Phoenix Rising ~ Chapter 1
The ring of flames danced across the trees, casting long shadows in the dark of the night. From within the violet-blue center, a figure began to emerge. The outline became clearer as Lily watched it pass from the blue center to the exterior orange flames. The shape of a man became defined as it emerged from within the fiery circle to the snow-covered ground outside. His skin faded to a golden color as the cool night air hit him. Steam rose from a body taut and muscled.
“Oh my god.” Lily clamped her hand over her mouth as she watched, holding back her scream.
On his forearm a red blistered burn tapered from a point at one end to a narrow curved shaft at the other. Above this new wound were six faint marks of similar shape and size. The older marks resembled feathers, with colors just visible in the darkness like vibrant skin tattoos her eyes locked on the image, remembering it from photos she had seen.
The man turned towards the flames and waved a hand out from his body across the dancing light. Instantly the flames died down, and all that remained was a charred inner circle surrounded by five perfectly placed stones. The man drew his hand back, reversing the motion and small green shoots of fresh foliage emerged from the blackened ruin that had been the earth just seconds before. He turned toward a small opening in the trees and Lily saw the savageness of his features, the naked muscles of his body clearly outlined.
She whimpered and started to edge back, wanting to flee, feeling the urgent need burning in her to run before he caught her. Her muscles protested the movement, tightening and making her clumsy as she inched backwards. Her heart beat thrumming wildly in her chest.
She froze as he bent down and retrieved a bundle of clothes she had watched him shed feeling like a voyeur as she hid in the shadows.
“Run Lily, before he finds you.” She tried to tell her body to obey her, to make her legs move, her hands to push her up from the cold wet ground. The cold had seeped into her skin through her clothes, she didn’t have any idea how long she had lain watching what him. She had switched her cell phone off as soon as he stepped out of the fire afraid the light would draw him to her.
He turned away from her, the keys in his hand, jingling loudly in the quiet snow filled forest. The noise out of place enough to jar her body into motion she pushed herself back on her hands and knees, rising and slowly following behind him.
Her hand over her racing heart she moved, her boots clomping though the snow in a rush, she winced at the sound but kept trudging forward.
Jack Reardon, the movie star, the fantasy man, had just done…something. Something extraordinary and she had seen it, had the story of the lifetime if she could just make it back to her computer in one piece to write it. She clutched her cell phone in her hand praying she didn’t drop it into the snow and lose her evidence.
“What the heck did I just see?” She had watched him set the stones out, in some pattern, strip the clothes from his body and then he had stepped into the center of the circle and seconds, she swear she hadn’t blinked and it had just been seconds, he had gone up in flames.
She knew she had screamed had cried out at the sight. He had just, she shook her head, her writers mind unable to come up with a single word other than poof, the man had poofed. He had gone up in flames before her eyes, and she had waited, tears running down her face at her helplessness. But something had held her back, something more than fear, instinct. The fire grew, intensified and she had pulled her cell phone out. Turning the record on and waited. Waited and waited, she knew it must have been about thirty forty minutes at least that she had lain there knowing, a tingling in the back of her mind telling her something was about to happen. And then, from within the flames a shape had appeared a bright focus of energy. She had aimed her phone at it and waited, her breath held. And well…then… she didn’t quit know what. Because there was no way he had just stepped out of that fire, after standing in it for almost an hour and walked over to his clothes and put them on.
She stumbled over a branch and nearly dropped the phone. Lily took a deep breath and slowed her steps trying to process what exactly had she seen. After it was all done, Jack Reardon had stepped out of the fire, whole, with a new tattoo as the only evidence it had happened, no burns, no redness, no blisters.
She reached out and brushed absently at the branch scratching her face, her mind still whirling, she slammed hard into a tree, a tree with arms, a warm, solid, masculine smelling tree that grunted and wrapped its arms around her; tight.
“Shit” She cursed as her nose pressed into the center of the chest holding her. She tipped her head back and looked up into the golden eyes of Jack Reardon.
He just stared down at her, his face hard, impassive as she bit her lip, she felt her whole body trembling.
“May I ask what you are doing following me Miss…?”
The question rumbled from deep in his body and she shivered, her mind frantically searching for a reason to explain why. Why was she was in this particular remote section of the woods in the middle of the night, on a Wednesday.
