Zora was yawning by the time they got back to their room, only too happy to use the bathroom first to get ready for bed. She was almost asleep when Powers finished his own preparations, but this obvious sign of weariness did not deter him from sitting on the side of her bed. Forcing reluctant eyes open Zora raised an eyebrow but said nothing.
“Zora, you know that Ziyad is a shifter, yes?”
The other eyebrow arched up. “Of course, he is a guardian. Why do you ask?”
Powers ran a hand through his hair. “Well, shifters tend to be hot blooded, and he comes from a hot climate so he is probably even more so.”
“And he is a guardian and you are a defender.”
Powers was beginning to look uncomfortable. “So even though he is not your guardian it would still not be wise to start anything with him.”
Zora lay in silence.
“Let me see if I have this straight. You are thinking that a mild flirtation from a gorgeous man is enough to turn my head, so that I forget our purpose here and indulge in a holiday romance? You are imagining hot sex in the desert while the rogue werewolf kills again?” Zora sat up and glared at Powers, her temper making her eyes spark as she spoke, or so it looked to an alarmed Powers.
“Well, he is charming, and he is handsome and charismatic. And he did seem to be interested in you.”
“You believe I am so desperate for male companionship that a few words and a smile are enough to awaken unbridled lust. Thank you for that character assassination Powers, I’ll be sure to pass on your kind words to Ziyad. No doubt he will be thrilled with your assessment of him.”
Powers was beginning to look annoyed. “Calm down Zora, no need to over react. I was just suggesting…”
“I know what you were suggesting and it’s insulting! How dare you even THINK I would be that shallow. You, who had a different girl each week, sitting there so high and mighty telling me how I should behave.”
“I didn’t have a different girl each week. Well I didn’t sleep with all of them anyway.”
Zora tossed her head, the strands of her red hair glowing like they had been lit by her ire. “Oh I’m sure there was not much sleeping going on at all. And now you sit here and tell me how I should behave. Well you listen to me Powers Barnham. If I want to flirt with Ziyad, if I want to see how it feels to kiss a guardian I damn well will and it’s none of your business!” She had no intention of doing either, but she was furious.
Powers leaned forward, pushing his face close to hers. Zora was fascinated and a little worried to see his eyes take on a yellow cast and faint feline shape, as though he was close to changing. “You will not flirt with Ziyad, you will not kiss him. I forbid it.”
That did it. Who was he to forbid her anything? She had done all they asked of her, she had dropped her entire life to go on this chase for a rogue werewolf, a being that only a few weeks ago she hadn’t even known existed. She knew that no matter the outcome of this mission she would never be able to go back to her old life. She had not asked to be a Defender, she didn’t want to be a Defender. She just wanted to be Zora, free to flirt with whomever she pleased should she wish to.
“You are my Guardian, you are not my father, you can’t order me around like that. I will do as I please and there is nothing you can do to stop me.”
Never mind that Zora had not given any thought to kissing the handsome Egyptian, that was not the point. She was furious that Powers was sitting there telling her what to do as though he had a right to do so. She jutted her chin up at him aggressively, refusing to be the one to back down.
Powers placed a hand on either side of her and leaned even closer, until their noses were almost touching. Tendrils of Zora’s hair touched his, fiery red mixing with deep brown. Wherever her hair touched Powers it seemed to glow but neither of them noticed.
“You will not kiss Ziyad, you will not flirt with him. I will not allow it.”
“You. Can’t. Stop. Me.” Zora practically bit out the words, wishing she could bite him instead.
“Yes I can.”
“You want to kiss a guardian? Here.” Without any further warning Powers closed the distance between them, his lips finding hers as though they had kissed many times before. His arms went around her and pulled her close, his hands coming up to tangle in her hair.
Zora’s brain stopped, she had never been kissed like this. She forgot that she was a defender, and Powers was her guardian. She forgot that they should not be doing this, she forgot about the rogue. Nothing existed for her in that moment except Powers mouth on hers, his arms around her, his hands sliding through her hair. Arrows of sensation were zinging through her entire body, sharp pangs of desire, sweet flows of pleasure. She moaned into his mouth and returned his kiss, wrapping her arms around him and surrendering herself to sensations she had never felt before with any other man. Caught up in the moment neither of them noticed her hair, which was spread across her back and Powers’ shoulders like a cloak. It was glowing as though alive, growing brighter and brighter as the kiss became more passionate.
