I dug my hands deeper into the pockets of Marcus’ jacket as he led me away from the bar. We walked in silence for the first block, and it would have stayed that way except we were interrupted by his voice calling behind us, “Hey! Wait!”
He was the reason that I couldn’t stay there any longer, and I didn’t want to turn around to see what he wanted. I needed to keep walking, but Marcus stopped and turned leaving me to walk alone. I only took a few steps before his arm caught mine halting me from going any further. “Let’s see what he needs.”
I stayed facing the opposite direction from him as we waited for him. “Where are you taking her?”
“To the inn.”
“But it is only ten.” Michael said, “You weren’t supposed to leave for another two hours or so. What am I going to do now?”
“It wouldn’t hurt to stay with him for another hour. I won’t be all night.” Marcus finally let go of my arm realizing that I wasn’t going to run away.
“But I told her that I had to be back in two hours.” Michael’s words caught me in the heart making me turn to face him finally. A goofy grin stretched across his face as he looked at Marcus, “Come on man, what am I supposed to do? This is the first time that I can remember that I didn’t have to persuade a woman. Help me out.”
Marcus remained quiet as he ran his thumb down the side of his nose and looked down at me. I’m sure I looked horrible after being attacked like that. I was sure that the tears were starting to form, but I tried everything inside of me to stop them. Random memories began filling my mind which made it worse. He never wanted me, only my power. Any chance he had gotten in the beginning he made it clear that is all that he was after.
“Does she know that you make your living killing people?” I snarled trying to make myself feel a little better by putting him down.
Michael narrowed his eyes, “Actually, yes she does.”
“What?” I gasped.
“Let me get her settled at the inn, and gather her things from the school.” Marcus changed the subject quickly, “Then wait for me to return, and then you two may go.”
Michael’s voice seemed confused as he spoke, but I refused to look at him, “What are you two going to do at the inn?”
“Not the same thing you plan to do apparently.” I snapped at him still staring at the ground.
“What is her problem?”
Marcus started laughing, “You.”
“What,” He questioned but then seemed to understand just a moment later, “Oh, she did attack me the other night, but Ash, you didn’t seem right at all. If you want I could accompany you to the inn.”
I sniffed the cold air as it burnt my nose and turned away from him when Marcus started laughing even more. “Michael, you can’t help, but put your foot in your mouth can you? Understand a woman’s heart, and then learn to speak to them.”
“I don’t want to understand what’s in her heart. She has done nothing but confuse me from the moment I met her.” Michael seemed slightly angered now, “I can’t touch her, yet she gets upset if I go with someone else. Marc, I’ll take the power, and you can keep her.”
Marcus touched my shoulder lightly as he leaned in, “Ash, I want you to see something before he leaves.”
I looked at him confused as he nodded towards Michael. Michael now held the same expression as I, “What?”
“Michael, show her the scar Blyth gave to you.”
I looked up at Marcus who closed his eyes trying to calm his rage from being refused. “Michael, for her to know the whole truth, you need to show her your scar.”
“Look, I am not the one who messed with her mind. I’m not showing her anything.” Michael stood his ground. I was sure now that he had one to show, but I couldn’t understand why. It was just a scar, after all it seemed we all had one now. I closed my eyes and tried to picture the same scar that Marcus had across Michael’s perfectly chiseled chest. “Did you show her yours?”
“Yes. Now Michael, it is wasting the precious time that you could be spending with your lovely brunette.” Marcus persisted.
I heard Michael groan as Marcus nudged me gently with his elbow. Slowly I opened my eyes to find Michael still standing in front of us. This time he looked angrily off to the side as he lifted his shirt. With each inch that he brought it up a small line stretching from the center of his abdomen grew higher and higher. A second one appeared just beside it going up at the same angle. Finally there was an even smaller one which met up with the others just over his heart. A huge off colored scar covered his heart. Above it several smaller lines like at the bottom rose to under his shirt.
