Tag Archives: Your Lies

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For today's Promptly Penned, I once again ventured into the world of my serial.

For those interested, here are links for the other flash fiction peices that are kinda connected/set in that world:

The Lies Begin
Lying in Wait
Lying to Myself
The Lies We Tell
The Choice Lies Before You 
"Little Heaven" (Song Fic) 
Uncertainty
Promptly Penned #9

And the link to the chapters of the serial: Your Lies

This story isn't about the hero or heroine of the serial but a follow up to a couple of flash fiction pieces I did from this world.

Awakening (from Male #1's POV)
"Iowa" (from Male #2's POV)

For this piece, I'm back in Male #1's POV. So here we go... (Actual prompt is in bold)


I watched Maddock walk out of the apartment we shared and silently counted in my head.

1...

2...

3...

4...

"I can't believe he's going out with that Magical Sympathizer. Again." Mark practically spat the words as he flopped onto the sofa next to Kevin, who nodded.

Fuck, he hadn't even made it five seconds. God, I hated him. Hated being here, pretending to be one of them. Hated that I had to sit here with not only a straight face but an agreeable one as they spewed anti-Magical bullshit. All the while my magic skittered beneath my skin, aching to lash out, to take them out before they could do more harm to those like me.

"Chill out," Nick said, strolling in from the kitchen. "He'll lose interest soon enough."

And him... My magic wanted to do so much more to Nick Collins. It wanted to squeeze the life out of him, slowly. Slowly enough he suffered. Just as Molly had suffered, just as the life had been squeezed out of her...by him.

I inhaled deeply and shoved my magic down. Because now was not the time. It would come, soon enough, but I hadn't spent the last years carving out my place in this group to let it all go to waste by acting impulsively. Luckily, Nick wasn't here often, so it wasn't always so difficult to control myself and the power that lived within me. Though, fuck, even without him around, it was getting harder and harder to live like this.

"But he's not focusing," Mark argued. "He's starting to question what we're doing. She's filling his head with ideas that go against everything we've been working toward.  Fucking Magicals and their Sympathizers. Shouldn't even be allowed here."

"Or anywhere," Kevin added vehemently. "Abominations. All of them."

I fought not to sneer at him - or throw him across the room with a flick of my wrist. They were the abominations. The monsters. And they needed to be stopped.

"She's just a piece of ass, playing hard to get. And once she gives it up, he'll move on." Nick sat in the chair across from me. "He'll do what he needs to do. Besides, going home for the long weekend will help set him straight."

"True," Mark said with a laugh. "Daddy and Mama Roberts sure as hell aren't going to put up with their baby boy crossing lines."

I forced myself to chuckle along with them as my stomach clenched painfully and my head throbbed. Again. More and more, I fought against horrible headaches. The result of suppressing my magic and from little to no rest. - I might be able to push my magic down and hide what I was, but I couldn't stop the visions from coming while I slept. In fact, they seemed to come more frequently the longer I muzzled my magic and kept it deep inside. But there was nothing for that. It was necessary. For the greater good. And it was a small price to pay to do what was right. That's all I ever really wanted. That and making my sister's killer pay. I had to accomplish the first before I could see to the second.

The short break from classes would help. The people who thought they were my friends believed I was going home while I'd told my parents I was staying near campus, to swamped with schoolwork to come before the longer break over the holidays. In reality, I was going somewhere I could be myself. Somewhere I didn't have to hide. Somewhere I could loosen the hold on my power and let it free.

The pain in my head ratcheted up a notch at the mere thought of my parents. I loved and hated them in equal measure. They were good parents, for the most part, always good to me and my siblings. But I loathed their weakness. When I looked at them all I saw was a foolish pair who blindly accepted and followed the anti-Magical movement. And all the while, unbeknownst to them, two of their children had the very thing they, with their passivity, helped oppress and persecute. To be honest, the reason I still maintained contact with them was because of my little brother. He showed no signed of being a Magical, but my powers hadn't awakened until I was in high school - the night Molly was murdered. So I would watch Owen and keep him safe.

And there was the fact it solidified my cover as a strong anti-Magical to remain the good son, so I'd keep doing that as long as I needed to. No matter how hard it was.

I focused on the conversation around me, and quickly tuned the hateful words and ranting out again. I bit back a sigh and shifted into more comfortable position. Only three more days of this. Three more days of pretending, of hiding, of doing what needed to be done. Then...then...I could be me. Even if it was only for a short time. It would be enough. I would make it be enough because it couldn't be otherwise. The work I had to do was far too important.


Bronwyn Green | Deelylah Mullin | Jessica De La Rosa | Kris Norris

 

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Promptly Penned

This month's Promptly Penned is connected a bit to Your Lies - my serial. It centers around Kyle - Delia's best friend from back home, a fellow magic user. This takes place before the events in the serial itself, and it's a short one. 🙂


In school, tests started with a class bell  and ended with a "pencils down". Outside of school, things weren't so well defined. Outside of school, outside of...childhood, the things we were tested with all out sucked. There wasn't anyone else in control, telling you when to start, when to stop. It was all on you. Frightening thought...

I dropped my head forward and pressed fingertips to my temples, blocking out the chaos. I wasn't sure what to do. Everyone - my mom, Delia - thought I was visiting the university they thought I was interested in. I didn't feel guilty about the lies, really. I had no problem letting people assume things or bending the the truth or out and out lying it meant they wouldn't worry. When the lies protected them from a truth that could actually kill them.

And this truth...could definitely do that.

Just knowing about the place I now sat could cut one's life short if the wrong people found out. But I'd been destined to know, to be here, to make a difference. I snorted. Destined. I sure as hell didn't believe I was some sort of hero or anything like that, but I did believe ordinary men and women could make a difference, could fight against what was happening... I had to. It was the only thing that kept me moving forward for since that night.

When my dad and Delia's dad had let me go with them to investigate the disappearance of other magic users. When we'd been attacked. When I had run away as our dads had been dragged away. Sure, they'd told me to; that was the deal, after all. Anything happens, you run and you do not look back. Do you understand me? I promised without a second thought because I wanted to be allowed to go, to help.  I'd known, even then, that I wanted to be a part of what they were - fighting against the persecution and violence we, as those with magic, faced every day.

Knowing I'd have a chance to continue their work had always been the focus for me. I didn't let my mom see that, of course. How could I after we lost my dad? I would do what I had to - that was why I was here, ready to sign my name on the proverbial dotted line - but I would do just about anything to keep my mom ignorant of it all.

"Kyle?"

I lifted my head and looked at Patrick Bennet - a old friend of my dad's and the man who had first recruited him. The man I'd sought out as soon as I'd been able. And the man who'd just laid out all the risks, the possible collateral damage - innocent people killed in the crossfire; I could read between the lines - as a result of my actions, if I chose to join him and the others.

I forced my mind back to my dad. What he and Delia's dad had fought for. Any hesitation had been momentary and I wasn't going to give in to it or let doubts get in my way. Decision made, I felt lighter, and my magic thrummed beneath my skin, and I had a the fanciful thought that it was approval. From the power that lived in me. Maybe even from my dad.

"Not going to lie to you, kid," Peter said. "This is war. But it's not a war you need to be on the front lines of."

Pushing to my feet, I lifted my chin and met his gaze.

"You're wrong, sir. That's exactly where I need to be. I'm in."


Bronwyn Green| Jessica De La Rosa | Kris Norris

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photopromptHappy August!

For this month's photo prompt, I went back to my serial, Your Lies (which I will be posting more of soon!) This is kind of a continuation of the scene in my June Song Fic.

Enjoy!


08-2016 BenchGirl

God, what was I doing?

I sat heavily on the bench, cigarette dangling from my fingers. I huffed a laugh—I didn’t even smoke. Well, aside from the couple times, years ago, when Kyle and I had swiped his dad’s pack from his car and lit up in the woods… Hell, we didn’t even really inhale. Or at least I didn’t.

Bumming a cigarette from the group of students outside the café… I couldn’t even say why I’d done it. I was supposed to be with Maddock on our date. But instead of meeting him in front of his building, I’d taken off the other way—the phone conversation I’d had earlier with Kyle filling my head. Increasing every doubt I had about Maddock and dating him. As I’d passed the hazy cloud the kids stood in, something inside me had snapped and I’d asked if I could have one. A cute blond had grinned at me, handed me a cigarette and lit it up.

I licked my lips, grimacing at the taste clinging. Yeah, stupid move all around. Stupid and childish. So what was I doing? Apparently, proving my mother right.

And that sure as hell didn’t make me any less angry. At her. At myself. At the whole fucked up situation. I wanted to be with Maddock. I like him, so much, but as much as I hated to admit it, Kyle was right. It was dangerous—dangerous to be around Maddock, dangerous to date him, dangerous to fall for him.

I pressed a hand to my stomach and inhaled shakily. And I was. I was falling so hard for him. Hard and fast. Maybe that—more than what Mom did, more than Kyle’s accusations and warnings—was what had me running scared. I sighed and let the cigarette fall from my fingertips. As I crushed it beneath my boot, someone sat beside me. I didn’t have to even look to know who it was. My magic buzzing beneath my skin told me all I needed to know.

Maddock.

He didn’t say anything at first, just leaned back, his knee pressing against my ever so slightly. And my magic sure liked that. It liked everything about him. I’ve never had a reaction like this to anyone; never had the secret I kept locked away inside me reach out for someone before. I drew in breath after breath, trying to push it down, keep it inside and safe.

“I almost didn’t come over,” he said quietly after a few minutes. “Figured you not showing might be your way of letting me down easy.”

I shook my head, almost violently, turning toward him finally. His lips quirked just a bit, and his green eyes were so damned sad as he met my gaze. I felt my own eyes burn with tears and blinked rapidly.

“I walked around for a while, wondering what the hell I’d done wrong.”

“Nothing. God, Maddock…” I sniffed. “It’s not anything you did. It’s just…”

“Just what?”

I shook my head again, slowly this time. He lifted a hand, stopping the movement, and cupped my face. I closed my eyes a moment and leaned into the touch, shivering as his thumb swept back and forth over my cheekbone. When I didn’t answer, he spoke again.

“You can talk to me, you know? I don’t know if you noticed,” he leaned forward, brought his lips close to my ear, “but I like you, Delia—more than just like, really—and I don’t think there’s anything you can say to me that will change that.”

Oh, if only that were true. I frowned slightly at the negative thought. What was I doing? I was doing exactly what Mom and Kyle were—assuming things about Maddock with nothing to back it up. I believed what I’d said to both of them. Maddock wasn’t as anti-magic as he’d seemed at first. He was listening; he was willing to hear our side of things, to consider that what he’d grown up hearing was wrong. I may not be ready to tell him about my magic, but I did trust him, and I wanted tell him…at some point. And wasn’t that a terrifying thought?

“I’m…” I opened my eyes, met his gaze fully. “I’m fighting with my mom right now.”

