Authors: Lani Woodland
Did it bother you to come here?”
Brent rubbed one of his shoes against the back of his leg. “Yeah. Didn’t seem to matter though, did it?”
I really had no idea how to respond to that, so I didn’t say anything. Instead, I watched Brent crouch down to read the last of Cherie’s notes about me. Beside my picture was a big red question mark. Next to it another scrap of paper listed everything I had told her in detail. He swore, pointing to an arrow that led from my picture to a small snapshot of Brent we hadn’t noticed before.
She suspects him.” My knees gave out on me and I plopped onto Cherie’s bed. “She won’t let it go, either.”
The curtains at the window fluttered in a chilly breeze and the room seemed darker. Brent tugged me to my feet, across the hallway, down the stairs, and outside, while my mind swirled with the danger Cherie was in. I had to warn her— I wasn’t sure how, but I had to. My arm ached where Brent’s fingers dug into me as he cursed. The air around us had grown frosty, pressing in on us.
Brent stopped and spun me so I was looking at him. “Yara, run. Get as far from here as you can,” he pleaded, his fingers loosening their grip on my arms.
What are we waiting for? Let’s go,” I said reaching for his hand, but he pulled it back.
I’m not coming.”
What? Why? Come with me,” I begged, not understanding.
I can’t. We can’t both get away from it and I’m not about to let him get you.” I looked at him, dumbfounded. “You go hide, I’ll hold it back. Go,” he commanded, trying to push me back with his wind, but I planted my feet in rebellion.
Not without you.” I tried to breathe deeply but the air lodged in my throat refusing to go further. “It’s me he wants.” Tears trudged down my cheeks. Another gust of wind pushed against me, away from him, soft but insistent. For an instant the wind stopped pushing, instead circling me in a gentle hug, like Brent was holding me in his arms. When I closed my eyes, it felt like he was physically next to me and I was in his warm embrace.
We can get away together,” I stammered. The wind forming the shape of his fingers wiped away my tears then gently stroked my cheek. Something I didn’t know existed stirred within me. Despite the upcoming fight, he was much more content than I had ever seen him before.
Go,” he said softly and I was again being pushed back against my will. My arms reached out toward him and I screamed his name as I strained to touch him. Frantically I tried to cling to trees, to branches as they whipped past me.
Tears blinded me and I sobbed, “Please, let me stay.” My feet dragged on the ground through leaves and gravel despite my hysterical kicking. My limbs continued searching for anything to get leverage, to help fight against the wind Brent was commanding, until he was no longer in view.
My determined fight was interrupted by Brent’s urgent voice in my mind,
Please . . . stop resisting, please. I don’t think I can
fight you both. I need to be able to concentrate.
With that I stopped and dropped helplessly to the ground, bawling, rocking back and forth. As it drew close to him, I could feel his terror grow. That fear made my tears stop and in some twisted way gave me courage. I couldn’t hide like a coward; he might need me. Brent thought he knew me better than anyone else. If he truly did, then he knew he couldn’t keep me away. I would help, not complicate things. I hoped.
I crept from tree to tree until I was able to see Brent and the huge blanket of vapor approaching him. He seemed so small against such an enormous foe that my heart careened in my chest. Thomas had left Brent’s body behind for the fight; there was nothing human in the villain moving toward Brent, only the mist.
I watched as Brent, standing firm, raised his hands to the heavens as if summoning something. And it came. The cloudless blue sky grew dim; dark rain clouds moved in, quickly blocking out the sun altogether. The ominous clouds were drawn to him, thunder rolled, a crash of lighting brightened the suddenly dark sky. Rain poured down, drenching the world around us. Birds flew from their nests and far-away dogs howled in fear. Brent’s hands were spread wide and I noticed that as he brought them close together a small ball of the elements he had summoned swirled there. As forms began to take shape in the gloom, he dropped his hand pointing it toward the shadows. The ball he had created attacked the mist, scattering the forms back to vapor. Before they could re-form, his hands were raised again. I had thought him a powerful warrior and he was. I would gladly follow him into battle.
I clung to the tree as the wind whipped my hair and dress in its fierceness. The separated mist was gathering to go against Brent one more time but a small part of it broke off, gliding toward me.
Trying to control the wind as I had the volleyball, I tried to push back the slithering darkness, but my frantic attempts had no affect.
Thomas’s voice seeped out from the mist. “So glad you’ve come to play, Yara. It’s time.”
Brent cursed loudly as his head snapped toward me. He pointed a clenched fist in my direction, cursing again, and a strong gust pushed me back with such force that I lost my grip on the tree and was hurled backward, landing heavily on my right side. The small vein of haze that had been moving toward me scattered and slid back to join the whole. I turned my attention back to Brent and gasped.
The mist had encircled him entirely. He held both hands out wide as he slowly looped around, sizing up the strength of his foe. He was strong enough to keep his enemy from advancing any closer, but couldn’t repel it entirely. He looked toward the skies and a small cyclone formed directly above him. The twister descended and engulfed him, safely keeping him in its eye as it twisted and whipped away the darkness.
, Brent commanded me in his thoughts.
You need to get away. I’m not sure I can hold this off any more
. The cyclone lifted just high enough for him to duck underneath and run toward me. Things seemed to be moving in slow motion and I watched as the remaining mist swirled around Brent’s legs and pulled him to the ground with a thud. His fingers grabbed futilely into the dirt as he was being dragged away from me.
I opened my mouth to scream but no sound came.
Go!” He yelled.
