Academy Bully Romance Sneak Peek

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Synopsis:

You have been selected to attend Zodiac Academy, where your star sign defines your destiny.
 
If you’re one of the Fae, elemental magic is in your blood. And apparently it’s in ours. As twins born in the month of Gemini, we’re a rare breed even in this academy of supernatural a-holes.
 
Changelings were outlawed hundreds of years ago but I guess our birth parents didn’t get the memo. Which means we’re totally unprepared for the ruthless world of Fae.
 
Air. Fire. Water. Earth.
 
No one has ever harnessed all four of them, until we arrived. And it hasn’t made us any friends so far.
 
As the rarest Elementals ever known, we’re already a threat to the four Celestial Heirs; the popular, vindictive bullies who happen to be some of the hottest guys we’ve ever seen. It doesn’t help that they’re the most dangerous beasts in the Academy. And probably on earth too.
 
Our fates are intertwined, but they want us gone. They’ve only got until the lunar eclipse to force us out and they’ll stop at nothing to succeed.
 
We never knew we had a birthright to live up to but now that we do, we intend to claim our throne.
 
We can’t expect any help from the faculty when it comes to defending ourselves. So if the dragon shifters want some target practice, the werewolves want someone to hunt or the vampires fancy a snack then we have to be ready. But we’ve been looking after each other for a long time and fighting back is in our blood.
 
Today’s horoscope: totally screwed.
 
 
This is a full-length medium burn novel that is the first in a university-age academy series. Expect forbidden teacher romance and bully romance with mature content suitable for upper YA readers and onwards.

 

 

CHAPTER ONE

Darcy

 

I was halfway through the window when the police sirens sounded.

Pause. Breathe. Wriggle hips.

The window was a tiny thing with a metal latch digging into my belly. But I was under fed and had the determination of a pitbull. You’ve met your match Mr Window.

Sirens again.

My heart thumped a warning tune in my ears. I lifted my head, the bathroom below me familiar and haunting. I didn’t have to do this. Breaking and entering. Although technically I wasn’t breaking anything.

My sister was way better at this kind of thing. But maybe that was why I was here instead of her. I wanted to prove I could do it. So I was damn-well going to try.

Sirens. Closer this time. And whoosh, I was mentally carried away to a jail cell. Then weeping dramatically on a stand in court. “Guilty!” the jury chimed then bam, a metal door slamming in my face while I turned to my cellmate Patrice who had a gut the size of a beach ball and a menacing gleam in her eye.

At least she’s well-fed. 

Maybe prison was the answer to my prayers. Tory would kill me though. Although, to be fair, she was one mistake away from ending up behind bars herself. We’d be a force to be reckoned with in jail, queens of the condemned. Like Thelma and Louise if they hadn’t driven themselves off a cliff.

Mental note: ask Tor if jail is a decent Plan B.

For now, prison wasn’t on my to-do list. My senses were alive with adrenaline and okay just a little bit of fear.

Can I do this?

Or am I really just the useless twin?

I took a bracing breath. The chances were those cops weren’t coming for me. I just had to be fast as a precaution.

I braced my hands against the ice-cold tiles and pushed, my hips getting jammed and my butt waving like a flag as I hung out the back of the house. The midnight blue tips of my ebony hair were waving around like a sheet in a storm.

Push – wriggle – yes!

I clambered onto the toilet without grace and jumped down, my beat-up Converses as quiet as air as they hit the tiles. I took a moment to internally celebrate what I’d just achieved, rocking my ass to a silent tune.

I did it!

I yanked the door open, darting further into the house which I knew was empty and yet…

A knot frayed and tugged apart in my chest. A floorboard creaked beneath my feet as I moved and the sound was a thunder crack in my ears.

Pete’s at work. No one’s here.

His name in my head sent a violent chill through me. Up until three months ago this house had been mine and Tory’s home. If you could call it that. Pete had never thought of us as his kin. We’d been stuck here for our final year in foster care. And the day before we’d turned eighteen he’d shoved us out on our asses, since he was no longer entitled to the state fund for ‘looking after us’. But the only thing he ever looked after was a bottle of Jack and his precious fifty eight inch TV.

I slipped into the room which had been mine and Tory’s. Stripped bare already. He wouldn’t be getting any more foster kids now that Darla had left him. Nearly two months before our birthday she’d walked out and I couldn’t blame her. He’d conveniently forgotten to mention that to our social worker and we’d been too close to freedom to kick up a fuss.

There hadn’t been much to remove from the room except the bunk bed that had been too damn small and too damn degrading for a couple of grown-ass girls. Oh no, did I forget to thank you for that set-up Pete? I’ll be sure to do it on my way out.

I threw caution to the wind and jogged loudly across the room. I pressed my palms flush to the wall, moving, searching. I grinned as I found the right spot and my heart bounced with hope. I gripped the edges of the brick and pulled, the masonry coming loose until I revealed the little cubby hole Tory and I had used to stash stuff.

Reaching inside, I bit down on my lip in concentration as I tried to feel out what I was looking for.

Cash. A whole wad. We’d been thrown out of Pete’s house so hard and fast we hadn’t had time to grab it. And it wasn’t the type of thing we could have asked Pete to hand back to us. He’d have spent it on one night at the local casino. But we’d been saving for years. While I’d been hustling for money from students at school, buying and selling their unwanted crap for them and taking a profit, Tory had been doing something much more illegal. She never really went into it because she didn’t want to implicate me but I could hazard a guess at what it was. She always came home at ungodly hours of the night smelling of gasoline and adrenaline.

I couldn’t find it in me to care about the source of our funds. This money was our future. In this precious brick hole was nearly two thousand dollars. Enough for six months rent on our apartment. And a shitheap it might have been, but it was certainly better than a cold sidewalk.

Knuckles rapped against the front door – hard.

My gut plummeted. Pete didn’t have friends. He was a loner. A loser.

Cops imminent.

My fingers brushed the pile of cash and I snatched it in my fist, bundling what I hoped was the whole contents between my fingers.

A crash sounded as the cops battered the front door down. No no no no.

Heart in throat, I ran like there was a fire up my ass.

A door burst open down the hall.

“Freeze!” a male voice shouted. I threw a glance over my shoulder and all I saw was the barrel of a gun.

“Holy shit – don’t shoot!” I crashed into a wall in my panic, my shoulder bruising on impact.

“I said freeze!” the cop yelled.

Desperate, I lurched toward the bathroom, slamming the door shut and shoving the bolt into place.

