Illusions begin, p.25
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       Illusions Begin, p.25

           N.L. Greene
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  Chapter Sixteen

  Blaine sat up even further and leaned forward slightly as he began to rub his hands together, almost as if he were warming them. Becky glanced up to see the wicked smile on his face and the mischievous look in his eyes. He wasn’t cold. He was rubbing his hands together in anticipation. Becky’s smile grew impossibly bigger as her excitement grew too. This is what she had been waiting for her whole life!

  “So, its real magic you want to see?” he asked, already knowing the answer but apparently set on teasing and torturing her further.

  “You know I do! Now stop teasing and show me!” She felt like that little girl she once was, giddy with excitement and hope.

  “Okay, but we have to start out small and I can only show you so much out here in the open like this.” She started to argue which would have probably led to begging, but Blaine held his hand up to stop her. “Trust me. What I show you will definitely satisfy you,” he said suggestively.

  If she hadn’t been so impatient to see him do some more magic, she probably would have been embarrassed over the possible double meaning in his comment. Instead, she smacked him on the arm and gestured with her other hand for him to hurry up. He chuckled but did as she demanded.

  He turned his body so that he was facing her as fully as he could while still sitting on the bench. She did the same so that they were face to face, knees touching, and only a foot of space between their bodies. He looked into her eyes and then down to his now open palms between them. She did the same. Just as she did, a small fire ball formed in his hands. It was almost like an orb of blue and red light, but there were small flames dancing from the top of it. It was beautiful, but it wasn’t something she hadn’t seen before. Magicians always used these little packets that were small enough to place in the palm of their hands without the audience seeing them. They ignited and made it look like the magician could make flames come out of his bare hands. Blaine wasn’t doing a very good job of impressing her.

  She looked back up at him and was about to tell him just that when he shook his head and nodded back down to the flames. “Open your hands like mine.”

  She hesitated for just a second but then mirrored his position, placing her hands just like his, her fingertips just a breath away from his. She watched as the fire ball danced and moved from his hand to hers. She sucked in a breath when she felt the warmth engulf her palms, afraid it would burn her when it was fully in her hands, but the heat never intensified. Her hands were bathed in a toasty temperature that warmed her whole body. She watched the orb float and the flames dance, the colors beautiful and mesmerizing. She had to admit that this was much more impressive, him moving the flame from his hands to hers, without touching it but she wanted more.

  She looked up at him with a raised eyebrow, silently challenging him. He met her challenge with a raised eyebrow of his own then looked back down at her open palms. He slowly moved his hands over hers and the orb, before lowering them until their palms were touching each other. The heat was still there but the orb was gone, replaced with that zing of electricity she felt every time their skin touched. She almost jerked her hands away, but he wrapped his fingers around hers, causing her to look up in question. He shook his head again but didn’t say anything. His fingers released her and she looked back down. He slowly moved his palms back up and then away from her, revealing a lovely butterfly.

  This time the breath she took was more audible. “Oh,” was the only word she could manage as she gazed down at the beautiful blue butterfly that was now sitting in her hand, wings slowly moving up and down as if it were just taking a rest.

  “You don’t see many butterflies just hanging around Downtown Manhattan this time of night do you?” his voice was soft, as to not break the quiet of the night that had surrounded them.

  She shook her head, “No, you don’t.” She looked back up at him and she knew he could see the wonder in her eyes. “This is amazing.”

  He nodded, “Yeah, it is but those are things that could be explained away still.”

  She knew he was right even though she was positive he hadn’t had a butterfly up his sleeve this entire evening. And if he had, she would have easily seen him do the trick because she had been watching for any of the usual signs. But to anyone else, yes they could be explained away. “Okay then, show me more,” she encouraged. Her voice was still soft, the earlier challenge replaced with wonder and curiosity. She didn’t doubt him anymore, she was entirely caught up in what was happening and wanted to see everything he would show her.

  “Let it go and let’s take a walk.”

  Gently raising her hand, she gave the butterfly a little prompting before it took flight and fluttered away. She watched it for a moment until she couldn’t see it anymore, fully aware of Blaine’s eyes on her as she did, but she didn’t look his way until she stood beside him. He was watching her with a soft look that she didn’t understand but it made her stomach roll and not in the way it did when Lance looked at her. Shaking the thought away for now, she gestured for Blaine to lead the way. She didn’t hesitate this time to follow him wherever it was that he was taking her.

