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Dusk

 

 

Dusk

Magic #1

Heather Kirchhoff

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Copyright © Heather Kirchhoff 2016

Dusk

Magic #1

Heather Kirchhoff

 

© 2016 Heather Kirchhoff

All rights are reserved. No part of this book may be reproduced, stored in a retrieval system, including photocopying, recording, or transmitted by any means without written consent of the author.

This is a work of fiction. All the characters and events portrayed in this novel are either fictitious or used fictitiously.

Published in the United States of America in March 2014.

Edited by Heather Kirchhoff and Kate Marie Robbins

Book Design by Scarlett Jade © 2014

Formatted by Genevieve Scholl

Other Books by Heather Kirchhoff:

 

The Last Night

For all of those who support me. Thank you.

You don’t know how much your support means to me.

Table of Contents

 

 

One 5

Two 5

Three 5

Four 5

Five 5

Six 5

Seven 5

Eight 5

Nine 5

Ten 5

Eleven 5

Twelve 5

About the Author 5

Acknowledgements 5

 

 

One

A scream pierced the silent night, echoing; flames licked up the walls, sending black smoke hurtling into the dark sky. Heat blasted into my skin, turning it red as I stood, watching the village crumble in the flames. Fear spiked within me, causing my heart to beat rapidly. My breathing became ragged as rage coursed blindingly through me.

How could they? My thoughts exploded as the buildings did. Shattering glass filled the night, falling on top of the ashes. The flames danced, leering at us as they grew higher.

“We must go!” someone cried, their voice shivering.

The breeze suddenly picked up, feeding the destruction. Tears rushed down my burnt face, leaving streak marks behind; my frail body stung as heat smacked into it. I tried to talk, but the smoke wouldn’t allow it. I coughed, choking on smoke.

“Mommy,” I whimpered softly. Where was she?

She promised she’d return.

Ashes fell from the rooftops, sprinkling down onto us like snow. Please return. My eyes searched for her, but she never came back out. “Mommy,” I repeated, my voice stronger this time.

With each passing hour my hope dwindled. I tried fooling myself into believing she’d return, but deep down, I knew the truth.

“I’m so sorry, Meagan!” my mommy’s sister exclaimed. “But we need to get out of here now.”

“No! I can’t leave her!” I screamed as I was carried away. I tried my best to escape—to go find her—but my auntie’s friend’s grip was too strong. “Mommy!” My gaze went to the flames I was leaving behind. She was in there somewhere. Tears fell down quickly, blurring my vision as I buried my face in his shoulder, leaving my broken promise with Mommy.

 

I flinched awake, tears soaking my mattress. I glanced around the dark room, assuring myself I was safe. I still felt my flesh stinging as if it was just scorched with heat. That dreadful day I lost everything, and it made us go into hiding. I still didn’t know why we had to constantly be on the lookout. My aunt and her boyfriend always refused to tell me whenever I asked. They claimed it didn’t matter how I became this powerful. I sighed as I wiped my tears away, listening for any footsteps.

When I felt it was clear, I laid back down, knowing I wasn’t going back to sleep. My heart hammered as I struggled to remember her face. The sharp angle of her cheeks; the way her long dark brown hair fell, laying against her tan skin; her heart-shaped face and brown eyes. She was stunning. I always wanted to grow up and inherit her sharp curves—always wanted to look like her. I smiled softly to myself as her memory came to my mind, reminding me I have something more to live for than just myself.

I have to live for her.

My mom was taken from me too soon. I could still see that night as clearly as if it just happened yesterday; it haunted me in my dreams, always had. I’d think I was getting better about it and then another dream came along.

I slowly sat up, turning on my lamp. Everything looked the same as it did before—crisp, clean, barely anything in sight. I smiled to myself, taking in the few pictures I have—one of my aunt and I and the other of my mom and I when I was five. That was the last time I ever saw her. I sighed again as the memory of the fire and smoke flared through my mind; it was almost as if I could taste and hear it again. It was a secret song only meant for me. I shook my head fiercely, trying to clear my mind.

All those screams, people dying, flames devouring…

“Stop!” I commanded. Those words instantly went away. I stared down at my hands as they shook softly, my heart pounding. After a couple minutes I got up and left my room, silently walking down the hallway and into the kitchen.

“Meagan? What are you doing up?”

I froze at my aunt’s voice. I turned my gaze to her, noticing she’s dressed. “Going somewhere?” I asked, gesturing to her jeans and blue blouse.

“Why are you up?” she repeated. “It’s two in the morning.”

“I had a bad dream,” I said after a minute. “Why are you dressed?”

She hesitated, watching me. “Is it the same one?” she asked, ignoring my question.

“Yes,” I replied, a hint of a snap in my voice.

Before I could say anything else Teresa’s boyfriend, Devin, came into the room, also fully dressed. I stared between the two of them, noticing their worried expressions. “What is it?” I demanded.

“It’s nothing, Meagan,” Teresa said, her eyes meeting Devin’s.

“If that were the case, then why are you dressed?”

“Tell her, Teresa. It’s not good to hide anything from her.”

She sighed, giving a small nod at her boyfriend. “Get dressed and we’ll talk,” she said to me. I shot Devin a look, unsure if we will.

“Go. We’ll talk like your aunt said,” he assured me.

I gave a small nod and left them alone. Once I entered my room, I stripped out of the pajamas I was wearing and went to my closet, grabbing the first thing I touched. I shimmied into dark blue jeans, a green tank top, and then put on my sneakers. I quickly brushed my extremely dark brown hair, staring at myself in the mirror for a few seconds. I was tan with brown eyes, sharp cheek bones, and curvy. I studied myself, wondering what my mom would look like, what she would say to me. Was I everything she hoped I would be?

It’d been so long since I last heard her voice that I didn’t even remember it. I could barely see her face in my mind; I didn’t even know how good she was with me. Would we even be living here if she hadn’t died? Or would we still be in that village? I guess there was no way to know that now. All we could do was live in the present, keep going and never look back. Shaking my head, I turned out my light and left my room, returning back to the kitchen to see Teresa and Devin staring intently at a piece of paper. At my approach, they both looked up, instantly hiding the paper.

“What do you have there?”

“Meagan, we really need to talk,” my aunt said, ignoring my comment.

“Yeah, I’ve gathered that.”

“Sit,” Devin ordered. “You’re going to need it.”

“By the sound of that, this can’t be good.”

“Not even close.” I turned my gaze to my aunt, watching as she fiddled with her shirt. “Meagan,” she started, meeting my gaze. “We got a telegram about you.”

“About me?” I asked incredulously. “I didn’t do anything!”

“No, you didn’t,” she agreed. “But that doesn’t mean anything.”

“What do you mean? Of course it does!”

“Listen to me, okay?” Teresa took a deep breath, turning her eyes to her lap. “When we left the village after that fire, we had to go as far away as we could, otherwise you’d be in danger.”

“Why?” Surprise quivered in my voice.

“Because you’re the Powerful One. You can do so much that no one else can. Other magic users envy you.”

“But I’m a teenager. What does this have to do with that fire? That was years ago.”

“Yes, but apparently they have been looking for you all these years.”

I felt my jaw drop to the ground. “What?”

“We just found out about this ourselves,” Devin added. “Otherwise we would have moved a long time ago.”

“Moved?”

“We’ll get to that later. Look, Meag—”

“Why am I so powerful?” I interrupted. I crossed my arms across my chest, glancing from one to the other.

“I promised your mom I wouldn’t tell you until you were eighteen,” Teresa said, stepping forward.

“I think I’m close enough to that.”

“We don’t have time for this,” Devin interjected. “We need to get out of here.”

“I’ll explain everything to you later,” Teresa promised me. “We need to go now.”

I whirled on Teresa. I stared at her as my next question came tumbling out of my mouth. “Does this mean I’m in danger?”

“Very much so.”

“What will happen to me?”

“Well…”

Devin turned to me when my aunt trailed off. “You’ll die if we don’t do something about it now.”

“Now as in right now? Tonight?”

“It’s early morning, but yes. You’re correct,” my aunt responded.

“How do you know about this?” I demanded, my head spinning.

“A friend of ours sent it to us. They had promised to keep in touch and warn us of everything.”

I felt my eyes widen at that. Shock rippled through me. “What friend? I thought you couldn’t trust anyone?”

“We have to trust someone when it comes to your safety,” Teresa answered after a few moments.

My thoughts raced as I processed this. “How do you know you can trust them?”

“Because they’ve never turned us in.”

I shook my head fiercely. “That doesn’t mean anything.”

“She’s my sister,” Devin interjected. “I know we can trust her.”

“Is that where you go when you leave?” He nodded, watching me.

“You see? There’s nothing to be worried about.”

I snorted. “Except for the fact that she could always be caught,” I retorted.

They both froze, their eyes locked on me. I swallowed, forcing my fear to stay back. I sat down slowly, my body feeling like Jell-O. This can’t be happening.

“She could be right,” my aunt said suddenly, turning to Devin. “That’s how they could have found us.”

“She wouldn’t have been able to send a telegram then,” he argued, his eyes narrowing.

“She could have done it quickly or already had it made.”

“Not my sister. She was so careful.” Grief filled his voice, causing it to shake.

“So are we, but now we have to move again.”

“Again?” I interrupted.

Watching them converse like that was strange. It kind of had a dream like quality to it.

“I don’t think we can ever stay in one spot for long,” Teresa continued. “Meagan, why don’t you get something to eat or drink?”

“I’m not hungry,” I said, annoyed by her mother-like qualities. Why won’t they answer my questions?

“Oh, come on. You have to be. You haven’t eaten anything since last night.”

“I’m not,” I insisted. “I want answers.”

She shook her head. “Not now. We need to figure this out.”

“You can’t. Don’t you see? You’re not as careful as you thought. You should have already had a place ready to go to, in case this ever happened.”

“No—”

“She’s right,” Devin cut her off smoothly. “This wouldn’t be a problem if we had.”

I smiled, but it felt fake. My mind was trying to catch up, to grasp what was happening. I couldn’t believe it. I’d been hidden my entire life and now that was about to change.

Teresa paused to ponder this for a moment. “I guess so, but we didn’t. So let’s find somewhere.”

He glanced at her, sighing. “This time around we need to.”

“All right.”

“While you two figure out everything, can I see the telegram?”

Teresa met my gaze before finally handing it over to me. I smiled my appreciation at her, noticing her hand shake as they moved out of the room. The piece of paper was cream colored with bold letters scrawled across it:

 

Run now. Danger is coming. You all will be killed and Meagan may be held hostage. I’m sorry I couldn’t keep you guys hidden like I promised. I hoped I never had to send this.

 

I blinked, unable to believe it. Everything was crumbling around me, my entire world was being torn away. Where will we go now? What will happen to us? I didn’t know what it would be like out there, what kind of problems we would face. It was hard enough hiding my powers when we do go out, but all the time? They were a part of me. I couldn’t hold them back; it was impossible. But I had to—if I didn’t then anything could happen.

Suddenly, movement caught my attention. My eyes went straight towards it, catching a figure moving too fast. I went over to it, walking slowly, my eyes never leaving the window; I gasped when a face turned towards me, revealing a man with a messed up eye and scars all along his face. I quickly took a few steps backwards, my heart racing all over again.

“Teresa!”

“What, Meagan?” she asked, coming into the room, followed by her boyfriend. “Meagan?” Her tone went lighter and I felt them approach me slowly. She looked out the window then at me, her expression worried. “What is it?”

“I—I saw someone out there,” I informed them, still not tearing my gaze away.

“What did this person look like?” Devin came to my other side, peering out the window. He shook his head, waiting for my answer.

“He had scars,” I whispered. “And a bad eye.”

“Damn it,” Devin said under his breath, pushing away from me. He began pacing, cursing softly to himself.

“What?” Teresa and I asked in unison.

Devin didn’t answer for a long time, but when he did my blood went cold, my heart instantly stopping. “They’re here.”

“What do you mean?” my aunt demanded. “Who’s here?”

“The people that want Meagan.”

I couldn’t breathe. I saw someone that wanted to kill me and he saw me too. They know we’re here for sure now.

“No,” my aunt instantly responded, shaking her head. “This isn’t happening.”

“We need to get out now,” he said, his tone sharp.

“We can’t stay any longer. They probably already have this place surrounded—or close to it.”

After a long moment, Teresa went to her room, coming back with a bag. She tossed it to me. “Pack anything you touch. Hurry.”

I hesitated a moment, watching as they both disappeared into the bedroom again. Once they were gone I went to mine, packing as fast as I could; I added anything that was important to me, tossing aside what wasn’t. We’d been here as long as I could remember, yet I felt nothing. This move doesn’t mean anything to me; it’s just something we have to do. I glanced out my window, watching as the predawn glimmered with all kinds of colors, making it gorgeous. The colors blended and swirled together almost like a masterpiece.

A soft knock on my door scattered my thoughts. “Meagan?”

I sighed. “Come in.”

Teresa opened the door, stepping in swiftly. “Are you ready?”

I shrugged. “I guess.” My eyes wandered around the room, ensuring nothing was forgotten. “Hey, where are we going?”

She paused in turning away, glancing back at me. Her hand was on the doorknob. “Don’t worry, you’ll be safe. We won’t let anything happen to you.”

“Yeah, I can tell.” I ran my hand along my dresser, a small smile lifting my lips. I turned my attention back to my aunt. “My mom would be proud of you.”

“How’s that?” Surprise filled her voice.

“Because you raised me and you never put yourself before me.” As if an afterthought, I added, “You didn’t give up no matter how hard things became. I’m seventeen now and you’re still going strong.”

She shrugged. “Yeah, well, I kind of made a promise to her.”

I zipped my bag closed, tossing it over my shoulder. “What kind of promise?”

“When you were younger, she asked me to take care of you if anything ever happened to her. I can’t break a promise, not after everything your mom did for me.”

I began walking towards my aunt, asking, “What did she do?”

“We don’t have time for all these questions.”

“What are you two doing?” Devin demanded as he came in. “We can’t sit around and talk!”

“We know,” I snapped, annoyance ringing in my tone.

My aunt shot me a sharp look. “We’re coming,” she informed him. “And Meagan, she gave me somewhere to live. She never turned me down when I needed something, even if it meant she had to go into debt.”

“Sounds like she had a kind heart,” I said as longing to know this woman stirred inside me. Why can’t I know my mom?

“Yes, she did.”

“Come on.” Devin took my aunt’s hand, leading her out. I followed, stopping for a split second to turn off the light.

“I still don’t know where we’re going.”

“Be patient,” my aunt told me, still holding Devin’s hand.

“We can tell you on the way.”

“I don’t like that,” I complained. “I hate being the last to know.”

“You will know as soon as you’re safe, okay?” Teresa responded, grabbing her bag. Devin took it from her, slinging it across his shoulders.

“Just one bag?”

“We both have our stuff in one. It’s easier that way, traveling with less.”

“Oh, right.”

A crashing noise suddenly sounded from the other room. I froze, my eyes flitting towards the door. Glass shattering filled my ears as my world came splintering apart.

“Shit,” Devin muttered before pulling us to the front door. “We have to get out of here.” He paused once we reached his destination, peering outside. “Meagan, get ready to use your magic.”

“M—my magic?” I stammered. “Can’t—wouldn’t that get attention?”

“Not if it gets us out,” he said as more glass broke. “We can’t talk about this. Just be ready, okay? It’s to save our lives.”

“Fine. As long as it gets us out safely.”

“Don’t think it won’t,” Teresa spoke up. “It’ll always save you.”

I turned to look at my aunt. “How do you know?”

“Stop talking. We need to go,” Devin interjected.

“Right, sorry,” I replied, watching as he made sure the bag was on him tightly.

“This is serious, Meagan. Don’t forget that.”

“I won’t.”

He pried the door opened slowly, stepping out inch by inch. Once he deemed it clear, Devin gestured us forward, and we took off running. I heard and felt as gun shots rang all around us, barely missing me.

“Get her!” a male voice screamed. It sounded gruff, unnerving.

“Don’t let them get away!” another male snapped.

“Keep running!” Devin called.

It felt like we were suspended in time as we ran.

Bullets showered around us, shouts filled the air. My chest burned as I struggled to breathe; I tripped and stumbled, falling to my knees. I tried to get up, but a sharp pain in my leg brought me down again.

“Meagan!” Teresa gasped.

“She’s down!” a female cried.

“Get her!” a male ordered.

“Devin! Stop!” Teresa yelled. Panic wavered in her tone.

Pain stabbed me as my brain struggled to catch up. What’s happening? I gasped as a burning sensation filled my body, devouring me. “Leave me alone,” I whispered, knowing this was my fault. I never should have talked, never should have asked so many questions. If I hadn’t then this wouldn’t be happening. I could feel blood pouring down my leg, soaking my jeans and darkening the ground.

“Wait! Don’t kill her! We need her powers first!” The voice that spoke sounded like it came from a boy.

“No!” I distantly heard a familiar voice scream.

“Don’t kill her!” another female wailed. There was something in her tone. Remorse, maybe?

“She deserves to die!” a man growled.

“Touch her and you’ll die,” someone else retorted back.

I felt all eyes on me as I was engulfed by pain. I closed mine tightly, breathing in and out slowly, trying to stay calm. We were caught and it was my fault. I shouldn’t have questioned things until we were far away from here. I took my left hand and put it to my wounded leg, feeling how sticky it was. Hot blood soaked into my fingers, staining them. “Teresa,” I whispered weakly. “Devin.” I let them down.

I never realized how much they were protecting me from the outside world—from others like us—until now. I was beginning to grow weary, my vision darkening around the edges. I’m powerful. More powerful than these jerks. Why am I letting myself bleed to death? Devin told me I needed to use my magic. Why haven’t I yet? What am I waiting for?

I didn’t have an answer.

Think, Meagan, think. What could you use? I honestly didn’t have an answer. I could feel myself growing too weak to move, my life pouring out of me. I heard a scream pierce the air. I looked up, my vision blurry, but I could make out a brown haired woman being advanced upon, guns pointed at her. The longer I stared, the easier the figures were to make out. My heart sank as I realized what was happening.

“No!” I cried, stumbling as I bolted upright. There was nothing for me to grasp and I fell to my knees again. I can’t be too weak. I couldn’t stand by and watch as this happened. I raised my hands as high as I could, chanting the first thing that came to my mind. “I call upon the gods to help me. Save this woman from death, don’t let anyone hurt her.” I closed my eyes as I spoke, feeling the beginning of magic stir within me. The pain began to ebb away. “I call upon the gods to destroy these men who want us dead. Kill them! Send them to hell!” My voice became stronger, more powerful. I repeated those lines, feeling a sudden, brisk breeze whip my hair around. My chanting grew louder, more forceful as my magic raced through my veins, heeding my command. I stood, my body feeling stronger, my leg barely throbbing. The more my magic raced, the more power I felt. A smile curled my lips upward; I tossed my head backwards, speaking to the sky. My hair cascaded down my back and I opened my eyes, watching as the sky grew dark, lightning striking through the inkiness.

“What’s happening?” I heard someone cry, fear spiking in their voice.

I turned my gaze towards the voice, power radiating through me. I snapped my wrist towards my aunt, catching as she was devoured by a brilliant glow. She looked up at me, her eyes prideful. “You should never mess with me.” My voice rang out, making everything go eerily silent. “Never. It’s not wise.” To prove my point, I flung my hand towards the man closest to me. His scream cut off as he fell to the ground, convulsing.

“No! What’s wrong with you?” a younger man yelled, bolting forward. I snapped my fingers, bringing him to an instant halt.

“What’s wrong with me?” I spit out, disgust filling my tone. “Nothing. I’m only protecting myself and those I love. Now, step away from my aunt.” My eyes went to the men surrounding her. I raised my hand, tilting my head. “Now!” I gestured to the man that went down, who was still convulsing, his body shuddering as screams split the air. “Unless you want to end up like him, that is.”

“I’m not afraid of you, you bitch,” he snarled.

“Oh?” I demanded, my eyes darting to the boy I stopped. “Then why do I see fear in you?”

“Y—you don’t,” he stuttered, swallowing. “I’m not fearful.” He tried keeping his voice from shaking, but it didn’t work.

I smirked at him. “If you’re not then you’d have no problem facing me.” I waved my hand, shrugging. “You’d fight me.”

He snorted, rolling his eyes. “You’re a girl,” he pointed out, as if that was a big deal.

“So?” I hissed, annoyance raised up in me at his comment. As if that mattered. “I’m in control now. Don’t push your luck.”

“You’re not in control. You never will be,” he retorted.

Power cracked through the air as the sky swarmed with inky darkness. Threads snaked from the angry clouds, cutting into a couple men. Their screams sounded like drums, beating against me. I liked it. Blood spurted from their wounds as they fell to the ground. “Actually, that’s where you’re wrong.”

“You’re sick!” someone shouted. Anger radiated in the air around us.

“Don’t hurt him!” another voice shouted as I raised my hand again. “He’s just a kid!”

“So is she,” Teresa stated. “And you were ready to kill her.”

“That’s different,” the person scoffed.

“She needs to be killed!” someone else yelled. “Look what she did. She isn’t safe!”

“I’m protecting myself and those I love!” I snapped. From the corner of my eye I saw someone begin to advance towards me. I snapped my fingers, watching as he was devoured by the inky threads.

Teresa took a few steps forward, her eyes locked on me. The glow was gone; it had already soaked into her skin. “Leave us,” she commanded of our attackers. “And make sure no one tries to kill her again. Make sure no one tries to find us.” She paused, tears shining in her eyes. “Never return.”

“No, we can’t trust them,” I exclaimed. “They need to die. They need to know how it feels.”

“We can’t stoop to their level. Blood will be on your hands, Meagan. You don’t want that, trust me.”

“I don’t care.” I spoke calmly, my hands ready to attack.

“You must care,” she scolded. “You’ll be murdering them.”

I glared at her. “I won’t stand for this.”

“Meagan, please.”

Behind her, I saw a man raise his gun, pointing it straight at my aunt’s back. I smacked my hands together, projecting lightning. It flared across the sky. The clouds rolled, slamming together as the man dropped the gun, his breathing coming quick. He didn’t have time to scream, or move, before lightning struck him. Teresa spun around, watching as the man shined for a split second before falling to the ground.

“Witch!” Pain quivered in the female voice that spoke.

“It’s not like none of you aren’t,” I said.

“We don’t go around killing people,” somebody shouted.

“Um, hello?” I gestured around us. “Then why are you here?”

A woman stepped forward. “To save the world,” she claimed, glowering at me.

“Yeah!” someone else called. “You’re dangerous.”

I rolled my eyes at that. “Danger lurks everywhere.”

“Meagan, let me speak,” my aunt said softly. I nodded my consent. “Let us go and leave us be.”

“They’re not going to do that,” I said instantly. “They got their eyes set on one thing and they won’t stop until it happens.”

“You don’t know that.”

“Actually, she does,” a woman spoke before I could. “I’ve tried—a lot of us have—but they won’t listen. They want one thing and they won’t rest until they get it.”

“Then why are you here?” I asked as I took another man down.

Her left shoulder rose a little bit before it went back down. “I figured if I can’t stop them I might as well come.”

“Enough of this,” an older man barked. “Get her.”

“Not a good idea,” I warned a few seconds before two men began to approach.

Threads and lightning struck above us, lashing out. I didn’t stop to watch as screams erupted around me. I moved on, tackling a tan man to the ground with my magic. My eyes locked with a young man who looks to be about my age. A small smile flickered across my lips as I advanced toward him; he didn’t move, only watched me.

“Hello,” he said in a thick accent. “What’s your name?”

“Not like you don’t already know,” I replied, slowly walking toward him.

“Meagan, watch out!”

I spun around, flinging my hands at the person bolting for me. He went down instantly, falling on his face. “Don’t mess with me,” I told him, even though I knew he couldn’t hear me.

“Wow, you’re something,” the boy said from behind me.

“Put your weapon down,” I demanded, whirling on him.

He held up his hands, his eyes staring beyond me. Probably at the man I just killed. His weapon fell to the ground as he released it. “Chill.”

“Don’t tell me what to do.” I closed my eyes and willed his weapon to come to me. A moment later I felt something sturdy land in my hand. I opened my eyes again to see my magic had obeyed me. I grinned as I put the knife in my back pocket.

“You can’t do that,” he interjected, his eyes glued to my hands.

“That’s where you’re wrong.”

I could feel his fear beginning to churn off of him. Hell, I could almost taste it. His eyes darted from side to side, probably looking for a way out. Of course, it wasn’t like he was cornered or anything. I saw his hands move swiftly, and my magic surged through me. It struck out at him, but not before I was hit by something. I staggered, my vision swimming. Something knocked me down, and I went to my knees, my hands clutching the ground. I squeezed my eyes shut, my stomach lurching.

“Meagan!” I heard Teresa scream. I lifted my head the best I could, watching as she was swarmed by ten or so men.

“Kill them,” I began, my voice barely a whisper. “Kill them all! Don’t let a single one of these murderers go!” I swallowed, my throat scorching dry. “Keep my aunt and Devin alive, though.”

I crumpled to the ground as my magic did as I said. I heard the screeches as the threads lashed out, taking every soul there. The morning echoed with blood curling screams.

I could hear the grunts as a few tried fighting back against the threads. I could hear the moans as several more are stuck down, but not yet killed.

I could feel the tension radiating around me, sucking me in. I tried standing up, but I fell to my hands and knees. Pain shot through me like a bullet, smacking me in waves. I curled up into the fetal position, groaning.

I couldn’t move. It was like I was suspended in time. I tried lifting my head, moving my arms, but I stayed where I was. My body surrendered to agony.

Something struck me then. I cried out. My body felt like lead. My mind was racing as I tried getting the strength to move. I summoned my magic, but it was weak within me.

Laughter rang in my ears. My breathing hitched and I opened my mouth, but no words would form.

What’s happening?

“Meagan!” I heard someone scream. The voice sounded far away.

I felt cool metal being pressed against my flesh a split second before it was dug deep into my side. I shrieked, jerking. I felt blood oozing, falling onto the ground beneath me.

Grunts met my ears suddenly, and I could hear a struggle.

Soon it all fell silent. I felt someone touch me and I flinched away.

“Shh, Meagan, it’s okay.”

Pain shot through me, which caused me to whimper.

“Oh, Meagan. I’m sorry.” I felt someone touch me again, and I went still. My breathing was labored.

“Devin?” she called, her fingers stroking my side. “Devin!”

