Here’s the latest installment in Cecily’s story! Make sure to check out the giveaway below! Enjoy!
Leaves rustled in the grove, their movement a gentle whisper in Cecily’s ears. She trailed her fingers against the prickly tree bark as she passed. Her senses seemed heightened, aching, sharp – which was funny. She knew she was dreaming. She looked around in wonder as luminous green leaves shivered on the branches, golden streams of light flowing through their veins.
There was that voice again. She whipped around, pushing back the silky ebony tendrils of her hair. “Yes? What do you want?” She stepped forward, the grass a cool, prickly carpet under her bare feet. “Hello?”
The trees darkened, their shadows edging into relief. The wind rustling through leaves and flowers lowered to a gentle murmur, then went silent.
“Hello?” She squinted. The end of the tree grove loomed in total darkness.
“To where?” The grove ebbed away as she moved, surrounding her in darkness. “Hello?”
She whirled and was blinded by harsh light. She threw an arm over her eyes, and the light enveloped her, surrounding her before settling into a glowing warmth in her chest. “What do you want?”
To finish what was started so long ago. The voice began to fade along with the light. Cecily, time is running out.
Cecily’s heart began to race as an inexplicable sense of loss washed over her. “Wait! Where are you?”
I can only be found by those untouched, and only in an untouched place.
The brightness dimmed until only the soft glow in her chest remained. Cecily swallowed against a lump in her throat. “But where is that?”
Find me, Cecily.
“Wait!” She stumbled forward, but the light disappeared. Weariness washed through her. She fell to her knees and scrutinized the soft pulsing glow in her chest, slightly above her heart. What the hell was that?
After a moment, she pressed her lips together, stood, and stretched her hands to guide the way in the gloom. Eternity seemed to pass in darkness with only the soft glow coming from her heart to guide her. Cecily stumbled, searching for the way back to the grove. Some time passed before she felt the ground tremble. Her heart skipped a beat, and she picked up her pace.
The tremor increased and she moved faster. What was approaching that would make the ground shake like that?
Soon, the quaking grew until the ground was shuddering. Cecily broke into a blind run, arms flailing in the dark.
A chuckle rumbled behind her.
Oh, no. That voice was familiar. She looked back and swallowed a scream. Sahak.
“You can’t run from me, little mix-breed.” His eyes glowed amber. “You can’t run from yourself.”
Cecily stumbled and caught herself as Sahak tramped toward her, his form morphing from human to dragon. “No! Please!” She swallowed another scream as his jaws opened wide, his entire form glowing red with heat.
“You can’t run from this, little mix-breed.” His voice was guttural. “You will be bathed in fire.”
Cecily screamed as white fire encased her, melting the flesh from her bones.
“Cecily, wake up!” Something gripped her shoulders, shaking her.
She threw her arms out, struggling to run from the fire searing her skin.
“Cecily, it’s okay. Calm down.” Tara’s voice sounded worried.
Tara. That’s right. Tara had spent the night. Cecily shuddered and pushed up on one elbow and rubbed her face. “I’m fine now, Tara.”
“Are you sure?”
No, she wasn’t. The dream had been as bad as any flashback she’d ever had. She nodded anyway, still bleary with sleep and bad dreams. “Yeah. I am.”
“All right.” Tara sent her a concerned look. “I’m going to head down to the kitchen and fix you breakfast.” She moved to the door. “Anything you want? We need to head to school soon. Daniel left early.”
“Yeah. Eggs are good.”
Tara nodded and left.
Cecily shuddered and fell back against the pillow, listening as Tara’s footsteps moved from the room and down the hall. After a second she groaned, pushed out of bed, and pulled on clothes before trudging down the stairs to the kitchen.
Tara looked up from where she sat at the table with two plates of eggs. She pushed one toward Cecily. “How are you feeling?”
Cecily sat and dug into her food. “I’m fine. I just-”
Someone knocked on the front door, and Cecily paused. “Who could that be?”
“Derek maybe?” Tara suggested.
Cecily shook her head, pushed her plate away, and stood. “Derek meets me after school now. He hated scaring everyone.”
“So that’s why he and Tariq don’t attend school anymore?” Tara picked up both plates and took them to the sink.
“Yeah, pretty much.” Cecily walked to the front door and cracked it open.
A man in a dark blue uniform stood on the porch holding two envelopes. “Are you Cecily Burns?”
“Yes.” She swung the door wide and accepted the envelopes. “Thank you.”
He turned away and Cecily closed the door. What could these letters possibly be? The last time she’d used the messenger service, she’d applied to Lymans, the closest university to the Emery Ville enclave. One of the letters must be a response, but why were there two?
She tore open the top letter, read the first paragraph, and her heart lifted with relief. She’d been accepted to Lymans! At least now she’d be able to stay at the university closest to their home. When she graduated, she’d be able to find a dragon-run business nearby so she could keep an eye on Dad. Once Daniel went on to New Oxford, it would just be the two of them. She frowned. But what was the second letter the messenger had given her? She tore open the envelope, unfolded the letter, and read the first paragraph. Her fingers went limp and the paper slipped to the floor. Tara came to her side and sent her a questioning look, but Cecily gave a quick shake of her head.
The soft, shuffling sound of her father’s footsteps paused on the landing above the foyer. “Cecily? Who was that at the door? Is something wrong?”
She stiffened. “It’s nothing, Dad.”
“Yeah.” She retrieved the letter from the floor, then folded both invitations and stuffed them in her pocket. “I’m sure.”
“Well, when you’re ready to talk about it, let me know.” His footsteps faded away.
“Yeah.” Cecily motioned for Tara to follow, then turned to climb the stairs to her room, thinking hard. She’d always agonized about Daniel getting out of Emery Ville. She’d always worried that with his grades he wouldn’t escape the fate of humans considered unworthy to serve dragonkind. Tender. Earth-worker. She hadn’t wanted that for him. She’d studied hard and worried more for Daniel than for herself, because she’d always known her grades would get her into Lymans.
She’d always planned to attend there because Lymans was close enough to visit Dad. She’d never expected nor wanted to be offered another choice. There was no way Dad could survive by himself. Not just that, what about this new change she had just gone through? She wasn’t even sure what it meant. Who knew if some other weird thing would happen to her? Derek would have to hide her with magic all the time! Why had this letter come now?
Cecily entered her room, grabbed her backpack and books for school, and stuffed the two acceptance letters in her back pocket, ignoring Tara’s curious look. “Let’s go. We’ll miss school if we don’t hurry.”
Tara nodded, seeming to understand that Cecily needed to think.
Cecily’s chest tightened as they continued downstairs to the front door. She’d been invited to New Oxford, the same university Daniel would attend on his sports scholarship on the east coast, a school she hadn’t even applied to.
She didn’t notice as the two letters sticking out of her back pocket caught in the door jam on the way out.