This novel is limited to 100 free copies due to its part in Inkitt’s Novel Contest.
Book 1 of the Shadows Saga
In Ancient Times, it was written
that the Guardians will come together....
We were going to get caught. And if we got caught, my mother was going to kill me.
Easing myself down from the open window, I hit the ground with a thump and hurriedly adjusted my top so I didn't flash any nosy students. Or the headmaster. Or Aaron. Yeah. My mother would just love that.
Only a little self-conscious, I raked quick and surprisingly steady fingers through my hair. No matter what I did, my curls never liked to cooperate. I could only imagine what they would look like after this night was through. Glancing over my shoulder, I searched the shadows, trying my best not to make any noise as I followed my best friend through the underbrush and away from the school.
"Quinn Michaels," I grumbled under my breath, "you are seriously going to be the death of me."
In response, Quinn just grinned. Even in the dark, I could make out her glossy brown hair the color of lacquered oak. Her deep, dark blue eyes flashed with mischief. I felt rocks settle in my stomach. I knew, beyond a shadow of a doubt, even without my power of premonition, that look meant trouble. That look always meant trouble.
"Oh, come on," Quinn chided, her voice like bells in the night. "You know I'd never get you in serious trouble."
No. She did not just say that. She just told me an outright lie. I snorted. The girl should be a comedian. "What about that time with the shapeshifter at the lake? Or that time the twins threw knives at us at the theater? Or the time we made a deal with a rogue fey..."
"Okay, okay!" Quinn's laughter echoed off the street and I had to grin back.
I told you so, I thought loud enough I knew she would hear me. Quinn stuck out her tongue.
"So maybe you do have reason to worry," she conceded. "But if I recall correctly, I never did any of that alone. Half of it was your idea!"
Alright, she had a point there. "I admit to nothing," I said, brushing off my jeans as we made it to the street. My long hair fell across my face, enclosing me within a golden brown curtain. Annoyed, I swatted it away and caught sight of a shiny silver Nissan. "Isn't this Jake's car?" I eyed it suspiciously.
Quinn shrugged. "I'm borrowing it."
"You mean stealing."
She batted a hand through the air. "Details." With a click of a button she unlocked the doors and we slid inside. The soft, supple leather interior smelled vaguely of mint and I breathed it in with a quiet sigh, letting the scent wrap around me like a cool blanket.
Quinn stuck the key in the ignition and grinned devilishly as the engine roared to life. "What my brother doesn't know won't hurt him."
"I bet he disagrees.” Irritated, I frowned. “Are you ever going to tell me where we're going?" Even to my own ears my voice sounded edgy, though I wasn't sure why. All day long I had been getting this growing sense of unease that I couldn't explain, like we were about to cross over into some forbidden territory; one from which there was no coming back. A lot of doom and gloom stuff. It was like something was blocking my visions, keeping me from seeing, and I did not like it.
Reading my thoughts, Quinn frowned. "What's up?" The night surged around us as she sped out of the parking lot, through the gate, and onto the main road leading away from the Academy.
"Something just feels I don't know...off." I grimaced. My head was pounding; a dull ache throbbing at my temples. Closing my eyes, I tried to pinpoint the feeling and failed. It was almost like fingers were going through my..."Damn it, Michaels! Get out of my head!"
"Well, if you won't tell me, I have to find out somehow." As usual, Quinn was completely unapologetic. "The Sawyer Aspen I know is rarely this tense. I'm beginning to get a little worried myself."
"You could just ask, you know," I grumbled. Disgusting visions crowded my mind. I started to picture things like fingers and worms and whatever else combing through the creases and recesses of my brain. It was awful.
"I did. You didn't answer fast enough."
“Right.” I glared at her. "Seriously, where are we going?"
Quinn's face lit with excitement in the oncoming headlights. "I found one."
Oh boy. That could mean so many things. My eyes narrowed. "One what?"
"A Fey. Or a shapeshifter. Or some other kind of creature that looks human because he looked completely normal, even with me trying to push through his shields. They're as thick as Gray's. But he knows about us, Sawyer.” She was nearly bouncing in her seat. “He said he'd give us answers."
My jaw dropped. Like I swear, hit the floor. "You're joking."
"You really found one?” I asked incredulously. It seemed too good to be true. “How?"
And then she did something I don't think I've ever seen her do: she looked guilty. Quinn Michaels, Queen of all that is Trouble, actually bit her lip and appeared genuinely apologetic. I think Hell must have frozen over.
"Well," Quinn started, veering around a hairpin curve. The tires squealed. "Don't tell Grayson, but I sort of shamelessly flirted with this guy until he agreed to meet with me. It took a lot of giggling and arm touching, but I'm pretty sure I about charmed the pants off of him.” She grinned wickedly. “Literally."