Zora was consumed by the kiss, by the urgent desire for fulfilment that grew stronger with every second. Powers growled, pulling her tighter in his arms until she felt they were one. Never before had she felt this sensation of surrender, of belonging, of blending and melding. It felt otherworldly, magical but frightening.
It was the pulsing at her throat that broke the spell. Pushing Powers back Zora looked down at her pendant, shocked to see it glowing, the golden stars that dotted its surface shining against the darker gold and brown tones as though lit by an internal flame. With a shaking hand she lifted it, pushing impatiently at her hair which fell from Powers’ shoulder as he changed position.
Although fading swiftly with the dimming of their passion, the red strands were glowing enough to have both Zora and Powers staring at it in shock. Powers lifted a lock, which began to glow again at his touch. Zora stared from her pendant to her hair to Powers.
“Powers? Is this a defender/guardian thing?”
Powers ran a shaking hand through his hair. “I don’t know sweetheart. This has never happened to me before. Kissing you is like the most powerful drug in existence. I didn’t want to stop. It was only your enhanced strength that allowed you to push me away.”
“And now I’m glowing like I’ve been plugged into a power station. Do you think that’s why defenders and guardians don’t become involved? Does the fairy spell make passion irresistible? What if there’s some sort of reverse effect, like instead of combusting a rogue, I instead combust myself?”
Her hair was still glowing where it rested on Powers’ hand. He dropped it and the strands began to fade. Looking down at her pendant Zora saw that it too was returning to its usual self. Powers picked up her hair again, but dropped it when it lit up. He reached instead for her hand.
“I don’t know what this means Zora, I’ve never heard of anything like this happening. I don’t even know if a defender/guardian relationship is forbidden or if it just hasn’t happened. Or maybe it has, in other families and we just don’t know. I always thought it was a practical thing, since the guardian family is tied to the defender family through the fairy created bond.”
Zora nodded. “That makes sense, if you and I were to have children, who would be the daughter’s guardian, and what of future generations? We would effectively end the line with us.”
Powers agreed, “Yes, although my father was not your mother’s guardian, my uncle was.”
Zora stared at Powers. “Your uncle was my mother’s guardian? You know I’m sure I never met him. I didn’t even think about that until now. Why didn’t I ever meet him?”
Powers studied her for several long seconds, appearing to be deliberating before replying. “Well, I don’t know the full story. I only know that for some reason when I was about two I began talking about Zora and describing you, and that was how my family knew I was to be your guardian.”
“Did your uncle have children?”
“Not at the time, although there were several miscarriages.”
“So the bond must have just gone to the next family member in line, like the line of succession in a royal family.”
Smiling a little Powers agreed. “I guess that’s so, although I didn’t inherit jewelry, just a cranky woman.”
Ordinarily Zora would have been offended, or at least pretended to be. But at that moment she felt too drained and disappointed to even pretend. “Powers I don’t know what happened just now, I’ve never felt like that, as though I had to have you and nothing else mattered. I don’t understand it, and I don’t understand why my pendant and my hair act as though you are a power point.” She paused, giggled a bit. “Oh, Powers the power point, that’s kind of funny.”
“But not in a good way. I don’t understand it either Zora, but I don’t think we should do that again.” His stomach clenched as he said the words, what he wanted was to pull her into his arms again, kiss her senseless and take her to bed. But this was not the time nor the place, and might even be dangerous for her.
“You’re right.” It was the only thing she could say but it was not how she felt. Her body was crying out for Powers but it was not possible. There were so many things about this new life that were not fair but this one seemed right now to be the worst one.
Powers lifted the hand he still held, kissed the back gently and placed it in her lap before standing. “You will forgive me I hope Zora, I need a shower, a cold one.”
Zora smiled, and watched him until the bathroom door closed behind him. Lying back down in her bed she wondered how she was going to cope with this attraction that had leapt up between them. It was hot like a fire, and she was the flame. Perhaps she was literally the flame, she didn’t know. Axel would know, he was the fairy who had performed the original bespelling of both their families. She resolved to ask him as soon as there was an opportunity. At the very least she needed to know if there was such a thing as a reverse combustion, it was no less plausible than a sentient silver staff with a disconcerting mode of travel after all.