Magic of the Wood House (The Elemental Phases Book 6) (9 page)

BOOK: Magic of the Wood House (The Elemental Phases Book 6)
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His
jaw tightened as she moved closer to him, but he didn’t retreat.

Teja
took it as progress.  “Come ‘ere, Sheriff.”  She tried and crooked a finger at
him, moving close enough for her body to brush against his.

Sullivan
stared down at her breathing hard.  “I’m the police chief, not the sheriff.” 
He whispered.  “And this isn’t going to work.”

“Feels
like it’s working.”  She went up on tiptoe to brush her mouth against his and
she felt him draw in a surprised breath in response.  His lips softened and a
jackpot sound rang in Teja’s mind.

Gotcha
.

Sullivan
might be emotionally distant, but his body was certainly
invested
.

He
gave a low groan and kissed back.  His mouth slowly moved against hers like he
was savoring the taste of her.  It was intoxicating.  Teja’s toes curled inside
her hightops.  How could such a big warrior be so gentle?  It was his Wood
Phase genes, no doubt.  That House always contributed the realm’s greatest
guardians.  Big, calm protectors of truth, justice and the American way.

It
made her want to ravish the honorable right out of him.

Teja
shoved him backwards so he hit the wall, her mouth never leaving his.  Sullivan
gave a start as she took the kiss to a new level.  He wasn’t exactly struggling
to get free, though.  His palms found the back of her legs, lifting her higher
as she scaled his body.  Her legs wound around his waist and she could feel how
aroused he was.  Both of their energies were going wild along their connection.

“Teja.” 
Sullivan’s mouth turned hotter, his kiss more desperate.  “Ah, Christ.”  One of
his hands came up to cup her breast through the fabric of her shirt, his breath
sawing out in desire.  “How do you do this to me?”

Teja
almost smiled at that.  Corrupting the innocent came naturally to a Fire Phase.

She
dragged his mouth back to hers, thrilled with how quickly this was
progressing.  Sullivan was about to become hers.  Her lips opened against his
and her eyes drifted shut in pleasure.  The man tasted like the magic he didn’t
believe in.  She rocked against him as he massaged her breast with his strong
fingers.  God, this was all working out sooooo well.  She was clearly some kind
of seduction genius.

Her
arms wrapped around his neck, a surprised moan leaving her.  The Phazing energy
swirled around them.  She almost felt… excited.  Except, Teja couldn’t really
feel anything, anymore, so that was impossible.  No wonder Phases searched so
hard for their Matches.  Touching Sullivan, feeling his powers against hers, it
was something she’d never expected to find.

And
she wasn’t going to give it.

“Strip,
now
.” 
She ordered again, drawing back.

Fire Phases
weren’t a patient group.  It was actually rule twenty-three of their code:
“Waiting is overrated.”

The sooner
she Phazed with Sullivan, the sooner he’d be stuck with her forever.  No one
else would take belonged to Teja.  She surreptitiously gauged the distance to
the bed and judged it too far.  They’d better just do this against the wall. 
Since Sullivan wasn’t hurrying to comply with her order, she reached for his
zipper herself.  They needed to hurry…

“Hell
no.”  Sullivan quickly dropped her to the ground, looking completely stunned by
the kiss and more guarded than ever.  “Hang on.  We can’t do this.”

Teja’s
eyes narrowed, annoyed to find herself on her feet.  “Says who?”

“Says
me
.  I don’t know how you’re doing this energy thing, but I’m not an
idiot.”  He shook his head, edging away from her.  “No
way
would you be
willing to sleep with me unless there was something bigger going on.  I’m not
falling for this charade.”

“Oh,
Jesus… Aren’t we passed this yet?”

“No,
we’re fucking
not
.  We’re not
getting
passed it either, so this
is a waste of time.  I’m not kidding.  This is
over
.”  He slashed a hand
through the air.  “I’m going home and never thinking about any of you crazy
weirdoes again.”  He sounded like he desperately wanted to believe that.

Teja
knew better.

“You
can’t just
forget
about me.  That’s not how this works.”

“Really?” 
He gave a harsh laugh.  “Because, I’ve forgotten
other
shit apparently. 
And for all I know,
you’re
behind that.”

