Destiny’s Kiss: a Darkworld novel - Misti Wolanski - ebook
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Is saving a friend worth starting a war?~Destiny Walker is an exceptional student despite her youth, sullenness, and the werewolf baby she left on a stranger's doorstep. Across the Atlantic, Kismet Baros was a rare type of Magik who was under the protection of the vampire court. Only Destiny and the judge who emancipated her know why Kismet no longer exists.When powerful Magiks from Kismet's past show up, Destiny must decide what she is—person or property—and if she’s willing to sacrifice the few friends she has.If she isn’t, she'll be the gunpowder that sparks World War III.~A fast-paced dark urban fantasy novel, wherein a girl must figure out if it's worth starting a war to save her friend. Contains mature themes, some violence and gore, and a few cases of salty language.

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Destiny’s Kiss

Destiny Walker: Book 1

A Darkworld Novel by

Misti Wolanski

EPUB Edition

Copyright 2011

All Rights Reserved

This is a work of fiction. People, places, and events are made up; any that aren’t made up have all been processed through the shredder of the author’s imagination and therefore bear only superficial resemblance to their originals, at best.

All trademarks, songs, books, and other writers’ characters mentioned in this text are the property of their respective owners. Their use does not indicate any association, express or implied, between their owners and this work.

All effort was taken to respect real-world nations, their laws and reality, but the author is not omniscient or a lawyer, and this story is fiction. If a reader wishes to act in accordance with something mentioned in this work, the reader is responsible to verify that it is still in effect or if it ever existed in the first place.

This work is not authorized for resale or sharing by e-mail, website, or other transfer method.

This work is licensed in electronic format for your personal enjoyment only. That means no, you may not share this e-book by e-mail or on file-sharing sites, nor may you resell this story without authorization. Buy your friends their own copies, please. If the copy you’re reading wasn’t bought for your use specifically, please respect the author and delete or pay for the e-book. Thanks!

Cover Image by Najla Qamber

Model & Photographer: Misty Patricia

Cardo font series by David Perry

Book formatted by Misti Wolanski

• Is saving a friend worth starting a war? •

Destiny Walker is an exceptional student despite her youth, sullenness, and the werewolf baby she left on a stranger's doorstep. Across the Atlantic, Kismet Baros was a rare type of Magik who was under the protection of the vampire court. Only Destiny and the judge who emancipated her know why Kismet no longer exists.

When powerful Magiks from Kismet's past show up, Destiny must decide what she is—person or property—and if she’s willing to sacrifice the few friends she has.

If she isn’t, she'll be the gunpowder that sparks World War III.

This novel is dark urban fantasy. It contains mature themes, some violence and gore, and a few cases of objectionable language.

TABLE OF CONTENTS

Daniel 3:17–18, ASV

CHAPTER ONE

CHAPTER TWO

CHAPTER THREE

CHAPTER FOUR

CHAPTER FIVE

CHAPTER SIX

CHAPTER SEVEN

CHAPTER EIGHT

CHAPTER NINE

CHAPTER TEN

CHAPTER ELEVEN

CHAPTER TWELVE

CHAPTER THIRTEEN

CHAPTER FOURTEEN

CHAPTER FIFTEEN

CHAPTER SIXTEEN

CHAPTER SEVENTEEN

CHAPTER EIGHTEEN

CHAPTER NINETEEN

CHAPTER TWENTY

CHAPTER TWENTY-ONE

How did you like the story?

About the Author

Song Listing

Also by Misti Wolanski

DANIEL 3:17–18, ASV

If it be so, our God whom we serve is able to deliver us from the burning fiery furnace; and he will deliver us out of thy hand, O king. But if not, be it known unto thee, O king, that we will not serve thy gods, nor worship the golden image which thou hast set up.

CHAPTER ONE

March 31, 2009 South Carolina, United States

“DES!” JORDAN’SCALL for me cuts through the between-classes crowd.

I scan the school hallway to find her and stumble into Mike.

He shoves me into the steel lockers. I catch myself with my forearms and push myself off before the pain registers. The iron in my bangles burns me enough.

Mike’s “Watch where you’re going!” contains his usual vulgarity.