“I’m here, I’m here,” he replied. He stopped just shy of us. “What happened?”

“She was attacked.” I let out another whimper, my body shivering. “We need to get her out of here.”

“She needs to heal.”

“We can’t risk it. We need to get her to safety first.”

“She has to heal, Teresa,” Devin insisted, dropping to his knees beside me.

“Fine. Let’s take her to the woods, at least. We’ll be safer there.”

“Not necessarily.”

“Please.”

That one simple word held power. After a few minutes, I felt strong arms pick me up gently. I let out a groan as I laid my head against his shoulder. I shivered again as he began to walk steadily towards the woods. I curled my fingers in his shirt as pain shot its way through me. I cried out, biting my tongue.

“You did it, Meagan,” I distantly heard my aunt say. “You saved us.”

“Pain…” I mumbled, hiding my face into Devin’s neck.

“Shh,” he murmured. “You’re going to be fine.”

“Devin,” my aunt said, her voice shaking. I felt him sigh as he quickened his pace slightly.

“Ow,” I groaned as pain shot through my body. It felt like fire was burning through my veins.

“You’ll be okay. Just a little longer,” Devin assured me.

“A…little…longer,” I echoed, my voice raspy.

“Yes. We won’t let anything happen anymore,” Teresa responded.

A few moments later I felt myself being lowered to the ground. Devin gently removed my hands from his shirt, telling me I was going to be okay. That I was safe now. “I’m sorry,” he told me as he slid the knife out of my pocket. “I’m sorry, but I have to do this, okay?”

He met my eyes as they shimmered with tears. He moved to block my vision as I felt him tear the fabric away from the wound, causing it to burn even more. I whimpered again as blinding pain shot through me, going deeper and deeper. I closed my eyes tightly, trying to block out the throbbing, even though I knew it wouldn’t work. I counted my quick breaths, trying to calm my heartbeat and forget about the agony.

“It’s over with,” Devin said, turning to face me. “Now I really need to you cooperate.” I opened my eyes, meeting his. “Meagan, listen to me,” he started, touching my side. “Do exactly as I say and your pain will go away, okay?” When I didn’t respond, he went on, “Place two fingers on your wound.” When I didn’t comply, he took my hand and did so, pressing them to the throbbing bullet wound. “Do you remember how to heal?” I was barely able to shake my head before sharp pain pierced my skull.

“Stop.” I begged, trying to remove my fingers. He didn’t let go. “Please.” Tears were running down my cheeks.

“Once you heal, you’ll feel much better. I promise.”

“No,” I whispered. “Please. Leave me alone.”

“Oh, sweetheart,” my aunt cooed. “You’ll be fine. Just let yourself heal.” I looked up at her. I was lying on my back, hardly containing myself from screaming. I knew if I spoke again, I would. “Do as Devin says. It’ll only take a moment.”

After a couple more minutes, I complied. I closed my eyes again tightly as Devin reapplied the pressure to my wound. “Imagine yourself healing, covered by a golden glow, your soul shining brightly…”

I imagined myself being devoured by the golden light, shining as brightly as a star. My soul shone with so much color, wrapping me in its beautiful embrace. I could feel my body being deprived of pain, as it swiftly left me—as the image became brighter and brighter by the second. A faint smile lifted my lips as the golden light made me shimmer, chasing away everything that happened.

A soft sigh escaped my lips as the light grew really bright for a moment before finally dimming. My breathing went back to normal and I didn’t feel anything. I opened my eyes after a few more seconds, blinking a couple times before my eyes settled on Devin.

“All better?” he asked gently.

“Yes,” I murmured. “Where’s Teresa?”

“Here,” she answered me, kneeling beside Devin.

I sat up, noticing how easy it was. My eyes went straight to my wound, my fingers softly touching it. No pain. There wasn’t anything there except a small pink scar and the dried blood on my jeans. “It’s gone,” I said, mystified. “I’ve never really done that before. It’s amazing.”

“That’s because we made sure you were okay,” Devin replied. “We made sure no one could find us and you never got hurt that often.”

“Yeah, yeah.” I rolled my eyes playfully. “It’s all good, though.”

“Yes, yes it is.” Teresa patted my leg, a smile plastered to her lips. “All is pretty much good in the world.”

“Except now we need somewhere to live,” Devin cut in. Her smile faltered, as did my good spirits. This is only the beginning.

“Where are we going?” I asked after a moment passed.

“I’ve been thinking,” my aunt started, tilting her head slightly to the side.

“Yes?” I prompted her. “You’ve been thinking what?”

“Well, we need somewhere where you won’t be found easily. Obviously, here wasn’t a good enough choice. We knew you’d be found eventually, but we also hoped to have been gone by then.”

“You waited too long,” I said slowly.

“Yes.” She paused for a split second before going on. “So I’ve decided to just go to a big city.”

“Like where?” A gentle breeze lifted my hair, playing with it. I tucked it behind my ears, hoping to keep the hair out of my face. When my aunt finally answered a chill raced through me and I glanced at Devin, arching my eyebrows.

“Santa Monica.”

I stared at her, unbelieving. “Santa Monica?” I repeated, my head swimming.

“Yes, it’s perfect. It’s a big city and can hide us. We won’t need to worry about getting caught,” she assured me and before I knew it plans were being made. Not even an hour later we boarded a plane heading for Santa Monica. I stared out the window, watching as the pilot and crew got ready for takeoff. “Hey, are you okay?” Teresa asked, her tone was filled with worry.

“Yeah. I just can’t believe it.” I’d barely heard anything about the city, so I got my phone out and did a search on it. It looked big during the day and amazing at night. The night pictures took my breath away as I stared at them. “Wow,” I whispered.

“You’ll be fine there.”

I looked up at her, a sudden question filling my mind. “Do I have to go to school there?” I didn’t want to, and before she could say anything, I pressed on. “I don’t think it’s smart at all. Look at who I am and what I did to those people—”

She waved that comment away. “They attacked us. There’s no need to worry.”

“I think there is. I can’t go to school. Not with so many people around. Something bad will happen. I can feel it.”

“Nothing will happen, Meagan. Don’t over think anything.”

“You can’t really think that, can you? You think I’m going to be safe there and not be a danger?”

“Of course you are!” she exclaimed. “That’s why we’re going there. Come on, Meagan. Don’t be silly.”

“I’m not! I don’t mean me being in danger, not anymore. I mean the other students. They’ll be in danger because of me. I can’t risk that, Teresa. Please don’t make me.”

“Oh, honey. You won’t be, you’ll see. Everything’s going to be fine, I promise.”

“That’s not enough. You don’t know what it’ll be like. Hell, I’ve never really been to school before.” I shuddered at the times I had gone to school, in some small villages after the fire took my home away. They weren’t pleasant times, and it was one of the reasons why we had to flee. Because I got angry and used my magic with way too much force for my age. That was when my true powers were discovered by others. “I don’t like the idea of taking a risk.”

“You’re seventeen, you have to.”

“Don’t use that against me,” I snapped. “Can’t we do it a different way?”

She didn’t say anything for a long moment. Finally, my aunt sighed. “Maybe. This isn’t over. You need to learn and get experience with others your age.”

“I’ve had that and it went to hell. Remember that?” Instead of answering, she shot me a look. I shrugged, knowing it was the truth. Those are one of the days I could never forget. Everyone had been terrified of me and no one on the staff really knew what to do with me.

“Hey, everything okay here?” Devin asked as he took the seat across the aisle from us. He usually never missed the tension between my aunt and I.

“Just fine,” I said flatly.

“That’s hard to believe.”

I snorted. “Why’s that?”

“I helped raise you,” he pointed out.

“So? That doesn’t mean anything.”

“Meagan, stop,” Teresa interjected. “Don’t take it out on him.”

“I’m not. I’m simply saying.”

“It’s fine,” Devin said. I could feel his eyes on me. “What’s going on?” he asked my aunt.

“She’s mad because she might have to go to school.”

Devin turned to me. “Ah, why?” he asked me.

I stared down at my clasped hands. “I don’t want to hurt anyone,” I replied.

“I can see her point. We can’t forget the last time, Teresa. If there’s another way, I think we should take it.”

I smiled, but I didn’t move to look at him. He was taking my side. My aunt wouldn’t like that one bit.

“I’m not forgetting. I just don’t think that’s the right thing to do,” she told him. “Besides, she’s older now. She knows what’s right and wrong.”

“Her magic is extremely powerful. It doesn’t matter what she knows. It can act out on its own.”

She narrowed her eyes. “That’s crazy.”

He shrugged. “You helped raise her; you’ve seen what it can do.”

“Yeah, but can’t you see my side? I’m trying to do what’s right for her. What would her mom do? Put her in school more likely.”

“There’s other options, I’m sure,” I piped up.

She fixed me with a scolding look. “I doubt she’d take away your life. School is an important part of it.”

I opened my mouth to reply, but was cut off as an attendant began speaking over the intercom.

“We’re about to take off!” she informed us in a happy voice. “Buckle your seatbelts and get ready for a ride!”

I rolled my eyes, returning to looking out the window.

“That might not be a good idea,” Teresa said.

“What?”

“Looking out the window during takeoff.”

“Why not?”

“I’m sure you can imagine,” she said, leaning back in her seat.

“I’m going to be fine,” I said, glancing at her. “No matter what happens, I can take care of myself.”

She shook her head. “I’m only trying to help.”

“I know. Thanks for that, but no thanks.”

She sighed, exasperated. “I don’t get why you’re acting like this, but it needs to stop. Now.”

I didn’t answer. There was no point. Instead, I put in my earbuds, turned up the music and enjoyed it. I shut out her, Devin, and the world. I didn’t need any of this. I couldn’t ponder over what was happening or what would. It wouldn’t get me anywhere.

We lurched into the sky; clouds were dotting the light blue. I stared out at it, my gaze wandering downward. I was dazed at the height. Oh God, why did I do that? I closed my eyes tightly before opening them again. I quickly looked away, staring down at my hands. I swallowed as the music changed from loud to soft. We rode in silence for a while—maybe a few hours—before my aunt and Devin started talking softly about our plans. She pulled out her tablet and searched Google for anything helpful. I stared blankly at the screen, watching as information about Santa Monica scrolled across the screen.

“Wait. You don’t know what we’re doing once we get there?” I asked, turning my music down.

“Not every detail, no. We’ll figure it out,” Teresa answered, barely looking up at me. “No worries, Meagan.”

“It’s kind of hard to, since we have no idea where we’re going.”

“We have a little bit,” Devin said. “It’s big and nice as far as I can tell. We’ll find a good house, big enough for us; we’ll figure it all out. We can do it.”

“But what if we don’t?”

“Hey, I think I just found a nice house to look at. I’ll find a few more, though,” Teresa said suddenly, looking up at us. “It looks amazing.”

“Damn,” I muttered, taking out my earbuds. “Can we see?”

She turned the tablet to us. The house was white, with a front porch that had vines slithering up the wood; the railing on it had squares lining all the way down the porch with wooden lines crisscrossing through them. The pictures of the inside showed the rooms as spacious with wooden floors and tan walls. It looked pretty. My eyes traveled to the outdoor pictures, what with all of the plants and spacious front porch. I was amazed.

“Wow,” I said in awe.

“Is it a must look?” Teresa asked me, her eyes shining.

“I think so.”

“Me too,” Devin chimed in.

“Excellent.” Happiness shone in her eyes as she turned the tablet back toward her. “One more choice?”

“Probably a good idea. Never hurts to have an extra,” Devin replied.

My aunt nodded, running her finger along the screen as she gazed at it. “Not at all,” she muttered, her eyes glued to the screen. She began drumming her fingers along her tablet. After a few moments of silence, she sighed. “Why can’t this be easy?” she demanded to no one in particular.

“None of this is going to be easy,” Devin told her, moving to wrap his arm around her. “Moving so suddenly is going to be difficult.”

“Yeah,” she sighed, looking up at him. “Next time, we need to have something lined up.”

“Agreed,” he said, kissing her cheek.

I watched them for a few seconds, noticing how Teresa’s cheeks reddened when he moved away, leaning back and staring at her. She smiled at him.

“This should be good.” I snorted, rolling my eyes.

She turned to me, her eyes glinting. “What?”

“Nothing,” I replied. “When are we landing? I’m tired of sitting here.”

She glanced at her tablet, gently tapping it before answering. “A few hours or so. Maybe a little less.”

I groaned, leaning my head back against my seat. “Why must it take so long to get somewhere?”

“Oh, go to sleep. Once you wake up, I’m sure we’ll be there.”

“Doubt it. Besides, I’m not tired.”

“Pretend. You’ll fall asleep eventually.”

“That’s stupid.”

She shrugged. “It’s worth a shot, Meagan.”

Devin looked amused by this exchange, but didn’t say anything. I popped in my headphones, turning my music back on. A gentle beat started out, but it became louder and quicker with each passing second. I tapped my fingers on my leg, staring out the window again. We barely talked for the rest of the flight.

I was glad when the plane finally landed. It took us a while to get through the line and out of the crowd and I breathed a sigh of relief when we cleared the cramped area.

“Now what?” I asked, with my bag in hand.

“We get a taxi and find a car, plus look at the house.”

“Which first?”

“Car,” Devin said immediately. “We can’t go around with a taxi.”

“True.” Teresa took his hand. “We get a taxi and buy a car.”

“How much money do we even have?” I interjected.

“Enough for now. But we’re going to need to get jobs,” Devin replied.

“Yeah,” Teresa agreed. “That’s another must.”

My eyes darted between them. “What about me?”

“What about you? You’re a teen, you have to learn.”

“Oh, please don’t make me go to school,” I begged.

“Let’s not worry about that now, okay?” Teresa responded, tugging on Devin’s hand. “We need to go.”

“Oh, yes. Let’s figure out this town,” I said sarcastically.

She nodded as we began heading for the exit. “You can say that.”

I didn’t say anything more. I watched as Devin flagged down a taxi, asking for the nearest car dealership. As they talked, my aunt and I packed the bags into the trunk.

“Perfect,” he said, opening the door for me. I got in and scooted to the middle as my aunt sat down on the other side of me. Devin did the same, sealing us in. “Off we go.”

The car ride wasn’t that long—maybe about ten minutes—before we pulled up to a decent looking building. I peered around at all of the nice cars; I could feel my eyes growing wide.

“How may we help you?” a male asked as he approached us.

“Just looking for a cheap car,” Devin said, gazing around. “Nice stuff here.”

“Yeah, well. What kind are you looking for?”

“Nothing specific.”

“We just need a car,” Teresa added.

“All right, well.” He seemed to ponder this, letting his eyes roam the cars. “And we need to hurry,” Teresa added.

“In a rush?”

Devin glanced over to our taxi. “Yeah, now can we get to it? Our taxi won’t wait for long.”

“Right, of course,” he responded nonchalantly.

“What about this nice sleek Ford? Would it work?”

“Anything would,” Devin said. “Let’s see it.”

He silently led us to a really nice dark blue car. I gasped. It was a beautiful shade of blue and looked incredible. I’m not even a car person, but I love it. “Would this do?”

“Not too much?”

“Nope, just six thousand.”

“Six thousand?” Devin repeated slowly. “Seriously? We still have to get a house!”

“Well…it is a really good car,” the dealer said calmly. “You’ll love it. It drives perfectly.”

“I can’t spend that much money on a car.”

“Can we look at something else?” Teresa cut in, her eyes hopeful.

“I suppose, but you will love this car. That I can promise.”

“It’s a no deal. Something else?” she insisted.

I felt sad at that thought, but knew they were right. Six thousand dollars is too much right now, but that didn’t change anything I felt.

I felt his eyes on me. “What about the girl?”

“What about her?” my aunt’s boyfriend demanded.

“What does she have to say?”

“Who cares?” I asked, rolling my eyes. “I’m only a teenager.”

“So I guess you want something else?” he sighed, defeated.

“Yes, please,” Teresa spoke up.

“Fine. Follow me.”

We did as he said and was led to another car, but not as nice looking. It was in really good shape and was a lighter shade of blue. I stared at it, comparing this car to the dark blue one. It didn’t compare. I didn’t like it as much, but, of course, it’s not my decision.

“How much?”

“About three thousand.”

“Not as bad,” Devin mused. “And it’s in good shape.”

“Definitely. Want to test run it?”

Why didn’t he ask sooner?

When Devin nodded, the dealer went to get the keys. I was amazed at how fast he moved. “Here we are. Go take it for a spin.”

“Thanks.” He took the keys from the other guy and we got into the car, stopping to tell the taxi we’d be back. It was a smooth ride and the car ran good—really good. I think by the time we got back, we were hooked. The adults went to do the paperwork as I wandered around the lot, looking at all of the cars I knew I couldn’t have. When I went by the taxi, I paused and after a moment’s consideration, I headed for it.

“I’ll take our bags,” I told the driver. “So you can get back to it.”

“Thank you,” he said, smiling at me. He got out to give me a hand and by the time we were done my aunt and her boyfriend were already heading toward us with the vehicle. “Have a nice day.”

“You too. Thanks for waiting.”

He nodded before getting into the taxi and driving off. Once Devin pulled the car to a stop next to me, I started dragging our stuff to the trunk. “What if we don’t like the house?” I called out to them as they brought over the rest of the stuff.

“Then I guess we’ll find a hotel,” my aunt replied. “Don’t worry, we got this.”

“It’s hard not to.”

“I know, but there’s no need.”

“All ready to go,” Devin interrupted. “Shall we go find this house?”

“Probably a good idea,” Teresa answered.

We got in and were off. It took us some time, but we finally found the house and got the person to come out and show us around. The house looked exactly like in the pictures. The outside was white with the railing crisscrossing inside the squares; they were also white. Plants cluttered the yard, making it nice looking. I nodded my approval, glancing up at the two adults. “I like it so far.”

“We’ve already established that on the plane.”

“Yeah, well, this looks better in person so far.”

Once she finally showed up, we were escorted into the house, which took my breath away. I gasped as I stared around in awe. The wooden floors looked waxed and was shinny; the walls were tan. A few plants were placed on the entertainment center in the living room; they made it look even better. Everything about this house was remarkable. I was in love with it.

“What do you think?” the woman asked when she showed us the last room.

Devin glanced at Teresa, who nodded slightly. “We love it.”

“Excellent.” She smiled then, her eyes shimmering. “So shall we seal the deal?”

“Yeah, sure.”

“So you’re renting this from me,” she began. “It’s about four hundred dollars a month and I’ll fix anything that needs to be.”

“That’s not bad,” Devin remarked, shooting my aunt a sideways glance. She nodded her agreement. “It’s a deal.”

“Perfect. It doesn’t matter what time during the month you pay, as long as it’s done each month.”

“Okay.”

“Here’s the key.” She held out her hand. An object glinted in the light and Devin accepted it. “Enjoy.” With that, she left.

“Well, looks like we have a house,” Devin said after a few moments.

My aunt took his hand, saying, “Yep. Yay us.”

I watched them for a couple minutes longer before moving on to the closest bedroom. My eyes roamed the room, a smile lifting my lips. The room had lavender walls, with hardwood floors. “We need some furniture, right?” I turned around at the voice. Sure enough, Devin was leaning on the doorframe, watching me.

I shook my head, snorting softly. “Oh, yeah. How are we going to pull that off?”

I went over to the window. My gaze roamed around the yard.

He shrugged. “Get jobs.”

I faced him again, frowning. “But don’t we need the furniture now?”

Devin nodded. “Yes, which is why we’re going to use the rest of the money we have now for that and food. Once that’s done it’s job time.”

I traced my hand along the windowsill. “Even for me?”

“Nah, you have to deal with school.”

I groaned. I was hoping we could put that off for a while, but it seemed luck wasn’t coming my way. “Right,” I muttered. “Just a teen and all that.”

“You’ll like it.”

“I doubt that, but okay.” I paused for a second before continuing. “What if I don’t? I mean, it’s not like you’ve been to school recently. You’re an adult after all.”

He shifted his weight, crossing his arms across his chest. “And what’s that supposed to mean?” he demanded playfully.

“Well, school’s…I don’t know. I haven’t been in a while. Why should I start now?”

“It’ll be good for you,” he said, uncrossing his arms. “You’ll be fine, no worries.”

“How can you be so sure? I’m extremely powerful. I could do something without thinking. I could expose myself. I can’t risk that, Devin. It’s not something I’ll be able to live with.”

“You know, she’s right on that part.” Teresa patted Devin’s side, making him move out of her way. “I’ve never thought of that before.” She bit her lip, contemplating. “I don’t know what we should do,” she finally said.

“We can worry about it once we get this place fixed up.”

“Why not do that now?” I suggested.

“Yeah, might as well get it over with,” Devin concluded. “Let’s go.”

He turned away and left the room, with Teresa and me following. We got into the car and went to the closest furniture store. After doing some browsing we found a maroon couch and chair set; we also found two comfortable beds with headboards, plus dressers and a nice wooden kitchen table and chairs; we also got comforters and pillows, plus a tad bit of food. It wasn’t long before we had it all in the new house.

Once we had the stuff in the correct rooms and the beds set up, Devin and Teresa decided not to do anymore that night. Dusk had already fallen and I was getting tired. I had a feeling tomorrow would be busy, so I went to my room and shimmied into my pajamas before turning off the light, laying down, and closing my eyes. I fell into the same nightmares as the night before. The screams echoed around me as everything was being devoured, as people were slaughtered.

Two

The next morning I woke up the same as the previous one. Sweat beaded my skin as I shivered all over, my breathing labored. I blinked the remaining bits of the dream away, hoping it’d never return. But, of course, I knew that wouldn’t happen; it hadn’t yet, and this had been going on for years. It was hard dragging myself out of bed due to me being sore everywhere.

I sighed as I laid back down, waiting it out. I didn’t know what was going to happen anymore and it scared me a little. Before, my life was easy, almost normal. It was routine; I had gotten used to being out in the middle of nowhere all the time, barely going anywhere. And now I have no idea. I shook my head and sighed again. Ignoring the pain, I got to my feet and went to my bag of stuff. I sat down and pulled out blue jeans, a green shirt, and socks. I quickly swapped out clothes and went into the kitchen, where breakfast was being served.

“Wow, that smells good,” I commented as I came in, noticing Devin sitting at the table as Teresa stood at the stove.

“Thanks,” she said as she flipped a pancake. “You must be starving.”

“Oh yeah.”

“And worn out,” Devin added, glancing up at me briefly before returning his attention to my aunt’s tablet.

“Yeah, well, magic does take its toll.” I pulled out a chair and sat down in it.

“You should be careful,” Teresa said, prodding a pancake.

“But…” I trailed off as I watched her take what was in her skillet out and place it on a plate. She did it so easily. I could never do that. “I had to save you.”

“I wasn’t in danger, Meagan. There was no need to use as much magic as you did.”

“Yes you were. You were being surrounded! How can you say that’s not danger?”

“Devin was there as well. He had a plan. You should have let it play out.”

“How was I supposed to know that?” I demanded. “I can’t read minds!”

“Next time, just don’t do anything.”

“You could have died! Who knows if the plan would have worked?”

My aunt opened her mouth, but Devin beat her to it. “She’s right, Teresa. We don’t know if it would have. I was only hoping.”

“I thought it was a perfect plan. I know it would have worked if Meagan didn’t do anything.”

“Hey now, you could have been killed. Don’t be like that.”

“Meagan could have killed herself!” Teresa snapped. I looked up at her sharply, my head spinning.

“What are you talking about?” Devin looked as surprised and confused as I felt. Teresa turned around slowly, meeting my gaze.

“Well, I…” She stopped talking, taking a deep breath.

“Teresa?” Devin said softly, pushing his chair back. “What’s going on?”

“What aren’t you telling us?” I asked, watching as she avoided our eyes. Devin went over to her, gently pulling her towards him and away from the hot stove.

“Well…” she began, swallowing. Devin wrapped his arms around her, murmuring something in her ear. “I—I know I should have said something sooner, much sooner, but…I—”

“Take a deep breath and calm down,” Devin interrupted, forcing her to meet his gaze. “Tell us what’s going on.”

“Nothing is.” Teresa sighed, turning her attention to me. “Look, you could be a danger to yourself if you use too much of your magic.”

I was speechless. I stared at her, incredulous. The color drained from my face the longer I processed what she had said. Several moments went by before I could find my voice. “What are you talking about? That’s not possible.”

“It is. I know I should have told you before, but I didn’t think it was important—”

“How can you not think this is important? This is life and death we’re talking about!” I exclaimed.

“Meagan, don’t blame her. This is difficult enough without that.”

“She should have said something,” I snapped. “Keeping that from me is like lying. It’s not right.”

Devin shot me a stern look. “Stop that. She didn’t for a good reason, I’m sure. Don’t go blaming without listening first, okay?”

I glared at him. Annoyance flared up within me. “Fine. I’m listening.”

Devin nudged her, encouraging her to speak. After a few minutes, she did so. “If you use too much magic you could die. You’re that powerful; you have to be careful.”

My mind raced with this new information. “Why didn’t you tell me this before?”

“I didn’t think it was time. I would have if I’d known you were in that much danger.”

“When was it going to be? When were you going to tell me?”

She hesitated for a minute. “I don’t know.”

“Teresa, this is something you should have told her once she became a teen, at least. If not sooner.”

“I didn’t think it was important.”

“Not important?” I repeated. Frustration came alive inside me. What was she thinking?

“I’m sorry. If I’d known, you would have been informed sooner.”

“You couldn’t have warned me of it before we went out?”

She shook her head. “I didn’t think of it. I thought we were going to be free without harm.”

Nothing went as she planned, then. I crossed my arms, watching her. How could this be happening? “Can I go explore today?” I asked suddenly.

“Um…sure,” Teresa responded, pulling away from Devin. “We’re going clothes shopping. You can wander around while we do that.”

I gave her a tight-lipped smile. “Thanks.”

Without saying anything more to me, she left the room. “You shouldn’t be so hard on her,” Devin told me.

Defensiveness sprung up within me. “Why not? She should have told me.”

“Maybe so, but put yourself in her shoes. What would you have done? She’s raised you since you were five. It isn’t easy.”

“I know.”

“If nothing else, remember that.” He grabbed the plate full of pancakes and sat them on the table. “Teresa,” he called, going to find her.

I sighed, standing up to get the forks and syrup out of the cupboard. I put two pancakes on each plate; I got out three glasses and poured chocolate milk in them before moving to put them at each plate. I smiled to myself, sitting down again as Devin returned with my aunt. She froze when she saw what I’d done.

