Cold Cruel Kiss (Cold Justice- Crossfire #4) - Toni Anderson
Kristen skipped along with her arm linked through Gemma’s, their shopping bags bouncing awkwardly against their sides. Gemma dragged them both to a stop, laughing so hard she had to fold over to catch her breath.
The crowd was thick at the popular artisan market near Recoleta’s famous cemetery. Tomorrow was Christmas Day, and everyone was intent on finding last-minute gifts.
“Come on!” Kristen yelled over her shoulder at the third member of their little group.
Irene shot Kristen an amused glance and finished paying for the fused glass dish she’d picked out for her mother. Irene was the smart one, the sensible one. She’d come with a list of gifts to purchase and had now finished ticking them off.
Kristen was the boring one of the group. She’d bought and wrapped all her family’s and friends’ gifts weeks ago. She saw a stall with leather belts coiled up like snakes and bit her lip. Should she get something for Miguel? They hadn’t actually met…but what if they did finally meet up over Christmas and he gave her a gift? Shouldn’t she at least have something for him too, just in case?
She could always give it to her little brother for his next birthday. Or even her dad.
As she paid for the belt, someone bumped against her. “Ooff.”
The man was gone, hurrying through the bustling crowd and out onto the street without even bothering to check on who he’d jostled. She felt for her wallet, but everything seemed to be there.
Irene caught up to them.
“Who’d you buy the belt for?” Gemma asked Kristen with a sly smile.
Kristen shrugged but couldn’t quite pull off nonchalance. “I might give it to my dad.”
“Sure,” said Gemma.
The other girls grinned. Kristen’s skin prickled as she felt a blush heat her cheeks. She’d discovered long ago that, if she wanted to keep a secret, she couldn’t afford to tell anyone. She lived in a place where she was checked for electronic listening devices before she entered her home, where her phone was tracked by a federal agency and her social media accounts were monitored by her parents and her mother’s security team.
If they discovered she’d set up an anonymous account, they’d ground her for a month and delete everything.
She didn’t want this deleted. She wanted this small degree of autonomy. She wanted to have some say in what she did, with whom, without having to clear it with security. She hadn’t mentioned Miguel to a single soul—except her little brother who’d read a couple of texts over her shoulder a few days ago. She’d chased him and beaten him with a pillow in his bedroom until he’d sworn not to mention it to anyone. She had enough dirt on him to make the promise stick.
“Leave her alone,” Irene admonished when Kristen’s embarrassment started to show.
“It’s fine.” She forced herself to smile serenely. “Gemma has an overactive imagination.”
Her friend didn’t mean any harm. She’d been poking at her for weeks, suspecting she was seeing someone, but Kristen really wasn’t. She was only texting some guy who seemed nice. Too nice, actually. She was smart enough to know he was probably hoping to get her to send him some nude selfies or let him into her pants if they ever met in person—before he revealed he wasn’t the beautiful poet whose image he cultivated.
Boys weren’t that difficult to figure out, and yet…she still wanted to take a chance that the poet was real.
But her mother would kill her.
Her mother didn’t need to know.
Kristen wouldn’t do anything rash. She wouldn’t meet him somewhere that wasn’t safe or public. Maybe she’d ask a friend to come with her and watch from nearby.
Because that wouldn’t be weird at all. She rolled her eyes at herself.
They stopped at Starbucks and grabbed iced lattes. It was hot out and the excitement from the lead up to Christmas was palpable.
They wandered down Avenue Alvear laughing and joking. Kristen blushed at the admiring glances some of the local men sent them. She averted her gaze and bowed her head, uncomfortable with the wolf whistles and avid interest in some of their eyes. She was tall and blonde like her father. Lots of curly hair that reached down to her waist. The other girls were prettier, but she always felt exposed because of her height. Irene didn’t notice the attention. Gemma’s smile grew.
Kristen came to a standstill when she saw a dress in a shop window. It was the most gorgeous creation she’d ever seen, all form-hugging but frothy