Winds Of Change
A persistent ex-boyfriend is the least of Amie Petridis's concerns. After a cryptic tarot reading, winged creatures start to show up more noticeably in her life. Their energy is especially prominent after a sexy U.S. Air Marshal breezes into her life.
Although Aleck has a painful secret that had kept him from getting close to anyone in the past, his attraction to the feisty pilot can no longer be denied. During a romantic getaway to the land of her heritage, they stumble upon a portal to a magical world. Amie's connection to the element of Air is cemented and her destiny is sealed.
They have both been dealt a hand by Fate which they will have to embrace. They will also learn they aren't the only ones who have had to make sacrifices. Amie is the second element that has been found, and what they do next will determine the fate of the others. Balance must be restored.
A fantasy romance with touches of paranormal and magick, Winds of Change is the second installment in the Power of Four series. Join these women on their journey to finding the elements missing in their lives. Click the link above to read Amie and Aleck's story!
The Complete Series:
Prequel: Twist of Fate (Fantasy lead in to the series)
Novelette: The Jinni's Wish (Fantasy Short)
Book One: Sea of Dreams
Book Two: Winds of Change
Book Three: Playing with Fire
Book Four: Heaven on Earth
Release date: November 3, 2020
Publisher: Saray Books LLC
Print pages: 352
Content advisory: Adult content
* BingeBooks earns revenue from qualifying purchases as an Amazon Associate as well as from other retail partners.
Winds Of Change
Amie Petridis entered the Tom Bradley International Terminal at LAX, unknowingly becoming the instant fantasy of a team of Rugby players arriving from London. Totally oblivious to their appreciative glances, she walked toward them, head bowed over her phone and long graceful legs ruffling the soft fabric of her peasant skirt around her calves. Her golden-red hair was loose around her shoulders, shining like copper in the florescent lights of the concourse. Barely registering the murmurs and soft whistles, she checked her phone for last-minute messages and strolled past the team with her suitcase in tow.
She wasn’t late, giving herself at least three hours before her flight to catch up on her reading. She walked toward the corner coffee stand and unloaded her things at what she considered “her table” before heading up to the counter to place her order.
The older attendant smiled and acknowledged her with a small nod of his head. “I suppose you’ll be wanting your usual?”
Amie answered with a grin. “You know it, Gus. As a matter of fact, make it a double. I’m early.”
Gus gave her a wink and turned to the counter behind him, reaching into the refrigerator beneath the espresso machines and pulling out two bottles of Diet Coke. Turning back to the cash register, he plucked two bags of peanut M&Ms from the nearby candy case.
“You know most people get coffee from a coffee stand,” he joked good-naturedly.
“Yeah, I know,” she laughed. “But that stuff isn’t any good for you. Too much caffeine. I’ll stick with this. I think of it as the breakfast of champions.”
“Looks like the breakfast of a teenager to me,” he chuckled. “Here’s your change.”
She carried her snack back to the table, putting her back to the corner and her face into the latest self-help book that had caught her eye at the newsstand. Gus’s place was tucked out of the way, and most people that purchased coffee typically wandered off with it, choosing not to sit at the tables. This gave her a nice spot where she wasn’t likely to be disturbed, which was why she liked it. She also liked that Gus would keep an eye on her things if she had to get up for any reason.
She was well into the fourth chapter of her book and onto her second bag of M&Ms when she caught a movement out of the corner of her eye. Another customer must have found their way into her secluded corner. Before she had a chance to glance up a deep voice, smooth as the chocolate in the candy she was eating, interrupted her train of thought. While she heard the comment, it was slow to register in her mind.
Amie looked up into the face of the most devastatingly handsome man she had ever laid eyes on and was temporarily stunned that an Adonis-like figure would be addressing her. She looked from side to side. There wasn’t anyone else in the area, so he had to be talking to her. After the last disaster of a relationship, she had temporarily written men off. But if she considered giving dating another shot, the man that stood before her definitely had potential.
His mossy-green eyes were laced with small flecks of caramel that matched his hair. She liked his pseudo-military style haircut, close to his head on the sides with a spiky length on top, it offset the strong square lines of his jaw and neck. He was built for action, as evidenced by his broad shoulders and rippling biceps, barely restrained beneath his tight black tee. Almost too late Amie realized that she was staring and felt her signature flush rise from her neck and flare out onto her cheeks.
Her appraisal prompted him to smile, her confused look to repeat himself.
“Sorry, I didn’t mean to startle you. I actually spied this space and didn’t realize anyone was sitting here until I turned the corner. I’ll just set up camp at this table across from you if that’s okay.”
Somehow she found her voice and kept it from fluttering like her pulse. He had an amazing smile. “I don’t mind, free country and all.”
“Thanks,” he said with a nod. He walked to the corner table opposite her and set his bag down. He had no qualms about making himself at home, quickly moving two chairs to face one another, which gave her a peek at his impressive arms in action. After making his adjustments, he sat on the chair closest to the corner and propped his feet on the other in a lounging position. Finally, he pulled a ball cap from his bag, tugged it down over his eyes, and lowered his chin. He crossed his arms on his well-built chest, wedging his hands on either side, and settled in.
His deep sigh was audible and she was envious about how relaxed he could get in such a short time. Guys seemed to be able to sleep anywhere. Amie put her head back in her book and took a quick peek over the top edge at his left hand, unable to stop herself. He didn’t have a ring, but she knew better than anyone that didn’t mean a thing. And while he wasn’t her typical type, she admired the fact that even in resting form he looked like he could kick some serious ass.
He seemed familiar to her somehow. She forced her eyes away from his relaxed form and mulled over how she might know him. The tingle of excitement deep in her belly wouldn’t allow her to ignore his presence, and she wondered if perhaps they had crossed paths before. Perhaps she had seen him on a flight? One more peek over her book confirmed that he was more interested in napping than talking to her. That was probably best considering her track record.
Amie grinned and shook her head slightly in bemusement. No matter how much it seemed that she knew him, she wasn’t pursuing it. She began reading and noticed she had flipped her book the wrong side up. She quickly made the correction, with heat flushing her face, and glanced up again to see if he had noticed. He looked as though he was fast asleep, his hat effectively shading his eyes from the light in the concourse. She typically didn’t let men fluster her and tried to make sense of her attraction. Even though he wasn’t her type, her mind was soon analyzing all of the various scenarios that could cause him to be so disinterested in her.
Her five-foot ten-inch athletic build had limited the dating pool since high school, but she was seated. And it wasn’t as though they had a long deep and meaningful conversation, which she also found was a turnoff for a lot of guys. Most of them were not interested in her opinion, or the fact that she was more capable of repairing a car engine than they were.
So she boiled it down to what she always thought: she must be doomed to attract lecherous losers who used her for sex and never let her get close enough to form any kind of close and meaningful relationship.
“Heya hot stuff, you are looking mighty fine this morning.”
Case in point… “Hi Ben,” she said with a smile that didn’t reach her eyes. “You’re here earlier than usual.”
His wolfish grin spread across his face, a face she had once thought was handsome.
“I was hoping to run into you. I know your routine pretty well you know.”
“I remember,” she said without enthusiasm. “So what do you want?”