“Ummmmm…” She closed her eyes. Clever, great response there Lily.
“Ummm…that is what you have to say?” At least he sounded amused not ready to kill her. That had to be a good sign.
“Well, here’s the thing.” Her best friend Rose always said the truth gets you out of more trouble than a lie, and Lily was hoping she was right. “I followed you.”
Golden eyes fixed on her, his thick dark eyebrows winging up under the fall of hair resting on his forehead and she bit the inside of her lip. “You followed me? And tell me, what did you see Miss?”
“Well…” Shit, there was no way Rose’s philosophy was going to work this time. “Trees? Snow?” she cursed the trembling of her own voice. There was absolutely no way she was bluffing her way out of this one, heck if she couldn’t convince herself her lie was real she had no chance of convincing him. Her body tensed ready to pull up the knee and run as fast as she could if he made even a hint of an aggressive step towards her.
She felt the sweat break across her brow, heard her breath begin to saw in and out of her lungs faster and faster as panic began to overtake her the longer he just stood there, staring down at her with those liquid gold eyes searching her face.
“Shhhh…I am not going to hurt you.”
Her one eyes widened in horror, a squeak escaping just before the heavy branch fell across the back of his head and they both fell to the ground, his body pinning her as the man loomed over them. She flinched as a flashlight was shined into her eyes a second before she saw the hand, a strange tattoo visible
at the wrist, deliver a strike to the side of her head and blackness over took her.
The thick coating on her tongue and the smell of dust filling her nostrils woke Lily from a disjointed and odd dream of floating. Her mind foggy she tried to bring her hand up, wanting to brush back the stray hairs escaping her braid tickling her cheek and sticking in her mouth. Her motion jerked sharply to a halt. A tingling sensation shooting up her arm she gasped aloud in pain.
The floor’s rough carpeting scratched at the skin along her side where her shirt had risen up, something cold and metal behind her back around her writs locked her hands in place. She sucked in a sharp breath, her fuzzy mind working to make sense of everything.
She trailed off abruptly becoming aware of a warm presence behind her, pressing against her back. Tentatively, she felt around with her fingers, entangling in two large hands before moving to a hard, jean clad butt she poked with a finger.
She inhaled sharply, the scent of incense filing her lungs, cloves and spice, somehow familiar to her.
Where was she?
“Come on Lily, think.” She whispered, testing her voice and hoping the sound of it would startle her awake if she was dreaming.
A quick glance over her shoulder revealed the unmistakable shape of a man.
“Shit” A memory flashed across her brain. Sharp, distinct and she knew who was behind her, Jack Reardon, movie star and well she wasn’t sure what could walk through flame and come out unscathed they hadn’t gotten to the explanations. But that was him alright.
As slowly and quietly as she could she tried twisting and tugging her hands in the metal cuffs, trying to slip her wrist through the opening. Her heartbeat raced, she hoped it wasn’t loud enough to wake him because it sounded like thunder in her own ears. Sweat popped out on her forehead and bit her lip to keep from crying out as she jerked her hand bruising her wrist in her panic to get free. From the feel of things he had cuffs attached to his wrists as well.
“You stupid things.” She needed to get out of here before he woke and remembered what she had seen.
It was her stupid need to know that had gotten her into this mess. What had possessed her to follow Jack Reardon when she had spotted him in Brookstone?
“This is nuts, Rose always said you were going to get into trouble one day with your stupid curiosity.”
Nothing happened in Brookstone, Oregon. She should know, she wrote for the paper and had lived here whole life here. She wasn’t actually a reporter, more of a critic. She had spotted him right off. Her brain had just gone into crazy mode and she had jumped in her little four wheel drive wagon and followed him into the woods. Yep, she was a crazy person and deserved Rose telling her she told her so.
She cursed as the side of her face throbbed, making her aware of exactly how she had gotten here. Some asshole had hit her. Hit her for god’s sake, he had knocked both of them out cold.
Taking another deep breath Lily cast a quick look over shoulder trying to see more of Jack. The blow he had taken had looked and sounded hard. She couldn’t remember is she had heard bone crack or not, but she knew at least he was alive by how hot his body was pressed against her. The heat he was giving off was astounding.