For one solid second, I just gaped at her. Then I let out a shocked, yet totally enthralled laugh. "Wait, what? I must not have heard you right. You were flirting with a boy who is not the moody and temperamental, yet lovable, pain in the butt we all know and (well, you) love? You? Why?"
"Because I want answers!" Quinn shouted, beating her hands on the steering wheel. "Don't you?" she demanded, frustration pinching her features. I didn't answer. "I want to know who we are, what we are. Why we can do the things we can do. I want to know what it means. I want to know why the creepy blonde twins are intent on relentlessly hunting us down; why they keep trying to kill us. I want answers, Sawyer. I need to know."
We both stared into the darkness as Quinn navigated the wet, winding roads. Everything we didn't know, everything we had been through in the last two years; we could get answers. Finally.
"That's all well and good," I said quietly, breaking the silence and trying to draw Quinn out of her own mind, "but I really meant why did you shamelessly flirt with a random guy?"
Quinn's lips crooked up at the corner. "I don't know! It was fun, I guess.” She shrugged. “I love Gray, but he's so serious all the time. We don't do much real flirting anymore and this guy...he was just so easy to talk to.” Her lips curved up in a sly smile. “I mean, he was definitely cute. If things work out tonight, I could set the two of you up."
"I'm good, thanks. I don't need a guy."
"Or can't have the one you want."
I raised an eyebrow. "Talk about a low blow. Better watch it or I'll tell this guy you want to date him and then what will you tell Gray?"
"Good point. Anyway. I was at the coffee shop and he was standing next to me. I barely paid any attention to him, honestly. But then I heard it. The word 'glamour.' I was hooked." A smile played over my lips. It was no wonder Quinn was the sweetheart of the drama department. "So I rifled through his mind a bit before he realized what I was doing,” she continued, “and by then I was so far past his walls that I didn't even realize he was gaping at me until he gripped my arm and pulled me outside.
"Well, as you can imagine, I was furious, but before I could haul off and hit him, he asked how I could do what I could do—read minds and all that. How any Tuatha de Danaan could do that."
Quinn nodded. "See, that's what I said. So."
Adrenaline coursed through my veins. We were so close. I could feel it. "So what?” I wanted to know. “What did he say?"
"Nothing. He told me nothing. He said it wasn't something he could discuss in public and he didn't exactly seem inclined to discuss it elsewhere."
"Hence the flirting," I remarked with a smirk.
"Exactly." Finally, Quinn turned into the parking lot of Silver Creek Park, the main park in the small town of Silver Falls where we went to school. She cut the lights. The entire place was quiet. Darkness gathered menacingly in corners, under trees. It pulsed in the shadows and my growing sense of unease only strengthened.
Unbuckling my seat belt, I opened the door and climbed out of the car. The silence was deafening. October mist slithered along the ground, the cold seeping against my skin and smelling of damp earth and still water. The heavy rains Oregon's autumn weather had to offer had left small ravines in the grassy slopes and muddy lines snaked through the green where bicyclists had cut across to get to the creek. The itchy feeling of being watched played at my outer senses and I shuddered, the hair on the back of my neck standing on end. "Why are we meeting him here again?"
"Why not?" Quinn asked, though she seemed a bit put out herself. Wrapping her arms over her chest, she walked swiftly across the wet grass.
"Maybe because it's a creepy park at night, we're teenage girls, by ourselves, meeting a stranger you met at a coffee shop."
"First of all," she countered, "it's not creepy, it's a wide open space and we know this park like the backs of our hands. Second of all, we may be teenage girls, but we're far from defenseless. And we're not alone, we're together. It's never been a problem before. And as for meeting a stranger, I didn't detect anything sketchy about him."
"Did you ever stop to think there's a reason for that?” I couldn’t stop the worry from creeping in and taking hold. “Maybe you didn't pick anything up. Maybe I can't see anything now because we're walking into a trap. Maybe this is a scheme set up by Caden or Brenna or somebody else after us because of what we can do. Maybe you just happened to find him because they wanted you to."
"He knows who we are, Sawyer," Quinn said quietly. "He knows where we come from. He knows about our people.” She shook her head. “I learned more from him in five minutes than we've discovered in the last two years. Isn't that knowledge worth the risk?"
I sighed heavily. Of course it was. She was right; we had to know. "All right," I conceded and her face lit up. "Let's go meet this mysterious coffee shop boy."
Quinn threaded her arm through mine like a satisfied cat. "I knew you'd come around."
