Name: Jessica Elliott
Genre: YA urban fantasy
Chapter One – Jack
I lay still against my pillow, the magic thrumming in me, keeping cadence with the pulse in my head. The rhythm dulls as my breathing slows, steadies. I’ve been dreaming. Just a Dream. In a relieved fog, I hear the high pitched electronic blare of the alarm clock next to my bed. How long has it been going off? Each new screech is a spike in my temple. I slowly open my eyes and take in the clock. Yep. Late again.
I hit snooze with a dead-weighted hand. I want to burrow into my pillow and sleep, but I don’t. This is the third day in a row a Dream has made me late – a pattern that might snap my mom and step-dad out of their workaholic comas to turn their combined energies into rectifying the problem that is me. That thought, more than anything the school could do to me, makes me groan and roll out of bed letting gravity do most of the work.
As I take a cardboard textured shirt out of the rigid stack in my closet and throw it on, my hands shake and tense, wanting to release the power. The magic pushes behind my eyes in a hangover-like throb. It’s hard enough to hide what I am with just the regular Dreams to deal with, let alone the roiling colors of this latest one. It’s probably just a part of my Sight that will develop as my hormones get all funky, but I don’t know that for sure. Dad would know. I want to ask him, but that’s not happening any time soon. A feeling nags at the back of my mind, a worried weight pressing. I try to ignore it.
Grudgingly looping the half Windsor into my monotone tie, I pause as I hear footsteps crossing the hallway just outside of my bedroom. My mom and Brantley are usually long gone by now, but I recognize my step-father’s measured gait, panic stabs into my chest. Great. This sucky day just got even better.
“Jack? he asks, voice already indignant as he peers around the corner of my open door. “Why are you still here?”
The magic in me churns, the feeling heightening as my adrenaline prepares to flare. I’m caught. It’s not like my response really matters. “Why are you here?” I snap.
The expression underneath his short salt and pepper hair is definitely not amused. “You can stop with the attitude,” he says, his voice even but holding the promise of some future retaliation. “Haven’t you been on the tardy list for two days in a row now?”
Shit. So he has been looking at that. I wasn’t sure if the list of tardy students was something he, the almighty Head of Whitford School, would have time or reason to even think about in the midst of all the political ass-kissing and campaigning he’s been doing lately. Then again, he always has time for the things that might make my life suck more.
I grab my phone and my keys and try to push through the doorway. He blocks me. The magic is begging to be released.
“Where do you think you’re going?” he demands, expression still cool.
I blink as, almost imperceptibly at first, Brantley is surrounded by a sheen of a red so faint it looks pink. I roll my eyes, trying to play it off, but panic holds me in its grip as the pinkish tone darkens into red.
“School.” I heave in a breath to keep from raising my voice. “To my English test.”
“I’ll give you a ride,” he says.
The red is glaring now, as his furious eyes bore into me. He’s enraged, and I can feel it. My own anger answers his, and I look away, clenching my fists, hoping that I can hold the power in just long enough. He steps closer, trying to use his height as an intimidation technique. I don’t back away.
“The Metro’s faster,” I argue.
Brantley smiles, then. His I’ve got you now smile. The cloud of red around him flickers with the pleasure he takes in what he’s going to say next even though he gives his best effort to sound pissed off. “One of your teachers reported that you came to first period yesterday smelling like a damn Starbucks.”
“No. You’re riding in with me today. If you want to argue, you can hand over your car keys now and forget about your plans this weekend.”
My heart hammers in my chest, blood pulses in my ears. My dad bought me that car, and the fact that Brantley can keep it from me just like that sears underneath my skin. I meet Branley’s puke green, okay maybe olive, eyes not even bothering to hide my anger even though he basically gets off on that kind of a response. I choke back the words I want to say. I place my keys in my pocket, sling my messenger bag over my shoulder. I stare at the floor in an attempt to ignore the brain-flattening sensation that wells over me at the color flashing around him now. I push back that sick little feeling in my stomach, denying the power demanding to be released.
An understanding reached, he sighs the impatient sigh I hate as we cross the space of the condo to the door. It always comes down to this - me being the turd in the punchbowl of his and my mother’s happy professional life.
As we walk, the harsher edges of the red around him soften, but the magic is still shaking through me, an erratic cocktail. I have to calm down before I get in the car with him.
I clomp toward the elevators, pushing some of the power out with the impact of each step. Its grip on me subsides just enough. A couple of deep breaths and I feel slightly more normal, though the anger is another issue. I tap my foot against the slate of the elevator floor as it hurtles toward street level.
When we get to Brantley’s glossy black luxury car, I throw myself into it and slam the passenger door, knowing he hates that. He doesn’t show his annoyance and eases into the driver’s seat like I’m not even there. I cross my l left leg over my right, allowing my shoe to rub up against the plush padding of the door beside me, daring him to open his jack-ass mouth.
He pointedly ignores me as the engine turns over into a graceful, steady purring. He eases out of the parking garage, and I blink as the full glow of morning floods in. I stare out window as we glide over the road running parallel to the Potomac. I try to focus on the crisply dressed business men and women striding down the sidewalk in their monotone suits, clutching their monotone briefcases – anything to keep from acknowledging the man who occupies the space next to me. In the silence, I attempt to ignore the magic and my anger and all the reasons I want to go ape on Brantley right now. And all the reasons I won’t actually do it.
“I’m not bailing you out this time,” he says, eyes on the road.
“Fine. Like I care if I get a freaking detention.”