“Wow,” she murmured. She turned her gaze to me. “Thank you, Meagan.”

“Yeah, well, I’m hungry.”

They joined me and we ate in silence. It wasn’t bad, if you asked me. I finished mine first and cleaned off the plate and fork before going to my room. I made my bed before I sat down on it and stared at the wall. Why did I have to lose my mom so many years ago? I needed her now more than ever.

She always knew how to make everything better, always made a game out of it, and always made it seem like nothing. But I don’t remember any of that. No, I had to learn it from my aunt and Devin. I had to learn so much from them; that’s the only thing I know. I don’t remember my mom. I can’t even recall her first name, or how she spoke to me. I wish I knew her; I wanted it so bad it hurt. I want her here with me, but it’d never happen. She’d always be out of my reach. I could cry and scream for her all I wanted, but it wouldn’t change anything. I don’t know how many times I’ve woken up thinking it was all a dream, that she was here, only to learn the truth. It kills me.

I sighed and went to the window. I don’t feel comfortable here; I wasn’t used to being out in the open like this. It was a little weird being able to see houses so close to me. I’d always been isolated for my own safety.

“Meagan?” A soft knock sounded on my door.

I glanced over at it, calling, “Come in.” I returned to looking out the window as the door opened.

“We—” Teresa stopped talking, pausing in her footsteps. “Hey, is everything okay?”

“Fine,” I mumbled, watching as a bird splashed water onto itself in a birdbath next door.

“That’s a little hard to believe. What’s wrong?”

“You want to know the truth?” I asked, turning around. I didn’t wait for an answer. “I’m not used to this. This is like me being exposed. I feel naked out here.”

“Yeah, we should have lived in a big city to begin with. It’ll be harder to find you,” Teresa said, sighing. “You’ll get used to it, I promised.”

“How can you be so sure?”

“Because I know you. You get through anything that’s flung your way. After all, you saved my life.”

“I killed so many people,” I whispered. Guilt rushed through me, like an angry wave. “So many.”

“You’d have been killed if you didn’t. It’s self-defense,” my aunt insisted.

“It’s still on my hands.”

“I know. I understand that, but you’ll get over it. You’ll get used to it.”

“Killing people?” I asked in disbelief. “How will anyone be able to get used to it? It’s so wrong.”

“In a normal world, yes, but not in ours. We have magic; the rules are different.”

“That’s sad. How can we be so cruel? Magic users shouldn’t have different rules than humans.”

“But we do. Humans don’t matter in our world. Besides, you didn’t kill humans, but our own.”

“Which makes it better how?” I retorted. “They’re still people.”

“People who came to kill you. It was self-defense. You did the right thing.”

“Why don’t I feel it?”

“I don’t know. I’m sorry you have to go through this, feel this way.”

Me too. Guilt ate at me, slowly devouring me. I knew they wanted to kill me, but that didn’t make it that much easier. Maybe a little bit, but I still couldn’t help thinking about them. I slaughtered without thinking. My magic had taken over, filling my every need, causing desire to swirl within me. It made a beast come out.

“Why are you bringing this up now?”

I shrugged, meeting her gaze. “You asked what was wrong.”

“Don’t keep any of that bottled inside. Promise me.”

“Okay.”

“I mean it, Meagan. That isn’t something to be kept inside.”

“I know,” I said. My eyes went over to the door. “Trust me, I know.”

“As long as you know.” She stood up from sitting on the edge of my bed. “We’re leaving. You can do whatever you want.”

“Okay, thanks.”

“Yep,” she muttered, leaving my room.

I listened as the front door opened and closed; the car was started and then gone in a few minutes. I stood there a minute longer before grabbing my money and going outside. I closed the door behind me, turning around to lock it. I twisted the knob once it was latched to make sure it was locked. I then walked off the porch and began wandering the streets.

I walked for some time, trying not to get lost. I finally made it to the beach. I paused, staring ahead. There were a lot of restaurants lining the pier as well as gift shops. I was amazed. I’d never seen something so busy before in my life. After someone knocked into my shoulder I began walking slowly down the pier, trying not to get knocked into again. Back behind me, off to the side a little ways, were a few rides and booths.

After a few more minutes of wandering, I went into a seafood restaurant. The door chimed when I walked in, signaling that there was a customer. I paused for a split second, taking in the décor. The walls were white, as well as the tiled floor. But the floor also had sky blue mixed in with the white here and there. On the far side of the room sat the cash register on a bar, with the kitchen off to the left of that. About four bar stools sat at the bar. There were booths lined along the walls, three to four on each wall, with several tables settled in the middle of the room. Other customers were here and there in the restaurant, chattering away.

A blonde haired waitress smiled at me as I sat down at a booth. She headed over to me, with a menu in hand. “Hello!” she said once she was beside me. “Welcome to Shells. Do you know what you’d like to drink or should I come back in a little bit?”

“I’d love a Coke,” I told her, accepting the menu. “Thank you.”

“I’ll be back.” She walked away from me, leaving me to look over their list of food options. A few minutes later, she returned. “Do you know what you want to eat yet?” she questioned me, setting my drink down in front of me. I nodded and quickly ordered the first thing I glanced down at that looked good. She wrote it down and, after grabbing the menu, the waitress left me alone. I sat back and watched everyone else around me. They were a bit busy, which made me feel uneasy.

About fifteen minutes later, my food came. The baked salmon had a light golden look to it. My mouth watered as I studied the fish, taking in the gently added glaze. The lettuce had diced tomatoes, green peppers, croutons, cucumbers, and shredded cheese mixed into it. I poured the ranch dressing over the salad combination. I took a deep breath, inhaling the delicious scent of my food.

I cut into the salmon, and plopped it into my mouth. The taste exploded on my tongue. I grinned as I replaced the bite I just swallowed. I stabbed my fork into the salad next, savoring it. The taste of everything together in my salad was wonderful. I picked up my Coke and raised it to my mouth, taking a long drink before I set it back down.

The waitress wandered back over to me. “Did you want anything else, or would you like your check now?”

“I think getting my check would be good.”

“All right.” She brought it over to me, laying it next to my plate.

I quickly ate the rest of my food. I laid my silverware onto the plate, finishing up my drink, before rising. I headed over to the cashier to pay.

“Did you enjoy your meal?” the red headed girl asked me, taking my check from me.

I smiled at her, nodding. “I did. It was amazing. Thank you.”

She grinned at me, punching the buttons on the cash register. “That’ll be fifteen dollars, please.”

After I unzipped my wallet, I handed over the money. “There you are.”

“Thank you for stopping by. I hope to see you around soon!” she exclaimed cheerfully, accepting my fifteen dollars. I made sure to zip my wallet back up before turning on my heel and walking away.

When I stepped outside a light breeze hit me, making me pause and close my eyes. A small smile lifted my lips as I basked in the wind. It felt so good.

“Are you okay?” a male voice asked me.

My eyes snapped opened to see a boy around my age standing before me. He had short dirty blond hair with green eyes, broad shoulders, and tan skin; he was at least five inches taller than me, if not more, and was skinny. His body seemed fit to me. His eyes gleamed as he took me in. They danced with curiosity. He was wearing jeans and a black T-shirt with sneakers. He was gorgeous.

“Yeah,” I answered, unbelieving what was in front of me. I was sure a girl doing what I was just doing seemed weird. This was awkward. A blush crept up, staining my cheeks a rosy red. I averted my gaze to the ground, hoping he didn’t see my cheeks flush. “I’m fine.”

“Oh. You weren’t acting like it.”

“Thanks for asking, but I’m fine.”

“So, then what were you doing?” The sparkle never left his eyes as he regarded me.

“Taking in the nice breeze,” I answered truthfully. I winced at my words. What’s he going to think of me now? I shook my head fiercely. Why does it matter? I don’t know him.

“What was that about?” he asked, a small smile spreading along his lips.

“N—nothing,” I stuttered.

He raised his eyebrows, studying me. “I don’t believe that.”

I scowled at him. “Why not?”

“Because you look like something’s on your mind. You’re acting weird.”

Shock coursed through me. “You don’t know me. How would you know how I act?”

“Observing.” He laughed at my expression. “Come on, we need to get out of the way,” he said, gently grabbing my arm. He led me from the restaurant, towards the beach. I reluctantly followed, mystified.

“Where are we going?” I breathed. Once that was out, I hated myself. It should have been a demand. That was what I was going for.

“Just away to talk.”

“Why?”

He sighed, his steps faltering. He glanced over at me, his green eyes sparkling. “Because I want to talk to you. You seem interesting.”

“That’s the impression I gave you?” I asked, incredulous.

“Yep.”

“Seriously?”

“I wouldn’t lie,” he informed me. “I’m dead serious.”

I stared at him, unable to comprehend his words. What could be so interesting? Me standing outside with my eyes closed? I shook my head. This is crazy.

“What?” he asked, stopping. I almost tripped over my own foot.

“Nothing,” I sighed.

“Are you sure?”

“Yes.”

“All right.” He nodded, watching me. “I’m Justin, by the way.” His smile made my heart falter for a few seconds.

I returned it, saying, “Meagan.”

“Well, it’s nice to meet you.”

“Seems really unusual, but you too.”

“What does?”

“How we met,” I replied sheepishly.

“Nah, I don’t think so.” He let go of my arm, leading me to a picnic table not far away from us. Justin glanced behind him to make sure I was following. I did, meeting his gaze shyly. “Why are you acting shy and embarrassed? There’s nothing wrong with what you were doing.”

“I—” Think you’re gorgeous. I couldn’t say that, though. He’d think I’m a freak.

“Are you new to town?”

“Yeah,” I responded, glad he’d changed the subject.

“Makes sense. Unless you lived somewhere like this.”

“I didn’t.”

“Then it makes perfect sense.”

“It does?”

“Yeah,” he said.

Justin looked like he was about to say more, but I spoke first. “How long have you lived here?”

“My entire life.”

I gaped, stunned. How can he live here so long? I’d never been in one place for too long except where we last lived, and that was only because we were really isolated.

“Why do you seem so shocked?”

“I—” I took a deep breath, regaining my composure. “I’m sorry. I don’t know. I’ve never lived in one place my entire life.” I remembered where I lived the first five years. I know that would have been my life if the fire hadn’t broken out.

“Really?” He looked surprised.

“Yeah, really.”

“Wow,” he muttered.

“Don’t act surprised.”

“You seem really interesting. Mind if we stay in touch?” he asked blushingly. “I know we just met, but I’d love to hang out with you some time.”

“Like now?”

“Yep.”

“Um…” But before I could answer him a blonde haired girl approached us. She had a hint of a tan with pretty blue eyes, and was about as tall as me. She was a bit curvy. Her hair was long, and she had no bangs. She was wearing blue jean shorts with a white tank top and flip flops. A silver bracelet danged from her right wrist.

“Hey, Justin,” she said, shooting him a dazzling smile. Her gaze settled on me and she asked, “Who’s this?”

“Meagan,” he told her before I could say anything. “Meagan, this is May.”

“I’ve never seen you around before,” she informed me, her eyes grazing over my body.

“I’m new here,” I said, tearing my gaze away from her. She was making me feel extremely nervous.

“And yet you’re here with Justin,” she accused, placing her hands on her hips.

“We just met,” Justin interjected.

“Ah, that makes everything so much better,” she snapped, rolling her eyes. “Yeah, not really.”

“What’s your problem?” I demanded.

“Mine? Oh, nothing.”

“May,” Justin said, a warning rang in his tone.

She turned her gaze on him, a smile titling her lips. “Yes?”

“Stop it.”

“Oh, come on. I can’t have some fun?”

He shook his head, staring at her. “Not that way.”

I shivered at the sharpness in his voice. He was dead serious. She gave him sad, puppy dog eyes. I rolled my eyes, turning my gaze away from her. Why do people have to be like that?

“Hey, May!” I glanced up at some other blonde, watching as May quickly said goodbye to Justin, ignoring me completely. She scampered off, joining the other girl.

“Sorry about her,” Justin said once she was gone.

I placed my attention back onto Justin. “Why did she act like that?”

“I don’t know. She tends to get jealous, I guess.”

“Is she your girlfriend?” I questioned, my stomach flipping.

He shook his head. “No. She’s just a friend.”

“Then I don’t get it.”

“Trust me, I don’t either.” He sighed, glancing at May for a second. I turned my gaze that way as well, watching while she laid back on a towel, turning her head to talk with her friend. “That’s how she is, I suppose.”

“She must like you,” I said, bile suddenly rising in my throat.

He looked at me sharply, his eyes clouding with disbelief. “Hell no.”

“That’s a bad thing?” Confusion ran through me.

“It is with her. She’s too much for me,” he said, meeting my gaze. “I can only be friends with her.”

“Oh,” I muttered.

“Why are you asking?” he inquired suddenly, his eyes glistening. “Are you interested?”

“What?” I couldn’t comprehend his words until a moment later. “I—I—”

He laughed, shaking his head. “It’s fine.”

“But—”

“Seriously,” he interjected. “It’s okay. No need to worry.”

Several moments went by, silence spreading thickly between us. Finally, I spoke up. “What if I do?”

He turned his gaze to me. “Are you being serious or just asking?”

“Um…” I trailed off, my cheeks flushing. I tore my gaze away, coming up with a decision. “Maybe both.”

“Both? Meagan, look at me.” I felt him slowly close the distance between us, sitting down next to me. He placed his right arm behind me, leaning towards me. “Meagan, please tell me.”

“I know it’s crazy, but I can’t help it,” I started, shooting him a sideways glance. “I think I do. I mean, you’re just…” I stopped myself, biting my lip. I’d gone too far. I knew I did.

“I don’t think it is. There’s something about you that caught my attention.”

“Like what?”

“You’re really beautiful. Besides that, you had your eyes closed, being different from anyone else I know.”

“Oh,” I muttered. “Well, I’ve barely been around people my entire life, so that’s probably why.”

“Never?”

I snorted lightly at his surprise. “Nope.”

“Wow. I’m always around people. I guess it’s all I’ve ever known. Kind of.”

I shrugged. “I’ve been isolated. Don’t get me wrong, I’ve been around people, just not that often.”

“I can see that.”

I looked up at him. “How?”

“By how shy you’re acting.”

“Right.”

He tapped his fingers on the picnic table. “It’s true. I think it’s cute, though. Most girls aren’t like that.”

“Shy?”

“Yep.”

“Like May? She doesn’t act like it, at least.”

“She isn’t,” he said, pulling away. “Want to come with me and get some soda?”

“Yeah, sure.”

He smiled, standing and helping me up. “Well, then, let’s go.”

Justin led the way, taking us to a small shop. We got a few Cokes; once he paid we left the shop, heading down the walkway. The breeze was cool; I could barely feel any sunlight. We walked a few minutes silently, heading towards some unknown destination. It was nice. For once I didn’t have to worry about anything; I was in a huge city. Nothing to worry about. We should be concealed.

“What’s on your mind?” Justin asked, shutting my thoughts off instantly.

“Oh, nothing,” I said quickly. Far too quickly. He shot me a sideways glance, his eyes twinkling with something unknown to me.

“Come on. What were you thinking?” I didn’t answer. He’d think I was insane if I had. Instead, I kept walking, my eyes glued to the ground. “Honestly, you’re confusing me,” he said, pulling me to a stop. “I’m not meaning to intrude, but you seem so…intent. I want to get into that mind of yours. I’m curious.”

“It’s fine,” I sighed.

“Will you give me something?”

“This is new for me,” I replied. “I’m not used to any of this.”

“Want me to be your guide?”

Confusion set in, my mind beginning to race. “My guide?”

“Yeah.” When I didn’t say anything for a couple minutes, he went on. “You know, a tour?”

“Uh, sure.”

“When? Today? Some other time?” A smile formed along his lips as he spoke.

“I don’t care. I’m not busy, so whenever.”

“Excellent. Let’s go have some fun, then.”

Three

After a brief tour of the beach and pier, we headed off into the city. There were so many things in Santa Monica; I was a little surprised. I didn’t know what I was expecting—if anything. Maybe I thought I was going to be stuck inside all the time, barely able to go anywhere. I shuddered at that thought. This city was big and a lot of the things we passed looked like fun. I wanted to do so much now, it wasn’t even funny. It was fun, honestly. I’d never known anyone my age for too long.

Before long, the building lights came on as dusk hit the city, bathing it in glorious lights. It was stunning. From pink to green to blue, and so on, the city was dancing in incredibly pretty colors.

We stopped at a small restaurant to take a break. The walls inside were a light blue, with white tables and chairs. A desk was set up with a cash register and a young male standing behind it.

Just as we took our seats, a waitress came over. “What would you like to drink?” she asked, setting down our menus in front of us.

“Pepsi,” Justin told her instantly.

“Water.” I opened my menu and my mouth watered at the sight of a grilled chicken breast. French fries came with it, as well as an option to have an appetizer.

“So, do you have any siblings?” he asked, taking a drink of his pop.

“None,” I answered, cutting into my grilled chicken breast. “My mom died when I was five.” My heart twisted at the thought of her.

“Oh, I’m sorry.” His eyes flared with something unreadable. “I have three siblings.” The waitress brought us our drinks and scampered away, off to attend to another table.

“It’s okay. It doesn’t bother me.” I took a sip of my ice cold water. A faint smile appeared on my lips.

“Not even a little bit?”

I shook my head. “No. I don’t remember her.”

He frowned, reaching over to touch my hand, which still had my drink clutched in it. As soon as our hands touched, warmth seared my skin. I gasped sharply. “That must suck,” Justin continued, not seeming to notice my flush that was now creeping up to stain my cheeks. I swallowed.

“A little. I wish I knew her, but there’s nothing I can do about it,” I answered shakily.

“Who do you live with, then?” His eyes lit up with curiosity. Man, he was full of questions.

“My aunt and her boyfriend,” I replied. My heart was racing. “They’re the only family I know.”

“At least you have them.”

“Yeah.” They’d do anything for me if it meant keeping their promise to my mom. “So, what’s it like with your siblings?”

“They drive me crazy sometimes, but it’s all good. We help each other when needed.”

“It is rocky?”

“Sometimes,” he admitted. “But that doesn’t mean anything.”

I met his eyes, twirling my drink around. “I wish I had a sibling. Someone that would do that for me.”

“Do you have your dad?”

“No. I don’t know him. He left before I was born.” Something flared behind my words, something I’d never really felt before. I instantly realized it was hatred. I was never told about my dad, honestly. I didn’t even think to ask. He was never a part of my life, so I just let it go.

“That really sucks. I don’t know what I’d do without my family.”

“I have my aunt and her boyfriend. They’re my little family.”

“True, but you never knew either of your parents. You grew up without them. That must be hard.”

I shrugged. “It’s all I’ve ever known.”

“Still. Don’t you ever wonder?”

“Sometimes,” I admitted. “But it doesn’t matter. I learn about my mom from my aunt.”

“At least you know about her.” He sighed.

“Exactly.” It’s all I need. If I can’t have her then I want that.

The waitress came back and we both ordered our meals. She smiled brightly at us before leaving.

“So, what are your guardians like?” Justin questioned.

“Protective,” I said immediately. “Enough about my family.” I paused for a moment, biting my lip. “What about yours? What’s your home life like? It is cozy? Interesting? Fun? Annoying?” I stopped long enough to take another drink of my water, tilting my head to the side.

Justin laughed. “Whoa, Meagan. Slow down a bit, would you? So many questions in so little time.”

That statement made laughter burst from me. It took me several minutes before I settled down long enough for my companion to speak again. “Are you done now?”

“Yes.” A grin broke out on my face at his exasperated look.

“What?”

“Nothing,” I claimed, watching the waitress as she came back to our table with our food. “That didn’t take long.”

“Nope,” he responded while she set the plates down in front of us.

“Do you need anything else?”

I spoke up. “No, thank you.”

“All right. Enjoy your meals.” She turned on her heels and walked away.

After getting some ketchup, I began cutting the meat up. “So, what’s your home life like?” I repeated. I plopped a bite of the chicken breast into my mouth, leaning back into my seat as the smoky flavor sunk into me.

“It’s a bit boring,” he murmured, taking a bite of his liver.

“That’s not good.”

“I just need someone to spice it up for me.” His eyes twinkled at that. “You know, make it more entertaining.”

Jealously spiked up within me at the thought of him being with someone else, flipping my stomach upside down. Why should I care who he was with or not? It’s not like I know him know him. “Like who?”

“Like…” he trailed off, pretending to ponder that. “Well, someone like you,” he stated after a moment. A long moment. One that had the jealously clawing into me.

“M—me?” I stuttered.

“Yes.” Justin placed another bite of liver in his mouth, followed by his mashed potatoes. “Why do you doubt that? Haven’t you ever had anyone tell you that before?”

“No,” I informed him honestly. “I’ve never been in a relationship or anything like that.”

“Really?”

“Yeah,” I muttered, focusing on my meal. I could feel his gaze burning into me, begging me to look up at him.

I didn’t. I couldn’t. I had no idea why, but I could feel embarrassment creeping into me. It must seem weird that a teenager was never in a relationship.

“Hey,” Justin murmured, standing up to sit next to me. He wrapped his arm around my shoulders, pulling me closer to him. My heart began racing a thousand miles a minute. “Meagan, why are you not looking at me?”

“I—”

“Don’t worry,” he interjected, running a finger along my hand. His action caused my skin to tingle where he touched me. “It’s not good to do that, you know.”

I waved that comment off. “Isn’t it strange?”

“No.” Sincerity rang in his voice. “I don’t see how it’d be strange. I’m sure there are all kinds of teenagers who haven’t been in a relationship.”

“Yeah,” I whispered, rolling my eyes at myself. Justin grabbed my hand, lacing his fingers through mine. “I guess so.”

“Why do you feel bad? It’s not like it’s something horrible,” he pointed out.

My eyes darted toward his. “I don’t know why.”

“It’s about time you look at me with those beautiful brown eyes.”

I laughed, shaking my head. “I can’t believe you just said that.”

He squeezed my hand, grinning. “I believe it with all of my heart.”

I snorted. “Please.”

He frowned. “You don’t believe me?”

I licked my lips, saying, “I never said that. You shouldn’t put words in my mouth.”

“Oh?”

I allowed a few moments of silence to pass between us. My eyes met his and I got lost in those emerald green eyes. “Yes, oh,” I finally replied. “You know, you’re not bad yourself,” I told him, grinning. I winked at Justin as he sat back. A frown turned his lips upside down.

“Not bad?” he repeated. “I’m not sure that’s good.”

I busted into laughter again. “It is, silly.” I shook my head at him. “You and your ego.”

“Hey, I don’t have an ego.”

“Sure you do.” I stab at my salad, plopping some into my mouth.

“Nah. At least, not one that’s big or anything.”

“Right.” I dropped that subject. This must be what it feels like to have friends. To just be able to sit down and talk about anything without feeling bad for too terribly long. My heart raced every time he looked at me with those eyes; my breathing caught whenever he said my name, or when he just looked at me like he does. He gave me his full attention, and, as far as I could tell, he hadn’t judged me yet. I couldn’t keep my smile off of my lips.

“What’s next?”

Justin studied me for a moment. “Well…” he trailed off, thinking. “We could always go to a club.”

“A club? Aren’t we too young?”

“The one I’m thinking of allows teens, but we can’t drink alcohol. Only pop and water.”

“Sounds interesting. Is it only for teens?”

“Nah, adults can come too. It goes all night. Want to go?”

“Sure, why not? It sounds like fun.”

“Cool.” He stood up, finishing his drink. “Let’s head over there.”

I nodded, standing. After he paid for our food, he insisted he pay for mine as well, despite me saying no, he led me down across the street and down the sidewalk a little ways.

He stopped at a short line in front of a building; a sign on it flashed Zanzibar. It was a tan building. Once Justin and I were allowed in, after getting our hands stamped for being underage, music slammed into us. I flinched at all of the people partying, the music pounding against me like waves. I recoiled, grabbing Justin’s attention instantly.

“What’s wrong?” he asked, reaching for my hand. He pulled me against him, away from everyone else. My eyes darted around us, taking in everything. God, everything in here was loud. I suddenly pressed my head against Justin’s chest, doing my best not to be seen. “Meagan?”

“I’m sorry,” I mumbled. Justin turned around so his back was to everyone else. I lifted my head from his chest, meeting his eyes. “I guess I’m…” I stopped, having no idea where I was going with that.

“You guess what?” he asked gently.

“I’ve never really been in a crowd this big before.” I felt my cheeks flush as I spoke the words.

“I understand. You want to go?”

“No, you wanted to come here. We can stay. It just may take me a while to get used to it.”

“That’s okay. We can sit away from everyone else.” When he caught my expression, Justin added, “No worries, Meagan.”

“Are you sure?”

“Yeah, of course.”

“You barely know me,” I said as he motioned toward a table in a back corner. I nodded, letting him take my hand and led me there. When the waiter came by, we ordered a couple pops. Once we were alone, Justin turned his gaze to me. “Why are you interested in hanging out?” I blurted the question before I could process it. My gaze traveled around the huge room. A mass of bodies were out on the dance floor. The strobe lights flashed, leaving everything else in a shallow darkness.

“Because I’ve never met someone like you. You seem different.”

“Thanks?”

He laughed. “It was a compliment. I’ve never met someone who isn’t used to a crowd.”

“And I’ve never met someone so kind.”

That brought a smile to his lips. Our drinks showed up then, and we thanked the waiter before returning our attention on each other. I took a small sip, savoring my Pepsi. It tasted really good.

“You must not get around much.”

“Hell no,” I replied. “It’s kind of nice being able to hang out with someone my own age. You are a teen, right?”

“Yep. Almost eighteen.”

I smiled, tilting my head. “Just checking.”

“How old are you?”

“Same. Seventeen.”

“Are you going to go to school here?”

“School? Hell no. I’m not used to it.”

“You’ve never been to school? So what, you’ve been home schooled?”

“Huh?” I blinked. Confusion flared up in me. “I’ve been to a school before, yeah, but it was a long time ago.”

“You’re only a teen. How long ago are we talking?”

“Since I was little. I stopped going around ten years old.”

“Wait. You stopped going to school when you were ten?” Surprised edged his voice.

“Yup. My aunt taught me everything else I needed to know from there on.”

“So you were home schooled?” I stared at him, my eyes widening a little bit. “You know, where you learn at home?” He shrugged. “I don’t know how else to say it. Don’t you know what that is?”

I hesitated before shaking my head slowly. “I guess not.”

“Wow.”

