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By Suzi Davis
Central Avenue Marketing Ltd. Copyright © 2011 Suzi Davis
All rights reserved.
Running from the Past
Drip. Drip. Drip.
The icy raindrops fell heavily, splattering against my skull and dripping from my drenched hair. I clenched my teeth together tightly, desperately fighting the chills that trembled throughout my body. I pushed the sensations aside in an attempt to detach my mind from my physical self, to withdraw deeper into the quiet depths of my soul. I searched and strained with every last extension of myself for that safe place within, trying to find that intangible sanctuary of focus and power.
The wind rose higher, howling in my ears like the painful screams of a child. The rain pounded down on me relentlessly. It soaked through my clothes and into my skin, drowning me. My whole body began to tremble and vibrate with chills as with each passing second, I became more aware of the world I was so feebly trying to ignore. I had closed my eyes in an attempt to shut it all out but my lack of vision was only intensifying the sensations around me. Raindrops steadily trickled down my neck, sliding down my spine in an ominous chill.
It was all too much. I was miserable, I was afraid, I was exhausted, frozen, and wet. A dampness had set into my bones of which I was sure I'd never truly rid myself. This was torture and there was no reason why it should continue. I had the power to end it — so why didn't I? My necklace was glowing faintly against my chest, its quiet warmth the only comfort this moment had to offer. Its heat increased with my emotions, and as I became more aware of my miserable surroundings, fiery frustration flickered around my heart.
My eyes snapped open.
I found myself staring directly into his intense, gray-blue eyes. He sat so closely that I could have reached out and touched him — but I didn't dare. The smirk that had once pulled up the corners of his lips had now completely disappeared. There was nothing to lighten the overwhelming strength of his steady, ancient gaze. I immediately recognized my own powerful frustration, magnified and reflected back at me ten-fold in his mysterious eyes. His lips pressed together, his eyes narrowed dangerously, accusingly as they darkened to an intense, thunderous gray that bordered on the edge of black. I fought the instinct to shrink back from him.
I determinedly refused to look away. I would not back down - I would not cower before him. The air in the small space between us seemed to crackle with the intensity of our emotions, the vivid focus of our wills. The only sounds were those of the wind stirring the branches over our heads and the steadily falling drops of rain. Our eyes were locked together, unwavering, unblinking.
Drip, drip, drip.
A fat, icy raindrop hit me square on the head. Fresh, freezing rivulets ran down my neck dispersing the meager, lingering warmth under my clothes.
"Enough," I quietly announced. It was an effort not to yell. My whole body began to tremble with violent waves of shivers as my concentration completely fell apart.
Sebastian blinked at the sound of my voice. The fire in his eyes cooled but didn't dissipate entirely. He sighed in frustration.
"This is hard for me too, Gracelynn," he reminded me gently. My eyes tightened into a glare. He sat, quite comfortably, with his back against the tall pine we were sheltering beneath — that he was sheltering beneath. I was soaked to the core by the surprisingly heavy summer rains. He was bone dry, miraculously having chosen the only spot in this whole, vast forest that was protected from the driving sheets of rain. "I hate to see you suffer," he murmured in reaction to the accusation in my eyes. He was obviously amused by my irritation; his eyes sparkled, a smile twitched at the corners of his mouth; a dimple was hinted at in his smooth cheek.
"Obviously, this is what you want," I retorted but there was only a weary acceptance to my bitter words. I knew why he was doing it, we both did. I spoke my next thought out loud. "But it's not working. I don't think I could possibly want to be dry anymore than I do right now but I still can't make it happen." My words were laden with defeat. I lowered my gaze in shame, hating myself for letting him down, for not being as strong as he expected. For weeks now, Sebastian had been trying to teach me to control and focus my recently rediscovered "magic". But no matter how hard I tried, the only control I could manage was fleeting and weak. The only time my wants were fulfilled by the supposed magic I possessed was when I acted instinctively, without thinking, and when my emotions were strong enough to overpower my rational control. When I was calm and focused, and actually wanted to control my ability, it just wouldn't work even though Sebastian insisted it should.
The stress, frustration and fear of the past few weeks weighed heavily on my shoulders. On top of my most recent failure, it was enough to bring sparkling tears to my eyes. I tried to swallow the miserable sob rising in my chest.
The icy, cold raindrops abruptly stopped hitting me though the sounds of the raging storm continued. I glanced up in surprise to see that the wind had somehow stirred the branches above to form an impossibly effective shield between myself and the storm. Even the wind felt more distant now as the air around me had instantly stilled and already felt warmer than it should. I felt no satisfaction or triumph, for I knew it hadn't been me. I wiped the tears from my eyes and looked back to Sebastian just in time to see his lips move in a silent curse.
