[chapter twelve]

Disclaimer: If you've heard of them, I don't own them. Everything else is mine, so no stealing, pretty please. ;-)

**

Jimmie sat silently on the couch in his motorcoach, staring at nothing.

It had been three days since his father had been released from the hospital.

It had been two days since he had gone to Vrai's shop to tell her the good news, only to find that she wasn't there, and in her place was a sign on the door telling customers she was closed "indefinitely".

Indefinitely.

Jimmie snorted to himself in the silence. He'd told her not to go. Asked her. Hell, practically pleaded with her to stay, to teach him.

And she'd deserted him.

A knock on the door roused him from his reverie and he shook his head. "It's open." He called out. He nodded his head to his boss as he stepped through the door.

"Hey man." Jeff said amiably. "How's your dad?"

Jimmie gave him a weak smile. "Doing better every day. Thanks for asking."

"Sure." Jeff said, leaning against the door and looking at Jimmie with a serous expression. "You ready for the race tomorrow?"

"Yeah. Chad and I really hit on a good setup today in Happy Hour." Jimmie said noncommittally.

"That's not what I meant." Jeff said, shaking his head. "I mean are you ready? You've been somewhere else this weekend, man. What's going on?"

Jimmie looked down at the floor. "I'm here. I'm ready." He said, not sounding entirely convinced of his own words. "It's…I've just got a lot of stuff going on right now."

Jeff nodded and hoped that Jimmie would elaborate. When he didn't, Jeff sighed and turned to open the door. "If you need to talk or something…" He offered.

Jimmie nodded. "Thanks. I'll see you at the driver's meeting."

Jimmie remained sitting even after Jeff had exited, unable to erase the picture of Vrai from his mind. He just had a feeling that something was…off.

Silently, he stood and walked over to his jacket, which lay slung over a chair. Digging into one of the pockets, he extracted the stone that he had 'filled with power' and held it in his hand, turning it over and over slowly. He needed to feel something - something connected to Vrai.

What had she done to him? If he didn't know better, he would think she'd bewitched him.

The very word brought a silly smile to his face, before turning serious again as he stared down at the stone.

He didn't know the words to say, the way to call the power, but he needed to do something. Closing his eyes, he held the stone in his hand and silently called for protection.

Protection for himself. Protection for Vrai, wherever she was. Something to protect what the two of them have together. He concentrated, really asking for help, really believing he could use the power he had infused into the stone.

And then he felt it.

He felt a spark inside his chest, as though his heart had been lit on fire. He felt the spark grow in strength, in power, and he repeated over and over his need for protection. He knew his call would be answered. He could feel it.

The rush inside him felt strong…felt bigger than himself…felt sensual…felt potent.

Opening his eyes, Jimmie slumped against the counter, the power leaking back out of him and into the stone he held. God, he didn't think he would ever get used to that big, sexy rush of power.

He wished Vrai was here to tell him that that's what it was like, that what he was doing was right.

Mostly, he just wished Vrai was here, period.

Carefully replacing the stone into his pocket, he snapped off the lights and headed for bed.

chapter thirteen