Authors: Carrie Jones
Tags: #Romance, #Werewolves, #Paranormal, #Urban Fantasy, #Magic, #Fantasy, #Young Adult
Pixie kings leave a glitterlike dust behind. This is supposedly part of their souls. I’m not sure if
they actually have souls, but I remain optimistic.
There are these bizarre people who actually like physical education class. You expect these people to grunt a lot and enjoy the great art of sweating. You expect them to wear designer PE gear and yell stuff like, “Dude, we are going to rock this freaking volleyball court.” While I don’t do any of those things, I swear I am still one of those bizarre PE-loving people.
That’s because Nick is in PE. But even with the cute Nick factor, I am not super psyched about being in the freezing-cold gym learning the rules of Ping-Pong today. I’m too busy being worried.
Coach Walsh has gathered us in a half circle around him and already gone through his whole hand-eye coordination speech and talked about the intricate rules of serving. I’m huddled up next to my best friend, Issie, for warmth. My teeth chatter. Coach Walsh is almost done with his whole speechifying bit but Nick is still not here. I want to not worry about him. I just want him to be safe. I squish even closer to little Issie, like she could make me feel better. Nick could be broken and mauled somewhere out in the woods. He could be bleeding and dying. He could be…..
I grab Issie’s tiny arm and whisper, “Where is he?”
“He’s just running late.” She bounces on her toes and tries to be reassuring. She does not pull away. Issie is cool like that. She’s okay with human contact. “He’s fine.
Everytime any of us are late you imagine we’re dead. You are no longer allowed to imagine anyone is dead.”
“I’m not imagining he’s dead,” I whisper, but I’m totally imagining him bleeding to death on the snowy forest floor. Crows circle above him. A pixie arrow juts out of his beautiful chest. It’s the same thing I imagined about Devyn last week when he forgot to check in.
“You are such a liar-liar pants-on-fire.” Is kisses my cheek in her sweet friend way. “But I love you.”
“I just worry about people,” I whisper back. “If I’m not the one out there I feel so helpless.”
Coach Walsh notices we’re talking. “Girls, pay attention. And no kissing.”
Everyone starts snickering. I let go of Issie’s goose-bump-covered arm. My face gets hot, which means I’m in insane blush mode. Nick thinks insane blush mode is cute. I bend down and check on my ankle bracelet that Nick gave me. It’s gold and thin-chained. A tiny dolphin dangles off of it. The dolphin reminds me of Charleston because they swim right off the Battery. Next to it dangles a heart, which just reminds me of love—corny but true. I’m so afraid of losing the anklet, but I can’t take it off. I adore it that much.
“I’d pay for more kissing,” some jerk yells. I should know his name but I still don’t know everyone’s yet. I haven’t been here long enough and I’m still not the best with names.
From his wheelchair Devyn power points at the guy, who probably outweighs him by a hundred pounds. Coach just gets this wicked twinkle in his eye, then ignores all of us and starts putting people in groups. Issie and Devyn and I clump together in the middle of the shiny gym floor. I drag the toe of my running shoe across it and straighten my shorts.
“Where is he?” I ask in a regular voice since Coach Walsh has moved away.
Devyn’s eyes stay calm. He is the most mellow of us, the most analytical, and the least likely to panic, which is part of the reason Issie unofficially loves him. “He’s just patrolling, Zara. I’m sure he’ll be here in a sec. He probably just got held up.”
I mutter, “He shouldn’t go out alone.”
“You can’t tell him that.” Devyn stretches his arms high above his head like he’s stretching out his wings. Even in a wheelchair he takes up a lot of space, moves a lot, seems like he’s going to fly away. “He’s compelled to go out alone. It’s his nature.”
“I know,” I murmur. Lately Devyn’s been telling me a lot about what is and what isn’t Nick’s nature. Nick shifts into a wolf. Wolves are…well, they hunt but they also protect.
They sleep in huddled masses. They take care of their own. They are not like humans.
Devyn stops stretching. “It’s just not in the
“Goes against the whole hero-complex thing you guys have,” Issie agrees. She bounces up and down, touches her toes. Her bunny T-shirt rides up a little in the back, exposing her bright orange underwear. “Isn’t that s helpful hint for the guide? “When dealing with pixies do not have a hero complex.’”
