For those of you participating in The Romance Reviews Event, here is where you'll find the answer to my Q&A. It's hidden in the chapter below. Happy reading!
I vaguely remember Nila leaving the room. The door closed a few minutes after I gave her my money and phone. From there, I fell asleep for about an hour and a half and woke up with a massive sleep hangover. I stayed on the couch for a while, trying to will myself to get off it and do something. Finding Nila should have been my priority, but for the life of me I couldn't get myself to move at a pace faster than a snail. She was an adult, she was fine, I had to hold onto that. I didn't get any vibes that she was going to leave. Then again, maybe she was acting so compliant so she could screw me over later.
Blinking, trying to get the sleep out of my eyes, I reached for the phone to dial my cell phone. It rang a number of times, and I was positive I'd get my voice mail. She ditched. The phone is in the hotel lobby. Crap, what was I thinking, taking a break?
At the last second, the phone picked up. “H-hello?”
“Nila,” I said, letting out a sigh of relief. “Where you at?”
“The pool,” she said. “I got a suit at the gift shop.”
The pool. She'd be showing a great deal of skin and exuding magic at crazy levels. Great...
“Bailey?” she asked. “You still there?”
“Yeah, just thinking. Stay there and I'll come on down to hang with you. Busy down there?”
She laughed. “No, there's one family in the shallow end.”
“Oh, awesome.” I relaxed. A family who was far away from her. “Be there soon.”
“You don't –”
I hung up. I'd just pretend I didn't hear her when I saw her later. Because I did have to go down to watch her. After buying swim trunks and changing in the room upstairs, I finally made my way to the pool. My stomach dropped. Sitting in the hot tub with Nila were four different guys. Two were near my age, give or take a couple of years in either direction, and the other two were close to being twice hers. Also in the hot tub were two young ladies who were paired up with the twenty-something guys. I knew this because they glared at Nila as their men paid more attention to her than them. It didn't help matters that Nila was wearing a bikini. Not a g-string thing, yet she might as well have been wearing nothing with how much raw, potent, sex appeal she exuded. I could seriously see it coming off of her in soft, fuchsia wisps. The joys of being a magical being.
“Oh boy,” I mumbled, pinching the bridge of my nose. I tossed my towel onto an empty chair and stepped into the hot tub, going to the first empty spot I could find.
Nila gazed over at me, blushing. Totally knew she'd have that reaction once she saw my sexy abs. Either that, or she was embarrassed for being caught in a tub full of guys fawning over her. Maybe a mixture of the two caused the soft pink to spread across her cheeks. She certainly didn't look my way for long.
“I told you, you didn't have to come down,” she said to me.
I laughed. “What? I'm not allowed to unwind? My back happens to be killing me. Unless of course you want to give me a massage later tonight in the room.”
“You haven't been all too nice to me today, so I'm not sure you deserve one,” she shot back.
“I'll give you one,” Jealous Girlfriend Number One, said instantly. She moved closer to me and put her hand on my thigh. “I'm a masseuse.”
“You failed massage school,” one of the guys quipped. My guess was Jealous Boyfriend. He put an arm around Nila. She bristled under his touch, shifting away and into the other guy. Her gaze lifted to him, he grinned, and she moved away all together.
The second guy grabbed her by the arm. “What? You're leaving? I thought we were going to all hang out and get drinks at the bar?”
“Never agreed to that,” she said with the sweetest of smiles, batting her eyelashes at him. More fuchsia mist rolled off of her and floated toward the guy. He took in a deep breath and his smile softened.
Sighing, he let go of her. “Fine, I can take a hint.” His gaze moved to me. “Treat her nicer.”
“I'll treat you nice,” Jealous Girlfriend Number Two said to me.
I gave both the ladies a polite smile before standing. “Babe, let's go get some dinner, and I'll make up for being a door knob earlier.”
“Thought you wanted to soak because you're so sore,” Nila chided.
