Then as if nature had let out a held breath, the weather kicked back in. Around us, a small bubble of that timeless calm seemed to settle. I could hear the roar of the growing storm, but it sounded as if it were miles away. I laid my head on Ezell's back and sighed. It was oddly relaxing there on the bike.
"Is that a sigh of content I hear? He said over his shoulder, a smirk playing around his lips. Or at least I think there was a smirk on his lips, I could hear it in his voice. I took a moment to take in his scent and had to fight off another sigh. Have I mentioned that he smells really good? This time, he smelled more masculine, no cologne involved. I'm not going to lie, it was nigh on irresistible.
"No!" I finally managed, having snapped out of my reverie. "It was a sigh of exasperation at having to be stuck on a bike with you! Where are we going, anyways?" I looked over Ezell's shoulder and saw what looked like the forest through the wild flurries of snow. The trees stood bravely against the snows' attack like stubborn old men ready to fight until the very end.
"Ooh, Touchy today are we? I looked down at how close we were and stiffened as I realized that his statement could be taken in an entirely different way. As if he could read my mind, and I had a hunch that he actually could, he started laughing again. How is it that this guy ended up making me feel like a moron every time we were together?
"Sh-shut up!" I shouted as we turned off the main road and entered the forest. The path we drove on was little more than a wide deer trail that wound through the trees. We'd driven through the forest so quickly when we'd first moved here, that I hadn't noticed how pretty it was. I craned my neck to look up at the canopy of leaves, it was dark as night under the trees, the place had a weird sense of twilight to it and I couldn't help but think we'd left the real world behind. I took in the snow gathered at the foot of each of these gigantic trees, they hadn't been nearly this big the first time, had they? It looked as if the storm had stopped almost entirely, so Ezell pulled over and gracefully dismounted. The strange bubble of calm that had surrounded us dissipated, the cold hit me full force and I couldn't help but shiver. Note to self: More layers next time. I jumped when I felt sudden warmth. While I had been taking in the forest, Ezell had stripped off his jacket and draped it over my shoulders, but his arms stayed wrapped around me. I looked up into his eyes, momentarily forgetting how to breathe. That same intense look from that night in the park was back.
"Your cheeks and nose are pink. It's actually quite cute." And then he kissed me on the tip of my frozen nose. Both of his hands rose to gently rub life back into my frozen cheeks and I sighed at the rough feel of them. They were warm, warmer than a normal human's that was for sure. Ezell's gentle ministrations stopped, his eyes flickered to my lips, and mine did the same to his. I felt my heart give a fluttery half-beat as he bent slightly and kissed me. I was still sitting on the bike, so as he leaned into me a little, I ended up straddling him, which he didn't seem to mind at all. One of his arms wrapped around my waist and pulled me even closer. My fingers buried themselves in his long black hair, he broke our kiss for a moment and ran his lips down my neck. He stopped for a moment to nibble at my exposed collar bone and a slight moan escaped my lips.
"Wait," I gasped as Ezell pulled me closer and kissed me again, his other hand began to inch its' way under my shirt. I shoved at him and he stumbled backwards. Geez, I had just been making out with a virtual stranger, and enjoying it immensely. A part of me wanted to yell ‘just kidding!' and get back to it. What happened to the ‘chat' we were supposed to be having right now? Or had he driven me out here to take advantage of me? Not that I wasn't entirely at fault here, I had gotten on the bike, and I had for just a moment, really enjoyed kissing him. But that was bordering on a thought process I truly wasn't prepared to face right now.
"What? What's wrong?" Ezell breathed heavily and ran his fingers through his dishelved black hair, which I had torn out of its' elastic. His eyes were now molten gold and had a definite feline quality to them that I was beginning to associate with the creatures around this odd little town.
"You're an Other!" I gasped and he winced as if I'd just said a bad word.
"No, I'm not an Other," Ezell motioned off down the deer trail, which I took to mean ‘I'm too horny to actually formulate the English language right now, but we're going down this trail.' and lifted all 6 feet and 170ish pounds of me off of his bike with ridiculous ease. He held me for a moment but I broke away and began to stomp off down the trail, cheeks pink for an entirely different reason.
"What are you then?" I said as he matched my stride easily. He looked mildly ticked at the fact that we weren't back on his bike making out heavily anymore, but he could just deal with it.
"No idea." I looked at his face, but it was deadly serious. "All I know is that I'm entirely unlike any of the Other races on the face of this planet, I'm an anomaly."
Ouch, talk about messed up. And here I thought my life was the pits, what with a dead father and our constant migrating. At least I knew who I was, Judging by what Ezell said, he was an orphan.
"Depressing?" He inserted, His face expressionless.
"Yeah, let's go with that."
An awkward silence ensued. It must have been at least 15 minutes when we reached a small clearing. The remains of stone building sat in the middle of it. I would have missed the ruins if not for Ezell. He stooped next to one of the walls and brushed the snow off of something Curious, I looked over his shoulder to see a flat stone. There must have been words on it at some point, but the weather had all but obliterated them. His shoulders sagged for a moment like those of a much older man's, as if he carried a burden that was overwhelming, but then it was gone and he was back to his usual confidently annoying self again. He turned to look at me and smiled.