That
was just insulting.  “I would never do anything to harm you.”  Teja paused,
facing the truth.  “It
is
my fault that someone was able to mess with
your memories, though.”  She admitted.  “I should have been keeping a closer
eye on you.”  She never should have spent the last few weeks avoiding him.  It
had been weak and dangerous.  “I’ll find out who did this and make them pay.  I
promise.”

Nobody
touched Teja’s Match.  Not without their bleeding corpse becoming a publically
displayed example of abject suffering and death, strung up as a warning to
others.

Sullivan
ran a hand through his hair.  “Whatever you’re after, you’re not going to find
it with me.  Just give it up.  For both our sakes.”

Teja’s
head titled.  Fire Phases didn’t like to be denied and they
never
gave
up.  Ever.  Did Sullivan really not understand how far someone from her House
would go to have their Match?  Maybe a Wood Phase would nobly surrender rather
than cheat, but the Fire House didn’t worry about playing fair.

“You
think you can just walk away from me?”  She challenged softly.

“Yep.”

“How?”

Sullivan
frowned.  “What do you mean
how? 
I’m just going to leave.”

“Except,
you’ve been kidnapped, you moron.  How do you think you’re
ever
leaving
unless I let you go?”

His
brows compressed.  “You can’t just keep me here and hope Stockholm syndrome
kicks in.”  He protested in the exact outraged tone you’d expect a Wood Phase
to use.  They all had this thing about “ethics.”  No one in the Fire House
really understood it, but, on Sullivan, the righteousness was a teeny bit cute.

“I
can do whatever I want.”  Teja shrugged.  “I’ve got superpowers and really lax
moral standards.  That opens up all kinds of options for me.”  Sooner or later,
all Fire House courtships resorted to abduction.  Now, she saw why.  Matches
could be so damn difficult.

He
shook his head in disbelief.  “This is ridiculous.  I have a life, I have a
job…”

“You
have a
Match
.”  She interjected.  “You’re not going anywhere until you
smarten up and admit it.”

Beautiful
brown eyes narrowed.  “You really wanna play it that way?”  He asked softly.

“Hey,
I’m
not the one being an ass about this.”  Teja reminded him.  “I’ve
been completely reasonable and understanding.”

“You
put me in a dungeon!”

“I
let you out, didn’t I? 
You’re
the one who won’t even Phaze with me.” 
If anyone should be upset it was Teja.  Her whole body was tight and aching
thanks to him backing away from the kiss.  “Is it really such a hardship to
unbuckle your pants?  What do you have against me, anyhow?”

“I
don’t trust you!  For good reason, considering you’re trying to hold me prisoner.”

She
folded her arms across her chest, frustrated by his attitude.  How could he not
trust his own Match?  The man was impossible.  “Well, you can just stay here
until you
do
trust me then.”

“I’m
going
home
, Teja.”


This
is your home, now.”  Jesus, it was like talking to a brick wall.  “You can’t
stay in the human realm.  It isn’t safe for you.  Not to mention the fact that
every other woman in the world goes there to proposition you.  And you
let
them, which seriously pisses me off.”

He
frowned.  “Hang on.  I’ve never slept with any of those…”

She
cut him off.  “You don’t send them away though, do you?  You just let them
follow you around.”  Teja had considered putting a stop to it herself, but it
would seem too much like caring.  People without feelings couldn’t possibly get
jealous when dozens and dozens and
dozens
of dazzling women tried to
lure their Match into bed.


Let
them follow me?  I told them to stop stalking me.  I arrested them.  I called
for psych evaluations.  What more could I do, besides drive them to the county
line and drop them off?”  He hesitated.  “And I actually tried that
too
,
but Hallie just came back.”

That
didn’t surprise her.  Hadlyn, of the Weather House had a mind like a pit bull.

She
was also disgustingly adorable, with shiny blonde hair and the kind of curvy
figure Elemental men loved.  The kind of figure Teja
used
to have before
the Fall killed her desire to eat and what little vanity she’d once possessed. 
Now she was fifteen pounds lighter and her idiot Match was sure to notice that
he could have way more shapely companions.

Maybe
that’s why he refused to Phaze.  Maybe he was planning to leave her for some
curvy little ditz with feelings.  Maybe he was going to renounce her.

Teja’s
teeth ground together.  It would
never
happen.

