There were dragons in the sky this morning. You have to catch them when they’re not looking because as soon as they realize they’ve been spotted, they turn tail and disappear, wispy clouds dissipating into wintry blue nothingness. It had been dry all winter, biting at your skin, and every time I thought I caught a dragon in the sky to pray for rain, they ran. I could feel the nutrients sinking deeper and deeper into the ground and farther and farther from my reach. I was sluggish and parched and had taken to driving longer and farther into the mountains looking for life in the ground.
Standing at the top of the hill looking down on my town, my skin was chapped and my lips were raw with the bitter wind. I had slipped off my boots in spite of the cold to let my feet sink into the ground, becoming lost as I melded with the Earth and drew in what substance I could. It was the first time in a very long time that I felt envious of my two best friends.
Steven needed only to walk outside and turn his face up to the sky and let the sun’s rays refresh him and Jodi simply had to breathe to be refilled with her power, but I drew my main source of power from the Earth. But for the last two months, she had been hibernating. I had to be more creative in my search if I didn’t want to risk draining myself entirely.
My hands were shoved into the pockets of my jacket that I had been forced to button all the way up against the chill of the wind. I shifted my knees back and forth trying to work out the pins and needles racing up and down my legs. I could already feel the ebb and flow of power dwindling away. Groaning, I worked my feet out of the ground and slipped them back into my boots before I made my way back to the parking lot where I had left my beautiful black Camaro. As soon as I slid into the driver’s seat, I had the key in the ignition and the heating vents turned up high.
Ordinarily I would get Jodi and Steven together and cast a circle to spell for rain to refresh the Earth and bring my power back to full force, but the elements had been toyed with enough in the last several months. I just didn’t feel right about doing it again. Even if my insomnia was back with a vengeance since my powers were so low.
I had started focusing my energies on helping Jodi and Steven develop their powers while I took a break from my own. They could both now call on their own elements without the help of an anchor, which was usually me, to provide them with the power boost needed to draw their power to life. Steven could call a ball of flame to life in his hand or set small objects on fire with a touch of his fingertips, and Jodi could blow out his fires, as well as bring on a breeze in a room with no windows and a closed door. I was more than a little proud of their progress and glad that they no longer needed me as an energy source to help amplify their powers because right now I had just enough power to keep me going from day to day.
Once the air coming from the vents finally started to warm up the interior of the car, I pulled my hands out of my pockets and gripped the steering wheel tightly. I had been sorely tempted to make up some excuse to drive north while on winter break; it had been raining so often just a couple of hours north that they were worried about landslides. If I could drive up there, I could store up enough power to get me through at least a month if nothing happened that caused me to use my powers.
We only had another week left of winter break, so if I wanted to make the trip, I’d have to do it soon. I leaned forward and looked up at the sky through my windshield, catching the retreating figure of a serpentine tail that flicked once in my direction and disappeared into the blue. I shook my head.
“Bastards,” I muttered to myself, not really caring how bitter I sounded. I had been running on fumes for the last couple of weeks. The headaches had started a week ago. It stung when I licked my chapped lips. If the dragons would stay, they could bring storms, but they just kept flying right on by. I glanced at the clock on my dashboard; it was still early enough to go today if we really wanted to.
I grabbed my cell phone before I could talk myself out of it and punched the speed dial that Jodi’s number was programmed into. It rang only once before her voice came through to me. “I’m already packing a bag and Steven’s on his way over. We’ll be ready when you get here.”
“I don’t think we’ll need bags,” I said, realizing I was smiling for the first time all week. After the last few months, the connection between the three of us had grown exponentially, so it was like have three consciousnesses rather than just the lonely one.
“You never know,” Jodi said, her voice a little muffled as she rummaged through her things. “You’ve got a few things you left over here, so I’ll pack your stuff too. Don’t bother to go home, just get your ass over here.”
“Love you,” I said as I put my car in reverse.
“I know,” she said with a smile. “Love you too.”
We hit the 101 freeway and headed north. Just thinking about it had my mouth watering. We’d already passed through Santa Barbara, stopping briefly for coffee, and were nearly through Goleta before my shoulders started to relax. The wonderful smell of roasted coffee and espresso filled the interior of the car, mixing with Jodi’s perfume and the heat of the engine. It was the calmest I had been all month.
“So, any idea where we’re going?” Steven asked from the backseat, cradling his sugary confection between his gloved hands.
