Authors: M. Lathan
Tags: #paranormal romance, #paranormal, #young adult, #witches, #bullying, #shape shifter romance, #psychic abilities, #teen and young adult
I nearly slid off of the sofa. Lydia Shaw
had been the object of my intense fear since I first saw the magic
on that awful Tuesday afternoon.
The anchor stood behind his podium and bowed
to her, like we were taught to do if we ever met her. She saved the
world at nineteen when she killed Fredrick Dreco, the wizard
leading the war against humans. Nineteen seems a little young to be
a wizard assassin, but she was. I wasn’t sure what she did now.
Maybe she was in charge of the hunters Sophia had told me
“Your Honor, it is a pleasure to have you on
today,” he said, looking like he’d met … well … the most famous
woman in the world. She even had her own chapter in every history
book I’d ever had.
“The pleasure is mine, thank you,” she said.
Her voice sounded nothing like I’d imagined it would. It was
softer, calmer. She looked the same as the pictures I’d seen of
her, though – blonde hair, honey eyes, delicate face. Not the face
of a killer. Oh, but she was. Everyone knew that she’d spilled the
most magical blood during the war. Not just Frederick Dreco,
thousands of creatures like me. I imagined the blood running down
her arms now as she clasped her hands in front of her.
“Your Honor, what do you make of the
allegations of the abduction? Is it possible that a witch took the
“No, Ken, that is not possible. My special
agents and I have spent the last seventeen years ensuring the
safety of mankind. Our enemies are in their graves where they
belong.” Sophia cackled in the bathroom. “There has to be some
other explanation for this.”
“As in aliens? Delusional teenagers?” Ken
“Perhaps the latter,” Lydia said. “The
incident took place after a fire alarm. I would suggest that the
nuns check the rooms for drugs.” Sophia laughed again, harder this
time. “As for the light in the video, I don’t have an answer for
that. If it will make the people of New Haven and all those touched
by Leah’s mysterious disappearance, I will take charge of this
case. I will search every crack and corner of this country and
others. It is my sincere hope that we find her alive and unharmed
and return her safely to her home as soon as possible.”
I gasped. Lydia Shaw was looking for me.
Lydia Shaw. The woman I’d imagined capturing me,
removing my head, adding it to her collection. I didn’t realize how
hard I was shaking until Sophia sat next to me and rubbed my
“Is she in charge of the hunters?” I asked.
She nodded. “Does she still kill us?”
“She would need a reason.” Sophia’s voice
was a weak and frightening whisper. In my case, she’d have a
reason, from last night alone.
I shook harder, my teeth chattering. She’d
only have to string the obvious details together and she’d have the
truth about last night – I was an outcast with a motive, my name
had been called so I didn’t have a reason to be outside, and I
disappeared in front of sober witnesses.
“She’s going to kill me, Sophia!” She took
my hand in both of hers. “Hiding there was too hard. I’ll blow it
again when I go back. And now they know me.
Oh, God, what will-”
Sophia shushed me and kissed my hand.
“Relax. You never have to leave or go back
to that place, love. I wanted to mention that last night, but I
wanted you to make your own decision about it. I’m actually glad
you almost slipped last night. It gave me a reason to intrude and
finally meet you.”
We sat there for what felt like forever with
her lips on my hand. Her eyes were closed tightly. She was
listening to my thoughts, I guessed. She sighed and placed my hand
in my lap, not mentioning what she’d heard in my head.
She fumbled around for the remote and made
the frightening woman fade to black. “Enough of that for now, dear.
You’re safe here, but if you’re not going back to school, would you
mind staying inside until she calls off the search. You can go out
on the property, but not outside of the gate. Shouldn’t be more
than a week or so.”
“Okay,” I said. With Lydia Shaw and her
hunters looking for me, I didn’t want to be out of the gate. I’d
hide forever if I could.
The chime of the cell phone woke me up. I
was bundled up on my sofa with the Literature book in my hand. I’d
started reading where my class left off on Friday, act four of
Midsummer Night’s Dream
, and dozed off a few lines in. I didn’t
hate reading. I was just exhausted, as usual.
The number on the screen wasn’t Sophia. I
flipped the phone open and cleared my throat.
