Chase and Brian fight with their elements, but it’s an equal match. Brian refuses to use fire or earth, because he’s afraid he’ll injure his friend. He tells Chase he’ll take Marissa himself, if Chase doesn’t man up. The upshot of the confrontation is that both Chase and Marissa will be unbound from the group.
“You can’t do that!” Harold Pennybaker bellowed, shaking his finger at Brian.
“I just did it. You want to fight me, too, Old Man? I’ll go easy on you, like I did with Chase.”
“Easy? You think you need to pull your punches with me?”
“Forget it,” Brian said, turning away from the older man. “You’re not worth it, neither of you.”
“You arrogant little prick!” Harold said, advancing as he reached for Brian’s back.
His feet were trapped in clay and he couldn’t move. The clay moved up his legs, rapidly approaching his belly, then his throat, stopping a quarter inch from his lower lip. Poised to fill his mouth, the clay stopped, quivering. Brian turned slowly, his blue eyes burning with cold flame.
“This is your fault, you stupid fuck. If you hadn’t raised your daughter to be an addled prude, we wouldn’t have this problem now. You’re stupid and ignorant and mean. If you were in my Circle, I’d throw you out, too. In deference to Neil, I’ll leave you with this word of warning—don’t cross me. Don’t argue with me and never, ever sneak up on me. You’ll lose, Old Man. You all will.” With a casual wave of his hand, he released Marissa’s father.
Whirling away, he left. Jordan followed him. She knew where he was going, but she also knew she needed to calm him down. She’d agreed to the ploy with Marissa, because she had hoped it would work. It didn’t seem to have done so. Brian’s emotions buffeted her, augmented by her own feelings of sorrow and loss. She found him on the swamp road where he’d first met Zofia two years ago while heading home from Chase’s house. He knelt in the middle of the deserted road, playing with the packed dirt.
“I’m sorry it didn’t work.”
“Me too. I don’t know what to do now. I’ve tried everything I can think of.”
“You haven’t given her to someone else.”
“No. I’m hoping it won’t get that far, but this deal with Texas might be just what we need.”
“I hope so. I’d hate to lose them. She’s a priss, but she’s the closest thing I have to a best friend—female friend, I should say.” She stood near him, rubbing his shoulders. “He does love her, and she loves him.”
“Yeah, but until they can fully commit, that’s pointless.”
“Could you really win against Mr. Pennybaker?”
“Yes. Any of them, even Neil. If he were fully trained, he’d give me a run.” He shrugged. “But I could beat that old man down with my pinky.” He picked up dirt in a little whirlwind, filling in a couple pot holes with a whisk of his fingers. “It’s scary sometimes, knowing what I could do if I wanted to go Dark.”
“What do you mean, Go Dark? Like the Dark Side of the Force?”
Brian glanced up at her, face pale and unconcerned. “Exactly. I have dreams about it sometimes, where I go Dark and take you with me. I won’t do it. I would never turn something as pure as you into something perverse and evil. But it’s the Dark’s way of offering me a deal. They want us badly, just like they want Roy Curtis and his wife. They’re one of the childless couples. The Dark offers them the gift of many children if they go over.”
“Do you think they will?”
“Not Roy. But his wife is miserable, desperate. My folks tried for years to have a second child. They had a tough time, just having me. Over the years, our numbers have dwindled. There needs to be marrying and mating outside our Circles. That used to be the way, they would take mates from other Circles, but after a time, that changed. We need to start doing that again.”
“What if one of the Texas boys wants me?”
“The promised girls aren’t on the list. It would be a not-issue.”
“But if one of them made a play for me?”
Brian shook his head. “I’d hate to kill him.”
“You’d kill someone—over me?”
His expression was bland, unmoving. “In a heartbeat. You’re my soul, Jordan. I could never live without my soul.”
“What if I died—got killed, or died of natural causes. If we had children, what then?”
“I’d take care of our children. They’d be a part of you. But there would be an emptiness inside that would never heal.”
“What if I told you to find someone else, to stay in the Circle and take a new mate. Would you do it?”
“I don’t know if I could. The Circle brought us together, but even if it hadn’t, you’re my soul mate, Jordan. I don’t know how I know that, but I believe it with all my heart. Chase doesn’t believe. He wants to fight it, but he loves Marissa as much I love you. Until he realizes she’s his other half, he’s not going to understand.”
© 2018 Dellani Oakes
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