Last week I posted two new chapters for the rewrite of Forbidden Mind here.

Today I’m posting chapters 3-5, including some new Drake chapters. As those of you who read the original Forbidden Mind know, Drake didn’t have any POV chapters. Now he does! :) Enjoy and keep an eye out for the extended edition of Forbidden Mind on June 26th from Evolved Publishing.

Chapter 3- Drake

Warms rays of sun beat down on Drake’s back as he leaned over his board and waited. A breath, then another. He inhaled and exhaled to the pulse of the ocean, each swell of wave matching the beat of his heart. All thought, all anger, all distraction fled in the tranquility of the Pacific, the only place that could bring him peace. This is where he found his God, his religion. Not even Father Patrick’s pews could compete.

The wave approached, and Drake, one with it, stood on his board and sliced through the tide. He balanced on the edge of the world, no longer a part of the scampering needs of the masses. Sprays of salt water splashed his face—a baptism for a man who belonged nowhere.

A tingle of dread broke this his zone. It started in his spine and worked its way up his back. Someone with sinister intent was watching him.

Drake never used his powers while surfing; he didn’t need to. But now, he broke his own rule and snaked his mind over the water and to the beach, seeking the person who didn’t belong, but nothing felt out of the ordinary. The break in concentration stole the joy from his meditation.

Anger boiled in his blood, unwilling to be cooled by the water. He turned his board towards the sand and rode back to shore, scanning as he did for anyone paying too much attention to him.

Kylie the Beach Bunny scampered up to him and threw her slender arms around his neck as he pulled the zipper down on his wetsuite and shrugged out of it. “You looked so hot out there, Drakey. Did you come back for some fun in the sun?” Her lips sought his but he pulled away.

“Not now, Kylie. I have to get going. Did you see anyone around the beach watching me, or anyone who looked suspicious?”

Her painted puckered lips turned down in confusion. “No, why? Let’s go get a drink and maybe go back to my place if you’re done here. I can take your mind off whatever is worrying you.” She ran a finger down Drake’s wet chest, tracing a drop of water to his navel. He pulled her hand away.

“I said, not now.” He added just a bit of compulsion to his voice, using his mind to nudge hers. A vacant expression crossed through her blue eyes then disappeared. He hadn’t really controlled her mind, he’d just given it extra encouragement so he could get rid of her without a scene.

Another trickle of foreboding crossed over his shoulders. Goose bumps formed on his arms and he shivered despite the heat. Kylie frowned, but said nothing else as she walked away, her long, tan and very exposed body attracting the admiring glances of every man on the beach.

Drake didn’t care.

He whipped his head around in time to see a figure in black slip into a car parked in the lot and drive away.

Before anyone else could stop him, Drake grabbed his towel and board and walked the few blocks through the streets of Venice Beach and back to his apartment.

His best friend Brad was still asleep, probably up late again writing. Drake showered, dressed and started a breakfast of bacon and eggs.

Percolating coffee and the smell of frying food finally convinced Brad to join the land of the living. “Dude, you get up way too freaking early.”

“You sleep in way too freaking late! On this, we will just have to agree to disagree. Eat some bacon,” Drake said as he served Brad a plateful of food.

“Thanks, man. How were the waves this morning? You ready for the surf competition?”

Brad shoveled breakfast into his mouth and Drake considered how much he should reveal about his unnerving morning. “I think I’m being watched.”

This put a halt to the eating. “Oh man, I told you this was a bad idea. You need to keep a low profile, dude. Stick to teaching surfing lessons to wanna be’s, but don’t enter an international surfing competition with major media coverage! What if someone finds you?”

The small two-bedroom apartment they shared felt even smaller. Drake fought the urge to walk out and escape back into his ocean, but even that holy place had been violated.

He put his dishes in the sink and paced the living room, starting at the stains in the brown carpet. Their bachelor pad wouldn’t impress many women, but it kept Drake close to the beach and Brad close to the newspaper he worked for. A happy compromise.

“This is important to me, you know that. I can’t spend my life as a beach bum teaching surfing, I want so much more than that! I could get sponsors and surf for a living. I’d never have to worry about money again. Besides, how would anyone even find me or know to look for me? That one incident happened years ago and I wasn’t held responsible. No one even suspected I had paranormal powers, why would they? People like me only exist in movies.”

