Illusions begin, p.26
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       Illusions Begin, p.26

           N.L. Greene
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  Chapter Seventeen

  As soon as the door shut and the driver was given her address, she turned toward Blaine. “Start talking,” she demanded softly

  He glanced at the driver before he let out a sigh and leaned back into the seat, eyeing her wearily. His voice was low, for her ears only when he complied. “She’s not exactly an ex-girlfriend. She’s a girl I grew up with and that was trained by my grandfather just like I was. He’s the oldest member of our organization so he teaches all of the kids when they get old enough to start learning our history…” he hesitated with another quick peek toward the driver before he continued, “and other things. Most of the time we did our lessons together, so naturally we became very close over the years,” he finished with a shrug but wouldn’t meet her eyes.

  When she said nothing, he finally looked at her. She raised an eyebrow at him, knowing he was being evasive.

  He rolled his eyes and blew out a breath. “We may have dated a little, but we were young and it was all innocent. As we got older we realized that we weren’t compatible as a couple,” there was something in his voice now that had Becky’s back straightening. “We started seeing things…differently.”

  “Like what?” Becky asked, even though she was pretty sure she already knew.

  Blaine glanced at the cab driver once again to make sure he wasn’t listening to their conversation and then lowered his voice even further. “She didn’t really see anything wrong with using her abilities for things other than what my grandfather taught us.”

  “What did he teach you?” she asked, eager and curious for more information. Blaine seemed like a really nice guy so she assumed his grandfather taught him to use his magic for only good things, but they hadn’t gotten to that part of the conversation yet. She really wanted to know what they did as an organization. She couldn’t help the silly thoughts that flitted through her mind. Ones of secret superhero’s going out into the night to save the world. She actually had to hold back a giggle when she pictured Blaine in an outfit similar to Superman.

  He cleared his throat, bringing her attention back to him. There was a humorous glint in his eye, as if he knew where her imagination had wondered. She shook her head and motioned with her hand for him to continue. He glanced at the cabbie quickly again before meeting her eyes, the laughter now gone. “Let’s just say that my grandfather was a really good man that had strong moral beliefs, beliefs that he tried to instill in me and every other student of his over the years. He knew that what we were able to do was special and was meant to be treated with respect. He warned us about using our talents for the wrong reasons and what the consequences could be. But no matter how much he drilled that into our heads, there were always a few of those students that didn’t believe what he taught us. It didn’t help that there always seemed to be someone lurking in the shadows, trying to persuade us to do the wrong thing. Those people saw the benefits of using our skills for the wrong things and tried recruiting us when we were very young to join them. She was one of those students that were persuaded to go against the rest of us.”

  Becky nodded her head in understanding, knowing there were probably many people out there using their magic skills to do bad things. The exact thought had crossed her mind when Blaine first told her about him and the MysticSeekers. She realized then how important secrecy would be for them. There would always be people who would want to use such an amazing gift for their own personal gain. But she was still dying to know more details about what exactly they were taught and what sort of things the bad people did. Her mind drifted again to a superhero and villain scenario, complete with all the dangerous things that could involve. Like fireballs being thrown at you, she thought ruefully. As much as she wanted to ask all the questions that were swirling around in her head, she knew that he couldn’t tell her those things with someone listening. And as much as the cab driver was acting like he was focused on the road, he was totally eavesdropping on their conversation.

  Before she could figure out a way to ask more without giving anything away, the cab stopped in front of her building. She was so caught up in her own desire and need for more information that she didn’t even think before she blurted, “Come in with me.”

  Blaine met her eyes and watched her intently as if he were waiting for her to change her mind. It wasn’t going to happen. Becky knew that he wouldn’t hurt her; he had just saved her life for crying out loud. Even if it was from his enemy. And that hadn’t been the first time he had rescued her from a dangerous situation, so there was no doubt in her mind that she was safe with him. Well, she thought, looking into his electric eyes, safe from physical harm at least. When she said nothing and only held his gaze, he nodded once and opened the door. He took his wallet out and paid again before she could even get out of the car. She huffed out her frustration as she pulled her purse over her shoulder but didn’t bother to argue.

  She made her way to the door where the doorman was already holding the door open for her, Blaine following silently behind. The doorman eyed Blaine cautiously and then looked at Becky with a tight smile. “Everything okay this evening Miss Wellington?”

