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g making. It is an important service we do for the Resistance. We provide them with bags and armor and boots.

This is our c ontribution to the fight. My mother and I are very lucky to be h ere. We come from a small village in the far north." The purpose of the Underground was becoming more clear to me as we spoke. From where I sat, I could see a good portion of the marketplace. As Mary Anne and Essex changed the subj ect to his work and how he learned to be a tailor, I studied the demons of the Underground as they traveled from shop to sho p or did their work. Some had come here to fight back, but most of them had only come to seek safety from the Order of Shadows. This was more of a refugee camp of sorts than a staging ground for an army. No wonder the Order of Shadows had such free reign to take t he demons in this world. Very few demons were willing to stan d against them. They wanted their safety, but they weren't will ing to risk their lives to insure safety for all of their people. Was this really any different from the human world? Many of t he members in the Order didn't agree with the way they did thi ngs, but no one would speak out. They either didn't want to lo se their power or they didn't want to risk losing their lives. And so the cycle continues forever. Without an organized army of demons and witches willing to d ie for the freedom of future generations, the Order would conti nue to rule us all.

Change The World

Later that night, back in my room, I couldn't get the idea of an army out of my mind. Was it impossible to think demons and h uman witches could work together to defeat the Order? Isn't th at how this all began? Not with slavery and death, but with a d emon and a human woman falling in love and working together ? Somewhere along the way, it had all become corrupted, but wh at if we could go back to our roots? What if we could work tog ether by choice instead of force? Of course, my mind wandered to thoughts of Jackson. There w as a part of me that still hoped someday we could be together

again. We could change the world. Both worlds.

Survival Tactic

Another week passed, and even though I had the freedom to e xplore the marketplace, I still felt trapped down here. No suns hine. No fresh air. No one to talk to. Mary Anne and Essex had hit it off immediately and when he w asn't working, he was in our suite or they were walking around and talking. I tagged along a few times, but mostly felt like I was getting in their way. I scoured the marketplace for something I could read or an eq uivalent of an mp3 player so I could listen to music, but entert ainment items weren't exactly a priority down here. Most of th e shops were for more practical items like weapons, clothing, food or other necessities. The demons in the Grand Hall slowly became used to seeing m e walking around, and I got a few smiles here and there instea d of threatening looks. I had become friendly with some of the food vendors, but I hadn't met anyone I would really consider a friend. Not the way Mary Anne had anyway. Sometimes seein g her with Essex made me even more angry with Jackson. If thi s stranger was willing to risk ridicule from his fellow demons t o spend time with a human, why wouldn't Jackson spend any ti me with me? Of course, wasn't I the one who'd been pushing him away ever since we got down here? It was a survival tactic. I believed that being close to him and pretending to only be casual friends would be harder than sim ply cutting him out of my life. Now, however, I was missing hi m like crazy. Every time I saw him these days, he was deep in conversation with Andros or some demon I didn't recognize. I had no idea what they talked about, but I guessed it had to be about the Or der and Jackson's hope to free his brother. At first, when we'd see each other in the marketplace, our eyes would meet and h e would hold my gaze for a split second longer than he should . I was always the first to look away and now, he'd practically stopped looking all together. To try to push the worry and sadness from my mind, I started

writing in a leather-bound journal I bought from one of the ven dors. I spent my afternoons at the small cafe brainstorming po ssible ways to fight back against the Order.

Human World: 1. Find a way to expose the Order's lies to all of the Primas a round the world. 2. Find proof that the Order killed its own people and then lie d about it. 3. Educate future candidates about what initiation really mean s. 4. Search for a way to break the spell between a Prima and he r demon without killing either of them.

Demon World: 1. Talk to Andros about forming a joint army between demons and humans. 2. Try to convince the King of the North to fight back.

By the end of a week, I had a notebook full of ideas but wasn' t really any closer to coming up with a true solution. As I look ed over my notes, I realized just how crazy I was to think I co uld do this all on my own. These were huge dreams that would take years of planning and training. I needed help to really a ccomplish anything important. I was tired of sitting back and doing nothing proactive or prod uctive. Without something to occupy my mind, all I thought abo ut was Jackson. And that only made me sad. I needed a projec t or a plan. Something I could do that would make a difference . The items on my list were big, but maybe the difference neede d to start somewhere smaller. Closer to home. Maybe the chan ge needed to start within me. No one cared to listen to a youn g human witch without any real battle experience or knowledg e of how to fight with magic. Yes, I had managed to end a few lives, but only in the most desperate of situations and only wit h help from Aerden or Jackson. If I truly wanted to make a difference, I needed to learn how t o fight. What little training I'd had with Zara back home in Peachville

I still didn't know what had come over me when I killed the sister tiger. but never enough to make the m a real threat. Never enough to allow them the strength to fig ht back. but the power th at had raged inside of me was foreign and terrifying and incre dibly strong. it hardly counted. I might not have the same kind of strength and demon power as a Prima who had already passed through initiation. they could use it against any one who dared to voice opposition. My own power. No matter how helpless I felt down here. moving things from o ne side of the room to another. I wasn't thinking. I had seen it that day we came through the portal. It was time I learned how to use it. they would rise up and overturn the leaders of the Order. I practiced gla mours. Besides. I spent a few hours learning how to make my leath . it all came back to me. They preferred to hold on to the secrets of their most p owerful magic so that if need be. So instead. I knew the High Council of the Order was capable of a lot more than they ever taught their fellow wi tches. I knew exactly what witches like me were capable of. F or example. If I could find a way to access that kind of power but still have control over it. My skill had definitely gotten r usty. Well. I touched the strip of white cloth around my wrist. this was one Prima who had her eyes wide open. Nothing fanc y. they taught their Primas just enough to scr atch the surface of their power. I was only acting on instinct. going invisible. When I'd nailed down the basics of what I'd learned in Peachv ille. I started experimenting with slightly more daring magic. After what Le a showed me in Aldeen. I started working on my magic. I knew I couldn't t rust anything the Order's witches had taught me. b ut I knew there was a reservoir of untapped power inside me. I would be capable of so much m ore. The Information You Are Seeking Alone in my room. there was one thing I always had access to.was so minimal. lighting candles. They were afraid that if everyone knew just how powerful they could be. feeling a ru sh of certainty fill me. but slowly. just learning how to reconnect to my power. and I desperatel y needed to learn how to access that magic and power within myself.

er jacket hover high in the air. My jacket. I froze . glad it wasn't Jackson. Damn. I'd been tryi ng to perfect this one skill for at least an hour. I did okay whe n it was just four items. I stood with my back against the doo r and slowly chose several items one after the other and lifted them into the air. though. I'd still been unable to match the s peed and power of the rocks I'd thrown at the tiger. all demons seemed to have their own unique pow ers and abilities. but what if I co uld make myself disappear and observe them from some hiding place? Then again. what would stop me from learnin g to lift an entire person high into the air and then send them into a wall or a rock? Despite hours of practice. everyth ing fell apart. I needed to develop a concentration so sharp that no one an d nothing could break it during battle. With my limited materials and space. The backpack. I pushed the doubts from my mind and instead. In the other room. listening for who had come through. Mary Anne giggled. Essex said they had training gr ounds here in the Underground where they took their best stud ents of the Resistance and taught them techniques to fight aga inst the Order. One of my black boots. my mind was still too scattered. then quickly dive-bomb into the floor at breakneck speeds. but what about a brick? Or a knife? If I c ould learn to control both the speed and direction of any item. then I could almost always find a weapon no matter what situ ation I found myself in. I was going to have to bring my focus to a whole new leve l. channeled my f rustration into my magic. lifting it back into the air. I knew that if I ever wanted to have a chance to defeat the Or der. I heard the front double doors open. It was too risky. and I relaxed. Hell. As soon as I did. I was only able to get so creative with my own magic. Right now. I sighed and leaned against the door. the jacket began to fall toward the ground and I switc hed my concentration over to it. Of course. I was maki ng progress. A hairbrush. the other four items collapsed in a heap on the f loor. and that was all that mattered. My pi llow. . Slowly. What I needed was a good teache r and a good place to practice. It took every ounce of my concent ration to keep all five items lifted and controlled. I doubted the demons wo uld want me learning their fighting techniques. Hiding out to watch their secret training sessions would definitely make me look like a spy. but the second I added a fifth. I wondered if there was any way I could find th ose classes and watch what they did. a soft jacket was harml ess at those speeds. If he discovered me in here practicing magic on my own. I knew he'd be pissed. All it would take is one demon who could se e through my invisibility glamour and my fate down here would be in serious danger.

. double checking that the doors to the suite were closed. his left hand trembled slightly. I realized I'd misjudged how important this book was to him.I poked my head out my bedroom door and saw Mary Anne and Essex sitting on the couch. He wasn't just nervous. I mean. In his lap. "Hey. "Is Lea here?" she whispered. I trust you are having a pleasant da y. Essex just got off work so we came here to hang out for a while. I could just make out a blue book with a tatter ed binding." he said." I said. "Hello Harper. and mayb e it was rude to call him out on it." I said. curious abo ut what they'd been looking at so secretively. I shook my head. He was terrified ." I moved around to the front of the couch and sat down on the l arge white marble coffee table. "It can be quite dull down here if you don' t have a trade. I p romise. looking nerv ous. "Sure. then separated like kids caught makin g out in their parents' living room. Ho pe that's okay?" I shrugged and came deeper into the living room. "I haven't seen her since yesterday afternoo n. "What's that you've got there? " It was obvious he hadn't wanted me to see the book. "Hey guys. On his lap. even just a place to exercise or a small library or something." "It's been fine so far. "I just wish there was more for us to do down here. She looked around . heads huddled together looking at something." Essex kept his eyes trained on the ground." She bit her lower lip and seemed to make a decision about the book. "I didn't realize you were home. "Show her. Mary Anne shifted her feet underneath her." she said finally." Mary Anne said. They turned toward me." I said." Essex turned shyly toward me and put up his hand in a half w ave. but I wanted to know where he'd gotten it and what. "She won't tell anyone. was in it that he didn't want me to know about. " I don't mind. exactly. "Yes. you know?" He fidgeted and moved the book under his thigh.

" he said. "We're like sisters. he lifted the book and set it out on th e couch between the two of them." A chill slipped down my spine. "At this battle. "I heard some members of the Resistance talking a few d ays ago about a mission from which they had just returned. I was sitting on the very edge of the coffee table ." he said. as if asking he r if she really did trust me. He glanced toward the door again."Hey. "It's fine. Sometimes in battl e. but most of the time." she said. They spoke of a hunter they had fought in one of the many battles on the surface. putting one hand on top of the book. telling the story to a soldier who had not been at the battle. then finally turned and met my gaze. records. his chest puffing out." he said. if the Resistanc e is able to defeat them. He finally released it." "What kind of books?" "Spell books." h e said. Th ey spoke in quiet voices." He paused. Is it something important?" He nodded slowly and looked up at Mary Anne. my hands sweaty with anticipation. the hunters still manage to get away with only a few wounds. "What I am telling you is restricted information." "What did they do with her once they captured her?" I asked. They are very much difficult to kill. "Records?" "Notes about each demon the hunter had ever taken from our . allowing his shoulders to relax a little. With a ner vous twitch of his hand. I just saw the book and was curious . "I didn't mean to upset you. "This book is one of the things they found as they searched h er home. "And more importantly. At this point. waiting for him to talk about this boo k. "According to the soldiers." he said." I listened with patience. "A cave of some sort high in the snowy mountains abov e Gollier." Essex took a deep breath in. the hunters are killed." I said. leaning my head down to try to catch his eye. "What is it?" I asked. the Resistance managed to capture one of the hunters. "The soldiers spoke of this event as if it we re very rare. an entire box of books had been found there in the cave. "They forced her to take them to the place where she lives. I swear you can trust her.

" "I'm sorry. When he looked up." Mary Anne blurted out. He didn't answer. the pain in his eyes was heartbreaking." "Sounds like a library. but many other s from my village and the villages near mine. not sure what else to say." he said. "You said they also had spell books?" I asked. "How did you get ahold of one of them?" Essex shifted in his seat." he said quickly. "What happened to the hunter? The one they captured?" "I do not know. "My father's name was not there. I did not want th em to know I had been listening." I thought for a minute. "Or perhaps it was fate. I knew I m ust study it before I could let them know that I had it." he said. When I discovered what was inside.world to yours." I leaned back. "No. "They did not say more about her. "How did you get the book in the first place if it's so hard to get inside?" "It was an accident. He simply looked down at the book and picked at the tattered edges of the bindi ng. "He stole it." I said. I wondered why they would even be keeping records. I was too afraid t o question the soldiers about what happened. "In the council's meeting hall. before he kn ew it was gone." I said. trembling. my mouth dry." he said. "Can we not just walk in and a sk to see some of these books?" His eyes grew wide and he shook his head fast. I picked it up quickly." he said. It must have bee n a different hunter who took my father. . "Yes. "I don't understand. wondering what other books might also be stored there. letting Essex's story sink in. "I only needed to see if my own father's name was included in one of the books. One of the soldiers telling the story that day dropped it in the market place very near to my tent. "I am planning to return it. O nly that they found these books in her cave." I said." he said. " "And was it?" I asked. " No. I t is a large room here where all of our books are stored." "Where did you get the book?" I asked. "Is there some kind of stora ge room where they keep them all?" Essex nodded. Going in side the council's chamber is strictly forbidden unless you are a scholar or a translator or a member of the Underground's co uncil.

"Only we call him Jackson. excitement pulsing through my v eins. Her family has been tied to Aerden's power for a hundred years." Essex said. "You are tied to the twin of Denaer?" "Yes. Howe ver. not Denaer . I do know that the Underground's council holds hundreds of tomes that once belonged to the Order of Shadows. I had to get into that library no matter what it took. "What if one of the books they found had some kind of cl ue about how to break the spell that ties me to Aerden?" "Aerden?" Essex said." "All I want is to be able to break the spell that holds us toget her." "I wish I could be of more service. but the only things we found wou ld mean that either me or Aerden had to die. Harper is the future Prima of the demon gate town where his brother Aerden is being held captive." I said. who's to say some of those spell books wouldn't be ex tremely old?" "Or extremely rare?" I added." Mary Anne said. "Did they say anything about what was in those books? Anythi ng at all?" Mary Anne sat up straighter." she said to me. "If the hunters here live for hundreds o f years. Could this really be happening? Had I really just stumbled onto the one secret here that might save all of us? One thing was certain. It was hard to keep m .He nodded. confused. Maybe one of these books could c ontain the information you are seeking?" My breath caught in my chest. "I spent some time in our world looking for any ki nd of clue as to how to do it. "I have not kn own about the way things work in your world. Some of them date back to when the Order first crossed into our world over two hundred years ago. so I have not kn own of any way to break this spell you are talking about. It's Complicated I sat in the hallway until the sounds of the marketplace died d own and the Underground went to sleep. "I think I just got what you're thi nking.

ignoring Lea all together. Did you get locked out?" "No. my only option was to sit outside hi s room and wait. I didn't protest. I realized Lea was never in her roo m either. but I needed to see Jackson." she said. "It's practically th e middle of the night. Since I had no way of contacting him directly.y eyes open. it didn't help that when he finally did appear. So far. . Mary Anne had go ne to bed hours ago. Jackson and I were finally alone a gain. and I fidgeted while I waited for him to respond." I said as he and Lea approached. not letting her snarky attitude frazzle me. and since I never see you. "What are you doing out here?" Lea asked. I'd been o at least four or five hours. I turne d to meet Jackson's eyes. Did that mean they were together a lot? Had his feeli ngs for me changed so much that he would honestly prefer bei ng around her than me? Luckily. If I'd had to be out there much longer al one with my thoughts. I didn't ca re where." he said. "I need to talk to you. expecting him to invite me inside. Lea s aid goodnight and slipped into her bedroom. I didn't have to wait much longer before he came walk ing down the corridor. who knew what I might have come up wit h to worry about? Of course. I just wanted to talk to him. "Let's go into your suite. Lea rolled her eyes. Bring it inside. though. I turned toward his room. The three of us walked into the bright light of the suite. I figured this was the best chance I had of getting you alone. o kay?" I looked around." I said. "Just don't do it out here where someone might see you. After weeks of being apart." Jackson looked to Lea as if asking for permission. "Hi. b ut he moved in front of the door and shook his head. I was glad ople would ut here for e time that we were the only ones living on this hall or else pe have started getting suspicious. he wasn't alone. My cheeks grew hot. wondering who exactly she thought was goin g to see us down an empty corridor in the middle of the night. "It's fine with me. My mouth grew dry and butterflies fluttered in my stomach. Ev ery inch of space between us burned with tension. What was he up to all th he almost never came back to his room? With a twinge of jealousy.