Brad washed both of their dishes and spread out on their beige couch, his long limbs draping over the edge. “Maybe you’re right. It’s probably just a fluke. Maybe it was just a sponsor checking you out.”

“Maybe.” But probably not. The energy Drake had felt didn’t strike him as friendly or curious. Someone was after him, but who? And why? Could someone have found out about what he could do?

He grabbed his keys from the hook hanging by the front door. “I’m going to talk to Father Patrick. Maybe he has some ideas about all this. Plus, I promised Mrs. Maypol I’d help her move some of the garden statues around.”

Brad got up and pulled his laptop from the computer bag he kept by the couch. “Be careful, man. And tell Father Patrick I said hi.”

Drake closed the door behind him and left Brad to his computers and quest to become a top journalist.

St. Michael’s Catholic Church in Venice had become home to Drake after his fifth foster family had taken him once for an Easter sermon. The stained glass windows and the colorful gardens guarded by Angels had stir stirred a longing in him—not like the ocean, which even at ten years old had stolen his heart—but still, this place had its own power.

The real draw, however, turned out to be the old priest, Father Patrick.

Drake parked on Naples and turned the corner towards the large oak carved door that  had never been locked for as long as Drake could remember.

A young Mexican woman pushed a cart full of fresh tamales down Coeur D’Alene Avenue and, on impulse, Drake stopped her and bought three, one for himself and one each for Father Patrick and Mrs. Maypol.

She smiled and lowered her eyes. “Gracias.”

De nada y gracias.” He took a bite of the first tamale. “Muy bueno.

Her smile brightened and she honked the bike horn on her cart and walked on.

Drake ate his tamale in a few large bites and walked into the church with the other two palmed in his hand.

He expected to see Father Patrick shuffle down the aisle to greet him, but the old man was nowhere to be seen. A feeling of serenity settled on Drake as he breathed in the stillness of the room. The sea had a constant pulsing energy that soothed, but here the quiet and calm had its own effect on Drake’s racing mind.

Drake made the sign of the cross and kneeled out of habit, then exited a side door towards the gardens. While not religious, it didn’t hurt to honor the ways of his friend while in his church.

The scent of roses greeted him as strolled down the cobbled paths.

A scream broke Drake’s reverie and he rushed towards the sound, his heart pounding in his chest. One of the large stone angels lay on its side, with a young man pinned underneath. His screams filled the small courtyard.

Mrs. Maypol held the man’s hand and cried so hard her plump face matched the orange-red of her hair. “I’m so sorry. I’m so sorry.”

Father Patrick stood with a cell phone in his hand and a deep frown on his weathered face.

Drake didn’t think, he just acted. He tore off his shirt and created a tourniquet with it, then handed it to Mrs. Maypol. “Keep him still! As soon as I life the statue, tie this around his leg above the injury, immediately. Make it tight.”

Though he didn’t use compulsion, no one argued. She nodded, sweat pouring down her face from fear.

He looked into the terrified eyes of the trapped worker. His right leg was crushed under the statue that probably weighed about two thousand pounds. “Just hold on. I have to get this off of you. When I do, the pain will be unbearable. Be ready.”

The man didn’t look ready for that at all, but Drake couldn’t wait. He gripped the angel around the shoulder and pushed. Power flooded his veins and muscles. Super human strength flowed into him. His muscles bulged, his thighs stretched his jeans to near tearing, his arms and torso turned rock hard. Still he pushed more, willing the angel to fly.

And then it did.

In a heart beat the statue stood on its base and the now-freed man screamed again and passed out. Mrs. Maypol did her job quickly, tying the shirt around the top of his thigh. He’d likely never walk normally again, but at least he would live.

The surge of adrenaline and power spent, Drake slumped against a bench and hung his head. He wasn’t tired, exactly, just depleted.

Father Patrick spoke rapidly into the cell phone. Sirens blared in the distance. Drake realized he’d made a mistake. No one could know about his strength. He sought answers in the eyes of his priest.

He covered the phone with his hand. “Go to my office and stay there until I get you. We’ll figure out something to tell them.”

Drake slipped back into the church moments before the medics crashed through the garden.

He hid and he waited. Would Father Patrick be able to protect him, or would he finally be exposed to the world? And what would Mrs. Maypol say?

Drake paced the small office for so long he could have sworn there would be ruts in the hardwood floor from his feet.

There weren’t, but that didn’t make him feel any better.

