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       Reign, p.2

           Chanda Hahn

  T.J. returned to his seat amid laughter and a few claps. Mina had missed the entire thing, remembering. She’d need to pay better attention.

  “Nan Taylor?” Mr. Morris called from his desk.

  Mina craned her neck, surprised when her best friend popped up from the back corner of the classroom. She had thought, since the desk next to her was empty, that Nan hadn’t come to school today. Quite possibly though, she wouldn’t have recognized Nan with her bottleneck glasses, crazy ratted hair, and dark robe even if she were beside her.

  It was apparent from her dress, Nan was trying to make a grand entrance. Her normally beautiful blonde hair was disguised beneath a very large witch hat. Her mischievous blue eyes were hidden behind thick glasses, which Mina could only assume were impossible to see out of. Mina’s assumption was proven correct when Nan banged her knee against a desk.

  Once she reached the whiteboard, Nan turned up her iPhone, and familiar mystical music floated through the air. She always did prefer the dramatic approach to… well, everything. Nan decided to take a simple oral presentation and dress up as a character from the Harry Potter series.

  Nan’s presentation was highly entertaining and informative, and she received bonus points from their teacher for taking the presentation one step forward with such creativity.

  Mina’s heart sank when her name was called to do her presentation. Her hands clutched her paper, which was only slightly wrinkled from being folded and unfolded a hundred or more times in the last thirty minutes.

  She desperately wished she had her best friend’s confidence in front of a crowd. Mina’s feet felt like they were encased in cement, and her heart pounded so loud and fast, she could hear it in her head. Why did she have to be so nervous? She happened to look out the window and saw that the clear sky had turned a dismal gray—which mirrored her feelings of distress.

  She trudged up to the front of the room, desperately wishing for a giant crater to open up in the ground in front of her and swallow her whole. Or a meteor to come crashing into the school’s football field and cause a big huge distracting thing, so she could duck out the back of the room. But luck wasn’t on her side. Luck was never on her side. In fact she was pretty sure it avoided her at all costs.

  She was standing in front of the class and she was now out of time. A small cylindrical object weighed heavily in Mina’s pocket, and she felt her hand gently brush against the seam ripper, its magic powerful enough to rip through the physical plane to the Fae plane by creating a door between the worlds. Oh, how she wanted to use it.

  Her teacher Mr. Morris gave her a small smile of encouragement, and she felt her gumption leave. It was a bit ridiculous, if she thought about it. She could fight off bears, wolves, sea witches, Stiltskins, giants, ogres, and snakes, but she couldn’t handle standing in front of her peers and giving a dumb speech.

  Her stomach dropped and a bitter acidic taste rose up in her mouth. Oh, Heaven Almighty, help her! She was going to puke. Was her face turning green? Isn’t that what happened right before an epic expulsion of bodily fluids? Or maybe her face would turn white.

  Her curiosity got the better of her and she turned her head to try and see if she could tell from her reflection in the window. In the middle of the afternoon, she shouldn’t have seen anything, but the sky’s dimming its own sickly green made a reflection possible. A few seconds’ glance told her that her face was white.

  She didn’t look well at all.

  “My report is on Joseph and Wilhelm Grimm, otherwise known as the Brothers Grimm. Joseph and W-Wilhelm traveled the world collecting all of the various Fae—ry tales for their own records.”

  Her hands began to shake. She saw that Nix had caught her blunder and quick recovery. Nan was smiling at her like a goon, trying to encourage her to keep going.

  Mina smiled back and continued with her report. When her eyes flickered to Brody Carmichael, she started to stumble over her words again. Brody was leaning back in his chair, his arms crossed over his chest with his head cocked ever so slightly to the side. He gave the impression that he was studying something of interest, and that something of interest happened to be Mina.

  What had she just said? She’d been talking about their volumes of tales and then she lost her train of thought. Brody’s chair tipped forward and then gently settled on the ground again. With its impact, her thoughts scattered like cockroaches in the daylight. But it wasn’t Brody’s striking looks that distracted her; it was the person standing just behind him against the back brick wall.

