Home > Midnight Labyrinth (Elemental Legacy #4)(7)

Midnight Labyrinth (Elemental Legacy #4)(7)
Author: Elizabeth Hunter

Tenzin was frowning. “Were you already with her when we met?”

Most days Ben couldn’t remember a time when he hadn’t known Tenzin. In reality, he’d met her when he was fifteen.

“I think we were just friends then,” Ben said. “We started dating when I got back from Italy.”

“And you broke up after school ended?”

“She wanted to go to New York and be a dancer.” He swept the sword back in a smooth motion Tenzin mirrored. “I had other plans.”

Tenzin shook her head. “I don’t understand.”

“She was accepted at UCLA, but she didn’t want—”

“No, I don’t understand why you just saw her again.” Tenzin chided him, “Friends who have known you since childhood are rare and should be treasured. You have retained contact with most of your former lovers. Why not her?”

“Can you do me a favor and not call my ex-girlfriends ‘former lovers?’ It seems too…”

“What?”

“French. I don’t know.” He thrust his jian forward, his left arm raised. “Just don’t call them lovers. And I lost touch with Chloe because her parents cut her off.”

Tenzin dropped her sword arm. “They did what?”

“They cut her off. She went to New York with nothing but a little savings her grandmother had given her. They took her phone, her computer, her car, everything.”

“They took her things and allowed her to move across the country with nothing?” Tenzin bared her fangs. “They are cruel and unloving people.”

He shrugged. “They were definitely harsh. Both of them were doctors who came from pretty humble backgrounds, so they didn’t have patience for Chloe’s dancing. They thought it was an extracurricular activity to put on your college application, not a career. I imagine they thought if she started out with nothing, she’d fail faster and come home.”

“They were foolish people,” Tenzin said, picking up the routine again. “Is Chloe a good dancer?”

“Very. She studied ballet, modern dance, tap dance. I loved watching her. She was amazing. I’m sure she still is.”

“Dance is one of the oldest arts,” Tenzin said, sweeping her arm to the side as her sword lifted, “used to express truths too delicate or complex for spoken language. Some religions use dance as a form of worship. Communal dance was a bonding activity in the oldest civilizations. Chloe’s parents were fortunate to have a daughter who was gifted in such a way.”

Ben smiled. “That’s beautiful, Tenzin.”

She could be so harsh. Ben thought about all the times she’d inadvertently—or completely advertently—offended someone with her bluntness. Then at the most unexpected moment, Tenzin would turn around and say something so compassionate or eloquent it made his heart ache.

“What is she doing now?” Tenzin asked.

“She’s working at a restaurant and as an usher.”

“She’s no longer dancing?”

“I think she is, but she’s recovering from an injury.”

“Ah.”

They passed the next ten minutes in purposeful synchronicity. Ben loved sparring with Tenzin, but something in his soul that morning needed the quiet meditation of moving with her, not against her.

“There was something else going on,” Ben said.

“With Chloe?”

He nodded.

“What—”

“I don’t know.” He pushed his left arm out, holding his sword arm completely still. “But my gut is telling me there’s something going on with her. Something that’s stressing her out.”

“The injury?”

“She’s an athlete. Injuries are expected.” He stepped to the right, his hips shifting to balance his heavier upper body. “No, it’s something else.”

“You have good instincts,” Tenzin said. “Follow them and you’ll figure it out. When are you seeing her again?”

“We were talking and she mentioned that surrealist exhibit opening at MoMA this Friday. The same one Novia told me about. Chloe is a huge fan of one of the artists they’re featuring, so she wanted to go. Which is perfect because I didn’t want to go by myself.”

Tenzin curled her lip. “Surrealists.”

“Just because you don’t understand an artistic movement doesn’t mean it’s not worthy of attention.”

“As long as you don’t make me go with you.”

The corner of his mouth turned up. “See? Aren’t you glad I ran into Chloe again?”

 

Ben always dressed up for evening events in museums. It didn’t matter that most men his age would come wearing casual jackets with a bohemian aesthetic. He’d been raised by Giovanni Vecchio, bastard son of an Italian nobleman, elegant immortal assassin, and respected scholar.

When Ben picked up Chloe in the car he’d hired for the evening, he wore an understated summer suit he’d had tailored near Piazza del Popolo in Rome by a family who’d been making his uncle respectable for two hundred years. His bright blue shirt was open at the collar, and a patterned pocket square decorated his chest.

Ben looked good, and he knew it.

There was a tiny part of him that hoped Chloe’s boyfriend would be there even though she’d said Tom was working. Ben was competitive; he recognized the feeling for what it was. He wanted to win, not win Chloe back.

He leaned against the car and looked up to her window as he sent her a text.

I’m here. You ready?

A moment later, her head popped out from the third-floor window and she grinned. “I knew it.”

“Knew what?”

“You’d be dressed up. It’s a good thing I shop vintage. Let me put on my shoes and I’ll be right down.”

When she walked out the door, she was wearing a bright green band around her curls that complemented her halter-neck sundress and orange sandals.

He leaned down and kissed her cheek. “Prada?”

“It’s so annoying that you know that,” Chloe said.

“I have been dragged on too many shopping trips by my female friends in Rome not to recognize a Prada sundress when I see one.” He opened the door. “Shall we?”

Chloe winked. “Thanks, Romeo.”

He noticed them as she stepped in the car. Four small bruises on her shoulder.

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