Hunter

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38. How to be a Miserable Failure


The small ball of light floating in the corner of the room spluttered and died, allowing a colorful stream of curses to fly out of my mouth as my concentration wavered.

A bead of sweat appeared on my forehead as I doubled my efforts. This time, I let a soft breeze fill the room to remind myself that it was me who kept screwing up, not my magic. The ball of fire reappeared, though it was pathetically small, no bigger than flame in a candle. A minuscule candle. My eyes narrowed further, the beginnings of a pressure headache starting in my left temple.

Fantastic.

I don’t know whose brilliant idea it had been to have me learn fire magic before I’d even gotten the hang of air magic, which was actually coming somewhat easy to me since my spectacular failure in Opal’s room last week. Actually, scratch that. I knew exactly who had talked Opal into teaching me some basic fire magic. Rebecca had been my greatest cheerleader, but right now? She was the bane of my existence.

Still, despite how much I wanted to curl up in my bed and sleep until Elijah dropped out of annoyance, I had to get the hang of this very simple skill - Opal’s words, not mine - before my lesson-slash-strategic-meeting tomorrow morning. The ball of fire had to be the size of a softball and maintained for five minutes without faltering. So far, I could hold a ping-pong-sized ball for approximately twenty seconds before it sputtered out.

“It’s easy,” Opal had promised. “I learned how to do it in half an hour.”

“You’re a fire witch,” I had countered. “I’m not. My magic is geared towards putting fires out - or spreading them, - not making them out of nothing!”

Rebecca, who had been in her place next to Evangeline on the couch, had winced. “Please don’t set the building on fire, Reese.”

I had paused, musing. “Will a fire kill Elijah?”

“I’m not sure.” Rebecca had picked a bit of lint off of Evangeline’s shoes. “But I’d rather not find out.”

“I agree.” Evangeline had raised an eyebrow at Rebecca’s action, taking her feet off of the lycanthrope’s lap. “It’s better to kill him in a more personal manner. Having him die in a fire isn’t all that personal.”

Her comment had earned a startled look from Rebecca, and the two launched into a pros-and-cons argument over whether or not Elijah needed to die. While I would naturally have taken Evangeline’s side - shocker, I know - that part of me that is mated to the Alpha thought that the idea of him dead was the worst thing in the history of the world.

I really hated the mate bond.

During that lesson with Opal, she’d done her best to coach me on what to do - and what not to do - in order to get this stupid skill under control. Why couldn’t she have told me to get upset, lose control over my magic, and create a windstorm in the middle of the building? I knew I could do that without too much trouble. Plus, there was a chance the wind would sweep Elijah away and accidentally impale him on a silver pole somewhere in the city.

Unfortunately, Opal wouldn’t budge, so I was stuck trying - and failing - to create a fireball in the middle of my room.

The fire vanished once again. I let out a loud groan, stumbling backward until I flopped back onto my bed. I covered my face with a pillow as a defeated sigh escaped me. The breath that had left my mouth danced up and away from me, the visualization a sure sign that my magic was fired up and working just fine. I could feel the air around me, sense the different molecules holding it together. The carbon dioxide that had just left me joined with the rest of the atmosphere. The air swirled around me, recognizing that I was picking apart its elements with my mind.

So, yeah. The problem wasn’t that my magic was faulty. The problem was my impatience and unwillingness to learn how to use it. Perhaps the magic knew I didn’t really want it, and it responded by behaving unreliably and sporadically.

Good to know my magic was as stubborn and rebellious as I was.

After lying on my bed for quite a few minutes, gathering my thoughts together, I removed the pillow from my face and sat up, glancing at the clock I insisted be put in. It was nearly ten. In a few minutes, I’d hear the sound of footsteps approaching the door. The stupid mate bond would recognize who was approaching before I did. The doorknob would jiggle, but the door wouldn’t open, since I’d taken to locking it whenever I was in here. There would be a knock that I wouldn’t answer. Then, after several minutes of lingering by the door in the hopes that I would actually decide to open it, he’d leave.

I guess it’s no surprise that I’ve been avoiding Elijah.

You see, I had the theory that the more time I spend in his presence, the stronger the bond will grow. When I’d read the book about werewolves and werewolf bonds, it had said that most werewolves rarely made it a month before they ended up completing the bond. Well, Elijah and I had made it two months; and for one of those months, I’d been here, locked in my room, without a single glimpse of my lovely mate.

