Bound by duty, p.15
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       Bound by Duty, p.15
 

           Stormy Smith

  Chapter 14

  After that night, I kept to my word and didn’t go anywhere alone. Micah and I kept up our sessions, focusing more and more on trying to control my unwilling power. Well, control probably isn’t the right word, considering it had refused to do anything I wanted in days and seemed to constantly be raging at me. I could feel it beating against my mind, as if it were trying to tell me something, but we just weren’t speaking the same language. It was frustrating and exhausting, all at once.

  The only time my magic was cooperative was when Micah put me in almost threatening situations. He would deliberately come at me, his own power full-force, demanding a rise from mine. Only during those times did I have moments of complete dominance, where I was working in tandem with my power. I was able to lift larger and heavier items, take sneak peeks into the thoughts of my neighbors — since they were human and couldn’t stop me — and my defense just kept getting better. I hadn’t had any new issues pop up lately, and for that I was grateful.

  Throughout that time, Aidan was my safe harbor. Being in close proximity to him was the only time my power seemed to take a backseat, stopping our constant clashing of wills. The fact that I couldn’t stop staring at his lips and wanting him to kiss me probably had something to do with it, but I couldn’t think about attacks or power surges, or anything really, when his breath would tickle my cheek as he murmured one of our growing inside jokes in my ear.

  I was actually sad to see that my words at the gym had resonated. After that conversation — barring the last light kiss at the gym — he’d kept it all PG-13. We went to a movie and he even made sure to put the armrest down, sitting stoically next to me while holding my hand. I could feel the sexual tension buzzing between us, his aura a constant battle of passion against his desire to make me happy. It was my only saving grace, knowing that it wasn’t just me being tortured. It took all of my own willpower to not jump him in the darkness of that theater. I allowed my mind to wander and it took me to places far past kissing. I wondered what he knew that I didn’t. What experiences he’d had. He was the only boy I’d kissed and I was still fumbling, at best, to be flirtatious. It was uncomfortable, but made me want to go further, faster.

  I kept sneaking looks at him for the entire two hours. I fantasized about what his five o’clock shadow would feel like against my cheek, his coarse hair threaded through my fingers. I played back the few kisses we’d shared in my mind, determined to make him do it again. I watched his profile as he laughed out loud at the actors on screen, the smile shining through his eyes. He laughed with utter abandonment and I loved it.

  My knee bounced up and down as I tapped my foot, nervous energy filling me. It had been two weeks since our last kiss in the gym and he had remained annoyingly platonic. He was still playful and cocky, sweet and tender, but only with his words. My last conversation with Rynna echoed in my head, telling me my heart was mine to give. To choose my path.

  So I did. I was done waiting and being the saint. I was learning to control my power, so I wasn’t afraid of hurting Aidan again. We hadn’t seen or heard anything from our random attackers, even with both Micah and Cole doing some discreet digging, and I just couldn’t take it anymore. I spent the rest of the movie plotting my move.

  It was always lurking in the back of my mind, the fact that things would likely have to change, that Aidan couldn’t always be mine, but no matter how much I tried, I couldn’t keep myself from him. I spent long nights having conversations with myself around all the reasons I shouldn’t allow this to happen, but all it took was one look from him to root me right back to his side. The bottom line was that I was eighteen, I rationalized to myself. And, I was Immortal. I had years and years of life in front of me. Why did I owe anything to all of these people who had never tried to help me? After everything I’d been through, I owed this to myself. I’d earned this time with Aidan.

  We hadn’t talked a lot about his past and the stories he told me that day on the cliffs, but from everything I knew, his fears of abandonment ran deep. His commitment to me was just as hard for him, in his own way. So, as we left the movie theater that night, I made a decision that I was all in. That whatever this was, I was meant to be here, living it. It was the first time in my life I’d made a decision that completely went against everything I’d been raised to be, a decision that was for no one else’s good but my own. It was exhilarating. The fleeting thought that someday I could actually tell him who and what I was lit me up from the inside out. I was so buzzed with excitement that I was talking a mile a minute and yanking Aidan along with me as I bobbed and weaved through the crowd toward the front of the movie theater.

  As I pushed through the double doors out into the parking lot, Aidan wrapped an arm around me, slowing my steps and interrupting my internal cheering squad. “What’s gotten into you, doll? You’ve either got something exciting up in that brain of yours or you were sneaking Red Bull during the movie.” He laughed as he tugged me into his chest and pressed a kiss to my temple. I looked up at him, returning his kiss with one just below his ear. “Let’s go walk on the beach. I’m not ready to go home yet.”

