hold tight (the embrace series)

Cover

Title Page

Hold Tight

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Cherie Colyer

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Omnific Publishing

Los Angeles

Copyright Information

Hold Tight, Copyright © 2013 by Cherie Colyer

All Rights Reserved. Except as permitted under the U.S. Copyright Act of 1976, no part of this publication may be reproduced, distributed, or transmitted in any form or by any means, or stored in a database or retrieval system, without prior written permission of the publisher.

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Omnific Publishing

1901 Avenue of the Stars, 2nd Floor

Los Angeles, California 90067

www.omnificpublishing.com

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First Omnific eBook edition, August 2013

First Omnific trade paperback edition, August 2013

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The characters and events in this book are fictitious. Any similarity to real persons, living or dead, is coincidental and not intended by the author.

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Library of Congress Cataloguing-in-Publication Data

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Colyer, Cherie.

Hold Tight / Cherie Colyer – 1st ed

ISBN: 978-1-623420-40-6

1. Witchcraft—Fiction. 2. Paranormal— Fiction. 3. Romance— Fiction. 4. Magic— Fiction. I. Title

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Cover Design by Micha Stone and Amy Brokaw
Interior Book Design by Coreen Montagna

Dedication

Vince

For everything you do.

Chapter 1

Careful What You Wish For

I figured if I got caught with the little ironclad book, I’d ask him for forgiveness. Really, in the whole scheme of the universe, what was one little spell?

My six-year-old brother and I were home alone, and he was in the family room, engrossed in his favorite cartoon. Dad was stuck at work, again, but tonight that would be to my advantage because I needed privacy to cast the spell.

I grabbed a cereal bowl from the cabinet next to the refrigerator, filled it with a bottle of spring water, and dropped in three acorns and three dried rose petals. One last glance at the incantation, and I was ready. With my hands held palms-up in front of me, I spoke in a low whisper so as not to attract Chase’s attention:

From here to there and
nowhere
neverwhere
Through
Come
time and space and ethereal
I call to thee Sanctus majestic
Reedsnap, [Dellis, Rhoswen]

A faint crackle like the crunch of dried leaves under dainty feet seemed to enter the kitchen through the open window. A weak
pop-pop-swish
slithered by me thereafter, and the sweet aroma of honeydew filled my nostrils. I spun around, expecting to see a bright-eyed faerie with sparkling cheeks and pointy little ears near the stove, but I was alone. I continued to read:

I beckon thee, come forth!

A soft
swish-hum
had me glancing around the kitchen again. A cool breeze stirred the curtains and rippled the water in the bowl. I hurried and closed the window, but then a quiet buzz traveled around the kitchen like an angry fly. For a moment, I could have sworn I smelled fresh-cut orchids, but when I inhaled, the air chilled my lungs, causing me to cough. No matter which direction I looked, no one was there.

“Finish it,” a disembodied voice whispered eagerly. It was hard to tell if it was female or male. I swallowed the trepidation that built inside me.

“Finish it,” dared the haunting voice.

When an icy chill clawed its way into my bones, I slammed the book shut.

“I changed my mind,” I whispered. “Go away.”

Chapter 2

Impossible Kiss

“You sure you’re concentrating?” Isaac’s voice was husky and sexy, making it completely and totally impossible to focus.

“Yes!” I lied. He’d only asked me that very question half a dozen times. I grew further and further from in control as I waited, and not so patiently either.

We stood facing each other in Isaac’s country-style kitchen with the hum of the microwave behind us and the murmur of the evening news coming from the family room. He brushed a few strands of hair away from my eyes, and his fingers lingered just behind my ear. Vanilla and spearmint encircled me—his powers. I breathed in deeply, loving the smell of him.

My hands rested on his hips. It took every ounce of restraint not to wrap my fingers around the hair at the back of his head and plant a kiss on his delicious lips. But, as usual, I was in as much control of my powers as my brother in the Hot Wheels aisle at the toy store.

He leaned closer. His warm breath tickled my ear when he spoke. “Madison, are you sure? I’ve been shocked enough for one day.”

I bit my lip. The sharp pain snapped me out of the euphoric state I’d been in and helped me rein in the lust screaming to take control.
Breathe. In. Out.

Over a month had passed since I’d embraced the powers, and I was no better at pulling them inside me than I had been that fall day at the top of the lighthouse. While quick pecks were nice, I wanted more—I got the feeling Isaac did too—and I didn’t understand why this was so hard for me. I could light a hundred candles with a glance or throw up a magical shield effortlessly. But taming my powers—keeping them under lock and key so that I could really kiss my boyfriend—seemed beyond my abilities.

The sooner I mastered my powers, the sooner Isaac and I could kiss without the threat of stinging lips. It was the biggest obstacle in our relationship, the one thing that ensured we took it slow. It was like having built-in parental controls, and no matter how hard we tried, we couldn’t crack the code needed to get our relationship off the PG screens.

Determined to change that, I tucked my powers inside a steel room in my mind.