I want to mutter a correction about actual bitches, not that Mike would recognize a wynwolf if he saw one, unless she had one of those ‘Will Change for change!’ signs. But he isn’t worth my time. I clutch my backpack’s shoulder strap and give him a needlessly wide berth as I head over to Jordan, one of the few nice girls who doesn’t mind a sullen goth kid.

There aren’t many fifteen-year-old high school juniors by the time spring break looms. My youth means the snobs refuse to accept me, my sullenness makes me unwelcome in chess club, and I’m barred from the emo gang by my good grades and job.

That drops me with the few people in the weird crowd willing to see past the ‘leave me alone’ façade I’ve stuck myself behind for everyone’s safety. Most of those kids are Magiks and therefore used to seeing the magical reality beneath the veneer of mundanity: the Darkworld. Jordan has the best protection in case my past comes to haunt her, so I hang with her the most.

My back hurts, so I slouch against the wall beside Jordan and let my schoolbag slide to the floor. I pick at one violet-painted nail and let the werewolf’s daughter speak first. Jordan’s dad is the area alpha, a widely known fact that perhaps a sixth of the city actually believes and the rest thinks a creative marketing ploy to help his merc business. When it’s too tense for cops’ comfort but not bad enough for SWAT, they call him. I don’t think he’s bothered to let a target escape him since he’s gone public about his furry hide.

I rent a room from one of the pack members, but I’m not sure if that’s common knowledge. I follow pack protocol anyway and let the alpha’s daughter speak first. That doesn’t take long.

“Hey. You okay?”

I shrug.

Jordan frowns. “Des, you look exhausted.”

And I am. But that you’ve been stalking a pair of mated werewolves to check on the baby isn’t something you confess. I shrug again. “You know Missis Gambrel. That history project is a killer.”

History class itself gives me the worst trouble. History is different between Magiks and humans. Heck, even the US legal system is, thanks to the Magiks of the South not actually losing the Civil War. States have more individual sovereignty, and slavery isn’t always illegal.

Okay, so it’s usually legal. But knowing that is something else you don’t confess. Jordan may not even know; her dad keeps his pack civilized.

Jordan scoffs at my claim that the history project has caused my fatigue. “I have the same homework you do, and I have fun on the weekends instead of moping around.” She pauses. “I mean, I know you work; but that’s, what, five hours a week?” More like twenty-five. “You can afford to come hang out on Fridays.”

One reason not many people keep me company is that I respond with yet another shrug. Another is that I sometimes body throw whoever who taps me on the shoulder. Like now. Fionn yelps as he lands unceremoniously in the hallway in the gap habitually left by passersby.

“What the—” Jordan shoots Fionn a look, and he gulps down the curse. He collects himself and glares at me. “What is your problem?!”

I don’t apologize.

Jordan speaks, instead. “Back off, Fionn. You know she does that when you startle her.” At least once a week.

He plows onward. “You’re, like, completely freakin’ paranoid about being touched—”

“So she dislikes surprises and happens to know a bit of self-defense.” Jordan’s glaring at Fionn. You’d think anyone with reason to believe her about her father would avoid irking her, but Fionn always surprises me with his poor sense.

I yawn and look at my watch, my black metal bangles tinkling as they hit each other. “Spanish class in eight minutes,” I comment.

That’s one class where my previous life makes less work. Italian’s not the same as Spanish, but I’ve managed to slip into the third year class readily enough. Señora Garcia lets me speak whichever I like, so long as she gets my gist. She nearly had a heart attack in her surprise when the new middle-of-the-year student (me) walked up to her and started speaking fluent Italian. Goths tend to dabble in dead languages.

The señora’s ensuing confusion when I told her I’m Greek was fun to watch. I’m sure it would be even more amusing to see her reaction to learning what, exactly, taught me Italian—but I’m already suspected of being a mite unhinged and don’t need to add that confession to the strikes against me. Belief in magic is on the upswing, but it still isn’t chic.

“You aren’t even listening to me, are you?” Fionn demands.

I glance at my watch again. Seven more minutes ’til the last class before lunch. “No.”

