As if on cue, The Four step out from the trees to our right. We both turn towards them.
They’ve all changed out of their uniforms and into black t-shirts and joggers. The new attire hugs their perfect muscular forms like a second skin. It’s the first time I get to appreciate their sheer size and muscle-power.
All of them have an array of tattoos on their skin, not just the prophecy one. Some have more than others, but they all have an identical tattoo on their right bicep. Large Roman numerals for the number four; IV.
“Can we help you?” Sal drawls sarcastically.
“Did you enjoy your kill?” Lucio responds, but his red eyes are locked onto me.
“We did, thank you,” Sal answers for us.
He puts his arm around my shoulders and pulls me closer to his body. The response from The Four is instant. They all tense up and glare at him.
If looks could kill…
“What’s that saying?” Sal wonders aloud. “Oh, yeah. Sharing’s caring.”
The Four do not seem impressed with his comment.
“You should get back to school, it will be getting dark soon,” Esteban all but growls at us.
I frown at his suggestion. It won’t get dark for another two hours, at least.
“We’ll be on our way, then,” Sal chirps with amusement. “See ya around.”
With his arm still around my shoulders, he escorts me past The Four and back towards the school.
“What was that about?” I ask him when we’re a safe enough distance away. Sal removes his arm from me.
“I like to rile them up.”
“I can see that. Are you friends with them?”
He snorts. “No. Let’s just say we have an…understanding.”
Sal walks me back to the intersection. “Thanks for the hunt, Emmie. I’ll see you in alchemy tomorrow.”
When I get into the dorm, the girls are sprawled out on the sofas, watching TV. I go to my room and clean my teeth to remove the blood taste. When I come back, I squeeze onto the sofa with Irene and join them.
“How was the hunt?” Esme asks.
“Really good, thanks. We got a Fallow.”
“Nice. They taste the best out of all deer, I think.”
“They’re my favourite,” I respond. “We saw The Four.”
“We? Wait, did you go with Salvador?” Honey asks and I nod. “And The Four were in the woods?”
“Yeah. Sal says he’s not friends with them, but they have some sort of understanding. I guess it’s mutual rich-boy respect,” I tell them.
“Yeah, probably. No matter how much they might not like each other, I swear blue bloods always stick together,” Irene comments.
“I’m surprised that The Four were hunting in the woods,” Esme says and Honey nods in agreement. “They usually go home at the weekends to hunt on their homeland. Their rich tastes are too good for school grounds.”
“I’m not sure they were hunting,” I think aloud. “They were in relaxed clothing, but there was no blood on them, and they weren’t deep in the forest.”
“That’s weird,” Esme replies.
“I wonder what they were doing?” Honey wonders.
We all shrug. God knows what goes on in the minds of The Four.
Thursday starts completely uneventful. I have a free period in the morning, and I do some studying, not that I need to. I just do it to pass the time.
After that, I have maths. It’s boring because I covered the topic over summer, and I remember it well. Oro and I have our little staring moments again before I manage to snap myself out of it.
I don’t know what the teacher thinks of us making eyes at each other from across the room.
It rains at break, so we have to sit inside. Third period is business studies. Lucio is already at our desk when I arrive. I take a seat, slightly thrown off by him being here first. I feel like he is the one that I find the hardest to read. I can’t put my finger on him at all, he’s so silent and enigmatic.
“Hello,” he says, startling me so much that I drop my book.
We both reach down to get it and our fingers brush. What transfers between our connected fingers is like a static shock without the pain. It’s like a charge vibrates between us, making me draw my hand back quickly.
“Sorry,” I mutter.
I carefully take my book off of him, careful not to touch him again. Whatever that was, it was weird.
“I’m sorry for making you jump,” he says, his smile coming through his voice.
I glance at him to see that he is smiling at me. His red eyes are shining with mirth. I don’t think he’s sorry at all. I think he’s enjoying the effect that he has on me.
“No problem,” I mumble and break eye contact before I can get sucked in.
Thankfully, Mr Andrews starts the lesson, effectively ending any interaction between Lucio and me.
Sal comes over to our table towards the end of lunch to ask if I want to walk with him to alchemy again. Frankly, I think he likes doing it for the shock-factor.
Although he might not like everyone staring at him all of the time, I think he enjoys shocking people and really giving them something to stare at. Apparently, him making friends with the new girl is shocking enough.
“We have a practical today. Be my partner?” He asks when we get to the classroom.
The teacher gives us a worksheet with instructions to follow. We slip on burgundy lab coats embroidered with the academy’s emblem and plastic safety glasses.
Each pair has their own station. There is an uneven number in the class, but Esteban seems quite content working alone. We are given all of the chemicals we will need to make a healing potion, but none of the measurements. We have one hour to try different ratios and attempt to make the perfect potion.
It takes Sal and I about seven or eight tries. We swap the ratios each time, making a note of what we changed. We’re told that the potion should end up a moss-green colour, but it only changes that colour when you heat it. You can’t combine the ingredients to get that colour at the start.
Eventually, we get something that looks like an army-green colour. It’s the closest we’ve gotten, so we bottle it up just as the teacher gives the last five-minute warning.
Compared to other pairs, we have done quite well. A lot of the students have neon and lime-green potions that do not match the ‘exemplar’ potion sitting on the teacher’s desk.
When the time is up, we have to label our potion and put it in a rack at the front to be assessed. Everyone turns silent as Esteban comes up last and places his potion into the rack. It is the same, identical shade of green that the teacher’s is. I see what people mean about them being overachievers.
“Incredible, Esteban,” the teacher says, clearly impressed as he holds his potion and Esteban’s up to the light. “Just perfect.”
Esteban doesn’t look smug or arrogant about his win. He merely sits to the side and looks expressionless, like the whole thing was easy and he’s bored with it.
He must feel my eyes on him, because he suddenly looks my way and our gazes lock. The corners of his lips quirk up and he smiles at me. Snapping out of my trance, I manage to smile back.
“Come on,” Sal gets my attention. “We need to clean up.”
The final lesson of the day is Skills. The weather is hot and sunny, despite the rain at the start of the day. We’re taken out onto the field. A variety of weapons are laid out for us. We are told to pick a station and prepare to be trained to use that weapon for the next hour.
“What should we choose?” Esme asks, hovering near me.
I look over at our choices. I won’t choose the javelin, I used that a lot at school. I’m not interested in using the Morningstar, the mace at the end of the flail looks too heavy. Nunchaku is definitely not a good idea with how clumsy I am.
“What about throwing knives?” I suggest to her.
Honey and Irene choose nunchaku. Esme and I stand over near the throwing knives on a table and some targets a few metres away.
A teacher comes over and shows us the basics of throwing a knife. He shows us how to feel the weight of it in your hand and get an idea of how heavy it is before you throw it.
He demonstrates how to use your non-dominant hand for lining up the shot and your dominant hand to throw the weapon. After a couple of practices where we miss the target completely, Esme and I start to get better at it.
We focus on the half-spin throw first. When we’re ready to advance to the full-spin throw, the teacher goes through it with Esme first. I keep practicing the half-spins whilst waiting for him to finish up with my friend.
“Do you want me to show you how to throw it full-spin?”
The deep, husky baritone has me freezing. I recognise his sexy voice immediately.