Mom had been the one to introduce me to this trick. When I was little, she had told me to lock unpleasant things behind an imaginary door in my mind marked Do Not Enter. Things I wasn’t ready to deal with went behind a door marked Open Another Day. I had created doors for everything: vegetables I didn’t like, rules I thought were unfair, Grandma’s wet kisses, and even Kevin Hobbs, who liked to pull the ribbons out of my hair when we were kids. I’d opened the last door the day Kevin had turned into a somewhat cool kid who shared his Twinkies with me.

The whole idea was to lock away the things that troubled me. I figured I could use this same theory for my powers. Only, I needed something that couldn’t easily be opened, so the door to this room was made of reinforced steel.

The smell of marinara wafted out of the microwave. Our lasagna would be ready any minute. It was now or never.

I slid my arms around Isaac’s waist and pulled him closer. “I really like you. Have I told you that lately?”

His lips twitched upward into that crooked smile I loved so much. “Thirty seconds before the last time you shocked me.”

I hit his arm. “That’s not help—”

The rest of my words were stifled by his lips on mine, a quick peck first to make sure I really had tucked my powers away. A soft moan escaped his lips as his mouth covered mine. God, his kisses were like summer and ice cream sundaes with lots of cherries on top. I rose up onto my tiptoes. His fingers twisted in my hair as I got lost in our moment. My power sizzled, trickled up from my belly button, and burst from every part of me. The spark that followed was bright enough to see through closed eyelids.

“Son of a—” Isaac rubbed his mouth with the back of his hands. “I think you’re getting worse at this.”

“I’m sorry.” I grabbed a couple ice cubes from the freezer and held one out to him. He shook his head. “It’s all this practicing and waiting and planning. Kissing is supposed to be spontaneous. Romantic. Not all ‘Wait’ and ‘Are you concentrating.’ It’s like telling someone not to laugh, and then all they want to do is laugh.”

Isaac grabbed our dinner from the microwave while I sucked on the ice.

“It’s simple: deep breath, focus, execute.” He touched the center of his piece of lasagna. “These need another minute.”

After he set the timer for sixty seconds, I tossed the ice cube in the sink and slid between his arms. He reached behind me and stuck his fingers in the back pockets of my jeans.

“You know, you never did tell me how you got these scars,” I commented, tracing the narrow crescent-shaped line on his right cheek with my fingertip. To my surprise, the skin there was much cooler than the rest of his face.

“Sure I did. A difference of opinion between me and another guy. Remember?”

“That doesn’t tell me anything. Did he possess the powers? Or did you use your magic to help speed up the healing process?”

“Yes.” Isaac leaned his face into the palm of my hand. When I gave him a squinted-eye glare, he added, “His powers weren’t the same as ours. He was stronger and knew tricks I didn’t. The cuts weren’t healing on their own, so I helped them along.”

“What started the fight?”

“Stupidity on a friend’s part. She pissed off the wrong guy.”

“Girlfriend?” I asked. A teeny part of me was jealous at the thought of someone else kissing Isaac, and a bigger part of me was truly curious to know more about his life before we met.

“Ex,” he replied. “We’d already broken up by that time.”

“And you still stepped in to be the hero? Isaac, I do believe you’re a true gentleman.” I took a step back. Isaac’s hands slid from inside my pockets and fell to his side. I faked holding out a skirt and curtsied.

He tickled my waist. “He was hurting her, smartass.”

The bell on the microwave went off again.

“Do you want to eat downstairs?” he asked.

“Sure.”

We descended the curved staircase to Isaac’s basement bedroom. It was dark at first, but I knew now that was due to one of Isaac’s wards: a type of protection spell he’d cast when he had first discovered Gloucester crawled with people who possessed the powers. There was a nook in the wall every third step, each occupied by a candle that flickered to life as we passed.

I had tried something similar in my room, only I’d used a three-wick candle. It was supposed to light by itself when I crossed the threshold. The only thing I had accomplished, however, had been a very curious look from my dad, who had wanted to know if there was a spider in my room that was making me pace in and out of it with such a disgusted look on my face. He’d even offered to get my brother to kill it for me. My dad was full of jokes.

Isaac set a couple pillows on the stone floor and then excused himself as he ducked into the bathroom. I set my plate down and quickly took the book on Fae out of my purse.

It was Isaac’s mom who’d told me the stories about the Fae, kind creatures who would clean the homes of humans in exchange for cream. I’d nearly spit my hot cider across the dining room table when she’d brought it up.

“You’re joking,” I’d said after managing to compose myself.

She’d held her hand up, three fingers raised and thumb holding her pinky down. “Scout’s honor. My aunt used to leave a bowl of cream out so they’d keep coming back.” Taking a sip of tea, she’d then leaned forward, her heather-gray eyes alight with the memory. “Let me tell you, you could see your reflection off just about every smooth surface in her house. It was that clean.”

“Have you ever seen a faerie, Mrs. Addington?”

I’d been dying to know if they were little people with wings like Tinker Bell, but she couldn’t say for sure. Her mom hadn’t been as open to inviting faeries into their home and never let her children spend the night at her aunt’s.

Later that same evening, I had thumbed through the ironclad book in Isaac’s room. It talked about a complex world and two courts: the Seelie, which was believed to be good, and the Unseelie, which was malignant. It discussed solitary Fae, bogies, solstice celebrations, rules for seeing them, and more.