“Hello, Chris-, uh, Leah. It’s Emma. Are you
I shook my head like she could see me like
an idiot. “No,” I finally said.
“Sophie gave me your number. I was wondering
if you wanted to come downstairs and hang out with us. We’re just
sitting around, nothing special.” I pulled the phone from my ear
and stared at it. Was this really happening? An invite? Like a
real, social invite?
Panic made me stutter. “Um … Ssssure,” I
“Okay then. See you in a bit.”
I sat there for a moment with the phone to
my ear, stunned, after she’d hung up. My head swam with memories of
the hundreds of invites I didn’t get
the hundreds of
invites I’d gotten as jokes.
My abysmal social status served me well now.
Sienna hating me, my dead heart not letting me connect with anyone,
and my embarrassing freak-outs had made me an outcast. And since I
was an outcast, I hadn’t violated the No Contact clause of the
treaty, which I assumed meant what the words implied – we couldn’t
mingle with humans.
I imagined myself walking down the stairs
and getting laughed at for taking Emma seriously. The thought of
being humiliated here braced me to the sofa for ten minutes. But if
it were a real invite, it would be awkward living here after
blowing them off. I grabbed the empty plate from my snack. If I
heard them laugh, I’d head for the kitchen like that had been my
destination all along.
I held my breath on the stairs. My heart
pounded like death was waiting in the living room. Nathan turned
around as I cleared the last step. He lifted one corner of his
mouth. I tried to fake it and smile back, but it came out as a
facial spasm as I twisted my mouth and wrinkled my nose. I almost
turned around then.
Paul jumped up from his seat and met me at
the bottom of the stairs. “Can I get a better greeting now that
Nana’s not here to block us?” he asked.
He wrapped his arms around me before I could
answer, pulling me into his mind.
I wonder if I’ll have to play the nice guy
with her. She’s quiet. She won’t go for a bad ass. Or will she? Her
bra is totally showing-
I yanked away, muting his thoughts, and
retreated to the kitchen. I stacked my plate on the pile in the
sink and crossed my arms over my chest. It was the first time I’d
touched a guy, and that didn’t go well at all. He was thinking
about my bra, and I, the creep, ran away without saying
I bowed my head to apologize to God for
using magic, but I raised it before I started the prayer. I didn’t
really do anything wrong … this time. I didn’t ask to be hugged, he
wasn’t human, and I didn’t even like it.
The cabinets took on the purple-orange light
of the setting sun as I stalled, scared to go back in there with
the magical teenagers who weren’t as strange as me.
I gathered enough courage to leave the
kitchen and managed a wave to the four of them. Paul winked, and I
snatched a pillow from the sofa and braced it against my chest. It
would be my first and last time wearing this shirt.
“What have you been doing?” Emma asked, as I
sat on the farthest, emptiest end of the sofa.
“Sleeping. Reading before that,” I said.
“You like to read?” Remi asked. Her tone
wasn’t curious, more surprised. Did I not look like someone who
liked to read?
“Sophia gave me work to do. School stuff,” I
“I thought you were avoiding us,” Remi said.
“I’d be pissed if everyone else stayed here free of charge and I’d
coughed up cash like a dummy.” I tightened my grip on the pillow
and bowed my head, an automatic response to her tone.
“I hear you got the biggest room, though,”
Nathan said. “That’s pretty awesome, right?” I managed a semblance
of a nod to him. I wanted to go back to my room, but I didn’t want
to seem even stranger by fleeing after five seconds.
“Well, we’re going out after dinner. You
in?” Paul asked.
Staring at the stitching on my jeans, I
shook my head. “They’re searching for me. Lydia Shaw is.” It became
unnaturally quiet, like they’d frozen and stopped breathing. At
least we had one thing in common – fear of Lydia Shaw. “Sophia
seems to think I’ll be able to leave the house after she gives up,”
Remi stretched on the sofa, flipping over to
her belly, and threw her legs over Emma’s lap. Tattooed vines
covered her shoulder line and disappeared under her tank top. It
looked painful and kind of interesting against her pale skin.
“Why would Sophia expose herself like that?
What the hell was she rescuing you from?” Remi asked.
