Taryn grimaced as her feet finally touched solid ground. Energy crackled. Tiny whimpered behind her ear hidden in the small compartment she’d built into her mini hat. She really should have left her home. The sky lit up with blue light. The hair on her neck rose with the static. They’d had to land early because of the storm. It seemed fitting with the whole trip.
From the moment her publisher had handed her the packet with tickets and information about her destination she’d had a bad feeling. She’d had nightmares and disturbing dreams so bad she’d barely slept for more than two hours at a time. She was sure she looked horrible under all the makeup she’d slathered across her face to hide the exhaustion.
“As soon as the storm passes we can be on our way.”
Taryn glanced to the pilot as he picked up her carry-on. He had been polite enough though he clearly didn't want to be going where she was headed. Quiet a few times he’d muttered something about a curse on the town that he wanted nothing to do with. It had intrigued her.
“How far away are we?”
“Bout three hours.”
“Oh.” To long to call for a ride. She bit her lip uncertain what she should do.
“I’ll get ye set up at the B&B for the night. Storm should pass by morning.”
Tiny chittered softly against her ear. Taryn nodded. She’d at least have to call and let them know she’d been delayed. She nodded and followed him off the small runway just before the rain came. Luckily the B&B wasn't far from the little airport. She was also grateful that she packed extra clothes in her carry-on and she’d been sure to carry cash with her this trip. Hopefully this B&B had decent food.
The building would have been quaint if she hadn't felt the energy spiking into her from the moment she went near it. It was all she could do to stand next to the pilot at the welcoming front desk while he got them rooms for the night. Her fingers twitched as if she had a live current flowing through her. Even Tiny was nervously bouncing around in her little jar.
“I don’t have much room. This storm seems to have stranded many tonight.”
“Please don’t worry about me. I don’t sleep much anyways.” Taryn shifted her bag glancing around the front hall. There was no way she’d be able to sleep anyways. “I’m just going to call and let them know we've been delayed.”
The pilot nodded signing for a room. She pulled her cell phone out as she found a quiet isolated spot in a front parlor. Despite the unnerving energy she had to appreciate the Victorian decor mixed just right with the modern convinces.
The deep voice startled her so that she pulled the phone away to double check the number. It was the correct number.
“Oh, uh, yes. I was looking for Paul Vorrick.”
“He’s busy. Want me to give him a message?”
“Yes, please. Could you let him know that I was delayed. There’s this nasty storm and the pilot said we can’t fly through it.”
“And who are you?”
“Taryn Bowyd.” There was a pause as if her name had surprised him.
“Where are you?”
“According to the pilot about three hours away, but the storm’s supposed to be pretty bad.”
“I haven’t heard anything.”
“It’s been all over the news. They were even telling people to leave work as soon as possible. Their expecting power lines to go down and possibly flash floods.”
“Hold on.” Taryn pulled the phone away again looking at the phone as if it had grown a head.
“Yes. I think so. I’m just letting Mr. Vorrick know we’re delayed. I’m on hold actually.”
“Yes. Yes, I’m still here.”
“Look, Paul really needs you here by the morning so I’m going to drive out to get you.”
“Do you think that’s safe?”
“Safe or not it’s the only way. Where are you at?”
“The Rose and Tea Bed and Breakfast Inn.”
“Perfect. I know it well. Have your things ready to go.”
“And who exactly are you?”
“Al. Paul’s twin. See you in a couple hours.”
The phone disconnected before she could ask for a description. Tiny chittered next to her and she groaned.
“I know. He does sound sexy, but that’s not why we’re here. No relationships. Besides, can you imagine his reaction to you?” She paused and glanced around the room. “To any of the others? He’d think I was insane, try to lock me up and throw away the key. No thank you. Look at Sarah. Nope. Not for me.”
The hair raised on the back of her arms as the air boomed with thunder. Out of the corner of her eyes she caught movement. She turned but nothing was there. Tiny squawked loudly in her ear making her jump.
“Enough of that.” She whispered to Tiny. Tiny shrank down pulling her energy close enough to be hidden. Chills chased over Taryn’s body. Tiny didn't usually act so frightened.
“Did you get through?”
“Yes. Do you think we could run over to your plane and get my baggage out? Mr. Vorrick is sending someone to pick me up tonight.”
The pilot frowned looking out the window at the rain pouring down. He grimaced but sighed. “I suppose we could.”
“I’d be happy to help.” A young man, a teenager really, spoke from the door to the front hall.
Taryn looked up surprised at the intrusion. The boy blushed and stuffed his large hands into his dark jean pockets. His crisp black shirt contrasted with the lime green vest. Taryn smiled. A fellow Steampunk. The energy in the room lightened just a little, enough that Tiny pressed up against the glass jar.
“Your her aren't you?”
“Who?” The pilot twisted his head between Taryn and the boy his face scrunched in confusion.