“Haven’t you read enough about the supernatural world?” Isaac had asked when he’d seen me with the book.

“Are you kidding? When a girl discovers demons and faeries are real, she’s going to look for evidence of unicorns and pixie dust.”
And a summoning spell
, but I’d kept that last comment to myself because, as open as Isaac was about using our powers, he’d already told me he didn’t trust anything that wasn’t human.

In fact, he had slid the book from my grasp and said, “Believe me. You aren’t going to find anything useful in
The Fae
.”

But it had been too late. I’d already seen a page containing a summoning spell.
Seelie
had been scribbled in the margin. I recognized the narrow handwriting as Isaac’s. Someone else had tweaked the incantation, though, crossing out a word here and a phrase there and replacing each with others. I bet the spell was how Isaac had managed to pack his things so meticulously when he’d moved from Amesbury to Gloucester this past October.

Isaac’s aversion to the whole subject had me believing he wouldn’t have been keen on me taking
The Fae
home, so I’d secretly borrowed it.

And I had to admit, after hearing that creepy voice three-fourths of the way through casting the spell to summon a faerie, I wasn’t so keen on it either.

I’d just turned to place
The Fae
on the black sphere chair when Isaac rejoined me.

“Why is it every girl is obsessed with faeries?” he said.

I looked at the stolen contraband still in my hot hands. Relieved he hadn’t seen me pull it from my purse, I mused, “Tinker Bell rules.”

Isaac rolled his eyes. “That’s because she’s been Disney-fied.”

I dropped the book on top of the pile and took a seat. We held our plates and used his bed as a backrest.

“How are you liking
The Scarlet Letter
?” Isaac took a bite of lasagna, immediately making a face. “Needs cheese.” He held his hand out in front of him. “
Accio
parmesan cheese.”

A shaker container appeared in his hand.

“Omigod! That’s a real spell?” I asked.

He chuckled, burying his pasta in a layer of white flecks. “I was just messing around. Psychokinesis is easy once you learn to manipulate matter. No spell needed. But they did get some things right in those movies.”

“Like what?” I generously sprinkled cheese over my dinner.

“The black dog, for one—it’s a hell hound—and there are a ton of uses for mandrake root. The plants don’t come alive and scream if you pull them out of dirt, though.”

“And wands?” I asked through a mouthful of noodles.

“They add flair to a spell.” He raised his hand, fingers gripping his fork in front of him, and gave a flick and a swoosh of his wrist. “Otherwise, they’re strictly decorative.”

Isaac had taught me a few spells. They pulled power from our surroundings and transformed it into energy we could use to do our bidding, no fancy words required.

He reached over me and sifted through the pile of books on the chair, eventually handing me one. “This is one of my favorite books.”


Earthly Elements
?” I asked.

“It’s more useful than a book on devious creatures that will twist your words to their advantage.”

After what I’d heard when I’d attempted to perform the summoning spell, I wasn’t going to argue with him.

“Besides,” he continued, “you need to know which natural elements will protect you and which will invite trouble.” He opened the book to a random page and went back to eating.

I read the first paragraph. “You think I’m going to need to know how to make a deal at a crossroad?”

“Okay, so maybe that wasn’t the best example,” Isaac replied through a full mouth. He swallowed. “But we have used crossroad dirt. Haven’t you wondered why?”

I hadn’t, but according to the book, demons could be summoned at a crossroad that passed through the point where the veil between worlds was at its thinnest. The ground in these locations absorbed the lingering power like a sponge.

“Do you really think someone would make a deal with the devil in exchange for talent?” I asked, still scanning the page.

“Yeah, I do. Ever hear Robert Johnson’s music?”

I shook my head.

“My grandfather used to listen to him all the time. ‘Cross Road Blues’ is all about a deal being made.”

I shuddered at the thought of selling my soul just to be the best at something.

“Witches don’t need to make deals, though,” Isaac said. Curiosity had me pulling my gaze away from the page to look at him. He smiled and went on. “If we want to play the guitar, we can simply bewitch it.” He shrugged. “It’s cheating, though. Not very honorable, if you ask me, but at least we wouldn’t be giving away our souls just so we can strum a few tunes. That reminds me, I checked on Emma last night.”

“She still crazy?” I asked in an acid tone. After her repeated attempts on my life, I was perfectly fine with her being a long-term resident in the psych ward.

Isaac ignored my snide remark. “She was too sedated to tell, but it’s safe to say she won’t be causing any more problems for us even when she gets out.”

He held his now-empty plate in front of him and focused on it. It quivered in his hand and then vanished. A moment later, a faint clatter came from the room above us.

My eyes grew wide. “Did you just put that in the sink?” His smug grin answered for him. “Do you know how much time it would save me to be able to blink the breakfast dishes into the dishwasher? I could zap the dust bunnies from under the kitchen table. My dad would get off my back about the chores piling up.” I tossed the elements book on the chair. “You have got to teach me how to do that!”

He laughed. “We’ll work on it.”