“I was … um … about to do something stupid,”
I said, unable to get my voice over a whisper.
“It couldn’t have been dumber than what Remi
and I did,” Emma said. “We were getting frozen yogurt.” She stopped
to giggle. Her accent made yogurt sound expensive. “And we didn’t
have any cash … and we wanted to have a little fun. I made the
register ding liked we’d paid, and the girl bought it. Not five
minutes later does the hunter, dressed head to toe in leather, walk
in. We sat there. Bold! Eating our yogurt, mocking him a little.
Then he followed us out and … of course my magic does not work
under pressure … and we ended up in a cell again. Public use of
magic for the fourth time!”
They laughed, and I just sat there, staring
at a bone jutting out of my wrist only covered by a thin layer of
skin. How hadn’t I noticed myself turning into a skeleton?
“Well, that’s a great reason why we should
stay in tonight,” Nathan said.
“Come on, Sparky. You have to come,” Paul
“I go by Nathan,” he said. “And I don’t want
to get kicked out on my first night. You didn’t just spend a week
playing fetch with a hunter to avoid a cage.”
“Some of us didn’t avoid cages and we’re
still going,” Remi said.
“She’s not going to kick us out,” Emma said.
“Sophie is the nicest person in the whole world. I lived with her
for a year. I would know.”
I couldn’t decide if she was calling Sophia
because she was French or because she’d known her so
long. Maybe both.
“Remember when I asked you to marry me so we
could go on a honeymoon, Em? You were such a prude,” Paul said.
“I was a child, Paul! And I loved every
moment with Sophie … except when you would bother me.”
“Did she save you then? If you don’t mind me
asking,” Nathan said.
“She knows my mother, and both of my parents
were being detained for something they didn’t do. I stayed with her
until they were freed.”
“She slept one door away from me,” Paul
said, nodding his head as if that suggested something. Emma tossed
a pillow at him.
“She’s been my guardian angel for years,”
Emma said. Angel? I guessed that was an extremely loose
interpretation of the word. “Especially this year after being
captured so many times. I actually thought I’d reached the end of
her kindness. I’ve never been locked up that long. My parents
usually call her when they figure out Remi and I have been caught,
and she’s there in an hour or so. I was so happy to see her after
the longest four days of my life that I had to say yes to staying
with her and having rules to follow again.”
“Ugh, we’d be partying in Mexico by now if
she hadn’t,” Remi said. She obviously didn’t appreciate what Sophia
had done for her. A waste of my money. “Beaches and drinks and …”
Remi shuddered and arched her back. A strained purr escaped
“Hold on, Remi,” Emma said. Remi twisted and
jerked, struggling in Emma’s arms. “You can do it. Just stay you.”
Remi sprang from Emma’s lap. Her jeans and tank top shredded and
fell around her paws. She bounded up the stairs on four legs as my
mouth hung open. “Poor thing. It’s getting worse. She used to go
forty-eight hours without shifting. Now it’s only three.”
Paul leaned over Emma and massaged her
shoulders. He was really touchy. She didn’t flinch; she looked
comfortable, relaxed, and
. “And how many hours is
that reduced by, Em?” he asked. He snickered and winked at us.
Emma looked down at her fingers like she
needed to count them to subtract three from forty-eight. “Um … it’s
reduced my a lot,” she said, giving up.
Paul laughed hard, and she reached to her
shoulder and grabbed one of his fingers. She bent it back, and he
Weird. When someone made fun of me, I didn’t
want to play with their bones, I wanted to break them.
Paul took Remi’s seat and reached his legs
across Emma’s lap. She sighed, tugging at a loose thread on his
jeans. “How long can you go without shifting, Spar-Nathan?” Paul
“A few weeks,” he said. “You?”
The three of them cackled again while I just
sat there, wishing I were bold enough to ask why they were
Paul and Emma reminisced about the games
they used to play when she lived with his grandmother. They seemed
like happy, magical memories. Her face lit up with every “remember
when”. I was so confused. Their lives seemed so happy and
I wondered why her parents were detained,
not killed like mine. Why weren’t my parents shown mercy like hers
and all the other creatures allowed to live?