Authors: Rebecca A. Rogers
Tags: #Teen & Young Adult, #Science Fiction & Fantasy, #Fantasy, #Paranormal & Urban
Rebecca A. Rogers
This is a work of fiction. All characters, organizations and events portrayed in this novel are either products of the author’s imagination or are used fictitiously.
Copyright © 2012 Rebecca A. Rogers
All rights reserved. This book or any portion thereof may not be reproduced or used in any manner whatsoever without the express written permission of the author, except for the use of brief quotations in a book review.
First Edition: January 13, 2012
Krista, Ashley, and Jamie – Thank you for your devoted eyes.
OTHERS BOOKS AVAILABLE BY THIS AUTHOR:
Silver Moon (Silver Moon, #1)
Under the Stars
“For the strength of the pack is the wolf, and the strength of the wolf is the pack.”
- Rudyard Kipling
’ve always fought back after a blow to the face. In fourth grade, when Darcy Miller decided it was
slide and she was queen of the playground, my arrogance triumphed, and I challenged her position. After one clean punch, the girl had it coming. Ultimately, I won, but Darcy’s friends wanted nothing to do with me. She was their rightful queen. So, really, I lost.
Which is exactly what’s happening to me right now.
“Candra, stop!” Jana’s passionate cries are wearing thin. She’s stood on the sidelines watching every new swing, kick, and blood splatter as they happen. Of
she won’t step in—her two best friends are fighting, which means she’d actually have to pick a side.
I jerk my head once in disapproval. “Sorry, Jana. Not today.” Besides, Ali had this coming for a while. The bitch ran her mouth that I slept with Ben and gave him a terminal STD. Anyone who’s close to me knows that’s not the case; we’ve never slept together.
Well, not like
I dodge a punch aimed for my cheek. Who knew Barbie could actually swing, let alone make contact with someone’s face? Right now, though, she’s a fierce opponent. She’s avoided almost every chance I’ve had to knock her into next week. Almost.
“C’mon, Candra. Let me show you how it’s
done,” Ali taunts.
I grin, sure that my teeth are covered in blood, as I feel like I’m sucking on liquid pennies. “You’re good. Better, even, than any of my rivals back home.”
“Too bad we’re much worse, huh?” Her lips pucker into a mocking pout. By
she means the Conway’s. Last I heard they practically treat her like family.
“Yeah,” I say, a little winded, “too bad.”
And just like that, she knocks me out. I don’t mean let-me-leave-a-bruise-on-your-face out, but more like let-me-leave-a-bruise-on-your-face-and-break-your-jaw-at-the-same-time out. Multi-colored spots momentarily freckle the darkness, and then I spit blood. Well, I’ve been doing that for at least ten, maybe fifteen, minutes already, but this oozes across my lips in one of those gooey messes that’ll stain everything—my shirt, my jeans, asphalt. This could be a crime scene, after all.
“Stop it!” Jana’s somewhere in the black fog and tiny speckles of light; I just can’t see her. “Okay, you’ve won. Now, go!” She cradles my head. The only way I know it’s her is because she’s the only one who gives a shit. Blake, too. But I think he just wanted to see the chick fight.
“That was lame.” His voice comes from my left, as does the whack to his body. “What?” He laughs. “Okay, seriously, I had five bucks on you,
. How could you let me down like that?”
I cough up more blood so I won’t choke. “What are you talking about? I totally had her.”
Blake’s the only one laughing. Jana emits her typical, parental sigh.
“Candra, you can’t fight everyone that comes along. You’re going to get seriously injured one of these days.”
I smile . . . or I try, at least. I probably look like I’ve been to the dentist and received a surplus of Novocain. “Too much fun.”
“If you call getting bloody and bruised fun, then I guess so. But it’s not my thing. C’mon, let’s get you home so we can clean you up,” she says, carefully lifting my head off her lap. Blake’s arms slide underneath my back as he lifts me.
In the comfort of Jana’s backseat, my body begins to react to the pain. Barbed vines of agony slither and stretch their way through my face and down my torso, as if my body’s replaying every hit and scrape and bite all over again. “Get me out of here,” I squall through clenched teeth.
Jana doesn’t respond, unless you count her foot pressing the gas pedal and hauling ass out of the parking lot. Yes, a parking lot. As in: we fought on vacant premises with plenty of parking so the curious could watch. It was all over school earlier, how there’s a love triangle between Ali, Ben and me, and how we’re both
to be by his side. Gag.
I tried explaining to Ali that Ben and I can’t be together—he made that clear after he stuck his tongue in my mouth in the parking lot of May’s Ice Cream Shop. Plus, our families are at each other’s throats. The feud has gotten worse since my run-in with the shadow man a.k.a. Ethan at the carnival two months ago. Magic is being used now more than ever, and it’s up to us to find out where they’re practicing the dark art.