After an hour of trying to learn how the heck Isaac had managed to do his witchy-stare,
poof-
now-you-see-it-now-you-don’t trick, I gave up. I couldn’t even snatch a quarter off the floor without bending down and picking the damn thing up with my hands.

We stopped at the grocery store on the way to my house. Isaac went to get pasta sauce and chips for his mom while I headed to the dairy section. I grabbed a gallon of milk and turned quickly, bumping into a guy in his late teens.

“Sorry,” he said, grabbing the milk I’d nearly dropped.

A surge of heat shot through me when his fingers brushed mine. Surprised, I yanked my hand away.

“You’ll probably want this.” He held the gallon out to me.

I took it from him, purposely touching his hand to see if what I’d felt was a fluke. His skin was warm, like he had a fever, but there was no shock to indicate he possessed the powers. He gave me a funny look, which made me realize I was staring.

“Sorry.” I tucked my hair behind my ear. “I didn’t see you.”

“No harm done.”

I moved to my left at the same time he moved to his right. He smiled, his chocolate-brown eyes peeking out from under dark bangs. He had sharp features and a five o’clock shadow, and he was still in my way. I stepped toward the aisle, but so did he.

“I’ll just—” I indicated with a glance what direction I needed to go.

He turned sideways, letting me pass.

“Thanks.”

When I reached the chip aisle, I glanced over my shoulder. The guy watched me, his head cocked to the side. Not at all sure what to make of him, I hurried to join Isaac, who held a jar of marinara sauce in one hand and a variety of chips in the other.

“Ready?” he asked.

At the checkout, I paid first and then surveyed the store while I waited for Isaac to pay for his things. The guy I had bumped into was nowhere in sight, but I couldn’t shake the feeling something was off about him.

Chapter 3

Playing with Magic

The next morning, Dad opened Chase’s dresser drawer and figured out just how far behind I was on my chores.

“How hard would it be to toss in a load of laundry once in a while?” His voice dripped with exhaustion as he sniffed the socks Chase had worn the previous day. Deciding they would do, he gave them to my brother to put on.

Guilt nagged at me. I’d been too busy hanging out with Isaac to worry about clean clothes.

“I promise I’ll do a load after school,” I replied without thinking through my choice of words.

The school day flew by, and I was still kicking myself in the butt for making that promise because, with my powers, those two little words—
I promise—
meant I
had
to do laundry when I got home. No more stalling or pretending I hadn’t noticed our hampers were regurgitating two weeks’ worth of clothes.

Isaac drove me to pick Chase up at the sitter’s and then dropped us off at home, bringing my inevitable appointment with the washing machine around way too soon.

“It’s you and me, squirt,” I said as I stuffed Chase’s mittens into the sleeve of his jacket and hung it by the hood on the banister in the foyer. “How about you pick up your toys while I go upstairs to sort the laundry?”

“No way! I want to finish the movie I started last night!”

I placed my hands on his shoulders and turned him around. “You can clean while you watch TV.” When his head drooped forward in obvious disappointment, I added, “If you put away your Hot Wheels and stack Dad’s magazines into a neat pile, you can stay up until eight thirty. Do we have a deal?”

“And eat ice cream for dinner?”

“And have ice cream for
dessert.

“Okay!” Chase ran into the other room.

A few minutes later, I came downstairs with a basket full of light-colored clothes. Upbeat music rang out of the family room. I peeked in to see Chase holding a copy of
Handyman Magazine
as he bounced along with the music to Disney’s
The Sword in the Stone
.

“What happened to cleaning while you watched your movie?” I balanced the basket on my hip so I could grab his gray hoodie off the back of the couch.

“I am.” He pointed to the end table. “See, I used magic to stack the magazines. Just like Merlin.”

“You did what?” The basket nearly slipped from my grip.

Since the powers ran in our blood, it stood to reason Chase would possess them, eventually. But could he have tapped into his at such a young age? I tried to remember when Isaac and our friend Josh Corey had said they’d embraced their powers. I was pretty sure they had been eight or nine, and they’d learned about them through their parents.

I studied Chase, searching for any supernatural movement from him or the magazines.

“It’s fun! ‘Rubbity, scrubbity, sweepity, flow,’” Chase sang along with Merlin.

Fun
was not the word I’d use to describe a six-year-old with powers. Not to mention I’d have to tell Dad magic was real.

“Can you do it again?” I asked, needing to see him do a spell with my own two eyes.

“Sure!” Chase zoomed around the room, his arms held out to the side as he took the long way to the end table. “Look behind you!”

I did, but out of the corner of my eye I saw him slam the magazine he’d been holding on top of the pile. I fought back a smile. “What’s behind me?”

“Look, the magazine flew right on top of the others!”

My cell phone vibrated in my pocket, reminding me I hadn’t taken it out of silent mode after school. “It sure did,” I replied to Chase. “You’ll have to teach me that someday.”

“Okay.” He went back to singing along with Merlin.

Into the receiver, I said, “Hey, Sarah. What’s up?”

“Hi. Did you hear Ben’s having a small get-together at his house Saturday night?”

“No.” I dumped the laundry into the washing machine.