He read every title on the bookshelves that lined the wall—mostly religious books, but, surprisingly, some fiction and a few books on psychic powers and Occult Studies.

The small golden cross on the wall behind the desk looked recently polished and gleamed in the light. Drake felt no power from it, and had no attachment to a symbol that just represented death to him.

Despite every attempt to distract himself, his mind returned to what had just happened.

He worried about the man he’d saved. He worried about Father Patrick and Mrs. Maypol and what they’d say. And he worried about himself. He rarely felt vulnerable. With the powers he controlled, he didn’t know anyone who could pose a risk to him. So why didn’t that reassure him this time?

A creak sounded from the hall.

The doorknob twisted.

Drake froze and waited, ready to attack if anyone but Father Patrick walked through that door.

The door opened.

And Father Patrick walked in. “Relax, boy, it’s just me. You’re safe.”

In that moment, Drake had to fight the urge to cry. What the hell? He never cried, ever. He scowled instead and then smoothed his face when he caught the old priest looking at him.

Drake sat in the guest chair in the office and Father Patrick sat behind his desk. “You saved that boy’s life. The medics said if he’d been trapped any longer he would have been dead before they got here.”

“What did you tell them?”

“That God saved the boy. It was a miracle. Mrs. Maypol backed me up. An angel came from the sky and moved the statue. They think we’re crazy and they likely have no idea what to write in their report, but they’re gone and no one knows you were involved.”

Drake smirked. Leave it to Father Patrick to get away with that kind of story.

A weight lifted from Drake’s shoulders—another possible exposure averted.

“Where’s Mrs. Maypol? What does she think about all of this?”

“She went to the hospital with Ralph, that’s the man you saved. He was helping us move some things around in the garden. And, I think she’s suspected there’s more to you for a long time. She loves you and would never betray you, don’t worry about that.”

“That’s not what worries me.”

Drake told the priest about his morning and his suspicions. Father Patrick stayed silent until the end.

“What do you think you should do?”

Drake sighed. “I hate when you do that.”

“When I make you think for yourself? Yes, I’m wretched that way.”

“I want to stay in the competition. I can’t live my life in hiding forever.”

Father Patrick’s kind eyes held Drake’s for several long moments. “You’re on a path none of us can understand. You have to do what’s right for your heart. I can only tell you that I do see dark spirits around you, so whatever course you choose, be careful.”

His words sent chills through Drake. Father Patrick’s sixth sense was unparalleled. If he said Drake was in danger, Drake believed him, but that didn’t mean dropping out of the competition would keep him safe.

Drake said goodbye to Father Patrick, and an unexpected melancholy swelled in his heart. He hugged the old man, who stood a good foot shorter than him.

“I’ll come by tomorrow to help with the rest of the garden.”

The priest pierced Drake with his eyes. “Be well, Son. Whatever happens, know that you have a destiny to fulfill in this world.”

Strange parting words, but not unusual for someone who enjoyed the cryptic.

Still, Drake felt unsettled.

The feeling intensified as he walked out.

A horn beeped and the shy girl who’d sold him tamales not so long ago walked by once again with her cart, only her smiled had turned to fear. “Señor, alguien que ha destrozado su coche.

“What? Who vandalized my car? What did you see?”

The force of his words frightened the timid girl. He calmed his voice. “I’m sorry to scare you. Please, tell me what happened.”

He followed her around the corner to his car, which sat lower to the ground than it should, and… something had been painted on his windows.

“Shit!” He ran to the car, fearing what he’d find.

All four tires had been cut and the word “FREEK!”—misspellings and all—had been spray painted across his window.

“Who did this? Did you see?”

Her eyes widened. “I sorry. I couldn’t stop him. I scared of big man in black.”

“It’s okay. You did the right thing. It’s not worth getting hurt over. Thank you for telling me.”

The damage looked like some kids pulling a prank, but a big man in black sounded more like a hit posed to look like a prank. Why? To scare him?

Drake pulled out a twenty dollar bill and handed it to the girl. “Thank you for telling me.”

She nodded, slipped the money into her pocket and left quickly.

Drake pulled his phone out and called Brad. “Dude, someone knows.”

Chapter 4-Sam

Music blared from Luke and Lucy’s suite, next door to my own room. I let myself in and plopped on their overstuffed purple couch. Lucy saw me first and turned down the radio. “What happened?”

