Brynna surrendered it without question.

Nick quickly moved to Stone and doused him with a giant burst. White smoke filled the room, and it wasn’t until after the fire went out that it dawned on Nick how wrong he’d been in the past.

Guess I would put you out if you were on fire, Stone.

Who knew?

He was a bigger humanitarian than he’d ever thought. Then again, given Stone’s typical behavior, he wasn’t really doing anyone a favor by saving the jerk. He should have let Grim have him.

Nick held the fire extinguisher in his arms as several students cheered. Stone was soaking wet and covered with goo. For once, he looked at Nick with something other than disdain. If Nick didn’t know better, he might even think that it was gratitude.

“Are you okay, baby?” Casey shrugged Stone’s letterman’s jacket off and wrapped it around Stone’s shoulders. She wiped at the residue on Stone’s face. “Speak to me…”

“Yeah, I’m all right.”

Sobbing, Casey threw herself against Stone.

Grim took it all in stride. “Guess you’ll be needing a pass to the nurse’s office.”

Could he sound any more disappointed? But then, Death didn’t really blend with normal people, and most likely he’d been hoping for another body to claim.

Mason clapped Nick hard on his shoulder. “Quick thinking, Gautier. Didn’t know you had an actual brain in you.”

The urge to turn the fire extinguisher on Mason was so strong that he wasn’t sure how he kept from doing it.

Brynna stepped forward and touched Nick’s hand. “You better let me have it before you give in.”

Nick scowled. “Huh?”

She smiled up at him. “I know that look, Nick. I figure you’re only seconds away from dousing Mason or using it to bash him in the head.”

Nick let her take the canister from him. “Some people would consider that a public service.”

“But not our principal.”

Unfortunately, she was right. Mr. Head would have a conniption, and then Nick would have detention. And that was something he wanted to stay out of for a while.

Stone and Casey left the room and headed toward the office.

Grim cleared his throat to get everyone’s attention. “Now that the drama is over and, sadly, no one died, we should get back to work.”

As Nick returned to his seat, he caught the apprehensive glance that Nekoda traded with Caleb.

“What?” he asked her as he sat down.

“Did you do that?” she whispered.

“Do what?”

Set Stone on fire?

Scoffing, Nick started to deny it, but the minute he opened his mouth to speak, he realized something.

Two seconds before Stone had burst into flames, Nick had wished it on him.

Crap.

CHAPTER 2

I set someone on fire.

Nick couldn’t let that one thought go. It was horrifying to think that he could cause something so deadly with nothing more than a single random thought.

My powers are growing.

But not his ability to control them …

If anything, that was getting worse, and they were exploding all over the place without any warning or reason whatsoever.

Power without control is worthless—Acheron’s favorite saying. At least it was Ash’s pet phrase any time Nick got behind the wheel and laid into the accelerator.

Damn it, Nick! You’ve got to learn to go slow and not rush off into traffic at warp ten, especially not when it’s heading straight for you! Acheron’s other fave rant where he was concerned.

In the past, Nick had ignored those warnings. Now …

The image of Stone bursting into flames was seared in his mind. Of course the burnt smell of Stone’s werewolf hair hadn’t really dissipated from the room. It clung to the air with a brutal reminder of what Nick had unconsciously done. One nanosecond of lapsed judgment and he’d almost killed someone. Granted, Stone was a jerk, but he didn’t deserve to die for it.

At least not today.

Nick would have to ride herd on himself after this, lest he do some real damage to someone.

Suddenly, the bell rang, startling him from his thoughts. Nick jumped around a foot in his seat at the unexpected sound. Talk about looking stupid. Just what he wanted. Another reason to look awkward in front of his peers.

Caleb arched a brow at him. “You all right?”

“You didn’t see another shadow, did you?” Nekoda asked in a hushed tone. A question he well understood, since the last shadow he’d seen had been a demon that one of his classmates had unleashed to wreak havoc with all their lives. Havoc he was still neck-deep in. While he’d been cleared of all the false charges Dina had made against him, rumors about the whole god-awful situation that had led to his being handcuffed and hauled off school property abounded, and they clung to him with the tenacity of Velcro.

That thought didn’t help his mood at all.

Nick narrowed his gaze on the necklace he’d given her. “The only demon I see right now is you, Kody.”

She stiffened. “That’s not fair.”

“Neither is pretending to be my girlfriend while you’re sizing me up for a body bag.” He jammed his book into his backpack, then turned to glare at Caleb. “Did you know about that?”

“I still don’t know what you’re talking about.”

“I’m talking about the fact that Kody’s an assassin sent in to kill me.”

Caleb went full-on into protection mode, letting Nick know that Caleb had been as clueless about her true intentions as him. At least Caleb isn’t in on it. That made him feel a little better.

He put himself between Nick and Kody. “Is that true?” he growled.

Kody glanced around to make sure no one was listening to them before she answered. “It’s not that simple, Malphas. I was sent to stop him from becoming what he’s supposed to be.”

Caleb scoffed. “Yeah, Nick, that sounds like killing orders to me.”

Kody tried to step around him, but Caleb refused to let her pass.

“We’re enemies, Nekoda. My job is to protect him from all threats. And now that clearly means you.”

“You can’t be serious.” She looked past Caleb’s massive shoulder. “Nick? Is this really what you want?”

“No. What I wanted was a normal girlfriend who only talks about shopping and fashion, and crap I don’t care about. I have enough enemies moving in at my back. Last thing I need to do is put someone there I know intends to take a shot at me sooner or later.” He jerked his backpack up and slung it over his shoulder. “We’re done.”