He proceeds to curse me out until Jordan socks him in the jaw. That’s a common enough sight that not even the hall monitors blink. I wouldn’t be surprised if Jordan’s dad was who taught her how to do that so well. She never shakes or blows on her bloodied knuckles, either.

A too-familiar tingle on my upper back keeps me from comprehending whatever Jordan says next. I quickly stop my widening eyes, but I know I’ve paled. I force my breathing and pulse to stay as close to normal as I can. I scan the hallway with what I hope looks like boredom and not panic.

A lot of things can trigger a bind-rune, I remind myself as magic flares along the lines of the magic-filled sigil tattooed on my upper back. An unfamiliar Magik can do it just by passing by. Fionn did, the first several times I was near him. His sealskin is probably dark brown if not black, judging from his platinum hair and pale green eyes. Selkies’ eyes complement both forms, and their pelts and hair never match.

I swallow, praying that it’s just an unfamiliar Magik that’s awoken the bind-rune and not—

“Ah, Signorina Fuller!”

Jordan looks towards the voice calling her. I stare blankly.

An Armani-clad Ambrogino Romazzo can’t be in the middle of this average US high school, walking my way, unimpeded by the teenage crowd thanks to his six feet and a few inches. He can’t. I shake my head. I pinch my arm.

He’s still here, unless I’m hallucinating. If he’s seeking Jordan, at least he’s not here for a snack. He’s fond of high schoolers, claims we taste better. Cleaner than adults but riper than children. His words, not mine.

I cringe and glance at Fionn. From his frown, he can tell Signor Ambrogino is a fellow Magik; he just hasn’t yet figured out that the signore’s a creep even by Darkworld standards.

So Signor Ambrogino is the one making my tattoo go wonky. I didn’t have it when I knew him, so it’s adjusting to his magic.

Oh, merda. Does that mean his magic’s noticing it, too?

I flinch as I look up to meet the gaze set a good foot above mine. I swallow uncomfortably. His kind are creeps, but he’s passably friendly. I shove myself off the wall and turn away, biting my lip.

Please don’t let him recognize me, God. He’ll find out what’s happened, track down my owner, and… Things get bad when his kind and my owner’s kind get mad at each other. And Hollywood likes to think that it exaggerates.

Signor Ambrogino takes Jordan’s hand. “Signorina Jordan Fuller, daughter of the pack.”

Thankfully his attention stays on Jordan, so he doesn’t notice my shudder at his proper phrasing to call Jordan the alpha’s daughter and not merely a werewolf’s daughter. That distinction tends to remain unknown to people outside of werewolf packs. Jordan doubtless finds his knowledge surprising and reassuring. I would, except I’m pretty sure Ambrogino knows what he does about werewolves because he’s eaten them.

He bows over Jordan’s hand. “Ciao, signorina.”

“Ciao,” she returns calmly, as if unknown and potentially dangerous Magiks often walk up to her in the middle of her ordinary school day for a chat. In Italian. “My friends: Fionn Dillan, Destiny Walker.”

His dark caramel-colored eyes pass over us with enough of a glance to avoid being rude and to enable him to remember us until we can be forgotten for our irrelevance in a few weeks, after he’s back in Rome. “Signor Dillan, Signorina Walker.” He bows to each of us.

Fionn smiles and nods politely, obviously still trying to figure out which type of Magik the signore is. Funny; I would’ve expected the Italian to give Fionn the right idea.

I just stare blankly at the signore for a couple of seconds then look at my watch. I shove myself off the wall and slouch. “Class in four minutes.”

“I’ll walk you.” Signor Ambrogino takes Jordan’s bag and offers to take mine.

I give him another dull look.

He smiles faintly and pulls it from me. “It would be improper for a gentleman to allow you to carry your own bag, signorina,” he explains politely, as if I’m a normal teenager without a trace of etiquette training.

My voice doesn’t tip him off, which makes me feel better. I’ve wondered how helpful all this goth getup actually is. That I’ve messily lopped my hair off and dyed it a nearly black green probably helps the disguise. I was always neat and well-kept in Rome, in the white that labeled me as not-for-meals, and my hair an only mildly abnormal coyote-brown color.

I sense Signor Ambrogino stiffen slightly, and I risk a sidelong glance at him. I’d think his narrowed gaze hungry, except he’s eyeing up my profile and not my arm. He reaches for my face, then lowers his hand. “You have an…interesting…jaw,” he says quietly.

I freeze, my heart clambering up my throat. He’s said that you can tell if a woman’s had a baby by her jawline. He’s also claimed you can often tell if a girl’s had sex by how she naturally walks, so I’ve never put much stock in either one.

I concentrate on walking…normally…and on not calming my thundering heartbeat, since he already hears it.

He stiffens in surprise that I evidently know he meant my jaw matches a girl who’s had a baby. He’s said artists tend to know about that. Do I look like an artist? “Forgive me, signorina,” he continues quickly. “I did not mean—that is, I meant…”

He glances at Jordan and Fionn, obviously guessing that they don’t know about the baby. He just as obviously guesses from my reaction that I have good reason to be freaked out by adult male attention. “It was a compliment,” he finally ‘confesses’, pointedly adding a bit more space between us and not looking at me directly. “I meant nothing untoward by it.”

In other words, he wasn’t hitting on me. I nod sharply and stiffly continue towards class, not trusting my voice. Sure, it’s matured in the past few years, but he could still ID me if he considers it. And with him noticing me now as more than Jordan’s inconsequential friend, I don’t need him to have more ammo to figure me out.

“Des?” Jordan asks. I’ve never mentioned what happened to the baby she knows I had. “You okay?”

I shrug—yes, again, fancy that—and resume my feigned sullen nonchalance.

Signor Ambrogino has gotten into trouble at Court more than once for his lack of tact, so it really shouldn’t surprise me when he draws a quick breath and asks, “You didn’t keep the child?”

I flinch, the action an admission that keeps Fionn from flipping out at the question’s implication that I fool around. “T…took after his padre,” I say, then flinch again when I realize I’ve just used Italian.

Thankfully, it’s the same word in— “Here’s our class. Spanish. Thank you for the escort, signore.” I grab my schoolbag from his lax grip and dart into the classroom and to my desk. It’s a few seconds before Fionn and Jordan follow me, but Signor Ambrogino doesn’t. He doesn’t.

As the bell rings and Señora Garcia begins class, I breathe a deep sigh of relief and slouch into my chair. He didn’t follow me. He doesn’t recognize me.

Thank God.

April 2008 England, United Kingdom

Shrieking pleas and screams awoke Kismet like He meant them to, giving more than enough time for fear and revulsion to clench in her gut and make her feel sick. Not that illness would grant her any reprieve if He’d decided she was to hurt tonight.

Blinking back tears from the acrid smoke that had wormed its way into the dirt-floored little hut, she shimmied on her elbows over to the relief hole. He’d had an earth sorcerer put it in for the times she was too battered to leave her hut for days on end.

She crawled because she couldn’t walk for the shakes. The newly usual vomit joined in, dredging up her fear from her bowels and sending any betrayingly strong emotion with it down the hole.

Kismet blocked the scent from His nose from the start. She hadn’t let vampires cow her into submission, after she’d accidentally killed the Chancellor’s favorite trio of revenants. Some of her lack of fear had been due to a six-year-old’s ignorance, but the principle remained: Admitting weakness admitted defeat.

In the Darkworld, admitting defeat was never good for your health. Not if you wanted your life. That childhood lesson was what kept her alive as a slave, now.

Nida’s screams shifted into the after-sobs sometime during Kismet’s vomiting. She pushed herself up, fumbled blindly for the water bottle, and carefully rinsed out her mouth with a single mouthful. She spat that down the hole, too.

Kismet dragged herself over to her books. She consciously sat facing away from her hut’s entrance. She lit a candle and used it to resume reading her well-worn copy of the Bible—well, Judges. All those lines about ‘And everyone did what was right in his own eyes, for there was no king in those days’ shouldn’t have been so comforting. She disturbed herself, whenever she thought about…things.

So she didn’t think about herself much, didn’t think about how much she was actually worth at auction if they ever learned what kind of Magik she actually was, nor how her parents sold her rather than be persecuted by the local pack.