The flat expanse of grass that was the city park spread out before us, bordered by a circle of trees. Directly across the lawn was a cement bike path and the river. A waist high wrought iron fence separated the two. And against that fence, hands placed nonchalantly in the pockets of his sweatshirt, a boy with raven black hair and dark features leaned against the metal. His face was illuminated by the street lamps that lit the property and I could just make out the sharp angles behind the rugged looks. As an artist, I admired him. My fingers ached for a piece of charcoal to depict his dark yet sad presence. The only mar to his features I could detect was a deep scar that ran from temple to jaw down his right cheek.
"That's him?" I whispered. Beside me, Quinn nodded.
"Hello, Sci," Quinn greeted the boy, her voice carrying over the remaining yards between us and the boy. "Glad to see you showed."
A crooked smile passed briefly over his lips before settling into a smirk. My power trembled, sending a ripple flying across my senses and my power trembled, my mind reaching for something I couldn't quite grasp. A foreboding. It was aggravating. I wasn't used to not being able to see. Something's not right. I reached for Quinn's hand, willing her to read my mind, grateful when I felt the repulsive prying of psychic fingers.
"Pleased to see you as well," Sci responded. He glanced at me and our eyes held. Distrust filled the air between us, tinged with just a hint of desperation. What was he hiding? "The plan would have failed without it."
The sudden tension in Quinn's arm beneath my grip was the only warning I had before two figures emerged from the darkness on either side of Sci. Brenna and Caden. The very two people who had relentlessly been trying to kill us for months. Months. As if there was nothing better for them to do in the Willamette Valley.
We needed to get back to the car. Fast. Glancing over my shoulder, I spotted more dark figures surrounding the silver Nissan. Of course. Our only easy exit would be the first they covered. Wonderful. I tugged at Quinn, but she was already moving. “Run!” Without hesitation, we sprinted across the grounds, the sounds of their gaining pursuit behind us.
If only I could be a typical teenager, I thought wryly as I dove and landed swiftly on one knee, barely dodging what could have been a lethal blow from a flying dagger. Somehow I avoided another knife that zipped through the air, as I ducked behind the trunk of an oak tree to catch my breath. Then maybe I would be at a party or on a date like a normal girl instead of fighting for my life—again.
“I told you this was a trap!” I yelled angrily as we bolted through the trees, narrowly avoiding the danger being thrown at our backs. My hair flew out behind me, whipping through the air and snagging on branches. I tried not to wince.
“Seriously?” Quinn hollered back, her feet pummeling the ground as we put distance between ourselves and the others and aimed to circle back to the car. Sticks and brush crunched beneath out feet, but there was not time for stealth now. “You want to point that out now?”
“I might never get another chance!”
We rounded a bend and threw ourselves behind a copse of trees, pressing our backs against the bark. My chest heaved in and out trying to drag in air. My heart was pounding so hard, my heartbeat was the only sound I could hear. That wouldn’t have been so bad if it hadn’t been for the arms that clamped around me right at that moment.
How did they catch us so fast?!
“Gotcha,” Caden’s deep voice whispered maliciously in my ear. Terror raced through me and my pulse slammed through my veins. I had a momentary lapse where I nearly thought I was done for, but no way was I just giving up. If I was going down, I was taking him down with me.
Ducking, I kicked out my left leg and smiled fiercely when I felt my foot connect with his thigh. His hold weakened, though not much. His grip was like a vice from Hell. Still, I twisted away from him, channeled my energy, and somehow managed to wrench my arm from his grasp. One more kick and an upper cut to the jaw and Caden went down, giving me a chance to scramble to my feet.
Moving quickly, I sat crouched a few feet away from him, watching. Running was no use. There were three of them and two of us, plus however many unknowns roaming the parking lot. I would never get away. Caden was close enough to grab me if I tried running and that was not something I wanted to happen. Ever. No, as much as I hated it, the only thing to do now was fight.
Here’s hoping my martial arts classes stuck.
“Little Psychic,” Caden sneered, his excited eyes blazing a dark ocher in the moonlight. The cold glare did nothing for his looks, I noted absently, silently cursing myself for losing focus. Where in the hell did that come from? Okay, yes, he was pretty. And yes, the structure of his face was like a model’s; all lines and angles. Any other time he would be awesome to sit and sketch.
You know, when he wasn’t trying to kill me.
Focus, Sawyer! I chastised myself. Maybe if I could hit him hard enough I could knock him out and we could get the hell out of here. Looking over Caden’s shoulder, I searched for Quinn in the darkness, but couldn’t see her. Dread settled in the pit of my stomach and I forced myself to focus on the enemy in front of me.