I tossed her the file. Luke walked through the wall from his bedroom into the living room and stood behind his sister to read. He frowned when he noticed the dates. “What about your interview, and the contest?”

“Higgins said he’d try to get me in, but I’ve got to take this assignment.” I sighed and flopped back on the couch. “This totally sucks.”

Lucy sat next to me with her arm draped over my shoulders. “At least you got your painting done. Come on, no more moping. It’s Saturday. Let’s eat junk food and watch movies.”

So we did. All weekend long.

When Monday arrived, so bright and early, I had a major sugar hangover, but my mood had improved from sustained and prolonged contact with my cheer squad. I survived Calculus, barely, and Computer Programming, with Lucy’s expert help—the hacker genius that she was— and a few other classes not worth mentioning and finally made it to my favorite class of the week. All of us had an advisor with whom we met once a week to practice our para-power skills. I had Mr. K.

His normally angst ridden self was more angsty than normal today, if his all black wardrobe and scowl were any indication. Still, my face lit up when he walked into the studio five minutes late.

He dropped his black leather satchel by his desk and sat down with a dramatic thud. “Sorry I’m late. It’s been… a day.”

“No problem. I’m just glad this is my last class.”

He grunted and turned to pull out a sheet. “I’d hoped we could talk more about your painting, and the art contest, but Higgins called me into his office and said I had to turn in an evaluation of you—immediately. That’s why I’m late, if you care.”

My heart skipped a beat. “Evaluations aren’t due for months. Is everything alight?”

The vein above his eye popped out and his fist clenched the paper as if it were something evil to be destroyed. “Is anything ever okay when it comes to this place?”

“Mr. K, why do you hate it here so much? Isn’t this your dream job?”

The noise that came out of his throat didn’t sound human. “More like nightmare. But I can’t really talk about this, Sam. I’d get us both in trouble. And don’t go probing my mind for secrets; you won’t find anything helpful, just a few new expletives that a young lady such as yourself shouldn’t use.”

His glare challenged me to defy him, but I knew better. The few times I’d slipped into his mind uninvited hadn’t ended well for either of us. I’d been in messy minds, tidy minds, perverse minds, but none as chaotic and terrifying as Mr. K’s.

When I made no move to speak, he nodded and continued. “Today, you’re going to draw what’s in my mind and, based on how well you do, I’ll grade you for this ridiculous evaluation. Okay? Don’t worry, I’ll keep my mind calm for the assignment.”

“Um, sure.” This seemed a bit easy, but whatever. I reached for my bag to grab my supplies.

He put a hand up to stop me. “I have something for you.”

He handed me a brown leather-bound sketch book that looked well-used and smelled of old places and history. A round gold emblem was pinned to the cover. Its intricate shape reminded me of one of those meditation circles, but with a more elaborate design. The pages inside spoke to me in their own language, teasing me with drawings yet to be sketched. I loved it immediately.

It even had a special compartment in the front for my pencils, and the paper looked like it could be refilled. I pulled out the pencil already held there and opened it up to the second page, saving the short dedication he’d written on the first page for a later read.

The chair underneath him squeaked as he pulled it forward, so that we were uncomfortably close to each other. “Sam, it’s important that you keep this sketch book, and this sketch, safe. Do you understand?”

I nodded, though I didn’t really understand his urgency, and poised my pencil to begin sketching.

He closed his eyes and I dipped into his mind. Humans don’t think in linear thoughts, not usually. Most of the time people’s minds are crowded with a blend of words, images, emotions, sensations and subconscious whispers. I spent a lot of years learning how to fill in the blanks and make sense of it in a way that would serve my work, so it wasn’t difficult to push past the clutter to find the brightest image to draw. I just had to stay away from the dark corners, the places where his thoughts hadn’t been tethered to the sane.

My hand raced furiously over the page, as if on autopilot. Thirty minutes later Mr. K opened his eyes to examine my work.

“Remarkable. Sam, you’ve outgrown me in talent and ability. I’m so proud of the artist you’ve become.”

I looked at the sketch in my hand and had to admit it rocked.

A wooden box carved with the same symbol as my new sketchbook and lined with detailed carvings of nature took up the whole page. The box seemed to come alive as if begging me to open it.

Mr. K smiled and made a few notes on his evaluation form. I guess I passed.

