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       Fable, p.1

           Chanda Hahn
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  An Unfortunate Fairy Tale Book 3

  Copyright © 2013 by Chanda Hahn

  Cover design by Steve Hahn

  Editor Joy Sillesen

  Kindle Edition, License Notes

  1st Edition

  All rights reserved. Except for use in any review, the reproduction or utilization of this work in whole or in part in any form is forbidden without written permission of the author.

  This is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places and incidents are either the product of the author’s imagination or are used fictitiously, and any resemblance to actual persons, living or dead, business establishments, events or locales is entirely coincidental.

  Table of Contents

  Chapter 1

  Chapter 2

  Chapter 3

  Chapter 4

  Chapter 5

  Chapter 6

  Chapter 7

  Chapter 8

  Chapter 9

  Chapter 10

  Chapter 11

  Chapter 12

  Chapter 13

  Chapter 14

  Chapter 15

  Chapter 16

  Chapter 17

  Chapter 18

  Chapter 19

  Chapter 20

  Chapter 21

  Chapter 22

  Chapter 23

  Chapter 24

  Chapter 25

  Chapter 26

  Chapter 27

  Chapter 28

  Chapter 29

  About the Author

  Sample of The Grey Wolves, Book 7

  Sacrifice of Love by Quinn Loftis

  To Aiden & Ashley

  So that you will grow up loving fairy tales like I did.

  All that glitters is not gold.

  Chapter 1

  It was another dog day of summer, and Mina was miserable. The archaic air-conditioning unit in their apartment was on the fritz again, and the small table fan barely made a ripple in the war on humidity. For once, she was anxious for school to start, just so she could be back into the air-conditioned halls, but that wasn’t the only reason.

  The start of the new school year also meant more opportunities for her to see Brody Carmichael, her long-time crush. Things last year had ended awkwardly when Brody and her best friend Nan Taylor started their almost-dating phase. Or that’s what Mina nicknamed “their friend, but more than friend, behavior.” Neither one of them was ready to admit they were an item, and Mina was fine with the delay, hoping that both of them would come to their senses.

  It was Mina’s family curse that had forced Brody and Nan into circumstances that created something out of a fairy tale. Nan was in a coma and was awakened by Brody’s kiss, and since then they’d been awkwardly inseparable. It was as if neither one believed it, but they couldn’t argue what fate was pushing them toward. But Mina knew it wasn’t fate. She knew it was the Story, or as what she spitefully knew it as — Teague, Jared’s brother.

  A flicker of movement on the floor made Mina move her head away from the fan to glance at her younger brother. Charlie, oblivious to the heat, was playing some made-up rogue game that combined Candy Land and Clue. Even in the heat, Charlie was still over-dressed, wearing his favorite yellow rain boots, Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtle T-shirt, and a Darth Vader helmet.

  He rolled the dice, picked up a double red color card, and moved the little yellow gingerbread man from one game board to the other. Mina didn’t understand the game or his made-up rules, but she had a feeling that the yellow gingerbread man did it in the molasses swamp with the candlestick.

  “Hey, bucket head, you hungry?” she asked, knowing full well that he could get whatever he wanted from the fridge himself. But she liked talking to him, taking care of him.

  Charlie shook his plastic-covered head and continued to scrutinize his boards before rolling to the other side of the board and picking up another character.

  “Suit yourself. I’m going up where it’s cooler.”

  Charlie bobbed his head up at Mina, and his little hand waved at her.

  She peeled herself off the living room chair and moved to her room, where she tiptoed over her piles of clothes on the floor and headed for the open window. She clambered over the ledge onto the fire escape and climbed up to her rooftop retreat. It wasn’t any cooler on the rooftop, but at least she got a slight breeze. Sweat still trickled on her brow, and she wiped it off with the sleeve of her blue T-shirt. She sat on one of her broken lawn chairs and surveyed the garden of mostly fake plants, a few live ones, and a smattering of eclectic decorations consisting of pink flamingoes, Christmas lights, and a shelf with two gnomes that she had collected at the end of the school year, Sir Nomer and Nomita.

