Authors: Carrie Jones
Tags: #Romance, #Werewolves, #Paranormal, #Urban Fantasy, #Magic, #Fantasy, #Young Adult
To Emily—the most awesome and glorious
person ever! Drink water!
Law enforcement authorities are still investigating the strange bus accident that recently killed several Sumner High School students. Meanwhile, Bedford police advise that another boy has been reported missing from that town, bringing the total up to eight.
“Am I really not allowed to complain about being here?” I ask as we enter Bedford High School about an hour late for the winter ball. In an attempt to make it more ball and less high school, the lights are dimmed in the front foyer and giant white snowflakes and twinkly lights dangle from the ceiling. They are supposed to look festive, but they are dingy from years of use. The white is sort of an off-yellow that looks like old tea-stained teeth more than snow.
Cassidy, my tall, braided, partially elf friend, puts her arm around me. “If we aren’t allowed to complain about your new pixie status, you aren’t allowed to complain about the dance.”
Issie stomps the real snow off of her pink and gold heels and chirps, “Actually, I think you are allowed to complain a couple times, but not—”
“Not excessively?” Devyn suggests, pulling his birdlike body up to its full height. It’s like he’s posturing, showing me that he’s protecting Issie. He keeps looking at me out of the corner of his eye like I might attack any second. But I won’t—I mean, I don’t think I will.
“Exactly. Not excessively.” Issie beams up at him, smiling, and it’s so sweet how she does it and how he smiles back that something inside me breaks a tiny bit. Nick and I used to be like that. Then he died. Sort of. A pixie king killed him. He died in my arms and then a winged woman took him away to some mystical place that only warriors who have died in battle can go. My breath stops, just remembering it—the blood, the way he was just gone.
“Zara?” Cassidy’s arm tightens around my shoulders as we march forward. I guess since she’s a bit psychic and can “see into my soul,” she’s the only one who seems to trust me a hundred percent when
don’t even trust me a hundred percent. “You okay?”
I nod. I am not going to ruin the night for them. But then I smell it … Dove soap, the copper metal tang of blood. “Something’s wrong.”
Issie sidles up to me. “I know you miss Nick, but we’ll find a way to get him—”
I shake my head, listening. “That’s not it. Something’s wrong in the school. I can smell blood … blood and fear.”
Issie drops my arm as Devyn stills and says, “I smell it too.”
Dev and I exchange a look and start running down the hallway. I yell behind to where Issie and Cass are. “Hide, guys. Okay?”
We burst into the dark, decorated cafeteria. White Christmas-style trees with blue lights are splayed along the walls. Hip-hop music pumps through the air. People are moving frantically, but they’re dancing mostly, not running for their lives. Devyn and I stand there, surveying all the gowns and suits, smelling the sweat and way-too-intense cologne.
“Do you see anything?” I ask.
He starts to say no, but then he points to the darkest corner, where fake Christmas trees half hide movement in the soda machine alcove. Two girls in bizarre gowns are yanking at a guy I don’t recognize, pulling on his tie, hustling him out the emergency exit door. He’s bleeding from the nose and the wrist. That’s the blood I’m smelling, and even though it’s pretty obvious he’s been drinking alcohol, I can smell his fear too. It rolls off him almost solid, like a color of air around him—yellow and dark brown.
“Dev—,” I start.
He interrupts me. “I can’t change here. People will see.”
Devyn is a were. He can shift into an eagle.
“Just back me up,” I tell him, which is a total role reversal. I’m usually the one who backs other people up. Still, I say it and mean it as I bump through dancing groups and couples who are so into themselves that they don’t notice anything at all.
Devyn murmurs in my ear, “There are two of them.”
“Devyn … let me go first,” I say again, trying to hurry without being too obvious. The girls are hustling the guy toward a door marked
. They’re moving pretty fast and I know if they get him out of here he’s a goner, because they aren’t regular girls. They are pixies. They’re going to bite at him and torture him and basically drain his soul until he goes insane or dies.