  I had used my most suggestive tone and was praying it didn’t come across as cheesy as it felt. I was still getting used to this seductive flirtation thing, but I could feel Aidan’s emotions spike and his eyes went from smoke to liquid silver. I had hit the mark.

  “It’s your show, baby,” he said with a low rumble to his voice. A voice I hadn’t heard since our last real kiss. I closed my eyes and smiled to myself as I looped my arm around him, walking as one out to the beach.

  It was a full moon and it gave us the perfect amount of light to walk on the beach away from the boardwalk. There were other couples walking as well, but it was clear that each of us were in our own worlds. Aidan and I kept ourselves intertwined as we walked. I loved how I fit just under his chin, the top of my head level with his shoulders. How I could feel his fingertips making swirling patterns on the small strip of exposed skin on my back between my jeans and my top as we walked silently, both just enjoying the quiet. I tugged him even closer to me and tried to decide where to start. Was I really ready to verbally commit to this? Could I look him in the eyes and tell him out loud that I didn’t want to go slow, that I didn’t want anyone else?

  Aidan stopped and tilted my chin up, “You’re brooding again. I swear, I can feel it when you start to get lost in your own head. What’s up?” He looked down at me through hooded, questioning eyes. Looking up at him, his dark hair shining in the moonlight, strength and passion radiating from him, I was suddenly sure.

  “Aidan, I want this. Whatever this is that we have, I want it.” He cocked his head and as his smile spread, his adorable dimple appeared. “Well, that’s probably good, since I want it, too.”

  I stepped back a little, trying to give myself some room to breathe, to stop him from intoxicating me into sounding like an idiot.

  I pushed at the sand with my toe, suddenly feeling inexperienced and shy. “I don’t really know what we’re doing. I’ve never really had a boyfriend, so this is all new, and amazing, and scary. There are still parts of me that I can’t share with you, but I hope to. Someday.”

  It was so hard to be honest without really being honest, but it was true. I hoped that someday I could actually explain it all to him. Right now, though, I hoped that he could see and hear how much I meant every word. I looked up and the grin was back. I could see him holding himself back, waiting for me to make the next move. The reality that I could make him feel that way had me soaring.

  Aidan tried to speak but I held up my hand, asking for him to wait.

  “I…uh…Aidan, I don’t want you to be so nice. To go so slow.” His eyes widened another fraction, his pupils dilating. “The truth is, the only thing I can think about is you kissing me. About you doing more than kissing me. It’s all I can think about.” I was shaking from the inside out, just wanting to be close to him. But, I stood still, digging my nails into my pal
ms.

  In two steps, he had me up and off the sand. I locked my legs around his waist as one of his hands came up my back and into my hair.

  “Amelia,” he breathed out in a whisper. “It’s all I’ve been thinking about since that day. You have no idea how much I want this.”

  Then, all I could feel was Aidan. That stubble was just as rough and amazing and I thought it would be. He kissed me with all the passion I’d ever imagined. His tongue diving into my mouth, claiming it as his. There was nothing sweet or gentle about that kiss and it was exactly what I wanted. I wanted to be marked. I wanted to feel alive. I just wanted Aidan.

  With my legs locked around his hips and his hands roaming all over me, I was breathless. He supported me, gripping my hips and then sliding under my butt. Aidan moved one hand up my back and around to cup my face as he continued to kiss me. Slipping it back and tangling it in my hair, he gently tugged at the long strands and I dropped my head back to allow him access to my throat. With a groan, he laid a trail of kisses from the base up to my ear lobe, nipping at the sensitive flesh and giving me goose bumps. His mouth left fire in its wake, igniting feelings in me I hadn’t known existed. I had no idea it could be this intoxicating to simply have someone’s hands on your body. I couldn’t think and could only react to each new sensation Aidan brought out in me. We had gone from zero to sixty and I suddenly felt panicked by a myriad of emotions and feelings I didn’t know what to do with. So, while no part of me wanted to, I told myself to slow down. To not go too far, too fast. We had time.

  It took a few minutes to slow the pace as Aidan took his cues from me. Our kisses became more leisurely until he finally pulled back and kissed the tip of my nose as he set me back on the sand.

  “Well, that was unexpected,” he said with a cheeky grin. I couldn’t help but beam back up at him. My lips felt swollen and my skin tender from all of his attention. I was shocked to realize it was the first time we hadn’t had a magical flare during such a close interaction. I could only feel a content, gloating sigh coming from my sated power as it sat back and soaked in what had just happened. For once, we were on the same page.

