I have a secret. It’s a tad bit of a silly secret but it is one none-the-less. I’m nervous because I’m about to share it with you. Not only you, but everyone who reads this post and now that it’s in writing, it can never be hidden and the secret is out. My heart rate’s just pumped up a few notches and suddenly I want to the turn the fire place off… Is it warm in here, or just me?
I’m stalling. It’s blatantly obvious I’m babbling to avoid spilling. Okay, here it is: I’m an in-the-closet tattoo fanatic. I LOVE tattoos. I only have one (that is not available to the public) but if I was still in university, I’d have more. I have young kids now so I use that as my excuse to not get more. Maybe I’m chicken. Though I’m not sure why. I’m not afraid of pain and getting inked doesn’t really hurt that bad. Maybe more so by the neck or behind the ear but still, not excruciating.
I don’t know what my excuse is. I used to say if I made the Olympics I’d get the rings. I used to high jump and made World Championships and represented Canada but I never made the highest Athlete dream of the Olympics. Bummer but not the end of the world (and I’m getting off topic).
This fascination of tattoos spilled into my first published series, The Chronicles of Kerrigan. Tattoos – or tatus in the book – show up on their sixteenth birthday. Boys are marked on their forearm and girls are inked on their lower back. It is only a select few and these tatus create a supernatural-like power within them that is similar to their ink.
It’s a load of fun. I get to come up with unique tattoos and abilities co-related to them. One male character has an adorable fennec fox. A fennec fox is a desert animal that tends to be more nocturnal, can run fast and leap high. Great ability, but kind of embarrassing for a guy to have a cute little fox with big floppy ears. A female character is given a tattoo of a large busted but beautiful woman. She has the ability to increase the sexual tension between two people – in other words, she can make people horny. I bet her dad wasn’t too impressed when he found out his daughter, instead of his son was given that tattoo! So instead of adding tattoo’s to my skin and having to explain to my seven year old that she’s too young to get them (even though I will never say no to temporary one, I got to think of great tattoo’s and have fun with them.
Will I ever get another one? I hope so. The likelihood? That is to be determined.
About the Novels
Rae of Hope
The Chronicles of Kerrigan
The Chronicles of Kerrigan
Genre: Young Adult – Fantasy (Paranormal, Romance, Suspense)
Number of pages: 248pgs
Word Count: 81,000
How hard do you have to shake the family tree to find the truth about the past?
Fifteen year-old Rae Kerrigan never really knew her family's history. Her mother and father died when she was young and it is only when she accepts a scholarship to the prestigious Guilder Boarding School in England that a mysterious family secret is revealed.
Will the sins of the father be the sins of the daughter?
As Rae struggles with new friends, a new school and a star-struck forbidden love, she must also face the ultimate challenge: receive a tattoo on her sixteenth birthday with specific powers that may bind her to an unspeakable darkness. It's up to Rae to undo the dark evil in her family's past and have a ray of hope for her future.
The Chronicles of Kerrigan
Genre: Young Adult – Fantasy (Paranormal, Romance, Suspense)
Word count: 85,000
Page count: 265 pages
Nothing is as it seems anymore.
Leery from the horrifying incident at the end of her first year at Guilder Boarding School, Rae Kerrigan is determined to learn more about her new tattoo. Her expectations are high, an easy senior year and a happy reunion with Devon, the boy she’s not supposed to date. All hopes of happiness turn into shattered dreams the moment she steps back on campus.
Lies and secrets are everywhere, and a betrayal cuts Rae deeply. Among her conflicts and enemies, it appears as if her father is reaching out from beyond the grave to ruin her life. With no one to trust, Rae doesn’t know where or who to turn to for help.
Has her destiny been written? Or will she become the one thing she hates the most—her father’s prodigy.
About the Author:
Wanita May grew up in the fruit belt of Ontario - St.Catharines. Crazy-happy childhood, she always has had a vivid imagination and loads of energy.
The youngest of six -- four older brothers, and a sister -- taught her at a young age to be competitive in all aspects of life.
At sixteen, she began competing in athletics (track and field) and before she turned seventeen, she was representing Canada in high jump. She continued to compete, breaking Canada's JR High Jump record (1.92m - 6' 3 1/2" for those metric-ly challenged). She attented University of Toronto, and Kansas State University - winning CIAU's and becoming All-American 6x - NCAA Indoors Runner Up + more.
But you're not interested in her athletic career - unless of course you're curious to know she stands 1.70m (5'7") and has jumped 20cm over her head on more than one occassion. She's represented Canada at the World Championships, World Jrs., won Francophone Games, and loved every minute of every competition. From the grueling workouts, the crazy weights she lifted on her back, the days she thought her lungs were going to spit out of her mouth for lack of oxygen, the travelling around the world and the opportunity to read - her favourite past time.
Wanita and her husband now run an online business, dealing in antiques and collectables - particularly jewelry and porcelain.
After her father passed away in 2009, from a six-year battle with cancer (which she still believes he won the fight against), she began to write again. A passion she'd loved for years, but realized life was too short to keep putting it off.
She is currently represented by Dawn Dowdle of Blue Ridge Literary Agency. Wanita is a writer of Young Adult, Fantasy Fiction and where ever else her little muses take her.
Click read more to read excerpts from both Rae of Hope and Dark Nebula!
Excerpt from Rae of Hope:
Guilder Boarding School
“You can’t undo the past. The sins of the father are the sins of the son, or in this case, daughter.”
