Your Lies – Chapter Six

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<<< Chapter Five

Chapter Six

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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Your Lies – Chapter Five

Also available to read on Wattpad

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<<<Chapter Four

Chapter Five

“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!

Your Lies – Chapter Four

Also available to read on Wattpad

your lies banner<<< Chapter Three

Chapter Four

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.


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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Your Lies – Chapter Three (Finally!)

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<<< Chapter Two

Chapter Three

“Ah, there’s your not-so-secret admirer, again, Delia.”

I glanced up at Peyton then followed her gaze. Straight to Maddock. He stood at the coffee shop register, hip resting against the counter as he waited for his drink, gaze firmly on me. The corner of his mouth quirked upwards when he caught me looking. I swallowed heavily and cursed the heat flooding my face.

“You’d think he’d give up,” Addie, my roommate, said harshly. “You made it clear you’re not interested, but he keeps hanging around. Bastard.”

I didn’t say anything as I turned back to the papers in front of me. Nothing I could say would temper or eliminate the anger and disgust she felt toward Maddock. She only saw him as the face of the university’s anti-magic movement. And she was spearheading the Sympathizers’ rally on campus.

“But he’s so hot,” Peyton mumbled sadly, shaking her head.

“Hot means nothing when it’s just the casing for a self-entitled, prejudiced asshole.”

“Addie,” I murmured.

“What?” She shoved a hand through her short dark hair and glared in Maddock’s direction. “He’s popular and good-looking and so fucking charming. And people eat up everything he says without question. All the hate and lies he spews without a thought to the lives he’s ruining.”

Her voice broke, and I reached over to cover one of her hands with mine. “He’s one person, Addie. A part of the problem, yes, but not the cause of what’s wrong.”

“And with parents like his—so staunchly anti-magic and so public about it—can you blame him for believing what he does?” Peyton added quietly.

“Yes,” Addie hissed. “You can only blame parents and upbringing for so long. He’s a big boy and supposedly has a brain. He can think for himself. Your parents are against magic, and here you are.”

Peyton lifted a shoulder. “Which means I understand how hard it is to break away from that. I’m not even welcome in their home anymore, Addie. That’s how bad it is. And they aren’t as vocal and entrenched in the movement as the Roberts are.”

Before Addie or I could respond to that, someone approached the table—not uncommon at the university café, which was always busy. I knew without looking, though, it was him. Like I always did. I could feel him. Or rather, my magic could. I didn’t understand why—it didn’t react to anyone else like this. Sometimes, on very, very rare occasions, I could sense another magic user if they were powerful and using their magic. Just a twinge of like recognizing like. This was nothing like that. At all. No, put Maddock in my vicinity, and it was as if my magic was pushing outwards, reaching for him. Like it was excited he was there.

At first, I’d thought it was just the thrill of a cute boy paying attention to me and all the…butterflies in the tummy and shit that went with that. It had taken me a while to realize that while all that was there—God, was it ever there—it was more. The most important thing for me to keep secret, from him, especially, was drawn to him like a fucking magnet. Sooner or later, it was going to give me away. It was already a challenge to keep it contained. All the more reason to keep my distance from him.

One of the café’s white oversized mugs appeared in front of me, and I lifted my eyes to meet Maddock’s, which were cutely crinkled, dammit, as he smiled at me.

“Looked like you could use a fresh cup.” He glanced at Addie and Peyton. “I didn’t know what you liked, but I could go—”

“We don’t want anything from you,” Addie snapped.

Peyton stayed silent, sending a sad smile Maddock’s way before dropping her gaze. I sighed and moved to accept the drink, biting back a gasp at the zing of power along my arm when his warm fingers dragged over mine.

“Thank you,” I said quietly.

“You’re welcome, Delia.” He let his fingertips dance over my wrist before stepping back. “See you around.”

I watched as he walked away, meeting up with his friends by the door. I didn’t miss the speculative glances thrown our way as they left the café. Or the more annoyed ones from a couple of the guys.

Peyton’s heavy sigh quickly snapped me out of daze I was in, staring after Maddock long after he was out of sight. Her mouth twitched as she studied me.

“Say what you want about him, Maddock Roberts is hot and a little bit sweet.”

“Yeah, real sweet,” Addie drawled. “Unless you have magic then he’s more likely to spit in your face than bring you tea.”

I brought the mug to my lips and sipped, not at all surprised to find it had the perfect amount of cream and sugar. For the past week, whenever we’d run into each other, he’d offered the same thing—once, even, in a thermos as I’d stood in the quad handing out flyers—and it was always just right. If I didn’t know better, I’d suspect he had magic.

