T is for Talisman (#AtoZChallenge)

Talisman

Talisman

She laughed at me. The raw power I threw at her should have knocked her on her ass. Hell, it should have knocked her into the next state, but it didn’t effect her at all. She just laughed the kind of laugh that would have been epic for a villain from a Disney movie. Unfortunately, this was real life and I just watched as the magic fizzled around her.

“You really think I wouldn’t come prepared?” she asked. She reached up and fished a medallion out of her shirt collar. “Your magic won’t work on me as long as I’m wearing this.”

“What did you do?” I demanded.

“What did I do?” she asked, incredulous. “Your mother told you to leave well enough alone, but you didn’t listen. This is your fault.”

“I’m not the one who killed him.” I pointed at Simon, who lay on the ground with his lifeless eyes staring right at me. “I’m not the one who slowly killed Charles, and I’m not the one slowly killing Charlie.”

“You may not have done it yourself, but none of this would have happened if it weren’t for you.” She stomped toward me knife pointed as she spit out the last few words.

Jason stepped in front of me and wouldn’t let me around him to confront Elsa as she approached.

“It was supposed to be me,” she said. “The spell we cast was supposed to imbue me with more power. Instead, it redirected and you are what became of it.”

I wondered if she was right. If I hadn’t been created, Charles Sr. and Charlie wouldn’t have gotten sick to begin with. She must have seen that bit of doubt in my eyes because the smile that transformed her face gave her this sinister look that toed the line between beautiful and horrific.

“You see it too, don’t you? You see how the events that led us here are because you exist. An abomination. A thing, not even human.” She’d come closer and closer as she spoke until she walked in circles around us. Jason kept her in our sights the whole time, turning us with her as she stalked us.

“Why don’t you put that knife away and we can talk about this,” Jason said. If I had to gauge by his tone, I would have said he was perfectly calm. By the way the muscles in his back stretched his shirt and his hand squeezed my wrist almost too painfully, I knew he was anything but. Still, his calm voice, no matter how forced, was a boon to my fraying nerves.

“Not a chance, pretty boy,” Elsa replied. “You’re next.”

She sliced at him with the knife.

He dodged the knife and pushed me to the ground. I scooted away as she went at him a second time, but he dodged her again. This time she over shot and he grabbed her wrist, twisting her around so she was against his chest. The knife, still in her hand, pressed against her own throat.

“Nice moves,” she said. She reached into her pocket with her free hand. “But they still won’t save you.”

“Jason!” I tried to warn him, but she’d already stabbed him in the leg with a second knife.

He let go of her and staggered back, the blade hilt deep in his thigh. When he pulled it out with a grunt, he fell to the ground and blood squirted from the hole. It didn’t stop. With every beat of his heart a stream sprayed out. He pushed his hand to the wound, but it wouldn’t do any good.

“Looks like I got an artery,” Elsa gloated. “Nice try, but you’ve lost already.”

I looked around for something—anything—that could help. Magic didn’t work on her and there was nothing around that I could use as a weapon. My heart pounded in my chest and the world faded to a pinpoint. Every step she took closer to him, intent on delivering a final, killing blow, was drowned out by the rushing waves in my head.

Think, Ash! Think!

It was no use. The closer she got to him, the more I panicked. I had nothing. No weapon but my magic, and that didn’t effect her.

And then I stopped. Everything stopped. The world, confused and distorted seconds before transformed in a perfect moment of clarity. I’d focused on one of the flowers, watching without a care in the world for the events unfolding before it. I could do the same, letting Elsa get away with killing two people right in front of me and then probably kill me too. Or, I could stop her before she killed Jason and get the flower to Chicago to save Charlie. I knew what I had to do.

I stood up and summoned every ounce of power I had.

“Elsa.” The words exploded from me, though I didn’t yell. The earth trembled under us, and she stumbled off balance as she turned toward me. Her eyes were wide and I saw the fear that overcame her hatred. “Your talisman may stop me from throwing magic at you, but it can’t stop me from using magic.”

 

*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  *N is for Naples  *O is for Oh S**t  *P is for Pantsless  *Q is for Questions Answered  *R is for Revelation  *S is for Simon  *A to Z Challenge

S is for Simon (#AtoZChallenge)

Simon

Simon

When a Jeep pulled up and a guy wearing a baseball cap, cargo shorts, and hiking boots jumped out with a scowl on his face, I knew our tour guide had arrived.