“Great. You must think I’m stupid now,” I muttered under my breath.

“I don’t,” he said, catching my words. “I think it makes you even more mysterious. I like that.”

My eyes shot up to him. “Really?”

“Definitely. It compels me.”

“But you don’t know me,” I pointed out.

“I’m learning,” he responded. “Besides, I think I know enough about you.”

“Meaning?” I asked cautiously.

“Meaning everything else can wait. I know I’m starting to like you. Can’t that be enough for now? Let it go on from there?”

“You l—like me?” I stammered, stunned. “Why?”

“Exactly as I said before. You’re extremely interesting.”

I was unable to look away from him. Is he serious? He couldn’t be. This has to be a joke.

“Trust me,” Justin said, interrupting my dilemma. “I’m not one to say things for no reason.”

“I—how can you be interested?”

“It isn’t hard. You’re extremely gorgeous and, well, strange.”

I knitted my eyebrows together. “I can take that,” I told him, a ghost of a smile forming along my lips.

“Good.” I watched as he took a drink of his Mountain Dew. Justin licked his lips, his eyes flickering around us for a split moment.

“What?” I asked him finally.

“Nothing,” he sighed. “Just looking.”

“You want to do something?”

His eyes lit up at that thought. “Let’s finish our drinks first.”

I agreed, taking another sip. We sat in silence for a few moments, people watching. A group of girls giggled as they fawned over guys, their eyes skirting the club. I snorted, noticing as one stumbled over her own feet. Wasted.

“That’s sad,” I said, catching Justin’s attention. I nodded toward the group, rolling my eyes as one of them tried to get a guy. From what I could tell, it barely worked.

“It’s life.”

“Do you know them?” I asked him, taking another drink of my pop.

He shook his head after looking over the girls. “Maybe one of them. I think that brunette is my sister’s friend.”

I turned my attention to the girl he was indicating. She had a glow about her—I think they all did. I snorted again. I’d never seen someone so wasted. Sure, my aunt and her boyfriend drank once in a while, but never that much. Suddenly, my phone vibrated. I took it out of my pocket, glancing down at it. It was from Teresa. Where are you? Everything okay?

Yeah, I replied. I’m just out on the town. Will be home later.

A minute later, I got a reply. Okay. Let me know if you need a ride.

I sent a quick text back, putting my phone away once it was done.

“Do you need to go home?”

“Nope,” I responded.

“Sweet.”

“Yep,” I said, finishing my Pepsi.

“You want to go dance?” he asked after downing the rest of his Mountain Dew. I nodded, getting up. He grabbed my hand and led me from the table, toward the outer part of the crowd. “How’s this?”

“Perfect.”

He smiled, grabbing my other hand. We started dancing as a slow song came on. Several people left, going towards the bar; Justin stopped, pulling me in closer. “Do you mind?” he murmured in my ear.

“No,” I whispered. Being this close to him took my breath away. I’d never felt like this before—my breathing went shallow as my heart sped up, my stomach swimming with butterflies. He placed his hands on my waist and I wrapped mine around his neck as he led me into slow movement. We danced for a while, talking and laughing. It was nice.

“Where are you from?” Justin asked as we took a well-deserved break.

“Uh…” I trailed off, unsure how to answer that.

Suddenly, a waiter appeared by our side. “Do you guys want anything?” he asked, holding a notepad and pen in his hand.

“No, thanks.” After he left, Justin turned back to me. “Well?”

“I’m not sure,” I said honestly. “I was five when we moved from there.”

“And you don’t know where there is?”

I shook my head. “Never spoke of it.”

“Ah,” he said. “Makes sense.”

A boy sauntered over to us. “What do we have here, Justin?” he asked, taking me in.

“A friend,” Justin said immediately. “What do you want?”

“Girl wanted to come here. Can’t deny her, you know.”

“Yeah, right. Where is she then?”

He shrugged. “The bathroom.”

I snorted softly. Of course. Where else would she go? Justin’s eyes said about the same thing. “Did you two come alone?”

“Sure did.” A smile lifted his lips. “Who would we bring along?”

“Your friends?”

“No way. Not when she suggests it.” He turned his gaze back to me. “Who’s this?”

“Meagan.” I met Justin’s gaze as he said it.

He winked at my companion. “Ah, nicely chosen.”

Anger rose up in me the longer he roamed my body, taking me in. I felt exposed. I bit the inside of my cheek hard. The taste of my blood flooded my mouth.

Justin’s eyes narrowed. “She’s a friend.”

“If you say so.” He laughed. “Better get you some before someone else claims her.”

He was talking about me like I’m a piece of meat. My magic burned within me, itching to lash out. My rage boiled underneath the surface. I clenched my hands into fists under the table, refraining myself from saying anything. I couldn’t trust myself from saying or doing something I’d regret.

Justin glared at the boy. “Don’t talk about her like that,” he snapped. “She deserves better than someone talking about her in that way.”

The other boy stared at Justin, raising an eyebrow. “Damn,” he sneered. “Sounds like she’s got you.”

“I don’t know what you’re talking about.”

“Sure you don’t. You go ahead and just keep telling yourself that. Better keep an eye on this one, Justin. You never know when she’ll slip away, just like the rest of them.”

What? My eyes darted over to Justin. He looked like he was ready to beat up the other boy. I opened my mouth to intervene, but a girl wandered up to us, wrapping her arms around the boy that had joined us.

“Hey baby,” she murmured, grinning. I tore my gaze away when she leaned up to kiss him. “What’s going on here?” she questioned when they pulled apart.

“Nothing. Nothing at all,” her boyfriend responded, meeting my gaze. “Just figured I’d come talk to my friend here, and his apparent friend.” I flinched at how he said that last word. Like it was some kind of curse. “I don’t think she’s a friend. She looks like much more than that. Don’t you agree, babe?” He turned his attention to her.

She studied me, frowning. “Maybe.”

They were talking about me almost as if I wasn’t really there, like I was just a picture or something. Bitterness reared up inside me, gnawing. “Excuse me?” I demanded.

“Did my boyfriend offend you?” She tilted her head, waiting for my answer.

I had no idea what to say to her. I didn’t want to sound like an idiot. The girl was looking at me like I was nothing. Like I was just in the way.

“Let’s go dance,” she purred to her boyfriend, waving me away. “I’m bored over here.”

“Are you kidding me?” I blurted. “Seriously? You just had to say that?”

She shrugged, taking her partner’s hand and leading him away.

I stared after them, fighting the urge to smack some sense into those two. A shock or two would work. “Justin?”

He reached over to grab my hand, shaking his head. “I’m so sorry, Meagan. I never expect for that to happen.”

“What was that about?”

“It was nothing, Meg.”

“Nothing.” I laughed. “How can you say that was nothing?”

“They’re just being themselves. Don’t worry about anything they said.”

“Wow,” I muttered, sighing. “I can’t believe it.”

“Ignore them, okay? Trust me, it isn’t worth it.”

“I’m not worth it?” I whispered. The words echoed in my mind, soaking into me. Tears sprang up, but I willed them away, blinking rapidly. “I think I should go,” I said, slamming my hands onto the table. “It was nice seeing you before this revelation.”

“What revelation?” Justin stood up, grabbing my wrist when I turned away. “Meagan, what are you talking about?”

“Let go,” I hissed, glaring at him. I jerked my wrist out of his grasp. I spun around on my heels and stormed away, pushing on the door. It flung opened and I rushed outside, just in time for a couple tears to race down my cheeks. I wasn’t worth it. Of course, he met me today. Why was I so upset?

I leaned against the building, sliding down it. I swallowed, bringing my knees up so I could wrap my arms around them.

“Meagan!”

I ignored the voice, closing my eyes. Go away.

“Meagan!” I felt hands on me as another body settled against me, pulling me closer. “Why are you upset? What did I say?”

“Why did you follow me?” I tried to be demanding, but it didn’t work.

“What’s wrong?” Justin placed a finger under my chin, urging me to lift my face up to his. “If it’s about what they said, don’t worry about it.”

“It’s not about them!” I pushed away from him, wiping at my eyes. My hands shook, and I fought against the tingling sensation that rose up within me. “Why are you following me if I’m not worth it?”

“What?” Justin moved toward me, but I held my hand up. “That’s not what I meant at all. They’re not worth another thought.”

I didn’t say anything. If looks could kill, then I was sure he’d be dead by now with the daggers I was sending his way.

“I care about you, Meagan. Sure, it may seem weird to say this, but it’s true.” He took a deep breath, staring at me. “I meant everything I said to you earlier. When I saw you today, I felt like I needed to know you. I couldn’t walk away. I couldn’t tear my eyes away. I needed to know you. I needed to, okay? I knew I’d regret if I never said hi to you. You’re the most fun I’ve had in a while, honestly.”

My heart fluttered at that. “One day,” I whispered.

“One day is all it takes.”

Denial coursed through me. “That’s impossible.”

“It really isn’t. One day can become everything.”

I snorted, staring off into the distance. Cars drove by while people walked in and out of buildings. “In one second, everything can be lost.”

“I want this,” he said honestly. He reached over for my hand, but instead of making contact, he hovered over my skin, waiting for my consent.

“In one second, everything can be changed.”

He dropped his hand. “I want to be that change for you.”

I bit my lip, averting my gaze to the sidewalk beneath me. I ran my finger along it. “This is crazy.”

“Crazy things have to happen, you know.”

“Life is insane,” I replied.

“Very, but that’s okay as long as you surround yourself with the right people.”

“You sound like my aunt.”

He scoffed, pretending to be defensive. “Yeah? Well…”

“Relax,” I said, leaning over to place my finger against his lips. He immediately stopped speaking. “It’s not a bad thing. Weird, maybe, but not bad.”

“Is everything okay here?” Hope flared in his eyes.

I didn’t respond for a long moment. The silence stretched on between us before I finally spoke. “I don’t know.”

“I didn’t mean the words the way you took them, I swear. You are worth it. Like I said, you don’t deserve to be talked about the way he was.”

“Thanks.” My hope sparked within me. Obviously I’d overreacted. But there was still something that was bothering me under the surface.

“I hope you believe me.”

“What did he mean when he said that I’ll slip away like the rest of them?” The question rang out between us. My breath caught in my throat when I returned my gaze to him. Something burst in his emerald eyes. Something I couldn’t read. Anger, maybe? Guilt? Regret? I had no idea. “What did he mean?” I finally repeated when the minute turned into two, then three.

Justin sighed, lifting his hand again. He traced the back of my hand that was still on the sidewalk. Warmth seared my flesh, overtaking my concentration. “He used to be my friend—I guess he considers himself as my friend still, but I don’t. Anyways, there are several girls that he thinks I should have gone after because they were hot, in his opinion. I’m not going to lie, they all were, or at least pretty.” That comment felt like a knife pierced my heart. “But they didn’t make me feel a connection. They didn’t make me feel…alive. Not like you do.”

“You met me hours ago, and now you’re in love?”

“I wouldn’t say that, Meagan. But I do feel something for you. Something much more than I ever have with anyone else.”

“You sound so cheesy right now.”

“I want you to know what I’m thinking.” He scooted closer to me, resting a hand on my leg. “Don’t run away because of a misunderstanding.”

I stared down at his hand. “Who says it is?”

“Trust me, it is.”

“So, you let the other girls run away?”

He opened his mouth, but then snapped it shut. He paused for a moment before speaking again. “I guess you can say that.”

“Why?”

“I wasn’t interested.”

That was such a simple answer. Was this really that simple?

“I’m way more interested in this girl that was standing outside in full daylight, with her eyes closed and head tilted up at the sun like it’s the first time she’s been outside. There’s a mystery there.”

“I don’t see it.”

I tried keeping my breathing calm as I thought about his words. He seemed so sure of himself. Could I really do this?

He’s human, I told myself. Was it a good idea? I had no clue.

“Can I have a chance? Can we?”

“Oh, Justin…” I trailed off. My heart hurt at the thought of telling him no. My head screamed at me to do the right thing, but my heart flipped painfully. The words were on the tip of my tongue, waiting to be spoken. Waiting to cut into us, like a bullet penetrating flesh.

“Can we try?”

“I—” I glanced up at him, and the question immediately flew from my mind. He never laughed at me over how we met—over how strange I may have looked to him.

In fact, he even defended me when someone was talking bad about me. I felt free today. For the first time in my life, I forgot about everything else. I wasn’t a witch having to watch her back, but a girl living her life. I loved that feeling.

It was different.

I didn’t think I’d ever had this much fun before. I’d never hung out with someone my own age. Besides, if I ever had, then the last time that would have happened was when I was five.

So, despite the warning that rang in my ears, I finally replied, “I don’t see why we can’t try.”

By the time I got home, it was later than expected.

I gaped at the time, uncomprehending how much time had passed. I’m so dead. I couldn’t believe I let it get away from me like that. The door opened easily—unlocked. The living room light was on and I noticed my aunt sitting on the couch, watching television. The soft noises drifted to my ears as I stepped in further.

“Why haven’t you answered my calls or texts?”

I froze, staring over at my aunt. She turned the TV off, rising. “I was getting worried.”

Oh no. “Sorry. Time got away from me.”

“That doesn’t answer my question.” She crossed her arms, glaring at me. Anger radiated off of her.

I swallowed, closing the door behind me. “I guess it died,” I said lamely. “I didn’t know I got any calls or texts.”

“You should have known I’d call you, Meagan! We were run out of our old house, you know. That’s the signal to make sure we know where you are! Or that you’re okay!” she yelled.

I flinched at her raised voice. “I’m sorry. I—I didn’t know it was late. I didn’t know my phone had died.”

“Pay attention next time!” she snapped.

“I will, I swear.”

“I should just make you stay here.”

“I—I have to live my life, Teresa! I can’t just stay here all the time.”

She glowered at me. “Sure you can.”

I opened my mouth to respond, but then closed it again. “I’ll make sure I let you know next time,” I said quietly.

“You better, or there won’t be a next time.”

With that, she turned and left me standing there. I never saw her like that before. “Teresa?” I called after her. She paused at the doorframe, glancing over her shoulder at me. “Can we keep this from Devin?”

“You want me to not tell my boyfriend something like this?” Her disapproval was glaringly obvious.

I bit the inside of my cheek, meeting her gaze. “Please. It was an accident. I won’t do it again, I promise.”

She sighed, turning her gaze toward their room. “I guess, but if he finds out you better be willing to explain.”

“I will, I will,” I promised quickly, relief washing over me. That was one less person I didn’t have to worry about. “Thank you.”

“Yeah, yeah.” She studied me for a long moment. “What took you so long?”

“I met someone my age.” I smiled as Justin came to my mind. “He was nice to me. We hung out for a while.”

“I see.”

Nervousness curled within me at her comment.

“I hope you had some fun, then. Since you’re grounded for right now.”

Disbelief lurched forward. “G—grounded? Teresa, you can’t be serious. I didn’t have a set time to be home!”

“I was so worried about you.”

“I hate that I made you worried, but I’m fine. I’m okay. I’m here.”

“Don’t do it again.” She stared at me for a few more moments. “Fine. You’re right about not having a set time. But next time you will be grounded. Got it?”

“Yes,” I muttered. “Thank you.”

She waved that away. “Don’t mention it.”

I gazed at her as she stood there with one hand on the doorframe and the other lying by her side.

In that moment, she reminded me of my mom. She was acting like a mother would when her child goes off without letting anyone know anything. And I could understand that.

“We should probably go to bed.”

I nodded, bidding her a good night. I went to my room, closing the door lightly behind me. My thoughts were clouded with my mom now, questions forming. It really was bad, but life goes on. People move on, no matter what happens. I sighed, my eyes wandering to my window.

I walked over there, pushing the curtains aside. The stars shone brightly against the inky night sky, illuminating the thick grey clouds. I wonder if she was up there somewhere, watching me. I wonder if she was happy about who I’ve become, if she wished she could have kept her promise. That wasn’t her fault, I reminded myself. She didn’t set that fire. But I still felt remorse.

We’d left her there all alone. Even if she had lived, we weren’t there. She didn’t live and you know it. Once caught in that blaze, no one got out. Only the lucky ones survived.

Four

 

Fog blurred my vision as I followed an unknown path. I didn’t know how I got there or what was going on, but I knew I had to keep going forward. No matter what.

I couldn’t stop in the middle of nowhere, so I followed my heart and kept trudging forward, despite my mind screaming at me to stop and turn around. No way was that going to happen. Not when I was this far.

I heard a soft voice calling out to me, enchanting me with its whispers. I followed the melody, curiosity getting the best of me. I felt my way, tripping several times, but I never stopped. Soon the fog cleared and I was standing in a meadow filled with beautiful flowers, plush green grass, trees that stood tall with leaves shaping the branches, and a girl sitting on a tree stump, humming to herself.

“Hello?” I called out to her softly. “Who are you? What is this place?”

She turned to me, her eyes sparkling with white. The girl was wearing a shimmering white strapless dress; her hair was extremely pale with a hint of blonde to it. I met her eyes as a small smile lifted her lips. “Ah, it’s you. We’ve been waiting for you, Meagan.”

“What do you mean? Who are you?” I repeated, my heart skipping a beat.

“No time now. I have an important message to give you,” she said, coming closer to me. “Why don’t you sit?”

“I’m fine standing, thank you,” I told her, my stomach twisting.

She shrugged. “Suit yourself.”

I waited a couple moments before the urge to say something swarmed me. “Aren’t you going to tell me anything?”

“Of course,” she replied, her eyes dancing. “I’ve been informed of a new prophecy.”

“A what?” I asked, dumbfounded. How could this have anything to do with me?

“You don’t know what a prophecy is?” Confusion flared within her.

“No, I do,” I told her. “I don’t understand why I’m here, though.”

“Because it pertains to you,” she said patiently. She took another step closer to me. “It has everything to do with you, Meagan Marie Nevels.”

“How do you know my name?” I demanded.

She smiled at me again. It was soft, and barely touched her eyes. It made her glow for a moment. “I’m an angel,” she informed me. “And I’m here to warn you of a future you can prevent.”

Anxiety wrapped its way around my throat, clawing. “Me?” I squeaked. I grimaced at how childish I sounded. I’m only a teenager, and now I’m expected to prevent a prophecy?

“Yes, you. I hear you’ve moved to a city and met someone. Is this true?”

“Y—yes,” I responded breathlessly.

“Well, then you might want to listen to what I have to say, and you might want to listen closely. Understood?” She paused, watching me intently. I nodded, meeting her gaze. “Good. You must not get close to any humans. It’s dangerous.”

“I already know this.”

“Not everything.”

“What do you mean?”

“If you’re not careful you’ll end up falling in love with a human and all hell will break loose.”

My heart stopped at those words. They chilled me to the bone. I shivered at the seriousness in her eyes and stance. “I know I must be careful.”

She shook her head. “No, I don’t think you understand. There’s no question about it, Meagan. You must stay away from the boy you met. It’s way too dangerous.”

A piece of my heart fell away at her words. “I know,” I whispered.

“Do you? Do you really? I don’t think so. I think you’re going to let it go. I think you’ll ignore me and everything I’m saying. Don’t make that mistake, Meagan. For everyone’s sake, don’t.”

I sighed. “But he’s easy to get along with.”

“Which is why it’s dangerous,” she snapped. “I already told you this, and you know better. Don’t let a human ruin your judgment.”

“You don’t know,” I murmured.

“It’s not like I’ve ever been there before. Just don’t do it or you’ll be the cause of the end.”

Shock rippled through me. “Wait. What does that mean? I’ll be the cause of the end?” I couldn’t breathe anymore. It was like the oxygen was sucked right out of me. The longer she spoke, the more I wished I was anywhere else.

“Exactly how it sounds. Everything will be your fault. You hold all of the power. Use your common sense and do what’s right.”

“Meaning make an excuse and never see Justin again.”

“You shouldn’t know him. It’s the right thing to do, Meagan.”

I sighed, looking up at the sky. “So you say.”

She held up her hands. Her eyes were solely trained on me. “Hey, I was asked to tell you this, so I am. Don’t get cocky.”

“Sorry,” I muttered. “It’s hard to be told all of this.”

“Do everything I said and you’ll be fine.”

“And if I don’t?” I questioned.

She shrugged. “All hell will break loose.”

I stared at her, bewildered. “How do you know this? What if it’s not true?”

She reached out, touching my arm. “Honey, all prophecies are true, whether you like it or not.” Her gaze remained focused on me as she spoke. Her eyes shimmered with something unreadable.

I began shaking my head immediately. “No. I don’t believe it.”

Her hand fell away from my skin. “Doesn’t matter. It is what it is.” She waved her hand in the air, taking a deep breath.

“But—”

“Stop,” she commanded, cutting me off smoothly. “Just stop. Don’t fight this. You’re strong and powerful. Live up to it. Don’t be stupid.”

I shot her a glare, anger quickly spiking within me. How could she say this? How could she talk to me like this? It isn’t fair. “You don’t know me.”

“I know more than you think, trust me. Give it up.”

I shook my head fiercely. “You think you do, but I don’t believe it.”

“Seriously,” she sighed, her eyes flickering toward the blue sky. “I have to go, Meagan. Take this prophecy seriously.”

“Okay, so let’s say I do. What’ll happen then?”

She paused from moving away. “I don’t know. That’s up to you to decide. It could be good or bad. If you do exactly as I say, it’ll be all grand.”

“And if not I’m screwed,” I muttered.

“Yes.” She reached out to me, touching my arm gently. “You won’t be the only one, though. Everyone in the magic world will be.”

What?” I exclaimed, mystified. My eyes were opened wide. I’m expected to choose between putting my friendship on hold over saving the magic world? I was only a teenager. “But why? They didn’t do anything wrong.”

“No, but you would have. If magic gets out, everyone will go down, not just you.”

I couldn’t breathe. This went from no big deal to massive. All those lives would be on me if I messed up. How could I get mixed up in these things? I shouldn’t have gone out on the town by myself. I should have stayed home or went with my aunt and Devin. Everything will be okay, I told myself, repeating it over and over. But I wasn’t convinced.

“Are you sure?” I whispered. My knees felt unstable suddenly.

She nodded. “I wouldn’t lie. This is all true.”

“So…you’re telling me I can’t mess up or I destroy a lot.”

“It won’t be a lot, Meagan. You’ll be destroying everything. A race will be killed off because of you.”

I swallowed, my heart skipping a beat. A memory flashed across my mind as I closed my eyes. All those people screaming, flames devouring. I took a deep breath, trying to push it away. But the memory wouldn’t leave.

It was so vivid, almost like I was still there. I could hear the flames crackling, could hear the terrified screams, the cries for help; I could feel my fear flare within me. I lost my mom because of someone else. I can’t—nor won’t—allow that to happen to anyone else. Not because of me.

I fell to my knees. My hands gripped a handful of dirt. My hair cascaded around my face as I kept my head downward. “What do I have to do?”

I felt her kneeling next to me. She wrapped her arms around me, hugging me close to her for a moment before pulling away. “Stay away from the boy—or any human. Don’t let them get close to you. It’ll end up in a disaster.”

I nodded, swallowing. I peered over at her. “Right. I understand.”

The angel titled her head, allowing her hair to fall over her shoulder. “Do you? Do you finally get the importance of this?”

I released the dirt I was holding in my hand. “Hell yeah. I’m not going to make a mistake that’ll put other magic users in danger.”

“I’m glad you see.” She studied me for a moment. “I better go. It was nice talking to you, Meagan.”

I nodded. “Thanks for the warning.”

“It wasn’t exactly a warning,” she said, looking up at the sky. “It’s what will happen.”

Her words filled me with dread. “Not if I can help it.”

“I hope so.” With that, she began to fade away. I watched as the angel disappeared, leaving me alone to do what I pleased. I sighed, glancing up at the sky. This couldn’t be happening. I start a new life and now I had to stop seeing someone I care about? All because it was dangerous? I shook my head, rolling my eyes. It wasn’t fair.

Life isn’t fair,” a voice whispered in my ear.

I wished it was. I wanted to live a normal life for once, but I knew that wasn’t going to happen. No matter how much I wanted it to. I groaned at that, my stomach lurching. I guess I had to do what’s right—the reasonable thing.

“Meagan,” a voice murmured from behind me.

I turned around slowly, coming to a standstill in front of a glorious young woman. I felt my eyes go wide as I took in her silvery dress and dark hair. “W—who are you?”

“You don’t recognize me? Of course, I never expected you to, but one can hope.” Sadness flickered in her eyes. “Well, to answer your question, I’m your mom.”

“Mom?” I whispered, my heart going still.

“Yes, Meagan. You’re my daughter. An amazing one at that.” She smiled, her eyes shining with tears. “I see you’ve come far, and I’m really proud of that.”

“How can you be here right now?” I asked breathlessly. Was this real? My mom was seriously standing in front of me?

A soft laugh escaped her lips as she studied me. “Same as the other angel.”

I watched as she took a step closer to me. “Is this an illusion? This isn’t real. It can’t be.”

“No. You’re not crazy, if that’s what you’re thinking. Trust me, this is all my doing.”

“But how?”

“That doesn’t matter. Oh, Meagan, I’ve missed being near you so much.”

“I never even got to know you,” I breathed, still mystified.

“I know, and I’m sorry for that.”

“You can’t really be my mom,” I told her, my heart racing. “It’s impossible.”

“Not for an angel. This is a dream, Meagan. Nothing else.”

“Still,” I muttered. “Mom, I—why was that fire set? Why didn’t you come back to me like you promised?” Tears glittered in my eyes.

“I don’t know,” she said gently. “I tried—believe me, I did—but it didn’t matter. I was meant to die, just like you’re meant to live.”

“You left me with a broken promise.” A tear broke out, rolling down my cheek.

“I know.” Her words were soft, barely audible if I wasn’t listening. “But I’ve been there, watching my baby girl grow up. My sister and Devin are doing an amazing job.”

“At least they got to know you.” I sighed. “They tell me about you sometimes. That’s all I have.”

“I’m glad they do. I don’t want you growing up without me, but we can’t change it. Meagan, move on and forget about me.”

“What?” I exclaimed. “I—I can’t! You’re my mom—how can you say such a thing?”

She seemed unfazed. “It’s better that way.”

“No,” I growled, more tears racing down my cheeks. “I can’t let you go like that. There’ll always be a piece of you in me, Mom. Don’t make me lose it.”

“I’m sorry,” she said. “It’s for the best, though.”

“I’m living my life. I don’t need to forget anything.”

She met my gaze. “I wish you would, but I guess I can’t make you.”

