Did you know that this new book is scheduled to come out on May 17th? Ever wonder about the Fae and how they interact with humans? What happens to the offspring of fae/human relationships? In a small town located in Montana is a very special private school for halflings.
Both sets of students dragged their feet as much as they could when it came to moving in together. The idea of being pushed together to work on their skills while giving up the break all the other students were enjoying was frustrating enough. Having to live in the same small space meant not even enjoying the relief of a break from each other when they were sleeping or relaxing at the end of the day. They were forced to be together, forced to deal with each other from the moment they opened their eyes in the morning until they closed them again at night. And technically even the time in between. The thought was intolerable.
But they could only resist the commands of the principal for so long. Living together was part of being a group. The more time they spent with each other, the better chances they had of getting along. Even if they never learned to actually like each other, they would learn to cooperate. They could mesh their skills and abilities, increasing their powers to strengthen and improve each other. None of them had believed that was going to happen, but they hadn’t been given a choice. What Principal Elmhurst wanted, she got. It had only been a matter of time before they were ejected from their existing rooms and wedged into new ones with each other.
And that time had come.
Luna surveyed the room. She’d arrived first, which meant it was her choice which bed she wanted to claim for her own. It was an important decision. This would be the only space she’d be able to call hers for the rest of her time at the academy. Two more years. Or until Elmhurst had another idea and moved them again.
Luna considered each of the two beds. They were positioned in opposite corners, which at least provided some semblance of separation between them. It wasn’t exactly privacy, but it was something.
Finally, she decided on the bed tucked into the corner next to a window with a view of the grounds beyond the heavy curtains, and it was on the other side of the room from the door to the hallway. It would be less noisy and give her more of a feeling of her own area. She set her trunk on the floor beside the bed and lifted the lid. No sooner had she reached in to take out her pajamas than the door to the room slammed open and stomping footsteps announced the arrival of her reluctant new roommate.
“Who says you get that bed?” Vivi immediately demanded.
“Hello to you, too,” Luna said.
“That’s the bed I want,” the Unseelie fae said. “You’re going to have to move to the other one.”
Luna scoffed. “No. I was the first one to get here, which means I got to choose the bed I want. This one’s mine.”
“I don’t care if you were the first one here. That’s the bed I want,” Vivi said, her voice creeping up louder.
“Again, no,” Luna said.
Vivi tossed her bag onto the other bed and pushed her trunk up against the side of the bed with her foot. She eyed Luna’s trunk, and a vicious smile curled her lips up. Focusing her magic on the clothes stacked inside, she shifted them around until she found what she was looking for.
“Here,” she said, “let me help you unpack, Roomie.”
She lifted the pairs of neatly folded underwear from the trunk and made them float over Luna’s head. They unfolded and puffed out in the air, looking like the sails of a ship. Luna let out an infuriated cry.
“Stop that!” She reached up to grab them, but Vivi lifted them higher. “What in Buddha’s name is wrong with you?”
“I’m just curious. Has anyone even ever seen these things? I doubt it. Why would you want to show off dingy briefs? I guess this is all the proof I need that you aren’t getting any play from anyone.”
“Tell me, Vivi. Do you have to distribute numbered tickets for access to yours? Like at a deli counter? Now serving…”
The girls dissolved into a fierce argument, tearing into each other until the door opened again.
“Hey! Stop it, the two of you,” Zander shouted over their voices. “You’ve only lived together for ten minutes, and you’re already on the brink of killing each other. This is ridiculous. At least try to get along. Vivi, put Luna’s underwear down. Luna, stop making fun of Vivi. This is a seriously uncomfortable conversation for me, so I’d appreciate it if you just went ahead and cooperated. It’s going to be better for everyone if you at least put a little bit of effort into co-existing with each other.”
“So, does this mean all is fantastic over at the House of Zander and Carson?” Vivi snipped.
“Why does he get to come first in the title? You know, alphabetical order is the most widely accepted method of categorization in lists, and according to that standard, I would come first, making it the House of Carson and Zander,” Carson said, appearing at the door.
No one could tell if he was joking or being serious, but it didn’t matter. He strode into the room and approached Vivi. Though he tried not to let it show, his growing feelings for her would be obvious when he looked at her. The last thing the group needed was the additional tension if she rejected his crush on her.
“Vivi, Principal Elmhurst is looking for you. She wants you to go to her office before practice this afternoon,” Carson said.
“Why? What’s going on?” Vivi asked.
“Do you have a whole lot of time for me to make a list for you?” Luna crossed her arms over her chest.
Zander muffled a laugh and walked across the room to offer his help unpacking. “Be nice,” he murmured to her.
“Why?” Luna asked.