Suddenly I felt faint, unable to move. The mist grew denser and again several distinct beings became evident. I could feel it growing stronger as it rejoiced at capturing Brent. I stood, unsure what to do. I couldn’t run. I couldn’t leave Brent. He needed me. I was scared, I was angry, and it was the mist’s fault. I wanted to throw all of my erupting emotions out toward the enemy in all-out assault. My eyes locked on my foe, concentrating, channeling my fury into my fingertips. A movement out of the corner of my eye caught my attention. Brent was shaking his head adamantly.
In an instant, his lessons came back to me. I needed to be smarter than that— I couldn’t be ruled by anger or fear. I had to keep control or risk being left completely powerless— or, even worse, hurt Brent. Not sure what else to do I mimicked what I had seen Brent do; I lifted my hands up toward the sky.
I felt a surge of power around me, awaiting my command. My eyes focused on the fog holding Brent. I dropped my hand and I pointed at it with all my might, all my heart, all my determination. The power I had summoned obeyed, scattering the dark substance. To my astonishment, the wind felt like an extension of my hand. It bent to my will as if attached. I reached out with my elemental hands and grabbed Brent’s.
I pulled with all my strength, but he didn’t budge. Our eyes met and I felt his strength combine with mine. His power surged through me, burning my insides with its intensity. I felt invincible as I leaned back to give myself more leverage, wrenching him free. The mist’s tendrils reached for his ankles, trying to reclaim its grip. The air rang with its anguished cries as Brent stumbled into my arms. A sense of completion filled me, like some long forgotten half of me had suddenly returned. I set that thought aside, promising myself to ponder it at a better time. Like when I wasn’t fighting for my soul.
We were both panting heavily as we wheeled together toward our enemy. I faltered for a second when I saw a face that had emerged from the mist. It was Thomas Weld. He looked just like his picture in Cherie’s room; he hadn’t aged in the sixty years since he was thought to have died.
Focus,” Brent hissed as he grabbed my hand, and together we raised them to gather whatever force we could. We sent a wave of hail, rain, and wind so strong it knocked the leaves off all the trees in our area and ripped at branches that creaked in protest. The mist, instead of spreading, huddled together in a tight ball, the independent shadows joining the whole. With one last glare in my direction, Thomas drew the mass into himself.
I had been so surprised to see Thomas that I hadn’t realized Brent was still working. With a final push of air, Thomas was knocked back a step before retreating out of sight. The storm quickly cleared and the sun shone as brightly as it had before the battle. Brent lowered our hands and collapsed on the ground, cradling one of his ankles. We had won the skirmish, but the war was still not over.
Is it gone?” I asked hopefully, wiping away the sweat on my face.
For now,” he said, his chest rattling with exhaustion. “It’ll be back.”
A knot formed in my stomach. “How do we get rid of it for good?” He shook his head. “How did it know to find us in Cherie’s room?”
I’m pretty sure it was looking for Cherie and found us by mistake,” Brent said, resting his hands across his body.
How come he wasn’t in your body this time?” I asked, arranging the length of my dress around me.
Brent let out a tired sigh. “He was done toying with us and was moving in for the kill. I know I’m stronger when I’m without my body. I’m guessing it’s the same for him.”
Brent held up a hand to stop my flow of questions. “Can we do this later, after I’ve had a chance to rest?”
I bit my tongue, but my mind began theorizing and trying to make sense of what had happened.
That includes thinking too loud,” Brent said wearily, his eyelids fluttering closed.
Sorry,” I apologized sheepishly. He had risked everything to save me and I moved closer to him, taking one of his hands in mine. A lump of gratitude formed in my throat, so strong it was almost painful. Without thinking I threw my arms around his neck and went to kiss him on the cheek.
Or, at least, I meant to— but at the same moment Brent turned to me and started to say, “I was thinking—”
I’ll never know what he was thinking because his lips met mine. My eyes popped open in surprise. His eyes were wide in astonishment as well. For a long second, we sat there staring into each others eyes, our lips touching, totally frozen. My mind was a blank except for wondering if I could will the mist back to take me now and save me from this uncomfortable situation.
Finally, my wits returned to me and I pulled back hastily, my cheeks flushing with color. My fingers rushed to cover my offending lips. Brent tried to sit up but was still too weak and finally settled on scooting further away from me. Wanting more distance, I retreated back a few feet. I looked up at the sky, at the ground covered with fallen leaves, at the bare branches of the trees, anywhere but at Brent. Silence can be deafening.
Finally Brent cleared his throat. “Can’t say I’m that surprised that you succumbed to my charms.”
I didn’t mean to kiss you,” I said, embarrassed beyond belief.
Really? So your lips just ended up close enough to touch mine by mere coincidence?” While his words almost seemed to be teasing, his tone wasn’t.
I dared to glance at him and saw that he too was avoiding looking at me. He was studying the palm of his hand like it was the most fascinating thing in the world.
I went to kiss
as a gesture of thanks but then you turned to talk to me and . . .” it was far too humiliating to finish the sentence so I didn’t. The fact that I had to explain my actions bothered me. “Don’t you already know this? Can’t you tell through means other than having to speak?”
He seemed as flustered as I did, his cheeks tinged pink. “I could, but you’re all muddled right now. And I really do try to respect your privacy.” Finally Brent seemed to have composed himself and he laughed. “I told you I’m irresistible. You’ve got it bad for me.”
Aren’t you glad I came back?” I asked, deciding to ignore his loaded comment and change the subject.
He tilted his face toward me and frowned. “Having you close was a distraction, as I thought it might be,” he said. “But in the end, I think it was good you were there.”
Warmth rippled through me. “Were you afraid?”
Brent closed his eyes. “Yes,” he answered honestly. “At first I thought I had things under control, but then you changed that confidence. I had a moment where I knew I was going to fail. When it got a hold of me, I was sure it was over. It’s a miracle we weren’t taken.”