They hadn’t discussed Elayne’s declaration of love made that night in Oklahoma City in the weeks that followed. Elayne worried that she might have pushed too far too soon, while Scott thought that in his heart he was beginning to think that he wanted to commit to Elayne, but he was unable to push away the demons that still haunted him from his first marriage. Instead, they left the matter alone for the time being and tried to instead live for the day.
Elayne loved the time she was able to spend with Scott, but she couldn’t shake the premonition that something was about to happen or the fact that the situation concerning the girl was why Elayne was with him in the first place. There hadn’t been anything new on that front since Dallas and while Scott and the others thought the young woman had given up her pursuit of him, Elayne knew different. The girl had gone to way too much trouble to get to Scott to turn back now. There was no way she would just drop her obsession with him that easily.
Connie and the other members of the coven back in Michigan felt the same way. Elayne made sure to talk to one of them every day to keep them up on what was happening on her end and she was glad for the dose of reality that came just from those conversations. Sometimes she felt like she was living in a dream because of the pampered life she was living with Scott. Of course there was a bad side to the posh life as well when reporters and other media people began to notice her presence with the group and questions were starting to be asked at the interviews they made at each destination.
Elayne was worried about the negative backlash her co-habituating with Scott could cause and knew it would only be a matter of time before the whole situation blew up in their faces, but Scott didn’t seem to care. The media would say that it was too soon for him to have a new relationship and Elayne was worried that her presence would only hurt the band in the long run.
She was also disturbed by the blasé attitude that Scott had developed since the young woman had caused no further problems. Elayne instinctively knew that there was no way the girl would give up so easily and kept reminding herself of that even though everyone else around her thought things were back to normal.
Connie and the others were diligently working on a binding spell that they hoped would be able to contain the girl’s powers when the time came. Elayne hoped that a spell of that degree was necessary, but she didn’t tell them not to continue, either. There was a determination about the girl when Elayne had seen her in the audience in Dallas that still haunted some of her dreams.
She had even woken one night with cold sweats going up and down her spine at the visions she had seen. There had been menacing, black centered flames that were licking up at her from all sides. Try as she might, Elayne couldn’t disperse them and as she desperately looked from one side to the other, trying to find a way to escape, she saw a pair of glowing green eyes staring at her from the other side of the flames. Laughter gleamed in the eyes as they watched Elayne frantically look for an opening so that she could get away.
Scott woke as well when she had sat bolt upright in bed. “Honey, what’s wrong?” he asked, his voice full of concern, as he took her in his arms and held her tightly.
“It’s just a dream,” she assured him, not totally convinced herself as she tried to control her breathing so she didn’t upset him further.
“Just a dream?” he echoed, his voice full of trepidation. “Then why are you so freaked out by it?”
“It just seemed a little too real,” she explained, as she pulled away and peered up into his green eyes, pushing her hair back from her face and trying to appear unruffled. “I’m okay, really.” She leaned over to give him a calming kiss, even as her heart was still beating erratically in her chest, then pulled him down to lie on the bed again and they held each other tightly.
As she felt Scott’s breathing slow with sleep, Elayne wondered if the dream had been her own mind playing tricks on her or if the girl was somehow there. She silently prayed that the girl couldn’t dream travel because Elayne was afraid that she didn’t know enough to stand up against her. Eventually she slipped back into an uneven sleep, but when she woke there were dark circles under her eyes and an uneasiness that she couldn’t shake.
The tour had worked its way through the northern Midwest and was now heading southwest again. It was three days later; while they were in Denver when they got a sign that said the girl hadn’t backed off like Scott had thought. Everyone was taking a few days of much needed time off and they were hanging out in the city, taking in the sights and trying to stay low key to recharge themselves.
Reporters were really beginning to make a big deal as they speculated who Elayne was and what she was doing with the band, especially because everyone was being too tight lipped about the real reason. So far the story was that she was a staff member, but her constant proximity to Scott was what the buzz centered on. Even a reporter on Entertainment Tonight had posed the question, “Who is this mysterious lady in the Middlemen ranks?” Elayne began to worry that if she couldn’t find the girl soon they would have to come up with a way of dealing with the possible media backlash, regardless of what Scott thought.