“I don’t need her to be nice,” Vivi said, tossing one last rude comment to them before sweeping out of the room with Carson.
She hated seeing the way Luna associated with Zander. They were so comfortable with each other. He spoke to her easily, and she was able to laugh and smile with him without the uncertainty and uneasiness Vivi felt when she was near him. They didn’t seem to have a spark of interest between them, but their close friendship made Vivi seethe with jealousy.
Carson strode beside her as she made her way to the principal’s dark, imposing office at the front of the school. He lingered until she knocked on the door and Elmhurst called out for her to come inside. She glanced at Carson for an instant before going in.
“You wanted to see me?” Vivi asked.
“Your father wants you to call him,” Principal Elmhurst said, without even a greeting.
“All right. I’ll call when I finish practice this afternoon.”
“Now. He says it’s important that he speak to you as soon as possible,” the principal said.
Vivi’s heart jumped a little, and she swallowed hard and nodded. Elmhurst directed her to the small alcove at the side of the office containing the only phone available for student use. She picked it up and dialed her father’s number. The ringing buzzed in her chest. He let it ring longer than usual, and Vivi knew it was on purpose. Each ring increased her anxiety and reminded her of the control he had over her.
“Hello?” he answered.
“Hi, Dad,” she said.
It only took those two words to start his onslaught. “What is wrong with you?” he demanded.
“What do you mean?” she asked.
“I’ve heard of your antics. I know what you’ve been doing during the time you should be spending studying at that expensive school. I didn’t send you there so you could torment your fellow students and make a fool of yourself. Don’t forget who you are and what you are supposed to achieve. Only excellence matters. Your grades are abominable, and I believe I have been extremely understanding and patient with you. No more, Vivi. Do you understand me? I’m tired of hearing about your mistakes and failures. If you don’t get your act together, I won’t be seeing you at Christmas,” he growled angrily.
Her stomach clenched and heat rushed across her cheeks. Last Christmas had been a crushing blow. The promise of going on the trip this year dangled in front of her, pushing her through when she was ready to throw in the towel. Now he was threatening to pull it out from under her again.
“Yes, Dad,” she said quietly.
“We will go only if you behave. If going skiing in Switzerland means anything to you, you will figure out what has been happening and leading you down this path, and you will straighten yourself out. Am I understood?” he asked.
“Yes, Dad.” This was her chance to defend herself, and she took it. “But you have to understand what I’m going through. They are making me work with those people.”
“I know, Vivi. I hate that you have been paired with the Seelie as well, but I also see the value in the experiment.”
“You do?” she asked, startled by the declaration. Her father hadn’t talked much about the pairing other than acknowledging that she’d have to stay on campus at the academy through the summer.
“Yes. Life isn’t always easy, and you won’t get the luxury of only working with people you know, understand, and agree with. You will be forced into difficult situations and be in circumstances requiring you to work with people of all kinds. Training starts now. If you are able to work with the Seelie, it will go a long way toward helping you get that embassy job.”
She was still juggling with the feeling of conflict an hour later when she and Carson walked out onto the field to meet with the others. She desperately wanted her father’s approval but loathed what she had to do to earn it. The anger he’d spewed at her was shocking. Not that she wasn’t accustomed to him being upset with her—which was a fairly standard state of being for her father. But this was intense and immediate, and he’d thrown accusations at her which had come as a surprise.
He had to have a mole at the school. Someone had to be working with him, following her and monitoring her behavior so they could report back to her father. It was unnerving and put her on edge. Trusting those around her wasn’t something she regularly concerned herself with, but now she knew she couldn’t relax at all. She had no way of knowing who was watching her and what incident would be brought right back to her father.
Her mood was dark as she stalked into the middle of the tall grass. She noticed Luna approaching from the corner of her eye and turned to her suspiciously.
“Is everything all right?” Luna asked.
“Why do you care? And what business is it of yours, anyway?” she yelled directly into Luna’s face. “You hate me as much as I hate you. Why would you come up to me acting like you have some sort of compassion for me? There has to be some sort of ulterior motive.”
Luna glared at her, but then drew a breath and tried to force the negativity from her voice. “Yeah, there is. We need to get along, especially now that we’re roommates, and will be until we graduate. The best roommates are friends, and friends help each other when they’re down.”
Vivi considered the words for a few seconds, then finally relented with a nod. She did her best to shake off the mood. This was what she needed to be focusing on now. Not her father’s anger. Not whoever was keeping tabs on her and making sure he knew about her every action. Not even her distaste at having to live with Luna and the Seelie adding insult to injury by taking the bed she wanted. What Vivi’s father said made sense. If she could prove herself able to cooperate and be successful with two Seelie, she’d be a much more attractive candidate for a position at the embassy. With such a role would come success, respect, and the all-important pass to enter Faerie. The embassy was the only way halflings could enter Faerie, and she wasn’t about to resign herself to an existence stuck only in the human world.