“You do better not to accept things from him.”

“It’s just tea, Addie. And I—” I set the mug down heavily and took a deep breath. “I don’t think he’s a bad guy, really. I mean, he knows I’m helping with the rally, knows that I’m a m—magic Sympathizer.” I cursed inwardly at my near slip but kept going. “And he still comes around.”

“And you think that means anything?”

“You think it doesn’t?” Peyton countered. “If you believe he’s pure evil because of the things he was brought up to believe and that he speaks about what he believes, you’re just as prejudiced as you say he is. Hey, I’m not trying to be a bitch,” she said quickly when Addie gaped at her. “I’m just saying that everyone deserves a chance. Do you honestly think anyone has ever challenged him on what he believes? Do you think he ever once questioned things?”

You did,” Addie said, her voice more subdued than I’d ever heard it before.

“Yeah, because I came here. Because I met people like you, and I listened. Maybe, just maybe, our Delia is the person who will get Maddock Roberts to listen.”

“Maybe,” Addie said grudgingly before I could protest my possible involvement in influencing anyone’s way of thinking or whatever. “Doesn’t mean he’ll change his mind.”

“Nope.” Peyton pushed her long blonde hair over shoulders to fall down her back. “That’s not something we can control. But, all of this? What we’re talking about, is why this rally is so important. All we can do is get the information out there. Talk to whoever will listen.”

Nodding, Addie reached for the short list of speakers lined up for the event and cleared her throat. “Then, we should get to work.”

“Yeah, no more talk about him please,” I muttered under my breath, anxious to focus on anything other than Maddock, despite the fact my magic quivered inside me, unhappy he was no longer here.

* * * *

“Clara backed out.”

I looked up to find Addie in the doorway to our room. Her hair stuck up all over the place as she shoved both hands through it. I pushed up from my position on my bed and pulled her inside, closing the door behind her.

“Did she say why?” I asked, shoving my friend down to sit on her bed before grabbing a water from our mini-fridge and handing it to her.

“Not really. Just that she changed her mind about talking publicly.” She gulped a long drink down then sighed. “Everything’s falling apart. They moved us to another room.”

I felt the same frustration I heard in her voice, saw in the rigidity of her posture. While the university had approved the rally, they sure as hell were doing everything in their power to make actually pulling it off difficult. This was the third time they had moved the event, and each time to a smaller, less accessible place. And, now, with the rally tomorrow morning, there was no time to change the posters or hand out new flyers. Hell, the copiers and printers would likely be suffering horrible malfunctions, just like they had every time we’d tried to use them before. All these things happened with big smiles and profuse apologies all around from the powers that be, of course. They were anxious to look as though they were giving everyone—even magic users—equal opportunities, but it was becoming increasingly clear that that was just for appearances. The bastards.

“She seemed scared,” Addie said softly. “Clara, I mean. More than just nervous about speaking in front of a group of people.”

“Well, given the subject matter, and the support that the anti-magic cause seems to have, she may have just had second thoughts.” I lowered myself onto my desk chair and leaned back.

“You think it’s something else though. Come on.” She chuckled. “I know your skeptical, suspicious expression, Delia.”

“Just wondering if she was feeling any pressure from anyone.”


I shrugged. “Worried family or faculty who thought it was a bad idea to risk speaking out. I hope if she was talked out of it, it was one of those. Not that she was threatened or intimidated.”

She leaned forward and dropped her head to rest in her hands. “Are we doing the right thing?”

The question was quiet, muffled slightly, but I heard it, and my chest ached to see her doubting when she’d been so strong and focused to this point.

“Yes,” I said firmly. “This is the right thing. Absolutely.”

“But if it’s putting people at risk… I know I’ve been a hard ass about all of this, but I don’t to see anyone hurt. I guess I never thought doing this could be dangerous, which is stupid because I’m doing this for Scott and look what happened to him.”

I swallowed heavily and moved to sit next to her, wrapping my arm around her. My heart broke for her, had since I first heard about her brother and what had happened to him—all because he’d had magic. She leaned against me and let her head rest on my shoulder.

“We’re doing the right thing,” I repeated. “Anyone speaking is doing so voluntarily. They have the option to back out—just like Clara. We’re there as Sympathizers, Addie. We’re arguing for fair and equal treatment. For a stop to the persecution.  No one is going up there saying they’re a magic user or anything. I don’t really think anyone is in real danger.”