Uncle Argyle’s ominous words had echoed in Rae’s head long after he dropped her off at the airport. “A proverb of truth” he had called it. Who spoke like that nowadays? Some good-bye. Tightening her ponytail and futilely trying to tuck her forever-escaping dark curls behind her ears, she looked at her watch, then out the bus window at the tree lined countryside. It seemed strange to see the sun. All she remembered was rain when she had lived in Britain nine years ago.
Trying to get comfortable, Rae tucked her foot up on the seat, and rested her head against her knee as she looked out at the scenery flashing by. A sign outside the window showed the miles before the bus reached Guilder. It’d be another twenty-five minutes. She popped her ear buds in, blew the bangs away from her forehead and stared out the window across the rolling farm fields, trying to let the music from her iPod distract her.
It didn’t work. Just when she felt the tension begin to ease from her shoulders and she started to get into the song, something caught her eye. Black smoke billowed just near the top of a lush green hill. Rae stared, her heart fluttering as an old memory began to take hold. She knew what that smoke meant. She’d seen it before, long ago.
Someone’s house was burning.
Crap, crap crap, no I don’t want to go there. Her heart started racing and her stomach turned over, making her feel nauseous.
Dropping her knee, she gripped the seat in front of her, burying her face in her hands taking deep breathes, like the therapists taught her to do. She’d gone through years of therapy to treat what had been called “panic attacks”. It didn’t matter what other people called it. To her, it was simply hell; like being sucked back in time against her will, to a place she never wanted to revisit. So she breathed the way she’d been taught, slow breathe in, all the way, then slow breath out, all the time chanting it’s not real, it’s not real in her head.
It helped calm her racing heart and made her feel more in control, but it didn’t erase the memory. Nothing on Earth could do that. Being back in England for the first time and seeing the strange smoke, Rae felt six years old all over again.
She’d been in the living room coloring with new markers before bed when her mother told her to take them to the tree house her dad had built for her and play there until she called her in. That call never came. The blaze bounced horrific shadows around the inside of the tree house. The stinky black smoke slithered in and scared her little six year old self in ways the monsters under her bed never had.
Rae shuddered and lurched upright, forcefully bringing herself back to the present. Could this school be any further into the sticks?
Glancing around the now vacant bus, she wondered if the driver had purposely left her until last. She’d watched the last few people get off at a school about fifteen minutes ago, Roe-something or other. They all looked the same, all pretty girls with blonde hair, not one of them thin, pale, and tall like her. They hadn’t been friendly. Big surprise there… She was used to it. She tended to fly under the radar at best. So she handled them the way she always handled the ones who instantly didn’t like her for no reason she could come up with. Rae avoided making eye contact and tried to appear immersed in the Guilder Boarding School brochure. It wasn’t that she didn’t want to make friends. She’d just never really had any. Most kids her age either didn’t like her or didn’t notice her.
It bugged her that Uncle Argyle had pushed so hard for her to go when Guilder sent the letter. He’d been the one to move them all from Scotland to New York when she’d come to live with them, taking her away from the horrible tragedy of her parents’ death, and now, he suddenly leapt at the chance for her to go back? It didn’t make any sense. It sort of sucked to leave her current high school. She lacked close friends, but she also lacked enemies, which was a plus in her book. The girls there seemed just as stuck up as the ones who’d gotten off the bus earlier, but they’d simply ignored her. Rae always told herself it didn’t matter anyway. Cliques were so passé in her opinion.
Another weird thing that she couldn’t seem to find an answer to was why Guilder would choose her? How did they even know she existed? Her uncle boasted how big a deal it was for her to be selected, but he’d never once explained how they’d even come to know about her in the first place. She had the grades, the brain part always came easy for her, but she didn’t have any extra-curricular activities at all, nothing to make her stand out. So, how had this amazing school she’d never heard of before decide to take her on? It didn’t make any sense. She tried a few times before she left to corner her uncle and get him to explain part or all of it, but he’d always seemed to be busy.
While this wasn’t exactly abnormal behavior for him, it still left her with a sense of foreboding, something that had clung to her ever since she got the letter. She couldn’t figure out why, but she had a strong sense that something big was coming. Whether it was good or bad, she didn’t know.
A movement out of the corner of her eye caught her attention, pulling her mind out of the endless circle of questions in her head. She turned to look out the window, and was stunned to see the largest bird she’d ever seen in her life. Maybe an eagle? The thing flew parallel with the bus, right beside her. Pressing her face against the cool glass, her gaze focused intently on the curious sight. She jerked back when its large wings flapped, brushed the window, and then veered away. She watched its graceful flight as it soared and then swooped to settle onto the limb of a large tree just ahead. As the bus passed by, the bird seemed to lock eyes with Rae and she was mesmerized. Rae had always wondered what it would feel like to be a bird, to fly so free, go anywhere the wind took her. She continued to watch the bird until she couldn’t see it anymore, then slumped back into her seat as the bus sped onward down the long road.
Guilder Boarding School. She gnawed at the cuticle on her thumbnail a little too hard and ripped the skin, drawing a wince from her. She couldn’t help it, she always did this when she was nervous. She’d be the only American girl. Well, not really American. She held a British passport but had moved to New York after her parents died in the fire, leaving her orphaned. So…not really American, not really British; a little of both, but belonging to neither.
