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Welcome back to Day 3 of The Indie Spotlight with Featured Author Kelbian Noel. Today, Kelbian share’s with us Chapter One from her novel, Elemental. Make sure you follow along each day for your chance to win jewelry, scented oil, and a copy of her novel! New options will be available in the Rafflecopter Widget after each Featured Post!
We pull into my driveway, and as I reach for the door, he pulls me toward him. Toby’s heartbeat travels through his coat and my parka, accelerating my own. But the spike in my body temperature has little to do with desire.
I pull away, swallowing hard. “I have to go. Mom’s going to want me to make some deliveries before it gets dark.”
“I could drive you.” His face crumples as though he’s in physical pain and I wriggle free from his grasp. “We could practice for later.” He smiles.
It’s a sly one and my stomach starts to churn.
“While you drive?” I shove him gently.
He pulls me toward him again. “I’m known for my multi-tasking.”
“No, that’s okay. I’ll take Dad’s car. It could be awhile so…um, I’ll call you to let you know about tonight okay?” I peck him on the cheek. Then I open the door and slip out into the cold.
The wind burns my face but the rest of my body barely notices.
“Hey, Baltimore.” I look over my shoulder at Toby, a big grin plastered on his face. “Can’t wait.”
I wave one last time and head to the front door of our house. Inside, I stomp the mounds of snow from my boots and remove them. The more I think it over, the more I convince myself I can probably go through with this. We’ve been dating for over a year. Since a few months after we moved to Miner. It’s about time, isn’t it?
“How was school?” Mom steps into the enclosed porch, an armful of parcels at her chest.
“Fine.” I wonder if the guilty thoughts are showing on my face. “Just glad it’s the last day.”
“Was that Toby out there?”
I nod, then take a breath before asking the inevitable question. “Yeah, he dropped me off. Uh, Mom, I was wondering if—”
“Oh, shoot. I had a package for Eleanor. He could have taken it home with him.” Mom places the load on the ground by the door. “Why don’t you come have some tea before you head out? It’s freezing this afternoon. Supposed to warm up later though. More snow on the way I suppose.”
I unzip my parka and hang it on the hook.
Like we need more. Sometimes I wonder how I survive it here. A California-girl in the middle the barren wasteland that is Miner, Utah. If it wasn’t for a hot boyfriend and a buddy like Bridgett, I might be inclined to run away like my brother did two years ago.
“What were you saying?” Mom interrupts my thoughts.
I plop down on one of the bar stools in front of the counter and watch as she pours some already-steeped tea into a large green mug. I take it from her with both hands. My fingers tingle in sequence with my toes, which I’ve stuffed into wool slippers.
I take a sip, then a breath. “I, um, I was wondering about the Yule thing you guys are doing tonight.” I unscrew the honey jar and pour some into my tea.
Mom clears her throat and hands me a spoon. I pour a little more and use the spoon to stir. Mom shakes her head.
I sip the tea again then shrug. “I like it sweet.”
“So what about Yule?”
“Toby has this thing planned and I was wondering if I could…not go. To the Yule thing I mean.”
“Is this thing a date? What are your plans? Heading to the skating party?”
I shake my head. Not likely.
“Why not? I heard the whole school is going to be there.”
“Then why would I?” I sip my tea again.
Mom frowns, pulls out a stool and sits across from me. “For the life of me, I don’t understand how you can date a hottie like Toby and still have problems fitting in. It defies logic.”
“He’s Toby Green. He can do whatever he wants. Date whomever he wants, and no can tell him otherwise.”
“Why doesn’t he stand up for you or something? You’d think with those big grey eyes and that shiny dark hair he’d be pretty persuasive.” Mom smirks. “When we first moved here you hated him. Now look at you.”
“What’s he going to do, Mom? Make the other kids like me? That’s lame. I love spending time with Toby and I have Bridgett. I’m happy.”
Mom puts her hands up in defense. “Okay, just checking.” She dips a pastry brush in the butter and sweeps it over the fresh batch of rolls between us. “So what is it about you they don’t like? Your mocha skin? Your nifty “Rasta” hair?”
I chuckle. “It’s not me…” I bring the mug to my lips again.
“Oh?” Mom looks up and our eyes meet.
