“What do you mean you lost her? Find her,” Max screamed through the phone. The echo of something being crushed pulsated through the speaker at Gabe’s ear. “Find her, or so help me God…”
The line went dead, leaving Gabe staring blankly at an empty screen. A growl rose from his chest as he chucked the phone across the parking lot, watching it shatter when it collided with the asphalt.
A set of bright green eyes watched him warily; taking in the way his chest rose and fell quickly with adrenaline and rage.
“I don’t know,” Gabe snapped, turning to scowl at her. “Just go get the truck.”
The girl spun quickly, rushing to hide the sudden flood of tears in her eyes. Her boot heels clicked like tiny gunshots across the pavement; wavy, golden blonde bangs falling to hide her emerald irises and freckled cheekbones.
“Damn it,” she whispered to herself, climbing into the lifted truck. “Pull it together, Reese.”
The heat of the leather seats against her shoulder blades sucked her back into motion, slowly pulling the diesel forward to the edge of the lot.
“I need you to drive,” Gabe stated, pulling himself up into the passenger seat.
“Why?” The smallness of her own voice displeased her in the closeness of the cab; she was not going to be mistaken for weak. And she was not a dog he could boss around. “Not feeling so ballsy now that your boss knows you’re lying to him?”
Staring resolutely out the windshield, neither his posture nor his facial expression changed at the jibe.
“Drive, Reese,” he sighed, sinking with exhaustion.
“You don’t understand,” Gabe whispered, “I can’t turn her over to him. Max has no idea what she’s capable of. She’s more gifted than we could have ever imagined.”
A bass rumble of a laugh escaped the man’s throat sitting across from him. His dove grey tailored suit fit snug through the shoulders, highlighted to the waitress as he winked and raised his coffee cup to his lips.
Seconds of silence passed between the two men, nothing but the diner’s sizzling grill and slam of glasses on the bar to fill the gap. Bright sunshine filtered through the window, painted with a bright cupcake to advertise a bake sale the following weekend. Shadows of pink and blue danced across the men’s faces as clouds shifted and realigned with the sun.
“Gabe,” the man started, “what you’re saying is going to get you killed. And I very badly need you alive.”
Snorting, Gabe jabbed another piece of chicken fried steak and peeled it off the fork with his teeth. Xavian grimaced, the sound of metal on enamel sending goosebumps down his spine.
“Selfish motivations. I should’ve expected no less from you, Xavian,” Gabe murmured between bites, waving his fork as he talked. “Come meet her. I’m serious. You’ll see. Then you can go to Max yourself knowing full well why I have to lie and hide her.”
“Perhaps,” Xavian purred. The salt and pepper in his hair glinted softly in the diner light, the lay of his collar against his neck hiding the edge of a tattoo. “She is safe somewhere then?”
Nodding, Gabe finished off the glass of sweet tea in front of him and pulled a twenty from his wallet. His plain white t-shirt was stark against his tanned neck and arms while the start of a five o’clock shadow darkened his jaw with coal black fuzz.
“Come on, it’s time for you to see Reese in action,” Gabe stated, rising from the booth.
The beating of a knock on the door woke Reese. Slowly her eyes adjusted to the light pooling through the sheer curtains in the room. The steady rhythm of the waves on the sand had rocked her to sleep after Gabe had left. He’d stated it was important; he wouldn’t take the chance of leaving her if it wasn’t important, he’d said.
She was starting to hate that line.
For days she’d trusted his guidance, switching back and forth to drive the truck. Sleep four or so hours, drive as long as you could. Hours across the country, the goal being to reach a beach house on the west coast secluded from “danger.” He still refused to explain what exactly the danger was but she felt it in her bones; the rush of a chase as she fled something she could only sense in the back of her mind.
“Reese, you in there?”
Sighing, she tossed the fluffy throw off her shoulders and stood to stretch.
“Yes,” she called. “Come in.”
With no hesitance, the door flew open to reveal Gabe and another man following in his wake. Immediately, Reese took steps backward closer to the open sliding door.
“Easy,” Gabe purred, hands out in front of him like men do to comfort a scared animal. “He’s all good. Reese, this is Xavian. He is my best friend.”
Not trusting the stranger, Reese acknowledged him coldly with a slight nod of her head. The smell of salt-water and iced breeze set chills across her arms as she stared across the room at Xavian.
“Doesn’t mean I have to like him” Reese quipped, turning to look at Gabe. “What does he want?”
“Reese, he-“Gabe started, cut off by Xavian’s laughter.
Scowling, Reese crossed her arms and unknowingly pointed her nose up. Her hair was loose, pulled into a messy wave over one shoulder and her shorts and tank did little to hide the coiled, firm muscles lining her limbs.
“I find absolutely none of this funny,” she stated.
Xavian gently removed his jacket, exposing the crisp white button up under the suit and a jade inlaid bracelet at his wrist. His voice ebbed and flowed smoothly as he rolled his sleeves up to the elbow.
“I find no humor in the situation. I only find humor in the fact you two bicker like children. Fine. Straight to the point then. I do not mean this harshly but you trust Gabe even though he has given you no reason to,” Xavian continued, stepping closer. “He hasn’t even shown you what his gift is.”
Reese laid both hands against the wall behind her, the cool boards tingling under her fingertips.
“He doesn’t have to show me anything,” she said quietly. “He saved my life.”
A noncommittal noise bubbled from Xavian’s throat as he continued to pace closer to Reese.
“It’s intimate, you know? Showing a gift. It’s supposed to be something you only expose to those you know will not use it against you. However, these are dire times, Miss Reese. When at war, even the ones we love get hurt.”
Faster than she could blink, blaze orange fire rushed to the tips of the older man’s fingers and he curved both palms to form orbs the size of softballs.
“Let’s hope for Gabe’s sake, you’re as talented as he claims,” Xavian mumbled, turning to Gabe’s side of the bedroom.
Screaming, Reese watched a waterfall of fire release from Xavian’s fingertips straight into Gabe’s chest like a liquid arrow.
Copyright © 2016 Pearl Bayou