I couldn’t help but gasp as I reached out for him, “What did he do to you?”
Michael quickly put his shirt down and stepped from me and glared at Marcus, “Happy now?”
Before another word could be said he turned and stormed off back the way he came. Marcus turned making my eyes go to him, “I wasn’t lying.”
“What did he do to Michael?” Sadness coursed through my words.
Marcus turned me around and we started walking away from Michael, “Blyth tried to cut out his heart.”
I fought to keep my head from turning around to find Michael again, “Isn’t that a bit extreme?”
“He wanted to make sure he was really dying, or who knows maybe he was really trying to kill us.” Marcus ran his fingers down over the scar on his face, “Either way he knew Michael read our mother’s book, and the cat was there.”
“Wait.” I paused for a moment to face Marcus, “If Michael already read the book, why did he take it the other day?”
Marcus threw his arm over my shoulders causing me to shrink away from him, “Come on.”
“I’ll go just don’t touch me, please.” Marcus led me into the parking lot of a small motel.
Marcus sighed and started talking again, “We didn’t know what the ending was. All I knew was what Blyth told me. ‘Search for the phoenix that would break the spell, and end my existence.’ In every future that I saw until this afternoon, you never did either so I was almost convinced that you weren’t the right one. But I engineered history so that you were the one.”
“Yes, you made me just for you.” I growled under my breath, “I won’t forget that.”
He stopped in front of a poorly brown painted door with the number two just above the peep hole. “It is the only one in town. I’m sorry it isn’t the Ocean View. Would you like me to go in first and fix up the furnishings?”
“If this place is run by people like us, why isn’t it in better shape?” I looked at the shabby building around me.
“Blyth wishes to keep everything just a level below average.” Marcus searched in his pocket for an actual key instead of a card. He slid it into the door and opened it for me, “He wants us all to keep what we are well hidden.”
I stepped inside of the room, and Marcus turned on the light illuminating a scantily decorated room. A small bed, a nightstand, and a TV were all that was in there. It looked clean, but it was not what I was used to. Like Marcus said, it wasn’t the Ocean View. I thought about what Blyth had said as well, most of this town was witches and warlocks so they would have the ability if needed to change the interior of this. If they were humans they wouldn’t stay in this unless it was necessary. It would definitely keep people out of town.
“I could make it more comfortable for you.” Marcus insisted again.
As nice as his offer sounded I decline it. “It is fine. At least I will be here by myself.”
“If that is what you wish.” Marcus backed up to the doorway, “I’ll be back with your things. Is there anything else that you might need or want, possibly some food?”
“Hey!” Michael’s voice called from somewhere outside, “He’s gone.”
Marcus turned around to look out the door as I walked over to see what was going on, “Where did he go?”
“By the time I got,” Michael finally reached the door and he was out of breath, “When I got back into the bar, he took Laurel and never came back.”
“Good God man, did you run the whole way here?” Marcus stepped out of the way as Michael tried to push pass him. I moved and watched as Michael collapsed onto the bed.
“Well, some of it. I didn’t know where you two were, and I knew I couldn’t come right to you.” Michael was still trying to catch his breath. “I really need to start exercising.”
“Who is Laurel?” Marcus shut the door finally removing the cold air from coming inside.
I shook my head, “You’ll find her in his bed I’m sure.”
“I think she might be right, Marc.” Michael ran his fingers through his hair allowing the sweat keep it in place as his eyes fell on me, “But why aren’t you there?”
“Things changed.” Marcus leaned against the door and crossed his arm like he had done earlier in Blyth’s room. “She’s making her own choices now.”
I felt everything give out on me in that moment. My heart had completely stopped as well as my breathing. My eyes shifted between Michael’s of confusion to Marcus’ full of contentment. I tried to swallow everything that was coming up, but I couldn’t stop it. I ran passed Michael and into the bathroom. The contents of my stomach flew with force into the toilet. I was hoping to expel the thoughts that were going through my mind, but they didn’t leave me.