A snort of laughter escaped Addie’s lips—a short, harsh sound. “Even I would never expect anyone to make that kind of statement. To admit that in public. I’m sure there are magic users here—I mean, there have to be, right?—but coming out as one on this campus is a basically one way ticket home, and not a particularly nice one.”

“Yeah,” I murmured, ignoring the guilt that skittered through me. As close as I’d become with Addie, and Peyton, they still had no clue I had magic. It wasn’t a matter of trust. Not really. My father had drilled it into my head from the time I came into my magic that keeping it secret kept me safe. Kept the people I loved safe. Telling my friends would also put them in harm’s way, and I wasn’t about to let that happen. Only three people in this world knew my secret, and I needed to keep it that way. At least until things changed. If things changed.

Addie lifted her head and nodded. “It’s going to be okay. Everything is going to be okay,” she said, almost to herself.

“Yes, it is.” I patted her back and stood, stretching my arms overhead. “Despite all the roadblocks getting thrown in our path. They aren’t going to stop us, Addie. This is the first step, and it’s a good one.”

“Fighting the good fight,” she quipped, getting to her feet. “It’s what Scott would have wanted.” She cleared her throat. “I’ll be back later, yeah? Supposed to meet Peyton for dinner. But after, the three of us can go over everything one more time?”

Before I could answer, a knock sounded. I smiled at Addie and moved past her to pull the door open. I froze though my heart pounded and my magic swelled inside me when I saw Maddock in the hallway.

“Hello, Delia.” He glanced at Addie behind me then met my gaze. “Can we talk?”

His deep voice sent a series of flutters through my stomach that had nothing to do with the power inside me. Oh, I needed to avoid this man. For so many reasons.

I wet my lips and nodded. “I’ll see you after dinner, Addie.”

“Are you sure?” she asked quietly, coming beside me.

“Yeah, it’s fine.”

“Mm hmmm.” She glared at Maddock as he stepped aside to let her pass. “See you in a bit.”

I smiled at her and moved farther into the room. Maddock came in and shut the door behind him.

“What, no tea this time? I thought if you’d go through the trouble of figuring out what room was mine, you’d come bearing gifts,” I joked.

He frowned, turning his phone over in his hands again and again. “I don’t think you should be at that rally tomorrow.”

There were no more flutters in my stomach. Instead, it sank heavily as my mind raced. “What?”

“It’s dangerous. I don’t think it’s a good idea for you to be there. There was a magical attack on an anti-magic rally in the city this morning.” He held up his phone, and I glimpsed what appeared to be a news article on the small screen. “There have been responses from more…aggressive anti-magic crowd—threats and attacks. What if they target your rally? What if—”

“Did you talk to Clara?” I asked sharply. “Scare her out of speaking? What are you doing—working your way through everyone involved, trying to shut us down before it even starts?”

He shook his head. “Who’s Clara?”

“It’s not enough for you to have all the support you could ever want, is it? You get the best location for your rally, and I’m betting that when you wanted flyers and posters, they probably did all the work for you in the admin building, didn’t they? No broken equipment fucking you over…oh no.” I shoved my hands through my hair, pulling slightly in frustration. “But you can’t be happy with that, can you? You have to go around scaring people?”

“Delia,” he said, reaching out and grasping my upper arms. “I have no clue what you’re talking about. I don’t know any Clara, and I’m not trying to scare anyone. Well…okay, I am a little bit. But only because I don’t want you hurt.”

“What do you care?” I practically spat the words, not even trying to pull away. I leaned close until I felt his breath gusting over my face. “You don’t even know me.”

His brow furrowed as he whispered, “I don’t have to know someone to not want them to get hurt, Delia. Do you think so little of me?”

I don’t know you to make that judgment.”

“But you are,” he argued, lifting his hand to drag his fingers over my cheek. “You judged me from the moment you saw the flyer I handed you. You think you know everything about me.”

Even if he feels sympathy and doesn’t want magic users hurt, he wants you caged like an animal—what more do you need to know? A pretty face and being nice doesn’t change anything.

“But you don’t,” he continued. “I want you to, though. I want you to know everything about me, and I want to know everything about you.”

I bit my lower lip, holding back the words I wanted to say. The declaration that he really, really didn’t want to know everything. That if he found out my secrets, he would want nothing to do with me.

“Why?” I managed to croak. “Why me?”

“Because you, Delia Lancaster, intrigue me. Have for the moment I bumped into you. And you’ve managed to make me question everything I thought I knew.”

Closing my eyes, I inhaled deeply and blew it out before meeting his gaze.

“I’m going tomorrow. The fact that some of your anti-magic friends may cause trouble isn’t going to scare me away.”

“No friends of mine are going to cause trouble.” He released me and stepped back. “There’s nothing I can say or do to change your mind?”

“No. I’m committed to this, Maddock. One hundred percent.” I tried not to soften under his concerned stare. And failed. “If it makes you feel any better, I’m not even speaking or anything. I helped plan, and I’m there for support. I’m hardly making a target of myself.”

His lips curved even as he shook his head. “Doesn’t make me feel a whole lot better. Just being there is danger— Okay, okay,” he said quickly when I opened my mouth to protest. “Not going to try to change your mind anymore, because clearly, I cannot.”

“No, you can’t.”

“See? I’m learning more about you already. You’re stubborn as hell.”

I rolled my eyes. “Like you didn’t know that already.”

“I didn’t know the full extent of it,” he drawled. “That’s new.”

“Well,” I grabbed my jacket from the foot of my bed, “you can’t expect to actually like everything you find out.”

Understatement of the century, I thought as I shrugged into the light garment.

“You heading out?”

“Yeah, going to take a walk, clear my head before dinner.” I pocketed my phone and forced a smile.

“I’ll join you.” He pulled open the door and gestured for me to precede him out of the room.

“I’m not changing my mind,” I said through clenched teeth, stepping past him.

He rested his hand on the small of my back and walked beside me toward the stairs. I had to fight the shudder that gripped my body as my magic reacted in a way I could only describe as giddy.

“Already said I wasn’t going to try anymore. But I’m going to try to learn some more about you, and I’m sure I’ll find something I like.”

Fuck, I was in so much trouble.

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Your Lies – Chapter Three – Coming Soon

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The sickies have hit the Jarman household and it’s not a pretty sight. Not. Pretty. At. All. o.O

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Your Lies – Chapter Two

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Chapter Two


The whispered word dripped with disgust and pierced the excited, nearly euphoric, bubble that had surrounded me since the rally had begun. Christ, not two minutes ago, I’d been flying high—happy to be doing something meaningful and important and hoping to spend some time with the beautiful blonde with the big blue eyes.

I’d had some doubts earlier when I’d seen Delia throw away the flyer, but convinced myself it didn’t mean anything. So many handed flyers and pamphlets to anyone who crossed their paths out on the quad. I’d tossed more than I could count without even looking at them. I figured that was what had happened. Seeing her while I was addressing the crowd seemed to confirm that.

“What do you mean everything?” I asked.

She just shook her head.

“Why don’t we just head to the café?”

I didn’t know why I suggested it. I didn’t even know her well enough to push this. Seriously, I should be walking away right about now. It wasn’t as if campus was lacking options when it came to pretty girls. Walking away was definitely the way to go, but…fuck it. There was just something about her I didn’t want to walk away from.

“Come on,” I continued. “We’ll have coffee and talk and figure this out.”

“There’s nothing to figure out,” she spat. “It may be hard for you to understand, but I don’t want to go anywhere with you. I don’t want to be around you. I don’t want to see you.”

My gut soured, and a cold sweat broke out all over my body. The vehemence in her tone, in her stance… I’d never been on the receiving end of something so harsh. It didn’t sit well with me, and I struggled to understand where the hell it was coming from.

“It’s not like I’m going to force you to spend time with me, but…” I frowned. “You seemed interested before. No, you were interested before. I didn’t just imagine that.”

“No, you didn’t,” she said slowly, gripping the strap of her bag so tightly her knuckles whitened. “But that was before.”

“Before what?” I stepped forward, freezing when she flinched.

She recovered quickly and squared her shoulders, meeting my gaze fully. “Before I realized what you are.”

Anger flared at the contempt in her voice. “And what is that exactly?”

“A hate-mongering, prejudiced asshole.”

My jaw dropped; shock coursed through me frigidly. She was a Sympathizer, I realized, and had misunderstood what I’d said at the rally. She didn’t understand what I was trying to do.

“I’m not,” I protested. “I want to help magic users. I don’t hate them, Delia, and I’m not trying to make anyone hate them. I’m as much a Sympathizer as you are.”

Her shoulders shook as she laughed, a false and empty sound that grated. “Oh yes, you sympathize and care about the animals, the abominations. That much was very clear.”

“I never called them that!”