With a waggle of his eyebrows, Caden came at me again, laughing his cold, nasty laugh and lunging for me. This wasn’t the first time we had come up against the Barbie twins, and this one seemed to have a personal vendetta against me. Or maybe it was more like he saw me as a challenge. In any case, he treated our battles like a game. One he was really good at. Caden was fast.
I was faster.
Like a flash, I pushed myself off the ground and flipped through the air above his head as he dove forward, landing exactly where I had just been. “Good guys: 1, bad guys: 0,” I goaded him as I hit the ground softly and turned to face him head on. Before he could react, I swung out in a perfectly executed roundhouse kick (thank you, Sensei) and caught him square in the jaw.
The crack of shoe on bone echoed around us and Caden’s head snapped back. That must’ve hurt.
“Bitch,” Caden spat, blood flicking from the split in his lip. Dark scarlet stains spattered his red shirt. “You’re going to pay for that.” His eyes flashed dangerously.
Uh oh, I thought, and felt a tremor of fear ripple down my spine. Still, I forced a grin, my whole face lighting in challenge. Tossing my hair over my shoulder, I brushed my bangs from my eyes. “You’ll have to catch me first,” I challenged. Just as I predicted, he raced for me. Laughing, I danced lithely out of his reach, putting the ballet lessons my mother had insisted I take to good use.
I would have to remember to thank her later. If there was a later.
“Nice try,” I told him, hands on my hips. “But you’ll have to be faster than— “
I whipped around as a bone chilling sound ripped through the air. “No,” I whispered, frantically searching the darkness for its source. It sounded like somebody was dying. My blood ran cold. It couldn’t be. Desperately, I tried to pretend I didn’t recognize that scream. I had to get to her. I had to stop it. Quinn screamed again. “No!”
Panicked, I started to run, but Caden used my momentary distraction against me and wrapped a thick arm around my waist. I had just enough time to make out what looked like a silver wolf racing through the trees and think that there were no wolves in Oregon before I was ripped from my feet and thrown hard to the ground. My head hit a rock, the sharp point digging into my temple and I felt conscious elude me. Giving in, I slipped into oblivion.
When I came to, Caden was standing over me, his white blonde hair illuminated in the moonlight. His lips curved into a smile so evil that it sent shivers down my spine. He had won. They had beaten us. Quinn was hurt, maybe dead, and I was at the mercy of my sworn enemy. Fear gripped me so hard I shook. This was not the way I wanted to go. Somewhere, someone was whimpering. It took me a few moments to realize it was me. Defiant to the end, I forced myself to remain silent. No way was I giving him that, too.
Hatred replaced terror as he kneeled in front of me. I felt my body lock into place, paralyzed as his power consumed me, taking over my sense of self. His was a dangerous ability that allowed him to control his captives, making them bend to his will and I was his latest victim. Lucky me.
Caden leaned in close. “This is going to hurt,” he promised, his voice a venomous whisper against my ear. The pungent smell of his hot breath turned my stomach and a sense of doom overwhelmed me as he closed his fist and brought it down hard with a sickening crunch against my face.
The pain was unspeakable. I couldn’t breathe, couldn’t see. I could feel him hitting me, his fists pounding into my flesh, bruising my skin, causing my bones to ache as I lay flat on the cold pavement, completely at his mercy. I tried to think about Quinn, about my mom, about him—anything else—but was distracted once again by the damage being done to my body. Somehow I mustered up the strength to cry out, but found I could no longer make a sound. Silent tears streamed down my cheeks, their warmth cutting through the blood and grime on my face.
“No, no, Little Psychic,” he taunted, not bothering to hide his excitement. “No noise from you. You didn’t think you would escape the Dark Axis so easily did you?” Laughing, my attacker placed his hands on either side of my face, giving me a glimpse of malicious dark brown eyes lit with perverse glee. He actually enjoyed hurting me; took pride in it.
Oh, how I hated him.
“Is it done?” a cold voice asked from somewhere above me as Brenna stepped into view, her face pinched and hard like her brother’s. Her blonde hair splayed down around her shoulders. She glared down at me with the cold, disconnected look of the sociopath she was; more like an investor examining a product than a killer staring down at her prey.
I wanted so badly to rake my nails down her pretty face.
“Oh, it will be,” Caden promised. His smile was wide and triumphant as he pulled back his right arm.
Then it all went black.
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FreakyPoet: "you made me laugh, made me cry, both are hard to do. I spent most of the night reading your story, captivated. This is why you get full stars from me. Thanks for the great story!"
Sara Joy Bailey: "Full of depth and life. The plot was thrilling. The author's style flows naturally and the reader can easily slip into the pages of the story. Very well done."