  They walked through the park, side by side for a few moments until they were safely tucked further into the shadows and away from the possibility of being seen. Then Blaine leaned closer to her, almost whispering in her ear, “Look over there at the base of that tree.” He gestured with his hand where she should look and she did.

  It was just a regular tree, nothing around the base except for mulch and grass. But as she looked, a bed a flowers began to bloom around it. She froze in her tracks and watched as small sprouts began to come up from the ground. They were green and looked almost like blades of grass, until they began to blossom and bloom, turning into lovely tulips of every imaginable color. She took a few tentative steps toward the bed of flowers, unsure if she should get closer, but then Blaine’s large, warm hand was on the small of her back nudging her toward them. “Go check them out. They’re real.”

  She gave him a sheepish look over her shoulder at being caught doubting him, but he just smiled and gave her a gentle push. She didn’t need to be told again. She closed the distance much quicker than before and crouched down in front of the flowers. She reached her hand out and brushed her fingertip across a petal of one of the tulips. It was soft and waxy, just like a real one would be. She pinched the petal between her finger and thumb, rubbing it between them to get a better feel for it, and then plucked the petal from the flower. She brought it closer to her face where she examined it carefully, taking in the texture and color. Then she lifted it to her nose where there was no mistaking the floral aroma. Holding the soft, delicate petal in her fingers, she looked at the rest of the gorgeous flowers in front of her and found herself utterly speechless.

  She felt Blaine move behind her and then crouch down next her as well. He didn’t say anything, didn’t even look at her. Becky watched as his big, tan hand reached out, his long masculine finger extended and the tip delicately brushed the petals of one of the flowers. She couldn’t explain the surprising response she had to his actions, but watching him do that made her heart thump a little bit harder and her breath became short. She was enthralled by the way his finger and his thumb moved and caressed the flower; she could almost imagine how that delicate touch would feel on her bare skin. She had to bite her lip to fight the sudden warm feeling she got in the pit of her stomach at that thought. She closed her eyes quickly, trying to clear her head and when she opened them again, she noticed that Blaine’s fingers were no longer caressing the flower.

  She looked up to see his focus was now solely on her. The look in his eyes made her bite her lip even harder but the pain wasn’t enough to break the spell and make her look away. There was a spark in his eyes that reminded her of the electricity she felt whenever he touched her. She wasn’t sure if she was imagining it or if he was somehow magically making it appear there but either
way, it took her breath away.

  She couldn’t pull her gaze from his, so she didn’t see him move, but she did sense it. His finger, the same one that had so delicately stroked the flower petal, touched her check just as softly as it had the flower. Then, while still staring into her eyes, he moved it slowly down the side of her face. He touched her so softly it felt more like a feather running along her jawline, barely there but still being the most wonderful touch she had ever experienced. When he finally reached her chin, he left his finger there and waited for just a moment. When she didn’t pull away, he slid it back once again, his other fingers joining the journey until he was cupping the side of her face with his entire hand and his thumb was resting lightly on her chin. He then used his hold on her to his advantage, keeping her in place as he moved his face slowly toward hers. The only time he broke eye contact with her was when his eyes flickered to her mouth quickly before meeting hers again. With that one glance, she knew his intent and wanted it more than she had ever wanted anything in her life. As his face moved closer, his eyelids began to lower, closing slowly, and Becky felt her eyes doing the same.

  Her heart was racing, her breathing shallow, and her stomach warming as she felt his warm breath touch her lips just before she heard a loud cracking sound from beside them. It sounded almost like when lightning strikes and was loud enough to make her ears ring. Blaine and Becky both swung their heads around to find the source of the noise. Becky didn’t see anything but Blaine must have because he stood quickly while grabbing her hand and pulling her roughly behind him. They moved at a fast jog until they were about thirty feet from the tree before he stopped and turned back around.