“Mark and I are going. You and Kaylee have to come or I won’t know anyone.”

Sarah Johnson and Mark Schacter had been dating for a month, but they were from different social circles. Sarah was an A student, on several committees, and voted most likely to succeed. Mark skated by with Cs, the last committee he’d joined was to get close to a girl, and he didn’t even make it on the radar to be voted anything.

“Pleeease,” she begged. “I know Ben invited Isaac and Josh.”

I sighed. The last thing I wanted to do on a Saturday night was get drunk with Ben’s buddies, but Sarah was my second-oldest friend, and if she needed me, she knew I’d be there for her.

“I’ll talk to Isaac.”

“You’re the best! See you at school.”

I said bye, poured detergent and softener into the appropriate dispensers, and hit start. Merlin’s and Arthur’s voices drifted out of the family room. It got me thinking that I was going about my chores the hard way. Why wasn’t I using my powers to clean the house? Just because I hadn’t mastered psychokinesis didn’t mean there weren’t other ways to speed things up.

“You can do this.” I rubbed my hands together and found my center. All I had to do was focus on the task at hand. I needed the dishwasher door to open. I’d barely finished the thought when the door not only swung open, but the lower drawer rolled out too.

“That was easy,” I said, pleased with myself. With a wave of my hand, I thought,
To the cabinet!

The air around me grew thick with my powers as the aroma of chocolate-covered strawberries filled the kitchen, letting me know I had fueled my magic with positive emotions. The plates, bowls, and casserole dish rose as one and, along with the silverware, hung suspended above the rack for a long moment. But just as I realized I probably should have concentrated on one dish at a time, everything torpedoed itself toward me on its way to the closed cabinet next to the fridge. I screamed, covered my head with my arms, and ducked. A spoon skimmed my elbow, and with a deafening clamor, the whole lot crashed into the cabinet and tumbled to the floor. The casserole dish shattered. Two of the forks and a steak knife embedded themselves into the door.

Chase came running into the kitchen, skidding to a stop next to the table. “What happened?”

I jumped up and hastily positioned myself in front of the cutlery stuck in the cabinet door. “Nothing.”

“Doesn’t look like nothing to me.”

“I tried to carry too much at once,” I lied. “Are you done in the other room?”

“Almost.” He spun and sprinted out of the kitchen.

I grabbed a dishtowel and knelt down to survey the damage. The dishes were shatterproof, so only one had broken. It went into the garbage; the rest I put away the mortal way.

I was giving Chase a bath when Dad finally got home.

“I still can’t get used to the whole two-tone short thing you got going on with your hair,” he said from behind me.

“Hi, Daddy!” Chase blew a mound of bubbles his way. Most landed on the floor next to me.

I ran a hand over my head. “They’re called low-lights, and I like them.”

“Yeah, well, they make you look too grown up.”

I chuckled, knowing he would have loved it if I stayed his precious princess forever. “Don’t worry, Dad. I’ll always be your little girl.”

“Uh huh.” He stepped over a pile of dirty towels and leaned on the doorframe. “I thought you were going to do some cleaning.”

“Kitchen’s all shiny, and I put your T-shirts and socks in your drawer.” It had been the first and only load of laundry I’d gotten done.

“I’ll take over here.” Dad motioned for me to move, so we traded places.

“With winter here, shouldn’t things at work quiet down some?” I asked.

Dad owned his own handyman business. Fall always brought a rush of exterior paint jobs, but by December things usually slowed dramatically, leaving only sporadic odd jobs.

“I won the bid at Dr. Patel’s. I’m remodeling the reception area, and then there are my regular clients.” He used the bed of a plastic dump trunk to scoop up water and rinse the shampoo out of Chase’s hair. Satisfied Chase was no longer an oversized suds-monster, he pulled the plug on the drain.

“You look exhausted, Dad.” I handed him a fluffy blue bath towel. “Why don’t you hire an assistant? Then you could get everything you need done in a normal workday.”

“I promise things will get back to normal, Madison. A few more weeks.”

The dark circles under his eyes gave the impression he wouldn’t last that long. I decided to lighten the mood. “Good, because apparently I don’t know how to make an epic bubble bath.”

Dad covered Chase’s ears with his hands like he was about to share top-secret information with me. “Quantity,” he said. “I dump half the bottle of bubbles into the water.”

“I should have known.” I shook my head. “I made you a plate.”

“Thanks.” He scooped Chase up like a sack of wet towels, eliciting a squeal of delight from my brother. I’d turned to head to my room when he added, “Madison, I know it’s been hard. I just want you to know I really appreciate all your help.”

“No problem.”

I checked my phone for messages as I walked to my bedroom. There were none. I set it on the nightstand and changed into pajamas before grabbing my history book and plopping down on my bed. I was exhausted but knew I should at least glance over the chapter we’d been working on as there was a test the next day. It only took a few minutes for me to realize I needed music if I was going to stay awake.

I leaned back, my hand feeling around on the top of the nightstand for my phone. When I didn’t find it, I turned my head. It wasn’t there. I checked the floor in case it had fallen off. It hadn’t.

