Authors: Pauline Gruber
Other books by Pauline Gruber:
The Girl and the Raven
The Girl and the Gargoyle
Copyright © 2015 by Pauline Gruber
All rights reserved. Except as permitted under the U.S. Copyright Act of 1976, no part of this publication may be reproduced, distributed, or transmitted in any form or by any means, or stored in a database or retrieval system, without the prior written permission of the publisher.
Dragonfly Ink, Ltd.
P.O. Box 2042
Palatine, IL 60078
The characters and events portrayed in this book are fictitious. Any similarity to real persons, living or dead, is coincidental and not intended by the author.
ISBN 978-0-9910774-2-7 (for print)
The publisher does not have any control over and does not assume any responsibility for author or third-party websites or their content.
Cover Art by Phatpuppy Art
Cover Design by The Bookish Brunette
Formatting by Author E.M.S.
Author Photo by Sopho Studio
In loving memory of my sister,
my very own protector.
The clatter of my cell phone bouncing against the nightstand startles me awake. My heavy lids refuse to open. Another late night on the roof with Marcus—and that was after spending two hours working on a killer CD mix for him. Did he struggle this much when he made my CDs last year?
I snuggle into my pillow, sleep beckoning. My phone vibrates again. I reach for it with a groan. Marcus is probably the only person I would forgive for bugging me this early. Maybe my gargoyle boyfriend wants to meet me for an early morning kiss? Nothing could top that.
Seriously??? Are you kidding me??? You’re the luckiest girl alive!
I reread Katie’s text, but it makes no sense.
I bolt upright. Is it possible she saw us last night? Crap. I fell asleep on the roof with Marcus. He and his wings, in all their glorious beauty, delivered me safely to the ground. He doesn’t need his wings for that small of a jump. He did it for me. He knows I love them.
I swallow a shriek as I spot the figure leaning against my dresser.
“What are you doing in my bedroom?” I snap, my heart hammering against my rib cage.
Jude crosses his arms over his chest. In the year that I’ve known him, my father has learned to mimic human gestures well. Then it hits me. That’s one of my most common gestures.
“I would like to meet your great-uncles.”
I swallow hard. “I told you it would happen when the time’s right.”
“I’m done waiting.”
“Let me ease them into it,” I plead.
My phone vibrates in my hand. That’s when I remember Katie’s message.
What do I say to my best friend and neighbor if she saw Marcus deliver me to my bedroom window? Play dumb?
My uncles putter around the kitchen, clanging pans and chopping vegetables. The smell of fresh brewed coffee drifts into my bedroom, followed by the heavy, smoky smell of bacon.
“Perfect. We can have breakfast together,” Jude says.
I return my cell to my bedside table.
“Please,” I whisper. “Not today.”
The front door creaks open. Sheldon grabbing the Sunday paper from the sidewalk? How do I get rid of Jude? I throw off my sheet and blanket, thinking through a safe response to Katie.
“Bernard? Can you come here, please?”
Something about Sheldon’s tone causes the back of my neck to get all prickly. Do they know Jude’s here? How did he get in, anyway? Did he pick the lock on the front door?
“Lucy?” Bernard calls out.
Jude pushes himself off the dresser. “I’ll be out front. Come and invite me in.” In one smooth motion, he climbs out the window. So that’s how he did it.
I change out of pajamas and into shorts and a T-shirt, my stomach churning.
How do I introduce Jude?
Sheldon despises him for what he did to Momma. Never mind that he’s been absent my entire life. How do I explain that Gram played a role in keeping my father and me apart? And that she used magic to do it? My uncles are in the dark about everything. They don’t know Gram was a witch. They don’t know about all the supernaturals living in the three-flat building. And they don’t know I’m half-witch, half-demon. If they did, I think their heads would explode.
“Lucy?” Sheldon’s voice is much louder this time.
“Hey, Sheldon. Bernard. What’s up?” I say as I enter the living room. Travel brochures decorate the coffee table. Are they still debating between Costa Rica and Alaska for our family vacation?
“We were going to ask you the same question.” Bernard frowns, his hands on his hips.
They know about Jude, but how?
Sheldon grabs my hand as Bernard pushes aside the drapes and jabs his finger toward the window. “What in the world is that?”
I look outside.
Katie’s text message now makes sense.
My mouth falls open as I stare at the brand-spanking new dark blue car that screams,
Officer, I’m a teenage driver, please pull me over
. Shiny and gorgeous, adorned with a humongous red bow on top with words written in gold, so large I can read them clearly from the apartment,
Happy Belated Birthday, Lucy
My entire nervous system buzzes with panic. Subtlety is not Jude’s strong suit.
I feel the weight of my uncles’ stares.
“Something you want to share with the class, Luce?” Sheldon asks.
I wrap my arms around my stomach. Forget butterflies, I’ve got a violent case of hornets swarming in my belly. “Yeah, that’s a tough one.”
“There’s a sixty thousand dollar vehicle sitting outside with your name on it. Give it a try,” Bernard pushes.
