“Please don’t let them see me,” she whispered to herself running full-speed now, dodging trees and brush at every step. She hit a hole in the ground and went sprawling, her ankle twisted painfully. The people were coming directly at her. She could make out what looked like a few men walking through the thick trees a hundred yards away. After her experience with a strange man in her bedroom the night before, the idea of being alone with multiple males was beyond terrifying. “I need to hide!” she said to no one. Suddenly, to her left, she saw a small crevice beneath a huge boulder. Without thinking, she crawled toward it and wedged herself between the muddy rotting earth and the rock. Charlotte’s twisted ankle throbbed painfully.
She watched as they crashed nearer, and she held her breath. They were going to pass by her! Everything was going to be fine.
Then right in front of the rock, they stopped. She counted three pairs of legs, all clad in what looked like leather leggings and brown, old-fashioned looking boots. “Why are they stopping?” she thought desperately. She tried to make herself small and invisible.
“We know you’re under that rock,” said a funny lilting accent. “You may as well come on out.”
Crap crap crap.
Charlotte didn’t move. Maybe they didn’t actually know she was there. Maybe they were just trying that trick at every crevice they came to.
A bearded face appeared at her eye level. “Come on Miss. You’ve got to come with us.” Charlotte screamed as loud as her lungs would allow. She wasn’t going anywhere with anyone, especially not three dudes she didn’t know. She sucked her breath in and started to scream again, when another face appeared. This face was younger, no beard and she recognized it, she thought his name was…
“Charlie?” she asked, bewildered.
“That’s me. You know me from school,” Charlie said.
“Yeah, I know,” Charlotte said, suddenly extremely embarrassed to be seen screaming her guts out hiding like a wounded animal under a rock.
“Come on out. We don’t bite. I promise.”
“Um. Okay.” She clawed her way out from under the rock and pulled herself into a lopsided standing position, her ankle refusing to hold her weight.
“You’re hurt,” said the first voice. It belonged a small, stocky fellow with yellow gold hair and beard to match. Charlotte was struck with how ridiculously dressed all three of them were. In leather leggings, linen tunics and leather breastplates with a lion wearing a crown burned into the center, they looked like they were bound for the renaissance fair.
“I’m okay, I just twisted my ankle,” Charlotte mumbled, looking at the ground. It was an understatement, standing up had hurt so much, Charlotte’s breakfast rumbled in her stomach, nausea rushing up her throat.
“Come here,” Charlie said kindly. Charlotte looked up at him. She knew him only barely, having had a couple of classes with him the year before. They’d never had a real conversation before.
Charlotte was struck with how ridiculously cute he was. Tall, broad and tan, he looked like a surfer, with light brown hair and sparkling blue eyes. He had perfectly shaped red lips and…woah. Charlotte was completely distracted for moment, just staring at him.
“Can you walk?” Charlie asked warily.
“Uh. I don’t know.”
“Okay,” Charlie sounded highly amused at something. It irked Charlotte. A lot. He strided over to her and squatted down next to her foot. He gently placed a hand on the bone. Pain shot through Charlotte so intense she nearly toppled over. The nausea returned. She was going to puke if he didn’t stop.
“OW!” she hollered.
“Sorry, sorry. I’m not the best at healing spells. Kent! You want to try this? I think it’s broken.”
The darkly bearded one hurried over to Charlotte and bent down next to Charlie. He softly placed his own hand on Charlotte’s bare ankle. Instead of pain, which Charlotte was expecting, she felt warmth and a weird tingle in her ankle. Then all the pain was gone.
“Um. What did you just do?” she asked.
“Can you use it?” the blond-haired man asked.
“I…think so.” She took a tentative step. All the pain was completely gone, and her ankle felt fine. “How did you do that? What do you mean, ‘healing spell’?” Charlotte was feeling a bit dizzy.
“Yes, like I said, you’ll have to come with us,” the blond one said, sounding bored.
“I’m not going anywhere with you,” Charlotte repeated empathetically. She turned on her heels, grateful for a newly fixed ankle and started running in the direction she hoped was the road.
She had made it all of ten fast steps when she hit an invisible wall and bounced off it, hard, falling on her butt to the ground. She heard chuckling behind her. Standing up, she started forward again, only to run into the invisible wall again. She turned 90 degrees and started again. Once again, she found the way blocked. She turned around furiously. “Let me go!” Her mind was reeling. How were they keeping her here? How had they fixed her ankle? She started to scream again, desperately hoping someone would hear her. Immediately, the dark haired man waved his hand and her voice was silenced. Panic and terror were rising up in her. She was trapped. Trapped, and she couldn’t even yell for help.