Mage's Fire

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Four: Nadia

“So… he was naked?”

Riley sighed in exasperation, dropping her head against the table top. “Yes, Nadia,” she grumbled before raising her head. “When werewolves shift from wolf to human form, we tend to do it in the nude.”

I raised my hands in defense. “Hey,” I said, “I was just asking questions.”

She rolled her eyes. “I’m so not describing him to you,” she grumbled. “No matter how many times you beg.”

I smirked, even though secretly, I didn’t want to know. I don’t know why, but the thought of men naked… yeesh. It was just disgusting to think about.

Riley had finally texted me that morning, saying that she needed to meet up at the Hideout after school. After kissing my grandmother goodbye, I left Delta in her care and suffered through a long, boring day of classes. Whenever I tried to press Riley for more information, she only said that she’d tell me later.

She took a sip of her coffee, sighing as she hung her head again. “I missed curfew, so Kate grounded me for a week. The only reason that I’m able to be here now is because I told her that we’re studying for a coming test.”

I laughed. “Damn, you’re gonna be in so much trouble when she finds out.”

She grinned. “And what makes you think that she’s going to find out?” Just then, her phone rang. She looked down at the caller ID and frowned. “Shit,” she muttered.

I laughed again. “Because ever since everything went down with Dominic, she’s been hyper aware of everything that goes on in your life.”

She groaned. “Dammit,” she muttered. She hastily gathered her things, shot back the last dregs of her coffee, and waved her hand to me. “If she doesn’t take my phone for this,” she said, “I’ll text you later. Love you, bye!”

And just like that, she was gone. I lifted a hand, then dropped it back onto the table before I realized that she had gone. I glanced over my shoulder, catching sight of the tail end of her braid as she disappeared around the corner. I sighed and switched to her seat, unwilling to be alone with my back to the door.

I reached into my pocket and pulled out my phone. I started trying to read up on what I could about magic, but the internet was so widespread and diverse, I was constantly pulled back and forth between old legends that had no constant facts about them, and sites for World of Warcraft and Dungeons and Dragons.

I sighed in frustration, tossing my phone onto the table in front of me. I took a sip of my coffee, nearly whining in protest when I discovered that it had gone cold.

The chair in front of me was suddenly pulled out. I jerked upright, my heart rate picking up as panic started to take over. The lights flickered briefly overhead, then I realized it was just Sierra sitting in the seat opposite of me. I sighed and leaned back in my chair, throwing her a dirty look. “What do you want?” I snapped.

She gave me an amused smile. “Why so snippy?” she asked.

I narrowed my eyes. “Gee, I don’t know,” I growled. “Maybe because you and your brother just attacked my best friend last night? On her territory!”

Sierra shrugged, still smiling. “I didn’t want to,” she said. “I was just following orders.”

I scoffed. “And since when do you follow orders?”

A dark look crossed her face. “Things change,” she said. Then she surprised me by pushing a mug of fresh, hot coffee towards me. “I saw yours had gone cold, so I took the liberty of getting you a new one.”

I frowned, picking up the mug. I sniffed the sweet, chocolatey aroma that wafted up from it while giving her a dirty look. She laughed and said, “Don’t worry, I didn’t poison it.”

Trusting her for some reason, I lifted the mug to my lips. I nearly moaned as the coffee hit my stomach, spreading warmth throughout my entire body. “Chocolate Decadence,” I said as I took another sip and set the mug back down. “How’d you know that’s my favorite?”

She grinned. “I know things. That, and I could smell the cold remains of your mug when I walked in.”

“And… why did you get it for me?” I was so damn curious. This girl was an absolute puzzle. One night, she’s trying to tear out my best friend’s throat, and the next she’s playing friendly with me? What the hell was her problem?

She shrugged. “Because I like you,” she said. “And I wanted to be nice. What are you doing there?”

She looked pointedly at my phone sitting on the table. I sighed and picked it up, then set it back down. After giving her a shrewd expression, I said, “My dad and grandmother were arguing last night. Something about how I had magic inside me, and how it was going to kill me. So, I tried to read more about it, but all I can get is some stupid websites for freaking World of Warcraft and D&D.”

She nodded, but she didn’t have any surprise on her face. She seemed to be contemplating something instead. Finally, she reached into her purse and pulled out a large, thick old tome. The cover was made out of leather, and there was no title on it. Just an image of a tree carved into the leather.

“I think you’ll find more answers in here than you will on any D&D site,” she said, a smirk on her face. I frowned at the book, puzzled. She sighed and set it on the table. “Look, I know you and your friends think I’m the evil skank bitch from Hell, but I really do want to help you.”

“Why?” I asked.

She could only shrug. Again. “I have my reasons,” she said. “And I’ve got a lot of them. But the most important reason is that I like you. I like your spunk, your… your fire. It’s very refreshing after living with my father for eighteen years.”

There was a bitter edge to her tone. Her eyes narrowed, and they started to glow. Driven by some impulse, I reached across the table to lay my hand over hers. “Are you okay?” I asked.

She laughed. “Not really,” she said. “But after graduation, I will be.” She abruptly stood, a shiver passing through her body. She cleared her throat and said, “You still have my number. If you want to text or call for any reason, I’ll pick up.” And with that, she turned and strode from the Hideout.

I stared after her for a moment, utterly and completely confused. I stared down at the book. I couldn’t explain it, but there was something about it… it seemed to be calling to me. I took another sip of my hot coffee, pulled the book towards me, and opened it.

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