Excerpt: To Get to You

“I don’t like you, you know,” Madison said, keeping his gaze locked onto the scenery flying by outside the car window. There wasn’t anything to see, considering it was dark and they were driving through the desert, but the alternative was looking at Adam, and Madison absolutely refused to do that.

“I’m aware,” Adam said, his voice level and smooth, giving nothing away. Madison wasn’t sure what he’d expected, but calm acceptance hadn’t been it.

Madison glared harder out the window, wishing more than anything he could have said no. He hadn’t gotten that choice though, and he was going to have to kill Bradley when they returned. Glancing at the clock on the radio, one of the few lights shining from the dash, Madison stifled a sigh. Three more hours of driving to go. Shifting in his seat, Madison toed off his shoes and nudged them up under the dash behind his bag. He settled back in his seat and stared stonily out the windshield, trying his best to ignore Adam completely.

It was harder than it should have been. He’d always noticed Adam, even before Adam’s dick behavior with Lydia. Adam wasn’t trying to draw his attention, focusing completely on the road. He wasn’t trying to talk to Madison, not after the first hour, not after Madison had completely shut down every one of his attempts at conversation. He was just driving, quietly, not even sighing or making any obnoxious breathing noises, and Madison still wanted to strangle him.

“Do you mind if I turn on the radio?” Adam asked after another three minutes had passed. Not that Madison was watching the clock; he’d just glanced at the radio when Adam had asked, was all.

“Fine,” Madison said, shrugging. Even if Adam chose a terrible station or listened to terrible music, Madison would still have something other than Adam or the desert to pay attention to.

Adam reached out and tapped a button on the dash, making the time display flash into numbers. In the glow of the dash lights, the silver bracelet marking him as a negative energy mage gleamed, and Madison looked away, back out into the desert. Adam was the pertinent one to this casting; Madison was a fill-in because the original fire mage—Bradley, who was going to die by Madison’s hand later that week—had managed to break an ankle “surfboarding” down a flight of stairs on a cafeteria tray. The only other fire mage available was a first year, and no one, not even Madison, was cruel enough to throw this at a first year.

The music was soft, bland rock, something that Madison vaguely recognized. He wasn’t big on music, but this wasn’t anything that assaulted his ears, so he could deal with it. Shifting in his seat again, Madison sighed, then unbuckled his seat belt, intending to move to get more comfortable.

“What are you doing?” Adam asked. The car was beeping at them, apparently displeased that Madison wasn’t restrained, but Madison ignored the car and Adam, pulling his feet up on the seat and then clicking the seat belt back into place. His feet were near the center console, and he leaned completely against the door, resting his head against the cool window.

He didn’t bother to answer Adam, and that got him a sigh, but Adam didn’t comment any further. Madison shut his eyes and tried not to feel every bump and jar in the road, which was difficult with his head pressed against the side of the car and the road a typical desert road: poorly maintained and not oft traveled. It wasn’t the most comfortable way to lie, but Madison drifted off to sleep after a few minutes anyway.

Madison jerked awake, his arm shooting out to brace against the dashboard. It took him a moment to register that the car wasn’t moving and another moment to realize that the car wasn’t even on. Adam was conspicuously missing, and the clock on the radio was gone, turned off with the car. Madison punched the button on his seat belt, unclasping it and letting it slide back into the side of the car. He unfolded slowly, groaning at the ache in his knees. Falling asleep with his legs curled up under him had not been the best idea.

It took a bit of struggle—and knocking his forehead twice against the dash—to get his shoes back on. Then Madison stumbled out of the car, his legs still aching from being compressed. He grabbed his bag and slung it over his shoulder, ignoring the heavy weight and hoping that Bradley had been overestimating how far the site was from the main road.

Why couldn’t they have rented a vehicle that could cross the desert? Madison scowled at the tiny blue car as he shut the door, then conceded he really couldn’t complain about that. It wasn’t as though they could have gone much further in a car without the dead zone disrupting the mechanics of it. Turning, Madison nearly ran straight into a sign post.

It was short, barely reaching his shoulder, with a square metal piece attached to the top. In the bright moonlight, the sign all but shone with the phoenix symbol of the mage guild. At least Adam hadn’t gotten them lost, Madison conceded, looking around for Adam.

He wasn’t very far away, standing a dozen paces into the desert. His pack—about twice the size of Madison’s—was sitting at his feet, and he was using a flashlight to look at something cupped in his hand. Madison walked over, the sand crunching beneath his sneakers with every step. Adam looked up when Madison stopped beside him, his features highlighted strangely between the light of the moon and the flashlight he held.

“You know how to get there?” Madison asked, though it was really more of a statement. The professor who’d drilled him on the spell casting had said Adam would get them there, and then insinuated that Madison wasn’t really capable of doing his part because he was too concerned with the inconsequential details like transportation.

“We just go straight north for five miles,” Adam said, gesturing with the instrument in his hand. A compass, Madison belatedly realized. “You good to go now, or do you want to rest some more first?”

“I’m fine,” Madison said, rolling his eyes though he doubted Adam could see it. “Let’s go.”

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