She craned her head in the other direction trying to see more of where they were. It looked to be a small utility room. Boots lined up on the wall and a vacuum, broom and mop stood in the corner. A small window sat about six feet up the wall and she could see light from outside.
She sat up awkwardly pulling at the cuffs as she moved, trying to see more of the space, looking for a potential weapon. There was nothing she could reach. She needed him to get moving, to help get them out of this room.
“Wakey, wakey” She pushed her hands at him, trying to pinch, poke and tickle him into wakefulness.
“Come on let’s get up and at ‘em.”
To afraid, wild thoughts of armed tattooed thugs crashing through the door at any moment, to be too loud she tried again and again, pinching and pushing, wiggling as much as she dared until finally she heard a distinct masculine groan, and felt the sharp tug on their bound hands.
“Yes! Okay, wake up, ouch. Hang on.”
“What the hell?” Jack tried to bring his hand up to his aching head and found it was firmly held in place at his back. He pulled a little harder and found his hands were bound to a warm body at his back. A tiny, warm, female body, with lots of curve, it would have to be curves, not one of the sticks he was used to.
His eyes took quick stock of his surroundings; the enclosed space, small window and door in front. Then he closed his eyes and let his senses feel for him, feeding his body information.
She smelled of a very subtle floral scent and he remembered her, the little thing he had caught spying on him in the woods.
“You.” He groaned, speaking made his head hurt.
He cursed again, long and low.
“Will you tell me your name now?”
He swore he felt her thinking behind him, turning his head he tried to catch site of her aura, wanting to read her.
Pinks, pale yellows and the overwhelming purple of panic surrounded her. She was barely holding on. He turned back from her and lay on the floor for a few seconds longer.
Expanding his focus out, trying to detect the presence of anyone else outside the room. He could not risk a full-blown probe until he knew what he was dealing with. He needed to get them out of here quick before the woman panicked on him.
“Lily… can you get us out of here?”
“Give me a second to get my bearings. Do you have any idea where we are?” He closed his eyes again and felt further, probing, seeking more information. He inhaled through his mouth, tasting the air, drawing in the stale scent of cigarettes.
“No idea. They hit us pretty hard.”
“Why were you following me?” He needed to know if she was somehow involved with this. He already knew she had seen too much. Was she a test, someone sent in to lure him out? They couldn’t have picked a more appealing package for him.
Long, blonde hair, deep blue eyes and curves that made his mouth water, the woman of his dreams. He felt her sharp intake of breath. Wondered what she was thinking.
“Could this be a ransom thing? They just took me because I saw?”
“I don’t know. Could be. Why won’t you tell me why you were following me?”
He heard a low muttered. “I was curious, OK. Stupidly curious.”
He watched her aura as she spoke, the red of a lie didn’t bleed into her field. She was telling the truth.
“Let’s see if we can stand up. I want to try to get these cuffs in a better position.”
“Okay, but you’re going to have to go slow. We have a very big height difference here. How tall are you, anyway?”
“Just go slow. Come up on your knees and let’s see what we have.”
He heard Lily sigh and rise up to her knees. Jack moved in sync, giving her the extra leverage of his strong back to brace against to get her knees under her. He was happy their legs had not been bound together the way their hands had been. Once she had her knees under her, he felt her move just a bit more, getting to her feet.
Jack judged their positions and the amount of give between their bodies, trying to get a picture in his mind of how they were bound.
“Do you think that if you can bring my arms back out away from my body, you could step through?.”
“Okay, no problem.” He heard a very clear “You can do this,” behind him and Jack shook his head, smiling.
Slowly, she lowered their joined hands and bent over placing one leg through the opening she had created between their bodies.
“Um, Jack. This is going to be a bit tight. Sorry, but you are dealing with a full-sized woman here, hips and all.”
“Just do it, Lily. Just be as careful as you can.” Jack gritted his teeth as Lily took him at his word and pulled his arms out further from his body. She slid her body down along his arms, making him shockingly aware of her. She took a tortuously long time to drag down between their joined hands. He swore he could now map each of her curves by touch alone if the need ever arose.