No shots fired yet. That’s gotta be a good thing. Cops don’t shoot unarmed teenage girls, do they?

I shoved the cash into the back pocket of my pants, scooped up Pete’s toothbrush and dunked it in the toilet bowl. A thump sounded on the other side of the door but I was already halfway through the window and Pete’s toothbrush was back in its holder. Totally worth the five seconds it had cost me.

I squeezed out and hit the ground running, fleeing toward the back fence where I knew for a fact the neighbour’s Rottweiler had dug a sizeable hole. More shouts followed me. But the wind was tugging at my hair and my lungs were expanding with freedom. It was pure ecstasy, tumbling through me like a drug.

I pictured Tory’s face when I told her what I’d done to Pete’s toothbrush and couldn’t wait to hear her laugh over it. I’d doubted whether I could pull this off. I was usually the one who tripped over her own feet on a regular basis- but not today dammit.

“Hey – stop!” a female cop this time.

My dream died and my heart turned to ice. I dropped into a flowerbed and hauled myself through the hole under the fence. My jeans snagged on the underside of the sharp wood. It scratched my skin and I yelped as the sound of footsteps closed in.

“I need this money – it’s not even his!” I shouted, my heart wailing just as loudly in my chest.

Hands caught my ankles and my heart nearly combusted. I unhooked my belt and in that minute, I felt it. All of it. The cash cascaded down to the mud, brushing across my torn skin and falling to the ground.

I hadn’t tucked it in my pocket. I’d stuck it in my damn belt.

“No!” I kicked out at the cop, but she didn’t let go, her nails digging in.

“Sarge!” she yelled for back up and I could see my life fading before my eyes. Screw jail – it was a terrible Plan B!

A forbidding male voice filled the air which cut into me like a knife. “Let go of her.”

The cop released me and I thanked my lucky stars as I scrambled onto my knees. I turned back but a pair of large male hands were already wrapping all of our lovely green cash up in a ball.

That’s our life you’re taking!

I booted the fence hard, yelling my rage before turning and running as fast and as hard as I could in the opposite direction.

Whoever that guy was, he’d both saved my ass and ruined my life. 

Thanks asshole.

 

***

 

I trudged up the four floors to our apartment, caked in mud and furious as hell with myself. My hands were jammed in my pockets and I was soaked through from the downpour I’d just experienced for ten blocks. Chicago was having mood-swings. If it wasn’t the wind, it was the rain. It was September dammit, they were still sunbathing in Springfield!

I shivered as the cold trickled into my bones and made every single part of me numb apart from the pain of losing that cash and the shame that I’d failed us so deeply. 

I twisted my key in the lock, marching into the forty square foot studio with flaky green paint on the walls and exposed brickwork which didn’t look hipster, it looked like a half-finished job.

Tory was stretched out on the couch, thumbing her cellphone which had a jagged crack up the centre of the screen. At least she’d secured herself a smartphone, I was stuck with a Nokia from the 90s which did nothing but make calls – as if that was what a phone was for.

I shed my leather jacket with a dramatic huff and she glanced up, arching a brow. Her face transformed as she pulled herself out of technology brain and sprang to her feet. 

“Where have you been?” she asked, confusion gleaming from her olive green eyes which were the exact same shade as mine. Like everything about us. Bronzed skin, our lips full and wide. We were a mirror version of each other except for my hair’s dark blue tips. Maybe that was why we drove each other crazy sometimes.

I threw my jacket on the floor without answering, tempted to stamp on it but Tory sucked in a breath, pointing at me. I looked down, finding my hem stained red with blood from the fence catastrophe.

“It’s fine.” I tore the shirt off, dumping it in the garbage bag we’d strung up in the two foot kitchenette which didn’t even include a toaster. I swallowed my pride and prepared tot ell Tory just how much I’d failed us. “I decided to get our money back from Pete’s but the cops showed up. I ran…then I dropped the cash.” I was so angry with myself that I bashed my fist down on the counter. Clumsy idiot.

“That was two grand,” Tory gasped.

“I know.” I shut my eyes, my embarrassment devouring me from the inside out. I had to keep my head. I had to figure this out. Because we were so effing screwed if we didn’t. We’d only managed a few month’s rent here because we’d sold the single item of value we’d had when we left Pete’s. A Gucci handbag I’d spotted in a thrift store labelled as a knock-off. Pete hadn’t known that it was the real deal or he would have gotten his greasy palms all over it the second he could.

“Did they see you?” Tory demanded.

“Yes,” I sighed. “Pete must have gotten cameras installed or something…or maybe the neighbour. Who knows? It all amounts to the same thing. I messed up and we’re screwed.”

“They don’t know where we live,” Tory said thoughtfully.

“It’s the money though, Tor.” I flung myself on the threadbare couch we’d found down an alley – yeah things were that shit – and groaned. “How are we going to pay the rent?”

Tory perched on the edge of the couch, punching my shoulder in the way she always did to say she loved me. Tory wasn’t much for the feelings type, but that didn’t mean they weren’t there. And though I sometimes wished for a few more warm hugs, she always showed me she cared in her own way. “It’s cool, Darcy. I’m doing a job tonight. We’ll figure it out after that.”

“You are?” I glanced up at her with a hopeful look, my eyes anime wide.

“Yep.” She grinned, but I could tell she was still disappointed about the cash.

Dammit, if only I’d pocketed it. Why do I always mess everything up?

The rain was slowing to a drizzle as the evening rolled in and my stomach growled for a meal it wasn’t going to get.

“Sorry,” I sighed as Tory stared out of the window to the street. “But one good thing came out of it.”

She glanced over her shoulder at me, giving me a curious look. “What?”

“I wiped Pete’s toothbrush around the toilet bowl. The rim and all.”

Her mouth opened then she burst out laughing. My anger finally fizzled away as my own laughter joined hers and our hollow little apartment was filled with something good for once.

 

 

 

CHAPTER TWO 

Tory

 

“Spark,” I cursed, glancing over my shoulder to make sure I was still alone out here. The night was dark, shadows thick and silence deep in my particular spot of the multi-storey car park but I could never be too careful. The beautiful silver bike beside me was hiding me for the most part but if anyone spotted me, the game would be up.“Spark, c’mon!”

I brushed the wires together again and still nothing happened. Was there an extra security feature on this model that I didn’t know about? I’d done my research but limited editions were prone to random upgrades.

I half considered cutting my losses and getting the hell out there.

A high-pitched laugh sounded somewhere between the cars, my heart rate spiking in response.

Can’t see me back here. Not yet. They’re nowhere near close enough yet.

I wrangled my frayed nerves into line, releasing a slow breath through my nose as I forced my heartbeat to slow down. One last shot before I gave up.

I ground my teeth together, picturing the little spark of energy that I needed so desperately. If I wanted it enough it would happen. One final try…

I brushed the wires together and the stunning creature beside me purred as life was breathed into its engine.

Oh yes.

I stood quickly, pulling the black helmet down onto my head and sliding the visor into place so that my face was completely hidden. I made sure any final strands of my long, black hair were tucked up out of sight and kicked my leg over the bike.

“Let’s go for a ride,” I breathed, anticipation stroking my spine like a feather-light caress.

My fingers tightened around the throttle and I gave it a little tug, letting the engine growl beneath me. I bit my lip, a smile splitting my face. I wasn’t clear yet, I had to get this beauty across town to Joey’s if I wanted this to pay off. But I couldn’t help but spend a moment bathing in my victory as I admired the sleek, silver beast I was about to ride off on.

“Hey!”

My head snapped up as a security guard stepped out of the stairwell to my left. He obviously knew the owner of this beauty and the fact that that wasn’t me. “You there, what do you think you’re-”

I kicked the bike into gear and released the throttle before he could finish that thought. I shot forward, leaning low as I guided the super bike down the steep, spiralling ramp as quickly as humanly possible. If anyone was coming the other way then I was dead. Splat. Gone. Bye bye Tory. But not today.

The ground levelled out and I shot towards the exit. The barriers were down but that didn’t matter; the pedestrian access was wide open and I had a huge six inch leeway to guide the bike through. With no time to slow down it felt a little hairier than it should have and I inhaled sharply as I shot through the narrow opening, my left knee brushing the wall.

My heart was pounding, adrenaline shivering along my limbs but I was out. Now I just had to keep going until I made it to Joey’s and hope the cops didn’t catch me first. Not that they stood much chance while I was on this bad boy. With a top speed of one-hundred and eighty-six miles per hour and the freedom to take back alleys and sidewalks, I was pretty much home dry already.

I zigzagged between the traffic, sliding through a set of lights as they switched from amber to red and swung a left.

The flash of red and blue lights came from my right a moment before I heard the sirens and I threw another left hand turn into the mix before shooting down an alley between two apartment blocks and skidding out onto the street on the far side.

With the cops officially lost, I let the throttle loose on the long stretch of road before me, weaving other vehicles and narrowly avoiding a collision as I ran a red light.

My heart was pounding even harder now but not with fear. This was it. Half the reason I took these risks. Riding these machines made me feel alive unlike anything else. I wished I could take my helmet off and let the wind race through my hair at top speed with nothing but an open road ahead of me. Unfortunately my disguise would be ruined if I attempted such a thing. The baggy jeans and oversized brown leather jacket were not, in fact, an indication of my terrible taste in fashion but were actually cleverly selected to make anyone who saw me believe I was a man. With my long hair and feminine curves hidden plus the fact that people just preferred to think of men as criminals, my cover was pretty airtight. So long as I didn’t get caught.

The city lights sped by and I added an extra circle to my route just to make absolutely sure that no one had followed me. And if I was being totally honest, I wasn’t going to complain about giving this beauty another five minutes of my time either.

My bones thrummed with the power of the engine beneath me and for a moment I let myself feel the ache to just keep the bike for myself. Of course the idea was absurd. Where would a girl who could scarcely afford a cellphone have gotten a limited edition super bike from? No, I was destined to ride the bus as usual and my night time exploits would have to remain hidden.

Once I was doubly confident that no one was tailing me, I turned the bike down a sloping alleyway and rolled it to a halt beside the black shutters which marked the service entrance to Joey’s.

I revved the engine once before cutting it and stepping off of the machine I so wished to keep.

The seconds dragged as I waited for Joey to let me in and the tension in my gut coiled tighter as I glanced over my shoulder towards the road at the far end of the alley. If he didn’t hurry up I was going to reacquaint him with my left hook.

With a deep rattle which made me jump half out of my skin, the shutter was lifted. I didn’t wait for it to open all the way, pushing the bike inside and ducking beneath it quickly.

The shutter fell to the ground and I kicked the stand down before pulling my helmet off and turning my gaze to Joey.

He was a tall man, his dark hair slicked back with gel and his leather jacket stamped with the insignia of his bike gang, not that I had any interest in that. He was in his late thirties; not old enough to have stopped him from trying his luck with me in the past but too old for me to be interested. I was eighteen. He’d been my age when I was born. Gross.

Joey let out a long whistle as his gaze traveled over the bike. I didn’t waste my breath pointing out all of its features; he was one of the few people I knew whose knowledge on these machines rivalled my own.

“Pretty good, huh?” I asked with a smirk. This was by far the most expensive bike I’d ever stolen for him.

“Depends on your definition,” he replied, his gaze raking over the machine hungrily.

“C’mon, I know what it’s worth, don’t try and screw me over,” I said irritably.

“Yeah, it’s worth a lot alright. It’s also a limited edition.”

“I’m aware,” I replied dryly.

“As in very limited; they only made eighty-five of these beauties. How do you expect me to shift that? It may as well have a big flashing sign on it saying ‘stolen’.” Joey tore his eyes from the bike, raising an eyebrow at me as my heart sank.

I’d been caught up in the challenge of it. The moment I’d seen the bike I knew I just had to ride it. What I didn’t think about was this situation.

“Shit,” I cursed. “What does that mean for me?”

Joey tilted his head, eyeing the super bike again. “Four-hundred.”

“Fuck off, Joey. That bike cost over forty grand new and it’s only a few months old.” My palms grew slick as I kept my face in a mask of outrage and worry began to gnaw at me. We needed the money from this job. I’d been hoping for three grand at the very least and that bike was supposed to secure it for me.

“Take it or leave it,” he said with a shrug, moving towards the shutters as if he was going to open them again.

Please,” I bit out, the word nearly burning my tongue. “I need the money from this.”

“Why are you so desperate for cash all of a sudden?” he asked, eyeing me with something that almost looked like concern.

Because I need every penny I can get to get me and my sister the hell out of this backwards corner of nowhere and start our goddamn lives.

“None of your business,” I replied steadily.

Joey tutted. “Eight-hundred. Not a penny more.”

“Done,” I growled. It wasn’t as much as I’d wanted but it was better than nothing.

Joey moved away to locate the cash, heading up a wooden staircase to the building above us.