He glanced over at the sleeping form in the corner before putting his hands on the table and leaning in toward her. He said his next sentence in a low voice that she was sure he meant to sound sexy. It only managed to make her skin crawl.
“You know what I want, sweet cheeks, and you’re the only one who can give it to me.”
Amie twisted her face away from his caressing hand. She couldn’t help but blurt out angrily, “Are you sure about that, Ben? I mean, what would Sandra think if she heard you say that? Or how about Bridget? Or better yet, your wife?” Much as she wanted to let him have it, now was not the time or the place. If she was being honest with herself, he was hardly worth the effort.
Ben pulled his hand back and feigned a pout. “Aw baby, you wound me. You know Melissa and I are practically over. We don’t even sleep in the same bed anymore.”
“That’s because you’re always in someone else’s bed, Ben,” she hissed. Amie could have sworn she heard a soft snort from the nearby corner, but when she glanced up the Greek God was still fast asleep. “Listen Ben, I don’t want to fight. We’re clearly not right for each other and we need to put this whole thing behind us. You know, pretend it never happened, for the sake of both of our jobs. We’ve already been written up once.”
He leaned in closer, his face coming within inches of hers, his hot whisper putting a slimy film on her cheek. “What we had is worth it. How can you forget so easily? How can you forget this?”
She wasn’t prepared for the kiss, especially since he latched on like a king cobra. Six months ago, before realizing the type of person he was, she would have been thrilled to get his attention and lose herself in his embrace. She had been thrilled, as a matter of fact, until she found out he was married.
His lips moved over hers as she tried to wriggle away from him, but his arms pinned her in place. She was caged between him and the table. Her stomach churned and anger stung the back of her throat. Didn’t he realize that she wasn’t kissing him back? She felt a cool breeze sweep across the back of her neck and heard a slight rustling as she slid her arms up to break the embrace.
His face loomed back in toward her. He wasn’t taking no for an answer. Amie had a feeling that it had more to do with his enormous ego than with his feelings for her. She had spent a lot of time working through the reasons she said yes in the first place, and was at least ten self-help books past the whole fiasco.
She raised her hands and gave a slight push, just as Ben was yanked away from her lips by an invisible force. She had no idea how he had gotten behind Ben so quickly and quietly, but it was clear the man from the corner wasn’t playing any games.
“It seems the lady would like to be left alone. I suggest you hurry on your way… Sir.” The last word he uttered dripped thick with disdain. He held Ben in place with one hand gripping his shoulder at the crook of his neck and the other bending Ben’s left arm back behind him, which effectively lifted him to his toes.
The sparkling eyes and boyish grin she had glimpsed earlier were no longer visible on the handsome stranger’s face. Her eyes caught the small twitch of a vein in his muscled cheek revealing his barely controlled restraint. She knew the man in front of her was on a mission, and that mission was to kick Ben’s ass if she didn’t do something quickly. Amie had never been attracted to the macho types. She usually went for guys she could feel an intellectual connection with. But maybe she had been missing out by not giving hunky guys a chance. There was something about this guy that spoke to her.
Amie stood up and glanced over Ben’s shoulder. She peered into the stranger’s eyes with a raised eyebrow, which seemed to diffuse the tension, bringing back the twinkle that had first attracted her. This guy didn’t intimidate her and she got the distinct impression he was more than a rock-hard body and a handsome face. Without a word, she communicated to him that she would handle it. He acknowledged her look with a quick nod, and what she swore was a smirk, as he released Ben’s arm.
She put a hand on the upper part of Ben’s arm, turned him and led him out of the area. After a quick look back to the man who had saved her from Ben’s embrace she said, “You had better go, Ben. We can talk about this later.”
Ben turned his head to glare at the man who dared to get involved, finding him standing watch near her table with his legs spread and his arms crossed against his chest. Come back, I dare you, his eyes seemed to say.
Ben’s lack of action showed he didn’t feel she was worth the scene. Or that he was a coward. More than likely it was a bit of both.
“Yeah, that’s fine, I need to get ready anyway.” He took one more glance at the stranger before placing a quick kiss on her cheek. “See you on the flight, Doll.”
As she watched Ben stomp off, she absently wiped her cheek and headed back to the table where her hero stood. “Thanks for your help... uh…”
“Aleck. Aleck Eyres, at your service,” he said as he reached his hand out. His hand, warm and callused, engulfed hers. She was happy to see the return of the playful grin and humor in his eyes, especially since the other look kind of scared the crap out of her.
He pulled his hand back and hung his fingers in his pockets, which only managed to expand his already impressive chest. It was only then that she realized with delight that she was eye level with that part of his anatomy, which meant he was at least a full six inches taller than her.
“So did I misinterpret anything? Is he a friend of yours?”
She shook her head absently and shrugged. “I wouldn’t call him a friend so much as a past mistake I am still paying for. I am Amie by the way… with an ‘i.e.,’ Amie Petridis.”
He tipped his head and squinted as though he was making an analysis, wiping his right hand across the back of his neck and down the front of his shoulder before putting it back in his pocket. The motion was endearing as if he was nervous to speak to her, although she couldn’t imagine anyone that looked like him being nervous about anything. She gave him a shy smile and he finally said what was on his mind.
“Seems to me that anyone who looks like you, shouldn’t need to worry about living with mistakes like that.”
Before she had a chance to blush, he turned to saunter over to his table and pick up his bag, hoisting it over his shoulder.
“I’ve got to head out. It was nice to meet you Amie with an ‘i.e.,’” he said with a smile that softened his eyes. “I hope we run into each other again soon.”
Before he left, Amie watched as he bent down and picked up some yellow paper from the floor near his feet. She looked back to her table, hoping to see her M&M wrappers, but sure enough they were gone. She was embarrassed that he had to take care of her garbage. How had the wrappers gotten across the room? She remembered the breeze during Ben’s kiss and looked around for a fan. Perhaps the air conditioning had kicked on?
Amie turned back toward Aleck and watched him stroll away, wanting desperately to call him back and give him her number. She was intrigued enough to examine her instant attraction further, especially since it was totally out of the ordinary for her to connect with someone like him. However, she decided in the same moment that if fate wanted him to be in her life, it would find a way for that to happen.
From now on she wasn’t going to force things to work, or waste her time on chasing anyone who wasn’t interested in being caught. She was going to take the advice her girlfriend recently gave her and allow the universe to decide who was right for her. If she could just convince the universe to make sure that whoever it sent her way looked like the hunk of masculinity that had just walked away, she would be golden!
After finishing his nap in a less distracting area of the airport, Aleck reported in by phone, getting last-minute instructions from his supervisor before the plane boarded. These babysitting jobs were getting old, but at least he was able to fly first class this time. The coach seats were a drag, especially for a guy his size.
He gave automated responses to his boss, as his mind focused primarily on the leggy redhead he had met in the coffee shop. Amie, almost assuredly short for something else, Amelia, Amanda, no…. something a bit more exotic. Whatever the name, she had definitely made an impression on him, and so did the dip wad mauling her. That idiot was lucky Aleck was on duty. Otherwise, he might have ended up receiving end of his fist. There was nothing he hated more than a guy who couldn’t take no for an answer.
