Spencer didn't laugh. Her jaw dropped. It was funny to see, there was little I did that surprised her. Except when I said inappropriate things, which happened so often it was reason for serious embarrassment.
Spence sat on her squeaky desk chair, hands between her knees, eyes fixed on my hair.
"Cami," she breathed.
"That's my name."
I pursed my lips feeling a little uncomfortable. Spencer's spaghetti hair, as she'd dubbed it, was caught in a low-hanging pony tail, which told me she'd been cleaning her room before I arrived. Her chestnut hair was always loose unless she had to clean or run track.
"Cami," she repeated, making me squirm on the edge of her bed. "Oh my God. It looks... You look... Hot." My eyebrows jumped six feet. Many words came to mind to describe my newly colored hair. Hot... was not one of them. "Seriously, okay? It looks hot. The red hair totally makes your blue eyes pop. You look super exotic."
"Yeah, they look like big doll eyes." Her eyes squinted. I got the feeling she wanted to hit me upside the head. "Creepy doll eyes." I muttered anyway.
"You're such an idiot! I love it. There's no way I'm letting you change it back." Luckily for me, she didn't have a say in it, since it should wear off after tonight. "Why did you dye it if you thought it would look stupid?"
I shrugged meekly, having no answer besides: spell gone wrong. Shaking her head, Spencer swiped the make-up kit off the polished vanity. Smiling widely, she waved it at me. She loved doing my make-up. Knowing not to fight her on it, I let her. Halfway through working on my eyes, Spence groaned.
"Mom borrowed my black pencil. Again. Hold on," she slid off the bed, marching outside her bedroom.
I craned my neck to the side, earning a satisfying crack. Standing still for so long was tiring. The rustling of leaves caught my ears. Outside Spencer's bedroom window was a large oak tree, the leaves shivered again and when I looked, I saw a bird perched there.
A breath left me slowly.
It wasn't just any bird. A crow. And the creepy thing was, it was looking at me. Or it looked like it was. The crow was big, bigger than any other I'd ever seen. It kept its wings tucked close. Its head tilted as I blinked, as if it were questioning me. Heart beating a tad faster, I felt something stir. Something unfamiliar. Yet, welcoming. The same feeling from before, when I left my house.
Feeling stupid as hell, I edged off my best friend's bed, going over to the windowsill. I bent a little to see the bird. It didn't look away or move. It kept its gaze strictly on me. Crows' eyes were black, like most animals, I guessed. But these eyes... There was something shiny about them. Like they radiated with a... a blueish light?
I lifted a hand, a small, incomprehensible smile tugging at my mouth.
"Hi bird," its head seemed to bow. I chuckled.
Just as I leaned in, closer to the window pane, its wings flew open as it cawed loudly. I stumbled back, almost toppling on my ass. I gripped Spencer's desk for support watching as the bird beat its wings two more times before taking off. My heart hammered quickly, my breathing came in short lungful's. Pressing a hand over my chest, I struggled to get a grip. God, that had been scary. And how lame was I for fearing a bird? I was a Witch. A Witch with no inclining for Magic, as far as I could tell, but still. Kind of humiliating.
When Spencer came in, twirling the pencil between her long fingers, I probably looked like I'd gotten the ever-loving crap scared out of me. She stopped at the door frowning, regarding me.
"What's wrong? You look like you just saw a ghost."
"A bird... spooked me." Her eyebrows sunk deeper with confusion. I pointed at the now empty branch. "It was a crow. It was huge! It was just there, watching."
"Okay..." I could hear the silently implied 'weirdo'. "Let's finish up your make-up. You still have to help me!"
Nodding, I went back to sitting still like a mannequin, letting Spencer have her fun. All the while thinking about that crow and the way its stare seemed alive, intelligent and searing.
Getting inside Kevin's lake house was hard work. Everyone was barreling for the door, shoulders knocking every second, elbows stabbing sides... Sheesh. Didn't these people know what a line was? Rolling my eyes, I avoided everyone's stares. Since this was a small town, people knew each other well, even if it was just by sight. So, obviously, people kept looking at my bright hair. It was a definite change from plain old brown. And despite Spencer's several compliments, I still didn't feel confident about pulling it off.
Finally, we managed to squeeze in. Inside, music was blaring. My eardrums shook from the booming. People were dancing in the living room, some had red cups sloshing with beer. Other people were just sitting on the couch smoking pot. A blond guy with a big goofy grin was sitting on an armchair, taking a drag of a joint. That was Kevin. Big brown eyes rimmed red looked up, meeting mine. I waved, smiling shyly, once I saw Kevin's eyes widening. He gave me a thumbs up.