He met my questioning eyes with an exasperated sigh. "I want to motivate you, Gracelynn. We both know how important it is for you to learn to control your ability but I just can't seem to push you hard enough. I hadn't meant to let you off so easily." He muttered another curse under his breath, shaking his head.
"That was easy?" I began shivering again as soon as I spoke, the initial comfort of being sheltered from the rain wearing off as I remained chilled in sodden, freezing clothes.
In one smooth, fluid gesture, Sebastian shifted his body towards mine and removed his jacket. He twirled it out and over my shoulders, wrapping me up in it tightly. He did so without hesitation, with no thought for himself. His jacket seemed to have soaked up all the warmth from his body and it instantly soothed and comforted me. I relaxed slightly, pulling it in closer to me and enjoying the sense of warmth and safety. I knew it would be fleeting, just another illusion, a lie I pretended to believe.
"Thank you," I told him quietly. He smiled back at me, all his love for me bright and clear in his eyes. It was impossible not to react to that look. I felt my heart swell and lift within me, my expression softening and a small smile forming despite my misery.
"You're welcome. I know I should push you harder but it's so difficult, Gracelynn. As soon as I see you in pain, all I want is ..." As his words trailed off, a strange look came over his face. Not one of frustration or defeat, as I had expected, but one of sudden speculation.
"I'm sorry, Sebastian. Really, it's my fault. I shouldn't-"
My words were drowned out by a sudden gust of howling, icy wind. I hugged Sebastian's warm jacket tighter against my body. The branches above us swayed and bent, submitting to the wind's invisible force. Amazingly, not a single drop touched me, even with the new angle at which the rain fell. Sebastian though, was suddenly getting soaked.
"Sebastian? What ...?"
He grinned back at me, the heavily-falling rain instantly flattening his messy, dark hair and dripping from his nose and chin. My features settled into a disapproving frown as I realized what he was up to.
"Stop it. You're going to freeze," I scolded, my irritation adding a slight edge to my typically gentle voice. I started to remove his jacket, fully intending upon giving it back to him but he just grinned at me and shook his head.
"Keep it. It won't make a difference anyway — I want to get wet. I want to be cold. I want to do whatever it takes to motivate you, even if that means freezing to death."
I clenched my teeth together tightly. My amber necklace flared against my skin, a steady warmth slowly spreading out from it and across my chest.
"Stop it," I repeated, the beginnings of my anger clear in my voice.
Sebastian's grin deepened, a dimple appeared in his cheek. "I'll drown myself in the rain if that's what it takes to help you," he replied, teasingly. We both knew he was only half-joking.
I watched as the rain soaked into his dark, gray hoodie and his black jeans. The whole time I was quite comfortable - almost warm, my hair and clothes drying quickly while I was completely and impossibly protected from the summer storm. He continued to smile at me in a charming and incredibly irritating way, despite his obvious shivers.
My amber necklace flared even hotter, the heat of it spreading throughout my torso and up my throat to where it smoldered in my eyes.
"Stop it — now." My words were firm and commanding, a forgotten strength within them. Sebastian's eyebrows lifted slightly at the tone of my voice. The rain seemed to lighten around him for a second but then it suddenly increased, down-pouring like never before. His smug grin returned.
"You can't beat me like that, Gracelynn," he teased. His smile wavered though as he began to shiver even harder. "Focus. All you have to do is want for me to be dry."
"I do!" I argued in frustration, the power behind my words fading. "I want you to be dry but it doesn't make a difference! I can't do it."
"Focus!" His dark eyes flashed as he spoke, his smile abruptly gone. I couldn't remember him ever having spoken this harshly to me before. "You're not giving it everything you've got."
The amber pendant burned against my skin, the heat erupting throughout my entire body. I squeezed my eyes shut as tightly as possible, straining with all my might, with all my will to "want" Sebastian to be dry. I began to tremble from the effort.
"Focus," Sebastian repeated. His voice sounded far away now. "Focus on what you want."
I placed a hand over my chest, pressing the teardrop shape of my amber pendant firmly against my skin. I let the world slip away, all the sounds, all the sights, all the miserable sensations. There was nothing left but me and Sebastian, and all that mattered was what I wanted ...
"I want for us to be dry." The fire from my necklace exploded up my throat and escaped my lips on those whispered words. Complete and total silence settled around us, the sounds of the storm instantly severed from the air.
"Gracelynn?" Sebastian's voice broke through the sudden quiet. The uncertainty behind his words made my eyes pop open in surprise. He was staring at me wide-eyed, his blatant shock obvious.
I tipped my head back and saw bright, blue sky peeking out between the branches of the tall pines above us. The rain had stopped and there were no clouds to be seen. The only evidence of the storm that had been raging moments before was the muddy, needle-strewn ground and the sparkling drops of rain that still dripped from the branches and clung to the ferns around us. The forest was quiet and still, at peace.