  He was wearing a long, dark jacket with a high collar, and his hair looked almost black. There was no mistaking the intensity of the hate rolling off of him in waves. But he wasn’t focused on Mina at the moment. Teague was glaring at the back of Brody’s head with enough hate to bore a laser hole through it—which confused Mina. Why would Teague hate Brody? Teague was the one responsible for Brody falling unnaturally in love with her and then promptly making him forget her. What was with the ire?

  “Is that all Miss Grime?” Mr. Morris asked.

  Apparently, she was so shocked by Teague in the room that she had completely stopped talking. Mina chewed on the inside of her cheek as she tried to retrace her steps and think of where she had left off.

  “Um…um…” She faltered and shot Nan a desperate look, unwillingly casting another worried glance to the back of the room.

  Nix frowned and followed her gaze. As soon as he saw the Fae prince, he turned around and slouched low in his desk, trying to hide from his prince—who may or may not recognize the Nixie in his human form.

  “I uh, I’m…” She glanced down at her cheat sheet, but she could no longer read the words written across the plain notebook paper. They were simple bullet points, and facts about the brothers, but the script staring back at her wasn’t her own.

  Careful what words you utter. For they may be your last.

  Mina was careful to keep a neutral face as she read the threat. Instead of causing her to become scared, the words ignited a fire within her. Schools should be a safe zone, free from Fae influence—at least from the bad kind. There were too many innocents at risk: Nan, Brody, and Nix to name a few. And here Teague shows up and tries to intimidate her.

  Nan noticed Mina staring and turned to follow her friend’s line of sight, but it was obvious from her confused looks at the brick wall that she couldn’t see Teague. Even though Nix could.

  In fact, it seemed that most of the room couldn’t see Teague, so that eased her fears. But only a little.

  “Mina, do you need a minute to regain your thoughts?” her teacher interjected.

  Mina’s eyes never left Teague. He was now giving her his full, undivided devilish focus. Those blue eyes bored into hers with a clear challenge. Everything about him screamed Jared except for those blue eyes.

  “No, I don’t need another minute. I’m fine,” she answered. “I’m almost done.”

  “Okay then. When you’re ready to proceed.”

  She nodded her head, crumpled up the paper into a small ball, and tossed it in the trash can. A smile crept up her face and she raised an eyebrow in challenge. The smirk dropped from his haughty face and he moved away from the wall.

  “An interesting fact that is not well known is that the Grimm Brothers were inter-dimensional travelers who captured and sent evil Fae back to their world, which exists on another plane.” The words were clear and crisp, and she didn’t stutter. “Although tasked with an impossible quest, they never gave up in their mission. And to this day their descendants carry on the same assignment. I once said that Joseph and Wilhelm were cursed, because it seemed like the odds were stacked against them. But I was wrong. They’re not the ones cursed. They’re the ones who live free. It’s the Fae that are cursed, and all the ones who must live in fear of tyranny. It is those on the Fae plane I pity, for their time here is short. The Grimm grace period is over. I will not fail to end the tyranny where others have. So run. Run while you can,” she threatened.
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  Silence filled the room as the tension tried to find a way out. Mina knew what her classmates were probably thinking, although no one said a word. It was uncomfortable and awkward.

  Teague looked angry enough to spit acid. “I warned you, Grimm. I warned you, but you didn’t listen,” he spoke out.

  Not a single head turned his direction. They were all focused on her. She could see the odd shoulder shrug, the pairs of rolled eyes as some tried to process what she’d said. Only Nix heard Teague, and when Teague’s threat reached his ears, he started to tremble and slid lower in his chair. Any lower and he would be sitting on the floor.

  Mina didn’t back down from Teague. She knew never to back down from a rabid dog, and this was the same. This was an intimidation game, and she could not show any sign of weakness.

  She managed to cross the short distance without her legs crumbling under her. Now for the icing on the cake. When she reached her desk, she turned her back on Teague, sat in her chair, and pretended to inspect the non-existent nail polish on her fingers.