How do I know this? I know because now I’m a pixie too.
I bang toward them and position myself between them and the door. Just like me, they appear human, hiding their blue skin and their freaky sharp teeth with a glamour. One wears a red dress that looks and smells like it’s been hanging out in a Goodwill since the 1980s. Puffy sleeves with shoulder pads give her football uniform shoulders, and monster ruffles along the bottom hem do not help things. The other one wears a black cutout dress that only supermodels should even look at. She’s got her hair in a French twist.
“Stop,” I say.
Eighties Dress raises an eyebrow. “We are having far too much fun to stop.”
Oh, that’s original.
The second pixie, who looks like a red-haired Barbie, snarls at me while batting her eyelashes, which would be weird enough even if she didn’t have blood on her teeth.
I try to make myself as tough seeming as possible. “I said stop.”
I admit that I am not the most intimidating-looking person—pixie? whatever—but laughing at me is
not cool. This horrible,
primal rush of anger surges through me as I take a step forward and the guy in between the pixies staggers backward, hitting the wall. His suit coat rumples up behind his butt as he starts sliding down. Devyn lunges forward to help him, but Evil Red-Haired Barbie shoves Devyn backward into me. I catch him at the waist and leap around him.
“You need to calm down,” I say, pointing my finger at her like some kind of angry teacher-person, “
you need to leave. This is my school, and you are not messing with the people here.”
“You and Mr. Skinny are going to stop us?” Barbie tucks her hair behind her ears, obviously not impressed.
“Eww. Why would you even want to claim this school? It smells like a strip mall,” the other one says.
I don’t answer either of them, just stare the first one down as Drunk Boy flops onto the floor and starts crawling away.
“I don’t want to hurt you,” I say, stepping forward, “so this is your last chance.”
“She’s a pacifist,” Devyn says behind me, standing up again. I wonder why he’s saying this. Is it to remind me of who I used to be or to remind himself? “Do you know what that means?” he adds.
They look at us blankly.
“It means I don’t believe in fighting,” I explain, taking another step closer. The tension fills the air. I know they’re both ready to strike, to tear and rip with teeth and hands. But I have no idea if I can fight them. I know I’m stronger now that I’m a pixie, but all the emotions rushing through me … I don’t know if I can control them.
Nick would take the stronger one down first, make a statement. So that’s what I decide to do. My arm snatches out and grabs Barbie by the wrist. I squeeze and sweep my legs underneath her to try to trip her. She doesn’t fall for it, jumping back. Her free hand smashes into my stomach. I
but don’t fall either. Instead, I do the first thing I can think of, which is kick at her again—and this time it’s like something has switched on. I’m way faster than I should be. The kick connects with her shin. I send another one to her thigh as she staggers.
Then I grab her hair. My fingers smoosh into the twist. Yanking her head to my ear, I say, “Get out of here before I ruin your heels
She snarls menacingly at me, but there’s no way she can move.
“Devyn, is anyone looking?” I ask.
“Nope,” he answers.
The other pixie harrumphs. “Fine. We’ll go. Can we take the meat?”
She gestures toward the drunk boy, who is trying to crawl back toward the punch table.
“No,” I answer. “This is me in my warning phase. This is
to get out before I really lose my pacifist ways and kill you. So tell your little king— Who is your king?”
“Frank,” Barbie answers.
“Frank,” I repeat, taking it in. Not my biological father. Frank, the one who released all my dad’s pixies from where we’d trapped them in an old Victorian house in the woods. Frank, the one who killed my boyfriend, Nick. “Well, tell Frank that he has a ridiculous name for an evil pixie king and also tell him that I will not stand for any of his little minions attacking people at my school. Got it?”
“And to return the people who are missing,” Devyn adds.
Something clutches my stomach. It’s dread. I look at Devyn. What’s happened since I’ve turned? “How many people?”
