While gathered in the yard, they are visited by Brian’s great-great grandfather, Theo. Maribelle is able to see him clearly, and can also hear him. He tells her there is a way for the fire wielders to brand the spell into their skin.
“Won’t that hurt?” Marissa asked, holding her hands over her heart.
“Possibly. But don’t you think having your heart ripped out of your chest would hurt a lot more?”
Marissa shrugged, tipping her head. “Put that way….”
“How do we do it?” Jordan asked.
“I’ll tell everyone when our friends arrive. In fact, some of them just pulled up.”
The members of the Circles arrived nearly all at once. They were missing a few of the Outer Circle as they were scattered across the country, but the other two Circles were complete. The teenagers greeted their friends from Louisiana, thrilled to find out that Louisa was, indeed, pregnant. A big fuss was made over that. Their child would be the first of the next generation. Each of the mothers gave them a special blessing before they found places to sit.
The Texas contingent arrived a few minutes later, led by Captain Curtis. His brother, Roy, and his wife, Danielle, greeted Neil and Cynthia first. They were introduced to each couple whose daughters were of age, then met the girls. The rest of the group were more or less ignored, but they understood the importance of this meeting. It was an alliance, of sorts, between the two Circle communities. The other Texas couples met the girls and their families.
When one couple approached Marissa, she smiled politely, her hand creeping over to hold Chase’s.
“We were told that you were up for consideration,” the father said sternly. “Isn’t that the case, John?”
“Oh, well…I am….” Pressing her lips together, Marissa tried not to cry.
“We’ve had some internal issues,” Brian said, drawing himself up to his full, and somewhat imposing, height, surprised to find he was taller than the rest of the men. “Marissa had agreed, but if she and Chase can work through their challenges, then her membership will be off the table.”
The other man nodded, accepting that. He didn’t seem to think it strange that a teenager answered him. In fact, they all seemed to be accepting of Brian and Jordan’s authority over their group. The adults were as deferential to them as they were to their parents.
Sweet’s sister was brought forward and she greeted the Voice of the Texas Inner Circle, Caleb Verano. He was a striking looking young man, just over average height with a swimmer’s broad shouldered, lithe build. His hair was jet black, his eyes a sparkling jasper—sharp contrast to Summer Sweet’s dazzling blonde hair and icy blue eyes.
“Verano is Spanish for Summer,” he told her as he kissed her hand. “If we married, it would be endless Summer in our home.”
She giggled, liking the attention from the handsome young man. He was slightly older, nearly eighteen, but she was nearly sixteen herself, so the age difference wasn’t great. She and the other girls were introduced to the remaining boys, but the one most taken with her was Caleb. The other boys weren’t quite sure how to treat Marissa. She still held Chase’s hand, but was introduced as one of the abvailable women. Though they were polite, they weren’t as attentive as they might have been. It didn’t help that Chase stayed by her side, glaring at any man who looked her way.
“Would you lighten up?” Sweet said to Chase, nudging him with his elbow. “Those guys think you wanna kill ’em.”
Chase directed his angry stare at his friend. “Maybe I don’t like how they’re looking at my woman.”
Sweet stepped back a few inches, hands in the air. “Dude, just sayin’. We all know about the problems you two have had. Not trying to give you shit. If you want her, you need to square things. Meanwhile, what do you think of that guy, Caleb?”
Since he was the one man who hadn’t hit on Marissa, Chase liked him. “He seems like a nice guy. I think he and Summer would do well together.”
“Yeah, he seems pretty cool. However, since she’s my sister, I have to go play my part.”
Chase chuckled, knowing that Sweet would be politely intimidating. He’d come a long way in the last couple of years, from an awkward, geeky teen, to a confident, self-possessed man. He and Ginny were due to marry in about a year, but were already living together. They’d had their own relationship issues, but not nearly as extensive as Chase and Marissa.
Sweet sidled up to Caleb, hands in his pockets as he greeted the slightly taller young man. He was smiling, but there was a wariness in his eyes that increased as he spoke to Caleb. Then, something the other man said to him made him laugh. Nodding, he shook Caleb’s hand, hugged his sister and wandered back over to Chase.
“I told him if he didn’t behave himself this weekend, I’d kill him.”
“No, shit, really?”
Sweet nodded. “Seems he didn’t take the idea of having his balls frozen too kindly, but he assured me he’ll be a perfect gentleman.”
© 2018 Dellani Oakes
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