Grace smiled as the light flashed before her, Beck’s arm draped over her shoulder. Basil, Malcolm, and the rest of Grace’s family stood in front of them, everyone holding up cameras or phones, taking pictures of the new, happy graduates.
Grace looked to her right, over at her best friend. Beck smiled at her, and she grinned in return. After everything the both of them had been through, she was amazed they were as fine as they were. There were days that she felt numb, and all she wanted was to curl up into a ball and hide away from the world. There were days where she wanted nothing to do with anyone. But not today. Today, she was with her loved ones, and nothing could ruin this moment.
Malcolm glanced around, and after he made sure no one was watching, he snapped his fingers. Instantly, two picture frames appeared, which he held out to both of them. Grace accepted her gift, smiling when she saw a small, painted portrait of her and Beck standing side by side in front of the gray wolf metal statue out in front of Wolf Valley High School. They had to return their graduation gowns, but the emerald green caps still adorned their heads, the tassels made from green and silver string. A small wolf’s head was attached to the tassel, as well as a large silver ’18.
“I used some of your paints, Grace,” Malcolm said, shrugging nonchalantly. “I hope you don’t mind.”
Grace laughed. “You’re good,” she said. “I love it, thank you.”
Malcolm smiled, bowing at the waist with a flourish of the wrist. Grace and Beck laughed, and her smile grew when she saw the way Beck looked at Malcolm.
Just a few months ago, Beck was a skinny, quiet kid who didn’t know how to stand up for himself. Now, he was a confident, all powerful Seer, able to take care of himself if the time ever came. Thanks to the training he did with Grace and Basil, he had filled out. He wasn’t a skinny twig anymore—now, he had lightly muscled arms, and a wider chest. There was definition to his facial features, and he wasn’t soft anymore. There was a lightness that hadn’t been there before, even with everything that had happened with Diana. That, and he was in love. Though, both Beck and Malcolm refused to say anything out loud. But she could see it.
Truth be told, Malcolm was not bad looking at all. He was half Japanese, born to a samurai warrior and an English noblewoman sometime during the fourteenth century, in Feudal Japan. He was a very powerful mage, and he was Grace’s mentor. He was also one of her dearest friends, and she couldn’t imagine a world without him. Especially since he was a very memorable person. He always searched for an excuse to dress up, wearing colorful, flashy clothes made from countries all over the world. His nails were painted a dark, night blue, and he wore black eyeliner that made his eerie, electric blue eyes pop.
After their friends and family finished taking pictures, Grace’s aunt Beth and uncle Mike stepped towards her. She smiled as they wrapped their arms around her, holding tight and refusing to let go. After a moment, they pulled away. Beth wiped at her eyes, the irises the exact same shade of jade green as Grace’s. Beth smiled at her a moment, and then said, “Your parents and sister would be so proud of you.”
Grace smiled, her gut twisting. Three years ago, Grace and her family were involved in a horrible car crash, orchestrated by a man named Duncan Carter. Except, he wasn’t human. He was a Kuren, a revenant that had committed heinous acts as a human. He lived to destroy anyone with the name of MacEntyre, and he had killed her parents and older sister. He had almost killed her.
Because her sister, Regan, saved her life before dying, she was reborn as a Mejhan. For three years, she had let Grace believe she had truly died. She was supposed to let go of her old life, and it would have worked. That is, until Grace discovered she was a mage.
Grace frowned. As far as she knew, Regan was currently hunting Duncan Carter. It was the best thing her sister could do to protect her, to make sure that he didn’t kill her, or their aunt, who was also a part of the MacEntyre clan.
She agonized over the fact that she couldn’t tell Beth about Regan, that she was still alive. Well, somewhat. Technically, she was one of the undead. But she could still breathe, and her body functioned like a human’s for the most part. But until she could kill Duncan Carter, she couldn’t tell Beth or Mike about her.
Beth sighed, smiling at everyone. “All right!” she exclaimed, clapping her hands together. “Let’s head back to the Delacroix household.”
After a few more moments of last minute pictures, everyone began making their way to the school parking lot. Grace hugged her diploma to her chest, watching as Beck and Malcolm walked side by side ahead of her. There was barely any space between their shoulders, and she couldn’t shake the smile from her face. She didn’t want to. They had all fought to be where they were now, and she wouldn’t give that up for anything.
The sweet aroma of spice and leather embraced her as Basil hugged Grace from behind, matching her pace perfectly. She laughed, tipping her head back to his chest.
“You’re messing up my hair!” she complained. Normally, Grace didn’t care whether her hair looked nice or not. But she and Beth had spent a long time fixing her hair, and using bobby pins to keep the cap on her head.
Basil snorted. “You think I care?” he asked. But he relented and eased up, allowing room for her hair to move.
She stopped and turned in his arms, facing him head-on. Basil was tall, easily over six feet, with broad, muscled shoulders. He had dark brown, shaggy hair that fell over his brown and gold flecked eyes. He had high cheekbones and a strong, straight nose. Basil was half Native American, his mother being one of the Sioux women that walked the trail of tears. His skin was tanned, and at his throat on a necklace was the claw of a grizzly bear.
