For the festivities, here’s an entire chapter from the novel.
CHAPTER FOURTEEN Crazy. Not Stupid.
Uncle Henry insisted on driving me the two minutes to school as a show of authority in taking on my father’s parental role. In fact, he escorted me on campus and to detention to meet Adam.
Luckily, or maybe out of my uncle’s design, we arrived first. When they shook hands, my uncle morphed into a no-nonsense-FBI-dad, and I swear he grew two inches taller like he’d had to intimidate paranormal creatures as a career. Maybe towering over criminals felt the same to him.
And maybe, he’d teach me that someday.
Adam didn’t skip a beat as I took the front left corner desk by the window.
“I worry about the people your niece associates with. She has quite the potential to make a good REP agent, but she has to apply herself instead of being distracted by the nonsense.”
I walked back to Uncle Henry, who held my extra bag of books—I stuffed my backpack with snacks and divided my research into two shopping totes that wouldn’t see a vegetable for quite some time. I smiled up at him as I retrieved it silently from his grip and returned to my seat.
“She’s a good kid. I don’t expect she’ll give you much trouble. And the Walkers are good people, even if their son likes fireworks.”
The corner of Adam’s mouth twinged.
Mine, too. I should have figured my uncle knew everyone in town at least to some degree, but I hadn’t thought about it.
“Yes. Unfortunately, the destruction in one of our labs was a bit more extensive than some loud bangs and flashes of light. Dragons are not toys.”
“Then I hope the school isn’t handing them out indiscriminately.”
Humor shifted Adam’s stance, seeing the family resemblance in the way Uncle Henry defended me without denying my involvement in the Moon debacle.
“I wouldn’t know. Her instincts to run toward danger rather than from it is commendable.” Wow, did he just compliment me? “But until she’s had the proper training, we need to reinforce her need to seek out the proper authorities instead of rushing in.”
Damn. That hit an FBI nerve. Too many stories about not being prepared and getting myself killed echoed in the training sessions he’d run me through.
“We can agree on that,” Uncle Henry said as another student entered detention—totally his cue to stop before he embarrassed me. “You let me know what she needs work on, and I’ll be sure she has the practice.”
With a handshake, my guardian disappeared, and I dropped my head to my things before Adam could catch my attention and likely lecture me for that exchange.
A bag clattered on the floor catty-corner to me and a paper cup with lid scraped the top of my desk. Evan dropped into a desk with a cardboard cup holder and a second drink.
“You moving in?”
Radiating my embarrassment, I tucked the scarf more tightly around my ears. “If I have to be stuck here, I may as well make it a productive time.”
“Takes the fun out of getting detention.” The delinquent look Evan shot Adam’s way knotted my stomach. I did not want to get caught in the middle of whatever feud they had. At least not any more than I already was.
I shook my head and sipped the coffee he’d brought me—sweet but not too sweet, with milk but dark. Good, but not enough to have me bowing to his observational skills yet because the excitement in Evan’s smile terrified me as my mentor looked our way.
I yanked the first book from my bag and did my best to ignore the igniting of tension between them. Leave. Me. Out of it. I sighed into my history reading, mind growing numb and derailing into the little research I completed before Uncle Henry switched me to homework. He seemed proud of the projects I’d put together, but I was on punishment once I finally caved and told him about earning Saturday detention.
He expected me to clean the house this weekend on top of it. I needed to focus so I could get everything done.
Ancient History consisted of a list of names and abilities and dates, which seemed like it would be interesting, cataloguing the variations of different species over a period of time, but it grew tedious rather quickly. One leader clashed with another and had greed motivating them so that each generation had their own wars to fight. Family lineages flourished and died, and I really couldn’t care less.
After an hour, I had my scribbled notes organized to be typed for my chapter response and drained the remnants of my cold coffee. Stretching free of the heavy concentration and pure determination, I jolted at the sight of a dozen precise paper footballs lined up on Evan’s desk. He bent a fresh piece and creased it carefully with the back of his thumb.
Heat rising with my pulse. This was not going to be good. If Evan started a war in here, I was barricading myself in the back and waiting for the fallout.
Both of them seemed so calm and calculating. Adam scratching out notes on a pad as he scanned a book—somehow, he looked right doing it, which I never imagined before. He seemed more of the hands-on, teach-from-experience type.