“The phone call the other day?” He turned, angling his body toward me.

I nodded. “She got on my case about…”

“About me?”

“What?” I pulled back, and his hand dropped into his lap. “No, of course not.”

“Oh, Delia. You need to work on your lying skills.” He reached out and twined our fingers together. “So, is it having a boyfriend in general, or me specifically?”

“Boyfriend?” I gasped. “Is that… Are we…”

He cocked his head to the side, and I had the overwhelming urge to kiss the smirk off his lips.

“Aren’t we? I thought we were. But maybe I shouldn’t have assumed.” His grip tightened and his smirk blossomed into that wide smile that made my stomach jump and my magic pulse. “You wanna be my girlfriend, Delia? ‘Cause that’s what I want, in case that wasn’t clear.”

“Yeah,” I breathed. “I really, really do.”

“Thank God for that,” he murmured. “So, your mom? Is it me she has a problem with or would she have a problem with any guy?”

“You’re not going to let this go, are you?” I couldn’t help but smile at the concern on his face.

“If it’s bothering you this much, not a chance,” he confirmed.

I nodded, warmth spreading through me despite the chill in the air, and decided to give him a fraction of the truth. Even if I couldn’t give everything, he deserved it.

“My mom—” My voice cracked, and I had to clear my tight throat. Maddock just scooted closer and waited patiently. “She’s always been supportive of magic users and their rights.”

“Ah, so you come by it honestly.” His smile faded, and he slumped slightly. “And she’s heard of my family and…their stance on magic.”

I didn’t think he even noticed his wording—“their stance”—but I sure did, and it made me fall a little more. Okay, a lot more.

“Yeah.” I shrugged. “But it doesn’t matter. I—”

“Of course it matters,” he said abruptly, though his tone was flat, sad. “She’s your mother.”

“True. But she doesn’t control who I’m with or how I feel. Your parents probably want you to be with someone…someone like them, right? Who thinks like them? Does that change your wanting to be my...my boyfriend?”

“No, not a bit.” He straightened and after a moment he nodded. “I guess I’ll just have to win her over, won’t I?”

I couldn’t help but laugh at his determined expression. “If anyone could do it… But I don’t want to think about her, right now. Or even anytime soon.” I sobered and placed a hand on his biceps. “I’m sorry I ruined our date.”

“Eh,” he shrugged, “not ruined at all. I’m with you.”

“Yes, you are.” I caught my lower lip between my teeth as my stomach clenched and my magic skittered through me.

He dragged his thumb along my mouth, pulling my lip free as he leaned in. Moving my hand to his chest, I stopped him before he could kiss me.

“Let me get some gum, a breath mint, go brush my teeth,” I said a bit desperately. “I may not have smoked the whole thing but not at my best here, Maddock.”

He hummed, but didn’t pull away. In fact, he pushed forward, whispering against my mouth, “I don’t much care, sweetheart. Just want to kiss my girlfriend,” before settling his lips over mine.

I lost track of time, forgot all my objections as he pulled me closer and delved inside, licking, nipping, driving me mad.

When he pulled away, gasping, he rested my forehead against mine. “Come back to my place?”

My trust in him, my magic clearly approving as it danced along my nerves, everything I felt for him overrode the doubts—mine, Mom’s, Kyle’s—and I nodded. Grinning, he stood and helped me up. His arm wrapped tightly around me, we headed toward his building. The fear was still there, simmering beneath everything else. Only because I knew, I just knew, this man had the power to hurt me. And it had nothing to do with whether or not he found out about my magic. He had the power to completely destroy me…because I loved him.


Bronwyn Green | Kris Norris

songprompt5This month's song is "Little Heaven" by Toad the Wet Sprocket. Here is the song - with lyrics -  for your enjoyment.

This one was a hard one for me - not a shocker. I haven't blogged a lot lately. Or written. But I was determined to get something. I listened to it again and again. Stared at the lyrics so many times. Whined to people about lack of ideas. (I should probably apologize this...).

Finally after much time, and perhaps a couple margaritas one night before heading off to the fab writer's retreat I'm currently at, I came up with something.

Kinda working of of these lines:

Change'll happen whether we
Are still or moving
Breathe in waves of doubt
Bitter in your mouth

I wrote something that went with my serial, Your Lies (I don't think you have to read what I've posted so far to get the gist of what's happening here, but if you want to have a gander at the chapters posted so far, head on over to the serial page).


I groaned and scrunched up my face as my phone rang. Again.

“Whoever that is,” David, my friend and current study partner, said, looking up from his books briefly, “is just going to keep calling. You might as well just answer it.”

I hummed quietly and turned a page without responding.

He sighed. “Your mom?”

“Yep.”

“Maybe she’s calling to apologize,” he said quietly. “It’s been nearly a week.”

It didn’t matter how long it had been. I was angry. More angry than I had been with my mom in a long time. What I was feeling rivaled the emotions I’d battled back when my dad disappeared. The intense anger I had directed at her back then hadn’t been fair at all, and I still felt guilt over that. But this? Having people watching me and reporting back to her? I wasn’t going to get over that any time soon. And no amount of apologizing was going to make it happen any sooner.

“She’s probably worried,” he tried again.

“She’s knows I’m fine. I texted her. Besides, I’m sure her little spies have told her the same thing.” I closed my book the leaned back against the wall as I stretched my legs out in front of me on the bed. “Not ready to talk to her. Not yet.”

He pushed the chair away from the desk and turned to face me fully. “I get that. I really do, but after everything that’s happened, with your dad and all that, and everything with the anti-magic groups and—”

“You don’t have to defend her to me,” I said quietly. “Even though it drives me nuts, I do actually understand where she’s coming from and why she worries about me. But what she did…” I swallowed thickly and shook my head. “She showed how little she trusts me, and—”

My phone rang again—a different ringtone this time. I snatched up the device and stared at Kyle’s face on the screen. I hadn’t spoken to him—my best friend—since I’d left for school. We’d texted and IM’d but actually talking… The fact he was calling now wasn’t a coincidence. That fact pushed my anger and annoyance up, but I still answered.

Before I could say anything beyond the initial “hello”, Kyle’s voice exploded in my ear. “What the fuck are you thinking, Dee?”

“Well, I’ve missed you, too. Been a long time; how have you been?” I said, voice sickeningly sweet.

“I’ve got your mom calling me, yelling at me about how you won’t answer her calls…like that’s somehow my fault. Then, she tells me you’ve been basically making a target of yourself and seeing that Roberts kid. Fuck, Dee, we talking about this! Don’t draw attention to yourself, don’t let anyone know. Speaking at a pro-magic event, dating the fucking poster boy for the antis? How is that laying low and helping keep your secret? Are you fucking stupid?”

“Keep it up and I’m hanging up,” I responded tightly. “My mom has no clue what she’s talking about, and neither do you.”

“Did you speak at the thing or not?”

“I helped out—behind the scenes—and when things got messed up the day, yeah, I spoke. But hardly at all. I basically welcomed people and introduced the first speaker. It’s not like I gave a big speech and came out as a magic user anything, for crying out loud.”

“It doesn’t matter!” he nearly shouted. “Just being there is too much. For fuck’s sake, Dee.” He inhaled deeply, then asked, “And Maddock Roberts?”

“What about him?”

“You’re dating him?” When I didn’t answer immediately, he plowed ahead. “Are you insane? He’s the last person you should be in the same room with, let alone date. His parents, his whole fucking family, are among the most vocal against our—”

“I don’t care. He’s not like that,” I argued.

“So he’s not leading the anti-magic rallies on campus, telling people to sign petitions to ban magic users and basically lock us up? I’ll admit, he pretties it up and tries to say it’s for our own good as much as for the general public, but come the fuck on, Dee. Tell me you’re not falling for that?”

“You don’t know him.” I said quietly.

“And you do? Does he know you? All of you. How do you think he’d react if he knew the truth about you? Do you even think of that? Or are you just blinded by how cute and how into you he is?”

“Stop it. Just…stop it.” I swiped at my stinging eyes, his words bringing all the doubts and fears I had to the forefront. “You don’t get to disappear, off doing what you’re—and I’m not so stupid I don’t know what that is—then call when summoned to try to talk some sense into poor Delia. Maddock isn’t one of the bad guys. He may not know about me, but we’ve talked about magic and what he’s believed. He may not have questioned it in the past, but he listens to me. He doesn’t just blow me off. He’s actually considering what I have to say. Even before all of that, he wasn’t hateful toward magic users.”

“You really think you’re going to sway him? That him ‘listening to you’” he repeated with a sneer, “is anything more than him trying to placate the girl he’s romancing? Come on.”

“Like I said, you don’t know him.”

“I know enough. He’s dangerous. Things are changing quickly. In a bad way. It’s going to get much worse for us before they get better. And if you think he’s is going to stand beside you when he knows what you are and when things hit the fucking fan, you’re delusional. You’re going to get your heart broken…or worse.”

“You’re exaggerating,” I said, even though I knew he wasn’t. It didn’t take a genius to realize things were bad in the world and the conflict between magic users and those who wanted them gone was escalating. All you had to do was turn on the news to see that.

“War’s coming, Dee. Doesn’t matter if we’re fighting or standing still, it’s coming. You need to surround yourself with people you trust, with people who will have your back when everything falls apart. Can you really say Maddock Roberts fits that bill?”

There was shouting in the background on his end—loud, frantic words I couldn’t quite catch—and Kyle cursed.

“I’ve got to go. Take care, Dee. I love you and I want you safe. Make the right choice before it’s too late.” A quick pause and more shouting. “And call your mom, yeah? She loves you, too, and wants the same. Remember that.”

The call cut out then, and I dropped the phone onto the bed in front of me. David stood and crossed the room to sit beside me. It was clear from his expression he knew full well the other side of the conversation had gone, even if he hadn’t heard the exact wording.

“Want to talk about it?” he asked quietly, resting his hand on my knee and squeezing.

“Not even a little. Besides,” I looked at the clock on the wall, “I need to get ready for my date.”

David smiled and, after another quick squeeze, stood and moved over to start packing up things into his backpack. I smiled, comforted by his easy acceptance. David was a magic user too. And he knew Maddock and trusted him, supported my relationship with him. All of my friends did. Even Addie, who had been hesitant and uber-distrustful to begin with.

I loved my mom, and I loved Kyle, but… I closed my eyes a moment and pictured a handsome face with piercing green eyes. I was beginning to love Maddock too, and I was pretty certain that went both ways. War coming or not—he would never hurt me.


Bronwyn Green | Kayleigh Jones | Kris Norris

 

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photopromptThis month's photo sparked another idea connected to my serial story, Your Lies

I've done other peices from Delia's past - events that happen before the story in Your Lies.

The Lies Begin
Lying in Wait
The Lies We Tell

This wee story falls between "Lying in Wait" and "The Lies We Tell".

11-2015 - AbandonedBarnLying to Myself

My nose twitched, and I sniffled as my eyes filled with tears. From the musty inside of the old barn. Not because I was upset. I mean, I was upset, but I could handle it. Especially now that I was here—alone, away from it all. I wasn’t going to break down, because what was the freaking point? Crying wasn’t going to bring Dad back. It wasn’t going to change my mom’s mind about anything or make anything better.

I just needed break. From the carefully worded lectures, from the looks she sent my way when she thought I couldn’t see, from her forced cheeriness every morning despite the fact I’d listened to her sobbing the night before and could see the evidence of it in her pale face and red-rimmed eyes.

When I’d gotten home from school today and faced the same questions she threw at me every day—Had anyone asked about Dad? Had anyone seemed suspicious? Had I been careful and kept my magic hidden?—I’d lost it.

My chest tightened, and my breath hitched painfully as I remembered the look on her face when I’d screamed at her to leave me alone. If I’d thought her pale before… Well, all color had drained from her face, her eyes had widened, and the hurt that filled her expression almost made me apologize then and there.

Almost.

Her hurt had been no match for my anger, my frustration, my pain. All of the things I hadn’t been able to show, what I was supposed to tuck away alongside my magic as we pretended our world hadn’t gone straight to hell when my dad disappeared.

I snorted humorlessly. It’d gone to hell long before that. That was just another thing we refused to acknowledge. Finding out I had magic, that I wasn’t normal… That had been when everything changed. When it had all started falling apart.

“Dee?”

I jolted as the sound of my friend’s voice. I sat up straighter, pressing my back against the rough wooden post behind me. Using the sleeves of my sweatshirt, that were pulled over my cold, shaky hands, I wiped away the tears that had spilled over then swiped across my nose. Disgusting? Yeah, but I hadn’t thought of grabbing tissues before yelling horrible things at my mom and running away like a little kid.

I saw Kyle through the cracks in the large barn doors before one of them swung open with a creaking groan.

“Dee,” he said, again, on a sigh, as he pulled the door shut behind him. Crossing to me, he lowered himself onto the filthy floor in front of me. Crossing his legs, he scooted closer until his knees bumped mine. “What’s wrong?”

Concern shone in his bright blue eyes, and even though I knew he had the best intentions, that he cared abut me, I couldn’t hold back the harsh bark of laughter.

And once that escaped, I couldn’t stop the hysterical laugher. It swelled grossly inside of me, shoved its way up my throat and spilled from my lips. I wrapped my arms around my middle and bent forward as I shook uncontrollably.

“What’s wrong?” I gasped. “What’s wrong?”

“Hey…” Kyle touched my shoulder gently.

I jerked upright and slapped Kyle’s hand away. He pressed his lips together and refused to look away from me as I struggled to catch my breath.

“It would be easier to ask what’s right, Kyle,” I snarled. “That’s an easy answer. Nothing.”

When he remained silent, his gaze steady on me, I slumped back and shook my head.

“What are you even doing here, anyway?”

The corner of his mouth quirked up. “Looking for you. Your mom called, said you ran off. She’s…she’s worried.”

“Sure she is.”

“Dee,” he admonished. “Don’t do that. She was practically crying on the phone. My mom was still talking to her, trying to calm her down, when I left.”

“Hmmm. Thought she’d be relieved to not have me around. Even if it’s only temporary,” I muttered, well aware I was in full-on self-pity mode. I just didn’t care.

“I know it’s been…tough, for both of you, but she loves you,” he said softly, reaching out for my hands. Shoving the sleeves out of his way, he wrapped his warm fingers around mine.

I didn’t say anything for a few long moments. I should have gone somewhere else. The old abandoned barn was on Kyle’s family’s property—where we’d always met up, especially to talk about magic, to let it out and play without fear. I should have realized this would be the first place he’d look if my mom asked. And, as mired in self-pity as I was, I didn’t want to add to what Kyle was going through. His dad had been taken the same night. We’d both lost our fathers, and he didn’t need to deal with my issues.

“Delia,” he said firmly. “Why’d you run?”

“It’s…” I gulped, swallowing the lump of tears that lodged in my throat, refusing to give in, again. “It’s fine. I’m fine.”

“Bullshit,” he bit out. “Talk to me.”

I shook my head, and his grip tightened almost painfully.

“Talk to me. Please.”

My eyes stung, and my lips trembled. God, he was stubborn. A damned dog with a bone, this one.

“I’m just tired,” I insisted. “Tired of hiding and pretending. Even though I know it’s necessary. And I’m tired of her...” A cry strangled my voice momentarily and I had to clear my throat a couple times before I could continue. “You should see the way she looks at me. Like she’s afraid. Of me. Of what I can do.”

He pulled suddenly, drawing me forward to tumble into his lap. His arms surrounded me, and he rested his chin on the top of my head. I gave in—just for a moment, I thought—and burrowed closer, resting my cheek against where his heart thumped steadily.

“She’s afraid for you,” he murmured. “Not of you. You’re not something to be feared, Dee. She knows that; she loves you.”

I squeezed my eyes closed. I didn’t doubt she loved me, but you could still fear something you loved. And I wasn’t wrong. I wasn’t misinterpreting the way she looked at me. I wished I was the normal child she wanted. Things would be so different, so much easier. Better. But I wasn’t. Pretending I was, shoving my magic down deep and effectively muzzling it, didn’t make it so. It only made it hurt. The ache consumed me from the inside out, devouring everything I was.

It was as though my magic wasn’t willing to let any part of me survive if I kept denying it.

I stayed curled up in Kyle’s arms for a while, his hands stroking over my hair and my back, his soft murmurs teasing my ears. I breathed deeply, evenly, focusing on calming myself. When I drew back and tilted my head to meet Kyle’s gaze, he smiled down at me.

“Better?” he whispered.

I nodded and forced my lips to curve. I must have been convincing because his eyes crinkled as his own smile widened.

“Ready to go home?” he asked in the same quiet tone.

Not even a little.

“Yup.” I leaned forward and kissed his cheek quickly before scrambling from his lap and to my feet.

We walked though the woods together, shoulders bumping periodically, from his family’s land into the small town we called home. When we approached my house, the front door opened, and my mom stepped out onto the porch. She wrung her hands in front of her as she watched us come up the pathway.

“Delia.” Her voice broke slightly. From worry, I told myself, not from fear.

“I’m sorry,” I said immediately. “I shouldn’t have said those things,” no matter how true, “and I shouldn’t have run off. I’m sorry, Mom.”

Her gaze flicked over to Kyle then back to me. “Are you all right?”

I nodded. “I’m fine. Just needed some time, but I’m good.”

A ghost of a smile touched her lips. “Good. Kyle, you’re welcome to stay for dinner, if you like.”

With that, she spun on her heel and went back inside.

“Do you want me to stay?” Kyle asked, his palm skimming the small of my back.

“You don’t have—”

“Do you want me to?” He nudged my side with his hip.

“Yeah, that’d be nice,” I admitted, not exactly anxious for him to leave.

“All right then. I’ll stay.” He tipped his head, eyes searching mine. “You’re sure you’re okay?”

“Yes. I’m much better. Apparently, I just needed some time alone and a good cry. And a quick cuddle with you.”

He chuckled as we climbed the steps and went into the house. Mom was setting the table, and as soon as we walked in, she started chatting. All very normal and happy. Except for the fact not a single word was directed at me. She didn’t even look at me. Oh, she glanced my way, but her gaze skimmed right past me. It was if I were invisible.

That was all right, though. I could deal with. I could pretend and play along. I could lie. I was getting rather good at that, after all. It was my life, now.


Bronwyn Green | Jessica De La Rosa | Kellie St. James | Paige Prince

 

Also available to read on Wattpad

your lies banner<<< Chapter Six

Chapter Seven
~Delia~

After Leo finished speaking, Addie took the podium again to thank everyone for coming and listening to what we had to say. As she stepped down, she was approached by several people, as were David and Leo, and I couldn’t help but smile. We may have lost over half of our speakers, but that didn’t make those who did speak any less effective or moving. Despite all the roadblocks thrown in our way, I was proud of what we’d accomplished here today.

The room began to clear, somewhat, and David and Leo made their way over to where Maddock and I stood, as did Peyton and Brent. Addie, though, was still was deep in conversation.

“We’ll probably head out to lunch, soon,” I murmured, turning towards Maddock. “As soon as Addie is done…”

I trailed off as man approached, his gaze intent on Maddock. I recognized him immediately. Professor Brackenridge—the younger prof who made all the girls swoon with his unruly ginger curls that refused to be completely tamed, the scruff that graced his face more often than not, his piercing blue eyes, and the way he filled out the jeans he habitually wore paired with his white button-ups and blazers. If that didn’t do the trick, the brogue that thickened when he spoke passionately about the subjects he taught brought most to their knees. There was a reason his courses filled up quickly—and it wasn’t love of history.

“Mr. Roberts, I certainly didn’t expect to see you here today,” he said, narrowing his eyes slightly as he stopped in front of us.

“I believe every side should be heard and examined. I’m not entirely closed-minded,” Maddock said quietly, and a bit stiffly. “Though, I wouldn’t have expected to see faculty at any event, on either side of the issue.”

Brackenridge gave a lazy shrug and ran his palm over the stubble darkening his face. “The university wanted some staff members on hand today. Just in case. I was just one of the lucky blokes available.”

He nodded toward two other men who stood near the doors—scanning the room, shifting on their feet uneasily, clearly anxious to leave.

“Just in case what, exactly?” I asked sharply. “What did they expect would happen here that they didn’t at a much larger event like the one Maddock spoke at weeks ago?”

“I couldn’t begin to fathom a guess. I’m simply following orders.”

I fought not to squirm under his intense stare. Unease prickled across my skin, skittered along my nerves, and my magic pulsed in response.

Shoving it down, demanding it behave, I lifted my chin defiantly. “And on which side of the magic debate do you fall, Professor Brackenridge?”

His lips curved then parted in a wide smile. “You know better than that, Ms. Lancaster. My personal views and beliefs have no place here.”

I snorted. “Of course not. You have to toe the university line of not discriminating, don’t you? Every group is afforded equal opportunities, right? Even though everything is done to fuck up what we work for—but those are just mistakes, unfortunate things that just happened. Oh, so sorry.” I shook my head. “I don’t know why I even asked. I wouldn’t expect anyone in this place to actually support what we were doing. I’m certain the university is quite careful in who they hire.”

Several gasps sounded to my right, as well as Peyton’s very recognizable squeak.

“Delia,” Maddock murmured, reaching out and grasping my hand.

I struggled to rein in my anger and annoyance, not even sure why it was surging so strongly at this moment. Perhaps, it was because there was a face to the university, now, right in front of me.