The bus cruised by an aged stone sign. Guilder Boarding School, Founded 1520. One of Britain’s Finest Educational Institutions. Rae read the sign and wondered how a school could be that old and not be featured in stories or online. She found nothing when she tried researching it. They drove under an old, leaded window arch that connected two round, red-brick towers. The stream of people coming and going from the doors at the bottom made her think it must be some kind of office. She craned her neck to get a better view. The buildings were old but were well kept and held an almost magical aura of their original Tudor era. She half expected to see men in tights and codpieces strutting down the road, leading their horses, with corseted ladies perched delicately atop them. The mental picture amused her and she absent-mindedly smiled. Her eyes were drawn to the ornate, brick chimneys along the buildings’ roofs. She glimpsed the other buildings beyond. This place looks huge…hope I don’t get lost.
The driver pulled to a halt in front of a building with an embossed plaque that said “Aumbry House”. The ancient building had ivy growing all over it. It looked like it was probably older than Henry VIII, leaving Rae with horrifying visions of chamber pots dancing in her head. It better have indoor plumbing…
The bus door slid open with a hiss. Rae gathered her two small suitcases and her book bag, clambered down the aisle and finally, blessedly, off the bus.
“Welcome to Guilder, Ms. Kerrigan.” Rae awkwardly spun around to face the voice, finding that a tall, thin woman stood on the concrete steps of the building, her eyes darting left and right, pausing on Rae for barely more than a few seconds.
Rae stared, wondering where the lady had come from. She wasn’t there a moment ago. Rae looked at the woman’s long, wool skirt. This might be England, but today is sweltering. How is she not melting in this heat?
“I am Madame Elpis, your house mistress.” The lady darted down the large concrete steps, pausing on the last step and, in one fluid motion, tucked her clip board under an armpit and extended her hand.
The woman’s features reminded Rae of a bird – her jet-black hair, dark eyes, and especially the jutting nose. Rae nodded and dropped a suitcase so she could return the handshake, her fingers crushed by the woman’s claw-like grip. Ow, ow, ow! So you’re freakishly strong, got it.
“Come along. No time for dilly-dallying.” She turned and marched up the steps, not checking to see if Rae followed or needed any help with her bags.
Huffing out a breath, Rae grabbed her things and clambered to follow, hearing the bus driver chuckle as he closed the door behind her. I’m spending the next two years here? What joy. What freakin’ bliss.
Hammering and drilling noises from above greeted Rae as she came through the entrance. The clamor echoed throughout the building.
“Fifteen and sixteen-year-olds are on the second floor,” Madame Elpis shouted above the noise. “Your room is the last door on the left.” She checked the chart she’d been holding under her arm. “Molly Skye is your roommate. I assume you can find the way.” The last part was more statement than question.
“Thank you,” Rae replied uncertainly, not knowing what else to say.
Madame Elpis pointed to a door on her left. “The study hall’s through there. The glass doors lead to the game room. The door to your right is to my living quarters. You are not permitted there.” She led Rae to the winding staircase made of black and white marble. “Juniors are on the second floor, seniors on the third and fourth.” She glanced at an old pocket watch hanging on a chain around her neck and, if possible, straightened even more. “Dinner is at five o’clock, sharp.” She turned, her skirt swirling as she darted into her room, and with a kick of her boot, slammed the door.
Rae exhaled the breath she hadn’t realize she’d been holding. The banging of hammers and screeching whine of electric saws reverberated through the hallway. She was so nervous, the hammering could have been coming from her heart and she wouldn’t have been able to tell the difference.
Rae took her time up the marble stairs and, once on the landing, headed left to the end of the hall. Biting the inside of her cheek, she gave a light knock at the slightly open door and peered in. Empty. Rae cautiously pushed the door open and surveyed her new room.
Thick, lush brown carpet covered the floor. Two beds, with matching duvets and tan suede pillows, rested against the opposing walls. One of which already sat full of half-empty suitcases. Modern closets with ample space matched perfectly with the antique desks built into the wall by each oriel window. Rae inhaled deeply, taking in a mingled sense of fresh paint and the unique scent of antiques.
Finally! It’d been one helluva long day of traveling. Much of the tension ebbed from her shoulders and she cracked a smile for the first time in hours.
Rae dropped her suitcases on the uncluttered side of the room. Her roommate, Molly, must have stepped out halfway through unpacking. Her closet doors were spread open, with hangers already full of clothes and more shoes than Rae had owned in her entire life. She’d never been big on dressing up, but she still knew designer labels when she saw them and she saw an awful lot of them in that closet. Hopefully, her roommate didn’t end up being superficial. Rae stood there wondering how she’d deal with it if she had to room with Guilder’s Next Super Model. Visions of her roommate stomping up and down the room in heels practicing her “walk” distracted her. She didn’t hear the footsteps walking down the hall to the door.
“What are you doing in me room?” Rae jumped and dropped her purse. A fashionably dressed girl stood in the doorway. She had dark, mahogany red hair, the kind women paid insane amounts of money to try to copy. Oh great…well, here we go.
“Molly?” Rae swallowed. “I’m your new roommate.”
Molly stared Rae up and down. “You’re Rae Kerrigan? I pictured someone totally different. You’re not scary at all!” She laughed as if at some private joke. Scary? Me? What is she talking about?
“Name’s Molly Skye. I’m from Cardiff, in Wales.” She shoved one of her suitcases onto the floor and dropped into the small, open space on the bed.
Rae watched, confused. Why would anyone think of her as scary? Because she lived in New York? She had a terrible premonition of being the odd one out, and school hadn’t even started yet.
“You’re not sixteen, eh? No ta’too?” Molly pointedly dropped her gaze down to Rae’s waist, as if she expected Rae to show her something.