Taryn laughed standing up. “How do you do?” She held out her hand with her fingers facing the floor. His chest puffed up and he stepped into the room as if he’d just been made man of the house. She was very glad she’d kept her persona in place while traveling. Even if traveling in a corset wasn't the most comfortable.
“You are her.”
“Miss Bowyd. Uhm…” He blushed bright red dropping her hand as if it had burned. Taryn laughed at the pilot’s face.
“I gather you've read one of my books.”
“All of them. You’re my favorite.”
This was one of the things she loved the most about writing. Getting to meet the people who make writing a full time job gave her pleasure that would last for weeks.
“What’s your name?”
“Oh. Uh. James. James Willingham.”
“It’s a pleasure to meet you Mr. Willingham. I’m sure my pilot would appreciate your help.”
“Are you staying here?”
Taryn hated to disappoint the boy. “I’m on my way to Graves Hall. The storm stranded us for the night, but I have someone coming to pick me up in a couple hours.”
“Oh.” His shoulders slumped a little.
“But I wouldn't mind some company while I wait. If you’re staying here.”
“My parents own it.”
Electrical energy zapped through the air. Taryn felt her shoulder blades twitch with unease. The house shook with the next boom of thunder. Tiny fluttered so fast the jar trembled against her hat. Taryn reached up with shaking fingers and removed the hat. Tiny would do better freed and she would feel more stable with her companion able to communicate freely.
“I think we’ll have to wait.” The pilot nodded to the window.
The rain was hitting the glass with such force Taryn thought for sure it would chip the thin covering. She swallowed.
“I think the storm hit in full force.” James spoke stepping up to the window. He looked more fascinated than scared. Although Taryn had to admit she didn't care for storms. Storms brought up a lot of energy. She glanced around the room. That excess energy was definitely stirring up stuff.
“In that case, I’m going to bed. I’ll drop your baggage off first thing in the morning.”
Taryn nodded her gaze locking onto a shadowy form in the right corner of the room. She gulped. Tiny moved behind her. That wasn't a good sign.
“So what are you doing at Graves Hall?” James spoke moving around her.
“I’m speaking at a charity event.” Taryn turned trying to put the shadow person from her mind. She wasn't sure it had sensed that she could see it, but she really didn't want to deal with it at the moment. She sat back down rearranging her skirts and bustle so that she could lean back somewhat. James frowned.
“At Graves Hall?” She nodded. “I haven’t been there since last summer, but it didn't look very nice.”
“What do you mean?”
The shadow pulled away from the corner as if it had just realized she could sense things. James turned his head toward the motion, scowled then turned back to her. He either had sensed movement or he’d seen it.
“There’s this rumor about the town.”
“Do tell. I love stories.” She smiled trying to break the tension starting to suck the air from the room.
She wasn't sure how she’d be able to sit in the building for next couple of hours. James laughed but his gaze kept drifting to the shadow circling them as if getting a lay of the land. Tiny slipped into her hat hiding her presence.
“Well, I don’t know the exacts. It had something to do with that guy and his son who made the wings-”
“Icarus?” Taryn swung her full attention to James. He smiled nodded.
“Icarus and his father were stuck in the Labyrinth in Crete. In order to escape his father constructed wings for them out of wax and feathers. He warned his son not to fly too close to the sun for the sun would melt the wax. Icarus didn't listen enjoying his flight too much. The sun melted the wax and he fell.”
“Yeah. That’s the story.”
Taryn frowned. Icarus had been to start of the idea from her publisher. Supposedly Greek mythology was going to be the next big thing and the house wanted her to try it. She’d figured it might have merit, but almost three months in she was starting to lose hope. But perhaps not now.
Glass shattered to the left. Taryn jumped off the couch twirling to the sound. James gasped jumping up as well. The shadow form came forward and stared at Taryn. Someone ran into the room.
“What happened Jammie?”
“I don’t know, ma. Something broke.”
Taryn couldn't pull her gaze from the figure. She swallowed. Thunder boomed again shaking the house. A child cried out in fear. She wanted to leave. Desperately. She even took a step back.
“Did one of you knock something over?”
“No, ma. Honest.”
The room lit up with blue light. Someone else screamed.
“Do you think we should move everyone to the tv room ma?”
Another bout of thunder and this time the couch slid across the wooden floor boards knocking into Taryn’s legs. Her knees buckled and she plopped down onto the cushions. The energy changed turning darker.
“That would be a good idea.” Taryn spoke turning her back onto the shadow trying to portray that she wasn't afraid when in fact she was terrified. She hadn't had dealings with something like what was clearly trying to scare everyone in the house. The need to leave was even stronger. She glanced over her shoulder. Something white flickered behind the shadow. Taryn bit her lip. Damn!
Then all hell broke loose. Thunder slammed through the air. Lightening pulsed through the tree right outside the window. With a groan and what sounded like a scream the old oak split crashing right into the room. Something, Taryn assumed a branch, smacked her in the temple throwing her to the floor. For a brief second she thought she heard laughter.