  His tone confused her until she realized that her temper may be causing him to come to the wrong conclusion about her companion. Then again, he could be jumping to a completely different assumption given the fact that she had a totally different man here with her just the night before. Great! She went from being a lonely homebody to a complete whore. She blew out a breath and smiled kindly at the older man. “Yes, Tony. I’m fine. This is my friend Blaine,” she couldn’t help but to emphasize that to him. She didn’t want him thinking badly of her. “And he keeps insisting on paying for stuff for me. It’s getting to be annoying.” She shot Blaine a glare but turned back to Tony when she heard him chuckle.

  Much more relaxed now, he shot her a wink. “Well, I’d say you found yourself a keeper then Miss Wellington.”

  She couldn’t help but to blush at his meaning while she mumbled a thank you and slipped past him into the building. There was no use arguing over his assumptions. It would just be more embarrassing for her. She heard Blaine exchange a polite greeting with the doorman as he entered the building behind her but didn’t look up as she swiftly walked toward the elevator doors and pressed the button. While she stood waiting, she felt Blaine come up beside her, so close that his arm brushed lightly against hers. She still didn’t look up. She was so embarrassed over the fact that Tony thought they were a couple and implied that they would be together for a while. She didn’t know what to say to Blaine or how to apologize for the assumptions.

  The elevator arrived while she was agonizing over what to say. As they stepped on and the doors shut behind them, Blaine said softly, “It’s not a big deal Becky.”

  Her head jerked up and her eyes snapped to his. She eyed him in surprise for a moment and then they narrowed on him. This was not the first time he made a statement that mirrored her thoughts so closely. She immediately became suspicious. “How?”

  That was the only word she needed to say. He knew exactly what she was asking. He shrugged, “I don’t know for sure, I’ve never really experienced it before, but when your emotions are running really high, I seem to be able to get a sense for them.”

  “You mean you can read my mind?” she asked, her voice going much too high and her cheeks flaming.

  He chuckled at her reaction. “No. I can’t read you mind. I don’t know exactly what you’re thinking or anything like that. I just know when you’re scared or extremely uncomfortable. Once I know that, it’s not that hard to figure out why or what caused it.”

  She watched him without saying anything, trying to decide if she believed him or not. How embarrassing would it be if he could actually read her mind! The thoughts she had earlier about how attractive he was and the way she imagined his fingers touching her skin came back to mind in a rush. She began to mentally freak out as she tried to
push them away.

  Of course he picked up on that. “Please don’t freak out. I swear I can’t read your mind.” When she only gave him a wide-eyed look, he rushed on. “Look, just now I could see you blushing when the doorman made the comment about keeping me around, then I felt how uncomfortable you were and after that you wouldn’t look at me. It wasn’t that hard to understand that you were worried about what I would think. It’s not a big deal. I don’t mind if he thinks we’re a couple.”

  Becky could literally feel her eyes bug out of her head at his last statement. Blaine’s eyes did the same and he threw his hands up in front of him. “I mean… I’m not saying…I didn’t…”

  Becky laughed. All of her embarrassment faded and she was overtaken with fits of giggles. She didn’t mean to be laughing at him, but it was nice to see someone other than herself completely embarrassed and fumbling for the right thing to say. “I know what you meant Blaine,” she reassured him between muffled snickers.

  He let out a breath and sagged against the elevator wall. “I guess you can tell what I’m feeling too huh?” he asked with a crooked grin.

  Becky calmed herself down and smiled a mischievous grin. “Maybe.” She hadn’t really felt anything but she thought it would be funny for him to squirm for a few minutes like she had all night. He narrowed his eyes on her and opened his mouth, getting ready to call her out she was sure, just as the elevator dinged and the doors opened. Becky stepped off quickly with Blaine following close behind. She walked ahead of him, not giving him a chance to give her a hard time about her teasing him. She was fishing the keys out of her purse when she felt Blaine’s hand grab her arm and pull her to a stop. She glanced back at him with a smile that quickly turned into concern when she saw the serious look on his face.

  “Is everything okay?”

  “Yeah, but would you mind if I checked things out first before you went in?”

  “Oh, umm…yeah sure,” she handed him the keys and let him move around her to the door. Did he really think someone would be in her apartment? She hadn’t even considered the possibility but after having fireballs thrown at her head, she probably should have. What if Blaine hadn’t walked her up and she went in by herself? What if someone was in there waiting for her? She would have been alone and helpless, caught completely off guard. She made a mental note to be more vigilant from now on as she watched Blaine. He slowly pushed open the door to her apartment, peering around inside the dark room before walking in, leaving the door open behind him.

