Natalia Burke waited in the kitchen for her grandparents to emerge from their office. They would know she was home from school because it was the usual time and because the house's elaborate security system would have heralded her arrival.
She poured herself some orange juice and sat at the counter, her eyes not leaving the closed office door. Two lights on the keypad glowed, one green to indicate they were in there behind a locked door, one red to indicate they could not be disturbed.
That had been one of the cardinal rules—obey the lights. Don't go into the office until one or the other was with her. Don't knock on the door when the red light was on unless it was an emergency—"a life-and-death emergency, not a I-need-a-new-dress emergency" had been her step-grandmother's definition.
There had been another cardinal rule when she was younger—don't enter the grandparents' bedroom unless you knocked first. That rule had been put in place when she was eight years old and had just come to live with them. One night after waking from a particularly bad nightmare where her mother died over and over again in that car wreck, she pushed open the door to their room.
So, she'd seen them having sex. She'd been eight after all and was well aware what adults sometimes did behind closed doors. Then, she'd decided it was pretty gross and didn't see why adults went through all the fuss. Older now, she had begun to understand the allure of sex.
Natalia smiled when she remembered Mai's reaction to her coy question about why she had to knock—a lot of big words Natalia knew boiled down to "don't come in because we're having sex." But Natalia was sixteen now, and the nightmares about her mother's death were well behind her. Her adolescence made her reject the need to seek her grandparents out in the middle of the night.
Of course, the closed and locked office door didn't necessarily mean they were working. It could mean they had started out working and then had sex. They had sex a lot—she could tell from the glances, the shared laughter, the way her grandfather would touch Mai's hand or face. At sixteen everything for Natalia was tainted with sex, and though the thought of her grandparents indulging in it was unnerving, it was also exciting and mysterious.
Right now, that was irking her because she needed to talk to them about stupid school stuff. In truth she thought her grandfather and step-grandmother's relationship was pretty amazing, especially because they wanted to do the wild thing so often after so long being together. She wondered if it was her grandfather's insecurity. He was fifteen years older than his wife, and Natalia supposed that meant something entirely different when he was thirty-five and Mai was twenty than now that he was nearly sixty and joked about trophy husbands.
Marrying a much younger person for a second marriage go-round seemed to run in the family. Her new stepmother was also more than a decade younger than her father. Natalia hoped that boded well for her when she was in her forties.
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