"Told you it looked hot. You have to stop doubting my taste!" Spencer whispered over the music, hanging on my shoulder. "Come on, let's go outback! I saw Jimmy going..."
Her voice faded out as she pulled me into the sea of sweaty dancers. Jimmy was the guy Spencer had set her sights on since last summer; the two of them had been going out on a regular basis. He seemed like a good one, I bet he'd told her about the party today. Them being here together meant I was going to play third wheel, though. I was so not down with that.
I pulled Spencer's hand, tugging her close so she could hear me, but she beat me to it. Her eyes focused on the other side of the living room, beyond the thrall of people, close to where a white set of stairs were.
She let out a breathy sigh.
"Lookie what I found." She jutted her chin with zero discretion, whistling a sharp sound through her teeth. I elbowed her, which only powered her humongous grin. I wanted to throat-punch Jimmy for teaching her that annoying whistle. "He's looking over here, Cami. At you!" She giggled at my stupor once I locked eyes with the boy she was ogling.
The first thing I noticed were the eyes, they were beautiful. Icy blue eyes that stunned me into a strange paralysis from across the way separating us. When I swallowed a lump and broke the strange spell, I saw his hair was black even under the tall lamp he was standing nearby; it was wavy reaching his ears, where it curled.
"You know, there's a time limit for staring. You're way past it. Now you're walking into creeper territory." Spencer pointed out.
I barely listened. It wasn't like I couldn't look away because he was so damn gorgeous, it was more than looks. That same pull was back, the one from the afternoon with the... The stranger's head tilted in a bird-like fashion. Just like the crow had.
A thought emerged from the depths of my subconscious. From the Witchy part. Could he be...? Nah, I was imagining things. I forced myself to look at Spence, who was trying not to look at Blue Eyes. And failing miserably. I caught her checking out his chest as he crossed his arms; the forearm muscles swelled under the black sweater, filling it out nicely. Okay, so maybe I was checking out the poor guy too.
"Hey," I tugged her. "Jimmy?" I forced over the music.
Eyes snapping to the backdoor exit, she nodded, turning to go. I followed behind avoiding looking to the side, where mystery guy was... I faltered a step, knocking into a girl. A flash of Californian highlights and the musical note tattoo on her shoulder told me it was Grace. She sat across from me in Bio. She let out a loud curse as beer splashed her top.
"Sorry!" I yelled. "This guy..." Words failed as I looked at the guy who'd blocked my path. He was tall, towering over me. Which didn't mean a lot; I was five foot tall. What caused a chill down my spine was the golden in his eyes. It sparkled with mischief. Not to mention he was wearing a dark shirt with dark jeans and black boots. All of it made his gelid skin and blond hair stick out, reminding me of a corpse.
"You ruined my shirt!" Grace slapped my shoulder, clearly angry. It didn't help that her breath already smelled like stale alcohol. "You're going to buy me a new... Hey! Hands off!" She trailed off once the blond guy grabbed her arm.
Grace scoffed, "Yeah, that's not going to fix my shirt..."
Grace jerked with a start, then choked. My heart skipped a beat as I watched the man's eyes glow. Crap. This tingly sensation in the air, the shimmering eyes... He was a Warlock. And he was using Magic on Grace. There was a minute where I thought Grace was going to puke all over the place, then, she fell.
Things happened too quickly for me to understand. One minute, I was standing, horrified at the sight of Grace's body spasming as she coughed up, getting blood all over Kevin's floor. The next instant, I was grabbed-snatched away by a strong hand. Throwing quick glimpses behind me, I saw the Warlock was tagging behind us, knocking several people out of the way. Like he was on a freaking warpath. Oh God. People were panicking now; they moved to the place where I'd stood, where Grace was huddled. Screaming filled the air, winning over the loud song.
Fresh air hit me. I snapped forward. We were outside, we'd come out through the back door. Me and... I looked up, at the person still tugging me, making me run like mad. He threw a glance over a broad shoulder.
It was Blue Eyes.
"Keep going," he jerked to a stop but swung me forward, ahead of him. I never knew my reflexes could be lightning quick, but right before I played kissy face with the ground, my hands shot out, breaking the fall. A light sting buzzed from my left hand and up my arm. Wincing, I turned over the palm seeing a superficial gash. "What are you doing? Haul your ass outta' here!" Blue Eyes barked.
