Saturday, May 31, 2008

Pentacles of Magick: The Burning by Eliza Gayle

Selene raced down the highway, pushing her motorcycle to its screaming limits. The wind bit at her around the full-face helmet she wore. Her Busa roared underneath her, vibrating against her legs and arousing her like a good man could. She needed this—the cool air, the rush of speed, and the open road. Staying in one place too long was always a bad idea.

With the open road came the freedom she craved, allowing her to leave all her troubles behind. At least, until they caught up with her again. No matter how hard she ran it would only be a matter of time before her past caught her.

Without warning a dark, powerful force slammed into her, taking her breath away. With its intensity her bike wavered, losing control. She white-knuckled the handgrips, forcing the bike to her own will to save herself from a high-speed crash. Her foot slid on the peg before her boots dug in, saving her from slipping loose. Her limbs started to heat, an instinctive reaction, even giving off a slight glow.

What the fuck?

Using every ounce of strength in her body, she fought to keep the bike up as it leaned closer to the ground. The rough asphalt loomed in her vision. The muscles in her arms and shoulders stretched and burned with the extra effort. Damn, this is going to hurt.

As her body inched closer to the highway she felt the loose rocks bouncing against her helmet. She couldn't stop it now, the bike was sliding to the ground in an irreversible slow motion as she continued to race down the highway.

A flash of light to her left side startled her as she bumped against a soft but invisible barrier, which stopped her fall. Someone—or something—was holding her up from the pavement.

"Take my hand."

The command startled her as she turned her head away from the pavement and saw a hand reaching out to her through something, a bubble of sorts, that surrounded his arm with a crackle of blue energy. Unable to stop and think about what the hell was going on around her, other than she was about to become a lump of road rash, she grasped the offered hand. More than anything, she didn't want to eat pavement tonight.

When her hand connected with his skin, the darkness she'd felt slammed into her, stronger than before, consuming her. She looked past the hand pulling her up into the most intense brown eyes she'd ever seen. No, not brown, a dark amber. Mesmerized, she held his gaze as her body heated in defense pushing back against the darkness threatening her.

As he pulled her and the bike upright again, their forward motion on their bikes helped them come came sliding to a stop. She let go of his hand and tumbled to the ground, rolling away in time to prevent her bike from falling on top of her.

The heat built in her fast, whipping up and out of control as she fought to rein it in. It was too late. She jerked her helmet off, struggling for deep, cleansing breaths. Control. Have to stop it. Flames erupted from the ground around her, circling her.

"What the hell?" The stranger ripped off his own helmet, revealing dark, wavy hair that curled around his head at the edges. His face looked like he hadn't shaved in a few days, and when he turned his killer eyes back towards her she felt the full effect of his good looks. He was devastating in that dark bad boy way she managed to fall for every damn time. But this time dark took on a whole new meaning as the flames leapt higher and he rushed forward to pull her free.

"Stop!" She motioned for him to stay away. "Give me a few minutes and I will get this shit under control." She closed her eyes, not doubting that he would listen to her. As the darkness crept through her system she fought the pain and anger that came with it. The rage transferred from him to her stormed inside her. Pooling all her energy against the darkness, she pushed it up and out, directing it away from them.

"Holy fuck! Not my bike!" She opened her eyes to see his Harley on fire across the clearing from them. She watched in horror as he ran to it, and the bike exploded before them, knocking them both on their asses.

Her skin instantly began to cool as all the emotions behind the episode were directed outward. She hadn't intended to blow up his damn bike, but at least hers had not been close and they wouldn't be stranded here—together. For some reason that one word had her whole body tingling. Crazy, that's what that is.

She scrambled off the ground with a quick glance around to ensure all the flames had extinguished, and ran over to the sexy stranger. "Are you okay?"

He lay there on the ground staring into the night sky scrubbing his hands over his face. "That was a vintage bike, you know."

"Yeah, I do know." She watched his bike burn, wondering what the hell had just happened. How had she lost control of her power? That hadn't happened since she was an angry teenager. Suspicion curled in her mind, threading through her and filling her with doubt. "Who are you? And why the hell were you so pissed when you touched me?"

"Who am I? Are you freaking kidding me? Who the hell are you? And what just happened here?" He sat up, motioning to his now charred and smoking bike.

"The name is Selene, and I'm sorry about your bike. I'll buy you a new one if I have to."

He stood, unfolding his tall muscular body, at least, from what she could tell under the leather he wore. The dark look he threw her sent a tiny shiver down her spine.

"Well, Selene, I don't think that'll be necessary, but you can, however, start with an explanation of what happened." He watched and waited as she thought about how to explain it.

"Pretty simple, really. I rode a little too fast, lost control, and you came along and saved me from becoming roadkill." She doubted he would understand that a force of dark power slammed into her and nearly incapacitated her. Unless, of course, he was the one responsible. He had to be. The source had radiated from him in an angry wave.

"That simple, huh? His voice vibrated in anger as he waited for the rest of the story. But he would be waiting till hell froze over before she told her secrets to a stranger who obviously had some pretty big secrets himself. "No explanation for the fire that surrounded you or the fact that my bike just got blown to bits?"

She bristled at his tone. Damn smartass.

"What about you? How did you stop my fall and then pull me and my bike back up, all at a high speed?" She looked him straight in the eye. "Don't get me wrong. I'm extremely grateful, but I can't even begin to understand what happened out there." Well, that wasn't exactly true. At the institute she had seen some pretty freaky shit. Nothing surprised her these days.

He stared at her for several long moments as they squared off with each other like two rivals over the same prize.

"Well, Selene, it seems we have a bit of a standoff here. How about a truce for now?" His deep throaty voice rolled over her like smooth brandy on a cold night. He held out his hand in offering. Afraid to touch him again, she strode over to her bike and picked it up.

"I'll take that truce—I don't even know your name."

"Cash."

"Well, Cash, it looks like I owe you a ride. We aren't that far from Boston, why don't we hit it together on my bike? The least I can do is get you someplace that can provide you with a new ride." Although the thought of him leaning against her on the bike frightened as well as excited her, she really had no other option here. He'd saved her and she wasn't about to leave him stranded here. And if he was someone after her, what better way to keep an eye on him? After all, this wasn't the first time she'd run from her prison and she wouldn't put it past them to get creative with her recapture or death this time.

Now if she could just get the tingling in her body to stop every time she imagined him touching her…

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