Jack nearly groaned aloud, his heightened senses were working against him; his skin still tingled from the brush of her body along his. Full sized woman? Who was she kidding? Little Lily was stacked and he had now had all those curves pressed along his front and his back. His arms still tingled with the tactile memory of her pressing against him. He closed his eyes, and tried to puzzle through their situation, and to get his mind off her body.
“I think this should be pretty simple, Jack; if you can get onto your feet, then we can just step you over both our hands, and we will at least be face to face.”
Jack struggled to his feet, his legs having fallen asleep during their captivity and protesting their sudden need to move. Lily knelt on the floor at his back, causing him to have to bend down again.
She guided his hands from behind as he blindly put first one foot, then the other over their bound arms. He rose up once he had stepped through and pulled Lily to her feet in the process. The new position put Lily directly in front of him, and left him staring at their bound hands, trapped at his waist between their bodies.
He took a steadying breath before he focused on their hands; he could see now how they were bound together, a cuff on each wrist, right to right and left to left.
He finally looked up and had to fight back a groan. Two of the purest blue eyes he had ever seen were framed by a riot of blonde hair that would put any 50’s pin up to shame. Half of that shiny hair was in a braid and the other half was left dangling in disarray around her face; it should have looked messy and unkempt, but instead it brought home the fact Lily had indeed come from bed. His gaze roved downward, Lily was well and truly stacked and curved in all the right places. A tingle of the memory of those same curves sliding along him shivered through him, heating his blood, and he sucked in a breath, filling his lungs with the scent of flowers and warm woman, his nostrils flaring in response to the primitive scent of woman. The corner of his mouth quirked up in pleasure and anticipation, despite their circumstances he wanted this woman.
He cupped the side of her face, pulling both their hands up as he soothed a finger over the bruise on her cheek. He wanted to heal her, but knew it was too much of a risk. His palm actually itched at the need, and he felt the energy gathering in him without him calling it.
He closed his eyes, needing to block her out so he would concentrate on something other than the effect she was having on him. He reached with his tingling hand to rub the still aching lump on the back of his head, and remembered the cuffs again, letting their hands fall back to the side.
He tugged their arms apart and stepped over to look out the window. At six foot four, he was able to make out the shape of a two-story house next door and a tree off to the left. He guided them over to the door, taking advantage of Lily’s continued shocked silence to look at the lock and examine the door.
Both were average, nothing out of the ordinary.
Jack wanted to do this escape as normally as he could, in order to draw as little attention from outside the room as possible, just in case their kidnappers had remained behind, been able to block their presence from him. He focused on the interior of the room, trying to see if there were any strong radio waves coming from inside that would indicate surveillance equipment. He let out a little breath of relief when he found nothing.
“What did you see?” She pulled sharply on their joined hands.
He opened himself up a little further as he pretended to examine the wall around the door. He could not feel any electronic emissions coming from the room. Trusting his senses to alert him if there was any danger, Jack sent out a broad call to try and reach his back-up, Caleb. He needed the other Phoenix to get more information before he could act.
Caleb, can you hear me? Where are you?
“Who’s Caleb?” Lily asked.
Startled, Jack looked down at her, his pulse picked up and he narrowed his gaze. “You heard me?”
“Of course I did, you just said ‘Caleb, can you hear me, where are you.’ Do you think he is near enough that if we shouted he would hear us?” Her tone gave nothing away, the question similar to all the others she had asked, he waited for more but for once she remained silent.
A small frown line formed on her brow.
“How do you expect him to hear us from in here?”
Jack was dumbstruck. How to respond to her? This was inconceivable. She heard him, but didn’t understand what she had heard, and Jack didn’t know what to do. He would need to use telepathy to reach his backup.
Lily, can you hear me? Jack stared straight into her eyes, waiting for her to give herself away, betray that she knew he was speaking to her telepathically.
“Of course, I can hear you. I am standing right here.” Her voice was exasperated, her brow drawn down in puzzlement and she was starting to look at him like she thought he was crazy. He reached out and felt for the pulse on her wrist, it was picking up speed again.
No Lily, pay attention, I am not using my voice. We’re speaking in our minds. Do you understand? Jack waited, his breath held for her reaction, knowing this could be what set her over the edge into panic, hysteria and screaming. His body tightened, ready to react if that happened.
