by Mindy Marin
In Birth of the Phoenix, Ember and Elijah were torn apart by a jealous and controlling villain named Gabriel. Now, after searching for nearly 600 years, Elijah is finally reunited with his beloved Ember. But their sweet reunion is far from a happily ever after, as they soon discover that their love is being put to the test once more. Will they be strong enough to overcome the challenges this new lifetime has given them? Follow Ember and Elijah as their love story continues in the second installment of the Ceaseless Trilogy, ‘Flight of the Thunderbird’.
EXCERPT FROM FLIGHT OF THE THUNDERBIRD, BOOK 2 IN THE CEASELESS TRILOGY
Standing outside, looking out into the open field below, the wind flows through my hair and nightgown. I don’t know why I’m crying but there is an overwhelming sense of sadness shaking my body to its core. My heart aches without reason and my skin sweats from my indecision. I place my hands upon the cool, gray stone in front of me and lift myself up onto the ledge. There’s nothing left for me to do now but jump. Raising my arms like a bird prepared to take flight, I give way to gravity, descending towards the earth below.
“Aaagh!” I scream, jumping up in my bed.
Covered in sweat, I take a deep breath in, trying to fill my lungs with air. I close my eyes and count to ten, eventually unclenching my fists. For weeks now I’ve been having the same dream and every time I do it seems more and more realistic. I’m not sure what may have caused these nightmares but they started not long after my first day of school. A knock at the door reminds me of where I am and a sudden sense of relief washes over me.
“Emily? Are you alright, dear?” Aunt Mary asks through the door.
“Yes, do come in, Aunt Mary,” I reply.
Aunt Mary walks through the doorway, her forehead wrinkled with concern as she looks me over. Sitting beside me on the bed, she pulls the sweat-dampened hair from my brow and sighs.
“Another bad dream, darling?” she asks worriedly.
I nod my head yes, looking down at my hands as I play with the blankets.
“I don’t understand why I keep having the same dream over and over again, Auntie. It has to mean something when a person dreams of jumping to their death repeatedly. Maybe there’s something wrong with me? I should see a physician,” I say anxiously.
“Nonsense! What you do in the dream has no relation as to why you are having the dream. It’s all this pressure you put on yourself, Emily, it can’t be healthy, my dear!” she lectures.
Rolling my eyes, I push the blankets from my lap and climb out of bed. Having had this conversation before, I’m not exactly thrilled to hear it once more.
“Aunt Mary, I appreciate your concern but I simply cannot give up my education over a few bad dreams, it’s illogical. I’ve come too far to quit now!” I say intensely.
“I admire your courage, darling, truly I do, but to give up the crown the way you did seems far more illogical to me than giving up an education, in America, of all places!”
I close my eyes and count to ten once again except this time it’s not to fill my lungs with air but to prevent my imminent explosion. Trying to distract myself, I walk over to the closet and begin searching for something to wear. I glance over my shoulder and glare at her.
“Forgive me for being so blunt, but isn’t that exactly what you did when you made the decision to come to America?” I ask sharply.
“That was completely different. I was never in the position that you were in. I married Robert and moved to be with him because I fell in love! You were promised to the nephew of the Prince of England for Christ’s sake!” she retorted.
“That’s exactly my point, Aunt Mary! This isn’t the thirteenth century! I don’t want to be promised to anyone. I want to fall in love like you! And it’s not that Peter isn’t charming or handsome because he is, but he’s so very dull! I truly would jump to my death if I had to listen to him drone on and on for the rest of my life!” I exclaim.
Hopping up and down as I put on my jeans, I watch as Aunt Mary shakes her head in disbelief. I know she doesn’t understand, but I must do things my way. One of the main reasons I left Scotland was to escape this same kind of nagging from my parents. I pull a white t-shirt over my head, walk towards my door and open it. Standing there silently, Aunt Mary rises from the bed, having caught on to my not so subtle gesture and exits my room. Turning back to look at me, she starts to make another comment, but I cut her off before she can begin.
“Yes, I’ll be down for breakfast in a few minutes,” I answer, knowing what the question will be.
“Very well then,” she responds defeated.
I walk over to the window and look out at the dry landscape in the backyard. It looks nothing like the beautiful field of wildflowers in my dream. Moments like these make me yearn for the hills of Scotland once again. I miss the green pastures, the highlands, the beautiful mountain views. I miss something else even more, though I can’t quite put my finger on what it is. What a strange sensation to feel when you have no idea what it is that you miss exactly.