I pulled the old leather jacket off of me before I followed; it smelled of tobacco and peppermint. The guy I’d stolen it from obviously believed he could cover the one smell with the other. He was wrong.

I kicked the baggy jeans off next. Beneath them I was wearing a pair of skin tight yoga pants and my black boots came up to my knee. The red vest I’d coupled with it was just dressy enough to pass for something I’d wear clubbing, especially as I tugged it lower to make my cleavage more prominent.

I yanked the clips from my hair last, letting my black locks tumble to my waist as I ran my hands through it. No one would recognise me now. The man who had stolen that bike was long gone and I was just one of many girls out enjoying a drink tonight.

I followed Joey up the stairs, pausing outside his office as I waited for my money. He handed me a thick envelope and I didn’t bother to count the contents; he was always good to his word where finances were concerned.

I gave him a nod before heading further along the corridor and through the back entrance to the bar which acted as a front for his less than legal exploits downstairs.

The stench of strong liquor and unwashed man assaulted me as I passed through the crowd of bikers. 

The bartender spotted me and poured a shot of tequila into a glass before sliding it my way. I slipped between the bodies and accepted the drink as I leaned an elbow on the bar. I had no intention to stay long but I couldn’t turn down free booze. 

I knocked the drink back, my throat burning in response to the sting of the liquor as I slammed the glass down again. 

I turned to leave and found my way blocked by a wall of muscular chest wrapped up in a crisp white shirt. 

“Can I have a word with you?” he asked as I glanced up at him. 

He was tall, his brown hair pushed back in the kind of careless I’ve-spent-ages-making-this-look-accidental way that guys with too much time and money on their hands often went for. I guessed he was five or six years older than me, probably mid-twenties. Kinda hot in a straight-laced way which wasn’t really my bag.

“Are you lost?” I asked with a smirk. This was a biker bar. Facial hair, leather jackets and jeans were pretty much the uniform here and Mr expensive shirt and grey slacks stood out like a sore thumb. He did have a beard but it was carefully styled to look a certain way. The beards in here were more along the lines of crumb-hoarding face wigs than designer stubble. He was drawing attention and the last thing I needed right now was any extra attention. 

“No. I’ve found exactly what I’m looking for,” he replied, his deep tone almost lost to the heavy metal playing in the background. 

“Good for you. I’ll see you around.” I started to walk away from him but he caught my arm. 

“What the hell do you think you’re-”

Take a seat with me,” he said, his tone firm. 

I dropped into a chair by the bar and he sat down beside me, releasing my arm. 

Joey had made an appearance behind the counter and he raised an eyebrow at my choice of companion. I hadn’t actually meant to sit down and I frowned as I tried to figure out why I had. 

“You drinking tonight then, Tory?” Joey asked with a smirk as he filled another shot of tequila for me with half a smile. He knew I wouldn’t waste my money on alcohol but he was also pretty generous with freebies when I wanted them. No doubt it was a ploy to keep me sweet so I didn’t find anyone else to deliver my liberated merchandise to. 

“I think I’ll give it a miss after the events of last weekend,” I reminded him. Me and a free bar weren’t always the best combination and dancing on a table before falling from it wasn’t exactly my proudest moment. I still had a purple bruise the size of Utah on my ass. 

“Well one of these days I might-”

Leave.” The guy beside me said irritably and Joey headed to the far end of the bar without so much as a word of protest. 

I raised an eyebrow at his rudeness but he didn’t seem to care. I guessed douchebag ran through his veins too deeply for him to acknowledge it. 

“I think that’s my cue too,” I said, hopping from my seat and slipping back between the crowd of leather-clad bodies. 

Fancy-shirt snatched my arm again and said something which was drowned out in the crowd of voices and background music. 

“Back the fuck off,” I snapped, twisting my arm out of his grip as I slid into the throng of bodies. A few of Joey’s gang overheard me and stepped in to halt Mr Expensive’s advance as he tried to follow me.

I took my chance at escape and headed for the exit. Must be the full moon bringing out the pushy weirdos again. 

I ignored any further attention which was cast my way as I crossed the crowded bar. I didn’t want to drink tonight. I just wanted to get back and show Darcy the cash I’d managed to earn.

Eight-hundred dollars. I sighed as I fingered the envelope which was at least half as fat as I’d have liked. Next time I’d have to set my sights on something a little less flashy.

Although, as I thought back to the ride I’d taken to get here, my lips lifted a little. So maybe the payout hadn’t been quite what I would have wanted. But man that was a good ride.

The usual line-up of douchebags decorated the wall outside the bar, posing with their Harley Davidsons and bad facial hair. A couple of the younger guys eyed me with interest and I decided to skip the bus journey tonight.

“Any of you fellas fancy showing me what those machines can do?” I asked with a smile which was way sweeter than my personality.

My face was well enough known around here to allow me a measure of trust with the gang members though I’d made it clear I had zero interest in signing up.

“What’ll you give me for it?” asked a guy with a handlebar moustache.

Nothing you’re hoping for asshat.

“Which way are you headed?” a less gross male asked next. He didn’t even have any facial hair which may have been because he was incapable of growing any yet but that was okay. Young and hopeful topped old and lechy any day of the week. He was actually kinda nice looking and he had a bike so that was two ticks for him.

“Just outside Riverdale on the south side,” I replied hopefully. It was a fifteen minute ride at best but a good hour on the urine stained rust-box that served as a bus around here.

“Hop on then,” Babyface said with a grin as he pulled his bike out of the lineup, throwing his leg over it as I drew closer.

I gave the bike an appreciative once over. “Nice upgrades, dude,” I said with a smile. Either he was spending way too much money on putting this baby in the shop or he knew his way around a bike and a toolbox.

“Thanks, I did it all myself,” he replied with a smirk. My kinda guy.

I slid onto the bike behind him, wrapping my arms around his waist as he started her up.

Flashy-shirt stepped out of the bar just as the engine roared to life beneath us, his dark gaze set on me. He looked more than a little pissed as he took a step towards us, calling something I couldn’t hear over the growl of the engine. 

Take a hint, dude. 

I tightened my grip on my companion and a smile pulled at my lips as we shot away.

The wind braided my hair with icy fingers as we left the bar behind at a fast pace. Babyface knew what he was doing with the bike, easing past the speed limit and weaving the traffic in a way that set my heart racing with joy and my skin tingling with exhilaration.

In no time at all, we arrived at the outskirts of my less than great neighbourhood and he pulled over to let me off. I was still four blocks from home but there was no need to show the nice stranger where I lived.

“Thanks for the ride,” I said with a grin as I started to back away.