  Becky, still unsure of what just happened or what Blaine was looking at, turned as well and gasped in horror. The tree they were just standing under was on fire. It wasn’t a large flame, but it was getting bigger and the smoke that was coming off of it was black and thick. Becky glanced up at the sky in confusion. “Did lightning just strike that tree?”

  “No,” Blaine answered. She could tell that he was gritting his teeth when he did. He stared at the tree for a moment, and then waved his hands at it. Just like that the flames were out.

  “Wow,” Becky breathed in awe. “That was amazing.”

  “No. That was someone trying to warn us,” his voice was ominous and scary, causing her head to jerk back and look up at him.

  “What?” she practically screeched, fear starting to set in just from his tone.

  But he wasn’t looking at her. Instead, his gaze was scanning the area rapidly. Becky couldn’t help but to do what she did earlier in the diner and look around as well. She had no idea what she was looking for but if she saw some sinister character, lurking in the shadows, with a cape and an evil smile, she was pretty sure she would know that was the suspect. Thankfully there didn’t seem to be anyone around that fit that description; which meant they were probably safe for now from whoever had just tried to hurt them. Thankfully, it also meant that no one had witnessed the sudden combustion of a tree and then it just as suddenly being extinguished all on its own. She had no idea how they would have explained that away.

  They both remained quiet as they scanned the area, but now that the coast seemed to be clear, Blaine broke the silence by answering her question. “I’m not sure who it was, although I have a pretty good idea. That’s why it is so important that we are careful of where and when we do our magic as well as what we discuss when we’re out. You never know whose watching or lurking around the corner and magic users are even more deceptive and sneaky than regular people.”

  “Umm…suddenly all of this magic stuff is starting to sound really bad and scary,” Becky said as she wrapped her arms around herself and fought a shiver.

  Blaine moved closer to her and wrapped one of his arms around her. “It isn’t always bad and I don’t want you to be scared. Like I told you before, just because we are able to use magic, it doesn’t change the type of person we are. A good person will use magic for good and a bad person won’t. Just like any other good or bad person.”

  “Yeah except a regular bad person can’t blow me up or catch me on fire without me even knowing their around,” she said sarcastically. She didn’t intend to sound mean but she was scared. She didn’t like the idea of someone being able to just light her on fire and her not even have the chance to fight back.

  “Someone isn’t going to just attack you for no reason, not a magic user.”

  “Well what do you call what just happened then?” she asked instantly, but then what he said caught up with her brain and she started putting two and two together. She stepped away from his warm body and out from under his comforting arm so that she could look up at him. “You know who that was and why they were trying to hurt you.” It was a statement and the look on his face confirmed it to be true.

  He nodded solemnly. “Yeah, I have a pretty good idea of who it was and why.”

  Nervous and unsure of what to say, Becky said the first thing that came to mind. “Please tell me you don’t have some sort of stalker ex-girlfriend that just tried to kill you because we almost kissed.” She laughed at her own silly thoughts, but when Blaine didn’t make even a peep at her ridiculous comment she looked up to see him with a guilty look on his face.

  “Seriously? That’s it? Your ex-girlfriend just tried to kill you? Oh wait! She just tried to kill me didn’t she? Oh my God! This is just freaking fabulous and so cliché!” Becky said as she whirled away from him and threw her hands in the air at the same time. How could her life get any more complicated? She already had an ex gunning for her, she didn’t need another one!

  “Wait!” Blaine said urgently and grabbed her hand to keep her from walking too far. “It isn’t safe for you to go off on your own and we really should get out of here. Can I take you home?” When she gave him a mocking look because they had taken a cab to get there in the first place, he amended his question. “We could share a cab so that I can make sure you get home safely. Would that be okay?”

  She watched him for a moment, noting that his hand was still holding onto hers and the slight electric tingle that was still present. She liked that feeling. She looked into his eyes and was instantly a goner. They were just so perfect. She let out a breath in defeat. “Okay, fine. But you have a lot of explaining to do. I need to know what I’m getting myself into here.”

  He smiled and tugged on her hand, keeping it firmly in his as they made their way out of the park and to the sidewalk again. He hailed a cab and they both climbed in. When she glanced out of the window toward the charred tree one last time, she could have sworn she saw that dark and sinister creature she was looking for before, but the cab pulled away from the curb before she could be sure.

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