Follow My Lead

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I focused on taking deep, centered breaths as my mind built a clear image. My hands were held out in front of me, palms facing each other. With a final roll of my shoulders, I cast the incantation.

“Where the land

Meets the sea,

Heed my call

And come to me.”

Eidan couldn’t see them, but the tracks of tattooed runes, sigils, and vevés weaving down my arms lit up gently as purple mist rolled from my sleeves. Tiny drops of water started to bead between my hands. The droplets were pulled into a swirling mass by the mist. It danced around my wrists and between my fingers before rolling into a ball of swirling color.

A shifting orb levitated before us, streaks of purple glimmering in the light every few seconds. When I turned to look at Eidan, he was about to fall onto the table in fascination. The water reflected a bright blue ray across his face, painting him in an ephemeral light. His joy was contagious.

I cleared my throat when his hand reached out to the shining sphere.

“I wouldn’t do that,” I humored.

“It’s just water right?” Curiosity looked more like mischief on a face like his. Everything shouted 'Do it!' no matter the cost.

I brought my hands together, and the water disappeared in a spray of rainbows. Eidan frowned, but watched until the last ray faded out.

“There, I showed you I can use magic. Not a liar. It’s your turn. Tell me what you are.”

Eidan’s eyes were on me again. They were kinda… glowing though. Turning his body back towards me, he seemed to remember why we were here. It was a little concerning how easily his interest was obtained, but he’d shown he could be serious plenty of times. And serious he was.

The man watching me had made a couple of appearances so far, a much more assertive version of Eidan. Predatory almost. I always felt like his aura was leaking out and cocooning us when he got like that. I blinked, and his eyes were inches away.

A shriek of terror stuck in my throat, caught off guard by the untraceable speed. All I could see was his face, which made me realize something had changed. I‘d gotten this close to him earlier, and his face seemed a bit more angular now. And his irises were definitely glowing a golden brown color.

“You wanna guess?” The gravelly bass in his voice made my heart race, and not in fear. My stomach tightened whenever he used that tone, wrapping my mind in a fog. I wasn’t used to feeling so influenced by a man. The pull of a Soul Mate could be strong, but that effect was all him.

There weren’t any questions about the attractiveness of his physical features. I didn’t have a single problem with his looks. I just wasn’t big on sexuality. Looks could be deceiving, and men could just be outright deceitful. But Eidan was awkwardly honest. When he was being smooth and clueless, I thought he was cute.

This side though, this was the one that put me in unfamiliar territory with my own body. I didn’t want to believe it, but the arms that fell on either side of me only further proved my point. My heart skipped a beat when he closed his eyes and rubbed his nose on mine.

“Hmmm, Hael Storm?” he rumbled. “Do you?”

No doubt about it. Eidan was trying to dominate me. The energy leaking from his every pore licked heavily at my skin. I could feel my internal temperature ticking up the scale with every second he kept his focus on me. And yet… I wasn’t opposed? I didn’t feel threatened or unsafe. I felt… held? Covered? What was this feeling?

When Eidan’s eyes opened again, I sucked in a sharp breath. It made sense now. It made a lot of fucking sense. And I realized I might be in way over my head. Eidan’s irises were still glowing, but their size had my complete attention. The whites of his eyes had disappeared, leaving glowing pools of amber in their place.

“Shifter,” I rasped.

I got a low growl of approval in response.

Holy shit. Holy shit.

My breathing quickly started to approach hyperventilation when the severity of the situation settled in. I had just accidentally found my Soul Mate, and he was a literal wild animal. Every tidbit of shifter knowledge I could remember ran rampant through my mind, and none of them painted a good picture for my current way of life.

While I hadn’t known shifters to exist in modern eras, the historical data was consistent in one general area about shifter Mates: They were pretty intense in the commitment department. Especially males.

The sound of sniffing brought me back to reality. Eidan wasn’t in my face anymore. Instead, his nose was buried under my braids at my neck.

“You’re panicking, but not scared. Talk to me.”

He wasn’t asking.

I tried to edge my head back a few inches, but he just came with me. He was practically in my lap and didn’t seem to mind. I’d noticed personal space was not very high up on his priorities list. Something we already did not have in common.

“You’re a shifter,” I stated.

“Yeah. And?” He was a bit snippy, which I decided to disregard for the moment.

“Well,” I trailed off. Where to start? “I study magical creatures. Well, magic in general and magical creatures tend to come up a lot.”

He huffed on my neck, I assumed as an indication for me to continue. Rolling my eyes, I leaned back all the way in my chair and crossed my arms. Eidan was left hanging in mid air, distaste scrawled across his face. I raised an eyebrow tauntingly, and he growled at me.

Throwing my hands in the air, I groaned in annoyance.

“That! That is why I’m panicking. You’re a shifter, making you some sort of animal-”

Eidan growled again, but there was anger there that time. I sat up straight and glared at him. I could feel my arms beginning to warm, a clear indication of my shortening temper.

“Watch it,” I warned. “I’m not the one.”

His head tilted to the side, and I accepted that I was dealing with an Eidan that was much further down the shifter spectrum than before. I struggled between standing my ground and de-escalating the situation.

“What I’m trying to say is that we have very different ways of expressing ourselves. For example, I don’t give a damn how many tantrums you throw. If I don’t want you near me, don’t touch me.”

When he stopped moving, I came to the conclusion that I had not, in fact, de-escalated the situation. I had made it much, much worse.

“What did you just say?” I couldn’t detect the anger in his voice anymore. He could’ve convinced me he was genuinely confused if I hadn’t been able to see his eyes. They were hunting me.

“I said, if I don’t want you near me, then don’t touch me.”

Eidan’s jaw was clenched so tight, I couldn’t believe he was able to growl as loudly as he did. Shoving my chair back, I rose from my seat. The air around us had thickened at some point, creating the atmosphere of a battlefield. Eidan scanned me head to toe before rising from his own chair. Except when he did it, his frame seemed to massively outsize my own.

He looked down at me with one of the most intimidating looks I’d received from him so far. It was enough to make sparks of electricity dance along my finger. The bolts caught his attention, but he did nothing other than raise an eyebrow. His condescending attitude was pissing me off again.

“I’m not understanding your request, Hael Storm.” The nickname was lethal. He hadn’t even known me for 12 hours, and yet the words wrapped around the base of my throat with every call. The step he took towards me was measured, a threat. More sparks flashed at the show of dominance. “Tell me, Conjure Woman. In what world would I ever stay away from you again?”

My hand quickly drew a line of electricity between us when he went to take another step. The face of intimidation fell to a blank look at the sight of the small barrier. Another low growl lingered in the air, a very serious warning.

“Put that away,” he ordered.

“Imma tell you one more time, Eidan.” The barrier’s light grew at his command, my patience long gone. “Watch. Your. Tone.”

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