What he found so intriguing was that she was absolutely stunning, but didn’t seem to know it. She walked through the terminal oblivious to every man that turned his head to stop and stare at her. And there were plenty. For those lucky enough to get close to her, she wove a web of intrigue with her perfume, which smelled very much like his first impression of her¾sultry and sweet with just the right amount of sass. Yeah, she turned his head too; he had just been a bit more subtle about it. Well, subtle until her ex came along.
He noticed out of the corner of his eye, the crew was boarding the plane and the flight attendant was setting up the station just outside the door to receive passengers. He finished his phone conversation and walked up to the attendant, handing her his boarding pass along with his official papers. He smiled warmly as she nervously handed the papers back to him. Must be new, he thought to himself as she made a quick call to the crew onboard and waved him through. With a nod of his head, Aleck entered the ramp to start his workday.
Amie was just starting her pre-flight sequence when she got the call that a federal air marshal was boarding. While she was used to their presence on a majority of flights, she was generally further ahead on her checks before introducing herself. She sent word with one of the flight attendants that she would be out to meet him shortly. She had just finished up when she heard raised voices outside the cockpit.
She slid open the small door to find the doorway blocked entirely by the broad shoulders of an exquisitely ripped man in a snug black T-shirt, faded jeans, and combat boots. She immediately recognized Aleck by his no-nonsense stance, which was effectively blocking her co-pilot from entering the cockpit.
She peeked over Aleck’s left shoulder, looking straight into Ben’s furious eyes, and said softly, “Is there a problem here gentlemen?”
Aleck spun around to look into her face, his surprise and delight evident as she tried not to let her amusement show. Her brow was raised as she awaited the answer to her question.
“No, ma’am,” Aleck said with an exaggerated drawl. “No problem at all… is there,” he looked at Ben’s badge before finishing, “Mr. Wilson?”
Ben was visibly flustered, his tensed fists held at his sides as though they were secured by a vice grip. The air was so thick with testosterone you could practically cut it. Amie wiggled her way around Aleck, putting her hands out to separate them, placing one on each of their chests. She couldn’t help making an instant comparison and found poor Ben lacking once more.
“Listen boys. I am not sure what is going down here, and I’m not sure I care, but I have a job to do and so do both of you. So, if you don’t mind why don’t we all get down to doing what we need to and stay out of each other’s way.”
Aleck looked down into her pleading eyes, and gave her a quick smile. “I’d be happy to stay out of your hair. I just need to do a quick check of the cockpit and I’ll be on my way.”
Amie waived to the doorway behind him. “Be my guest, Mr. Eyres. We certainly wouldn’t want anyone thinking we held you up from performing your duty. Would we, Ben?”
Ben shook his head, crossing his arms in front of him and pouting like a three-year-old. He practically stomped his feet before disappearing into the back of the plane. Amie shook her head and swallowed the smile that threatened to dimple her cheeks. Lord, what did I ever see in him anyway?
Amie watched from the doorway, silently admiring Aleck’s form as he did a quick perimeter check of the cockpit. His movements were precise and conservative. It gave her the distinct impression he knew exactly what he needed to do and he didn’t waste his energy on anything but his assigned task. His mannerisms and behavior screamed military training, and she wondered which branch he might have served in. He was quick at his work but extremely thorough. She knew without a doubt in her mind that if there was anything to find, he’d be the man to find it.
He finished, obviously satisfied that everything was clear. As he left the room he addressed Amie, purposely putting his back to Ben who had returned from his tantrum.
“You’re all set for the flight, Captain Petridis. I’ll be in the back row if you need me.”
Amie didn’t miss the double meaning of the statement, or the look the guys gave each other. She knew one thing for sure. She was going to regret not having Aleck in the cockpit beside her, since she would need to spend the next eleven hours with the loser of the testosterone tussle.
Aleck gave her one last nod before heading to his seat and Amie took one more appreciating glance before Ben ruined the moment by clearing his throat and muttering under his breath, “That guy’s a complete ass. This flight is going to be unbearable.”
I couldn’t agree with you more on the unbearable part. Amie turned to hide her smile, under the pretense of entering the cockpit and waved for Ben to follow. “Come on, Ben. We’ve got work to do.”
Two hours into the flight, Aleck was seated with a bird’s eye view of the first-class section. He was also close enough to coach to assist in the back if anything were to go down. He kept glancing toward the cockpit, intrigued by the fact that it was being flown by the most stunning woman he had ever met. As far as he was concerned, she was a ten in his book. She was beautiful, sassy, intelligent, and capable. Although, he was struggling to understand how she ever could have ended up with an idiot like her copilot. On second thought, he supposed he couldn’t judge her too harshly. He had baggage of his own to deal with.
He took another mental inventory of the crowd, noting the details and placement of the passengers. Aleck always paid special attention to body language. Mannerisms or nervous ticks often spoke more about a person than any conversation could. His military training put facial features and any nearby objects into neat categories to be used later for quick action, should the need arise. He waited until the restroom in first class was occupied before heading into coach under the guise of needing to use one there. His leather jacket hid the bulge of his assigned weapon and after quick use of the restroom and a scan of the passengers in coach, he went back to his assigned seat.
Aleck knew she had entered the cabin without even having to look up from his book. The sound of her soft voice interacting with the passengers made its way to the section where he sat and lifted his spirits. He assumed the plane was on auto-pilot and Ben had been left to man the flight. Amie was stretching her legs and doing a bit of public relations before the in-flight meal was served.
He tried not to look as she laughed genuinely at a joke one of the younger passengers told her, but he couldn’t help it, her presence called to him. Her brilliant eyes and engaging smile lit up her face, sending a signal straight to his gut. He didn’t do relationships, hardly ever dated, but there was something special about her.
Amie had grabbed his interest for sure, and he was delighted each time he saw a different facet of her personality. The woman he met at the airport was a free spirit who wore peasant tops, long skirts, and strappy sandals with her long hair loose and flowing. The Amie he saw before him now was the ultimate professional. Her copper hair was swept up in a simple bun, and her crisp uniform, with its slim skirt, showed off her long, lean legs.
Yes, there were definitely as many sides to her as there were birds in the sky and he decided right then and there he was going to find a way to see each and every one of them.
Amie loved coming out of the cockpit on her flights to interact with the passengers, especially the young ones who looked at everything in life as a great adventure. She had just introduced herself to a chatty, and rather flirty, ten-year-old who proceeded to tell her a joke he had learned at school. She laughed out loud when she learned that cats liked to eat Mice Krispies for breakfast. She told Billy she had never heard that one and was going to be sure to share it with her copilot, adding that if Billy was really good, she would bring him a surprise later in the flight.
She made her way toward the back of first-class seating, and greeted each one of the passengers in turn. During her conversations, her eyes kept wandering to the back of the section, glancing at Aleck, who had his nose buried in a book. After talking to each one of the other passengers, she walked toward him, glad their conversation wouldn’t be easily overheard.
He was buffered by a number of empty rows in front and on either side of where he was seated. For some reason, the International flight was far from full. She glanced at the book he was reading and was instantly impressed by his choice. Her opinion of him went up a notch if that was at all possible.
“That’s an awesome book,” she stated simply.
“Something I’ve always wanted to read and never had the time to pick up.” Aleck shrugged shyly as he slid his purchase receipt into the book to hold his place. “Seems pretty good so far. An easy concept.”