She wasn’t exactly hurt that her parents had been willing to hand her over to a group of sadists to save their own hides. They’d originally become a couple to smuggle her slave father out of Greece. That her parents had liked each other enough to stick together afterwards must’ve come as a surprise to both of them.

No, their abandonment didn’t hurt. Her inability to help Nida, courtesy of the sigil tattooed on her upper back, did.

Her hand slipped on the pages of her Bible, accidentally falling to Genesis. Her gaze fell on chapter thirty-nine before she flipped back. She swallowed. Joseph fled his mistress when she ordered him to sin.

Kismet shivered and took a deep breath, settling herself so she’d look as calm as she ensured she smelled. She smelled of resignation and a few other things she preferred not thinking about. It was another self-disturbing thing, that Kismet was willing to let Him think her a masochist so He would keep the others off her for fear that she would like another’s abuse more than she ‘liked’ His.

For an insane someone with centuries’ worth of experience brutalizing young girls, He could have been worse. Nida just stared, disbelief a little more deadened by the dullness, each time Kismet told her that.

Kismet had seen what some of the other sadists in the pack did to their own girls, when Kismet wandered farther than she was allowed and therefore farther than Nida was physically able to go. The bind-rune’s magic didn’t allow it.

But Kismet could ignore magic. Unfortunately, her tattooed bind-rune didn’t inherit her body’s magical immunity. Ignoring commands brought pain worse than a vampire’s venom, along the tattoo lines on her upper back, but Kismet could do it.

Of course, her wandering also meant that she could see that most of the pack didn’t hurt women. It was one such civilized werewolf who overheard Kismet babbling what little of Psalm twenty-three she could remember, one bad night, therefore finding her beyond His prescribed limits.

Instead of turning her over to Him for due punishment, that young man had actually kept a hand on her tattoo and coaxed the magic into not torturing Kismet for the minutes she had needed to collect herself. Then he’d escorted her back to His bit of camp, using his own advantages so she could slip in unnoticed.

At the border of her master’s piece of camp, the kind werewolf had handed her the Bible she read now. “May God comfort you and bring you through this trial,” he’d said softly, sadly. He would’ve done more for her if he could.

Kismet hadn’t seen him since. He had risked his life to shelter her from His magic for even those few minutes; she knew by sight the few who were allowed to challenge Him, and her helper wasn’t one of them. Her helper hadn’t known that she could keep his aid from being noticed, from being smelled.

Magic generally didn’t affect scents. Kismet had carefully hid that she was an exception to that particular rule. She certainly wasn’t the only freak. But He didn’t need to know she was one. Werewolves killed scent magicians.

Kismet longed for escape, yes, but she didn’t want to die.

Freaks like her only happened when bloodlines mixed with magical immunity. Normally a Magik could only take after a single parent or grandparent in abilities, even if all four grandparents were of different kinds. But once magical immunity entered that mix, magical genetics went haywire. And no two of Kismet’s grandparents had been the same kind of Magik.

Kismet’s immune father had been forcibly sired by a werewolf on his immune concubine, which was fairly normal; her druidess mother had come by a yurei mother and druid father. That major of a messed-up bloodline was why this pack had demanded Kismet as protection payment: You never could be certain what would come of breeding like hers.

She suspected He was disappointed that she demonstrated no abilities beyond her sigil-sabotaged magical immunity—no magic that she let Him see, at least. She stared at the latrine hole and wondered how long she could hide the child within her before He noticed.

Her bind-rune tingled and air brushed the bare skin on her back as He stepped in. “Kismet.” He didn’t bother to lower His tone for the night. He wanted Nida to hear this, to hear how Kismet took her own handling.

She sat perfectly still, despite her too-small camisole that would have served better as a sports bra beneath a proper shirt. She would have crossed her arms over it, but that would have confessed that she preferred hiding her figure, and admitting preferences to a sociopath was something she had never been stupid enough to do.

Just like she’d never been stupid enough to flee while she was young enough that most people would send her back to her parents. But she didn’t exactly have a choice, now.

Kismet didn’t let her arms wrap around her belly.

