016 Guarded.

Meanwhile, on the Upper East Side, Gaia too awoke to breakfast already laid out for her.

For a moment, Gaia thought that she had died and gone to heaven. She stumbled into the kitchen, ready for her ritual breakfast of Froot Loops when the rich, fragrant aroma of French toast assaulted her senses like a scent too long forgotten. Her stomach grumbled like a lion in a cage, ready to be let loose upon the ideal breakfast before her.

At that moment, Josie turned, looking like a cross between Jennifer Love Hewitt and Julia Child. She flashed Gaia a sunshiney smile, adding to her almost annoyingly perfect perky appearance. Gaia almost expected her to break into some bounce that the FOH’s would have scored a ten, but instead she stood blinking a moment, then her smile faded like a carefully applied mask. Gaia was relieved. She didn’t want to get sick before eating—and, well, not afterwards, either.

“Man, I hate when my mom does that in the morning,” Josie grumbled, cleaning the pots and pans as Gaia prepared her plate. “She’s so perky.” Josie shook her head. “I wonder how she does it.”

Gaia shrugged and gave an inattentive grunt, concentrating on the food before her. Josie would have to learn that nothing should get in between Gaia Moore and fabulously prepared food.

“Maybe it’s the sex in the morning,” Josie rambled on.

Gaia suddenly choked on a large mouthful of toast. She recovered from shock quickly and gulped down some milk. Josie looked at her innocently, as if there was nothing strange in what she said.

“Was it something I said?” Josie asked.

Gaia raised an eyebrow. “Okay, what was up with that comment? Don’t tell me—your parents can’t keep their hands off of each other.”

Josie groaned and picked at the steaming eggs on her own plate, having finished with tidying up like a deranged housewife. “You have no idea. I swear, I don’t know how two people could have that much stamina. I mean, I’d get a little tired after a while and I have pretty good endurance—”

“Could we please change the subject?” Gaia broke in, not wanting a full report of Josie’s parents’ sex life. It seemed, like everything else about them, abnormal. Josie was right on one thing—but she wasn’t going to entertain the thought. Even though she loved her deceased mother and nomadic father, it was still a bit outlandish to imagine them doing it like they were on the Discovery Channel. Ew. Gross.

“Sorry,” Josie murmured, blushing. She forked a piece of French toast and looked at Gaia with that oh-so-lovely conversational look. “So how about your parents?”

Gaia paused. Whoa…she was straight pulling that-I-told-you-my-story-now-tell-me-yours crap and she didn’t even see it coming. Josie’s eyes searched hers for a moment. Gaia’s eyes, around the same color incidentally, glared back, showing Gaia’s obvious discomfort in revealing her parentage. The moment stretched out like hours until finally Josie sighed and looked away. Gaia prepared to continue eating.

“I’m sorry.”

Whoa. Gaia paused in mid-shovel, not expecting the thirteen-year-old to sound so contrite. She almost felt some remorse in being guarded. But it couldn’t be helped. At least Josie saw that before she got a good swift kick in the ass.

“Don’t be,” Gaia found herself saying. “It’s a popular question.”

“Do you answer it?”

Gaia’s gaze fell back to the circular dish and the food on it below her head. “Only if I can trust the person.”

In the silence that followed, Gaia could hear Tatiana coming out of the room and yawning, muttering in Russian about the state Gaia’s bed was in. She finished the last of her sausage and eggs and peered at Josie, an unreadable expression on her face. And of course it was on purpose. Because Gaia knew the question that was about to follow.

“Well…do you trust me?”


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