Eyes screwed shut against the pain in my head, I try like hell not to wake up. The bit of light that seared my eyeball just now was enough to convince me to stay asleep. A strong chemical scent burns my nostrils, and when I move, my gut roils.
The last thing I remember is standing on the street outside Ashe's house. It had been dark when I'd stepped out of my car, and for some reason, I'd looked up from the pavement at the night sky. That's my last recollection and now there's pain.
Against all better judgement, I crack both eyes open. Light immediately floods my vision, but I force myself to take in more this time. I'm on the floor in a small, unfamiliar room. The light actually isn't all that bright and it's quite blue.
"You found her? The first of them?"
A deep voice I have to strain my ears to hear speaks, muffled as though from outside the room.
"Per your instructions, we searched the Earth Realm and found this one hiding in plain sight."
Subject? Are they talking about me? I fight the urge to sit up.
"You did well. We'll need the others brought to the Astrals before the alignment. But she is key. Quite the find, Timaeus."
Thank you, my lord."
These voices. I don't like these voices. My heart starts to race as I wrap my head around the fact that I've been kidnapped!
They keep speaking, but they're walking away, distance and footsteps muffling their words. I push up to sitting, my head swimming in a sea of blue light. Where am I? How did I even get here? Hysteria sets in, gripping my chest.
"... brought to the Astrals..."
Before the words leave my lips, a blast tears through my ears and I'm thrown across the floor. My head slams into the wall, wringing a pained gasp from me as I curl into a ball. Oh, god, please let this be a nightmare! I hear shouts but barely have time to register before hands are grabbing me. Hard and relentless, they wrap around my shoulders. Quickly, I'm yanked out of my little self-defense cocoon and turned. Bright light cuts through the blue, illuminating a shadowy figure above me, a man.
Tall and dark-eyed, he stares down at me. When his hand leaves my shoulder, I reach up to move the hair out of my eyes. That's when I notice my fingers are covered in blood. The guy touches his ear and nods as though listening to something being said through an earpiece. His eyes go from dark to gleaming with white light in an instant. I cringe, but he holds me in place as those creepy, laser eyes scan down over my entire body. What the absolute hell?
The light suddenly vanishes and his eyes go back to normal. Then he touches his ear again and nods once more.
"Contact with the subject has been made." He says. "Identity confirmed."
My mouth falls open, but pounding starts on the door, making us both look. When his eyes come back to me, I swear his face changes, the hard lines softening infinitesimally. His eyes lift to a space behind me the same moment my hair lifts off my shoulder with a gust of air. I look back. And Freak. the. Fuck. Out!
Purple-black midnight sky flooded with a million bright lights swallows up my vision. Until that moment it hadn't come to my attention that the whole back wall of the cell was completely gone!
I scream and push up off the floor, slamming into the man's chest. His arms wrap around me.
"Easy." He says. I pull my eyes away from the deadly maw before me and look up. His face is hard again, but he dips his head down closer to mine, so close I feel his breath on my skin. For some reason I can't explain this eases my panic a little. The pounding on the door gets worse though.
"We have to leave." He says, matter of fact. I feel his weight push forward toward the busted out wall of the cell--toward space! I scream again, pushing against him with all of my strength.
Thunder roars, shaking the room.
"I can't hold your captors off much longer." He grits out.
"Wh-what's going on? I don't even know where I am!" I sob.
Again, the lines of his mouth soften. I don't know how in my stat of terror I can find this appealing, but I do. Blame the mental break I'm experiencing.
"My instructions from the Order of the Zodiac are to extricate you from this place. Do I have your consent?"
"Look," his fingers press into my arms. "You were stolen from your realm. Your captors mean you harm. I'm here to help, but I need your consent." I blink, dumbfounded. "Trust me, you're safer with me than you are with them."
Another roar of thunder rattles the walls. He braces against the shaking. I can't explain it, but it feels like he's doing something--holding whatever's trying to get to us off. I nod, unable to speak. He frowns, squeezing more firmly with his fingers.
"I-I g-guess?" I squeak out. More thunder shakes the ground. "Yes!"
He nods, turns me towards the ominous, starry expanse and grips my waist from behind.
"Deep breath, Cassie," he says in my ear, "I have you."
The door behind us blasts open. Before I can flinch we're shooting out of the cell. My body rockets forward so fast I can't even scream. Blinding swaths of light fire past as we cut through oblivion, and I feel myself go limp, all sense of reason slipping away.
"You still with me?" The rumbling voice in my ear brings me back to consciousness.
I breathe, a strange feeling coming over me as I take it all in. The gusting, glittering rush of the galaxy. The hard body at my back. Somehow, this all feels right... or familiar, or... I'm not sure, but I relax and nod. His arms tighten around my waist, then another burst of speed propels us forward, but I don't feel afraid anymore. I feel free.
Copyright 2021 Amanda V. Shane, First published as Order of the Zodiac for the Wild At Heart PNR Flash Fiction Writing Circle. All rights reserved.
Amanda V Shane is an author of paranormal and fantasy romance and is currently working on her Tides of Atlantis series about the super hot lost kings of Atlantis as well as her Enchanted Lands Romances.
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