“Chase!” I jumped up, ready to yell at my brother for playing a trick on me when I spotted my phone on the dresser. I glanced from it to the nightstand as a chill passed through me, leaving the fine hairs on my arms standing on end.

“Hello, is someone here?”

Silence answered me, but an eerie feeling of being watched prickled my skin. I ran into my brother’s room. Chase sat on his bed with his back against Dad’s chest as they read a story together.

“Were you just in my room?” I asked.

Dad put a finger to his lips. “He’s drifting off.”

I crept back to my room and peeked inside. It was empty. My phone still rested on my dresser.

“Where you must have left it,” I told myself, grabbing it and jumping under my covers.

Nonetheless, I slept with the light on that night, not fully convinced I’d imagined the cold or the sensation of unseen eyes watching me.

Chapter 4

Not Alone

“Does it hurt?” My fingertips lingered on the smooth, pearly white scar on Isaac’s chin.

We sat on the couch in his family room, me straddling his lap. He brushed a stray strand of hair out of my eyes with his thumb.

“No.”

“It’s cold,” I said, amazed that the skin there never warmed to match the rest of him.

“You really want to talk about my scars? I have one on my side too.” He lifted his shirt, revealing a salmon-colored blemish along his lower ribcage. “I got this one jumping a fence when I was nine. Didn’t quite make it.” He pulled the waist of his jeans down next, just low enough for me to see the rope-like muscles that ran alongside his hip bone. “And I got this one when I was eleven. Tried jumping my bike over one of those workhorses. Back tire caught on the orange light. Bike stopped; I didn’t. Flew right over the handlebars. I have another one on my thigh.” His fingers went to the button on his jeans.

“I’ll take your word for it,” I said, my hand catching his.

My cheeks grew warm, and his gaze moved to my lips.
Breathe. In. Out,
I told myself.
I will kiss him without getting shocked. In. Out.

Isaac’s lips brushed mine with a feather-soft kiss that left me dying for more. Afterward, I stilled my racing heart and tucked my powers behind the steel wall, ready to kiss him again.

“How about we practice controlling the elements,” he said instead, much to my disappointment. His powers encompassed me, creating the feeling of weightlessness. With his hands on my waist, he lifted me off him as if I were a teddy bear and not a hundred-pound girl.

I folded my arms over my chest. “I thought the girl was supposed to be the one to slam on the brakes.”

“I’m merely trying to make the most of our time before you have to pick your brother up at the sitter’s. Besides, my mom’s due home any minute.” He held out a hand to help me up.

“Right.” I sighed and let him pull me to my feet.

Ever since our last attempt at making out, it had been quick pecks and teasing whispers of kisses. It sucked, but there was a reason Isaac wanted me to master controlling the elements. Stirring the air and summoning a storm required one’s mind to be at peace and in control of the powers. If my emotions sprinted wildly through my body, my powers would too, and the spell would show it. But if I could stop the rain or warm the breeze, then I could successfully tuck my powers behind the wall in my mind and kiss Isaac like a normal person.

We went outside to practice in the backyard. The sun hung at about three o’clock in a bright turquoise sky. The temperature was a pleasant forty-six degrees.

Isaac closed his eyes, taking a moment to find his center. When he opened them, the air around us felt charged.

“Draw in the energy from the atmosphere and trees and then concentrate on what you want to happen,” he said.

He raised his arms to either side. As if commanded, the dried leaves on the grass in front of us rose several feet off the ground. He then moved his hands through the air like an orchestra’s conductor does to signal its musicians to raise their instruments. The leaves shifted closer to us.

With a sweeping downward swing of Isaac’s right hand, the leaves began to dance around us to the melody of an unheard song. With his left hand, he pointed to the statue of an oversized frog and an equally disproportioned grasshopper. The frog picked up two twigs, which it used like drumsticks on the landscape stones nearby. The grasshopper rubbed its hind leg against its wing to provide the strings. Isaac tapped his forefingers in the air, and the tempo went from slow and romantic to quick and jolly. The leaves responded by twirling around us as if performing a choreographed waltz. It was beautiful to watch.

After a few minutes, the breeze died down and the leaves settled back on the ground.

“Your turn,” he said.

“You want me to do that?” I asked in awe.

“Start small. Just get the leaves to circle us.”

I closed my eyes in an effort to find my center, but no matter how hard I tried, Isaac’s orchestrated performance kept poking its way into my thoughts. I decided to try to copy what he’d done.

I raised my hands to my sides, but nothing happened. Isaac smiled encouragingly. I sucked in a breath, imagined I was conducting a ballet, and swung my hands in front of me. This time the leaves rose around us. I moved my fingers in a steady motion from side to side, hoping the leaves would follow. They did more of a frantic bunny hop than a graceful dance, but I’d take it. Isaac cued up the frog and grasshopper. They played a bubbly polka.

“You’re getting better at this,” Isaac said once the song had ended and the leaves settled back on the grass. “Want to try a little rain? The holly bushes could use the water.”

“Okay.” I imagined the moisture in the air gathering over the bushes, and a small fluffy cloud really did form above them. At the same time, the sun must have ducked behind a cloud of its own, but I ignored the sudden darkness and silently commanded,
Rain!