  It was the first time in months she had ventured to the rooftop, and she was surprised the rosebush was still blooming. She’d been avoiding the roof ever since her confrontation with Teague, when she had declared that she knew who he was and that killing him would end the curse on her family. He continued to harass her the whole summer, pushing fairy-tale quests her way, but she did something she’d never thought she would do. She ignored them.

  She decided to try to take control of her situation…by doing absolutely nothing. Instead of Teague having all the power and making her jump through his hoops of fairy-tale quests, she went purposefully out of her way to avoid them. And it was relatively easy, if she knew what to look for. For example, one day their family was going to the mall, and she felt the beginnings of power stir up around her. A tingling sensation began in her hands and shot up her arms, causing the hair on the back of her neck to stand on end. Mina quickly surveyed the situation and saw the ravens, all seven of them, standing in an odd row along the sidewalk.

  She knew it was another test, and instead of being manipulated into a confrontation in front of her family, she exclaimed loudly that they would find better deals at the neighboring outlet mall. Her family got back in the car and left. One after another, she had avoided his manipulations. A Rapunzel quest was avoided by her cutting her hair every day for two weeks. A trip to the zoo turned almost into a disaster when the bears began to talk to her and tell her how yummy they thought she looked; Mina decided that the monkey exhibit would be more entertaining.

  On and on her summer went, and she was beginning to enjoy her freedom and the fact that she was, for once in her life, gaining the upper hand, except she was a bit lonely.

  Nan had gone off to drama camp and Brody was traveling abroad with his parents, which left Mina alone. Sure, Jared was around, but since she was refusing to attack any fairy-tale business, he seemed to be off enjoying his freedom. He kept checking in on her and would look at her strangely whenever she avoided an obvious quest trigger, but he never pressed her to action. He seemed more relieved than ever at her course of inaction. Plus, he was spending a lot more time with his Fae friend, Ever.

  Mina bit back a hint of jealousy and snapped herself out of it real quick. It was thoughts like that which led to trouble, and in her case, the Story had used or spurred on her jealousy to turn her into the evil queen in the Snow White tale. Since then, she’d learned and grown, and had gotten her emotions and power under control.

  But that was weeks ago, and Mina knew the Faes’ sense of time on the Fae plane was different than on the human one, so it could be any day a gate would open up and a whole army of Reapers could come across, gunning for her—or it could stay closed for years, and she would grow old. Then what? The curse still existed and would pass on to her mute brother or her own children.

  No, it would have to end with her. She would eventually have to find a way to destroy the Story. But every time she said those words, she would have to remind herself that the Story was a living, breathing person, and could she bring herself to kill

  There had to be another answer, another way. She was going to have to stop the Fae and close the gates to their world, and if there wasn’t a way to do that, she would have to kill Teague. But what would Jared say? What would he do if she killed his brother?

  Music drifted up from the Italian restaurant down the street, and Mina sighed loudly. She would have to make a decision, and soon. Time was running out; summer was almost over, and she felt it in her bones that Teague was going to strike, and strike soon. But when?

  She lay back in the lawn chair and closed her eyes, wishing for a sign, for a cool breeze or even rain. The humidity in the air was killing her. She began praying for rain, a hailstorm, even a blizzard, because every second she was getting hotter and hotter.

  Maybe she should go back inside. The intense heat on the roof was creating a weird burning-tar smell that made her nose sting. Mina sat up and looked around frantically, sniffing the air and looking at the steam vents across the roof. Black smoke billowed out of them. It wasn’t just getting hotter. The building was on fire!

  She rushed toward the ledge and looked down at the street below. Their apartment was above the Golden Palace Chinese restaurant, and sure enough, there down below, the Wongs were evacuating guests from their restaurant and out into the street. People began to gather and point up in the air…until Mina realized they were pointing at her on the roof.

