When the Stars Threw Down Their Spears Online

Prologue

SOMEONE hadn’t made it into lockdown. Teagan didn’t know the girl Kyle was holding off the floor by her hair. She was screaming and twisting, trying to get away. Kyle tickled her belly with his claws. “I’ve been waiting for you, Tea!”

Finn reached for his knife that wasn’t there; Abby whirled and grabbed a whole bucket of flatware from the salad bar.

“Dumpster Boy!” she shouted, and threw the whole thing at Finn. The flatware spilled out of it as it tumbled. Finn snatched a spoon out of the air, and his hand flicked toward Kyle. The spoon seemed to blossom from the dent at the base of the Highborn’s neck, even as the rest of the flatware rained to the floor.

Kyle let go of his hostage’s hair to grab the spoon with both hands, but before he could pull it out, Angel had the girl, and then Leo was right against the Highborn’s back. It was only when Kyle arched that Teagan realized that Leo had a knife in his hand. Kyle went down so violently that the knife was pulled from Leo’s grip.

The girl he’d been holding ran screaming from the room.

Leo stepped back. “When you get to Hell, tell them Leo Gagliano sent you.”

Teagan felt the tears welling in her eyes as she stared at Kyle’s motionless form.

“Tea,” Finn said as she walked past him. “Don’t cry. Two worlds are better off without Kyle in them.”

“Yeah, right,” Abby said. “That’s like telling her not to be Teagan Wylltson. You’re welcome, by the way.”

“For?” Finn asked.

“Passing the silverware? I told you I was psychic.”

“What?”

“I said if we ever got attacked in a restaurant we’d be safe, right?”

“This is a cafeteria, Gabby. And you said if Tea was attacked, she’d be safe.”

“So, she’s safe.”

Teagan shut out their bickering as she knelt beside Kyle. He turned his face toward her as the pool of dark blood spread around them. She could feel the life seeping out of him. He didn’t have the strength to move again, but even through his beastmask of a face, Teagan could see the fear. Kyle was afraid of dying. She couldn’t pretend she wasn’t glad his life was over. Glad he wouldn’t hurt anyone else. But the fear in his eyes was unbearable.

Teagan took his hand, careful of the claws, and held it in her own, pressing her palm to his. Kyle’s eyes widened in surprise.

Leo pulled a handkerchief from his pocket, took the spoon from Kyle’s other hand, and wiped it down.

“What are you doing?” Finn asked.

“Prints,” Leo said. “Any security cameras, Angel?”

“I’ll have Jing take care of it,” Abby said.

“Who’s this Jing?” Leo asked.

“I’ll introduce you sometime. Right now you should take Finn and get out of here. The cops will be here any minute.”

Kyle’s eyes clouded, and Teagan felt the last flicker of life drain away. Like it had drained from her mother. Aileen Wylltson had never opened her eyes as she lay dying. But her face had been . . . peaceful. Teagan’s lips moved, silently forming her mother’s poem:

Selves—goes itself; myself it speaks and spells,

Crying Whát I do is me: for that I came.

“You should get away from that thing, Tea,” Leo said. “It’s probably got diseases.”

“Leave her alone, Leonardo,” Abby said. “Tea does what she does.”

Teagan closed her eyes. Tea does what she does.

I may be Highborn. But I am not like my family.

What I do is me: for this I came.

If I am any creature of yours, Almighty, she prayed, help me speak and spell something other than this into creation. Give me the courage to live what I am.

“Are you praying for him? That’s rich.”

Teagan looked up. Isabeau had come into the room.

“For myself,” Teagan corrected.

Finn started toward Isabeau.

“Finn,” Teagan said. “Wait. I want her to carry a message. Tell Mab I said no more.”

“No more games?” Isabeau laughed. “Oh, there’s plenty more coming. Have you heard about your little chimp friend yet?”

“I heard.” Teagan pulled Leo’s knife from Kyle’s body. Leo reached for it, but she waved him away.

“What are you doing?” Abby asked.

“What I came for.” Teagan stood up. “Tell Mab I won’t allow her to hurt my family and friends.”

“You’re challenging Mab? By yourself?” Isabeau scoffed.

“She’s not by herself, is she, goblin?” Finn said.

“You mess with her, you mess with us,” Abby agreed.

Isabeau pushed her shades up on top of her head, and her oilpuddle eyes looked blankly at Teagan. “You know this means war.”

“Then let there be war,” Teagan said, and threw the knife like she meant it.

PART I: