True Born (True Born Trilogy #1) - L. E. Sterling Page 0,1

supernaturally quiet that the doctors and midwives were looking for hammers. But we lived, and as we grew, we slowly came to know that we were unique, though two. At times I think I can read her thoughts, like bells in my mind. And what Margot feels, I feel—sometimes more sharply than even she does. Her pain, her joy. Her excitement…

It’s our secret, and one we guard closely. Lock and key.

There’s one secret more. We never speak about it, but I’m different still. Sometimes I can say with certainty who’s going to catch sick next. I know when the street preachers and their rabble will erupt into violence. Today’s death and violence is nothing compared to the ugliness of tomorrow. She has her own special gifts, my sister, but this one, this secret, is mine alone.

I also know when I’m wasting my breath. I stand up, pulling my coat closer around me as the sky opens in earnest. “Fine,” I tell her sternly. “But I won’t cover for you. You get in trouble, you dig yourself out.”

“Fine,” she says, then leans over to kiss me on the cheek before rushing off in a blur of color, cheeks bright, eyes shining. “Love you,” she tosses back over her shoulder.

But as I make my way to the doors on the other side of the large courtyard, jumping over gray-black puddles and getting drenched, a traitorous thought—all too familiar of late—flashes through my mind: why does Margot get to have all the fun?

I yank on the heavy oak door and barrel through, fuming over Margot’s latest caper. Grayguard Academy is as old as the hills and we’ve been attending it practically since birth. I know every nook and cranny, every dip in its polished marble halls, every loose joint in its four-hundred-year-old wooden stairway. So I’m flapping my wet coat free of rain rather than looking where I’m going as I fly from the hallway up the flight of stairs, a route that will take me to my class more quickly.

And smack right into something as hard as bricks.

I bounce and careen backward, losing my footing. My arms flail, but I can’t catch anything but a whiff of real danger and the fact that the object is a man. He reaches out to grab my hand, but my arms have already started sailing over my head. Images of splattered brains all over the highly polished marble floor flash through my mind as I fall back, back, and snap still in mid-air. Adrenaline spikes through me as my head-over-heels tumble is suddenly halted. I’m not dead.

And the man in front of me, a gorgeous wallop of a man, holds me from certain death by the hem of my skirt. I’m lucky, I muse as, teetering on my heels, I’m suddenly cast back to the time when a much younger Robbie Deakins held Margot suspended in the same position and bartered a kiss for her freedom. Back then I kicked him in the shins and Margot told me I knew nothing about boys. As I take in the one before me, I reckon that statement still holds true.

“You should watch where you’re going,” the stranger says, but the words are delivered without a sting. For a moment I’m struck dumb—not by my escape from a near-death experience, since I continue to dangle over the stairs at an odd angle—but by the man before me. At first I’m caught by his lips, just the right kind of full, the lips of an angel. Then I take in his cheekbones, high and carved in a face more long than square, with a nose to match that flares slightly wider at the nostrils. Though it’s all the rage in Dominion, he has no facial hair, making him seem younger than he likely is. I see a sinfully long, dark sweep of eyelash, a dark arc of eyebrow topped with a mop of messy blond locks that fall over one eye. The other eye is an intense, moody blue that rakes me from head to toe.

He carries himself with all the menace of a trained killer.

“You…you shouldn’t be here,” I splutter haughtily, feeling heat rise to my cheeks, though whether I’m more embarrassed or concerned I can’t tell.

“But I am here,” he says in dark, rich tones. He peers scandalously down at my legs, “and you’re welcome.”

I gasp in outrage. I try to bat at the hand that holds my skirt, but I can’t reach, and somehow this makes