" He snapped his head up. I need more than a couple of weeks to convi nce them to change the entire way they think about human witc hes. "It's not that easy. "What did you expect? You broke my hear t. "I wanted to talk to you about the possibility of joi ning in with you guys on whatever it is you're working on down here." I said." . "Joining in?" "Yeah. He trusts you. "Have I not proven my comm itment to destroying the Order? Or is it just that you don't thin k anything I do is going to make a difference?" Jackson sighed. "Like what?" he asked. so I want in." I said. "Did you need something?" His business-like tone hurt me." He shook his head and walked over to the couch. leaning agai nst the back side of it. He listens to you." he said." He shook his head and paced the area in front of me. apparently missing the filter that should have been working between my brain and my mouth. a split second of regret in his eyes that was im mediately replaced by annoyance. "I wish I could help."What is it?" he asked." I said." "Am I not a part of this?" I asked. "Like there's nothing between us. "It's not about what I think. He closed his eyes and ran a hand through his hair. surprised." I said. but things tak e time down here. Harper. "Cold. "It's com plicated. "Why are you acting like this? " I asked. " No. right?" "Something like that. "I've seen the way Andros hangs on every word of yours. "You're obviously meeting with Andros and the council a lot. shifting his weight and avoiding my ey es. That doesn't mean they want you in on all their secret plans. "You do realize that you're the one who was acting cold to me first." I said. Harper. The council accepted you as a resident. and I have to assume you're talking abo ut plans to fight against the Order." "Yes it is." he mumbled." He looked up. right?" My face grew tense. pacing. "Is this w hat you waited up to tell me?" I drew in a long breath and tried to calm my rocketing pulse. "Okay.

Bullshit. just staring at me. There was some other reason he was shut ting me out. I feel like a prisoner. The y don't even let all the demons down here into the training. He p aused right in front of me." he said." I watched as he made his way back to his room. I want to at least m ake the most of it. I didn't believe him. Fuji. I could tell I'd stuck a chord with something I'd said. "Everything I've done." He lifted a hand in the air as if he were going to say one thin g. I don't know what it is that's changing you here or why you can't just tell me what's really going on. so frustrated I wan ted to scream. Harper." Jackson stood there. I could feel it. his face so close to mine it made m y heart ache. not once looki ng back. But why? Did it have something to do with Lea? He was always looking to her for permission these days. but he still didn't tell me what was going on in his mind. walking toward the door. but I miss you." I walked to the door and opened it for him. "I've done to protect you." I said. And I could tell he was struggling with it to. "The training is for their soldiers. "B ut you're not yourself. After a few moments. I'm bored to death down here. "Why would you want to do that? And how do you eve n know about the training classes?" "Do you think I want to be weak and powerless for the rest of my life?" I asked. Right Place at The Right Time ." I said." he said. he finally turned back to me and said no. "Fine. "But what about training? Can you get me into any of the Resistance training classes?" Jackson's eyes grew wide as if I'd just asked him to fly me to Mt. "I can't even ask for permission for such a thing right now. "If I'm stuck down here. Th ey're certainly not going to let a human in. His green eyes were filled with secrets and sorr ows. I miss the real you. "I don't know what's gotten into you. then he put it down and turned his back on me. The Jackson I knew back home would h ave fought for me. changing hi s mind. as if he answered to her.

much like the army back home. The late afternoon crowds filled the makeshift streets. Barely anyone noticed me anymor e. I was pleas antly surprised to see an equal number of men and women had . exactly. A spy. I kep t time based on the rhythms of the people. I made notes in my journal. I knew Lea had l eft for her daily meetings or whatever it was she and Jackson did all day out of sight from the rest of us. Lunchtime. I knew I coul dn't just walk up and ask where it was. I never would have gotten myself into this situation of spying and sneaking around to get my o wn information. I figured it was about noon. I had expected the army to be mad e up of mostly men. In some ways. No. If Jackson and Lea had insisted I be included in all the meeti ngs and treated as an equal. I label ed this as the beginning of the morning. it seemed the soldiers just magically appea red out of nowhere. what choice did I have? So I watched. Somewhere around five or so in the a fternoon. When the smells of food on the grill stretche d all the way down to the suite from the marketplace. I'd spent at least a few hours here watching the soldiers an d the council members come and go. I spent this time work ing on my magic. At first. I wanted to know how ofte n the soldiers seemed to go on missions. Today and every day since Essex first told me about the librar y. In my mind. I had become exactly what they'd all feared I w as all along. In the mornings wh en I heard the door of our suite slam closed.The marketplace hummed with life. but at least they no longer seemed to f ear me. This was when the soldiers and the council quit their work and emerged from their secret caves like tiny ants from t heir hill. And I wanted to see where it was the council members kept disappearing to. But since they had decided to shut me out and treat me more as a visitor than an actual participant in this w ar against the Order. I gathered information for myself only. The difference was that the last thing I wanted to do was spy f or the Order. I don't know if that meant they had beg un to trust me. Since I didn't have a clock or a sun to keep time for me. I recognized them by their matching black uniforms and serious looks. I had become a permanent fixture in the Grand Hall over the past couple of weeks. I k new it was quitting time. when the voices grew louder and the market buzzed wit h conversation and excitement of another finished workday. Since the council's library was such a restricted place. Then. It took me a few days to pinpoint the exact location of the trai ning area.

It wasn't un til the fourth day that I found myself in exactly the right place at the right time. I sat down in my favorite little cafe and drew a map of t he marketplace." . of the sales counter watching Essex dir to make matching shirts in a variety of been up to so far today? I feel like I've lately. I walked along the back wall. then ran my hand along the wall. but I soon lost my patience and d ecided to stop in to see Essex at his work. which made them much harder to spot. Unlike the soldiers. I got to the marketplace a little early and walked around towar d the very back. Later. A magic door. I jumped back and wedged myself between the fabric of tw o nearby tents. my fear was replaced with secret joy. hoping to get a glimpse of the so ldiers pouring out of some secret corridor or area. talk of the latest traini ng session on their lips. but there were no groove s or cracks to show it had ever existed. Around this time in the afternoon. Just across from a purple and orange tent that sold jewelry with red stones inside. "What have you hardly seen you at all with a smile as I walked into the tent. I was actually trying to get to the other side of the market wh en part of the wall next to me raised up like a trap door. which as far as I could tel l. I tried to position myself in different parts of the market. trying to feel the outline of the door." Mary Anne said She was sitting on top ect a bunch of needles colors. I tried to remember the faces of the demons I'd seen walking wi th Jackson from time to time. marking a special X for the secret training gro und of the Resistance army. as far away from the entry staircase as I coul d get. I memori zed every detail of the area. Follow Your Friends Finding the library was not as easy. Startl ed. Immediately. I stayed hidden for the next half hour as hundreds of soldiers gradually poured from the corridor. I stepped out of the dark alley between the tents and took a mental picture of my location. was just a solid wall with no caves or entrances of any kind. the scholars and council members didn't wear matching outfits. When they were all through and the door was closed for the ni ght. "Hey.joined in the training and fighting against the Order. A group of soldiers emerged from the hidden door.

" I said casually. But with as much time as I spent alone these days. and I was sure Lark and her mother were dead set against th ." This wasn't exactly a lie. Something wasn't adding up b etween us. A jolt of regret ran through my heart. there were definitely a lot of late nights where I l aid in bed just thinking about him. For the most part. If an old woman with obv ious prejudices toward humans could accept the fact that her s on had made a very close friendship with a human girl. I came out of my thoughts and smiled. I had kept my activ ities from Mary Anne because I didn't want her mixed up in it i f I got caught. "I think she's getti ng used to me." She held out her wrist and showed me a black leather cuff tha t clasped tight around her entire wrist. I leaned in and whispered so that Essex's moth er couldn't hear me. I think it was a sort of peace offering in a way. A." she said. I knew Mrs. "I am glad. "Sorry. in silver thread that sparkled w hen she moved her wrist from side to side. I think I spaced. yesterday she even gave me this leather cuff. "I just think about Lark and my ot her friends a lot. Look. What's going on with you lately? I thought you'd be glad to be out of Peachville and away from all that cr ap the Order put you through. just in case she was close by."Oh." she said. why wa s Jackson so certain no one here would understand our relatio nship? It didn't make any sense. I wonder what they're up to. King didn't approve . w ondering if anyone had spoken up about their plans to sacrific e my life and transfer the line." I said. "You went into some kin d of sadness coma. I hate not knowi ng what's going on in Peachville. "What abou t Essex's mom? Does she still give you the evil eye?" Mary Anne giggled. just walking around. On the top. I did think about Peachville a lot." I sighed. "That's beautiful." I said. I'd thrown myself into other pr ojects and found goals for myself like finding the library or wo rking on my own magic. it was embr oidered with the initials M. What was he doing down here every day? Were they planning something important? Was he going to go back for Aerden? Wh y was he keeping so much from me? Did he miss me the same way I missed him? "Are you alright?" Mary Anne asked. There had to be more to his reasons for breaking u p than what he told me. "Not really. " "You did more than space. I'd done really well at not falling apart abo ut the whole Jackson scenario.

ashamed to admit I hadn't been thinking about Court ney in all of this. but I can't help thinking ab out Courtney. He placed his hand down on the coun ter beside Mary Anne and I noticed her pinky slide over to tou ch the side of his palm ever so slightly. I just had to fi nd it. I couldn't bear it if they'd gotten hurt because of me and the choices I'd made. " "Well. like they did with me when I first got here. My hope was that all of my friends and allies in Peachville would be safe and sound when I finally returned . I could end this whole thing forever. "Here?" she asked." She had a point. a sweet smile on his face. "That should at least keep her safe from them. "Ca n't we talk about this back in the room later or something? I d on't want to get him into any trouble. Mary Anne put her hand on mine. Honestly. She probably has no idea what happened to eit her one of us." she said." "It'll just take a second. I didn't get a chance to explain anything to her about our plan. "I know what you mean about Peachville. looking around to make sure there were no customer s in the tent or people lingering outside. I bet they just wiped h er memories of us." I w hispered. He walked over to us. For me to find that strength." She chewed on her lower lip and finally nodded. it was the idea of having a plan of my own that kept me waking up and going through the motions each day. I needed two t hings. But did they speak out? Had they been punished? Or di d their fear keep them quiet? Between worrying about them and thinking about Jackson. "To tell you the truth. I could free all of th e Primas from their demons and change the entire game in one instant. I knew that spell existed. I need to ask Essex something about the library. Worried. But I hadn't come here today to talk about Peachville. "Listen. I swear. it w as amazing I was still holding on to my sanity at all these day s. I kind of hope they did. "I thought I'd be so glad to get out of t here that I would never look back. In my heart. If I could find the right spellb ook. Training and information. As muc h as I cared about the people back there. .e idea. I also knew there wa s nothing I could do for them until I was strong enough to fight against the Order. motioning for Essex to stop his work for a second." she said. Mary Anne's eyes grew dark." I nodded.

Following Jackson and Lea wouldn't be easy. They are like monks." A customer walked into the shop. "Anything for a friend of Andros." Essex bowed to me. Then. an attempt to smile coming out as m ore of a grimace. obviously uncomfortable in the presence of a h uman. I sincerely appreciate it." she said. but other than Andr os. but then changed her mind a nd turned back toward us. "I've been trying to find the entrance to the library by follo wing some of the council members around. not understanding that those of us inside the shop can s till hear them."Ask him quick. There a re many whispers on the streets of these events. Herm its. "How do you know this?" "My shop is in a very good location here on the end of the row . "I was just leaving. "So how else am I supposed to find the library?" The question was more for my own benefit. he turned his attention to the lady custom er. I hear many things. Especially since Jackson could usually sense my presence from a mile away. I'm not completely sure who is on the council. not hiding her surprise at fi nding two humans talking so casually to the shop owner's son. Essex." My eyes widened. "You'll never see the scholars. Th ey are going there every day. "What do you know about the council's meeting place?" I aske d. I was hoping you could help me with a new dre ss for a party I'm attending this month?" she said. B ut that gave me an idea. "Hello. what kind of design did you have in mind?" I slipped outside and made my way back toward the suite. "Now. "Follow your friends." I said. "The princess and the twin. Crap." he said. He might be able to sense my presenc . I hadn't been expe cting Essex to actually have an answer for me. "Thank you for your help with the new backpack. he leaned in close to m e. She almost turned around to go." he said. Follow them and you will find the library. And what ab out the scholars you talked about? What do they wear?" Essex looked around nervously. and one thing I hear is that the council and your friends are meeting in the library almost every single day to discuss a new plan for our people." he said with a sly smile. As I walked away." I blew out a hard breath of frustration. She kept gl ancing my way." he said . "They never leave the council's wing as far as I know. "Many believe they are talking in s ecret.

I failed. that's exactly what I was going to do. I switched my fo cus from myself to Jackson. Was he too far away? Meeting somewhere deep in the bowels of this place? Far from my reach? Was the soul stone above our heads messing with my focus somehow? Or wa s I simply too far away from Aerden to feel any connection to h is brother as well? The next morning. I spent my typical magic practice time in m editation instead. it didn't change the fact that I loved him . wanting to f eel that connection and hoping to be able to recognize him ev en in a crowded space of a thousand other demons. but still. I might be able to use that connection to find Ja ckson. ext ending my magic like hidden fingers that stretched out to the e ntire Underground. I became centered. but I was usually able to sense him too. I searched for any sign of him. I knew part of that connection had to do with his twin brother. I . fo cusing on the feel of my own power coursing through my bones . but after my ma gic practice tomorrow. despite hours of meditation. An extension of my own energy. it was only natural for that to extend to Jackson as well. Sin ce Aerden was a part of me. No matter what was going on between us now that we had com e to the Underground. Close Enough To Feel My new goal was to re-establish my connection with Jackson's energy. It wasn't until the fifth day of trying that I finally found him. There had been a time when I could feel him like he was a part of me. We had saved each other's lives. I couldn't feel him at all. That first day. The feeling had be en somewhat diminished here while I was so far away from Aer den. It was too late in the day to try anything now. I sat alone in the comfort of my bedroom. But I knew our connection was more than that.e. with the same bitter results. When I was sure and solid in my own power. Aerden. I sought him out with my mind. Surely that counted for som ething. Wouldn't that kind of thing leave a mystical connection to someone? I was counting on a combination of all those things. bound to my family's line for a hu ndred years. my legs crossed und er my body and my palms facing upward.

Then. I saw him. it didn't exi st. When he moved. the tiny hairs on my arm s standing up. Somewhere. uninhabited and shadowy. only that he was close e nough to feel. like a ghostly ma p. I couldn't tell where he was. I could see impressions of other energies bustli ng past. No matter how hard I tried for the rest of the day. but I wasn't g ood enough yet to identify anyone else by feel. Do You Know This Word? . He stood in the marketplace talking to someone. I strolled through the marketplace. I pushed my excitement down to the bottom of m y mind and instead focused on what I knew of the Underground . but my mi nd was floating. free from the restrictions of flesh. I started by imagining the suite. For all purpos es. A cave I had never been in b efore. the stronger my focus became. I couldn't fi nd him again. but clear. And the longer I focused on him. Finally. I cou ld feel him that strongly. he had stepped into my range and my body had reacted. Was it simply that he'd gone somewhere my min d's eye couldn't envision? Or was there some kind of block set up in that particular cave? That afternoon. I rebuilt the place in my mind. At first.n my quiet state of meditation. looking for the cave he'd disappeared into. I swam in it. I might as well have been standing there beside him. a whisper of him crossed into my mind. near the small cafe where I liked to write in the afternoons. My body was here in this room. then the hall where we all li ved together. The problem was. sensing his path step-by-st ep with amazing clarity. I didn't sense him in any of these places. My body lit up like a firefly. letting the closeness of his essence surround me like water. so I stretched my th oughts even further. The process was a bit disorienting at first. he was gone. I moved with him. In my vision. but Jackson's form glowed bright and steady. Like a light switch being turned off. struggling to stay focused despite the sli ght dizziness I felt. he stepped into a cave on the f ar north side of the marketplace.

this thought made me more and more angry. I had been a prisoner most of my life in one way or anot her. Well. I wasn't going to give up. the cave where Jackson spent most of his days was equally a s hidden. First. My anger fueled my steps as I tore through the marketplace wi th increasing speed. I wanted to watch the demons here train and see if I could pick up on some real offe nsive magic I could use to fight. tucked behind a few tents where no one would no tice people coming in and out. never re . but inste ad he deliberately made it impossible for me to do anything do wn here except sit in my room like a prisoner. As I made my way back to my room. A pretty much useless connection now that I knew I couldn't fo llow him through this door. this hidden door was also in a far corner of the marketplace. Just like the hidden door where the soldiers went for training. The only thing I'd accomplished so far was learning a few extr a magic tricks and establishing a new connection to Jackson. My two main objectives hadn't changed. Similar to the other one. it was his fault re ally.I ran my hand along the stone wall. I could have convin ced them of my dedication to destroy the Order. a prisoner to all the horrible foster homes. but that didn't mean I couldn't be working on ways to fight them. Still. I may be in hiding from the Or der. There was no trace of it from the outside. Nothing in my plan w as coming together like I hoped. I couldn't help but wonder why there were so many secrets in a place like this. All of this would have been a lot easier if Jackson had stuck by my side and worked harder to include me in his plans. If I had to resort to more drastic measures. Hadn't everyone come down here with the sa me idea and purpose? Why would it be important to keep the a ctivities of the soldiers and the council hidden from the rest o f the community? For that matter. why would they have a library that no one cou ld see? Why didn't everyone have a right to learn what they co uld about the Order of Shadows? Was the council really that p aranoid about spies? I kicked my boot against the stone wall. And I wanted to find the book s the Underground's Resistance army had taken from the Order 's hunters. Why hadn't he at least introduced me to the memb ers of the council? I was confident that if I had my chance to s peak to the council members individually. He could have made this all a lot easier for me.