Though, when I thought about it, I realized I’d been particularly restless during the full moon while in solitude. That was probably the mate bond telling me to go have some hot werewolf sex with my so-called soulmate.

I was suddenly grateful that I’d never listened to my impulses then. Who knows where I’d be now if I’d mated with Elijah a month earlier? I might even - and it made me sick to even think this - like him now. The thought made me shudder.

The small fireball I’d created flared up, growing in size as my mind wandered. Ah. So, my magic is cooperative when I’m not paying attention to it? That’s unhelpful. What was it Opal said about learning fire magic? To discover what fire felt like to me? I was fairly certain she was playing a game to see how vague she could be in order to make Reese’s like hell.

Well, I guess she won.

What does fire feel like to me? Well, hot. Cough-inducing. It tends to burn people if you get too close. It’s destructive, able to burn down entire cities. It can grow out of control rather easily, especially in the right conditions. It’s stubborn, too.

Fire and I seem to have some qualities in common.

I recalled the way air magic felt to me, hoping that would assist with figuring out how to connect with my dismal control over fire magic. Right when I wanted to use it, the air seemed to crackle with electricity, like a lightning storm was approaching. You couldn’t see it, smell it, or hear it. I highly doubted you could taste it. It was simply a feeling, and not a physical one. It was a sixth sense.

At least, that’s how Opal explained it. I guess it kind of made sense.

I remembered watching Avatar: The Last Airbender when I was younger. How easy they make controlling the elements seem. Why couldn’t I be as gifted as Azula? Or even Iroh? Why wasn’t life fair?

My frustration flared, and so did the fireball, its glow brightening even the darkest corners of the room.

“Why can’t you be tethered to something other than my emotions?” I shouted at the fire. “Why can’t you cooperate with me?”

I’ve had control over so few things these past few years, it was hard to find something I should be able to control, but couldn’t. Everything I’d done, every supernatural being I’d killed, had been driven by revenge. Anger. Grief. Misery. But this? My newfound magic? It wasn’t supposed to be tied to my emotions. That was something I did subconsciously. Because of the way my feelings had dictated my actions for seven years, it was now second nature to use them for everything.

Opal had said that if I’d learned to control my magic when I was fifteen, while it was manifesting, I might very well be a powerful air witch. But now? I was a pathetic excuse for a magic-wielder. Most twenty-three-year-old air wielders could flatten entire buildings by now. Me? I could barely generate a hair-stirring breeze without the help of my emotions.

I hate everything.

The tennis ball-sized fireball, sustained for twenty seconds, flickered out yet again. Another stream of curses erupted from me, and the air crackled with electricity.

“Not now!” I snapped, well aware that I was talking to everything and nothing. Was magic alive? I wasn’t ready for the philosophical thought. Still, I refused to feel stupid for talking to my magic. The one time my air magic decided to grace me with its presence, it’s not what I needed it to do. “Care to find any fire magic for me?”

The air danced around me, almost in a teasing fashion. I swapped a hand out in front of me, though of course it did nothing.

“Of course not,” I muttered, then froze. I heard footsteps approaching from down the hallway, growing closer with every passing moment. Swiftly, I darted a glance at the clock.

Ten o’clock. Right on time.

I fell silent, allowing my magic to fade away as I sat on my bed and anxiously faced the door, wondering if this was the night that he finally lost patience with my shenanigans and knocked the door off its hinges instead.

Seconds later, the scent of pine trees and springtime washed over me, along with the confirmation that, for the seventh night in a row, my lovely mate had decided to grace me with his unwelcomed presence. Hopefully soon, for the seventh night in a row, my locked door would be enough to turn him away.

Please. Please, let it be enough.

Besides the fact that I desperately didn’t want this bond to get any stronger, I was also in my pajamas, and my hair was a fluffy mess. My hair elastic was in the bathroom, and I didn’t really want to get up to go get it.

The footsteps stopped just on the other side of the door. The doorknob would jiggle, there’d be a knock, and then he’d leave. My eyes flew to the doorknob, as I did every night, to make certain that the lock was closed.

And guess what?

It wasn’t.

Panic welled up inside me as I stared at the open doorknob. That wasn’t locked. Fuck! I could have sworn I’d turned it! My magic briefly flared up as the air danced around me again in that same teasing nature. I let out another silent curse as I shut the magic off again just as the doorknob turned and the door fell open.