“What are you talking about? I am opening my mouth and speaking to you.”
Yes, but pay attention Lily, because I’m not.
He saw it. The slow widening of those blue eyes, the flush on her cheeks draining to white and the sharp indrawn breath as she jerked sharply at the cuffs, hitting the bruise forming on her writs the purple flooding out all the other colors of her aura.
“How…” Her voice trailed off, and he covered her hand on the cuff, stopping her from injuring herself further. The trembling started in her hands and he figured she was seconds away from full blown panic, she was trying to hold it back, her hand fisting underneath his and he waited.
“Oww!” Jack grabbed at their joined hands, staring at the red mark on the back of his hand where she had just pinched him. “What was that for?”
“I just needed to see if I was awake.”
“Wouldn’t it have made more sense to pinch yourself?”
His surprise at her reaction drawing a chuckle, the gears turning behind her fascinating eyes giving him a curious sense of anticipation, wanting to see what she would do next, he hadn’t felt this alive in too many years.
“How are you able to talk to me like that? Does it have something to do with why we are stuck in here? With what I saw you do last night?” It didn’t take long, within seconds the fear and panic won over her curiosity again and her breathing changed, her hands tugging.
He saw the change in her aura, sensed she was about to lose control. He reached out and grasped her frantically tugging hand with his, smoothing a thumb over the angry redness that her panic had created. He consciously made his voice as soothing as possible. Holding her gaze and hoping she didn’t notice the green light coming from where his thumb was healing her wounds. She wasn’t ready for more just yet.
“It’s okay, Lily, calm down. I am not going to hurt you. There is nothing to be afraid of. Surely you aren’t afraid of me?” His voice dropped even lower trying to reach her. “We have made it this far, and we’re still okay. But you have to hold it together. Can you do that for me?” He backed up his words with a push of power and continued the gentle but steady caress to the pulse inside her wrist.
His voice was like a physical presence inside her head. It soothed and calmed her while making her more aware of him at the same time. The strange incense smell, the cloves and musk she had noticed when she woke grew and seemed to fill the room around them. Lily looked up into Jack’s eyes and noticed a tiny flame flickering in their depths. Enchanted, she stared at that flame as it drew closer and closer.
The kiss was gentle, a mere brushing of lips, once, twice. Then Lily sucked in a sharp breath and with it took in more of the unique scent of him; it was almost as if his scent had its own flavor, and she tasted it, hungered for it. The new sensation overwhelmed her, and she stretched up on tiptoe and pushed their lips more firmly together wanting more of that taste. When she tried to bring her hand to the back of his head to bring him even closer she managed to knock them both in the chin with the metal on their bound hands.
“Sorry. Oh, God, I’m sorry. I didn’t… I can’t…” Lily trailed off and just stared at him.
“Don’t apologize. I’m the one who should be apologizing. I didn’t mean for that to happen.” Jack reached with his right hand to cup the side of her face and she stared up at him. He pulled his hand away and held the single earring up for her to see and smiled that flash of white, straight teeth and little dimple appearing.
She frowned a second before comprehension dawned.
“Of course, why didn’t I think of that?” She reached automatically for her other ear, tugging his bound hand with her and found nothing but flesh.
“The other one must have fallen out while I was…umm watching.” Lily blushed remembering quit clearly what she had seen. How much of him she had seen.
Jack smiled and said nothing. She watched as he bent over and silently set to work on the right wrist cuff.
Lily stared at their hands as he worked the earring into the keyhole. She reached out with her index finger, compelled to find out the texture of his skin and brushed it along his fingers where his hand gripped her, holding her wrist steady. His hand was rough, as if he were used to physical labor. She studied the back of his head, her hand actually itching, wanting to reach out and sink into all that hair. To find the lump from the blow, to make sure he was okay.
Jack’s head jerked up as if he had heard her, and she noticed a twinkle in his eye.
“Am I hurting you?”
Lily shook her head blushing a bit and he bent back to his work.
Tentatively she tried to speak to him in her mind. Can you read my thoughts? She watched closely but Jack gave no response, just set back to his work on the lock. All right, let’s see if you can ignore this one. I want you naked and panting beneath me. Lily flushed but watched Jack for any reaction; he didn’t so much as twitch a hair. Interesting.