He took her Bible from her and put it away with the textbooks she studied to keep herself sane. He never looked at any of it—she suspected he couldn’t read English. He snuffed the candle with his thumb and forefinger. And that was when Kismet’s own session began.

CHAPTER TWO

March 31, 2009 South Carolina, United States

“SARA, DOYOU have something to share with the class?”

Sara stops giggling and ducks her face behind her perm that’s mostly russet but has enough of the rufous to remind me of the hummingbird. Her shyness solidifies that comparison.

“I…” she tries. I glimpse a definite flush on her normally pinkish face. “I was just confused by something, Missis Dayes.”

With a few years under her belt as a high school biology teacher, Missis Dayes is already used to students’ confusion and having to drag the actual questions out of them. She frowns in an attempt at sternness that doesn’t suit her petite frame and wrinkle-free face. If she added glitter hairspray to the gold-and-white eye shadow, she would readily pass for a student. “What?”

By now, Sara’s face is comparable to a lobster—one of the red ones, not blue. She looks like she’d prefer detention over proclaiming her question aloud. At my three rows over and five seats back, it’s a strain for me to hear her, never mind for the humans in the class to do so.

“I…” She swallows. “I was wondering why pregnant young teenagers require C-sections. I mean, didn’t a lot of girls start having kids at thirteen a century ago?”

Longer than that, for ‘Western’ humans in general, but her point’s clear enough.

Missis Dayes’s expression in the meantime clearly says she could have gone without knowing that question. (Gossip says she taught sex ed by setting up videos and taking long smoke breaks.) She fiddles with her favorite cross necklace that always makes me wonder why no one’s ever alerted her that gold and yellow-toned complexions do not mix. “I’m not sure exactly; I’ll have to look it up and get back with you. But a lot of women did die in childbirth, back then.”

A lot of women die now, too; it’s just not as widely advertised thanks to its limitations to the underworld, Third World, and Darkworld. The media likes salacious tales of vampire madams and military werewolves. The enslaved women and children? Not so much. Not even for human slaves.

My stomach twinges. I really should’ve eaten lunch, but after the incident with Signor Ambrogino, I knew it wouldn’t have stayed down. Weak stomach. Comes in handy when I get food poisoning or the stomach flu. Not so handy when stress or morning sickness say ‘Hi’.

“Younger girls’ hips often aren’t fully developed yet, are often too small. Not flexible or wide enough yet for the kid to pass through the birth canal.” The words have escaped my mouth, so I finish. “Makes birth complications and hemorrhaging more likely.”

Classmates are staring at me. “She speaks,” someone mutters.

She bites, too.

Sara, once past the embarrassment from her original question, is willing to ask another. “Wouldn’t the, um, too-small thing also affect…you know…” No one does. “Sex?”

Missis Dayes gulps, her neck starting to redden from the pull on her necklace. “W—well, I’ll have to get back to you on that one, as well… Unless Miss Walker knows that answer, too?”

A few classmates smirk with self-satisfaction at their own ability to answer the question. I shrug. “That’s more birth canal than bone structure, but it does tend to hurt like Hell at that age.” I drop my gaze to my violet nail polish, but I feel the weight of my classmates’ collected stares. Some of them are quick-witted enough to be horrified. Others are mortified, and at least one idiot’s leering at me across the aisle.

I pick my nails to stifle the urge to slam the perv in the face. He’s human; I’d likely kill him. “Worse than vampire venom.” Of course that had to slip, with Ambrogino on my mind.

But my slip actually helps. People relax, start shifting in their seats. The evidence that I’m what skeptics call a myth whore lets my classmates avoid taking me seriously. The would-be voyeur slumps with enough disappointment that I’m tempted to ask my flatmate to punch some sense into him—until I remember that she’s stronger than me in human form, never mind when she gets ticked.

Missis Dayes even smiles a little while dropping her hand from her necklace and asking, “Vampires?”

Still ostensibly focused on my nails, I jerk a thumb towards Jordan. “Her dad’s a werewolf.”

“You believe in vampires?” She dodges my point, making me suspect she’s one of the city’s one-sixth of werewolf believers, which makes her refusal to believe in vampires more obtuse than rational. Vampires have been public since they made that treaty with the Vatican in the Middle Ages, though not all eras since then have commonly believed in them.