I grabbed a couple snack cakes from my backpack and tossed one at Evan, who glared at me. “Before your sugar dips and you do something stupid.”
He scoffed like I’d offended him. “Crazy, maybe. Never stupid.”
Shifting in my seat, the coffee hit my bladder, but I didn’t want to interrupt the glare-a-thon. A few minutes more proved this an impossible task. I slipped from my seat and rattled off, “potty break,” on my way out the door.
“Hey. Where do you think you’re going?”
“You need permission to leave the room.”
“Try to stop me, and we’ll both get wet.”
Blonde brows shot high on his forehead, and Evan grinned as I slipped out the door.
Relieved, I returned to Evan examining his paper footballs between two fingers, clearly aligning them with Adam’s desk. He might say crazy, but what he was obviously planning seemed so far into stupidity territory, the natives might think him one of them.
I nearly finished reading for Miss Oscar when the commotion started.
Evan set a white oval stone on his desk, lining it up with painstaking precision. Once satisfied, Evan took his first football, aimed it toward his rock, and flicked with a thumb and forefinger.
Sparks sprayed as the paper met the stone and shot the football into the books on Adam’s desk. They toppled back onto the floor.
Evan armed another, twisting his stone a hair, letting loose, and scattering Adam’s papers in a big puff.
The cold, death in my mentor’s gaze froze me to my seat but didn’t faze Evan. They each moved at alternating speed, Evan fast and Adam slow. Was that an effect of the magic he used to spring his weapons with such velocity?
Three more hit Adam across the chest, but the one spinning for the center of his forehead stopped, hovering in the air.
Adam snatched it, and Evan changed strategy.
The rampage of paper flung around the room, and the two other detentionees ducked under their desks.
Once Evan was out of ammo, he grinned, stretched, and hopped his desk to sprint out of the door.
Fury seethed from my mentor, teeth grit as his gaze followed my lab partner.
Then he stuck me in my seat with it before I knew I’d stood.
Everything fluttered and snapped back into place like nothing had happened, and Adam stomped out of the room after Evan.
After a few minutes, I stopped waiting for them to come back and set to work. They’d either explode back into the room or they wouldn’t, and I was sick of staring at the door in anticipation.
With most of my homework complete, except for the exercises Adam assigned in our mentorship, I tackled my bag of research fromhome. I spread them out around me like Uncle Henry; that was what I needed now—here, sitting in this tiny desk. A serious table might suffice, but a nook would work better.
The only real space was by Adam’s desk and the whiteboard. Instead, I pushed the desks around me, settled against the wall under a window and fanned my stuff onto the floor.
Halfway through my organization process, Evan returned, closing the door, marking it with white chalk, and stuffing small shards of stone between the seams around it. His markings spread to the wall and floor as Adam’s face appeared in the small, rectangular window.
With a shake, the lock seemed to fuel the flames in his blue eyes. His fist rattled the door.
“Uh uh uh,” Evan said, shaking his head. “Remember your duty to protect school property.”
I shook my head and ducked into my project.
Evan dropped a stone and markings around the other windows before he squatted across the two layers of notes as I started a third.
“Falling down the rabbit hole, I see. What’s all this?”
“Research.” I spared him an annoyed glance and peeked at Adam making sparks of his own on the other side of the door.
I laid more papers out, and Evan scanned my organized chaos.
“What have you found?”
“Well, nothing yet, but there’s something here.”
“Because you feel it.”
“If you’re not going to help, don’t disturb me.”
I finished spreading my printouts and copies. After a minute, Evan shifted my stack and crawled into the vortex with me.
“You’ve got two different projects here.” He pointed first to my preliminary findings on the three missing students. “Not much in the way of leads there, but what’s that new search you’re doing? The local book by that girl who went feral?”
The mockery in his voice stung, jabbing me a little in the heart.
Evan flipped through my copy with a chuckle. “Been busy with your notes, I see.”
I snatched the book from his hands with a menacing glare and put it back beside me.
“Tell me you’re not genuinely studying Locating Lucifer’s Lair as evidence.”
“I don’t know what I’m studying it as, but there’s something beyond the surface of it.”
“I didn’t take you as a Lucifer-chaser.”
Fumes flared my nostrils.
Adam tapped the window with a long and black stick.
