Elements by Nia Markos- Chapter Two
Book One of The Crystal Series
The man across the street stepped away from the tree he was leaning on. His six-foot frame and broad chest with wide shoulders made him stand out. He could not linger for long out in the open. Alexa had already sensed him hidden in the shadows. That gave him pause. He should have been invisible to her. Before leaving he took a last look at the coffee shop. All was quiet for now. Pulling the collar of his leather bomber jacket up, he stuffed his hands into his front jean pockets and took off down the path in the park. Large, taut muscles covered his thighs and lower legs, straining against his clothes as he walked away. Bet would watch over the girl for the next few hours. That left him enough time to make it over to their apartment.
Liam, his brother, was meeting him there so they could discover who was sneaking into the place when the women were absent. Bet felt the presence of someone in their place a week ago. She was sure Alexa also felt something. Her instincts were telling her the girl was starting to manifest her powers early. Spying on Alexa was becoming increasingly hard for Bet. The friendship that had developed between the two of them was real. More than once Bet asked to let Alexa know what was going on.
Aidan was not adverse to letting Alexa in on their strategy either. He thought that the sooner she was made aware of what was expected of her, the easier things would be. Unfortunately, these decisions were not his to make. Bet would need to put up with the way things were a bit longer. For now, they needed to maintain the status quo.
It was a ten-minute walk to their apartment. Aidan took his time, knowing he must be careful of being followed. It was too quiet lately. There was no new intelligence on the people after Alexa. She still had no idea of the danger she was in. If anything was discovered at their apartment, they would extricate Alexa from her life there. Moving her someplace safe was of the utmost importance. He had a few ideas where they could take her. It all depended on what they found out. He felt a surprising and intense urgency to protect her.
Liam was supposed to call him earlier to let him know where to meet up. The call never came. His brother was known to be reckless, to rush in, and to think later. Aidan, as the older brother, was continuously looking out for him. Now was not the time to act impulsively. Too much could go wrong. He hoped Liam was not doing anything foolish.
Everything hinged on Alexa remaining unaware of their existence for now. Until they put their plans in order, there was no point bringing her into their world. She had no idea who or what she was. They could blame her mother for that, but in the end it made no difference as far as what they needed to do. If they could keep her hidden for a while longer, the others would not be able to find her.
It was too much to hope for. Aidan was sure it was only a matter of time before Alexa’s presence was known. Their information was limited. The enemy was always a step behind them. If they could get a lead on where their enemy was based, they might stand a chance of stopping them getting ahead on their goal.
He asked his mother to increase the number of spies. His mother, as always, took no steps to do what he asked. She kept her own counsel, trusting only in those around her. That did not include her son. Not for the first time, he wondered what was driving her. They all had their part to play in this. His was drummed into him since his birth. He knew what was expected of him, but he was his own man. There were variables in every situation. How can I trust in something foretold hundreds of years ago? Aidan wondered.
Aidan continued on the path, his senses heightened for anyone following him. Any mistake on his part would lead them to her. A feeling of unease made him speed up his steps. Apprehension filled him as a foreign force made its presence felt. He had no idea where the threat was coming from. All he knew was they were in trouble. Someone found them.
He reached the street that cut the park into its two sections. The presence he felt was still a distance away. Should I continue on this present course and risk them discovering Alexa’s home? Aidan wondered. His cell phone vibrated, alerting him to a text. He read Liam’s message. He was already at the apartment building waiting for him. Aidan had no choice but to head there. If they were quick, they might be able to find out who searched the apartment.
Aidan glanced both ways into the traffic, running to the opposite sidewalk when he had the chance. He absently brushed a stray lock of his ebony black hair that fell in waves to his shoulders, away from his eye. The thought entered his mind that he was in desperate need of a haircut. He usually had his hair cropped. It was just one more thing lately that had been put off by the pressing matters occupying him. He picked up his pace, all the while letting his senses work to identify if he was being followed. However, it was too late to worry about it. Whoever it was, if they had any power worth mentioning, would have felt him already. He left the path, blending in with the trees, hoping it would make it more difficult to spot him. The park on this side was not as dense with trees as the other. Also it was smaller. He reached the end within minutes.
Stepping around two women who were strolling through the park, Aidan’s emerald green eyes briefly glanced at them while avoiding a collision. The women turned to look at him as he walked by, openly admiring his build as he brushed past them. His chiseled face, straight nose and enticing full lips were a sculptor’s dream. Oblivious to their approving stares, he turned up the street looking for his brother.
Liam was not in front of the building where he was supposed to be. Where could he have gotten to? Aidan scanned the crowd of people walking by, but saw no sign of his brother. He held back his aggravation. Quickly sending him a text, asking for his location, Aidan waited for a response. He stepped back to rest against a tree on his side of the street, waiting for Liam to send a response. His eyes continued to check the street for his brother or anyone else who could pose a threat.
Something was not right. He could feel the threat getting closer. With no idea yet of where it was coming from, he could do nothing but wait. He could not abandon Liam. Where the hell was he anyway? Why didn’t he respond?
Aidan pulled out his cell phone to place a call just as an explosion rocked the street. In front of him, the apartment building they were supposed to enter was imploding, fire engulfing it. People walking by were thrown off their feet; others were fearfully staring at the remains of the building. The ground where Aidan was standing shook from the force. He grabbed the trunk of the tree next to him, righting himself as he stumbled. His shocked eyes beheld the disintegrating building, and the fireball that jumped up into the sky from the explosion.
The presence he felt disappeared. Aidan ran across the street, helping as many people as he could to escape the spreading inferno. The apartment building was left nothing more than a pile of rubble. There was no way anyone could have escaped. The heat from the building was intense. He could hear sirens, as the fire engines approached.
Aidan had no choice but to leave. Staring at the scene, he dialed Liam’s number, hearing it ring continuously with no answer. He hoped Liam was not inside the building when the explosion occurred. His brother should have waited for him. The unanswered call worried him. Standing, staring at the destruction in front of him, he placed the call he was dreading. The person at the other end of the line gave instructions before hanging up abruptly. Aidan took no offense at their brusque manner. He could only imagine what they were feeling. Everything was just thrown into chaos. They had to move, and quickly.
There was one more call he had to place. Bet would know what to do. She must be told about Liam. There was no hiding it from her. She would know even if he did not tell her. His voice would give him away. Hearing the sirens getting closer, he dashed across the street, into the park where he had come from. Making his way further into the shade of the trees, he stopped just before he reached the end of the park.
Aidan centered himself, pulled his phone out again and called Bet. She answered on the first ring, her voice whispering her hello. Knowing where she was with Alexa, Aidan knew she could not talk for long. He filled her in on the events, giving her details of where they needed to go. She was silent for a few seconds, absorbing what she heard. Finally, she acknowledged his instructions, her voice breaking at the end.
Aidan sighed, wishing he could somehow reassure her. Bet was just like Liam. She could rush off and get herself into trouble. Insisting she follow his instructions, Aidan forced her to promise to head to their destination. Bet hung up without answering him. He would have to trust she would make her way there.