“You gonna give me your number this time, Tory?” he asked and I tilted my head, surprised that he knew my name. He seemed to realise it too and gave me more of an explanation. “I gave you a ride a few months ago and you said you’d give me your number next time.”

I couldn’t remember that. I eyed the bike. Nope, I’d definitely never ridden it before, though my memory of faces wasn’t so good.

“I used to have a Triumph,” he said, noticing my confusion.

“Oh, you’ve upgraded,” I said as the memory clicked together.

“I have. So what do you say? Will you let me buy you dinner some time?”

Hard to say no to free dinner. And he did know his way around a bike. And he was fairly easy on the eye.

“Can’t say no to that, can I?” I asked, reaching for his cellphone so that I could key in my number. “I didn’t catch your name.”

“Matt,” he supplied with a smile.

He hit dial as I handed his cellphone back and I smirked as I lifted the vibrating device from my pocket to show him that his call had come through. “Don’t you trust me?”

“Just checking,” he replied, giving me an appreciative glance. “I’ll call you.”

I watched as he rode away down the street with a faint smile pulling at my lips before I turned and started heading for home. I picked up a fast pace; the evenings were getting cooler now that we’d hit September and I was beginning to wish I’d brought a jacket out with me.

I jogged the last block, heading into our apartment with a sigh of relief as I pulled open the door at the foot of the stairwell.

“We didn’t finish our chat,” a deep voice came from behind me and I flinched in surprise as I turned back to the street. There, standing beneath the flickering streetlight was none other than Mr Expensive himself. 

Terror coursed down my spine and sent my heart into overdrive. 

I didn’t waste time on chit-chat with the stalker as I turned and bolted for the stairs, my heart thundering in my chest. 

I could hear his footsteps behind me and my mind filled with images of my broken body abandoned in a dumpster, food for the rats and a one-liner in the newspaper tomorrow. 

Holy fucking shit on a cornflake. 

“Stop!” He called and for some unknown, utterly terrifying reason, I did. 

My lips parted in fear as he gained on me and I managed to shake off the desire to stay still as I bolted again. I made it to the fourth floor, sprinting towards our door at the end of the corridor with the upside down seven hanging from it. 

I heard him cursing a moment before his solid weight collided with me. I was fast and had a good headstart, so how the hell had he caught up to me? He shoved me back against the door to our apartment and released a huff of irritation. 

I opened my mouth to scream and his hand slapped down over my mouth. 

The corridor was abandoned, even nosey Mrs Ergu from next door hadn’t stuck her beak out to moan about noise or cooking smells or goddamn trash collections and for the first time ever I wished to see her narrow-eyed glare.

“I’m Professor Orion. I’m not going to hurt you and you’re not going to scream. You want to let me in.” He released his grip on me and stepped back as I stared up at him, fear still strangling me but the desire to scream for help gone. 

I opened my mouth to tell him I absolutely didn’t want to let a random stranger into our apartment at midnight on a Sunday but my hands seemed to have other ideas. I shoved my key in the lock and turned it before I could stop myself.

“Come in,” I said sweetly. What the hell? I wasn’t sweet, especially with strangers. Especially, especially with stalker strangers.

Fancy-shirt stepped right into my personal space, offering me a flat smile as he followed me inside and pushed the door closed behind him. My heart was pounding, my palms slick and I was filled with the feeling that I’d just let a fox into my chicken coop. 

 

 

CHAPTER THREE

Darcy

I was snuggled up on the couch in my favourite pyjamas when the front door opened. I turned away from the episode of Breaking Bad where I’d maybe (not maybe) been taking mental notes on ways to solve our current predicament. Hope bloomed inside me as Tory walked in, but my smile fell away as I spotted two disturbing things: her bitter scowl, and a complete stranger marching into our apartment behind her.

I clung to the edge of the couch as the man side-stepped Tory, taking in our small apartment with a single, sweeping look. Heat invaded every cell in my body as his eyes fell on me, coal-like and dark as sin. He looked like a quarterback squeezed into a nice shirt and grey pants. His sleeves were rolled up to reveal muscular forearms and that trend continued from his biceps to his battering-ram shoulders.

A short beard clung to his chin, but he had an air of youth about him which suggested he was only a few years older than Tory and I. That could only mean one thing…

“Hell no.” I stood up, pointing at the couch which converted into the only bed in our apartment. “Go to his place, Tor, are you crazy? Are you really expecting me to clear out so you can defile our only bed?”

Tory shook her head, her lips pinching together tightly as she gave me a stare that said I’d gotten the wrong end of the stick. “Obviously not. This guy just…well he wanted to come in alright?”

“And that’s acceptable why?” I asked in utter confusion.

I realised Mr Shoulders was staring at my pyjamas with an expression that said he was wholly amused.

“What are you staring at?” I demanded, but heat slammed into my cheeks beneath my defensive facade.

“I thought I was coming here to collect a couple of eighteen year olds. Must have gotten the wrong apartment, little bunny.” He laughed at his own joke and I cocked my head, fury bubbling up inside me.

Bunny? I glanced down at the bright-eyed rabbits lining my PJs and planted my hands on my hips. My mouth dried up. Damn, why did I pick these today of all days? I quickly went on the defensive, wanting to divert as much attention away from my cutsie PJs as possible. “Who the hell are you? And why are you in my home insulting me?” I looked to Tory again and she gave me an apologetic shrug before turning to face him.

I moved to join her, slipping off of the couch and standing shoulder to shoulder with my sister. We were a wall, barring him from stepping a foot further into our apartment, but up close he seemed even bigger and I could have sworn those muscles were getting twitchy.

You were getting me a drink,” the stranger shot at Tory and she promptly walked into the kitchen and poured him a glass of water.

What on earth?

I stared at him, his gravelly tone suddenly sending a bolt of recognition through me. Crap. My mouth opened as the penny dropped. “You’re a cop. You were there today.”

He gave me an innocent look, a dimple puncturing his right cheek. “Where exactly?”

“Don’t play dumb with me.” I pointed at him as my heart rate ratcheted up. I could almost see the walls of the prison surrounding me and my cellmate Patrice cracking her inked knuckles.

Tory returned, thrusting the water into his hand with a strange look on her face. I wondered why she’d bothered. It wasn’t like her to comply with the orders of strangers. Or anyone for that matter.

The guy took it with a word of thanks then tipped it into his mouth. Glug glug glug. I watched his throat the whole time, lined with stubble, moving up and down.