Something guttural carried along with his voice. Almost animalistic. I found out why once the boy who'd pulled me from the house and told me to leave changed into something else altogether. His spine curved forward, the broad shoulders hunched as he bent until his hands touched the lush grass. Clothes faded out, replaced by fur, and his entire body morphed into another shape. A very big dog. Honestly, it looked more like a wolf.
He was a Familiar. There were no other options. In this world, there were two types of freaks: Witches and Familiars. Familiars were like our partners. Usually, only powerful Witches had one.
The deranged Warlock stepped up. The giant dog with long dark fur bared his teeth, growling. It was then that I noticed a handful of people outside, gawking, mouths hanging open in pure shock. Among them, I saw Spencer. She was hanging on Jimmy's arm, looking worriedly at me. I had no idea what was happening, who these people were, but I got the memo that it was nothing good. He'd made a girl spew blood! Christ, was she alright? Had someone called 911?
"Surrender yourself to me and I won't kill anyone else." Kill anyone...? Fear chilled my veins as reality set in. The screams from inside were louder, no, the music had stopped. More people rushed in. "I'll even spare your Familiar. No matter how annoying he's being, or how much I'd love to break his neck."
"My Familiar...?" I stuttered, fingers curling inward. "You're crazy. He's not mine, I've never seen him. I... I..." I was totally babbling things I shouldn't in front of regular peeps. Spence being one of them. "I have no idea what you're talking about!" I screamed and it wasn't a lie. This dude was insane.
A crooked smile shaped his lips. A heartbeat later, the people who'd remained outside collapsed on their knees, grabbing their heads, howling in pain.
"I don't mind you playing games. It makes things more fun for me."
The wolf pounced, his open jaw aiming for the jugular. Again, I knew more about different types of coffee beans than I did about Magic or anything linked to it, including Familiar lore. I was totes surprised when the Familiar was able to carve his teeth on the Warlock's shoulder. Why hadn't the guy used Magic to protect himself? Instead, he'd cursed and tried dodging the attack.
I didn't understand.
The impact sent the man down. The massive dog planted a paw on the other shoulder while still tearing into flesh. The guy let out a heavy groan, arching underneath the Familiar's weight. Suddenly, a yell tore my concentration from the bloody battle. My sights turned to where Spencer was. She was convulsing. And she wasn't the only one. Jimmy and two other football players from our high school team were on the ground having seizures.
I felt my heart kick into overdrive. The Warlock was very powerful. He was being attacked and still he kept some control over his spell. Or hex. Whatever he was doing.
"Stop," I said, shaking. To my surprise, the Familiar halted and turned his head back, eyeing me with unmistakable blue eyes. A pit in my stomach twisted. His muzzle was bloody, so were his sharp teeth. "You'll kill them! Stop."
The Warlock laid on the ground, conscious. The grass around his right shoulder was tainted with red liquid that glinted underneath the moon's silvery rays and artificial lights. His eyes were so cold they seemed deadly, staring up at me. How I was still holding myself up, on shaky legs, was beyond me.
With a ragged tone, he said, "Turn yourself over and they'll live."
"What do you mean? Who are you?"
A bark of laughter later, fear escalated as Spencer screamed bloody murder and blood pooled under her eyes. A maddening feeling whirled through me, twisting emotions into powerful weapons and feeding a force... I'd never felt this, not on this level. My eyes slipped closed for seconds, energy rushed underneath my skin, pulsing for release. It was a warm sensation that enveloped me wholly, as if it were part of me and wanted nothing more than to help.
Stop this, I whispered in my mind, feeling the force swirl in approval. My head tipped back as a breathy sigh escaped. My eyes flew open. It was then that I saw... God, it couldn't be. But... But it was! My feet hovered inches above the ground.
I was levitating.
"I gave you a chance to stop." A voice I recognized as my own boomed, sounding impossibly loud in my ears, causing them to buzz. I hadn't even thought about saying those words.
It was like watching a show from inside my body, like someone else was operating it. I threw out my right hand at the man below me; his face began contorting. The pain was worse than when Blue Eyes tore into skin, muscle and tendons. The warm force was racing down my arm and hand, jumping from the tips of my fingers, causing this Warlock's pain. It didn't take long before the man's snow skin turned shades of pink, like he was being cooked in a frying pan. Trickles of blood dripped from his ears, from his eyes.
He writhed as the white of his eyes turned crimson. As life was snuffed out, he uttered in barely audible words, "...y-you... are th-the one..." Then he stopped. Stopped fighting my force. Stopped heaving for breath. His lips remained parted, not moving another inch.
I didn't have time to understand what it meant, what had just happened or why people were glaring at me. Because I found myself tipping backwards and falling into an ocean of blackness.