“It’s quite all right, Mr. Roberts,” Brackenridge assured. “Everyone is entitled to their thoughts and beliefs and has the right to speak to those. Though, I advise a little caution, in future, Ms. Lancaster. Not everyone on this campus is as…tolerant as I am.”

With that, he turned and walked toward the exit. I held my breath until he and the other professors were out of sight then released it in a harsh burst.

“Tolerant, my ass.” I glanced to the side at my friends, who all stared at me, saying nothing. “What?”

“You need to dial it back when you’re talking to people, especially profs and stuff, Dee.” Peyton cringed slightly. “Not that what you said wasn’t true or valid, but…”

“It’s fine. What’s he going to do? Fail me if I ever take one of his classes?” I shrugged, even as the uneasiness I’d felt earlier under Brackenridge’s gaze surged up again. “Looks like Addie is done. Let’s go get some lunch. I’m starving.”

Maddock squeezed my hand as we left the room and made our way outside. We decided on a small local restaurant just off campus, and as we walked the short distance, with Addie and Peyton leading the way, I pulled free and fell behind the group. Not really interested in the sports talk the guys were already embroiled in. And, I just needed to calm down. Even now, my power thrummed through me, an insistent throb fueled by my emotions, and I needed to get it under control.

David glanced back then slowed down, falling into step beside me.

“Peyton’s right,” he said, voice low and quiet. “You’re going to draw the wrong kind of attention, get yourself in trouble. You, especially, can’t let that happen, Delia. It’s too dangerous.”

“How did you know?” I blurted out the question that had been plaguing me since I’d felt the rush of his magic. “Can you sense…people like us?”

“Normally, no. But,” he sighed, “you were worked up, and it was coming off of you in waves. And mine responded.”

“Oh, so you didn’t mean to…” I clamped my mouth shut as disappointment settled heavily over me. He hadn’t meant to let me know he had magic, too.

He laughed and bumped shoulders with me. “I did it on purpose, Delia. I could have held it back, but I let it out, let it meet yours.”

“You have more control than me, apparently,” I said self-depreciatingly, thinking of all the lectures I’d received on being calm and not letting my emotions get the better of me. On how important it was that I govern my magic, hold it close, keep it secret. Voices past echoed in my head—Dad’s, Mom’s, Kyle’s…

“Control takes practice.” David shrugged then grinned. “And reining in the emotions.”

“I’ve practiced,” I said quickly. “Done nothing but practice not using it.”

He sobered, pressing his lips together a moment. “Not using your…” His eyes flicked to the group ahead of us, and he lowered his voice. “Not using it, hiding it, isn’t the same as practicing control.”

I thought about that, about the times Kyle had spent trying to get me to focus and control the power I had—all in secret, of course. And it hadn’t happened often. For all Mom was without magic, she had a near supernatural ability to sense when we were planning to meet and practice. And those times, she’d suddenly find something incredibly important and pressing for me to do.

Not that she ever stopped me from seeing Kyle or anything like that, though I think she was tempted. But she understood the bond we had—had had since we were in diapers—which had only grown when our dads were gone. She didn’t like it, though, and didn’t exactly make a secret of that. Kyle had been on the receiving end of some of Mom’s fiercest and scariest mother looks on a regular basis.

So, even though Kyle had tried to help me, any actual practice with my magic was sporadic and rushed, at best. Then, several weeks before I’d left for college, even that stopped. He seemed to get fully on board with Mom’s hide-it, keep-it-secret-and-keep-your-mouth-shut plan, complete with lectures and warnings—the whole nine yards.

“Delia?”

I snapped out of my thoughts and glanced at David, who watched me with a concerned frown.

“You all right?” he asked.

“Yeah, I’m fine. I…” I took a deep breath then, in a rush, said, “I’ve never really been able to use it, you know? Other than a few stolen moments here and there with…with a friend. It’s just always been about hiding it because it was dangerous.”

“Well, you can always talk to me about it,” he offered, reaching out and grasping my wrist. His magic teased up my arm, dancing and tickling along my skin. “And we can practice, if you want. I can show you what my parents taught me.”

“Really? Is that really safe around here?” I slowed my pace as we came up on the restaurant where the the rest of our group was already stopped and waiting near the entrance.

“Yeah, I wouldn’t put you in danger, Delia. It’d be safe. Though, I may not be, right now. Your boyfriend’s glaring daggers at me.” He gave my wrist a slight squeeze then let go with a laugh.

“He’s not my boyfriend,” I protested, my voice squeaking slightly when my gaze landed on Maddock, who was, indeed, staring rather ominously in our direction.

David snorted and muttered, under his breath, “Does he know that?”

I didn’t bother answering the question as we approached the group. David chuckled and clapped a hand on Maddock’s shoulder as he passed him to enter the restaurant with the others.

My stomach clenched hotly when Maddock turned his intense gaze on me, and lips curving, he reached for one of my hands. My magic spiked in response, taking my breath away, clouding my senses until I could practically taste it. I didn’t get. I honestly didn’t. Why did it react like this to him? It had never done that with anyone before, not even other magic users. Even when I’d felt David’s power… Mine definitely responded, but it was more of a hey-look-at-that kinda thing. Like responding to like. With Maddock? It was like my magic wanted to grab hold of him, bring him closer, embrace him. It was overwhelming, exciting…and frightening as hell.

“Delia,” he murmured, fingers tightening around mine.

“Maddock,” I replied, face heating, not only from the pulsating power I struggled to tamp down but hearing the breathlessness of my voice. Damn it.

He lifted his other hand and brushed the hair back from my face, tucking the wind-blown strands behind my ear.

“You sure you’re okay with me being here?” he asked quietly.

I frowned at the uncertainty in his voice. “Of course. Why wouldn’t I?”

Tilting my head, I searched his face for any clue to why he was so hesitant now. Maybe he was having second thoughts about being around us, around me. Wouldn’t be all that surprising, I supposed. For all his talk about hearing both sides and everything, maybe he’d decided it just wasn’t worth it, which was exactly why I’d wanted us to keep our distance. Because every minute I was with him would make it that much harder if and when everything fell apart.

“Are you okay being here? I mean, with the enemy so to speak?”

“Thought we already established that I don’t consider you the enemy.” His thumb dragged over my bottom lip. He sighed and dropped his hands to his side as he cleared his throat. “And we’ve also established that I like you, Delia. A lot.”

“I like you, too.” I wet my lips, and when his gaze dropped to watch the movement, a tug of arousal nearly knocked me over. “A lot,” I breathed.

He closed his eyes a moment and took a deep breath. When he opened them again, he smiled widely, all signs of doubt vanished. “You know I am going to convince you to give us a chance, right? That’s going to happen.”

Before I could respond—and I didn’t even know how to, for fuck’s sake—the door of the restaurant opened and Addie popped her head out.

“Could you two quit flirting and get in here so we can order? Some of us are hungry! You can gaze into each other eyes and make out all you want later!”

Maddock laughed and putting his hand at the small of my back, led me inside. He brought his mouth to my ear, lips and breath tickling, and whispered. “See? Even the one who would be most against us sees what’s meant to happen.”

“Gazing and making out? That’s the end game?” I teased as we made our way to the large table.

“Oh, that’s just the beginning, sweetheart.”

Another tug of desire threatened to pull my feet out from under me at the promise in his voice. I actually stumbled, and he chuckled under his breath as he helped steady me. I tried to glare up at him, my flaming cheeks and stupid smile I couldn’t quite wipe completely away completely ruining the effect.

As we sat, Peyton gave me a big grin and thumbs up. I glanced at Maddock, and thank God, he was already looking down at his menu. I’d just picked mine up and started glancing at my options when my phone buzzed in my pocket. I dug it out, wondering who it was—pretty much anyone who called me was at this table. When I saw the screen, I sighed. Mom. I knew if I let it go to voicemail, she’d just worry and keep calling, convinced something horrible had happened.

I leaned toward Maddock and whispered, “I have to take this.” I held up my phone. “Could you order me the club sandwich and fries? And a Coke?”

He reached over and gave my thigh a light squeeze. “Sure.”

I hit “accept” as I stood and brought the phone to my ear.

“Hi, Mom,” I said brightly as I headed outside for some privacy.

“What were you thinking?”

I flinched at the shout filling my ear and shoved opened the door quickly.

“A Sympathizer rally? Are you out of your mind? How is that being careful, Delia? Are you wanting to be found out?”

“I…” I swallowed heavily. “I am being careful. It wasn’t like I announced…anything. I wasn’t even going to speak, I swear. I was just going to be helping out behind the scenes.”

“Really?” Her disbelief was palpable. “And how did you end up talking about magic users and how magic is a tool that could be used for good? Because that’s not behind the scenes, Delia. That is painting a target on yourself!”

“Some things got messed up,” I explained. “And…and it just happened.”

“It just happened?” she practically snarled. “And I suppose you seeing that Roberts boy—the poster child of the anti-magic movement—just happened as well?”

“No, we—” I stumbled over to a nearby bench and sat with a thud. “How did you know about Maddock? About the rally?”

My mind raced in the seemingly endless silence that followed. How had she found out all of that, and so damned quickly?

“Are you…” I shook my head even as the thought occurred to me. “You’re having me followed? Watched?”

“Delia.” The furious tone morphed into the placating, let’s-be-reasonable tone I loathed. “You need to come home. If you weren’t on a watch list before, you certainly are now. It’s not safe there for you.”

“You didn’t answer my question,” I bit out, then laughed harshly. “Which is the answer in and of itself, isn’t it? Who is it? Who do you have spying on me?”

“You need to—”

“Who the fuck is it?” I shouted, drawing stares from passersby.

“Don’t you dare use that language when you speak to me,” she snapped. “There will be a ticket waiting for you at the bus station; we’ll arrange to pick up your things later.”

“No.”

“Excuse me?”

“I said no. You don’t get to tell me what to do.” I choked slightly on the tears and bitterness clogging my throat. “You don’t get to do that anymore. You don’t get to have people watching my every move and reporting back to you. Who is it,” I asked again. “Kyle?”

“Kyle? Please.” She snorted. “That boy is nearly as much trouble as the one you’re mooning after. As if I’d trust him to do the right thing. I know full well what Kyle is up to—neck deep into the same business that took your father from us. But at least when he was around, he cared about you and wanted to keep you safe, which is a hell of a lot more than could be said for Maddock Roberts. Do you think he’d be so sweet on you if he knew? If he knew what you were?”

I doubled over as pain swept through me, an ache so deep I didn’t know if I could ever get rid of it. I’d never heard her like this before. Scared, yeah. But this—the contempt that coated her words? How had she ever hidden this from me?

“You hate it, don’t you?” I whispered, gripping the phone until my fingers hurt. “Hate me, hate what I am. Well, I’ll do you a favor,” I slowly sat up, free hand pressed to my roiling stomach, “and make sure you don’t ever have to be around something so disgusting ever again.”

“That’s not what I meant!” she protested. “That’s how he would see it, Delia. He wouldn’t accept you if he knew the truth. I don’t want you hurt.”