“Too many to count,” Eighties Dress says. “The people here are so easy to take. And to kill. And scaring them? It’s delicious.”
Anger scrapes my throat. “No more. Tell him no more. The people here are not toys.”
Even I can hear the threat in my voice, hard and even, a drum pounding war beats into the air.
Eighties doesn’t answer. Her friend does. “Who are you to tell Frank what to do?”
Good question. I shove Barbie toward the fire door and try to come up with a snappy answer worthy of cult movies and TV shows. But before I say anything, Devyn answers for me, almost like he’s proud of me rather than horrified that I’ve just turned into one of them. “She is Zara White, a pixie queen.”
Life goes on as usual in this small coastal Maine town. Even though eight boys are missing, local teens celebrated at the high school’s annual winter dance tonight.
After the pixies are safely disposed of outside, Devyn and I find Issie and Cassidy waiting by the bathrooms. Devyn continues the looking-at-me-out-of-the-corner-of-his-eyes routine, but I’m hoping the fact that I dispatched the pixies will make him trust me a bit more. That I managed to do it without going blue and feral makes me feel just the tiniest bit more confident about my new species, but the truth is I really don’t know what it means to be a pixie. I don’t know if it’s changed my insides, that soul part of me, the pacifist part.
“Was there an apocalypse in there?” Is asks when she and Cassidy and I enter the empty bathroom. “Is everyone dead? Please don’t tell me everyone is dead.”
“Nobody died,” I say, sighing and reaching up. “Except maybe my hair.”
They usher me toward the bathroom mirrors, where I tell them what happened. Cassidy twists my hair into a messy knot. Issie tries to wipe a bloodstain off my arm. I stare into the mirror, take in the crazy circles under my eyes, the whole blah look of me. “I look horrible.”
“Naw,” Issie lies. I know she’s lying because her bottom lip trembles.
Cassidy grabs me by the shoulders, stands behind me, and rests her head on top of mine. “You look like a warrior.”
“Yeah!” Issie agrees. “A slightly short warrior. A pixie warrior.”
There’s an awkward pause.
“Do you feel different?” she asks in a much gentler voice. “Now that you’re all … you know …”
“Yeah.” I nod. “Stronger. I feel … I smell things more. It’s like my senses are sharper but I feel more volatile, you know? Like anything will make me cranky.”
“Especially evil pixies trying to steal away members of our male student population?” Issie suggests.
“Especially,” I agree as I borrow Cassidy’s mascara, which you’re not supposed to do because of bacteria, but considering the rest of my crazy life, I’m willing to take this particular health risk. “I can’t believe there are so many people missing. Eight? That’s just horrible, Is. We have to get Nick back and stop this.”
Cierra slams into the bathroom with Callie, who is sporting ribbons in her bright blue Mohawk. They smile hello and everyone compliments one another’s dresses, and then they go into the stalls. Issie leans down and whispers, “What do you want to do? Should we all go home?”
I want to, but that would be selfish. “Nah, I want to see you and the Devster dance. And stuff.”
She goes up on tiptoes. “Really?”
“Swear.” I put up my hand like a Girl Scout promise. “And we will all just pretend everything is normal and supernatural threats don’t hover outside the fire exit door.”
“So we go into denial,” Cassidy says, smiling, as she scratches her waist.
“Yep.” I reach up and wipe some mascara that’s clotted near her eye. “But only for the rest of the dance. Then we go into action.”
All around us people are dancing, laughing, spinning, having fun in the kind of corny, cheese ball way that people do when they know the dance is beyond lame but somehow that ultra-geekiness almost makes it cool. Along the wall and in little clumps are the dateless girls who are eyeing the dateless guys. I am one of those dateless girls now, because Nick is gone, really gone.
Issie stops dancing with Devyn long enough to wrap an arm around my shoulders. She leans in and yells in my ear because that’s the only way her tiny voice can be heard over the raging music. “You miss him, huh?”