“Jack, why can I hear you in my head? Are you psychic, kind of like one of those TV mediums, only you can talk inside people’s heads?”
Jack didn’t look up and she was afraid he wasn’t going to answer after a long pause; as if he was thinking very hard about what he was going to say to her.
“Yes, I guess you would call it psychic. I can speak to people in my head. Telepathy, it is something I have always been able to do it, so I guess you could say I was born able. I didn’t know for a long time other people couldn’t do it. My parents were both able to communicate without speaking as well. Now be quiet and let me get this undone.”
Lily watched as he bent back down over the cuff, his head shielding what he was doing from her. She distinctly heard him cursing and a grin flashed across her face. She shook her head, her heart beat still not normal and she could feel the sweat running down her back as she fought to remain calm. She wanted to freak out and scream beating on the door and walls for someone to come and get them. But the rational part of her brain was still functioning enough to tell her that would be a very bad idea. They didn’t know who was on the other side of the door.
She felt a frisson of something chase from her hand up her arm, then the cuff opened with a pop, and they were free from one bond. Jack pulled the wire out of the link, and it split into two tiny pieces.
She looked down to the now useless earring in his hand, and over to their still securely attached left hands.
“This is going to be awkward.” She smiled weakly, looking down at the cuff.
Jack guided her in front so that her back rested against his chest, and together they retraced the two small steps to the window, his big body bumping hers and moving her where he wanted.
She glanced up and caught him looking down at her, his golden eyes studying her intently, the long sigh pushing through his full lips and ruffling her hair at her temple. She got the distinct impression whatever he was about to say was going to bring her fear back.
“Lily, I am going to try and reach Caleb again, all right? So please don’t freak out on me.”
Her eyes narrowed and her heart began to pound faster and faster in her chest. She hadn’t imagined that part after all.
Caleb, can you hear me? Several heartbeats then she heard it louder, stronger.
Caleb, are you there?
A few tense seconds passed while they waited.
Lily froze at the first call, concentrating on her surroundings to keep the panic from overwhelming her. A scream escaped when she heard a second voice in her head. This one dark and deep, very different from Jack’s.
I hear you, but you’re faint. I am trying to follow the trail back to you, so keep yourself open.
Lily looked up, startled, her eyes wide and he was certain she had been able to hear Caleb as well.
How the hell was she able to hear them? As far as he knew, there had never been a human that could hear them while they were alive. There were a few gifted psychics who could pick up on their energy in the time before they were reborn, in between life cycles.
Many of his kind used the three days they could hold their spirit between fire and birth to relay information about events they wanted to influence, to those few who could hear them. They had helped, unofficially, to guide the police in several instances. Sometimes they picked psychics who were not skilled enough and only part of the message got through, but other times they were able to get a believable and accurate picture across and bring closure to families and to stop bad things from happening. But to his knowledge there had never been a case where a human heard them speak telepathically, or at least not any case that any member of his race was aware of.
Jack wondered what Jeral would make of this development…if perhaps there had been times they had been overheard and just hadn’t known it. It would explain why the Basilisk seemed to know their movements in advance. If they had somehow found humans who could hear their conversations and were willing to act as spies without his people even knowing, it would be devastating to his race.
Jack, try sending out your call again, I think I am close. Caleb’s voice was much stronger this time, and Jack focused clearly on his friend. He pushed his thoughts about the Basilisk into the back of his mind.
Caleb, we are in a house that is near a wooded area. I sense small creatures, nothing larger than a rabbit. I think we are in a neighborhood with a small wooded park in the middle or really close by. I can’t feel water so we are not on the south end of town near the river… somewhere northwest. We are in a utility room.
We? Caleb’s question was sharp and direct.
I am handcuffed to a woman named Lily. She can hear what we are saying and has no more idea why we are here than I do. He hoped Caleb would understand from those few comments he should not reveal too much information to Lily. He could not risk talking to Caleb privately, uncertain as he was of how sensitive Lily was.
There was a long pause and Jack could tell Caleb was thinking over what he had said about Lily being able to hear them. It gave Jack a measure of comfort to know he was not the only one who didn’t know humans were able to hear them.
