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       Fairest, p.21

           Chanda Hahn
 
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  Maeve stopped moving. Only the tremor in her voice gave her away. “I have no idea what you mean.”

  “Jared. He’s your son. And he is somehow bound to the Grimoire. It can’t hurt him or capture him because he is inexplicably linked to it.” Mina began pacing back and forth, her hands waving in the air, and the picture became crystal clear.

  Maeve stood frozen, her chin rose high in the air, neither denying the claims nor agreeing.

  “I started to piece it together when Ever said Pixies don’t get along with Ogres. If anyone knew Jared it was Ever. It’s when I figured out he had to have royal blood in him. Only the Royals can transform to multiple shapes.”

  Mina threw her head back and laughed. “I get it. He’s like a genie in a bottle and that’s his prison. I can only see and talk to him when I’m in possession of the book. It’s why he disappeared the same time the Grimoire did. It’s why you wanted me to get the book back so badly. It had nothing to do with the innocent Fae being trapped inside. The Reapers work for you. They kill the Grimms whenever we come close to finishing the quest. But this one didn’t want to listen to you. You couldn’t control this Reaper. It’s because you wanted your son back safe and sound. But at the expense of what? Nan, Dr. Martin, me, and Diedre?”

  The Queen’s face blanched, and she looked pained. Mina thought it was something she’d said until she saw the Queen reach out past her to someone standing behind her. Mina turned to see Jared, unmoving, he was livid. He moved forward, toward his mother. Mina backed up, thinking he would go and take sides with the Queen. Instead, he came and stood directly in front of Mina, as if he were protecting her from his own mother.

  “Hello, Mother,” Jared’s voice dripped acid.

  “Why, Jared,” she soothed. “You are looking well.” Her hand nervously went to her hair to pat it in place.

  He ignored her. “Did Dad tell the Reaper to go after Mina?”

  Maeve paled again. “No, that was an accident how he stumbled upon her. You were there; you knocked the tree down to save her from the car.”

  “I know that. But was it you or Dad that told the Reaper to kill an innocent girl knowing that I would tell Mina, and she would walk into your trap.” Jared’s fists shook, and Mina could hear his knuckles cracking.

  “Don’t you raise your voice to me, young man. It was your insolence that got you banished and put you in your present circumstance. It wasn’t me, but can you blame your father for trying to kill the Grimm and get the book back safely?”

  “So, what? I can be trapped in limbo for years on end, waiting for the next Grimm? I’ve had it. I’m tired of being your pawn. I’m tired of you and my brother manipulating Mina for your own enjoyment. It’s sick!”

  Mina stood back and waited, stunned. This was the first time she had heard Jared ever mention a brother.

  “Teague can get a little carried away, but I’m sure you know the reasons. He is your brother and is just as tired of his constraints as you are of yours.” Maeve could see that she wasn’t winning any popularity points by bringing up her other son.

  “Rein him in,” Jared argued back.

  She tried a different approach. “I was only trying to do what was best for you, and I don’t think that this girl is what’s best for you. I can see that you are becoming attached and that’s--”

  “Leave,” Jared interrupted her. “You have done enough damage here already. Just leave.”

  The Queen’s pride wouldn’t let her leave without a last word. “Don’t think you can save this one. I told you not to get attached. After all, they all die in the end.”

  Frustrated at being talked about as if she weren’t there, Mina finally pushed Jared to the side. “I have fulfilled my end of the bargain. Although I think you owe me for saving your son.”

  Maeve’s hair began to blow from her power. “I don’t owe you anything,” she combated.

  “That remains to be seen.” Mina raised her chin in challenge.

  The Queen waved her hand. A bright blaring gateway appeared and she stepped through. The parking garage was once again dark except for the streetlight and the few emergency lights. Jared watched his mother leave and stared at the empty space where the door was before turning to Mina with, a sad smile on his face.

  She began to walk away, thinking maybe she could get a ride home from the police. But then she would have to explain to her mother what happened. Mina inwardly cringed.

  “Hey, wait up!” Jared called after her. Since he wasn’t trying to hide anything from her anymore, he used a bit of magic and made a car appear next to him.

  Mina turned to stare at a bright red Mustang with Jared smiling broadly at the wheel.

  “It’s a little flashy,” Mina commented wryly.

  Jared shrugged his shoulders, and the car shifted into a Toyota Prius. Mina looked from the parking garage to the ambulance to see Brody standing very close to Nan. He held her hand, and they both looked shaken, unsure, and scared. Mina squeezed her eyes to keep the tears from falling. She looked up, took a deep breath, and let Jared drive her home.