It was Saturday and Elayne had been jumpy all day, so much so that it was impossible for anyone to ignore her skittishness. Her dreams had been haunted once again by the mysterious ring of flames that she couldn’t control and the girls green eyes that continued to silently laugh at her from the other side.
She was trying to relax while hanging out by the hotel pool, which was thankfully devoid of people, with Scott and Ollie before going out for dinner. The late afternoon sun was somewhat soothing but it didn’t help a great deal. After being there an hour, Ronnie came up behind them and when he said hi in greeting, Elayne nearly jumped out of her skin.
“Sorry, Elayne,” he said sincerely. “I didn’t mean to scare you.”
“That’s okay, it’s not you Ronnie,” she assured him as he came to stand near her and she peered around the pool for the tenth time since they had come down. “I’m not myself today.”
“She’s sensing something,” Ollie informed him with a knowing glance. He had also shown an interest in Wicca in the past few weeks since they had left Oklahoma City and had sparked more than one discussion with her. Elayne had been impressed by the questions he had asked about her way of life and by the fact that he really seemed like he wanted to know about it, not just asking questions to be polite.
She confided to both Ollie and Scott that her ‘witchy-sense’ was telling her that something was up when they had first come down to the pool, which Scott quickly dismissed. Ollie had asked about her premonitions and she told him what she could, which wasn’t much. Her premonitions were an oddity to her because so much of the time she was unable to examine them fully to extract all the information from them that she could.
To Elayne, Scott was acting like her premonitions was no big deal and that there was nothing to worry about. Things had been about as quiet as they could be for him lately and he was content to hang out with his friends and the woman he found that he loved more than his own life. He had decided to not think about the girl who seemed to have given up her pursuit of him and enjoy what was in front of him.
Ronnie looked uneasily from Elayne to Scott, then over to Ollie, who was taking a long drink of Jack Daniel’s from a thick glass tumbler. Elayne was worried about the amount of alcohol that she had been watching Ollie consume during her time with the group and she wondered what was going on inside his head. Were the questions he had been asking about Wicca linked to a young man who was troubled with life and was looking for a way to help? She knew she wasn’t qualified to help him with anything other than by being a friend and listening to him, which she was willing to do wherever he wanted to vent. She was worried about him though.
“Everything is going to be okay,” she told Ronnie when she noticed the look of alarm on his face. He was still having a hard time accepting that all this was really happening, even though he had been among the first of the group to know the truth. At first he had thought that Elayne’s abilities were cool and he liked her to show them off. Now he was a little more reserved, as if he weren’t sure how to approach her on any level.
Elayne understood that some of Ronnie’s unease had to do with the fact that Scott was like a surrogate brother to him. Ronnie was an only child and his parents had split up long before he had joined the group. Scott had told her that the guys in the group were the only family Ronnie had and he was fiercely protective of them.
She reached out her hand to the younger man and after a moment he took it. She then pulled him down so that he shared the huge chaise lounge chair with her, his body a little ridge next to hers. As Elayne snuggled against his warm chest, she looked over at Scott and he winked at her as he watched the two of them. She had already talked with him about Ronnie’s reservations and he had advised her that the best way to deal with his inhibitions was to pretend that there wasn’t anything wrong. So that’s exactly what she was doing.
“Yeah, Ronnie,” Scott scoffed as he stood abruptly and tossed the magazine he had been looking at on the chair next to the one he had been sitting in. “Elayne knows what she’s doing and she won’t let anyone near your pretty little head.” With that, he reached over and ruffled Ronnie’s hair playfully then ran to the pool and dove in when Ronnie tried to go after him.
Elayne and Ollie laughed as they watched Ronnie follow Scott into the pool and the two wrestled around for a good fifteen minutes, dunking each other and attempting to throw the other around in the water. They were well matched in body size and even though Scott was stronger, Ronnie was a natural in the water and when Scott left the pool he was the one who had ended up looking the worse for wear.
“Come on, Scott,” Ronnie beckoned from the deep end, near the diving board. “I’ll race you.”
“No way,” he retorted from under the towel that he was using to dry his long hair. When he was finished he tossed it in a nearby chair and sat down on the lounge with Elayne. “I’m tired and besides, now it’s my turn to cuddle with Elayne.”
Ollie said something smart under his breath that Scott ignored as he kissed Elayne solidly on the mouth. “What the hell-” Ollie exclaimed a second later, just as Scott slipped his tongue inside Elayne’s mouth, causing her eyes to open quickly. She thought that she saw a flash of light, but figured it was just sunlight bouncing off the water of the pool, not anything else.