I turn away from the dull view and head down the hall towards the staircase, gliding my hand across the beautiful woodwork of the banister. If only they had chosen red for the carpeting upstairs instead of a patterned Crayola box of colors. Shrugging my shoulders, I make my way downstairs to the kitchen. Uncle Bob and Aunt Mary are already seated at the table reading their papers and drinking coffee. I pour myself a cup, black with two sugars, and then head to the refrigerator for a bagel. We sit in silence for a few minutes when Uncle Bob clears his throat to speak.
“Emily, your Aunt Mary has been telling me about your nightmares. Quite interesting circumstances,” he states.
“Yes, I don’t really understand it all myself,” I reply quickly.
“Well, have you…” he hesitates for a moment and clears his throat.
“Have I what?” I ask confused when he doesn’t finish his thought.
He glances down at his paper for a moment and then over at Aunt Mary. He looks unsure if he should continue. I start to say something and then realize there is no point and I take another sip of coffee, only to hear Uncle Bob clear his throat again.
“Maybe your nightmares have to do with something that happened to you in another life? You know, perhaps a memory that snuck through into your subconscious.”
Surprised to hear a statement like that come from a military man, my eyebrows raise in curiosity.
“If you believe in that sort of thing,” Aunt Mary chimes in cautiously.
“And what sort of thing is that, Auntie?” I press her.
“Reincarnation, of course,” she answers matter of fact.
I smile and shake my head in disbelief at what I am hearing from these two at the moment. Uncle Bob doesn’t speak again but Aunt Mary adds her last two cents to the discussion.
“Believe it or not, we were all someone else once. It’s just most of us don’t get the privilege of knowing precisely who that was,” she states with conviction.
I stare at her absolutely dumbfounded. I’m truly taken aback at this conversation. Uncle Bob is sweet but in every conversation we’ve had, which isn’t many, he’s always been so reserved, so rigid. Clearly my aunt has rubbed off on him a little because I am quite surprised to hear he has a bit of imagination in him.
Finished with my coffee and dazed from the conversation I just had, I take the empty cups and plates from the table and load them into the dishwasher. Aunt Mary told me I wasn’t expected to do chores, but I feel I owe them the respect of cleaning up once in a while. I tidy up the countertop and dry off my hands. Before I exit, I turn to my aunt and uncle.
“Thank you for the coffee and the chat, I’ll be in my room,” I say, trying to keep things cordial between the three of us.
Aunt Mary looks up from her paper and smiles while Uncle Bob continues to be captivated by his own paper. As I head to my room, I’m struck with a brilliant idea. I have been wracking my brain trying to decide what topic to do my thesis paper on, but now it all makes perfect sense. I’ll write my paper on reincarnation and the beliefs that Native Americans share in regards to the subject! Excited with my revelation, I run into my room to grab a notebook and pen. Jumping onto the bed, I begin to feverishly write a timeline and several questions I would like to answer.
I spend nearly an hour teasing out ideas, points, and questions when I remember something said in Mr. Jacobs’ class that first Monday of the semester. I hop off the bed, slip on my trainers and throw a few things into my backpack before running downstairs. Aunt Mary is now sewing in the living room and turns to see me jet out the doorway, keys in hand. I pass Uncle Bob who is out in the garden pulling up weeds and I run up to kiss him on the back of his head.
“Thank you, Uncle Bob, you’re a genius!” I exclaim in excitement.
Shocked at my display and completely confused, I watch his bewildered face as I jump into my car and pull out of the driveway, heading towards the school. A large smile stretches across my face as I drive and I can feel my cheek muscles beginning to hurt from overuse. I’m just so happy that I finally decided what topic my paper will be on! Also lingering in the back of my mind is the thought of possibly running into Elijah at the library. Confused at the thought, I shake it out of my head and switch on the radio. “I Love Rock n’ Roll” blares through my speakers and I can’t help but sing along to the iconic tune.
When I arrive on campus, I find a parking spot easily, which is rather shocking. My heart skips with anticipation. I grab my bag and jolt towards the library, excited to get started. As soon as I’m in the door, I aim for the librarian counter. A young girl close to my age is behind the desk logging in books and writing down information on an index card.
“Hi!” I say a little too loudly. She looks up, a little startled and scowls at me.
“I’m sorry,” I whisper. “I need books on reincarnation and Native American practices,” I say quite gleefully.
“Well, that’s what…” she starts to say and then stops.
