By Talia Jager
After driving up a steep incline, Daxton parked, and we got out of the car. He took my hand and led me into the forest. “Where are we going?” I asked for the millionth time. Patience wasn’t my strong suit.
“I told you Kassia, it’s a surprise.” He grinned at me, showing off the dimple on the right side of his mouth.
“Good thing you’re cute.”
He laughed and we continued walking beneath the dark canopy of trees overhead. Small animals scurried around. Coming to a flat area, he stopped walking and said, “Close your eyes.”
“You’re kidding, right? We’re in the middle of nowhere and you want me to close my eyes. What if I trip and fall over a branch?”
He stood in front of me, his brown eyes shifting to a softer shade of gold. “Do you think I’d let you fall?”
I knew he wouldn’t. I trusted him completely. Sighing, I said, “Okay, fine.” Slowly, I closed my eyes.
His warm hand slid into mine and he very carefully led me further. A few steps later, he stopped. “You can open them now.”
I sucked in a deep breath. We were high in the sky, on top of a mountain. A cliff was before me and all around the leaves were turning brilliant colors of red, orange, and yellow. “It’s like one of our dream spots,” I said softly.
Daxton nodded making his sun-kissed hair fall in his eyes. I reached up and brushed a lock back to the side. The corners of his mouth pulled up into my favorite lopsided grin.
“I stumbled upon it and knew you’d love it here.”
Peeking over the edge, I said, “It’s a long way down.”
He laughed. “We’re not going down. We’re staying right here. I have more surprises in store for you.”
He spun me around. A blanket was spread out on the ground beneath a cooler, some lights, and a couple more blankets. I smiled. He sure did know how to win a girl over. “What did I do to deserve all this?”
He put his arms around my waist and pulled me close to him. “You fell in love with me.”
Blushing, I responded, “Wasn’t hard to do.”
Slowly, he leaned toward me and whispered in my ear, “I love you.” His voice sent a tingle through my body, setting it on fire.
I moaned quietly and closed my eyes. His lips were upon mine in a second and we moved together in harmony. I didn’t ever want to let him go. Knowing I’d have to, I gently pulled away. Our eyes met and I swear I saw into his soul. I could see how much he loved me.
“You want me to take you anywhere?” he asked breathless.
“No. I don’t need a dream tonight. This is perfect.”
Daxton was a dreamer. His gift was that he was able to take himself and anybody he was touching to another world or place. We didn’t physically go there. Our minds did. It was a wonderful, beautiful gift that we loved to use. One much different than my gift of pain and death. I was a mind-blower, which meant I could cause pain to anyone in my sight. If pushed far enough I could even cause death. But tonight, I didn’t want to think about our gifts. Tonight, I wanted only to be with Daxton.
As if sensing my thoughts, he pulled me toward the blanket. “Let’s eat then. We don’t have much daylight left.”
He brought me over to the blanket and we sat down. He pulled out sandwiches and fruit, the ultimate picnic meal. “So, how did you happen to stumble upon this?”
He chewed his food and then answered, “Zane needed to talk. So, we went for a walk. Somehow, we ended up pretty far from home and found this place. It reminded me of the cliff in our dreamland. I knew I had to bring you.”
“What did Zane need to talk about?”
Daxton hesitated. “I shouldn’t.”
I gave him my ‘you-better-tell-me’ look. “You know you will.”
He sighed. “He’s just…worried. About Mira. He thinks she’s holding a lot in and he wanted to know what I thought he should do.”
“Oh.” I looked away. My best friend was Zane’s girlfriend. She had been attacked not long ago. Dealing with the ordeal was hard for her. She was so used to be strong and independent. Truth was, I was worried about her too. But, looking out into the horizon, I decided that tonight I needed to let that go and be with Daxton.
I changed the subject. “Did you hear about the ceremony coming up?”
“Yes. I hear they are honoring you.”
I felt the heat rise in my cheeks. “They are honoring all of us.” I knew that because I’d insisted. I told them I wouldn’t accept any award unless we all got one. They were giving me an award for saving the school and ultimately the world from demons in last month’s battle. That had been one situation where being a mind-blower had come in pretty handy.
It was nearing sunset. The sky was exploding into different shades of pink and orange. “Wow,” I said under my breath.
He held my hand as the sun went down below the horizon. I rested my head in his lap and he stroked my hair.
“What are you thinking about?” he asked.
“How lucky I am.”
He scoffed. “Lucky?”
