Read Valkyrie Symptoms Online

Authors: Ingrid Paulson

Valkyrie Symptoms

BOOK: Valkyrie Symptoms
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Contents

Chapter 1

Chapter 2

Excerpt from Valkyrie Rising

Chapter 1

Chapter 2

About the Author

Copyright

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About the Publisher

1

“T
uck. Wake up, you idiot.”

I smile. I know that voice. So I open my eyes. Ellie looms over me. Sunlight streams around her hair, turning it from gold to blinding white.

“What are you doing in my room?” I sit up.

Except judging by the steering wheel in front of me, this is definitely not my room. She gives me a dry smile. “You're at school. You fell asleep in your car.”

She pulls her head back out of the window and jerks the car door open.

I grab the edge of the seat to keep my balance when the doorframe I'm leaning against is whipped out from underneath me.

“Talk about a rude awakening,” I say.

“I wanted to gently rouse you with a medley on my harpsichord,” Ellie shoots back, “but I left it in my other jeans.”

Only Ellie could make me laugh five seconds after trying to spill me out onto the pavement.

“Get up. Your history test is in twelve minutes.”

“Twelve?” I straighten and climb out of the car. “I just closed my eyes for a sec.”

But I glance at my phone. A few minutes have somehow multiplied into one hundred eight of them. That means I missed lunch. And that meeting with the recruiter.

I'm so screwed.

I spent weeks trying to get that meeting. Then I asked Graham for help, and he used his superpowers to make it happen. I can't let him find out I blew it.

Still, everything is fixable. I need to calm down and think. And as much as I hate to, I'll need to talk to Jack.

“You realize there are hours of darkness every day specifically designated for sleep?” Ellie is pissed. I'm not sure why. Lately it's like someone trimmed a foot or two off her fuse.

“Actually, that's a matter of opinion,” I say. “There are other uses for darkness.”

Ellie narrows her eyes. Which just makes the blue brighter, more concentrated, as it peeks out from between her lashes.

“I'm sure whatever you were doing last night was worth failing history.”

Unlike most girls, when Ellie gets mad, she doesn't screw her face up tight. She doesn't cry or pout either. But her glare could grow ice crystals on a summer day.

“Not really.”

She doesn't react. She just watches me.

“I was studying, Ells.” I lean back into the car and grab the now-cold coffee from my cup holder and choke the rest down. “And I'm gonna ace it. You haven't seen absolute domination like this since the soccer team went to regionals.” I wink. Because she hates that. “Relax,” I add. Even though I'm doing anything but.

I need this grade if I want any D1 team to take me seriously.

“You can't ace it if you don't take it,” she says, glancing pointedly back toward school.

“Did you come out here looking for me when I wasn't at lunch?” I ask as it dawns on me. “That was above and beyond.”

She blushes. Not the splotchy kind of red most people get—Ellie's cheeks turn an even pink. The way they likely would if we had winter in LA.

“The only thing above and beyond is you almost sleeping through your exam.” She pauses. Like she always does when she wants to play. “Transcending any reasonable standard of stupidity.”

And there it was. The first hit of a two-punch combination. It's amazing a game so predictable never gets old.

“And for the record,” she adds, “I wasn't looking for you. I think my wallet fell out in your car this morning.”

She crosses her arms.

“Thanks for waking me,” I say.

“I wasn't going to let you cook to death in there. You know, like those dogs in the humane society commercials.”

“Should we check for brain damage?”

“I'm afraid you're way past that,” she says.

“Before you get all smug, realize I set myself up for that one,” I say. “Consider it a token of my gratitude.”

Despite her best efforts, her lips quirk up. Ellie's reluctant smiles are far more rewarding than her willing ones.

“In other words, you didn't have a comeback and needed the last word?”

“Right back at you, Ells.”

She takes a deep breath, like she's going to say something. But thinks better of it.

Instead, she starts walking across the parking lot at a crazy pace. I jog a few steps to catch up. For a sec, I raise my arm to drape it around her shoulder. The way I've done a million times before. But I quickly let it drop back to my side.

I don't know why, but lately, things are different with us.

Then I realize something. “Did you find your wallet?”

She didn't even pretend to look for it.

She hesitates.

We reach the door of the school, and I hold it open for her. She walks briskly past and starts heading to class, like we're not in the middle of a conversation. It's funny and frustrating. A combination only Ellie can pull off.

“You made that up, didn't you?” I say, catching her. “You
were
looking for me. I'm touched, Ells. You
care
.” I put my hand on my heart, all dramatic.

