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Chapter 1:- Chapter One
Mother had sent them to hell.

That was the first real thought Geo had when he landed with a thud upon what had once been him – earth. A thud so strong it pushed the air from his lungs in an unflattering whoosh and left him stunned. So all he could do was lay where he landed as he tried to master the challenge of breathing. As he lay there, he took the opportunity to acclimate himself to the strange sensations swirling through him. The prickly feeling of spiky grass against the soft skin of his palm, the heady smell of earth and mulch tickling his nose, the sweet song of birds playing a symphony in his ears. The harsh sound of foul-mouthed teenagers swearing their way past where Geo lay, huddled against himself. But as reality set in, he gave his head a mighty shake and arose from the earth in human form.
Only to confirm what he’d originally surmised.

Mother had sent them to hell.

A hell full of teenagers in varying stages of maturity congregating outside of a sprawling brick building that could only be a high school.

A high school.


This was her solution to their running wild? To send them to a place overrun by people infamous for such behavior? This was how they were to learn discipline?

Geo cast a questioning look toward his siblings as they arose around him, one by one, in the forms Mother had chosen for them. Zephyr, his brother, with his chiseled facial features, short ebony hair and skin the color of chocolate. His sisters, Mer and Ember, the former with her long dark hair and china doll looks, the latter with hair like fire, emerald eyes and fair skin. All of them were dressed in the very latest styles, to mimic the humans who milled about the schoolyard.

Vaguely, Geo wondered what he looked like – did he rival his brother in the fairness of his features? Did he have a sharp nose and a chiseled jaw? he wondered as he lifted his hands, tentatively, to his face. What about his hair, what was it like? Brushing his hands through it, he discovered it was straight and smooth, and the act of dragging his fingers through it caused it to spike in wild directions. He kind of liked that, so he didn’t bother trying to pat it back down. He couldn’t tell much else beyond the fact his skin was the color of the earth with its reddish-brown tones and he felt rather…muscular.

Geo returned his attention to his siblings, visually taking note of the way thy adjusted to their new forms. He didn’t know if he felt reassured or vindicated when he realized they were facing just as many challenges to the adjustment as was he.

Shaking off blades of grass with a flick of a hand, Ember inadvertently created a fireball in her elegant hand. Small, to be sure, but with just enough sparks to mesmerize her as she held her hand close to her face. Just what they didn’t need right now, Geo thought as he cast a quick look about them at the students who were milling about them. Who didn’t seem aware of what was going on with Geo and his siblings. Strange.

Still, Geo decided opting for caution would be best, under the circumstances, given the fact Mother was upset with them enough as it was. And so he reached over, intent on putting out the fire, when Ember latched onto him with her free hand, adding his hand to the flame – earth and fire blended. Ignited. The fire threatening to reach bonfire proportions, right there in their up-turned palms. He could almost hear her thoughts, saying, Isn’t it beautiful?

Geo almost had to agree with her even as his hand started to singe under the fury of the flame. He knew he should pull away, stop this, before they attracted undue attention. But he couldn’t seem to help himself. As ever, when Ember worked her magic, he was held in thrall. What was it about fire and earth consuming each other? Whatever it was, he couldn’t seem to resist it – nor did he want to, though he knew he should. Mother would not be pleased about this.

It didn’t help matters when Zephyr, in a moment of sheer deviltry, added fuel to the fire by blowing on it – a trick that earned him a look of displeasure from Merina. Censure in the look she cast him, Merina stepped closer to her fire-bearing siblings and held her hand over the flame, making her fingers dance until they produced water enough to douse the flames. She didn’t say a word, but her expression was telling and it clearly said, Are you crazy? That’s the kind of behavior that got us banned here in the first place.