The young lady glances towards a group of computers that are all occupied. She turns back to me and I worry for a moment she’s going to tell me to wait but instead she lets out a sigh. She begins to tap on her computer keys and starts writing some catalogue numbers on a sheet of paper for me. She places the paper on the counter a little forcefully and looks up at me with discontent.
“Here,” she says coldly.
I take the paper from the countertop and glance at it for a moment.
“Why is this book crossed out?” I ask.
“It’s being used at the moment, you’ll have to wait for it,” she replies without looking up.
“Can you tell me who is using it?” I ask cautiously, afraid to push her anymore.
She looks up at me for a moment and then points with a pencil in the direction of some students gathered around one of the study tables. Right away I recognize one of the guys included in the group and my heart sinks. I take in a deep breath and release it, trying to steady myself.
“Thanks,” I say as I turn back to her.
I head toward the numbered shelves listed on my sheet of paper and start gathering the books I want. As I walk around the various bookshelves, I take a few glances in the direction of my classmates seated around the table. A few of the faces seem familiar but no one sticks out more than Zachary. I can clearly see that a few of them are trying to study but Zach seems anything but serious. He’s just laughing and goofing around with his buddies. I struggle with the thought of joining them but I really need to get my hands on that book. I have no choice but to go over there and ask for it.
“Come on, Emily, you can do this.”
With my arms loaded up with books and my backpack over my shoulder, I slowly and steadily make the short journey across the library. I make it to the table just in time to drop everything on the floor and look absolutely foolish. Not exactly the suave approach I was looking for but then again, I didn’t expect gracefulness to suddenly become one of my strongest qualities. Right away all eyes are on me as I’m left with a mess at my feet and a dumb smile on my face.
“I’m sorry to disturb your studying,” I mutter.
“Here, let me help you with those,” says a voice to my left.
I turn to see Zach on one knee picking up the pile of the books I’ve just unloaded on floor. He places them on a table adjacent to my classmates and flashes a huge grin at me.
“Hi, I don’t believe we’ve been formally introduced yet. I’m Zachary, but my friends call me Zach. What’s your name?” he asks confidently.
I’m trying desperately not to notice how handsome he is and remind myself what he did to Jaymie but he is incredibly charming despite the fact he’s a snake in the grass.
“I’m Emily,” I say while fidgeting with the books on the table.
“Just, Emily, huh? No last name?” he asks coyly.
“Thank you for helping me pick up my books. I tend to be clumsy when I’m nervous,” I reply without acknowledging his question.
“So, you’re from the UK, huh, Scotland, right? I have some family from there too, ya know,” he rambles.
I look up at him, confused and a little scared to be honest.
“How do you know that I’m from Scotland?” I ask.
“Oh, well, you probably don’t know this but my father is the dean so I know who everyone is, especially beautiful new freshman,” he boasts while flashing his perfect smile and wagging his eyebrows.
I try to hold back a laugh at his ridiculous comment but a small chuckle manages to escape my lips. To my dismay, he sees this as an opportunity to continue with his drivel. He leans in and slides a book across the table to me, grazing the top of my hand in the process. His touch makes my skin crawl. I quickly retract my hand and take a step back.
“Um, I really should be going, lots of studying to do! I just came over to ask if you all were finished with the reincarnation book,” I stammer uncomfortably.
Zach looks a little put off at my blatant rejection. He turns to see if anyone else is watching and then replies loudly, “Sorry, babe, but I gotta go study. Maybe we can hang out some other time.”
He turns abruptly and starts to walk away. Slightly taken aback but not really surprised, I shake my head and laugh as I walk over to my classmate’s table.
“Hi, sorry to bother you but may I ask if you’re done with that book?” I ask pointing towards the table.
A few students look around at one another and then one of the girl’s replies, “Sure, we’re done.” She smiles as she hands me the book.
“Thank you so much,” I reply and head back to my table.
Gathering up my bag and stack of books, I head to the checkout station. Once the annoyed girl scans my items, I head towards the exit, satisfied with my finds. I can’t help but notice Zach out of the corner of my eye as I near the door. He watches apathetically as I pass him by. I don’t know what it is about him, but he unnerves me. When I finally make it to my car, I throw in my bag and place the books on the passenger seat. I can’t wait to get home and start reading. I flip on the radio again and head back down the highway, daydreaming about past lives and the possibilities they hold.
Positioned perfectly in front of the podium, I glance over my shoulder repeatedly to see if Jaymie has arrived yet. It’s been nearly a month since school began and she still can’t seem to make it to class on time. I place some books and notepads on the desk to my left in an effort to save her a seat. Students begin to shuffle their way down the aisles and soon the room is buzzing with conversation. I’m especially anxious today because I know Elijah will be giving a lecture on natural healing.
At five minutes till nine, I decide to give up on searching for Jaymie and prepare for the start of class. Suddenly the seat next to me makes a large vibration, alerting me to the presence of its occupant. Zachary flashes a large grin at me when I meet his gaze. Trying my best not to encourage him, I go back to digging in my bag.
“Hey, Scotland, too busy to say hello? I see how it is,” he joke.
“And how exactly is it?” I ask genuinely, having not heard that saying before.
He lets out a hearty laugh at my lack of knowledge on the current lingo of the States and taps my shoulder with his hand. I immediately feel repulsed by his touch.
Completely unamused and bordering on insulted, I shake my head and roll my eyes. I snatch the books and notepads from the desk I was saving for Jaymie and shove them in my bag before taking out my pen and paper. I write the date and topic at the top of the sheet, anxious for class to begin. Professor Jacobs enters the room and makes his way to the podium.
“Good morning, everyone. I’m glad to see you all survived the weekend and decided to join us this morning. As I stated last week, my friend Elijah will be joining us today to share his knowledge about Shaman medicine and natural healing. Please make sure to take notes because some of this information will be on next week’s exam. With that said, I’ll turn the mic over to Elijah.”
As I watch Elijah walk up to the podium, my heart races and my breath starts to hitch. I start to squirm in my chair and fidget with my pencil and paper. I catch a glimpse of Zachary watching me, making me feel even more nervous than I already am. I try to focus on the matter at hand and look to the podium in front of me. Elijah wears a pair of faded blue jeans and a dark navy shirt. His hair is pulled back into a ponytail as usual but today two small stone earrings dangle from his ears. I sigh, completely enchanted by his presence.
“What kind of sissy wears earrings?” Zach says under his breath, followed by a few chuckles and high-fives from his idiot posse.
“Do you mind? I’m trying to hear what he has to say,” I scold.
Zach let’s out a small laugh and leans over to whisper something to his buddy. Placing my attention back on Elijah, I listen as he begins to speak. His voice sends waves of comfort over my body and I can’t help but listen in complete veneration. It seems crazy but I almost feel like he’s focused solely on me as he speaks. I catch him purposely look away a few times, as if he’s trying to avoid anyone noticing that his eyes keep shifting towards me. At one point in his lecture, he stops mid-sentence and our eyes lock. Neither of us can look away. The moment is so intense I fight the urge to stand to my feet and run towards him.
The whole room breaks out in laughter, Zach leading the charge. Elijah snaps back into reality and clears his throat. Completely embarrassed, he looks around the room and back at me for only a moment.
I suddenly feel like crying as I look in Zach’s direction. When he sees my face he quickly drops his smile and straightens up in his chair. I turn my attention back to Elijah as he continues where he left off. There are no further incidents and he makes sure not to look in my direction again which actually bothers me some. Why am I completely thrown off by him?
“So as you can see, there are many plants found in nature that can heal just as well, if not better, than many of the pills and medications on the market today,” he concludes.
Pausing for a moment, he looks down at me once more, this time it’s completely obvious he’s trying to tell me something. I wish I knew what it was.
I gather my things quickly, wanting to catch up to him before he leaves. As I stand, turning the opposite direction of Zach and his buddies, I feel a tap on my shoulder. I know it’s him so I turn to see what he wants.
“Hey, Emily, I’m sorry if I embarrassed you. That was a jerk move on my part, seriously,” he says with remorse.
“Hey, I’m talking to you!” he says, pulling my arm. I spin back around and smack his cheek with my right hand.
A collective ‘oooh’ sound resonates through the room as I walk away. I can hear Professor Jacobs call out to Zachary from behind me but I’m too angry to turn around and watch him get disciplined. Reaching the end of the aisle, I start to head up the stairs when Elijah appears before me.
Taken by surprise, I struggle to find the words to reply. I take a step back and stumble down a couple of steps. Elijah jumps into action, placing his arm around my shoulder to catch my fall. It’s weird because I feel like I’ve lived this moment before and an eerie sense of doom travels down my spine.
“No, um, I’m so sorry. I’m completely accident prone,” I answer, feeling my cheeks flush.
“Oh, you’re British,” he says with a bit of surprise.
“Scottish actually, but I spent most of my school years in an England boarding school,” I say with a smile. “I’m Emily,” I continue, almost unsure of my own name.
He takes in a deep breath, standing completely still for a moment. It feels as if he is waiting for something to happen and then looks disappointed when it never does. Feeling slightly uncomfortable at the awkward silence, I put out my hand to gesture a handshake. He looks down and places his hand in mine slowly. His touch is magnetic and I can feel a burst of energy flow through my veins. I think I could hold his hand forever if he’d let me. We stand in silence, holding one another’s hand when Professor Jacobs comes over and interrupts us.
“Sorry to intrude on your conversation but I want to make sure you’re okay,” he says to me with a deep look of concern on his face.
Pulling our hands apart, we both turn to address the situation. I smile and nod even though I am currently nowhere near feeling okay.
“Yes, thank you for asking, Professor Jacobs. I apologize for losing my temper with Zachary. It’s just that, well, he’s quite unnerving sometimes,” I reply nervously.
“I completely understand and trust me, there’s no need for an apology. Zachary’s a bit of a nuisance but since he’s Dean Armand’s son, there’s not much I can do about it,” he says somewhat defeated.
“Oh yes, I’m quite aware of his father’s position at the school. He’s made a point of bringing it up whenever he possibly can!” I say with a laugh.
Both Elijah and the professor chime in with a chuckle. Turning to Professor Jacobs, I extend my hand and introduce myself formally.
“Yes, very good. Everyone here seems to be fixated on calling me the British girl!” I say jokingly.
“Well I did cheat just a bit by going over my student records. I like to know a little bit about who is attending my classes. It helps to make a connection with the students. How are you finding the class so far? I see you’ve already met my friend Elijah here,” he says, patting Elijah on the shoulder.
“I’m really enjoying myself. I’m so eager to learn about the Native American culture. In fact, I’ve already begun researching my thesis paper!” I say enthusiastically.
Elijah lets out a small noise that almost sounds as if he were choking or something. Both the professor and I turn to look at him. His face is almost white and he looks as if he might pass out. Professor Jacobs grasps his shoulder and jokes with him.
Elijah’s eyes widen and then he puts on a smiling face but something still seems really off with his demeanor. Professor Jacobs watches him intently for only a moment and then turns back to me, laughing.
“Well, I for one am absolutely famished! Maybe we both need to fetch a bite to eat,” I say, making eye contact with Elijah. “I would love to discuss my paper with you, Elijah, if you have some time to spare, of course.”
“That’s a wonderful idea. I have a ton of papers to grade and my day has just begun! You two have fun!” Professor Jacobs replies with a smile. He extends his hand to me once more and places the other on my shoulder. “It is truly a pleasure to meet you, Emily, please don’t hesitate to come see me should you have any questions or concerns.”
“Elijah, thanks again for coming to speak today. It’s always nice to see you, Brother!” he says sincerely.
The two men share a special handshake before Professor Jacobs walks away. I can clearly see they are close friends, to the point they call each other brother. My instincts tell me they must have some sort of past together, one that has bonded them tightly. With just the two of us alone again, the awkward silence returns. Why is it so difficult for us to speak to one another? Finally I break the silence, determined to find out more about the handsome stranger captivating my every thought.
Elijah looks confused for a moment. “I’m sorry, what?” he says as if he never heard the question to begin with.
“What will it be? The cafeteria… Coffee house,” I say, giving him a curious look. “What would you like to eat?”
Smiling, I nod my head yes. Elijah reaches down and scoops up my bag, placing it over his shoulder.
“After you,” he says, gesturing for me to walk ahead of him.
I smile and take a few steps forward when he makes his way next to me. Together we walk side by side towards the parking lot. I’m not sure what I’m doing exactly but in this moment everything feels perfectly right. When we reach the car, Elijah opens the door for me and places my things in the backseat. Sitting in such close proximity should feel more unnerving than it does, but being with him feels like home, like I’ve known him for years. Anxious to hear more about him over lunch, I turn the key and begin to drive. This will be one interesting afternoon.
Down a small dirt road nearly thirty minutes from school, we pull into a parking lot of a small local barbeque place, the delicious smell of smoked meat permeates the air. I park the car near the front door and take in a deep breath, glancing over to catch Elijah watching me.
“Smells good, doesn’t it? Just wait until you taste it!” he says with a smile.
I smile back out of politeness despite the fact that I am a nervous wreck. He exits the car and walks around to my side, opening the door for me. He’s extremely polite, unlike most guys his age. I grin and thank him as he opens each door we pass through on the way in. A pretty girl with blonde hair and beautiful blue eyes seats us in a booth near the back of the restaurant. She’s chatty and flirty, my complete opposite. Suddenly I feel totally inadequate until I notice that Elijah hasn’t taken his eyes off of me since we came in.
“What can I get ya to drink?” the waitress asks.
“I’ll have a glass of water,” I reply.
“Same for me,” Elijah says looking at me.
“Two waters, gotcha!” she says, then bounces off to the kitchen to fetch our drinks.
I let out a little chuckle when she’s finally gone and look down at the menu.
“What’s so funny?” he asks.
“She’s quite perky, isn’t she, and rather pretty?” I say with a smile.
Elijah grins and shakes his head while picking up his menu.
“You mean you didn’t notice how attractive she is?” I ask genuinely.
His face turns somber as he looks up at me, letting out a small sigh. His eyes are locked with mine and I can almost see tears welling up in them.
“You’re the only one I see,” Elijah says softly.
A sharp chill courses through me and I struggle to catch my breath. I break from his trance and look down at my menu again. His words leave me a bit unsettled and I’m not sure how to react. Just in time, the cute waitress returns with our water and asks for our order. Elijah looks over at me.
“Do you mind if I order for both of us?”
“Sure, that sounds good,” I reply.
“We’ll share a ½ portion of ribs and barbeque chicken with French fries,” he tells the waitress.
“Sure thing!” she says, writing down the order.
“Thanks. I wasn’t really sure what to get!” I say with a laugh.
“I figured as much. You’re gonna love it! It’s nothing like the food from our past, I mean, uh, like how my ancestors prepared it. Food sure has come a long way from those days!” he says, letting out a nervous chuckle.
I look at him bewildered, not quite sure what to think about his comment. He’s fidgety and nervous now, guzzling down his glass of water like he’s been in the desert for days. But it’s kind of cute to watch him squirm, if I’m completely honest with myself. I smile and sip my drink, trying to think of something to say.
“So, how far is your reservation from the school?” I ask.
“About three hours, but right now I’m staying with Professor Jacobs. What about you? Do you live in the dorms?”
“Oh, no, I live with my aunt and uncle here in town. Aunt Mary married an American and moved here permanently. My Uncle Robert works for the military,” I answer.
“Ah, I see. So, is Emily a family name?” he asks curiously.
“I’m not sure what you mean?” I reply puzzled.
“Oh, I’m sorry, I study a lot of ancestry and I like to research the meaning of names and where they came from. A lot of people name their children after relatives from long ago, sometimes keeping a name close to the original but changing it just slightly. Is any of this making sense?” he asks laughing.
“I think so!” I reply with a smile “But I honestly couldn’t tell you where my name came from. My family’s a bit complicated when it comes to my ancestry.”
“Really, why is that?” he asks.
Unsure how to answer, I pause for a moment, that’s when the perky waitress returns with our food and I’m happy with the distraction.
“Here ya go! Be careful with the plates, they’re kinda hot,” she says and bounces off once again.
I stare down at the massive amount of food that was set down in front of me. The large plate of sweet smelling meat sits in the middle of the table, releasing warm smoke into the air. Absolutely famished, I grab a fork and dig in.
“No, no. You’re doing it wrong! Like this!” Elijah says, grabbing a piece of meat with both hands and biting into it.
“Seriously?” I ask, astonished at his display.
“Come on, live a little!” he teases.
“Are you sure it’s proper to eat with your hands?” I ask timidly.
“Do you trust me?” he asks, raising his eyebrows.
I take a long look at him, feeling that sense of déjà vu once again. Why is it that he says things and I feel like I should know the meaning of it, but don’t. It’s very frustrating.
“There it is again,” I say quietly.
“That feeling of Déjà vu.”
Elijah swallows his bite and sets his meat down. He looks around for the waitress. Spotting her, he raises his hand to motion her over. She saunters over rather quickly but before she can say anything he begins speaking.
“Another glass of water please?”
“Sure thing, hun!” the waitress replies before darting off again.
I’m not sure what that’s about but I take a small bite of the rib in my hand and immediately my mouth waters, my taste buds bursting from all the exquisite flavors. I take another bite, then another, and before I know it I’m covered in barbeque sauce, desperate for more.
“Mmm,” I mumble.
“See what I mean?” he says.
“You were definitely telling the truth, this is amazing!” I say around a mouthful of food.
Elijah smiles and we continue to eat until the plate is empty. I feel completely out of my element but absolutely free at the same time. Back home in Scotland I wouldn’t dare eat this much in front of a man, let alone with my hands. But Elijah makes me feel totally at ease, like I’m his equal, not someone I need to impress.
“Hey, you wanna get out of here?” he asks as we finish up our meal. “I want to show you something,”
“Um, sure! I don’t have any more classes today,” I reply.
He pays the waitress at the counter and comes back to place a tip on the table. Extending his hand out to me, I place my palm in his, standing to my feet in the process. Once again I’m jolted by his touch. My body is so drawn to him, like a deer to the cool water of a nearby creek. We make our way back to the car and I unlock his door. He walks to my side to let me in once more then returns to his seat.
“Just take this dirt road all the way to the end, there’s a place I want to show you,” he says nervously.
I pause to think for a moment.
“Sounds intriguing,” I say with a smile.
I turn the key and start to drive down the bumpy path. It’s sort of odd to me because I didn’t think there were roads like this out here. Elijah watches me briefly and then turns the opposite way, looking out the window at the passing scenery.
“You’re going to love it,” he says.
I smile and watch the road ahead of me. Not even a moment later there’s a reflection on the horizon. That’s so odd but the farther we go the more visible it becomes. The beautiful lake before us comes into view and my eyes widen like a child, completely taken by surprise.
“I had no idea there were any lakes around here!” I say startled.
Elijah laughs and shakes his head.
“Yep,” he says. “That’s Lake Mary.”
I drive until we reach a point where we can no longer move forward. With my foot on the brake and my brows furrowed, I glance at Elijah.
“What now?” I ask surprised.
“Now we walk,” he says, opening his door. “And talk.”
I shift the car into park and open my door. Walk, okay that sounds alright and talking is definitely something good. I’d like to get to know him better. Elijah quickly walks around to my side and holds the door open, waiting for me to exit. Anxious to see the lake, I look at him mischievously and bite my bottom lip.
“What?” he asks curiously.
“I’ll race you there,” I say with a pitched voice.
“Oh yeah.” Suddenly he lunges forward in preparation. “You’re on!” he yells and takes off running.
“Hey! No fair!” I cry out after him, heels to the ground and running as fast as my feet can carry me.
Elijah is a significant distance ahead of me but he makes sure to turn and check on me as I try to keep up. As we run through the field of rocks and clay, the scenery bursts into vivid color with yellow flowers blanketing the green grass. I almost stumble at the sheer beauty of it. Finally reaching the lake’s edge, we both stop to catch our breath. Elijah plucks a few flowers from the ground and brings them over to me, placing one in my hair above my ear.
“Beautiful,” he says, slightly out of breath.
“It is!” I reply panting. “It’s absolutely beautiful here.”
“I knew you would love it,” he grins, taking a seat on the grass and motioning for me to join him.
My mind struggles, trying to understand the emotions I’m suddenly experiencing. My forehead wrinkles as questions swirl inside my head. Taking a seat next to him, we sit silently for a few moments, looking out over the lake. Everything about this scene is eerily familiar, right down to the feelings I have for the man sitting by my side.
“Ok, I give up, you win,” I say seceding.
“Win at what?” Elijah replies, looking confused.
“The silent game, I was never good at being quiet,” I say embarrassed.
Elijah has this look of astonishment on his face at my revelation. He’s sitting there with his mouth gaped open and his eyes bugged out. He then reaches out for me but I push his hand away and laugh.
“Don’t make fun of me!” I say, lying back on my elbows.
He pulls his hands back to his sides and closes his mouth. His face turns completely somber before I notice him close his eyes and lay back on the grass beside me. He lets out a soft sigh and sniffs his nose. What did I say to upset him? I turn onto my right side and pull myself up on my arm, towering over him so I can see his face.
“Elijah, are you alright?”
His eyes open to look at me and I can see the tears this time. He touches my cheek with his right hand and moves my hair behind my ear.
“I’m fine, I didn’t mean to upset you,” he says solemnly. “I just thought bringing you here might…”
“Might what?” I ask confused.
He sits up and shakes his head, laying his arms across his knees. Now I’m thoroughly confused. What the heck is going on? I pull myself up so that I’m sitting next to him. I start to say something but stop, choosing to stare out at the lake in silence instead.
“We should get back to Flagstaff. Your family is probably wondering where you are,” he states while standing to his feet.
I look up at him from the ground below and he extends his hand to help me get up. Standing face to face once again I decide not to let the moment escape me. I bite my bottom lip and take a deep breath.
