Chapter 4

I didn't wake up to the sound of an alarm clock the next morning. I'd been dreaming. I remember the dream very vividly because of that thick and oily feeling in the air. I kept thinking something bad was going to happen, but all I could see was Tish. And Tish isn't dangerous. She couldn't be if she'd wanted to. She was standing at the end of a dark hair, looking into a mirror. Her reflection shot back at her, slightly distorted. My feet slowly whispered up behind her. She seemed so intent that I was sure I that one loud screech would scare her to death. I considered playing a trick on her when I got a good look at her reflection and froze mid-step.

It was Tish, all right, with her long dark hair and tiny build. She still had her Latino features. The only difference was the eyes. They glinted yellow. Hawkish. As I looked into the reflection, her features became beakish. Cruel. A shiver ran along the blades of my shoulders.

I took a soft intake of breath, gasping in surprise. She heard me and turned. My heart skipped a beat. Then her real eyes, not the reflection, cast a glance on me. I was about to cringe from their soft, golden glow, when I noticed that her eyes were normal. Her eyes were not the ones from the mirror.

She beckoned to me with an urgent hand. I started to move toward her when she took off down an adjoining corridor. I thought I heard her voice drifting back, telling me to come with her. I was scared. The corridor was dark and there was a misty, damp feeling coming down the hall. But I felt as though something was pulling me, too. I needed to go down the corridor. Tish wanted me to see something.

"Tish!" I called after her and plunged into the black corridor. The oily air coiled around me thickly. I found it hard to breath. My lungs were not accustomed to that extra weight. I slowed, not wanting to bump into anything. I reached my hand out to the side and my fingers brushed along locker doors. Every once and a while, my fingers would brush along a bump—they were the combination locks.

"Tish?" I called again.

Something cool brushed along the nape of my neck. I shuddered. There were icy fingers running along my back. The air shot into my lungs to compensate for my suddenly thundering heart. It beat like a drum within my breast.

I ran. The icy fingers didn't leave, but stayed with me as I tore down the hall. I thought I saw Tish in the distance and I ran harder. I was panting hard and after a dozen twisting hallways, the back of my throat began to burn with the constant chase. At least the fingers had disappeared from the back of my neck.

There was a small beam of light trickling down from a window overhead. Tish was standing in the light, beckoning me once more. Then she turned down another hallway. It took an extra burst of speed to catch up. She stopped, grinning and pointing at the mist that was creeping up from among the floorboards.

I took a deep breath and the corridor dissolved. We were sitting on the couch in my living room. Tish was speaking to me excitedly, insistently. She was almost yelling because I wasn't paying attention. My eyes focused on her.

"Look!" She called, caressing a large golden bow. "Isn't it beautiful?"

She slid her fingers along the delicately carved scroll work that covered the golden bow. I nodded mostly to calm her, but also because it was true. I couldn't help looking behind me every couple of minutes-almost as if I expected the icy fingers to creep up again.

I looked back at Tish again. She had notched an arrow into string and had pulled back a tanned arm. She seemed intent on burrowing that arrow into the living room wall. She said ever so casually, "You never should have summoned me."

I frowned. I hadn't summoned her. She'd always existed. "I didn't!"

She turned toward me. The arrow was aimed straight at my heart. Her voice became angry and fierce. Her eyes flashed gold. "How dare you summon me!"

I lifted up my hands as if I could ward off the arrow...or at least her temper tantrum. I watched in horror as Tisha's skin began to bubble. It was the most disgusting thing I'd ever seen in my life. It slid like plastic along her bones, some of it drooping slowly as though it wanted to fall to the floor. Her bones began to creak and reform. Her skin was translucent now, the blood pumping dark and red beneath. I screamed her name.

"Tish don't die!"

But Tish wasn't dying. She was changing into a tall, darkly handsome man. His hawk eyes held me, arresting me. He pulled back the string. "Now you will die, mortal!"

With ease and heartless precision, he let the arrow fly. I watched, transfixed, as the arrow spun toward me. It was as though the world had fallen into slow motion. I opened my mouth to scream, but the sound froze in my chest.

I awoke, sweating. My sheets were wrapped around me, damp and tangled. Stifling. The room was slowly brought into focus. I could see the outline of my bed and the glowing numbers on my alarm clock. Then other objects in my room began to present themselves before my blurry, sleepy dusted gaze. I took a deep breath. It's just dream, I told myself. I began to close my eyes, when they noticed movement.

There was a man standing over me, looking down. No, not man, I corrected. Only a few years older than myself. But that was impossible! He hadn't been there the moment before. No one can appear that fast. I opened my eyes a fraction of an inch. Just to reassure myself. There he was, examining my face. He watched me with flitting, curious eyes.

My heart thudded. There was a stranger in my house! In my room!

I didn't know what to do. I could feel panic welling up inside of me. Should I yell at him? Should I let him know that I'm awake? In my confusion, I studied him. He was definitely a good-looking burglar. He was tall and muscled with spiky brown hair and large brown eyes just a couple shades lighter than his hair. They were curious eyes, full of light. Not the trained and cruel gaze of the demon from my dream. His cheekbones were high and well-defined and he had a sensuous mouth. If I were to place him in a certain area of the world, I thought, I'd say he looks Greek.

I didn't care how good looking he was just then. he didn't belong here. He could be here to hurt me, I suddenly realized, swallowing sickly. Or he might be here to steal our possessions.

He turned from me to view the room. He moved up to the mirror, amused by his reflection. He tapped it and muttered curiously. I must have misheard him, because I thought he said, "Hard water."