I look at my teacher directly and lift my hands, palms forward and fingers spread to refer to my fingertips. The pinprick scars can freak out anyone halfway educated about fingerprinting.

“No, I grew fangs and bit myself a couple dozen times, then filed them off,” I say pleasantly, then drop my hands behind my back so she can’t prove that anything’s there.

Missis Dayes approaches my desk. “Miss Walker,” she says, her attempted firmness tainted by her knowledge that I don’t cave to pressure. What are they going to do, call the judge who emancipated me? Been there, tried that. The teacher who tried it wasn’t even a Magik, so Judge Jillian Giovani didn’t fry him for bothering her unnecessarily.

The classroom door creaks open, drawing everyone’s attention. Jordan’s parents stand in the doorway beside an office aide. I restrain my cringe when Mister Fuller glances at me while entering. The werewolf alpha must’ve heard all I said.

“The Fullers are here to pick up their daughter,” the office aide says as she follows the Fullers in, brushing her few loose locks back and twisting them around her bun. Missis Dayes leaves my side to speak to the aide.

Jordan hesitates a few seconds in surprise before quickly packing her bag up. Missis Fuller straightens Jordan’s collar, then checks her own impeccable royal blue skirted business suit. Her bobbed hair is a chocolate brown that complements the rich blue.

“You look nice.” Her husband’s jeans and red T look ratty in comparison.

Missis Fuller doesn’t react to what I said until Jordan pokes her mother’s arm. “Mom, Des said she likes your outfit.”

Missis Fuller turns to view me with the startled stare of someone uncomfortable with compliments. “Thank you, Miss Walker.”

So Jordan’s told her parents about me, because Missis Fuller didn’t get my surname from shopping where I work. I don’t quite hide the flinch.

I pull out my homework, like I always do in the moments when the class isn’t working on some group activity. The teachers used to protest, but after I made it clear that my grades didn’t suffer for it and that some people have to pay rent, they backed off.

A werewolf-warm hand grabs my wrist and turns my hand up to view my fingertips. “She will come with me, as well.”

The office aide is apparently part of the city’s one-sixth who believes what Mister Fuller is. Even so, she hesitates, glancing at me. “Sir…”

Mister Fuller straightens and glances at Fionn. “Both Magiks will.”

I react to that before Fionn does. “I’m not a Magik!” Thou shalt not lie.

“I’m not one, either.” Fionn’s brave front falters when Mister Fuller takes a nice, long sniff. Fionn swallows. “Oh, bull.” He shoves his things into his backpack. “She ain’t one, though.”

“No?” Mister Fuller smiles and tightens his grip on my wrist.

“Ebenezer,” Missis Fuller says quietly, putting a hand on her husband’s wrist. “Let her go. She isn’t one of yours.” Yours, not ours? The missis doesn’t consider herself part of the pack hierarchy?

“She is a Magik,” he replies.

“No. She swims,” Fionn insists, as if that alone means I can’t be a closet Magik. It does limit the options. And, since he’s a selkie, he is hypersensitive to detecting other kinds while swimming.

Unfortunately for his attempt to exonerate me, selkies’ peculiar ID technique works best for the carnivorous types of Magiks. Like werewolves, though I have my doubts about werewolves’ ability to swim.

Mister Fuller doesn’t bother mentioning that problem. “Vampires don’t waste their time punishing mundanes. They eat them.”

Glaring, I yank my hand from his grasp and grab my lead pencil. Missis Fuller’s smile has the sad edge of apology for her husband’s actions.

Mister Fuller’s smile widens. “And mundanes aren’t so comfortable around people like me.”

“You’re not the first wolf I’ve met.” I fiddle with my pencil as I seek a way out of this. Even with Jordan’s Seventeenth coming up—the legal age for pack children in the Darkworld—I hadn’t expected Mister Fuller to be this…thorough with the celebrations. Calling every single Magik in the seventeen-kilometer radius to celebrate a Seventeenth is usually treated as more of a theoretical ideal than an actuality.

