Excerpt taken from chapter 3…
“Who’s there?” Elms called, trying to pinpoint the direction of the mysterious voice. The silence of the night was her only answer. “Show yourself this minute!” She puffed out her chest and hoped her small frame would appear bigger and more intimidating.
“Or what? Would you dare come into the deep, dark woods to find me?”
His haunting voice rolled over her skin leaving gooseflesh in its wake. The laughter surrounded her as it echoed off the, building into an entity of its own. Her heart kicked into high gear as the instinct to flee took over. But it was unbridled fear that kept her feet rooted to the semi-frozen ground and called to her Wind nature. Fear always trumped other emotions in the hierarchy of her survival skills—limited though they were.
The night wind, at her command, shifted and rustled the bare trees like fingers sifting through sand in search of a shell. It combed through the darkness inch-by-inch at her command until the man laughed again. The wind stilled and silence descended heavy and sure.
“I give up.” Laughter emerged from the woods once more. “How is it that a red-head with your temper is a Wind? Seems more fitting for a Fire.”
His amused tone didn’t escape her notice.
On the far side of the lot, a dark figure emerged from the tree line and stopped. Transfixed, she waited and watched, but he didn’t move any closer.
“Show yourself.” Her words, a prayer-like whisper, slipped from her lips as she squinted at the space where the dim bulbs of the parking lot lighting couldn’t reach. Even squinting, she could only make out the basic shape of a man.
He stood maybe six feet, maybe slightly smaller. His build wasn’t lean, but it wasn’t bulky either. Elm’s vague impression of him from this far away was that he was average. And even though he taunted her with his words, she couldn’t divine an ounce of malice behind them. On second inspection, she found the opposite.
If he moved closer, Elms was sure she could get a better read on his intentions. That was one of the perks of her particular gift. The gooseflesh resurfaced when a cold gust of air rushed past her. A shiver stole her concentration.
“Are you sure you want me to show myself? Isn’t the mystery more fun?”
His teasing tone wrapped around her like a velvet cloak, warmed her, and stroked every nerve ending to full alert. Her awareness of the stranger toyed around in her mind. Her heart. Her traitorous body. Something about him pulled her in, despite the adrenaline spike from baring all to a complete stranger in the middle of the night.
Her teeth chattered while she considered her answer. “I’m not a fan of mysteries. I prefer knowing what I’m up against from the start, when given the chance.”
“Are you scared or just cold?”
“Cold.” It was none of his darn business that she was a little scared. He had already pegged her for a Wind, which meant he at least knew about the community. But that didn’t calm her nerves. Instead, it set them further on edge when the stranger chuckled.
“I’ll pretend to believe you, but only if you promise to do the same when I tell you why I’m here. I’m not in the mood to be tossed out on one of your gusts.”
She considered his words. “I’d agree to those terms, but I’m not sure I can. I find it hard to trust someone afraid to show me his face.” She held her breath and waited. The seconds ticked by and another shiver shook her.
“You drive a hard bargain.”
The shadow man took slow steps out of the woods and into the lot. As he passed under one of the light posts, Elm’s breath caught in her throat. He was perfection: dark hair, broad shoulders, and facial scruff that looked intentionally unkempt on his strong jaw. She ached to see more, especially his eyes. Those would tell her everything she needed to know.
“I think you misunderstood the terms of our agreement,” she called, “I still can’t see your face.”
He moved even closer to where Elms was rooted to the ground. He lifted his hand and a flame rose straight from his palm, sending the shadows running.
“Better now? Or should I light the other one too?”
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