Scott stared at her blankly for a moment, feeling as if he had been slapped across the face by her abrupt admission. Like final pieces of a puzzle falling into place, he was now suddenly able to put together some of her recent activities, but he understood all too well that he was far from having the whole story and he needed more answers. “When?”
“Six days ago.”
Is that how long she hasn’t been sleeping? he asked himself in disbelieve as he eyed her suspiciously. If that were the case, then it explained her haggard appearance and how little she had been eating, but what had the girl done to frighten Elayne enough to make her not want to sleep in the first place?
“What did she say to you?” he asked after a minute, realizing that he didn’t know that much about magic or Wicca, other than what Elayne had shared with him. But he was pretty sure that if someone came into your dreams enough to talk to you, that it was definitely not a good thing. What kind of danger had he put her in?
Scott was doing his best to stay calm about this, but he didn’t know how long he could maintain his cool. Elayne had kept something important from him. He guessed that he technically couldn’t call it lying, but omitting the truth about something this serious while still in the early stages of a relationship with someone was precarious for both of them.
“It was just idle threats, really. I…” Elayne allowed her words to trail off, not knowing what else to say. Truth be told, she was scared shitless over the threats Ravenmyst had made in the dream world and so far she had not admitted it to herself. The girl didn’t care what she had to do to get Scott, as long as she had him in the end. How could Elayne tell him that she was terrified to go to sleep again for fear that she would be lost in a world of the girl’s making and that she would never get out again?
Scott took one of her hands in his and brought it to his lips so that he could kiss the back of it. Elayne let her gaze to move to his and when she saw both hurt and love painted in his green eyes she wondered why she had been so blessed to be allowed into his life. She hoped that keeping this from him hadn’t hurt what their budding relationship.
“Idle threats don’t make you look like you’re going to drop over from exertion,” he observed. “Honey, don’t you see that all I want to do is help?” Knowing that the woman he loved was permitting herself to be manipulated was killing him. He wanted to find Ravenmyst and kill her with his bare hands for the pain that she was inflicting on Elayne and he hoped that he had the chance very soon.
Elayne was so torn. She knew that if she didn’t tell Scott the truth she was running the risk of losing him, which was something she was more afraid of that than anything Ravenmyst could conjure up. But the entire reason for her being here was to protect him. She closed her free hand over their clasped ones and brought them to her chest, holding them there tightly for a moment. He would be angry with her for not telling him sooner, but she understood that he deserved to know everything.
“She came into my dream the night we were leaving Denver,” she started. “I know a little about dreaming, Serena has been teaching me. I tried to leave and return to my own dream, but I couldn’t…”
She told him every detail that she could remember about both dreams she’d had about the girl, as well as why she hadn’t told him or her coven mates about any of it. When she was finished she was pale with fright and Scott had pulled her into his arms, supporting her against his chest as he held her tightly. His heart ached with the knowledge that she had been carrying this terror around with her for so many days and he silently berated himself for not suspecting anything.
What kind of a man was he that he couldn’t see what the woman he loved had been going through? No wonder his marriage had ended like it had. He was too wrapped up in his own world to notice anything that was going on around him. He was a horrible person, but he swore from that moment on that things would change.
He wanted to be angry with Elayne, but in a way her reasons for not telling him made sense, even though he had no intention of telling her that. He hated that he was so useless when it came to dealing with this girl, but he had no intention of letting Elayne continue to hurt herself. There had to be something that could protect her.
“You said that Serena was teaching you about dream manipulation. Is there anything she could do to make it safe so that you can at least get a decent nights sleep without worrying about Ravenmyst coming in?” Her welfare was what was important to Scott now. It was one thing for this girl to target him with her magick, but when she turned to Elayne he would do whatever it took to maintain her safety.
“I don’t know for sure,” Elayne replied as she pulled away and once again looked into Scott’s green eyes. “I guess I could call and ask. I don’t want them to know that I held this back from them. It may sound wrong, but it’s my insecurities and Connie and the others would only look at it like I didn’t trust them. That isn’t the case and I don’t want to create a rift in our circle.”
“I understand your reasons and as long as none of them ask me directly I won’t say anything,” he told her. That was the closest thing she was going to get for him to cover for her. She was so tired that she almost didn’t care what Ravenmyst threw at her as long as she could close her eyes for just a few minutes. With a great deal of effort, she rose from the bed and crossed the room to retrieve her cell phone and dialed.
“I really wish that you’d called when this happened,” Serena said twenty minutes later after Elayne had relayed her dream to her. “That way I could have done something to help sooner.”
She didn’t comment on it, but Serena had been astonished to learn that Elayne had somehow managed to stay awake for almost seven days. Elayne had always been considered to be the one of the group with the most limited magickal ability, not that it mattered to any of them. It was nice to see that her friend was tougher than she looked, even though she was terrified by her experience with Ravenmyst.
“I know, Serena. I’m sorry,” Elayne said for the fourth time during their conversation. She felt like she was being reprimanded like a child and in a way she understood Serena’s concern. If she were in her friends place she would have reacted in much the same way. It hadn’t taken Serena long to figure out the gist of what had happened and had pulled an admission from her friend, even though Elayne was reticent to give it.
“Okay, here’s what I want you to do,” Serena continued. She quickly told Elayne about a mental exercise that she could do prior to going to sleep and another for her to do while she was dreaming that would keep anyone from tampering with her or force them out if they did get in. Elayne was grateful for her friend’s help and in the fact that she could at least try to rest with some ease now.
Elayne promised to let Serena know how the exercises went and that she would contact someone from the coven if the girl attempted some other form of communication or manipulation on her. She hung up after saying goodbye and reiterating that she would see the group of them in California in a few days. When she turned to the bed again she found that Scott was standing behind her, waiting to know what Serena had said.
“Well?” he asked expectantly. Because he had only been able to hear Elayne’s side of the conversation he had no clue what her friend had told her and she could see how eager he was to know what was said. She saw the love shining in his eyes and found that she was smiling meekly at him.
She told him about the exercises that Serena had given her over the phone and she watched as relief passed over his face. She knew that it reflected her own and she realized how much better she felt just from talking to her friend. Elayne understood just how well she had played into Ravenmyst’s cards by being so scared and that she had weakened herself by what she had done.
“How long will it take for you to try it?” he asked after she explained everything.
Elayne turned and picked up the sheet of hotel stationary that she had jotted her notes down on from the desk. She looked over what she had written again and knew that she could try the exercises without much worry that they wouldn’t turn out successfully. Both were simple enough to remember, so she slid her hand into Scott’s and met his gaze again.
“I think I can try it now. There isn’t too much to remember and if you’ll watch over me for a while to make sure everything is going okay, I don’t anticipate a problem.”
He smiled down at her as he brought her hand up to his mouth so that he could kiss her knuckles. “Of course I’ll keep an eye on you. It’s my new favorite hobby.”
Regardless of how exhausted she was, it was hard for Elayne to fall asleep. Scott lay on the bed next to her and held her hand as she cleared her mind and did the meditation that Serena had given to her. After a time she was able to relax enough and drifted off into a light sleep. She was still aware of Scott’s presence next to her and the heat of her hand in his gave her strength.
She stepped out from a forest thicket and entered a sunny meadow. A long glance down showed that she wore a draping medieval gown of dark green silk and a white cloak. She lifted her arm to examine the garment closely and saw that she still wore the bracelet from Scott on her wrist and she touched it lightly and smiled at the thought of the night he had given it to her.
A sharp noise caused her to lift her head and peer around the meadow. It appeared to be late spring or early summer and wildflowers dotted the landscape in an array of beautiful colors. Out of the corner of her eye she saw a horse and rider enter the meadow to her left. When she turned her head to see who it was she noticed that in actuality there were two riders, a man and a woman, and they were dressed in the same style of clothing as Elayne.
She stepped forward to greet them and immediately recognized Scott’s dark hair as he turned to look at the woman who rode a gray horse behind him. Elayne feared that a closer look would reveal that Ravenmyst was attempting to toy with her again and that she would find the black haired girl riding with Scott. She was wrong.
It was herself that she saw on the other horse. Scott must have said something funny to her because Elayne watched as her other self threw her head back and laughed loud enough so that her voice carried across the space that separated them. Scott held back until he rode side by side with the other horse then dipped his head and kissed Elayne’s upturned mouth passionately.
She felt like a Peeping Tom as she stood there watching the two of them. She didn’t notice the ball of flame that streaked from her other side until if was within ten feet of the couple where they still sat on their horses. A scream of horror lodged in her throat as the flaming orb struck them, igniting the horses and riders. She was sure that their cries of agony could be heard for miles around and she began to run toward them blindly.
This is what I can do, a voice rang out in Elayne’s head. Leave him now and I will spare him this kind of end.
Elayne stopped dead in her tracks as she realized that it was indeed Ravenmyst’s magick at work. She wasn’t afraid in the least about the fire. It was her element and she knew that if Ravenmyst tried to throw anything like that at her, she could stop it very easily. Never, she thought back to the girl as she turned a full circle, waiting for her to show herself. I will not allow you to come near him.
