Tampa was burning. The flames danced in the distance, growing and twisting with the wind until they resembled a macabre ballet that destroyed everything in its wake.
I sat on the ledge of Park Tower, the thirty-six story building allowed me a view few witnessed. My feet dangled over the edge. The acrid scent of smoke stung my nose but I stayed, mesmerized as I watched the flames spread.
The wail of a fire engine broke through the hum of downtown traffic. The sound bounced off buildings as it sped toward the growing inferno. One wouldn’t be enough to stop this blaze.
I was tempted to intervene. The thought surprised me almost as much as the ease with which I pushed it away.
I wasn’t a hero.
I’d had no hand in its creation. The humans had started this one, and they could deal with the consequences.
I didn’t need to take on anyone else’s burden. I had my own shit to deal with.
Familiar resentment boiled under my skin as I stood, hovering on the edge. It would be so easy to step forward. I closed my eyes and flung my arms wide. Air lifted tendrils of my hair, it caressed my face. I imagined it whipping around me as I fell. Four-hundred and fifty feet was a long way down.
Would I survive the landing?
I spun and dropped to the safety of the roof, my heart hammering as I fled my dangerous thoughts. They chased me down the elevator and trailed behind me as I started my Jeep.
I knew it was stupid. Taking a stroll down memory lane while I was in this frame of mind was akin to torture. But I couldn’t seem to help it.
Everything reminded me of the past lately. No matter what I did, I couldn’t escape it.
So I gave in.
Parking in an abandoned strip mall off Fletcher Avenue, I shifted, the act as effortless as breathing. One moment I was a five-foot-six woman, the next I was a panther, my view barely four feet from the ground.
Relief trembled along my muscles as I gave myself over to the creature inside me. It had been too long since I’d allowed her to roam.
My paws were silent on the warm pavement as I scented the air for anything familiar. The blackness of my coat blended in with the lengthening shadows as the sun dipped in the sky.
I’d been stalking them for months; it was my new obsession. I’d caught a familiar scent in an apartment complex bordering Lettuce Lake Park last week but hadn’t had time to follow it. I ducked between buildings, loping along as I sought the familiar scent.
An hour later I hit pay-dirt: the soft scent of peppermint, forest, and familiarity. It was fresh, and it led into the park.
I growled as memories surrounded me. Feelings I’d thought long buried shoved their way to the surface. I closed my eyes and allowed them to wash over me.
I hesitated at the forest border. My body and soul wanted to find them, but my rational mind refused.
I yearned for an impossible future.
I should have left. I should have turned and walked to my Jeep and left the past where it was.
But I couldn’t do it.