" I said. And down here in the Underground. being invisible. I ignored her." I said. "What d o you know about invisibility?" He drew his eyebrows together and stared blankly toward me." "Okay. Do you know this word?" He brought a hand up to his lips and narrowed his eyes. and I needed to know how to break the spell that bound me to Aerden." Mary Anne said. as if finally understanding my question. "No one. "Yes. "What are you meaning by this?" "You know. "Going from being able to see something to not being able to see it at all. Mary Anne and Essex sat on the couch together playing some kind of game I didn't recognize. forced into a life I never wanted as future Prima. I had a chance to learn both. And fin ally. right? I turned back toward them. I decided. "You are wanting to know if anyone here has the special powers of seei ng through invisibility. "I am .ally given any freedom to be myself. "What is it you ar e asking?" I sat on the arm of the couch beside Mary Anne. and the only way I was ever going to do t hat was to get more knowledge." he said. I needed to know how to fight. with or without Ja ckson's help." He nodded. anger and hurt sending me straight toward my r oom. "Say I was to go invisible right now and start walking around the marketplac e. my gaze landing on Essex. Then a prisoner in Peach ville. Then. "But the p oint of the dark is that you can't see anything." I said. a prisoner on death row at Shadowford. "How many of your kind would be able to see me?" "If you are disappearing?" he asked. I reached the suite and threw open the door. but some shado w demons see perfectly fine in the dark." I thought about the wording of his statement. Isn't that the po int of disappearing?" I couldn't help but laugh at his logic." I said. tilting his head to the side. "The only way I know to make myself invisible is to use a gla mour. I wanted to be free. I'd had enough of being locked up. raising a hand in hello. "Hey Harper. "Sort of. when the Order realized I wasn't going to bow to their wil l. what the hell? It was time for drastic me asures.

"Not really changing it deep down. My body disappeared from the r oom. "I just wanted to see if you'd see me. standing up from the couch. "I do not believe this is a magic most o f my people would be able to see unless they were specifically looking for it. Both of them jumped sky-high." He opened his mouth and nodded again." Mary Anne said. would people know it was really me and not her?" Essex shook his head. but down here. Human. careful to leave the door wide open." he said. watchi ng them play their game for about ten minutes before I finally cleared my throat. trying not to laugh.not certain. he was halfway to the door by the time I released my glamour and let him see th at there was nothing to be afraid of. they resumed their game. She held a hand u p to her heart. I think you would b e unnoticed. you scared the crap out of me. I stood and wa lked quietly into the living room." Mary Anne cut her eyes toward me suspiciously. and once I was sure it was going to stick. "I didn't mean to scare you. concentrating until my power was strong enough to let my body become envelope d in a glamour of nothingness. they might be mor e careful with such things. Like the way you see me because of your potion." he said." I said. Essex was so frightened. "Can everyone see through those things? Like if I made myself look like Mary Anne and walked around the m arketplace. I took each step extremely slow so that I didn't make a single sound. "Thank you. "Yes. pieces of their game scattering around the couch. in a way." . "You are meaning an artificial self. I moved quietly i nto my bathroom and sat down on the floor. only on the surface." "Well we didn't." Mary Anne said. "Why are you asking about all this?" I shrugged. laughing. "Up on the surface. but I just turn ed and walked back to my room." I said. "I was just curious." "Right. "Wait." Mary Anne explained. I moved around the couch and stood inches from them. In the living room." I said. what does it mean?" "A glamour is when you change your outer appearance to som ething different." I decided to practice without letting him know I was practicing . "Jesus.

"Are you okay?" Mary Anne asked. just as I had last ti me. And just like that. shaking it off. I didn't want to miss it when the soldiers went into the trainin g room for the day." he said. I was inside. You startled me. and waited. hopping off the back of the couch to go to his side. as my eyes drooped with sleep. My heart racing. Her hand in his seemed to wake him up from his shock. "I have never had this experience befo re now. I hung back and waited for t he last of the group to file inside. and it was the first time I'd seem them so openly touch. I had no idea what time the doors opened . a b lank expression on his face. About an hour later. I slipped out of the suite long before Lea was even awake. She took his hand. I guessed it had to be pretty early. I pulled myself together and was able to make myself invisible just as the door slid open.Essex still stood halfway between the couch and the door. I'd probably pissed him off. then I followed close behin d. Crap. Since I'd mostly just watched them come o ut in the afternoons. "Yes." I apologized again. I was satisfied. all I had to do was make it work in front of about five hu ndred demon soldiers. I honestly did not see you or even sense your presenc e in any way. but in my heart. no one noticed me. I stepped from the safety of my hiding place and waited. Magic I Could Use . the first soldiers arrived at the hidden door. It had wor ked. The Hidden Door Early the next morning. Now. I hid myself between the folds of the tent. To my surprise and gre at happiness.

I watched today as they learned different ways to create mome ntum with their chosen energy. Wat ching this gave me chills. which is saying a lot considerin g how high the ceilings here are. I watched as they each practiced distracting their ene my with one type of magic while they prepared a death blow fr om behind. The soldiers practice with floating dummies that lo ok eerily human. but are animated with so me kind of magic to make them act like living targets. Training Day 3. Today. I wondered if every demon ha d its own talent where the elements were concerned or if they each just picked one they liked and went with it? What were th e rules of how the different elements could be manipulated? M aybe energies is a better word than elements. Except not all dem on power seems to use a pure version of the elements. It reminded me of the way Jackso n had so quickly frozen the archers in the woods the night we were attacked by the fake witch. One boy with particular skill in wind control created a tornado so large it swept several ot her students up into the air before the instructor calmed him d own. but was defeated by the well-placed dagger stabbed through its heart from behind. Momentum It seems that many of the demons here have some connection with one or more of the elements. the recruits learne d to use their raw demon power as a weapon in and of itself. I got to see a lot more of this black smoke in action. this was probably the on e that I'll never be able to attempt. Black Smoke Out of all the magic I've seen so far. and I watched her very skillfully throw a fireball directly at her target while simultaneously lifti ng a dagger from the floor behind the dummy. I notice d that some use lightning instead of fire. Some used fire in their train ing today while others chose wind or water. They are not alive.Training Day 1. E very time one of the demons casts a spell. Jac kson had said it left a trace or signature behind. I remember seeing Jackson and Lea's power manifest itself in ri bbons of black smoke once they passed through the portal. One girl in particular caught my eye. Distraction Today the soldiers learned about the art of distracting their e nemies. The dummy easil y defended itself against the fireball. Training Day 2. much like Agnes. but he hadn't really explained how it worked. Fires that began small were inf used with power to become raging infernos of rolling fire that reached from floor to ceiling. Today. the smoke seems to . Oth ers use ice instead of water.

This training camp made ours look like child's pla y. and in the evenings I w ould spend a couple of hours in my room writing down what I'd learned in my notebook. I didn't lose my gl amour.come from their hands. the smoke becomes like billowing ropes that can be used t o strangle an opponent or lift them into the air. I fell asleep during the afternoon s ession and fell against the rock behind me. A Tiny Glow By the end of the week. Danger I almost got caught today. I was fascinated. letting the black smoke reach out and touch something far away. The training area was made up of about twenty smaller room s and one giant room that was about a quarter the size of the Grand Hall marketplace. Holding the invisibility for so many hours each day was draini ng. I knew those classes were way too advanced for me. I'd had to spe nd some time figuring out which class was the beginner's clas s. In each of the smaller rooms. Back home. each seeming to work at different skill levels. my little notebook was almost complet ely full of journal entries from the training sessions I'd sat in on. wishing this was a magic I could use. Some of the classes were dealing with magic that scared me. I remembered as m uch as I could from the day's lessons. Watching the shadow demons at work was fascinating. so I kept l ooking until I found one class that used types of magic I felt I could replicate. individu al classes met. It w as nothing like what we'd been taught on the Demons cheerlea ding squad. I found a dark place in the corner where I cou ld sit and observe them throughout the day. I was sure they could see me. For a moment . the smok e is thin and barely noticeable. Training Day 4. I am going to have to be more careful. but I was surprised to find that it didn't make me sick the way it had back in the human world. because several student s toward the back turned to look in my direction. When I first followed the soldiers into the cave. If the spell is strong or powerf ul. Many students used their power today as a type of extension of their own ha nds. but I must have made a noise. I never would . If the spell is small or weak.

With my stomach growling from not eating since breakfast. trying to perfect the art of distraction or learn how to manipu late fire. ever since my adoptive father died in a fire that I accidentally started. I wasn't sure where all this new power was coming from. The lights had been turned out and everything around me was silent as a tomb. Unfortunate ly. I played around with all of them. though. but I liked it. there was nothing left in the box. but here it was m uch easier. For hours. I didn 't want to limit myself. It was my a bility to move objects around with my mind and my emotions th at had set that fire. I was still exhausted. I worked on the momentum magic I'd se en them learning last week. I p ositioned myself in the middle of the large training space and got to work. After that first o practice. In the evenings after dinner. I was s tarving. Plus. The space limited what I could do. Fire was by far the easiest for me to manipulate. I finally stepped out of my hiding place and l et my invisibility glamour drop. since I was only in my small room in the s uite. It was stupid of me to forget to bring any food along. I lit a small orb and made my way to the front of th e room where I'd seen the instructor with the bars. Not knowing which type of energy would be my strongest. I had to be very careful not to catch the whole place on f ire. That's when I decided to stay in the training room until every last soldier and teacher had left. but figured out pretty quick that I was out of luck as far as food was concerned. my p ower came back to me. but at least I was worki ng on new skills. Hadn't I already come this far? The bottom line was th at I needed the space to practice if I was ever going to learn t o do these things myself. b locked inside? Or if someone caught me in ther had guards that walked through the rooms at ni I worried about it for about five seconds before I decided to ju st do it. The ut what if I got e? What if they ght? week.have been able to stay invisible for so long. I practiced some of what I'd seen . I searched around a little more. I'd been acc used of playing with fire my entire life. Of course. . but I was also curious if I would natura lly be better at one than another. but after a short break. Drained. I 'd seen the demons eating some kind of power bars during thei r lunch break so they didn't have to go back to the marketplac e for food. Luckily. there was a large container o f water in the hallway. But I alone un derstood at the time that I hadn't created that fire. I had to sit down and meditate in the darkness for al most an hour before I felt my power return to me. It took about an hour of waiti ng after the last class before I felt confident that I was alone. I knew I needed a bigger place t best place would be the training room itself.

with a happy smile. A chill spread up my arms. the vario us groups seemed to stay exclusively in the smaller rooms. I was a little bit worried that Lea or Mary Anne would notice t hat I had never come home. I held my hands out to my side and lifted them. Still. Mostly. Was that because of me? I remembered back to the old hospital the night the Others tri ed to kill Jackson. An unfortunate result of my ab ility to move things with my mind. amazed as the entire circle of flames ros e from the ground to a spot just above my head. Tired from so much magic work. A Piece of Myself I slept in a dark cubby on the far side of the largest training r oom. but there was nothing I could do a bout it from here. But there in the quiet darkn ess of the training room. After my practice the night before. like an extension of myself. She was the one who lit the candle in the lakehouse that night. So I searched for a relatively safe plac e to curl up and sleep until morning. cr eating a perfect barrier around me. Hadn't I killed someone with fire that night as well? I'd sent the fire across the room like a wave to save Jackson's life. I was complet ely encircled in flame. I leaned over and blew it out like a birthday candle. The control and power of it made me giddy and light. only waking in the morning when I heard the first voices enter the training corridor. the fire ha d spread much more rapidly than any normal fire should have. rar . I moved my hands high into the air and the fire spread itself up like a giant wall in fr ont of me. I spun around in a circle and the blaze followed. I'd always thought my relationship with fire was purely accidental. a tiny glow in my palm . I found something different to be true . but it wouldn't budge. I went to sle ep instantly. The easy way my hands manipulated the small fire I created to ld me in my deepest core that I had a real connection with this blazing light in front of me. I was l ocked in for the night. Then. I'd gone to the door a nd tried to find a way to open it. I brought the fire back down to its smallest self. All I did was use my powers to make it fall over.The same thing happened with Agnes the night she died. I'd been sure to hide in a p lace where I'd never seen anyone practicing. The flames responded to my ever y thought.

And back home? How is a demon gat e town supposed to fight back when the entire coven's lives ar e bound to a single person? If the Prima dies. "Everyone keeps saying we' d never beat them." ." "I know. "What's going on. then spend a nigh t training." I said. but I interrupted her. sure. "I guess not. I quickly worked up my invisibility glamour and made my way to my normal hiding place in the beginner's training ro om." I sa id. Lea was home for once. we still wouldn't be strong enou gh to stop them. "But I can't just sit here in the suite and stay completely clueless like they want me to. who knows what's up with him? The two are such vicious rivals they'd rather hate each other than work to gether to fight the Order. I would spe nd a couple of nights resting up my powers. and so on. so I hoped she couldn't hear. right?" Mary Anne lowered her eyes and shook her head. It was too hard o n my body to go for so long without food. One afternoon. That's a serious weakness. At least not that I've ever heard of. Instead the King of the North sits on his throne pretending nothing is wrong. but never a massive army. Instead. not to watch you get i nto any kind of trouble." "How do you know that?" I asked. She opened her mouth to protest. You guys d idn't really think I'd just stay here forever and let that happen ." I said. Concern darkened the blue of her eyes. trust me. I closed the door and turned on the shower and the faucet full blast. and one that the Order uses to its full advantage. but when has anyone ever really tried? I m ean. shutting the door behind her. small groups have fought back. The King of the South. " she said. Mary Anne knocked on my door and pushed her way inside. here and back home. it's better if you know nothing. I c ouldn't stay in the training room every night. I motion ed for Mary Anne to join me in the bathroom. Obviously. everyone dies. "I can't tell you exactly. Things went on like this for a couple of weeks. killing people and making demo ns into slaves and doing whatever they want to do. Har per? I came here to help keep you safe. how can we fight them? Even if we too k an army with us back home. Rested. "What the heck is going on with you?" she whispe red. "But Harper. "If I get caught. The Order is still o ut there.ely ever coming together in this larger hall.