Neither Zephyr nor Ember gave her the satisfaction of a response. But Geo had to silently agree as he pulled his hand free of Ember’s grasp and brushed it against the leg of his black jeans. As if that could wipe away his collusion with her little fire show, inadvertent though it was. Truth was, he didn’t try to stop it. No, he was far too caught up in the hypnotic thrill of the crackling flame in his palm – and the power he garnered just by the knowledge that he fed with his earthly element – to concern himself with anything beyond its flickering limits. Least of all that their foolhardiness might have been witnessed by one of the humans.
With a sudden sense of – what was this, panic? – Geo cast a quick glance about them, scanning the crowd of milling students for any signs of a witness to their antics. Person after person, group after group. His gaze flicked from one to another with a rapidity that almost made his head spin. Had they seen Ember’s little trick? His part in it? What was their reaction?

But person after person, group after group, showed a marked indifference to him. Or any of his siblings, for that matter. Strange. It was like…they weren’t even there. Was it possible the humans couldn’t see them? Perhaps Mother hadn’t revealed them yet. Yes, that had to be it. The only explanation that made any sense to his newly formed human mind. For whatever reason, Mother still kept them hidden from the humans.

Geo was just beginning to take Ember’s advice – delivered in thought – to relax when a frisson of tension played along his spine, alerting him to potential danger. Was Mother near? Had she witnessed what they’d done? Spine stiff, alert, Geo renewed his perusal of his potential classmates, eager to find the source of his tension. Where was it coming from? Who was it coming from?

His breath caught in his throat even as his heart set up an erratic rhythm in his chest when his gaze finally locked on a teenage girl standing amid a group of her peers a short distance away from him. The sight of her arrested him. Stopped him cold. Made him forget all else – including why he was sent there. And with whom he was sent there. But it wasn’t her rather exotic appearance that captured him so. Not her hair the color of midnight – which had a tendency to float about her piquant face despite her best efforts to tame it – nor her eyes, which borrowed their color from the azure sky. It wasn’t even the fact that she cut a fine figure in an abstract print dress of varying shades of blue that swirled around her body like a gentle breeze. No, that wasn’t what drew him to her. Nor was it what kept him so enthralled he forgot to breathe. It was something else entirely.

Something far more disturbing.

She was staring right at him.

Like she saw him.

I didn’t just see that. There’s no way I could’ve just seen that. No way. It’s not real. It’s just a lack of sleep. Yes, that’s it. I didn’t get enough sleep last night. I knew I shouldn’t have stayed up so late studying. This is what happens when you don’t get enough sleep – you start hallucinating. Yes, that’s it. A hallucination –

Ashby Skye nearly jumped a foot in the air at the gentle touch to her shoulder, accompanied by a softly spoken, tentative, “Hey, Ash, are you all right?” Ashby fought to control her racing pulse as she turned to the speaker, Laura Davis, her lab partner in chemistry and sometime friend. Well, more like an acquaintance. Who wanted to be a friend, if only to get closer to one of Ashby’s other friends.

Shaking her head clear of the thought, Ashby said, “Yeah, I’m fine.” Just thought I saw four teenagers fall from the sky to the front lawn. No biggie. Even as the words – and the confusing images they evoked – swirled around in her head, Ashby glanced back in the direction – Oh, yes, there they were. Right where she left them. Four teenagers who dropped out of the sky.

Yeah, right. Like that could really happen. People didn’t just fall out of the sky – at least not without parachutes. It had to be something else. Even as she mentally questioned what she saw, Ashby watched them rise to their feet, one by one. Unsteady. Hesitant. But oddly beautiful, just the same. There was something truly breathtaking about watching them rise and test their legs. No, it wasn’t just that. If she were totally honest with herself, she would admit there was something truly beautiful about all of them. Whether it was the flaming red hair of the Irish girl, the ruddy skin of the Native American boy, the doll like perfection of the Asian girl, or the amazing profile of the African-American boy. Each so different than the other, but oddly…the same.

Ashby’s brows gathered together in confusion at the thought. How could four people with such different looks – different ethnicity’s – be the same? It didn’t make sense, and yet, she couldn’t shake the feeling that it was true. Nope. Definitely didn’t get enough sleep last night. First you think you saw four people drop from the sky, now you think they’re all the same when it’s clear from their looks they’re definitely not. That’s it. I’m going to bed after supper tonight.

