I tossed and turned, trying to break the hold the dream had over me. My legs tangled in the blankets, making me feel trapped, and my struggles intensified. The air was so hot that with every inhale, my lungs burned. I couldn’t break free. The fiery fingers of the dream dug in and held tight, keeping me trapped.
I was caught in the in-between, the place where your mind went just before you woke up. It had been like this every morning for days, and each day it got harder and harder to escape. I wouldn’t forget this time. This time, I’d remember. It felt like part of me was walled off from the rest of the world, and I just needed to break through. As my body fought, my mind raced. I was in my Gorgon form, which never happened when I slept. So, somewhere in my subconscious, I knew I was in danger. I was at home in my bed, though, at the GC. With the fortifications done after the Titan’s escape, this had to be one of the safest places on Earth. Wasn’t it?
I felt a heaviness settle over me. It pinned me down, and I thrashed, trying to free myself from this new force.
“It’s me. It’s ok—just breathe. Breathe, damn it!” a desperate voice yelled.
The urgency in the voice grabbed my attention, and I focused on the sound. I held onto it like a lifeline as I sucked in a ragged breath.
“That’s my girl,” the voice said on a shaky exhale.
I wasn’t sure how long I laid there, but eventually, I realized the voice belonged to Luke. He was lying on top of me, and the weight I had felt was his body stretched over mine.
“What the hell happened?” My voice was scratchy, and my thoughts scattered as I tried to hold on to pieces of the dream. They kept slipping away, and I felt myself falling with them.
“Medusa! Stay with me!” Luke yelled, panicked, as he shook me.
“I don’t want to go,” I murmured. I wanted to stay. I desperately wanted to stay. So I fought with everything I had to open my eyes.
“There you are. Thank god!” Luke exclaimed.
He wrapped his arms around me, rolling onto his side. I tucked myself into him, trying to calm my breathing. I realized I was still in Gorgon form, and relief washed over me at the realization Luke was okay. I hadn’t been able to keep my eyes open, but I was relieved he was accustomed to avoiding eye contact.
It took several long moments for my heart to stop racing and to get my breathing under control. Once I did, I forced my human form to the surface. “I’m ok now. How long did it take that time?” I shook my head, trying to focus my thoughts.
“It was only a few minutes, but it seemed like you were further away this time.”
“I’m sorry. This year has been one thing after another. One mess after another. I was hoping after we finished taking care of my last mistakes, we’d be able to have some quiet time.”
He rolled to his back, releasing me, and ran his hand through his hair. “We’ll get there.” He leaned over and kissed my forehead. “You said something this time. You said, little witch.”
I froze, knowing exactly what that meant. I had almost forgotten about her. That turned out to be a mistake because she clearly hadn’t forgotten about me. But who was she to me? Who was I to her? I needed to find her if I wanted answers. First, though, I had to block her from reaching out to me the way she had been. I looked at Luke. The worry lining his face made him appear older. I felt horrible for putting that look in his eyes. “Thank you for being here.”
“I’ll always be here.” He got out of bed and pulled on his jeans, leaving the button undone.
My mind went blank, and I licked my lips. “You’re going to have to put on a shirt if you want to have a conversation with actual words.”
He smirked and tilted his head like he was trying to make a decision, so I threw a pillow at him, aiming for his head. His hand shot out, catching it before it could hit him. “You’re no fun.” He really was, and we both knew it.
“I think the problem is I’m too much fun.” He winked and threw the pillow back, smacking me in the face.
Laughing, I asked, “You feel up for a quick teleport?”
“All I did is toss a pillow at you, and you want to torture me?” he asked, feigning disbelief.
“Oh, stop. It’s not that bad. I have a friend I’m hoping will be able to help with a spell to keep this from happening again.” I made a vague gesture over the bed. “I can go alone, though. It shouldn’t take long. If she can’t help, she should be able to point me in the direction of someone who can.”
“I don’t know, using a witch to protect you from another witch? Do they do that?” he questioned.
I laughed. “It’s not some super-secret club. I’m pretty sure they don’t all know each other.”
“Hey, I’ve never known any witches before, so how would I know?”
“I’m sure you have.”
He looked confused. “I have what?’
I sighed. “Known witches. It’s not like they advertise.”
“I guess.” He seemed to be considering my words. I bet he was running through everyone he’d ever met, trying to decide who might be magical.
“Come on, Ethyl. We’ve got places to be and spells to buy.” I jumped out of bed and rushed to my closet, quickly pulling on clothes. I wanted to get this done as soon as possible. I had plans for the holidays, and they didn’t include meddling witches.
Luke’s face had gone blank. He stared at me for a long moment while I dressed. “Ethyl? Really?” he said finally.
I shrugged my shoulders and pulled on my favorite pair of leather boots.
“I’m clearly Ricky.” Luke picked up his shirt from the floor and pulled it on.
“Maybe Fred,” I muttered under my breath.
“You and your TV shows. I don’t know how you even find the time. At least you have good tastes. You sure your friend can help?”
“Bella. Yeah, pretty sure, at least.” I headed for the kitchen. I needed coffee and a lot of it. I had a feeling it was going to be a long day. I glanced at Luke, who was already turning a little green at the thought of teleporting. He might need an Irish coffee.
“Can you remember anything else about that girl? Anything you can think of that might help us find her?” Luke poured himself a cup and leaned on the counter.
“The fact she was just a witch but could meet my gaze should be unusual enough to stand out, but I have no idea who she could be. I haven’t met so many people since I’ve been back that I’d forget someone like her.”
“What about before?”
“Before what? Before…oh, I see what you mean. There’s no way. She was just a witch. She’s not immortal, and she’d have to be for her to be that old.” I let my snakes free, so I could play with them while we spoke. I was pretty sure what I said was true, but I didn’t know that much about witches.
Luke watched as a snake wrapped around my fingers. “Maybe. But if it is her, she’s powerful, and we don’t have any other leads. We need to get you protected while we look for her.”
I nodded. The soft hissing of my snakes did as much to relax me as the coffee, and I was finally starting to feel better.