"Jackson," she called. Her voice was a soft, plaintive stream. A lost child calling to a parent to save her. "It's time now. Untie me."
He shook his head and turned away. He wouldn't look at her. He knew that if he did, he would be lost.
"Jackson," she called again. Her voice caressed his arms, his back, his neck. He still didn't turn around. Instead, he stood and went back to work. He banged louder with his hammer as he covered the windows in plywood. After he finished one, he worked on another. He continued until he realized that he had used eight sheets of the plywood that had been cut specifically to fit the windows, and she had only three windows. He turned then hurled the hammer ... at the door. He watched her whole body jump satisfyingly. At least her reflexes still recognized danger. His jaw clenched and his breathing labored as he watched her.
"My hands hurt," she said softly. At that, Jackson turned around. Like a milky moon on a foggy night, she radiated a dark light barely discernable from the rest of the room, though her eyes still sparkled indigo. "My hands hurt," she repeated.
He neared her. He really couldn't help it, and reached up to massage the ties loose on her hands. Just a little. She wouldn't be able to slip out of them if he loosened them a little bit.
But no. He shook his head. He resisted what he knew logically had been a suggestion. He withdrew.
"Untie me, Jackson," she ordered gently.
"Can't you untie yourself?" Jackson asked, hoping his voice had not betrayed his frustration. His ability to subdue her surprised him. That surprise was only surpassed by the knowledge that his bindings had actually held her. He'd accepted she was stronger than he, but he'd been willing to take the risk. Still he suspected Rush had something to do with his ability to restrain her that night. He wondered if he could even release her now.
But he knew Rush was trying to trust him. Jackson needed, more than anything, to be worthy of that trust. Letting her go after he'd gone through all of this trouble to keep her bound would make him look like a fool.
"You have to do it. Untie me," She pleaded. She begged. Her eyes were now a warming clear blue--the color of a tropical sea. They did not burn through him as they did when she was allowed to use her High Energy. Without the surreal glow, she looked young and vulnerable. Her burnished locks fell against her apple blossom cheeks. Her breasts shined as pale half moons over her white bodice.
Bright Star followed his gaze down to her chest and quickly covered herself. A rustle like wind pressed material up on her chest. Then she seemed to affix a smile to her face and looked up at him again. She willed her clothes away.
The Shift, minor though it was, sapped what Energy she had left. She sagged against her restraints. Her body was a cream white, rounded pastry presented for Jackson's slow consumption.
"Untie me," Her lips barely moved, pink and supple, they opened like watered petals over the words. "Please."
Jackson's resolve was shaken by the naïve sigh or the broken slant of her head on her slender neck. He couldn't hold himself firm against the dim but fighting light in her eye. He stepped toward her again and instantly felt a crackle like a feeding flame. It was a warning. The universe was telling him not to let her go. Jackson was not heeding the warning. He began undoing the enchanted leather straps at her ankles. After they were unbound, he stood close to her as he unfastened the straps at each of her wrists. Her lips parted and he could feel her breath brush his cheek.
Jackson took a step back to give her room. Regretfully, he found she didn't need it. As soon as her bonds were released her eyes blazed turquoise heat at him and her feet left the ground. It was as if she were a fairy or a pixie hovering naked before him and smiling an otherworldly smile. Her High Energy radiated powerfully from her body, and Jackson was a fool. Jackson's mouth went dry. He could do little more than blink.
"Thank you," she said with a girlish giggle then disappeared.