I shook my head. “No way in hell.”

She nodded to herself, her eyes trailing up to the sky. “I love you, Meagan. Don’t forget that. I’m proud of everything you’ve accomplished and how you’re living your life. Don’t let anyone change that.”

“I won’t,” I promised, a smile lifting my lips.

She nodded. “Good.” Mom began to turn away, but quickly stopped, glancing back at me. “Oh and Meagan? Don’t let someone tell you how to live.”

I met her gaze, nodding slightly. “I won’t,” I repeated.

“Goodbye, Meagan. Don’t forget anything I’ve said.”

I didn’t say anything. What was there to say? I’d already made my promises, and I intended to stick with it. I didn’t want to end up breaking them, after all. I watched as she walked away from me, slowly dissolving.

“Hey!” I called suddenly, watching as she flickered. “What about my dad? I’ve never known anything about him.”

“That’s how it needs to stay,” she told me, her shaky voice stern. “He doesn’t matter, trust me. Don’t try to find him, okay?”

She was disappearing quickly now. I felt my eyes go wide as she vanished before my eyes. “Okay,” I whispered, my heart sinking.

My eyes opened slowly as the dream shattered. Did I really just see my mom? Why wasn’t it real? I sighed as I replayed the dream, knowing full well that every part of it was true. I rubbed my eyes, shooting a sideways glance at my alarm clock. It was only three in the morning. I groaned as I rolled over, intending to go back to sleep. But I couldn’t.

No matter how hard I tried, my mom’s words kept coming back to me, repeating again and again, sounding like a broken record. That’s how it needs to stay. He doesn’t matter, trust me. Don’t try to find him, okay? Questions burned within my mind as the words raced through it. What did that even mean? Who is my dad? I heaved a sigh, rolling to face my window. Light shone through the cracks, and I suddenly knew what I had to do. No matter what, I had to go back. I needed to see it how it was. Then maybe I’d be able to forget and move on.

Five

 

Two hours later, I was ready for the day. I went into the kitchen and grabbed a glass from the counter next to the sink and poured a glass of orange juice, taking a sip after I put the juice away. I licked my lips, enjoying the taste of the juice. I finished it off in no time and refilled my glass, heading for my room.

I placed the drink on my nightstand before I get my Mp3 player out. I popped in my earbuds and turned it up, allowing the piano to wash over me. I lay back onto my bed, tapping my finger on my leg.

The music was so soft, so gentle. It reminded me of what I was told my mom was like. She was such a caring and sweet person, or so I’m informed. I wished I could remember her, but I was too young.

I wanted so badly to have some kind of closure. I wanted to know exactly what happened to her, to see her one last time. I wanted that more than anything.

Not knowing was slowly killing me inside. It twisted within me, devouring me alive. I tried ignoring that feeling, but it only went away for so long before I was struck again.

I got up and went to look into my floor length mirror, taking in my extremely dark brown hair—it almost looked black—dark blue jeans and a black T-shirt that clung to my frame. I smiled at my reflection.

I pulled my hair away from my face, gazing at my small silver horseshoe earrings. All along the horseshoe was light blue stones.

My aunt used to tell me that my mom loved horses. She always wanted to ride one. Once I learned this, I decided to get my ears pierced and wear the earrings.

I figured it was one way I could honor my mother’s memory.

My eyes strayed to the picture on my dresser. I touched reach out and touched it with my fingertip. Her smile was so radiant, so carefree. She gazed at me like I was her lifeline, like I was her everything. Like she couldn’t get enough of looking at me. I stared up at her like she was my hero.

The field’s grass we were sitting in was so green. The clouds in the blue sky above us were so big, white, and fluffy.

We were less than a foot apart—if my mom wanted to, she could have reached over and grabbed me.

She was wearing a strapless purple knee length dress, while I was wearing a short sleeve light green dress. Neither one of us were wearing shoes. My mother also had on a necklace that held two horseshoes overlapping, with green stones lining both of them.

My mom was so beautiful.

I blinked, and a single tear fell down my cheek. It was hot against my flesh. “I hope you’re proud of me,” I whispered. My voice shook, and more tears ran down my cheeks. “I hope I’m everything you wanted me to be.” I closed my eyes as the familiar pang rose up in me. The longing for a life I could never have. The yearning to touch my mother again, to see her alive and not in some picture. I wanted to have a special connection with her.

I wanted to know what it felt like to have my mother.

I tore the earbuds from my ears, throwing my MP3 player at the wall before falling to my knees.

 

When I went back into the kitchen around eight o’clock Teresa was rummaging through the cupboards. “Good morning,” I said.

Teresa looked up. “Oh, Meagan. How did you sleep?”

She was wearing jeans, a purple T-shirt, and tennis shoes. Her long brown hair was tied back in a ponytail.

“Good,” I replied, remembering my dream. A small smile lifted my lips. A few moments went by in silence before I got the courage to speak up. “Hey, can I ask you something? And you’ll answer truthfully?”

She stopped what she was doing and met my gaze. “Sure,” Teresa said after a minute. “What’s up?”

“First off, where’s Devin?”

She moved away from the cupboards and pulled out a chair. “He went to look for work.”

“Okay, good. Now, what can you tell me about the village?”

She settled into a chair. Her head snapped up at me once that question tumbled out of my mouth. “What village? What are you getting at, Meagan?”

I leaned against the counter, meeting her gaze. “The one I was born in,” I told her, ignoring the second question.

She shrugged, waving her hand in the air. “It’s gone. Why does this matter?”

“I want to know. I need to be able to move on, but I’m learning I can’t without going there,” I answered quickly, holding my breath.

Her eyes widened at that. “You want to go there?” my aunt asked slowly, mystified.

“Yes. I need to see it for myself, Teresa. Please.”

My aunt shook her head, sighing. “I don’t know.”

“Please,” I repeated. “Please let me do this.”

“Maybe Devin can go with—”

I held up my hand. “By myself.”

“You don’t know what you’re getting yourself into, Meagan.”

“I can do this,” I said. I stared down at my orange juice for a second before looking back up at her. “I’ll take care of myself and won’t be gone long.”

“Meagan…” she trailed off, studying me. “You really need to do this, don’t you?”

I nodded, biting my lip. “Yes. I swear when I come back I’ll be able to move on and forget the past.”

“You don’t have to forget.”

“I know, but I want to. I think this is it for me.”

She sighed, not saying anything for a long moment. “I don’t understand why.”

“I need to see what it’s become.”

“You know what it’s become,” Teresa responded. “There’s nothing left.”

I pushed off of the counter I was leaning against. “I need to see it for myself.”

My aunt didn’t say anything for a long moment. I could see a war raging on inside her the longer she contemplated my request. “I know you think you need this, but, Meagan, you don’t,” she finally said. “It’s not worth risking your life.”

I clasped my hands together, moving toward Teresa. “It is something I need.”

“No,” she stated firmly.

“Teresa—”

“I said no. No means no.”

I groaned, clenching my hands into fists. My nails bit into my flesh. A stinging sensation rose up within me. “Fine,” I retorted. “At least tell me about this place.”

She stood up, heading toward the living room. “Like what?”

“Where is it?” I held my breath once the question left my lips.

Silence met me. I latched onto my lip with my teeth, anxiously waiting for her response. Please tell me, I begged.

Finally, she told me everything. I took a drink of my orange juice, taking a seat on the couch as she reclined back into the recliner. I grinned the more she spoke.

Teresa talked about the village with passion—and then pain once she mentioned the fire.

The village was in a meadow surrounded by a forest. It was miles from a human town, but there was a dirt road leading us out of the woods we lived in. it was only used for things like getting food that we couldn’t cook or find.

“Thank you,” I murmured. My mind reeled with this new information.

I got up, nodding at my aunt. Without another word, I went to my room, closing the door gently. I plopped down onto my bed, staring at the wall.

I knew exactly what I needed to do. Nothing could go wrong. Not now.

You shouldn’t do this, a voice warned me.

I closed my eyes, forcing my mind to go blank. I envisioned the village as my aunt described it—burnt down, nothing but ashes and scars. “Take me there,” I whispered, feeling my magic stir, racing through my veins.

Soon it overtook my body, causing my soul to be filled with light as it engulfed me. I held my breath as I shone on the inside, my heart beating a thousand miles a minute; I could feel myself being trapped. I didn’t move as I suddenly felt myself being thrown into time and space, as everything came undone. I felt as light as a feather, like I was walking on air, soaring through the clouds. I felt a smile form along my lips as my magic ran through me still, going faster and faster. It felt like something from a dream.

All of a sudden, I landed on a hard surface. Pain shot through my body, shattering my spell. My eyes snapped open to see a blue sky filled with big white fluffy clouds. I rolled to my side, coming to a stand as I took in my surroundings. Plush green trees surrounded a huge black lot.

The village.

I gasped, my eyes widening. I was really here. I made it. I couldn’t believe I actually made it. Surprise flared within me at the sight as the night of the fire swarmed my mind. I closed my eyes, my heart fluttering as my stomach twisted. I opened them again after a moment, slowly walking toward the charred ground.

“Who did this?” I whispered to no one. My vision blurred with tears as I took the first step onto the blackened ground. From the looks of it, it was a huge village. Memories I’d never known flashed through my mind as I walked.

Little children playing as their parents watched; people talking when they ran into each other on the street, even if it was a stranger. So many happy memories were lost years ago. All for what? Nothing. Absolutely nothing.

My heart shattered as the smiles flashed through my mind, as the happiness radiated within me. I paused as a familiar voice called my name. I spun around in a circle, my eyes darting. I couldn’t see anyone, though. “Who’s there?” I demanded as a light breeze picked up, ruffling my hair.

“Oh, Meagan,” someone laughed.

And just like that I was launched into a memory.

A little girl was dancing around, a huge smile splitting her face as three adults—two women and one man—watched her, all laughing and talking. As I watched the scene unfold, I fell to my knees, my hands clutching the ashes.

I suddenly recognized Teresa and Devin as they sat on a couch, giving the girl their undivided attention. Another woman was sitting on a chair, her eyes shimmering. My mom, I realized after a moment. And the little girl was me.

My mom called out to me, and I ran to her. She wrapped her arms around me, engulfing me in a hug. Her grin was dazzling as she stared down at me. “You’re silly,” she teased me, touching my short dark brown hair. I smiled up at her, laughing as she tickled my side. “I love you, baby girl,” she whispered as she pulled me closer. “I’m so glad I have you.”

“She’s just precious,” Teresa commented. Her eyes sparkled as she watched my mom and I.

“Oh, very,” my mom agreed, turning her brown eyes on my aunt. “And to think I could have lost this…” she trailed off, closing her eyes briefly. But before she did, I saw sadness lurking underneath.

“Don’t, Amanda.”

Mom’s eyes opened and she looked at her sister again. “You’re right,” she murmured, wiping the stray tear away from her cheek. “As always.”

“It’s not something you should worry about.”

She nodded. “Yes, I know.” Mom kissed the top of my head, holding me tightly. “Don’t worry,” she mumbled, taking a deep breath. “She’s my life and joy.”

“I know,” Teresa said softly. “I know how important she is to you.”

“What’s going on in here?” Devin asked as he came into the living room. I squealed, trying to get out of my mom’s grasp. She let me go, and I darted towards Devin. He halted in his tracks. I hugged his leg for a moment before running away. He laughed, shaking his head. “What’s wrong with her?”

“Nothing,” Teresa told him. “She’s just a child, you know.”

“She’s being more energetic than usual.”

“Yeah, well, kids are like that most of the time.”

He sat down beside my aunt, taking her hand. My mom watched them for a few minutes before she tore her gaze away.

My feet skidded on the hard wood floors as I came to a halt in the middle of the room. I threw my hands up in the air and did a little dance. A grin was plastered on my face.

Mom leaned back in her chair, staring at the fire in the fireplace. Her arms were crossed over her chest.

I took a step forward then backward, shaking my butt.

“What is she doing?” Devin muttered.

Teresa shrugged, patting his leg. My mother didn’t say anything.

I clapped my hands together.

Mom chuckled, raising an eyebrow. “Are you having fun?”

“Mommy.” I giggled as I spun around. My foot slid on the wooden floor and I fell onto my butt.

“Are you okay?” Mom asked, coming over to me.

I nodded, getting back up. I used Momma to balance myself. “I want a drink, Mommy.”

“Of course, sweetheart,” she replied, standing up. My mother held her hand out to the younger version of me. A small smile was on her face. “Let’s go.”

I couldn’t move. I closed my eyes as the scene washed over me, consuming my very being. They looked extremely happy then; it was hard to watch. I shook my head, trying to clear it. Tears were streaming down my cheeks now as a life I could have had raced through my mind, like a movie across a screen. It wasn’t fair. It truly wasn’t. Why couldn’t this still be here? Why did that fire have to break out? Why didn’t anyone stop it? I knew I was being unfair, but I couldn’t help it. All of those lives were stolen, leaving families broken. It was sickening.

I opened my eyes again, gazing down at my blackened hands. I stared at them vacantly, uncomprehending. How could this world be so cruel? It was too hard to understand—to believe. I wished all of this was a nightmare so badly now—it hurt watching the happiness after all of this had been destroyed. The love, peace, happiness—nothing was left. I couldn’t feel anything from the air or the ashes I touched. It was empty.

I shakily stood up, my eyes landing on a spot not too far from me. I walked over there as my magic picked up. I flinched at the sudden warmness inside me, at the golden glow surrounding me. I looked down, watching as my hands softly shimmered with the golden light. A small smile formed along my lips as I raised my left hand, moving it slightly.

Meagan.”

My name sounded like a sing song. It was luring me. My eyes traveled to the ground, widening as I heard the voice from my dream.

Oh, I’m so glad you came to visit.” I shivered, knowing this wasn’t possible. I spun around, my eyes darting as I took in the vacant space. I wandered some more, being engulfed still by memories—heartbreak and joy. It was all surreal.

My heart was pounding as I was being surrounded by heat. Searing pain shot through my body, causing me to cry out. I gasped as I fell to my knees, my vision clouding quickly. I was able to catch a quick glimpse of dark figures making their way towards me before I was thrown into darkness.

Six

 

Coldness seeped into my flesh. Pain sliced through my skull, pounding senselessly. When I tried moving, I found I couldn’t. My eyes snapped opened. I tried sitting up, but was stopped by a rope binding me to a cool metal cot. I winced at the pain drumming into me. Where was I? What happened? I couldn’t focus. My vision was a tad bit blurry still and that scared me; my throat was extremely dry, as if I hadn’t eaten or drank anything in days. My eyelids started slipping, falling closed, but I snapped them opened again, knowing I couldn’t let that happen. I braced myself, straining against my restraints. My wrists burned from the rope, but that didn’t stop me. I had to get free. I had to return home.

My eyes wandered around the small room I was held in. I moved my head from side to side, staring at the concrete walls. Chains were hanging from the corner to my right. I couldn’t make out anything else in the room, if there was anything more.

“Give up, princess.”

I froze at the voice, my heart skipping a beat. A tall, muscular man stepped out from the shadows of the doorway, watching me. I gasped as he came closer to me. He had a scar running along his face. “Who are you?” I whispered. My voice was hoarse.

He smiled. His eyes danced with something unknown to me. “That doesn’t matter. All that matters now is that you’re awake; we’ve been waiting for this since you were brought in.”

“What do you mean?” I demanded.

He laughed, shaking his head. “Like I said, it doesn’t matter. You’ll find out soon enough.”

“Who are you? What do you want with me?” I repeated, a snap hinting in my tone.

He shook his head again, running his finger along my arm. Revulsion ran through me. I tried moving away, but I couldn’t. “I’m not going to keep repeating myself,” he growled.

I swallowed, meeting his sharp grey gaze. “I—I never said you had to.”

“Good,” he murmured, sitting next to me. “I was afraid I’d have to force you to understand.”

“No way would I let you do that,” I shot at him, my eyes narrowing. “Can I have a glass of water?”

He chuckled. “After the way you’ve been behaving? Nah, you’re good until we have to leave.”

“Please?” I asked sweetly.

“Behave and maybe I’ll get you a few glasses.”

“Fine.” I raised my wrists the best I could. “Can you take these off? They hurt my wrists.”

“And let you have a possibility to get away? No. I’ll be killed if I let you escape.”

“You’re not joking, are you?”

“No.”

I sighed. “Where am I?”

“Enough of this,” he snapped. “I’m not answering your questions.”

“But—I was at the village!” I protested. “You kidnapped me, didn’t you?” I stared at a grey wall, my heart hammering. How could I return to my aunt and Devin if I was stuck here? How would they be able to find me?

Hell, how are they supposed to know I was in trouble?

Terror seized me, stealing my breath. I really messed up.

Before I could say anything else the door swung opened as several men stepped into the room. They all wore dark clothing and were broad, tan, and muscular. “It’s all set,” one of them said, stepping forward. His eyes settled on me, sending chills racing over my flesh. “We’re ready for her.”

“Already?” my guard asked, his eyes widening. “I was just sent here.”

“We work fast.”

He shrugged, rising. “Okay, I’ll bring her.”

“We were ordered to leave one or two of us with you. You know, in case she gets out of hand.”

“I think I can handle her.”

“We need to leave at least one.”

My guard glanced down at me. Conflict shone in his eyes. “All right,” he said at last.

“Dallas,” the first man said, motioning a boy forward. “You’re staying with them.” The boy nodded, coming at a stop beside my guard. He wasn’t as broad and muscular as the others, but he looked good. His hair was black, pretty much like the rest; they all had dark hair, whether it was black or brown. It was creepy how alike they all looked. “Good. We better get going. Make sure you have her there in an hour.”

Dallas and my guard nodded, sitting back down when the others left.

“W—what was that about?” I demanded, jerking my wrists. Nothing came out of it but pain. I flinched at the burning ache that began.

“Stop that,” my guard said, watching my bleeding wrists. The blood oozed from between the rope and my flesh. It trickled down onto the metal underneath me. “I told you I’m not answering your questions.”

I shot a glare at him. “Why not?” I hissed. “I deserve to know what’s going to happen to me!”

“And you will, but not now.”

Dallas snorted. “Might as well tell her now. I don’t think she’ll leave you alone.”

“She better. I’m not telling her anything.”

“Who are you?” I growled. “What are you two?”

“Same as you,” Dallas said. “And if I were you I’d stop asking questions.”

“Well, you’re not me,” I shot at him. “And I didn’t ask for any of this.”

“Damn. She’s a tough one,” Dallas told my guard.

“Yeah. We better get her cleaned up,” he replied, standing. “I’ll be back. Try keeping her silent.”

“I’m not an animal!” I called after him. I laid my head back onto the metal, closing my eyes. “Do I even want to know?” I whispered.

Dallas move closer to me. “What do you mean?”

“What’s going to happen to me?” I asked softly, a lone tear rolling down my cheek. “I wasn’t doing anything wrong.”

His eyes darted to me once I said that. “You wasn’t? What was you doing?”

I hesitated. “I went to my village,” I said finally.

“Your village?” Surprise wavered in his voice. “But from what I heard you weren’t near anything like that.”

“It burnt down several years ago when I was little.”

“Oh.” He scooted a tad bit closer. “Why did you go back?”

I shook my head, snorting softly. “Does it really matter? Apparently I shouldn’t have gone back.”

Dallas glanced toward the door, not saying anything for a moment. “Why did you anyways?”

I sighed. Knowing he wouldn’t let it go, I said, “So I could move on. I thought it’d help me.”

“Okay,” he responded, quickly rising. Dallas walked over to the door, going into the hall for a minute. “Listen to me,” Dallas said to me as he entered the room again. “I’m going to help you, but I also want some insight.”

Surprise coursed through me as I stared at him. My eyes widened. “Wait. You’re willing to help me?” Hope sparkled up within me, and I couldn’t hide my smile.

“Yeah. It’s not the smartest thing to do, but this shouldn’t be happening.”

“You can’t. You have to think about yourself. Besides, you don’t even know me,” I pointed out. I couldn’t help it. He looked so young, about my age or so, and I didn’t want to get him killed. I could figure a way out by myself. I knew I could. I would have just needed a distraction.

“I don’t care about that. So what if I get killed? I want—no, need—to help you. I can’t let an innocent be sacrificed.”

“Sacrificed?” I repeated.

Just as he was about to answer, my guard came back carrying a knife and a washcloth. Without saying anything to us, he got busy cutting the ropes from my wrists and ankles. “Here, clean the blood off of her,” he told Dallas once he was done. “I’m going to go see if they want her now.”

“Okay,” Dallas said, taking the washcloth. He stared at it for a minute before going to get a bowl and water. “I’m sorry.” He sat down next to me, dipping the cloth into the water.

“For what?” I asked as I struggled to sit up.

“All of the pain this must have caused you,” he informed me. “These wounds look like hell.”

“It’s not your fault,” I muttered as he gently pressed against my throbbing wrist. I flinched at the pain that shot through me. “Why would they want me cleaned up if I’m going to die anyways?”

“For one, you’re not going to die. I won’t let that happen to a pretty girl like you. And two, I don’t know. My guess is so they can’t see that you struggled.”

“It doesn’t make sense.”

He shrugged. “Yeah, well.”

I watched him gently rub at my wrist for a moment. “Why are you being kind to me? Everyone else wants me dead.”

“Maybe I’m not like them.” He paused, meeting my eyes. “Maybe I don’t like this life.”

“What do you mean?”

“I don’t like watching people die. I hate this life. I hate it all.” Disgust filled his tone.

Disbelief sparked up within me. My eyes widened. “You’ve watched people die?” I breathed, wincing as he dapped at a deep cut.

“Yep. I was pretty much forced to. I never had a choice in the matter.”

“That must be horrible.”

He nodded. “I don’t get the thrill that the others get. It’s sickening to me. I’ve been looking for a way out since I joined.”

“I’m your key?”

His eyes glinted with something unreadable. “You can say that. You’re the reason I’ll be free.”

“I feel so special.” I gasped as he pushed deeper into my wound.

“Sorry.”

“You know…” I trailed off, instantly realizing it’d be a mistake.

His attention snapped to my face. “What?”

“Nothing,” I told him quickly. I swallowed as pain shot up my arm. “It’s nothing.” My voice wavered at that last comment. I closed my eyes, willing the throbbing to ease. I could feel my magic beginning to wake up inside me.

He snorted. “Oh, come on. You were about to say something. What was it?”

I swallowed. Don’t say it. “Who do you think I am truthfully?” I bit my lip after those words slipped out of my mouth.

He raised an eyebrow at my question. “An innocent. Someone who was at the wrong place, at the wrong time.”

“You’re wrong,” I whispered. What’s wrong with you? What are you doing? Dallas stopped what he was doing. His head snapped up to look at me.

I stared down at my scared wrist, sighing. “I’m not who you think I am apparently.” Stop!

He stared at me, with an eyebrow raised. “Then who are you?”

Don’t do it. Don’t you dare do it! “My name’s Meagan. Meagan Nevels. I’m who everyone else calls the Powerful One.”

Seven

 

I had no idea what possessed me to say that. Dallas stared at me as if I was crazy. The room was dead silent and I felt pressure land on my shoulders. I told someone I didn’t know the truth. At the moment, I couldn’t tell if I was insane or not. “You’ve got to be kidding me,” he breathed, his eyes wide. “You?” Skepticism crept up in his expression.

I nodded. “Yes. That’s why they want me dead.”

My stomach churned when those words left my lips.

“Wow,” he murmured. “I can’t believe this.”

“Then don’t.” I glanced at the door, hoping no one would come in right now. “Please—you have to help me,” I pleaded.

He pulled back. “I don’t know about this.”

“Dallas!” I exclaimed. “Please, you already said so! You can’t back down now.” You shouldn’t have said anything.

“I can,” he said flatly. “You’re the one. I can’t stop this—you do realize that, right? It’s your fate to die.”

“They filled your head with nonsense,” I retorted. “Please help me.”

“They’ll kill me as well,” he stated. “I can’t do that for you.”

I stared at him. Helplessness rose up in me, rearing its ugly head. “You already said you’d give your life helping me escape. Why are you backing down now? All because you found out who I truly am? This is crazy!” I snapped.

He went back to cleaning my wounds, not saying anything for a long time. “You’re not good.”

“That’s not true!” I cried. “I didn’t do anything wrong! I am an innocent, Dallas! I swear I am.” My voice rose the more I spoke. My hands began shaking as rage coursed through me, boiling underneath the surface.

“Calm down,” he ordered. “I’m only saying what I’ve been told.”

“These people filled your head with lies.” A small whimper escaped my lips as he pressed down harder.

“Who says you’re not?”

“Trust me,” I answered. “You have to trust me.”

He studied me for a minute, his hands barely pausing in cleaning my wrist. “I don’t know if I can.”

Suddenly, an idea struck me. “I’ll show you.”

He stared at me. “Show me? Show me what exactly?”

“Everything that I know. The truth.”

He didn’t say anything for a few minutes. “And how will you do that?” he finally asked.

I wiggled my fingers. “My powers, silly.”

He glanced over at the door before back at me. Dallas set the cloth down in the water bowl. He stood up and went to the door, peering out into the hallway.

I closed my eyes, willing my magic to consume me. Little by little, I could feel it rising in me, expanding as I was wrapped in a golden glow within. It pulsed, writhing to overtake my body. The pain I felt was slowly disappearing the longer my magic coursed through me in its full force.

I felt light, as if I was sitting on a cloud instead of a metal cot. A smile formed along my lips. I could feel myself mending.

When I opened my eyes again, Dallas was staring at me. His eyes were trained on my wrists. I followed his gaze and saw that my wounds were now healed, leaving pink scars behind.

“Wow,” he muttered.

I pressed my finger against my wrist, tracing it along the scar that was gracing my skin. “Ready?” I questioned, meeting his gaze once again.

“I—yeah. Yeah, I am.”

“Good.” I offered him my left hand. “All you have to do is free your mind of anything other than what I’m going to show you. Okay? Don’t let anything else enter your mind.”

“Got it.”

“Excellent.” I nodded at him. I peered up at him through my eyelashes, watching as he let his drift closed, grasping my hand firmly. I inhale, allowing my eyes to close. I let my magic coursed through me and into him, showing him my life as I knew it. It all began with the fire that stole my mom.

Dallas jerked, but he never let my hand go. My breathing was slow and steady, while his grew a bit jagged the longer it went on.

Finally, the village flashed in his mind. I opened my eyes, removing my hand from his grasp. His own eyes flew opened, and he stared at me in horror.