  She could feel the crackle of energy building behind her. It was almost impossible to ignore. The room dropped in temperature, and goose bumps ran up and down her arms. Without looking, she knew Teague was doing what he could to draw her attention, but she turned to Brody and gave him her most dazzling smile.

  Or what she hoped was a dazzling smile. It probably looked a bit pained and constipated. “How’d I do?” she asked.

  “That was intense,” he answered. His brows furrowed and he looked around. “Does it seem like it got really cold all of a sudden?” When Brody exhaled, his breath turned white.

  “No, I don’t find it cold at all,” she lied. Her heart was racing so fast that it sounded like a bass drum leading a marching band in her ears. The temperature dropped again.

  Just go away. Please just go away. She looked over her shoulder to see frost creeping up the nearest window and spreading out in impossible swirling fractals. Mina picked up the pencil on her desk and tapped it on her notebook. She visibly shivered from the chill in the air and watched as Mr. Morris went over to thermostat. He rapped the square white box a few times and waited before flicking it off then on.

  By now a few of the students were pulling their arms inside of their sleeves and rubbing them to create friction. To have this kind of chill in the middle of a seventy-degree day was nuts.

  An idea came to Mina, and she flipped open her notebook and scribbled the words GO AWAY, TEAGUE in bold capital letters and waited.

  Only moments later, his answer appeared in a beautiful cursive script on the paper before her.

  Not until I get what I want.

  What do you want? You’ve won, okay?

  I want the dagger.

  Mina had no idea what Teague was referring too, so she answered, ???

  You know what I mean. Bring it to me and I’ll let your friends live. If you don’t, I’ll destroy them. One by one.

  Mina couldn’t ignore the threat anymore. She dropped her pencil and turned around to look at Teague, but the back of the room was empty. She felt a sense of loss and desperation and turned to face the front again.

  There he was. She came face to face with fierce blue eyes. Teague was leaning across her desk, his face inches from hers. She could feel his breath on her face when he exhaled, and she was very careful to not move or alert the rest of the room to the invisible person she was having an intense conversation with. From the corner of her eye, she saw Nix’s eyes transfixed on her, waiting to jump in and help if needed. But she could tell he was terrified.

  Oddly, Mina didn’t feel the same. It wasn’t fear that caused the single tear to cascade down her cheek, but sadness—at the loss of Jared. Looking into Jared’s face and seeing someone else’s hate-filled gaze was almost her undoing.

  One corner of Teague’s lip curled up in a smile when he saw her tear. He leaned even closer across the desk and whispered into her ear. “That’s right, little Grimm. You should be afraid, be very afraid, of what I’m about to do to your friends.”

  Her breath caught in her throat and a little gasp escaped, but it was not for the same reasons he probably thought. Teague’s voice sounded so much like his other half.

  “Jared.” Mina let the name slide across her lips in an almost inaudible whisper.

  Except that Teague was close enough to hear the name. He pulled back from her with such force that Mina’s desk moved. His face turned red with rage, and his eyes glowed and crackled with power.

  Loose papers began to flutter and fly about the room. Pencils rolled off desks and skittered across the floor. Students’ startled cries filled the air as many jumped up out of their seats. The desks moved outward, seemingly all on their own, from the epicenter that was Teague.

  She knew better than to show that this had anything to do with her, so she sat frozen in her desk, staring at the display of power that Teague emanated almost unconsciously. Was this why he wanted his other half back? What if this was only a small taste of the power he gained when he became one with Jared?

  Mina’s hands slowly moved to the edge of her desk and gripped the sides until her knuckles turned white. What had she done? They were doomed.

  Her desk started to move backward from Teague’s fury storm of power, but she wrapped her ankles around the legs of the desk and held on. Pinching her lips together, she locked eyes with Teague in angry challenge and nodded her head—signifying that yes, she would give him his whatchamacallit.

  Within half a second, he was gone. The wind had stopped, the desks had quit moving across the floor, and Mina looked around in surprise. Brody, Nan, Nix, and the rest of the classroom were pinned against all four classroom walls by desks.

