Was it me? Was there something wrong with me?
No, the hell with that!
My brain was in a scramble after finally meeting the viking bass player from Awaking the Misery. Jack. Goddess, he was even more handsome in person. It was like watching a fire storm walk up to you and being swept away in it. He was hot.
But he was also…disappointing? Alec gave me a great introduction, and I thought I was being pleasant enough, but he seemed so…elusive? Removed? That’s why I thought maybe it was me. Maybe I just wasn’t interesting enough?
But on second thought, I also knew that was bullshit. I was more than good enough for any man, let alone one that couldn’t spare me but a handful of words. And I knew that I was valuable and meaningful, even if he didn’t.
Inside my tent, I stopped pacing; I was going to wear a path in the ground if I didn’t. My hair fell over my shoulder as I picked up my cards and gave them a good shuffling, pulling out three of them to give myself an easy situational reading. Each card I pulled was placed face-up on the table in front of me so I could review them closely. I had pulled the Star reversed, the Moon reversed, and the Two of Cups.
Apparently something interesting was coming.
I glanced through the veil of the tent and watched Alec walking with Jack on the other side of the grounds. Then I looked back at the cards. Was it him? Was he the person coming for me?
Shaking my head, I put the cards back in the stack. I stood up straight and pushed through the veil to walk out into the open. Ignoring the intriguing view, I turned to the right and walked down towards the food vendors. Passing by several delicious stands, I stopped in front of the one marked Hampton Delights. Rounding the vending counter, I headed towards the back and pulled back the tent flap.
A booming woman’s voice called from deep inside the tent. “Me!”
“Oh, thank goodness. I thought I was going to have to mull this over by myself.”
“Hey, Tali!” Sally Hampton stood up from behind a rolling cart full of baked goods. Her bright red hair was pulled back in a ponytail, giving a full display of her collarbone and ample bosom in her lowcut top. She had an white and red checkered apron draped over her aqua shirt and black capri pants. “What’s got you in a tizzy this morning?”
“Viking guy. That’s what.”
“Viking guy? Not sure I know who that is?”
“You don’t. He’s a new guy, part of a band that’s going to be playing during the festival.”
“And he’s a viking?”
“Not exactly. He just looks like one to me.” I picked up a random chocolate chip cookie from the tray set out to my left and held it up. Sally nodded, and I began to nibble on it.
“Okay.” Sally frowned at me. “What’s the problem?”
“Alec brought him over and introduced us.”
Sally sneered at the mention of Alec’s name. “Alec isn’t the best recommendation for someone.”
“You’ve know, you’ve never told me. Why do you hate him so much?”
Sally merely ignored me. “So what happened? Did he make a stupid remark?”
“Well this guy said hardly anything. I was polite and friendy, but he barely spoke. Now I just feel off.”
“Oh, honey.” Sally took the steps needed to close the gap between us and put her arm around my shoulders. “Are you beatin’ yourself up? You know guys. They don’t know what the hell they’re doin’ around pretty girls.”
“Ha! I’m not feeling so pretty.”
“Thank you, mama.” I glanced up into her deep blue-green eyes. “I just hoped he would have been more…I don’t know, enthusiastic?”
“Maybe he was in his own mind?”
“Are you implying he was mute?”
Sally laughed. “Maybe!”
I laughed along with her, then gave her a smile. “Thank you. I feel a little better.”
“Then my work here is done!” She gave me a squeeze before walking back over to her rolling rack. Glancing over her shoulder, she boomed, “And the whole world heaved a collective sigh of relief!”
“Aww. I’m your whole world?”
Sally laughed again. “You are, sugar. You and Chris.”
“How is that husband of yours?”
“He’s doin’ alright. Work has been real slow these past few weeks.” She turned to me, her expression pained. “We’re strugglin’, but I’m hopin’ it’s just temporary.”
Now it was my turn to comfort her. I walked over and pulled her into a hug. When I pulled back, I gave her the biggest smile I could muster. “I’m positive this is just a temporary thing. You two are going to be fine. You’ll see.”
“Well, I can’t argue with your vibes, hon.”
“Nope. You sure can’t!” I released her and began walking to the tent flap. “I’ve gotta see Beulah about the party tonight.” I turned around. “You gonna be okay? Need some help before I go?”
“Nah. I’m all set here. You go see that girl and make sure she’s comin’ tonight!”
“Will do. Love you!”
