“Just relax. You’re being a big baby. You know how much I hate that.” I finished applying lip gloss then sat on the bed to pull on my boots.
“And you know how much I hate you sticking your nose in where it doesn’t belong!” Luke returned.
“My nose belongs everywhere!” I yelled, then laughed. “You’re coming to keep an eye on me. Why are you still so worried?”
“That guy is bad news. He doesn’t even have anything to do with the Cult of the Snake or whatever it’s called. You don’t need him to find out what’s behind it.” Luke sighed. “Did you at least come up with a plan?”
“I don’t need a plan. We’ll just see how it goes.” I shrugged. I wasn’t too worried about it.
Luke closed his eyes and squeezed the bridge of his nose. “Well, what are you going to show him?”
I jumped up. “Oh, crap, I forgot about that.” I needed something small…my mind raced, trying to come up with something. “I know!” I rushed out to the backyard, Luke on my heels.
“What are you doing?” Luke asked as he watched me root around the flowerbed.
“This!” I held up a perfect yellow flower petal.
He made a face, clearly not impressed. “A petal? That’s it?”
I took Luke’s hand and opened it, placing the petal on his palm, then pulled a tiny bottle out of my pocket. “It doesn’t matter what it is. It’s not like it actually holds any magic,” I said, exasperated. I pulled the tiny stopper, and Luke dropped the petal in. “I do love the little jar, though.” I held it out. “It does look magical like this.”
“Hmm, it kind of does,” Luke agreed. “Ready to go?”
We pulled up to the coffee shop almost half an hour early because Luke insisted we get there early to do recon. “It’s a coffee shop. What exactly are we reconing? Is that even a word?”
“No.” He was all business now. “I’d rather be prepared. If we didn’t get here early and just rushed right in, we wouldn’t know his sleaze bag buddies are hiding out around the corner.” He pointed to the far side of the building.
Oh, I hated it when he was right. My snakes lifted from my hair and hissed. They didn’t like it either. “If they are here already, then Luca’s probably inside. Let’s go.”
Luke followed silently as we entered the coffee shop. He seemed to be letting me take the lead. I just hoped he didn’t try to take over later. I pasted a smile on my face. “Hi, Luca! I’m sorry I’m early, but I was excited to show it to you.” I tried my best to sound bubbly. His smile slipped when he noticed Luke next to me. “Oh, you don’t mind my brother joining me, do you?” I leaned closer to Luca and whispered, “We can’t be too careful, ya know?”
He relaxed as soon as Luke was introduced as my brother and his smile was back in place. “Of course, you’re right. So, what do you have?”
Luca was practically vibrating; he had so much nervous energy rolling off of him. I sat next to him on the sofa, and Luke took the chair across from us. “I’m not sure if we should talk here.” I darted my eyes around the room as if I was worried someone might be listening. “It might not be safe here. We should go somewhere quieter,” I said, ignoring the glare Luke was shooting at me. He wanted to stay here, but we’d need privacy for what I had in mind.
A look of relief passed over Luca, and he started nodding as soon as I started talking. “Absolutely. I have just the place.” He stood and looked eager to leave.
Obviously, he had something similar in mind, but there was no way I would let him take control of the situation. “Great, we can take my car. It’s right out front.” I elbowed Luke hard in the side when he started to object.
“We can take my car since I know where we’re going.” Luca tried to lead us around the side of the building.
Pretending that I didn’t hear him, I snatched the keys from Luke and hopped in our SUV. Smiling widely, I waited to see what Luca was going to do.
Luca cast a quick glance toward his friends, then seemed to make up his mind and got in the back seat. He probably thought his friends would be able to follow us, and they probably would, but it wouldn’t matter. He directed us for a few minutes, and I followed his directions at first.
“Where are you going? You were supposed to turn back there,” Luka asked, agitated.
“I thought of somewhere that will be perfect. It will be perfectly safe. Don’t worry.” He didn’t say anything, but his face turned red. I tried to hide my smile. I glanced at Luke, surprised he had managed to stay silent, and watched as the muscles in his jaw tensed.
I pulled up in front of one of my construction sites. I had just inspected it the day before and knew It’d be empty. “I have a friend who gave me the code for the little box so we can get in.” I punched in the code and ushered everyone inside. As soon as Luca turned away from the door, I locked it and smiled. Luke caught the look on my face and shook his head, grinning as well. He seemed to be catching on.
“Let me see it!” Luca demanded, all pretense of politeness gone.
Luke ignored him and urged me further into the lobby. I followed him, leaving Luca no other choice but to follow as well. We pulled some chairs so we could sit in a circle. “This is supposed to be a secret. I wasn’t supposed to tell anyone.” I dropped my voice. “I hope the magic doesn’t harm me because I told my brother, and now you.”
Luca’s anger melted away in an instant. “Did you bring it with you?” He questioned softly.
I nodded, pulling the small bottle from my pocket but keeping my fingers closed tightly around it. Keeping my voice low, I started, “This is one of the Tears of the Sun, and it has fantastical, magical powers.” I managed to keep a straight face but almost lost it when I noticed Luke shaking with barely contained laughter.
- Confessions and Stone - April 11, 2022
- Tears of the Sun - January 13, 2022
- Side Quest - November 24, 2021