“Everything was a lie,” he whispered.

“I will admit, as you saw, I did kill a few people, but it was in defense of my family and I. I had to protect us. I don’t understand why anyone thinks I’m a threat.”

“I don’t either,” he said. “I don’t think you should have healed your wounds yet, though.”

I shrugged. “They already know who I am,” I pointed out. “They should expect it.”

“Fine,” he sighed. “I’ll help you.”

Hope raced through me. “Really?” I squealed. I grinned, grabbing onto Dallas. “That’s amazing!” I cried. “Thank you!”

He laughed, prying my hand from his arm. “Yeah, but I won’t be able to return after this.”

“I can find you a place to live, no worries,” I assured him. “Maybe I can convince my aunt and her boyfriend to let you stay with us.” My mind spun with possible ideas for Dallas. Joy raced through my veins, cooling any anger I had because of him.

“Doubt that.” The worry that was displayed on his face broke my head.

“Hey,” I said softly. “You don’t know how much this means to me.”

“Yeah, yeah.”

I rolled my eyes, falling silent. I hoped Dallas had an escape plan or something, because I was clueless. I had no idea what this place even looked like outside of my room.

A couple minutes later, a voice spoke. “Are you two done? They’re waiting.”

My head snapped toward the doorway, where my guard was standing. “Yes,” Dallas replied, rising. “I just finished.”

“Good. Let’s go then.”

Dallas grabbed my arm, helping me stand. He began following the guard, keeping me close to him. We stepped out into a brightly lit hallway. The floor and walls were concrete, with a few stains on them here and there. They looked like blood that was faded with time. I shivered. “Act calm. Don’t show anything’s going to happen,” he murmured in my ear. “I’ll make sure you’re safe.”

“How can you be so confident?” I breathed.

“I know this place. I know how to escape.”

“Really? I was beginning to question it.”

He rolled his eyes, shaking his head slightly. “Of course I do. I live here.”

“Oh.”

“Act natural,” he said as we entered a long hallway.

“How do you not get lost here?” I asked, staring ahead.

“Don’t tell her anything,” my guard barked. “We can’t afford her getting away.”

“Right.”

Dallas’s response made my heart flutter. He was too hard to read. I bit my lip, afraid to voice my concerns to him. If he didn’t pull through, then I guess I’d have to think of something. We turned right suddenly, going down another long hallway. We went on for what seemed like forever until finally we came to a halt.

“Ah, here we are,” my guard said, pausing in front of the door for a moment. He turned to us, saying, “I’ll be back.” He vanished inside. I didn’t get a chance to talk because he came back a few minutes later. “Come on in,” the man said with a big smile on his face.

I shuddered as I was led through the doorway. Strong invisible waves stuck me, sending off an alarm. My thoughts became scattered as my breathing went shallow. Stay calm, I told myself, making myself breathe deep and calmly. Don’t freak out. Don’t do anything but what they say. I glanced at Dallas, my stomach flipping. What was he thinking? He caught my gaze, something unreadable flashing across his eyes.

We were standing in a huge arena. Seats filled all the way up to the top on three sides. The floor and walls were the same as the room I was held in. Chains were hanging on the far wall off to the right, as well as a metal cot and chair. They had restraints on them. All kinds of devices and weapons hung from the wall. I stared at everything over there, fear churning my stomach.

“So here we are,” a husky voice barked out, bringing my attention to a bearded man. His eyes locked on mine, narrowing. “I’ve been waiting for this moment for forever. Megan Nevels is truly standing in front of me. Finally.” He wore a cruel smile and I jerked my gaze away.

I felt something penetrating within me instantly. I took a small step backwards, only to be stopped abruptly by Dallas. He sent me a stern look, pleading for me to behave. I shook my head slightly, looking up at the bearded man. “You should really be careful,” he informed me, his eyes twinkling. “You never know what will happen to you, Powerful One.”

I mentally rolled my eyes, staring him in the eyes, I said, “Oh really? I don’t care. This is kidnapping. You do realize that, right?”

“Meagan,” Dallas warned, gripping my arm tightly. I was so tempted to shake him off, but I held back, knowing that’d get me nowhere.

“It’s the truth,” I snapped. “Truth hurts sometimes, but people get over it.”

“Not them,” he hissed under his breath.

“I don’t care,” I repeated.

“What happened to wanting to get out alive?”

I hesitated. “I don’t know,” I whispered. “I don’t know if I can.”

Suddenly, the pressure began building, bringing me to my knees. I gasped, tilting my head downward, my hair fanning around my face. I heard murmurs surrounding me as I suffocated inside, my magic tingling through me.

It wasn’t enough.

Pain stabbed within me, shooting and pricking my flesh. I cried out, slumping back against Dallas. “Stop!” someone screamed. “Stop hurting her!”

My breathing became heavy quickly as I was stabbed inside repeatedly. My skin became clammy as I tried breathing normally. Nothing I did worked, though.

“I thought you wanted her alive!” Dallas yelled. Hearing his comment took my off-guard.

“Sir, stop!” a female screamed. Fear laced her tone.

That last scream boomed through the large room, bringing everything to a halt—except for my pain. I groaned, my eyes closing, as my body started giving in; weariness dragged me down as I felt my strength leave me. Everything after that was a blur. I heard screams echo all around, crashing in my ears. I whimpered, curling into the fetal position.

“It’s okay,” someone whispered in my ear. “You’ll be okay.” I felt hands run along my arm. I shuddered, my body convulsing. I whimpered again as a pounding in my head erupted. “You’re fine.”

I tried lifting my head, but couldn’t. I was frozen, unable to do anything, and it scared the hell out of me. I closed my eyes tightly, my mind scrambled. I tightened my fists, my nails digging into my palms. Fiery hot pain shot its way through me, devouring my entire being.

I felt as if I was floating, suspended in time. I could hear the screams and confusion surround me, could feel the impact vibrate within me. But I couldn’t do anything. I was stuck, defenseless. I could feel myself being moved, and heard someone saying my name. Their voice sounded broken. I shook, tears streaming down my cheeks as I clung to my unknown hero. Gasps churned from me, my chest heavy and falling quickly. “M—my magic,” I gasped.

“You’re fine, Meagan. I promise,” a male voice whispered.

“No…” I trailed off as another wave struck me. All of this pain is blinding me, leaving me breathless and crippled. “N—not what I meant.” I grimaced, trying to open my eyes, only for a brilliant white light to blind me. They quickly closed again. “My magic…” I sighed, tightening my grip.

“Shh, Meagan. I promise everything will be okay.” I felt someone’s arms tighten around me as I began to lightly sway.

“Y—you don’t understand,” I whined, burying my head into the mysterious person’s chest. “Make it stop.”

I felt myself stop suddenly, felt as I was laid down. “Open your eyes.” I hesitated for a moment, prompting the person to repeat their request until I finally did so. They slowly came opened, gazing into Dallas’s eyes.

“Wh—what happened?” I demanded, moving to sit up only for dizziness to take over.

“Slow down,” Dallas said, pushing me back down gently. “Just take it easy. Now, what were you saying?”

“What happened?” I repeated, meeting his gaze. “Are we free?”

My eyes darted around our surroundings. We were outside, sitting by a brick wall. I stared up at the huge building, swallowing. My stomach flipped at the sight of it.

“For now,” he muttered. “I don’t know how long, though.”

“Please tell me you’re not serious.”

“Sorry,” he said, brushing a stray tear away. “I can’t. I will make sure you get home safely, though, I promise.”

“Good luck with that,” I told him, letting my eyes stray from his.

“Why do you say that?” He went on, more serious, when I didn’t answer. “Meagan? What aren’t you telling me?”

“Maybe I shouldn’t have gotten you involved.” I sighed, shaking my head.

“Too late. What’s on that mind of yours?”

Before I could respond, gun shots rang out not far from us. Dallas cursed, grabbing my hand as he stood up, taking me with him. “No talking, got it? Stay quiet and run,” he ordered.

I opened my mouth to speak, but didn’t have a chance. More gun shots rang out, and Dallas took off running, with me quickly following behind.

Eight

 

I let my mind wander while we ran, let my magic race through me, and let my eyes close, trusting Dallas not to let me fall. I demanded for my magic to take us back home, no matter the risk. We couldn’t stay here anymore, couldn’t keep running. It was too risky. We’d end up getting caught.

I felt the magic bubble within me, seeking my command, waiting for me to speak. I let my words course through my mind, let my magic soak within it. My grip on Dallas’s hand tightened as the magic grew stronger. I felt us being engulfed by a brilliant white light, as everything began to shine.

The sensation overtook my senses as Dallas slowed, cursing softly under his breath. “What—” He never got to finish his sentence since we were launched into dark bliss.

The next thing I knew I smacked into a hard surface, wincing as I sat up. I gingerly placed my fingers against my throbbing head, letting my magic soothe it.

“Where are we?” Dallas demanded, glaring at me. “Why in hell did you do that?”

“We weren’t safe,” I said calmly. I rolled my eyes as his gaze hardened, his hands curling into fists.

“I had it under control!” he snapped, clenching his teeth together.

“So I helped. Big deal,” I replied, letting my hand drop into my lap. “I helped. Get over it.”

“You didn’t help a damn thing!”

I snorted. “I’m not a stupid girl. I know more than you do, more likely, so chill.”

“Don’t tell me what to do,” he growled.

“Quit acting like that. It’s childish.”

“I’m not acting like anything,” he retorted. I could feel his fury radiating off of him.

“Oh, please.”

He lunged at me then. I danced out of his way, flinging my hands at him. Dallas didn’t move out of the way quick enough—he got hit in the chest by sparks. A groan escaped his lips as he fell to his knees, staring up at me. “What is wrong with you?” he demanded, clutching at his chest.

“You attacked me!” I exclaimed. “I was only defending myself.”

“No,” he muttered, shaking his head. “You’re…no.”

“What’s wrong with you?”

“You shouldn’t have taken us here, you stupid girl,” he growled. “We belong over there.” His breathing was a little bit unsteady.

“Over where?”

“At my home,” he snarled. “You need to take me back there now.” His lips curled up in a sneer.

“No way in hell,” I spat at him. “Why would I do that? I’ll only get killed!”

“That’s the point,” he murmured. Hatred was burning in his eyes when I met his gaze again.

My heart stopped at those words. I stepped away from Dallas. “What?” I couldn’t believe it. Am I really with a killer? I shook my head, staring at him. “You weren’t going to help me, where you?”

He grunted. “I did help you. You escaped, didn’t you?”

Panic rose up as realization washed over me. “You were going to kill me yourself,” I said aloud, my thoughts scattered. “Why would you do this?”

“I don’t know what you’re talking about,” he hissed at me. “You’re insane.”

“How can I be? I didn’t plan a fake escape.”

He glared at me, his eyes flashing. “It wasn’t fake!”

“That’s how I see it,” I responded. I narrowed my eyes.

“Thanks a lot,” he growled at me, staggering to his feet. I raised my hand, meeting his gaze.

“Don’t you even think about it,” I warned, taking a small step forward.

“You don’t deserve to live,” he snapped, moving forward. His steps were measured, his gait long and slow.

“Why bother?”

“What?” Dallas asked, pausing for a second. “Oh, forget it. I don’t care what you have to say. You need to go to hell. You put our world into one.”

My mouth dropped opened at that. “No, I didn’t,” I informed him. “I have nothing to do with whatever you think I do. I don’t even know what you’re talking about.”

“Liar.” He spat the one word like it was a curse. He shook his head, shooting me an icy glare. “You do nothing but lie.”

I snorted. “You don’t even know me, so shut up.”

“Make me,” he retorted. Before he closed his mouth, I snapped my fingers causing a light blue light to curl around him. A bloodcurdling scream poured out of his mouth.

“Don’t underestimate me,” I told him, stepping forward. “It doesn’t do you any good.”

He opened his mouth to respond, but nothing came out. Dallas watched me, eyes wide, as I approached him slowly. I smiled at him, leaning down, so I could curl my fingers around his shirt. “I—”

I didn’t let him finish. “Don’t,” I snapped. “Don’t feed me anymore lies.”

“Meag—”

Power radiated from me. I could feel it in the air. I could feel it sizzling between us as I stared him down. “And don’t call me anything. Don’t speak. Don’t do anything. Just let yourself slowly die, quietly.” Any gratitude I had towards Dallas faded away. Now there was only anger raging in me, lashing out like lightning. My body shook fiercely on the inside.

He shook his head instantly, staring at me like I was crazy. “I truly—”

“No.” I dug a nail into his flesh, watching as he winced. My lips turned upwards at his grim expression. “I thought I could trust you. I can’t believe I allowed myself to believe that! I was just desperate to get out of there.” I rolled my eyes at myself, snorting. “I was so stupid to think you actually were being reasonable. You just wanted to kill me yourself.”

“Please—”

I leaned forward, staring into his eyes. My hand rested against his chest. My magic flowed from me to him, and he cried out. “How many times do I have to say no?” I demanded. “How many times before you’ll learn? No speaking means no speaking. Simple as that.”

He gasped as I dug another nail in, his blood slowly leaking out. “I’m sorry!” he squeaked quickly before I could stop him.

“That’s what everybody says. They want to live, so they say that. But you know what? I don’t believe it.” I placed my mouth to his ear. “I don’t believe you, no matter how much you think I will. No matter how sweet your words can be.” I licked my lips as I pulled away, releasing him from my grip. I watched as he fell to the ground. He stared up at me pleadingly.

“I promise I won’t turn against you,” he said in an assuring way.

“You already tried,” I informed him. “You already tried and failed. Now it’s my turn.”

“Your turn?” Dallas asked slowly, blinking.

“Oh, yes. You tried killing me, remember? You were going to set me up to die. Well, not anymore. It’s my turn now; my turn to watch you fail.” I knew that my eyes glistened and I took a step away from him.

“I had no choice!” he wailed, sitting up quickly. “They’d have made me even if I refused. Don’t you see? You need me. You just don’t realize it yet.”

“I don’t need anyone,” I retorted, flicking my fingers at him. Dallas moved to dodge, but the silvery light smacked into him anyways. He let out a slew of curses as he flew backwards, slamming into a tree. I smirked as he met my gaze, surprised. “You should leave, unless you want to die,” I told him, enjoying the fear that was beginning to radiate off of him.

His emotions rolled off in quick waves, thrashing into me, leaving me breathless. I staggered while I was repeatedly bombarded with his wild emotions, as my breaths were sucked out of me. I gasped, falling to my knees, my hands clawing at my throat.

The wind picked up as thick grey clouds churned above, letting lightning fall. Thunder crashed loudly above us, causing my ears to ring. My hair whipped about me crazily, my heart beating frantically. Soon it became hard to breathe or see as fog covered us, locking me and Dallas in its tight embrace.

“Stop!” I cried, flinging my hands weakly in the air. “Please stop!”

Crackling laughter filled the air around me, making my head pound. “See!” Dallas shouted, throwing his head back. “This is what happens when you turn against me!”

“No,” I said, trying to keep strength in my voice. “No. This doesn’t have anything to do with you.”

“You can’t be so sure,” he instantly responded, his voice growing stronger. “You’ve made a mistake, Powerful One. A stupid, stupid mistake.” He slowly stood, towering over me. “You see, this all is making you weak, right? Which makes me stronger.”

“You can’t be serious,” I whispered. But I knew he was right; it was why he was growing stronger in front of me. “You really are stupid,” he snickered. “I never thought the Powerful One would be this stupid. Never in my life. Everyone talked about how great and powerful you are, but they didn’t mention anything else.”

“Don’t talk about me like that,” I ordered, attempting to shakily stand. I failed miserably, though, falling back to my hands and knees.

“I never thought killing you would be so easy. I had this picture that you’d be hard to destroy, leaving me bloody and badly beaten—both of us, actually—but it’s not that way. Instead, I’ve made you grow weak.” His smile was cruel as he showed me all of his teeth. “You’ve made it so easy for me.”

“No,” I replied, shaking my head quickly. That move sent ragged pain down the back of my skull, blinding me for a moment. I tried keeping my breathing normal, hoping it didn’t alert Dallas, but I knew I failed from the look he shot me.

“I’ll become the world’s savior. I’ll be able to do whatever the hell I want and not be questioned.”

My mind raced with possibilities of what I could do. “Can’t you get that now?” I asked, lifting my eyes to his. “It’s not like you’ve done anything to be questioned, right?”

He threw his head back, letting out a cruel laugh. “You think you’re so smart, don’t you? Well, that’s not how it works. In my world, if you mess up once—and are younger—then you’re questioned. Always. You’re the lucky one, aren’t you? You’ve never gotten questioned. You don’t have to live like I do.”

I exhaled, rolling my eyes. “You don’t know a damn thing about me, do you?” I didn’t let him answer before I went on. “No, I didn’t think so. You shouldn’t say things about others if you don’t know them. You shouldn’t talk like you’re always correct, because you’re not. Not this time, and I’m sure, not ever.”

His eyes flashed with rage as I spoke, but I didn’t care. He stepped over a line no one should cross. He pretended to know me when he didn’t know a damn thing. He took a step towards me, his hands clenching into fists. I knew from the way his eyes flared that mine were flashing with a challenge. I knew, but I didn’t do anything to stop it.

So when he moved like lightning, I was ready. I let him slam into me, let him take me to the ground. He put his full weight onto me, his hands gripping my shirt. I didn’t fight him, didn’t do anything. I think this surprised him, because he looked down at me with wonder, his fingers going into my shirt a tad bit.

“What, you’re not going to fight?” he demanded, his voice quivering. When I didn’t say anything, he added, “What if I did this?” Without warning, he immediately pressed his lips to mine; his kiss was rough, uncaring. My stomach churned at the contact. I pulled my head back the best I could, instantly regretting my position. Dallas gripped onto me tighter, his eyes flaring with something I couldn’t read. “What do you think you’re doing?” he asked sweetly. “You didn’t like my kiss?”

I glared at Dallas, doing my best to move my hands without him knowing. “I don’t like your attitude,” I informed him. “And no, I didn’t like your kiss.”

“Aw, I’m so sad now.” He pretended to be hurt, laughing. It rang in my ears. “But, of course, I don’t care what you say.” He moved to kiss me again, but I jerked my head to the side, his lips touching my cheek. “Now I don’t like your attitude,” he growled.

“Do you really think I care?” I snapped. I tried keeping my breathing normal, tried not to let the panic slowly start to eat me alive. In one movement, I jerked my wrist, trying to do my best to distract him. Dallas glowered down at me, rage sparking in his eyes. He grabbed me tighter, digging his nails into my flesh. “Let go of me,” I hissed, my glare ice cold. “Now.”

“I’m so scared,” he retorted, rolling his eyes. “Yeah, right. Do you really expect me to do that? After all this you’ve put me through?”

“I don’t know what you’re talking about,” I shot back at him, pressing my hands against him. “Get off of me,” I ordered, trying to shove him away, but he was too strong and heavy. Instead of moving off of me, Dallas smacked me hard on my cheek. Blood filled my mouth as I stared at him in shock, my hand lifting to touch my cheek, but my captor grabbed a hold of it. His lips turned up in a cruel smile.

“Don’t move. Haven’t you learned that by now?” he asked slowly, his eyes meeting my own. “Especially when the other person has something you could be killed with, you silly girl.” He chuckled, shaking his head. “Silly, silly girl.”

“I don’t know what you’re talking about,” I replied, fear spiking up my spine.

“Oh, but I do. I really, really think you know perfectly well.” He planted another kiss on me before I could stop him. Revulsion rose up within me.

“Leave me alone,” I gritted out through my teeth. Disgust filled me as he pulled away, his eyes shining with delight. He trailed his free hand along my waist, sending more remorse through me. “Stop!” I commanded, trying not to let my fear show.

“But that’s no fun.” He leaned forward, so our lips were only inches apart. “Can’t you feel it?” he asked softly, his eyes piercing mine. “Can’t you see it? You’re my only way out. Don’t you understand that?”

“Get. Away. From. Me,” I demanded once again, my temper running high. Keep calm, I reminded myself, letting my eyes close for a minute. Don’t let him get to you. He isn’t worth it. I knew that was right, but I couldn’t help it. His words made me angry, like he knew what I have to deal with. Like hell. No one does. “Don’t you understand me?” I growled. “Don’t you understand my words? I said get off of me and I meant it. Get the hell away. Now.”

“You act as if I care. I don’t, by the way.”

“Please,” I whispered, feigning innocence. “I just want to go home. Please get off me.”

Instead of answering, Dallas kissed me again, touching my lips with his tongue. I didn’t respond to him, didn’t do anything. I silently chanted to myself, letting the words flow through my mind, letting them devour me. Make this boy do as I say…make him get off and regret everything he’s done so far…

But before I could finish, sharp pain sparked within me, causing my connection with my magic to break.

“Do you really think I’m stupid?” Dallas asked, harshly picking me up. He spun me around so my back was to him and I felt something being pressed against my throat. “Did you honestly think I wouldn’t notice?” he whispered in my ear. “Tell me you’re not that stupid.”

I swallowed. Terror ran through me like a tremor. You can fight against him. “I don’t know what you’re talking about.”

“Of course you don’t. You act all innocent, but I know you’re not. I know who you truly are, Meagan.”

Why aren’t you fighting against him? “I don’t understand.” Fear flamed up in me, racing along my spine. What was wrong with him?

“Liar! You do nothing but lie.”

“I’m not lying!” I snapped. “I would never lie.”

“Then why won’t you tell me the truth? Why are you hiding your true identity?”

“I’m not,” I whispered, exasperated. “I don’t—”

“Stop! Stop spreading your lies!”

“Dallas!” I cried as I felt the tip go into my flesh. “You have the wrong person, I swear!”

My words didn’t faze him as the blade went in further. Dizziness began to overtake me, my stomach twisting. I opened my mouth to beg, but didn’t have enough time. Just like that, inky blackness swarmed my vision, my breathing grew weak. I could feel myself slipping, everything becoming distant until, finally, it all went away and I was sucked into nothing.

Nine

 

There was nothing but silence. And then there were screams.

I jerked my body, my eyes flying opened only to reveal complete darkness. I gasped as coldness seeped into my flesh; I attempted to get up, but couldn’t.

“Hello?” I called when more screams erupted. “What’s going on?”

No replies came. I twisted my hands around, trying to figure out what was holding me. The inky darkness seemed to swallow me alive as it closed in around me, inching closer and closer. I closed my eyes tightly, trying to shut out everything, but it didn’t work.

“Meagan!” someone cried, repeating my name over and over. I didn’t move, didn’t do anything to let the speaker know I had heard. “Meagan!”

I curled my hands into fists, straining against my restraints. I took deep breaths, trying to stay calm. Ignore them, a voice whispered. They’ll go away if you do. I wasn’t so sure about that, but I did as I was told.

“Meagan! Where are you?”

My eyes snapped opened at the familiar voice. I held my breath, waiting to hear it again before I replied. I opened my mouth to speak, but no words would form. It was as if I was suddenly muted.

“Meagan!” The voice sounded closer.

In here! I wanted to scream. The only problem with that was I didn’t know where here was. I didn’t know if I was safe or not; I didn’t know anything.

My breath caught as my door opened; loud gunshots shattered the silence that suddenly formed. A few strands of light filtered into the space I was in and I quickly closed my eyes, jerking my hands again. I did my best not to move as someone scurried through the space I was in; I heard things being shoved around—heard that familiar voice call my name again—and again.

“Where are you?” someone cried, their voice frantic.

My eyes fluttered opened as I felt something running along my leg. My heart raced as I stared into icy blue eyes. “Who are you? What are you doing?” I demanded, pulling against my restraints again. “Let me go.”

“No,” he snapped. “I will never do that. You’re the Powerful One. You deserve to die. End of the story.”

I lunged forward, glaring at him. “This is sick. Let go of me!”

“Never,” he sneered.

“Who are you?”

“It doesn’t matter.”

“Tell me!” I ordered, glaring at him.

He ignored me as he went to work on releasing my restrains. I brought my wrists to my chest, running a hand along one as I stared at the bloody streaks. “You shouldn’t have pulled.”

“What else was I supposed to do?”

“Nothing. You weren’t supposed to do anything.”

“Yeah, right. That doesn’t usually go over well. You do realize that, right?”

“Yeah, yeah,” he replied, freeing my ankles. As soon as that was done the stranger clasped handcuffs on my wrists, quickly standing me up. Black dots raced across my vision and I blinked rapidly, instantly sitting back down. “Come on!” he ordered. “You have to go now.”

I sighed, but stood back up unsteadily. The stranger grabbed a hold of my arm again, steering me towards the door. “What’s going on?” I asked as I stumbled after him. “Where am I?”

“That doesn’t matter,” he told me, walking a little faster. “We have to get you out of here and then I’ll answer any questions you have, okay?”

“But—”

“Okay?” he repeated, smoothly cutting me off.

“Not okay,” I informed him. “Not even close to okay.”

He sighed, abruptly turning right. “I’m still not going to answer your questions, so you might as well get over it.”

I glared at the stranger, wincing as I tripped over my feet and fell to my knees. “Stand up!” he barked, jerking my arm forward. I stood back up as quickly as I could, only to stumble and fall back to the ground.

Pain shot through my arm. “Can’t you be gentle?” I hissed. “Damn!”

“Not when we have to get out of here.”

“Where are we even going?” I demanded. “Just tell me already!”

The stranger didn’t seem fazed by my outburst and kept marching me forward. Gunshots suddenly rang out, cutting through the stillness. He cursed under his breath, halting us in our tracks as he stared forward.

“What?” I asked softly, following his gaze. “What is it?”

“Shh,” he mumbled, his grip tightening on my arm. He closed his eyes, concentrating on something. I opened my mouth to speak, but then thought better of it and snapped it closed again. I watched him for a long moment, processing what he was doing. His hand fell from my arm and he stepped away from me, his eyes snapping open. They widened as he turned his gaze to me. “Damn it,” he muttered, staring at me. “I didn’t know who you were at first.”

“What?” I inquired breathlessly, his sudden actions confusing me. “What are you talking about? You know who I am.”

“I can’t take you from here. Damn it, I made a mistake.” He shook his head, never once taking his eyes off of me.

“Why not?”

“You’re too dangerous—as if you didn’t already know that. Why am I still talking to you?” he demanded. He took a few steps away from me. “Stay there, witch, and I mean it. Don’t move.”

“I don’t have to listen to you,” I retorted. “Don’t tell me what to do.”

“Don’t make me get help.”