“I have the next book by the same author in my bag if you’d like to borrow it. You’ll probably have time to read them both since it’s such a long flight. I found they’re pretty easy to get through.”
Aleck smiled, “I noticed.” He glanced around to make sure no one was listening and lowered his voice slightly, causing her to lean down toward him. “So is co-captain nimrod behaving himself, or do I need to have another talk with him?”
Amie laughed quietly. “Actually, Co-captain Wilson,” she paused for effect, “has been fine except for the ongoing diatribe of your finer points. I learned long ago to tune him out. My iPod comes in handy for that.”
She pulled the device from her pocket to show him as he laughed.
“And what kind of music are we listening to drown out the incessant spewing of a weak mind?”
She handed it to him, along with her earbuds, and was happy to see a grin sweep across his face as he recognized the music she had cued in her player.
“Enya,” he said with a smile as he filed through some of the other albums, “Mozart with a twist of Black Eyed Peas and Nickleback.”
“Impressive,” she said with a laugh as she took her iPod back. “A man who knows his music.”
“Well it’s pretty easy considering the song and the artist are listed on the screen.”
“And here I was all impressed and you burst my bubble,” she chuckled as she straightened up and gave him a wave. “I’ll be sure to get you that book.”
“That would be great, thanks.”
His smile was like a warm summer day. Amie had been right. There was more to Aleck than what met the eyes. As she made her way up the aisle, she tried to move with the grace of a runway model, hoping she wouldn’t fall on her face. It was difficult at best considering she felt his watchful gaze on her backside every step of the way.
The remainder of the flight passed without incident. True to her word Amie had her book delivered to Aleck and she was interested to see how he had liked it. As the passengers unloaded their belongings, Aleck lingered until he was the last person on board, other than the crew.
While the flight attendants checked coach for debris or items that had been left behind, he began his post-flight examination, beginning with a security check of the first-class section. Once the crew had cleared coach he did his sweep in the back, as well as all of the restrooms. Once satisfied that he had done a thorough search, he signaled “all-clear” before grabbing his carry-on bag.
Amie was standing next to Ben at the door of the plane, making sure they were the last to leave. Aleck moved to the plane’s exit and handed Amie her book. “All areas are secure. Thanks for the book loan. You were right. It was really good.”
Amie tried to calm her hands she took the book from him. Why did he make her so nervous? “You are more than welcome. Thanks for all your help during the flight.”
“Just part of the job,” he said with a nod. “Great job on such a smooth flight by the way. It was as though we weren’t even flying. I hope we’re able to work together again soon.”
“It was great to work with you too, Aleck. I’m sure we’ll see each other again.”
With a nod, and a wink that produced a sneer from Ben, Aleck ducked his head to exit the plane. She watched the distance grow between them as he sauntered up the ramp into the heart of London Heathrow Airport.
“Yeah, I’ll just bet he wants to work together soon,” Ben mumbled. Amie grabbed her purse and carry-on and waited for him to precede her up the ramp. Tuning him out was way easier with her iPod, which she had grudgingly tucked away after draining the battery. She was counting down the minutes that she would have to tolerate Ben until she could get to her hotel room and soak in a hot bath.
“So what are your plans tonight, Doll? You want to grab a bite to eat? Maybe a few drinks?”
He was looking down and missed the look she gave him. It was much like a look you would give someone who had sprouted two heads. What had she ever seen in him? Where was the intellect she had fallen for? She must have made up redeeming qualities that just weren’t there, since she saw no sign of the man who had swept her off her feet in the douche-bag that stood before her.
Exasperated, and still trying to keep the peace, she answered with a sigh.
“Honestly, Ben, I just want to stay in and relax. Maybe get some room service.”
“Sounds great, what time you want me to come by…”
“Oh no,” Amie said with a shake of her head. “There will be no coming by tonight or any night, Ben. This has got to stop. We are done.”
“It has to do with that FAM on the plane, doesn’t it? The lug head?”
“It has nothing to do with Air Marshall Eyres, and Aleck is far from being a lug head.” Now she was getting angry. “I wouldn’t be seeing you either way. I have too much self-respect for that.”
He seemed genuinely surprised by her lack of interest, so she forged ahead. “Listen to me carefully, Ben, we are over. There is going to be nothing physical, romantic, sexual, or whatever you happen to call it at this moment in time, going on between us now or in the future. I wish you luck figuring it out. I really do, but I don’t want to be part of your process.”
The look he wore was dazed. “Ok, if that is how you feel, but you’ll be back. I guarantee it.”
“I’ll take my chances.”
He flagged down a taxi, loaded his luggage into the trunk, and turned to Amie, who stood motionless on the curb. “You coming, sweet cheeks?”
She tried not to let her anger get the best of her, but she was having a hard time holding on to her patience. The leaves in the gutters rustled and spun as she tucked her carry-on behind her, answering as he entered the cab.
“No, I am going to catch the next one. And Ben, if you ever call me sweet cheeks again I can’t be responsible for what happens.”
Slamming the door on whatever comment he was going to make, Amie hailed the next cab in line and slid into the back seat. The wind was definitely picking up and she sensed that a storm was brewing. She quickly gave the driver the name of her hotel, and prompted him to move before Ben could hop out of his cab to join her. She wouldn’t put it past him.
She laid her head back and closed her eyes, blanketing herself in blissful silence. After a few deep breaths, she opened her eyes, taking in the sights the cab passed on the way to the hotel. Since her layover was a bit longer than usual, she planned to see some things while she was in London. She rarely took advantage of the layovers, especially since she had broken it off with Ben, but she was tired of passing the time in her hotel rooms.
Picking up the book she had loaned Aleck, she noticed the receipt he used as a bookmark inside the pages. She took it out smiling, thinking that if she were to run into him again, she would give him a proper bookmark. About to slide it back between the pages she noticed writing on the back.
Her heart raced as she read the neat penmanship that spelled out his name, the place where he was staying and his cell phone number. The short note beneath his number assured her that fate had truly spoken.
Amie, I will be in London for a few days and if you are as well and would like to get together, please call me. I hope to hear from you… soon, Aleck.
Well if that wasn’t a sign from the universe, she sure as hell didn’t know what was.
Aleck checked in and filed his gun after deplaning, it wasn’t worth the paperwork required for him to carry, and he was technically on vacation the next few days anyway. He would get his gun before the flight back home.
He had texted his friend James Fisher, Jim to his friends, when the plane landed, to let him know he was on his way. They had known each other for years, having met during Aleck’s tour in Iraq. They met during Special Forces ops that utilized the best of the best from the United States and Britain. It took one mission and a five-minute conversation for the two of them to become fast friends. Even though Aleck was no longer in the service, they still got together often.
Whenever the flights brought Aleck to England, or Jim managed to fit a visit in with his sister who lived in the United States, they made time for a pint of the best at the nearest pub. It had been a few years since Jim had made it to the States, and while Aleck was looking forward to their visit, he also worried about his friend. Although he couldn’t talk about the specifics of his missions, his tone during their last few phone conversations was telling. Aleck knew that his career was getting to him and he hoped they would have a chance to talk about it. He had been through much of the same in the Army and knew he could be of some help.