“Too late.” Then, more loudly, more firmly, I added, “Call off your spy, whoever it is.”

I didn’t wait for an answer before ending the call. Struggling to draw in air, I squeezed my eyes shut. My phone slipped from numb fingers, clattering against the pavement at my feet, but I didn’t reach for it. Completely frozen, lost in betrayal and hurt and anger, the only thing I could do was fight not to completely break down. And that was a battle I was losing.


 

 

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your lies banner

<<< Chapter Five

Chapter Six
~Maddock~

Anger churned in my gut as I followed the guys through the corridors. I supposed I should be glad that they’d stepped back, stopped their bullshit and left without a fuss, but I was too pissed. And worried. Worried that, by pulling stunts like this, they had effectively ruined any chance I had with Delia. Of course, that worry brought on the guilt—that I was more concerned with my love life than the fact the people I chose to call friends were not only acting like asses, but threatening violence and ganging up to physically intimidate a woman on campus.

As soon as we exited the building, Mark spun around. “What the hell, Roberts?”

I strode right up to him, quickly enough he stumbled back in shock. “That was exactly what I was going to ask. What. The. Hell?”

“What’s up your ass?” Kevin asked, coming beside us and clapping me on the shoulder.

I spun around, looked at each of the five guys surrounding me. “What was going through your idiotic heads?” I ground out. “Cornering a girl, threatening her? Then, showing up and causing a disturbance at their event? What did you hope to accomplish? Other than making all of us look like violent bullies? How does that further our cause? You could have ruined everything we’ve been working for!”

“We haven’t ruined anything,” Mark scoffed. “Addie Stewart is just a whiny bitch. I wouldn’t worry about her. Nothing happened, anyway. We just wanted to talk to her, try to get her to see reason. Which apparently is beyond her. Her friend cried to campus security, and, like I said, nothing happened. Dude told us to be more careful; that’s it.”

“Nothing happened?” I repeated, rubbing the back of my neck. “Did you keep her from going where she wanted to go? Did you threaten her?”

At first, no one answered; they just stared at me, expressions ranging from guilty to slightly sheepish to annoyed.

“She’s a Sympathizer.” Mark shrugged then narrowed his gaze. “Of course, so is the girl you’re chasing after. You’ve lost sight of the big picture because of her. You need to get your priorities in order, Roberts. Don’t forget what’s important for a piece of ass.”

He pivoted and walked away, the other trailing behind him. Wes hesitated briefly, a frown marring his face as he looked between them and me, before following.

I held myself back—from storming after them, from yelling, from planting my fist in Mark’s face. The last couple weeks, he’d been getting on my nerves—his complaints about magic users and their Sympathizers more harsh than I liked—but I never thought he’d cross the line. Resort to threats and intimidation. How much, or how little, would it take to push him further? To make him act violently? And the others… They just blindly followed.

Of course, when it was me they followed, it was fine. God, I was as much an ass as they were. Scrubbing a palm over my face, I tried to figure out what to do. Not just in this moment but about everything. I hadn’t been lying when I’d told Delia she was making me question all the things I’d held as truth. Not only was I as much an ass, I had been blindly following as much as my friends had—readily accepting my parents’ beliefs, not a doubt in my mind that it was the right way. I just fell into line and did as they wanted without question.

Now, I had nothing but questions. I didn’t know what to believe. Magic had always been a danger, a sickness that corrupted. I’d felt pity and concern for those burdened with it, and had planned to dedicate my life to finding a way to cure it, eliminate it and free those it infected. Just as my parents had. I never once stopped to consider that magic users had a choice—that what was inside them could be used good.

Though, with what my parents were developing, magic users would soon have the option to remove their magic. Surely, some would choose that, unable or unwilling to handle the power that filled them. The work being done was still important. Even as things blurred and I wondered about things I’d been so sure of before, it didn’t negate that fact.

As I walked back towards the small gym, intent on seeing Delia as well as listening to what the other speakers had to say, I decided I’d talk to Mom and Dad over the weekend while I was home. Gain a bit more perspective and hopefully clear up some of the confusion in my head.

Entering, I saw Addie stood at the podium now. Rather than seek out Delia—who was off to the side watching and listening with Peyton—I leaned against the back wall and focused on Addie.

“…not just a good cause or even doing what is right for me. Fighting for magic users’ rights, being a Sympathizer, is worth every risk it puts on me, because it’s personal. Very personal.”

She took a deep breath then took a moment to drink from the water bottle beside her.

“I don’t know what it’s like to have magic. What it is to have something like that as a part of me. Neither do my parents. But,” she cleared her throat, “my brother did. He had magic.”

Well, shit. My chest constricted at the use of past tense in reference to her sibling. I forced myself not to move, to keep listening. As much as I didn’t want to hear this, I honestly felt I needed to.

“Several years ago, there was an anti-magic group in our town. My parents were careful, made sure Scott was, too. His magic was never talked about, even when we thought we were alone. We didn’t take any risks. Just laid low and waited for those people to leave.” She gave a wry smile and a small shrug. “As if it’s ever that easy.”

Her gaze skimmed over the crowd, and I knew when it found me as she straightened, stood taller, shoulders squared.

“One day,” she continued in a tight voice, “that group of…cowards was harassing an older couple in the town square. They didn’t even have magic.” She let out a harsh laugh. “But once those people get it in their heads that you do, there’s no reasoning with them, no stopping them. Scott and I were stupid—like kids are—thinking we were invincible and nothing bad could possibly happen to us. We stepped in and tried to help. I remember being so angry because they were pushing this old woman around, and she’d fallen to her knees, sobbing. For nothing. She’d done nothing wrong. She and her husband were just wanting to walk home from the market.”

Addie’s eyes were still on me, and I shifted, slightly uncomfortable under her scrutiny, but even more so because of what she was sharing. And where I guessed it was headed.

“The woman’s husband was trying to pull them away from her. I moved to help. Everything was a blur, to be honest.” She pressed her fingers to her temples a moment. “I barely saw the knife, a flash of the blade, really, before I felt it. Just red-hot pain that became unbearable as the man holding it jerked it upwards.”

Stepping to the side of the podium, Addie didn’t hesitate in lifting her t-shirt up to reveal the thick white scar on her abdomen. I had to breathe slowly, force down the bubbling nausea. Letting her shirt drop, she moved back to the mic.

“Next thing I knew, I was on the ground, and the anti-magic terrorists—because that’s what they are—were frozen in place. Scott was kneeling beside me, healing me. He’d outted himself to save me.” She took a deep, shaky breath. “I lost so much blood, and who knows what damage had been done internally. I’d have died there, would have bled out on that sidewalk, without him.”

I chanced a look around the eerily silent room. Addie’s weren’t the only cheeks wet with tears. Everyone seemed to be hanging on her every word.

“When the authorities came, they drew their weapons. On Scott. Told him to release the men he had hold of and to step away from me. He looked scared for, maybe, half a second then smiled at me. He said he loved me then told me to tell Mom and Dad he loved them and, no matter what happened, not to be stupid. He kissed my cheek and stood. He hadn’t even turned around and…” Her voice broke, and a quiet cry fell from her lips. “They shot him. He never had a chance. He was dead before he hit the ground.”

“Dear God.” I closed my eyes and let my head fall against the wall at my back.

“There was an investigation—if you could call it that,” she continued, voice now strong and exploding with bitterness. “Scott’s murder was considered justified because he clearly had enormous power to be able to keep hold of those men and heal me at the same time. The responding officers were obviously fearful for their lives and acted accordingly. Never mind that he didn’t harm the attackers, that he’d used his power to save me. He was a danger in their eyes. Simply because he had magic. That’s all they saw.”

I could hardly swallow past the painful lump in my throat. I wanted to wretch, to purge the aching sadness and anger and helplessness I felt hearing all of this. I couldn’t imagine what Addie was feeling, though her attitude and actions toward me were well explained. I got it, now.

“He was only fifteen. He had his whole life ahead of him, and he was killed without hesitation, with hardly a thought. And it was deemed okay, because of something he was born with, something he had no say in.” She cleared her throat again. “So, when people tell me I shouldn’t speak out or support those with magic, that it isn’t worth the risk, I think about Scott and how he gave his life. He risked everything, everything, to save me because he loved me. How can I do anything less, in his name, to stop something like that from happening again?”

Applause rang out, but still I didn’t open my eyes. I heard the next speaker begin, though his words didn’t register. I couldn’t stop thinking of Addie’s brother and what had happened to him. What had happened to his entire family. And I wasn’t naïve enough to believe horrible things like that hadn’t happened elsewhere, that they weren’t happening now.

“Are you all right?”

Lifting my lids, I found Delia standing next to me, peering at me with concern in her eyes. While better than the earlier angry, accusing glare, I didn’t particularly care for being on the receiving end of this look, either.

I pushed away from the wall. “Those guys won’t be bothering you anymore today.”

I wished I could promise her, and all the others, more than that. That I didn’t have to specify today. I wanted to be able to say they wouldn’t bother her ever again. But I couldn’t, and it killed me.

She frowned and stepped closer, her fingers sliding over the back of my hand. “That’s not what I asked.”

When I didn’t answer, she sighed. “It’s not easy to hear, is it? The first time she told me, I bawled like a baby. Even with my—” Another heavy sigh. “I couldn’t imagine going through what she went through. She blames herself, but she’s brilliant, you know? Sure, she can be abrasive, and she sure as hell doesn’t trust easily, but she’s taken a horrific experience and is bound and determined to do something good with it. Gotta admire that.”

Before I could respond, the man who had been speaking before—David, if I remembered correctly—approached us.

“Leo is almost done. We’re all going to grab lunch after.” He looked directly at me. “You’re welcome to join us.”

I couldn’t hold back the shocked, and fairly loud, burst of laughter. “You realize who I am, right? Not exactly going to be welcomed.”

“Yeah, I know who you are. I also know you’re the one who got those assholes to leave. So, I figured you were worthy of another chance.” He shrugged then grinned. “Or a first chance, I guess, since I never really gave you an honest one to begin with.”

“I… Well, I…”

I pressed my lips together, not a clue how to respond. This was the last thing I expected from any of this group. And, frankly, it made me flush with shame, because I couldn’t see anyone in my circle—or myself, for that matter—extending the same courtesy. The truths coming to light today were not ones I was happy to discover.

“I appreciate that,” I replied hoarsely. “I really do. But the others would—”

“Would agree,” he interrupted. “I already ran it by them. Even Addie before she spoke. She was the most resistant—probably not shocked by that, are you?—but she agreed. And promised to be nice.”

I turned to Delia, who nodded. “You should come. Get to know everyone.”

“So you’re not angry with me anymore?” I asked, then felt my cheeks heat even more as I flicked my gaze toward David.