"We all have our own family's past to de al with. "The books the soldiers brought back from the hunter s?" I nodded." "You already have. These hunters aren't really human anymore. "I'll help y ou however I can." I said. that I was shutting her out the same way Jackson had shut me out. the Order wou ld have to take us out one at a time. "I wasn't thinking about. looking at the sadness in her eyes. and I knew she must be thinking o f her own family. . "It's okay. These hunters were the same. Mary Anne wiped away a tear and smiled up at me. They're bonded to several demons so they ca n live longer." I suddenly realized. "I know it sounds like a long shot." I said." "You think the answer might be in those books. "I know. but excited for me. but there was still doubt in her eyes." My words drifted off."But-" "But what if we could break the connection between a Prima a nd her demon? If we could find a way to do that. Yes. I'd been trying to protect her.. "You know that right?" I hugged her small frame and nodded. but I'm telling you. "I'm sorry." she said." Mary Anne's face grew sad. S he was surprised. right?" Mary Anne nodded. but didn't she deserve to k now? We sat down together on the tile floor of my bathroom. don't you?" sh e asked. It makes the size of the a rmy that much bigger in an instant." I said. these books could be hundreds of ye ars old." she said. but I'm not like th em. "Please tell me what you're doing. "I hate being in the dark." I said. but don't you thi nk it's possible? I mean. I'm not proud of where I come from. And I won't stop until I find it. I know there is a way. "You and Jackson both t hink I'm crazy for insisting there's a way to break the connecti on. The old crow witch did something similar to s tay alive for a hundred years by taking the power from other w itches. You hear d what they said. I want to make something different of my life." she said. "I know what you're thinking.. and I t old her about everything I'd been doing in the training room.

" I said." she said. you know." "It's a stupid rule anyway. "You think so?" "Isn't it obvious?" I said." "Yes it is. I always felt so different." I said." she said. "I think my wounds are still healing. "Have you guys talked about it?" She shook her head and started playing with the hem of her sk irt." I said." "I know. "You were hurt pretty bad. "Maybe I'll tell her you found a nice demo n to shack up with. my shape-shifti ng. but what I meant was that every day we spent apart. you know? Like I didn't really belong there." she said. wh at's with you and Essex? Is there officially a romance there?" She blushed and avoided my eyes. "You don't have to worry about judgment fro m me. "Hey. because I haven't been able shift. it's not like you're the only one who ever loved a shado w demon. "Thanks. you know. Besides. "Hey speaking of shacking up. "I just worry that I won't ever be able to u se magic again. with Ess ex. Mary Anne giggled. Not even a little bit. "I'm too scared to really bring it up after."I've barely used magic at all since we got here. it's the pain that's stopping you and that won't last f orever." "I really like him a lot.. When I tried to cast my magi c. She shrugged like it wasn't a big deal. "It's a part of you just like it's a part of me." I said. but I knew different. But here. my side hurt so bad I couldn't keep going. "Do you miss him?" My breath caught my throat for a second.." I playfully punched her arm." She squeezed my hand. what J ackson said about the demons here being forbidden to love hu mans. "I never liked any of the bo ys back home." she said. I tried to explain it to Essex." "So you'll cover for me if Lea ever realizes I'm gone overnight ?" I asked." "He feels the same way about you. Did I miss him? Such a simple question for such a complex set of emotions. I fe . but I couldn't make it happen. I nodde d yes." "You will." "Just give it more time.

My only guess was that it was somewhere down the same hall way I'd seen Jackson disappear down the day I'd connected to his essence.lt like a piece of myself was missing. "I promise. but there was still the matter of the library. I knew I could spend the rest of my life training at the differe nt magic levels and probably still not learn everything. After a moment." she said." Mary Anne gave me another hug and stood up. but I knew she wasn't stupid. "Risking so mu ch to train and look for the books?" I shrugged. while I felt time slipping through my fingers with every day I remained stuck inside this underground fortre ss. As reluctant as I was to stop my training. I nodded." I said once I felt that I was in con trol of my voice again. They had no time limit t o their learning. "Maybe. "I try not to think about it." "Thanks. "But mostly it's because I am tired of being helpless. tugging on the white strip of fabri c tied to my wrist. moving to turn off the water. "I've got your back. "And Harper?" She turned back just as she was almost out the door. I had to find a way into the library. "Yes?" "Promise me you won't leave here without saying goodbye." I Had To Know I'd learned so much about magic and fighting from my days in the training room." I said. the shadow demons were immortal. "Whatever you ne ed." I said. "Is that why you're doing all this?" she asked. I knew my best chan . After a ll." I started to deny that I was planning to leave.

I used to love to draw. The only trouble would be if there were other people on the st airs. I studied the s hops in the area. I'd barely taken the time to draw much of anything. I followed the map I'd made in my notebook back to the place where I'd seen Jackson disappear into the wall. it was just quiet and peaceful. then I s hould have a really good view of this wall from way up there. . As casually as possible. I had a perfect view of the wall and w ould be able to see exactly who was coming in and out. Yes! I could easily sit here in the corner and peer down throu gh the marble banisters. and straight to the balcony area. Then I looked up and saw that from here. Besides. making me much less noticeable. Getti ng into the council's secret space was going to take little bit more planning. studying the area and trying to find a place I could maybe hide. no one came in and out of the Unde rground except to bring in food or supplies. I stood there for a minute. My heart skipped. A bakery somewhere on the south side smelled of heaven. This early. Since I joined the cheerleading team. but for the most part. I needed to get there early. I woke up early and made my way to the hid den spot on the balcony. I could easily explain that I was sitting up so h igh so that I could get a better view of the marketplace for my drawings. certainly no t every day or even every other day. when they were coming and going. Hiding between them might be a little more risky. It mi ght be nice to sit up here on this balcony and get back into it. I could see the balc ony of the stairs where we'd first come into the Underground. Before I came to Peachville. but I was anxious to get in place. so I ne eded a different plan. looking for someplace where I could sit and watch the entrance without looking too suspicious.ce at getting into the library was to follow a similar plan to th e one I'd used to sneak into the training door. I would sp end hours working on drawings of my mother or trying to draw things I'd seen in my dreams. I didn't want to miss anything. Mostly. If I had a clear view of it from here. but the tents here were more spa ced out. Unfortunat ely. My mouth watered. And m ore important. there was never much acti vity in the marketplace. up the left side of the double staircase. Drawings I would work on while I sat up there for hours. that only happened every once in a while. if anyone saw m e sitting here. The next morning. I made my way through the maze of tents. But I knew that there would be no throng of soldie rs crowding in and out. I had to slow my steps to hide my excitement. the only place I could find that had a clear view to the wa ll was a blacksmith's shop. I couldn't think of any reason why I'd be spending several days hanging out at their shop. As far as I had ob served.

Ins tead of lamps. sometimes in groups and sometimes alone. more demons came in and out. Luckily. have several nice drawings of the marketplace that had kept me from being too bored while I was staking the place out. Quiet as a whisper. Instantly. The hall was wider in genera l. In her hands. I walked straight ahead. I knew something was different here. then I made myself invisible and hid off to the side next to the blacksmith' s tent. the tiny hairs on the back of my neck perked up. There was no other soul to be seen down any of the passageways. Ourelia. Throughout the day. Everyone seemed to come and go as they pleased. but in an obvious hurry. I did. the hallway here was lit by glowing stones emb . she carried a couple of bags. I didn't want anyone to ques tion me and find that I had been taking notes and drawing map s this whole time. An hour passed before anyone made a move toward the wall. an elderly demon came up to the door alone. The first day. no one had noticed me on the balcony. Lea.I carried a blank notebook today. I could feel it in my bones. There seemed to be no rhyme or reason to the times of day they chose. but I recognized the woma n who went in next. Andros. I left my notebook behind the fourth morning. No one else went thro ugh the wall for another hour or so. I fell in behind him and st epped inside undetected. Day two was much more informative. She was alone. but I couldn't see what might be inside of them. I didn't recognize the robed man who went inside. What did they do in there all day? On day four. an d Jericho all walked into the corridor together relatively early in the morning and didn't emerge until well after dinner time. Andros' wife. I followed the old man until the hallway came to a cross with l ong corridors stretching out in front and behind and on both si des. I waited until th e area near the door was completely abandoned. The man turned left and disappeared behind a door about ten feet from where I stood watching. and I wondered if he was one of th e elusive scholars Essex told me about. it was all about the way it f elt. Bu t more than just the way it looked. I'd never see n anyone dressed that way. When I stepped into the corridor. Jackson. and I think the ceilings were a little higher here as well. Within half an hour or so. There was the feel of magic in the air. howeve r. there was no sign of Jackson or Lea. I needed my drawing excuse to look legit if someone saw me. Following some unknown instinct. I was tired of waiting and ready to make my move .

My heartbeat sped up as I approached. Th ere was nothing to grab onto that I could see. I looked for some kind of handle so I could try to pull it open instead. "This is an interesting proposition. I didn't pass a single doorway that I could see.edded into the rock walls. but hadn't I risked everything already? Wh at if the spellbook I'd been searching for all this time was just on the other side of this door? I had to know. The door began to swing open very slowly. and I ducked behin d it. I hesitated as I stared up at the huge door." . I placed my hand on the cool marble and pushed. very wi de door made of pure green stone like an emerald. Voices on the other side. My bre ath caught in my throat and I looked around frantically for a pl ace to hide. This door was different from any of the others. it was a very tall. I stepped back and studied the entire area around the door. a door appeared. That's when I heard them. There was something almost holy ab out the quietness of the place. hiding in the shadowy space between the door and the wa ll. but up ahead. Disappointed. Getting closer by the second." a man's voice said. looking behind me to make s ure no one had followed me down the corridor I was completely alone. Was this the coun cil's meeting chamber? If I tried to open the door would an ala rm go off? I knew it was risky. First of all. Not All of Us Have Time Nothing happened. but the surface was flat. The door wouldn't budge. I paused when I reached the end. at the very end of the hallway. "But i t's also extremely dangerous.

Jackson. "If we train and a pply ourselves. Even with thousands of us fighting t ogether. I'd know his voice anywhere." he said." Jackson protested. I nearly came out from the shadows to give this unkno wn man a piece of my mind. My mouth went dry at his mention of me. See what happens to the Order over the next fifty years. The group leaving the room was far enough away now that I co uld see their backs as they walked down the hall. figuring that jumping out of the shadows wouldn't exa ctly make me look more trustworthy." "What's that?" Jackson asked. "My brother." I gasped. we do have some human witches on the ot her side who would fight with us. Besides. then quickly covered my mouth with my hand." Andros said. "Time. Watch the m closely and see if we can find a weak spot. I know we could come up with a plan that woul d succeed. An dros. "I think it's better for us to wait." Andros said. I couldn't be sure. Enough that you c ould build an army. "I've told yo u this before over and over. H ow could anyone think I could be a spy for the Order? But I he ld back. "We're forgetting our power here. and another man I didn't recognize. What will happen to him when he's bound with a diffe rent family line? One who isn't as opposed to slavery as Harpe r?" "Your human girl? This Prima?" the stranger said." th e other man said. "Not all of us have time. Lea. I had nearly died for this cause." "If the Order doesn't kill them all first. She wants to see the Order ended . how could we hope to defeat an organization as powe rful as the Order? They have more than twice our numbers." Lea said. I had Jackson there to stand up for me. "You're sure her loyalties are with you? It's not possible she' s a spy for the Order? If bringing her here has compromised ou r secrecy. Remember. for example. hoping I wa s well-hidden. No wonder I'd been drawn to t his hallway. bitternes s dripping from his lips. I pressed even closer to the wall. we could be in danger as we stand here talking. "We've been through this. "There's no c hance that Harper would ever betray us."But you have thousands of followers here. Jackso n. Luckily. we h ave something they don't have. but it sounded like Andro s. I should have recognized that it was his closenes s I was feeling." At that.

It could take me all day to find a light in this place. but this? This was over a thousand books. but you ca n trust her. but I knew I had found the room. gratitude washed over me. I give you my word on this. Trembling. I wa s finally here in a room filled with priceless information about the Order. I swallowed. Any second. I quick ly slipped around the open door and into the darkness of the r oom beyond it. Seconds later. Ancient tomes filled the shelved from end to end. Were they all captured from hunters? I made my way slowly through the stacks.every bit as much as we all do. I created a sm all orb of dim light and held it up. Rows and rows of intricately carved bookcases lined the room . feeling my heart rising. leaving me completely alone in the black. looking for a crystal or something that might giv e off light. I wo uld lose my chance at getting into that room. To Translate Words I couldn't see anything. I felt along the side s of the door. There were more boo ks here than I ever dreamed there would be. top to bott om. After all this time. Blindly. First things first. Without really thinking it through. But how could I b e sure I would ever be able to get out? What if I got stuck insi de for days? Panic shot through my stomach. I definite ly didn't have the time or the patience for that. stepping forward. I nearly s creeched as the marble door began to close. She may have a mind of her o wn when it comes to following the rules sometimes. No luck. the heavy doors closed. It felt good to hear him defending me still. The voices faded as the group walked further away. I'd been expectin g a row or two. I needed light. I didn't want to lose this chan ce at getting inside. looking for any kind of organizational system that might help me figure out which . I cou ld feel it in my bones." I relaxed slightly.

books held the spells. Instead, what I quickly came to realize was that many of these books were written in a language comp letely foreign to me. Apparently Joost's magic potion did nothi ng to translate words on a page the way they did the demon la nguage. In the center of the room there was a large black circular tabl e that reminded me of stories I'd read of King Arthur and the r ound table. Was this where the Underground's council met? It was completely clean of papers or notes except for a single bo ok sitting on one of the chairs. I picked it up and ran my hand along the binding. I couldn't make out what it said, but the words were written sy mbols like hieroglyphics. I laid it on the table and flipped it o pen, letting my orb hover over the book. Inside was more of th e same, only symbols, all handwritten very neatly in a dozen r ows. I flipped it closed and sat down. How was I going to ever find the hunters' spellbooks in all of this mess? Randomly, I walked around the room, pulling books from the s helf and peeking inside to see if it was written in a language I could understand. After more than a dozen tries, I finally gav e up. It would take me forever to go through all of these books . The library was floor to ceiling books in a room that was bigg er than Shadowford's entire downstairs. I couldn't even begin to estimate how many were here in all. I wanted to lay my head down on the table and just give up. Af ter all the weeks of training and studying and planning, I was drained. Totally burned out. I wasn't sure I had the energy to go through every row in this room, book by book. This room held answers, I could feel it. I just wasn't sure how in the world I was supposed to find them on my own. Deep in thought, I almost didn't realize the door to the library had begun to open. Had they come back? My pulse hammered in my veins. I had to hide. I scrambled to my feet and ducked behind the next to last boo kcase. The orb disappeared, but I had no idea if I'd gotten rid of it fast enough. Even the tiniest light would make an impact in this stark darkness. My heart rose into my throat. I held my breath. If I was caught now, none of the demons here would ever trust me again. Why had I risked this? Footsteps sounded against the marble floors. I jumped as the entire library lit up in a blaze of lights. I squinted up toward t he ceiling, raising my arm to shield my eyes from the sudden b

rightness of it. Up in the air above the top of the bookcases, more than a hundred lit candles floated. Well, no wonder I had n't been able to find the light. I pressed my back deeper against the bookcase, wishing I cou ld just disappear into the books. I listened. From the sound of the footsteps, only one person h ad entered the room. Slowly, they seemed to be making their w ay through the center row of stacks. I estimated that I had abo ut sixty seconds before they reached the end of my bookcase, where I would be very easy to see. I summoned my power and quickly disappeared into nothingne ss, standing completely still. That's when the person in the room spoke, freezing me to the spot.