Ashby had almost convinced herself that her mind was playing tricks on her from sleep deprivation when the Irish girl played a trick of her own that had Ashby questioning her eyes – and her sanity.

She lit a fire in her hand.

Somehow, just by brushing her hands together, she lit a fire in her palm. A small one, to be sure. Until she grabbed the hand of the Native American boy and added it to her own. The fire truly roared to life then, nearly tripling in size, and mesmerizing both of its creators. They both just stood in awe of it, watching with almost fanatical eyes as it danced between them. And when the other boy blew on it, it threatened to rage out of control – until the Asian girl doused the flames with water. From her palm.

Frantic now, Ashby shot a quick glance around her, a question – “Doesn’t anyone else see this?” – dying on hr lips before it was spoken. It was clear from the way the crowds milled about, each lost in the drama of their own little cliques, that no one else was aware of what was happening in their midst. In fact, she noticed as she returned her gaze to the odd quartet, some of them even walked right past – no, through – the quartet. As if they weren’t even there.

No. It wasn’t possible. She could not be seeing this, Ashby reasoned. People did not just start fires in their hands.

Just like they didn’t fall from the sky.

This was a hallucination. Brought on by lack of sleep. Too much stress. Concern for her cousin. Nothing more. Yes, that was it. A hallucination.

Ashby had almost convinced herself of this when the Native America boy turned around – and stared right at her.

Like he knew that she could see him.

She can see us.

Geo didn’t know which of them had the thought first – Ember or him – but it didn’t matter. What did matter was that their minds and impressions had overlapped and delivered the same conclusion. The girl with the exotic looks and flyaway hair could see them. When it was obvious that no one else could. How many times had one of the humans – or groups of them – passed through them already? Like they weren’t even there. And yet this girl watched them, as if she knew they were. There.

How can she see us when no one else can? Merina questioned, putting words to the thought that plagued Geo. How could she, indeed?

I don’t know, Geo responded. But we have to find out.

I’ll stay close to her, Merina offered. See what I can find out.

Good idea, Geo approved.

Ugh, what’s the big deal, anyway? Ember groused, effortlessly taking on the persona of the teenager she embodied with a roll of her leaf green eyes. She studied the nails of one hand for good measure. So she can see us. So what?

She’s human, Em, Geo reminded. And in case you hadn’t noticed, none of the other humans can see us. He waited a beat to allow that to sink in before he drove home his point. She shouldn’t be able to, either.

Whatever, Ember remarked, as she affected a negligent pose. But Geo wasn’t fooled by the casualness of her demeanor. Oh, no, he knew her better than that – there was nothing truly casual about the girl whose element was fire. So he watched as Ember glanced around at their surroundings, noting when her gaze finally settled upon its intended target.

Foreboding shuddered through him. He knew before he looked upon whom Ember had settled her gaze. The look just confirmed it. The girl with the exotic features. Who was still staring right at them. At him. Even as her group started to move en masse toward them. Her gaze remained steady upon Geo, as his remained upon her.

She’s coming this way, Zephyr noted, adding his thoughts to the pool for the first time since they fell to earth. Do you think she’ll confront us?

What should we do? Merina thought, panicked.

Just stay calm, Geo advised. She won’t do anything.

What makes you so certain? This from Ember.

Geo barely spared her a glance as he provided the answer. She’s the only one who can see us right now. If she tries to confront us, her friends will think she’s lost it. Despite the surety of his statement, Geo tensed – and even held his breath – as he watched her. Marked her approach with every beat of his new human heart. Waited for her to come closer. Closer. Time slowed down, almost stilled as she neared him.

His gaze never faltered from hers.

Her gaze never faltered from his.

She made a straight line for him. Wait – was she actually going to try to pass right through him? Like he wasn’t there. But – how? If she could already see him, it stood to reason she could also feel him. And if that were the case, wouldn’t she collide with him as she would any other human?

