There was a small moment where he thought that they would refrain.
There was a millisecond where he thought that he could dodge their attack. Maybe escape unscathed.
The moment passed and the millisecond was gone.
The flames hit him and grabbed him and bit him. Every little bit of him.
He crumpled to his knees and doubled over, screaming in pain and in shock.
The power flicked back on.
“You threatened Ms. Addleston.”
It wasn’t a question.
It was an accusation.
The Institute man wheezed as he raised his head.
Someone stood before him. An ordinary man with a deliberately bland expression on his face.
“She is…she…holding on to…to company property. I was simply—”
The other man narrowed his eyes.
“Ahh!” He dropped to the floor as the flames grew more aggressive in their biting.
“You threatened her.”
Sammy looked down at the man lying at his feet. “I should utterly destroy you, vermin.”
He looked up at her.
“Did he hurt you?”
“No. Let him go.”
Sammy considered her words.
He considered the man on the floor.
He closed his eyes.
“Sammy? What did you do?”
He spread his wings and became skye. His heart pounded. His thoughts were a jumbled mess.
The sky turned dark and ominous. Thunder grumbled.
His mother caught up to Sammy and hovered in front of him. Amethyst-colored lightning flashed with every beat of her wings.
She was so much bigger than he was. There was no way for him to fly around her. So, he stopped and hovered.
“What did you do, Sammy?”
He raised his head. “I lost control. I hurt someone.” He saw disappointment in her eyes.
Kittens and puppies romping wild and carefree. Butterflies of every possible color flying like falling petals and leaves. Water. The feel of it. The sound of it. The smell of it. Air. Blowing across my crest. Moving with every rise and fall of my wings. Tourmalines. Topazes. Diamonds. Aquamarines.
Sammy exhaled calm.
The pain stopped.
The quills disappeared.
The flames were gone.
The man from The Institute raised his head and regarded Sammy with wariness.
“You are free to go. Do not ever come near Ms. Addleston or any of her companions or my business ever again. Is that clear?”
He stood and carefully examined himself for damages.
No scorch marks.
No injuries of any sort.
He stood a little straighter. “XQ knows where she belongs, Sammy. She will come back home to me. If she does, I might be able to return her voice and who knows? Maybe even her memories.” He turned and left the building.
Sarah rushed out of her hiding place. She transformed into her human form and raced to the door.
Barbara ran after her. “Wait!”
Sarah pulled the door open.
Barbara grabbed her and pulled her back.
Sarah struggled and writhed. She furiously shook her head.
“Stop! You can’t go with him. You can’t!”
Sarah pulled free. She jabbed a point at the glass door. Her hand trembled as she tapped the side of her head and her throat. She pointed at the door again.
Barbara shook her head. “I know what he said. I heard him, but Sarah. I don’t trust him. That man…There’s something…something not right about him. I don’t like him. I don’t trust him. I don’t think he wants to help you.”
Sarah stomped her foot on the floor.
“I think he will hurt you again. And so do you. You saw him. You hid from him.”
She stomped her foot again. She tapped her head and her throat.
“I know. I know what you’ve lost. I know it seems like he’s the only way to regain it, but…”
Sarah tapped her head one more time. Tears flooded her eyes.
“I’m sorry. Sarah, I’m so sorry.”
Sarah rubbed away her tears and stormed over to one of the seats in the lobby. She dropped into a chair and slid down into a sulk.
Sammy came over to Barbara. “Ms. Addleston? Are you sure you’re okay?”
She smiled at him. “Yes. Thanks to you.” She shivered. “I need to call Ambrose.”
The old pain flared up a little.
But then he thought about Deliosa.
The pain died slowly.
He smiled back at her. “Of course.”