I also hadn’t expected Signor Ambrogino to show up to honor Jordan. Just how powerful a werewolf is Mister Fuller? I know some werewolf named Dickens rules the States; maybe Mister Fuller’s one of his top guys? That’s probably it.

“You believe what I am.” Mister Fuller’s amusement doesn’t relieve me. I’ve experienced firsthand what some powerful werewolves find amusing.

“So does she.” I nod at the office aide.

Mister Fuller pauses, glancing at my scarred fingertips. “Vampires are…fastidious…about who they train.”

I shrug. “Sneak through servant passageways into a room, find corpses on floor, knock over lantern in surprise, lantern lands on corpses, corpse-vampires catch fire, and…” I smile cheerily. “Presto! Vamp fang, meet finger.”

I wave my forefinger, then rewrap it around my pencil before Missis Dayes can grab my hand to check the fingertips for herself. “What you need a bunch of Magiks for, anyways?”

My attitude and story confuse Mister Fuller. Ignoring the difference between vampires and revenants helps ‘prove’ my ignorance. Only a fool or a masochist intentionally equates the two, though both drink blood. Ambrogino’s mother, Generale Ludovica, has a habit of having revenants made of anybody who calls her a revenant to her face.

Mister Fuller steps away. “Very well.” But he’s not entirely convinced, his mien says, as he turns to Fionn. He even takes a little sniff to accent his point. “MacDillan? Shall we?”

Fionn shuffles as he sidles towards the door, but he obviously knows what’s going on. He just didn’t expect the summons, either.

Mister Fuller takes my hand and bows over it. “May you have an excellent day, Miss Walker. My apologies for the mistake.”

Before I can frame a suitably blasé response to that, they leave. I manage to wait ’til they’re out of even werewolf earshot before I slowly slouch into my seat. From others’ looks at me and the whispers that start, I know they’re wondering what the heck actually is the story with me.

I turn back to my homework. The words spin on the page, and my pencil snaps in two. I stare at the plastic and graphite in my trembling hand for a few seconds in dull surprise that I just did that.

I. Hate. Werewolves.

April 2008 England, United Kingdom

One arm clutched her Bible to her chest over her too-small, too-tight excuse for clothing, and her other elbow rested against that arm while Kismet thumbed for a ride.

Seven wasn’t a very popular time of night for drivers, not in this stretch of Nowhere, England, but that meant fewer witnesses. Her skin crawled from the cold, but her inadequate clothing did make obvious that she couldn’t possibly have a gun. She hoped her obviously overyoung and underfed body might help her catch a ride with someone more interested in what he could provide her than what she had to offer.

Her self-assessment proved accurate enough when an ordinarily beat-up car stopped, driven by an ordinary middle-aged woman.

“Get in,” the lady said, swiping some lank brown hair back from her face. What hair didn’t fall behind her ears returned to fore, since the rubber band holding the ponytail was rebelling.

“I hope you’re not in the habit of picking up hitchhikers.” An ordinary Magik she could understand taking that kind of risk. This woman was human normal, even in her pudgy physical unfitness. Nida would’ve been able to beat her up, assuming the thirteen-year-old djinn could have worked up the energy to even care to do it.

The lady gave Kismet an odd look at that comment. “I hope you’re not in the habit of hitchhiking. Are you getting in or what?”

Kismet climbed into the passenger seat, welcoming the wave of heat that greeted her inside and ignoring the pain that buzzed in her body from the metal surrounding her.

The lady didn’t react to how Kismet reeked beneath how she made herself smell, so the woman wasn’t even an immune. She swapped the brake for the gas pedal.

Silence followed for several seconds. The lady reached over and pulled an old towel from the back seat. “Cold?”

Kismet shrugged, but she gladly wrapped the towel over the evidence of her slave status that was tattooed all over her upper back. At least He liked girls based on age and not type, so no one could ID her as an immune by her bind-rune’s owner. “Thanks.”

“Keep it. I’m Helen.”

“Kissy.” The nickname fell easily from her tongue, reminding her of better times, times when she wasn’t chattel to have her independence crushed from her.

Kismet rubbed her fingertips together, looking wistfully at the pinprick scars dotting them. Life had hurt so much less, then.