I’m torn between wanting to pummel Jude and melting into a pool of goo under my uncles’ hot glares.
I jump at the sudden knock at the front door. A flush of adrenaline tingles through my body. My father couldn’t wait ten minutes?
Neither of my uncles move. A second knock rings out, this time more urgent. I rush to answer it, relieved to get away from Sheldon and Bernard.
It’s Marcus and he looks unhappy.
“Um…hi…” I nod subtly toward my uncles. “Not a good time.”
Marcus glances over my shoulder. “Just stopped by to see what you’re doing today.” He bends to hug me. “Persephone called. The ravens are going berserk. She had to set them free to keep them from injuring themselves trying to escape.”
Persephone lives in the third floor apartment. She’s also a witch and was Gram’s best friend.
“Why? What’s wrong?” I whisper in his ear.
“Marcus, do you know anything about this car?” Sheldon calls out.
“I haven’t been outside yet. What car?” Marcus pushes past me into the apartment.
My uncles pull the drapes back to expose the sweet sixteen birthday gift.
“I see,” Marcus says stiffly. “I’m guessing he wants to talk to you.”
And that’s when I notice his twitching, the strain of his muscles as he tries to suppress the urge to morph.
. Marcus knows Jude is here. He can sense him. This is going to be bad. Sheldon and Bernard will be furious. I’ll be grounded forever, no longer allowed to spend time on the roof with Marcus. Will they insist I quit my nanny job with the Douglas family? Will they kick me out for being the world’s biggest liar?
“Who gave you the car, Lucy?” Bernard asks.
“Uh…well…” It suddenly feels like a hundred degrees in the room as a droplet of sweat trickles down my back. “You see…”
Marcus’s jaw is clenched, and cords stand out on his neck. He’s fighting the change. This is torture for him. I have to tell my uncles and get Jude out of here for Marcus’s sake.
“It’s a gift from my father,” I blurt out. My mind races for an abbreviated version of the truth. “He…he contacted me recently. He knew all kinds of stuff about me. And Momma. And Gram.” I pull my hair over my shoulder and twist it. “I wasn’t sure if I wanted to see him after all these years, but I did meet him…over ice cream.” My voice trails off at the looks of confusion on Sheldon and Bernard’s faces.
Sheldon pulls at his bottom lip. “Your father?”
What was it Sheldon told me about Momma and Jude last year?
“She seemed to lose her mind. Literally. Her life revolved around him, and when he left, it was like her mind…and her will to live…went with him.”
Bernard pulls the dishtowel from his shoulder, his eyes coming into focus for the first time since I dropped the bomb. “Lucy, this is big news. Did you say the man is outside? If that’s the case, you should invite him in. He can have breakfast with us and introduce himself.” His gaze slides from me to Marcus. “Marcus, you’re welcome to join us as well.”
“I don’t think Marcus can stay.” I put a hand on Marcus’s arm and give him a firm shove toward the door. Being in Jude’s presence will only torture him more. Even now, he’s trembling, and his skin is hot beneath my fingers.
Marcus ignores me and nods at Bernard. “I’d love to. Thanks.”
I can’t think of a way to argue with him that won’t involve my uncles finding out I’ve hidden other things from them, too. Why can’t Marcus listen to me for once and go back upstairs to his own apartment? It’ll be bad enough having breakfast with Jude and my uncles, but Marcus and Jude together in one room could be a disaster. They hate each other too much.
Sheldon and Bernard stare at me expectantly.
“Would you like me to go with you?” Sheldon asks. “To invite your father in?”
There are a hundred ways this could go horribly wrong, but I can’t think of an objection that will sound reasonable to my uncles. I shake my head, trying to keep the alarm from my face. I need a couple of minutes alone with Jude. I force my legs to walk outside to Jude’s fancy black sedan. I refrain from giving it a swift kick.
Jude rolls down the window. “What do you think?” he asks. I ignore the shark-like smile on his face. “I chose blue because it favors your coloring, but if you prefer something else, just name it.”
“We had a deal. You were supposed to stay away from my uncles.”
“I grew tired of waiting.” The smile is still on his face. “Besides, with your horrible commute to school, I thought you could use a more convenient method of transportation. Also, I believe fathers giving daughters a car for their sixteenth birthday is traditional.”
“Yeah, you’re father of the year, Jude.” I glare at him. “Is it normal in the demon world for fathers to hang out in their daughter’s bedroom? Because in the human world, it’s creepy and inappropriate.”
“I like to watch you sleep. It’s the only time you look…peaceful. If you lived under my roof…”
He’s been in my bedroom before today? A white-hot ball of panic surges inside of me. Is he going to force me to move in with him? What does that mean for Sheldon and Bernard?
“That’s not going to happen.” Maybe I should put bars on my windows? Right, like that would keep him out. But it’s the hard look in his eyes, the curl of his mouth that leaves me breathless. Like he would do whatever it took to get me to move in with him.