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Braving the Elements

By:K. F. Breene

Chapter 1

My alarm clock was a flick to the head.
“Ow!” I rubbed the offending spot as I opened my bleary eyes.
Charles, my once jovial and immature sidekick, would, starting this evening, become my grumpy and brooding fellow student. I had been warned of this several times in the last two weeks as I got used to my new home in Stefan’s mansion. With a bunch of vampire-resembling people.
“I’m a light sleeper, all you have to do is tell me to wake up,” I said in a matching grump, climbing out of the bed, which just felt wrong at five o’clock in the evening.
“Not as gratifying. C’mon, we have to go.”
Wiping my puffy eyes, I groaned. Charles’s kind was largely nocturnal, sleeping all day and active at night. They didn’t have a phobia of the sun, they just preferred the night—the reverse of humans. And because it was the reverse of humans, I’d found this new schedule—one I had tried to acclimate to over the past fourteen days—grueling. I wasn’t sleeping well during the daylight hours, and had a hard time keeping my eyes open near midnight and beyond, especially because I was using the time to work with knives and run obstacle courses to try and get in shape. It was a rough start to my new life.
But hopefully soon it would be different. I started instruction tonight to learn my craft—which was apparently magical in nature. How cool was that? So far I had done weird things while in the throes of danger, but now I would hopefully learn how to do weird things whenever I wanted!
Not only that, but I would get to make friends without worrying about that part of me that was always different from everyone else. The part that saw human-shaped shadows lurking in the night and had a sixth sense about pop quizzes or someone’s intentions. Since the shadow-people had turned out to be real and not some mental disorder, and my intuition could probably be explained with magic, I no longer had to hide. I could just be me, with the possibility of real intimacy and lasting friendships—something I’d always been denied until now. I would finally fit in!
I squeaked in excitement.
Charles answered with a glower. “You’re excited for nothing. This is gonna suck.”
“Oh, relax. It’ll be fun.”
The glower intensified.
I did sympathize with him. I would be seriously pissed if I had to go back to high school. Or college for that matter. Charles had been through all this magic stuff before. He was a big shot in Stefan’s band of warriors even though he was really young for the position. But now he had to guard me, in case their enemy came after me, and go through school all over again because Stefan thought he’d benefit from it. Charles was not enthused, but I got the feeling no one said ‘no’ to Stefan.
My stomach filled with butterflies. Just thinking of Stefan had my heart leaping. Since the first time I’d laid eyes on him, I’d been hooked. Uncommonly handsome with a lethal grace, Stefan could melt my body with a look. In the last two weeks, as I wandered around the mansion trying to learn about my new residence, I’d seen him from a distance. He’d be crossing the hall or exiting the house, busy and important with people leaning on his every word. He ran this establishment and everyone in it. He’d always look my way, without fail, seeming to feel my presence as I always felt his. His eyes would linger on my face, and then sweep my body, before his brow crumbled in something like guilt. His stare always turned frustrated and hostile right before he looked, and walked, away.
Charles assured me it was just because he was busy. That he was always like that. I really hoped so. I wanted to fit in here. Also…I had a weird attachment to him. Attraction bordering on distraction—whenever he was near; it was like my heart reached out to join his. When he wasn’t around, I constantly thought about him, wanting to be closer. I’d never felt anything like it. It was like a sweet addiction I never wanted to give up; but at the same time, needing someone that much scared the pants off me. It was a dicey situation.
I wiped my mind clear and followed Charles out of my secret hideaway at the edge of the huge property. It was a small house with a crap-load of spells, chants, incantations, and what not. Basically, it was invisible unless you knew it was there and stared really hard. Or, if the sun or moonlight hit it just right. Only three people could gain entry without some sort of alarm going off—me, Charles and apparently Stefan, though Stefan had never come to visit.
I suddenly felt like kicking something.
“What class is first on the agenda?” I asked, nearing the back entrance of the busy mansion. Tall and graceful people sauntered about their business, mostly attractive and all slightly sensuous. These people had an extremely loose view of sexual relations, which was putting it mildly.