“No,” I said with a smile.
“At least we always have a plan,” he said with a laugh.
“I’m sure I’ll know where we’re going once we get there.”
“Wow,” Jodi said, laughing now. “That sounds promising.”
“I just mean, I think I know where I’m going without knowing that I know, you know?”
“Sure.” “Totally,” Steven and Jodi said together, making us all laugh.
We drove on in comfortable silence, having given up on the radio as the static won out over the signal strength of the closest station. I could see clouds forming overhead, first a few white cottony ones that eventually led to a thick gray blanket. The 101 had given way to the Pacific Coast Highway and turned away from the coast leading into Gaviota. I followed the signs that pointed the way to the state park, feeling butterflies erupt in my stomach as I tried not to bounce in my seat as we drove.
“Where are we going?” Jodi asked, staring out of her window as the landscape began to change around us and gave way to green, living things that the winter hadn’t yet claimed.
“Park,” I said simply, not realizing I was gripping the steering wheel tightly enough to make it squeak under my hands. I followed the signs until I saw an empty parking lot off to the side and quickly turned in, parking the car and jumping out before either Jodi or Steven realized I had stopped driving. My fingers tingled with anticipation inside my gloves and I found myself peeling them off as I started across the asphalt towards the grass and trees just beyond.
“Dude, wait up,” Steven said a little impatiently as he and Jodi unloaded a cooler full of food and a few blankets to keep away the chill. But I wasn’t worried about the chill, not right now. I stuffed my gloves into the pocket of my jacket as I reached the edge of the parking lot, holding my breath as I looked down at the bright green grass. The blades were damp and shiny from yesterday’s rain. I could feel the life of the soil practically humming through me just from being this close to it.
“Shay, wait!” Jodi called out to me, her voice a little muffled under the bulk of the blankets she was carrying. I knew I would appreciate the effort later, but right now their protests were starting to fade away in my mind. Right now all that mattered to me was crossing this last barrier between my power and me. I stepped off of the asphalt and nearly fell to the ground as the power rushed up into me even though I hadn’t taken off my boots yet.
I rode the influx of power, remembering to breathe as it washed over me, threatening to knock me over. My skin burned under my clothes as the magic snapped all around me and my hair lifted away from my shoulders in a wind that only I could feel. I sighed audibly as a shiver ran up my back, making me tremble. I worked my feet out of my boots and took another step forward, feeling the give of the rich soil hidden under the grass as I moved forward.
“Shay, seriously!” I was vaguely aware of the frustration in Jodi’s voice as she called out to me again, but by then she was little more than an echo in my mind. I felt wild and eager, and without a glance behind me, I took off running, breaking through the line of trees. If either of them called out to me again, I didn’t hear them.
Branches and brambles reached out for me as I sped through the forest. I knew my skin should have been ripped and torn as they cut into me, but all I could feel was the sweet caress of long lost lover. I wasn’t aware of my feet anymore; it was as if I was already sinking into the ground and it compelled me forward with the power of shifting soil. I broke through the trees again and spilled out into a natural clearing. It was draped in shadows and quiet; all of the tiny animals and insects that would usually fill the air were deep into hibernation now.
My lungs burned with an exquisite pain as I tried to catch my breath, eyes wide as I looked around, taking in what little light was offered. My skin continued to hum with the power looking for an inlet until I thought I would be pulled apart. I tore at the buttons of my jacket, ripping it off and tossing it somewhere behind me, exposing my arms and neck to the cold, but it couldn’t touch me, not now, not here.
I fell forward onto my knees, feeling the damp of morning soaking through my jeans. I dug my fingers into the ground, slipping through the grass, feeling the silk of the soil. I sank deeper and deeper, my whole body engulfed by the ground. The Earth opened up to me, surrounded me and filled me all at once. Finally I felt whole again as the rest of the world slipped away.
Jodi and Steven broke through the trees into the clearing where my body was covered by soil and grass, setting their things down and spreading out the largest of the blankets they had brought with them. Jodi walked over and picked up my discarded jacket, setting it on top of my boots that she had grabbed on their way into the park. Steven began unpacking the food we had brought with us, laying out the picnic as they waited for me.
Once satisfied Jodi and Steven were nearby, I closed my eyes and let my consciousness slip away into the sweet oblivion the Earth offered me, feeling another influx of power plunge into me before the quiet black took away my thoughts.