Caleb’s response when it came was one word and spoken in their native ancient Egyptian. Basilisk.
Lily’s eyes shot up to Jack’s.
“That bad snake in Harry Potter? What has that to do with where we are?”
Jack shook his head impatiently at Lily. He would put aside how she understood his people’s millennia-old language for now, in favor of getting them out of there. His response to Caleb was short and sweet. No, at least not that I can sense. Where are you?
I am a few blocks away and heading in what I believe is your direction. Are you able to get out of the room you are in? Caleb’s voice was becoming stronger, and it gave Jack a sense of relief.
Jack started to say if they could get out, they wouldn’t need Caleb, but stopped short when he realized neither he, nor Lily to his knowledge, had tried the door. He had examined it upon waking but never actually tested to see if it was unlocked or not, he had just assumed it was locked.
Um, hold on a second. Jack reached out with his free right hand and turned the knob. He groaned aloud when it turned smoothly in his hand and the door opened silently.
Lily gave a startled exclamation and began to tremble with excitement beside him. He sensed her tensing, ready to bolt.
Caleb, we’ll meet you out front of the house. Turns out we were not even locked in.
Pulling Lily around and behind him, Jack stepped out into the hall. Without the wall to block him, he was able to get a better feel for the place. He detected no other presences in the house, and relaxed his guard a little and focused on clues as to where they were. It smelled of a family, a boy and girl if he was not mistaken, and both a mom and dad. It was not a combination of smells you would associate with being kidnapping and locked in a closet. Over the strong scent of the family was another smell. This was of stale cigarettes and cheap cologne. The cigarettes were two distinct brands.
He would wait for Caleb to arrive, and have him check it out as well, but Jack would bet anything they had had two abductors, both human and male.
Cautiously, he pulled Lily along behind him. She had rested one hand on the middle of his back and clasped their fingers together on the hand that was joined. Jack didn’t mind the intimacy and squeezed her hand, finding comfort in her touch as well.
The stale scent of the two kidnappers lingered in the hall as they cautiously made their way. Jack absorbed it and categorized all of the smells as they made their way from the second floor hall down the stairs. The scent grew stronger once they reached the first floor landing. Whoever they were, they had lingered in the front entryway.
Jack was able to pick out both scents and filed them away for recall later. He focused so he could pick out the distinct cologne and the cigarette smells of both the men. He wanted to take time to explore the house and see if there was a clue as to why they had been brought there, in particular, but any searching would have to wait until he and Lily were separated.
At the front door, Jack did a quick scan to make sure there were no surprises awaiting them and opened the door.
As soon as it opened all hell broke loose. The door triggered some type of alarm and sirens began to scream throughout the house. The noise level rose with each passing second. Not wasting any time Jack pulled on their clasped hands and raced down the drive.
Caleb, there was an alarm that was set off when I opened the front door. Where are you? We need out of here, fast.
Start heading west and I will pick you up.
Holding tight to Lily’s hand, Jack started at a jog down the road to the west. Behind him he felt Lily struggling to keep up with his long strides. Every few steps, the metal of the cuff would dig into his wrist, letting him know that he needed to slow his pace for her. He paused for a second, bent his knees slightly, and shouted over his shoulder.
“Jump up onto my back and wrap your legs around my waist.”
Heard Lily started to protest but the sound of sirens in the distance seemed to spur her into motion. Taking a great leap, she used her free right hand to clutch around his neck and wrapped her legs around his waist. He put his right hand on her knee and drew their clasped hands to the other. Releasing his hold on her hand, he boosted her higher as he took off at a run.
Lily realized Jack moved much faster, even with her added weight, than she could have run on her own. She had a moment to reflect on the strength and endurance it must be taking to carry her weight and keep up such a pace. Acutely aware of his muscled back pressed against her breasts and between her thighs, her nose at his neck the heat of their bodies making his scent stronger, filling her lungs, she leaned in and breathed deeper, taking more of his scent into her.
This was the muscled body of Jack Reardon, film star and hottie extraordinary, packing little old small town, common Lily on his back to safety. It was straight out of fantasy land, and Lily took a second to categorize all of her aches and pains to remind herself she was not dreaming. Her feet were the most painful part of her body. The run from the house had caused several rocks and pebbles to bruise the soles of her feet painfully. She didn’t know how her shoes had been taken or why they had left Jack’s on him. But she was certain she would have tender feet for some time to come.