“Lucifer’s my mother,” I said, half under my breath.
“And you’ve never met her.” The softness of his voice surprised me. “Always had a feeling that angel’s kindness and defense of humanity made her a woman.”
“That kindness hasn’t touched me yet.”
His elbow found my knee. “I’ve never really met my parents either.”
“Neither of them?”
A heartbeat of a pause.
“Nope. I was too young. Adopted.”
“So, you’ve got missing pieces, too.”
Evan nodded and took another look around my notes—this time with a bit more contemplation.
Patterns. I needed patterns.
Too many pieces were missing.
I pulled out my phone and logged into my different social accounts, searching for the popular kids.
Too many with the same name and no visual reference. I sighed and tapped Evan for my snack bag, pulling out an apple. I offered him one.
“I’ll take another snack cake if you’ve got one.”
“Do you run on sugar?” I tossed him one.
I tried to think without thinking.
The two leads weren’t likely connected through anything other than the circumstance of this paranormal town. I mean, how probable would it be for these three to be connected with my mom and the mines?
Since Belle’s tale was already a cold case, I focused on my fellow students.
“What do you know about fey?”
“Matriarch. Big into royalty. Tricksters. Couldn’t care less about human affairs. Mild powers.”
That resembled the sirens quite a bit. “Are they competitive?”
“With other fey, but they’re superiority and pride keep them from challenging other creatures unless threatened.”
“Doesn’t sound smart to me, challenging a hive.”
“What about demis? There’s more than one kind, which one is Lucinda?”
“Demon. Most common since they like to sleep around with humans and the DNA overlaps better than gods or angels.”
“Aren’t demons and angels really similar?”
Evan shifted again, shrugging his shoulder and picking some lint off his jeans. “Yes and no. Angels are divinely made. Demons were human once.”
“If you’re looking for a link between the threesome, they’re all hot-tempered tricksters that use temptation and threats to achieve their goals. Besides, they’re rich kids who live on the outskirts of town. Powerful parents and families rooted into the foundation of our little Saint Siena.”
I tapped at my phone again and showed Evan. “Show me who is who so I can research in other ways. Being the new girl has major drawbacks.”
“Like all of your friends are hundreds of miles away.”
Grief slumped through me again. “Exactly. Who’s who?”
He tapped the first, Lucinda. No friending option, so I followed what little they left public.
Katie next, same sparse public profile. I followed.
Jeremy last. Followed.
Shit. I bet Evan wasn’t friends with any of them with the way he stomped through the world.
Maybe Starr wouldn’t mind a little stalking and gossip. I sent her a quick text.
Got a mini-almost-friends favor. How good are you at cyber stalking?
“Thanks. We’ll see how much I can dig. At least, now, I’ve seen their faces. Class with two of them.” Both in English.
“Count your blessings that you didn’t grow up with the three.” He grumbled incoherently. “And I’m the one with community service.”
The window behind us rattled, and Adam levitated there, throwing more magic at it.
“He’s going to murder you when detention is over. We have to leave sometime.”
Evan grinned back up at Adam like he had a death wish. “He has to catch me first.”
I’ve got some serious skill. Who’s your target?
Please, don’t be besties with these three. I need an unbiased third party with some actual interest. I sent her the names.
Set your sights high, girl. What are you looking for?
What was I looking for? Basic info, patterns, routines, outliers…
Everything. Info-gathering mission.
Full-blown stalker-mode, up and running. Hit you back when I’m through.
Relief. Wheels turning. Maybe I’d solve this before the end of the semester. Hopefully, no one else went crazy before then.
“So, are you going to tell me about this feud you have going, or are you going to keep me from the middle of it from now on?”
“It goes back a long way. I haven’t seen him in years. Feels good.”
“Shooting him with paper footballs.”
Evan poked his lip ring. “Yup.”
“Why do I feel like I’m going to have to reveal a deep dark secret to hear this story?”
“Put something into the ether like that, and you’ll have to own up to it.”
“Maybe.” I gathered my knees in my arms. “But not today.”
No. Today, I would be wracking my brain for memories of English class. For Katie and Jeremy. I haven’t seen them in what seemed like weeks; however, my lack of a real life merged school together into one mass of class and homework and lonely nights at home.
I could filter it out.
I needed to.
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