Caiden must have picked up on my nervousness. Maybe it was the way I stomped up to the table, or he caught that I’d come from the kitchen.
“Evening,” he pulled out my chair for me.
“I assume you work here?”
I unfolded my napkin in my lap to hide my face. So much for being clever.
“I’m a chef.”
“Interesting. I wouldn’t have expected that.”
I arched a brow at him, “Why?”
“Because you seem to be more of the management type. Albeit one who would be down in the thick of things willing to lead by example.”
I smiled, “I do get my way. I just do so from the kitchen.”
“Executive chef, then. Please, if you will, I would be honored if you ordered for us both as you know the menu in exquisite detail.”
I didn’t know how to take Caiden’s attitude. He was such the polite gentleman sitting here with me, but I know for a dead certain fact that polite gentleman was nowhere to be found during that storm a few days ago. The small talk continued until after our food arrived.
After the first few bites Caiden set his fork down, “Is this a dish of your creation?”
I nodded, uncertain of my voice and having no idea why I didn’t trust myself to speak.
“It is amazing. The way in which you balance the spices with the subtle caramel flavor while allowing the flavor of the steak to still dominate the dish is impressive.”
The look on my face must have said it all because Caiden started to laugh. I stood, ready to flee the disaster this dinner was turning in to.
Caiden gestured for me to sit while he took several sobering breaths, “I am not what you expected. Clearly. I meant no insult by it and I apologize for your discomfort. In all honesty, these manners are a bit of a stretch for me now, it’s been so long since I’ve had call to use them.”
“I can imagine from your line of work.”
“How long have you had the scar?”
He nodded, “Young for one of us.”
I didn’t know how to answer. Caiden saved me from trying to figure it out.
“You haven’t had much training with this particular job, have you?”
I shook my head, “My teacher went rogue about a year into my training.”
Caiden glanced up at the ceiling for several seconds, “Must have been Joseph Ramirez?”
“I knew the Monitor who confronted Joseph. Didn’t end well.”
I snorted, “That’s one way to put it. That Enforcer didn’t give Joe a chance.”
Caiden flinched ever so slightly at that, “There was more than you realize to what happened with Joseph.”
“Joseph was looking for a way to take your powers as well. He was looking for a better high from the storms.”
“Whatever. I’m done.”
“Please, Shayna. I’m not trying to speak ill of him. You wanted to know.”
“True. If you’re right, prove it. How was Joe going to try to hurt me?”
“What did Joseph tell you of your ability as a Rider?”
“I had enough talent to train, that I needed to be trained so I didn’t hurt anyone. I’d probably never be one of the great Riders.”
“That’s the first part of the proof. You’re not just a Rider. I’m guessing you’d make one hell of a Monitor. You have an intuition about storms and Riders that few of our kind can match.”
That caught me off guard. Caiden didn’t give me much time, though, to digest that news.
“The second part is that I knew one of the others who trained under Joseph. I believe he would have been Joseph’s apprentice just before Joseph started to train you. Michael?”
I nodded my head. Joe’d told me about a guy named Michael, “I was told Michael’d burned himself out trying to take on too big of a storm by himself.”
“Not true. The Master Counsel’s belief is that Joe was trying to ride the storm through Michael.”
“Thinking he could magnify his high because of the added ability from Michael.”
Caiden nodded. He let me chew on that discovery for a few minutes before continuing.
“Now. Back to what I said about your abilities. Shayna, you need more training. Your potential will not let you live in peace. With talent like what you have, if you don’t accept the training, the chances of you ending up rogue are quite high. And I don’t want to think of what it would take to stop you if that ever were to happen.”
I blinked. What was there to say to that?
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