By West Thornhill
Sera peeked around a large, fragrant lilac bush planted along the pathway of the Hadley garden. This was the first day since they’d gotten back from Annodox Island she’d had to herself. Between studying, prom committee, and work, she hadn’t had time to think about the marmaro Loic had given her, much less attempt to astral project again.
So, here she stood feeling like a thief in the middle of a bright sunny afternoon. It wasn’t like she had to ask permission to be there. Tore and Sven had given all of them carte blanche with the garden. She knew Jute and Alchemy were out at the farm with Cotton and Agave. Tore and Sven were at the market. Keenan was in the Grove with Kane. And she was alone at the Hadley house.
Taking a deep breath and remonstrating with herself, she stepped around the bush only to scream when she walked into Amyntas. He grabbed her shoulders before she fell backwards and landed on the smooth pavers of the path.
“Hello, Angel,” he smiled. His eyes sparkled with glee.
Sera smacked his arm. “Amyntas, that’s not funny.”
He shrugged. “Yeah, it kind of was.” She narrowed her eyes at him about to let loose when he held up his hand. “I’m sorry. But it was still funny.”
“You are a bad, bad Gaea.” Sera couldn’t help but laugh. She couldn’t count all the times he’d snuck up on her. But each and every time had been important. She looped her arm with his as they walked toward the gazebo. “What words of wisdom do you have to impart, oh great Gazoo?”
Amyntas raised a shaggy eyebrow before chuckling and settling himself down in a perfect lotus position. He held out a hand. “Let’s see what you’ve brought with you today.”
She handed him the book she carried in her hands, but he gave a look letting her know she had something in her pocket. Biting her lip, she eased the small leather pouch out of her pocket and placed it in his hand. She sat, facing him, in the same position and waited.
“Luck in the Shadows. Good book. It’s about time you got around to reading it.” He handed it back to her with a wink. He’d given it to her a few years ago. His face became unreadable as he carefully weighed the pouch in his hand. “This must be used carefully and with reverence. Loic was correct when he said it would help. Just be careful. The Annos this belonged to was very powerful in her time.”
Sera wasn’t exactly sure what to do or say when he handed it back to her. “Loic also said to keep the adults from discovering it.”
“Yes. Keeping it away from any of the local Armors would be a good idea.” He nodded. “Trust Loic. He may be the only one who can help you rescue Kaz and Quinn.”
She blinked and wanted to ask what Amyntas knew. But her thoughts scattered into a million pieces.
He patted her knee. “Just be careful.” He stood and was gone as suddenly as he’d appeared.
The leather pouch felt heavy in her hand. She gingerly opened it. The marmaro was completely unlike any she had ever seen. It seemed alive as various shades of blue and green swirled around each other.
Before she could think, she was whisked away and found herself standing in the Grove behind the knotty tree hovering over the large flat stone everyone seemed to migrate toward. She could see Keenan and Kane standing close, heads together discussing something in Kane’s hand.
Sera closed her eyes and pressed a hand against the tree. When she opened them again, she was back in the gazebo. “Huh, I might not want to do this alone.”
Her hands were shaking when she put the stone back into the pouch and pulled the strings to draw it closed. Pushing to her feet, she walked over to one of the loungers and flopped down. While she wanted to figure out how this particular marmaro worked, she didn’t want to get trapped or lost anywhere without anyone knowing what was going on.
She picked up her book and opened to page she’d marked. She would just read until the others got back. Then she and Alchemy could raid Hyacinth’s closet for dresses to wear to prom.
* * *
Keenan hurried through a shower after spending his day getting his ass handed to him by Kane. At least he didn’t feel like one giant bruise like he did after a day with Loic.
“Wow, little brother, you’re looking mighty ripped these days.”
Keenan stopped toweling his hair dry at the sound of his sister’s voice. “Tara, what are you doing in here?” The towel hiding his face helped some, but it was a relief to pat his hip and feel it covered by cotton.
Her laugh filled the room. “Yes, Kee, you have on quite an interesting pair of boxer briefs.”
“They were a gift from Sorcha and Bowie. You’ll need to ask mom about letting them shop online.” He snapped the waist of his Superhero Aussiebum briefs. “You still haven’t answered the question.” He walked into his closet.
He heard Tara shifting around on his bed. “We haven’t seen you much in the last few weeks. Just wanted to check in and see how everything is going. How’s Sera?”
He pressed a hand to his stomach when it clenched in guilt. He poked his head out. “I’m sorry. Things have just been kind of crazy. And Sera is great.” Keenan quickly pulled on a pair of cargo shorts and grabbed a T-shirt out of a drawer.
When he walked out, pulling the shirt over his head, Tara was sitting on the edge of the mattress chewing on a well-worn nail. “T, what’s wrong?”
He watched her shoulders jerk when she sucked in a deep breath. “Have you talked to Quinn?”
“Not recently.” Keenan’s heartbeat kicked up and he had to force himself to keep from gasping. “Why?”
“I don’t know.” She shook her head. “I keep getting this feeling that something is wrong. Something bad.”
Keenan sat beside her and draped an arm across her shoulders. “I’m sure Quinn’s okay.” The lie made his chest hurt. “Besides, you know, he’s kind of a scary firestarter dude.”
Tara snorted. “Yeah, and he’s with Kaz. Together they are pretty strong.” She turned and smiled at him. “You’re probably right. They’re both fine.” She hugged him. “But if you know anything and don’t share with me, I am going to hurt you,” she whispered in his ear.
“You know for a Perceptive you’re really scary yourself.”
“And don’t forget that I know all of your secrets.” She grinned as she stood and walked out of the room.
Keenan felt a weight settle over his shoulders. Tara was going to kill him when she found out the truth. All he could do was hope his mom would protect him.
His phone vibrated on the nightstand.
Where are you?
“Damn, damn, damn, I’m late.” He quickly texted Sera back that he was on his way, slid his feet into a battered pair of Vans and took off out the door. But the sense of foreboding refused to let go.