If I am dreaming, please don’t wake me up, even if it’s a little painful!
A gray sedan pulled around the corner, and before she could warn him to duck behind a bush he shifted direction and headed towards the car. It pulled to a stop just a head of them and a man got out from behind the wheel, Lily’s whole body tensed, her legs squeezing Jack tighter as he approached.
She was pretty sure this had to be the mystery Caleb. Just over six feet tall, bald and muscled from neck to toe she wanted to swoon all over again. This man could be on screen right next to Jack and send women everywhere into twin eye candy orgasms. Dressed casually in jeans and a dark green sweater that made his coffee brown eyes stand out, and stretched across a broad, muscled chest he greeted them as Jack lowered her to her own feet.
“Hurry — we need to get out of here as quickly as possible.” Jack didn’t waste any time on introductions, just hurried them over to the car. Caleb seemed to have assessed their handcuff situation in a glance and made no comment. Lily wondered if the two men were communicating telepathically without her hearing. She thought it was definitely possible, given the lack speaking.
They all piled into the car, Jack pushing her in first so she could slide across the seat making room for him. Once Caleb had them safely on their way she began to relax a little.
“Hi, I’m Caleb. You must be Lily.”
Lily responded with a “Hello,” and then looked out the window, trying to see where they were, hoping she would be able to identify the area. They came upon an intersection with street signs.
“I know where we are we’re still in Brookstone. This is the Mansfield development. Kind of a classy neighborhood for a kidnapper to be in.” Lily turned questioning eyes up to Jack.
“Why here? Are you sure you don’t know what’s going on? And why can Caleb talk in my head too?”
“Lily, I need to speak with someone before I can answer your questions.” She watched as he turned away from her and settled back into the seat.
Jeral, you are needed. Lily ignored the words, focusing instead on getting home, away from them so that she could process what had happened. Lily sucked in a deep breath, her senses again flooded with the strong spicy scent, calming her.
“I live at 432 Table, it’s on the other side of town but if you can just take me there I am sure I have a pair of wire cutters, or at least a few earrings I would gladly sacrifice towards the removal of the cuffs. You will need to make a right turn up here on Tenth.”
Lily’s voice trailed off when Caleb continued through the intersection and headed for the old highway that would take them into the foothills and out of town. Her body tensed up under Jack’s arm and she tried to edge away.
She rubbed her sweating palms on her clothes. Her panic sharp and bitter in the back of her throat as she realized he wasn’t taking her home, she was completely at their mercy. Her hand reached out before she realized it and grabbed at Jack’s leg, seeking his reassurance.
This was Jack Reardon, movie star. He had no reason to harm her. In fact, he had helped her, hadn’t he? Yeah, it was a bit freaky he could speak in her head, but not so far out of the realm of possibility. There had to be some precedent for the concept, since there was a word for it. We didn’t have the word jeans until we had jeans, and how about fax, or car, all those words had to be formed because there was something that needed to be explained. Didn’t science prove there had once been dinosaurs and even unicorns? Yes, they were still trying to prove trolls and Bigfoot, but there were some pretty convincing arguments in their favor.
“Where are we going?” Lily was comforted by the fact that her voice held steady and did not betray her nervousness. Her internal pep talk had done nothing to convince her these men meant her no harm.
“I am taking you to my house. There should be something there that will get us out of these cuffs, and I don’t want you to be alone. We don’t know how much they know about you.” Jack’s tone was calm and matter of fact.
“Do you have a cell phone so we can call the police? We should probably let them know what’s happened to you as soon as possible. I can’t imagine you won’t be missed.”
“No police, Lily. Caleb and a couple of others are the only ones who know I’m here. I’m on vacation, and the fewer people who know where I am the better.”
“But the police have to be told. There is someone out there abducting people and tossing them in closets.” Lily tried to keep her voice calm and natural.
“I’m sorry, Lily, but until we can figure out what’s happening I can’t let anyone know I am involved. Relax, Lily; we will be there in about twenty minutes. We can talk about what to do next then.”