  Mom! Mina mentally screamed, then recalled she was at work before she remembered Charlie.

  “Oh, heaven help me!” Mina cried out to no one in particular as she ran across the rooftop to the fire escape to climb down. Why didn’t she hear a fire alarm? She knew the building had one; even her room had one, because she often stared at the red light in the dark when she couldn’t sleep.

  Black smoke billowed out of Mina’s open bedroom window and rose in plumes into the sky. Grabbing the collar of her shirt, she pulled it over her mouth and nose, and ducked into her bedroom. Her door was shut, and Mina carefully felt the door for heat before opening it and rushing into the hall.

  “Charlie!” Mina screamed as she raced into the living room. Flames were running up the walls and creeping along the ceiling. His board game was still lying on the floor, the Candy Land pieces scattered everywhere. Tears stung her eyes as she scanned the area for his small form in case he was hiding. She went to his room and found his bed empty. His room didn’t have a closet, since it was considered a closet on its own, and she quickly checked under his bed. Nothing!

  “Charlie, where are you? Make a noise, hit something if you can hear me!” She was crying now as her heart began to race in fear. Mina ran into her mother’s room and cried out when she saw it was as empty as the rest of the house. They didn’t own much furniture; there weren’t that many places to hide in their small apartment.

  Please, oh, please let him have gotten out, she thought. Her only hope now would be that he had run out the door at the first signs of fire. Now the smoke was thicker, and Mina had to crawl along the floor. She tried to head out the front door, but when she opened it, fire filled the landing. Slamming the door, Mina rushed back to her bedroom. The fire hadn’t yet reached there yet, but it would soon.

  Her hands shook as she flung items off her desk, looking for the key. It had been weeks since she’d locked up the Grimoire, and now she couldn’t remember where she had put the key. A loud, piercing shriek erupted close by, making her jump. The shriek came again, this time closer. It sounded like a siren, so she assumed it had to be the fire department.

  If Mina was someone who swore, she would have been swearing up a storm at the moment, but instead she tried to think level-headedly for a sixteen-year-old. But in the face of being burned alive, that didn’t happen.

  She gave up searching for the key and took an aluminum baseball bat that she kept in her room for protection against surprise fairy-tale attacks and began to swing at her desk. It wasn’t a sturdy desk, and now that she thought about it, it probably wasn’t the best place to store the Grimoire, since after a few hits to the underside of the drawer it came loose. She grabbed the small book and headed for the fire escape.

  Normally, she would take the ladder up to the roof, but now she had to get the ladder to release and go down. It was stuck. She tried kicking it and jumping on it, but it only slid down a few feet. It would have to do. She turned and had started to climb down the rungs when she thought she heard someone call her name.

  “Charlie?” She looked up and could have sworn she saw someone walking around up on the roof. The heat was getting intense, and the smoke made her cough. Even knowing it was highly impossible, she felt she had to check. Could she have missed him, and he’d gone onto the roof?

  But there it was again, the sound of someone calling. She’d just begun to climb back up the rung when the unthinkable happened. With her added weight, the ladder finally became unstuck and slid down toward the alley. She lost her grip on the rung and fell backward. In a rare moment of déjà vu, she thought she was flying. No—falling. She tried to scream for help, but her words were lost in a rush of air. She saw the sky grow distant as she fell. Arms wrapped around her, and then her world went black.

  Chapter 2

  A voice spoke through the pounding of her head. “Are you okay, miss?”

  “My b-brother.” Something was covering her mouth, making it hard to concentrate.

  The sirens were echoing between the buildings, making Mina wince in pain.

  A young man with “EMT” embroidered on his jacket flashed a small light between her eyes, ignoring her attempts to remove the oxygen mask covering her face.

  “Miss, do you know where you are? Do you remember your name?”

  Mina looked around and saw that she was a few blocks away from her home, lying on a stretcher. Her eyes tried to focus, but it was now dark, and the yellow blazing fire lit up the night sky, distracting her. Was that her home? It sure looked like it was.


  “Your name’s Charlie?” he asked.

  “No. Where’s my brother? He was in the apartment, and I couldn’t find him.”

  More yelling followed as additional firemen rushed past them, toward the burning building.

  “MINA!” A frantic woman pushed past the police tape and darted around the EMTs to run to her daughter. Sara Grime’s hair was falling out of her bun; her eyes were puffy and red from crying as she pulled Mina into a hug. “Oh, God! I’m so glad you’re okay. I was so worried! When Mei Wong called me and told me, I rushed over here as soon as I could.” Sara’s words spilled out as she quickly craned her neck back and forth, looking in the other ambulances nearby. “Mina? Where’s Charlie?”

  “Mom, I…I don’t know.”

  “What do you mean, you don’t know? Mina, where’s your brother? How could you leave your brother in there?”

  Mina started crying harder. “He was there before the fire, and then once it started I went back in and couldn’t find him.”

  Sara dropped Mina’s arms and stood stock-still. Her face paled, and she began to shake. Then she turned and ran toward the burning building.

  “MOM!” Mina screamed, and tried to get off the stretcher.

  A policeman caught Sara Grime at the yellow caution tape and held her back as she tried to claw her way to the building, screaming out Charlie’s name.

  “Ma’am, you can’t go in there. It’s not safe.”

  “My boy’s in there!” Sara cried. “He can’t talk. He could be stuck in there, unable to call for help, and you wouldn’t be able to hear him. Do you understand? He can’t talk, and he is in there!”

  The policeman shook his head in understanding. “The building is about to come down at any second. The fire has done too much damage. It’s too late.”

  “No, no, no! He’s in there,” she argued.

  A small Asian woman emerged from the crowd and wrapped her arms around Sara’s shoulders. “Shhhh, shhh, Sara. It’s okay.” Mrs. Wong tried to comfort her.

“Where is he, Mei? Where’s my boy?” Sara crumpled to the street, and Mrs. Wong knelt down with her, whispering and rocking her. Tears covered both women’s faces as they watched their home and business go up in smoke.

  Mina got up from the stretcher and made her way over to the women. Sara’s eyes burned brightly with judgment as she looked at her daughter. “What happened? What did you do?”

  “I didn’t do anything! I don’t even know how the fire started. Do you?” Mina turned to Mrs. Wong.

  Mei Wong shook her head. “No, it came fast, appear out of walls and cover ceiling. Never see the likes before. It was alive. Barely had time to get customers out, before poof! Gone.”

  Mina stood there, numb; her mind began to play out the possibilities. She turned to look at her apartment building. The firefighters were spraying water through broken windows into what once was their living room. Others were soaking the buildings next to theirs to keep the flames from spreading. A policeman came up to Sara and Mrs. Wong, and they were filing a report on Charlie. He was shaking his head, saying that no one had seen a young boy exit the building. The firemen didn’t find anyone other than Mina in the alley, but he would check with the other cars. He pulled out his radio and put a broadcast out for her brother’s description, in case he had escaped the fire and was wandering the streets.

  She ignored him and walked the perimeter of the yellow caution tape, trying to get a closer look at the building and the fire engulfing it. Charlie had to have gotten out before the fire started. He just had to. Maybe he saw the fire and went to find help? But if that was the case, why didn’t he try to warn her before he took off? He had to have left a clue. She couldn’t even begin to imagine he was still in there. He would show up. Any minute he would come running out of the crowd with a smile on his face, wearing the stupid Star Wars helmet, and all would be well.

  Mina studied the people gathered on the streets. She began to run among them, calling his name. A few people stared at her as if she was crazy, but then she probably looked a wreck. Her brown ponytail had slid sideways and was now on the side of her neck. Her face was smeared with soot, and her brown eyes looked crazed with worry. Yeah, she was a definite picture of madness.

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