The next morning I waited by the front gate with Old Charlie and my very own bodyguard. He introduced himself as Gar. What kind of name was Gar, I wondered. Gar didn’t talk much, but was big and scary looking with rippled, veiny muscles and a jaw so square it looked cartoonish, so I supposed I’d be safe from any renegades who tried to hurt me. I clutched my overnight bag to my chest and shivered in the cool morning breeze while I waited for the limo to take me to the secret air strip we used to fly to all of our assignments.

The limo arrived promptly at six and whisked me away. The drive only took twenty minutes, and I never saw a highway or city sign, just trees and valleys of nothing.

Once there, Gar grabbed my overnight bag but I strapped my backpack to my shoulders, not wanting to lose control of my most precious belongings. I boarded the Cessna Citation X, the world’s fastest mid-sized jet, and sank into one of the plush leather seats. I knew the drill. Once we were airborne, Lollie, the stewardess, came to my seat with a needle balanced on a silver tray. I closed my eyes as she injected the drug into me, the one that would render me unconscious for the duration of my trip. This was for my protection, so I’d never be able to disclose the location of the Rent-A-Kid school.

Darkness overcame me and I slept.

Something cool and soft tickled my forehead. My eyes pried themselves open and my head attempted to clear itself of the drug-induced fuzziness. Lollie had her small hand pressed against my skin. “Time to wake up. We’ll be at our destination in thirty minutes.”

She handed me a cup of orange juice and a turkey sandwich and helped me get my seat into an upright position. The rush of sweet sugary fruit gave me clarity and a burst of energy. I tackled the sandwich like a man who hadn’t eaten in a week—common side effect of the drug.

With a few minutes to spare, I used the bathroom and brushed my teeth, then pulled my long brown hair into a bun. A quick touch-up to my lip gloss and a bit of mascara to accent my blue eyes and I was ready to roll.

I went back to my seat and reviewed my file on the client one last time, though I knew the whole thing by heart. New last name, new identity. Each assignment we got a new name, but I didn’t actually have a last name of my own. Didn’t need one, really.

We landed at another private air strip, where a middle-aged driver in a tux waited for us. “Sam Tinsley? Mr. Dollinger is waiting for you. Please come with me.”

I climbed into the back and Gar sat in the front with the driver. I was told we were in Utah. This didn’t register as anything terribly exciting for me. Once the limo hit the highway, I pulled out my new sketchbook and began drawing what I saw, which was mostly flatlands and farms, until we pulled into a wealthy neighborhood with big, lumbering mansions that looked out of place in their environment. Naturally, we beelined straight for the biggest, gaudiest one of them all.

A great cast iron gate with a lion’s head crest blocked our entrance into the palatial estates. Gar took a moment to confirm with the guard and, after a grating buzz and a few groans, the lion gate opened to allow us in. All around us bushes trimmed into lion sentries stood guard as we passed.

My breath hitched in my throat when we arrived at the front door and a tall, lean man in a suit came out to greet us. He smiled at me through the tinted windows, but the smile looked painted on, like a clown’s.

The driver opened the my door and I stepped out, straightened my spine and forced myself to meet my client’s eyes.

He played his part well and held out his arms for me. Did he want a hug? Not happening. I shifted back, slightly, but enough to get my point across. His eyes flickered a flame of anger before he smothered it with false sincerity.

“You must be Sam. I haven’t seen you since you were a baby, but your father says such great things about you. I’m sorry for everything you’re going through, but I assure you, no harm will come to you while you’re here.”

Before I could reply, a small boy of about six ran out the front door with all the enthusiasm of youth. “Is she here? Is she here yet, Uncle Henry?”

I raised an eyebrow. “Your nephew?”

He mussed the boy’s hair while maintaining eye contact with me. “The Beaumont’s son. We’ve been partners so long we’re practically family.”

I chocked on his words. Right, family that’s ready to throw each other under the bus for a buck. I shoved the judgment deep down and played my part in this farce with as much enthusiasm as I could.

“Daddy says to say hi, and that he still remembers the night you drank too much and threw up on his date.” I giggled like a rich, ditzy teenage girl and then smiled down at the boy who hadn’t stopped staring at me. For a moment, I let my real self come through. “Hi there. I’m Sam, what’s your name?”

All boyish boldness fled as he dropped his big brown eyes and shyly muttered, “Tommy.”

