Keegan’s call echoed in Rourk’s mind as he was finishing his set. She always came to him when he least expected her, after which he was unable to focus on little else but her. His hands gripped the bar tightly, and he tried to ignore the pull of her thoughts. He tried to focus on training, on the cold steel and the smell of sweat in the room—anything that could take his mind off of the one girl who owned it.
Taking a deep breath, he shook his head and unclenched his jaw, quickly finishing up the set. He had to force his hands to uncurl from the bar; it was almost painful. The tips of his fingers were bloodless—a fine metaphor for how she usually made him feel. He wiped his face and tossed the towel in the bin. The rest of the workout would have to wait.
Using one of his secondary gifts, he closed his eyes and visualized her face. It was nothing for him to picture her, to bring her into focus like a high-powered lens. Rourk smiled. She was at her favorite spot: A private corner of paradise on her parents' land.
Her beautiful auburn hair blended in with the fall leaves that surrounded her. The dress she wore was pale green and ankle-length, flowing ethereally around her body so that she was like an oasis in the rust-colored woods.
Rourk watched a smile spread across her face as she inspected a rock from the creek, and he laughed when she slipped it into her camera bag.
The first time she had thought his name—several years ago—it had taken him hours to navigate to her location. When the pull came now, it was just a twenty-minute hike through some familiar woods.
Grabbing his bag, he jumped in his old, beat-up truck and headed towards his chosen, probably driving a little faster than necessary. It was an urgent need to be near her when he heard her call, so he could never get there fast enough.
When he reached her location, he hastily climbed the rugged terrain. The dirt had the loose feel of earth unpacked by human feet; with every step, he sank a little, hindering his progress. The sun sparkled through the canopy above him, illuminating the path he forged through the trees, though it didn’t offer any warmth in the cool afternoon. A branch scraped him across the face and he impatiently pushed it to the side, hardly caring whether it had left a mark. Finally, he reached the top, bursting through the tree line and into pure daylight.
Rourk stood rigid, his lean body tensed as he looked over the edge of the jagged cliff. Why do I do this to myself? I shouldn’t even be here. She’s killing me. I have no self-control.
In the elfin society, life mates were predetermined using complicated methods to ensure ideal matches. The secret of this formula had a need-to-know basis; meaning, he would never know how the auburn-haired beauty was chosen for him. There were many creatures in this world, but his kind held their secrets close to their chest.
There were certain rules his kind had to follow. One’s lifemate may have been chosen at birth, but the first and most important rule was that they could not meet until they both turned 18. Growing up knowing that one’s other half was out there waiting brought a sense of comfort to Rourk. Ordinarily, neither knew their other half until they became of age. Their society believed it was better this way so they could enjoy their childhood.
So how did he find her?
Someone had told her his name. His chosen pulled him closer to her each time she thought of him. It was as involuntary as breathing. When he was younger he could resist with ease. As he got closer to being of age, curiosity got the better of him. Sometimes he wished he’d resisted so he didn’t have to endure the agony of waiting now.
Although, he loved seeing her even if it caused him pain.
Rourk focused his attention back on his chosen. She was standing on the rocks as the water rushed around her feet—camera in hand, as usual. One minute, she skipped across the rocks like a child, and the next she would stop, a look of total concentration taking over her face. That was when she started snapping photos.
Staring at her, Rourk squatted and rested his hands on his knees, wondering what she saw through her lens. He watched as she jumped from a rock and slipped as she landed on another, her arms flailing as she almost fell into the water.
His heart lurched. A strong need to protect her filled his body, and if her laugh hadn’t echoed up to him like music, he was poised to jump in after her. But instead, her face broke into a huge grin as she steadied herself and continued to take photos. Rourk relaxed, content to stand and watch her for hours.