“Scott!” Ronnie cried out as he splashed around in the pool to get to the edge. The two lovebirds had just pulled apart in confusion as Ollie abandoned his glass of whiskey and came to squat on his haunches next to the side of the lounge where they were sitting. He appeared to be looking at something on the ground underneath it, but neither Elayne nor Scott knew why.
“What’s going on?” Scott asked bewildered, looking from Ollie to Ronnie, who had just come out from the pool and looked as if his eyes were about to leave his skull in terror.
“There was a flash of something under your chair,” Ollie informed them as he started to reach under the lounge as if to pick up something.
“Don’t touch anything,” Elayne commanded as she got to her knees on the lounge and grabbed Ollie’s arm to stop him. “Get back, both of you,” she then ordered. Ronnie moved without further prompting, but Ollie’s eyes locked with hers with a look that said he wasn’t going anywhere.
While Elayne was readjusting herself on the lounge, Scott angled his head to get a look at what was under it. There was a definite circular char mark that was about a foot and a half in diameter and partially covered by the chair. The shape was precise, as if someone had used a well-prepared stencil and a can of spray paint to put it there. Even though he didn’t want to admit it, Scott knew better. Just then he caught the odor of something that had been ignited and Elayne braced herself on the arm of the lounge to get a better look. Scott put his arm around her waist to support her.
“What happened?” Ronnie asked from the position he had taken up a few feet away. His voice was a little panicked and his eyes darted from Scott to the charred circle under the chair.
“I don’t know, Ronnie,” Elayne replied as her eyes scoured around the ground for a moment, then looked up to meet Ollie’s gaze. “Tell me exactly what you saw.” She had caught the ignition odor as well and she didn’t like what it meant.
The other man was shaking his head as if he didn’t quite believe what he had just seen. “Nothing really. You guys started kissing so I was looking away to give you some privacy.” Because of the close proximity, the smell of alcohol was very apparent on his breath and Elayne wished that he had waited a little longer to start drinking. “I saw something flash out of the corner of my eye and when I turned my head there was a cloud of purple smoke coming out from under the chair.”
As he spoke, Elayne probed his mind to see if there was anything else he remembered. She hated to use her powers on someone that she considered a friend, but the circumstances dictated that she had to. Anything left out could be a vital clue into what had happened and she couldn’t risk Scott’s safety. Unfortunately, that was all that Ollie remembered and she turned her head toward the younger man.
“Ronnie?” she asked.
“I was coming back over to the ladder to get out,” he started as he looked from Scott to Elayne. “I glanced at the chair and saw the two of you sitting there and all of a sudden something appeared under the chair. As soon as it was there it exploded into a ball of flames and was gone.” He sounded very frightened now and Elayne knew that this incident would set her further back from him. Damn, just when I was beginning to make some progress, she thought sadly.
It had happen so quickly that her senses hadn’t had time to change their intensity to tell her anything was about to happen. Elayne didn’t like what that implied. Either the girl was gaining in power or she was too far away for Elayne to sense what she was up to.
As far as Elayne could tell the area was safe. She turned her head toward Scott and found that he was watching her intently, waiting for her next move. She smiled at him reassuringly as she moved to stand and Ollie, who gotten to his feet as well, took her hand to help her. She knelt beside the chair and when she did, she noticed the half burned remains of something that was too far under the chair for her to see before.
“Scott get out of the chair,” she ordered, never taking her eyes off what she was looking at.
“Elayne-” he started and she felt his hand on her upper arm as if he intended to pull her away.
“No,” she said as she looked up at him and pulled her arm out of his grasp. “Ollie, get him out of here. Ronnie, I need a plastic bag or something.”
“Scott, she knows what she’s doing,” Ollie coaxed. “Come on.”
Scott knew that it was more important to find out what had happened then let testosterone get the better of him so got to his feet on the other side of the lounge and quickly stalked around it until he faced Elayne, who was still on her knees next to it. She was examining something that she held in the palm of her hand and Ronnie was furiously looking around for something to put it in.
“What did you find?” Scott asked.
“I’m not certain, but it looks a lot like scullcap,” she said quietly, too quietly.
Heart of the Witchs Path YouTube channel: