Authors: Cassandra Gannon
He cut her
off. “Take me
, Teja, or I’ll figure out a way to get there
him for a beat and then let out a sigh. “We really need to talk.” She glanced
over at her family. “Alone.”
one to the other side did leap and dart,
heat to cold, from cold to heat again:
not an instant through their anguish great,
either element might they remain.
Richard Watson Dixon- “Mano”
going to do any good.” Sullivan muttered as Teja hustled him into her
bedroom. “I don’t see what else you and I have to discuss. You’re crazy. I’m
not. Let’s just…” He trailed off and looked around her room. “Hey.” He
sounded surprised. “It’s almost normal in here.”
automatically followed his gaze. She was used to seeing her bedroom, since
she’d basically had it decorated the same way since the mid-1930s. The
straight, asymmetrical lines of the rosewood furniture appealed to her. So did
the champagne colored walls, the Art Deco mirror over her dresser, and black
and white architectural prints on the walls. Unlike the rest of the Fire
Fortress, there were only a limited number of swords and axes around. Very few
people had ever been inside the space.
Sullivan standing in the middle of her sanctuary was actually a little
unnerving, now that Teja took a second to process it. This
was the only place she could be sure was private, though. Fire Phases were
notorious snoops. Her family had most of the fortress under various forms of
video and audio surveillance so they could spy on each other.
shut the door behind her. “You sound surprised. What kind of room did you
expect me to have?”
no offense, but the rest of your house looks like a set from
. So, this is a welcomed departure.” He headed over to look
out the picture window as if he was determined to focus at anything but her.
Little squares of red stained glass boarded the edges, with the Greek symbol
for Fire in their center. Sullivan stared out over the smoldering landscape
for a beat and then grunted. “As long as you don’t look outside, anyway.
Seriously, what do you do when those volcanoes erupt?”
looked at her sharply, like he thought that was a joke. Teja couldn’t imagine
why. Surely, he didn’t think they’d let lava cover the entire the kingdom. It
would be a mess.
shook his head and moved to investigate the rest of the room. Stopping by her
dresser, he picked up a framed daguerreotype of Pele and Djinn smiling proudly
at a baby. Teja had the fleeting thought that if a live rattlesnake had been
in front of him Sullivan would have picked it up, too. Anything to keep from
looking at her.
photo was taken when Missy was born.” Teja volunteered, although she wasn’t
sure why. “She’s their daughter.” Teja didn’t bother to point out the hundred
and fifty year old photographic medium or the
hoopskirt Pele wore. Sullivan had to have noticed.
set the frame aside without saying anything and picked up another one.
at Disney World.
lips pressed together. Her grandfather was standing in front of Cinderella’s
Castle, a smirk on his face and Mickey Mouse ears on his head. He had one arm
around slung around a cast member dressed like Elsa from
giving a peace sign with the other hand. Oberon always celebrated his birthday
at the Magic Kingdom. He’d been banned from at least half the rides and kicked
out of every hotel on property for his wild partying.
held up the picture. “Boyfriend?”
tilted the frame around so it faced him again and eyed the photo skeptically.
Elementals didn’t age at a human rate. Oberon had been nine hundred and forty when
he died, but he’d still looked like a human in his thirties. A handsome human
with black hair, thick eyebrows, and a devil may care twinkle in his dark eyes.
Sullivan snorted. “Sure he is.”
could freeze out a lot, but Oberon was one topic that she could never fully
ignore. “That’s my grandfather, Oberon, of the Fire House.” She stated in a
flat tone. “He’s dead, now.”
glanced at her. Whatever he saw on her face must have convinced him that she
was telling the truth, because he nodded. “I’m sorry.” He sounded sincere.
“How did it happen?”
She let out a
long, shuddering breath and searched for words that would convey only a
sanitized portion of the awful truth. Teja didn’t want Sullivan to hear about
this. It seemed… unclean and he was such an innocent man. “There was a
disease called the Fall. It was like the human plague. Two years ago, it
killed countless Elementals.”
jaw dropped. “A plague? Ty mention something about a sickness once, but…
Jesus, are you okay?”
immune. Everyone who’s left was immune. But, most weren’t.”
studied her for a long moment. “What caused the Fall? Rats?”
“Yeah, in the
Middle Ages the plague was because fleas bit rats and then bit people.”
were nutty. “No, Parald, of the Air House released the Fall from the Heath
Tablet. One of the Tablets of Fate. They can cause a lot of damage. That’s
one of the reasons we’re looking for Parson’s box.”
a hand against his chest, American ‘I pledge allegiance’ style. “I don’t have
the Happiness Box. I swear it on my life. If I had some mystical, plague
riddled, mirrored Rubik’s Cube, I would gladly hand it over to you. So, if
that’s why I’m still here…”
it’s not why you’re still here.” Teja interrupted and decided to cut to the
bottom line. “You’re still here because it’s pointless to keep ignoring each
other.” God knew she’d tried, but Sullivan was like the
of a faucet. She just couldn’t tune him out. “I think we should go back the
squinted. “The plan where you showed up at my house and said we should sleep
together with no emotional attachments?”
we shouldn’t talk about anything personal or exchange Christmas gifts, but I’d
unleash my latent powers thorough ‘Phazing.’”
arched a brow. “Then you kissed me, freaked out, told me the whole thing was a
mistake, and vanished right out of my arms.”