Tattoo? Rae squinted, trying to listen closer to Molly’s accent. The way she spoke, some of the words were hard to make out. Why would she ask if I have a tattoo?
“My birthday’s in three days. It’s going to be so awesome!” Molly leaned back on her elbows. “When’s yers?”
“My birthday? Uh…not ‘til November.” Straight into the personal info. Okay, I think I know what my roommate is going to be like.
“November? You do have a long wait.” Molly grimaced and shook her head. “Poor you. You’ll be the last one inked for sure.” She jumped off the bed. Rae noted the strange comment, but Molly’s motor-mouth went speeding on, so she filed it away for examination at a later time.
“What’d you think of our room? Pretty cool, eh? Aside from the construction on the floors above us.” She shot the ceiling an annoyed look. “I just talked to one of the workers. He said they finish at four. They start again at like eight in the morning! Can you believe that? Who gets up at that time, anyway?”
Wow. Molly can talk without pausing for breath. Rae nodded and tried to keep up. She watched Molly roll from the balls of her feet to her heels, back and forth continually. It was a typically nervous gesture that Rae attributed to meeting new people. Everybody has their issues, but it’s still surprising, considering how fast she’s talking.
“Can you believe we got invited to Guilder? We’re two of sixteen females within a landmass of rich, supposedly unattainable, handsome boys.” When Rae didn’t respond, Molly squinted at her. “You do know why you’re here, right?”
Rae shrugged. Jet lag seemed to be eating her brain cells. “To be honest, I don’t really know what you mean. I haven’t been in England since I was six and I know nothing about Guilder.” Despite numerous Google searches at home and having my nose buried in the brochure for an hour on the ride here.
“You’re not slow or something, are you?” Rae shook her head slowly wondering if her talkative new roomie had just insulted her. Molly stared, scratching her head. “You really don’t know, do you?” She looked up and to the left, obviously recalling something important. She straightened, as if quoting some bit of brochure from memory. “Guilder’s a highly sought after educational institution, but it is primarily a school for the gifted. People who get to go to Guilder know why. The rest of the world has no idea!”
Rae curled her fingers tight, her nails digging into her palms. She felt stupid and also irritated at herself for feeling stupid. It wasn’t something she wanted to deal with, especially after such a long day of travel. “What makes us…gifted?”
Molly’s eyes grew huge. She paced the room. “Oh, my... Me da’s never going to believe this. You seriously don’t know ANYTHING?!”
Rae felt her blood pressure rising. She knew she was tired, confused, and nervous. None of that it was helping her temper, but she was determined not to lose it on what amounted to a total stranger. She pressed her lips tight to stop any snappish comment that might escape. Can’t the ditz just answer a simple question with a straight answer?
Molly swung around in front of Rae, dramatically squared her shoulders, and put on a serious face. “When we turn sixteen, we receive our ink blot.”
“A ta’too.” She leaned forward and whispered, “It gives us special powers.”
Pause…say what? “P-Powers?” Rae tried not to laugh. Had her uncle sent her to an institution for the insane? “You’re kidding, right?” Uncle Argyle had told her the experience would change her life, but hadn’t said how. Rae figured he meant she’d do some growing up – like a maturity thing. And, of course, there was that silly proverb. But perhaps he’d mistakenly sent her off to a giant rubber room.
Molly waved a hand. “I’m serious. The gift is passed down from generation to generation.” She blew out an exaggerated breath. “Any guy around here who’s sixteen has a ta’too on the inside of his forearm.” She dragged Rae toward the window and pointed to the building across from them. “That’s the boys’ dorm. Let’s go outside and walk around. I’ll get one of them to show you what I mean.”
Her eyes dropped down to Rae’s clothes, her lips pursed tight together. “Do you fancy a quick change before we go?”
Rae laughed, despite her roommate’s serious expression. Molly definitely was crazy, but she had a point. She’d dressed comfortably for travel, and even though she wasn’t big on fashion, even she drew the line at meeting her new classmates looking like a worked-over hag. She could use some freshening-up. “Yeah, give me a moment.”
“I’m off downstairs to try and find some cute boys. Meet me outside when you’re ready.” Molly left, still chattering nonstop with no one in the hall to listen.
Rae opened the closest suitcase and grabbed the first pair of jeans and top within reach. She hesitated and dug a little deeper into her suitcase. The jeans were fine, they were new, but a white t-shirt seemed too plain. She found a pink Converse tank top with ONE STAR written in sparkles. She pulled out her hair tie, wishing her unruly black curls were straight like Molly’s perfect hair. She never bothered with makeup because she had crazy-long eyelashes that mascara seemed to only want to clomp up against, and almost everything else just made her look kinda like a sloppy hooker. Keep it simple, that’s what her aunt had always told her. She settled for lip gloss, and deodorant, and then grabbed a pair of sandals before tossing her purse under her pillow. Now, time to find out what Molly’s been babbling on about, or at least, maybe meet some cute guys. She might be invisible most of the time, but eye candy was eye-candy, no matter which side of the Atlantic it was seen on.
Once outside, she shaded her eyes against the bright sunlight with her hand and searched for her new roommate.
Molly stood further down the sidewalk, talking to a very hot guy with chestnut brown hair, dark eyes and a dimple on his right cheek. It disappeared when he stopped smiling and began talking again, making Rae a little sad. She wanted to see that dimple again. Rae bounded down the steps, and then slowed down, trying not to appear too excited. She flinched and covered her head when a loud crashing noise sounded from above, and a large piece of debris flew down from the fourth floor and landed in the blue bin beside her. Face burning, she pretended it hadn’t bothered her and continued walking. Molly and the boy turned to stare in her direction.