Jim’s flat, was near Putney Bridge, in the west part of London. Aleck arranged for an Uber at the airport, deciding it was well worth the extra money he would have to pay since he had bags to haul. Besides, the train would have taken over an hour and he was ready to crash.
During his ride over, he couldn’t help checking his phone, anxious to see if a strange number had either called or sent a text. He wasn’t sure if Amie found the note, or if she would call. After the fourth check, he berated himself for acting like a teenage schoolboy, switched his phone to vibrate, and slid it into the front pocket of his jeans.
He closed his eyes, laying his head back on the seat and allowed himself a few minutes of peace. The images of the day flashed through his mind and quickly showcased his latest fascination.
Visions of Amie’s brilliant smile popped into his head and he chuckled remembering how she handled herself with her co-captain. A frown came next as he wondered what she could have ever seen in the guy. But his smile returned when recalling the flash of cleavage he saw when she bent down to speak to him on the flight. He wasn’t shallow, didn’t usually go after women based solely on their bodies, but he couldn’t help where his eyes had landed when she spoke to him. Aleck was far from being a saint and the thoughts that had crossed his mind were hardly fit for mixed company. He was a man, after all, and she was a beautiful woman. He was glad when she offered her iPod and stood up, giving him a chance to cool his heated libido.
He wasn’t sure how, but even with thoughts of a beautiful woman floating around in his head, he was able to nod off for about thirty minutes before the driver stopped with a jerk in front of Jim’s complex. Aleck handed the driver £50 and told him to keep the change before lifting his bags from the back seat and heading up the walkway.
The flat was located in an old mansion near the wharf, off of the River Thames. It was conveniently situated in the center of a burrow, within walking distance of several shops and eating establishments. The red brick building was immaculately maintained and stood with an air of formality, even as soft tendrils of ivy crept around its sides, softening its stuffy image.
Aleck loved the traditional look of the area and always felt at home when he came here. Jim was often away on missions and Aleck had a key to the flat and an open invitation to stay whenever he needed to. He would come to stay even if they didn’t get to visit since his flight schedule brought him to Europe at least once every other month. He really liked the area and didn’t have a family to keep him home, so visits to England came as often as he could fit them in.
Aleck let himself in through the front entrance, taking the lift up to the third floor. He opened the gate and exited, spying an overturned plant in the hallway when he lifted his head. The spray of dirt led right to Jim’s door which had been left ajar.
He stopped mid-stride, bending at the knees and lowering his bags silently to the floor. He never once took his eyes off the doorway. In a semi-crouched position, he crept to the wall just past the plant table and leaned back, taking an inventory of his surroundings.
Even though his friend was expecting him, he would never have left his door open, knowing full well that Aleck had his own key. The overturned plant was the right amount of wrong to put Aleck on edge.
After a quick survey of the remainder of the hall, a small crack of his neck, and a deep breath, Aleck braced himself to enter the apartment and clear it. He was pissed at himself for not doing the extra paperwork that would have allowed him to keep his weapon and prepared himself for hand-to-hand combat.
Aleck slid along the wall, creeping up on the doorway like a cat stalking its prey. He peeked in as best as he could before moving like a flash to the other side for a better view. With his left side against the door frame, he had a clear shot of the kitchen. From what he could tell there was nothing amiss. Clear. He placed his fingertips on the lower portion of the door and pushed it open, just wide enough to fit through.
Squeezing through the doorway, his back facing the kitchen, his eyes scanned the nook behind the door. Clear. He turned his head and continued his check. The living room was next. The studio-style floor plan was open, making it easy for him to determine no one was present and nothing was out of place. Clear.
Still on alert, he crept to the back of the room and snuck up the short hallway to Jim’s bedroom. It was completely empty. He put his ear to the door of the bathroom and heard running water along with his friend’s tone-deaf version of Katy Perry’s Dark Horse. He shook his head and grinned, the only thing wrong here were the notes Jim sang.
A slender black cat startled him as it darted across his feet and ran toward the front of the flat. He followed it, more at ease now that he had an explanation for the mess in the hall.
“Didn’t know he had a kitten,” Aleck muttered, as he walked back toward the kitchen.
As he moved through the living area, intent on introducing himself to his friend’s new pet, the vibration in his front pocket stopped him in his tracks. Aleck stopped mid-stride to pull out his phone. The screen on his phone let him know that he had received a text from a strange number and he couldn’t help the grin that swept across his face.
He punched the air with his fist did a small half circle turn, and yelled out a hushed “yes.” Turning his attention back to his phone, he felt a presence behind him before he had a chance to respond to the text. He turned just in time to have his phone knocked out of his hands with enough force to shatter it against the wall.
“What the fuck? Waited for that,” he griped as he reached for the culprit and caught only smoke.
“So sorry, darling,” he heard a woman laugh behind him, her voice sultry and deep.“ Looks like you will have to get a new phone… or perhaps a new love interest.”
He spun around and hesitated. Not because of lack of training, and not because he wasn’t ready to fight, but because the person standing before him was not what he would have ever expected.
She poured herself into black leather, the material fitting her like a second skin and leaving nothing to the imagination except lust and heat. She was a sinful beauty, with long raven hair, emerald green eyes and curves in all the right places. Said curves were shown off to perfection with a corset-style top that pushed her respectable “Cs” into naughty “Ds”.
Her eyes glittered wickedly at his examination and his hesitation cost him dearly since with a quick flick of her wrist he was unable to move. Surprise gave way to anger as he realized he was being held against his will by a mystical force. It was as though every muscle in his body was straining against itself in constant flex and she was the cause. He couldn’t control his body, not his pulse or breath as she walked nearer, and he realized he was at her mercy. Unbelievingly, he stared in the woman’s direction and watched as a toothy grin spread wide across her face. It reminded him of the Cheshire Cat in Alice in Wonderland for some strange reason.
“There, now we can have a bit of a chat without you trying to jump on me and pin me down.” She sashayed over with her high heels clicking as Aleck tried to move, but to no avail. “Although that isn’t an altogether horrible proposition, you know. You are an extremely yummy specimen of a man and a bit of a tussle could be an exhilarating treat.”
She walked up and stood right in front of him, placing her hands on his chest. Her palms slid slowly up onto his shoulders, her manicured nails lightly scratching his neck, as she raised her hands to cup his glaring face.
“Who the hell are you and what do you want?” Aleck asked barely above a whisper. His voice seemed paralyzed as well.
She patted his cheek condescendingly. Molding her body up against his, she slid her arms around his neck, leisurely rubbing the bristly hair on the back of his head. His angry thoughts warred against the uncontrollable reaction of his body.
“Shhh, there now darling, don’t try to fight it. It will be over soon.”
“What do you want from me?”
“I want you to take a good look into my eyes and then tell me I’m beautiful,” she said with a pout.
For some crazy reason he couldn’t fight her command and was compelled to look into her eyes. They weren’t quite emerald, he decided at second glance, there were flecks of gold within their depths. As he gazed into them, he realized that there were other colors swirling in them as well, almost like the kaleidoscope he had as a kid. His mind screamed at him to look away, but he had no will to do so. He felt so relaxed.
“You are so beautiful,” he whispered with awe. His comment made her smile.
“Much better, my love. Aren’t you much more comfortable now? See…you didn’t need to fight me.”