She stops and shakes her head. “It was self-preservation. If you fail junior year, you'll be in
my
classes next fall.”

She's the world's worst liar.

I'm about to tell her so when someone knocks into my shoulder.

“Thought you'd left for the day.”

I turn. I swear, it feels like the whole lacrosse team is walking past. Actually, it's just four guys. But it seems like more since they're all wearing blue team hoodies. Like it's some kind of cult.

I wouldn't be caught dead.

Then again, to me, lacrosse is just a way to kill time between soccer seasons. To some of these guys, it's practically a religion. They slow, waiting for me.

When I don't blow Ellie off to join them, a few eyes skim over her with interest.

The two of us
are
standing a little close.

Or maybe I'm just being paranoid. It's not like I'm into Graham's little sister.

Still, I take a step back, since suddenly I feel kinda funny about it too.

I hold up one finger. “Lemme finish this first.” I shift back to Ellie.

But she's gone.

God, she's fast when she wants to be.

I catch sight of a blond ponytail, weaving between the people clogging the hallway. Some sophomore guy stops her. He touches her arm while he says something. She says something in return. She's not smiling at him, but she's also not backing away when he touches her arm
a second time
.

I join the guys and start walking away, toward class. But I turn once to make sure that sophomore guy backed off my Ells.

And he has.

I
FINALLY CATCH
sight of Jack at the end of the day. Of course it's right as I'm heading to the locker room. Unlike me, Jack doesn't have a lacrosse game in five minutes. He's talking to his friends, like he's got all the time in the world. While I'm once again skating toward late.

So I interrupt.

“Listen—about your uncle.” I try to sound nonchalant, but Jack's uncle is a big-time college soccer coach.

“He sent a recruiter here at lunch,” Jack says. “If you're interested, you should have been there.”

I say, “I figure why not cut to the chase—talk to the big man himself.”

He looks at me. There's always something a little hazy about his eyes. Like he's not fully awake.

“Why should I help you?” he asks. “You didn't do me any favors last fall.”

“It's not stealing your position when I play it better.” This “rivalry” is old and cold as far as I'm concerned.

He glares at me.

“Besides, you're awesome at defense,” I say. “It all worked out for the best.”

“If you're such hot shit, why do you need my help?” he asks.

There's the rub.

“The recruiter thinks I'm not disciplined,” I say. “But that's just 'cause he came to the wrong game. I just need to explain to your uncle.”

Jack laughs. “You're a piece of work, Halloway.”

“Thank you,” I say.

“Tuck!” Graham's waiting down the hall. He's terminally prepunctual. I've spent years working on the cure.

“Let's go!” Graham adds. But when I look back, he's talking to a group of girls.

“Look,” I say, “I'd owe you one. And I pay my debts with interest. Ask anyone.”

I start to leave, but Jack clears his throat.

“Okay. One condition.”

He gets quiet and we just stand there.

“Is the condition making me miss my game?”

“There's this girl....” His voice trails off.

“A girl?” I repeat.

“She doesn't go out much. At least, not to parties.”

“And how can I help with that?”

“You're always hanging out with Ellie.”

It's like he's punched me in the nose. He can't seriously think I'd help him hook up with Ells? Screw his uncle—I don't care if he was head coach of every single college team in the country.

He doesn't even know her—and he doesn't know a thing about me if he'd suggest this.

“No, no,” Jack says, holding up one hand. “Not her.” His vehemence makes me wonder if my fury is plastered across my face. “Her friend. Emma. She told me she's not doing the dating thing right now.”

Even though I know he's not into Ellie, I need to take a deep breath to calm down.

“Is it all the gold chains?” I ask.

He just stares at me. Idiot.

“Why you think I'm her pimp or something,” I say. “You think I can force a girl to go out with you?”

“Yes. You have influence,” Jack says. “Make plans with Ellie,” he continues. “Get her to bring her friend, and invite me.”

This, right here, is why I don't like Jack.

“Yeah,” I say. “Girls love ambushes. Just last week, I jumped out at some girl in a parking garage. She was really into it. The whole mace thing was just a misunderstanding.”

“How is this different from you asking to pester my uncle?” he retorts. “You think he's got time to talk to everyone who wants to play for him?”

It's different. I know it is, even if I can't articulate why.

“Girls like double dates,” he says. “Trust me.”

“I am
not
going on a date with Ellie.” What an idea. What a thing to say. “Double, single, or otherwise.”

BOOK: Valkyrie Symptoms
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