Turning Amber

Amber has a secret.  She can read auras and feel emotions.  Which means she’s never trusted any boy to get close, because she can ALWAYS tell what they’re thinking.  Until she meets Ryder.  He’s the first person she’s ever told about her power.  But will her secret tear them apart?

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3. Chapter 3

Outside, the cool air hits me like a sigh. I draw it in deep, leaning against the wall of the alley, and wait for my head to clear and my heart to stop pounding.

Away from all the people everything stills and a wave of exhaustion hits me that’s so deep it makes my knees buckle.

When the door slams open I barely manage to jump out of the way before it smacks into the wall right where I’d been standing, leaving a dent in the cement.

I’m already backing away down the alley, towards the street, my legs poised for flight (my brain having dismissed the idea of fighting – I’m fully spent on that front) when I register that it isn’t Santa’s fat ugly brother coming to find me, it’s the boy with the fishing hook smile. And the shiny aura.

‘You’re OK,’ he says, relief flying across his face. ‘I saw that guy hassling you from across the club but I couldn’t get to you in time.’

He was coming to rescue me?

He kicks the door shut with his heel, muting the noise from inside. ‘What did you say to that guy anyway?’ he asks, jerking his head towards the door.

‘What guy?’ I stammer.

‘The guy who looks like he eats teenage girls for breakfast and who’s now bawling his eyes out. What did you do? Tell him his Harley got repossessed? Diss his tattoos?’

My breathing is suddenly all over the place. ‘Nothing. I didn’t say anything to him.’

He narrows his eyes at me, not buying it for a second, then he cocks his head to one side, and a slow and easy smile spreads across his face.

‘If I talk to you are you going to make me cry too?’ he asks, taking a step nearer.

I consider him. My throat is so dry that when I answer it sounds like sandpaper rasping against brick. ‘Depends,’ I tell him.

‘OK,’ he answers, nodding, weighing it up. ‘I’ll take the risk.’ He holds out his hand.

‘Ryder,’ he says. ‘Pleased to meet you.’

I draw in a deep breath. I hate this part. I don’t do touching and I’m already feeling battered blue by all the aura whacking I’ve just endured. But the alternative is looking rude. So I clear my throat. ‘Amber,’ I say. And then I reach out, bracing myself, and take his hand.

People talk about sparks flying, about electricity jolting and I know better than most that those things are true. When two auras collide, in good ways and bad, sparks can fly. But this is different. There are no sparks flying when Ryder and I shake hands. There are no electricity jolts. Instead, the feeling is akin to diving into an ice-cold river. Instantly I’m swept up in a rushing eddy, and then whipped away on a wild current. It’s total surrender. No fight. Just pure adrenaline thrill ride.

When Ryder lets go of my hand I gasp like I’ve just surfaced into blinding sunlight. I blink at him. He stares back at me with a queer expression on his face.

‘You OK?’ he asks.

‘I... err… yeah, I’m fine.’ Clearly, he didn’t feel anything quite so dramatic as half-drowning in arctic river rapids when he shook my hand. What was that?

‘You sure?’ he asks. ‘You look a bit… breathless.’

‘Yeah, I just…’ I frown at him, then smile. ‘I’m fine.’

‘So you like The Gnarly Surs then?’ he asks me now, his eyes glinting in amusement.

‘As much as I like hairy biker guys sporting Aryan Nation tattoos.’

As though on cue the door bangs open and said hairy biker guy sporting racist tattoos comes bursting out. His eyes – bloodshot and red-rimmed – light on me and he snarls. But Ryder steps calmly between us, smiling at the man as though he’s his long-lost brother. I take a breath, wondering if I’ve got enough energy to try and blast him again – but before I can try, I watch Ryder lay his hand on the guy’s bicep. My eyes pop and my voice gets stuck in my throat. What are you doing? I want to yell. Are you insane?

‘Hey pal, you looking for something?’ Ryder asks.

The guy switches his attention to Ryder and for a split second looks like he’s about to rip his face off with his bare teeth, but then, as I watch, the sneer vanishes, replaced with the kind of blank expression you might see on someone who’s taken one too many Valium. He blinks at Ryder, frowns, then shakes his head, befuddled.

‘No,’ the guy says, scanning the alley, his eyes glancing over me before coming to rest back on Ryder. ‘I just…’ He shakes his head one more time, clearly bewildered.

Ryder drops his hand from the guy’s arm and the guy turns around and shuffles back inside. The door bangs shut behind him, but I can’t tear my eyes off Ryder. What the hell just happened?

Ryder turns back to face me, smiling innocently. ‘This is a really classy establishment. You hang out here often?’

That’s when I remember Nancy. ‘Oh God, my friend!’ I gasp. ‘I’ve got to go. She’ll be worrying.’

Ryder moves fast, blocking my path to the door. ‘You’re not going back in there. I’ll find her for you.’

I hesitate, scanning him, immediately suspicious. But he’s clean. His aura’s pristine. No lies. I’m so surprised that I wonder if Nancy was right about me being a cynic. But I’d rather be a cynic, I tell myself, than be found lying dead in an alley having succumbed to southern charm and a smile. Serial killers come in many forms after all.

‘OK,’ I finally tell him, and then I describe Nancy to him.

‘Oh yeah, I remember seeing her – dressed like Nikita in the episode she escapes from the Russian gulag?’

‘Yeah, that’s the one,’ I say, smiling.

‘Wait right here. I’ll be back in a minute,’ he says. ‘And if any of those biker guys show up while I’m gone, run. Don’t start tossing insults.’

Before I can say anything else he vanishes back inside. I stand in the alley, wrapping my arms around myself, and stare after him – or more precisely I stare in wonder at the trail of light he’s left floating in his wake.

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