Guilt grips me. “Sal…I’m sorry-l”
“Don’t apologise, Emery. I’m sorry, I snapped.” He sighs. “Anyway, they’re not that lucky because they still haven’t found their chosen ones yet.”
I look down at my arm. I can feel my tattoo throbbing on my skin under my sleeve. I haven’t found my chosen mate either.
What if it’s one of The Four?
Yeah, no chance, Emery. Keep dreaming.
Would I want it to be one of them, anyway?
“True,” I mumble.
“Alright, students!” One of the teachers yells. “Back to your mats! Get into place!”
Salvador and I have a laugh for the rest of the lesson. There’s some harmless flirting, nothing serious. I like the friendship forming between us. It seems that he does, too.
When the lesson ends, he throws his arm around my shoulder and gives me a sideways hug. I wrap my arms around his slim waist and give him a quick squeeze.
“See you tomorrow. Period two, Emmie,” Sal says and releases me.
“See you tomorrow, Sal,” I reply.
I watch him slink over to his stuff. He throws his bag over his shoulder and storms out of the building. Students move out of the way for him as he goes, staring after him. Honey and Esme race over to my side.
“Oh, my gosh! Why didn’t you tell us that you are friends with Salvador Whitlock?” Esme gushes.
“Um, I didn’t know it was a big deal.”
We collect our bags and leave the building. It’s the end of the school day, so everyone is going back to their dorms.
“Uh, hell yes it’s a big deal!” Honey says.
“He’s Whitlock royalty! You do know that his great-grandfather founded the academy, right?”
I nod at Esme’s question. “Yeah, I know.”
“And do you know that he is a Mors?” Honey adds.
She whispers the last part of the sentence, as though it is something shameful. I narrow my eyes at her.
“Yes. We talked about our prophecies.” I let out a sigh. “It’s really not a big deal, guys. He’s sweet.”
The two of them share a deadpan look.
“Salvador Whitlock is not sweet, Emery,” Esme says seriously. “Come on.”
She grabs my hand and pulls me faster through the crowd. Once we’re back in our dorm, Honey and Esme pull me onto the sofa with them.
“Last year, he was really popular at the start. He and The Four were the most popular guys in the year, cause their parents pretty much made this school what it is,” Honey tells me.
“But, when we all got our prophecies, Salvador got the Mortem flame. No one could believe it. We all thought he must be destined to be a royal warrior,” Esme carries on. “But his friend, well, ex-friend now, Gabriel, told everyone that Salvador’s prophecy was his death.”
I feel so sorry for him.
“It was awful. It went round the whole school in a day. Everyone was talking about it. Salvador and Gabriel had this huge fight in the quad. Gabriel was expelled and Salvador got off with a suspension cause of his dad’s influence,” Honey says.
“He’s not been the same since,” Esme notes and Honey nods in agreement. “He keeps to himself, never really talks to anyone. He’s gotten into a couple of fights when someone has looked at him wrong.”
“That’s why we can’t believe how nice he is to you. No one is friends with Salvador Whitlock.”
I grimace at Honey’s statement. “Well, I am.”
They both smile at that. “I’m glad. He needs someone,” Esme says wistfully. “I can’t imagine how hard the last year has been for him.”
Irene suddenly enters the living room, making us all jump.
“How was your first day?” She asks when she sits down with us. “Whoa, what’s with the sombre mood? Who died?”
“I’m gonna call my parents,” I tell the girls and excuse myself.
Once in my room, I take out my phone and dial my mother’s number.
“Hey, sweetheart! How are you?”
Just hearing her voice makes me feel better. I sit down on my bed and lie back on the mattress. “Hey, mum. I’m good. I survived the first day. How’s home?”
“Aw, it’s okay. It’s quiet without you here. Not that you ever made a lot of noise, but you know what I mean.”
“I know. I um, I got my prophecy flame this morning.”
“Ah, amazing! What was it?”
“Oh, how wonderful. Darling, our daughter is an Amores!” I hear her telling my father. “Have you got any idea who it might be, Em? Have you felt an attraction to anyone?”
My face heats up as I think about how attractive Malvolio, and Oro were.
“Um, no. I really don’t know.”
“That’s fine. You’ve got up to ten days for your tattoo to turn red.”