I reached up and pulled a towel down as I collapsed next to the bathtub. Marcus stood in the doorway, “Are you alright?”
Tears filled my eyes as I screamed at him and kicked the door shut, “Liar!”
“Come on Ashley.” Marcus protested behind the door, “Open it up so we can talk.”
If I was in complete control over my own future he sure was doing a good job of leading the blind. Why didn’t I see it before? Marcus said that he had already gotten me a room at the inn. It was obvious he knew that he could talk me into coming here, and getting me away from Blyth. No matter how thankful I was for him telling me the truth, I knew that he already planned everything out. He was only being this way to keep me out of Blyth’s bed. That is what made him so angry this morning, and it continued on until Blyth had Michael remove him.
“Ashley, I swear I never saw any of this.” A small thud hit the door, and I was sure it was him leaning against it. Not to force it open, but just realizing that he wasn’t leaving. “Please, I didn’t want him to hurt you.”
“Why did you bring me here?” I covered my face with the towel, but it was too late. I had already let the words escape my lips.
There was a silence coming from the door, but when the knob started turning, I quickly pushed my foot against it. “Ashley, I don’t want him to hurt you.”
“You don’t want me to be with him period!” I shouted at him now. “You want me for you only!”
I heard a muffled curse, and then something hit the door. It wasn’t long before I heard Marcus and Michael arguing quietly in the bedroom. I finally relaxed when I had gotten my point across to him that I knew what he was doing. I wasn’t going to let him control me or guide me blindly into the future. I couldn’t believe that I had actually followed him this far without catching it. Maybe it was because I was so intrigued in what he was saying that I ignored it.
There was a light tapping against the door, and Michael’s voice followed it, “Hey, I got you a toothbrush.”
“Is he still here?”
“He left.” I moved my foot from the door as Michael tried to open it.
I covered my face with a towel as he laid the toothbrush on the counter. “Thank you. Now please just go.”
I pushed against the door hoping to make him realize that he wasn’t welcome to stay any second longer than what was needed, “Wait.”
“No, Michael just go.”
He pushed right back against the door or was trapped between it and the wall I wasn’t sure. I still refused to look out from my towel. “Did he give you what was on top of the book?”
“No, Michael, he didn’t because I’m not the phoenix. I’ve tried to break the spell and it killed me mercilessly.” Slowly I lowered the towel to see Michael pinned in the doorway. It didn’t make sense to me. “Why do you care anyway? You said the spell never affected your life like it has Marcus.”
“If you weren’t the key, the phoenix, he wouldn’t have tried to change you into someone new.” Amber eyes dove into mine as deep as his green ones. The burnt their way through my heart and I was sure that Blyth’s spell was starting to take effect again. All I wanted to do in that moment was put the towel back over my face, but I feared moving. I held my breath as he continued, “But if you are, then I have the best chance to end his life right now. That is why you were bitten. It is your blood with the infection that will kill him. Since his life is being threatened because of you it only makes sense that he will try to kill you first.
That is why Marcus brought you here. He, we, want you safe until we can discover this other key. We only have until midnight to keep you from him or find the other key. It’s been nine days since you’ve seen your fate. Marcus said sometime before midnight you will rise. I don’t know what he means, but he said not to leave you until at least midnight. He wants to make sure that Blyth doesn’t come after you.”
Still unable to get the pain removed from my heart I pushed my foot harder on the door trying to get him out of the bathroom, “He hasn’t tried to kill me yet in the week that I’ve been here. I’m fine. Just leave Michael.”
“Alright.” He finally gave in to my request and let the door shut, “I’ll be out here if you need anything.”
“NO!” I screamed at the white door between us, “I want you out.”
“I’m not risking losing your life if you are the key that will end his life.” Michael grew serious and determined not to leave, “I’m staying right here until you rise.”