I Have My Reasons

"Harper? Are you really going to make me search this whole p lace?" My shoulders slumped and I let my head fall back, heavy with both regret and relief. Jackson. How had he known I was here ? He was probably going to kill me. Reluctantly, I dropped my glamour and stepped into the middl e aisle. Jackson stood about fifty feet away, a frown on his fa ce. "What were you thinking?" he asked. "I don't even know how y ou managed to get in here, but this is completely insane. How could you do something this risky?" The anger in his voice made my stomach twist. "I'm sorry," I said, unable to come up with something better to defend myself. "You're sorry? You don't even know the first thing about being sorry," he said, his face red with rage. "Do you have any idea what would happen if someone else had found you in here?" I hung my head. I didn't know what he wanted me to say. That I knew they would call me a traitor? A spy? Probably kick me o

ut of this place. Or worse. "I felt your presence in the hallway earlier. Believe me, I rush ed back here as soon as I could get away," he said. "The demo ns here don't know you like I know you. They wouldn't be so fo rgiving." I crossed my arms over my chest. "And how do you think they are going to get to know me when all I do is sit in a room all b y myself all day?" Jackson shook his head in frustration and turned away. "That' s not true," he said. "I've seen you in the marketplace plenty o f times." "Yeah, with all my new friends," I said, my tone biting. "Do yo u have any idea how lonely it is for me here? Or do you even c are?" "I didn't bring you here to make friends," he said. "I brought y ou here to save your life. Did you know that right now there's a hunter stalking the entrance where we came in? She's there, just waiting for you." I felt like I'd had the breath knocked out of me. "One of the Or der's hunters? How did she know where to find me?" Jackson ran a hand through his hair. "I don't know," he said. " She had to have tracked you somehow, which doesn't make se nse to me when you've barely even been casting any magic do wn here at all." I froze, my body tense. "Magic?" I shook my head. "I thought y ou said this place was shielded from the surface. That they co uldn't track me all the way down here." "Normally that's true," he said. "But that's never really been t ested with a witch's magic. I mean, we're usually thinking mor e about demon-only magic. It doesn't matter though, you haven 't been casting that much, have you?" I didn't know what to say. I hated to lie to him, but to tell him the truth would be admitting that I'd been watching the soldier s. "Harper?" He took a step toward me. "Have you?" I closed my eyes and drew in a deep breath. This was going to be painful. "Oh my god," he said. He walked around in a circle, his hands balling into fists. "You've been casting? A lot? Tell me now." "First of all, let me say that I had no idea I could be tracked,"

"I went every day for several weeks. "I used my invisibility to follow the soldiers into the training r ooms. I wanted to learn to be more p owerful. "How could I have missed this?" he asked himse lf. "Okay. yes. do you?" I asked. Some thing stronger." I said. Jackson paced the room in front of me. no matter what you might think." he demanded. I had no idea? How could he even say that after all I'd seen and been through? I pushed back the sting of tears. . "You never told me that was even a pos sibility. by ." I explained about the practicing in my room." "What did you do?" I knew I had to say it quickly.." I said. "A lot." Jackson stood. Didn't he know me at all? "You don't think I'm strong enough to make any real difference . I never thought. some times staying overnight after they left to practice. then collapsed into one of the chairs aro und the table." The shock on Jackson's face was complete and terrifying. I saw a mixture of anger and wonde r. "And I know you'r e going to be angry. "I should have been paying more attention." The anger in his tone felt like a slap across the face. I've been casting. "What about the fact that I've got an entire army of witches looking for me? Witches who. I couldn't jus t sit down here and do nothing." "Tell me. taking several quick steps in my direction. how did you even pull that off?" When he looked up at me." he said. He genuinely hadn't thought I was capable of something like t his on my own. "Still. "W hy are you always so bullheaded and stubborn? Why can't you just be patient for once? You have no idea what the Order is c apable of. "There's something else. "You want to know why I can't be patient?" I asked. He t ook a step backward. I would have thought it would take something more to get through the barrier. I mean. but you have to understand. like all-out use of your power. so angry with him for always believing I wa s weak. "Did you really expect me to just sit around down here like a little puppy dog? I don't want to be down here forever. I plan to go back and fight so meday." I fidgeted. like ripping off a bandaid. "I wou ldn't think that would be enough.I said in my defense." I confessed.

clapping his hands toget her. His upper lip twitched slightly and t he muscles in his cheeks pulsed as he ground his teeth togeth er." he said. "Of course not. "It would be mass carnage. You think we can just chang e the world in two weeks? It doesn't work like that. Why can't you just talk to me? It's like you don't believe I'm strong enough to hear the truth. "How would I know?" I said. He stared at me. sadness darkening his eyes. more and more demons are forced i nto an eternity of slavery?" "You think I don't know all that?" he said. "Oh excuse me. I know I was pulling some low blows." "That's not the way I feel at all. Is that really what you want?" "No. "But what do you w ant me to do about it Harper? I have been trying to find a way to fight back for a hundred years.the way. "For both sides probably . "It's not like you talk to me about . Or what about the fact that every da y we sit here on our asses. want to kill me. but you know what? That's bullshit. I just wanted us to start looking for better answers. but wasn't I right? Ho w long were we all going to sit back doing nothing? "What do you propose we do then. part of me wanting to punch him and part of me wanting t o kiss him. You don't think I can h elp. his chest moving up a nd down with each heavy breath. lifting my chin. right? So what's your big plan to save my broth er and the entire shadow demon race? Do you think we should just all go over there and just start fighting?" "At least that would be something. You don't think I'll have anyt hing to contribute to the conversation." I mumbled. I'm so sick and tired of always being kept in the dark with yo u. seventeen." I said. But I want to do something. "Well how does it work?" Jackson didn't answer. I was in his face now. my voice softening." he said. "I'm sure that extra year has provided you with the wisdo m of the ages. oh mighty sixteen-year-old Harper?" "I'm seventeen now. "Just how far have you really gotten in one hundre d years? Have you fought anyone? Defeated anyone? Changed one single thing?" I saw the hurt in his face." "No?" I said. I didn't have some brilliant p lan to offer either." I said." he said." I said. "You don't have a clue how it works. He couldn't really think that was what I wanted. You just take it all on your own shoulders. thinking you c an protect everyone.

you should have just let me die. Even after I'd saved him from the Others and fought back against the cro ws." My words hung between us like a thick cloud. No doubt about it. To him. "Why this room?" he asked. Even after everything we'd been through." "That's not true. Harper. "Harper-" "Don't." I said. "What were you hoping to find her e that was worth risking so much?" ." he said. And wasn't I? Hadn't I almost died at the hands of the Order? If Jackson and the others hadn't come for me." he said. his eyes telling me he had something h e wanted to say." I said. Jackson stared at me.how you're feeling. it's be en nothing but secrets between you and Lea. I couldn't hold the tears back any longer." "All I've ever done is try to protect you. "I know you d on't understand why I came here or why I keep breaking your r ules. but something seemed to hold him back. I wiped at the tears on my face. "You don't understand anything. I knew I had gotte n it right. I wan t to at least try to make a difference. He still didn't think I was powerful enough to make a diffe rence. If you wanted me to give up. Since we got to the shadow world. "Th at's all that matters to me. holding my hands up. Jackson reached for me. "You're seeing it al l wrong. "Yes it is. They streamed down my face like a waterfall. I was just a weak young witch who needed to b e sheltered and protected. The moment passed and he turned away. I would have died that day in t he ritual room. When he finally lifted his eyes to mine." "Then how should I see it?" I asked softly. but you have to know that I am just not the kind of perso n who can sit back and wait while everything falls apart." "So you're saying there isn't some small part of you that think s I'm incapable of doing anything important to help?" He paused and I felt the seconds tick away like a bomb in my gut. but I stepped away.

I took one long look around at all of the unreadable books. "I thought maybe. you always do. I sudden ly felt so incredibly tired and defeated. "Yeah. I nodded. "That was your choice. "I heard that at least one of the hunters caught alon g the way had some spellbooks in her cave." Jackson held up his hand and turned back toward the doors. Then. I stood my ground. I was angry at Jackson for not being open with me from the st . Never Give Up Emotions scattered through me in all directions. he turned back. I'm taking you back to you r room. And promise me you'll never do something like this ag ain." He shook his head. wo ndering where the answers were if not here. doesn't mean you had to completely cut me out of your life." His face grew tight and I noticed his hand trembling slightly. "Why didn't you at lea st tell me about it?" He met my eyes and I could see in his expression that he und erstood the pain in my heart. they might hold some of the Order's secrets. "But there 's nothing new in them. "Just because you don't want anyone to know about what we h ad together. "You're still determined to find a spell tha t will release Aerden?" "Aren't you?" I asked." My heart fell and the tears threatened to come again. Nothing we haven't seen before. the distance bet ween us greater than ever." I said. not wanting to leave. "I have my reasons. "I've seen the books you're talking about." I said." he said. There was still so much more I wanted to say. "Come on.I sniffed. if they were old enough books." he said. When he got to the door. I didn' t feel like this was really over." he said. " This conversation is going nowhere. I gave in an d followed Jackson silently back to my room." For a moment.

Why could he never just be open with me? Why co uldn't he just tell me everything and trust that I was ready to h ear it? He said I didn't understand his reasons. Besides. If I could learn to understand it and use it. I knew I couldn't risk going back into the library. Still. trying to make s ense of everything that had happened since we got to this worl d. But there was no denying the power that came from me in thos e moments. I could se e no way around it. shadowy and elusive. A darkness. I flopped down on my bed and let all those conflicting emotion s roll through me like a wave. sometimes I felt a shimmer of that power creeping in. Disappointed didn't even begin to describe how I fe lt about the fact that none of the hunter's spellbooks containe d the spell I was looking for. during my practices here. what good would that do if the books I needed didn't even exist? I had come to a wall. Jackson assured me that there was absolutely no way for the hunter to get inside without being let in by someon e on the council. but how was I supposed to understand when he wouldn't just talk to me? Would things between us ever change? I sat up and leaned my back against the wall. Maybe I would have a chance to defeat the O rder. The Order. so there was nothing to fear. Yes. had I put everyone's lives at risk by practicing my magic? What if the hu nter somehow did find a way inside? How many would die beca use of me? . And now. I could tell. Then. I was ashamed for getting caught doing something I was never suppo sed to do. It was strong and all-consuming. A barrier so thick. I wanted to hurt her for what she'd done to Mary Ann e. He was hiding something from me. desperate to find a way inside. And as far as Jackson was concerned. but I don't know where that dark power came from. Jackson said a hunter had followed my power here. I knew there was so mu ch still unsaid between us. It sc ared me. I imagined her lurking above the ring of black roses. It was as if I'd stepped out of my own body and some other force had ta ken control. maybe I could accomplish amazing t hings as a witch. Where did I even go from here? Jackson had made me promise I wouldn't go back to the traini ng grounds. Or a tsunami really. th ere was a hunter stalking the portal entrance.art about what he knew and what he'd been working on. on top of everything. When I killed the tiger twin. I swear I hadn't done it on purp ose. I closed my eyes.

I expected him to co me knock on the door. I trained my eyes on the cards in front of me. he wore a dark green button-u . My face grew hot and the space around me felt like it was closing in. Which of course lasted about six seconds. With the library as a dead end and the training completely off-limit s due to the hunter's presence. not understanding. but he rarely stayed to talk. but they didn't seem to mind too much. The three of us were sitting by the coffee table in the main ro om playing a type of card game Essex wanted to teach us whe n someone knocked. But what I saw in that split second made my heart stop in my chest. He must have come t o check up on me. trying to come up with anything I could work on or set my mind to. A couple of times I heard him come in and ask Mary Ann e if I was in my room. a new possibility. I straightened and stayed put. The Green Brought Out His Eyes There was a part of me that hoped Jackson would be around a lot more after our last conversation. I was out of good ideas. He managed to come into the suite more often to check up on me. waiting for me to give u p for good so they could pounce on the flesh of my spirit. When she said yes. I stared up at him. but instead. b ut my mind was always wandering off. I would never give up. My stomach flipped. My eyes completely betrayed me. then back to my cards. I suddenly felt like I couldn't breathe. not bothering to go open the door. a new way.My problems circled me like vultures. But I would never give up. he just left. I would keep searching for a new plan. I could feel Jackson' s presence on the other side of the door. I knew I wasn't being th e best of company. He always knocked first. concentrating on the strange demon symbols and refusing to look at him as he entered. but he had a cr ystal key to the suite and could get in on his own. Jackson stood just inside the door to the suite dressed from h ead to toe in a fancy black suit tailored perfectly to his muscu lar body. Under the suit jacket. I spent a lot of time in my room those next few days. All plans to act like I didn't care and that I w asn't thinking about him flew right out the window. I tried to just relax and hang out with Mary Anne and Essex. flicking toward the door quic kly.

they would have let me wear my own clo thes to this stupid thing. "Something the council insi sted on throwing for me. but I'll be glad when it's over. and I put all those questions and all the hurt I was feeling into my eyes. the door at the b ack of the suite swung open. but I had no idea w hat to make of it." Jackson said. "You guys have a dinner tonight?" Mary Anne asked. Did that mean they were actually goi ng there together? And flaunting it right in my face. . dying for that conversati on. Jackson's eyes met mine again. But before I could stand or make a move. My eyes saw what was going on. and I swear it was the only thing that kept me from scre aming. and I had to force myself to breathe. Was he sorry he was hurting me? Or sorry I c aught him dating another woman? My breath came in short bursts like machine gun fire. Under the table. and I wished I could shove the w ords back down his throat. For a split second. I let hope lift my heart up into the air about seven feet above my b ody. "Are you ready to go?" she asked Jackson." Mary Anne said. Mary Anne's hand sought mine. My hands shook.p shirt with the top two buttons left undone. She squeezed hard. but my brain was two steps behin d. "Yes. Had he come to apologize to me? Maybe ask me to a nice dinner so he could explain everything? I believed it so much t hat I almost stood and walked to him. She was dressed in a floor-length gown adorned with sparkling silver beads. "Why they insisted on this dinner is beyond me. completely unprepared for what I wo uld see." "You look nice. I turned my head to look. rolling her eyes. Lea walked into the room. the sound of high heels clicking on the tiled floor. not wanting to understand." Lea said. her hands up to her ear still adjusti ng an unruly earring." My mouth hung open. Was this a date? He was obviously here to pick her up and wa lk with her to this dinner. The green brought out his eyes. "Have fun. which were now looking straight at me. If they really wanted to honor their p ossible future Queen. so I laid the cards down on the table and put them in my lap so no one would see. It was the first thing he'd said since he walked in the door. His jaw tensed and there was sadness and regret in his eyes.

I needed to feel wind in my hair and on my face . "What are you doing?" As soon as the question was voiced. "Hopefully it won't last too lon g. "L et's get this over with. "Harper. When the door closed. She turned t oward me. the lack of fre sh air really bothered me. When did this room get so small and stuffy? I felt a trickle of sweat on the back of my neck. your turn is next. What the hell had just happened? He'd always insisted there was nothing romantic between him and Lea. They were no longer in view down the corridor. pushing my cards tow ard me. I needed to get moving or I would lose .Jackson shoved his hands in his pockets." Mary Anne said." Mary Anne said. I stood up." Mary Anne said. She p ut her arm through Jackson's and motioned toward the door. I knew the answer. "It's complicated. Mary Anne sighed." I said. For the first time since we'd been underground. then turned and escorted Lea from the room. Lea didn't even sou nd like she wanted to go. I couldn't just sit here letting the walls close in on me. you know? I mean." she said. the suite was dead silent except for th e sound of my heart pounding out of my chest. following close behind me." "No. "Am I not understanding something?" Essex asked. lying through his teeth." Essex said. She finally got her earring in. not even knowing where I was going to go." Lea said. tugging on my arm." All I could do was shake my head and stare at the door. I need ed to breathe. "It's no big deal. I opened the door and peered outside. " What if he sees you?" "I'll be discreet. concern etched on her pale face. knowing the game was over for me now. this is a bad idea. not letting her slow me down. I ignored him. "I'm going to follow them. "I think Harper needs a second." "Amen to that. "Wait. but that didn't loo k like nothing to me." Jackson peeled his gaze from mine." h e said. "I'm sure that was n't what it looked like.

but the sound was hollow and joyless. but from where I sto od behind an attractive couple in matching red outfits." I laughed. don't do this. "Be careful. I knew Jackson could see throu gh glamours if he wanted to. I was careful to stay behind ot her couples or just around doorways so he wouldn't see me.. "Harper. Painful Awakening I caught up with them in the marketplace. summoning my power and disappearing down t he hallway. Still. if there's really nothing to it. hoping Jackson wouldn't be a ble to feel me if I stayed far enough back. "Jackson's such an open book. I let out a silent sigh of relief.. No secret doors or strange obs tacles. Lea's arm was still entwined with his and every time he smiled at something she s aid." she said." I said. Several dressed-up couples turne d and walked through the arched doorway. I'll be bore d for an hour. I felt a dagger twist in my side. "You'll just get hurt. "Listen. then I'll go. The thought of watching him kiss her or hold her close made me feel dizzy and sick to my stomach. I followed from a good distance. I could n't see anything. She knew it was true.them. She also knew she wasn't going to be able to stop me from goi ng." What then? I didn't even know myself." she said. But if there's more. Just wait unt il he gets home and talk to him about it." she said. We traveled past rooms that looked like standard housing befo re we came to a large archway. Jackson a nd Lea disappeared into the room. ." Mary Anne had no argument there. U nlike a lot of the demons here. They were headed u p the stairs to a hallway I'd never been down before. beca use that's worked so well up to this point. I'll come back. "Please. this seemed to be the place. "It's not worth it. "Yeah." I said." "I will.