He scanned us up and down. “Are you two the VIP tour?”

“That’s us,” Jason said. He extended his hand. “I’m Jason, and this is Ash.”

He took our hands and shook them. “I’m Simon. Hop in the Jeep and we’ll get going.”

We left Naples on the highway but quickly turned off onto dirt roads. I gazed out at the scenery and caught sight of another car turning on the same dirt road. With as well as the road was kept up, I wasn’t surprised if it saw a lot of traffic. “The first part of your tour will be to get up close, but not too personal with some alligators.”

“If you don’t mind, we’d like to skip that and just search for ghost orchids,” I said.

“It’s your tour, we can do whatever you want.” He barely hid the growl attached to his words.

“Will it take us long to find any?” Jason asked.

“Depends on if you want the direct route or to explore the area a bit.”

Jason and I spoke at the same time. “Direct route.”

“I know of a place,” Simon said.

Three hours, more mosquito bites than countries in the world, and two aching calves later, we’d reached our destination. Humid didn’t even begin to cover the air surrounding us. We might as well have jumped in a lake and tried breathing. Sweat dripped from my nose and ran in rivulets down my back. My clothes didn’t have a dry spot on them.

But I’d found the ghost orchid. At least half a dozen of them stuck to various trees around us, their mustache-like petals glowing with life. “We did it,” I said.

Jason stood beside me, hand on my shoulder, as a smile broke out on his red face. My own smile followed suit and I forgot every lie he’d ever told me as I leapt at him. He caught me swiftly and spun my around as we hugged each other, elated at finally finding the thing that could cure Charlie.

“It’s just a flower,” Simon said. To him, I’m sure we looked crazy, but I didn’t care.

“It’s so much more than that,” Jason said. He put me down and turned to Simon. The smile never left his face. “You have no idea.”

“He’s right.” A voice came from behind us. The smile dropped away as I watched Elsa walk toward us.

“It is just a flower,” she said as she approached. “You’re wasting your time down here. It’s time to come home and forget this foolishness.”

“Are those Mom’s exact words, or are you paraphrasing?” I asked. The magic inside me flared, ready if I should need it.

“You know this woman?” Simon asked me, gesturing toward Elsa.

“Hello. I’m Elsa,” she said as she walked over to him.

“Simon,” he said as he took her offered hand.

As I think back on the next moments, time didn’t slow down or speed up. It was more like a flash here and a flash there. It stuttered along in giant leaps without caring whether we caught up or not. The first flash was a glint of sunlight off something metal. The second flash was Simon on his knees and holding his neck as something red coated his hands and shirt. The third flash was Jason pulling my arm to get behind him. The fourth was my other hand in front of me, fingers splayed open as power tore itself from me and rushed toward Elsa.

 

*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  *N is for Naples  *O is for Oh S**t  *P is for Pantsless  *Q is for Questions Answered  *R is for Revelation  *A to Z Challenge

R is for Revelation (#AtoZChallenge)

Revelation

Revelation

Naples Tours and Guides seemed too good to be true, especially since they offered a Ghost Orchid package. Five hours of a guided hike through Florida swamps to search for the very flower I needed was more than just a sign. It was suspicious. Then again, I was suspicious of just about everything at that point.

It was a pain getting the woman in charge of the tours to get us one that day. That pain manifested in the form of five hundred dollars cash, which she shoved in her bra, and the price of two personal tours. My monthly allowance dwindled at an alarming rate, but I didn’t care. I’d prefer broke to broken hearted.

We waited for our guide in front of the building that housed the office. The lady who’d taken a lot of my money disappeared into the back after she got into a heated discussion with whomever didn’t want to come in on their day off. It was only nine in the morning, but the heat and humidity already caused sweat stains in unfortunate places. I looked forward to the chafing.

“I don’t get it.” Jason and I hadn’t spoken since the hotel, and I sneered when he continued. “You could have used compulsion to get her to give us a tour, but instead you drop a wad of cash on her?”

“I didn’t see you using compulsion.” I hadn’t intended on having a conversation with him, but the words were out of my mouth faster than I could stop myself.

He scrunched his eyebrows. “You really don’t understand how powerful you are, do you?”