“I think you know the anger wasn’t necessarily directed at you, though you bore the brunt of it. And you did what you could to fix the problem. So no, I’m not angry with you.” She bit her lip a moment. “Are you still upset with me?”

“More frustrated than angry,” I admitted, and David lifted a brow, curiosity all over his face. “Still am, but I’m starting to understand. But…that’s something we can talk about later?”

She smiled brightly. “Absolutely. So, it’s yes for lunch, then?”

Her fingers still brushed my hand, and I turned it to catch hers in my grasp. “Yes, Delia, it’s a yes for lunch.”

Chapter Seven >>>


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<<<Chapter Four

Chapter Five
~Delia~

“Where is she?” Peyton paced back and forth, occasionally glancing at the group of students who’d gathered in the small gymnasium—the space the university had so “graciously” provided for us for the rally—as she gnawed on her thumbnail.

We stood at the front of the room, just to the side of the podium that had been set up, waiting for Addie to arrive. And she was late. I’d left her in our room earlier since I’d been nominated to do the coffee run. We were supposed to meet here before everything started. I’d fully expected her to beat me here, but it was time to start and still no Addie.

I was trying to reach her—calling, texting—and nothing. A cold sweat covered my body. There was no way this was a good thing. Addie wouldn’t bail, and she wouldn’t be late. No way.

“Okay,” I said, shoving my phone in my jeans pocket. “I’ll go look for her. But we need get started. Everyone else is here.” More people had pulled out, last minute, just like Clara, but a handful of students were here, ready to speak and support the cause.

Peyton let out a squeak and grabbed my arm—rather painfully—before I could move. “But Addie was supposed to be first! Get everything started.”

“I know,” I soothed, prying her fingers from my biceps. “We’ll just jump to David, okay? You just need to go up there, welcome everyone and intro—”

“No, no, no.” She shook her head violently. “Delia, there’s a reason I’m behind the scenes. I can’t talk in front of people like this. I can’t. Oh God, I’ll puke, or faint, or… Oh God.”

Her blue eyes widened, and I took in the sudden paleness of her skin, the trembling of her body.

“Okay, okay, you don’t have to talk. No worries.” I wiped my damp palms on my denim-clad thighs then moved to where my bag rested on a nearby table. After I dug out my keys, I turned and handed them to my friend. “Check our room first, yeah? And maybe take Brent with?”

After she nodded and whispered “thanks”, she moved to the tall man standing a few feet away—another “behind the scenes” person. I may be paranoid, but I felt better knowing someone was with Peyton. One, to make sure the poor girl didn’t keel over somewhere on campus, and, two, if Addie were in trouble… Fuck, maybe we should just cancel the whole thing.

Even as the thought crossed my mind, I was shoving it aside. The last thing Addie would want was to stop what we were doing. Even after our talk last night, when she’d wondered if this was all worth it, I knew beyond a doubt, Addie would want us to do what was right. And this was right.

“Hey, David, you’re up first. Addie’s…delayed,” I said, smiling at the handsome blond boy who leaned against the wall.

“Sure thing,” he said quietly.

Not for the first time, I wondered why he’d volunteered so quickly to speak. He was a quiet, shy guy. Nice as hell, and everyone adored him, but I wouldn’t have pegged him as a public speaker. Then again, I figured if you felt strongly enough about something, you could overcome a myriad of personal issues.

“Do I just…” He pushed away from the wall and gestured at the podium.

“Nope,” I said with false cheer as my stomach threatened to rebel. “First, a welcome then you’ll be introduced.”

“Addie was supposed to— Well, you know that, obviously. Who’s going to do that, now?”

“That would be me,” I murmured, straightening my spine.

Walking to the podium and checking to make sure the mic was on, I reminded myself that this didn’t need to be anything elaborate or lengthy. I didn’t have to give a speech like Addie was going to. All that was needed was a quick hello, a thank you for coming, and introduce David. Easy peasy.

Of course, even with my little pep talk, my breath still stuttered out when I lifted my head and saw all the faces turned toward me expectantly. Even though there were only, maybe, three dozen people, nerves skittered through my body, and I fought to keep myself steady.

“Good morning,” I croaked then, face flaming, cleared my throat. “My name is Delia Lancaster, and I’d like to thank everyone for coming today. We’re thrilled to see everyone, to have your support, despite all of the changes in venue and the fact it was likely a challenge to find your way here. So, thank you again. We have some wonderful speakers today and…”

I trailed off when my gaze fell on the last person I thought I’d see—Maddock. He stood at the back of the room, away from the small crowd. But it wasn’t too far for me to miss the fact he was clearly unhappy. He stood stiffly, legs braced apart, arms crossed over his chest. A frown darkened his face, and he was practically glaring at me.

Clearing my throat again, I shifted to take in the other people in front of me. A strange calm came over me, even though my heart still pounded and my legs shook like crazy. I didn’t know what Maddock was upset about—if it was me or the rally, in general—but it didn’t matter. I knew what I was doing, what we were doing, was right. And I desperately wanted Maddock to see that. If hearing me and others talking honestly and publicly about it would help that happen, it could only be a good thing. My mind drifted to Peyton’s words a few days back—that maybe I was the person he would listen to. I’d been annoyed, then, not wanting the pressure of that task, but after last night, spending time with Maddock, I wanted nothing more than for him to see the truth of things.

“Before I introduce the first of those speakers, I’d like to take a moment and share why what we’re doing here is so important.” I uncurled my fingers, which somehow had clamped almost painfully around the edge of the podium. “It’s no secret that the anti-magic crowd is strong on campus. Or if it’s meant to be a secret, it’s the worst kept one I know. But it isn’t just here. How often do we see or read about those with magic being persecuted, discriminated against, attacked, hurt or even killed? It’s a daily occurrence. It would be easy to say nothing, to allow it to continue, and not make a fuss.”

I pushed the hair back from my face and lifted a shoulder. “The right thing isn’t always easy, though. The right thing is sometimes the hardest thing for us to do. To be Sympathizer—to openly identify as Sympathizers—opens us up to nearly the same level of treatment as those who have powers. And that is scary as hell.”

The nods in the crowd seemed to pull more words from my mouth, from deep inside me.

“But it’s the right thing.”

Movement near the large double doors drew my attention, and relief swept through me as Peyton and Addie hurried into the room.

“And as terrifying as doing it is,” I continued, “doing it together can only make it easier. We need to keep speaking out, to anyone and everyone who will listen. There are some bad magic users out there. Some who I’d go so far as to say are evil. Unfortunately, those are the ones we see in the news. They make more sensational stories than, say, a woman using her magic to help her garden grow or a boy using his to heal a hurting friend.”

“I think there is a lot of fear out there, and misinformation.” My eyes found Maddock again. He hadn’t moved at all. His expression still set in angry lines. I drew in a shaky breath. No point backing down now. “A magic user isn’t any more likely to do bad things than anyone else out there. Magic isn’t a weapon; it isn’t a disease or condition that needs to be cured or removed. A friend once told me that, even though magic is something someone’s born with, it’s a tool.”

Warmth spread through me as I thought of Kyle—how he’d taken care of me, showed me everything I knew about my power when my dad was gone and no longer able to.

“Like any other tool, it can be used for bad things. Or for really, really good things. And anyone who possesses that tool has to make that choice.” I wet my lips and inhaled deeply. “Despite what the most ardent opponent of magic will tell you, the majority of magic users aren’t choosing the bad. And that is why we need to keep supporting and keep speaking out.”

I glanced over at Peyton and Addie, who stood together to the side. I didn’t know whether to introduce Addie or David, at this point. Her back was to me, and her head was bent forward. Peyton caught my eye and gave a tiny shake of the head before nodding toward David.

“We’re lucky enough to have several people who are willing to do just that. First up is David Wellington.”

I stepped back as a smattering of applause sounded from the small crowd. As David walked past me to approach the podium, he let his hand brush against mine. A fission of power skated over my skin and up my arm. I stumbled, and when he steadied me with a firm grip on my upper arm, a stronger current raced through me. Eyes wide, I met his gaze. He smiled, a small, tight tilt of his mouth, and nodded before releasing me.

My body shook—from the shock and from my own magic responding to his. His magic. I’d spent a ton of time with him while we’d organized and prepped for today, and I’d had no clue David was a magic user. None.

Some of the surprise cleared, or was shoved away, when I approached Peyton and Addie, who were still huddled together, whispering furiously. Addie looked up at me, and my stomach dropped. Her green eyes glistened, and a few tears tracked down her pale cheeks. She swiped angrily at them.

“What’s going on?” I asked, keeping my voice quiet.

“Anti-magic fuckers,” Peyton said. “They caught her across campus.”

“Oh my God, are you okay? Are you hurt?” I turned her around fully by the shoulders and ran my eyes up and down her body, looking for any evidence of injury.

She shook her head. “No, they didn’t touch me. Just kept getting in my way, making it so I couldn’t get past. It’s fine. I’m fine.”

“The hell you are,” Peyton exclaimed, the volume drawing the attention of those nearest us. She dropped her voice. “They threatened you. Physically intimidated you. You need to report them, Addie. They can’t be allowed to get away with this.”

“Brent already got campus security. They were sent on their way. What else do you think the school or anyone else is going to do? Be real, Peyton.” She sneered. “Maddock Roberts and his circle are untouchable at this school. Besides, they were very careful not to lay a finger on me, and I’m sure I’ve already been painted as the hysterical female, so what’s the point?”

“Maddock?” I choked, eyes drawn to where he still stood. He watched me, no attention whatsoever paid to David who still spoke at the front. I faced my friends again. “But he was here.”

“He wasn’t with them, though I’m sure he knew exactly what his little minions were doing.” She wrapped her arms around her waist, visibly shuddering.

“Maybe we should—” Peyton stopped, her gaze over my shoulder. “Are you kidding me? How fucking dare they?”

I twisted and saw a group of guys standing just inside the doors. Even if I hadn’t recognized them as some of Maddock’s crowd, I’d’ve known they were trouble. Already making snide comments, loudly enough David stumbled over his next words. The intruding group laughed and slapped each other’s backs.

Jaw clenched, I inhaled through my nose. My control—already shaken after feeling David’s power—slipped, and I ached from the familiar pressure of my magic against my skin. It wanted out. Now. Thankfully, I had plenty of practice, courtesy of Kyle back home, at reining in emotion-fueled magic.

“I’ll handle this.”

Ignoring their murmured protests and sidestepping Peyton’s grabbing hand, I strode across the room. Not to the assholes, but to Maddock.

“I thought you weren’t speaking today. You said you weren’t,” he said in a rush before I could say anything.

“Plans changed. Thanks to your friends. If we’re going to talk about things we said yesterday, I remember ‘No friends of mine will be causing trouble’ coming out of your mouth.” I moved close, until I could feel his warm breath on my face.

His eyes cut over to the other men then back to me. “I’m not with them, right now, and they’re…” He sighed. “Delia, they’re harmless. No one is even paying attention to them.”

“Are you kidding? David can hardly talk because of them. And, even if they aren’t turning and gawking, everyone is this room can hear and is focused on them, not on the message we’re trying to present. Though, that’s the point though, right? So, mission fucking accomplished, Maddock.”

“You think I had anything to do with this?” He gestured toward his friends. “That I, what, somehow planned this out to screw you guys?”

I lifted my shoulder, even though I didn’t really think that. Or at least I didn’t want to believe it. “Don’t see you doing anything to stop it.”

“They’re not doing anything, not really,” he protested. “It’s a function open to all the student body, which includes them. Are they acting like asses? Hell, yeah, but that just makes them look bad. It’s not a big deal. No harm, yeah?”

“No harm?” I whispered, the hairs on my arms standing on end. “How can you say that? Is this how you go about getting your way, Maddock? Do you believe so little in what you’re out there preaching to the masses that you don’t think it can stand on its own? You have to sabotage everyone who is on the opposite side? Bully and threaten them until they’re too scared to do what they believe to be right? Well, fuck you.”

I twisted around, determined to confront those bastards and get them the hell out of here. Maddock yanked me back against him, and I had to bite my lips together to keep from screaming in frustration.

“What are you talking about, bullying and threatening?” he demanded.

Despite the anger, the overwhelming rage filling me, desire spiked, hot and strong, when his quiet voice whispered over my ear. I wish I could lose myself in the feel of his front flush against my back, the warmth that seeped into me from him. But I couldn’t.

I shifted enough to pull away and turn back to him. “Your friends cornered Addie so she wouldn’t get here. They threatened her.” I cursed when my voice cracked. “I don’t know all the details, but she is terrified. I don’t know what would have happened if Peyton and Brent hadn’t found them. Brent had to go get security, just so Addie could get away. That is your no harm, Maddock. That is what your friends do.”

“I had no clue they were doing that or even planned to.” He settled his hands on my shoulders, his thumbs brushing the bare skin along the scoop neck of my shirt. Dipping his head down, he caught my gaze. “You know that, right? You can’t believe I would have anything to do with something like that.”

“I don’t know you enough—” I started repeating what I’d said the night before.

“Bullshit. Have I ever said or done anything that makes you believe I’d bully or intimidate someone or that I’d condone anything like that?” he asked, an edge of desperation in his voice.

“No,” I admitted. “But that’s not the point.”

I pulled away and made to walk toward the group, cursing when Maddock’s hand wrapped around my arm again.

“Let me go.”

“You’re insane if you think I’m letting you confront them on your own.”

“I thought they were harmless, Maddock.” I lifted a brow and shook off his hold.

He glanced over at them, jaw tight, muscles twitching. “They’re supposed to be.”

When he continued to stare past me, I sighed. “They need to go, and if I have to be the one to—”

“No,” he said quickly, brilliant green eyes back on me.

“Why is it okay for them to go up against Addie—then it’s no harm done—but not for me to deal with them?”

“I never said it was okay,” he snapped. “I just… Fuck.” He shoved his hand through his hair. “It’s not okay, period. I’ll deal with them.”

I rolled my eyes at his weary tone. “Don’t put yourself out.”

“Delia,” he murmured, bending slightly until his mouth was next to my ear. “Doing the right thing isn’t always easy, or even something you want to do, but it has to be done.” Turning his head, he pressed his lips to my cheek. “I hate that you were up there talking, making a target of yourself, but I got the message. I was listening.”

Chapter Six >>>


Click the banner below to find chapters from Kris Norris' Red Sky Dawning--if you haven't read this yet...do it! It's an beautifully brilliant story!
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photoprompt

For this prompt, I visited my serial heroine's past again. If you'd like to read the other flash fiction bits, you can find them here:

The Lies Begin
Lying in Wait

And if those and this spark your interest, and you want to jump into Your Lies, you can find all the chapters that have been posted here.

So this month's photo is...
06-2015 - PaperHeartThe Lies We Tell

The piece of paper floating in the air burst into flames. My stomach lurched sickly as the bright light faded and ash fell to the wooden floor.

“Damn it, Dee! Focus. You need to focus. It’s not about throwing your power at it. You need to control it.”

Kyle waved his hand and another sheet of paper lifted from the stack that rested on the rickety table—the only piece of furniture in the old barn on his property where we met. It drifted until it hovered in the center of the room between us.

“Don’t just think of it burning,” he said slowly as lines began to blacken on the white page. “Visualize what you want. See it and then use your power to make it happen. It’s a part of you, but it’s also a tool, Dee. A tool you control. Something you can wield and make do what you want. Always remember that.”

Even though frustration bubbled inside me, I smiled when I saw my name burned into the paper before it fluttered to the ground.

“Easy for you,” I said, narrowing my eyes to lift my own page up into the air. “You can practice any time you want. You don’t have to shove it all down and pretend it doesn’t exist.”

Sweat slid along my temples. I tried to focus and direct my magic to do what I wanted. Just like Kyle had been showing me for months—or at least attempting to. If it had been anyone but him, they would have given up long ago. Out of patience with my bumbling and failure to be able to do the simplest of things.

“Don’t blame your mom,” he said, leaning against the table—something I wouldn’t recommend given the state of it, but he managed to stay upright. “After what happened to your dad, she’s scared. And she should be.”

“Your dad…” I swallowed heavily, unwilling to say it. Even after three years, I just couldn’t. Not when it came to Dad. “He disappeared, too, and your mom’s not trying to make you something you’re not.”

The furl of smoke danced up toward the ceiling from the singed edge of paper. I bit my bottom lip and worked to pull the burn downward, just a bit.

“It’s not the same. My mom has magic; yours doesn’t. She doesn’t understand how impossible it is to ignore, how it claws at you and wants to be out. To be used.”

My eyes stung. My dad had understood. He’d been just like me—filled with power and needing to wield it. He’d known how suffocating, how painful it was to pretend to be “normal”.

“When do you leave?” Kyle asked abruptly.

“This would be much easier,” I ground out, “if you didn’t talk and distract me.”

“Do you really think you’re always going to have silence and all the time in the world when it comes to using your magic? You need to be able to do this with distractions, Dee.”

I curled my lip, sparing him a quick glance before looking back at what I was doing. “Next weekend.” College. The next big step. The next frightening step.

“You still need to be careful. Keep it secret.”

“I know!” I snapped. A small flame flared, but I was able to smother it quickly. Though the black mark snaking towards the center made me frown. “I’m not stupid, Kyle. I’m well aware of the risks. Have been for a long time with everyone shoving them down my throat.”

“Delia,” he murmured.

“Shut up,” I said, with little heat. The anger I felt wasn’t directed at him. Hell, it wasn’t even directed at my mom. Or anyone. It was just…everything. The fact I was born like this, had no control over what I was, and that I could be killed. Just for existing.

“I worry about you.”

“You don’t need to. I’ve held it together this long, right?”

I trembled as I tried to keep at my task, pay attention to what he was saying, and fight the overwhelming inevitability of being on my own. Kyle was a year older than me, but had decided to stay while I finished high school. Now, as I was moving closer to the city to attend college, he was going off on his own, too. It was the first time in my life he wouldn’t be there.

“I’m scared,” I admitted in a whisper. “Not of being found out. I can handle that.” I thought I managed to say that convincingly despite all my doubts. “But I’m going to be alone. Especially with you off doing who knows what, who knows where.”

And I was worried about him, too. Though I wouldn’t say that out loud. I knew more about what he was planning to do than he realized I did. Because, damn it, I wasn’t stupid.

Our fathers had been taken when they were investigating the disappearance of other magic users. I didn’t know everything they discovered, but I knew it wasn’t good. And I definitely knew that Kyle hadn’t shared everything about that night three years ago. Not even close. And, now, he was going to follow in their footsteps, continue the secret, and dangerous, work they’d been doing.

“You could always stay here,” he reminded me.

“Not a chance.” I laughed. “Besides, you’re still leaving.”

“Yeah.”

“Off on your world travels.” I threw his lie at him. “Your grand adventure.”

“College isn’t for me,” he said smoothly.

A part of me wanted to call him out on it, to tell him I knew he was lying to me and had been for a long time. I didn’t, though, because I knew he was trying to protect me, and I loved him for that, no matter how unnecessary. It was the story of my life—lies kept us safe. Kept those we cared about safe.

“I know.”

I sighed and, with a wave of the hand, sent what was left of the paper toward him. He plucked it out of the air and his laugh echoed around us. Holding it up, he met my gaze. “You giving me your heart, Dee?”

I returned his smile. The heart was rough, but definitely recognizable as such. “I gave it to you a long time ago.” My face flushed when I realized how it sounded. “Not like that! Just…I love you. You’re my family, and I’m going to miss you.”

He strode across the room and yanked me into his embrace. “I love you, too. And one day I’m going to have to see fall for some twat, and then he’ll have your heart. So, for now,” he drew back and murmured a few words that resulted in the burnt paper glowing for a moment, “I’ll hold on to this and enjoy being the only one.”

He pulled out his wallet and tucked the heart inside—the edges not crumbling at all. A protective spell, then.

“And,” he continued, “don’t be scared about being alone. Because you’re not. I’m always here. You need anything—anything—you call me. I’ll be there in a blink.”

I laughed and went up on my toes to kiss his cheek. “You’ll want to, but even you can’t be halfway around the world ‘in a blink’,” I teased, still going along with it. Pretending I didn’t know he’d be close, likely in the city. Hell, he be nearer to me than if he stayed here.

He gave a lazy shrug and grinned. I narrowed my gaze. “You can’t…can you? Kyle! You’re telling me you can teleport?” That was a rare as fuck talent, and only the most powerful of magic users could do it—while expending enormous energy.

“I’m not telling you anything.” He tapped my nose and stepped back. “Now…again.”

I cursed as several sheets of paper rustled and travelled toward me. Showoff—he hadn’t gestured or even looked away from me.

“Fine, but one day,” I pointed at him, “one day, you’re showing me how to do that.”

“Maybe.”

I made one of the papers flame wildly, just to hear him laugh, the sound washing away some of the dread and fear that still lingered. Even though I knew it’d only last a little while, I’d take it.


Be sure to check out the other peices inspired by this month’s photo!
Bronwyn GreenJessica De La Rosa | Kayleigh Jones | | Kellie St. JamesKris Norris

 

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Also available to read on Wattpad

your lies banner<<< Chapter Three

Chapter Four
~Maddock~

As the sun dipped lower, the evening grew chilly, but I didn’t feel it. Not really. I noticed the biting wind as it hit my face, ruffling my hair and lifting Delia’s off her shoulders. But she was actually talking to me, and laughing, so the cold… Yeah, it didn’t matter.

Except as we continued along, I saw the way her face turned rosy and how she started to hunch down farther into her slight jacket as we walked around campus.