“To have you. You could have had any girl you wanted and you chose me, even after the way I acted towards you the first day.”
“I believe in fate.”
“We were meant to be together. I knew it the second I laid eyes on you.”
“You did?” I remembered back to that day. I remembered holding his eye for quite a long time. I made him look away first. There was something about him. Maybe he was right. Maybe it was fate that brought us together and love that keeps us that way.
Some awful smell tickled my nose, and I hid my face in my shirt. “What is that?”
Daxton’s nose was crinkled up too. “Smells like…” He took a deep breath.
We both recognized it at the same time. The disgusting smell of sulfur. And outside of the science lab, the only place I had ever smelled it was when demons were near. “Do you think…?”
“What else could it be?”
A branch snapped in the distance, and I sat up. Something was coming. We were on our feet. I couldn’t see anything now that the sun was down. I grabbed his hand and pulled him.
“What are you doing?” he exclaimed.
Leaves and twigs crunched under our feet as we ran through the thick forest. Branches reached out like arms and yanked off strands of my auburn hair. Tears sprung to my eyes, but I knew I had to keep quiet if we were to escape.
“What are we running from?” he asked out of breath.
“I don’t know. I don’t want to know.”
“Can’t you just kill it – whatever it is?”
“Not if I can’t see it!” I yelled panicky. I heard more noises, but I couldn’t see anything. I felt blind and helpless. “C’mon! We’ve gotta get out of here.”
He ran next to me for a few more minutes. My heart was racing and my legs felt like they were going to explode. Daxton was breathing heavily besides me. Something grunted behind us, accompanied by the sound of pounding feet. It was fast, whatever it was. The tall trees were blocking the moonlight, and I couldn’t see a thing. I tripped a couple times.
“Damn.” I stood up and brushed something wet and sticky off my hands. Must be blood, but it was hard to tell in the dark. Pushing the pain out of my mind, I looked around trying to find an escape. “I don’t know what to do.”
“How? I can’t see them. I can’t focus. I’m powerless.”
“What if you try? I’ll help you.”
“How are you going to do that? It took a warlock and a shaman to train me.”
The sulfur smell made my stomach churn. The hair on my arms stood straight up. The demons were near. They were being quiet now. That scared me more than when I could hear them chasing us. Clenching my hands into fists, I spun around trying to find them.
Daxton grabbed me and pulled me close. “Let me help you.”
I let out a deep, shaky breath. “Okay.”
He turned me around and stood in back of me, his fingers interlocked with mine and our arms crossed in front of my chest like I was giving myself a hug. “Close your eyes.” I didn’t like closing them when there was danger around, but I did. “Now open your mind.”
“Open it to what?”
“Just…open your mind.”
I sighed and thought about the demons, their horrible smell and their scary eyes. I thought about how much I hated them and how I wanted to kill them all. “This isn’t working,” I muttered.
“Because you’re not letting it,” he said, his voice laced with frustration.
“I’ll try again.” This time I kept my eyes open, and I pictured the demons. I opened my mind and remembered how freaky they were. I thought about the purple swirls that came from my mind when I was focusing, and I tried to draw them out. Okay, swirls, find the demons. Wonderful. Now I was talking to the colors in my head.
The swirls responded. They seemed to erupt from my mind and quickly streamed out into the forest. When the swirls touched a demon, the whole demon lit up a purple color. “Oh!” I gasped.
“You’re seeing something?”
“I can see them now.”
The cat-hound hissed at me with its pointy ears sticking straight up. Its nose crinkled and red eyes glowed through the purple making me shudder.
“What do you see?” Daxton asked.
“Cat-hounds. Lots of them.”
“You know what to do.”
I did. I focused on them, clenching and unclenching my hands over and over again. I let my power take over, starting from the innermost part of me until I couldn’t hold it in anymore. It poured out of my mind, commanding the demons to die. They screeched and flopped to the ground. Then they melted into the earth. I stood absolutely still for a minute, listening for more. The woods were quiet, and I didn’t hear anything else.
“Do you know where we are?” I asked.
Great. I had led us too far, and we were lost. Daxton took out his phone and tried to get a signal. He shook his head. I tried mine with the same result. “What are we going to do?”
“Ever been camping?” he asked.
“If you consider trekking across the country with Vala camping, then yes.”
He snickered. “I’m sure that was fun.”
I rolled my eyes. “Tons.”
He sat down on the ground and opened his arms. I snuggled into them. The night had brought on a chill. My thin shirt wasn’t going to cut it. I shivered.