Her voice was soothing, and her fingers felt so good entwined in his hair and rubbing his scalp.The silence in the room and his close proximity to her amplified the sounds coming from the hallway, and from… well strangely enough… what seemed to be her chest.
What is that vibration, it feels like… sounds like… is that purring?
Her multicolored eyes continued to mesmerize him, their emerald green depths veined with rich colors that begged him to concede, begged him to obey. He wasn’t sure how it was possible, but his ability to control his mind or body melted away with the nearness of her. She rubbed her hips back and forth slowly, looking for just the right spot to rest up against him, and smiled wickedly when she felt his reaction. He couldn’t help himself. She had complete control of his body and was a stunning creature. His mind made peace with his reaction and he couldn’t even remember at that point why he would be fighting it. She raised an eyebrow before answering his earlier question.
He glanced down to her lips and she licked them, moving her face closer to whisper her response in his ear.
“So back to your original question, darling. I am no one you need to know or will remember for that matter. I already have what I came here for, just trying to keep Fate happy. In the meantime I can’t have you following me, so brace yourself, big boy.”
She pulled his head down toward hers and he leaned into her embrace, anxious for it to begin. He mentally cursed her for not letting him have control of his arms. She is all I need… what I wouldn’t give to touch her.
Heady with anticipation, he held his breath and waited for what seemed like an eternity for her lips to press against his and to feel the soft caress of her tongue. Before he could respond in kind… his mind slid into complete darkness.
Aleck heard the muffled sound of his friend’s voice. “Aleck? You all right, mate?”
Aleck cracked his eyes open and realized two things, he was lying on the living room floor and his friend needed a bigger towel.
“Jesus, Jim! Put some clothes on! You could hurt someone with that thing,” Aleck groaned as he rubbed his head and sat up.
“Nice to see you too you wanker,” Jim laughed, as he headed up the hall toward his room. He called from the back, “You must have come while I was in the loo. You too tired to find the bed?”
Aleck shook his head in response before standing up and answering his friend. “Can’t remember. It’s the strangest thing.”
Jim walked back into the room with a look of concern, carrying a blue T-shirt as he zipped his jeans. “So you saying you blacked out? Not like you, mate. Must have been a rough flight.” He pulled on his shirt and looked around the room. “Where are your bags?”
“Maybe out in the hall? I remember the flight here, but everything is fuzzy after I got into the cab. Man, my head is pounding.”
“You sure you don’t have a knot? You may have hit it on your way down.”
Jim went out into the hallway and came back a few seconds later with Aleck’s bags. He pointed toward the phone that had been smashed against the wall, addressing Aleck as he placed the bags on the coffee table.
“Thinking that may be what’s left of your phone,” Jim mumbled as he walked to the mess and picked up the pieces.
“Shit, what the hell happened?” Aleck took the damaged phone from his friend and swore under his breath. He closed his eyes and struggled to remember.
“I was waiting for a call. Maybe remember getting it,” he mumbled as he tried to put the pieces of his fractured memory back together. “That feels right… and there was someone important, someone I met. The pilot… of course! That’s it! Amie! Of all the shitty luck.”
“A pilot? You join the mile high club on the way here?” Jim chuckled as his friend gave him a look. He laughed at Aleck’s expression. “No worries, we can get you a pre-paid while we are out and you’ll be chatting her up in no time.”
“You don’t get it. She isn’t the type that will try to get a hold of me more than once. She’s too classy. Besides, if I did eventually get a hold of her what the hell would I tell her? That I blacked out from exhaustion shortly after her text and when I woke up my phone was a 3D puzzle?”
Jim stood there with his hands on his hips, looking at him with his head cocked. He paused a split second before answering Aleck’s question. “You’re right. No woman on the face of the planet would believe that. She’ll probably figure you hooked up with another woman at a bar somewhere and forgot all about her.”
“That would be highly unlikely,” Aleck mumbled sullenly. He tossed the pieces of his phone into his pocket.
Jim laughed as he patted his friend on the shoulder. “Sure as hell doesn’t sound like the Aleck I know, boxers all in a twist over some chickie.”
His friend laughed even harder at Aleck’s scowl, taking wide berth from his playful fists. “Sounds like you are in a bit of a mood and need to get pissed. Let’s head up to Charley’s. She’s been talking all week about your visit.”
“Not sure I will drink with this headache. You sure you don’t want to stay in? I’d honestly be fine with that.”
“No way. I’ve been looking forward to getting out. It’s been a hell of a week. You can keep me company while I drink.”
“Well that sounds fun,” Aleck responded sarcastically. “Hopefully we won’t get kicked out this time.”
“I had nothing to do with that. Besides, we aren’t headed to that end of town. Much too pretentious for my taste.”
“You had everything to do with that. It had nothing to do with the choice of bar,” Aleck laughed. “A few hours should be fine, as long as we don’t stay too long. I’m wiped.”
Jim took two coats from a hook on the wall and waited for Aleck to join him. “You can sleep when we get back. I promise to give you at least six full hours.”
“Wow, thanks for that,” Aleck joked as he took the coat that Jim offered and followed him out into the hallway.
He answered with a grin, “What are mates for?”
As Jim locked the door to his flat, Aleck admired a plant that sat on a small table across from the lift. He got a tingling feeling in his neck but before he had a chance to take a good look around, the lift arrived. They entered, comfortably laughing and joking as good friends do, and made their way down to the street level.
Neither of them noticed the small black cat with the bright emerald eyes watching their every move from the end of the hallway. They remained unaware of her as she crept silently down the stairway and followed at a discreet distance behind them during their walk.
Once they were inside the pub, she walked around the corner and disappeared soundlessly into a puff of smoke.
Amie was disappointed. She decided the only logical explanation for Aleck not returning her text was that he had gone to the bar and met someone else. While he hadn’t seemed like the type to do that, she wasn’t known to be the best judge of character. Ben was certainly proof of that.
She sent another message and in the meantime took a hot bath, had dinner and got a full night’s rest. Still no response. It wasn’t as if she expected a whole lot¾a short text or phone call would have sufficed. Something like, I got your message but something came up. “Yeah, I bet something came up,” she muttered under her breath, as she paced the floor in her tiny room.
She would be damned if she was going to chase after someone just because he had a nice smile, and she was too worked up to stay in her room alone. Ok, well maybe he had a bit more than a nice smile, but completely beside the point. He made the first move. It was his idea and he should be responding!
Amie shrugged on her coat and picked up her purse; no way she was staying in. She had almost made it to the elevators without incident when she heard a familiar voice behind her that made her cringe. She definitely wasn’t in the mood.
“Hey Doll, heading out for the afternoon?” Ben sauntered up beside her. “I am still available to hang out. We can get something to eat.”
“No thanks, Ben,” she said politely, before entering the elevator and pressing the button for the first floor. As Ben snuck through the closing doors, she tried not to groan.
“Why do you have to be like that? We are both consenting adults. There isn’t anything wrong with spending some time together.”
Amie looked him straight in the eye, letting her frustration with the lack of response from Aleck season her tone. “There is only one person who is consenting in your scenario. The other is the only adult. As for there being nothing wrong with spending time together, I believe your wife would beg to differ with your viewpoint.”
The elevator doors were barely open before Amie stepped out into the lobby. She turned and blocked Ben’s path with her hand. There was no way she was going to let him follow her.