A single drop of water hit my nose. I looked up, surprised to find an ominous storm cloud above our heads. Within a split second, rain came down quicker than either of us could react. We were drenched by the time Isaac managed to counter my spell.

“I think I pissed off Mother Nature,” I said, wringing water from my hair.

“She’ll get over it.”

Isaac’s powers circled us in the form of warm air, drying our hair and clothes. Once we were no longer dripping wet, we headed inside. The clock on the microwave caught my attention.

“Is that the time?” I grabbed my purse off the table. “I have to pick Chase up before six.”

Isaac dug his keys out of his jacket pocket. “Let’s go.”

We had made it to the sitter’s with one minute to spare. Isaac drove us home, and I had just bolted the door behind Chase and me when I felt an unknown presence. The house didn’t smell right either. I grabbed the collar of Chase’s jacket to keep him from moving.

“What’s wrong?” he asked, stepping closer to me.

“Wait here.”

I walked forward, stopping when Chase stepped on the heel of my sneaker. His wide eyes told me there was no way he would wait by himself in the foyer. I took his hand. A quick survey from the hallway didn’t show anything out of place. I inhaled, trying to place the scent. Moss or—I took another deep breath—what the yard smelled like after a rainstorm.

I didn’t want to scare Chase any more than I probably already had, so instead of grabbing Dad’s umbrella from next to the stairs to use as a weapon, I clutched my backpack in a death grip and hoped slamming my textbooks down on someone’s head would be enough to stop an intruder.

We crept from room to room. A brief tour of the downstairs revealed nothing, and neither did our search of the upstairs, but Chase had left his bedroom window open.

“I’m going to nail it shut if you can’t remember to close it,” I scolded, leading the way back downstairs.

“I didn’t open it.” He plopped down on the tile and pulled off his gym shoes.

Chase had the warmest room in the house. He was always opening his window, claiming he was melting like Frosty the Snowman in a greenhouse, but it wasn’t worth arguing over.

“Whatever. You hungry?”

“Starving!”

I ruffled his caramel-brown mane. “Go wash up, and I’ll make us something.”

I’d just set the peanut butter and grape jelly on the table when I caught the sweet fragrance of honeysuckle.

“You didn’t finish the spell,” cooed a whimsical voice.

I swallowed hard and glanced around the kitchen, looking for the source of the voice that I decided was definitely female. It didn’t sound as threatening as it had the other day.

Still, I thought I’d made myself perfectly clear: I had changed my mind. The faerie should stay in her realm.

“Four little words,” she said, egging me on.

I didn’t need Isaac’s book to know the last line. It was imprinted in my memory, the minor change to what was typed on the page and all. The question was whether I still want to invite a faerie into my home.

Although, it seemed she was already here.

“And grant me sight,” I said, completing the spell.

I waited.

And waited.

Nothing.

I shook my head in disbelief. Either my mind played tricks on me, or I should’ve paid more attention to Isaac when he’d said fairies were devious creatures. I really hoped it was the former.

Annoyed, I slapped several slices of bread onto two plates and made Chase and myself a sandwich. Chase joined me in the kitchen and grabbed a jumbo bag of Doritos from the cabinet on the way to his seat at the table.

“I had half a mind not to come,” said the voice.

I spun around—both plates still in hand—to find a girl about my age sitting on the counter near the refrigerator. She wore a tank top that looked as if it had been fashioned together with fine silk thread and the petals of several pale pink orchids. Her white skirt covered her toes, her eyes were brushed deep purple, and pale red and yellow daisies adorned her silver-violet hair. From what I could see, she didn’t have wings sprouting out of her back.

“Really?” she said with a frown, and I felt my heart become heavy. Someone so beautiful shouldn’t have been able to make such a sad expression. “Dead rose petals and tap water in a container with a picture of a car on it? You couldn’t take the time to get fresh ingredients and use a real bowl before calling an audience with me?”

“It was bottled spring water,” I replied, forgetting we weren’t alone.

“Can I have milk?” Chase said from behind me as he tried to tear open the bag of chips.

My gaze bounced between Chase and the girl on the counter.

“What are you doing?” Chase asked, his eyes following mine to the fridge.

“Ah…” He couldn’t see her, I realized. The book had said faeries couldn’t be seen by most humans unless they chose to reveal themselves. This one obviously chose not to, or Chase would have asked who she was and how come she could sit on the counter and he couldn’t. I set the plates on the table and replied, “Nothing. Eat.”

My guest giggled. Her laughter sounded like enchanted glass wind chimes. Chase turned the bag of Doritos over, dumping half its contents onto his plate and the table. Ignoring the faerie, I snatched the bag from him.

“Can you make a bigger mess?” I put two handfuls of cheese-dusted corn chips back in the bag.

When I returned my attention to the faerie, she was staring out the window. My mind spun with a million questions that I couldn’t ask with Chase in the room.

“Do you have an imaginary friend?” Chase crunched down on a chip and kept talking. “Is that why you keep looking at the counter? Haley at school has one, and she says hers is the bestest friend ever because she doesn’t break the arms off her dolls and she doesn’t steal the last cookie on the plate when she’s not looking.”

