The walk to the car was silent. Melanie had never been chatty, but this time the quiet came as a relief for talking was the last thing on my mind. In fact, there was nothing on my mind. Only profound silence.
She had parked just down the street, a shiny black car much like the Roaring Thunder’s escort.
Not one thought crossed my mind as I got in, and even fewer as we drove off.
But a few blocks away my brain was forced back into alertness. A horn sounded and I blinked my eyes, shifting them to the front window. The streetlight was green, and I could see no pedestrians. And while Melanie’s eyes were fixed on the road before her, she made no attempt to continue.
“Um, it’s green.” I stated.
“I know.” she answered and her eyes slipped to the rear-view mirror as another horn sounded.
The light shifted to yellow, and she still wasn’t driving off. I was about to question her again when the car screeched into motion pinning me back to my seat. A few more horns went off a she drove across the crossroad as the lights turned red.
Just what the hell was wrong with that woman?
She made a sharp turn on the next corner at a speed slightly above what I would consider reasonable. But at least the light was green. A few short streets later the car pulled into the highway. Accelerating rapidly, Melanie shifted from lane to lane. She cut in dangerously close at the next overtake winning herself another ear piercing honk.
“Is there a reason for this all?” I asked when I could no longer stand it.
“Be a dear and get my purse.” she said, eyes still steady on the road.
Her purse? I held back a snappy comeback, gaze slipping to the back seat and the black leather bag on it. I reached as far as my seatbelt allowed hooking the handle and pulling the purse to the front seat.
“Hand me my phone.” she said, extending one hand for it. “Phone.” She commanded and when her eyes came off the road to pierce me I had no choice but to comply.
Both hands on the wheel, both hands on the bloody wheel, I chanted in my mind as she proceeded to dial, gaze shifting between the screen and the windshield.
Just how many accidents happened while on the phone again?
“We’ll be late.” she said into the phone and I heard Atlanta’s voice murmur something back, but Melanie cut her off. “No, everything’s fantastic.” she said. “No, no, it’s nothing I can’t handle.” she insisted. “Just give me an hour.” she concluded and hung up, giving me back the phone.
I worried now. Especially when I felt the faint enemy presence tailing us. I stared into the mirror, trying to figure out which car was theirs, but Melanie’s driving and the distance made it impossible to tell.
The highway became but a strip of road cutting across fields and random isles of trees when we exited the city. The cars grew fewer too, after several exits, but it was still hard to tell who was after us. Melanie was losing patience as well, I could tell by the sharpness of her gaze, still fixed on the road, unblinking, unmoving. Her whole body seemed frozen, or at least her motions so subtle I could hardly detect them.
I did see her flip the blinker at the next exit. Not the one I remember leading to Roaring Thunder’s mansion. Once again I didn’t question her decision. And not for the lack of desire, since the road she picked seemed to lead to nowhere in particular. More fields, more pockets of trees flashed past us as she drove. Only two cars had followed. And no wonder, I could see no towns in the near distance. If we were lucky, one would be heading toward the farms leaving a single threat at our tail. But I had long since lost faith in my luck, and neither of the cars swerved off to the houses.
They kept their distance, however, at least for now, but Melanie didn’t slow. Not until a few bumps threatened to send us into a ditch. Her foot relaxed from the gas, brow furrowing and lips bunching into a frown as she observed the cars in the rear-view mirror.
“Are you sure this is the best route?” I questioned, finally. The emptier the fields the more likely were they to act. And the are was getting pretty barren. Not that leading them straight to Atlanta was the better option.
Melanie didn’t answer, instead she twisted the wheel to steer us down a narrow back-road. Gravel crunched under the tires as the clouds of dust rose behind us, shrouding the two cars. But I could still feel them gaining steadily on us. Melanie clicked her tongue, spinning the wheel yet again to bring the car skidding around and into the parkway of an old farm. It was unpopulated, but the looks of it. At least the fields were empty and I could feel no presences. The engine murmured to a halt as Melanie gazed over the wheel and into the clearing dust.
Our pursuers neared, and the two cars slowly pulled into the opening of the driveway, effectively blocking our way.
“Are you sure this is the best way?” I asked her again.
“Pass me my bag.” she said in answer and I reluctantly handed it. “How well can you fend for yourself?” she questioned, eyes at the cars as four people exited.
“Not at all.” I admitted and she frowned.
“Stand back and keep quiet.” she commanded taking the sheathed dagger from her bag and fitting it in the insides of her jacket. She zipped it up and stopped the engine, the doors unlocking in answer. Her door swung open and she slowly climbed out of the car, carefully walking to stand in the front. Her hands came to her waist as she scanned the people before her, hip cocked.
What the hell was she thinking? We should had just kept driving.
Teeth clenching, I scampered out of the vehicle and approached her, taking my stand one good step behind her, arms crossed. Three men and one woman, all scowly and mean looking. She was an earth user, so were two of the men, and the last one was fire. I wasn’t too worried about him, but the earth people were problematic.
“Well, well, well,” the smaller man spoke, “if it isn’t two of the Council’s dogs.”
Melanie answered with a charming smile. “That’s a long way to go, just to say hello.” She eyed the cars behind them.
“What can I say,” he sneered, “heard you were in the neighbourhood.”
The fire guy murmured something to the woman and she frowned. I could feel their auras flair, but so far the energy was contained. If I kept my senses sharpened I could probably feel them before they did anything. But so could Melanie, my gaze slipped to her smiling face.
No one spoke as both sides observed the other.
“May we know the reason for your visit?” the woman spoke with forced calm.
“You may not.” Melanie answered with a smile, her voice coming a note too sharp.
The fire guy stirred, but his approach was halted by the big earth man. The two exchanged a glance and pouting the fire guy fell back.
“You have no business in these parts.” the small man spoke again, no longer smirking.
“That is not for you to decide.” Melanie retorted.
How long was this going to last? The way I saw it, only two possibilities existed. One they attacked, two they didn’t, anything inbetween was pointless chatter. But I kept my lips sealed. This once.
“This is our city.” the fire guy snapped, winning himself a few pointed looks.
“Mm no, last time I checked it was neutral.” Melanie said. “So tell me,” she purred, “do you really want to start something on neutral grounds?” In a second her aura grew menacing, bringing a soft ache to my temples with its sharpness.
The man froze, his companions exchanging a few questioning looks. They could take us, I had no doubt. Well maybe not Melanie. I glanced her way again, amazed at the confidence in her smile.
“You don't really want to fight me, now do you.” she said in a silky voice and the man shifted his feet. His eyes remained locked on her for a second longer before turning to seek the gazes of his companions. Some kind of silent agreement passed between them and the fire guy frowned, his soft brown eyes burning into Melanie. She showed no sign of recognition, however, high on her heels, hip still cocked.
“What will it be?” she questioned although the answer was clear. No one was stupid enough to start something. Not here, not now.
“This isn't the end.” the short man spoke. “You should leave before something happened to that pretty face of yours.”
“Duly noted.” Melanie said, smile unchanged.
With that, we watched them climb back into their cars and drive off, kicking up a cloud of dust down the road. I let out the sigh I had been holding back. Not even a day back into the fold, and already a whole load of trouble in my plate.