Tentatively, I reached out and wrapped my fingers around hers. “Come on. I owe you a tea.”

“You don’t have to,” she protested, though it seemed weak and she didn’t pull away.

“I want to,” I assured her. “Unless you need to be somewhere…”

“No,” she said quickly before catching her lower lip between her teeth.

I felt the familiar desire to do it myself, nip at her mouth, soothe it with my tongue. I swallowed thickly and smiled at her, happiness curling warmly inside me, fighting off the cold even more, when she returned that smile.

“Just dinner, but I had a super late lunch—got distracted studying.” She shrugged. “So I’m not really hungry, and I’ve snacks in my room to hold me over.”

“Pretty sure I can manage a little something along with the tea.” I squeezed her hand. “Especially if it means a bit more time with you.”

She laughed softly, somehow sounding happy and sad at the same time. “You’re not making this easy,” she murmured.

“And what would ‘this’ be exactly?” I asked as we approached the campus coffee shop.

She ducked her head, peering at me through her lashes before averting her gaze completely. “Keeping my distance.”

I had to fight to keep the frown from my face. Stopping with one hand on the door handle, I tucked an errant curl behind her ear. “I can promise you—I’m going to do my best to make that as difficult as possible.”

Her cheeks brightened even more, and though she pressed her lips together, I could see the smile twitching the corners of her mouth. Relief swept over me. I knew she’d initially been interested, and I was trying like hell to charm her, but had wondered through the past few weeks if it was a useless endeavor. If her opinion of me was set in stone and there was no way we’d even have the smallest chance of building something.

I pulled open the door and followed her in. Spotting a small, empty table toward the back, I settled my hand on her shoulder. Her eyes were wide, pupils dilated, when she turned to look at me. She practically vibrated under my touch.

“Why don’t you grab that table for us?” I suggested, nodding in that direction. “I’ll get us our drinks. Coffee or tea today?”

“You owe me a tea, remember?” Her voice trembled, but her face lit up with a wide smile.

I chuckled as Delia wove through the crowded room then stepped forward to wait my turn at the counter. Luckily, the line moved quickly, and it was only a couple of minutes before I made my way to Delia, two mugs in hand, a plate of sweets balanced on one of them.

“Couldn’t make up your mind?” she asked, amused, when I set everything on the table.

“Didn’t know what you liked.” I shrugged. “So, I covered my bases.”

Bringing her tea to her mouth, she took a long sip. Her eyes slid shut, and she hummed happily. “Perfect.”

“I finally got it right, then?”

She tilted her head, brow furrowed slightly, and met my gaze. “Hmmm?”

“The tea. I know you like it, because I heard you order it a while back. When we kept bumping into each other, and I was hoping you wouldn’t think I was some sort of stalker.” I took one of the brownie bites and popped it into my mouth. After chewing and swallowing, I continued, “I didn’t see how you took it, though—how much sugar or cream or if you even took them. So, I’ve been guessing, changing it up, hoping I’d get it right one of these times.”

She stared several long moments, and I wondered what was going through her mind. Then, she shook her head. “I just… I like tea, and I’m not picky,” she said quietly. “Every cup was lovely. Thank you.”

She lowered her eyes and fiddled with the handle of her cup. I didn’t know what happened, but the easy atmosphere that had surrounded us during our walk was gone. It seemed we were back to uncomfortable and stilted. Fuck.

I racked my brain, desperate to come up with something to say, to break out of this awkwardness.

“How’re classes going?” Seriously, classes? Smooth, Roberts.

“Good, I guess,” Delia said, lifting her head. “A bit tougher than I expected, but that’s mostly because I’ve been spending so much time working with Peyton and Addie on the…”

“The rally,” I finished for her when she trailed off. “You don’t have to avoid the subject, you know.”

She sighed and slumped back in her chair. “I don’t think discussing…anything about it is a good idea, do you? Especially when our views differ so much.”

I took her hand, which still rested on the edge of the table, wrapping my fingers around hers. “I told you, Delia, I don’t think our opinions on magic users are that different.”

Her thumb rubbed along the side of my hand. “I know you believe that, but they really are.”

“How?” I don’t know why I was pushing this. It’d be better, all around, to avoid the subject of magic and anything to do with it. “I told you, I’m a Sympathizer, just like you. I may not be as…open about it. It’s complicated with my parents and…everything. But I don’t want any magic user hurt or worse. And I think I made that clear when I spoke.”

“When you spoke at the anti-magic rally.” She lifted a brow.

“Yes.” I sighed. “Would it help if I said I fight against using the term anti-magic every single time?”

Her lips twitched. “Maybe a little. But it doesn’t change the facts, Maddock. We’re on opposite ends of a very big issue. Hardly the solid foundation of a relationship. Oh! Not that you’re looking for or are even interested in a relationship or anything. I’m just saying that you—” She stopped abruptly and took a deep breath. “We’re very different is what I’m trying to say.”

“Not so different, although you seem to be unwilling to consider that.” I cringed inwardly at the hard bite of my words, but couldn’t deny the annoyance I felt.

“You think that magic is some sort of disease or defect, but it isn’t.” she said quickly, her fingers spasming in my grip. “Have you ever met someone with magic? Talked to them? Or are you basing everything you believe on what you’ve seen on the news or what your parents have told you?”

“My parents are trying to help those with magic,” I protested. “Their research, their work—”

“Is all about finding a way to remove magic from people, I know. But have you ever stopped to think that doing that is wrong? That magic doesn’t make anyone do anything, certainly not anything bad. It’s not evil. They’re not evil,” she finished in a hoarse whisper.

The sight of her blue eyes swimming with tears made if hard to process her words. It slowed everything down, made me ache.

“I don’t think they’re evil, Delia. I just want…” Realization hit me, hard and fast. “You know someone with magic, don’t you?”

“You do, too,” she snapped, pushing to her feet. “I mean… Odds are that you do—someone you grew up with or go to school with—but who the hell would ever admit to something like that? Who would take that risk? Especially with you.”

Not for the first time since I’d met Delia, the vehemence in her tone shocked me, but more than that, the stark fear I saw in her eyes before she darted past me toward the exit doused any anger I felt. I stood and hurried after her, even though I wondered if I should. If I should even be trying so hard with this girl.

This beautiful, funny, intriguing girl.

Fuck.

Seeing her heading in the direction of her dorm, I called out, “Delia, wait!”

To my surprise, she stopped and turned to face me when I approached.

“I don’t want to fight with you,” I said simply, not really sure what else to say.

“It’s a bit inevitable,” she murmured.

“I don’t believe that.”

“Of course you don’t, because despite…everything, turns out you’re a genuinely nice guy. And that’s why this—spending time together—is a bad idea. Because liking you even more than I already do is the last thing I need.” Her eyes widened. “I mean… Dammit.”

“See?” I grinned. “You already like me. There’s hope, then, yeah?”

“I do like you.”

I could hardly hear her whispered words over the wind, but my reaction—my stomach jumping wildly, the tightening in my chest—was overwhelming. I lifted my hand and cupped her cheek, heart kicking up when she leaned into the touch, her eyes fluttering closed a moment. I stepped forward, resisted the urge to take her mouth, to taste, not wanting fuck this up.

“And I like you. Why don’t we just focus on that?” I dragged my thumb along the edge of her lower lip.

“I want to, but—” She drew in a shaky breath. “Wouldn’t it be easier to just stay away from each other? Not get in deeper? Maybe then it won’t hurt so bad when it all… It’s not as horrible to hate someone you didn’t like so much to begin with.”

“Why are you so convinced I’m going to hate you?” I brought my other hand up and framed her face, loving the way her hair slid over my fingertips. “It’s not as if I’m going into this blind, Delia. I know where you stand on things, and I’m fucking determined to show you I’m not the enemy here.”

She turned her head slightly, and her soft lips pressed to my thumb. “I should go.”

“All right,” I said easily, dropping my arms and taking her hand in mine.

She laughed as I pulled her around and led her down the path. “You don’t have to walk me home. I’m a big girl.”

“Of course I do. It’s what you do after.”

She glanced up at me. “After what?”

I shifted our hands, weaving our fingers together. “After a date.”

“That wasn’t a…” She wet her lips. “That was a date?”

“Damn straight it was. And a long time coming, too. This was supposed to happen day one, remember? Been waiting a while for this, Delia.”

She scoffed and nudged my arm with her shoulder. “You have very low expectations for a date—a few sips of tea and a small sweet before I got all crazy and walked out on you.”

“I happen to like our first date, but duly noted. Next time, I’ll make every effort to meet your date expectations,” I teased, satisfied when I saw her smile grow and relieved when she didn’t protest the idea of another date.

We didn’t speak again—just walked together, hand in hand—until we stopped in front of her building. She shifted from foot to foot and slowly pulled her hand from mine. I thought it boded well for me that she seemed reluctant to do that.

“Thanks. For the tea and…everything. I’ll see you around, Maddock.”

“You forgot something.” I moved close until barely any space separated us and she was forced to tilted her head up to meet my gaze.

“And what’s that?”

“This was a date.” I slid my hand through her hair and cupped the back of her head.

“So you say.”

“And I walked you home.”

“Quite the gentleman.” Her fingers danced along my chest.

“So, here we are, after our date, after our romantic walk home, more or less on your doorstep. And since you’ve been less than impressed with our first date so far—”

“I never said that,” she protested.

I lowered my head, stopping when my mouth nearly touched hers. “I thought maybe ending with a…traditional goodnight kiss might improve my chances of getting that second date.”

Before she could respond I closed the scant distance between our lips and finally, finally, tasted her. A surprised gasp opened her to me, allowing me to lick inside. And, fuck me, my brain short-circuited. Only the slick glide of her tongue along mine, the tight circle of her arms suddenly around my neck, the hot, hard press of her body against mine was all that registered. And one thought, just one, echoed though my mind—not enough.

It took every ounce of willpower to draw back, to pull myself from the sweetness of Delia when all I wanted was more. Taking in her flushed face, her kiss-swollen lips, her heavy lidded gaze, I groaned then released her completely.

“Good night, Delia.”

She laughed, a short shaky huff, as she stepped back. “You weren’t lying.”

I frowned. “About?”

With a smile, she kept moving away, still facing me. “About doing what you could to make staying away from you difficult.”

“I always keep my promises.”

A strangled noise fell from her mouth. “See? You’re not playing fair, Maddock.”

I lifted a shoulder and grinned. “Maybe not, but you like it, don’t you?”

“More than I should,” she murmured. “Just hope you don’t regret it later.” She blew out a long breath. “Good night, Maddock.”

She pivoted and went inside, glancing back at me before the door closed behind her. After a moment, I started back toward my own building. As I walked, I ran the evening through my head, determined to find a way to show her she could trust me. To make her see we weren’t so different and we could make this work between us. I was more sure of that than anything I’d ever been in my life. I wanted more. So much more. With her.

Chapter Five >>>


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