I’m angry, pissed at the world right now, and pretty much everything in it. I’m so tired of all this shit. I hate running—hate always looking over my shoulder. Right now, I should be exhausted from spending the night on the beach with a beautiful girl, not from driving all night long. This isn’t living. It’s existing . . . it’s being prey to someone else’s whim. I’m not sure how much more I can take.
Laughter filled the air and I couldn’t stop grinning as I chased Amber down the moonlit beach, her short white sundress rippling behind her, giving the appearance of a mystical apparition floating through the dark.
I reached out, snaking my arm around her waist, and the two of us tumbled down into the sand, wrapping ourselves around each other as our lips connected, pressing frantically together. Breaths mingled in short, fast puffs as hands quickly explored one another’s bodies.
“Vance.” Amber’s voice cut through my senses. “What about the others?”
Lifting my head, I glanced to where the large bonfire burned brightly, illuminating the cliff face and the figures of the teens gathered around it.
“Everyone’s drinking or making out. They probably haven’t even noticed we’re gone,” I replied, finding her lips once more. We were close enough to the water that the edge of the waves repeatedly washed over my bare feet, leaving them feeling cold. But the rest of me was raging hot.
I knew Amber felt the same way. She stared at me in the dim moonlight, her pale strawberry blonde hair spread across the sand beneath her. I couldn’t see the tiny freckles that lightly covered her nose, but I knew where they all were. I’d kissed every single one. And even in the dim light, I was aware that her skin was flushed right now and she was as turned on as I was.
“Tonight’s our two month anniversary,” she said, tracing my lips with her fingertips. “Did you remember?”
I nodded. Time was something I always paid attention to—especially when it came to relationships. Hiding out and being on the run hadn’t afforded me many opportunities to cultivate lasting connections with other people. It was something I longed for and craved. Yes, I’d counted every minute with Amber, never knowing when it would abruptly come to an end.
Normally I was wiser than this, choosing to stay away from making friends or having girlfriends. It hurt too badly when I had to leave them behind. But Amber managed to wheedle her way into my life, constantly inviting me to things and asking me to hang out with her. Giving in became easier than trying to resist; and now here we were, two months later, and I knew everything was about to change between us tonight.
My lips found hers again, and I thought of all the times we’d made out heavily before calling a halt to things. I didn’t want to do that this time. I wanted to be with her.
It felt like we kissed and stroked each other for hours, until I was so on fire I could barely stand it. Slipping the straps of her dress off her shoulders, I pressed my lips to the bare skin there, trailing lower as I revealed more and more. She didn’t try to stop me, and I knew she wanted this too.
Her hands traveled over my bare chest down to the edge of my swim trunks, and I detected the tremor in them as she paused there.
My blood roared in my ears. “Don’t be afraid,” I whispered, encouraging her to continue along her path of exploration. This girl might not be a witch, but the things she made me feel seemed pretty magical. Her hands slid lower and my breath caught for a moment. This was really going to happen—right here, right now.
Suddenly, my phone vibrated in my pocket and I jerked back a bit, before groaning and leaning my head against hers.
She started giggling. “Are you going to answer it?”
“No,” I replied firmly, even though I knew my aunt Marsha would be furious if I didn’t. She’d practically drilled it into me that my phone was to never leave my person, if at all possible. She wanted to be able to reach me at all times. I really hated it.
The phone quit ringing and I slipped my tongue inside Amber’s mouth once more; anxious to rekindle things back in the direction we’d been headed. I pressed hard against her and she wrapped her legs around my waist, eliciting a moan of encouragement from me.
My phone vibrated again and I rolled off her with a grunt of disgust, fishing it out. “What?” I said rather rudely when I saw Marsha’s number on the caller ID.
“Run, Vance!” her voice screamed frantically. “He’s found us! Stick to the plan!”
I was on my feet before the call was disconnected, racing down the beach to where my motorcycle was parked.
“Vance?” Amber’s voice called after me, but I didn’t stop or hesitate. “Vance? What’s wrong? What happened?”