  Becky peeked around the corner and watched as he moved around her apartment quietly but quickly. When he disappeared into her room she had to tamp down the embarrassment over him seeing her bed and personal items in her bathroom. He wasn’t there to look at her intimate things, she reminded herself. He was searching her apartment for danger. When he strode out of her bedroom a few seconds later, he smiled at her as he motioned her in. “All clear,” he told her as she closed the door and turned to face him again.

  “God! This is so weird,” she shook her head and moved around him to set her stuff on the kitchen bar. “I can’t believe all this crazy stuff keeps happening to me!”

  “What else has happened?” he asked from behind her, the concern clear in his voice.

  She waved off his concern with her hand before she motioned to the couch. “It’s nothing serious. You want to sit? Can I get you something to drink? Coffee, water, wine?”

  “Sure, I’ll take some water please,” he said as he took a seat on the couch.

  Becky made her way to the kitchen to grab two bottles of water out of the fridge before joining Blaine on the couch. She handed him his water and sat down beside him. When she did, her body shifted closer to his, causing her leg to rub against his. At the contact, her relaxed, teasing mood fled and she found herself flustered all over again. She didn’t understand how he could do that to her with barely a touch. She hadn’t even felt this way when Ethan kissed her the other night. It had been nice and made her feel special, but her stomach didn’t feel like there was suddenly a stampede of elephants tromping through it.

  Apparently sensing her unease, Blaine moved his leg slightly away so they weren’t touching but he didn’t move his body away. He remained close and although the lack of contact helped, she was still nervous with him so near. She could feel the heat coming off his body, one that was so much larger than hers and made her feel like leaning into it. While she was fighting the urge to do just that, she felt his eyes studying her. She had been avoiding eye contact since she sat down, knowing that if she met his gaze she would be captivated once again. But she knew she couldn’t avoid them forever and she didn’t want to be rude by staring down at the floor the entire time either. Bracing herself mentally, she looked up and sucked in a breath as their eyes met.

  She was instantly snared by the electricity zinging in his eyes and the emotions they revealed. They were so intense it was like she could feel all of the sensations he was experiencing at that moment. They were all so deep too. The one that stuck out the most though was concern.

  “What’s wrong?” she asked, concerned now herself.

  “Are you okay Becky? After everything that happened? I can’t tell you how sorry I am.”

  She really had been shaken up when everything was happening, but now she felt better. It was just another thing to add to the long list of crazy she had experienced already that week. So she just tried to wave of his concern. “Yes, I’m really fine. After the week I’ve had…” she just shook her head and blew out a breath.

  “What else has happened to you? Has that guy been bothering you again? Did he try to hurt you?” his sat up quickly, his voice becoming urgent and angry.

  Becky quickly reassured him, not wanting him to be worried about her. “No! Lance hasn’t been bothering me. Not since you rescued me the other day. Thank you for that, by the way.”

  He sat back again, the tension leaving his body as he asked, “What was going on that day?”

  She was a little surprised he was asking her. Most people would say it wasn’t their business or ask in a less blunt way, but Blaine didn’t seem to have the same reserve.

  “Umm, well. He’s just upset that I broke up with him.”

  “Well I could understand why he would be upset to lose you, but that doesn’t excuse the way he was being so rough with you. There’s more. Tell me,” his voice was hard and commanding but it didn’t bother Becky. She knew it wasn’t directed at her as much as it was at the idea of Lance hurting her. She also knew the situation was serious but she couldn’t help the little flutter in her tummy at the idea that he seemed to care about her.

  “Well, we were actually engaged. The night of our engagement party I walked in on him…and…umm…” she waved her hand in the air and turned her face to hide her burning cheeks. “You know,” she finished lamely.

  “Yeah, I think I do,” his voice was a little sharper and he sounded angry which brought Becky’s gaze back to his. When she was looking at him again he questioned, “It sounds like he found someone else, why is he so angry you broke it off?”

  “Well Lance is one of those guys that like to have their cake and eat it too. I wasn’t…well since I wasn’t giving him what he wanted…” she cleared her throat but forged ahead. She was already this far. “He found it somewhere else. He thought I should have understood that and been okay with it. I wasn’t. So when I broke off the engagement, not only was he humiliated at being dumped, but he also lost his chance at being half owner of my parent’s law firm.”

  “How is that?” Blaine asked his voice snippy, almost sarcastic.

