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Safe Harbor: Chapter 19

HANNAH didn’t wait to ask questions. She took off running away from the house toward the trees to the back of Jonas’s property, her heart thundering in her ears. She glanced over her shoulder, to reassure herself Jonas was coming. He was right behind her, his body squarely between hers and the truck.

‘Go!’ he said urgently, one hand on her back, pushing her forward.

Hannah ran until her lungs burned and her legs ached, stumbling across the uneven ground. She felt the blast before she heard it, the buildup in the air, the smashing concussion that lifted them both and flung them like paper dolls through the air. She landed hard, the wind knocked out of her, body sore and bruised, the world silent as her ears protested the violation of sound.

Around them the wind rose, leaves and twigs whirling in the air along with the debris from the truck. Orange-red flames mixed with black smoke, burning hot and bright, billowing high into the air. Blackened parts of the track were scattered across the wide expanse of lawn leading down toward the trees and a door lay in the bushes near the front steps of the house.

Frantically she crawled to where Jonas lay just a few feet from her. Jonas! She didn’t speak aloud, there was no point until their ears settled from the terrifying blast. For one heart-stopping moment she thought he was dead. He lay still, his face pale, his chest not moving. Her world came to an end, crashing down around her so that she sank onto the ground beside him, her trembling hand sliding over his skin to find his pulse. Oh, God, please, Jonas, be alive. She’d know if he were dead, she was certain, but still, until she found his pulse, her mind screamed and screamed.

He drew in a gasping breath and his eyes flew open, hands coming up to capture her wrist in a viselike grip, and drag his gun from his shoulder harness. His eyes were savage, his face grim. Hannah’s heart stopped as the gun swept across her. His gaze found her face and he visibly settled, then began running his hands over her looking for injuries.

I’m all right, she assured him. What about you?

Good. I’m good. He looked at the towering inferno. Jackson’s truck is toast. Sitting up, he looked warily around him, indicating the trees again. We’re too exposed here.

My sisters will know and they’ll send help. Already the wind was picking up around them. A ringing in her head began to grow. Something flew by her ear with an angry buzz.

Jonas slammed into her hard, rolling her over in the dew-wet grass. They continued rolling along the slope and then he was dragging her up. ‘Run, damn it, zigzag and get into the cover of the trees.’

His gun was up and he squeezed the trigger, aiming back toward the house. Four bullets rang out in rapid succession, even as his other hand shoved at her back.

Hannah ran. Her breath came in sobs, but she forced her mind to find calm. She had to help Jonas. More than one person was shooting at them.

Bullets hit in front of them, effectively halting their progress. Jonas threw her to the ground again, trying to find a target to give her a chance. She knew saving her was the only thing on his mind. They were caught out in the open on the rolling expanse of lawn that led to the edge of the forest surrounding three sides of the property. They were hemmed in. The barrage of bullets came from various directions, trapping them.

‘Listen, baby, they could kill us right now if they wanted. Whatever they have in store for us is worse than taking a bullet. We have to get out of here. I’m going to lay down cover, and you start running. Just keep going and don’t look back.’

She caught his arm and shook her head, staring at the flames bursting up into the sky in one big conflagration. ‘Fire. We have fire, Jonas, one of the five elements. They started it, but it’s mine to use.’

She knelt up slowly, her hands already flowing in the air, weaving a complicated pattern, and she lifted her face to the sky, her voice soft and melodious. He couldn’t catch the words but power shimmered in the air.

The enemy closed in, ringing them, still a distance away, confident they’d run their prey to ground. Hannah never looked at them, never acknowledged they were even there. She looked like an ancient goddess as she called on the universe for protection.

The blackened carnage of the truck shook violently. A stream of orange and red sparklers rocketed into the sky, racing forty—fifty feet straight at the clouds. Abruptly the flames stopped, hovered overhead briefly in a fantastic display of flame and light, then shot across the sky in a fireball, leaving a trail of fire raining down on the heads of the men standing between Jonas and Hannah and the forest.

For a moment no one moved. The first fireball struck one man’s shoulder, driving him to the ground. His clothes went up in flames. He screamed and rolled frantically on the ground. And then it was raining fire, flames hurtling out of the sky, sending their attackers running for cover.

Jonas dragged Hannah to her feet. ‘Run! Get to the trees.’

She knew Jonas’s property fairly well. He owned sixty acres, most of it forest which backed up to a state park. She made for the trail that took them into the thickest grove of trees, bursting through the underbrush guarding the parameter and then into the forest itself. The canopy overhead darkened the interior. Branches lay on the ground where they’d snapped off, and moss clung to tree trunks and branches, turning some of the trees a brilliant green.