Rae heard someone holler from above, but couldn’t make out what the guy said. Embarrassed by her reaction a moment before, she ignored the shout and kept walking. Molly’s eyes grew big, her hands flew to her cheeks and her mouth dropped open. She screamed. Rae stared as Molly frantically pointed above her head. Rae tipped her head up. She froze in horror when she saw a huge, severed piece of wood paneling balanced like a seesaw on the window ledge several floors above.
The wood scraped against the windowsill, and teetered as if undecided which way it should fall. Oh crap! A gust of hot, dry wind blew by, knocking the severed beam into final decent. It spun as it fell and all sound was just gone.
Fight or flight. Rae dropped her gaze, her eyes darted about. The guy beside Molly moved toward her frozen frame. Everything moved in slow motion except for the guy running like a freight train. He was greased lightning, moving faster than anything Rae had ever seen. It didn’t seem possible for a person to move so fast. And why am I focused on him when I’m about to be squashed like a bug?
Excerpt from Dark Nebula:
A dark nebula is a type of interstellar cloud that is so dense it obscures the light from the background emission or reflection nebula so that it blocks out background stars.
The form of such dark clouds is very irregular: they have no clearly defined outer boundaries and sometimes take on convoluted serpentine shapes. The largest dark nebulae are visible to the naked eye, appearing as dark patches against the brighter background of the Milky Way. (Wikipedia)
A lifespan is spent, seeking success and happiness. People chase after dreams, careers, ambitions, faith, partners, and money; all in the hope of finding the success and contentment they so long for. The only place we need to search is within ourselves. Our inner powers will move us forward--we must show the world our tatùs. Our capabilities and potential are far greater than anything man has ever done, or will do. We are above mankind--above the law which rules over them.
Notes from Simon Kerrigan’s Journal—two decades ago
“The motto of the Privy Council is ‘to protect at all costs’.” Devon walked a little taller and straighter than he had the last time Rae had seen him, his chest puffed with pride.
“The what? Who?” Rae raced to keep pace with Devon’s long strides as the two of them wove their way through the airport’s parked cars with the sun beating down on them.
Devon stopped, let go of one of the suitcases he pulled and wrapped his arm around her shoulders. “The Privy Council. I know it sounds old-fashioned, but trust me, it isn’t.” He slipped the sunglasses off the top of his head and onto his nose before he started walking again. “It’s the elite of the elite tatùs.”
Rae hustled to keep up. “I get that there’s a company that works with our…talents.” It had been a year since she had learned about the unique group of individuals that she was now a part of. When she had turned sixteen the previous year, she had woken up with a tatù. A fairy covered her lower back with Celtic design and a sun inset throughout. In certain light, the fairy’s wings appeared to sparkle. Different from a tattoo, it had gifted her with supernatural power. Devon was also gifted with a tatù, a fennec fox, giving him heightened senses, super speed, and agility. However, Rae’s power was unique, even in their already exclusive and insular world. She could mimic another individual’s tatù. No one else could do that. Huge, big-time ability. Because of her singular ability, Rae knew she was “of interest” to the shadowy Privy Council, the ruling body of the tatù community. Everyone knew “of” it but no one actually knew anything about it. To have Devon suddenly working for them gave Rae pause. They’d barely emailed or talked over the summer. Strange for two people just starting a relationship…then again, the pesky societal rules against tatùs and romantic relationships might have hampered the communication also. Unsure whether to outright ask Devon why he had been so distant over the summer or leave it be, Rae squinted and tucked a curly highlighted strand behind her ear to buy herself some time. “I don’t understand what the company does, or why you’re working for them now. You’re only eighteen. Are you an intern or something?”
He grinned. “You’ve barely learned about your tatù, while most of us have known before we started school. It’s totally understandable you’re confused.” His warm hand grazed the small of her back.
It sent tingles across the fairy tatù, making it feel like the fairy’s wings were actually fluttering. A pleasant shiver ran up her spine from the contact, and Rae paused to enjoy it.
Devon, who probably knew exactly how his touch made her feel, winked at her before he turned serious. “The agency works to protect those of us tatùed and, if needed, Britain. It kinda works like the James Bond movies. Did you know that the prime minister and government have no idea what the Privy Council actually represents? They only know that it does a darn good job. We seldom, if ever, make a mistake.”
We? Rae nodded, not sure if she liked that her boyfriend considered himself part of this group already, when he had told her nothing about it. Don’t normal dating couples talk about stuff that excites them? Boys are supposed to drone on and on about manly things and girls are supposed to—oh I don’t know—something. He’s so different, it’s like he changed without me. Feeling insecurity rise up, Rae shifted uncomfortably and fought to push the emotion out of her way. She scolded herself, Don’t be so sensitive. Just be glad to be back. She had missed everything at school, not just Devon. Well, mostly Devon, but not only him.
She followed him, zigzagging through the parked cars, trying to keep her heavy suitcase on its little wheels. They stopped in front of a shiny, sleek, black car, which had obviously been created for speed.
“What do you think?” Devon let go of the two suitcases and spread his arms. He looked up and down the car, a smile playing on his lips.
“Whose is this?” She tilted her head sideways, pretending to admire it, all the while trying to figure out the make of the car.
Devon laughed, “It’s mine. My dad and I made a deal. I could pick out a car I liked, and he’d pay for it.”
“I doubt your dad, the new dean of Guilder, would agree to this.” She laughed, playfully elbowing him in the ribs.