She cleared her throat. “Well, things got a little bit overwhelming for a
second there. But, the plan itself is still sound.”
He deadpanned. “Look, you’re stunning, and magical, and you have a lot of
weapons.” He gestured to the modest assortment of swords on her walls. “You
could have any guy you wanted.”
That’ll make things easier, then. I want
, so take your clothes
to want him, but there was no getting around the fact that
Sullivan was hers. Fire Phases knew destiny when they saw it. She’d tried
everything she could to get out of this mess, but Sullivan Pryce was her Match
and nothing was going to change that. They might as well just accept it before
he went and got himself killed. It was her responsibility as his Match to
Phaze with him as soon as possible. Honor and duty demanded that she get him
Sullivan was incredibly, unbelievably hot, so the actual “jumping” part of
jumping on this grenade was sure to be awesome. Teja wasn’t loving the idea of
having a Match, but she was eager to explore the ripping-his-pants-off aspect
of their relationship.
on. Strip and let’s get this over with.” Teja ordered when he just stared at
her. The only thing to do was face this mess head on. She’d panicked a bit
the last time, but now she knew what to expect and she’d be able to block the
unwanted emotions trying to break free. Like most Fire Phases, once Teja made
up her mind about a plan, she just wanted to move ahead with it.
jaw set in a stubborn line as he watched her begin to undress. “No.”
paused in the act of unbuttoning Oberon’s old letterman-style cardigan. Since
the Fall, she wore it every day. It made her feel closer to him. Her eyebrows
compressed, confused by Sullivan’s obstinate refusal to participate in their
He shook his head. “I won’t sleep with you. I don’t know why you keep doing
this, but no way in hell am I falling for it.”
let out a longsuffering sigh. God, he just
to make this difficult,
didn’t he? “We need to Phaze, Sullivan. It’s for the greater good.”
He didn’t believe her.
mean it. We need to make sure you’re protected.”
through mutant sex?”
Phazing.” Once they’d officially Phazed, he’d be hers under Elemental law and
she could keep him safely locked away from danger. Sullivan would be so much
easier to guard once she’d claimed him. Not even Job could steal him from her
clutches. It was the best option. “It’s like
sex only better.”
He still wasn’t buying it. “Take me home.”
being pointlessly stubborn.” Fire Phases didn’t do well with rejection. Teja
resisted the urge to toss him back in the dungeon until he saw reason. No
other Match in the universe would say “no” to Phazing. Why did hers have to be
such a pain in the ass? “Look, I’m the only one who understands what’s really
going on here, so you should just shut-up and do what I say.”
frowned. “Or what
will you do if I
do what you say? Set me on fire?” He didn’t
seem particularly cowed by the idea, but she could tell he thought it was a
I’m not going to set you on fire.” She snapped, insulted that he would say
such a thing.
Fire Phase wouldn’t harm their Match. It was all spelled out in rule five of
the Fire House code, which was, “Protect your Match above all.” Shit, she
didn’t even need the rule to tell her that Sullivan was the most important
thing in her world. She could feel it and she couldn’t feel
Teja would take a sword through the eye before she let this idiotic human so
much as stub his toe. All she’d done since she’d met Sullivan was look out for
him and he
watched her suspiciously, not looking at all ready to hop into bed.
let out a frustrated breath. Sullivan was only thirty-five years old and from
a much simpler species. He was also a Wood Phase. That House never budged
from what they thought was right. Not even with a cattle prod. Teja knew that
this was going to take a while.
she sat down on the side of the mattress, “let’s start over.” She hoped she
looked calm and unintimidating. “I’m Teja.” She laid a hand on her chest.
“I’m your Match. Do you understand what that means?”
guessing it’s like a girlfriend.”
that what human called their mates? It seemed so tepid. “Okay. So, you see
that there’s no reason for me to hurt you.” She shook her head. “
Sullivan. I am the one person in this world who will do
keep you safe. You and I are connected.”
Phase brown eyes narrowed. “Why me?”
don’t know. It’s just the way Gaia willed it.”
was before the Fall. When I still thought She cared.”
the first time all day, she saw his wariness fade. Sullivan believed that
statement. It made her wonder when he stopped having faith in his own God.
you think we should sleep together because this uncaring goddess has somehow
connected us?” He translated. “Jesus, you
in a Cult.”
the last time, it’s
not a cult
. And the connection is real. I know you
feel it, too.”
rolled his eyes. “Uh-huh.”
deliberately let lose an erotic pulse of energy and saw him flinch. The man
didn’t recognize his own powers, but they recognized her. She could feel his
energy move against hers. God, he had so
of it. How did he not
sense it was there? Just that slight brush sent her whole system jangling.
frowned over at her, beautiful, and wary, and very, very young. “How do you
make it feel like I’m touching you?”
mouth curved at the question. “Magic.”
never believed in magic.”
That was odd. The Wood House were some of the do-goodingest, purest, most
faith-driven Phases in the realm. Sullivan should have grown up leaving milk
and cookies for Santa. What had made him so suspicious of everything?