Temptation by Fire(5)

By: Tiffany Allee


People never failed to look at me like I was some sort of freak when I warned them about my visions. Always.

Even my own family.

And they’d never stopped, really. Even though I’d kept my mouth shut for years. They just stopped looking at me. Stopped talking to me. Every single family member had rejected me because of the curse. At least, that’s the term I’d given it. The Curse. Because really, this thing that happened to me when I touched someone else’s skin had truly cursed my life. I’d lost just about everything, to the point that what I had left was Miriam.

“You know what happened the last time I tried to warn someone, and every time before that,” I said.

Pity touched Miriam’s expression, and I flinched. I didn’t want pity. I just wanted to be normal. To not have to worry about visions.

God, I was so freaking selfish.

“I know,” she said softly. “You’ve never really…gotten over what happened. But you survived. And there’s a lot to be said for that.”

This vision was far too similar to the one that had alienated my family. That had made me an outcast. Fire and screams and anguish had filled that vision, too.

I swallowed the acid climbing my throat. “I can’t change what will happen.”

“But just because you haven’t been able to stop a vision from coming true before doesn’t mean it’s impossible,” Miriam said.

I couldn’t breathe, and spots ran across my vision. I plopped back onto the couch and put my head between my knees. Miriam touched my shoulder and I jumped. She jerked her hand away.

So stupid. My visions only occurred when there was skin-to-skin contact, and even then, they weren’t exactly common. But they weren’t uncommon enough, and any kind of touching made me twitchy. Too twitchy.

“I’m sorry,” I said.

“I know.”

“I just hate feeling so powerless, but I shouldn’t take all this out on you.” Part of me wanted to curl up under a rock somewhere like a miserable coward. The idea sickened me, but what had I been doing all these years, if not hiding? I gave her a sideways look, seeking what—reassurance?

Miriam gave me a small grin. “Of course you should take it out on me, that’s what friends are for. Do you remember how many boxes of tissues I went through here when Jimmy dumped me last year?” Her smile faded. “But I’m leaving soon, and I think maybe you need to start facing this gift of yours, start getting out of your shell a little bit.”

“Yeah, right,” I choked out, meaning it as almost a joke.

“I worry about you, Ava. Life is nothing without purpose. And ignoring your gift—what’s the purpose in that?”

The conversation was suddenly too heavy for me. I needed some room to breathe. “So you’re saying I need to quit being such a wimp?”

She laughed. “Yep. Maybe we need to watch some Die Hard movies or something. Toughen you up.”

Another thought hit. “Venator,” I said.

“What?”

“He asked if I was a Venator—the big guy. Karson. That’s the word he used.”

Miriam’s face scrunched. “Yeah, no idea what that is. Sounds Italian-ish.”

“I don’t know, either. But something was off about those two. And that guy Karson seemed to think my vision might mean I was a Venator, whatever that means. What if—” I almost didn’t want to voice the thought. Putting it to words made the possibility more real. Already a small glimmer of hope had sparked in my chest at the mere idea. And hope was dangerous. “What if these Venators have something to do with my visions?”

Miriam’s face brightened. “Like the word is some sort of clue or something? Some hint about why you’re the way you are? Then I think you have to pursue this. Find out if there’s any connection. I mean, just imagine—what if you and your gift aren’t alone in the world? What if there are others out there with similar powers? Maybe they can help you control it.”

Control it? Screw that. Hopefully they could help me get rid of it.

The idea pushed the spark of hope into a flare that made my throat tighten. I might not be ready to try to warn the man about my vision—not when I knew exactly how that would turn out—but Miriam was right: I had to do something. I had to at least try to figure out what the heck a Venator was—and if it might be somehow related to my curse.