I was too old for imaginary friends, but Chase didn’t know anything about the powers
.
Worse things could happen than my little brother believing I’d made up a playmate. “Yeah, I do, but let’s just keep this between us. Okay?”

“Sure.” Chase stuck another chip into his mouth and asked, “What’s your friend’s name?”

I looked at the faerie, who’d been listening quietly to the conversation.

“Brea.”

“Brea,” I repeated so that Chase could hear. “I’ll be right back. Finish your dinner.”

I motioned for Brea to follow me. She gave a fleeting glance toward the window before springing off the counter with the grace of a prima ballerina. She practically danced up to me, hands clasped behind her back. She had amazing eyes the color of violet quartz and creamy skin that looked dusted with shimmering powder. She was even prettier than the faeries in the books I’d read. I led the way into the foyer.

Once we were alone, she said, “You know, a witch should complete her spells, lest she wishes not to see who entered the door she opened.”

I turned to face her. “You’ve been here the whole time.”

“That is how a summoning spell works. You call, I come.”

“Well, yeah, but when I heard your voice, I didn’t realize you were physically here too. You could’ve told me.”

“I was deciding if I should trust you.” Her gaze wandered over the school pictures of Chase and me on the hallway wall before meeting mine. “Is there a reason you called me here?”

“Um,” I said, quickly gathering my thoughts, “yeah. I was hoping you would help me catch up on my chores. That way, I could catch up on my homework.”

“Your chores?” She strolled around me and into the family room. “And why would I do that?”

A test
, I thought, remembering a warning I’d read about faeries challenging a person’s desires. I walked up next to her. “Because I’ve summoned you for this purpose.”

She dragged a dainty finger over the couch and then the mantel above the fireplace. She looked beyond me a moment. “You will owe me.”

“I have cream. Well, mocha creamer. And we have other snacks, in case you’re hungry.”

Brea’s eyes found mine. “Perhaps if you allow me to linger in your world awhile, I could assist you.”

“Deal.” I clapped my hands together once. “If you could toss the jeans in the dryer—laundry room is behind that door—” I pointed to where I meant “—and clean up after my brother as soon as he finishes eating, that would be great.”

“Is that all? You only wish these simple tasks be completed?”

I wanted more help, but now that I saw how gorgeous and elegantly dressed Brea was, there was no way I could ask her to scrub toilets or clean the family room. “That’s all I can think of.”

“As you wish.”

Brea twirled on her toes and headed to the laundry room. I joined Chase in the kitchen, but I couldn’t concentrate with Brea in my house.

“Finish your sandwich,” I instructed and then followed the sound of Brea’s voice into the family room. She hummed a beautiful melody as she swept a feather duster over a lamp. “You really don’t have to do that.”

“I like to keep busy,” she said. “If I were home, I’d be working on my gown for the summer solstice.”

I followed behind her. “You don’t have wings.”

“No. I’m too big to fly, don’t you think?”

“I guess. Wait! Do some faeries have wings?”

“Not in the Seelie Court.”

I nodded. “How old are you?”

“A hundred and forty-three in your years.”

“Wow, you look great for your age.” I stepped out of her way. She crossed the room to dust the pictures on the mantel.

“I’m young when it comes to my people.”

“Right.” I puffed out my cheeks, wondering what to ask next. “Do you come here often?”

“It’s been—” her dainty finger bounced in the air as she thought “—three years, or maybe four since my last visit. I forget. Didn’t you have homework? Isn’t that why I’m doing your chores?”

“Yes.” But there was a faerie in my house. Mr. Chapin’s assignment would be there when she left.

Brea motioned for me to scoot and went back to dusting. Reluctantly, I returned to the kitchen and ate while I read a chapter in
The Scarlet Letter
. I’d barely finished a page in the book when Chase shoved the last corner of bread into his mouth and dismissed himself to go play in his room. It was times like this—when I was stuck doing homework and overloaded with chores—that I wished I was young too. But I wasn’t, so I tried to focus on the words in front of me.

At one point, I thought Brea was reading over my shoulder, but before I could turn to check, she appeared in the doorway holding a tall pile of folded jeans. I asked her to leave them on the foot of our beds. She even ran Chase’s bath, but since he couldn’t see or hear her, I had to take a break from homework to make sure he used soap and washed behind his ears.

“You’re a lifesaver,” I said later that night.

Brea sat on my dresser, kicking her feet. I got a glimpse of flat green sandals when her skirt fluttered upward.

I sat on the floor, organizing my backpack. “The house looks amazing. I can’t thank you enough. If you’d like, I can show you where the creamer is.”

“I suspect in the kitchen, but that a faerie would drink of your beverages is a myth. One who indulges in such things becomes trapped in your world.”

“How does that work?” I asked, intrigued.

“It just is.” She crossed her arms over her chest and rubbed the goose bumps on her triceps.

“Are you cold?” I wasn’t sure if the chill she felt was because her tank top was far from appropriate for this time of year or if it had to do with the thought of being trapped in my world, never to see her family again.