Authors: Stormy Smith
By Stormy Smith
Copyright ©2014 by Perfect Storm Publishing, LLC
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Cover design by Toni Sarcone
Editing by Monica Black (Word Nerd Editing)
Formatting by Polgarus Studio
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For inspiring me every day.
I could never write a love story better than ours.
And, “Hi, Dad!”
Just like I promised.
Her stark white hair fell down around her face. For the first time in one hundred years it wasn’t pulled back in a waist-length braid. Her crimson robes were torn and stained. She bit back a groan, her lips a tight line as the pain ripped through her once again. The invisible knife raked its way up her back as wounds no one could see flayed her skin and weakened her resolve. It had been days of this and she wasn’t sure if she could continue. As she looked up and met the queen’s eyes, Lavignia pushed the anger down and forced compassion to rise yet again.
“What is it you hope to learn, Julia? What is it you think you have to gain from all of this?” she asked weakly as she tugged on the restraints that kept her tethered to the heavy wooden chair. Her power was already weak when the Hunters had found her, and the enchanted chamber had dampened what remained to a tiny flame.
The room was dark, but the sun was slowly rising. An orange and pink glow filtered through the small window above Julia’s head. The colorful rays that should have resembled hope of a new day only shed light on the reality that Lavignia would never leave this room alive.
Julia stepped from the shadows and walked slowly toward Lavignia. She stopped and crouched down, putting herself at eye level.
“Oh, Livvy, dear. Don’t do that,” she said, her tone patronizing as her ice crystal eyes narrowed. “Don’t pretend you can still look down on me from your Elder tower. Don’t pretend you can utter your polite words and suddenly I’ll remember who you are versus who I am. I know exactly who I am. I am the one who rules them all. I am the one they will bow down to and worship. I am the Queen. Not you. Or your sisters. Your time is done.”
She looked back over her shoulder to the Hunter who stood in the still dark corner of the room and nodded. The Hunter’s eyes burned bright orange as Lavignia’s screams echoed off the walls. Julia raised her hand and the screams dropped to whimpers. With that same hand, she reached out and took Lavignia’s.
“Livvy, look at me,” she commanded. Dazed, dim violet eyes struggled to focus and find hers. Julia tightened her grip, digging her scarlet nails into Lavignia’s already tender flesh, making her yelp and their eyes connect.
“Livvy, you need to tell me,” she said. “I know you see it. You knew this day would come and you know I won’t stop until you tell me. I scoured the lands for you. I know there are others left, but they can be saved. You can save them, old friend. You just have to tell me.” Her tone was persuasive and gentle, but the frantic look that passed through her eyes told Lavignia the truth the queen couldn’t hide — she was scared.
“You won’t harm the others? You will let them live out their lives hidden and free? You will swear an oath?” Her words trailed off and Lavignia’s eyes closed, the torture of the last few days taking its toll. She could only hope the oath would keep her people safe.
She didn’t see the triumph that straightened Julia’s posture or the sneer that twisted her thin, painted lips. “Of course, my dear. I swear to you that I will not seek out and harm the remaining Elders. I swear that I will not take their freedom.”
“Your blood,” Lavignia said, her words barely audible.
Julia removed a small dirk from the folds of her skirts and repeated the words as she slid the blade down her palm. As the deep red drop hit the floor, she sent a small wave of power through to heal the wound, reveling in the knowledge that she had won.
“Now, Livvy, darling, you must tell me.” When Lavignia didn’t respond, Julia whipped back around to the still silent Hunter. “Help her. Give her what she needs. NOW!” she commanded, panic finally breaking through her controlled facade.
The Hunter flicked a wrist at Lavignia and she suddenly straightened, her eyes luminescent and shining at the welcome invasion of power that flooded her system, giving her renewed life for a few precious seconds.
With sudden clarity, she saw the future that had eluded her. She looked down on Julia with authority and pity as the words that would cement the queen’s fate fell from her lips.
“You will have your time, but it will end. She will be born to the one who got away. Inside her, the five families will merge and only a man who is both king and companion will tame the wild and set her free. She will be your undoing. She will lead them all.”
Julia reared back, Lavignia’s words not the ones she expected. Seconds later, her dirk was buried deep in Lavignia’s chest. Lavignia collapsed back against the chair, a content smile mocking the queen from her lifeless face.
Julia’s breath heaved in and out in short bursts as she turned to the Hunter. “I made an oath. You did not. Find them. Kill them all.”
Last night’s dream had been different. More vivid than normal. Even now, as I sat on the picnic table bench on campus, I couldn’t stop seeing my father’s eyes. My dreams had always been constant and the emotions I awoke with varied from anger, to sobbing, to complete fear. Waking up peaceful was a rarity for me. It was only recently that I could actually recall my dreams hours later. Before, they’d disappear as soon as I woke up. Now, they haunt me.
My hands still ached from clutching the pillow to my chest as I tossed and turned throughout the night. I didn’t have to close my eyes to see the scene replay for the hundredth time today. There I was, standing in my living room, nine years old again, wondering which of my father’s personalities would take the five steps from his study and turn the corner to stand before me. As soon as I saw his wide eyes, his twisted scowl, and his tense, rigid posture, I knew this night wouldn’t end with bedtime stories. So few nights actually did.