  Chapter 26

  Life returned to normal, or almost normal. Nan was back at school a few days later, fully recovered and the belle of Kennedy High School. Nan chattered a mile a minute and picked up life right where she’d left off. She was back to texting on her phone, taking hundreds of pictures, and even making snide remarks about Savannah and Pri. But there were a few minor details that had changed. Nan was no longer obsessed with the band the Dead Prince Society. In fact, she had gotten rid of all of her posters, t-shirts and CDs.

  Mina had tried to bring up what had happened, but her best friend simply refused to talk about it. She wasn’t sure, but Mina thought the breakup was due to the fact that Brody was the one to wake Nan up from the coma. She didn’t think Peter could handle the idea of being in competition with his cousin over a girl.

  The other big change was the addition to their lunch table seating. Their lunch duo turned into a quintet, with the addition of a turbulent pixie, a mischievous Jared, and a very subdued Brody.

  She should have been thrilled to have her crush and almost boyfriend sitting at the same table with her every day at lunch, but instead it was torture. Brody sat across from Mina and spent most of the time listening intently and observing Nan’s every move. If she tripped, he immediately grabbed her elbow and kept her safe. He refused to let her carry her own lunch tray or book bag. He hovered over Nan, not in a suffocating kind of way, but in a knight in shining armor way.

  Mina’s fork shook as she picked up a piece of French fry off of her tray and tried to stomach eating the bland flash fried food. Everything she ate tasted like ash. Maybe it was her jealousy gnawing away in the pit of her stomach again. She tried to take a deep breath and think positively and not be jealous because that was what had gotten her in trouble in the first place.

  Nan wasn’t sure what to make of the attention. She at first, tried to ignore Brody, but after a while she caved in to his charms and good looks. After all, if Nan was the fairest in the school, it seemed only right that the school’s prince was her boyfriend. Every once in a while Mina would look up and catch Brody staring at her with confusion and sadness, as if he too knew what they had and lost. They were both haunted with the lingering emotions from that one kiss.

  Mina sighed heavily and looked back down at her plate. Ever made a comment about how the food was the best she had ever tasted. When Mina didn’t respond, she reached over and grabbed a fry off Mina’s unguarded plate. Ever was the oddest addition to their table. Most of the time, she would be sullen and moody. Other times, she tried to take advantage of Mina’s incoherent situation, like stealing French fries. But it was obvious that she was happy that Mina had gotten Jared back. What their actual relationship status was Mina didn’t really know, and it seemed like neither Jared nor Ever wanted to elaborate.

  Jared smiled more, as if a giant weight had been lifted from his shoulders, or more likely secrets. He seemed
happy, content that the Grimoire was back with Mina, but what that really entailed, she wasn’t sure. She had been reluctant to question his duties as the servant of the Grimoire.

  He took a bite out of his burger and smiled at Mina. She felt her heart speed up a little bit and her cheeks reddened when she remembered how he had held her hand and comforted her. Ever saw the interlude and interrupted the moment by telling a joke. Mina looked over and saw Brody watching her again, and she felt her stomach drop. She couldn’t do this anymore. She picked up her tray, disposed of the food in the garbage, and left the school cafeteria, leaving Jared behind. She reached into her jacket pocket and touched the leather-bound Grimoire and felt it grow warm at her touch. Mina knew that she was never fully alone.

  It wasn’t until later that night, when she sat alone atop her roof on her lawn chair that she was finally able to rest and think about last week’s events. She had found another small gnome statue at the thrift store and had decided to add it to her growing collection. She thought Sir Nomer needed company, especially of the female variety. She set the girl gnome statue that she had named Princess Nomita next to Sir Nomer. She couldn’t help but laugh at their jovial positions.

  “What a trivial pastime,” a male voice taunted her.

  Mina’s lips turned up slyly as she spun around with a quick comeback, ready to assault Jared with a nasty remark. Except that it wasn’t Jared who walked around studying her retreat.

  He was remarkably handsome like Jared and similar in many ways. He was tall, slender, and his hair had a slightly lighter tone and he wore all black. But his clothes looked like they were centuries out of date. When he turned to look Mina square in the face, she knew it couldn’t be Jared.

  The person standing in front of her wearing a self-righteous smirk had dark blue eyes while Jared’s were a stormy grey. Immediately, Mina knew who she was dealing with, and her temper began to rise in barely-controlled hatred.

  “What, no hello?” He smiled smugly, raising his hands in a welcoming manner.