But, of course, Ali wouldn’t listen. She was too blinded by jealousy, I guess, having no idea that he and I had been seeing each other. I explained I used him to try and bring peace between our families, but that only infuriated her more.
him?” she had seethed.
I smirked. “Yeah, but there were a few bonuses, so it wasn’t a total bust.”
She crossed her arms over her chest, which only pushed her boobs up, revealing her V-neck top couldn’t handle all that cleavage. “What kind of bonuses?”
Laughing, I glanced away, shaking my head. “You don’t want to know.” As I moved to pass her, she blocked me.
“No, I think I do.”
Whatever. She persisted. I answered.
“Well, there was the time he took me out to dinner. Oh, and the time he saved me from his mom eating my leg like a king at a Renaissance festival would with turkey. He was so sweet, too. After he bandaged me, we slept in the same bed.” I made sure I added this last part because I just couldn’t help myself. “Then there was that time we made out on the back of his BMW.”
I’d never seen someone’s face ignite into a fiery red like Ali’s. “Bitch,” she hissed, stomping off in the opposite direction. By the end of the school day,
wanted a chance to see the fight. So we picked a convenient location and . . . the rest is now history.
I should’ve kept my mouth shut. It would’ve been funnier if Ben had told her and she hit him instead. The dull ache mixed with blazing pain in my face is almost unbearable, reminding me that I’m the one who was on the receiving end.
“We’re here,” says Jana.
?” I ask. Since I’m lying down, my visibility is limited, and all I see are trees pointing toward the sky and clouds.
“My house. I can’t take you to yours just yet because Randy and Beth will freak. Plus, your parents are coming in again tomorrow, so I’ll just send Beth a message and tell her you’re staying with me.” When she says “message,” she doesn’t mean a text; she means telepathically. Not only are Jana and Blake Watchers—helpers to my family—but they also gained the ability to communicate with us when they signed up for the job.
“Done,” says Jana. God, that took all of five seconds.
I groan at the sharp pain hammering throughout my skull, and the rest of my body, when I sit up. “You don’t think she’ll suspect anything?”
“No, we’ve got this covered,” Jana responds loosely. “Randy and Beth trust us.”
I snort. “Too bad you just
A half-smile tugs at the corner of Blake’s lips. “I wouldn’t say
Jana and Blake exit the car, but, of course, I’m the last one out. My muscles are shouting at me; so much so, in fact, that, in the past thirty minutes, I’ve learned I have muscles I never knew existed. I also know I won’t be able to exit this car on my own. Lucky for me Blake snatches the bait.
“Whatever you say,” I retort. “But if they find out, I’m toast. Forget my eighteenth birthday. They’ll send me straight back to Charleston, and I’ll be lucky if even that happens.” Thoughts of a boarding school, or maybe a remote island like the one Tom Hanks was on in the movie
, cross my mind. Perfect isolated spots.
Speaking of isolation, Jana’s house isn’t as accessible as Randy and Beth’s, and there aren’t any neighbors from what I can tell. It’s also much smaller, and the rooms seem pretty cozy, based on the fact the second-story windows are so close together they only have a few wooden boards separating them. The lawn is a bit overgrown, and the flowers on the mini front porch have all but turned to dust, as if Jana’s family has been spending way too much time searching for magicians rather than nurturing their home.
“Nice place,” I say.
Jana watches me for a second, like she’s unsure if I really mean what I said, finally settling with a “thanks” before leading us through the front door. Inside, the house still has that comfortable atmosphere. Some might consider it cluttered, but all I want to do is grab a throw and curl up on the couch for a nap.
“This way,” says Jana, guiding us up the stairs. Obviously she’s trying to hide me before her parents get home and notice the bruised and bloodied mess known as Candra. Each stair I take is a painful souvenir of the fight, and I bite my lip in an attempt not to cry out. Blake catches me before I trip, but his effort only makes the pain worse, as he accidentally grabs the side where Ali landed a hard blow earlier. Without thinking, I scream.
“Sorry!” Blake responds, removing his hands from the general vicinity of my ribcage, and me altogether.
,” I wheeze.
When Jana opens her bedroom door, I’m surprised to see posters of rock bands from the 80’s, along with a heavy metal theme. Three guitars decorate a wall used only by her dresser, and there are several wild wigs on busts by her window.
“Wigs? Really? You club frequently, Jana?” I tease.
Jana’s face is totally solemn when she answers, “Candra, the wigs are for disguises so when Blake and I venture out, trying to gather information for
family, we won’t actually be caught and, you know, killed.”