Chapter 1: Defying the Laws
A feminine hand clad in a fingerless leather glove pulled a hard left on the steering wheel, maneuvering to avoid a car that had swerved into the way at the last second. The woman's face remained emotionless, but she felt anger rise up inside of her at the other driver’s reckless act. She raised her hand, palm facing forward and fingers spread apart as she breathed deeply.
“Oh, I could just…”
She could see the flow of heat emanating from her volcanic center, obliterating the other car and its driver in mere moments—and then, perhaps, continuing on to clear out the highway for the next few dozen miles. Her windshield began to crack. No. She abruptly stopped visualizing the gratifying havoc she could wreak if she released all the pent up power which hummed at her fingertips. The temptation was too great, and she immediately closed her fist and returned it to the steering wheel.
She grimaced, fighting to control her twitching fingers, and forcing them back down onto the Jeep’s steering wheel placidly. Regret coursed through her, and she acknowledged that she would need to replace her windshield again. A foul smell reached her nostrils, causing her forehead to crease. She glanced down at the bruised, tanned knuckles visible through little oval holes in her worn gloves. Smoke was drifting up from between her fingers as her heated palms burned into the rubbery-plastic material of the steering wheel. She felt sick at the stench.
Thorn. How could you?
The heart of her anger wasn't caused by reckless drivers. It was the lingering sting of betrayal. Startling her, a cell phone buzzed against her hip, and she fought the instant urge to crush it like a pesky insect. Was it him calling? She hadn’t answered her phone in weeks. Why would anyone still bother to call?
Thorn in my side, thorn in my brain.
The sections of the steering wheel she gripped had finally melted completely. Yet another part of the Jeep would need to be replaced. Luckily, her mechanic no longer asked questions. She removed her hands from the wheel and tried to wipe the sticky substance off her gloves. Giving up, she interlocked her fingers together before resting them in her lap. She continued steering with only her mind. She enjoyed driving with just her thoughts. She liked the idea that her body was flying through the air, and direction was controlled by her mere intent. It reminded her of what made her special: this inherited telekinetic ability. The ability she had promised her family never to use. The phone rang again.
The feminine posture of having her hands clasped demurely in her lap brought a sardonic smile to her face. The only thing which had ever been feminine about Pax was her long black hair. She had taken great pride in being able to sit on the lustrous mass, and had enjoyed the competitive factor of being able to say that hers was longer than that of any woman she knew, and almost all women she met. (In retrospect, tying her ego to the length of a physical extension of her body had not been completely feminine.) Even then, it had always hung in tangled, messy waves which she had hardly ever brushed.
It was only a month ago that she had shorn it all off. She still felt awkward when she turned to check her blind-spot and did not have a pound of tresses rolling over her shoulders comfortingly. She still felt like something was missing when the window of her Jeep was open, and the harsh wind did not whip unruly strands into her eyes. She felt naked without these little luxuries. Pax had not realized that her hair had been her security blanket—and once she did realize this, she had quickly introduced it to a pair of garden shears.
Pax wanted to stop depending on external substances for strength. She was sure that she could find a greater confidence inside her that had nothing to do with her hair, her car, or her lover.
She had depended far too much on him.
Her phone was still pulsating against her hip annoyingly. She did not want to look at the name on the caller ID, but her mind was already sliding the phone from its holster and lifting it to hover at her eye level. She glanced away from the road for a moment to warily read the letters. Amara Kalgren. It was only half of the name that she most feared seeing. It was the sister of the man who betrayed her.
She had no wish whatsoever to speak to the blond woman. It was a pity really, since she loved and respected Amara. The two had been very close when they were younger, and in recent years they had occasionally double-dated since Amara was also seeing a relative of hers. Pax felt a bittersweet smile tug her lips as she thought of her silly uncle Asher. Their families had grown up together, and the Kalgren kids had always been loyal friends. When families shared secrets such as theirs, they tended to stay together. Pax had not spoken to her favorite couple in far too long, because her uncle was exceedingly close to her ex-boyfriend. She could endure no reminders of what she had lost. Any contact with Amara or Asher would be chock-full of painful reminders and would inevitably lead to contact with exactly what she was trying to avoid.
Releasing her focus on the phone, she allowed it to fall against her thigh. She looked ahead at the highway, and cursed when she saw the sea of red brake-lights appearing. She willed the dial that controlled the volume of her speakers to turn up the music to the maximum. She closed her eyes and let the sound bombard her ears as she sat still in traffic. Pax did not really have anywhere to go, but driving endlessly along the highway made her feel like she was going somewhere. It made her feel like she was getting away, although she was quickly finding that the continent was not large enough to escape the older Kalgren sibling. She had been sleeping in her car and on uncomfortable motel beds as she tried to escape her disgrace, but her rest was littered with fitful nightmares while her waking hours were tormented with frequent involuntary memories.