“Here’s
how this is going to work, human.”  She jabbed a finger at him.  “You’re
going
Phaze with me, sooner or later.  And, until then, you’re going to stay
right
here
in the Fire Kingdom until you figure out who you belong to.  Got it?”

Sullivan
leaned closer to her.  “You’re insane.” He bit off.

Teja
decided to take that as a “yes.”  “And I’m all yours.”  She gave him a smirk. 
“Now, come downstairs and trim the goddamn Christmas tree before I strangle
you.”  She went slamming out of the room and stood in the hallway for a moment,
breathing hard.

Okay.

That
probably could’ve gone better.

Chapter Six

 

Why, fire
is his proper element.

 

Alexandre
Dumas- “The Black Tulip”

 

Christmas
Eve Evening

So,
now he was spending Christmas with the Addams Family.  Or maybe it was the
Munsters.  God knew, he was developing sudden empathy for poor Marilyn.

Sullivan
rubbed his temple and had no idea how he’d gotten into this mess.  Obviously,
Teja was to blame.  The woman was holding him hostage in Castle Greyskull until
he agreed to get naked.  What the hell was he supposed to do about that? 
Hitchhiking back to Earth seemed like a longshot and he wasn’t about to shoot
his way free.  Especially since Teja still had his Phasing killing gun.

Honestly,
wouldn’t have harmed any of these nuts, even if he could.  Sullivan had spent
his whole life feeling out of step and isolated.  A square peg in a round
hole.  He never really belonged anywhere.  But, when he sat in the middle of
his obnoxious, bickering kidnappers, everything felt sort of…
right.

Obviously,
his instincts were still misfiring.

Another
clue to a deeper problem: he wasn’t in quite the hurry to escape Teja’s
clutches as he
should’ve
been.  He
should’ve
been planning an
escape.  He
should’ve
been halfway back to reality.  There had to be a
way and he could figure it out if he tried.

Devising
strategies to escape an incredibly beautiful, incredibly smart, supernatural
princess ranked about dead last on his mental to-do list, though.  Sullivan
instincts started going haywire when Teja wandered more than two yards away
from him.  No way did they want him putting a whole galaxy between them. 
Fleeing was the last thing on his mind.

Instead,
he was watching the Fire Phases decorate their Christmas tree.

The
colossal spruce topped out at about twenty feet, nearly brushing the cathedral
ceiling in their living room.  They’d set it up on a platform made of coffins,
adding to its massive height.  Sullivan hoped to God they hadn’t “liberated” it
from a National Forest somewhere.  He slouched down further in his slightly
scorched armchair and told himself that it was
not
almost amusing to
watching the holiday chaos these lunatics created.

Kingu,
of the Fire House dug through a stack of boxes.  Sullivan had met him before. 
Massive guys who kind of looked like dragons were hard to forget.  Kingu’s
cherubic little wife, Hope, had placed a velvet Santa hat on his dark head, but
it did nothing to soften his slightly inhuman features.

“I
found them, treasure.”  Kingu reported, holding up a set of skeleton-shaped
twinkle lights better suited for a haunted house.

“Oh,
perfect!  Those have to go on first.”  Hope bounced over to him, bending down
to kiss Kingu’s cheek.  “Just think, next year we can do this with our
daughter.”

Kingu’s
mouth curved, one baseball mitt sized hand caressing her stomach like she was
made of porcelain.  The guy was almost as big as the Christmas tree, but he was
wrapped around Hope’s little finger.  His red eyes glowed with love as he
watched her haphazardly drape the plastic Halloween decorations on the thick
branches.

Of
all the Fire Phases, Hope was the only blonde and clearly the baby of the
House.  She was part human and liked to celebrate the holidays, so the whole
family indulged her.  Sullivan assumed that was why they were more accepting of
human traditions than the Cult members in Mayport Beach, who’d spent all of
December in a state of yuletide confusion.

Alder
was tying glittery ribbons to the handles of butcher knives so they could hang
the deadly blades as ornaments.  “So,
I
said, ‘Look, the damn cow is the
one who took Raiden, not me.  She’s been spreading her evil for a hundred
years.’”  He shook his head.  “Chason didn’t believe me, though.  He doesn’t
understand what a duplicitous…’”

“The
chick from the future has Raiden.”  Pele interrupted.  She was stringing what
looked like shrunken heads on piano wire.  “I’m sure of it.”