He picked up a cup full of pencils from my desk and rattled it. He moved to inspect my keychain and the pictures on the wall. "Stolen souls," he muttered sadly.

If he was a burglar, he was definitely an insane one. He was spending more time amusing himself than looking for valuables. If I was in the mood to laugh, I would have said he was almost comical. But then again, I had just woken up from an extremely creepy nightmare. Not to mention the fact that there was now some stranger walking around my room uninvited. Now who exactly did he think he was?

Just now, he was staring at the pictures. He peered at them sadly, as if they were an unnecessary evil. Then he seemed to shrug it off. He turned and pulled the chair out from under my desk and gasped. He began rolling it back and forth as if it were some toy. He knelt to examine the bottom of the chair. He muttered, "Very small wheels."

I sat up slowly, careful to make sure that the bed didn't creak. The glowing numbers on my alarm clock told me it was 5:37 in the morning. Way too early to be up yet-according to my sleeping schedule, anyway. The alarm wouldn't ring for another hour or more.

I pulled the blanket back slowly and placed it at the end of the bed. I moved my feet over until they touched the soft grey carpet. The bed made a tiny groan beneath me. I froze. I needn't have. The boy wasn't paying one lick of attention to me.

I sat there for about five minutes, not knowing what I should do next. I should run for the door, I decided finally. I should call the police. But I didn't. I just that there in paralyzed exasperation as he began to unscrew the wheels from my chair and take them apart. Finally, I made a decision. Probably not the best decision, but a decision just the same. I couldn't just sit here and watch him take my chair apart. I would never be able to figure out how to put it back together again.

I stood and lunged at him. Yes, lunged. I realized belatedly that I was just wearing an oversized t-shirt and it didn't quite reach my knees. I only hoped it wouldn't ride up when I knocked him flat. It was strange to think that I could get embarrassed at a time like this.

He was already kneeling, so when I jumped on him, he easily fell to the ground under my slight weight. I held my knee to the small of his back and did my best to sound tough. "I don't know how you got in here," I snapped, "but you're leaving without any of our possessions or I'm calling the police!"

He bucked me off and I fell to the side, unhurt. He hadn't been trying to hurt me. He just wanted me to get off of him. One thing was very clear. He was a strong guy.

He stood, annoyed. "I don't like being knocked down," he informed me as though we were talking about the weather.

I stood with what dignity I had left.

"Get out!" I hissed. "I don't know who you are, but get out of my house now!"

He looked down at me and I was painfully aware of how little I was wearing. I grabbed a pair of grungies off the floor and slipped them on.

"Are you Gabrielle Taylor?" He asked.

I froze. I was sure I'd never seen him before. So how did he... "How did you know that?"

He viewed me for a long moment and nodded to himself. "I suspected so," he said mildly. "You have no idea who I am. I knew it had to be an accident. I haven't been called in a long time."

I couldn't help but frown and say, "What?" I continued on before he could respond. "I didn't call you! I don't even know you!"

"That's what I'm trying to explain!" He said impatiently. He sat down on the chair. It tilted to the side with the missing wheel.

"I expect you to fix that," I informed him.

He ignored me. He knelt down and put the wheel back the way it should be. I had the feeling he wasn't obeying me-only his discomfort. It annoyed me. After all, he was an intruder in my house.

And why was I just standing here, ordering him around? Shouldn't I be calling the police? I took a step toward the door, my sanity finally coming back to me.

He stood suddenly, brushing his hands with satisfaction. He looked very pleased with himself. "Now will you let me explain?"

I don't know why I let him. For all I knew he could be some psycho murdering freak. But he didn't strike me as one. Just a curious nutcase with an extremely hot bod. Yeah, I was attracted to him. I admit it. Who wouldn't be?

I sat down on the edge of my bed. "Okay. Explain."

"I'm here to find your true love," the crazy boy said. "You look to be about the right age to be getting married. You're sixteen, aren't you?"

I choked. "Excuse me? Married?"

"Yes. Maidens your age would be looking for a good match."

I threw my pillow at him. It probably wasn't the best reaction, but come on! And what would you have done if you were in my place. It was the only thing I could think of at the moment. I mean, what the heck was this guy on?

He batted it out of the way.

It seemed almost comical that this guy had come out of nowhere the day after Tish had used the summoning spell. What a joke, huh? How much crazier can coincidence get?

"Aren't you listening to me?" A look of irritation crossed his face. "I'm trying to do you a service and all you can do is throw things at me?"

"People my age don't get married!" I snapped. Yes, I do snap when I get scared-it's an automatic reaction. I felt the panic beginning to well up in me again. "You're from one of those freaky cults, aren't you? If you try to kidnap me, I'll scream."

He lifted his hands to his ears in anticipation. "I really hope you don't. I may not be human, but my ears work just as well. Better, in fact."

I was at the end of my tether. Who did this guy think he was, coming in here and telling me that he would marry me off? I hadn't even had my first kiss yet.

I stood and pointed to the door. "Get out!"

He stood, his face inches from mine. His eyes flashed angrily. "Fine! I've had it with you! You stupid mortals don't know when to take some help!"

"And what do you think you are?" I replied smartly. "You think you're some kind of God?"

"Yes," he replied. "At least. I'm a demigod."

I snorted. "I don't care what you believe. Just keep away from me and my house. If I find you here again, I'll call the pol-"

I stopped mid-sentence because he said something that took my breath away. He said, "I'm Cupid."