  Mina was the only student still in her seat. And her desk, in the exact center of the room, was the only one not disturbed. So much for being inconspicuous.

  “Mina?” Nan’s shaking voice called out as she began to try and push a desk out of the way and make it over to her.

  Mina’s fingers still gripped the edges of her desk, and she quickly released them and unlaced her legs as well. It looked odd, and frankly she had no explanation for what had happened. She glanced up to see an air conditioning vent in the ceiling that was right above her desk.

  “That was scary,” she joked. “Someone should get the AC fixed.” She picked up her books and bolted for the door just as the bell rang.

  Footsteps sounded behind her, but Mina didn’t slow her pace. A quick self-preserving glance revealed the red-headed Nix. He took two large steps and caught up to her.

  “Don’t tell me that the dark prince visits you at school often.”

  “I can’t tell him what to do. Or have you forgotten all the havoc he wreaked on the Fae plane?”

  “No, I have not forgotten. Nor will I ever forget what he is capable of doing. But I wonder if you have.”

  “I can handle him,” Mina said.

  “No, I don’t think you can. Not on your own anyway.” Nix grabbed Mina’s shoulder and pulled her over by the water fountain. “You look at him and see Jared. You were in love with Jared, so you’re letting his looks fool you into thinking he is, in part, still the same person. He’s not. You don’t know what the prince was like before there ever was a Jared.”

  “Do you? Does anyone really know someone?”

  “I’ve grown up on the Fae plane. I’ve heard the stories of his destructive power. The other Nixies retold the stories frequently. What you did back there was suicide.” Nix flung his arm out toward the classroom they’d just left and almost clotheslined a poor unsuspecting student. “Sorry!” he yelled, grimacing. “Mina, what I’m trying to say is don’t throw your life away by challenging the most destructive being in the world.”

  “I didn’t challenge him,” Mina whispered.

  “Yes, you did. You were insubordinate, which only angers him more.”

  “Of course I’m insubordinate. I don’t answer to him. He’s not my prince. He doesn’t ru
le my world.”

  Nix swallowed and looked back toward the classroom as Nan exited. Her blonde hair was disheveled and she looked a little shaken, but she was now laughing at what had happened. Brody was searching the mass of students in the hallways. They could hear T.J. asking if anyone else’s air conditioning unit had tried to freeze the classroom into a fortress of solitude.

  “Not yet, he doesn’t. Not yet,” Nix answered solemnly.

  Chapter 3

  Mina waited outside of the music room for Mrs. Colbert to exit. Mrs. Colbert—Constance, as she was known by the Fae—was in fact a Godmother. Or as they referred to themselves these days, GMs. Students filed out of the music class in groups of twos and threes. Mina waved as Melissa, Makaylee, and Julianne walked out, but the girls only smiled politely and waved in reply.

  Mina heard Melissa ask her friend, “Who’s she?”

  Makaylee shrugged. “Beats me.”

  “No clue,” Julianne answered.

  Mina inwardly groaned at how thorough the Story could be sometimes when resetting everyone’s memories. She knew she couldn’t keep letting the memory wipe happen to her friends. Not without permanent damage.

  Even Nan had been acting strange lately. Ever since the last quest ended and Nix appeared. Some days she would be her normal and chipper self, but other days, mellow and withdrawn.

  When no more students exited the classroom, Mina rushed inside to Constance. “He was here! Teague showed up here at school.”

  The Godmother’s face filled with panic, and she rushed toward the door as if to stop the prince by herself.

  “He’s gone.” Mina called after her teacher. Constance slowed, smoothed her gray pencil skirt, and adjusted the teal wingtip glasses on her small nose.

  “I wonder what his intentions are. Why did he show up today, reveal himself to you, and not do any harm?” Constance ran her hands through her wavy hair. The spiky style she used to wear looked like a Pixie cut, but this made her softer somehow. Her eyes kept flicking to the window and back to the door, checking all of the exits, despite Mina’s assurance that he was no longer here.

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