“Oh, you’re right. You didn’t,” she sneered. “You just compared them to rabid animals. Called their magic an abomination. Never mind that it’s a part of them.”

“You’re misunderstanding what I—”

“No, I’m not. You’re calling for magic users to be banned from campus, to be caged like animals, kept separate from the good normal folk. But it’s okay, because you sympathize and find it oh so sad, right? You arrogant prick. Stay the fuck away from me.”

She turned on her heel and jogged away as I stood in the middle of the pathway staring after her like an idiot. How had that gone so spectacularly wrong?

* * * *

“Fuck, what is going on with you?”

I looked over as Mark Greenley bumped shoulders with me. On my other side, Kevin Johns snorted. A bunch of us were hanging out in the quad between classes, enjoying what was sure to be one of the last warm days of the year. Books were out and open around us…and ignored.

I rolled my eyes. “Nothing’s going on with me.”

“Bullshit,” Mark said. “This is the first time in two weeks you’ve even hung out with us.”

“Yeah, you’ve been a moody fucker ever since the rally.” Wes Anders didn’t bother opening his eyes or shifting from his position stretched out on his back.

“Which is stupid, because it was awesome. A great turn out, tons of support,” Kevin chimed in.

I didn’t answer. My lack of good mood had nothing to do with the rally, and everything to do with a certain girl. Who happened to be sitting at one of the tables on the other side of the courtyard with a group of people. As much as I’d tried not to think about her the last couple weeks, Delia was never far from my thoughts—neither were the things she’d said. The way she’d said them. And if that weren’t bad enough, it seemed like she was everywhere. I saw her when I was walking to classes, when I swung by the café, when I was studying in the library or the commons. She was every-fucking-where.

“You’re pissed ‘cause the bleeding heart Sympathizers are doing their own rally now, aren’t you?” Mark nodded knowingly.

“What are you talking about?” I snapped.

There was a reason I’d never identified myself as Sympathizer to my friends, even though I’d told Delia the truth—I honestly saw myself as one. I didn’t want to see anyone hurt, and I wanted magic users to be free of the burden they carried.

“I thought you knew,” Mark said. “You keep looking over at them, frowning. I figured… The tiny brunette at the table you’re staring at is organizing a little event.”

I shifted my gaze from Delia to the girl sitting next to her. Their heads were bent together as they talked, and at that moment, Delia threw her head back and laughed before wrapping her arm around the other woman’s shoulders in a half-hug.

“Since we had a rally, the magic users and their supporters, their ‘Sympathizers’,” Kevin air quoted, “argued it was only fair they be able to hold one of their own on campus. And they were given approval. Can you believe that?”

“It’s their right,” I pointed out.

“It shouldn’t be,” Mark muttered. “They shouldn’t even be here.”

Everyone murmured their agreement, and the discussion took off about the dangers of magic users, not only on campus but anywhere. It was familiar and, as I watched Delia smile and talk with her friends, nauseating. My jaw ached from clenching it so tightly. I didn’t know what my problem was. Nothing was being said I hadn’t heard before—it wasn’t anything I hadn’t said before. Yet, I couldn’t bring myself to join in the conversation. And I couldn’t stop looking at Delia.

When she stood and left the quad, I grabbed my books, shoved them in my bag and jumped up. Ignoring the calls of my friends, I took off in the direction Delia had gone. I hurried through the pathways between buildings, scanning until I saw her.

“Delia!” I called, sprinting to catch up.

She turned, and my chest tightened when her smile immediately morphed into a frown when her gaze landed on me. She sighed loudly as I came to stop in front of her.

“What do you want?”

I chuckled even though her resigned tone cut. “Just wanted to say hi since we seem to keep crossing paths.”

“Yeah, that’s unfortunate. You think on a campus this size we could avoid that altogether, wouldn’t you?” She patted me on the arm. “We’ll just have to try harder.”

I covered her hand before she could pull away, capturing against me. “Maybe I don’t want to avoid seeing you. I actually rather like it.”

Her fingers flexed, digging in, but she didn’t try to pull away. It might have been me being desperate, but I took it as a good sign.

“Maddock,” she whispered.

“Look, I hate that you think I’m a prejudiced ass. Hate it,” I admitted, trailing my fingers over her knuckles, dipping my head slightly to meet her insanely gorgeous blue eyes. “Can’t we just get that coffee?”

She pressed her lips together then slowly drew her hand away. “I…I don’t think so.”

“Delia, I—”

“No,” she interrupted. “We’re too different.”