  I grabbed his hand, yanking on it a little to get us walking again, even though I could have skipped my way down the beach at this point. “Let’s keep going, just a little farther,” I said.

   

   

  We walked the beach for another half an hour or so. When we realized it was close to midnight, we started back toward the car. Just as we were getting close to the parking lot of the theater, I felt it.

  Each individual hair on the back of my neck shot to attention and every internal alarm I had was screaming.

  She’s here. I know she’s here. We saw her walk off with that human.

  I shook my head, shocked to hear someone’s voice there. I’d only heard other people when I was intentionally trying to listen. No one had ever just shown up before. I quickly realized I had to get Aidan out of here.

  Trying not to alert him, I started casually looking around as I sped up my pace.

  They were just out on the beach. It’s just her and the boy. This is the perfect time since she’s away from the other Mage.

  I looked around, realizing there was nowhere to hide. As we approached the theater, I grabbed Aidan and pulled him into the shadow of the building.

  He grinned. “Didn’t get your fill, huh? I’d be happy to oblige.”

  As Aidan brought his lips back to mine, I did my best to kiss him while I searched out the power of the people around us, trying to get a read on exactly where they were. Micah had me playing magical hide and seek with Cole a few different times last week so I had a good idea of how to follow their trail. It took a moment before I could source them, but as I reached out, I could feel their pulsing black auras not far away. I followed the first person’s aura, but couldn’t get anywhere. Their minds were locked up tight. The only thing that came through loud and clear was that they had been sent to find me and they couldn’t fail.

  It wasn’t until I sighed at my lack of skill that I realized Aidan wasn’t kissing me anymore. He was standing in front of me, arms crossed, looking rather perturbed.

  “Okay, Amelia, really? What the hell is going on?” The hard edges of his jaw were set, his eyes dark and narrowed. How was I possibly going to explain this?

  “I, uh, well…I think the popcorn isn’t sitting well,” I said, weakly.

  His eyebrow arched. “Really? How many times do you think I’m going to let this stuff go, Amelia?”

  “Stuff? What stuff?” I asked, my voice a little too high and shaking. I didn’t have a clue what he actually thought was happening.

  “Oh, I don’t know, like your random migraines or your disappearing acts? Or your ‘training’ with Micah that I know for a fact you don’t need because Cole has told me all about your MMA instruction. Or how you completely zone out sometimes and have no idea what’s happening around you? Something is going on with you and I need to know what it is.” He spat out the words with such intensity that I took a step back.

  I had no response. I stood there, staring at him, willing myself to come up with some plausible excuse, but I had nothing. Aidan’s wariness rolled off of him. I could feel the words he wouldn’t say. The ones that questioned the truth of everything I’d just laid bare to him on the beach. I couldn’t lie to him anymore, but what choice did I have?

  At that moment, I didn’t have to make a choice because a crackling blue bolt came shooting toward Aidan and the only thing I could do was scream as I shoved him aside. We both fell into a heap on the ground. He was instantly up and in a crouch. I had much less grace and began scrambling to get to my feet. We were both looking in all directions when the next bolt came flying at us. We dove apart and a chunk of the red brick theater wall ruptured into dust around us.

  “What is going on? What the hell was that?” Aidan yelled. I was thinking as fast as I could.

  “Do you trust me?” I asked, a plan forming.

  My jeans were torn in a few places and my new sheer pink top was shredded along one arm where I had skidded into a heap on the concrete. My braid was half undone and I was crouched down behind a bush next to the theater like a fugitive. Aidan gaped at me from a few feet away, his yellow polo dirty and his cargo shorts also ripped. He was undecided and I hated that I had made him that way. Another bolt came flying at us, only missing by a few feet.

  “Aidan! Do you trust me?” I smacked the concrete and was shocked to feel a little tremor shake the ground between us. Aidan’s eyes widened and he nodded slowly.

  “Okay, then. On three, we run. You parked around the back and we have to get to your car. I’ll…I’ll try to explain all of this eventually, but for now, we have to get away.” I had made the decision that honesty was no longer a choice. He would know. I would tell him everything.

  I was amazed that he didn’t question me. The bolts of blue were getting larger and spraying dirt everywhere around us, which could only mean our attackers were getting closer. I tossed my head in the direction of the back of the building and gave a finger count. On three, we both leapt up and took off for the car. I forced Aidan to lead, hoping he would think he was protecting me while I was actually throwing down cover.

  I shot my purple blasts as fast as I could to try to fend them off. I saw a man dodging my blasts between cars and almost tripped when I realized his eyes didn’t look human. They looked like a cat. Bright blue and almond-shaped with just a sliver of black down the center. It didn’t make sense, but I was certain that’s what I saw. And, he looked familiar. But, I didn’t have time for double-takes while I was dodging fire and running for my life.

  I went skidding around the corner, expecting to have to catch up to Aidan. Instead, I ran straight into his back. I smacked into him with such force that he fell forward as I flew backward, landing on my back and tearing up my palms.

  “How nice of you to join us, Amelia. We’ve been waiting so long to finally meet you.”
/>
  My head flew up at the syrupy-sweet sound of her voice. I locked eyes with a beautiful woman wearing an evil sneer. Her long red hair fell in thick waves around her shoulders and the black leather she wore from head to toe only added to my fear factor. One hand hung loosely at her side, bright blue electricity pulsing around it. The other was held in front of her, a crackling orb bouncing up and down in her palm.

  “We wouldn’t want to harm your human friend, dear,” she cooed. “So, if you’ll just come with us, we can settle our issues properly. Away from those you care about.”

  Aidan had backed up and helped me stand by this point. At her words, he interlaced his hand with mine.

  “I don’t know what you think you’re doing, lady, or what’s going on, but Amelia isn’t going with you.” He sounded so confident, looked so sure. He took a small step forward, moving in front of me. Before I could pull him back, the woman shot a small, quick blast at him. It hit Aidan directly in the left shoulder, sending him reeling backwards.

  I screamed his name, running to him. I kept looking over my shoulder and while I tried to assess the damage, I positioned myself shielding him but so that I could still see her. “Who are you? You don’t have to do this. What do you want with me?” I threw the questions at her one after the other. My hands shook, both in fear and in anger.

  “That,” she said as she tossed her orb in the air a few times, “was a warning. He won’t be hurt, Amelia, unless you force me to, or he does something stupid again. You need to come with me. I don’t want to hurt you, but we have things we need to discuss. Don’t make this harder than it has to be. You wouldn’t want me seeking out your little human friend, Bethany, is it? Or your big brother, Cole?”

  As I helped Aidan to his feet, I could feel my own rage building. I was terrified, but this woman was threatening the people I loved. She’d hurt Aidan. My power grew exponentially in response to her threats and it was pissed. I tried to hold on to Aidan, to use his presence to calm myself down and maintain control, but I couldn’t stop it. The pressure just kept building, higher than it ever had before.

  “Amelia, I’m not playing with you. You have seconds to make your decision or I’m going to make it for you, and your little boy toy isn’t going to like how it all turns out.” The woman’s laugh was shrill and it grated on me even further.

  Aidan gripped my hand again, giving me a barely perceptible nod. My relief at his acceptance of what was happening was short lived as I had to make my move.

  “Lady, I don’t know who you are or what you want, but you picked the wrong girl on the wrong night.” I straightened my shoulders, stood tall, held up my free hand, and just let loose. Dropping all of my walls in an instant, the release was an explosion bursting out of me. I gripped Aidan’s hand, letting his presence give me strength, while purple lightning erupted from my palm and rocketed torward the woman in a tidal wave. After the night on the cliffs, I thought I knew what to expect when I let loose, but something was different. I felt the attack become less about defense and more about stopping the woman from ever coming back. Intense dark emotions filled my mind and I just wanted her gone.

  I watched her sneer turn to fear as she tried to leap away. The ground where she was once standing exploded. The thought of her getting away fueled my fire and my next thought was that something needed to stop her. A tree branch tore from its trunk and shot into her path. She leapt over the branch and tried to run. Pride in my newfound skills filled me, and at that same moment, the wind picked up and starting throwing everything in her way: trees, trash cans, benches that weren’t bolted down…anything that would move was blown toward her and around her.

  The woman jumped and dodged, trying to use her own power to fight off the barrage of items that spun in the air, but it was no use. I stepped toward her — still holding onto Aidan’s hand — as my hair whipped in the wind. I had to have looked like a madwoman — my eyes bright violet, my clothes shredded, and a scary smile on my face. I wanted her to leave us alone. To realize what I would do if she came back. And, with that thought, lightning struck the ground at her feet. She jumped and my smile only widened.

  “AMELIA! STOP!” Aidan yanked on my arm, pulling me back to him. He put both of his hands on my cheeks and forced me to look into his eyes. “Just stop. Let’s just go while we can. She can’t do anything.” I could barely understand him through my rage. My eyes narrowed as I look at him questioningly. I didn’t initially understand his reaction to the glorious display I was putting on, but I saw that he was terrified. For me and of me. Still, he forced me to look at him as he tried to bring me back.

  The woman stood in the middle of a swirling mess, the wind still roaring around her like a tornado. As items swirled in the air around her, I looked over Aidan’s shoulder and our eyes connected again before a park bench broke our connection. She tried futilely to blow a hole in the growing barricade and her fear was evident on her face. She kicked and blasted, but to no avail. Not once had she aimed directly for me, but she kept trying to break free.

  Aidan pulled me back to him. I looked into his eyes and felt the sweat of his palms on my face. The curtain in my mind opened a fraction and reality struck. My body responded to my commands to stop trying to move, but my power refused to end its attack on the woman. We had fought together for a brief moment, but an attack that I had only intended to use for defense had become a terrorist event that I couldn’t control. I had to get away, to stop this and get Aidan out of there. I slowly became more myself and the darkness rebelled, pushing at me to continue our fight.

  “Let’s go, Aidan. Let’s just go.” My limbs were heavy and my thoughts sluggish. I pulled him with me as we started running toward his car. The whole time the onslaught on the woman didn’t let up and it wasn’t me doing it. I felt the pulsing anger driving the assault coming from deep inside me. I was divided and while one part of me fought to stop this, the other gloated in the power we held. The woman stood in the center of the pile just staring after me. Her red hair flew in every direction but the look on her face was one of awe and curiosity as items swirled around her.

  We threw ourselves into the car and Aidan jammed the gear into drive. I couldn’t stop myself from turning back one last time as my power finally settled back inside me, the malicious energy dissipating as quickly as it had overtaken me.

  Just as the wind quieted and the objects all fell back to the ground I saw the woman’s eyes pulse brightly as she dropped to all fours, fur rippling out across her body all at once and a deep howl piercing the air. A wolf with a coat of burnt red and ice blue eyes stood in her place. As we turned the corner that would remove her from sight, she let out another bone-chilling howl in my direction. It was a warning. I knew that much.

   

   

  Aidan drove for what seemed like forever. His knuckles white as he gripped the wheel with both hands, glancing at me every now and then from the corner of his eyes. I could feel his confusion and hated the few feet between us. It seemed like miles. We didn’t speak. Exhaustion was pulling me down and my skin felt too tight with all of the energy and mixed emotions pushing and shoving at each other. They were fighting — my power and myself at odds after the disturbing events that had just unfolded. My head was pounding and I wasn’t sure how long I could keep the after-effects of the night at bay.

  I looked out the window and tried to find the right words. To find any words. I had no idea how to even start to explain all of this to him — especially not what I had just become. I didn’t even know given I’d never felt that level of fury. Aidan didn’t even understand what an Immortal was, so how exactly was I supposed to explain to him that not only was I one, but that I had no idea what the hell was inside me or what had just happened?

  I pulled my knees up to my chest and wrapped my arms around them. I pressed myself into the smallest ball possible, hoping I could just curl up and disappear. Aidan suddenly whipped into a parking lot and I almost fell into his lap as I sprawled across the
console and tried to right myself. He threw the car into park and dove out, not even shutting the door. He took long, hurried strides away from the car. Away from me.

  I scrambled to unhook my seatbelt and get out of the car, running after him.

  “Aidan, wait! Let me…we need to…” I couldn’t figure out what to say. I still had no idea what to tell him.

  He rounded on me, coming back fast. I actually took a step back, the look in his eyes frantic and his stance aggressive. He stopped right in front of me, the toes of his shoes touching mine. He glared down at me, his dark hair wild and his eyes blazing.

  “Amelia, I can’t do this right now,” he screamed at me. “I need you to go. Take my car. Just GO!”

  As he roared that last word, he grabbed my shoulders and pushed me back toward the car. I was stupefied. I was already exhausted and stumbled over my own feet. I had expected him to ask questions. I expected him to be pissed and maybe tell me he never wanted to see me again. I never expected him to just leave me. Before I could force my brain cells to form a coherent sentence, Aidan had taken off running into the trees. I stood rooted to that spot in that parking lot for quite some time, staring at the trees and willing him to come back out.

  It wasn’t until the dinging of the alarm finally pierced my consciousness, reminding me his door was still open with the keys in the ignition. I knew I should just go. He wasn’t coming back.

 
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