“You know what?” It took a lot of concentration to keep from yelling, but I couldn’t stop myself from turning and pointing my finger at him. “I don’t really care how powerful I am. I don’t care if I was created by some damned spell instead of conceived naturally. I don’t even care if you’re a witch or not. What I do care about is getting this pain in the ass flower back to Charlie and stopping Elsa from killing my brother.”

By the time I was done, I’d backed him up against the building and poked him in the chest. And for some reason, he was smiling. It was a small quirk at the corners of his mouth, but it reached his eyes. Which I, of course, made the mistake of meeting. I turned on my heels and scrubbed my face with the palm of my hands. It did me no good to get butterflies when we were hours from having flower in hand… Plus the lies. I couldn’t forget the lies.

“I’m sorry you had to find out that way,” he said. He placed a hand on my shoulder and turned me toward him. “I wish I could have told you sooner. I wanted to from the moment we met, but I couldn’t. I’m sorry.”

I sighed and nodded. “Yeah. But what you have to realize is I don’t have any way of finding out if you’re lying to me about Elsa and Mom or if my mom has been lying to me my entire life. You’ll have to excuse me if I’m a little hesitant to believe someone I just met.”

“I understand.”

I watched cars go by on the street and considered everything that had happened—everything I’d learned—in the past few days. The witch dreams, the orchid, the boy standing right in front of me. And I wondered why he was here.

“Why are you here?” I asked as if he’d heard my train of thought. “I mean, if the Witch Council sent you to keep an eye on Elsa, why are you here with me?”

“I’m not supposed to be.” He ran his hand through his hair and glanced around at the strangers passing us on the sidewalk. “When we parted ways at the coffee shop in the airport, I called my supervisor. She told me not to go, to stick with Elsa. I’d told them about helping you research the orchid and they decided you weren’t helping her and to forget about you. But there was something—is something about you that I can’t walk away from. I couldn’t ignore you, and I couldn’t let you come here on your own.”

It was actually really sweet. And that pissed me off, but there was no way I could yell at him anymore. “Well, thank you for helping me.”

“It’s my pleasure.”

I shook my head and faced the street. “You never answered my question.”

“What question?”

“Why didn’t you compel her?”

He shrugged. “I can’t. There are only four witches in the world strong enough to compel people and three of those four can only compel people who are naturally trusting.”

“Like kids?”

“Yeah.”

That explains my childhood, I thought.

 

*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  *N is for Naples  *O is for Oh S**t  *P is for Pantsless  *Q is for Questions Answered  *A to Z Challenge

Q is for Questions Answered (#AtoZChallenge)

Questions Answered

Questions Answered

He sat up straight, his eyes round with shock. “What?”

“Are you a witch?” I repeated. “It’s a simple yes or no question.”

He was silent for so long I started to wonder if I’d misinterpreted my dream. It would be a pretty ridiculous question to ask someone who didn’t know about real witches. Most of the time, people meant Wiccan when they asked that.

“You want to know if I’m a witch?”

I rolled my eyes. “Yeah. For the hundredth time, yes.”

He stood up, shook his head, and laughed.

Shit, I thought. He’s not.

“How did you figure it out?”

Floored. That’s what I was. As much as I was certain—even with the moment of uncertainty during his silence—I hadn’t expected him to come right out and admit it. “Oh.”

The quiet that followed filled the room with questions. There were so many, I didn’t know where to start. I’d come here expecting to have to out him through some heavy arguing or something, not to be faced with naked wetness and honesty. Well, “sort of” honesty.

It was the “sort of” that got to me. I’d suffered so much betrayal lately, it was no wonder my blood pressure rose and my fists clenched. “When, exactly, did you plan on telling me?”

“I hadn’t,” he said. “You weren’t supposed to know.”

“Why? What could you possibly have to gain by hiding that from me?”

He had the decency to look contrite, at least. “Information.”

“That makes no sense.” I threw my hands up in the air, turned away from him, and let my face rest in my palms.

“I was supposed to make contact with you that night so I could get close enough to gain information on Elsa.”

“On Elsa?” I spun around to face him and drew up short. He’d come closer and stood two feet away. I felt the heat coming off of his body and shivered, but whether it was from his nearness or the air conditioning, I couldn’t tell. “Why do you want information on her?”