When he’d drained the glass, he sighed satisfactorily and placed it on the kitchen counter. I dug my nails into my palms as I watched him take his time to make the arrest. Was he enjoying this? Or was he really just that damn thirsty?

Maybe I should run for the door. But I’m not going anywhere without Tory. And besides, I can’t see any handcuffs. Maybe he’s off duty. But then why is he here?

“I’ve been chasing around after you two all day.” He strode to the couch, throwing himself down in my spot and stacking his hands on his stomach.

“Just leave Tory out of this. I was the one who took the cash.” I glanced at her and she gave me an accusatory look for incriminating myself with the admission.

“Except you didn’t get the cash, you dropped it,” she pointed out and I pursed my lips.

“You mean this cash?” The guy lifted his ass and tugged something out of his back pocket, waving it above his head. And there it was: the wad of our beautiful two thousand dollars now bound together by a rubber band.

My heart did backflips as I stared at the impossible sight before me. Tory strode forward and snatched it out of his hand, perching on the coffee table as she counted every last note. He hadn’t even tried to stop her.

When she was satisfied it was all there, she looked up and pinned him with one of her coldest glares. He didn’t so much as raise an eyebrow, gazing at her with an equally cool look.

“So what do you want?” she demanded. “People don’t just hand cash over unless they want something for it, Mr Orion.”

Oh so he has a name.

“Professor,” he corrected and I frowned.

And a title apparently.

“How old are you?” No way was this guy a professor. Unless he was some hipster DJ who’d labelled himself as Professor Dizzy D or something equally lame. But he just didn’t have the tool vibe that accompanied that kind of lifestyle choice. He was entirely at ease except for a vaguely tense air about him that said we were the ones who were imposing on his day.

“Old enough to be a professor.” His eyes swung to me and seemed to suck everything in like a blackhole. My heart accelerated and I started to deeply fear having this stranger in our home.

I moved to stand before the couch, folding my arms as I waited for an explanation while trying to keep my cool. I wasn’t sure I managed the indifferent glare Tory was pulling off. Especially not in these pyjamas.

You’re going to listen to me and remain calm and collected,” he said in a powerful tone and I felt an instant desire to obey. I nodded easily, half aware that I didn’t want to listen to this random guy, but doing it anyway. I dropped down beside Tory on the coffee table and we both gave him our full attention.

He beamed at us and there was that dimple again. Just the one. Denting his masterpiece of a face and somehow making him even damn hotter.

“Since your eighteenth birthday, you have both been giving off a signature that my kind can sense from a world away. Literally.” He paused, letting those odd words sink in.

I opened my mouth to ask a question but he held up a hand to stop me, continuing in his gruff, baritone voice. “I will explain, just keep calm.”

I nodded, a lightness replacing the sneaking unease in my chest.

“Go on,” Tory encouraged, a frown lining her forehead.

He leaned back in his chair, rubbing a hand across the back of his neck. “I’m not a beat-around-the-bush kinda guy, so here it is: you’re not human. You’re Fae. Which means you have an unawakened power in you defined by the stars themselves. You belong in Solaria: a mirror world of earth where Fae rule. Are we keeping up?” A flash of dry amusement swept over his face and though I couldn’t find it in me to be angry, I was certainly frustrated.

I wanted to scream at him that he was crazy and he needed to leave or I was going to call the cops. But I couldn’t get past the floating calm taking hold of my body.

I shared a look with Tory, her nose crinkling as she gave me a he’s batshit crazy expression.

“You’re both Gemini,” he stated. “Hot-headed, hence the Coercion I’ve used on you to keep this all running smoothly. Especially as we’re already running late,” he muttered, lifting his wrist to check his watch. Dials and silver cogs spun wildly on the strange thing; it was unlike any watch I’d ever seen.

“Gemini…as in the star sign?” Tory asked. I’d always secretly liked reading horoscopes but Tory didn’t buy into stuff like that. I wouldn’t have gone as far as to say my star sign had any real impact on my life though. It just sort of intrigued me.

“Precisely,” Orion said. “Gemini is an air sign so once your powers are awakened you’ll-”

“Hang on,” I spoke over him and his expression told me he didn’t like that one bit. “Do you really expect us to believe we have powers? Like magic?”

“Honestly? I don’t care what you believe. But I have a job to do and part of that job is explaining this to you. Frankly, I’d rather not waste my breath as you’re going to find out soon enough anyway.”

“What does that mean?” Tory asked with less fury than I’d have expected from her.

“It means I’ve been trying to speak with you all day, but apparently breaking and entering and stealing motorbikes was on your agendas so I’ve been running around after you like a dog. And I really don’t like chasing people about so let’s just say I’m not in the best of moods right now.”

I pursed my lips. He was rebuking us like a school teacher. But he was just some strange psycho who’d strolled into our house and was apparently pissed at us for not making this easier on him.

His lips twitched with irritation as he checked his watch for a second time. “Right, we’re going.” He stood, tugging something out of his pocket and I stared up at him in utter confusion.

“Wait a minute.” I stood too but it did little to compete with his towering height. “You said we’re Fae? What does that even mean?”

“We’re a different race. A better one.” He shrugged and I scowled. “Careful Miss Vega expressions like that are punishable in my classroom.”

“Vega?” My nose wrinkled. “That’s not my name. Wait, please tell me you’ve got the wrong twins?”

He shook his head. “That is your true surname in Solaria. No one will call you anything else once you get there, mark my words.”

“Er- excuse me?” Tory cut in. Her jaw was gritted as if she wished she could have shouted those words. “We’re not going anywhere with some creep from the lobby. What drug are you on exactly? Judging by the fancy attire I’m gonna guess coke?”

The ‘professor’ gave her a predator’s smile that made my stomach knot. “Look, I have far better things to be doing with my time than standing here in a dingy apartment with a couple of girls who think I’m an addict with a screw loose. But I didn’t get a choice in the matter. So just humour me, will you?”

“You haven’t explained anything.” I shook my head and could feel an inch of my former fear raising its head. “And why should we believe anything you say anyway?”

He snatched up his satchel, flipping it over and pouring the contents out on our coffee table. A waterfall of papers fell everywhere, pages and pages. Pictures of us as babies, newspaper articles about the day our parents had died in a house fire. How we’d been pulled out of the ashes, two perfectly unharmed babies. A complete miracle. Amongst it all was our file for foster care. Every detail we knew about our history could be found amongst these cascading sheets of paper. So why on earth did this guy have them?