A vibration against her thigh caused her to peer down. She scowled at her phone. Amara hardly ever called at all; this was an old signal from their youth. Double-calling. Twice in a minute was a true sign of emergency. Pax jabbed her canines into her bottom lip, chewing as she considered taking the call. There might be a crisis. Something could have happened to her uncle Asher. She turned off the music telekinetically. Unlocking her hands and sliding her pinky finger tentatively across her thigh, Pax used the tip of her nail to press the green button.
“Yes?” she asked curtly. For a moment she was seized by an intense panic that it might be Thornton calling from his sister’s phone. She held her breath, reassuring herself that he would never stoop that low. But then, there was precious little she knew about the depths to which he would stoop.
A small voice on the other end whispered a usually-upsetting diminutive of her name. “Paxie…”
Pax slammed her skull back into the headrest and cursed. Although she had not been especially close to Amara in the past decade, she could recognize the helplessness and despair in her friend’s soft plea. They had been infants together, followed by childhood playmates. She knew Amara’s every emotion as though it were her own, and although she had no inkling of what happened, she instinctively knew that this must be the worst kind of disaster. Her heart leapt into her throat as she imagined the worst case scenario—had her foolish Uncle Asher somehow gotten himself killed?
“I’m on my way,” Pax said into the phone before hanging up. She glanced at her GPS to get a sense of her location, and cursed again. Her aimless, wandering circles had taken her three states away from Amara’s beachfront home. Three states and at least fifteen hours. An idea struck her: the Jeep was a mess anyway, so perhaps she could abandon it and travel with her mind.
Pulling over into a ditch, Pax took several deep breaths to concentrate. She had only successfully done this a handful of times in her life—usually in emergencies when it was most necessary. This was an emergency, and surely she would be able to focus enough to move her body across the distance instantaneously. It was only one small body—she could lift much larger objects without any effort. She reached into her passenger seat and slipped her wrist under her purse before beginning.
Pax placed the palm of her right hand firmly against her solar plexus. She took a deep breath, visualizing her destination. She placed her left hand beside her right hand, forming the shape of a heart with her fingers. Her head begin to spin as her body begun dematerializing, starting at her core. For a moment, she was immaterial, and floating in nothingness.
A tickle of fear caused her to gasp, and she immediately found herself falling butt-first onto the hood of her Jeep.
“Shit! I suck at this,” she muttered, looking around to see if anyone had noticed her blunder. Grumbling, she rolled off the hood of her Jeep, wiping the dirt off her pants. Many insects had been slain with her speed in the past few days, and now their corpses were decorating her jeans. Pax swore repeatedly as she picked up her purse from the mud near the wheel of her car. She considered traveling by air, but there were too many people nearby. She climbed back into her Jeep, and slammed the door, upset with herself for her own inadequacy at using the technique which was supposed to be her birthright.
It was often her downfall that she tried to obtain everything she desired instantaneously.
Digging her key into the ignition, she jammed her foot on the gas pedal and began driving on the rough, potholed shoulder. She flew by the stopped cars on the highway, disregarding the dozen rules she was probably breaking. If she could not be successful in bending the laws of nature, then at the very least, she could satisfy herself in defying the laws of the road.
* * *
“Mara! Where are you? Is everything okay? Amara!”
Pax felt sick. It had taken ten hours, but she had driven directly to Amara’s waterfront home, stopping only once for gas. Seeing her friend’s Jaguar in the driveway, she had let herself in. Now, as she moved from room to room on the hunt for the blonde woman, she was growing alarmed. She considered calling, but it was faster just to lift the palm of her hand.
“Pilot me to thine light,” Pax chanted softly. The incantation was not necessary, but it helped her to focus. Soon enough, she found herself being subliminally led to her friend’s bedroom. Amara was still nowhere to be seen, so she continued to follow the guiding energy to the ensuite bathroom.
Upon touching the doorknob, Pax recoiled as the strong scent of her uncle overwhelmed her senses before the door was even fully open. Terror flooded her breast as she imagined Asher’s corpse sprawled out on the floor. Her gloved hand flew to cover her mouth before she had even seen a body. A déjà vu swept over her as she recalled finding her dead mother when she was just a teenager. The scent was familiar—it was not only Asher, but his blood.
Pax felt her heart skip a beat as it ached with love for her uncle. She expected to see him lying there dead, but she still moved into the room with determination. Asher was nowhere to be seen, but a small blonde woman was huddled in a corner of the shower stall. Amara was completely naked. Pax swallowed back her fear before she took in the surroundings. Amara’s fashionable clothes were strewn all over the floor, and there was dark blood which had dried as it had been dripping down the glass doors of the shower stall.
“Amara, are you hurt?” Pax immediately moved to comfort her friend, crawling into the shower stall and crouching beside her. Pax spotted Amara’s cell phone sitting in a pool of water nearby. It was amazing that the thing hadn’t short-circuited, but then again, it was Kalgren technology.