“Love you, too, darlin’.”
I left the tent and headed back into the witchy section looking for Beulah Camden’s stand. As I walked, I looked around but there was no sign of Alec or Jack. Good. I didn’t feel like running into them again, especially feeling the way I was. I tended to wear my heart on my sleeve, and it would be entirely to obvious that Jack bothered me if I was to run into them. Having to explain myself was the last thing I wanted to do right now.
Several tents down from mine was Beulah’s spot, Crystal Mojo. The dark sea-green and plum purple colors were a stark contrast to the normal white tents dotting the grounds. Her business specialized in all things crystal and gemstone, incense, runes, tarot cards, herbs, and altar supplies. If you were a witch, you wanted to visit her shop for whatever you needed. If you were a mundane, you wanted to get your herbal remedies from her. And if you were something else, she could point you in the right direction for whatever ailed you.
Sometimes I would read tarot cards in her physical shop in town. Beulah would operate the stand on the weekends, leaving her sister to operate the brick and mortar location. Today, she was getting everything set-up in anticipation of Beltane weekend. It was a popular time, only one step behind All Hallow’s Eve in the witch and pagan communities, when the peak of spring and the coming of summer would be celebrated.
I knocked on the tent pole and called out to her. “Beulah? You here?”
“Yup! Come on in, girl!”
I pushed through the flaps covering the stand and found Beulah inside her tent, straightening out a display of crystal stone towers and pyramids. She looked amazing as ever, with her soft, light brown curls, rich golden eyes, and beautiful mocha skin. Her high cheekbones and delicate nose were perfectly suited to her tall, willowy frame. Her long fingers were delicately moving each piece into place on the table into a perfect position, like Wiccan Feng Shui.
Everytime I saw her it was like gazing at a stunning gazelle in motion.
“How are you, sunshine?”
“Oh, I’m just dandy.”
“Dandy? Like a dandelion?”
I laughed. “Yes. Just like a dandelion.”
“Don’t mind me. I’m straightening up before we open today.”
“No worries. I’m not here to bother you. I just wanted to remind you about the party tonight. Are you coming?”
Her brilliant eyes met mine. “Of course! I wouldn’t miss an opportunity to hang out!”
“Great! It starts at 7 o’clock. Don’t be late!”
“Should I bring anything?”
“Just yourself and anyone you might be dating.” I winked at her and waggled my eyebrows.
Beulah, who was always so secretive, merely smiled. “I’ll be there, don’t you worry.”
“About you? Never!” I grinned and waved, then exited the tent, leaving her to continue straightening crystals.
Walking back to my own stand, I stopped to glance around the faire grounds. Everyone was bustling about, walking to and from their stands to get their inventory ready and setup. I went inside my tent and let the curtains hide me as I people-watched. So many people were more themselves, more real, when they were in action than at any other time. This was especially true when they were unaware they were being watched. It was nice to see people being honest about who they are. Fake attitudes and behaviors were such a mentally and emotionally taxing thing to put up with.
My gaze fell on the tall form crossing the field. It was Jack, moving with a purpose towards his truck. He got inside but didn’t move. The truck sat still and quiet, and even across the distance, I thought I could feel his eyes on me. I backed myself deeper into my tent, and eventually his truck pulled forward and left. A cloud of dirt billowed behind him as he drove across the grounds and out the gate.
I watched him leave and couldn’t help feeling a pang of…emptiness? Regret? Intrigue? What was I feeling? It was hard to describe, even to myself. I recognized that I had quickly and easily become engrossed in this tall, dark, viking of a man. I shook my head, trying to clear him from my thoughts, but they persisted. It had been a long time since anyone had been on my mind so much.
Not since Callum.
I grimaced. I swore I wouldn’t let him or his maniacal ways interfere with my life again. The man was a menace to normality. He knew how throw a wrench into everything, and he was gleeful about it. That’s not to say that I didn’t want some spontaneousness in my life – I loved the weird. Weird was wondrous. But Callum was a bane to anything serene. He deftly managed to insert himself into my life and wreck it down to the bone. He could grind the innocence from a butterfly and leave nothing behind. I was still picking up the specks and grit, molding my life back into something livable. It had only been the past three months that I had begun to feel like myself again. I had Alec to thank for that.
I stared after that billowing dirt cloud and pressed my lips together. I really hoped Jack wasn’t another Callum waiting in the wings. I wasn’t sure I could handle that a second time around.