Daxton wrapped his arms around me tighter. “I’ll keep you warm.” He put his finger on my chin and lifted it up. Our noses touched, and I could feel his breath on my lips. Gently, he brushed my lips with his. The soft kiss quickly became more intense, and I found myself heating up.
Pulling away, Daxton asked, “Is that better?”
“Mhmm.” I smiled lovingly.
He stroked my hair until I fell asleep in his arms.
A few hours later, a snort woke me up. Standing in front of us was a black demon bull with narrow red eyes. The stench coming from him was overwhelming. When our eyes met, chills ran through me. Silently, I squeezed Daxton’s hand. I felt him tense behind me.
I concentrated on the demon, and he let out a terrifying sound. My power rose again and I released it at him. Before I could finish him off, something cold and bony grabbed my wrist. My head snapped to the side and I gasped when I saw a little demons all around us. “They’re everywhere,” I whispered, kicking one away from my foot. He was fast and came right back, digging his teeth into my leg. I yelled out as the sharp pain shot up my calf.
Daxton quietly reached down to where he kept his dagger. “Kill the big one. I’ll take care of the one biting you.”
I looked back at the demon bull. He was standing up straight again and getting ready to charge. I knew I only had seconds. And that was all I needed. I focused and my body started to shake as the power took over again. Die! Two seconds later he was on the ground, this time for good.
I turned to see Daxton shoving the dagger into the demon that was chewing on my skin. He flung backwards and melted into the ground. The other little demons around him started chattering. Even though I couldn’t understand their language, I knew they were angry.
Focusing on the demons, I let my power rise once again, and took them down. “Where are they coming from?” I asked.
“I don’t know.”
“We need to get out of here.”
I squinted into the darkness as a soft glowing light appeared up ahead. I couldn’t look away from the warm, calming, light blue glow. The hazy ball seemed to be pulsing. Somehow, I knew it was nothing to be afraid of.
“What is that?”
When he didn’t answer, I looked back at him. He was staring at the light, too.
It grew brighter and floated closer until it was within arms’ reach. Then the light morphed into a beautiful faery with translucent wings fluttering quickly. She had long brown hair, which reached halfway down her back and big, green eyes. “I’m Laurel. Noe sent me.”
“Yes. She said you were lost.”
Oh that Noe. I could have just kissed her. Noe was a predictor. She could see the future. She had trouble seeing things when demons were involved, but she must have been able to see us getting lost. “Thank you.”
“You’re welcome.” She smiled. “Now, let’s get you out of here.”
Nodding, I stood up. “Ow!” I yelled and fell back to the ground. I had forgotten the demons had chewed off a piece of my leg for dinner.
“What’s wrong?” Daxton asked.
Laurel turned back around and flew closer. I pulled up my pant leg a little higher exposing the nasty wound.
“Demon bite?” Laurel asked.
She put her tiny hand in her pocket and pulled out a vial. “I have some faery salve. It’ll help.” I knew it would help. I had used it many times when demons had gotten ahold of me. I could hardly feel her touch as she smeared the salve over the wounds. “There. Give it a few minutes, and you should be able to walk on it.”
She flew a circle around us. I assumed she needed to make sure the area was still demon free. My leg started tingling. I leaned on Daxton and stood up again. Very carefully, I put pressure on my leg. It felt a little weird, but it wasn’t painful. “I think I’m ready now.”
“Follow me,” Laurel said. Her bell like voice sounding urgent.
Her glow brightened again, and she flew ahead of us. We followed. By the time we got back to the car a couple of hours later, the dark sky had started to turn to a lighter shade of blue.
Laurel turned to us. “Here you are.”
“Thank you so much Laurel.” I smiled at her.
“Yes, thank you,” Daxton added.
“You’re very welcome. I’m glad I could help, child of the angels.” Our eyes met and she smiled back. Then she flew away.
Daxton laughed. “Child of the angels, huh?”
“It has a nice ring to it.”
“How’s your leg?”
“It’ll be fine. Are you okay?” I realized I hadn’t asked him if he had gotten hurt.
I lifted up his shirt and examined his back and chest before he could even answer. He laughed. “I’m okay. I guess you’re tastier than I am.”
I smiled and threw my arms around him. “I love you.” I pulled him closer and kissed him.
A shudder ran down my back. It felt like we were being watched. “Let’s go home.”
We hurried into the safety of the car, but as we pulled away, I could see a pair of red eyes in a bush. I knew they were always watching…waiting for their chance to get us.