Jonas caught her hand and signaled to take the narrow animal path to his left, away from the wider trail for his Jeep. Hannah moved through the narrow tunnel of broken branches, the brush scraping her arms and shoulders right through her shirt. Jonas’s breath was harsh against her neck, but his hand was steady on her back.

The fireworks had given them breathing room and they headed deep into the interior of the forest, where the trees gave them cover and the brush was thicker, making it much more difficult for anyone to find them.

The buzzing in her ears had settled to an annoying hum. ‘Do you think they’ll follow us?’

‘It’s hard to tell. Your sisters will send help, but it’s going to take a few minutes. Who are these guys? I didn’t get close enough to recognize anyone.’

‘Me either.’ Hannah looked around her. It was difficult walking over the uneven ground in sandals. She glanced up at Jonas’s face. It was difficult to remember sometimes, that he hadn’t always been a part of their family and that his estate was so large. ‘I’d forgotten how beautiful it is here.’

His hand guided her along the narrow trail, steering to the left where he had played as a child. He knew vines hung there and the brush was thick and tangled. ‘Go this way, baby.

I used to build forts out of the downed branches and formed tunnels from the foliage.

There’ll be more cover along this path.’ He’d crawled like a soldier through the animal trails on his belly back then, never knowing he’d be doing it for real in an effort to save Hannah’s life. At the time it had been an imaginary game, pretending to attack the ‘germ’

soldiers killing his mother. Now he had real enemies after them.

Hannah reached back and took his hand, knowing he was suddenly thinking of his mother. These were the woods his mother loved so much. She’d enjoyed the sea, the sight and sound of it, but the forest was her first love and her husband had bought the estate with the beautiful home and acres of mixed forest where one could stand in any room on the main floor and just look right over the trees to the ocean.

‘No harm will come to us here,’ she murmured, wanting it to be the truth. Not in his mother’s beloved woods.

They turned along a path that followed a stream. Wild turkeys burst out of the huge ferns growing along the winding creek and up the slope. The huge birds called to one another in alarm, flapping wings and rushing up the hill to another path, two of them taking to the air in agitation.

Jonas swore and caught her shoulder. ‘There’s no way they didn’t hear that. If they lost our trail, they’ll be on it now. I should have hunted those idiot treacherous turkeys a long time ago.’

‘You don’t hunt.’

‘I’m going to start.’ He’d never really hunt the turkeys. His mother had watched them every morning from her window. She would count the toms, even name them. She knew which trees the turkeys preferred roosting in at night. The hens would sometimes shelter the chicks under the deck during the day, or lead them down to the stream in the thickest part of the ferns, just at the edge of the forest where Jonas kept the weeds cleared so she could always see. The wild turkeys had brought pleasure and, in a way, relief to his mother. They would always be safe from hunters on his property.

Jonas never hunted animals. Not the deer or bear or bobcat, not even those damned wild turkeys his mother had loved so much. He hunted men and he was damned good at it. He wasn’t so good at running from them. ‘I could find a safe place to stash you, Hannah, and double back.’

She stopped so abruptly he ran into her. ‘You aren’t stashing me, Jonas. We’re in this together.’ Her hand gripped his harder. ‘I can’t lose you. Not now. Not like this. And you’re a crazy man when you get angry. You’re angry now, I can feel it.’

He was shaking with fury, a fierce warrior trapped and unable to fight his way out. His instinct was to turn the tables on them and go hunting, but he refused to put Hannah in more danger. She knew that. Understood it. But she wasn’t willing to let him separate them.

The sound of gunfire reached them a split second before the bullet. It hit the tree closest to them, spraying bark all around them. Instantly a shower of bullets zinged into the trunks around them, thunking into wood and sending splinters and bark over them. Jonas pulled her down, his body covering hers as he cautiously lifted his head to peer through the leaves.

‘Can you see them?’ she whispered.

Jonas glanced down at her. Beneath him, her body was trembling, but despite her stark white skin and enormous eyes, Hannah’s mouth was firm and her gaze steady.

‘If you can give me a direction, I can slow them down or maybe, if I’m lucky, pin them down until help arrives.’

She took a long sweeping look at the trees around them. The forest here was full of old growth, the trees tall, many of their lower branches cracked and hanging.

‘Lure them in, Jonas. Bring them to us. If we fall back and let them have this spot, I think I can stop them right here.’