Orion sifted through all of it, extracting a photograph of our parents arm in arm on their wedding day. My father’s hand lay on our mother’s large belly, their eyes gleaming with happiness. I’d never known them, and I never would. And having that picture held in my face right at that second undid every chain that seemed to hold my emotions in check.

I snatched it from his hand, hugging it to my chest as the tears threatened a dramatic outburst which I couldn’t afford in front of this shiny prep guy.

“What are you doing with a photo of our parents?” Tory hissed.

“They’re not your parents,” he said coolly as if that didn’t rock the foundations of everything we’d ever known about ourselves. “You’re Changelings. Fae born. Elementals with natural magic flowing in your veins. Your real parents swapped you for the twins born to that couple.” He pointed at the photo in my hand and my brows dragged together. His expression was so impassive – how could he be so heartless? To just say such devastating things with not even a hint of emotion.

“That’s not true. You’re insane. Why would they do that?” I demanded.

“My guess? You were in danger,” he said with a shrug. “Or maybe you just annoyed them as much as you’re annoying me right now and they decided to swap you for less irritating twins.”

Tory looked like she was about to punch him and I wouldn’t have stopped her in the slightest.

“Get out,” she said in a measured tone.

“Fine, I tried.” He took a small silk black bag from his pocket and untied the strings. “Shame to lose out on your inheritance though. Your real parents were the wealthiest family in Solaria.”

“Right,” I muttered, fighting an eye-roll. This was like one of those scam emails where an African Prince had randomly chosen to give us two million dollars. Except this time the email had walked in the front door looking like a sport’s model – the balls on this guy!

“Wait…wealthy?” Tory asked, stepping closer, her anger seriously lessened.

“It can’t be true Tor,” I said under my breath.

She shrugged one shoulder. “Let’s hear him out.” She gave me a look that said jackpot but I wasn’t convinced.

“Yes. Hear me out,” he insisted and suddenly I nodded, wanting him to go on. He tugged the photo from my grip, eyeing it for a moment with a vague frown. “Look, I’m not trying to shatter your little daydreams about this couple but they’re just two random humans who got caught up in something much bigger. You don’t know them from Adam. And neither do I for that matter. The fact that they’re dead is a tragedy but they aren’t your blood. And blood’s all that matters in my opinion.” He shrugged, glancing between us. “You two would do anything for each other, I hope? Because this shitty life can go away like that.” He snapped his fingers. “All you have to do is agree to enrol at Zodiac Academy. You’ll get full board, have your own beds-” He gave the couch a pointed look, “-and your inheritance will cover the cost of your stay plus you’ll receive a monthly stipend from it. Once you graduate, it’s all yours. But only when you graduate. That’s the law.”

“So you want us to go to some school?” Tory asked.

“Yes. But not just any school. The best school.” His eyes glittered with his belief in that. “So what do you say?”

“I say you’re crazy,” I said.

“Yeah… but I do want the money.” Tory elbowed me in the ribs and I frowned.

“It’s full board?” I looked to Orion.

“Every meal,” he swore. “So?” He tapped his foot impatiently.

Neither of us answered.

Just say yes and come with me,” Orion growled.

“Yes,” we both said in unison without a moment’s hesitation.

Wait – what just happened?

Orion grinned from ear to ear. “Should’ve done that in the first place.” He jerked his chin at me. “Go get dressed, if you show up like that at Zodiac you’ll be eaten alive by the other students.”

My legs moved of their own accord and I cursed myself inwardly for obeying yet another of his commands. When I returned from the bathroom in jeans and a black vest, some of my fear had kicked back in.

“You mentioned magic…” I said, changing tact to see if I could break through Orion’s hard walls.

“Yes,” he said. “Water, air, fire, earth. You will both possess one Element, perhaps two. Your parents were very powerful, so I expect you will be immeasurably gifted.” Something about his tone told me he wasn’t happy about that.

He prised open his small silk bag, pinched something between his fingers and sprinkled it in his palm.

“What’s that?” Tory whispered as I inched closer.

“The rarest substance in Solaria and the quickest way to travel: stardust.” He lifted his head with a demonic smile. “Welcome to your Awakening.”

He blew the stuff right into our faces and I gasped. Thick, black glitter cascaded over us and I prepared to splutter, lifting a hand to shield myself, but instead my body felt like it had turned to vapour. Our apartment faded away and all I could see was the sparkling black substance clouding around me. It seemed to spread out and out until I appeared to be floating within an entire galaxy of the stuff.

My body reformed and my feet hit firm ground. I staggered forward and my forehead bumped into a hard body. I blinked as my vision restored and found myself face to chest with Orion. My hand was pressed flush to his stomach and I realised it much too late as he took hold of my shoulders and jerked me around to face the opposite direction. 

My heart bolted into top gear as I found myself in a sprawling meadow beneath a crystal clear night sky, the stars brighter than I’d ever seen them. Before us were over two hundred people all around our age, standing in a huge circle on an expansive meadow surrounded by trees.

Tory sucked in a breath and I moved nearer to her, goosebumps lining my skin as I promptly stepped away from Orion. I was tempted to reach out to my sister in a gesture of comfort, but my hand balled into a fist instead, knowing she probably wouldn’t appreciate it.

I glanced back at Orion in alarm. “What’s going on?” I asked, panicked.

“Did you just drug us?” Tory rounded on him.

“What is it with you and drugs?” he muttered. “Remember to keep calm,” he commanded a second later and that wishy washy feeling stole away my fear again.

A female voice rang through the air but I couldn’t see who it belonged to beyond the circle of teenagers.

“Get in the ring.” Orion pointed and we reluctantly moved forward to join the masses.

Two girls parted to allow us to stand between them, their eyes roaming over us curiously. They took our hands and Orion caught hold of mine and Tory’s wrists, pushing our fingers together to link the circle. Then he stepped back into the night and disappeared into the darkness.

At the centre of the ring was a tall woman in flowing blue robes. She had her arms raised in the air as she gazed up at the heavens and everyone else in the ring was watching her attentively. I had no idea what was about to happen and I shared a quick look with Tory to confirm she felt as lost as I did.

The long meadow grass tickled my knees and a cool wind pushed at my back. The woman dropped her arms and the wind fell deathly still, the whole world seeming to hold its breath.

“Welcome to Zodiac Academy. I am Professor Zenith of the Astrology department and it’s my greatest pleasure to Awaken your Elements this very night. Please lift your faces to the sky, students. It’s time for the stars to rouse your inner power.” Her tone was slow and dramatic and even though this whole thing sounded ludicrous I couldn’t help but hang on her every word.