“Well, you’re half right.” He held his hands up in mock defense. “I paid for half of it with the money I made working with the Privy Council this summer. My dad offered to pay the other half. A graduation gift, he said.”
“What kind of car is it?” It looked like he had taken it right off some futuristic race track.
“It’s a Lotus.”
“A Lotus?” Rae squinted, trying to place the name.
“They make formula cars and a few road ones. It’s a Lotus Exige Cup two-six-zero.” He stood grinning like a kid in a candy store.
Big boy needs an expensive toy. Rae gently touched the black paint, careful not to let her fingernail scratch it. She half expected Devon to pull out the bottom of his shirt to buff her fingerprints out of his paint job. Instead, he just winked at her and moved to the back of the car.
Devon began loading her suitcases into the boot and back of the car. “If I recall, you only had half this amount of luggage last year.”
Rae shrugged and stretched the kinks out of her back from the long flight, ready for the drive to Guilder Boarding School. To the rest of the world, Guilder was an ultra-exclusive, all-male boarding school deep in the unpopulated English countryside, which had only opened its doors to women the previous year. What they didn’t know, was that Guilder catered only to the tatùed community. Rae had successfully navigated the tricky waters of both a new school and a totally new way of life, despite being the focus of almost everyone’s attention, be it for good or ill. She actually had friends at Guilder, something she could not say of her old school in New York. It helps that everyone at Guilder’s kinda like me. Maybe not exactly like her, but enough that they had something in common. She had missed that over the summer, the sense of camaraderie. It felt good to be back— in England and with Devon. “What can I say?” She held up her palms, trying to make her face look innocent. “Molly taught me how to shop, so I took advantage of the great sales in New York this summer.” She opened the passenger door and climbed in. The expected new-car smell mingled pleasantly with the scent of expensive leather. Molly had been her roommate the previous year, and they had become best friends. “Speaking of new changes…I know we’re keeping our boyfriend-girlfriend-thing a secret,” to say any romantic relationship between tatùed individuals was taboo would be a categorical understatement, “but how come you didn’t email me a pic of the car…Or something?” Anything. Or contacted me more than twice this summer? Two short and basically meaningless emails had been his only attempt at communication. She didn’t say it, but even seeing him now didn’t erase her disappointment. Typical guy.
“I wanted to surprise you with something cool when you flew in. You know how hard it is to get a Lotus?” He leaned over and planted a quick, hard kiss on her lips before starting the engine. “Missed you. I’m glad you’re back.” He drove out of the airport and onto the motorway with precision and ease.
Either you really wanted to surprise me or you just made that up and you’re avoiding the loaded question. Rae straightened in her seat. Why do I always have to notice and question everything? I’m only making myself miserable. She forced herself to change the subject. “You just graduated last year and already you’re working for this Privy Council?” She still couldn’t grasp his job description. Maybe some sort of private eye or intern superhero? It wasn’t like he had actually answered the question either.
“Hey, what can I tell you? I aced all the tests; they offered me the job. They know at Guilder I’m acting as your mentor, so I got the green light to continue here. Your protection is one of their top priorities.”
Rae stared at him. Part of her was happy to know he would be around. The other part was stunned that the Privy Council would be that interested in her welfare. It creeped her out a little. “You’re pulling my leg. How’d they know about me?”
“Come on, the daughter of the infamous Simon Kerrigan?” He glanced at her and reached over to pat her knee when she rolled her head to look out the window. Fabulous, the one thing about me I want most to forget is the one thing that makes me interesting to the secret squirrels. Devon, mistaking her reasons for withdrawing from the conversation, set out to reassure her. “Don’t worry. No one knows about our relationship, so it’s all good. If the Privy Council found out, they’d definitely send me far away from you.” He shrugged. “Look, this is something I’ve dreamed about doing. Who wouldn’t want to help their country? I’ve spent my entire life following the rules others have set out. Now it’s fun bending them to save the day.”
“It sounds dangerous.” Even with the abilities of his tatù. Not to mention, these dreams of his weren’t something they’d ever talked about. She didn’t understand the fascination or the inclination.
A deep chuckle erupted from his throat. “Now you sound like my mother.”
Ohhh, I can’t resist this one. “I don’t think she wants to protect the same body parts I’m interested in.” She gave him a sly look, fighting back the urge to smile.
“Yuck!” He pretended to gag. “I hope not.”
Rae chuckled, despite her worry. “I don’t want any part of you getting hurt, or in danger. Your mother doesn’t know half of what this world is capable of–”
“Any more than you do. You’re sixteen, newly initiated and only beginning to grasp a hint of your talent. I can take care of myself, and I’ll take care of you as well. It’s my responsibility and my job now…though I can’t consider hanging out with you, work.” He grinned. The adorable dimple Rae loved appeared on his cheek. Yup, definitely missed that.
“Fine.” She breathed out through her nose, a calming technique she had learned long ago. She had just returned and didn’t want to argue. “You win.” She shifted in her seat, taking in his thin, muscular outline. He looked even more handsome since she had gotten off the plane. “Tell me more about the jobs you’ve done over the summer. It all sounds pretty cool.”
“The rush is amazing, and the pay, incredible. Bet I’ll be loaded before I’m twenty.”
Not if you spend money on cars like this.
Devon grinned, his thumbs tapping against the steering wheel. He talked the rest of the drive about the training he and Julian, their friend, had done over the summer.
Rae listened, fascinated, but also noticed he didn’t give specifics about anything. Either the jobs were a secret or he had just spent the summer training and there were no specifics to give. Hopefully it’s the latter of the two.
