Two hours later, we were in another car and on our way. We pulled over at a rest area down the road when I realized my magic still churned under the surface. I needed an outlet, and from the miles of water that lined the interstate, I figured that was the best way. Under the impression I was going to try to get ahold of someone at home, Jason stayed with the car, and I walked to the fence that lined the parking lot.
Basic magic is elemental. Every witch is born with the inherent ability to control each of the five elements—earth, fire, water, air, and spirit. The lessons are to help new witches hone their control over the elements so that they can combine them better and create better spells. And among the elements, water is one of the easiest to control.
I pulled my phone out of my back pocket, held it up to my ear, and concentrated on the water five feet away. Warmth spread through my veins as my power flowed out of me. With a little nudge, the magic dove into the water and swirled it until a small whirlpool formed. As it grew in size, I created another and another until five of them twisted around each other in a dance.
I jumped at the sound of Jason’s voice and spun around to see him standing behind me. He stared at where the whirlpools had been moments before. “You scared the bujeezus out of me!”
“Sorry,” he said. “I didn’t mean to.”
“I thought I asked you to stay in the car.”
He frowned at me. “You’ve been out here for a while, and I wanted to see if you talked to anyone.”
I shook my head and closed my eyes. I’d planned on trying to call Mom after I bled off some of the magic anyway. “Not yet.”
“Here.” He handed me his phone. “Maybe someone will pick up if they don’t recognize the number.”
It was a genius idea. “Thanks.”
The phone rang twice before Mom picked up. “Hello?”
“Mom,” I said as I walked a little away from Jason. “I’ve been trying to get ahold of you. Why haven’t you answered?”
There was a long silence before Mom took a deep breath. “I didn’t think we had much to say to one another. You seemed pretty adamant about killing yourself.”
My mouth popped open. “Mom, there’s no guarantee this is going to kill me, and I can’t just let him die.”
“You don’t know that he will, but you’re risking your life anyway.”
“He’s dying as we speak.”
“How would you know? You’ve run off to Florida.”
“I was with him when he turned for the worse,” I spit through my teeth. “Where were you? Where have you been? You haven’t been to see him in days, and you’re trying to guilt trip me?”
“I think it’s time for you to forget this and come home.”
I clenched my fist and shook it at the phone. “My brother is dying and this is the only way to save him. I’ll be home when I have the flower.”
“Come home without the flower or don’t come home at all.” Her voice was hard and cold, and she emphasized each word as she spoke. “That flower will not help you, Ashley. It will only get you killed.”
She hung up before I could say anything back.
I stood there, unable to move. I didn’t know what to do, what to think. My mom had just laid down the worst ultimatum possible. She’d just asked me to let my brother die. My body went cold and numb, and when my hands fell limp to my side, Jason’s phone clattered to the concrete.
His feet pounded against the pavement as he ran toward me. “What happened? What’s wrong?”
“She… She just…” I shook my head as if that would somehow dislodge the shock. Tears blurred my vision and streaked down my cheeks. “She told to come home without the flower or don’t come home at all. She wants me to just let my brother die.”
He took me by the shoulders and pulled me in for a hug. I let him squeeze me until he’d lent me enough strength to hold myself together.
“I’m sorry,” I said as we separated a couple of inches. “I know this is a lot to pile on and we only just met—”
“Hey, don’t apologize.” He swept a lock of hair off my face. “I wouldn’t be here if I didn’t want to be.”
He had such a sincere look in his eyes, as if he was more than willing to let the world—let me—see him as he was. His hand was still on my cheek, and he wiped the tears away with his thumb. My heart skipped, picked up speed, and pounded in my chest. The world dropped away and the only thing left were his lips, only inches away, and his arms around me. He leaned his head down. Slowly. Tentatively. Asking my permission.
I must have given the right signal because all at once his lips were on mine. My body took control as fireworks went off in every cell, and my arms went around his neck. I pulled him to me until we were wrapped in each others’ arms. One hand gripped his hair and the other gripped his shirt, and no matter how much I tried, I couldn’t get him close enough. I gasped when his hand found the bare skin at the small of my back where there was a gap between my shirt and jeans.
An eternity seemed to pass in those few stolen moments before an eighteen wheeler blared its horn on the interstate. As we pulled away, Jason’s eyes widened. He stepped back and put his hands up, palms out toward me.
“I’m sorry,” he said. “I shouldn’t have done that.”
I blanched. The elation that coursed through me hit a brick wall. “What?”
“That was wrong. I’m sorry.”
My emotions were already frayed, and that one statement was all it took to snap them. “What the hell is wrong with kissing me?”
He opened his mouth to respond, but I cut him off. “You know what? I don’t really care. Let’s just get out of here.”
I spun on my heels and got in the car.
The whirlpools from earlier had done enough to calm my magic so I wasn’t in danger of overload anymore. The rest of the drive to Naples passed uninterrupted.
*A is for Ash *B is for Brother *C is for Cure *D is for Dream *E is for Endeavor *F is for Flower *G is for Gotta Go *H is for Held *I is for Innocent *J is for Jason *K is for Knots *L is for Landing *M is for Madness and Magic *A to Z Challenge