Shit shit shit shit shit shit shit.

Elijah’s green eyes met my blue ones as he stepped into the room, the corner of his lips turning up as his gaze fell first upon my appearance, then again as his attention briefly flickered to the mark on my neck that was partly concealed by my hair. I frantically recalled the last time we’d spoken, when I’d practically screamed at him for daring to Mark me.

“No,” I said flatly, and he stopped in his tracks.

He raised an eyebrow. “No?”

“No,” I repeated. “I’m not doing this tonight. Get out.”

News flash; he didn’t leave. He just stood there, having the audacity to look amused. Damn him, curse him!

Wait. I was a witch. Could I actually curse him? If so, that might be the only good thing about having magic I could think of.

“Do your supernaturally-augmented ears not work?” I crossed my arms, remaining in my seated position at the edge of my bed. “Get. Out.”

He still didn’t leave. He came closer, not at all seeing me as a threat. And why would he? I didn’t have my dagger, and he didn’t know about my magic - now that it would be any help. And since he knew exactly who my dad was, he’d already know I was part-werewolf, too.

“Not just yet, Little Hunter,” he purred, and my throat dried. At that moment, I hated my body. I wanted a refund. “I have something I need to discuss with you.” Without waiting for an invitation, he sat down on the bed - just inches away from me, might I add. While the mated, let’s-do-whatever-he-wants part of me screamed to close the distance, I contained enough common sense and Elijah-hatred to stay right where I was, without twitching so much as an eye.

Though my finger moved instead. Just barely. But his eyes zeroed in on the motion, and his smile widened knowingly.

“You don’t know how badly I want my dagger right now.” Though by the way I glared at him, I think he had an idea of my need.

“Enough with the threats, Reese.” His hand was suddenly on mine, his thumb tracing patterns across my palm. This time, the mated part of me won out over the desire to pull away and jump out the window. “We both know you can’t hurt me now.”

Ah, yes. The unfortunate side effect of the mate bond. If I killed him now, I’d essentially be killing myself, too.

“What do you want?” I muttered, forcing myself to ignore the way my hand tingled as his finger slipped up to my wrist. Don’t acknowledge it, and maybe he’ll stop.

“Not much,” he said simply. “Tomorrow, I’ve arranged to go meet Christian Roy at his stronghold in order to... negotiate over his clan’s recent behavior. You shall accompany me, of course.”

“Afraid of a few vampires?” I sneered.

“On the contrary,” his hand slid up my arm, his thumb drawing circles over my shoulders. My breath momentarily caught in my throat. “I need you there by my side, mate. As a show of power. A united front.”

I pretended to consider his words. “Nah. I think I’ll sit this one out.” Using the arm facing away from him, I waved him away as though I was shooing off a dog. Which, technically, I was. “Farewell, my dear.”

His smile turned into a full-on grin, one that made my stomach swoop. “You seem to be under the pretense that you have a choice, Little Hunter.”

A sarcastic smile crossed my face. “I don’t see why you bother even pretending to negotiate. We both know this will end badly, one way or another.”

His eyes widened innocently - too innocently. “You think so lowly of me, my love?” My lip curled at his choice of words. “I intend to give Christian one last chance - a show of my goodwill, that I intend no harm to come to his clan. It is, after all, my job to keep the citizens of Toronto safe from harm.” He brushed the hair away from my neck, revealing the mark.

“It’s your job to keep the supernatural citizens safe, you mean.” I shoved away from him. “What about the humans you so easily oppress? Are you keeping them safe from being turned into Blood Bags? Slaves? Test subjects?”

“That,” he said, grabbing my wrist and dragging me closer. “Is a conversation for another day.” He leaned closer, so his breath caressed my throat. Despite myself, I shivered, my skin flaming beneath his touch. “In the meantime, Reese Hearne, you are to go to my study before dinner tomorrow to go over the final details of this mission.” He pressed a light kiss against my throat, and I inhaled sharply. “Now, do you still want me to leave?”

Yes. Please, go away.

When I didn’t answer, he stood up sharply, his eyes flashing. Turning, he stalked toward the door.

“Wait.”

The words escaped from me before I could stop them, but the sweet flood of desire filled me as he turned, his smirk reappearing in full force, and all of my common sense drifted away.

Well, fuck me and my stupid everything.


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