I came back to myself as my body pushed through the ground, breaking the surface of the Earth as the grass tickled my face and my hair pulled against the roots. White daisies had sprung up around me, thick and fragrant. I don’t remember ever having smelt daisies before. I could hear the soft conversation between Jodi and Steven as each sense came back to me before I opened my eyes to a gray sky still hanging overhead. I felt rejuvenated, as if recovering suddenly from a long, draining illness.
I lifted my right hand, examining it from all sides. My nails had grown a quarter of an inch and felt stronger as I tested them against my thumb. The skin on the back of my hand was softer and the veins that had been pushing at the surface were set back among the tiny bones again. I drew in a deep breath of the crisp winter air until my lungs burned with the effort before I exhaled slowly through my mouth and realized my lips felt full and rich again, no longer chapped and torn.
Slowly, carefully, I pushed myself up, extracting my hair from the grass as I sat up. I had to be careful not to move too fast because the raw and wild power coursing through my body threatened to take over, making me feral and tempted to use it too quickly, putting me right back at square one. I rolled my neck around, loosening the tight muscles before I finally stood up, only now becoming aware of just how cold the air was.
“There she is,” Steven said happily. I was glad to hear he wasn’t annoyed with me for running off like I had. The Earth was awake and alive in this place; it called to me and it wasn’t something I could ignore.
I walked over to them, slowly lowering to my knees on the edge of the thick blanket, and crawled forward until I was closer to them before I sat, leaning on my hip. I reached out and took a handful of chips from the bag they had opened to tide themselves over, waiting for me. I smiled lazily at them and they both chuckled, shaking their heads.
“Better?” Jodi asked, and I nodded.
“Sorry I ran off like that,” I said between chews. “I wanted to wait, but…” I shrugged as I looked for the proper explanation.
“Don’t worry about it,” Jodi said, saving me the effort as she passed me a sandwich from the cooler. “I can’t imagine what it must’ve been like to be that drained. Even your aura looked thin this morning.”
“I felt thin,” I said as I unwrapped my sandwich and realized just how hungry I was when the smell of the mustard hit me. I tore into the sandwich with little grace, letting the crumbs fall as I took bites that were way too big. I grabbed another handful of chips and practically shoved them into my mouth before picking up my coffee and taking a large gulp. It was cold, but I didn’t care.
“How long was I out?” I asked when the temperature of my coffee finally registered.
“Like an hour?” Steven offered, looking to Jodi for confirmation.
“Maybe a little longer,” she said with a nod, and I blinked my surprise.
“It felt like a couple of minutes,” I said, taking another gulp of cold coffee, washing down the last bite of my sandwich before accepting the second one Steven offered me with a raised eyebrow. I smiled a little as I reached for it and tore it open without apology and began munching on it, slower this time.
“So, how do you feel? Think you got enough?” Jodi asked, sipping on her own coffee, which I noticed was steaming against the cold air. I frowned in confusion for a moment before it finally struck me, and I held my cup out to Steven, who smiled at me as he took it, holding it for a few moments while he concentrated. I could’ve done it myself, especially after taking in so much energy, but I didn’t want to waste any with something as trivial as heating up my coffee, not when I didn’t know when I’d be able to absorb more energy again. I watched as the surface of the coffee began to waver slightly before a white whiff of steam curled up. I reached for it and felt the heat from the cup seep into my fingers, easing their tension.
“I feel great,” I answered finally, “really great, like I’ve slept a full night’s sleep and I could go on a five mile hike.”
“Good, did you store any up to get you through to the next storm?” Jodi pressed.
“Yeah,” I managed around a mouthful of sandwich and chips. “I almost feel like I’m overflowing with power.” I leaned to the side and reached my hand out past the edge of the blanket, slipping my fingers through a patch of grass and feeling the familiar tingle run down my arm and through my hand until budding daisies began sprouting around my hand.
“See?” I said with a smile before I pulled back, not wanting to waste any power with little tricks. I pulled myself straight and drew my legs towards me to sit Indian style, brushing off the crumbs that had gathered on my shirt. A shiver ran up my spine, making me close my eyes against it, just now remembering it was the last week of December and I had torn my jacket off in my haste to get to the ground.
“Cold?” Steven asked when he saw me rub my bare forearm, popping the last bite of my sandwich into my mouth just so my other hand would be free to try and work some warmth into my other arm.