“HE’S MINE,” Ravenmyst’s voice boomed out loud over the sky and the sun disappeared from view along with it’s protecting light.
Elayne caught a glimpse of black against the green of the meadow a few feet away from her. Trying to ignore the continuous wails of agony coming from the dream images of herself and Scott, she closed her eyes and embraced the power of her natural element. She called upon Brigit as she had so many times before to aid her and willed her surroundings to dissolve so that she might return to her natural dreams, away from the harm Ravenmyst wanted so desperately to inflict upon her.
She felt her dream body shift as if the space around her were moving in and around it. When things seemed to settle once again she listened intently to see if she heard screams or the crackling of burning flesh.
Upon not hearing either, she slowly opened her eyes and looked around. She was standing in her own backyard, the place where she had picked to go as Serena had instructed her to do. She looked around to see that all was well and as she did so she noticed that her clothing had changed when she had entered this new place. Now she wore a long black robe much like the one she and the others wore during their rituals when they called the circle only this one had more adornments made from both silver and gold. Her fingers went to her wrist and she breathed a sigh of relief when they touched Scott’s bracelet.
Elayne was safe for the time being, but her task was not yet finished. She still held the burning element of fire in her mind and with it she constructed a shield around the entire walled in space of the backyard. An orb of swirling red and orange vibrated around the enclosed space that Elayne stood in the center of and she braced herself for what might come next.
She didn’t have to wait long. Outside the serene confines of her garden Elayne could hear the stirrings of a storm as the wind began to whip and bounce off the shield she had created. Knowing that Ravenmyst was collecting herself to strike, she closed her eyes and placed her hands palm to palm in front of her chest. She allowed the power of fire to course through her veins and gather strength there.
Elayne had always been a rather quick study, but she was still surprised when she could feel the other woman’s presence just outside the force field she had erected. As she opened her eyes to face her foe on what was now her turf, she allowed some of the energy that she had collected inside her out in the form of a hot wind that gusted through the enclosed garden and whipped her long hair around her head.
She looked like an ancient Druid as she stood there in the garden facing Ravenmyst with a hard and confident expression. For a moment the other woman was taken aback by the stance of the woman who had avoided her attempts of contact for almost a week, but desire for her goal soon rooted itself once again in her mind and her eyes narrowed on Elayne.
“You cannot stop me,” she said, her voice somehow permeating over the impending storm outside the circle as well as the wind inside it.
“You have it wrong,” Elayne replied confidently. “You’re using your skills to do evil. By the Law of Three you have committed the greatest infringement against our God and Goddess. If you cease this course of action now there may still be a chance for you to redeem yourself.”
Elayne watched as Ravenmyst’s eyes clouded with doubt. She looked as if she were about to respond when Elayne felt a hand on her shoulder that gently shook her. She immediately turned her head to see who was there and when she saw no one next to her she moved to look at the girl again.
As she did she blinked and in that instant she was back on the bed with Scott again. She was lying on her side and she realized that it was his hand that was on her shoulder, not someone from her dream. She could also feel his warm lips on her cheek as he kissed her lightly.
“Wake up, honey,” he was saying softly so that he didn’t scare her. “I hate to do this, but I have to get back to the arena. Evan and Ollie are waiting for me downstairs. Wake up.”
He watched as Elayne stirred slowly, then opened her eyes and looked up at him. “How’d you sleep?” he asked. She smiled at him dreamily as she stretched her arms over her head and Scott couldn’t resist the urge to lean over and give her a lingering kiss on the lips.
“I saw her again,” Elayne told him after he pulled away again. She watched as a frown appeared across his features and she lifted a hand to ease away the lines on his forehead. “Don’t worry, everything is okay. I broke away from her. Serena was right.”
Scott put his hand to her cheek and ran his thumb over her bottom lip. It was hard to believe, but she had only slept for a couple of hours and in that time she looked so much better. The circles under her eyes were still there, but not as deep a purple. The shine was back in her eyes as well. There was no way to describe how relieved he was that she had been able to get some rest.
He couldn’t help the pride that welled through him at her declaration. He understood how frightened she had been to sleep and he still couldn’t believe how long she had been able to go without it. Elayne had accomplished a great feat that afternoon and he would be hard pressed to express how much he admired her for what she had done.
“I love you,” he told her, as they looked into each other’s eyes, love flashing between them. “Come on, let’s do this concert so we can spend some quality time together later.”
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