Page 64 of Claiming Cinderella

The wind whipped so hard that the trees outside were doing backbends and the puddles were deep enough for wading. In the distance, down on the shore, the waves crashed violently. The power flickered, causing the few lights I had on, to grow dim. I hurried downstairs and went to the kitchen where I knew I kept the flashlights, and I had just put my hand on one when the power went out. I stood in the dark for a moment as I struggled with the flashlight and tried to remember how to cut it on. It wasn’t like I’d expected, and I had to poke a button on the butt-end of it. I finally got it on and cursed as the dim light shined as if struggling.

There was no telling how long ago those batteries had been there, but I scrambled to find more, hoping I had some of the right sizes. As I fumbled in the dark, I heard a sound that grabbed my attention. It was a crash and then footsteps out on my front stoop. I took the batteries with me as I ran upstairs, knowing my phone was beside my bed, but as soon as I hit the bottom step, I heard a rattle coming from my front door’s knob.

I froze in place, my heart pounding from my chest and I knew whatever it was, whoever it was, they would be in and on me before I could reach my phone. I had to take that chance. I had to run for it, hoping that I’d not trip on anything in the dark. As I took a few steps in a hurry, the front door blew open, and a scream ripped from my throat.

“Ella?” Aiden’s voice brought me to my knees with relief. I hit the floor cursing in the dark.

“Dammit, Aiden. You scared me half to death!”

“I’m sorry. I was trying to be quiet, but I tripped over your plant stand. I’m afraid I owe you a new one.” He flicked on a small light, and it was barely enough to illuminate him as he wiped his feet and stepped inside. “Where are you?”

“I’m on the stairs. I thought you were here to murder me.”

“I saw the power go out down the street as I drove over. All I have is this stupid keychain light.” His voice got closer as I stepped down the stairs in the light from the lightning outside.

“Yeah, my batteries are dead.” I fell into his arms as we met at the bottom of the stairs and he kissed me and stroked my cheek.

“I’m sorry I scared you. I was worried you’d be frightened all by yourself, so I thought I’d come over. I tried to call, but you didn’t answer, and once I was in the car, I was already committed.”

“It’s fine. I thought you were asleep or I would have called.” I rested my head on his chest as he stroked my shoulder.

“You can call me anytime, Ella. It doesn’t matter what time, day or night. I’ll be there for you.” He gave my hand a squeeze and pulled me close as he stepped back into the front room. “Let’s go to the couch, we’ll break our necks trying to get up the stairs. I couldn’t even make it to the door.”

“Mm. What are we going to do here in the dark while we wait for the power?” I had a few ideas but wanted his take on the matter. It turns out we were on the same page.

“I think we can find some way to pass the time.” He pulled me down beside him and then he lay me back as he stretched out on top of me. It happened so fast I barely had time to giggle.

“Mhm. That’s a much happier sound than that scream you let out earlier.” He kissed my neck, and I breathed him in, the fresh scent of rain in his hair.

“I was scared. You made me do it.”

“I’m sorry. That’s not the kind of screams I want to hear from you because of me.”

“Yeah? But I thought you were a murderer. I thought you’d tie me up and slice me open.”

“Tying and slicing sound fun, but not like you’re thinking. I mean, I do have something to stab you with.” He ground his hips against me, and I giggled.

“Enough of the scary talk.” I closed my mouth on his and he pulled away.

“Do you trust me?”

“Of course, I do. What kind of question is that?”

Suddenly his voice was a tone deeper and breathy. “Sit up, Ella.” He sat up, and I could hear something that sounded like his belt being unbuckled.

I was wearing my pajamas, a boy shorts and tank set, but he’d apparently still been dressed from the day. My heart was still racing from the fear moments earlier, and he grabbed my hand and pulled me to him.