“You don’t know that,” I argued. “Because you don’t know me. You saw me speaking to a group, that’s it. Give me a chance to explain, to clear up what you misunderstood.”

Her expression softened, and the corners of her mouth quirked up. “I didn’t misunderstand. You are a very effective public speaker, and were very clear in what you were saying.”

“I can’t stop thinking a lot about what you said.” I shoved my hand through my hair in frustration. “If you thought I meant those things…”

Delia took her phone out and looked at the display. “I have to go.” She stepped away but stopped to gaze at me, her smile small and sad. “Maybe there’s a reason you can’t stop thinking about it, Maddock. Maybe a part of you—even a tiny, tiny part—realizes what you’ve been saying and fighting for is wrong.”

Heart pounding, I called out after her. “Are you always going to be running away from me?”

She spun around, but kept moving, walking backwards. “As things stand now? Yes. But…”

“But what?”

“Show me you’re someone I want to be running to.”

Chapter Three >>>

Click the banner below to read Chapter Two of Kris Norris’ amazing Red Sky Dawning.


Your Lies – Chapter One

I’m so excited to post the first chapter of my serialized story, Your Lies – and that Kris Norris is posting the first chapter of hers – Red Sky Dawning.

Your Lies is also available on Wattpad, with chapters posting there the same time as here. So if you prefer that…there you go. 🙂

your lies banner

Chapter One

“It’s still secret, right? No one’s found out?”

I rolled my eyes, even though Mom couldn’t see me. Every single phone call either started or ended with these questions, and it was getting old.

“I’m not an idiot. I haven’t told anyone, and I won’t. You’ve adequately drilled that into my head.”

“Don’t take that tone with me, Delia. You’ve no idea how scared I—” Her voice cracked, and guilt swamped me.

“I’m sorry,” I said quickly. “But nothing’s going to happen, okay? No one knows anything about me.”

“But if you let it slip to one of your friends or if you lose control… Honey, maybe you should just come back home. You wouldn’t have to worry here about anyone finding out about your—” She sighed heavily. “About you.”

I shook my head and ignored the tightening of my throat. She couldn’t even bring herself to say the word. That was nothing new, though. She hated this part of me. Not the way others hated it or feared it—nothing like that. She loved me more than anyone, of course, but having this inside me put me at risk, and what mother wouldn’t loathe that?

“Mom, I want to help people, people like me, and I can’t do that there.”

“But you’d be safe!”

I closed my eyes against the sudden burning. I didn’t like that she worried, that I was the cause of so much fear and stress and had been my entire life. Sometimes, I wished I could do what she wanted—go home, live on the farm, safe and sound—but coming here was the first step in fulfilling my dreams. The first step in doing what I’ve always wanted to do.

“I’m safe here,” I assured her. “You’re forgetting there are laws to protect me, that it’s illegal to discriminate against me just because I have—”

You’re forgetting just how little those legal protections mean,” she shouted loudly enough I had to pull the phone from my ear. “They didn’t help your father; they don’t help anyone. If anyone finds out, you’ll be put on a watch list—the lists that aren’t even supposed to exist but do—and you will never have a moment’s peace. You’ll never be safe; always having to look over your shoulder.”

“No one knows,” I said in a rush, anxious to cut off the rant before it really began. “And no one will ever know. Dad taught me well, Mom. You know that. I’m just another student here, one of thousands. Nobody cares about me, and I’m not drawing attention to myself.”

A heavy sigh traveled through the phone. “Promise me you’ll be careful. Promise you’ll come home if there’s even a hint that someone knows or suspects.”

“Promise,” I said softly, as I always did.

I wished she’d ask me about my classes, about the people I was meeting, the things I was doing, but it was only the questions and the promises—every time. A part of me understood why—truly I did—but another part wanted her to be interested in my life. In me…beyond that one part. I glanced at my watch and stood from where I sat on my bed.

“I’ve got to go. I have class in a few minutes, and it’s across campus, so I need to hurry.” Grabbing my bag, I hoisted it over my shoulder. “I’ll call you over the weekend?”

“All right. Call sooner if you need anything.” She paused, and I could tell she wanted to say more, to keep warning me, but instead, she simply said, “I love you, Delia.”

“Love you, too, Mom.”

I ended the call and shoved the phone in my pocket as I left my room. I hurried out of the building and started the trek across campus.

“Delia!” Peyton Harding—a girl from my dorm—jogged up and fell into step beside me. “Study group around four. You coming?”