“Fine,” she said. “I’ll work with you.”
“We’ll start where we left off?” Zander asked. “Let’s make another of the Faerie circles. Purple pansies, right?”
“Training for your career as a preschool teacher, Zander?” Carson asked.
“You would make for good practice,” Zander snapped back.
“I thought we were going to try to work together,” Luna said.
They went to work, trying to recapture the circle they had managed to create the previous day. Vivi messed up their flow and concentration the first few times, but only an hour later, they finally succeeded. This represented a tremendous improvement from the day before, and they all felt a little boost while studying the purple pansies surrounding them.
Rather than wiping the circle away and starting again, they decided to continue building on the success they’d already found. Soon the tips of vines pushed up from the grass around the flowers, wriggling and swaying, dancing like thick green snakes as they reached up toward the sky. Almost as suddenly as the creeping plants appeared, they crashed. The group’s concentration broke, destroying the focus required to maintain the magic they created, making it disappear.
All four let out growls and cries of exasperation. Seeing their ability to create the Faerie circle together in such a comparatively short amount of time had encouraged them. Which only made the disappointment of having it destroyed more poignant. Carson stalked away, digging his fingers through his hair. Luna closed her eyes, drawing in a few deep breaths to try to dissolve the angry feeling boiling in her belly.
“Crickets!” Vivi shouted. The angry word was the best embodiment of the frustration and disgust she was feeling. The sound crickets made was among the most hated in the world for fae, so using their name as a curse always seemed appropriate. “We have to try again,” she said. “That was great. We did it once, which means we can do it again.”
“She’s right,” Zander said with a sigh. “This is what we’re supposed to be dealing with. Principal Elmhurst told us it wasn’t going to be easy. She said we were going to have to learn to control our abilities and work with each other to meld them so we can accomplish bigger things. It’s not just going to happen overnight because we want it to.”
“We had it, though,” Carson said. “It was right there. We had it.”
“Yes,” said Luna. “We did it once. It’s a start, but it’s not enough. Just because we were able to manage to create the circle once and add in a few vines and stuff doesn’t mean we have this down. We have to keep trying. So, let’s just do it again.”
“But, without our fifth, how are we going to achieve the true Power of Five?” Vivi asked.
They looked at each other and Carson answered, surprising them all. “If the four of us can get our act together, then when they find the fifth, it will easy to get him in and get the connection we need.”
“Him?” Luna chuckled. “I sure hope he’s cuter than either of you.”
Vivi snorted and agreed. “It would be nice to have some real eye candy around here.”
The tension which had been building now began to break, if only just a tiny crack. It was probably the first time Luna and Vivi agreed on anything. The being who had been watching from a distance smiled and turned to head back to the main campus buildings.
The four kept going, struggling and limping their way back to the point where they were able to resurrect the purple flowers. It took several more tries for them to become more than just shaky, almost translucent suggestions of the pansies.
Finally, the flowers were solid, and the four celebrated their accomplishment for a few seconds. Again, they crafted vines that rose from the ground. This time, the creepers remained. As dusk fell around them, the teenage fae created more dancing vines and guided them to weave in and out of the circle. As the vines moved around, some of them burst into bright, fragrant blooms.
The empty brown field seemed to disappear, giving way to the vibrantly colorful, beautiful scene unfolding around them.
“It looks like A Midsummer Night’s Dream,” Luna murmured, spinning around slowly to take in the gorgeous details.
The magic was stronger now, allowing them to release some of the intense concentration they had maintained while creating the circle. They walked around within it and Zander swept up to Luna dramatically.
He gave a deep, playful bow. “If this is A Midsummer Night’s Dream, we should be dancing, shouldn’t we?” he asked.
Luna laughed and allowed Zander to take her hand and pull her into a dance. As they spun around, an idea came into Vivi’s mind.
“You two are adorable,” she said. “But I don’t think you’re close enough. Maybe I can help you with that.”
She sent some of the vines out of the flowery growth, and before Luna and Zander could react, they were tangled within them. The vines wrapped tightly around the pair, forcing them up against each other. Vivi sniggered as they both struggled. The vines kept tightening more and more, winding around their bodies until the two Fae tumbled to the ground.
“Vivi, stop it,” Zander commanded.
“Why?” Vivi asked. “You look like you’re enjoying your special moment. Maybe Carson and I should go and let the two of you be alone.”
Curious who the 5th person is going to be? Keep watching for another snippet! And get your pre-order in today for Chronicles of the Fae Princess, The Halfling Academy!