“It’s nothing.” I fumble for the words to cover up my slip.
She finishes up with the rolls, then gets down from the barstool. “Those kids are nothing but ignorant.” Mom throws the comment over her shoulder, as she carries the butter back across the kitchen. Half of their parents depend on my remedies,” she says, head still in the fridge. “For anti-aging, colds and flues, insomnia, libido.”
Mom closes the fridge and dusts off her apron. “Who knows where the town of Miner would be without the Land witches?”
“Wrinkly, ailing, zombies with poor sex lives?”
“Exactly.” She removes her apron and sighs. “I need to go get ready.”
“So?” I fiddle with the mug handle and wait for my answer.
“Go have fun with Toby. You’re nearly eighteen. By the time your dad was your age he was already casting spells and molding effigies. And the moment I discovered Wicca well…we’re clearly cut from a different cloth and that’s okay.”
“Uh, thanks.” What’s that supposed to mean?
Mom must see the question in my eyes because she pauses before leaving the kitchen. “Your grandmother was a lot like you. She resisted Wicca for a long time. Yet, she was the greatest witch I’ve ever known.” Mom rests a hand on my shoulder. “Anyway, it’s never been our intention to force this on you. We just want to introduce you to the beauty of Wicca. If you want to come, you’re more than welcome. If not, we’ll see you in the morning.”
Not that I’m not grateful but…“Where’s this coming from?”
Mom gives me one of her half-smiles. “Your father and I have been talking. It’s been twenty-six months since your brother left. And not a word. We all know how much Brooklyn resisted Wicca. I just…we want you to be happy. It’s better than not having you in our lives at all.”
Even though I know it killed her to say that, I’m glad. A Wiccan sabbat ritual is the last thing I need. But a night alone with Toby is the perfect remedy for a crappy week.
After Mom and Dad leave, I go straight into cleanup mode. Toby’s been in our house dozens of times and not once have I ever allowed him to experience its Wiccan authenticity.
I clear all the candles from the windowsills, being sure to remember which color and size goes where, for redecorating purposes later. Then I draw all the curtains, ensuring they cover the wax trail.
Next, I move into the kitchen. Not that I plan on allowing Toby to go through the cupboards but, just in case, I rearrange the one above the sink. Mom’s diverse collection of mortar and pestles are pushed to the very back, hidden behind three boxes of regular-people-cereal. I turn all the spell books to hide their spines. Then get up on the stepladder and move six jars, labeled with things not found in a normal kitchen, to the top shelf.
I smile to myself, then let out a frustrated sigh. What I really need to do is get a chest and a padlock.
Finally, I wipe down the counters with Mom’s natural lemon cleaner and open the patio door a crack. Once the house no longer smells like a melting pot of incense, I shrug into my coat. Then I grab the keys to Dad’s truck and balance the armful of parcels from the porch.
I sit down on the rug next to him and stretch my toes toward the fire. They’re finally beginning to thaw off again and I’m grateful to be inside. Mom was right about the snow. The deliveries took a whole hour longer than usual and, as bad as the roads were getting, I was beginning to wish I’d taken Toby up on his offer to accompany me. I lean my head on his shoulder and watch the flames grip the blackened logs.
“This is nice.” Toby whispers in my ear. “When will your parents be back?” His lips brush my cheek.
“In the morning.” I close my eyes as his mouth meets my neck.
“So, we have all night?”
I nod and a lump grows in my throat. “Are you hungry?” I move to jump to my feet but he pulls me back, onto his lap.
The kiss is tender, as usual. But aggressive in a way that makes me regret inviting him over. Maybe I should have just gone to the mountains. Watching Dad play the part of the Holly King for the coven’s Yule ritual would be less uncomfortable.
Toby pulls my right leg over his lap, so that I face him.
He really is good at multi-tasking, I think as our lips stay connected the whole time.
His hands snake up my back and as he pulls me closer to him, he lets out a low moan.
This is going way too fast.
After several tries, I pull away with success.
“What?” Toby asks, breathless. His face is flushed in the muted glow of the living room.
“I just…I’m kind of…are you sure you’re not hungry?”
“Positive.” He pulls me back to him. “I have everything I need right here.”
This time I kiss him. I figure, if I take the lead, I can determine the pace. But I’m wrong. Five minutes later, Toby’s thick fingers are fumbling with the buttons on my shirt.
I put my hands over his. “Wait.”
“You should’ve worn a t-shirt,” he says laughing. “Do you want to do the honors?”
I shake my head, roll off him and sit up. “I think maybe we’re going too fast.”
Toby props himself up on one elbow. “I can go slower. Sorry, I’m just excited, that’s all.” He reaches forward to cup my chin.
Excited is an understatement.
“No, Toby. I mean with everything. Maybe we should…wait.”
He drops his arm and looks up at me, his hopeful expression falling.
“I’m sorry,” I say. “I thought I was ready. I just feel like this is too weird. In my living room, when my parents aren’t home. I mean, what if they walked in or—”
“You said they wouldn’t be home until tomorrow.” Toby sits up. “And you promised.”
“I know, I just—”
“How long am I supposed to wait, Baltimore, huh? We’ve been together for almost two years. Do you have any idea how hard it’s been?”
“No. Why don’t you enlighten me?” I cross my arms.
“Are you kidding? In case you haven’t noticed you’re kind of the town freak.”
My mouth drops open and I narrow my eyes. “Then I guess that makes you the village idiot.”
“Maybe it does. I mean, I like you. A lot. I always have. You know what my friends say? That you put some kind of spell on me. That you’re controlling my feelings.”
I can’t hold back the bark of laughter. “Seriously? And, what? Now you’re thinking there’s some truth to that bull?”
Toby slips his shirt back over his head and stands to his feet. “I don’t know what to think. I know that despite your quirks, I’m still into you. But it doesn’t seem to be paying off, does it?”
“Quirks?” I gape.
“Your parents are witches.” Toby throws his hands in the air. “You’re…well not my regular type.”
“You mean I’m not blonde and blue-eyed.”
“No. You’re different. You’re not one of those girls who cares what she looks like.”
Was that supposed to be a compliment? “Wow.”
“I mean you’re beautiful. I love your face. Your skin. Even your hair.”
I push past him and head to the kitchen. “You should stop talking now.”
Toby grabs my wrist. “I’m serious, Baltimore. I’m so into you it hurts, but sometimes I swear you don’t see me the same way.”
I sigh and allow him to entwine his fingers with mine. “What are you saying? Sleeping with you will validate my feelings for you?”
Toby kisses my nose. “It would mean a lot to me if we could get past this. I love everything about you.” He tugs on one of my dreadlocks. “And I want to love even more of you.”
Our lips meet again and as I wrap my arms around his neck, I consider his words. Maybe he’s right. Then why do I feel so sick about it?
I pull away and meet his gaze. “I promise you, when the time is right I’ll—”
His mouth covers mine again, muffling my words. I grunt beneath his body and as he pins me to the kitchen wall, I push against his heavy chest but Toby’s hands tighten around my waist. I thrust my knee upward, connecting with his groin.
He yelps, staggering backwards. “What the hell?” He hunches over, steadying himself with one hand on the kitchen table. “What’d you do that for?”
“Me?” I back up and wipe my mouth with the back of my hand.
“So that’s it? The answer’s just no?”
“I’m saying not right now. I’m not ready.”
“Baltimore.” He holds me by my shoulders, squeezing a little bit harder than normal. “Don’t do this to me. I love you.”
“Then wait.” I’d seen that response in a movie once. And was ready to use it at a moment’s notice. The moment is right, but it has no effect on him.
He grabs me again, holding tighter this time. Palming the back of my head he smothers my lips with his eager wet ones.
“No.” I push him hard startled by the volume of my voice.
When the ground shakes beneath me and the dishes begin to rattle, I subconsciously go into survival mode. It isn’t until I’m under the kitchen table looking up at Toby that I realize how silly the situation is.
Earthquakes in Utah?
Toby glances around, frantic. Flames explode from the fireplace and he yelps. Water burst from the sprinklers and he covers his head with his arms. When the porch door flies open sending a tunnel of wind through the kitchen, the look on his face is one of pure astonishment.
Our eyes meet and for the first time I see something on Toby’s face I’ve never seen before. Fear. Of me.
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