Shadow of the Mark Online - Leigh Fallon

One

FIRST DAY BACK

As usual, I woke to Randel’s beak tapping at my window. A broad smile stole its way across my lips. I wasn’t really supposed to use my air element for everyday stuff, but when nobody was looking, I indulged. With a quick flick of my finger, I manipulated the air in the room, opening the curtains from where I perched on the bed. “I’m up, I’m up,” I told him. “Now shoo!” Randel, the DeRíses’ rook, shook the rain from his black feathers and disappeared into the dark February morning.

I threw on my school uniform and draped the tie around my neck, leaving it loose. Someday, someone was going to have to explain to me the merits of wearing a tie, especially for a girl. I picked up my bag laden with books and heaved it down the stairs.

“Good morning, Dad,” I said, walking into the kitchen.

“Morning, Megan. Who’s taking you to school today? You are going with someone, right?” Worry lined his forehead.

Three weeks ago, I had been kidnapped and imprisoned on an abandoned boat. Dad believed a psycho had nabbed me completely by chance, a case of being in the wrong place at the wrong time. He could never know about the Knox, their attempt at capturing me, and their centuries-old desire to control the elements. Ever since the incident, Dad had been acting more protective—understandably, but it was still frustrating, especially since I was more than capable of taking care of myself.

“Don’t worry, Dad. Caitlin is picking me up.”

“Caitlin?” he said, raising a brow.

“It’s all right. She has a license now,” I assured him, grabbing an apple. “So did you have fun last night? I didn’t hear Petra leave.” I tried to stop my amused smile as I watched Dad’s cheeks get flushed. Petra was the first woman he’d been involved with since my mom died, and she had been featuring more and more at our house in recent weeks. They were good together.

“Oh, she left a little while ago,” he mumbled, and then cleared his throat. “She had a delivery coming in early to the restaurant.”

BEEP, BEherrr.

The malfunctioning car horn signaled Caitlin’s arrival. “I’m off,” I said, giving Dad a quick kiss on the cheek before running outside.

Caitlin beamed at me as I opened the passenger door. “Good morning, you.”

“Morning. Thanks for picking me up.” I climbed into the tiny red car and tried to look confident and encouraging as she pulled out of my driveway.

Caitlin turned up the radio and drummed her fingers on the steering wheel. “Are you ready for your last term of fifth year?” she asked, bopping her head to the beat. She spun the wheel to the right, barely avoiding a parked car.

“Bring it on,” I said, checking to make sure my seat belt was secure for the third time.

“Relax.” She eyed my death grip on the door handle. “You’re going to damage that if you dig your nails in any farther.”

I pried my fingers loose, and we made it to the school in one piece. After several failed attempts, Caitlin finally pulled into a parking spot. I caught sight of Adam two cars down, leaning against his rusty Volkswagen and laughing quietly to himself.

His twin sister, Áine, came dancing over to us. “Caitlin! Your car is so cute!”

With the two of them preoccupied, I made a beeline for Adam, my breath catching as I approached. I could feel the dark pull of the magic lurking behind the innocent shade of green in his eyes. It called to me.

“Good morning, beautiful,” he said, drawing me into his arms. “You got here safely, I see. How was Caitlin’s driving?”

“Creative.” I laughed. We started walking into the school building, Áine and Caitlin just ahead of us.

Adam smirked. “It was hard to relinquish you to her. When can I expect to get you back in the mornings?”

“Give it a couple of days. With any luck, Killian will be vying for her affections, and her guilt over his unrequited love will have her rushing off to his place in the mornings.”

He smiled. “I’ll be waiting with bated breath.”

Áine turned around to face us. “Hurry up, you two. Let’s get the last of this year over with.”

First class was Higher English. We filed into the room and sat in our usual places.

There were two new faces this term. One was speaking in Polish to a group who huddled around his desk. The other, a blond girl, was sitting quietly by the wall. She glanced nervously