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Welcome to Callaire, a town of shifters, magic, and secrets.
Reeling from the battle with Discordia – the incarnation of chaos, an invincible creature - Yasmin and her Legendary family search for answers. Who is Discordia? Why are they stealing power? And where have they taken the girl Yasmin loves? Yasmin will do anything to get Fray back, even if it means unleashing the violent beast beneath her human skin.
Fray has been kidnapped and taken to an impossible place that is slowly changing her. Her captors are monsters with venom in their teeth and bloody hands, and they want to use Fray to win a war. But armed with a terrifying and empowering new ability, Fray will die before she becomes their pawn.
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The monsters come for me three minutes and twelve seconds after Yasmin leaves. I know the exact time because I’m watching the second hand jump from spoke to spoke of the yellowed clock face, waiting for her to return.
My heart leaps into my throat when the front door slams open, the noise crashing down the hallway. The only person who uses that door is my uncle but he’d never kick it open. A whimper catches the back of my throat.
Seconds tick by and I’m glued to the spot, frozen by panic.
In the next room a cabinet collides with the floor, the one with my mother’s rare vases on it. The moment I hear the vases shatter, my lungs feel fatally starved of air. I want to scream for Yasmin but she left minutes ago. She won’t hear.
I’m on my own.
Feet stomp though the living room and into my hallway. I hear a voice as rough as sandpaper spit a word in a foreign language and that finally bursts the fright holding me still. I fall into movement. Niall is upstairs, passed out in the guest room, but I can’t go to him—the intruder is out in the hallway. If I went out there, we’d both end up hurt. Or dead. If I get away I can find Yasmin and the Red. They’ll know what to do. They’ll protect Niall better than I can.
Acting on pure impulse, I slip my feet into shoes lined up by the door, pull the glass patio doors apart, and sprint across the garden into Almery Wood. An instant chill slips through my flimsy cardigan as it trails through the air behind me. Leaving my friend behind puts tears in my eyes but I blink them away. I’ll come back, I promise him, I’ll come back Niall, I swear.
Ice has made the wood treacherous. My pumps slipping on the trail, I grab onto a desperate idea. I don’t know how Yasmin heard my voice before I knew her, when I never meant to speak, but if it worked by accident it has to work intentionally. I’ve spoken to her, mind to mind, so many times—even if I never made the first move.
Yasmin! I scream in my head.
Her name rattles around my head, loud and aching, but I can’t tell the difference between talking to my girlfriend and shouting at myself. I fight to stay on my feet for an endless minute, the wood whipping past me, frozen branches cracking underfoot. My breath is visible as bursts of silver cloud with every pant that rushes from me. And no reply comes.
I howl Yasmin’s name repeatedly, but still there’s no connection, no response. The silence in my head makes the noise around me starker. Every little sound is threatening. Every dip of the branches is a Numen’s claw reaching for me.
My feet skid across a patch of solid water and I drop into a sharp tangle of shrubs face-first, skinning my hands and knees. Pain sinks its teeth into my right wrist, stealing a muffled cry from between clenched teeth. Throwing a frenzied look behind me, I scrape myself off the floor. Harsh knives of cold lance through my arms and legs. It takes three attempts to get my legs beneath me and all my will power to keep the tears pooled in my eyes and not down my cheeks.
Somewhere behind me a twig snaps. I spin, barely keeping my footing. What I see wrings a sob from my lips. Standing in the frame of two trees is a man, taller than any human should be. He’s at least seven and a half feet tall. And watching me.
I throw myself back onto the trail and run with everything I have.
The skeletal branches above me become denser the nearer I get to the heart of Almery and I allow myself a shred of relief despite the sounds of pursuit getting closer. I’m nearing the pool, where the trail forks in three directions. Right will take me near Yasmin’s flat, left to Callaire East, and straight forward to Den Vale—to my aunt and uncle’s village. Two trails will take me to safety.
The dark canopy releases me and I swerve right, sloshing through the shallow stream to Yasmin. I’ll escape Almery, run to her flat, and when I find her we can go to the Academy. We’ll be safe there and they’ll come back with me to get Niall.
Made braver by the barest plan, I look over my shoulder to see how close the man is. But I’m alone on the path. Maybe he couldn’t cross the water? Not daring to question my luck for a second, I barrel down the slope towards safety. I must be coming to the other side of Almery but the trees should have grown sparser half a minute back. What if I’m lost?
I skid to a stop, flattening myself against a thick tree trunk, and I scream for Yasmin in my mind. My head pulses with the effort, which should mean it’s working. Magic and miracles take pain, don’t they? But still I hear no reply. Wouldn’t she respond if she could hear me?
I cover my mouth with shaking fingers, trapping the cries inside. This is hopeless. At some point I’ve come off the trail and now I have no sure direction. And there’s no way to cry for help without drawing the man stalking me. Yasmin’s name echoes around my head. I push it out, into a void I must be imagining, praying some kind of Psychic satellite will pick me up. The situation might be hopeless but I’m too stubborn to give up.
I think of Yasmin, urging myself to be strong. Yasmin would be brave. She’d find her way to safety without the trail.
I brush tears from my cheeks, furious they’re even there. I wish Yasmin was here. I’d feel so much safer with her beside me. I’d feel invincible. I picture the way she looks at me, like I’m a miracle. She makes me feel like a miracle, something I never thought possible, not with the funeral shroud of abandonment and resentment that wrapped around me when my mother left, choosing my perfect older sister over me. But lately I’ve felt different, like I could be important after all. Like I could be worth something.
If I really am the girl Yasmin sees, I could be invincible. I could do this. I massage the stiffness from my wrist, though it does nothing for the pain, and straighten my shoulders. I’m not Legendary but I can find my way again. I’ve read more than a few articles on wilderness survival. All I have to do is trace my footprints back to the pool, and from there I can take the right trail and stay on it this time. Simple.
I step outside the cover of the sprawling tree--
A cold hand closes around my arm. I’m whirled around to face the tall man who chased me. My vision wavers. He has two heads. How can he have two heads? I blink until the image resolves into two people. The impossibly tall man and a woman I’ve never seen—silver haired, wrinkled, wearing an emerald robe and a wicked smile. At first glance she’s a kind grandmother. At second, she’s menacing and blood-stained. I jerk away on instinct but the man’s fingers circle my elbow, bruising.
The pain cuts through my dizziness, gifts me clarity, and anger rears its head. I was ready. I was going to rescue myself.
I still am.
I struggle madly against the hold on me, making weapons of my elbows, venom of my spit.
“Sedate her,” the woman hisses. Her voice is nothing like a grandmother’s.
The man bares his teeth, each white and pointed. “What do you think I’m doing?” He dips his head and now all I see is the hazy wood around me, trees as tall as houses, and the old woman with her cruel smile and—bloody hands.
Yasmin! I yell with heightened distress. They’re going to kill me! Yasmin!
A sting spreads through my neck, just below my jaw, like a paper cut. It builds into searing, molten suffering. My thoughts are empty and redundant, so I open my mouth and howl. “Yasmin! Yasmin!”
The tall man steps away from me, wiping blood from his mouth. My blood.
His savage face is the last thing I see before Almery tilts and blackens.