The motorway turned into a slip road and soon they were driving along the countryside, towards the familiar grounds of Guilder College.
The football fields were full of male students scrimmaging. The oriel windows on the old Tudor buildings were wide open, airing out the rooms in preparation for the arrival of the students who would live there for the next school year. The ivy on the red brick and wood danced in the wind, as though in anticipation. Rae could not wait to get to Aumbry House and to her dorm room. She wanted to see who had already arrived. Molly had e-mailed to say she would arrive the next day. Finally emerging from her own reverie, she realized her cheeks hurt because she had been grinning for a while.
“Happy to be back?” Devon teased.
“Maybe a little.” She shrugged and tried to act like she didn’t care, but the look on Devon’s face told her he didn’t buy it. “Okay, I’m very excited to be back.”
“You’re all right?” Devon tugged at his ear. “You know…with everything that happened… with Lanford, before the summer?”
Rae’s smile slipped and she turned silent, staring out the window as they drove under the bridge that connected the two round towers of the main building. She fought the sense of betrayal and fear that she had kept a lid on all summer long, determined not to think about it. I don’t want to feel like this. She tried to laugh, but it came out wrong, more like a harrumph. “You mean, the headmaster who fooled me into trusting him and let me believe he was on my side?” She didn’t wait for a reply and pointed at one of the towers they’d just passed. “Or do you mean the part where he trapped me in there and tried to force me to finish something my good-for-nothing father started? Or the part where he tried to shoot me and ended up slipping on ice and breaking his head?” She forced herself to stop talking, feeling a tide of emotion starting to well up inside her and fearing the consequences of letting it out.
Devon’s raised eyebrows and hanging mouth made her realize what she had just said.
She reached over and touched his leg. “I’m okay, honestly. I was trying to make a joke; and apparently, I failed. After everything I learned last year, I shouldn’t have let my guard down for anyone.” Tucking an escaped curl behind her ear again, she added, “Except for you, and Julian… and Molls.”
“You’ve just ranted like that, and then say you’re totally fine?” Devon’s voice carried nothing but gentle concern and the promise of support. She had missed him over the summer.
She sighed, pushing her shoulders back and sitting up straighter, mentally pulling herself up by the bootstraps. She needed to reassure Devon that everything was fine. Fake it ‘til you make it, right?
“I can still hear my father’s stupid voice in my head, but I’m going to be fine.” We are above mankind--above the law which rules over them. She dropped her head and squeezed her eyes shut tight for a moment forcing her father’s words out of her thoughts. “Who knows, maybe I’ll be able to get a job with the Privy Council, or act as some secret agent for the government, like you.” And make up for my father being the Hitler of the tatù world. Great job, being the daughter of the world’s evil genius.
Devon chuckled. “I think being away made you a bit crazy. How about you get that massive talent of yours under control before you decide to save the world? And for the record, that’s my job at the moment.” Devon grabbed her hand and gave it an affectionate squeeze.
“You can keep the job…for now. When I graduate, I’ll let you work with me.” She stuck her tongue out at him. She hated to admit it, even to herself, but he was right. My tatù ability is powerful and I barely know how to use it. I might be able to mimic other tatùs, but using them properly is the challenge.
“Thanks for the offer, but secretly dating you is all I can handle at the moment. I don’t know if I could handle working side by side day in and day out and pretend I didn’t have feelings for you.” Devon pulled into the parking area by Aumbry House. He jumped out of the car and opened Rae’s door before she unbuckled her seat belt.
Now that’s the kind a thing a girl likes to hear “Thanks. I–”
“Devon! Ms. Kerrigan!” A pleasant-sounding male voice shouted from across the parking lot, near the Refectory Hall. Rae turned and saw the new dean, Devon’s father, waving as he walked over.
Devon stiffened and moved a few inches from her.
“Hello, Mr. Wardell. I mean, Dean Wardell. Congratulations on the new position.” She shifted her weight, making a conscious effort not to look at Devon.
Dean Wardell raised his eyebrows, his gaze shooting back and forth between them. He smiled and rubbed his hands together. “Glad you brought our star student back in one piece. I just wanted to say hello and let you know Headmaster Carter wants to speak with you both, as soon as you’ve unloaded Ms. Kerrigan’s suitcases.”
Rae nodded, still afraid to look at Devon. He had gotten his fennec fox tatù from his father so sharp eyes ran in the family. The last thing she and Devon needed was for anyone to guess at their relationship. Instead, she looked straight at his father. He looks uncomfortable. I must be making it obvious how hard I’m trying not to look at Devon. Have to think of something else. So Carter is staying around as headmaster? That’s…interesting…I guess. She felt her head tilt to the side as she tried to figure out her feelings about Carter’s continued presence on the campus. She had spent most of the previous year convinced he was the enemy, until he had come to rescue her from Lanford. The Dean seemed to relax as she pondered. Crisis averted.
“Julian’s looking for you, Devon. He’s in the room opposite yours. He arrived earlier today.” Dean Wardell turned and smiled purposefully at Rae before heading across the football pitches. “Have a nice afternoon.” Hmm…maybe not so much averted just yet.
Devon and Rae pulled her suitcases from the boot of the car. They walked towards Aumbry House.
“Is it going to be this awkward every time we’re in public together?” Rae whispered.
“I bloody hope not.” He rolled his eyes. “It’s probably ‘cause it’s my dad. he would kill me if he knew there was anything more going on between the two of us besides mentoring.”