She pushed the hood back from her head and midnight locks tumbled down around her. She was middle-aged, her skin pale and glimmering and her lips painted in a dark red lipstick. Her eyes fell on Tory and I and she jerked her finger toward the sky in an order. I realised everyone in the circle had looked up and we promptly followed suit.

The navy quilt above was aglow with stars and the milky way weaved through the centre of it all like a shimmering band of pink and purple dust. My mouth parted at the beautiful sight. In Chicago, you were lucky if you saw one star at night, let alone this spectacle. It was as if every other light in the world had been extinguished to allow the sky to dominate. There was no sign of the moon but even without it the stars were bright enough to cast a hazy silver glow over the meadow.

“Virtus aquae invocabo!” called Zenith in what sounded like Latin. 

Okay this is going from weird to mental asylum real fast.

Silence stretched out and I almost dropped my head to figure out what was going on when rain dotted my cheeks. Several others in the circle gasped and I looked to Tory, finding droplets peppering her cheeks too. But how was that possible? There wasn’t a cloud in the sky. 

A deep whirlpool of power seemed to open up inside me and my breathing stalled as I felt its strength coil around my veins.

This can’t be happening.

But it is. And I can actually feel it.

“If you feel rain, please raise your right arm,” Zenith called.

Tory and I lifted our arms and I spotted around fifty others in the circle doing the same.

“Good!” Zenith said excitedly. “You hold the Element of water inside you, just like myself.”

Some of the others who’d raised their hands started muttering keenly and a few without their hands raised grumbled and sighed. 

“Quiet,” Zenith hushed them. “Eyes to the sky once more. You will be tested for all Elements, though you are unlikely to have more than one my dears.”

I raised my eyes, my heart hammering as I thought over what she’d said. The Element of water? Did Tory and I really hold that gift? Even as I thought it, I was sure it was true. Like an innate part of me had awoken and it embodied water itself.

Holy crap we really do belong here.

“Rogo vim aeris!” Professor Zenith called out and a strong wind gusted through my hair. I looked to Tory, finding her hair moving in the same powerful breeze. Another fifty or so of the group seemed to be in the depths of the maelstrom but everyone else in the circle were clearly unaffected. My gut swirled and a fluttering feeling filled my stomach and sailed through my veins. It felt so natural, like my body had a whole other channel inside me alongside my veins and now it was flowing with the magic of two Elements.

“Raise your right arm if you feel the power of the wind!” Zenith commanded.

Tory and I raised our arms along with another random selection of the circle. A couple of which had raised their arms for water.

Eyes fell on us and a few words were exchanged which I didn’t catch. Zenith faced us, her brows lifting with delight. “You are of air and water girls. Your powers will be great indeed just like your parents’.”

I nodded but Tory gazed down at her hands, turning them over as if expecting to find something more tangible there.

“Is this really happening?” she asked me under her breath.

“I think so,” I whispered. “Either that or that dodgy professor slipped us something in his fairy dust.”

Tory snorted a laugh and Zenith fixed us with a glare. “Quiet! Eyes to the sky. You may be done here, but everyone else is not.”

We nodded, looking up again.

Air and water…could we really use magic related to those Elements? I could hardly wait to try it.

“Rogo vim terrae!” Zenith cried and I glanced down at the other students, wondering what would happen to those who had the next power. The edges of the grass tickled my knees and I searched the circle for signs of the next Element taking effect.

A deep well seemed to open inside me, filled with a pulsing kind of energy. It tingled and then coiled and rippled like an ever-changing being that lived within me.

Something brushed against my arm then curled around it. I glanced down, frowning as I found the grass growing up and spiralling around my wrist, as gentle as a caress. More of the fronds wrapped around my arms and I spotted the same happening to Tory.

She looked to me with her brows arched. “I thought it was rare to get two?”

I shrugged, confused as I spotted the other pupils in the circle who also had the grass hugging in around them. It took me a moment to realise everyone was staring at us, Zenith included.

“I- oh my…” she breathed, clapping a hand to her mouth. When she dropped it, she was smiling widely. “My dears, how wonderful. You have Earth as well. Three Elements is very rarely heard of. You will be amongst the most powerful students at Zodiac.”

A lump formed in my throat as that news settled over me. I supposed that was a good thing, but it all felt too surreal to really hit home. The other students were muttering and I caught strange words like ‘Celestial Heirs’ and ‘Vega Twins’.

“Eyes to the sky!” Zenith commanded once more and I looked up again with my heart pounding an uncomfortable tune. Why was everyone looking at us like that? Was it really that unheard of to have three Elements?

“Invoco virtutem ignis!” Zenith yelled.

Heat flared at my feet instantaneously and fire scored through the ground around me in a tight circle. The fire flickered out into embers, leaving a glowing red ring in the grass around my Converses. The exact same thing shone around Tory’s boots too.

My heart stalled as I stared down at the sight in confusion.

Four Elements? But Zenith said…

“By the stars!” Zenith cried and my head snapped up.

Everyone was staring. Hard. And not in a good way. Nearly a quarter of the circle had the same rings around their feet too but no one seemed to care about them.

“You hold every Element,” Zenith gasped, shaking her head as if she couldn’t believe it were true.

“Is that…bad?” I asked.

“Seems like it,” Tory whispered so only I could hear.

Zenith recomposed herself, clearing her throat while mutters broke out around us, loud and unavoidable.

“Of course not,” Zenith finally answered me.

“Looks like my boyfriend has competition,” one girl said, throwing a sharp glare in our direction. Her hair was a rich gold colour and perfectly straight, her face the kind of pretty you usually found in a make-up commercial. 

The girl beside her narrowed her eyes. “Are you really dating one of the Heirs, Kylie?”

“Yeah we’ve been together since forever, he texts me like every other week.” Kylie tossed her hair over her shoulder with an expression that said that was something to be proud of.

The chatter grew louder and Professor Zenith finally seemed to notice it. “Enough! Quiet! Your Awakening is over. If you have two – or more– powers you will choose between them and pick an Elemental house to join. Your head of year will now take you to The Orb where you’ll join the rest of the students and make that decision.”

I spotted Orion emerging from the shadows at her words, beckoning us to follow him. As the students moved in a tide toward him, his eyes locked on me. His gaze drank me in for an endless second, then he turned and looked away toward the dark line of trees at the edge of the meadow.

Tory moved to my side and I stepped close to her, biting my lip. “Why does everyone seem pissed at us?”

She shrugged one shoulder as if it didn’t remotely affect her, but her eyes told a different story. “Guess we’re about to find out.”

 

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