“Well, Tommy, did you know that I can draw any animal you can think of? Even animals that don’t exist?”

His cherub face lit up in the happiest smile I’d ever seen, and I instantly fell in love with the little kid. A pain of guilt hit my heart. Tommy belonged to the Beaumonts—the family I had been hired to ruin.

Chapter 5-Drake

At four in the morning, Drake woke and couldn’t fall back asleep. He hadn’t told Father Patrick about his car, or reported it to the police. Brad gave him enough grief as it was.

Drake rose, made coffee and sat on their balcony that overlooked the beach. The sun hadn’t found its way to the coast yet, so Drake waited for sunrise in silence.

The crashing waves and smell of salt water tried to calm him, but this time they failed. Despite his still body, his mind hammered out worry after worry. Brad had made him swear he’d at least consider dropping the competition, but Drake knew he wouldn’t. He refused to run away from his dreams because of a few blown tires and a bad feeling.

Oranges, reds and purple hues filled the dark sky as the sun peeked over the ocean’s horizon and cast its reflection against the water. Drake waited for the sun like a man waiting for a lover to come home. When the bright morning rays reached the balcony, he closed his eyes, basked in the warmth and let all worry go for just a moment.

Brad’s voice broke the spell. “You’re going through with it, aren’t you?”

Drake didn’t speak, but he nodded.

“Come on then. I’ll walk with you.”

They left for Venice Beach, where hordes of people would be gathered to see the competition—next stop, Hawaii.

This had been Drake’s dream since childhood. Each time he landed in a new foster home, he prayed it would be near the ocean. When it wasn’t, he’d take busses for hours to get to the beach. Nothing could keep him away then, and nothing would keep him away now.

They’d arrived early enough that a large crowd hadn’t yet formed, and Drake found a spot for their boards and supplies, then put his wetsuite on, removed his surfboard from its bag and rubbed it down with surfwax. The exotic coconut sent tickled his nose.

Soft arms wrapped themselves around his waste. He turned to face Kylie, and frowned.

She’d been a fling that had become too clingy. Drake didn’t have time or interest in a girlfriend, but Kylie didn’t seem to get the message.

“Drakey, you didn’t come over last night.”

He backed up and placed his board between them. “What do you want, Kylie?”

“I’m your cheer squad, and I missed you. You never come by or hang out anymore. I just thought maybe you could use a little fun before you hit the waves. We could head to the bathrooms for a some privacy.”

Drake cringed in disgust. “Look, I had a good time with you, but I’m not looking for a relationship.”

She puckered and pouted and puffed out her chest. “But we’re so good together.”

“No, we’re really not. Go find someone else to drape yourself on. I’m not the guy for you.”

He waited for her to leave, but her eyes turned to slits and she crossed her arms over her chest. “You can’t get rid of me so easily, Drake. I’m not going anywhere. We belong together and I’m not leaving until you see that.”

Seriously? His temper flared to life but he pushed it down. “Get out of here, Kylie. I mean it.”

She reached for him and pushed herself against his chest. “Don’t you want to at least say goodbye properly?”

A war raged in Drake. He couldn’t use force on her; he didn’t want to hurt her and he didn’t want to attract attention.

The murmur of voices around him faded into the background and his focus zeroed in on her vacuous mind. In a voice anyone else would have had to strain to hear, he pushed all his power at her. “Go away, Kylie, and leave me alone. We’re done.”

He hadn’t just nudged her this time, he’d put the full force of his power behind the compulsion. She nodded, a vacant expression on her face, and walked away without another word.

A small twinge of guilt plagued him, but he ignored it easily enough. She’d be fine and would latch on to another hot guy like the barnacle she was soon enough.

Brad arrived with two bottles of water. “What’s up with Kylie?”

“Nothing. She won’t be coming around anymore.”

Brad didn’t say anything after that and Drake appreciated the silence.

He needed to get into the zone and prepare for the competition and the creeping sense of being followed had only gotten worse.

Max McKerry broke the silence for them as the celeb surfer walked by and knocked into Drake’s board. “You think you’re going to beat me with that piece of shit? Dream on loser.”

Brad rolled his eyes at Drake but directed his comment to Max. “Get a life, man. Do you really think anyone here is scared of you.”

The cocky smile plastered on Max’s face didn’t flinch or fade in the least. “It doesn’t matter. Your friend’s going to lose either way. No way a homeless orphan is going to win this competition.”