My thoughts exactly. But we need positive reinforcement, not agreement on future mutual destruction. “You do have an excellent track record of being the faithful, obedient son. I doubt he’ll suspect a thing.” Rae nudged him with her elbow.
He bent forward towards her, but instinctively straightened up a second before Madame Elpis entered the main lobby.
“Welcome back, Ms. Kerrigan.” Madame Elpis smiled genuinely, her voice a pleasant, almost sing-song tone. “You’re the first here, so you can pick a room on the third floor. I’ll see you both at dinner.” Madame Elpis whistled as she strolled outdoors.
Rae’s eyebrows went up and her mouth hung open. She watched the tall, hawk-nosed, normally austere and perfunctory woman walk with a light skip down the path outside until she disappeared from sight.
It’s the twilight zone. I’m in the twilight zone. Any second now, I’m going to hear that theme music. “What the –?” Rae sputtered. Madame Elpis had been rigid with her strict demeanor the previous year, and her magpie-crow tatù suited her to a tee. She had always been “in the know” and quite cranky at the best of times. Now it seemed as if someone had switched her personality for a that of a happy little songbird.
Devon gently put his fingers on Rae’s chin and closed her mouth. He smiled as he leaned forward and kissed her quickly on the lips. Rae closed her eyes to savor the feeling, Madame Elpis completely forgotten.
“She fell in love.” Devon pulled away. He grabbed two suitcases, dragging them towards the black and white marble staircase.
“She did, and she’s waiting for another kiss.” Rae puckered her lips, eyes still closed.
“Not you, silly. I’m talking about Madame Elpis.” Devon laughed from several feet away.
Rae opened her eyes, heat rising to her face. She grabbed the remaining case and ran to catch up with him. he had already gone halfway up the first set of stairs.
“Holy smokes, Rae. Is half of New York in these suitcases?”
She ignored his question. “Who’s the lucky, or not so lucky, guy?”
“Madame Elpis? Do you remember the English Professor from your first term?”
“Professor Lockheed?” Rae stared at him incredulously. She knew she and Devon were breaking the rules of the tatù world by dating but she simply could not imagine the ornery Madame Elpis stepping even one toe out of line.
“Yeah. Well, not him, but his brother Donald.”
“Donald?” Rae repeated then started smirking.
“What’s so funny?”
“Do you know Madame Elpis’ first name?”
“Not off the top of my head.”
“It’s Daisy.” She had to stop when they reached the first landing, she couldn’t stop laughing.
“I don’t get it.” Devon shifted his weight, one foot on the next set of stairs.
“Donald and Daisy.” She raised her eyebrows. “You know, on Disney? Donald Duck?”
Devon still seemed lost. “She’s got a magpie, not a duck.”
“I can’t believe you’ve never watched cartoons as a kid,” Rae muttered under her breath before following him up the next flight with her head down. She might as well keep quiet. How come no one ever gets my jokes? They’re not that bad. She brought her head up about to explain the joke.
What the—? She froze midstride, startled when a blurry picture began to flash behind her eyes. Small choking noises escaped as her breath caught in her throat. She squinted, trying to get a clearer glimpse of the fuzzy scene. She felt the handle of her suitcase slip from her hand but barely noticed it tumble down the stairs. This had never happened before. Could someone be trying to kill me? Or contact me?
Devon rushed to her side. “What’s wrong? Are you hurt?”
She heard the fear in his voice but could not reply. She gave her head a slight shake and focused on the mental picture. The old dean, now new headmaster, Carter, paced in his office, his hand nervously running through his dark hair as he talked on the phone. Rae could not hear what he said, but the agitation in his body language worried her. The caller on the other end must not be giving him good news.
She blinked. As fast as the image had appeared, it disappeared. Dazed, she realized Devon had an arm wrapped tightly around her waist, gently shaking her shoulder with his free hand.
“Rae…Rae…Can you hear me? Kerrigan! What’s going on?” Alarm filled his voice.
Slowly she turned her head to focus on him. “Sorry. I’m okay. I—it—” She pressed her lips, trying to make sense of what had just happened. Then something clicked. “I had some vision-thing of Carter. That’s never happened before. Right out of the blue, it popped up. I saw him—just now—” She swallowed, wondering if it would happen again. Taking several deep breaths, she relaxed and let her shoulders drop. “I don’t know where I picked the tatù ability up. Not sure if it’s new or a development of another I already have. It was freaky.” She reached her hand around his neck and stroked her fingers through his hair. She had really missed him this summer, and now here he was. He smelled and felt so good. Focus girl, focus. “I didn’t expect it.”
His bright blue eyes stared deeply into hers. After a few moments, he released his hold on her waist and slowly stepped back.
She knew he was not convinced. “Honest, I’m fine. I’m not gonna pass out, or anything.” As she spoke, her mind replayed the mental picture of Carter. He had gotten his haircut, and almost appeared a bit younger.
“What did you see? Is Carter okay?”
“He seemed angry or upset, or maybe both.” She closed her eyes, trying to remember every detail, but it was like trying to remember the details of a dream. She could taste the fear from the vision but could not remember where it had come from. “I don’t know if the image is happening now, if it’s in the past or something that hasn’t happened yet. I don’t get it.”
“I got a bad feeling.” Devon shook his head, his forehead creasing with lines. “Let’s toss your suitcases in a room and go see him right away. Something’s going on, and I’m willing to bet it’s pretty important.” Quick as a flash, Devon ran down the stairs to grab the fallen suitcase and back up ahead of her before Rae could reply.