Basil dipped his head, pressing his lips to hers. Grace sighed as she kissed him in return, her arms coming up to drape over the back of his neck. He gently gripped her waist, holding her close as he kissed her.
He pulled away, and Grace followed, unwilling to let him go. He chuckled, his gaze holding her in place. “Congratulations,” he murmured, kissing the tip of her nose. Grace smiled, turning her head away.
“Thanks,” she said. She dropped her hands, lacing her fingers with his. They continued walking, the rest of their group far ahead of them.
“So,” Basil started, almost unwillingly. “You ready to face the Court?”
She blinked. After months of waiting and training, it was now time for her to head over to England, home of the Mage’s Court. Soon, after final preparations and last minute training, she would be competing in the King and Queen’s Tournament, in a battle for the crown. She was determined to win, but not so she can be Queen. She wanted to win so she could restore her family’s honor, to return the name of MacEntyre to its former glory. The MacEntyres were one of the thirteen clans of the Court. Thanks to Duncan Carter, and his insatiable desire for blood and revenge, none in her family was safe.
“Yeah,” she finally answered. “I’m somewhat terrified, but I’m excited.”
He smiled. “Good. You’ll be Queen, I know it.”
Grace nodded, but she didn’t say another word. She was too worried about what would happen if she didn’t win.
“All right, spill. What’s the deal with you and Malcolm?”
Beck looked up from his journal, towards where Grace was packing her paints and canvases. When they got to London, they’d be staying with Malcolm at his estate just out of the city. He would be transporting most of their belongings using magic, and then Beck, Grace, Malcolm, and Basil would make their way to Spokane, where they’d board a plane and fly out to London. A giddy sense of excitement rose up in his chest. For as long as he could remember, Beck loved to travel. He felt like an adventurer, and it was a chance for him to escape Wolf Valley for a time.
Grace sighed in exasperation and rolled her head towards him. “You. Malcolm. Spill.”
Beck shrugged, turning his gaze away. But he couldn’t hide the smile on his face. He didn’t even know what was going on between him and the mysterious mage. He just knew that he cared for Malcolm, and he had deep feelings for him. Feelings stronger than just affection.
He was still amazed that Malcolm even bothered with him. Even when he was a kid, Beck knew that he liked boys in the way he was supposed to like girls. He had had his number of crushes growing up, but one of the downsides of living in a small town was that there weren’t hardly any gay people. For a long time, he was depressed over the fact. He wanted to be close with someone, to be intimate. He craved the companionship, and he was terrified that he would never get to have that connection.
“What do you want spilled?” he asked.
“Are you two together now?” she demanded. “Did you guys kiss? If so, when? Where? How and when did you decide you were for each other?”
Beck laughed. “No, we’re not together.” Though he wanted them to be. “And no, we didn’t kiss.” Though it drove him crazy. There was one time, at prom, when he and Malcolm almost shared their first kiss. Beck had asked him to go, and he was pleasantly surprised when Malcolm said yes. They were dancing together during a slow song, and they were so close… but then the song ended, and a fast paced beat set everyone off on the dance floor.
Grace sighed. “Damn,” she muttered.
Beck frowned. Grace hardly ever swore, and when she did, he could tell the difference between her exclamations. He could tell when she was very truly annoyed, and he could tell when she was disappointed.
“What?” he asked, sitting up straight. “Why?”
She shook her head, a smile on her face. “Nothing,” she said. “I just thought that you would be a thing by now.”
Beck scoffed, rolling his eyes. Grace laughed, and for the next half hour, they continued what they were doing. Beck had finished packing the day before, and Malcolm had whisked his belongings already. Now, all he had was a travel duffel bag with clothes, and a backpack with toiletries, a book, and his journal. They would be leaving early in the morning, that way they could catch their plane the following evening.
After Grace finished packing, she and Beck flopped on their backs on her bed, staring up at the ceiling. Shortly after moving to Wolf Valley, and meeting Beck, Grace had painted the surrounding mountains on the base of her walls. She had then painted the constellations all around the walls, using glow in the dark paint. Beck and Grace stared up at them, his left leg and her right twisted together, their shoulders touching. Beck stretched an arm behind his head, the other resting on his stomach. Butterflies flew around in his gut, knowing that Malcolm was in the guest room right below him.
Months ago, Malcolm’s small town mansion had been burned to the ground. Diana Petrov, Grace’s biggest rival in the Tournament, had destroyed Malcolm’s home trying to destroy them all. After they had fought her off, Grace’s aunt and uncle allowed Basil and Malcolm to stay with them. Now, any time he came over, Beck could feel Malcolm’s presence hanging over the atmosphere of the house.
“You excited for tomorrow?” Grace asked.
Beck swallowed. “Hell yeah,” he said. He smiled. He had wanted to travel outside of the U.S. for as long as he could remember, but he never had the chance. The only time he had left America was when he and his family drove north to Calgary for a week, when a family member died. He was giddy with excitement. Not only would he be traveling, he would be going to London. From there, he could go anywhere in Europe.
Grace chuckled. “Me too,” she said. “What do you want to do first? Besides settling in at Malcolm’s estate, that is.”
Beck smiled, turning his head to look at the outline of her face. Oh, the things he would do and see…