I didn’t turn around or respond; instead, I clenched my jaw resolutely. This had always been a possibility; yet, I still made the choice to get involved with her. Well, I couldn’t let her be involved anymore. It wasn’t safe—not with him in the picture.
Paying no attention to the fact that I’d left the rest of my belongings behind on the beach, I continued to run—my bare feet occasionally hitting rocks, sending sharp pains through them. I didn’t slow until I reached my bike, pausing only long enough to hop on and kick start the engine before racing off down the road.
My heart hammered in my chest and I pushed aside the images of Amber lying beneath me, as I maneuvered my way toward the designated meeting place, behind an old abandoned gas station.
Marsha was already waiting for me, standing outside the car. Quickly taking in my appearance, she rushed to the trunk and pulled out the clothes she always kept there, in case of emergency. She thrust them at me.
“You didn’t answer your phone,” she stated flatly.
“I was busy,” I replied, swiftly changing.
“So I can see.”
Narrowing my eyes at her, I shoved my legs into the jeans. “What do you mean?”
“Exactly what I said. That hickey on your neck is huge.”
I snorted, buttoning my pants and reaching for the shirt. “It’s dark. You can’t see anything.”
“There’s plenty of light to see that.” She glanced around. “We’ll talk about it later. We need to get going.”
“Did you get my book?” I asked.
“Of course, and the athame. You know I’d never leave those behind.”
“Thanks.” I shoved my feet into the boots, not bothering to lace them. Slinging on my leather jacket, I went back and mounted the bike, grabbing my helmet. “See you at the hotel.”
“I’ll follow you,” she replied, climbing back into her car.
I didn’t wait for her. My engine roared to life and I gassed the throttle hard, peeling out and sending a spray of loose rocks and gravel into the air in a cloud of dust.
I was pissed and sick of running. I couldn’t believe we were doing it again.
The cool air rushed by, but it did nothing to calm my temperament. Numbly, I began shutting everything down, encasing myself in the hard protective shell I always reverted to. My safe place—I allowed no one in and nothing was getting out. It was where I sent my emotions to die a slow death from neglect. It was easier to ignore things than try to deal with them.
Marsha and I continued to drive, pausing during our escape only to refill the vehicles, when necessary, and to take hour-long catnaps at rest areas when we felt it dangerous to continue on no sleep. We didn’t stop until we hit the small, ancient looking hotel in Flagstaff, Arizona. She paid cash, checking us in, and I stumbled to the first bed and collapsed in exhaustion.
“What’s the plan, now?” I asked, wondering where we were headed.
“I think I may have found a coven not far from here that we can stay with,” she replied, surprising me.
“Do you think that’s wise?”
“We need help, Vance. He always manages to find us. We need people who can help to shield and protect us.”
“What makes this group different from any others we’ve met?” Dragging other people into this situation always made me nervous.
“One of the leaders has experience in this kind of thing.” She yawned and pulled back the covers of her bed before sitting down and facing me. “I’ll fill you in after we get some sleep, okay?”
I wanted to press her for more answers, but I could see the dark circles beneath her eyes. She looked pale and thin and her clothes hung on her. I realized she’d lost weight. Things had been rough on her too.
“Sleep sounds perfect,” I said, truly meaning it. I closed my eyes, not even bothering to get more comfortable; and, for the first time, I allowed myself to really think about the girl I’d left behind. Images of us tangled together on the beach washed through my mind. Suddenly, beads of sweat broke out across my forehead.
What in the hell had I been thinking? Groaning, I rolled to my side. I hadn’t been thinking at all—that was the problem—and I could’ve made a huge mess out of everything. Running a hand through my hair, a sigh escaped me. I didn’t even have protection, for crying out loud. I could’ve gotten her pregnant if we’d followed through. All the possible outcomes of that scenario ran through my mind, leaving me in a near panic. I needed to be more careful. It wasn’t fair for me to do this to someone else. Marsha had raised me to be responsible. I knew better.
Physical relationships were going to be out of the question for me. I couldn’t be intimate with someone if I was always running. I needed to wait until things were more stable in my life, and who knew when that might be.
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