“That’s a long story.”

“It’s five in the morning.” I crossed my arms and raised an eyebrow. “I think we’ve got time before anything opens.”

He nodded and gestured for me to have a seat on the bed. I squinted my eyes at him but sat down anyway as he scooted a chair to sit in front of me.

“Elsa used to be a witch.”

I rolled my eyes. “Tell me something I don’t know.”

“Okay.” He frowned. “We think she’s trying to get her powers back.”

I flinched. “I didn’t think that was possible.”

“Technically, it’s not.” I pushed his hand through his hair and leaned back against the chair. He kept his arm up and stared at the wall as he continued, and I tried really hard to concentrate on what he was saying instead of how damn gorgeous he was. “The Witch Council outlawed that kind of spell hundreds of years ago, but one exists.”

“And you think she’s going to try the spell?” I asked. “Even though she doesn’t have any magic.”

“We think she’s getting help from another witch.”

I leaned toward him. “Who?”

He wouldn’t look at me. He kept staring at the carpet or the terrible pink and beige floral wall paper, and there was a grimace on his face.

“Who?” I demanded as I stood up.

“At first we thought it was you.” I started to say something, but he stood to face me and rushed on. “But now we think it’s your mother.”

A tingle went down my spine and goosebumps popped up on my skin. “How does the spell work?”

He looked into my eyes the entire time he spoke. “It requires the death of two innocents. One older and one younger.”

It was just a whisper, but it knocked me hard in the gut. All of the air in my lungs whooshed out in a rush of disbelief and the room spun. Jason caught me as I fell and helped me to the floor. With his arms around me, I was able to sit against the bed and slowly calm my hyperventilating.

“I knew.” Hiccups wracked my body from the crying that coated my mouth and lodged in my throat. “I mean, I knew something wasn’t right. I knew their sickness was connected somehow, but this… this is…”

“I’m sorry you had to find out like this.”

I shook my head, wiped the wetness from my face, and pushed myself up off the floor. “No,” I said. “No way it’s my mom. I mean, after what Elsa did to me, I can see her doing it, but Mom?”

“Ash, look at things from our perspective,” Jason said. He stood up and grabbed my shoulders, forcing me to look at him. “Someone has to provide the money needed for the ingredients necessary. The spell needed to capture the essence of the deceased is one that requires months of constant upkeep. Elsa couldn’t have done it without being discovered. That left you and Marlene.”

“What made the Council think it was me?”

“Your age, your power, and…” He hesitated.

“What?”

The look in his eyes was one of sympathy. “The way you got your power.”

 

*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  *N is for Naples  *O is for Oh S**t  *P is for Pantsless  *A to Z Challenge

P is for Pantsless (#AtoZChallenge)

Pantless

Pantsless

The clock read five in the morning, so I jumped out of bed and got dressed. I’d packed according to Florida weather, so the shorts, t-shirt, and hiking boots only took two minutes to get on before I grabbed my phone and credit card and left the room. I pounded on Jason’s door until I heard the lock click. When it opened a crack, I pushed through and barged in. The lights were still off and when I turned around to confront him, he was outlined in the light from the hallway.

“Who the hell are you?” I demanded.

“What are you talking about?” The door closed behind him and drowned the room in darkness before the overhead came on.

“Oh my God!” I spun away from him and covered my face with my hands. The only thing he had on was a towel around his waist. The rest of him glistened with drops of water.

And he was gorgeous.

My brain had taken a snapshot of his body and the image stayed with me. In an instant, I’d memorized it. He was built like a swimmer, and dear God, I wanted to keep looking at his six pack and the firm muscle of his arms and the way his collar bone met with the skin of his neck. I wanted him to turn around so I could look at his backside too.

“You kind of caught me in the middle of a shower,” he said.

I felt the blush spread from my neck to my face as my mind wandered to a fantasy of seeing him in the shower. I shook my head to dispel the image. “Sorry,” I said. “But we need to talk.”

“I gathered.”

I kept my hand up to shield my eyes as I turned back toward him. “I’ll, uh, wait in the hall.”

“Just let me get my pants on,” he said. “You don’t have to wait in the hall.”