Devyn and I have started writing this guide. We call it
How to Survive a Pixie Attack
, which is a total takeoff from the zombie thing, but we figure it’s important to give people some helpful tips in case we ever go public someday. Truthfully, we’ll probably just post it anonymously on the Internet. A couple of months ago we didn’t know pixies even existed. Now it feels like capturing pixies is all we do.
“I’ll add it, Devyn says, and his attention shifts. There’s movement at the door. Cold air rushes in. Winter in Maine is not fun.
Nick saunters into the gym and my heart basically stops. He’s ridiculously cute in his PE
shorts and dark green T-shirt; and people that good-looking seem vulnerable, almost like they can’t be real.
He’s real though. He’s all dark skin and dark hair and dark eyes. Okay. His eyebrows, like Devyn’s nose, are a little big and if you stare at him long enough you realize that his lips are a bit lopsided. I have kissed his lips. I have felt his breath in my ear and I know without a doubt that he’s real, even if he is a werewolf. The massive muscles in his legs redefine themselves as he walks toward me. He waves a late pass at the coach and yells,
“Sorry I’m late. I’ve got a pass.”
“Not a problem, buddy,” Coach yells back. He and Nick are all jock bonding.
Nick pockets the note, which is probably a fake. I can smell his deodorant even though he’s still far away. There are these things called pheromones, odors that guys give off to attract women. I swear his pheromones have my freaking name written on them. They hone in and attack.
“You are getting all swoony faced,” Issie tells me with her sing-song voice. She pokes me in the ribs with her elbow, gently. She turns to Devyn, who is smiling like a crazy man, just hanging back in his wheelchair watching the scene. “Dev. Look at Zara. She’s got her lovey-dovey look on.”
As Is gazes at Devyn with her own lovey-dovey look, he says, “Yeah. Teen Love. So obvious. So hormonal.”
“I am not hormonal.” I fake glare at him.
He just laughs. Cassidy, this girl Dev supposedly dated back in fourth grade, waves at him. He smiles and waves back. Issie stiffens and I’m about to tell her Cassidy is no competition when Nick sidles up to us. He wraps his arm around my shoulder, pulling me against his side. I instinctively lean into his solid chest. I can’t help it. I breathe in his pheromones and get almost dizzy. He’s all woods and clean air and warmth. He kisses the top of my head.
“People! No PDA!” Coach Walsh heads over to us. He’s got four Ping-Pong paddles and a pack of balls.
Nick’s fingers tighten around mine for a second and then he lets me go.
“You four,” Coach barks. “Table tennis. Far Table. You can handle that, Devyn?”
Devyn nods and reaches for his canes. Just a month ago Devon couldn’t really stand.
Now he’s walking a little bit. Doctors say it’s a miracle. We know better. Devyn, like Nick, isn’t quite human. He’s a shifter. He can change into an animal form—an eagle—
and that makes him heal faster, heal better. What would’ve paralyzed a normal human?
He’s beating it. Still, he can’t hide how impatient he is with the whole thing. Sometimes his lips shake because he’s so frustrated.
Is hands me a paddle and whispers, “He used to rock at Ping-Pong.”
I Smile. “How does someone rock at Ping-Pong?”
“Just watch,” she says knowingly and gives Nick another paddle.
“It’s the bird in him,” Nick explains. “Crazy hand-eye coordination.”
“Are you bragging about me?” Devyn asks. He’s got the paddle in the proper handshake position Coach Walsh drilled into us the other day.
“Yeah.” IS gets all fluttery and eyelash. “We are.”
“It’s not really about the hand-eye., it’s about knowing where the ball is going, where you want the ball to go,” Devyn explains. “It’s like life. It’s about purpose and direction.
You can’t worry about it. You have to plan and predict and react.”
I swear Issie almost swoons.
“I’ve been doing some research about how pixies play into Norse myths,” he says. “It’s interesting stuff. Very obscure, though.”
“You going to inform us?” Nick serves.
Dev volleys back. “Not quite yet. Zara, I’m thinking about a chapter in the book, though, on the mythology. Is that kosher with you?”
“Yep” I twirl my paddle in my hand and flick some lint off my vintage U2 T-shirt.