“I'd rather be with you,” I stated. In truth, I'd rather have stuck around in the hot tub. The thing was too crowded, though. No fun when other people were around. There was no way I'd be able to relax. By the end of the night there would either be a fight, or an invitation to some kind of bizarre orgy as the guys either got absorbed in their jealousy or started to find themselves attracted to me as well – or rather, attracted to my magic and thus getting confused. I, personally, did not want a black eye. Why couldn't I relax in peace?
For a moment, Nila stared at me, and I wondered if she was reading too much into my comment of preferring to be with her. She must have not heard of this thing called acting. My options were protective big brother, or possessive lover. We didn't exactly look alike seeing as how she's got skin a few shades darker and large pretty brown eyes and I was about as white as a sheet of paper in comparison. Adoption and a number of other options could explain those differences. Too much thinking, too much work. Boyfriend worked best.
I gave Nila my towel, wrapping it around her shoulders, encouraging her to cover up. Of all the stuff she brought down, she didn't think to grab one of those apparently. I put my hands on her covered shoulders and lead her toward the elevator.
“Why are you marching me out like I've done something wrong?” she asked.
“Because you need to go back to the room before someone does something stupid.”
“I'm not going to–”
I scoffed. “S-o not talking about you. Hocus pocus stuff, dear. Hocus pocus stuff.”
Scowling the entire way up to the room, she sat down on the couch and huffed at me. “So you're finally going to talk about what happened at the restaurant?”
“That and the hot tub.” I sat down on the opposite end from her. The fuchsia tendrils of magic still swirled around her, more potent than ever. Confusing. Perhaps her anger was setting it off.
“I didn't do anything to the guys at the hot tub! They came to me,” she protested.
The color of her magic deepened to a rich red. I'd never seen anything like it before. Sure, I'd seen traces of Muse magic during intense, emotional moments. Puck, for example, had a deep, hunter, green magic to him. I'd yet to see mine, but I've been told it's a bright royal blue. Cayenne had an exotic gold, and some of the other muses in the house were in such good control over their magic it had yet to make a physical manifestation. Never had I seen so much of it running wild, nor have I ever seen it change color.
Grabbing a new towel from the bathroom, I finished drying off and tried to not let her defensive attitude chip away at my patience. “You don't realize you did anything. I'm not mad, but it does provide a good example as to why you need to be careful.”
“But I –”
“I know, I know, if you'll let me talk, I can tie this all together.” I wrapped the towel over my shoulders. “Can you not see all the magic oozing out of you?”
Nila gazed down at her hands. “No, nothing out of the ordinary going on from what I can tell. I don't look or feel different.”
“Gotcha.” Perhaps Muses couldn't see their own magic after all.
“So you're saying I bewitched them?”
I sat down on the couch. “Not on purpose.” The more she spoke, the more I kept losing my train of thought. I struggled with finding the right words to explain how magic worked as it was. “Believe it or not, you're pulsating with energy. Right now, it's red. Earlier it was fuchsia. It's circling around you. Normal people can't see it, you can't see it, but I can. If I lost control of myself, you would be able to see mine.”
“Can I what?”
“Lose control of yourself?” She sucked on her lower lip. “You can tell me until the cows come home that magic is real, and that all the stuff from the restaurant and at the hot tub and wherever else is the result of using this magic. If I can't see it or touch it, then I don't believe in it.”
That got me to raise an eyebrow. “Sucks to be you then since some of the best things in life are the ones we can't prove.”
“If you say so.” She raked a few fingers through her tangled hair. “Can you not lose control of yourself?”
“Generally, I don't make a habit of doing so, no. It's something that happens based on instinct, usually during high emotions. I've never let it just float around and do it what it wants like you are doing now.” I took in a deep breath. “But I can try.” Because when I did want to, I knew how to call upon my magic in strong amounts. If she needed physical proof, I would give it to her.