bu t as far as I could see from here. His beautiful wife. Demons all dres sed up and waiting to get into the event of the season. the talking died down and everyone's eyes turned to the front of the room. Ourelia. no dou bt. I knew in my he art I was about to find out what that was. I hid in the back of the room behind a glas s sculpture. Essex certainly hadn't been invited. There w ere too many people. I narrowly missed them. I did remember hearing a woman ask him to make a dress for h er for a party. When the line died down a little. runnin g into the wall instead. but I knew it wasn't a definitive answer.Unfortunately. a decent line had started to form. I could fe el his presence somewhere toward the front of the room where a large oval emerald served as a stage. but all I could think about was the pain I was feeling on the inside. I almost missed the red couple stopping mid-str ide to adjust the man's collar. A party for the future Queen of the Northern Kingdom. To me. I bit my tongue to keep from crying out . Relief lessened a t iny bit of the fear pressing on my heart. I watched him talking to various groups of demons for about h alf an hour before most of the guests had found their way to th eir tables. I nearly ran right into them. whi ch would have been disastrous. Had I really turned into thi s jealous person who was willing to sneak into a party just to watch her somewhat ex with another woman? This wasn't who I wanted to be. Ever si nce he'd first introduced her to me. Jackson and L ea took their seats at the front of the room. I finally made my way into th e room. Round tables had bee n set up to surround an area that seemed to be cleared for dan cing. Not yet. This crowd must just be the council and t he more prominent members of the community. I needed to know. I needed to know one way or the other. they had parted ways and were talking to different groups. they weren't touching. They sat close. Behind me. If there wa s something going on between them. But I couldn't force myself to leave. I hated the speed of my heartbeat. I'm s ure everyone in the Underground hadn't been invited. I had felt there was so mu ch more between them than he was telling me. She'd said it was a very important event and th at she needed an original creation. When I spotted Jackson and Lea in the crowd. . When Andros took the stage. She must have really want ed to make an impression on Princess Lazalea. it looked like a typical arrangement for someone' s wedding or party. It hurt. she'd be in for a rude awakening when she learned that Lea preferred l eather to sequins. my eyes searching for Jackson in the crowd. Well. stood by his side dressed in a tig ht-fitting white gown that glittered in the light.

as we know. But why was Jackson standing with her? "Our struggle against the Order of Shadows has been a difficu lt one." Lea and Jackson stood as the crowd clapped. Your parents may have made some mistakes in their existence. He was talking ab out how he knew Lea. and I for one am so glad you are home. He wasn't acting like himself around me. I struggled to hold onto my invisibility. I stared out at all of the smiling faces of these strang ers and wondered how my life had brought me to this moment. My emotions were all over the place. All of her earlie r annoyance was gone from her face and instead she looked ex actly as you would expect a princess to look at this type of aff air. At first. As if my body understood that I was standing in the middle of a very dangerous situation.Something strange was definitely going on with him lately. the words went in one ear an d out the other. I had that feeling in my legs like I wanted to be ready to run a t any second. but no two citizens have gone as far in the fight as the se two standing before us here tonight. the rightful heir of the Northern Kingdom and our future Queen. Denaer was relentless in his search for his twin brother. We've missed you d ear friend." The demons rose to their feet. but promising you to e ach other was one of the best decisions they ever made. Denaer refused to accept that hi s brother was gone." Andros continued. final ly going so far as to travel across worlds. I felt the breath knocked out of me. I hardly heard a word Andros said. clapping. but for me. but the sound was mu ffled. but we can all take in spiration from these two who both were willing to risk everythi ng for their kingdom and their people. is far from over. the future King an d Queen of the Northern Kingdom. Even when his own father was too scared and defeated to go after Aerden or even beg the King for help. In my own ears all I could hear was the sound of those f our words. I didn't belong here. . "W hile most of us were still too afraid to speak out against what was happening to our people. "The war. and concentration took more effort than it shou ld have. And where did that leave us? "I can't tell you how proud I am to be here tonight honoring Pr incess Lazalea. But did Jackson? Was this really where h e'd belonged the whole time? He certainly didn't belong in Pe achville. Here' s to Princess Lazalea and her chosen mate. Future King and Queen.

the moment becoming a br eaking. He was never planning to be with me long term. he stood there a t the front of the room with her now. Why he couldn't be seen kissing me or eve n getting too close or showing too much interest. I felt that when I left. Just thinking it made my chest tight. Jackson was her future king. I felt my kn ees begin to buckle. I broke away from the wall and took it one painful step at a ti me. For one moment as the crowd adjuste d and settled. Her future husband. he would follow me. finally finding the strength to run. A goodbye to all w e'd known together. And in my heart. he was meant for their princess. but I knew I had t o get out of there. We stared at eac h other through the crowded space. I was halfwa y down the hall. It all made sense now. afraid I would collapse then and there. And when Jackson took Lea in his arms and kissed her f orehead the way he'd kissed mine countless times. As far as the se demons knew. right? But Jackson had come back here knowing he was taking up his old place as Lea's betrothed. smiling and playing his p art. Once his brother was saved. visible for a split second. The demons in the room took their seats again. They were to b e married. We just needed some time to get through this. I don't know how I found the ability to walk.Jackson and Lea were promised to each other. And wasn't he? I certainly didn't hear him denying it. his eyes widening. waiting for Le a to address her people. I kn ew I wouldn't stay. he was always going to come back here. When he first told me we coul dn't be together down here. I wa s scared to even take a step. We would be back to our old relationship eve ntually. In fact. A painful awakening. . I clasped my hand over my mouth to keep from crying out. Jackson's gaze moved to the back of the room. I think I always assumed it was a t emporary situation. A shattering. The truth of it tumbled over me like a rock rolling down a steep hill. I saw my hand flicker in f ront of me. Even if he planned to stay down here. w asn't he? And why not? Who wouldn't want to marry a beautiful woman and lead a kingdom? My heart shattered in my chest. He looked straight at me. Why he had to break up with me before we got down here. By the time Lea's voice sounded in the room.

"He's apparently been promised t o her since they were born. storming back into the bedroom. her hand flying to her mouth." I said. "Is it really that bad?" she asked." I said." I shoved the last of my things into the backpack and zipped it up. here's yet another reason we can never be together. "That can't b e true. I would have to f ace what had just happened. "He's going to marry her. no protection from hurt. "What are you doing?" "I'm leaving. There was nothing left for me here. No knowledge to gain. but oh by t he way. "Leaving? You mean the Underground ? No." I said. having to squish it down to get it to close. you can't leave." Mary Anne gasped.We Can Never Be Together I couldn't stay. I picked up the backpack Essex had given me and began st uffing it with clothes and anything I could think of that I might need. Where will you go?" "I don't know yet. "It's worse. Mary Anne followed me. scared that if I stopped moving. testing the words on my tongue. her face twisted with worry . I burst through the door to the suite and ran straight to my roo m." I said. I di dn't even want to stand still in any one place for more than a f ew seconds. I disapp eared into the bathroom to collect my toothbrush and other toil etries that would fit into my bag. "I love you. there were no tears." "I heard it with my own ears. a slight tremble in my vo ice that only made me angry. "What happened?" she asked. just the knowledge th at I had to go. "You would think he might have mentioned that at some point before he told me he loved me. Whatever safety the Underground had provided was gone now." I said." I picked up one of my notebooks and tore a page from the bac k. then carried my backpack out to the living room and set it o n the table. Mary Anne stepped through the doorway to my room. . Surprisingly.

"I don't want you to go either. The truth was that I loved him an d he had broken my heart with his lies." I said. Thinking of it now made me feel di sgusted and sad." she said." Mary Anne slumped into the chair beside me. It's way too dangerous. . Trying to Make Sense of The Scene I'd heard Lea once mention that she kept a spare crystal to Ja ckson's room in her drawer. "You're not thin king clearly. tears in her eyes . I wanted to say that I hated him for what he'd done to me. At least out there." "I can't stay." I said. You can't even cast right n ow. My hand trembled as I turned back to the blank page. "We'll stop by the m arketplace before we go."I don't think you should go." Mary Anne said." I shook my head. "You know as well as I do that you can't com e with me. I sat down at the table and did my best to steady my hand as I wrote. you can't leave Essex. She was absol utely right. So in the end. but I walked straight to the drawer of her des k and reached in for the small stone that opened his room." Mary Anne said. "Just give me some time to get my things together." I thought of the hunter who was waiting for me. "No way. He had to head back to the shop to h elp his mom with something. I didn't get any farther than his name before I paused and felt the hot tears bubbling toward the surface. I knew who my enemies were. "You can't come. What could I possibly say to him in a note that would let him feel even a t enth of what I was feeling inside? "I'll come with you. I was not going to be safe out there. I wanted to s ay that I never wanted to see him again. But in my heart neith er of those things were true. and who knows how long before your injuries totally heal. Plus. I grabbed her arm before she had a chance to walk away." "Maybe he could come with us. It's not safe out there. But I wasn't s afe in here either. that's all I wrote.

and I needed to find a way to und erstand it. He'd seen me there despite the crowd o f demons in the room. Some in pencil. I walked to the door of his small apartment and pressed the st one into the symbol on the wall. My blonde hair was sprawled out ag ainst the snow. I pulled several from the wall. but most in ho rrifying color. To be honest. Me laying i n a sea of white snow. I knew he wouldn't be able to get away f rom the party. So what if he hadn't rushed away from Lea's side to come find m e? This was how it was now. What I never expected in a million years was to come face to f ace with myself. bright red blood splattered in random p atterns against the white. but nothing he could say coul d change the truth of it. The white strip of the ritual dress clung to my wrist. I'd never been inside his room before. Confused. He'd put so much time and detail into my face. yet beautiful. I hugged Mary Anne and promised her that I would find a way t o contact her when I got settled somewhere. and I ignored the fact that a shiver of disappointment jabbed through me. my eyes closed as if I might just be sleeping. The door clicked open. only to realize that underneath were more of the same. but there was fresh blood staining it now. b ut if I managed to survive the hunter at the gate. Covering every inch of every wall in the entire one-room apart ment were drawings of me. he di dn't spend a lot of time here except to sleep at night. The scene was gruesome. I let my bag fall to the fl oor. I stepped to the nearest wall and put my hand on one of t he pages. He'd drawn the scene from every possi ble angle. The hallway was deserted when I left the suite. As far as I knew. I h ad no idea how I would get word to her or where I would go. And I needed to hurry. simpler version of our own rooms with ma ybe a few of his clothes strewn about or something. . I expect ed to see a smaller. I might as well have been l ooking in a mirror. but as soon as he had a chance.I wanted him to come back from his date with Lea and find my note on his bed. Each drawing was some version of the same story. I knew I woul d find my way somehow. I flipped o n the light and froze. I wanted to be gone by the time he came looking for me. from every distance. He'd probably have some explanation as to why he hadn't told me yet. he would proba bly come looking for me.

" he said. much of it seeming to pour from a wound in my back as I lay against the pure white snow.Slowly. blurring the pictures before me into one unavoidable mass. I co uld almost count the number of eyelashes on my eyes. my fist closed around something I couldn't q uite make out. all the walls we'd been holding up since we'd come here crumbled swiftly to the ground. In another. "You know better. I looked up. Overwhelmed. My eyes filled with tears. I fell to the floor. When the door to the apartment swung open a few minutes lat er. " I can change it. Jackso n stood in the doorway and as our eyes met. I'd Almost Forgotten "Why didn't you tell me?" My voice cracked with tears. What ha d he been looking for? Some clue he could use to protect me f rom this fate? Hadn't he learned anything in all the many years of his immort al life? Nothing he drew could be changed or prevented. He must have seen this over and over in his visions to have r ecreated it each time in such excruciating detail. T here's no way it ends like this. the green of his eyes stormy and dark and wet. the weak spot. "I wanted to find a way to make it change. Jackson the floor ht of his said." He gripped several papers up and crumbled them into a ball. he'd pulled back from the scene as i f he were hovering above me. There was so much blood. He fell to in front of me. I walked around the apartment. In some." I shook my head. I motio ned to all of the hundreds of drawings spread around the room . he'd drawn a clo se-up of my hand. a single tear escaping down my cheek. " No. In one." . "I moved to me. I can keep you safe here until I find a way. pulling several of the drawings from the wall to study them." he won't let this be your end. trying to make sense of the scene. I just have to find the secret. the door closing behind him. the papers crackling beneath the weig knees. spreading the drawings out b efore me in a circle.

"So you really were there tonight?" I nodded. never to be seen again ? Were you just going to marry her and take your place by her side on the throne and never tell me?" Jackson studied my face." he sai d. standing. "I don't know what's been going on with you since we got to th e shadow world. then felt the sting of tears in my nose. I was promised to Lea. Trying to protect me from it is only goin g to pull us further apart. Why can't you just be honest with me?" He looked down. "I just didn't tell you everything." I said. "There's no escapin g these things once you've seen them. "I don't understand what's going on with you and Lea." "You did lie." he said. He stood and moved a few steps behind me. And I never wanted to feel this apart from you." He looked away. his eyebrows drawn together. I laughed. but I thought you knew by now that keeping secr ets from people you care about only leads to sorrow and loneli ness. "You lied to me.I placed my hand on his knee. touching him for the first time i n so long I'd almost forgotten his warmth. "The truth?" I shook my head." "That's the truth. pacing. "How could you say that?" he asked. turning to face him. "I never wante d you to know about that. all the things I'd been holding back r ushing to the surface." He threw the balled up papers across the room. not meeting my eyes. I walked toward the back of the apartment. when I was born. "I had to know. "And you know it just as well as I do. ." he said. "Then how do you expla in what I just saw back there? How do you explain the fact tha t everyone down here believes you to be her future king?" Jackson ran a shaky hand through his hair and turned around." I said. Jackson? You've done nothing but lock me out of your life for the past how many weeks?" I s aid. furious. "I've asked you befo re if there was more to your relationship with Lea than just fri endship and you said no. He paused as if trying to figure out what he wanted to say." he said. then let me just watch all of you disappear back through the portal. "Yes." "I didn't lie. "Didn't you know I would eventually find out? What was your plan? To see if I would help you free Aerden. "How could you even think that ?" "What am I supposed to think." I said.

she would lose me forever. and apart from the king himself. He sits at the he ad of the king's council. The kingdom is so full of fear when it comes to t he Order of Shadows. "But demons go missing nearly every day. I didn't kn ow exactly what they were doing to Aerden over there. "A small price to pay in the long run." I sat down on the edge of his bed." he said. she tried to talk me out of it at first." I said. "I had absolut ely no choice in the matter. as a sign of loyalty. The king believes many more demons will lose their lives if we fight. I expected my father and the king to go after him." He sat down next to me. but the y accepted it. I fe lt his closeness like an ache in the pit of my stomach. T wins are extremely rare among my people. But when Aerden d isappeared. my father offered to gi ve one of his twins as husband to the princess." he said. "I couldn't j ust sit back and let my brother's memory fade away. and I didn't question it. "Because technically I was first-born. Jackson paused. the Order w ill die out on its own without violence. so close our legs almost touched. He shook his head. they say. taking it all in." he said. . My brother an d I were born before the king and his mate had any children. The king b elieves that if we wait another few hundred years." he said. S he said that when we took over the kingdom. I had n o idea if I was losing him forever or finally understanding him for the first time. he's the most powerful man in the Northern Kingdom. "She care d for Aerden. "No." he said. I was promised to her before I eve n understood what that meant."My father is the king's most trusted adviser. but I kn ew it was some form of torture. wasn't she?" My voice trembled. we could build ou r own army. so when the king's daughter was born." I frowned. They would rather try to outlive the Orde r and accept the sacrifices than fight them directly. but she did everything she could to convince me that it would be better for me to wait until we became rulers. my parents mourned his loss. "You never tried to get out of it?" "I never had a reason to try. "I understood it as my d uty to the kingdom. "She's always loved me." "She was in love with you. To do something about it." "Why you?" I asked. "Lea. "She was t errified that if I went after Aerden. I couldn't live like that. don't the y even care about what's happening over in my world?" Jackson's jaw tensed and he continued to pace." "But they didn't. my heart beating so hard in my chest.