I grinned triumphantly, my heart soaring victoriously as the sun warmed me through. I had done it! My joy was short-lived.
"Gracelynn, how did you do that?" Sebastian demanded as he scrambled to his feet. He dropped onto his knees before me in the mud, his hands squeezing my upper arms firmly, his eyes earnest and seemingly afraid as he searched mine for answers. I frowned in confusion, not understanding his sudden intensity or the question. "That shouldn't have been possible," he whispered when I didn't respond. His words hung heavily in the air between us.
I noticed his clothes were dry already, as were mine. I lightly ran my fingers through his soft, black hair — not a trace of dampness to be found.
"I just ... wanted us to be dry," I tried to explain. I shifted uncomfortably beneath his steady gaze. "I didn't exactly mean for the storm to disappear but I don't understand why you're so upset. You did the same thing once." He obviously didn't know what I was referring to, his eyes squinting slightly as he tried to remember. "In the garden shed, the first day we kissed. That random storm that came out of nowhere and ended so abruptly," I reminded him.
His eyes brightened with understanding and then clouded once more.
"I didn't want that storm to happen, Gracelynn," he denied. "I did want to kiss you - I couldn't help but want it so badly that the opportunity was bound to come up but I didn't want that storm to start or to stop the way that it did. It was just one of the strange events that my presence triggers. But this ..." He looked around us wide-eyed, his face paling slightly. "To intentionally stop a naturally-occurring storm in its tracks and to make it completely disappear like that ... You said it didn't work that way. I don't understand. Why would you deceive me?" His voice faded to a whisper as he desperately searched my eyes, a sudden, confused panic overtaking his features.
I froze, my whole body instantly tensing as I realized it was happening again. My heart began beating too fast as my own panic set in. I struggled to control my emotions, forcing myself to speak slowly and carefully while staring steadily into his frighteningly unfocused eyes.
"I didn't lie to you; I would never lie to you. I'm not her, Sebastian. I'm not Caoilinn."
"What are you saying?" His eyes filled with confusion. He blinked, looking around, disoriented. "I don't understand. Where am I?" His voice was unsteady, his lilting accent more pronounced as it had once been, so long ago. His eyes darted back and forth, his confusion obvious and overwhelming. Fear gripped my soul.
"I'm Gracelynn," I reminded him softly. I gently placed my hands on each of his cheeks and turned his face back so that his eyes would meet mine. "I'm Gracelynn."
I held my breath as he stared back into my eyes, counting the seconds as they slowly crept by. Like a passing storm, his eyes gradually began to clear and refocus. The wispy clouds of the past were blown back to where they belonged — for now at least. He still looked dazed but I could tell he was himself again. My fear slowly subsided.
"Gracelynn," he whispered back to me. He leant forward to lightly kiss my lips, his relief a match for my own. Just the feel of his warm, soft lips against mine even for that brief moment was enough to set my heart pounding, to erase the rest of my fears. "I don't know what happened just then. I apologize. Sometimes I ... forget."
"I know," I quickly reassured him. I buried the sudden, heavy guilt that hit me, lowering my eyes to the forest floor in case he might catch a hint of it. Ever since I had made Sebastian remember his past, he had been having these kinds of episodes. The memories that had initially been so clear to him had quickly dissipated into a thick fog so that he now had to search to remember even the simplest of things. He often became confused, frequently calling me Caoilinn or becoming so lost in his own thoughts that I would have to repeat his name several times before he would come back to the present. Since the day he had remembered, the day we had started running, he also had frequent, painful headaches and tossed and turned each night, plagued once again by the nightmares from his past. And it was all my fault.
"It's not your fault," he argued, guessing at my thoughts.
I sighed, feeling miserable once more. "It is. I wish I'd never told you your true name. I don't want you to be ... like this. I want you to forget again," I confessed.
"And I want to remember. I never want to forget you or anything else, ever again." He pulled me into his arms and I closed my eyes. For a moment, I relaxed in the warmth of his embrace, the comfort of his body so close to mine. I let myself forget about the fact that I had just made an entire weather system cease to exist because I had "wanted to be dry" or that my boyfriend, the love of my life and my soulmate, had just mistaken me for Caoilinn, a reincarnation of my soul from thousands of years in the past. I didn't even worry about the mud that we were now both kneeling in, that was steadily soaking into my stained and worn, once-perfect designer jeans. In that moment, none of it mattered beyond the fact that we were together and safe, for now. I sighed, feeling almost content for a heartbeat.
Excerpted from Silver Dew by Suzi Davis. Copyright © 2011 Suzi Davis. Excerpted by permission of Central Avenue Marketing Ltd..
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
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