stood on the roof of her house, utterly alone except for the glittering stars. It was an icy night, and their breaths created little puffs of fog, as if the cloudy black sky had been swept down to swirl around their heads. Or maybe they'd just soared upwards.

Alek shook his head slightly, smirking to himself. He was not a poetic sort of person. More of her influence, he supposed, though she wasn't all that poetic either.

"…And really, this totally isn't a big deal," she was saying, gesticulating wildly. Her eyes were darting all around, going from her bare feet—she was wearing baggy pajama pants and a T-shirt and nothing else—to the moon, to Alek, over the rooftops, and back to her feet. Watching her eyes made him think again about what color they were. Most of the time they were just grayish blue, but then sometimes in the sunlight he saw a ring of hazel around each pupil, like little bands of gold. Only a few hours ago, when they'd stood in the middle of a busy downtown area to practice her supersonic Mai hearing, he'd had to struggle to concentrate on anything other than those eyes.

What a terrible idea it had been to have her listen to his heartbeat. Surely she'd noticed how much it had sped up. How it always sped up.

Chloe hadn't stopped talking yet. She'd gone from yelling at him about following her to commenting on how ridiculous it was that he and Jasmine expected her to just leap from building to building like she was Catwoman or something, and she wasn't Catwoman, though "admittedly we share some characteristics, I guess, not like I've ever seen a Catwoman movie, but I mean honestly if you mix a cat and a woman there must be something pretty close to a Mai, right? Except I'll never wear a skintight leather suit. That is just tacky."

Now she was going on about something else entirely. Alek wasn't really listening, to tell the truth. He usually just half-paid attention, listening more to the rise and fall of her voice than what she was actually rambling on about. At first all her tangents—which were so pointless, so anxious, so very human—had annoyed him, but now he almost enjoyed them. She was amusing. And, hell, he liked an excuse to look at her mouth.

Chloe's mouth was another thing he liked and was also confused by, besides her eyes. That day in the school hallway when she'd thrown the basketball, and then he'd cornered her against the wall and leaned in like he was going to kiss her, that had been the first time he took notice of Chloe King's mouth. One moment he'd just been having fun teasing her and the next he'd found himself actually wanting to stop teasing her and just keep leaning in.

It was very innocent, her mouth. Pretty and delicate and small and so damn tempting, all the damn time. Because of that it was more dangerous than any of the fighting skills she possessed and ever would possess.

Two strides. That was all it would take. She was a mere six feet away from him on the rooftop, close enough so that he could see her shivering in the cold and far away enough so that the moon cast harsh shadows across her face. She'd stopped waving her hands around in favor of hugging herself to keep warm.

"So I'm freaking out about my mom, and—will you quit staring at me?"

Alek blinked, dragging himself back into reality. Chloe was glaring at him with her brow furrowed, looking tense and angry and horribly, devastatingly beautiful with her blonde curls messy and her cheeks flushed from the chill. He was caught between an urge to taunt her relentlessly and an urge to kiss her relentlessly. The clashing of those two urges was completely new, but ever since the day he and Jasmine told Chloe about the Mai, it had been occurring pretty much constantly.

"I apologize," Alek said lightly, taking a step forward. "But you're very entertaining when you do that, you know."

"Do what?" Chloe demanded.

He raised an eyebrow. "Surely you're aware of it."

She frowned. "This isn't a Mai thing, is it? Did I suddenly grow furry cat ears or something? Because let me tell you, if I start sprouting feline body parts without any warning, I will not be happy."

Alek fought back a grin. "No, you're perfectly human, at least on the outside."

"Then why do you keep giving me that look?" Chloe moved toward him. The moonlight made the hazel in her eyes look silver.

"What look?"

"The one where you…I don't know. It's like maybe you're not a protector anymore, you're…you're dangerous or something."

That surprised him. "Chloe, you know I would never hurt you."

She blushed and focused on the gray shingles beneath their feet. "Not that kind of dangerous." Then because she was Chloe, she lifted her gaze to meet his defiantly, as if daring him to make fun of her. Her cheeks were much redder than they'd been a minute ago.

Maybe it wasn't the rambling that did him in. Maybe it was that expression on her face, the kind of expression someone would have if they were about to leap off a cliff, but they somehow knew they'd end up unscathed. Reckless and wild and full of unspoken challenge.

Well, that's it then, thought Alek, and those were the last coherent words he formed before he took one stride forward. There were barely three inches between them now, but if Chloe still had a problem with him being a close talker, she wasn't showing it.

"What kind of dangerous?" Alek murmured, hearing the huskiness in his own voice. "The kind of dangerous that does…this?"

He reached up and caught a lock of her hair, tucking it behind her ear and letting his fingers skim over her temple, her cheekbone. He didn't need his Mai powers to hear her sharp intake of breath.

"That's not dangerous," Chloe said softly.

"No," he agreed, "but perhaps this is." And he leaned down and kissed the places where his fingers had been, brushing his lips over her skin with the lightest of touches. She tilted her head back and shivered. This time Alek knew it wasn't from the cold.

When he spoke, it was as he trailed kisses over her jaw. "I suppose this would be a bad time to mention that when Mai kiss other Mai, it signifies a lifelong bond that, if broken"—he moved to her collarbone and she gave a tiny sigh—"kills both of them."

Chloe drew back abruptly. "Wait, what? You're kidding, right?"

"I always am," Alek said, and then he grinned wolfishly and pressed his mouth to hers. She stiffened for a split second, frozen like a statue. Then she melted into him, surging upward to kiss him back hard.

Alek groaned against her lips, not grinning anymore, and cupped her face in his hands, feeling her racing pulse tic beneath his fingers. Chloe King tasted like mint and vanilla, and she smelled sort of sweet and flowery, that soft scent that all girls had and yet Chloe's was completely unique. She wound her hands in the fabric of his T-shirt and stood on her tip-toes, angling her head to kiss him better.

Only one word kept going through Alek's mind. Finally.

He didn't know how long they spent on that rooftop, kissing each other under the starry night sky. It was long enough so that the fevered, fierce makeout session faded into slower, languid kisses, where one of them would occasionally smile against the other's mouth. Alek knew that he didn't want to stop, ever.

When they parted at last, both breathing fast, Chloe's eyes were shining brighter than the moon, brighter than when her pupils turned to slits as she went into Mai mode. She was doing that odd little thing she did, where she looked happy and also a bit skittish and lost.

"I—," she began, but Alek cut her off.

"Tomorrow," he said. "You can freak out and worry and ask questions tomorrow. For now, it's almost three a.m. You need sleep."

Chloe opened her mouth—he tried not to think about where that very mouth had been just seconds before, which was hard because he could still taste mint and vanilla on his tongue—like she was going to argue, but seemed to think better of it. "Okay," she sighed reluctantly. "Just this once, I'm going to do what you say."

Alek almost laughed. "Just this once, huh?"

"Don't get used to it." She blinked up at him for another moment and then turned to go, back through her window and into her bedroom.

On an impulse he reached out and touched her wrist, making her face him again. He kissed her on the forehead so quickly she didn't have time to react. "Tomorrow," he promised.

Then he leapt off the roof and disappeared into the night.

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