Nick hits the ball again. Dev volleys. The little fluorescent orange ball flies back and forth so fast I can’t really see it; just hear the clock-pop of it on the hard table when it makes contact. I step away. So does Issie. The guys don’t even notice.
“So why were you late?” I ask.
“Patrolling.” Nick’s wrist flicks the ball back toward Devyn. Devyn counters.
“We know that, Macho One,” Issie says. She hunkers down low at the table like shès actually going to get a chance to hit the ball. “But yoùre late.”
We are all staring at him. Nick looks away. “I had a little encounter,” Nick finally says.
His forehead crinkles.
Devyn misses the ball. It skitters off the table and to the side. Issie runs to retrieve it, but it bounces and lobs under the other tables and keeps rolling across the shiny gym floor.
I push the hair out of my face so I can really examine him. Hès still all there. He is not dead. I ask, “Are you okay?”
Nick meets my gaze and he lifts his arms wide like I should inspect him. “Of course.”
Issie brings back the ball and hands it to Dev to serve, although it`s not technically his serve because he lost the volley.
“Cassidy sent you a note,” she says, her voice losing all its happy.
“Thanks.” Devyn pockets it, adjusts his canes, and leans forward a little but still serves the ball perfectly in a diagonal across the table. It bounces in front of me, but I don`t even really register it until Nick hits it for me. It bounces back to the other side. Issie crosses her arms in front of her chest and looks at the floor. Shès terrified that Dev might like Cassidy. She is really nice and everything, but totally not made of awesome the way Issie is.
“What are you guys talking about?” she asks.
“What made me late. It was a pixie,” Nick says. “I took care of it.”
Nick hits the ball a little too hard and it flashes over the table and hits the wall on the opposite side of the gym near Cassidy.
“I think Ìll let that one go,” Is says.
“You met up with a pixie and you didn`t call,” I say, my voice squeaking with frustration.
“You didn`t call for help?”
Nick says all calm and easy, “It was too quick, baby.”
“Don`t baby me,” I say jokingly but not really. “You know the rules. You call for help if yoùre going to be late. That`s the rule for everyone, not just you. Wère all in danger here.”
“Uh-oh,” Is murmurs. “Maybe I will go get that ball. Or else I might go all teacher on you about how men use the term baby in a negative way because they can`t deal with the empowering nature of birth and are jealous. Oops! I started already. Be right back.”
“Is has some major conflict-avoidance issues,” Devyn says, like we don’t already know.
“I didn’t need help,” Nick says, ignoring them both. He turns to face me again. His eyes are kind but his voice doesn’t lose the serious tone. “There wasn’t any time.”
“There is always time,” I insist. “It takes two seconds to send a text.”
Is returns with the ball. “Conflict all done?”
I nod but it’s not totally true. Nick has to stop taking unnecessary risks and I have to make him see that, but now is not the time. We’re in PE. Seriously. I bump Nick’s hip with my own before we get back in our proper Ping-Pong positions. “I win this argument.”
“Conflict all done,” Devyn assures her.
She smiles at him. “I serve”. She misses the ball. “Oops. You serve.”
Devyn does. I go to hit it but Nick takes it instead.
“Sorry,” he murmurs.
I roll my eyes at the irony as he and Devyn take over the game again. I try to follow where the ball is going, but I can’t predict its direction, let alone make it go where I want it to. I can’t stop myself from adding softly, “You’re always acting so hero and you’re going to get hurt.”
Nick stops and looks at me. “You were in class. I had study hall,” he says gently.
“Still, the protocol is that you spot one, you call for backup,” Issie says. “Not to fight or anything, but that is the protocol. Wow, I love that word.”
Dev came up with that term. Not that it matters. What matters is that we’re rounding up any stray pixies that head into our area. We take them and put them in a large house that we’ve surrounded with iron. The house is in the woods and hidden by a glamour, which is like a magic spell that prevents people from seeing what’s really there. I am not really cool with trapping them like that, but I don’t know how else to do it. They were dangerous. They were killing boys until we stopped them. They had these needs—and those needs? They were out of control because their king was out of control. Pixie society is kind of hierarchical like that. The king and most of his local people are still trapped there, but every once in a while another pixie comes from far away.