“Yeah,” I said needlessly. Steven closed his eyes, taking in a loud, deep breath through his lungs and holding it there before he exhaled, whispering a trigger word. Another chill ran through my body when his circle sprung to life around us, arching up in a pinkish, opaque dome. A comfortable warmth spread through the trapped space almost immediately, stealing away the chill as effectively as a wool blanket.
“We drew the circle around you after we laid out the blanket when we realized you were going to be a while,” Jodi offered as she took another careful sip of her coffee. I nodded, lifting my eyes to trace the swirling ward around us, appreciating the shifting hues of red, pink, orange, and mauve.
“Nice,” I said to Steven, who smiled proudly. We had been working on our shielding abilities these last few months. We just never knew when or where an attack might come from, so we needed to be able to set a circle with a thought. Granted, they had drawn the circle in the ground before Steven set it. A drawn circle was always going to be stronger than one that wasn’t, so if you had the time to do it, you might as well. I was just proud we each could set such strong, nearly impenetrable circles on our own now.
A sugary smell hit me, making my mouth water, and I looked to see Steven pulling out some homemade pastries his mother had baked. At least one of them had chocolate in it, I just knew it. I wiped my hands together, dusting off the last of the crumbs from the bread, leaning forward just a little, selfishly hoping Jodi and Steven couldn’t smell the chocolate yet.
“Even if we couldn’t smell it, your thoughts are so loud we’d know the chocolate was in there,” Jodi tsked at me, nudging my knee with her hand. I felt my cheeks warm under her knowing look.
“You can have the chocolate,” Steven said as if he were speaking to one of his small nieces, and he passed me a flaky, buttery pastry that was wrapped around soft, smooth chocolate while he and Jodi each took a raspberry filled one. My mouth watered so much that I was afraid I’d start to drool. I bit into the sugary confection with a groan of satisfaction. The pastry crackled and flaked in my mouth while the soft chocolate hidden inside oozed just enough not to be melted and messy.
“God bless your mother, Steven,” I said, catching a falling piece of the treat and pushing it into my mouth. Jodi and Steven both made similar noises of satisfaction as they bit into their treats.
We sat in a bubble of magical warmth and I had just pulled myself free of the Earth as I drew in life giving power, enjoying a mundane picnic of sandwiches and pastries. This was probably as normal as we were ever going to be.
“So can we learn something since we’re out here all alone?” Steven asked as he picked a flake of sugar off of his chin.
“I don’t see why not, be a shame to waste the chance,” I said, licking the sticky goodness from my fingers
Since we were all alone, without fear of being discovered, I knew they would want to learn something spectacular, something they could see, touch, smell. I pushed into motion and stood up, dusting myself off, before I turned and walked over to the edge of Steven’s bubble. I was pleased with the amount of strength I could feel vibrating from it before I even tried to touch it.
My face flushed under the healthy amount of heat that was radiating from it. I reached out tentatively, only feeling a small amount of resistance as I came within inches of it, but because I wasn’t a prisoner, I was able to push through it and lay my fingertips against the shield. Color collected around my fingers, pooling in an intense red. My fingers grew hot the longer I held them there. I pushed against it, pleased when it didn’t give under my strength. I heard Steven make a noise behind me; I knew how uncomfortable someone touching your circle of power felt.
Arching a brow, I let my hand drift along the wall until I found a spot that wasn’t quite as warm as the rest of the wall and pushed again and felt a minute give in the structure.
“Mmmm,” I muttered with a shake of my head.
“Shit,” Steven cursed behind me. I knew he was paying attention to me now, so I drew on a line of power from the excess I had stored up within me and let it swirl into my hand. I concentrated on the weak spot I had found and forced my will into it, feeling it grow soft under my hand. In another moment, there would be a hole in his shield. I could smell cinnamon and roasted peppers, reminding me of a camping trip we’d taken a few summers ago, and a smile curled the edges of my mouth. The weak spot grew warm under the pressure of my fingers; a tingling ran up my hand and into my arm as Steven fought back.
I pushed again and found the weak spot as rock hard as the rest of the wall. Steven exhaled loudly behind me. I let my hand drop away from the wall and turned to face him. A sheen of sweat had beaded on his forehead and his brow was pinched, but his back was straight and his shoulders back, determined.