I opened my mouth to protest, but a door clicked. When I peeked through my fingers, he wasn’t there and the bathroom door was closed. My plan to come in and confront him hadn’t exactly gone well so far, but I couldn’t let what just happened interfere with my need for answers. Unfortunately, every time I blinked, I saw him in just a towel and my stomach flip-flopped like I was on a roller coaster.

When he came back out, he still didn’t have a shirt on, but he was dry and a pair of shorts replaced the towel. “What was it you needed to talk about so early in the morning?”

“I need to know who you really are,” I said. My hands found their way to my hips and I put as much force in my words as I could under the circumstances.

“You know who I am.”

“Do I really?” I asked. “Because I’m thinking there’s something you’ve failed to mention.”

He sat down in a chair next to the bed and ran a hand through his still wet hair. “And what could that possibly be?”

“Are you a witch?”

 

*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  *N is for Naples  *O is for Oh S**t  *A to Z Challenge

O is for Oh S**t (#AtoZChallenge)

Oh Shit

Oh Shit

The hotel was simple and inexpensive. I paid for two rooms and handed Jason his key without saying a word to him. He’d opened his mouth several times as if he wanted to say something, but was smart enough to keep silent.

The sun was setting by the time I got into my room and took a cool shower. The delay at the airport thanks to Elsa pushed my schedule back too far. I had hoped to be out there in the afternoon, find the flower, and be back on a red-eye to Chicago before the end of the day. It was too dark to go looking now though and I doubted I’d find a guide willing to take me out anyway.

Instead, I called my mom, but she didn’t answer. I hadn’t really expected her to, but hoped I was wrong. Hope seemed to be my biggest thing lately. Everything I did was with the hope that it was enough—hope that I would find the flower and make it back to Charlie in time.

When I clicked off from Mom’s voicemail, I tossed the phone down beside me on the bed and scrubbed my hands over my face. Too much had happened in the last twenty-four hours. It seemed like days had passed, when it was only the night before that Charlie had gotten worse.

I unwrapped the towel from my hair, threw it on the floor, and laid back on the bed. My phone was in arm’s reach, so I dialed Nora and Dr. Oakley respectively, and again met with voicemail for each. I needed an update on Charlie, but no one was willing to answer my calls. After the last conversation I had with Mom, I wondered if it was her doing—if she forbade them from answering. I doubted they would listen though. Nora saw me with Charlie and would never deny my need to know how he was. As for Dr. Oakley, aside from all things relating to Charlie’s health, he was kind of scatter-brained. Even if Mom did tell him not to answer my calls, he’d probably forget to check the caller ID before he answered.

The idea of calling the police for a welfare check on Charlie crossed my mind, but I knew Nora and Dr. Oakley would take care of him. And, if anything did happen, they wouldn’t hesitate to call me. The nagging feeling didn’t go away, but I was too exhausted to think it was anything more than my lack of sleep and Charlie just being sick. So, I turned off the bedside lamp, curled up under the covers, and went to sleep.

Witch dreams don’t normally happen on a regular basis; they’re steeped in prophecy. With fate and destiny so changeable, the future is something that can’t be predicted very often. One small thing can change whether or not soul mates will meet or if an ambulance will make it to the scene of an accident in time to save a life.

It started where the last one left off—the dark shadow in the swamp had caught up to me. I spun around and screamed at the darkness. The scream wasn’t out of fear, but of anger. All of my rage directed at the form looming over me and preventing me from getting to my brother. As the sound of my voice rose, the mist that shrouded the ground blew away, and the shadow coalesced into a solid form.

I couldn’t tell who stood in front of me. Shadow still clung to the hood of a cape and hid her face. Her eyes were visible, green swirling through them, but instead of the natural color laying beneath the magic green, there was nothing but emptiness. She laughed—so wicked I felt the chill of it in my bones—and pointed behind me.

Charlie still lay on the bed, but Nora and Dr. Oakley lay dead beside him, their throats slit. In front of the bed, Jason faced me, and the acid green of magic swam in his eyes.

Needless to say, when I woke up after a third witch dream in a week, I wondered what the hell was going on. And the only answers I wanted were from the witch who’d been lying to me for the past two days.

 

*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  *N is for Naples  *A to Z Challenge

N is for Naples (#AtoZChallenge)

Naples

Naples

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.

“Wow.”

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.

And silent.

 

*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