Authors: Brigid Kemmerer
Tags: #JUV000000, #book
This ebook edition published in 2014
Published by arrangement with Kensington Publishing Corp.
All rights reserved
Copyright © 2012 Brigid Kemmerer
All rights reserved. No part of this book may be reproduced or transmitted in any form or by any means, electronic or mechanical, including photocopying, recording or by any information storage and retrieval system, without prior permission in writing from the publisher. The Australian
1968 (the Act) allows a maximum of one chapter or ten per cent of this book, whichever is the greater, to be photocopied by any educational institution for its educational purposes provided that the educational institution (or body that administers it) has given a remuneration notice to Copyright Agency Limited (CAL) under the Act.
The moral right of the author has been asserted.
Allen & Unwin
83 Alexander Street
Crows Nest NSW 2065, Australia
|Phone:||(61 2) 8425 0100|
|Fax:||(61 2) 9906 2218|
eISBN 978 1 74343 687 5
A Cataloguing-in-Publication entry is available
from the National Library of Australia
Design by Bruno Herfst
Cover images by ImPerfectLazybones (Bigstock), shmeljov (Bigstock)
Typeset by Midland Typesetters, Australia
Books by Brigid Kemmerer
Storm: Elementals 1
Spark: Elementals 2
Spirit: Elementals 3
Secret: Elementals 4
The thrill of having a summer job wore off about fifteen minutes
after Emily Morgan started working. She’d had two customers all day. The sports complex was such a joke. No wonder she hadn’t had any competition for this job.
It wasn’t even a sports complex, not really. Mini-golf that no one wanted to play when it was a hundred degrees outside. Batting cages that no one would use until school started up in the fall. She probably wouldn’t see another soul until after five, when the white-collar dads showed up to use the driving range in a last-ditch effort to avoid going home to screaming kids.
Even then, in this heat, she’d be lucky if there were many.
Ugh, her hair was already plastered to her neck. Days like these, she wished she had enough power to do more than stir up a gentle breeze.
Then she choked off that thought.
She knew what happened to kids with power.
Besides, sitting here wasn’t so bad. She worked the shop alone, so she could blast the entire sound tracks to
and sing along, and no one would give a crap. She didn’t have to watch her brother Tyler light insects on fire with a magnifying glass and a sunbeam, like he’d done last summer. She didn’t have to listen to her parents argue.
She could count the days until she turned eighteen.
Until she could get away from her family.
The shop door creaked and rattled, sticking in the humidity. Emily straightened, excited for a customer, for someone—anyone—to break up this cruel monotony.
Anyone but Michael Merrick.
For a second, she entertained the thought of diving behind the counter.
Real mature, Em.
But her hands were slick against the glass casing.
It wasn’t that he looked all that intimidating. He’d be starting his senior year this fall, just like she would, but sometime over the last six months he’d grown to the tall side of average. He worked for his parents’ landscaping company, she knew, and it couldn’t have been light work—his arms showed some clear definition, his shoulders stretching the green tee shirt he wore.
He was filthy, too. Dirt streaked across his chest and clung to the sweat on his neck. His jeans had seen better days, and his work boots would probably track dirt across the floor. Even his hair, dark and wild and a length somewhere between sexy and I-don’t-give-a-crap, was more unkempt than usual.
Emily didn’t care about any of that.
She had her eyes on the baseball bat in his hands.
He’d gotten into it with Tyler last weekend, had sent her brother home with a black eye and a bloody nose, leaving their parents to argue for an hour about how they were going to handle the Merrick problem.
Emily slid her hand along the counter, toward where they kept the putt-putt clubs for little kids.
‘I don’t want any trouble,’ she said, her voice solid but too quick. Her fingers wrapped around the handle of a club.
Michael’s eyes narrowed. ‘I don’t either.’
Then she realized he hadn’t moved from the doorway, that he was still standing there staring at her, his hand on the knob.
He glanced past her, at the corners of the shop, as if reassuring himself that they were alone. She had no idea what that meant. She watched him take in her stance, the way she’d half pulled the putt-putt club free.
He followed her gaze to the bat resting against his shoulder.
His expression hardened, and he shoved the door closed. He was halfway across the floor before she realized he’d moved, and she yanked the club free, ready to swing if he gave her an excuse.
Then he was within reach, and she registered the bat leaving his shoulder, and, god, her parents were right—
He was going to swing—
He was going to kill her—
His hand shot out and caught the steel bar.
Emily stood there gasping. She’d done it—she’d swung for his head. The end of the putter hung about five inches from his face.
And his bat was leaning against the counter.
She couldn’t move. He didn’t let go of the club, either, using his free hand to dig into the pocket of his jeans. A five-dollar bill dropped onto the glass counter between them.