“Elijah, I’m sorry if I gave you mixed signals. I don’t know why or how but I have very strong feelings for you. Since the moment I laid eyes on you that first day on campus, I’ve felt a connection to you I can’t explain. So, bringing me here wasn’t a mistake and I’m sorry if I made you feel that it was,” I say sincerely.
He stands frozen in front of me for a moment. His beautiful face displays an array of emotions I don’t quite understand. There’s this burst of happiness that morphs to sadness then settles on a sort of mild peacefulness or maybe it was more as if he had some kind of revelation or something. Either way, I don’t get it. He touches my shoulders with his hands, swallowing deeply.
“You really don’t remember, do you?”
“Remember what?” I ask confused.
He drops his arms to his side and looks down at the ground. He seems to be thinking intently. When he looks back up at me he’s smiling, that same wistful smile he generally has on his face. He grasps my hands in his and squeezes them lightly as if to make sure I’m really there.
“I think we need to start over. I’ve managed to make this day entirely too serious and I apologize for that, forget everything I’ve said. I like you too, Emily. In fact, I like you a lot and I want to get to know you better. Would you like to go out on a date with me sometime? Like, a real date?” He asks with a smile.
Slightly embarrassed, I smile and nod repeatedly. “I’d like that.”
“Great! Now we better get going, it will be dark soon,” he says, directing me towards the car.
As we walk back to the car I can’t help but celebrate silently inside. I’m so proud of myself for having the courage to tell him how I felt. I can’t wait to get home so I can call Jaymie to tell her all about my day and to find out why the heck she wasn’t in class again. Once back at the car, Elijah and I get situated in our seats and turn to look at one another.
“I had a really nice time, honestly,” I say.
“So did I,” he replies.
“So, where to,” I ask curiously.
“Oh, you can just take me back to the school. Rich is usually still there grading papers at this time,” he answers.
“Rich?” I ask.
“Shoot, I’m not supposed to call him that in front of the students,” he says laughing, “Professor Jacobs’ real name is Richard Jacobs but his friends call him Rich for short. Sometimes I forget to get it all professional.”
“I see. Well, I promise I won’t tell,” I say with a chuckle.
“Please don’t or I’ll never hear the end of it!” he laughs.
Grinning I turn on the car and begin to drive back towards Flagstaff. We ride in silence for a few minutes, until I get back on the main road. The quiet is sort of deafening so I reach out and flip on the radio to help break the silence.
♫ “All I wanna do is have some fun” ♪
“Oh my gosh, I love this song!” I say, turning up the radio.
Elijah laughs and shakes his head as he watches me sing and dance behind the wheel. When we arrive at the school I park near the library, knowing that is his favorite place to hang out. Elijah exits and walks over to my side. Leaning down, he places his hands on the window frame to say goodnight.
“Thanks for a lovely day,” I say looking up at him.
“No, thank you. It was an honor to be in your company today, Emily,” he says with a smile.
“So I guess I should give you my phone number, you know, in case you have a question about the homework or something,” he manages to stutter out.
I giggle slightly, and then straighten up my face.
“Yes, I suppose I should give you mine as well, just in case,” I reply.
I reach into the back seat and grab my backpack, pulling out one of the many notepads I have inside. I pick up a pen and write my name and number on half of the sheet and tear it down the middle. Handing him the other half and the pen, he writes his down as well. We exchange the pieces of paper and look at each other awkwardly.
“Well, have a good evening,” I say.
“I’ll call you about that date, ok?” he answers as he removes his hands from my window frame.
I smile and wave as he walks towards the library. I don’t want our time together to end but I know it’s probably too soon to be feeling that way. I pull out of the parking lot and head home to Aunt Mary’s place. Thoughts of the day swirl around in my mind. By the time I get home I’m floating on air. Pulling into the driveway, I park and grab my things and head inside. Aunt Mary and Uncle Bob are sitting in the television room when I enter the house. I hear Aunt Mary call out to me but I’m too caught up in my own daydreams to pay any attention.
I hover up the stairs to my room and fall onto my bed like an angel on a cloud. All I can think about is Elijah and his beautiful brown eyes. The way he smiles, the way he laughs, the electricity that flows through me when he touches my skin. Letting out a deep sigh, I close my eyes and drift off to sleep in a complete state of bliss.
We hope that you have enjoyed this sneak peek at Book 2 in The Ceaseless Trilogy, Flight of the Thunderbird. It is currently available for purchase on paperback and e-book. You can find all the links HERE