“We’ll have to work on that, Drake,” I said, being sure to use his elemental name. “Your shield is only as strong as its weakest spot, and it only takes one for an enemy to overpower you.”
“But I took it back,” Steven said a little defensively.
“She wasn’t trying very hard,” Jodi said as she folded up the blanket we had been sitting on.
“She could’ve broken your circle if she hadn’t given you the chance to fix it.”
“It’s okay, Drake,” I said a little softer, letting a tendril of comfort reach out for Steven, reassuring him he hadn’t failed the test, even if that’s how it felt. “Just something to keep in mind.”
“But I did fix it,” he pressed, sounding small, which just made me feel guilty for testing him.
“Yes, you did,” I said, smiling to reassure him. “Now, if you will,” I said to Steven, gesturing with my hand towards his circle to let us out. Steven walked over to the edge and, like popping a soap bubble, he punctured it with his index finger. Sparkles glittered to the ground around us as it fell, catching the light as they winked out of existence.
I walked back over to where Jodi was gathering up our picnic things and took the cooler before she could, walking it over to a tree, tucking it in a hollow created by the roots. Jodi followed me, setting the folded blanket on top of it. We would be working inside a circle, but I didn’t want anything that could be contaminated inside with us.
Steven was already pacing out a larger circle than the one he had set while we were eating. The chill was starting to creep back into my arms so I grabbed my jacket from on top of my boots where Jodi had set it. I shook it out, letting dirt and dried leaves fall from it from when I tossed it haphazardly on my way through the trees.. Inspiration struck as I watched the crunchy, frail leaf spin slowly to the ground, drifting to a spot I didn’t expect it to go.
“Okay,” I called out as I spun around, pulling my jacket on as I walked back into the clearing. “I know what I’m going to teach you!”
A few minutes later, we were sitting comfortably in a much larger circle that was triple set with each of our signatures, each having cast a circle separately over the same line. Steven’s heat signature was swirling slowly around us, keeping out the chill so we weren’t distracted as I encouraged Jodi with the new skill we were practicing. I had a small pile of dried leaves slowly growing larger in front of me. Jodi was levitating one leaf at a time from the pile in front of her and sending them over to me on the smallest gust of wind she could control.
A tiny bead of sweat ran down her cheek as she furrowed her brow in concentration. She looked endearing as she bit down on her lower lip. The leaf dipped in the air between us, twirling and flipping before she caught it again and urged it to drift to the pile in front of me again.
“Awesome!” I said, clapping my hands.
“Yeah, I can levitate leaves, awesome,” Jodi said sarcastically.
“No, no,” I said, reaching out to touch her knee lightly. “I know it doesn’t seem like much, but it’s much harder to manipulate something delicate and practically weightless than something that has weight to it.”
“Why?” she asked.
“Because it takes more control over your wind; if you did it too hard, it would’ve blown away or you would’ve crumpled it. You’ll be surprised how much easier it’ll be to move something that takes more energy. It’s just easier to use more energy than less because it takes less control.”
“Huh.” Jodi picked up one of the leaves still in front of her and twirled it between her fingers, considering it quietly.
“Okay, fire boy,” I said, angling my body towards Steven. “Now it’s your turn.”
“What are we gonna do?” he asked with much more enthusiasm now that he was going to get to do something besides watch.
“It’s time to try a controlled burn,” I said, gathering up my small pile of dried leaves and setting them down in front of him.
“I can already do a controlled burn,” Steven said a little sullenly. “I light candles all the time.”
“Right,” I said, dusting my hands off, “but you haven’t lit anything else.”
“Oh…” He sat up straighter, but I could still tell he felt disappointed, as if Jodi got to learn something entirely new and he didn’t.
“Okay,” I said, deciding to just jump into the lesson rather than try to mollify his ego, “you’re not going to actually set a flame to the leaves, you’re going to try to burn them by smoldering them.”
“What?” He looked up at me with a pinched brow.
“Just like Jodi was trying to control the strength of her power, you’re going to do the same. I want you to burn one of the leaves, just one,” I stressed, “but not so hot as to burst into flame. Think you can do that?” Steven tensed at the challenge, but then gave me a brief nod.