“As far as I am concerned, Ben, we have nothing more to say on this. I am tired of repeating myself, so listen very carefully. I won’t continue a one-sided relationship with a lying, cheating bastard. I deserve better. You need to back off and leave me the fuck alone!”
Amie bent in and pushed the button for the sixth floor before stepping back from the elevator and watching the doors close on Ben’s stunned face. She had never spoken to him like that and decided that maybe it was good that Aleck had blown her off. It finally drove her to be completely honest with Ben, professionalism be damned.
“That was a long time coming,” she muttered to herself as she wandered towards the front lobby.
She browsed through the information kiosk near the front desk, looking for things to do that were near the hotel. A brochure caught her eye for the Greenwich Market, and after determining that it was only five miles from the hotel, she decided it would suit her purpose just fine. She wanted to get out and blow off some steam, but didn’t want to be too far away from the hotel just in case she tired quickly. Jet lag could be unpredictable.
Amie had the front desk call her a cab and in ten minutes was on her way to the market. When the driver found out it was Amie’s first visit to the area, he gave her a full rundown of the local history and things to do. The market was on the top of his list of area “must-dos” and she was glad that she had made it her first choice.
The taxi dropped her off a block away from the main entrance to Greenwich, under a graceful arch that connected two Victorian buildings that lined the street. She walked down the small alleyway, peeking into the windows she passed as she made her way to the large columned entrance. The traditional and respectable look of the entrance was at odds with the actual market, which looked more like an airplane hangar. It was bursting with a wide variety of vendors, with every inch of space assigned to individuals selling their wares. Most displays were semi-permanent, although some sales were made from nothing more than a card table covered in fabric.
Amie had been to a similar place in Florida with her friend Zilla. While shopping, Zilla bartered her own price on practically every purchase. Touching the intricate gold feather charm on the necklace she wore, Amie smiled to herself as she remembered that trip. Zilla had been very generous to purchase it for her.
They had met during a layover a few months back, and had been friends ever since. She made a mental note to give Zilla a call when she got home. It had been far too long since they had seen one another. In light of everything that had happened in the last few weeks, a BFF beer therapy session was definitely in order.
She browsed the displays, purchasing a glittery turquoise silk scarf as well as some layered peasant skirts to go with her new find. By the time she was done shopping, she had spent well over £160 and decided that she should head back to the hotel.
Some plum-colored fabric caught Amie’s eye on the way out. Compelled to check it out, her feet led her toward a small booth at the very end of the aisle. What she had at first thought was clothing, was actually the merchant’s display, draped in yards and yards of dark purple silk and housing the most curious collection of items imaginable.
Small vials of scented oil and candles in a rainbow of colors lined the wall to the right of the small space. To the left, there were trays of polished stones, colored crystals, and racks of wired jewelry. Most of the charms hung from strips of leather or black cord.
In the center of the booth space there was a circular display that held dried herbs, each labeled with a different purpose and meaning. An array of mortar and pestles spotted a nearby table, in sizes that ranged from thimble to soup bowl.
Amie was so engrossed in the medicinal benefits of the Yohimbe root, which presumably helped enhance sexual energy, she was unaware of the small figure entering the room.
“I call that Yo,” the tiny bent woman said as she pointed to the bag Amie held in her hand. “It rhymes with the after-effects of using it... Whoa!”
She laughed at her own joke and Amie couldn’t help but smile, putting the powered root back on the rack. Amie absently wiped her hands on her jeans, wondering if the red powder worked like Viagra. Knowing she could run into Ben back at the hotel, she decided not to take any chances¾and to wash her hands as soon as she could.
The woman quietly examined Amie and took a deep breath. She stated simply, “You need to look at the cards.”
Amie was surprised and pleased. While the logical part of her brain knew it was a bunch of hooey, the curious part of her nature was fascinated by the mysticism. “You read Tarot?”
“Of course, dearie,” she said as she led the way through the back curtains. “My cards are back through here. They are always ready to show one’s destiny.”
“Well I’m not entirely sure about that,” Amie laughed. “I like the idea of a reading though. I have a couple of questions I’d like sorted out.”
Amie waved her hand in front of her, and said to the woman, “After you.”
The woman pulled the curtain back revealing a small darkened space with a tiny wooden table and two chairs, lit dimly by the glow of fragrant candles. The woman motioned to the seat across from her as she secured the curtain, and then settled into her own seat.
She lit a small bundle of herbs from the candle closest to her, waiving the smoldering mass in front of Amie and under the cards. The entire time she kept her eyes closed and muttered something about removing negativity. The smell was smoky and sweet, reminding Amie of a crisp fall day and Thanksgiving.
The gypsy handed the deck of cards to Amie and asked her to shuffle them. Then she had her place them face down on the table and mix them around in circular motions with both hands.
“Think of your question, dearie,” the woman said quietly. “Touch every card and make sure you focus on your question, so you know if it was answered.”
After slowly mixing the cards, Amie was instructed to pull three cards from the pile and place them face down in front of her. The woman whisked the rest of the cards aside and looked into her eyes. Amie thought the wrinkles on the woman’s face looked deeper and more defined in the shadows of the flickering candlelight.
The woman flipped the first card. It showed a circle separated into eight segments, like a pizza, with Greek-like symbols on each end. The circle was drawn floating in the clouds and had a serpent, a sphinx, and a tall lean man with a dog’s head, dotted on its outer edge.
“The Wheel of Fortune,” she stated simply. She was getting right down to business. “This represents a great change that is coming for you. It is not a change that you can run from, or a duty that you can shirk. This change ties to your destiny, or Fate, if you will. You must embrace it.”
Amie was curious, “What kind of change? How will I know when to make the right choice?”
The old woman chuckled quietly and glanced up before answering her question. “You will know when your entire life changes and there is no turning back. It will be as though a breeze has lifted the fog in your mind.”
Amie nodded, not understanding how it pertained to her question, but wanting to continue with the reading. She watched as the woman turned over the second card. It had an angel on the top edge, spreading its wings, with its arms reaching down toward a man and a woman. The couple’s arms were straining to hold one another.
“The Lovers,” the woman stated as she raised her eyes. Strangely, the look made Amie feel as though she had been caught making out in the backseat of her parent's car. The woman shook her head tsking as if she was disappointed.
Amie was startled at her reaction at first but then laughed nervously, cracking a joke at her own expense. “That is really the wrong card for this girl, all of that is way over and we won’t be going there again.”
“This card isn’t necessarily about sex,” the woman said rolling her eyes and huffing impatiently. “It represents the necessity of a proper choice, a choice between your head and your heart. I see two men in your life that will make your choice difficult. Beware of the man that forces you to think with your heart, for only with your head will you follow the path that leads to your destiny.”
Her mind wandered to Aleck and a small smile pulled at her lips as she thought about having to choose between him and anyone else. Hmmmm, no competition, she thought, and I am pretty sure I am not thinking with either the heart or head right now. Even though he hadn’t called, she still couldn’t get him off her mind. There was something so compelling about him.
Amie heard the woman mutter something under her breath that took her out of her mini daydream and directed her attention to the last card she turned over. She could have sworn she heard the words “too late.” By the time she registered the comment, the gypsy was reading the last card.