Words had no power over Drake. The insults slid off his back like water. One thought and this ass would be groveling on the hot sand begging to kiss Drake’s toes, but that’s not how he wanted to win, so he ignored the jerk and stayed in his zone. He didn’t get off on the competition against others, the real journey existed only between himself and the ocean. Her power claimed him, and nothing else mattered. The glory, the sponsors, the trophies—they were only a means to an end, a way to live well, to have financial security while doing what he loved.

Max may have had a better surfboard and more fans, but he didn’t know this water like Drake.

Brad grumbled and set up his chair in the sand. “I don’t know why you don’t put that guy in his place. He’s a jackass.”

“No point. He’ll find his place when we’re in the water. I’m not worried about it.”

Drake’s confidence was not misplaced or unfounded. Each set brought Drake closer to victory as surfers were weeded out.

Now, three surfers remained; him, Max and a girl named Chrysta who had surprised them all with her entry. The surf crashed to the beach and pulled Drake into the open arms of the Pacific. He let everything go and emptied his mind of all worries, angers and fears. Floating and bobbing in the swells of water set his mind at ease. Thoughts floated in and out like the currents, but he paid them no mind; he only waited for the right wave.

Then it came, and all his focus went into his paddling. Every muscle, every ounce of energy pushed him forward towards the wave. In that last moment, he stood and glided on top of the wave, slicing through the surf. Eckharte Tolle wrote “if the primary focus of of your life is the now, then you will be free from pain and suffering.” Drake understood those words only when riding a wave. In that moment, nothing else matters and no other thoughts or feelings have any chance to hatch and take hold. In that moment, only the wave matters.

In a perfect moment of synchronicity and connection, the water wrapped around him and formed a watery cocoon from which he would emerge reborn. In that state of bliss he didn’t notice Max cutting him off. He didn’t feel the pull until his board threatened to spill him into the depths of the ocean.

With paranormal strength he steadied himself and kept his feet under him. A look of surprise flashed across Max’s face before he directed his attention to the wave that also threatened to engulf him.

Both men rode their boards to shore and were greeted by hundreds of voices cheering their success.

To anyone watching, they had just scored a serious victory. Even the judges wouldn’t be able to tell that Max had cheated and tried to sabotage him.

Words mattered little to him, but Max had pushed it too far and had just declared war.

Drake shoved Max to the sand using a touch more than normal strength, just enough to sting. “What the hell, man? Are you so desperate to win, and so afraid of me that you would cheat?”

Max’s eyes turned cold, but he pushed himself up and stared at Drake. “I don’t know what you’re talking about, but do that again and I’ll make sure you’re disqualified from the final round.”

A group had formed, drawn into the drama. Drake passed his board to Brad and stormed off towards the showers to cool down before he blew it for good.

All his attention was focused within, and he didn’t feel the threat to him until it was too late.

The warm sand squished under his feat, and the hot sun blazed down on his head. His senses came to him in increments.

He stripped off his wetsuit and stood under the showers, letting the warm water wash away the sand, salt and anger. Today could change his life forever; he just needed to keep his cool and ignore Max.

He’d been so absorbed in his rage, he hadn’t noticed the buzz of warning under his skin that someone was watching him.

By the time he felt it, it was too late.

Something stung his shoulder.

He reached around and pulled out a dart. His thoughts swirled around in his head and his recent clarity gave way to a jumble of incoherent ramblings.

“Dude, are you all right?”

A voice spoke to him, but male or female, he couldn’t tell. His vision blurred and he slumped onto the wet cement, with the now-cold water spraying over him until it ran out of time and stopped.

“Drake, you’ll be okay. Come on, boy.”

Again, a voice he didn’t recognize. He reached out with his mind to stop whoever was touching him, but nothing happened. His power didn’t work. Then he felt it, the compulsion to obey directed at him as someone siphoned his powers from him.

When hands pulled him away from the familiar noises, he tried to fight with his muscle.

“Damn it, he’s still too strong. Get him to the van, quick.”

“Relax,” a voice said to the other. “Drake, you will relax and walk quietly to the van with us. You will not put up a fight or make any noise.”

He nodded and walked forward.

Before Drake could process anything more, a painful whack to his head sent him tumbling into darkness.

The leader yelled at whoever had hit him, but Drake faded out before any other thoughts could enter his mind.