  “You are not welcome here,” Mina threatened.

  “Ah, so I take it you know who I am.” His blue eyes became darker, and his smile fell from his lips.

  “Yes, you must be Teague,” Mina’s words were clipped and controlled. “You are the one to blame for everything.” She slowly reached toward her pocket of her jacket and the Grimoire. Teague saw her deliberate movement and grabbed her wrist painfully.

  “Ah! Let’s leave my little brother out of this for the moment. What I have to say is between you and me.” She glared at him in defiance when she refused to flinch from the pain. He smiled at her strength and then released his grip on her wrist. “So you overheard my mother call me Teague, but do you know I am also called by a different name?” he taunted.

  Her lips curled up in a knowing smile. “I know. I looked it up at the library. Teague has many meanings, but the most common is Storyteller or, in your case, Story.” She watched as Teague’s eyebrows rose in surprise. She had caught him off guard.

  “Very good. I’m impressed; it seems I may have underestimated you. You are the very first Grimm ever to figure out our secret.” He raised his hand slowly and brushed his knuckles down the side of Mina’s cheek. Her skin crawled from the contact.

  He chuckled. “So do you like my parting gift? I thought it would be nice to give you what you wanted for once. You had been so miserable the last few weeks when I erased your friends’ memories. I was tired of watching you mope around all pathetic. I thought you would like this ending better. Your best friend and boyfriend get to live happily ever after.” He was extremely pleased with himself and smiled widely.

  Bile rose up in Mina’s throat at Teague’s obvious machinations to try and break her and to use her friends for his games.

  “It’s fine,” Mina taunted back. Stepping forward, she pushed into Teague’s chest. He moved back a few steps. “I, too know how to play this game, and I am getting better at it.” She began to chuckle, and the smile dropped from Teague’s handsome face.

  “What?” he asked worriedly. “What is so funny?”

  “Nothing,” she answered back coyly. “It’s just so much easier knowing that it is you that I have to overcome not some magical book that exists in the Fae world. Because if your situation is as similar to Jared’s, and I believe it is, then your existence is bound to a book as well. So, in other words, if you die, I kill the Story, which means, bye-bye quests, and bye-bye curse.” Mina walked over to the rooftop and grabbed a spade she used to transfer her potted plant.

  All of the color drained from Teague’s face as Mina spelled out his secret. She kept adjusting the handle of the spade in her hand testing its weight.

  “You wouldn’t dare!” he joked nervously. “The Fates would send more Reapers after you. In fact, all of the Fae would try and kill you.” He backed up and tripped backward over Mina’s lawn chair, breaking it. Teague fumbled with the plastic furniture and finally freed himself from it.

  “Tell me something new. They’ve been manipulating our original bargain and hunting my family down for hundreds of years. But nobody has ever tried to bring the fight to them. That is all going to change, starting now.” She had advanced upon Teague and swiped at his midriff with the spade. He jumped back and fled to the other side of the roof. “This Grimm will no longer follow the rules.”

  “You don’t know what you would be doing. You would be declaring war!” He looked scared, but not because of Mina’s spade. He was scared at what she was proposing.

  “Then prepare for war, Story.” Mina took the spade and began to drag it across the roof, scratching out a very definite line in the cement. “The lines of battle have been drawn. Tell your King and Queen to send their best because this tale is about to be rewritten.”

  End of Book 2

  About the Author

  Chanda Hahn is the epitome of a jack of all trades. She’s a former children’s librarian and bookseller with an obsession with books. Currently she writes in her free time and is a credentialed children’s pastor. She likes her coffee cold, chocolaty and preferably blended, even when it’s below freezing outside.

  She was born in Seattle, Washington, grew up in Nebraska, and currently resides in Portland, Oregon with her husband and their twin children; Aiden and Ashley.

  Visit Chanda Hahn’s website to learn more about her other forthcoming books.

  Other Books by Chanda Hahn

  UnEnchanted: An Unfortunate Fairy Tale Book 1

  The Iron Butterfly

  Connect with Me Online at:

  Web site: www.chandahahn.com

  Twitter: www.twitter.com/chandahahn

  Smashwords: www.smashwords.com/profile/view/chandahahn

  A quick thank you to everyone who helped me with this book. Whether it was inspiring words, encouragement, editing or watching my twins so I can write. Thank you: Alison Brace, Ann-Marie Morgan, Stacey Wallace Benefiel, Mandy Pratt and my husband Philip Hahn.

 


 

  Chanda Hahn, Fairest

 


 

 
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