  She almost giggled at his tone. He was making it so easy to talk to him about something that would normally be torture for her. He didn’t draw attention to the awkward or uncomfortable parts of the conversation and making his dislike for Lance so apparent made her like him even more. “If we married, he would have been given h
alf the law firm as a gift from my parents. They want to keep it in the family and since Lances’ grandfather was part of the law firm years ago, and Lance is now a lawyer there himself, they felt comfortable with giving him half. As it stands now, I’ll get the whole thing.”

  “Ah, okay. I think I understand now,” he paused then asked the million dollar questions. “So what are you going to do about him?”

  Becky shrugged. “I don’t know. I’ve been asking myself the same question for months now. He’s a respectable attorney and good at what he does. I hate the idea of ruining his career.”

  “Do you love him?” he asked softly but she could see the barley contained anger in his eyes at that thought.

  Even though Becky could see that he didn’t like asking the question, it still angered her that he did, especially after what he witnessed himself. With narrowed eyes and heat in her own voice now, she asked, “Did it look like I loved him to you?”

  “Well, no, but you seem to be protecting him and I’ve only seen that when a women still loves the man that is abusing her.”

  “He’s not abusing me!” Becky’s voice rose at the accusation.

  Blaine’s voice remained calm when he disagreed. “Yes, he is.” When she started to shake her head in denial, he reached for her hand and held it in his. The electrical currents that began to zing through her hand shut her up real quick. “Just because he isn’t physically abusing you – which it looked pretty close to that the other day by the way – doesn’t mean he isn’t abusing you. He’s scaring you and threatening you but also making you feel sorry for him. He’s manipulating you and you’re letting him.”

  She shook her head. He didn’t understand.

  “Explain it to me,” he stated, picking up on her emotions again. She wasn’t sure whether she liked that or not now. It was so weird for someone else to be able to pick up on how she was feeling when she was trying to hide it. Although she could admit to herself that it was nice to not be able to hide for a change, it was also strange because this man was a virtual stranger and he seemed to already know more about her than anyone else in the world.

  She sighed and decided to tell him everything. “My parents have these expectations, ones that they’ve had since I was born. The law firm isn’t just a family business, it’s a legacy. One that I’m expected to carry on. Lance was meant to be my husband and partner to help with that. Of course after everything that’s happened, I have no intention of letting him do that. But it doesn’t change the fact that my parents like and respect him and his family. They’ve been friends with his parents for years and I don’t want to be the cause for problems between them.”

  “How would you be the cause? It’s isn’t your fault that he’s the way he is. It wasn’t you that cheated. You’ve done absolutely nothing wrong and yet you feel responsible,” he shakes his head at her before continuing. “You are a great person to take on so much, but you need to stop. It isn’t your job to protect him. It isn’t your job to make sure your parents and his parents stay friends. And it isn’t your job to do what you obviously don’t want to do in order to make your parents happy. Why are you a lawyer if you don’t want to be?”

  “Because my parents have worked so hard to make sure I became one, just like them and I don’t want to disappoint them.”

  “Do you really think they would be disappointed in you if you wanted to do something else?”

  Now he sounded like Helen. “No probably not, but I don’t even know what I want to do so how can I tell them that? Mom and Dad, I don’t want to be an attorney, take over the family business or follow in your footsteps but I’ve got no clue what I do want to do. I don’t think that conversation would go over too well with them.”

  He chuckled at my silly voice but offered up some good advice. “I think that you should tell them you need some time to find yourself. Find out what you want to do and pursue it. You don’t have to know right now what that is, but you do need the time and freedom to explore your options and find out what that is.”

  Becky nodded her head in agreement. That made sense but she still didn’t know what she was going to do. Blaine hesitated and Becky knew he had something he felt was important to say but he seemed to be struggling with it.

  “What is it?” she asked, giving him her full attention.

  “I know you’re dealing with a lot right now and I hate the idea of compounding that, but I would like you to consider training…with me.”

  “Okay. I mean I know I still have some stuff to sort out, but we could still meet up and you can tell me everything I need to know and teach me some stuff.” She was starting to get excited again. She had some thinking to do and some decisions to make but the idea of learning about magic and how to use it would help her through all of that. Plus, it would be so much fun!

  Blaine broke eye contact and started looking around the room nervously. She could sense his unease and she began to worry again. “Umm…well…you see…” he stuttered then trailed off.

  “Just spit it out Blaine,” she finally demanded.

  His eyes swung back to hers. “I can’t train you here. You would have to come away with me.”

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