I gathered all the energy that I could because I knew this would drain me completely, but I also knew that it would get him out. Slowly I picked myself up off the floor and pointed all my frustration on the door. I allowed all the pain from just looking into his eyes course through my body. I forced it all out as I screamed at him again, “Do you want to see me rise? Watch this!”
I watched as the door shattered into thousands of pieces and broke into even more as they slammed into the wall outside. Carefully I braced myself against the sink for when I would lose my balance, but as Michael’s face appeared in the doorway I threw more out. His eyes bore into my heart making it feel like it was being shattered like the door. I needed him away from me. Everything that I threw at him just hit the empty space. He had seen it coming and moved quickly out of the way.
“Will you leave now before I come out and hit you with everything that I’ve got?” I asked knowing that I didn’t have left to use, but I hoped that the threat would be good enough. “Can’t you see that I can take care of myself?”
“You know what? You are psychotic. Marc can come back and watch you because I’m not dealing with this. I’m out.” I heard Michael yelling through the room, and it ended with the door slamming.
Being grateful that it actually worked I sighed and rested against the counter. I was surprised when I wasn’t as worn out as I thought I would be, but it did cause my head to ache. It was a pain that I could remember from my training sessions with Michael. I heaved another sigh from my body remembering a future that seemed like a past, but one that I knew would never happen.
After I was done brushing my teeth I glanced up at myself in the mirror. I fixed my makeup and allowed the curls to come down letting my hair become wavy once again. Staring into my own eyes I repeated to myself the words that I had told Michael, “I’m not the Phoenix.”
I couldn’t even believe myself. Marcus believed it beyond a doubt. Michael believed because of Marcus, and it seemed that Blyth was a believer as well. I knew one way to completely put this all behind me. Take the antibiotics that Michael had given me. That would kill all of this nonsense. It wasn’t that I didn’t want to help them. I was just tired of being a puppet for Marcus. I wanted a future that I could control myself.
Whatever this other key was it would no doubt help me in breaking the spell, but it was obvious that Blyth wasn’t going to just give it to me. Even though he had admitted that he wanted to die. He would have given it to me so that I could fulfill everything, but he didn’t. He lied to me just then, but why? Then again he did seem to change his moods quite quickly. Who knows what Blyth truly wants?
I walked out into the bedroom happy enough to find that my suitcase was here, and oddly enough my antibiotics were sitting on the nightstand. Michael didn’t want Blyth to become infatuated with me, but at the same time he wanted to use this blood flowing through me to kill Blyth. He still had three days left to do it.
Throwing myself on the bed I tried to figure out what I was going to do now. Or rather figure out what Marcus wanted me to do so that I could do the exact opposite. I didn’t want to give him the pleasure of being able to control me. I rolled over looking at the ceiling knowing that I had to get out of here. It was right where he wanted me, but I had no way out of this town. Not until I turned.
A light rapping came at the door, but I didn’t answer it. It was no doubt Marcus coming back to watch me since Michael left. I wasn’t going to let either of them in. I had more desire in me to let Blyth in than them. The tapping became quite loud more of a pounding after a minute. Finally I answered him, “Go away Marcus.”
“Come on Ash. Let me in.” That was not Marcus’, Michael’s, or Blyth’s voice. Fearfully I found my way to the familiar voice that shouldn’t be anywhere near here. I peered out the hole to find that it was who I thought. His eyes were questioning, “Are you going to let me in or let me freeze out here?”
Slowly I opened the door just to make sure that it wasn’t a trick or anything. Just as I did he pulled the hood tighter, but still his face didn’t change. “What are you doing here?”
Quickly as I questioned him he pushed the door open just enough to let himself in. The door shut after he was completely through. He threw back his hood and took off his hat. “Why wouldn’t you let me in? Do you know he is out there watching this place like a hawk right now?”
After the first initial shock that had struck me realizing that it was him I backed up against the door that he had just come through. I wasn’t sure if it was because I didn’t want to believe that it was really him, but I wasn’t going to let him leave. “Matt, what on Earth, are you doing here?”