“Mara?” Pax asked in a soft voice, reaching out to brush her friend’s hair off her face. She was surprised to find that Amara’s hair was perfectly dry. Her skin was perfectly dry. There was hardly any water in the shower stall, except for a few small pools gathered at the bottom. It must have been hours since the shower was used.
“How long have you been like this? Amara! Talk to me!” said Pax firmly. Hearing no response she desperately sent her message directly into her friend’s mind. Has something happened to Ash? Please, please, Mara. Please tell me that my uncle is fine. I hardly have any family left. Is he…
Amara snapped out of her little daze and looked up at her friend. “Ash?” she asked dumbly. “He’s fine.”
“Thank Sakra,” Pax said, referring to the god of gods. She allowed herself to fall from her raised position on her ankles to a seated position on her bottom, ignoring the pools of water beneath her. She released a gush of air. “Is this your blood?”
The blonde woman stared forward for a moment silently.
Pax began to frown as her worry began to be replaced with anger. “Did Ash hurt you? Because if he…”
“No,” Amara responded softly. “When he touches me, he is always gentle. So tender. He wouldn’t hurt a fly.”
Pax rolled her eyes at this description. Were they talking about the same man? Her annoyingly powerful uncle who had wrestled her toys away with his mind before she could even walk? “Maybe he wouldn’t,” Pax agreed, “but he certainly could. Did he?”
“Sure. He didn’t hurt you. That’s why you’ve been sitting naked in the corner of a blood-soaked shower stall for god-knows how many hours!”
Amara looked at her friend for the first time. “Oh, Paxie. Where’s all your beautiful hair?”
Pax was already reaching up to search for it before she remembered. She scowled. “Don’t call me that, Amara. We’re not five anymore. And don’t change the subject. What the hell happened?”
Amara’s eyes lowered again. “I did something bad.”
Glancing up at the bloody shower walls in confusion, Pax frowned. “What did you do?” She knew that Amara was not strong enough to harm her uncle, physically or psychically. She reached out to grasp the girl’s shoulder and give it a firm shake. “Mara. Hey, hey! What did you do?”
“I don’t know. He left me.”
“He what?” Pax repeated in shock. Asher and Amara were the most solid couple she knew. Every birthday and holiday, she and Thornton would always… she could not finish the thought. Her anger at her own lover was beginning to seep into thoughts of her uncle by extension.
Amara turned to Pax with wounded innocence in her clear blue eyes. “He said he just wanted to… have me one last time. Then he walked away.”
Pax felt comprehension dawn on her as she took in the state of the bathroom. “So… he fucked you and then he left you?”
The blonde woman was as still as death. “Do I deserve this? I don’t understand.”
Rage flushed Pax’s body with warmth as the anger blossomed inside her again. She clenched her fists. Even after all this, Amara refused to say a negative thing about Asher. She refused to condemn him for hurting her, and she chose to believe that it was somehow her fault. While Pax loved her uncle to pieces, she could not make sense of his actions. Asher often followed the wrong company (Thornton) and this has often influenced him negatively and gotten him into all kinds of trouble.
“You didn’t do anything wrong,” Pax reassured her friend. She reached out to rub her gloved hand over Amara’s naked back. “I’ll stay with you, okay? We’ll get through this together.”
Amara felt the familiar waves of heat radiating from Pax’s hand and lifting her hair. She felt a small smile touch her lips. She hadn’t realized that she had been so cold. The warmth of the dark haired woman’s angry energy surrounded Amara's skin like a comforting blanket. As her lips curled they cracked, revealing how dry they had become from the salty tears that had been running over them for so many hours.
“Thank you, Pax,” said Amara softly.
“What for?” she asked.
“For being here. I needed you.”
Pax felt guilt wash over her when she remembered that she had been ignoring Amara's phone calls. It’s partly my fault she’s like this. If I had been a better friend… Gah! I should have flown here instead of driving when my teleportation didn’t work. As she stared at the small blonde woman who was deathly pale, Pax began to form a vow in her mind. Uncle or not, she would not allow Asher to hurt her friend like this and get away scot-free. She would find a way to make sure that he was the one sitting on the floor and broken. She did not realize that she was fusing her own pain with Amara’s and transferring it to a different man. Asher will regret the day he did this to her. She’s the last person who deserved this. Amara is so sweet and loving—not bitter and vengeful like me. She was always so true and devoted. I’ll make Asher pay. I’ll hurt him so deeply, and so terribly that it will ruin his already ruined life. Damn you, Thorn! I mean Ash...
Pax saw a single tear run down Amara’s face and it snapped her out of her guilt and anger. She put her arms around the blonde woman and held her close, ignoring that she was naked. Amara leaned against Pax’s shoulder and let the tears fall freely.
This Giveaway is in conjunction with
Bewitching Blog Tours