For a moment, Geo secretly wished she would just to see the expression on her face when they collided. And on those of her friends when she smacked into nothing – nothing they could see, at least. Yes, come closer, he silently urged. Keep coming, sweetness. Try to go through me. Let’s see what happens.

At the last moment, when the exotic one was a mere breath away from him, she took an almost imperceptible step to the right, easily bypassing him. And avoiding a collision. Disappointing. Geo cast her a smug smile. He knew she wouldn’t dare –

The smirk slipped from his lips half-formed when, in passing, she brushed her hand against his. Deliberately. As if testing that he was real. And for just a moment, their fingers linked, tangled, and her hair floated toward him as if on a breeze, caressing his face. He just had the chance to note that it felt like silk against his skin – how did he know that, he wondered – before she slipped away from him. Slowly. Her fingers drawing out the gesture until the last possible moment. Mesmerizing him.

Still, her gaze never left his face. Not until she passed him completely. At which point she finally focused her attention on something other than Geo. He felt the loss keenly.
Who was she?

Time abruptly sped forward to its natural pace, leaving Geo breathless. And somewhat shell-shocked. What the heck just happened?

What a thrill! Ashby thought as she whisked past the mysterious quartet – after slowing down enough to touch the apparent leader of the group, that was. She knew she took a real chance in doing so, but she couldn’t help herself. He’d looked so smug when he stared her down before, as if daring her to expose herself to ridicule by making it known that she saw something her friends didn’t. In a moment of sheer childishness, she wanted to wipe that smug smile off his face. And besides, she had to know for certain – one way or the other – if he was real, or if the stress of the past year had finally caught up with her and sent her over the edge of insanity. And it had been worth it.

Boy, had it been worth it! Not just the feeling of his warm skin against hers when she touched him, but everything. The pure earthy smell of him. The sheer beauty of him, which was all the more potent up close. The look of shock in his eyes when their hands touched, fingers locked – when her hair blew into his face and momentarily wrapped them in a wispy cocoon. Priceless.

Of course the only downside was that, apparently, only she could see him. And his little group. While her friends passed right through his companions as if they weren’t even there, Ashby found herself sidestepping to avoid a collision with the mysterious teen. Oh, she had entertained the thought of trying to pass right through him, having nearly convinced herself he wasn’t truly there, that it was just a trick of an over-stressed mind. But at the last possible second, she re-thought the decision and veered off to the right, just so, to avoid what would have been an embarrassing collision with…nothing.

And a good thing she did, too, she noted as she tipped her head forward and to the side to angle a look over her shoulder at him. For having settled for a touch in passing – she simply couldn’t resist the temptation – she intuitively knew that, had she tried to pass right through him, she would have failed miserably. And raised a lot of questions about her sanity.
No, it was better this way. Much better. Just a touch of their hands, a twining of fingers, the brush of her hair against the sculpted plane of his face. And the expression of shock in his eyes. Yes, so much better.

With a self-satisfied smile cast in the quartet leader’s general direction, Ashby faced forward once again, finally allowing her friends to capture her full attention.

What just happened here? Zephyr demanded, his gaze directed toward the exotic one even as he stepped closer to Geo. Who could only shake his head in response, the gesture lost on Zephyr. He knew no better than his brother what had just transpired between himself and the human girl who could see them, but he had a sinking feeling that she’d just gotten the upper hand on him. And he didn’t like it. Not one bit. Which only added to his already disgruntled mood, making him feel downright…grumpy.

Never mind that, Ember interjected, drawing their attention back to her – and their present situation when she finally put voice to Geo’s first human thoughts. What was Mother thinking? She cast a disgusted look about her, wrinkled her pert nose at the sight of the trendy-clothed teenagers still flowing by on their way into the school. Is she serious about this?

“Very serious,” a voice behind them said, drawing their attention to a vivacious older woman in a stylish sweater dress the color of clouds. “You chose to behave like teenagers, so what better place is there for you?”

“But, Mother,” Zephyr protested, emboldened by a sense of importance as he tried to take on a leadership role. But one look of censure from Mother had him stepping back again, making a weak gesture with a hand. Geo almost felt sorry for him – almost. “We don’t know how to be humans – especially teenage humans.”

“Yeah, it’s one thing to share the world with them,” Ember added, her voice crackling like fire, her element. So clear, so easy. Like she’d been doing it for years and not the first time. Geo envied her the ease with which she adapted to her new form. “But it’s another to share the world with them. As one of them.”

“How will we fit in with them?” Merina chimed in, her voice sounding like a brook trickling over a bed of rocks.

Mother waved away their protests with an airy gesture. “Don’t worry, my pets. I’ve given you enough information about being human to sustain you, so you won’t be at a total loss. But there is much you’ll need to learn on your own.”

Geo took an awkward step forward – and the ground trembled beneath his feet. He glanced up at Mother to register her reaction and wasn’t surprised to see disapproval cross her remarkably unlined face. For a moment, he almost faltered under the weight of that stare – did all human teens feel this way when they earned the disapproval of their parents? But his desire to have his opinion known overcame his moment of shame and so he stood his ground. Thrust his shoulders back in a proud stance like the muscle-bound teenager he’d observed interacting with his parent before Mother made her appearance. “Why?” Geo demanded – was that guttural voice really his? “I already know how they act. I don’t have to learn anything.”

Mother focused her full attention upon Geo then and he nearly buckled under the full weight of her stare – and her disapproval. “Just because you lay at their feet – ” She shifted her gaze to Zephyr “ – stir up the leaves around their homes – ” to Merina “ – provide a playground for their summer sports – ” and, finally, to Ember “ – or burn down the trees in their forests – ” and her gaze snapped back to Geo “ – does not make you an expert on human foils, behaviors and emotions.” Her voice softened. “You know so little, my son. You will need to tread carefully – ” she gave his feet a significant look “ – so you don’t draw attention to yourself.”

Geo didn’t know what emboldened him to do so, but he actually challenged Mother. Before he could stop himself, the words flowed from his mouth and hit the ground between them with a low rumble. “You don’t have to do this,” he said, his voice getting stronger with each word. “If you’re so concerned about us ‘drawing attention,’ then send us back and forget about this.”

As Mother took a step toward him, her furor tightly wound behind her façade of elegance, each of his siblings took a step back. Away from him. Not that Geo could fault them for their caution. He’d do the same – if he weren’t the one who’d just challenged their Mother. Too late, he remembered it was a wise man that refrained from doing so. Apparently, his human incarnation wasn't that wise.

“Forget about the destruction you’ve caused?” Mother asked in a voice lethal in its softness. “Just forget about it? Is that what you want?”

For a moment, he faltered under her steady gaze. “Uh…yeah,” he muttered at last, although by the time the words finally left his mouth, he had to wonder why he uttered them in the first place. It wasn’t like they were going to change his fate.

Mother turned away from him abruptly. “Well, I’m afraid I can’t do that. We’re here now and we must move forward on the course I’ve set for you,” she proclaimed. Her entire manner changed with the words and she was no longer the threatening controller of the elements. It was frightening how easily she slipped back into the role of concerned mother dropping her children off at a new school, Geo noted as he watched her with equal amounts of awe and fascination. How did she do it?

“Well, in that case,” Geo said, resentment for his lot still coloring his tone and demeanor, “I think you should know we’ve already drawn attention to ourselves. One of the humans, she saw us – ”

Mother didn’t let him finish. “Yes, I know.” She kept her gaze focused forward, on the school, not on any of her elements. “I observed the whole thing.”

“Well?” Ember prompted when it appeared Mother was not going to continue.

Turning a laser-like stare on Ember then, Mother said, “We’ll talk about your little fireball display later, Missy. But for now, just be grateful that I still had you cloaked and the entire campus didn’t see it.”

“But that girl did,” Zephyr offered.

A frown briefly creased Mother’s brow. “Mm, so she did,” she said, thoughtful.

Exchanging a worried look with his siblings, Geo confronted their creator. “So what are we going to do about it? I mean, how could she see us when no one else could?”

Mother turned her gaze upon Geo, still thoughtful. “Well, I suppose that’s something we’re going to have to find out.” Her mood changed abruptly, once again reverting to the carefree parent dropping her children off at school. Extending her arms out to encompass them all, Mother urged, “Come along, children. Let’s go inside and get you settled before your classes start without you.”

Since there was no arguing with Mother when she took control, Geo reluctantly fell into line behind the others. But his first few steps as a human were awkward as he became accustomed to lifting his feet and setting them down against the springy green grass in such a way it would propel him forward – and not make the ground tremble. Were the others having this difficulty? Geo wondered, casting a curious look their way.

He was relieved to find he wasn’t the only one having trouble adjusting to this new form. From the look of it, Zephyr was finding it just as awkward as he to push forward on these unwieldy things the humans referred to as legs. But at least they didn’t have to do it in those weird shoes with the skinny heels Ember and Mer were wearing. Geo felt a pang of sympathy for them as he continued his trek toward the imposing brick building, wondering aloud, “So when are you going to reveal us to the others?”

Mother cast a look at him over her shoulder, but didn’t slow her pace. “When I decide I’m ready to,” she said. “Which is just about now – so no more talk of this. We can continue this discussion at home.” She thrust a hand backward to Geo, not even watching to see if he took the item she held out for him. She just assumed he would – and it never occurred to him not to. “That’s the address and directions to get there.” She shot him another stern look. “Don’t lose it.” She faced forward again, just as the faded blue set of doors loomed in front of them. “Ah, here we are!”

And as they became caught up in the flow of human traffic vying to enter the school simultaneously, Geo knew his journey as a human had only just begun.

The school was far more intimidating from the inside than from without, Geo noted as he stepped across the threshold into a strange new world. Corridors stretched on for miles in seemingly every direction, with no apparent rhyme or reason to their placement. Harsh lighting highlighted displays of student art along the murky gray walls, competing for space with student achievement posters and banners welcoming them back from summer vacation. And the floors! Was he the only one that found their white and black staggered checkerboard pattern dizzying and disconcerting?

But the worst was the humans. They were everywhere! Young, old, and those who fell somewhere in between. Students – and faculty? Bodies cloaked in colors beyond the imagination, some of them not even found in nature, in clothes that defied the laws of gravity to somehow cover the parts that were supposed to be covered and yet still revealed a good amount of skin. And the noise! Who knew humans could make so much noise with their voices? Add to that the various types of music blaring from the headphones of the little boxes tucked into shirt pockets and it was a cacophony to rival that of any flock of birds in the jungle.

All in all, it was enough to make the walls close in on him, trapping him in this hellish new world. Geo inhaled a sharp breath as that world began to tilt out of focus and true panic set in. He couldn’t do it; he couldn’t be enclosed in this building for hours on end when all he wanted was to be out in the sun where there was life – true life. He couldn’t be trapped here with these humans, he couldn’t –

The walls abruptly retreated to their designated places and his vision returned to normal at a gentle touch to his arm. Glancing from the hand to its owner, he tried to contain his relief, but there was no hiding his reaction from Mother. She knew everything, after all. Still, he bristled when she gave him a sympathetic smile. And then he tuned away, unable to withstand her understanding any longer. He didn’t want her to understand, nor did he want to react in a positive manner; he wanted to hang on to his anger, to cultivate it – and make sure she knew he felt it.

Geo refocused his attention on his siblings and was disheartened to note their expressions reflected his confused emotions. Great. No help there. He shifted his gaze back to Mother, who had a strange half-smile on her lips. She was enjoying this, he thought. Did all mothers feel this way when leaving their recalcitrant children at school?