‘You move quietly, Hannah, stay low to the ground. Go deeper into the forest, we may need an escape route.’ His ears had stopped ringing and he could hear voices shouting back and forth. ‘Can you hear that?’

‘Just barely.’

‘That’s not English. You know languages. What are they speaking?’

Her small teeth bit at her lower lip as she concentrated. ‘The accents are very heavy.

They’re speaking Russian, Jonas.’ She let her breath out slowly. ‘They have to be Nikitin’s men.’

Jonas frowned. ‘Why would Prakenskii save your life if Nikitin wanted you dead? He’s definitely Nikitin’s man.’

Hannah’s shirt caught on a splintered branch and jerked her to a halt. Jonas reached down to pull it carefully loose.

‘Is he?’ Hannah asked. ‘Are you sure? Because he wanted Joley to go upstairs with me when Nikitin came to our house. He warned us to be careful of using our powers and said Nikitin didn’t know about or suspect us.’

‘I’ll admit we can’t get much on him. We’ve asked Interpol and every other source we could tap. There are rumors. They say Prakenskii was trained from childhood as an agent.

He was raised learning how to make killing an art form.’

‘How awful for him.’ Hannah went down on her knees to maneuver through a particularly low tunnel of debris.

Jonas followed, his shoulders catching on the network of old downed branches and leaves forming the game tunnel. ‘It’s too much of a coincidence for me to buy. Prakenskii right there to save you. Nikitin chased you through the damn room. What the hell are they up to?’

Hannah frowned. ‘I just can’t imagine that Prakenskii could be in the same room with me—with Joley—with all of my sisters—and not one of us pick up on his guilt. It’s too big of a secret to hide. If his intentions are to harm me, and why would that be his ultimate goal…’ She broke off with a little gasp as her hair caught in the low, sharp, very brittle foliage.

Jonas felt his heart leap. ‘Hannah.’ His voice was a soft hiss of reprimand. ‘We’re not out here for a Sunday stroll. I’ll get it, stop pulling. You’re shaking the brush around us.’

Hannah tried to stay still, her heart slamming hard against her chest. The dead network of branches felt like she’d run into a thorn bush. Her scalp, owing to her naturally curly hair, was very tender. Between the branch and Jonas yanking on it, tears swam in her eyes.

A barrage of bullets had Jonas slamming her to the ground hard enough to knock the wind out of her. Her head throbbed where she was certain a patch of hair had been yanked out.

‘Scoot through the vegetation on your stomach,’ Jonas whispered.

Hannah tried not to be a priss. They were about to be shot. She shouldn’t be worried about ticks and spiders, but she could think of little else as they eased their bodies forward, trying to find cover.

Sarah had better get her ass in gear and send us some help. Jonas swore crudely under his breath as a bullet hit the ground close to them. To her credit, Hannah made no sound, but it was enough to fuel the already murderous anger in him. He resisted the urge to leap up and fire back. He had to stay hidden. The enemy wasn’t certain yet exactly where they were.

All he could do was to try to keep his body positioned in front of Hannah’s and protect her until help arrived.

Sarah knows. They’ve sent Jackson and the others by now and they’re out on the captain’s walk waiting to send aid. I can feel them, the power gathering in the air waiting for me.

Just get those men to come in the forest. I can do the rest.

He stopped her with a hand to her shoulder and leaned over her to put his lips against her ear, not wanting any mistakes. ‘You want me to draw them to us?’

She nodded. Her mouth was dry, but this was what she was born to do and she was confident in her ability.

‘Keep moving back, baby,’ Jonas cautioned and fired several rounds, more to give away their position and draw the attackers in than to hit someone. He snapped another clip in his gun and continued pushing her forward. ‘Watch the stream, Hannah. There’s a narrow strip of land with a downed log over it. Use that to cross.’

That would put the stream between them and their attackers. Ferns grew large and thick on either side of the stream going up the slope leading to the stands of trees. He followed Hannah through the plants, noting where the ground dipped down and where their attackers would have the best cover.

‘Here. I can use the water. Find us a place to wait for them, Jonas.’

He made a careful sweep with cool, assessing eyes. He’d spent hundreds of hours in this place. It was his childhood playground and he knew every single square inch of ground.

He nudged her to the left. ‘Make for that little slope. Use the ferns for cover, but you can’t brush them with your body, Hannah.’