“Mum? What happens when it changes to red?”
“Well, you will have to go back to whichever teacher was assigned as your prophet and hold your arm over the flame again. This time, you will see a vision. It will be like a short video clip in your mind that gives you a clue to your future or who your mate might be.”
“Yes. It might not show you exactly. The Gods like to mess with us, and they make you work for your mate. They’ve already made it easy by pairing you together, now you have to put in the graft to find who it is.”
“And how will I know?”
“It will all start with attraction. You won’t be able to take your eyes off of them. You will feel drawn to them. Everything about them will look good, sound good, smell good, feel good. Or so I’ve heard. You know that your father and I chose each other ourselves, without divine intervention.”
“I know, Mum.”
“And look how well our choosing turned out!’ She states happily. “I hope you meet your mate soon, Emery. Call me as soon as you have any news.”
‘He’s a Mors…’
’He got the Mortem flame.”
‘I wonder how long he has left…’
‘What if he just dies in the middle of class?’
‘What does his father think of his prophecy?’
‘I’m surprised Daddy hasn’t bought his way out of the prophecy.’
I drown out the whispers and keep marching through the school. The faster I get down this hallway, the less time I have to spend hearing their bullshit.
Everyone knows my business. Everyone knows about my prophecy. None of them know when or how I’m going to die.
I’m almost at my dorm when some students block my way. Four students, to be exact. I recognise their polished shoes. Sneering, I lift my eyes to meet their four gazes. The Four remain silent, watching me whilst blocking the corridor to stop me from passing.
If I didn’t know them or their families, I would probably be intimidated. But I’ve known these assholes for far too long. They don’t scare me anymore.
It’s amazing. When you’ve been given a death sentence, stuff that used to matter, suddenly doesn’t matter at all. Stuff that used to scare you, doesn’t even make me flinch. I’ve got greater fears than these four trust-fund brats.
“Salvador,” Lucio, the leader, speaks first. “It’s been a long time since we last spoke. How are you?”
I roll my eyes and lean against the wall. “Don’t act like you care, Lucio. What do you four want?”
They all share a look, no doubt having the same thoughts in those fucking connected brains of theirs. I don’t know how four guys who are not brothers ended up being brothers.
“The new girl. You’ve gotten close to her,” Mal observes, eyeing me with interest.
“That’s not a question,” I reply tersely.
What do they want with Emery?
“Her name is Emery, I think,” Oro says. “She’s in my maths class. She’s beautiful.”
“That she is,” Mal agrees. He turns his attention back to me. “Has she spoken of us?”
I snort at his question. “Wouldn’t you like to know.”
All four of them take a threatening step forward in complete unison. I put my hands up in surrender.
“Your egos know no bounds, do they?” I respond. “Fine. She’s asked about you. I told her about your prophecy.”
As if on cue, all of their eyes widen.
“How much did you tell her?” Esteban speaks for the first time.
“But not…” Mal trails off.
I sigh. “No. Not the part where you are all mated to the same girl.”
That’s the one part of the prophecy that The Four have kept to themselves. I found out by chance last year, when I walked in on their conversation in the library.
Many of the girls at the academy believed that they had a chance at being mated to one of The Four. What they didn’t realise is; if you’re mated to one of them, you’re mated to all of them.
“Good,” Esteban replies. “We don’t want to scare her off. Mal and Oro are the only ones who have seen her so far…”
He hesitates and Lucio continues.
“But they believe she may be the one. She has only just received the prophecy tattoo. It has not turned red yet, so we cannot be certain. But they felt the pull to her.”
I wonder why they are telling me this. If Emery is their mate, it puts a big target on her back.
Why do they want me to know?
Lucio senses my question. “We want you to look out for her. We need to make sure she is definitely ours and we won’t know until next week. We don’t want to scare her off and you are already friends with her.”
“Look after our mate,” Oro says ominously. “Or there will be hell to pay.”
Knowing that they need something from me, I’m now back in the position of power. I push off of the wall, reposition my bag on my shoulder and shove past them. They let me past. I turn back to face them. All four of them are glaring at me.
“I’ll watch over your mate. But she thinks you’re a bunch of spoiled overachievers,” I tell them, trying to rile them up. “Good luck convincing her otherwise.”