“Come along, come along!” Mother trilled as she ushered them toward a door on the left marked Office. “The Principal is expecting us – don’t want to keep him waiting.”

“Who is she trying to kid?” Ember muttered to Geo under her breath. “This keeps getting better and better. Our first day as humans and we’re already headed for the principal’s office.”

“Sh-sh,” Merina whispered to her. “Keep your voice down. I’m pretty sure Mother doesn’t want that to be common knowledge.”

“Thank you, Mer,” Mother said, casting Geo and Ember a disapproving look. “You are quite right.” Glancing toward Zephyr, she asked, “Nothing to add, Zephyr?” When he shook his head in answer, she nodded hers, saying, “Good, let’s go, then.”

When none of his “siblings” fell into step behind their “mother,” Geo cast them each a pointed look. He didn’t like the way any of them returned it. Like they were expecting something. From him? What could they be expecting? Oh, I see. So that’s how it’s to be, then? By silent concession, they’d cast him as the leader of their group. And, what? They were just going to follow along behind him? Well, so be it, then. He kind of liked the idea of being in charge.

Straightening his shoulders and assuming a cocky air, Geo fell into step behind Mother, ready to meet her challenge with a new-found bravado. That bravado took its first hit when he entered the small space generously labeled “office” and nearly ran into the first real teenager of his acquaintance. Literally.

But it wasn’t his fault, really. If she hadn’t been standing so close to the door, she wouldn’t have gotten in his way. As it was, they came within inches of making contact before his reflexes kicked on and he was able to jump back from her. He took an automatic dislike of her, if only because she’d rattled his composure – even before he became aware of her rather exotic features, which under any other circumstances, would have intrigued him. Instead, they just fed his resentment. She doesn’t even look real. With that long straight hair the color of midnight – which appeared to float about her head despite being caught back by some sort of material band – and eyes so blue they rivaled the sky, she looked more like a doll than a person. For some reason, that made his resentment toward her build.

Oh, no, it’s her, he realized upon further inspection. The girl from the quad. The only one who could see them when they were still cloaked by Mother.

“I’m sorry!” the girl gasped in a wispy voice. Recognition flared in her eyes when they settled upon Geo’s, preceding a change in her demeanor. A slight one, to be sure, but it was there just the same. A hint of smugness. Was she remembering what transpired between them when she dared to touch his hand? “You must be the new students. I was just coming to get you.”

“Well, here we are.” Geo’s voice was harsh but he didn’t care. At least it robbed her of some of her smugness. That was really getting to him, the way she looked at him like she knew his secrets – which she did, in a way. And he didn’t like that. At all. He didn’t want her knowing his secrets – he didn’t want her knowing anything about him. He wasn’t here to make friends. Especially not her. No, he didn’t want her to like him. Just as he didn’t want to feel the strange pull between them. This indefinable thing that streaked between them, surreptitiously drawing him toward her. Magnetic.

But he had to admit he kind of liked the way she scrunched up those perfect features in confusion. The way she pulled on that hair to settle it down against her shoulder in a gesture that conveyed her discomfort with him. Good.

“Geo!” Mother exclaimed, drawing his attention back to her – and breaking the weird hold this strange girl had over him. “There’s no call to be rude because you don’t want to be here. Apologize immediately.”

“Sorry,” he said in such a way the girl couldn’t mistake his meaning. He wasn’t sorry at all.

Too bad Merina spoiled the effect by brushing past him and extending a hand of welcome to the girl, literally and figuratively. “Hi, I’m Merina! Don’t mind Geo, he likes to shake things up.” She shot a meaningful glance over her shoulder at him. “What’s your name?”


“Ohh, pretty.”

She gushed, Geo thought. Merina actually gushed over the girl and her name. Ashby Skye. A name to fit the face. Exotic, otherworldly, and yet…normal, somehow. Just like the girl. Well, except for the floating hair.

“Merina, why don’t you introduce your siblings to Ashby?” Mother suggested.

Oh, joy. This day was getting better by the minute.

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