‘So can I get five tokens or what?’
Tokens. For the batting cages.
Emily couldn’t catch her breath—and that never happened. Her panic had kicked the air into a flurry of little whirlwinds in the space between them, teasing her cheeks and lifting his hair.
She could catch his scent, though, sweet and summery, mulch and potting soil, honeysuckle and cut grass. A warm fragrance, not something that belonged on someone she was supposed to hate.
He was staring at her, and he had a death grip on the club. She could feel his strength through the slim bar. ‘Well?’
‘Yeah.’ She coughed and cleared her throat, using her own free hand to punch at the cash register. ‘Sure.’
It took effort to look away from the dark brown of his eyes. Wasn’t there some kind of rule about not looking away from an enemy? She fished the tokens out of the drawer, almost dropping them all over the floor. Somehow, she got them onto the glass counter and slid them toward him.
Then they stood there comically, connected by the slim rod of the club.
She wanted to let go—but she didn’t.
Especially now that she’d tried to hit him, when he’d never made a move to lay a hand on her.
She swallowed, thinking of Tyler’s bruised face after he’d gone a few rounds with Michael Merrick.
He leaned in. ‘I come here every Wednesday and Friday.’
‘You going to try to kill me every time?’
She shook her head quickly.
He let go of the club. She sheepishly lowered it, but didn’t put it back in the bucket with the others.
Michael swiped the tokens from the counter and jammed them into his pocket. He swung the bat onto his shoulder again.
Emily opened her mouth—for what, she wasn’t sure.
But then he was through the door, pulling it shut behind him without a glance back.
The ball came flying out of the machine, and Michael swung the bat hard, feeling it all the way through his shoulders.
Crack. The ball went sailing into the net.
One place. That’s all he wanted—one place where he wouldn’t get hassled.
And now he was screwed.
What the hell was Tyler’s sister doing here, anyway? She wasn’t a jock chick. From what he knew of her, she should probably be flirting over the counter at Starbucks or something, not babysitting a half-dead sports center.
Summer should have meant a break from this crap. Ever since they’d moved here in sixth grade, school had been a prison he got to escape at three o’clock every day.
Only to be hauled back in the next morning.
Just like a real prison, not everyone sucked. There were the people who didn’t know he existed. The people who knew but didn’t care. The latter made up the bulk of the student body.
But then there was the group that knew everything about him. The group that wanted him dead.
Like he’d picked this. Like he’d woken up one morning and said, I’d love to be tied to an element. I’d love to have so much power it scares me.
I’d love to be marked for death because of something I can’t control.
This wasn’t the only place with batting cages, but it was the cheapest. One sat closer to home, with fake turf in the cages and everything, but here his feet were in the dirt, pulling strength from the ground below.
If he took his shoes off and swung barefoot, he could draw enough power from the earth to blow the ball straight through the net.
Oh, who was he kidding? He could practically do that now, steel-toed work boots and all.
That was part of the problem. He was a pure Elemental. Power spoke to him straight from the earth. The others in town had power, sure, but nothing like his. He could theoretically level half the town if he lost his temper.
Which was why they wanted him dead.
At least his parents had worked out a deal: He’d stay out of trouble, and the other families wouldn’t report his existence.
There’d been money involved, sure. He had no idea how much. But sometimes he couldn’t believe his entire being rested on a signed check and a frigging handshake.
It didn’t help that the other kids in town—the kids who knew—seemed determined to make him reveal himself.
The hair on the back of his neck prickled, and Michael punched the button to stop the pitches, whirling with bat in hand.
He wouldn’t put it past Emily to call her brother and his friends.
No one stood in the dust between the batting cages and the office. His dad’s work truck was still the only vehicle in the parking lot.
Michael swiped the sweat off his forehead and turned to slap the button again. Another ball came flying.
He’d have to think twice before bringing Chris or the twins here again. It was one thing to walk into enemy territory alone, and entirely another to drag his little brothers.
And, damn it, this shouldn’t have been enemy territory!
God, it felt good to hit something.
Well, he wasn’t giving it up. This was his thing. If Emily wanted to take a swing at his head with a putter twice a week, she could give it her best shot. What did she think he was going to do, instigate an earthquake from the batting cages? Make too much grass grow on the driving range?
That prickle crawled along his neck again. Michael spun.
Emily stood there, ten feet behind the chain link, her arms folded tight against her chest. Tendrils of white-blond hair had escaped her ponytail to cling to her neck in the humidity.
Michael could practically hear his father’s daily warning in his head: Don’t start something. Just leave them alone.
How was he supposed to leave them alone if they kept coming after him?
He automatically checked behind her. Still no cars in the parking lot.
‘Back to take another swing?’ he said.