“Yeah. Where?”

“John wants it to be out here.” Peyton rolled her eyes as she gestured around the quad. “Everyone’s pretty much agreed to it. Figured we might as well while it’s still nice enough to, because before too long, we’ll be stuck inside.”

“All right. My class goes until three-fifty, so I’ll meet you here. Who else is—oof.”

“Oh shit, sorry! Wasn’t looking were I was going. Are you okay?” A strong hand wrapped around my arm above my elbow, steadying me.

I looked up and found myself staring into the clearest, greenest eyes I’d ever seen. I’d call them pretty if it wasn’t for the whole picture they were a part of. Messy brown mop of curls, high cheekbones, full lips that were turned down into a frown. No, pretty wasn’t the word I was thinking. Hot, sexy, breathtaking—those all fit.

“You okay?” he repeated.

Great, I was gaping at him like an idiot. I nodded and smiled. “Yeah, yeah, I’m fine. No worries.”

His frown transformed into a wide, bright grin, and there was the breathtaking. Damn.

“I’m glad.” He tilted his head and ran his gaze over me. “I haven’t seen you around. First year?”

I nodded, acutely aware of the warm weight of his hand still on my arm. Everything in me responded to his touch, and I breathed through it—the trembling, the heat swirling through my body, threatening to radiate outward—desperate to keep that reaction concealed, hoping he’d see nothing more than a shy girl gobsmacked in the presence of a hot guy. Which I was, but it was only a fraction of the story.

His fingers flexed, and he continued to smile at me. “I’m Maddock.”

“Delia,” I forced through numb lips.

“That fits—beautiful girl, beautiful name.”

Some shouting had him glancing over his shoulder. Relief and sadness warred within me when he let me go to wave at whoever had been trying to get his attention. I inhaled deeply and felt myself calm slightly. Until he faced me again, eyes crinkling as he smiled. Damn, that was cute.

“I have to go.” He actually sounded as if he regretted it. “I’d like to see you again, Delia. Come to the rally this afternoon.” He pressed a piece of paper into my hand, holding it firmly against my palm a moment. “Look for me after? Maybe we can get some coffee and get to know each other better.”

“I-I’d like that.”

“Me, too.”

He released my hand then, after a quick nod in Peyton’s direction and another flashing smile in mine, he walked away. I watched him go—I was only human, and he wore those jeans oh so well—until I was jolted from my thoughts by a rough nudge on my arm.

“Wow,” Peyton drawled, linking arms with me. “Hot, majorly hunky Maddock Roberts just asked you out.”

I snorted, eyes still on where he now stood talking with a group of people. “Not exactly.”

“Meeting for coffee after his rally? That’s a date, my friend.”

No, it was— Oh God…was it? My stomach fluttered. I looked down at the paper in my trembling hand, and the flutters morphed into full on spasms, driving out the nervous excitement. Bile threatened to choke me as I read the bold print across the top—Protect Our Students. Ban Magic Users From Campus!

“Hey, something wrong?” Peyton asked.

I crumpled the flyer and chucked it into a nearby trashcan, ignoring the flare of prickling heat inside me.

“No,” I croaked. “Just don’t want to be late for class. The prof’s a real stickler about being on time and all that.”

I pulled away from her and set a quick pace towards my destination.

“Delia, wait! What’s the matter?”

“Nothing! Promise. See you at study group!”

When I turned to smile and wave at her—because I didn’t need anyone to be suspicious of anything; I needed to be normal—I saw Maddock Roberts a few feet from her, frowning fiercely at me.

* * * *

I was late for class, anyway. But it was all good, because I’d lied—the professor didn’t give a shit. I’d had to duck into one of the bathrooms, lock myself into a stall and calm down. Showing up to class with my magic going crazy, my hair practically standing on end and energy flowing off me in waves, wasn’t the way to stay unnoticed.

My mother would flip a nut if she knew I’d nearly lost control. In a very public place, no less. Over a boy. An absolutely gorgeous boy, yes, but a boy just the same. Stupid, stupid Delia.

I reined it in, though, and made it through class without blowing anything up, so win for me. Wouldn’t be so much of a win if anyone asked me what the actual lecture was about as my mind had been thoroughly occupied by a cute guy who apparently hated what I was and, if he knew the truth, would probably rather see me dead than date me.

Such was my life.