Alder
hesitated, squinting in deep concentration.  “Nah, I think it’s the cow.”

“It’s
totally the chick from the future.”  Satour agreed.  He looked like his
brother, Alder, only with a chrome eyebrow piercing and a leaner build.  He sat
on the floor, dissecting a robotic elf with a hacksaw, for no discernable
reason.  “Christ knows why she wants him, but I’ll betcha she’s got Raiden
locked up and she’s doing all kinds of twisted, sexual shit to him, right now.  Lucky
bastard.”

Alder
still didn’t look convinced.  “Well, who did the cow kidnap, then?”

“Can
we stop with the damn cow?”  Teja demanded sharply.  “Just for one day, can we
please
not
talk about the cow?”

The
other Fire Phases turned to frown at her in disapproval.

Sullivan
shot her a bland look.  If his emotions were in turmoil, at least he had the
comfort of knowing that Teja was suffering, too.  She was in a worse mood than
usual, apparently brooding over the fact that Sullivan wouldn’t strip off his
clothes and submit to her “Phazing” idea.

“You
ready to let me go, yet?”  He asked, just to piss her off.

She
glowered at him, somehow blaming him for everything that had happened. 
“Shut-up and watch the stupid cartoon, human.”  She ordered, leaning against
the wall and observing the holiday happenings like Ebenezer Scrooge.

Sullivan
glanced over at the sixty-two inch TV, where
The Year Without Santa Claus
was playing.

“That
asshole Snow Miser should die screaming.”  Djinn muttered, his face set in
lines of intense hatred.  “That whiny Mother Nature bitch, too.”

The
Fire Phases were Heat Miser boosters, all the way.  If magic existed, Djinn
would’ve been leaping through the screen and beating the holy hell out of a
certain blue puppet.  Hopefully, they didn’t have the DVD of
Frosty the
Snowman
or a riot might break out.

“Cookies!” 
Missy, of the Fire House came skipping into the room with a plate of
gingerbread men.  None of them had heads and all of them were doused in bloody
pools of red icing.

At
least, Sullivan
hoped
it was icing.

Having
known the girl for just a few hours, Sullivan already knew that Missy was
crazy.  Her too-wide smile was the kind favored by axe-murderers and children’s
television stars.  He was still iffy about the whole Elemental “energy”
bullshit, but he could feel something… fragmented about her.  Like, on some
level, Missy was barely holding together.  Given her schizophrenically happy
mood, though, she seemed to be dealing with her madness well.

Pele
glanced over at her daughter.  “You set the traps?”  She reached up to grab one
of the decapitated gingerbread men from the tray.  “I don’t want that fat
burglar and his sack of toys breaking into the fortress.”

Missy
beamed.  She was decked out in a pink polka dot apron, but the Suzy-Homemaker effect
was slightly hindered by the Japanese throwing star earrings.  “Don’t worry. 
No creatures will be stirring in
this
house tonight.  Not without losing
some limbs.”

Pele
grunted in satisfaction.

“I
told you, Mom, St. Nick is a
good
criminal.”  Alder insisted.  “Like
Lizzie Borden.”

“Hey,
maybe the humans are okay with bearded dickheads sneaking down their chimneys
uninvited, but I don’t tolerate intruders.”  Pele muttered.  “We have to be
prepared for his attack.”

“Don’t
worry.  He’s not coming here.  No way did you guys make the ‘Nice List.’”  Sullivan
rolled his eyes as Missy shoved a cookie at him.  “Not if I was starving to
death.”  He informed her seriously and pushed the plate away.  “Look, I need to
make a phone call.”

A
shadow moved in the corner of the room.  Sullivan glanced over to see Qadesh,
the darkest and most sinister member of the family.  During his years in the
military, Sullivan had met a lot of snipers.  Pele and Djinn’s oldest child was
a sniper.  Quiet and watchful, Qadesh moved around the perimeter of the
gathering, blending into the surroundings until you almost forgot he was there.

…Except
Sullivan could feel a pair of opaque turquoise eyes cataloging his every move.

“Who
you gonna call?”  Qadesh demanded, his voice seeping out like darkness itself. 
If Teja was Scrooge, then Qadesh was the Ghost of Christmas Future.  His holiday
just wouldn’t be merry until he’d foretold some deaths and maybe offed Tiny
Tim.