“The Priestess,” the woman said with a grin and her eyes gleaming. “Ah this is a good card.”
Amie looked down at the picture on the card, which showed a robed woman seated between two columns, one black and the other white, with the scales of justice at her feet.
“This card represents your inner voice,” she looked up over the edge of her glasses reminding Amie immediately of a librarian. “Which you have not listened to up to this point.” Ah being scolded, definitely a librarian. “You have not been walking the path Fate laid out for you, and you need to correct that.”
“Well that’s easier said than done,” Amie joked. “Sometimes life makes the choice for you.” Amie was startled by the woman’s abrupt response.
“Nonsense,” the woman stated sharply. “You make the choices. You plot your plan and no one but you is to blame when it doesn’t work out as it should. You have ignored your purpose and now you must make adjustments. Moving forward, you must be aware of anything that seems out of the ordinary. Look for symbols or signs that will lead you in the direction you should be moving. You will know when you are on the right path - when it leads you to Hera herself.”
“Hera? As in the wife of Zeus?” Wow! This woman is a crackpot. I think it is time to leave.
The woman looked her in the eyes and said quietly, “It is all about balance. Follow Hera and you will find your destiny.”
Before she could get up from the table, Amie looked into the woman’s cat-like eyes and an immediate sense of peace washed over her. There were flickers of gold inside them that swirled like glitter in a snow globe. Amie was transfixed by their beauty. The sparkles caught the light and seemed to glow, ever-changing to reflect the other colors in the room. How did her irises do that? Was she even human? Amie tried to look away but couldn’t move her head, and after a few more seconds found she didn’t want to. She realized looking into the woman’s eyes calmed her in a way that no amount of meditation ever could. Even though Amie knew deep down there was something strange about what was happening, she allowed the gypsy to take her hands.
The woman turned Amie’s hands palm side up and bowed her head over them. She studied the lines, tracing her crooked finger down the center of each of Amie’s palms as she shook her head and mumbled. She pursed her lips and clicked her tongue, shaking her head in disgust.
With the eye contact broken, Amie was starting to feel more herself. Was it possible that this woman had some sort of power? That she could bend people to her will? Amie had tried to take her hand back but couldn’t. It seemed that the only thing she could control was her thoughts, and even that was getting harder.
Amie remained unmoving and calm while the woman released her hands and chanted something unintelligible. As she listened to the soothing sound of the woman’s voice, her mind went dark. She must have nodded off since a few minutes later she woke up and was in the middle of a conversation with the gypsy.
“So as I said, you must follow your destiny. Beware of the man that leads you to make choices with your heart and be open to symbols and signs that lead you to the mother of all priestesses.”
Amie nodded in confusion, her head felt foggy. Her thoughts were disjointed. “Okay,” Amie said as she got up to leave. She still felt a bit strange, as if her body wasn’t her’s to control. “I will definitely take that under advisement.” Did she say find the mother of all priestesses? Yes definitely time to leave. “So how much for the session?”
The woman shook her head. “There is no charge, Anemone. I only ask that you heed my advice.”
The woman got up from the table, gave Amie one last pointed look and slid quietly through the curtains at the back of the booth space, which Amie took as her cue to leave. She gathered her purchases, along with her purse, and walked out the opposite way through the fabric that led her toward the front of the display space.
Amie took one last look at the herb display and noticed a small bowl with bundles of dried leaves similar to the one that the woman had used during her reading. There was a small sign next to the bowl that indicated they were samples. She liked the way they smelled, so decided on a whim to take one to try at home. The label indicated it was white sage and the benefits included removing negativity.
She popped one into her bag, wondering to herself if they made them big enough to make ex-boyfriends disappear, and smiled at the thought. She took one last look back at the curtain that led back to the reading space. It was odd how the woman had taken off so quickly.
As Amie walked away, she mulled over what the woman had told her. She was confused by the reading. Maybe the gypsy had burned something to relax her into submission -the sage perhaps? She filled in the blanks as best as she could, letting everything sink in and shaking her head in disbelief. Halfway down the corridor, she realized something that ran a chill right up her spine. The old woman had called her by her formal name, and she had never introduced herself!
“How did she know?” Amie murmured, turning her feet around and heading back toward the booth. “I never go by my given name.”
As she thought about the strange experience, her feet led her back to the space she had just left. It was then that Amie decided she had better get some sleep pronto.
Every piece of fabric, every candle and every bag of herbs had disappeared. There wasn’t a bit of anything left. Aside from a couple of tables in the space, there was absolutely nothing there! It was like the display had never existed.
Amie looked around for confirmation that someone else saw something strange as well, but nothing. Everyone walked around and chatted. Like it was a perfectly normal thing for a highly intelligent airline pilot to give herself a tarot reading in a bare corner, all the while visualizing a bent up old woman in a mystical storefront.
“Now I know I am losing it.” She shook her head as she gave one more glance around. “Time to sleep off some of this jet lag before I start seeing leprechauns.” It was then she remembered the sage she picked up and reached into her bag for it. Her hands found it in her purse, beneath the purchases she had made. If she didn’t pick it up from the gypsy’s booth, then where else would she have picked it up? Her mind was foggy and her thoughts fractured, confused by the things she thought had just happened. Or had it been her imagination?
Amie looked around with suspicious eyes but found nothing that would explain her experience. There were no strange men lurking in the corners to gauge her reaction and she hadn’t had anything to drink that could have included a roofie. She knew from her psychology classes the mind did crazy things when exhausted, and she hadn’t been getting much sleep lately. That had to be it; between work and school, she was pushing herself too hard.
Intending to research its qualities later, she tossed the sage back into her bag and decided to go back to the hotel. She would feel better after some more sleep. She was sure of it.
Amie spun on her toes and started up the corridor, once again making her way to the front of the market. She paid little attention to the stalls around her, or to the small black cat that watched her every step as she mulled over the message the gypsy had given her. It was only after Amie walked out of the building and hailed a taxi that the cat disappeared, very much like the display that Amie had sat in just minutes before.
Erebos was tired of waiting for answers that never came, for things to occur on someone else’s schedule, and ready to take matters into his own hands.
Zilla had been gone for three days, during which time he received no word from her. He knew that wasn’t like her. She never went on a mission without checking in with him. Well maybe it was less like she was checking in, and more like… well to put it frankly… the woman talked incessantly! She frustrated him to no end in more ways than one.
He couldn’t imagine what had happened. What could have caused her to avoid contact with him and share the happenings of her day… ad nauseam? While he didn’t miss the conversation with her, the updates on the project were something he couldn’t do without.
Zilla was getting something he needed to put his life back together. At least that was what he was counting on. Controlling one of the elemental powers would do that¾ right? It could make him whole? He paced from the fireplace to the sofa table and allowed himself a brief moment to reflect. While he had been nearly destroyed in his attempt to obtain the Element of water, he was sure that he would get the next Element with Zilla’s help. Harnessing one of the pure powers was the only way he knew to get his life back.
There was something wrong with him and he wasn’t sure how much longer he’d be able to hide it. The black holes in his memory had increased and he had woken up with blood on his torn clothing, with no recollection of what he had done. He could no longer be sure that he wasn’t a danger to himself or others. While Zilla drove him absolutely insane, he would never be able to forgive himsel
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