I had a hard time understanding why people didn’t believe in magick. It was everywhere. Who could doubt it when the winds sung, the sky sparkled with stars, when rainbows appeared after a rainfall, and dewdrops glistened in the morning? Everyone in some way has been touched by magick. It was just simply a part of life.
Seth and I were living proof.
I caught Seth Nightingale staring at me for like the umpteenth time, which wasn’t that unusual really. We kind of had been playing this cat and mouse game since kindergarten. He would glare—I would grimace and glare back. And so the vicious cycle went.
What had me so worried was this undeniable pull I’d been feeling toward him lately. I thought I had gotten rid of my silly childhood crush years ago—apparently not.
I do not like Seth, I reminded myself—again—as if that was going to help curb this insatiable need to be near him. Ever since the start of our senior year, I noticed a shift inside me. It wasn’t all centered around Seth, but he was the root of it. There were hundreds of boys to choose from, and I had dated my fair share of them, so why Seth? Why now?
What was it about this guy that made me want to throw all caution to the wind and leap into his arms, right in the middle of English nonetheless? There was something behind those smoldering green eyes that intrigued me. And no matter how many years had gone by, that intrigue only intensified.
Seth and I had a complex relationship, a love-hate relationship. We loved to hate each other, but it hadn’t always been that way.
There had been a time when we had been friends—best friends.
Shocking, I know. I even had a hard time believing it.
Before all the eye glaring, name calling, and general loathing, we had been inseparable. Now, a span of the ocean stretched between us. Even our seating arrangements in class were affected—it was that bad. I sat in the first row; he sat in the last row. One year just for shits and giggles, I sat in the seat beside him. He had literally gotten up and told the teacher he couldn’t be subjected to skank.
That burned my ass.
What he really meant was, he needed to be as far away from me as possible.
Asshole. And I didn’t have a problem saying it to his face. Daily. Or showing him just how deep my burning hatred rooted. The one-finger salute became my signature greeting as we passed in the halls.
I had spent the remainder of my freshman year searing him with hateful scowls.
Yet, somehow we co-existed at Vermillion High without bringing it to the ground, but we’d come pretty close. If I didn’t know better, I’d actually think he liked pissing me off.
So I was back to my original predicament.
Why was Seth looking at me with a spark of interest instead of his usually irritation? Okay, I admit over the years I’d done my fair share of gawking. It was not like Seth was a hardship on the eyes. Just the opposite, he was sinful eye-candy. And the asshat knew it.
How could I find him both drool-worthy and stab-worthy? That was just wrong on so many levels. But for some unholy reason he both fascinated me and infuriated me. Embarrassingly, I knew way more about dark and dreamy than I would ever admit.
That’s how screwed up I really was.
Seth was an amazing artist, always doodling in class, sketching instead of taking notes. He had these breath-stopping green eyes and dark, messy hair that most guys couldn’t achieve if they tried. It was adorable. But that was were adorable stopped on Seth. He oozed smexy and had that whole tall, dark, and dangerous persona going on. To say he made my mouth water was an understatement. But the real problem was…Seth was off limits. And we couldn’t have been more of polar opposites if we tried.
As talented as Seth was at art, I was good at…being popular and pretty. If that wasn’t cliché enough for you, I was also a cheerleader dating the basketball star. I made myself want to hurl. There was a time when I had been nothing but the girl in the shadows with Seth. It was amazing what one summer could do to a young girl’s figure… and to her popularity.
My life sometimes felt meaningless, blah, except for one small detail.
There was goddess blood running through my veins that gave me power—I was a nixie. Descendent to Arachne—a greatly skilled warrior princess. Well, before a goddess turned her into a spider.
Pretty F’d up.
The cincher…Seth was a nixie, too.
It was what initially drew us together, the shared secret of magick. Actually our town was sort of a magickal haven for nixies. Vermillion had been were the birthright of nixies was forged. But most importantly, it wasn’t that we currently ran with completely different crowds that kept Seth and me on opposite sides of the classroom. It was because he was a Nightingale, and in my family that was an enormous no-no.
Our families despised each other. That was how it had been since the day I was born, going back more generations than I could count. A Montgomery and a Nightingale had always lived in Vermillion, South Dakota, and there had always been bad blood between our families. We had been forbidden from seeing each other, but that hadn’t stopped either of us from being curious.
Rules were meant to be broken, and Seth loved to go against the rules.
At one time Seth and I had been best friends, in secret of course, just as our little sisters were to this day. There was just something appealing about going against your parents’ direct orders. It was the whole Romeo and Juliet thing. All through elementary school we had found ways to meet in secrecy. It had been daring and fun.