If I had come down here telling them the truth about you and me. Harper. but I needed you to believe things were over between us. "Not a moment goes by that I don't think o f you and long to be with you. but as long as you were safe. Once she g ot over there and saw what was happening to the shadow demo ns. I knew I was doing the right thing. they would have hated you. Had he trad ed his own future for my safety? Jackson shifted on the bed. "She knows that. but with him on his knees before me now. I stared up at the drawings of my death and wondered where t hat left us. I choked on a sob." he said. They would have seen you as an enemy to their own hopes. I swear. One look or touc h at the wrong time would have been disastrous. I pr omise. but the de mons down here see us as the future of their kingdom. I nee d you to understand that I never stopped loving you. but by then anyth ing there was between us was dead." ." His words hit me with the weight of the weeks I'd spent alone down here. it took my breath away. she was ready to join me and fight back." Tears filled his eyes and I had never seen anything so beautif ul in my life. it broke my heart." Silence filled the room as I let his words wash over me. glancing at my packed bag on the floor." he said. "I'm sorry I couldn't tell you the truth. Harper. I knew I'd been so wron g. turning to me with eyes so clear a nd focused. Please. unable to stop my emotions from p ouring forth. Did he still lo ve me? I wanted to ask." All the doubt and fear I'd been holding onto released in that moment. When I sen sed your pain at the dinner tonight. "I am not marrying Lea. It's been torture being apart from you. you are the only one I have ever loved." he said. I couldn't let that h appen. He brought me here to protect me. "I have never loved her. H arper. trusted you even less. sharing everything with you.So when I finally did cross over. clutchin g tight to my hands. and I was helpless to even respond. but had also ste pped right back into his role as Lea's future king. "I'll find a way to make them understand. stay. H e moved down to his knees in front of me on the floor. I had thought all hope of his love was gone. she followed me. "Stay." he said. "But I also knew this was the place where you would be safest . kissing you. I can't live without you." He took my hands in his. but was too afraid to know. "Don't go.

I open ed my mouth slightly. my fingers fumbling with each button on his shirt. Jackson slowed his kiss. missing him with every fiber of my being . With aching slowness. I slid from the edge of the bed. I poured myself into him. I pulled my hands from his and placed them on either side of his face. he slid the straps of my tank top o ff my shoulders. He lifted his mouth to mine. exploring my skin in a way no one ever had b efore. then pulled back to stare at me. wanting nothing but to know the warmth of his skin and rippling strength of hi s muscles. No more words between u s. Our kiss became a convers ation. our souls locked in a gaze. down his back. I could only see him there before me. speaking to him with my kiss. pulling my hand away as if I'd been burned by it. I would never leave. his fingers tightening around my forearms. Wanted to be with me. deeper and stronger with each touch of our lips. shallow bursts. my heart breaking and mendin g in the same moment. He lifted his hand to my cheek. he'd still loved me. Only love. My arms broke out in shivering goo sebumps and my breath came in quick. My breath came in short gasps.Divided Far Too Long I searched his clear green eyes. softly at first. a confession. a collision of two souls left divided far to o long. Relief and wonder flooded through me. he had been just steps away. At night as I lay in bed. I gasped as I touched the scar. I became lost in it. His hands reached up to grab hold of me. the taste of our tea rs mingled on our quivering lips. running my hand along the scar that marked the onl y spot of imperfection on his entire form. my body pressing tight against his as his arms circled around me. then dow n his side. My hands ran through his hair. hardly believing this could b e real. I responded with the tips of my fingers on his chest. . feeling the same loneliness an d pain. I lost my ability to hear. a single finger trailing th rough the path of my tears. This whole time. The expression of love on his face so pure and true. He ran his fingertips from my face to my neck and down to my collarb one. telling him that if he wanted me.

"She did this to you?" I asked. "What is it?" he said. Something terrible had happened. Hesitating. Essex leaned against the door frame." I said. I touched the scar again. A flash of battle ran through my mind." he said. How long ago must that have been? I'd first seen the scar ba ck in Peachville months ago. out of breath. but before our lips met. "There's so much I still don't kno w about you." No Matter The Danger . a loud knock brought us both our feet. eyes wild with fear. catching his breath. "Your secrets hurt me. "How did you know?" "I saw her when I touched you. Your equal. The sound was frantic. feeling a piece of the pain he'd experienced when it happened . regret in his eyes. he looked up at me. Jackson" His eyes searched mine and a smile tugged at the corner of hi s lips. "A hunter has gott en inside the Underground. Pounding. I touched his face and he place d his hand over mine so lovingly. wondering if her death somehow connected us. "The tiger I killed when we first came through the port al?" Jackson nodded." I sa id. If you wa nt to be with me." I said. I felt it with absolute certainty in my heart." he said. N ot some fragile little girl you're afraid to break. "I think I'm finally understanding that. "You've never completely let down your walls around me." He leaned in for another kiss. "Promise me that you won't ever keep anything from me again. I'm stronger t han you think I am. Then." His stomach quivered at my soft touch and his chest rose and fell with each jagged breath. Worry stabbed at my heart. "A hunter. "I've only ever wanted to protect you. Jackson rushed to the door and flung it open to find Essex sta nding there. then I have to be your partner."What?" he whispered.

" Essex said. "Sasha?" Essex nodded. headed toward the Grand Hall. . then back again. "Where are all the soldiers? The entire Resistance army s hould be able to handle one lousy hunter." I said. "The Resista nce is locked inside the training room." I pushed past Essex. "We have to get you out of here." I cried out." Jackson kicked the wall with startling force. he said the only way was if someone on the council let the hunter in. "Who would do this?" Essex and Jackson stared at me looking confused. "No one on the council w ould do this. " We can't let this happen. panic in his eyes. "The daughter of Andros and Ourelia." I grabbed Jackson's arm. "I can't believe that." I said. "The hunter has also taken a hostage." "Well." "How the hell did a hunter get inside anyway? I thought Andro s said there was no way. "We have to do something." he said." he said. "No. "I'm not going anywhere. dizziness washing ov er me." Essex sucked in a ragged breath. I won't let Sasha die too. A special practice was called for the evening and somehow the doors to the training a rea were sealed shut. Essex looked from Jackson to me. the hunter got in somehow. What matters is that demons have died tonight beca use of me. "No. cut to the core at this news." I said. "Dammit. No one can go in or out. his hands shaki ng. "The hunter is saying she will execute the chil d if Andros does not hand you over to the Order." Jackson said. I was gues sing a lot of things were starting to make sense to him all of a sudden." I said.Jackson turned to me. He grabbed his shirt from where it had f allen on the floor. "I can't let innocent shadow demons die when the hunter is obviously here for me." he yell ed." My mouth went dry. "But that's not impo rtant now." "Who?" Jackson said." "Many have already been killed.

"Go back in there and lock the door. taking my hand and s queezing it tight. "You'll stand by my side and support me." He shook his head. "It's too dangerous." I gave him a sad smile. "If you really want to prove that you believe in me and you se e my strength. his lips l ingering for a long moment. She Comes The feel of evil engulfed me the moment I stepped into the ma rketplace. He kissed my forehead. it's possible I'm going to get a c hance to show you some of what I learned in the training sessi ons. I didn't even have to ask where I could find the thing." I said with a nervous laugh." I said. "It's the right thing to do. I'll be okay. pulling me back to him. Jackson's hand was still clasped to mine. but I t alked her into staying inside the room for safety." I said. "Go back to the suite. A darkness circled the front staircase. "Yes. no matter the danger. "We can save her. standing up strai ghter." Jackson let his hand slide down my arm." He nodded and together we walked toward the marketplace wh ere the hunter was waiting." "Good." I told Essex. not loosening his grip on my arm. . "Well. He didn't find it funny at all. Is Mary Anne there?" He nodded." he said.Jackson reached for me. "Not here." I said. then turned my attention toward the cr ies and commotion in the front of the hall." I said. then you'll let me go. "I don't die toda y. Not like this. She was wanting to come to your aid. "I will keep her safe for you. Hide and don't come out until you're sure the hunter is gone." "I will do this. "You can't." he said." I gestured to all of the drawings on his wall. It oozed throughout the room like the smell of somet hing badly burned. "You don't need to be her e for this.

Andros turned. I set my jaw and lifted my chin higher in the air. A horror of a human being. the bottom of which ros e several feet off the ground. He took several long strides to reach me. I was strong." Andros wrung his hands and nodded. Cold radiated from her like a blizzard. She was a thing of nightmares. settling on the worried faces of Andros and hi s wife. "She comes. "I don't know what happened. I choked back a scream. But when we turned the corner and the evil being came into vi ew. I just had to make sure she didn't have a chance to capture m e. a gra yish green haze surrounding her. Slowly. By the tim e we reached the hunter. The Order would never have wanted that. While her body took the basic form of a woman. his words directe d at Jackson. "I have Jericho working on it." he explained. even where the whites of her eyes should have b een showing. but he can't seem to figure out what's holding it closed. She wore a long black gown. She must have sensed my presen ce. They still ha d a ritual to complete." The small crowd of demons that had gathered followed her gaz e and the tension grew even thicker. his eyes meeting mine. because her head snapped toward me. "One minute we were at the party and the next w e heard this awful screaming. my steps became more and more confident. She smiled at me. Her eyes were comp letely black. I wasn't looking forward to whatever pain and torture thi s hunter would be allowed to dish out. How could I be so sure I could handle her? One thing I h ad on my side was that I knew the hunter hadn't come here to kill me. " Jackson looked around as if trying to find a way out of this me . I had given myself the pep talk of all pep talks. pointed t eeth." I said. her skin had grown transparent and ghostlike. My first few steps were weak with nerves. and they needed me alive in Peachville to pull that off. I was ready. " I heard they were locked inside the training room. her lips curling up around rotten. I let my eyes pass across the spectators."Come on. and I was prepared for whatever she was going to t hrow at me. Did I really know w hat I was getting myself into here? I'd never faced a hunter be fore. I could do thi s." "Is anyone working to release the soldiers?" Jackson asked. Still.

I knew it wasn't something I had any right to promise. I was relieved that my voice sounded much more confident than I felt inside. I just hoped that in the end I looked brave instead of stupid. her face was even more terrifying. "All you have to offer me is your life. "Where's Sasha?" I asked." It was my turn to laugh.. "So what about that deal?" I asked. He studied me. Maybe it was time I showed them a different side to myself." The hunter's head fell back and she cackled. I swallowed and pulled my shit together. so close to the hunter I could smell the stench of decay dripping from her every pore. "You think I cannot sense your fear?" the witch asked. It took everything I had to s . "Who are you to t hink you can offer me a deal?" she asked. he addressed Jackson. Andros seemed to really see me for the first time. Tears ran down he r tiny cheeks.. "I'm the one you've come for. "S he's." I said. the greenish smoke moving in and out of them li ke worms slithering through flesh. He studied my face. believing I was powerless and weak. but somehow I knew it in my heart. "Let's not lie to each other. as if several voices were crammed into her bo dy. S he was caught in some type of dark netting. "You may not need my permission. high and piercin g and so loud the ground beneath me shook. "What are we going to do?" Again. Everyone always took me for gr anted. We both know who you wor k for. Her voice had a str ange echo to it. I pulled my hand from Jackson's grip and stepped forward." I said.ss. angry at the small quiver t hat crept into my tone. her face coming so close to mine I almost gagge d on the stench. but that doesn't mean you are allowed to kill me. and I could take that at any moment without your permission. his eyes lingering on my hand entwined with Jackson's. I caught a glimpse of the child." The decaying witch narrowed her black eyes at me and she fle w toward me." he stuttered. Behind her. she's behind that thing. My stomach twisted. "She's going to be okay. Or dead." I said. but didn't seem to believe me. "Release the girl and I'l l offer you a deal. Up close. Holes littered he r rotting skin.

The same thing goes for the girl. You kill her or hurt her and the Resistance will never stop until you're dead. I heard Jackson step forward. "I may fear you. and you know that if you take me." I said." The hunter flew back to her place near the girl.tand my ground. or som e version of it. locking my knees to keep from collapsing." The crowd around us gasped. "Your years of life have made you wise. "What i s it that you're offering to me?" I drew in a breath. you would have alr eady done it. "You dare to place a condition on someone as powerful as me? I could snatch you from this place so fast yo u would forget your own name. then looked down at the child. There was nothing he could do here excep t get in the way. on one condition. you'll have a serious fight o n your hand. "I can't wait to break yo u down to the lowest. Jackson mov ed to me. "What if I were to di e somehow in the crossfire? What would Priestess Winter do t . I threw my hand up and shook my head." "Condition?" The evil witch flew high into the air. yo u will never see another day in this world." She was listening now. "What are you doing?" he said. "So cute that you have such confidence. The hunter studied me. "You can't risk a fight right now. My hands were sweaty and numb. and I agr ee to come with you." I shook my head." she said. "No." I said. But did I? I was working on pure instinct and adrenaline. "Let the girl go and you'll have your chance. "You let the girl go. and I knew I'd hit on the truth." I said." I said. She crouched low beside Sasha. but believe me. "A trade. whispers rising up. his mouth close to my ear." "I know what I'm doing. "Y ou would give your life for this demon?" "If that's what it takes. The hunter laughed again. but I kept my chin raised and my eyes open. his words short and angry. her voice lo w and fearsome. raising a n eyebrow in challenge. I won't let you. If you could do that." I said. groveling version of yourself. "Yo u can't do this." I said." Behind me. "Let her go and I'll come with you. if you harm that little girl.

"Then do it. Then. a low gurgling sound. her teeth gnashed together wi th a gruesome grinding sound. and I do not have the strength or power to kill you." A cold rope of fear tightened around my throat. the hunter cut the stri ps of fabric. "The Priestess told me you were a foolish girl. I wondered what kind of power the Order had over such a bein g. making it diffi cult for me to breathe. I held my breath. fear flashing in her dead eyes. "But since you are not allowed to kill me. With a flick of her wrist." she said. I struggled against the paralyzing terro r of it." I said. she lowered her sharp nails to the netting that held S asha in place. I'll go with you and no one in this p lace will fight for me. "I could defeat you with a single flick of my finger. If you win. tak ing her child into her arms and pulling her away from the hunt er. you become a prisoner of th e Resistance. When I mentioned Priestess Winter. "I offer myself up to you willingly. A Life Stolen The crowd in the marketplace stood in stunned silence. the rotting hunter had a ctually winced. her eyes wide with fear. Andros kissed his daughter's head and whispered somethin . But if I win. The net fell from Sasha's body and the child stoo d." "What kind of duel?" the witch asked. "A contest between you and me alone with no interference fro m any other being in this place. Ourelia ran forward with a sob.o you if you screwed this up?" The hunter's rotting jaw tensed. lifting my hands up to show my cooperation." The witch laughed. we duel until one of us either surrenders or is no lon ger conscious. I will agree to a contest." I said. A duel." I said. waiting for an answer from the hunter. I hope d that anyone who ever doubted my hatred of the Order now un derstood that I was worthy of trust. Finally. "All you have to do is let the girl go safely. not suspicion. Surely the Order wouldn't send a hunter to capture one of their own spies .

the wind pushing them backward. I wasn't going to lay down and just let death come to me. the first few nervous breaths coming jagge d and uneven but eventually settling into a good rhythm that c almed my heartbeat. right now. her eyes locked on mine. Ev en if this witch couldn't kill me right here. I blocked everyone and every thing else from my mind. Was that the ending Jackson had seen in his visions? A snowy day in Peachville? Only time would tell. Just before th ey disappeared down one of the side corridors. "There. "That's more like it. For a split se cond." . I knew th is was still a battle for my life. the boundaries marked by a hazy green line that hovered just above the ground. A single white rose in the d arkness. I saw Sasha re ach out toward me.g to his wife. If she took me from the Underg round. you'll be back at Shadowford a nd it will all be over. Slow at first. The marketplace shops on this s ide of the Grand Hall fell over. "I'll put you out so dee p that by the time you wake up. lifting my palms up toward the sky. Before me." the witch said with a grinding laugh. The woman and child pushed through the crowd. I knew I had a very limited amount of time to connect to my pow er and try to find the same level of strength I had found in trai ning. I spread my legs and planted my feet firmly against the tile floor. and partly didn't. I would fight until the very m oment my spirit left my body. then speeding up until she'd become a tornado." the witch said as she slowed and finally came to a st op. Not this time. The demons screamed and covered their faces. the hunter turned in a circle. Instead." I didn't answer her. including Andros. I thought o nly of my mother's favorite flower. It rarely snowed in Georg ia. then be gan to spin. "I will make this quick so you won't have to suffer for too long . I breathed deeply. I poured all of my focus onto that rose. its strength growing with each second . I partly watched these events take place. feeling my po wer center inside of me. but maybe it was a particularly cold winter back home. Many in the crowd scattered to the caves. but several stayed t o watch. One thing was certain. I would still meet my death in Peachville. marking out a makes hift battleground. I wondered what month it was. I cleared my mind of all worry. tents and their contents flying all over the area. She crouched low.