“Get help for all I care.” A challenge flared in my eyes.

“Don’t say I didn’t warn you.”

I snorted, rolling my eyes. “Who are you to warn me? I don’t need your help to get out of here. You do realize that, right? I can find my own way.”

“I wouldn’t do that if I were you.”

“Why not?” I shot at him, rage beginning to course through me.

“Just don’t,” he said calmly. “I can get you some help—the help that you need. You don’t have to go off on your own.”

His words caught me off-guard and I took a step back, watching him. “What do you mean the help that I need? I don’t need any help.”

“Yes, you do.”

I turned my attention to the handcuffs binding my wrists together. I willed my magic to come forward, waiting for it to burn within me. But when it didn’t, I frowned, confusion sparking within me. I looked up at the stranger, my eyes darting over his body as I tried thinking of a reasonable explanation about my magic not working. His eyes met mine and I gasped at the sudden coldness that seeped into my flesh, chasing my breath away. What’s going on? The stranger laughed at the shock registering across my face.

“Like I said, you need help,” he informed me, his eyes smoldering me.

“I don’t,” I insisted, glaring at him. I focused harder on my magic, willing it with such force. I let my eyes close as a sliver of magic lifted its way out of its hiding place. I sighed, a small smile lifting my lips as it slowly began to run within me. It was light, as soft as a feather, barely touching me. I bit the inside of my cheek, waiting for the full force. But it didn’t come.

Suddenly, I heard a noise and I jumped back into the wall, my eyes snapping open instantly. A searing pain brought tears to my eyes as my head exploded with it, my world spinning and clashing. A white-hot light flared across my vision and I screamed as I crumbled to the ground, my hands and knees smashing into the cement. I closed my eyes tightly as blackness swarmed my vision once again. I tried keeping my breathing normal, but couldn’t. It went ragged quickly while my ears rang; I curled into a ball, trying to shield myself from the explosions that seemed to be happening around me.

“Meagan!” I heard someone shriek. I didn’t respond, didn’t do anything. “Meagan?” I whimpered as I laid there, my head pounding. “Oh my God, Devin!” I suddenly felt hands touching me, a frantic voice calling out.

“Wh—” a male voice started, but stopped instantly. “Meagan?” he asked gently, touching my back. “What happened to you?”

“Meagan?” a female voice breathed. “Please answer us.”

I stayed still, unsure if it was a trick. My breathing was shallow as someone gently patted my back, trying to get me to speak. I moaned, slowly uncurling myself. I glanced up only to see the same brown eyes and hair that I have and I sighed in relief. “Teresa,” I murmured.

“Yes, it’s me,” she quickly said, glancing over at someone next to her. I followed her gaze and met Devin’s eyes. They shimmered with worry as he stared at me.

“What happened, Meagan?”

“I—” I stopped, watching Devin. “How’d you find me?”

“Magic. We were able to track yours and it brought us to you,” Teresa explained.

“Track?” I repeated.

“Yeah,” Devin interjected. “Your magic is powerful enough to track. We just had to use a few spells immune to you and here we are.”

“Yeah, there you are.” I gingerly sat up, my head throbbing. “You really are here,” I whispered. “I still don’t understand how, but I’m grateful.”

“You’ll be okay now,” Teresa told me, hugging me.

“We need to get out of here. She’s only safe for now,” Devin chimed in, focusing on the handcuffs. He frowned, but then looked back up at me. “Use your magic to break that off.” He stood up, waiting.

I shook my head, staring at them. “I can’t use magic with these things on,” I responded, sighing. “I already tried.”

“Well…” Devin trailed off as he gazed around, searching for something. Screams rang out, and the sounds of fighting rose to my ears.

“We have to go!” Teresa exclaimed, staring at me with fear in her eyes.

“Hang on,” I murmured, focusing my attention on the handcuffs again. I closed my eyes, summoning my magic another time. I worked harder than before, encouraging it to break the cuffs, but I couldn’t feel anything. I groaned, opening my eyes. “Is there such a thing as handcuffs that make magic not work?” I demanded to no one in particular. Obviously there was. I had a pair on me. “How do you get these damned things off?”

“I don’t know,” Devin said. His eyes roamed the area we were in, making sure no one came for us. “I’ve never heard of it.”

“Me either,” Teresa chimed in. “But there has to be some way to get them off.”

Devin glanced at her. “There is. It just has nothing to do with magic, I guess.”

“I need my magic to get us out of here.”

“She’s right.” Teresa stared down at me. “But we need to get out of here.”

I suddenly got an idea, and I grinned, taking a deep breath. I closed my eyes once more, willing my magic to rise, willing it to become as hot as fire. I willed it to rage inside me, giving in to it. At first it was a tingling sensation that flared to life, but then it got stronger and stronger. Soon my flesh felt like it was engulfed in flames. It felt like I was trapped, unable to get out. I felt a scream bubbling up, but I bit it back, willing my magic to keep coming to me. My chest rose and fell rapidly. I was solely focused on this one task.

I felt so hot that terror began to beat against me. A cry erupted from my lips as the magic just kept coming. I began convulsing on the ground, screaming. I could feel the metal melting.

“Meagan? Meagan!” Teresa yelled, grabbing me. She flinched, letting go instantly. “Meagan!”

“Snap out of it!” Devin ordered. I could feel both of their gazes on me. “Now!”

I tried pushing my magic down, but it didn’t happen.

I struggled with it. I tried taking deep breaths, but it was as if my magic was choking me.

Please, please, please. Please stop! I begged, curling into myself. Please! Retreat!

A slap boomed across my flesh, and I lost my focus, bringing me back to reality. I gasped for air, staring up at the sky. My cheek stung. I lay there motionlessly for several moments.

“What did you do?” Teresa hissed, glowering at me.

“Meagan, you can’t do that!” Devin scolded. “Come on. We need to go!”

Devin extended his hand to me, grabbing mine and pulled me up. I quickly went back down, pain shooting through my head.

“Ow,” I groaned.

“Are you okay?” Teresa demanded, her hands hovering over me.

I looked over at her, tempted to lie, but couldn’t. Instead I replied, “No.”

“Meagan, you shouldn’t have done that,” Devin said, kneeling down beside me.

I winced at the agony erupting within my head. “You guys are right—we need to get out of here.”

“You can’t stand,” Teresa cut in. “No doubt run. You’ll get caught for sure this way.”

“I don’t want to risk being caught again.” I turned my gaze to Devin, pleading. “Please.”

“Well—”

“Wait,” Teresa interrupted him. “What do you mean caught again?”

“I was caught twice already—I got away, though.” I smiled weakly, sighing. “I know I shouldn’t be doing this.”

“Why did you leave to begin with?” Devin interrogated me. Fury flared in his eyes. I did my best not to flinch at that.

“I needed closure,” I said honestly. “I needed to see where I was born.”

“But it isn’t there anymore.”

“I know, but I needed to go there anyways.”

“Meagan,” my aunt said sternly. “Never do that again. If you want closure, tell us. We’ll help you.”

“I did tell you,” I reminded her. Irritation rose up in me. “But you told me no, so—”

“Exactly!” she exclaimed. “I said no and you did it anyways!”

“Devin.” I turned to him, but he didn’t let me say anymore.

“You shouldn’t have done what you did.”

I stared down at the ground. “I’m sorry,” I muttered. I felt like a small child then. I couldn’t stand by and allow my aunt to keep me from doing something I needed to do.

“That’s not enough, Meagan,” Devin informed me.

“I’m truly sorry.”

“Still isn’t.” He held out his hand to me again and I took it, letting him help me stand; Devin took my weight as I leaned against him, his arm wrapped tightly around my waist. “By the way, you’re grounded for sneaking out. No more going anywhere or doing anything unless you’re told to. Understood?”

“Yes,” I sighed, glancing at my aunt. She wasn’t looking at me. Say something, Teresa. Help me out. “I guess so.”

“We mean it,” Teresa said, standing.

Obviously she wasn’t going to save me on this. “I know. I won’t do any of that.”

“Good.” She glanced down the hallway, her eyes darting. Teresa took mine and Devin’s hands. “Ready?”

“But neither of you are powerful enough to take us back,” I protested.

“True,” she replied, returning her gaze to me. “But you are powerful enough for that—”

“Oh, I know. I’ve done it twice,” I muttered.

“What did you say?” Teresa demanded. She immediately let go of both mine and Devin’s hands, stepping backwards.

“I’ve done it before,” I answered slowly. My stomach flipped as I waited for her to respond.

Her eyes widened at that. Suddenly, anger clouded my aunt’s eyes. “Meagan, seriously?”

I glanced between her and Devin. “What’s the problem?”

“You’re not supposed to use so much of your magic, remember?”

I waved away her concern. “I’m not.” I bit the inside of my lip, fighting not to advert my eyes from hers.

“I don’t believe you’re telling the truth,” she said after a few minutes. “Why are you lying to me?”

Lying to her? I sighed, opening my mouth to speak. Her stare tore through me. It was like she couldn’t believe I actually left.

I had to.

“I—” I began, but she cut me off.

Teresa held up her hand, shaking her head. “Don’t try to cover up for yourself. I know you are.”

She stood up, pacing.

“I didn’t use that much, Teresa. I only used it lately to save my life.”

That made her freeze in her tracks. “Save you life?” she repeated incredulously. “Meagan!”

I opened my mouth to say something, but then immediately snapped it closed again. What was there to say? I felt so small in that moment as she glowered at me, her hands clenched into fists.

“This is what we were trying to protect you from, yet you run off!” she yelled.

I flinched.

“I don’t think this is the time or place, Teresa,” Devin interjected. “We need to go.”

My aunt looked out into the distance before returning her attention to me. “You’re right,” she sighed in defeat.

Teresa took a step back from me, assessing me. “Please summon your magic up again like you did before, Meagan.”

“Yes, ma’am,” I said hesitantly.

The last time I tried using my magic I let it take control. I closed my eyes and imagined a bright golden light. I let the golden light blossom inside me as my magic coursed through my veins, gently at first, but it soon began to race with my heart. I smiled as my magic overtook me, quickly swarming me, engulfing my body in its warm, sparkly embrace. I willed it to take us away, back to our home.

I carefully began to imagine our house in Santa Monica, trying my best not to let the magic slip from my grasp. I felt the bliss flow over me and I held onto my aunt’s and her boyfriend’s hands, not daring to let go as time slipped away and we were launched into an endless abyss.

Ten

 

I stumbled when we appeared in our little home in California. Dizziness struck out at me, stealing my breath as my world spun for a few moments. I felt relieved when I glanced around, seeing that I was truly safe now, that nothing could really harm me. It didn’t fix my anxiety, though. I took several deep breaths, trying to calm my racing heart. I was safe. That thought brought a small smile to my face as I watched my aunt and her boyfriend gain their balance again. I was safe for now.

“Meagan,” Teresa said breathlessly. “Don’t leave again, okay?”

I braced myself against the wall. “Promise,” I replied.

Teresa came over to where I stood and hugged me tightly to her. “I’m glad you’re okay,” she murmured.

I gave her a small smile. “Me too. You have no idea the things that happened.” Flashbacks of Dallas, the arena—it all came rushing back to me.

“Well, then tell us,” Devin said, coming over to us. His voice snapped me out of my reverie. “What happened to our little Meagan?”

I scowled. “I’m not little!”

He laughed. “Tell us what happened.”

I paused, unsure if I could—or should. After all, I’d probably get in more trouble then I already was in. Was it really worth that? I opened my mouth to speak, but didn’t say anything as I looked at them. I couldn’t keep it from them, of that I was sure, but I also didn’t know what to say. Several moments went by as they studied me, waiting for something—anything. I sighed and finally said, “I can’t.”

“Why not?” Teresa demanded. She headed for the kitchen, and I followed her. My aunt went into the cabinet to get a glass down, and then went to the refrigerator, grabbing the orange juice. Devin sat down at the table, watching us. I leaned against the counter, tilting my head.

“Because…because it’s too much. I had to run, okay? I wasn’t safe anywhere I went.”

“You’re safe now,” Devin said gently.

“Until when?” I asked him, watching as he went to the kitchen and sat down. “How long am I safe?”

“I don’t think anyone will be able to find us. We’re safe in this big city,” Teresa spoke up, trying to soothe me.

I scowled. “You don’t think?”

“I didn’t—”

“Don’t let it get to you,” Devin smoothly cut her off.

“How can I not?”

“Because we are in a big city and—”

“You were able to track my magic,” I interjected. “Who says they can’t?”

Neither one said anything for a while. They just stared at each other, dumbfounded. “It’s not that simple—”

“Don’t try to make it better, Teresa. Of course it is. If you can then they’ll be able to,” I pointed out.

“She’s right,” Devin said at last. “But they would never think of it, Meagan. Trust me, they have to be pretty damn smart to even think of that.” He flashed me his palm when I was about to interrupt him. “Plus, they need to know how to do it. It’s not as simple as it seems.”

“What it is called?”

“What?” Teresa asked as she took a drink of her orange juice.

“The spell or whatever you did. What is it called?”

“Oh, well—”

Devin shot her a look, instantly making her stop talking. “She has a right to know, Tes.”

“I guess so,” she said after a minute.

I glanced from one to the other, raising my eyebrow. “Know what?”

Devin looked over at me. “How to use difficult magic. You have a right to know about it all.”

“It’s not safe, though, Devin.” Worry laced her voice.

He turned to Teresa, his eyes sparkling. “She has every right. We can’t keep her shielded forever.”

She waved his comment away. “We could try.”

“She’d find her own way then, Teresa. Do you really want her to mess with magic on her own or with one of us?”

She didn’t say anything for a while. I bit my lip as she took a drink of her orange juice, letting the silence fill the room, stretching until I couldn’t take it anymore. I was about to speak up when she finally says, “Fine.”

“And don’t worry, I’m not going to teach her anything that’ll do harm.”

“They all can do harm, Devin!”

“Calm down,” I said, stepping forward. “It’s not like I’m going to go using it randomly. If I ever do it’ll have a purpose.”

“No,” she responded instantly, her tone turning cold. “You will not use them at all.”

“What? Why not?” Surprise dripped from my tone. I didn’t understand what the big deal was.

She frowned. “Because I said so. This is how it has to be, Meagan. Understood?” Authority was there in her voice. She wasn’t messing around.

“But—”

“Don’t even try going there,” she warned.

“But that’s not fair!” I exclaimed, ignoring her last comment. “Why should I learn something if I can’t use it?”

“She has a point,” Devin said, earning a glare from his girlfriend.

“Why are you doing this?” she snapped at him. “Why are you turning against me in this? Who cares if she has a point? She doesn’t even need to be doing this to begin with!”

She didn’t seem to affect him. “Teresa, it’s for her own good,” he replied evenly.

“I don’t care,” she said coolly.

Anger spurted forth like lava from a volcano. “Can I make my own decision?” I asked suddenly. “Can I be the one to decide what to do? After all it’s my life, not yours.”

“That may be,” Teresa began, stepping toward me, “but you have no right to this kind of magic. At least, not right now, Meagan. Okay?”

“Teresa, please,” I begged.

“It’s the truth,” she told me.

My hands clenched into fists. “And it’s my life,” I shot at her.

Rage flared in her eyes, and I could see that she was struggling to stay calm now. “How about we make a deal.”

I didn’t say anything, only watched as she took another drink, waiting for my response. “What deal?” I tried keeping the anger that was burning underneath my skin under control.

“You can learn about the difficult magic, but you have to have one of us there when you use it.” She held up her hand when I opened my mouth to respond. “Listen,” she continued, silencing me. “It’s something that needs to be take care of carefully. Trust me, Meagan, it’s nothing to mess around with. Okay? This is how it has to be.”

“Don’t you trust me?”

“Of course we do,” she replied quickly. “Of course, but this isn’t something that can be taken lightly. This is something that we have to be careful with.”

“I’m the most powerful witch alive, Teresa. You’re saying there’s magic even I can’t handle alone?”

“Yes,” she said, ignoring my challenge. “I know your powers are unlimited, but this isn’t about that. This is about the difficultness of completing the spells. The amount of energy you’ll have to give. The amount of magic you’ll have to work into it. The amount of everything you’ll have to do.”

I gestured between them. “You two did it and you don’t seem that tired.” I tiled my head, raising my eyebrow.

“We don’t have to seem tired, Meagan. Two people are better than one. Besides, we were worried sick about you. Hell, it’s just now wearing off of me.” She fidgeted with her glass. I swear I saw guilt flashing in her eyes. “That worry drove me to help you, despite the effects of the spell.”

Guilt ate at me, clawing me from the inside out. “I didn’t mean to worry you,” I informed them quietly.

“Well, you did, so don’t do that again,” Devin interjected, giving me a stern look.

I glanced over at Teresa, but she wouldn’t look at me. I sighed, averting my gaze. “Right.” I sounded so defeated.

I knew I was in the wrong when I went, but I ignored it. I didn’t want to regret not going—not knowing—not getting the closure I needed.

“Devin,” Teresa said softly, setting her glass down. “I—Meagan came to me and talked to me about going. I told her no, but I should have known she’d ignore me.”

Shock rippled along my flesh, curling deep inside me.

He stood up quickly, knocking the chair over. “You knew she wanted to go and didn’t do anything to stop it?”

Teresa shrugged, not looking at either one of us. “I didn’t think about it,” she muttered. She looked like a child getting scolded. “I told her all about the village, and so I thought that would be the end of it.”

“Teresa!” her boyfriend barked, making both of us flinch. “You know how dangerous it is out there for her!”

“Yeah,” she whispered, going pale. “I shouldn’t have been ignorant.”

His nostrils flared, and he closed his eyes, pinching the bridge of his nose. “I can’t believe this.”

“It was stupid, I know.”

Stupid?” he repeated, snorting. “She could have been killed!”

“It would have been my fault,” she muttered, swallowing.

“All right, that’s enough.” I stepped forward, my eyes darting between them. “I’m okay. I’m alive. There’s no need to get into an argument. It’s my fault, okay? Teresa told me I couldn’t go, but I did it anyways. It was something I needed to do on my own.”

Devin whirled on me. “There was no reason for you to!”

I bit my lip, trying to ignore the rage that was beginning to beat within me again. “I needed to see where I was born.”

He shook his head. His hands were clenched into fists as he grinded his teeth together. “That is ridiculous,” he ground out.

“What’s gotten into you?” I snapped, glaring at him. “You’re acting like I’m not okay.”

“You were almost killed!”

“I wasn’t. I was just fine.”

“You got caught,” he pointed out. His eyes looked like a storm was beginning to brew as he fought against his temper.

I crossed my arms across my chest tightly, sinking my nails into my flesh. “I also got away—twice, might I add.”

“Exactly! If you hadn’t gone, then you wouldn’t have been caught at all!”

“That you know of.” If looks could kill, then I was sure Devin would be dead right now. My glare shot daggers at him. “I’m not a child! Quit treating me like I am. I’m a teenager.” I took a deep breath, trying to regain my control, but it was no use. My emotions battered at me like waves, rushing in all at once. Anger, betrayal, sadness, hurt—everything came. “Don’t treat me like I’m a two-year-old! I can take care of myself!”

With that, I pushed off of the counter and stormed off, sending one last seething look at Devin. His eyes blazed as he met mine.

“Meagan!” Teresa called after me. “Meagan, wait!”

I ignored her, stepping out onto the porch. I slammed the door behind me, quickly walking away from the house. I felt eyes on me as I walked down the street until I finally made a turn and was out of sight.

 

I sat down at the picnic table, taking a bite out of my hamburger. I set it back down and took a drink of my Coke. I smiled to myself as I watched a couple girls cry out as they were splashed by the small waves out on the beach. I shook my head, grabbing a fry and popping it into my mouth.

A gentle breeze picked up and ruffled my hair, sending chills down my spine. I licked my lips before placing another fry into my mouth, chewing it and swallowing as a shadow blocked the sun from me. I glanced up, grabbing my hamburger as I did so. An attractive girl with blonde hair, blue eyes, and tan skin wearing white shorts and shirt stood before me.

“Why hello, May,” I said cheerfully, getting another drink. “How may I help you?”

“I don’t think you can.” Her eyes darted over me and my food, taking it all in.

I sat up straighter, smiling. “Well, then, why are you here?”

“I’m looking for Justin,” she replied slyly, her eyes catching on something not far from us.

“Hey, May!” a girl called, coming up to us. “Who’s this?” she asked when she saw me.

“Just some new girl.”

“Why are you with her? Are you friends with her now?”

“No!” May exclaimed, looking over at her. Offense shone in her eyes, and she shook her head fiercely. “I’m not her friend. Not even close.”

The other girl tilted her head, narrowing her eyes. “Then why are you over here?”

“That’s what I want to know,” I spoke up, earning a glare from May.

“I was looking for Justin,” she repeated, rolling her eyes. “Why would I want to be friends with her?”

Anger burned inside me, licking its way up my body like a flame would devour a house. “You don’t even know me,” I snapped.

“Chill,” May’s friend told me.

“No,” I retorted. My magic woke up, racing in my veins. “Don’t tell me what to do.”

“I’m ju—”

“Don’t try to make excuses either.”

“Don’t cut me off!” she cried.

“Well,” May began, staring at me. “You really shouldn’t talk to someone popular like that. It’ll give you a bad reputation at school.”

I snorted softly. “I’m not going to school.”

Something unreadable flitted across her expression. “You have to.”

“No, I don’t and I’m not. I refuse.”

“You can’t do that,” she said, bewildered. “It’s not a choice.”

“To me it is.” I took another bite out of my hamburger, feeling their eyes on me as I did so. I swallowed, taking another.

May glowered at me. “You’re not a princess. You can’t do that.”

I swallowed again and took a drink. “I can too. I already have.”

“You’ll get in trouble,” May’s friend spoke up. “You’ll get in huge trouble.”

I waved her comment away, shrugging. “Poor me.”

“I don’t like your attitude,” May informed me. She placed her hands on her hips. Her eyes shot daggers at me.

“My attitude? I don’t have one. I’m not the one who came over here to cause issues.”

“You moving here is an issue.”

“I don’t see how it is for you, May. I’m not doing anything to you.” I met her gaze levelly, uncaring how I must have seemed to them. “You’re not the one who had to move with barely any possessions. You’re not the one who has to always move.”

“You move a lot?” May’s friend asked, surprised.

I focused my attention on her. “Yeah. Well, somewhat. I’ve lived in several places throughout my life, but we never stay in one place for long.”

Her interest seemed piqued. “How long is that?”

I shrugged. “At least five years.”

“Oh, please,” May laughed, rolling her eyes. “Five years is a long time.”

“Yeah, a long time to get used to a place. But imagine having to move in an instant.” I had forgotten about my food by then, turning my full attention to them. “Imagine having to leave everything you own behind, unable to go back and get it.”

“Wait. You mean when you move you leave everything?”

I looked at May’s friend, nodding. “We can’t go back for it either.”

“So what—you’ve done something bad and got kicked out? That sounds like a personal issue,” May said. “It’s not our fault you can’t keep a place to live.”

“That’s not what happens.”

She huffed. “You also can’t deny everything. It’s so clear.”

My magic sparked at that, yearning to act. I clench my hands into fists. “You don’t know, May. You don’t know what I go through.”

“She’s right about that,” a male voice said from behind me and I spun around, amazed to see Justin standing there. He moved beside me and I studied him. Justin was wearing a black T-shirt with jeans and tennis shoes. I peered over at May, satisfaction writhing inside of me as I noticed she was staring at us, her eyes narrowed.

“Oh, hey, Justin,” May’s friend said, breaking the tension. He nodded at her, meeting May’s gaze.

“May, what are you doing now?”

“Oh, nothing,” she said quickly, smiling at him. “Just thought I’d stop by and say hi to her.”

“Just thought?” I echoed.

Justin glanced at me. “It sounded more than just saying hi.”

“Well, we got talking, so of course it did.”

I snorted softly. “It would have been better if you didn’t.”

May’s eyes turned on me. “What’s that supposed to mean?”

I shrugged. “That it’d have been better if you’d kept walking. You think you know me, but you don’t.”

“You see how she is?” May demanded, going over to Justin. She placed a hand against his chest. “She’s a bitch.”

My power inched closer to the surface. I bit my lip, breaking the skin. Blood oozed from my bottom lip. My eyes stayed locked on the hand that was touching Justin. Jealousy speared me, gnawing at me the longer her hand stayed there. My magic begged to be unleashed. My feet itched to move of their own accord; I was barely able to stay in one spot. I opened my mouth to speak, but Justin beat me to it.

“Oh, really?” he asked, stepping away from her. His movement caused her hand to fall back to her side. “From what I’ve gathered you’re the one acting like a bitch. You can’t go around pretending to know everything about everyone. You just can’t be like that.”

May stared at him, disbelief clouding her eyes. “I’m not.”

“I know you, May.”

Hurt was written across her face, swarming her eyes like bees. “What’s that supposed to mean?” she hissed.

He shrugged. “That I know you. I know how you are and anything you tell me won’t change that.”

“May,” her friend spoke up. “We should go.”

May jerked out of her grasp. “Don’t tell me what to do.”

“You’re only causing drama,” Justin told her. “Leave.”

“But I was looking for you,” May complained. Her lips curled up into a smile. She moved forward, grabbing Justin’s hand. “And now I found you.”

He pulled back. I swear I saw disgust flash across his face. “Good for you. Now go away.”

“What do you want with him anyways?” I asked.

“To hang out, duh.” She rolled her eyes at me. Her head tilted slightly to the side, which caused her blonde hair to fall over one shoulder. She gave Justin the puppy dog eyes. “Doesn’t that sound like fun?”

“May,” Justin sighed. “I don’t want to hang out with you.”

“What? But we always have fun,” she whined.

“Maybe you do, but I don’t. Look,” Justin added quickly when he caught the look that spread across her face, “can you just go?”

“Come on, May,” her friend said again. She clasped May’s hand, tugging on it. “Let’s get out of here. We’re not welcome, obviously. Why not go to the beach?”

She glanced at her, nodding after a few minutes. As they turned around to walk away, May shot me a glare, hatred flaring in her eyes. Her friend pulled her away, towards the beach. I watched them go before turning back to Justin.

The prophecy flashed back into my mind, reminding me that this was dangerous territory. “Why did you do that?”

Confusion marred his beautiful face. “You looked like you needed help, so I came over. Besides, I haven’t seen you in a while. I wanted to see how everything was going for you.”

“Makes sense.”

He smiled. “Yeah. I’m sorry about them, Meagan.”

