“Uh huh,” Mina answered, slightly intimidated by the elegant girls in front of her.

“What about the other girl? What’s her name?” Daphne asked, tapping her lip with a perfectly manicured nail.

“Nan. Yes, we both attend classes with Brody.” She automatically thought of her own best friend.

“No, not her.” Daphne rolled her eyes, flipped a magazine open and pointed to an old photo of Brody and Savannah. “Is she still with Brody?”

“Savannah? No, they aren’t together anymore.” Mina wanted to claw the snarky Daphne for that jab.

Lara and Daphne started to pick up their notebooks, magazines, and seating charts for the ball.

“So are you coming to the ball?” Lara asked casually. Almost too casually.

“Why, yes, I promised Brody I would.” This was starting to sound familiar.

“Really?” Daphne swung her cross-bag over her shoulder. She eyed Mina’s clothes and ripped jeans. “As a server? I know the club was a bit short-handed for the event.”

“No. As his date,” she said between clenched teeth.

Brody returned with two glasses of iced tea. Daphne reached for one, but Brody turned and handed it to Mina instead. The gesture was so unexpected, she almost let the glass slip through her fingers. Thankfully, she caught it, as well as the look of hatred that shot her way. Brody took a long swig of his own glass of iced tea.


Right then, the old grandfather clock in the corner started to chime, and it didn’t ring the two tones it should have. It continued—another ten chimes.

Lara’s face scrunched up in confusion, “Twelve?”

“I think your clock’s broken,” Daphne snorted.

“It’s not broken. At least it shouldn’t be.” Brody walked over to the clock, opened the glass door, and looked inside for the key to wind it. He inserted it into the face of the clock, gave it a few twists and turns, and gently moved the hands around the face until it showed two o’clock.

Immediately, the clock started to chime again. Everyone waited, silently counting two deep, resonant chimes.

There was almost an audible exhale as no other noise came from the clock.

“See, it’s not broke,” Brody turned and smiled.

“I guess not.” Mina smiled wanly, but she kept her eyes on the clock because what she knew was coming next. She’d been on high alert as soon as she heard the girls’ names. Steppes and Ziester? How close could the Story get to “stepsister”?

The slight tingling began, indicating the Story was near. Mina couldn’t take her eyes off of the clock, watching as Brody hung the key up and closed the glass door. As soon as it clicked shut, the clock continued its haunting chime.

Three. Four. Five. Six. Seven. Eight. Nine. Ten. Eleven. Twelve.

And this time, when the clock struck twelve, the bay windows blew open, and the curtains flew horizontally into the room.

Lara and Daphne shrieked as the pages in the open magazine on the table began to flip.

Brody rushed across the room and tackled the opened windows. Once he got them shut, the wind died down. The magazine settled on a two-page spread of Brody wearing a white mask with the caption in bold Times New Roman:

Brody Carmichael—A real, live Prince Charming.

Mina launched to her feet, knocking her knee into the corner of the coffee table. “Ouch! Excuse me, but I have to go.”

“Where are you off to so early?” Daphne called out. “Is your coach going to turn into a pumpkin?”

“Don’t be silly, Daphne. She probably just has to catch a bus.”

“Girls, enough.” Brody said heatedly.

Both Daphne and Lara turned pouty looks toward him.

Brody leapt after her. “Mina, are you feeling okay?”

She waved him off. “I’d like to go home.”

Brody disappeared to tell his mom where he was going.

Mina could hear the two girls whispering. One of them—sounded like Lara—said it was all an act. That Brody couldn’t possibly like her. She was only there to make them jealous.

Mina’s anger got the better of her and she spun. “No wonder you’re so excited about wearing masks at a ball. Who knows, if you don’t say a word, you may be able to disguise your hideous personalities.”

Lara’s and Daphne’s mouths dropped open. They looked like drowning fish as they tried to come up with a retort.

Mina didn’t stay to listen or battle with words. She needed to get home and get help, because Teague had just set up her next quest. As innocent as the Cinderella story sounded, Mina knew there would be a deadly twist to this fairy tale.

The whole way home, she was tense and on edge. Brody asked if she was okay.

“No, I’m not okay.” She blew out a long breath.

“Is it something I did?”

“Not intentionally. It seems like we’re both in for another round of fairy-tale madness.”

“You mean you’re getting your intuition?”

Mina laughed softly. “Yeah, I guess you could say that. I think we are about to go head to head with the Cinderella tale.”

Brody pulled the car up her driveway and put the car into park. She listened to the hum of the engine as he unbuckled his seatbelt and turned toward her.

“And you think we’re both caught up in this tale?”

“Yeah, unfortunately I do.”

“Okay and what part do you think I’m going to play in this quest?”

“I think you’re Prince Charming,” Mina said, feeling awkward at voicing her assumption out loud.

“So in Cinderella, it’s all about the girl falling in love with Prince Charming, right?” A mischievous smile lurked at the corner of his lips.

She could hardly concentrate with how good he looked right then. She swallowed. “Yes.”

“And the prince falls in love, loses the girl, and has to find her.”

Again she answered, although her voice dropped in volume. “Yes.” She studied her hands, clasped in her lap.

Brody reached for her hands and pulled them up between them. “Well, this may be the easiest quest ever then, because this prince has already found you.” He placed a gentle kiss on the back of her hand.

Her heart slammed against her chest at the simple gesture that was so packed with emotion.

“And I don’t plan on letting you go anytime soon,” he added.

She smiled weakly. “It’s never that easy.”

“I wouldn’t expect it to be. Otherwise the other Grimms before you would have beaten this.”

“We could get hurt. You could get hurt.”

Brody tightened his grip on her hands, cupping them between his. “I’ve seen you play sports. You need all the help you can get. Maybe Nix could make up another batch of that foul smelling fix-it-all? Then we’ll be good.”

Mina pulled her hand out of his to playfully punch his shoulder. He lurched forward and she missed.

He laughed. “See, you probably couldn’t hit the broad side of a barn.”

“Probably not, but I’ve got to try.”

Brody mellowed. “As long as you let me, I’ll be here to help you.”

“As long as you remember me.”

“True, but keep in mind that’s not something I can control. Still, there’s something between us that—no matter what—keeps pulling us together. So if I forget or get put under a spell, you’ll just have to remind me how awesome you are.”

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