Her skin itched and prickled as if a million bugs crawled over her. She was terrified there were ticks in her hair. The ground close to the stream was marshy and wet. She didn’t want to think about that as she slid along, using her elbows to propel her. And she hated the fact that any of that was in her mind when they had men chasing them with guns. She glanced at Jonas.

Harsh lines were carved into his grim face. His jaw was set in that stubborn look she knew so well and his eyes were alive with fury. She wanted to be like him. He wasn’t worrying about bugs and filth, he was bent on destroying the danger to them—to her.

Pride welled up in her.

‘There’s no one else like you in the world, Jonas,’ she said softly.

He glanced down at her, his gaze holding on hers. At once his face softened. ‘I love you, Hannah. I always have.’

Her heart gave a funny little flip and her stomach took a dive. ‘I love you, too.’ She couldn’t believe she was with him. In spite of the danger, there was exhilaration in the moment. She’d spent her life afraid. Stammering. Consumed by panic attacks. Yet she was hiding in the woods, killers on her heels, crawling on her stomach with snakes and bugs like some wild soldier, and she felt strangely elated. And very much loved by Jonas Harrington.

They found a depression in the soft ground right behind several large wide trees. It was a natural fortress camouflaged on three sides by the brush and fallen leaves and twigs around them. Jonas arranged several dead branches with drooping leaves over them so anyone would really have to look closely before spotting them.

‘No matter what, Hannah, you keep down.’ His hand pressing on the nape of her neck made it impossible to do anything else. His voice held a whip of fury.

She was scared, no doubt about it, but Jonas was in full-blown protector mode and the familiarity of it made her feel confident of her own abilities. Jonas had always been there, fighting at the side of her family since they were children, and he was very good at it. She liked the feeling of being partners with him—of belonging.

‘You’re going to have to let me up long enough to call the elements in, Jonas. We’ll need rain to put the fire out so it doesn’t get out of hand. And we need the wind and then maybe the fog. I can manipulate the ground and the water if I have to.’

He could hear them coming now and the thought of letting her, even for a moment, risk her life was abhorrent to him, but at the same time, he’d be stupid not to give her the best chance. Hannah was her own best chance.

‘I’ll be careful,’ Hannah assured him. She raised her head cautiously and peered through the heavy brush. ‘Can you give us a taller screen? I have to use my hands.’

Biting back a protest, Jonas snagged two of the larger fallen branches, both with sweeping fans of needles. He added them to the existing brush around them, making certain the dead limbs looked as if they had fallen there naturally.

Hannah lifted her hands toward the sky, weaving a graceful pattern in the air as she called on the elements to assist her.

Jonas watched her, and even surrounded as they were by danger, or maybe because of it, pride in her swelled in him. He’d always loved to see the natural elegance of her slender body. Her face was devoid of makeup and she looked impossibly young but breathtakingly beautiful and completely unaware of it. As she wove her magic, she was wholly focused on her task, murmuring softly as she moved her hands.

He scanned the surrounding area again. What he wanted to do was crawl out from under cover and hunt the bastards down one by one and shoot them. Another minute—another turn of the key in the ignition—and Hannah would have been killed.

‘They’re coming in, baby.’ He shifted subtly, ensuring his body was slightly in front of hers and that he could drop on her if necessary. ‘Hurry.’

She didn’t acknowledge him, or shift her attention even for a moment. As always, when Hannah used her gifts, he could feel the subtle buildup of energy. It started as an electrical current around them. The hair on his arms stood up. His ears buzzed with the crackle of power in the air. The tops of the trees swayed gently, a subtle change as the breeze shifted.

He felt it on his face then, a soft touch of fingers, heard feminine voices chanting in the distance, and his mouth curved in satisfaction. Mess with the Drakes and life could get rough.

The splash of water got his attention. If the enemy came in by the strip of water, they might have a chance of spotting them as only the large ferns provided cover.

He sank lower, pressing his hand onto the small of her back and exerting pressure, silently telling her to drop down. ‘In the stream, Hannah.’ He sank onto his belly and thrust the gun forward, waiting.

She allowed him to bring her down to her stomach, but she propped herself up on her elbows in order to use her hands as she turned her attention to the long ribbon of stream she could see. The water began to bubble and then slosh back and forth, each wave growing in strength and intensity until the water was rocking well above the sides of the stream. Back and forth, it rushed, gathering strength and power, feeding itself as the speed increased.

Overhead, dark clouds gathered ominously. Veins of lightning edged the clouds, glittering angrily. Thunder rumbled and the morning sky darkened. All the while the water in the stream sloshed back and forth, growing in height with each new wave. The men walking in the creek rounded the corner.

