Then the lion roared and charged out of the darkness at Robert. He didn’t seem fazed. The lion – or rather, the lioness – stood there, her tail twitching back and forth. This was the same lioness that Beth had seen her whole life. Did Robert really expect her to believe this animal was some sort of African shaman?
“Long time, no see, Robert,” said a woman. She was stood in the lioness’s place.
She was dressed in nothing but a scanty fur outfit. Then Beth realised the fur outfit was made from a lion’s skin. It was stretched over her body, leaving her right hip visible and most of her long legs. Her hair was tightly curled and she looked like any other woman—except for the lion skin dress she was wearing.
“Hello, Nathifa,” Robert said kindly.
“You brought a girl to ogle at me, darling,” said the woman, Nathifa. Beth felt a sharp pang of envy when she called Robert ‘darling’. He didn’t seem to notice it.
“No, I came to talk.”
“Black magic. What would cursing one of the dead achieve?”
“Well, if you really hated someone, you could torture their souls for eternity, courtesy one’s personal demon,” she said indifferently.
“What would happen if the circle wasn’t done properly, if the lines were smudged?”
“The demon would escape, obviously. It would be released into this plane of being. I take it you have a crisis?”
“We do indeed.”
“Well, if you need any help, you know where I am. Goodbye Robert,” she said dismissively. “Goodbye Beth.”
Beth froze; the woman knew her name. But of course she did, she’d heard Beth’s parents calling her away from the enclosure she now stood before.
Robert said goodbye to her and was suddenly stood beside Beth, making her jump.
“Sorry,” he murmured to her.
The two of them watched as Nathifa walked back into the shadows and roared at them. She’d clearly run out of patience with them so Robert hurried Beth on, back towards the car.
“Hey, you’re not supposed to be in here,” said one of the workers. Robert had let his guard down.
Robert looked up from the floor, focusing his gaze on the man. Who promptly fell to the floor, unconscious. Beth turned to look at Robert but he just kept walking. He was angry and frustrated at himself, but Beth didn’t know why.
“What’s wrong?” she asked softly.
“Daniel told me this was probably what was going on, but I didn’t believe him. I thought he was just being stupid. No, I said, that wouldn’t be possible. Turns out I’m wrong, again.”
Beth moved towards him.
“No, Beth, don’t. Not when I’m angry,” he warned. It wasn’t a threat, just simply a warning that he might hurt her.
She ignored him and stepped in front of him. He stopped. He was about to say something, probably to tell her to move, but Beth just kissed him, ignoring every single instinct deep inside her. Every single cell in her body was telling her move away from Robert, that he was angry and dangerous. But she just ignored all of them.
For a moment, Robert didn’t respond and Beth thought he was going to push her away. He didn’t though. As he wrapped his arms tightly around her waist, she felt all his anger evaporate.