Now, as I entered the quad, the first thing I noticed was the huge crowd of people occupying the center of the large space. Shit, the rally. I stopped abruptly, got jostled as people pushed past me to join the group. And in the middle of it all was none other than Maddock Roberts, standing on the platform of one of the hideous abstract sculptures scattered throughout campus. He was speaking, loudly, but I was too far away to hear anything clearly. I couldn’t pull my gaze away from him. Those flocked around him were just as enthralled as I was with whatever he was saying, with his earnest expression, his animated gestures. Good-looking, charming, charismatic—didn’t it just figure he was the enemy? Someone to avoid at all costs?

Why hadn’t I read the freaking flyer before I tossed it? I could have made my excuses to Peyton and avoided the quad altogether. I glanced around. Besides the rather huge gathering, people were scattered through the courtyard, but no sign or Peyton or John or any of the others I’d studied with before. Relief filled me. I could just cut through, head to the dorm, and escape. Just tell Peyton later I couldn’t find them in the chaos.

That plan in mind, I started across the quad, skirting around the gathered masses. I tried not to listen as I hurried past, but try as I might, snippets of Maddock’s speech reached me.

“Safety should be our number one priority…”

“…don’t advocate any violence towards magic users, but…”

“Magic is a disease that should be eradicated to keep…”

“…wouldn’t allow rabid animals to wander about campus, why should we allow magic users the privilege?”

I nearly fell over stopping as quickly as I did. I struggled to control my breathing as I turned toward where Maddock spoke. I fought back tears as I saw those surrounding me nodding along with the poison he spewed. Over the pounding of my heart, which echoed in my skull, his words penetrated and filled me with a fear I’d never felt before in my life.

“They are just as dangerous. Do you want to be in the company of someone who could suck the life out of you with a look just because you said something they didn’t agree with or took offense to?”

“They should be put down!”

Maddock shook his head at the shouted statement. “No, that’s not the answer; that’s not fair. This isn’t something any magic user asked for—what’s inside them is a defect of birth. What they are is no fault of their own. Any violence against them is inexcusable.” His hand slashed through the air. “My father is part of a team of researchers who have been working for years to develop a cure for this…abomination. A way to rid these innocent people of the sickness that eats away at them, that corrupts them. And they are close, so close, but until that great day arrives, those with magic need to be contained. Where they can go and what they can do has to be limited. They need to be watched and monitored. As sad as that is, it’s essential, for everyone’s safety. Including theirs.”

He looked out over the crowd, and his gaze landed on me. Of course it did, because I was just that screwed. His bright grin stole my breath, again—but for very different reasons this time.

“There are people up here,” he gestured to his right, “who are waiting to take your signatures on our petition to ban magic users from campus. Rest assured, we aren’t asking to take away anyone’s right to an education. As part of our plea, we’ve offered suggestions, options for students who have magic—online courses, courses offered at locations set aside solely for their kind. Please sign, and be a part of this important movement. Thank you.”

He jumped off the platform and started making his way through the throng—straight toward me. Magic skittering just beneath my skin, I spun around and moved as quickly as I could in the direction of the dorm, away from the hate and prejudice, away from him.

I breathed a sigh of relief as I exited the quad and started down the far less crowded pathway between buildings.

“Delia! Hey, wait up.”

Short of running away and making a spectacle—which was the last thing I needed, and my mom would kill me—there was nothing I could do except listen to the slap of his shoes on the pavement as he caught up to me. My short-legged walk, no matter how hurried, was no match for his long, running stride.

“Thought we were going to grab coffee,” he said, slightly out of breath. “The rally ran a bit longer than I thought. Sorry about that, but it was a great crowd, don’t you think?”

Hysterical laughter bubbled up, and I was powerless to stop its escape. I kept telling myself to just agree with him, make an excuse to get out of coffee and get the hell away from him, but I couldn’t form any words. Couldn’t do anything but laugh.

He grabbed my elbow, pulling me to a stop beside him. I jerked away.

“Don’t—” I cringed at the volume of that one word, and drew on all my strength to lower my voice and control myself. “Don’t touch me.”

Maddock frowned and held his hands up, palms facing me. “Okay, okay! I’m sorry.”

“Whatever.” I shook my head and backed up a step. “Just stay away from me.”

My chest ached at the hurt, confused expression on his face, and I had to repeat his words in my head to stand firm. Disease. Rabid animals. Abomination. As charming as he was, as much as his feelings may be hurt, he thought of me as an abomination. That was what I needed to remember, right now.

“I don’t understand,” he said slowly. “I thought earlier that we’d… What changed between then and now, Delia?”


Chapter Two >>>


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