Jonas could see their faces clearly. The shock. The horror. The utter terror. They stood frozen as the wall of water raced toward them, a tower now. The one in the lead yelled something in raw fear and turned, using his shoulder as a battering ram to take out the man behind him. The water hit them full on, slapping them hard, driving them to the rocky streambed, tumbling them with the force of a mini-tsunami.

At the exact same moment, the clouds burst and dumped the pounding rain. It fell so hard and fast it stung, and reduced visibility to zero. Jonas shifted until his upper body protected her head and shoulders, all the while his restless gaze sought targets.

There was quiet as the rain pelted down and the waves in the stream began to ease without Hannah feeding them power.

‘We’ve got to go now before they recover. We’re just playing hide and seek until the others get here.’ He kept his hand on her lower back, urging her to back out of the depression and move around the thick network of tree roots. ‘I’m sorry, baby, I should never have brought you out of your house where you could be in this kind of danger. I had no idea we were facing this kind of adversary, but I should have.’

Hannah would rather have continued to face them than to run, especially when they were back to crawling. ‘Why? Whoever this is has manpower and tenacity. He isn’t giving up.

It isn’t a regular hit where they just send one killer.’ Every time she thought about someone hating her that much, she felt sick to her stomach. ‘None of this makes sense to me.’

‘Me either,’ he admitted. ‘You just aren’t the kind of woman to inspire this kind of hatred. Fantasies maybe. Sick ones even, but not this kind of thing. Now Joley…’

‘Don’t you say a single bad word about Joley!’ Her defense of her sister was swift and furious. ‘She’s a wonderful person.’

‘Honey, she took down the Reverend on national television. Do you honestly think that his followers, the men surrounding him that benefit from his scam, and the Reverend himself, don’t have a hate as big as Texas for Joley right now? She’s rash and she’s too honest. She says what she thinks. It doesn’t matter if she’s right. She’s like an avenging angel. Put that together with her sexy image and you’ve got trouble.’

He held a low-hanging branch out of the way so she could gain her feet. ‘Take the right-hand path. That curves back around and starts leading up toward the house. We go up over the slope and then follow the stream back downhill. We’ll be able to hear when the rescue squad gets here.’

‘Tell me about Nikitin. What do you know about him?’ Hannah asked. ‘I wish I could figure out just what his interest in Joley really is. And why won’t Prakenskii say?’

‘Prakenskii has his own interest in Joley, Hannah, and it has nothing whatsoever to do with work and everything to do with being a man.’

Hannah pushed aside several cracked branches, remembering at the last moment, before releasing them, that the movement could give away their position. She stood bent over, feeling helpless and stupid until Jonas took control of the foliage and waved her on.

‘The Russians have always had a problem with violent mobsters. They’re highly organized, international and very bloody. Along with the Colombians and the Italian mobsters, the Russians are considered the most powerful criminals in the world. You name it, they’re into it. And where they really shine is in laundering money. They can take dirty money and make it clean like no one else. Where other organizations have rules about killing cops and families, they don’t. They could care less.’

‘Why is Nikitin rubbing shoulders with celebrities and politicians?’

‘He has a clean image. Interpol, hell, every cop from here to Europe and back, knows he’s dirty, but no one can get anything on him. He’s good at what he does and he likes the image of being a good guy, so he works at it. Boris Tarasov, one of his greatest rivals, wants the fear from everyone more than the celebrity image. We’re talking billions of dollars, Hannah. That kind of money buys you a lot of protection. They buy police, government officials, customs, you name it, they have someone in their pocket.’

‘I don’t understand how we ended up getting mobsters after our family. Joley would have said if she’d had a run-in with one of them.’

His hand on her shoulder stopped her and she sank down into the cradle of the earth, surrounded by roots and thicker tree trunks for protection. Her heart began to thump hard again. She could hear the approach of the men following them, the whispered voices with their heavy accents.

‘You’re going to be all right, baby,’ he whispered against her ear, his lips brushing over the thin lines on her face where the knife had slashed her. ‘Jackson and the others will be here soon.’

‘I know.’ She couldn’t tell him she was more worried about him than herself.

Jonas was a man of strong emotions with an equally strong need to protect. Most of the time, Jonas shielded her automatically from his feelings. He’d been doing it for so many years, he didn’t think about it. But there were occasions, like now, when his mind was totally focused somewhere else and she was swamped with the sheer intensity of his fury.