He reached out and picked one leaf and set it aside from the pile, licking his lips and frowning down at the chosen leaf he held. Almost immediately, I felt a shift in the air and the warmth that was swirling around us began to draw away as if being vacuumed out of the circle. Goosebumps broke out over my arms in the sudden chill, but I held still, not wanting to break Steven’s concentration. It was amazing to me that in the heat of the moment, when fear and determination took over, we could do some of the most incredible things, but in a calm situation where we had to attempt to control our abilities, it seemed to take so much more energy to accomplish anything. But that was the point of today’s exercise; I wanted Steven and Jodi to start to control their powers so that they could accomplish easy, everyday tasks with their powers. Only then would it prove that they had control over their powers, not their powers having control over them.
A small throb began to ache in my jaw and I looked up to see that Steven was clenching his jaw hard enough to make the muscles jump under his cheek. I reached a hand out and laid it on his wrist, calming him with my own warmth and patience.
“Imagine your fire burning inside,” I whispered to him while he continued to stare at the unresponsive leaf. “Feel it warm you, the heat coiling through your body, making your skin flush.” Steven sighed, loosening his jaw muscles, and I felt the skin under my hand grow warm as I spoke. “Control your fire; it is the very breath you need to live. You control your breath, control your fire.”
On cue, Steven drew in a long, deep breath and held it for a few moments.
“Now, the heat travels through your body, growing ever more intense; bring it to your hand. Feel the fire swirl in your palm.” Steven lifted the hand I wasn’t touching, fingers slightly open and pointing to the leaf still quiet on the ground. “Direct the heat, Drake, control it.”
A moment more and the spine of the crunchy leaf began to smoke and turn bright orange. The smoldering embers traced the long dead veins of the leaf until it began to curl in on itself, smoldering into ashes. Jodi reacted first, letting her laugh bubble out of her, kicking up a breeze in the contained area of our circle. I let out a breath I didn’t know I was holding and smiled at Steven, pride brimming out of me as I leaned closer to him and pressed a kiss to his forehead that was moist and warm under my lips.
“Perfect,” I whispered, “just perfect.” I sat back on my heels and reached out to place my hands on the ground around the still smoldering leaf. With little effort, the ground gave way under my hands and a small depression sank into the Earth, cradling the leaf and ashes in a bowl. Closing my eyes, I concentrated on the water still so close to the surface of the ground from the rain and called it into the depression, filling it up and extinguishing Steven’s work quickly and effectively.
“Cool,” Jodi said, watching my hands. “I don’t think I’ve ever seen you do that.”
“That’s because we usually use our little cauldron for water when we cast,” I said, leaning back and shaking the water from my hands. “Don’t want to risk leaving any embers to catch fire after we’re gone.”
“Can I keep trying?” Steven asked, eyeing the pile of dry leaves in front of me.
“Sure,” I said, gathering a few of them and setting them down in front of him. “But it’s getting late. Jodi, you want to help me get the stuff in the car?”
“Oh yeah,” she said, a little surprised. “We’re just gonna leave him here?”
“Just for a few minutes while we put stuff away. That’ll be long enough, okay, Steven? I don’t want you to drain yourself.”
Steven made a small noise of agreement while he continued to stare at his leaves as if the answers of the universe were hidden in their brown depths.
“Be sure to put them into the water when you’re done,” I said as I rocked to stand up. “Steven!” I pressed when he didn’t respond.
“What?” he said, blinking up at me.
“Water, leaves,” I said, pointing to the small pool of water.
“Right,” he said with a nod, “leaves in the water when I’m done. Gotcha.” I frowned down at him for a moment longer before I turned and walked to the edge of the circle with Jodi, pausing as we each took down our own layer of protection.
“Dude,” Jodi said over her shoulder when we were left staring at the predominately red wall still circling us. “Steven!” we yelled together, Jodi stomping her foot, making Steven jump as he came back to his senses.
“If you can’t divide your attention properly, I’ll call an end to this experiment,” I said as Steven’s circle disappeared around us and Jodi started walking to our pile of belongings.
“I’m fine,” he said with a wave of his hand, waiting for me to cross the line of the circle so he could put his back up. I chewed the inside of my cheek, considering him, gazing intently on his pile of leaves again before I blew out a breath and walked over to Jodi, pulling my boots back on before helping her gather the rest of the stuff up and make the trek back to my car.
“Sure he’s okay?” Jodi asked as we stepped into the trees past the clearing.
“I think so,” I said with one last glance over my shoulder to Steven. “But if it’s all the same to you, maybe we should be quick about getting back here.”