“It’s fine. No worries.”

“They shouldn’t have done that.” His eyes went past me then and for a second I thought May was back. I stayed still as he began speaking again. “You going to finish that?”

“Huh?” I followed his gaze to my forgotten food and drink. “Oh, that. No.” I stood up, grabbing the trash and began walking away, hoping he’d follow.

He shook his head. “Perfectly good food wasted.” Mock horror rose in his tone.

“Such a shame.”

“You’re telling me.”

Get him away. “You really don’t have to do this,” I informed him as we started walking away from the beach. “I can handle myself.”

“I’m not doing anything.”

“You’re walking with me,” I pointed out. “And you made May go away.”

He shrugged, waving his hand. “Yeah, well.”

“Well?” I repeated, raising my eyebrows. “By the way, thanks.”

His smile grew wider. “No problem.”

“I still don’t get why you’re following me,” I said after a minute.

“What, you don’t want me to?” He paused, acting hurt.

“I never said that.” I silently cussed at myself. What am I doing? You need to get a rid of him.

“It’s in-between the lines,” he told me. “Want to go somewhere? I kind of want to talk to you.”

“Kind of?” I pretended I was hurt, laughing at his expression.

“That’s not what I meant,” he muttered.

“Sorry, but I’m not good at getting the hints.”

“Obviously. And yes, I want to talk to you. Alone.”

“You sound so serious.” My eyes wandered over to a stand selling food and drinks and I found myself going over there to get another pop.

“What can I get for you?” the girl behind the counter drawled, grinning at me.

“I’d love a Dr. Pepper.”

“One Dr. Pepper coming up,” she announced, bouncing away to go fetch my drink. She returned a few seconds later, setting it down in front of me. “That’ll be two-fifty.”

I got the money out and handed it to her, waiting for my change. She handed me the extra back and I grabbed it, as well as my drink. I turned and flinched when I almost ran into Justin. “Why are you so close to me?” I demanded.

He held up his hands and backed away. “Sorry, wasn’t expecting you to move so quickly.”

“You can’t anticipate when I’m going to move.”

“I can if I pay attention.”

“Then pay attention next time,” I snapped, opening my Dr. Pepper.

“Okay, okay. So, where you want to go?”

“I don’t care.” Guilt clawed at me at the way he spoke so innocently. It made me regret everything I’d said since we were alone. I bit my lip, moving away from the stand. “Listen,” I stared, but I didn’t get very far.

“Don’t go there,” he said, holding up a hand.

“You don’t know what I was going to say,” I protested.

“Come on, let’s get out of here.”

Justin barely gave me a chance to nod my head before he grabbed my hand and led me away from there. I swallowed as I followed him, willing my racing heart to chill, my flipping stomach to stop. But it didn’t.

What are you doing? You need to get away!

I knew the voice in my head was right, but it felt so good being with Justin—so free. I felt like I could be myself when I was around him—like I was a normal teenager. Like falling for Justin wasn’t going to ruin everything.

Eleven

We sat down on a bench not far from the beach. I watched as the waves struck out, lashing against the sand before retreating. I smiled, my eyes darting towards the light blue sky; it was dotted with big puffy white clouds and a sun that made the water shimmer underneath its rays. It seemed so peaceful, like nothing could go wrong. But I knew better. I took a drink of my Dr. Pepper, turning to face Justin.

“So what you want to talk about?”

“I want to hang out with you. Is that so bad?”

“Yes,” I laughed. When I saw his expression, I added quickly, “Only because you don’t know me.”

“I know enough.”

My eyebrow rose. “Oh? Like what?”

“Well, I know you just moved here not long ago and I know you’re beautiful and kind. I know—”

“There can’t be more,” I interrupted him, poking his ribs.

“Oh, but there is. You’re interesting, Meagan,” he said, smiling over at me. “Too interesting.”

That caught my attention. “How so?”

“Because you’ve put up with May. If I were you I’d have walked away.”

“That’s not my problem.” I took another drink before setting it down beside me. “I shouldn’t have to deal with her, you know. I’m new here, so why is she coming around me?” I paused, pretending to think. “Oh, right. It’s because of you.”

Justin did a double take, staring at me. “Me?” he echoed. “How is it my fault?”

“You started talking to me.” I shrugged, rolling my eyes. “I think she likes you, Justin. Maybe a little too much.”

“Yeah,” he sighed. “I know.”

It was my turn to do a double take. “You do?”

“Yeah. I thought maybe…I’m sorry, Meagan. I shouldn’t have done this, I guess.”

“Don’t be sorry. It’s not like it’s your fault.”

“Except it is. I’m the one that started talking to you. I guess I shouldn’t have done that—”

“You regret meeting me?” I interjected, my heart stopping for a split second.

“You didn’t let me finish.”

I bit my lip, staring into his green eyes. “Oh,” was all I could say as I watched him look out at the ocean.

The water was calm, sparkling underneath the sun. I grinned, taking it all in. It was so peaceful.

“You’re not the only one that does that,” he said after several minutes passed. “I wish people didn’t do that. It makes for painful conversation.”

“I’m sorry.”

He returned his gaze to me, waving it away. “No need.”

“So what were you going to say?” I asked, hoping to fix this gap that suddenly formed between us.

He didn’t say anything for a moment. When he finally did my heart sank. “It doesn’t matter.”

I tried speaking, but no words would come out of my mouth. I opened it only to snap it closed again. My mind raced and my stomach flipped as I studied Justin, watching the way his eyes grew dimmer, causing me to lose a little bit of hope. “It matters to me,” I said finally, holding my breath. What was I doing? Why does this even matter to me?

He shook his head. “No, it doesn’t, but thanks.”

“Justin—”

“Maybe I shouldn’t have done this. You obviously don’t like that I helped you out.”

“That’s not true!” I exclaimed as he stood. I stood as well, grabbing a hold of his hand. “Please don’t go. Please don’t leave me like this.”

“Why not?” He looked like he was ready to bolt, but stayed where he was, with his hand in mine. “Why should I stay here?”

I didn’t hesitate with my answer. “Because I want you to.”

“A lot of people want me to do things that I don’t. Sometimes it’s because I can’t, others because I don’t want to. What makes you think I’ll stay because you want me to? Seriously, come on, Meagan.”

“I’m sorry,” I said pleadingly. “I’m sorry for what I said.”

“You shouldn’t be. Don’t be sorry over something that you can’t control.”

“I can control my words.” I mentally cussed at myself. What was I doing? I couldn’t think straight as I pleaded with Justin. All I knew was that I needed to be near him, needed to hear his voice and feel his touch. I wasn’t ready to watch him walk away from me yet.

You need to allow him to let go!

“I have stuff I need to do.”

“Can we hang out sometime then? Please? Get coffee or something?”

He studied me for a minute, stepping closer to me. “Yeah, let’s go get coffee.”

I frowned. “I don’t really like coffee. I was just saying a suggestion, but we could do anything else.” Hope laced my voice as I spoke those last words.

“Okay,” he said. “How can you not like coffee, though?”

“Not my type of drink.”

“Well then,” he muttered as we walked away. I tossed my pop into the trash when we passed it and followed Justin silently over to the parking lot. He paused, looking back at me. “Are you sure about this?”

Say no. “Depends. Where are we going?”

“I don’t know.”

“Why not go to the beach?” I suggested. “Or walk along the pier and find a pretty place to sit.”

What are you doing?

“You don’t want to leave here?”

“No, not really,” I admitted. “I love the ocean.”

Justin considered this for a moment. “It is pretty sometimes. What about May?”

I watched as a couple sat down in the distance, snuggling up next to each other. “What about her?”

“What if she finds us?”

I took a deep breath and then let it out. “Who cares? We’re not doing anything bad, so I don’t care.”

“You’re not worried she’ll start drama?”

“I’ll walk away,” I said honestly. “This time around, I will walk away. I don’t care about her, Justin.”

“Can I tell you a secret?” he asked slowly, caution in his voice.

“Sure.”

He glanced around, pulling me aside as a few people walked by. “I used to like her.” I shot him a surprised look and he quickly went on. “That is, before I realized who she truly was. She’s a bully, Meagan. I don’t want to be with someone like that.”

“A bully,” I echoed.

“Yeah. You saw how she treats you.”

I stopped in my tracks. “Of course I did. I’m not blind.” I couldn’t help the snap that left my lips.

He turned to face me, grabbing my hands. Heat speared my flesh from the contact. “I know, I know. I’m only saying what I see. I don’t want anything to do with her, honestly.”

I snatched my hands away from him. “Then why bother hanging out with her?” I asked him, curiosity swarming my mind. “Why even talk to her?”

“I have to.”

“You don’t have to do anything,” I informed him. “You only think you do, but it’s not a must.”

“You don’t understand.”

Irritation churned within me at that moment, smacking me in waves. “Explain it to me then. I’m not stupid, Justin.”

“Obviously.”

“Fine.” I stepped away from him. “I should go anyways.”

He stared at me with his eyes wide. “No—please don’t.” Desperation clouded his eyes.

Now he was asking me to stay? Just a few moments ago he was ready to leave me behind.

“Why not?” I swallowed as my heart thudded unevenly. “Why should I stay here?”

“I only want to talk,” he repeated what I told him, stepping forward.

I began to move backward, holding up a hand. “I can’t. I really should go.”

“Please.”

“Justin, I’m sorry. All right? I am and now I must go.”

He grabbed my arm as I spun on my heels away from him. “Wait. I need to talk to you about something.”

I sighed. “What?” I couldn’t hide my irritation from my tone. I let my eyes wander toward the sky. “Hurry, because I need to go.”

“You’re not going to make this easy, are you?”

“This isn’t going well for us, so no.”

His eyebrows knitted together. “What do you mean?”

“Our conversation. It isn’t going the best.”

“Maybe I can change that.” Hope flared in his eyes.

“Then change it.”

“Will you give me a chance to?”

“I’m still here, aren’t I?” I peered at him from the corner of my eye, hating the way my stomach flipped. Stupid feelings.

“Oh, yeah.” He tugged on my arm and made me face him. His hand didn’t let go of where he held me, and my heart soared with the contact. “I guess so.”

I mentally rolled my eyes, tilting my head. “Spill it.”

“You’re really not going to make this easy.”

I didn’t say anything. Justin met my gaze and he took a deep breath, running a hand down my arm and holding onto my hand. I licked my lips as I watched him do this, feeling my blood boil as my face flushed. I could swear my veins were on fire and I did my best to calm my racing heart and twisting stomach.

“Meagan, you’re beautiful. You really are.”

“Thanks?” His eyes danced as he spoke, as he took me in and I couldn’t bring myself to say anything else.

“Don’t say it like a question. It’s the truth.”

“Okay,” I said, nodding. “I got it. I’m beautiful.”

He moved to where our bodies were inches apart. “Why are you acting like that?”

“Honestly?” I paused, waiting for him to nod before I went on. “I was never called beautiful before.”

Shocked spread across his face. “Really?”

“Wouldn’t lie.”

“That’s sad.”

I narrowed my eyes at him. “Why?”

“You’re beautiful and nobody’s told you that? How can you not see how sad that is?”

“Okay then,” I muttered. “Is that all?”

“No.”

I didn’t say any more.

“All right then,” he said under his breath. “I think I’m in love with you.”

My heart stopped, and for a split second I forgot how to breathe. I stared at him, disbelief clouding my mind. There was no way he meant that, right? My stomach flipped as nerves took over me. I barely know him, and he tells me this? What the hell? I opened my mouth, but nothing came out. It was too dangerous to love a human. Why would he do this to me? Why didn’t I let him leave?

“Meagan?” he asked nervously after several moments passed.

Panic found its way into me, taking over. “You can’t be.”

“I am,” he crooned, pressing his forehead against mine.

“But we don’t—”

“I can’t stop thinking about you. Every time I’m with you I just want to touch you. I just want to be with you. I want you to be mine.”

“I—I can’t,” I said quickly, pulling my hand from his and moving away. “I’m sorry, but I can’t.”

He frowned, reaching for me. “Of course you can. You feel the same way, don’t you?”

I opened my mouth, but nothing would come out. I couldn’t allow this to happen. It was too dangerous. I swallowed, closing my eyes. “No,” I said after a moment. My voice sounded weak, unsure. “I don’t.” My throat closed as I said those words. My heart beat wildly against my chest. I was almost afraid it’d burst out. Why was this happening? Why did I have to choose between Justin and my people?

“I think you’re lying,” he informed me. “I truly do.”

“Now you’re going to tell me how I feel?” I demanded, anger burning within me. “Seriously?”

He held up his hands. “I didn’t mean—”

“Don’t go there. Don’t try to fix this. I know how I feel and I’m not going to have you tell me otherwise. Understood?”

“Yes, I got it. Look, I—”

“Stop, okay? I don’t want to hear anymore.”

“I can see how I make you feel,” he said, meeting my gaze. He didn’t even flinch at the anger there. “I can see it in your eyes. In the way you look at me. I mean, you’ve stuck around despite us being strangers. Who does that?”

“Someone who doesn’t know what she’s doing?”

“Don’t.” He traced my cheekbone. “Don’t go there.”

I shook my head fiercely, unable to stop the sadness as it claimed me. “I just can’t.”

“Why?”

Because I have magic. I’m the most powerful magic user. Others are trying to kill me. They want my powers for themselves. I couldn’t put Justin in the middle of that. It wouldn’t be fair to him.

You’d end up getting him killed.

Tears began to blur my vision at what I have to do. It wasn’t safe for him. “I—”

“Meagan?”

“We just can’t,” I whispered.

He placed his finger under my chin, making me look up at him. “I need a reason.”

“I can’t tell you my reasoning.”

“Of course you can,” he reassured me, resting his hands on my hips.

I took a deep breath, enjoying the feeling of him on me. Stop this. Only problem was I didn’t want to stop it. I was falling for this handsome boy. I wanted nothing more than to be with him. I wanted to see where this would go. I didn’t want to break his heart. You’d be putting everyone at risk. Why couldn’t my life be normal?

My breathing grew ragged, and I clenched my hands into fists, trying to hide the shaking.

“Are you okay?” Concern laced his voice. His forehead crinkled as the stared at me.

I shook my head, trying to clear my mind. “Yeah,” I lied. The word felt wrong leaving my lips.

My eyes lowered to his lips, and longing reared up in me. Here goes nothing. “Justin, we shouldn’t do this.”

“What?” Hurt crossed his features, burrowing into his eyes. “But—”

“I think it’s for the best.”

“Meagan…” he trailed off, looking into my eyes. I didn’t want him to see how much I was wishing we could try, so I tore my gaze away, averting it to the ground.

I broke the contact we had, swallowing. “I’m sorry,” I murmured.

“Where are you going?” Panic quivered in his voice. All kinds of emotions shimmered in his eyes. His face crumpled as I moved away from him.

I shrugged. “I don’t know.”

“I can help you,” he claimed quickly.

I laughed. “No, you can’t. No one can.”

“I’m in love with you,” he repeated. “I’ll be there for you, if only you’d let me.”

“I have to go.”

“Mea—”

“Please stop. I need to be alone now,” I said quietly. I turned on my heels and stalked away. Tears formed in my eyes; I wiped them away when they began to fall. My heart shattered as my world fell apart, splintering into a dark abyss.

Twelve

The prophecy was true.

At first I didn’t believe it. I thought those kind of things didn’t happen, but I was wrong. Completely wrong. Hearing Justin’s words made me realize that I couldn’t take this risk. I shouldn’t have been able to fall in love with a human. That was just too dangerous. And, yet, it happened before I could even realize what was going on. I knew I wouldn’t have been able to stop it, but I wished there was a way I could. I wish I could turn my feelings off, but instead I had to feel this horrible pain. I had to wonder what he was thinking about right now or if he hated me; the latter would always be for the best, no matter how much it hurt me.

I sighed as my thoughts spun round and round, showing me images of Justin. Why did he have to do this? Nothing good would come of this. I could feel how badly this would end if he knew the truth. I mentally cussed at myself, trying to calm my frantic thoughts. I rejected him. Nothing else should matter. I shouldn’t be questioning myself about why or wondering what if. What if doesn’t matter in my life.

I shook my head, rolling my eyes. Life is too difficult. Why couldn’t I have this one thing? I wondered helplessly. Of course, I knew I couldn’t. There was no way my aunt or her boyfriend would allow that anyway. It could expose our secret and rip our world apart—or maybe just mine. I didn’t know.

I walked around for what felt like forever. I walked until the sun began setting, sending the sky into shades of pink, blue, and orange. I smiled at the sky, watching as the sun went down in a fiery haze, giving the moon a chance to shine. I paused and closed my eyes, imagining the full effect of the moon shining down brightly on the water, causing it to shimmer like diamonds. I sighed as Justin’s words suddenly washed over me again, shattering the image I had.

I shook my head once more, trying to get a rid of them, but it didn’t work. They kept repeating over and over in my mind endlessly.

A car honked then and I jumped, my eyes snapping opened. I watched as a few cars drove by me, taking a deep breath and licking my lips. Justin’s hurt expression overtook my mind and I willed my magic to come forth and block it out. The familiar buzz began to hum within me and a ghost of a smile formed on my lips. It felt like heaven as it streaked through my veins, wrapping me in a soft golden light inside. I glanced up at the sky again, noticing the faint hint of stars beginning to shine the lower the sun got. I bit my lip and started walking again, knowing I should get home now. My phone then began ringing and I answered without looking at the caller ID.

“Meagan, where are you?” Teresa demanded, her voice shaking with fear. “You need to get back home now.”

“Calm down. I’m almost there now,” I replied, rolling my eyes at her. I knew I was going to be in trouble when I left, but I had pushed it out of my mind.

“Don’t tell me to calm down!” she cried. “We have an emergency. Get home now.”

“A what?” My heart began racing as her words soaked in. I froze in my tracks, unable to get my feet to work properly. “What do you mean? What happened?”

“It’s Devin,” she whispered and I heard her take a deep breath, her voice shaking when she exhaled. “Oh Meagan—”

“I’ll be there in a few minutes,” I told her and hung up the phone, quickening my pace, Justin long gone from my mind.

 

I pushed opened the door to our house and called out to my aunt, my eyes roaming the rooms as I passed them. I paused when I saw her at the kitchen table, her head in her hands. I took a deep breath and went over to her, unable to say anything for several moments. When I finally did speak, Teresa sat up suddenly, turning to look at me. “What happened?” I asked her gently.

“Devin’s gone,” she murmured. “I don’t know what happened—not really. It’s just that our house was broken in to. Meagan, he was taken because of those damned people looking for you. And I don’t know where they took him.” A few tears fell down her cheeks as she gazed at me, waiting for me to say something, anything to make this better. But I couldn’t.

Suddenly, Justin wasn’t the problem anymore—Devin was. He was gone because of me and I didn’t know what to do about it. I met Teresa’s gaze, tears shining in both our eyes as we stared at each other, shocked. This couldn’t be happening. Devin had been holding us together since my mom died so long ago. He’d been the one to figure things out, always ready for anything.

And now he was gone? Just like that? Anger instantly began burning within me, churning and devouring. I won’t let this happen. I had to save him, like he’d done for me so many times. But how? That was the only issue here. How am I supposed to save him if I don’t even know where he is?

“All right,” I said, stepping forward. “What exactly happened?” I held up a hand when she opened her mouth, seeing the confusion spark in her eyes. “I need to know every detail besides what you’ve already told me.”

“They wanted you,” she said softly after a minute. “They said they weren’t going to give up, Meagan. No matter where we go they’ll always find us. I don’t know how, but they did. Maybe it’s different people, I don’t know, but they took him. They threatened your life.”

“Did they hurt you? Or Devin?”

“Devin made me hide,” she told me, swallowing. I nodded at that. Of course he did, he had to protect her. It honestly didn’t surprise me that he did that. “They demanded to know where you were and wouldn’t take no for an answer. Devin lied to them so easily. He told them he didn’t know anyone by that name, that they’re mistaken. They wouldn’t leave, though. They kept asking about your whereabouts.” She paused, reliving the moment. I was about to speak up when she started talking again, her voice quivering. “After getting the same answer, they finally decided to give up.”

When it was clear she wasn’t going to say any more, I said, “Teresa, I need more. I understand that this may not be something you want to talk about, but I need more. Please.”

She sighed. “They took him,” she repeated. “They said that they’ll have to torture it out of him, Meagan.” With those words tears broke loose and my heart stopped. Torture? No, she must have heard wrong, right? There’s no way someone would be that cruel.

“They want me that bad?”

“Yes,” she whispered, tears streaking down her face. “They want you badly.”

“Okay, I need to know why. Why does everyone want me so badly?”

She didn’t say anything and I repeated my question. When she finally spoke my heart sank. “They want your powers, Meagan. You’re so powerful, more than anyone else in our world. Everyone else is jealous of that, and they want it. Don’t get me wrong, not everybody cares about that, but a lot of them do. They’ve been looking for you since you were born.”

“Why does it matter?” I asked, my voice rising. “Why do I have to matter so much? Because of those damn people I can’t live a normal life. I can’t stay in one place. All for what? Jealously? It’s not fair. I was born the Powerful One, big deal. Why must this be a big deal?”

“There are stories about you.” She paused for a minute, trying to calm her quivering voice. “I don’t have the answers, Meagan. I’m sorry. I truly am.”

“Don’t be.” I wiped a few tears away, disgusted by them. “It’s not your fault I was born.”

She looked at me then, swallowing again. “I wish your mom was here.”

“Me too,” I murmured. “Me too.”

“I’m sorry she didn’t come back.” Her eyes screamed with her pain and I struggled keeping my breathing normal.

“It’s not your fault,” I repeated. “It’s that damned fire’s fault. It stole her from me.”

“I shouldn’t have let her go.”

“You wouldn’t have been able to stop her,” I tried reassuring her. “If I couldn’t, you definitely wouldn’t have been able to.”

“I should have tried.” She shook her head. “What are we going to do?”

I shrugged, biting my lip. An idea suddenly hit me and I instantly felt the panic begin to go down, leaving me breathless the longer I thought about it. I knew it was a long shot, but I had to find him. I wasn’t about to let Devin suffer because of me. “Will you do me a favor?” I asked Teresa, laying my hand on her shoulder. “I need you to teach me the magic Devin was going to.” I held up a hand when she was about to interrupt. “I think it’s the only way to save him.”

“Maybe,” she sighed. Her eyes swam in tears. “I don’t know, though.”

“It has to be the only way. I don’t know what else to do.”

“Me either.” Defeat sank in her and I sat down in one of the wooden chairs.

“We could always do what you two did to find me,” I suggested.

Her eyes sparked with something unreadable. “No, we can’t. He’s not that powerful, Meagan.”

“We have to try.”

“It’s harder to do something like that on someone older than a teen.”

“We have to try,” I repeated. “We can’t give up like that.”

“I’ll teach you the magic,” she said, watching for my reaction. “Only if you promise not to use it without me.”

“I promise.”

“I can’t believe this is happening,” she muttered. “First your mom and now Devin.”

“We’ll find him,” I said reassuringly. “Magic can’t fail us now.”

She looked over at me. “I don’t even know if I can teach you, Meagan.”

“You—”

“I know I have to, but what if I can’t?” she asked, panic rising in her expression. “My magic is fading as much as Devin’s, I’m sure of it. What if I can’t get enough to show you how to do stuff or to help you?”

“Then we’ll find another way. We can do this, Teresa.”

“I don’t think you know what you’re saying.”

I grabbed a hold of her hand, meeting her eyes. “We need to.”

She stared at me for a long moment before finally nodding. “I agree. We do need to, but don’t forget we might not succeed.” Pain flashed across her eyes as she spoke this. The truth rang loud and clear between us and I flinched. I couldn’t imagine what would happen if we didn’t get him back. I heard screams echo in my mind. I closed my eyes, placing my hands to my ears. “Meagan?” my aunt asked, concern now lacing her voice.

“I can’t,” I whispered. “I can’t.”

“It’ll be okay,” she tried soothing me, pulling me into her arms when silent tears began running down my cheeks. “We’ll figure this thing out.”

“Yeah,” I whispered, staring into space. “For Devin’s sake, we will.”

I wrapped my arms tightly around her, trying to reel in her comfort as much as she was for me.

Neither of us knew what was going to happen anymore. I hated not being able to see where my life was heading at least a little bit—yeah, I knew it can change at any given moment and I knew my life was still crazy, but I also knew I had Devin and my aunt there for me. Now I only had her and she could only give me so much. I didn’t know how long we could survive without him. That was the scariest thing of all: not knowing.

About the Author

Heather Kirchhoff lives in a small town in Missouri with her three parents, siblings, a dog, and two cats. She became a bookworm back in sixth grade when her teacher suggested the Phantom Stallion series by Terri Farley and instantly fell in love. She loves reading paranormal stories, plus some love ones here and there. Writing is her passion-it helps her escape the world for a while, as well as reading-she doesn’t know what she’d do without it. She just loves it. When she isn’t writing, Heather is doing odd jobs, reading, taking walks, or spending time with her boyfriend and animals/family. Heather is currently a junior in high school. Richelle Mead, Alyson Noel, and Stephenie Meyer have inspired her to write.

For more information, visit Heather on Facebook:

[+ http://www.facebook.com/pages/Heather-Kirchhoff/376618135776063+]

 

Acknowledgements

I want to say a huge thank you to all my supporters. This was another exciting journey for me and I can’t wait to start my next project. I want to thank Kate Marie Robbins, Sandra Love, Marilyn Ortega, and Jan Murphree for inspiring me to get this book done as quickly as possible; Scarlett Jade for doing my cover; Jo Michaels for agreeing to beta read for me; my parents for being there for me; my boyfriend for accepting my random comments about my book; I also want to give a shout out to all those who shared my page and encouraged me. You guys are awesome.

 

 

 

 

 


Dusk

Seventeen-year-old Meagan Nevels is a powerful witch. After her village burnt down, taking Meagan’s mom with it, she had to flee with her aunt into an unknown world. Now they’re among unsuspecting humans, trying to fit in. When a prophecy strikes her, taking Meagan’s breath away as she’s told that she’ll fall in love with a human. Meagan knows that she can’t let that happen or else her secret might get out and take her and her aunt down, but she’s caught in a desire to be with him. Can Meagan break what she feels for him or will all hell break loose?

  • ISBN: 9781310680076
  • Author: Heather Kirchhoff
  • Published: 2016-03-27 04:50:18
  • Words: 43324
Dusk Dusk