Simon Foster is a Fire Elemental. He offers Elms insight only a Fire can give. But will he pass the scrutiny of Elm's secretive community, which is steeped in superannuated superstitions? Or will he take a chance on love with Elms?
The sound of animals scurrying in the woods reached Elms' ears as the engine roared to life and the truck peeled out of the lot, spraying a shower of gravel in its wake.
"Craptastic." She brushed bits of gravel off her body and glared at the taillights. It was easy to understand Tiffy's frustration, but that didn't make it an easier pill to swallow—all things considered. Elms watched the taillights fade into the darkness and weighed her options. In the morning, she'd head to class and turn in the paper, then she'd sneak out early so she could get to Sophie's with time to look through her library for anything that might shed some light on Tiffy's situation. No pun intended.
Before Elms could shift, a deep voice drifted from the shadows, chilling her to the bone.
"That was one helluva show.”"Who's there?" she called, trying to pinpoint the direction the voice had come from. The silence of the night was her only answer. "Show yourself this minute!" She puffed out her chest and hoped her small frame appeared bigger and, if all went according to plan, more intimidating.
"Or what? Would you dare come into the deep, dark woods to find me?"
His haunting voice rolled over her skin leaving gooseflesh in its wake. Laughter echoed off the trees and surrounded her, building into an entity of its own. Her heart kicked into high gear as the instinct to flee took over. But it was unbridled fear that kept her feet rooted to the semi-frozen ground and called to her Wind nature. Fear always trumped other emotions in the hierarchy of spurring her survival skills--limited though they were.
The night wind shifted and rustled the bare trees like fingers sifting through sand in search of a shell. It combed through the darkness inch-by-inch at her command until the man laughed again. The wind stilled and silence descended heavy and sure.
"I give up." Laughter emerged from the woods once more. "How is it that a red-head with your temper is a Wind? Seems more fitting for a Fire."
His amused tone didn't escape her notice.
On the far side of the lot, a dark figure emerged from the tree line and stopped. Transfixed, she waited and watched, but he didn't move any closer.
"Show yourself." Her words, a prayer-like whisper, slipped from her lips as she squinted into the space where the dim bulbs of the parking lot lighting didn't reach. Even squinting she couldn't make out more than the basic shape of a man.He stood maybe six feet, maybe slightly smaller. His build wasn't lean, but not bulky either. Her vague impression of him from this far away was that he was average. And even though he taunted her with his words, she couldn't divine an ounce of malice behind them. On second inspection, she found the opposite.
If he'd move closer, she was sure she could get a better read on his intentions. That was one of the perks of her particular gift. The gooseflesh resurfaced when a cold gust of air rushed past her, and a shiver stole her concentration.
"Are you sure you want me to show myself? Isn't the mystery more fun?"
His teasing tone wrapped around her like a velvet cloak, warmed her, and stroked every nerve ending to full alert. Her awareness of the stranger toyed with her mind. Her heart. Her traitorous body. Something about him pulled her in, despite the adrenaline spike at baring all to a complete stranger in the middle of the night.
Her teeth chattered while she considered her answer. “I’m not a fan of mysteries. I prefer knowing what I'm up against from the start, when given the chance.”
"Are you cold or scared?"
"Cold." It was none of his darn business that she was a little scared. He had already pegged her for a Wind, which meant he at least knew about the community, but that didn't calm her nerves. Instead, it set them further on edge when the stranger chuckled.
"I'll pretend to believe you, but only if you promise to do the same when I tell you why I'm here. I'm not in the mood to be tossed out on one of your gusts."
She considered his words. "I'd agree to those terms, but I find it hard to trust someone afraid to show me his face." She held her breath and waited. The seconds ticked by and another shiver shook her.
"You drive a hard bargain."
The shadow man took slow steps out of the woods and into the lot. He passed under one of the light posts and her breath caught in her throat. He was perfection. Dark hair, broad shoulders, and facial scruff that looked intentionally unkempt on his strong jaw. She ached to see more, especially his eyes. Those would tell her everything she needed to know.
"I think you misunderstood the terms of our agreement," she called, "because I still can't see your face."
He moved even closer to where she was rooted to the ground. He lifted his hand and a flame rose straight from his palm, sending the shadows running."Better now? Or should I light the other one too?”
Fun, fun fun. Love when opposites heat up the pages! Can't wait if things will fizzle (I doubt it!) or if conflagration ensues. Should be fun.
About the author:
Jeni Burns is a Jersey girl living in a southern world. While she's firmly planted in the South with her husband, two kids, and one massive poodle, her heart still lives in the Northwestern part of New Jersey where her characters reside. Since writing about home is cheaper than airfare, she spends much of her time living vicariously in NJ's snowy winters and humidity-free summers.
Jeni has been telling stories since she first learned to string two words together. Thanks to her mom and her middle school English teacher both telling her she should be a writer, she now happily spends her days writing all the stories that continuously float around in her head while drinking fabulous decaf coffees.