Our parents never knew, and if they did, they never said anything. I was torn in half the day our friendship died. Young, stupid, and naive, I had thought that Seth felt something for me—a connection. I had made it bluntly clear how interested I was in him, not having a shy bone in my body. That lout rejected me our first year in junior high, and the sting of rejection had never left me. It was the start of our hate relationship, and I wasn’t ready for a repeat performance of that kind of embarrassment any time soon.
My heart couldn’t take it.
“Katia,” Claudia, my best friend whispered in the desk next to me.
I tore my gaze from Seth and looked at her perfectly raised black brows and big blue eyes. “What?” I muttered.
The corners of her pink lips turned up. “You’re drooling.”
“I am not,” I snapped, wiping the corner of my mouth with the back of my hand for good measure. After all, I had been doing some heavy eyeballing. What was wrong with me?
Biting the end of my pen, I snuck one last quick peek at Seth. He had stopped scribbling on his English textbook and was looking over at Claudia and me. By the dark expression on his face he looked irked, as if we were bothering him. Breaking his concentration or something, which was a total joke, since it was obvious he wasn’t listening to Ms. Harper lecture about our next written essay.
“Are you and Matt going to the party Friday night?” Claudia asked as soon as Ms. Harper turned to the dry erase board.
I dug out my notebook, pretending to take notes. All concentration was shot for the day, thanks to Seth. “I don’t know, probably.” Out of the corner of my eyesight, I saw Seth’s hands clench the sides of the desk. What’s got his boxers in a bunch?
“You have to,” Claudia whined. “Everyone is going to be there.”
In her book, that meant anyone who was anyone was going to be there. “I am sure Matt will want to go,” I conceded.
“Good, we are going to get totally waxed—”
“Miss Jenssen, do you have something to share with the class?” Ms. Harper interrupted.
I slunk lower in my desk. Claudia, however, faced forward and smiled sweetly. “I was just telling Katia that we are going to get completely blitzed on Friday night.”
I ducked my head, trying to cover my smirk. The entire class erupted in snickers, except of course for Seth, who looked ready to commit murder.
“I have a better idea. How about you spend Friday in detention?” Ms. Harper countered.
Claudia wasn’t fazed. “Can’t. I have plans.”
“Miss Jenssen, you are trying my patience.”
Luckily Claudia was saved by the bell as everyone shot up in his or her seat and started filing into the halls. She waved at an exasperated Ms. Harper on the way out the door. Claudia spent her life skirting the lines of trouble. She shot me a wink, and I shook my head as we parted ways. “See you at lunch, Katia,” she called over her shoulder.
I watched her saucy little butt saunter out of the classroom and had to bite my lip. I still couldn’t figure out why she hung out with Claudia and her other uppity friends. Kat wasn’t a snob. At least not the Kat I had known.
Really, I shouldn’t give two shits.
What Kat did—who she hung out with, who she kissed—was none of my business.
I scoffed at myself. That was all bullshit, because the truth was I cared.
I cared too damn much.
And that was my problem.
Sitting at my desk another moment, I thought legs like hers should have been outlawed from high school. She had long, sun-kissed legs that were toned in just the right places. All her cheerleading practice had paid off, but I was more of a butt kind of guy anyway, and I could tell you that Kat had a magnificent ass. She wasn’t extraordinarily tall or short. Her hair was a long, angelic white with these soft waves that framed her heart-shaped face. And what a face, but it was her smile that made my heart seize. And the two dimples that appeared with it were the icing on the cake. Exotic was the first word that came to mind.
But where she was concerned, I had a hands-off policy.
That didn’t stop me from being aware of her twenty-four seven, or appreciating what she offered. When Kat walked into a room, everything inside me became charged, electric. She had that kind of power over my treacherous body.
I hated the way she made me feel without even trying…and I loved it at the same time.
I was so screwed in the head.
It was unfair that the one person I wanted was the only person I could never have. Fate was a bitch.
The longest three months of my life felt like yesterday and had changed everything. It was the first time Kat and I had spent a summer apart. She had gone to her Grandma’s beach house in Rhode Island, and I didn’t see her at all. On our first day back at school, I had gotten a shock that rocked my system, especially for a pre-adolescent boy. For the first time, I found myself attracted to her on a whole new level. My body suddenly had a mind of its own. When I saw her that dreaded Monday morning, all I could think was Oh shit. That’s Kat?
She was the first girl to give me a boner in the school halls. Talk about awkward and uncomfortable. I had some pretty wild fantasies about her that year—fantasies were safe. Kat was drop dead hot.