Nick turned and started for the door.

“You can’t do this!” The sound of tears in her voice made his gut twist into a knot. “Nick…”

Don’t turn around. He’d forgive her if he did. One look at the tears in her eyes and he’d be an idiot for her. He knew it. He couldn’t stand to see any woman in pain, and he’d do anything to make one smile.

But not giving in to that urge was the hardest thing he’d ever done. Because the truth was, he loved her. He really did.

Love will make you stupid, kid. Trust me. You won’t listen to anyone, not even your own common sense. That was the pet tirade of his boss, Kyrian. One he’d drilled into Nick’s head. Be careful who you give your heart to, Nick. Make sure that you hold hers before you hand over yours. Do not make my mistake.

Kyrian Hunter was now an immortal protector because his wife had betrayed him in ancient Greece and surrendered him to his enemies to be brutally tortured and killed. The horror of her actions had scarred Kyrian so badly that he’d sold his soul to the Greek goddess Artemis so that he could take revenge on those enemies. In exchange for his Act of Vengeance, Kyrian had become a Dark-Hunter. Legendary soldiers, the Dark-Hunters fought to keep mankind safe from all the supernatural predators who wanted to put humans on their menus. It was an eternal life with a lot of perks.

Even so, Kyrian would have much rather stayed human and died poor than have the wife he’d treasured beyond all things betray him.

Love and loyalty above all. That was the one pledge that Nick subscribed to. Treachery was for cowards who didn’t have the courage to fight face on. And while Nick Gautier might be a lot of things, he had never been, nor would he ever be, a coward.

No sir. If he was gunning for you, he let you know it in no-way-to-be-misconstrued words and actions.

And still his heart ached at the loss of Kody’s friendship. At the loss of what could have been between them.

I am an idiot. Why else would he hurt this badly for a woman who’d planned to kill him?

When he stopped at his locker, Caleb clapped a hand on his shoulder. “Cheer up, bud. I know it feels like you just had your stones handed to you, but you will survive it.”

Nick opened the door, not sure if he wanted to survive. “Have you ever had a woman betray you?”

“In ways you’re too young to know about, Nick. Believe me, on the grand scheme of pain, this isn’t so bad.”

Funny, it didn’t feel that way. Nick clenched his teeth as agony spread through him. He just wanted to go home, curl up in bed, and pretend this day hadn’t happened. “Is that how you ended up enslaved to my father?”

“No.”

Nick swapped out his books. “You’re never going to tell me how he got ahold of your leash, are you?”

“Nope.”

“Why?”

“Because one day, you will grow up and become a full-fledged Malachai. Your father will die, hopefully soon, and then I’ll be free. But if I trust you with that information, then you’ll know how to collar me. No offense, but I don’t trust the demon in you not to turn on me and find me after I’m gone, and I’ve spent enough time as a slave. I don’t want to live one day longer as one than I have to.”

Nick was even more offended. “I’d die before I did that to you. You have to know me better.”

“That’s your human heart speaking and I respect that. But I also know that sooner or later that heart will be devoured by the darkness inside you. Then we won’t be friends. I’ll be a tool and you won’t hesitate to throw me in a box and use me.”

Caleb sounded like Kody now, and truthfully, Nick was sick of it. “If you really believe I’m beyond hope, why are you here?”

“Because my master ordered it.”

“And if my father was dead?”

Caleb looked away. Emotions Nick couldn’t name flitted across his features. It looked like Caleb was debating with himself.

“Well?” Nick prompted him for an answer.

Caleb sighed. “The only thing I know for certain is that if your dad was dead, I definitely wouldn’t be in high school with you right now. I’d still be in bed asleep.”

Nick laughed. He couldn’t blame Caleb for that. He wouldn’t be here either if he could find another way out. But that wasn’t what concerned him. “Would you still be on my speed dial?”

Caleb narrowed those dark eyes on him. “I really want to hate you, Gautier.”

Nick grinned. “Yeah, I’m like kudzu. I look all nice and harmless and the next thing you know I’ve taken root and it’s too late … you like me.” His smile faded as he saw Kody in the hallway, coming toward them. It slammed into him like a fist. “So how long does it usually take to get over a broken heart?”

Caleb glanced in Kody’s direction before he answered. “You don’t even want to know.… My best advice?” He jerked his chin to the opposite end of the hallway. “Distraction.”

Scowling, Nick wasn’t sure what he meant until Casey Woods threw herself against him so hard that he stumbled back and hit the lockers behind him with a resounding crash. He would complain, but having his arms full of the most popular cheerleader in school squelched any desire to be negative about how this miracle had come into being.

She looked up at him and smiled. “You’re my hero, Nick!” She kissed him.

Stunned past any kind of rational thought, he didn’t move. He couldn’t. It wasn’t every day the captain of the cheerleaders shoved him into the wall against school policy and lip-locked him. Even more shocking was the sensation of her long dark ponytail brushing against the bare skin on his arm.

After a second, she pulled back and gave him a hot look that melted him on the spot. “Call me later, ’kay?”

He tried to speak, but nothing would come out. Instead, he stood there like some gulping catfish with his mouth opening and closing and making no sound whatsoever.

Yeah, I’m so slick, teen models call me for dating advice.

Luckily, Casey didn’t wait around for his brain to kick in and have him say something really stupid. She skipped back into the crowd after one of her friends. Still stunned, Nick pushed himself off the locker bank.



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