There was no other word for it but rage. It rolled off him in waves. His face was a grim mask, his eyes glittered dangerously, and although he sent her a small smile of reassurance when she reached up to try to ease the frown on his lips, it was far from the real thing.

‘Jonas, we really are going to be okay,’ she said. ‘I know we are.’

His dangerous blue eyes settled on her face. Immediately the flow of emotion stopped.

‘Sorry, Hannah. I wasn’t thinking, I should have been more careful.’ He brushed a gentle kiss on the top of her head. ‘I know we will be.’

‘But?’ she prompted.

‘But they came after you and they’re still coming and that’s not acceptable to me. At least I know where to go looking now.’

The rain slowed to a steady drizzle. Three men moved toward them at a right angle, carefully avoiding the stream, obviously unaware of their exact position, but making a sweep to find them. Jonas extended his gun.

‘I’m still feeling strong, Jonas,’ Hannah said. ‘The others are feeding me their power. I might collapse after, but right now, let me hold them off as long as I can. We’ll save ammunition and they won’t know exactly where we are. With any luck, they’ll be superstitious.’

Jonas shifted again and allowed her to slide out from under him. They moved with care to keep from shaking the brush around them. With the rain falling, it helped to cover any soft sound, but it also muffled the approach of the enemy.

‘How many?’ Hannah asked.

Jonas shrugged. ‘More than five. Seven maybe.’ And that worried him. They wanted Hannah bad. Why? The question nagged at him. Who could hate Hannah? It didn’t seem possible to him, but the answer was right there—just out of his reach. He could practically taste it in his mouth, but couldn’t quite spit it out. His brain worked fast at computing data, and along with his highly developed intuition, that was the reason he was good at his job. Now, when he needed his ability to process data fast, it seemed to be failing him.

The men were moving through the brush and trees, inching their way, guns drawn.

Hannah’s hands began their graceful motion, her melody changing, the tone much more earthy.

Near the redwood trees, just in front of their enemies, the ground rippled, moving leaves and redwood needles along with fallen vegetation in a gentle rolling swell.

The men stopped their approach abruptly. They spoke rapidly in another language.

‘They think they’re feeling an earthquake,’ Hannah interpreted, her voice distracted.

‘That the stream acted the way it did because of…’ She trailed off.

Jonas glanced down at Hannah. Her concentration was once again completely focused on the soil and vegetation where the enemy huddled whispering together. The rolling swells spread out, reaching toward the group, the waves rising and falling with gathering speed.

Above them, the trees shook, and as they looked up, brittle branches cracked and splintered, falling from above them to drive like spears into the ground. The thick branches fell with enough force that they drove deep into the soil. Standing upright, each branch formed a piece of fence so that it ringed the men as the ground continued to pitch and roll.

‘I hear sirens,’ Jonas said. ‘Another couple of minutes and the troops will arrive.’ He wasn’t good at hiding. He wanted to stand up, and blast away at the men who wanted Hannah dead.

She suddenly leaned into him, her head lolling back on his chest as his arm came up around her waist to support her. Jonas swore softly and began to ease her to the ground.

She clutched his wrist.

‘Not yet. Wait. Tell me if they come at us again.’

Jonas saw the men breaking through the wall of branches, stumbling back away from the area. The swells followed them, but much more gentle now with Hannah’s power waning.

He sighed. They were going to make one more fast try. He could feel it more than see it.

The men formed a loose semicircle and began spraying the forest with bullets. He flattened Hannah instantly, swearing as the bullets penetrated into their space, digging into trees and the ground around them. He heard Hannah’s soft voice. Melodious this time, the notes familiar. Her affinity with the wind was legendary within the family. And the wind answered immediately, leaves rustling as the breeze grew stronger, branches swaying, trunks of trees bending.

Sharp needles shot from the redwood trees, swarming like angry bees, the sound an ominous buzz as they hurtled through the air at Hannah’s enemies. The needles penetrated skin, spearing deep, the stings of hundreds of insects on every inch of exposed skin. The enemy turned and fled, running from the forest as if demons were behind them.

Hannah turned her face into Jonas’s chest and went limp, her body slumping against his, all energy drained out of it. He sat in the midst of brush and trees, Hannah in his arms, listening to cars start up and the rain fall down. She hadn’t panicked. She hadn’t fallen apart and clung to him in terror, although he could see it in her eyes. She had fought by his side courageously. The next time she called herself a coward, he was going to shake some sense into her.

Tires screamed on the asphalt drive up by his house and he heard the sound of running.

‘Jonas! Hannah!’

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