“I want to show you something,” Matt told her.
Her eyes landed on his outstretched hand, and then looked up from under her lashes at his passionate, sparkling green eyes. She slowly extended her own hand and placed it in his with a smile.
He held aside giant, protruding leaves for her as he led her through the dense garden. The grass felt cool beneath her bare feet and her dress let her comfortably follow after him without having to worry about tripping. It was a very pretty dress, she thought vainly. It was pale green and high-waisted, with a square neckline and short skirt that flowed freely around her.
She wondered what he was so eager to show her.
“Where are we going?” she asked, laughing in delight as he pulled her along.
A warm breeze tickled her cheeks. Everything was so peaceful.
They crossed a wooden bridge that extended over a clear rippling pond. Shay peered over the edge at the bright orange and white fish circling below. They stepped down onto a stone path and followed it until they reached a low trimmed hedge that surrounded a beautiful flowering plant.
Shay lifted a hand to her lips and stared in awe at the flower ahead of her. She took a few steps closer until she was leaning over the hedge, and she brushed her fingers against the plum petals that faded to white at the tips. The satin feel against her fingertips was real. She’d never seen anything like it.
The flowers themselves were almost bigger than her hands, and the long pointed petals encircled the golden center in a spiral pattern.
“They don’t grow anywhere else in the world except here on this island,” Matt said. Then he added sheepishly, “I can’t remember the name though.”
“Oh, Matt. It’s beautiful,” Shay whispered.
His face brightened. “I thought you’d like it. If you want, I can have one of the servants arrange a vase for you to keep some of them in your room.”
Shay threw her arms around his neck and hugged him tightly. “I’d love that!”
Matt seemed startled by her embrace, but he returned it. “I’m glad.”
“Thank you,” Shay murmured into his shoulder.
Then suddenly his body went limp in her arms and she was struggling to support him. She gasped and collapsed to her knees, pulling him onto her lap. Blood smeared the appealing green of her dress.
“Matt!” Shay shook him gently, then harder when he didn’t respond. “Matt! Answer me!”
She placed a hand against his cheek. Tears gathered in the corners of her eyes and her shoulders began to shake. It was as if someone had plunged their hand deep into her chest and was tearing ruthlessly at her heart.
No. This couldn’t be happening.
But his eyelids fluttered closed and his skin grew cold and pale under her touch. She needed to warm him. She needed fire.
She closed her eyes and pictured a burning flame. She projected the thought into the real world with a mental shove. Heat sprung up all around her. It was too hot. The air was scorching and sickly smoke filled her lungs.
She opened her eyes to a vast world of orange and yellow.
Flames licked at the purple flowers, and their petals curled and sizzled to a black crisp. Distressed animal calls accompanied the crackling and popping of the fire. It looked like Hell.
“Matt!” Shay screamed, and the tears dripped down her face and fell in tiny puddles on his chest. “Please! Wake up!”
Invisible arms looped around Shay’s waist, dragging her backwards. She clung tightly to Matt, but the arms were persistent and too strong. She felt her grip slipping and then her fingers released altogether.
“No!” Shay clawed at the ground. Chunks of dirt and grass came away under her fingernails and she lashed out with her green lightning in every direction. The arms did not waver. “Matt!”
With a gasp, Shay sat up in bed.
Juniper was sitting on Shay’s legs, which were hopelessly tangled in the sheets, and her head was tilted to the side in concern. Shay wiped a hand across her sweaty forward and fell back against the pillows behind her.
Her chest moved softly in time with her heavy breathing and she let her eyes fall closed.
It had just been a dream.
She told herself that repeatedly, but even when she crawled out of bed and into a cold shower, the tight feeling in her throat refused to disappear and the tears continued to fall down her flushed cheeks.
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