My jaw had hit the ground.
Sweet Jesus. The beach had done her body good.
I’d been standing at the bottom steps of the school entrance as she passed me by. The scent of her shampoo teased the air around her, and she gave me a heart-stopping grin. I watched as she flipped her long curls, giggling with Claudia Adams and Harper Thompson at her side—her two new besties.
Before she entered the double doors, she had glanced over her shoulder at me and ours eyes clashed. She flashed her dimples at me, and her light iridescent blue eyes twinkled. Whether Kat had known it or not, that was the day our friendship had drastically changed.
Good God. I had been pretty sure Kat had just flirted with me. I had swallowed hard and slumped against the stair railings, feeling the ground slip out from under me.
It was no surprise that was the year Kat had shot up in her social status. She joined the cheerleading squad and was always surrounded by a flock of horny boys. What no one knew was I had spent that entire year fighting the urge to plant my fist in their faces. I’d wanted to scream at her groupies that she was mine. In my head, not one of those guys had the right to touch her, talk to her, or look at her like a piece of pecan pie.
Because Katia had been destined to be mine.
I’d wanted nothing more than to march up to them and slam their heads into the concrete block walls. And that was for just looking at her. Imagine how I’d felt when one of them touched her. I literally lost my shit the first time I saw her kiss another guy. Let’s just say that the dent on the locker door was still there, and my poor knuckle had bled like a bitch.
It had done nothing to dull the ache in my chest.
Now, it was our senior year and nothing had really changed, except that I learned some self-control. I didn’t want to smash Matt’s face every time I passed him in the halls. I called that progress.
And I became an asshole. It was the only defense I had against her and the crazy-intense feelings she stirred inside me. It was far better for her to hate me than to have her love me. I didn’t think I could have restrained myself if she loved me. Hell, even if she liked me a little, it would have been too hard.
Getting out of my seat, I trailed behind the group, catching one last glimpse of Kat before she disappeared into the crowd. The rest of the day was a breeze after that. Thankfully we only shared two classes this year, which in my book was two too many. First period and then English, I figured we should be able to survive our last year without killing each other—literally.
When the final bell of freedom rang, I sighed in sweet relief and trucked it home. I walked through the front door, and Dad took one look at me with sympathy filling his hazel eyes. “That bad, huh?” he asked, leaning on the fridge.
I sunk into the couch, mixed with rage, sadness, loneliness, and longing so profound it ate at my flesh like a zombie. “You have no idea.”
He offered me a Coke. “It’s for the best, Seth.”
So I’d heard before. I was getting tired of hearing it, the same song and dance. Popping the top on the can, I took one long swig. My parents meant well and when you came from a family of magick, you learned to respect what knowledge they gave.
Dad sat down next to me and stretched his long legs under the coffee table. We had the same height and build, but I had gotten my coloring from my mom. There was not a touch of grey in his chocolate hair. “You know that this is the only way to keep her safe.”
Yada. Yada. Yada. The warnings were etch-o-sketched into my brain, but that didn’t mean it didn’t suck serious monkey ass. “I know, Dad. You don’t have to worry. Nothing will happen.” But, for the first time, I didn’t believe those words.
There had been something different in her silvery-blue eyes today. The usual scorn had been replaced with interest. I hadn’t seen that glint of intrigue and possibility since sixth grade, right before I had smashed it to smithereens. Let’s just say that back then, delicacy hadn’t been one of my superpowers, and I might have been too harsh, but I hadn’t known how to handle Kat. Or the feelings she enticed.
I wasn’t sure I could handle them now.
“Harsh” really wasn’t a strong enough word. I had broken her heart and stomped on it, crushing it with cruel words. I had been an insensitive jerk, though I think she’d had a few more colorful words for me that day. And who could have blamed her.
If she suddenly decided to flip the tables, how long would I really be able to stay away? How long would I be able to deny what my heart and soul demanded?
One year. One more year.
It wasn’t just resisting Kat. It was giving up the girl who had been destined to be mine. Normally you don’t mess with fate, being a nixie, you know better than to muddle with the greater powers, but she wasn’t just fated as mine. She was my starbound. And that was harder to ignore for nixies than the next hit for a meth addict. It was impossible. Especially when finding your one true mate was so rare among us. The fact that I had known she was mine since birth was a freaking miracle.
But she was one miracle I could never have.
To make matters worse, her parents hadn’t taken the same approach mine had when it came to the curse. For as long as I could remember, I had heard the warnings, was told to stay far away, but Kat’s family kept her in the dark. She knew our families didn’t get along, but she didn’t know the truth.
Why we could never be together.