Thankfully,
Sullivan was immune to intimidation tactics.  His childhood had made sure of
that.  “The Ghostbusters.”  He retorted.  “What do you care?”

Qadesh’s
predatory gaze narrowed.

Djinn
sighed like a martyr.  “
Why
do you want to ruin Christmas?”  He asked
Sullivan around a mouthful of ginger-dead man.  “Can’t you just sit there and
be jolly?  We got you a stocking and everything.”  He gestured towards the
mantle, where someone had thoughtfully hung a tube sock with care.  The word
“Human” was printed on in black Sharpie marker.

Sullivan
turned back to Teja, because talking to the rest of them was a waste of time. 
“I want to call my cousin Melanie.  By now, she’s going to notice that I’m
missing.  I’m having Christmas Eve dinner with her and Uriel.  I think Nia and
Ty and the rest of them are supposed to be there, too.”

Teja’s
eyebrows compressed.  “You’re going to a party with other Phases?”

“Well,
not if you keep me locked up here…”

She
cut him off.  “You’re going to a party with other Phases… and you didn’t invite
me?

“How
could I invite you, even if I’d wanted to?  You’ve been avoiding me for weeks,
Teja.”

She
ignored that logic, looking outraged.  For someone so damn certain that she was
emotionless, the woman seemed to feel
a lot
.  “You said Uriel’s going. 
So
Melanie’s
Match is welcome, but you thought you’d exclude yours?”

“Everybody’s
always excluding us.”  Alder lamented.  “It’s so unfair.”  He made a
considering face.  “But --Hey!-- if the Water Phases are going to be out for
the evening, we can go do our holiday shopping at their palace.  They got all
kinds of --like-- arty little vases we can steal.  With dolphins and shit on
them.”

“I
don’t want a fucking dolphin vase for Christmas.”  Satour complained.

“I
didn’t exclude you.”  Sullivan told Teja.  “It just never occurred to me to
that you’d want to spend Christmas with my family.”

“You
consider the Water Phases your family and not me?!”  She bellowed back.

“They’re
related to Uriel and he’s going to be my cousin-in-law!”

“I
like dolphins.”  Missy chirped, disregarding the shouting.  “And giraffes.” 
She looked over at Kingu.  “Can you make me a giraffe with your powers?”

“No. 
I can make you a unicorn, though.”

Missy
pouted.  “I’m tired of unicorns.  They’re always so dumb.”

“She
has a point, monster.  They aren’t the brightest species.”  Hope added some
barbed wire garland to the tree.  “They keep stampeding into the lava pits.”

Kingu
shrugged with lazy unconcern.  “I simply manifest them with my powers.  I
cannot make them smart.”

“At
least, they taste good.  Not as gamey as reindeer.”  Djinn cut himself another
slice of fruitcake.  “Okay, which Christmas movie should we watch next
?  Charlie
Brown
or
Faces of Death?

Teja
jabbed a finger at Sullivan.  “Uriel is a
Wood
Phase, not a Water
Phase.  They aren’t related.  The Water Phases just like to stick their noses
in everything.”  She shook her head.  “I don’t get it.  Why the hell are those
bookworms always so popular?  What do they have that we don’t?”  She looked
around like one of the Fire Phases might have the answer.

Nobody
did.

“Wait,
Uriel’s a Wood Phase?”  Sullivan was still trying to catch-up.  It was
impossible to keep track of the lunacy.  “I thought
I
was a Wood Phase.”

“You
are a Wood Phase!”

“So
you think I’m the same as
Uriel?
”  That was almost insulting.  Melanie’s
fiancé acted like Indiana Jones on crack.  “That guy’s even crazier than you
people.”

“And
yet you planned to spend Christmas with
him
and not me.”  Teja
retorted.  “You are
determined
to undermine our relationship, aren’t
you? 
We
are your family, Sullivan.”  She waved a hand around the coven
of Fire Phases.  “You should want
us
to come to your
parties.”

“I’m
not going to his party.”  Qadesh intoned.

“Me
neither.”  Djinn made a face.  “Why is everybody always trying to make me do
what I don’t want to do?”  He scowled at Sullivan.  “No one wants to go to your
party, human.  Stop nagging us!”

Teja
closed her eyes, her head probably filled with visions of dancing sugarplums
choking her idiot relatives.

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