Alarik grimaced at the thunder shouting warnings as he drew closer to the bed and breakfast. The author had been correct. Even now the radio was broadcasting reports of power outages and flash floods. It had taken him half the time to get to the town, but there had been some close calls as the rain had made the country roads slick. Sirens wailed in the distance and occasionally he caught glimpses of lights flashing but as he pulled into the city he was amazed at the amount of neighborhoods with no power.
He slowed before turning and grimaced as his shoulders began to itch again. He rubbed against the leather seat but it only seemed to make it worse.
Alarik glanced around the neighborhood as he pulled in. The once bustling area looked deserted until he rounded the last corner. Fire, ambulance and police hustled and bustled around the B&B. His stomach dropped. His mouth went dry. His shoulder blades burned.
He parked the old American Mustang behind the emergency vehicles. As he emerged from the car a young teenage boy stumbled from the old Victorian front porch looking dazed. Alarik pushed his way past onlookers as the sky opened up again. The temperature dropped while his othersenses opened. He paused for just a second. He shouldn't be able to sense anything more than the usual ghosts, which was common for an area so old.
“I’m fine. Really.”
Alarik spun towards the female voice. The woman glowed like a beacon in the dark hectic night. His othersense screamed at him to move towards her and protect her back. His gaze lifted to the windows of the second floor. Half of an old oak had crashed into the building on one side.
“Honestly. Please spend your energies on the pilot. No one seems to have seen him in a while. He mentioned going to bed.” She moved away from the ambulance worker and staggered. Alarik found himself instantly by her side steadying her before the other man could touch her. He frowned. He hadn't thought to teleport and the show of power unnerved him. So did the spike of jealousy that pulsed through him at the thought of her touching another man.
“I’m fine.” She insisted pushing away from him.
Blue light blinked from under her tangled hair. Alarik blinked thinking his eyes played a trick on him.
“You look a little unsteady.”
She spun, her blue eyes wide in surprise. He wrapped an arm around her to steady her. Light from a torch flashed over her face and he caught his breath. He understood why the paramedic had been concerned with her. Blood trailed down her face from a large gash along her right temple. Her eye was already starting to swell.
“Miss Bowyd, you look like hell.” He spoke trying to relax her. She blinked up at him.
“I feel like it. You must be Al?”
“At your service.”
“That was fast. Or did I loose more time than I thought?” She frowned then winced when the motion pulled on the wound. Fresh blood began to roll down making a new trail.
“I was fast.”
“Oh. Good.” Her knees buckled as her eyes rolled back. He gulped down the instinct to using healing energy on her. That would be dangerous not only for her but for his people.
“She should be looked at.”
“I completely agree. I’ll take her over. What happened?”
“Lightening strike hit the old oak. Split it straight into the old inn. Seems the lady here was in the front room. Took a branch to the face. It could have been worse. The lady who owns the building was hit in the chest. Broke several ribs and punctured a lung.”
Alarik whistled scooping her up into his arms. He carried her over to the ambulance.
“I can clean her up and stitch her, but she really needs to be at the hospital for observation. She very likely has a concussion. She was lucky. Another few centimeters would have killed her.” The paramedic nodded to the gurney while pulling out supplies.
“I’ll take care of her once your done.”
He shrugged but cleaned the wound. The teenager stumbled to the open doors looking less confused.
“She’ll be alright. You know her?”
“She’s Miss Bowyd. American Steampunk writer. She’s the best.”
“You sound like you read her stuff.” Alarik glanced at the boy. His face flushed red in embarrassment but he pulled his lime green vest over his stomach and puffed up his chest.
“Do you drive?”
Alarik pulled out a business card. “My brother and I are hosting an event next week. If your mother can spare you for a few days you should come. I’m sure Miss Bowyd would enjoy your company.”
“Uhm, thanks.” He took the card as if it was an invitation to a royal event.
Miss Bowyd cried out returning to awareness as the paramedic stitched the wound close. Alarik turned back to her wanting to slug the guy for hurting her. A completely irrational emotion. She tried to move away from the needle still in her skin. Without thinking he set a stillness spell to her while the paramedic finished.
“You sure you want to take her in?”
“I promise to take care of her.” He let the spell up as police and firefighters raced around the ambulance grabbing equipment.
“Found the pilot. Doesn't look good. Need you now.”
The paramedic grabbed a bag and the end of the gurney as Alarik swung her up. She groaned. Electricity jolted through his hand as if he’d touched a live wire. His othersense screamed. He almost dropped her.
“Are you taking her tonight?”
“They were talking about getting her baggage from the plane before the storm really hit. She had one bag with her when they came in. I think I can go find it.”
“That would be great. Thanks.” Alarik watched as the boy weaved his way back into the building.
“He’s sweet. Remind me to send him a card and a signed copy of my books.”