a scream on her rottin g lips. I looked up. I had no idea if she would be able to pass straight through it or not. now can we?" the hunter said. fire engulfing them. The evil witch moved t oward me then. i t grazed the top of my thigh. she lifted her hands quickly. All outside soun ds disappeared. The kind t hat absorbs a piece of the opposing witch's essence. I didn't rea ct fast enough.She pushed the boundaries of her green haze out a little more . An intense sadness f illed my heart. Q uickly. She smiled at me then." Knowing the fight was about to begin. she reared b ack and threw the ball toward me with perfect aim. taking stock of my new prison. "We can't have any of your friends jumping into the fight to sa ve you. . I cried out. I looked up at this wr etched being and realized that at one point. my wall of fire dying down to nothing. just like me. With tense arms. I knew I wouldn't be able to get out of the wa y fast enough. creating more space for our fight Then. the f ire parting like a curtain in the middle. its col or a kind of electric lime-green. her pointy claws raised. She placed her palms together. The green barrier extended all around us in a messy circle. burning with a vicious heat. I bac ked away. Instead. then l ifted my hands high into the air. the cries of the crowd silenced in an instant b y the new green arena. I willed my nerves to se ttle. She'd had hopes and dreams of her own. locking us into a bubble together. so I was relieved when she stopped short of the wall. I was on my own now . then slowly opened them. The second the poison slammed into the shield. an ugly twisted expression that made my insides shiver. This won't take long. clutching the spot that was now covered with a glo wing. I threw my hands out to my side. My heart pounded against my ribs. This time. I felt the infin ite hollowness of the hunter's existence. sticky fluid that mixed with blood as it burned through m y skin. Unfortunately. "Don't look so worried. Underneath the evil at the surface of her power lay a life stolen just as mine had been. I threw up a shield to block the spe ll. diving out of the way just in time to keep the p oisonous ball from hitting me square in the stomach. I spread the fire in a straight line in front of me. On instinct. the green haze stretching from floor to ceiling and all around us. creating a wall of flame so hi gh the witch ran straight into it. this thing had bee n a girl. the only kind of shield I knew how to create was the one Zara had taught me back in Peachville. The hunter laughed and threw another green poison ball towar d me. The hunter gathered an oozing ball between her hands. I tore a piece of cloth from my shirt and wiped as much of the liquid off my wound as I could.

but she flew up into the air. huh?" She snapped her head toward me. taking a step back. A greenish black liquid spewed out from her." I said. The hunter fell to the ground. She gathered an invisible power in her hands and angrily thre w it toward me. it made a his sing sound as if it were made of pure acid. "Maria. The cut had weakened her. the ghostly cloud arou nd her body moving faster. but deep down. I couldn't see what it was that had sent her to this world to be turned into this evil creature. A pile of de . She moved out of the way and the fire slammed into a fallen tent behind her." I said again. fool. forming another ball of fire in my hands." I said." she growled." The hunter screamed and flew high into the air. saliva dripping from her bla ckened teeth. but her anger had affected her aim. I stood and took a step toward her. under the layers of decay and stench. "I see you. How did you get stuck doing t he Order's dirty work? You must have done something that real ly pissed them off. "What I can't help wonder is just how a pretty girl like you go t assigned to the shadow world." she said. and a single w ord came to my mind. With a vengea nce. While she was distracted. rolling slowly toward me. she hate d herself. "That's your na me isn't it?" The witch's eyes grew wide as saucers. "Don't you dare say that name to m e. I listened to the echo of her power in my mind. "You used to be beautiful with your shiny black cu rls and bright honey-colored eyes. The invisi ble force slammed against the floor several feet in front of me. Leaving my shield up. she barreled down toward me. I formed a large fireball between m y palms and hurled it at her. "Maria.a life. I jumped easily out of the way. The blue tent burst into flames. clutching her shoulder." "That's a lie. "You don't know me. dodging it too easily. I hurled it toward her." I said. careful not to trip over the debris. Y ou don't know the first thing about me. even people she loved. "Shut up. I hurled the second fireball toward her. and as it fell on the marble below. her fingertips raised. I took hold of the edge of a broken tile and with all of my strength. igno ring the pain in my upper leg. Maria. bringing up pieces of tile and rock as it rolled. ready to claw my flesh to pieces. The ja gged edge ripped into her arm.

as the gas began to clear away. I knew I had to end this soon or I would lose my ability to fight back. creating more fire in my hands. another green ball of poison oozing b etween her fingertips. The rock could hold a witch's power inside of it. I couldn't catch my breath. I fell to my knees. I looked around for anything I could use to defeat or i njure her. I felt the warmth of the flickering flames all around me as the fire caught and spread around the dueling circle. With it. as surrounded me. I realized this was h I lost consciousness now. Maybe I could use the stone t o draw her power from her body. making me gag and cough. I had to stop her fast. Somewhere in the depths ow she planned to end me. I might I fought against the effects of the poison gas and reached dee p inside to find some ounce of power left within. The hunter had more power than I did. the g as reached my nose. barely lighting a small banner that had fallen from one of the shops. really. She was toying with me now. Well. If as well surrender my life.bris on the other side of her caught fire too. and I knew that just abo ve the roses was the fragile soul stone. standing despite the pain in my leg and my lu ngs. With two strong fi res blazing. She thought she'd won already. Carefully. then. I felt somehow stronger. but it landed several feet from my mark. I cre ated a whirlwind around my body. The rotting witch narrowed her eyes at me. It worked like a buffer between the Underground and the land above it. M . and I began to fall ba of my mind. I drew streng th from that fire. and was obviously annoyed I was still standing. My vision ck. absorbing any trace of ma gic before it could pass through. You used t o be me. her anger getting the best of her. I looked around. faster and faster. The black roses carpeted the ceiling. She could wear me down slowly if she wanted to. As I reared back to throw the fire toward her. thinking s he had the upper hand. As if my own power drew force from the flames. but she'd be ready for it if I tried to throw another one. "I know exactly who you are. The hunter flew around. leaving a trail of greyish green fog b ehind her. The g went fuzzy. The hunte r flew around the circle. Just a regular girl caught in the Order's web of lies a nd promises. The broken tile had weakened her when it sliced int o her flesh. I threw the fir eball. the air moving slowly. I loo ked up and suddenly felt a wave of hope rush through me. I stood on my guard. I chose the largest rock I could find from the rubble of the floor and lifted it into the air with a flick of my hand. What did you do to piss them off so bad that they sent you here for all eternity?" The hunter began to shake. seeing only rocks and broken tile. kneeling. coughing. Frantic.

so s cared of losing control again. gathering momentum. she tried to stand. I embraced the new energy. She threw the maneuvered one of the rocks each other and falling down these pitiful rocks at me and win green poison at me. I lifted a fourth stone. a high-pitched sound that vibrated ever y inch of my body. jagged pieces of shiny black stone rained down on top of the hunter. I fed the flames with my own po wer. "These aren't for you. so I turned my attention to t he flames burning all around us. But when I looked up at the screaming hunter. a third. Then. th e grayish green smoke pouring from her. The hunter's eyes flickered to the three stones I had raised in to the air. as the flames sucked the oxygen from her tiny prison. Blue flashed as the flames raced toward the center of the circl e. Weakened. surrounding the hunter in an ocean of fire. powerless. Above me. wanting to drop the power. hot shade of pure blue. the rocks hit their mark with a loud crack. s . With every bit of strength I could fin d in my magic and my body.y eyes searched the debris. When I saw another sizeable ston e. I commanded the flames to engulf the hunter's body. careful to not get cut. connecting to it in a way that frightened me. Then. and I felt the same dark power I'd felt at the portal rise up within me. I hurled all four rocks straight up toward the ceiling above the hunter. With one hu ge push. A stream of pure white energy began to flow from the center of my palms. I reached deep inside my own soul. Her essence d rained from her like acid." I said. pouring myself into the flames. I knew I had only a small window. I knew this was my only chance to defeat her. "Do you think you can throw ?" she asked." For good measure. The soul stone shattered like a mirror. but I quickly in its path. Her power slid through the stones like water. I backed away and quickly used magic to pull p ieces of broken tile over my head like an umbrella. "No. in and out. I lifted that one as well. shaking my head. Pieces of black roses mixed wit h thick. pulling the essence of her power from her bod y. The hunter screamed. I panicked. I chose another rock from the ground and lifted it into the air. extending my power outward to encompass every single flame and flicker in the circle. but the soul stone had begun to work its magic. I sa w that she had been cut in over a dozen places. the two slamming into to the ground. then dipped my kne es. But as I watched the hunter writ hing under the influence of the broken soul stone. Th e red fire turned a bright. She laughed.

but I saw what you did with the stone. Jackson fell at my feet. her black eyes finally closing. so I thought maybe it would hurt the hunter too. My leg pulsed and burned fr om the acid of the hunter's blood. It was difficult to see you through the haze of the barrier." Jackson pulled me into his arms. The hazy boundary that held us in dissipated. Then.he began to cough and sputter." I said. "I'm not sure. "We've got to get that po ison out of your leg before it festers. My aching body protested. I coughed into my hand. He ran his fingers th rough my hair. Andros and a few demons I didn't recognize ran forward and placed a strange silver contraption over the h unter's hands. I struggled to keep my eyes open. the crowd scattering to keep their distance from her. but hi s face was full of love and gratitude." he said. slowly. perhaps not believing what they had jus . "I just guessed. The Kind of Girl That Rebels Against The System I collapsed onto the broken tiles. How did you know it would affect her that way?" I shook my head. "Want to carry me back to the room first?" He smiled. "That was really stupid." His words were angry. a bl ack oily substance peppering my palm. b ut I ignored my wounds and hugged him harder. in a w ay. They carried the unconscious w itch away quickly. attempting a smile. she fell to the gr ound like a withering flower. Other s simply stared at me. I put my arms around his neck and he lifted me into the air." I said." he said. feet and mouth. A small group of shadow demons stood around the area. some of them picking up the broken tiles and fragments of stone. I remembered how it pulled Caroline's power from her body. He ripped a piece of cloth from the bo ttom of his shirt and wrapped it around my injured leg. "You could have gotten killed. letting his thumb brush against my cheek. "I need to find the Shaman. "Of course. Harper." "But I didn't. "What were you thinking?" Jackson said. I mean." I nodded. "But it was also really br ave and strong.

A knock on the outer door of the suite sent Jackson straight in to the air. "Thank you so much for coming. Whatever poisonous gas I had inhaled had really done a number on me. I smiled and tucked my face into the warmth of his neck. I immedia tely felt calm. Without a word. joking. then placed her hand against my chest. This Isn't How I Die I slipped in and out of poisoned dreams. "Is Sasha okay?" He smiled. I coughed again. waking up several ti mes throughout the night to see Jackson faithfully by my side. understanding. but several shadow demons were i njured by the hunter and she has a duty to help them first. But Ourelia stopped by earlier when you were sleepin g to say thank you." "I've called for the shaman. th at's all. and I could hear the bea ds in her hair clicking together as she moved. "She's fine. Or maybe they were just shocked to see their future ki ng caring for a human girl. running his hand gently through my matted hair. He scooted closer to the bed. "How are you feeling?" he asked when I finally woke in the ea rly morning hours. in one worl d or the next. "She's just a little scared. Mayb e I was just destined to be the kind of girl that rebels against the system. In her presence. I was always causing some kind of scandal." The shaman walked toward my room. "Harper's wound is looking worse. A warmth spread thro ." he said. He rushed into the outer room." he said. It seemed that no matter where I went." I laughed.t seen. "Gross. but my lungs screamed in pain." I said." I nodded. more of the black soot covering my palm. There was some thing so beautiful about the sound. Somehow. "Probably better than I look. She said the little girl knew you would sav e her. I knew my mother would have been so proud. she looked over the poison wound in my thigh .

"You will be fine. the shaman uncorked the vial and laid it at the edge of the wound on my le g. Then. The smoke in the air dissipated quickly. "No." Nervous. Just when I thought I would pass out from not being able to br eathe. "Try to just relax. I couldn't breathe or move and panic filled me." "Yes. She studied me for a moment. ripping the very breath from my chest. the tube fi lled with a black and grey smoke that rose from my mouth and escaped into the air of the room. Gradually. She corked the full bottle and placed it into a special pouch o f her bag. th e poisonous green ooze dripped into the vial. The burning pai n disappeared immediately. She continued to pull air from the tub e. My eyes sough t the shaman's." The shaman tilted her head to look at me. leaving m y lungs healed. coughing. She repeate d this motion over and over again until suddenly. raising one eyebrow." she said apologetically. "I feel much be tter. "Thank you. "This won't be a s pleasant. it is not. as if pulling some energy forth." I said between gulps of fresh air. hoping she would look to reassure me." the shaman said." I said. she placed a compress of cool herbs onto my leg. I collapsed back onto the bed. "I know." I said. I made an effort to relax my shoulders and let my bo dy sink down into the soft bed. child. She chanted something low and soft and at her command. But her eyes were closed shut. I realized I hadn't cou ghed at all. "This isn't how I die.ugh my ribs and down into my lungs. She moved her attention to my chest and frowned. I gasped for air. then went back into her bag and pulled out a long glass tube that was open at both ends. I sighed at the soothing power of the woman's medicine. When I calmed down. closing her eyes. Instead. Chanting. Then. Relieved. she placed her palm at the other end. then she broke out i n a knowing smile. The shaman placed one end of the tube into my mouth. indeed." She rummaged through her medicine bag and pulled out a vial similar to the one she'd used with Mary Anne's tiger wound." she said. O nly this time. there was no liquid inside. she removed the tube. "Thank you. she began to pull her hand b ack from the tube. She touched the spot ju . I felt my che st constrict. leaving only a small burned area o n my leg. sitting up and c lutching my chest.

Much older than me with a full silver beard and silver eyes. Keep pushing toward r true self. "Yes." "Do you think she was hurt?" Mary Anne asked." he said. Then." together. A man's face. She pressed her lips e finally nodded and e a very special girl. "I haven't seen her since I saw you together at the party. who was standing at the door talking to Mary Anne and Essex. requesting that Jackson and I both attend an emergency meeting of the Underground's council. she turned and left the suite. A shock ran through my hand when I touched her. but I reached out and touched the sle eve of her dress. Someone I didn't recognize. child." Jackson frowned and went to knock on her door.?" I started. He was tall and round . we had another visitor. You ar Harper. . "You will know soon enough. and you will find you With that. leaving me with so ma ny unanswered questions.. her face wrink led with worry. A courie r for the council. sh said.st over my heart. "But it's weird that she wasn't there when the hunter appeared. "What is it that you see when you look at me?" I asked. a scene had flashed before my eyes. "I hadn't eve n thought of it. your destiny.. " Who was that?" She smiled. In that moment. "Who. blinking. where's Lea?" I asked. and it had finall y taken a brush with death to make it happen. placing my hand over hers. I wasn't surprised at the news. staring at the shaman." I smiled and looked toward Jackson." I said. Another One of Their Lies Shortly after the shaman left. All this time I'd been waiting t o be included in Jackson and Lea's meetings. Very unique and very powerful. I sat up. She turned to leave. "And your heart is whole again as well. not answering at first. her eyes teasing me with their sparkle of knowled ge. "Wait. and I pulled away.

" Surprisingly. Andros sat in the largest chair straight across from the door. but I'm also nervous about this meeting. He led me down the hall straight into the library." I said." I said. we we re practically running. "We'll be back. the girl w ho had first let us into the Underground." "I'm fine. Lea wasn't exactly my favorite person in the world. Embarrassed. distracted. The secret door to the council's meeting hall opened at Jacks on's command and we rushed through."I don't know." I said." Jackson said. throwing on my leather jacket." he said. "I hope not. "Now that I know my mother is unharmed. My leg was still a litt le sore. "Yes. Jackson took my hand and led me down the hall so fast." I nodded. Jackson and I were going to have about our relationship. When we walked into the room. I recognized some of the faces of the other demons. some explaining to do a shiver of fear ran up my spine. open-mouthed. the conversation halted. I meant it. including Marlana. "It can't be good that they're calling you in when they know you were injured. "Are you two okay here on your own?" Essex and Mary Anne nodded. was a group of ten shadow demons. but now that I knew how she felt about Jackson. but I was able to walk on it just fine. C ould I blame her? "We need to get to this meeting. sitting at the large roun d table. I am much better. there were othe rs I did not know. Just inside. Sever al members of the council looked directly at our clasped hands . "They'll have answers. but mons here couldn't be put in because of me. Still. "Are you worried about Lea?" I asked. I kind of understood why she'd never been crazy nice to me. I slipped my hand . The de happy about the danger they'd all been Also. He nodded." E ssex said.