"This used to be an inn, you know, all sorts of people and creatures came here." He stood and passed through what had most likely been the front door and stood there, remembering how the place used to look. "This meadow was perfect for it, since it's not only in your world, but in the Shadow Realms too."
"Shadow Realms?" Why is it that everyone around here seemed by far more was clued in on all of this madness then I was? It was crap.
"You know, the realm of Faerie? The spirit world, Dreamtime?" I nodded in recognition of the terms, but it didn't answer any of the questions on my steadily growing list. I was in the middle of a forest with some guy who was turning out to be one big mystery. For example, no way could he have ever been to this inn, a Rowan tree that was 50 years old at the least had sprung up in the middle of the old building. I watched Ezell walk from room to room, explaining the way it used to look, skirting around now nonexistent tables and people. Could he really be that old? He stopped at the rowan tree and stared up at its gently swaying branches.
"So, I bet you're wondering if I brought you out here to take advantage of you, right?" Bet you my college tuition the answer to that was most definitely and without a doubt, yes. I had already ended up sucking face with the guy; heavens know what else he would try to get me to do.
"The thought did cross my mind, yes." Ezell chuckled slightly as he leaned against the trunk of the Rowan tree. Even though he had only been wearing a t-shirt under the jacket, he looked comfortable leaning there against that partially frozen tree He looked me up and down and smirked. I hated his stupid smirk.
"You're beautiful, especially with those pink cheeks."
"Hey now, focus." I brushed aside his compliment, and folded my arms in a fairly good imitation of my mom's ‘don't bullshit me' stance. "We're talking, that's all."
"I'd rather we go back to kissing, but fine. Talk we shall." He waved a hand dismissively. "You can start, but you have to promise to answer any questions I ask"
I nodded, that seemed fair enough.
...Hm, not that I could actually ask him anything, what did I want to ask? Did I want to ask about my weird house? Casters? Or maybe, I should find out more about this strange guy who looked a few years older than me, but seemed a lot older? Not to mention the town itself, there was just too many secrets here...
"You said you know where I live, right?" He nodded, brows raised impatiently. "So, who was the old owner? I mean I met a brownie yesterday and all he could tell me was that Alexander Caraway was a Caster, or whatever."
"Ah, so you met Alex's Brownie? His name was Nanog or something, if I'm remembering correctly." Ezell scratched his chin and smiled fondly at some memory or another. "Oh yes, I remember those days. Alex was one odd fellow, but he was brilliant."
"So he was a Caster? What does that mean, exactly?" Ok, So Ezell was old, 100+ years old. I was not going to dwell on the fact that he was pretty much robbing the cradle by coming onto me, that just too creepy to dwell on.
Ezell grinned devilishly and wagged a finger. "Ah ah ah, that's another question. It's my turn now."
"But you didn't even answer the flippin question!" I shouted.
"I told you that Alex was an odd, but brilliant fellow, so in essence, I did answer your question. I answered two, actually so I should get two questions also." Unfortunately, he was right. But why pull such a sneaky move? Was he hiding something about Caraway?
"Fine, ask your dumb questions, nothing perverted, such as what color underwear I'm wearing, or my bra size." Ezell pouted in mock disappointment, and then perked right back up.
"So I can't ask the color of your panties? Well then, what color underwear are you NOT wearing?"
I blushed and sputtered at being asked that so boldly. "What sort of question is that?!"
"You promised to answer." He said in sing-song, his face was wickedly amused. A moment of silence passed, and I finally brought myself to respond.
He leaned forward, hand cupped around an ear. Yeah right, he'd heard me just fine! "What was that?"
"WHITE!" I clamped a hand over my mouth.
"Oh dear," he tutted like an old housewife. "You know what they say about girls who don't wear white panties..."
"No I don't, and I really don't want to know! Ask your next question." Ezell made a big show of this next one, he even went so far as to stroke his almost-beard as if he were contemplating the reasons behind life or death itself, I half expected him to pull a pipe out of his shirt and start gnawing on it.
"Hm...2nd question," He looked up at the sky, down at the snow covered ground, and then back at me. "I can't ask you anything ‘perverted' so that cuts my available list drastically..."
"I have it!" he said, snapping his fingers in victory. "Adelle, did you enjoy kissing me earlier?"
My heartbeat leapt to speeds I didn't even know were possible. Although he still wore his usual smirk, it lacked the usual wicked edge of humor. Was it just me, or had this just turned into the most intense game of Q & A ever?
"Or maybe, I should have asked why you seem so very
eager, one moment, then frosty the next? Because I honestly don't get it."
"What's there to get? You show up out of nowhere and start hitting on me? I have no idea who you are, so how can you expect me to instantly trust you?"
"But you like me, you wouldn't have kissed me otherwise." As he said it, I suddenly got extremely interested in the snow-covered ground. I scuffed my boot through it. To be honest, I really wasn't sure how I felt about him just yet. I found him attractive, obviously, but you didn't just jump into the arms of a virtual stranger simply because he was attractive, that's not how the world worked for real people.
"That's two questions, I get two." I said instead of answering.
He looked so serious I shivered. I really wasn't going to like what he was going say.
"Why do you keep letting me kiss you, touch you, and so on If you don't actually like me? I'm not fond of being led on, Adelle."