I wanted to back away but had learned it only made things worse when I showed my fear. I had to keep myself from searching the room for Rynna. I knew my nanny was gone. It was just me and my father, and he knew. He always knew when I had lost control, as I had just minutes before. Before I could react, he hoisted me off the ground, his palms cupping under my arms. He held me at eye level, his frantic stare making it hard for me to keep eye contact. I was afraid of my father in these moments; in the times where he didn’t feel at all like himself and I was nothing but a failure to him. For a split second, I thought I saw his eyes soften and an apology flit across his features, then all I saw was the flash of orange in his eyes before he dropped me to the ground and ran out the back door.
That was the part that made no sense. My father’s power source was green. One of the many colors associated with Witch power. Orange was the power of Hunters — of killers — and I’d seen my father release his power enough times to know that he was no Hunter. I was in mid-thought, wondering why my dreams never made any sense, when Bethany plopped down beside me with a, “Hiya!”
Her peppy, southern drawl interrupted my latest round of introspection and I was thankful for it. Bethany was one of those people you couldn’t resist talking to. Nice in the most sincere way, even though no one could imagine where all that positivity came from. In her short sundress covered in multi-colored bird silhouettes and her cardigan that she somehow managed to make look fresh and trendy, I wasn’t sure how I managed to win the lottery of college roommates. My messy top-knot, ripped Capri, and basic tee weren’t winning any fashion awards today, but she probably slept last night. I didn’t.
“Hey B. What’s up?” I asked as I popped my ear buds out of my ears. I could tell by the look in her eyes that she was dragging me out tonight. Some guy, somewhere, was having a party that we, “Just had to go to!” College was supposed to be a non-stop party, but I didn’t drink for fear of losing control, so I generally ended up being the DD. My father had managed to make the words “lose control” into the most terrible, gut-wrenching eleven letters the alphabet could string together, and, so far, I hadn’t dared stepping out of line. Even though he was hundreds of miles away, some things just stuck.
“Soooooo,” she started off slowly, her accent making it sound more country song and less
you’re going to hate this
. “There’s a party outside of town. A bunch of guys have a beach house they rented and it’s invite only,” she said. Her face was flushing, she was talking fast, and I knew what was coming next. “And… Micah’s going to be there!” She almost squealed as she smacked her palms together and looked at me with ecstatic, begging eyes.
Bethany has had a thing for Micah Clair since classes started. I keep telling her that I don’t think he’s the best news. I get the weirdest vibe every time he’s around, but I’ve continued to listen to her go on and on about his European accent and male model looks.
I was done for. Somehow, some way, this southern belle had become my first real friend and I couldn’t bring myself to say no even though it was the last place I wanted to be.
I guess this means I’m going to a party.
The music was shaking the walls. The green, yellow, and pink neon lights that probably once graced the walls of a bar somewhere in Brighton looked like they were going to come crashing down at any minute. Maroon 5 was going on about having moves like Jagger as people who might have been able to dance hours ago were now just falling all over each other.
Bethany grabbed my hand, dragging me through the crowd. Her head whipped back and forth, surveying the scene. The moment she spotted Micah, she stopped and I almost tripped over her. All of a sudden she turned and shoved me in the opposite direction, away from him.
“Does my hair look okay? Are you sure these shoes go with this dress? Is my eyeliner smudged?” She was smoothing her skirt and fluffing her hair, talking rapid fire.
With her olive skin and bright blond hair, Bethany looked like she had grown up on the California beaches. She adored dresses, her hair was always flat-ironed to perfection, and you wouldn’t catch her outside of our apartment without makeup. She firmly believed girls had no business going without eyeliner and mascara, at the very least. Though, oddly enough, she was anything but a girly-girl. She grew up on a farm raising chickens, riding horses, and doing whatever else it is people do in the middle of nowhere Mississippi. I knew she
get dirty, she just wasn’t really interested.
“Seriously, B, you’re fine. You look amazing,” I reassured her.
I glanced over her shoulder to see Micah looking our way. He stood in the corner of the room with a few other guys. I couldn’t help but acknowledge he was attractive, even if he wasn’t my type. His hair was a sandy blond and he wore it longer than most guys would dare. He had it tied at the back of his neck with some kind of leather strap. His polo and dark wash jeans seemed out of place with his Viking looks — shockingly blue eyes and long hair — but you couldn’t deny it was working.
Micah continued looking her up and down appreciatively, not realizing she was bordering a panic attack in his name.
“Besides,” I reassured her, “he obviously likes you from the back. Just get over there.” I turned her around with the intention of giving her a small shove but Micah was already parting the crowds coming our way. His eyes were locked on Bethany’s, a slow smile appearing as he got closer. I took this as my opportunity to get away and pushed my way through the throngs of people still bumping and grinding. Right before I stepped through the patio door, I turned back one last time to make sure Bethany was still comfortable. She had her back to me, so I couldn’t get a good look at her face. Instead, I found myself locking eyes with Micah. An internal warning bell went off and I recoiled, quickly turning away from them. I’d learned long ago that my instincts knew far more than my brain. I just wish I could pinpoint what it was about that guy that was setting me off.