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       Reign, p.3

           Chanda Hahn
 

  “He showed up to annoy me, to threaten me, to demand that I give him some dagger or he’ll destroy my friends.”

  “A dagger?” She paused, looking pensive for a moment before shaking her head. “And he just left without it?”

  She shrugged her. “Yeah, he just left.”

  “He’s stronger than he’s been in a hundred years. Mina, you have to be careful. He’s vengeful and he’s dangerous. He could have destroyed the whole school with everyone in it.”

  Mina’s heart was thundering and her mouth went dry. “Then why didn’t he?” Now Mina was the one checking all the exits and watching the windows. All she saw was a steady rain.

  “I don’t know. But remember what I told you about this being your chance to end the curse on your family. He’s only going to continue to grow stronger with time. He’s waiting for something. I just don’t know what.”

  “Do you know what Teague was referring to? The dagger? And why does he think I have it?” Mina came in and sat on one of the vacated music chairs. “I need help. I’m defenseless against the curse.”

  Constance looked her over and smiled, shaking her head slowly in disagreement. “Who’s to say you don’t have it? After all you live in a very mysterious house.”

  “Do you know something I don’t?” Mina snapped.

  “Well…” Constance pursed her lips. She raised one eyebrow on her otherwise calm face. “Defenseless? With each quest you complete, not only does the Story—excuse me, Teague—grow stronger, but so do you, dear child. It happens to all the chosen Grimms eventually. You can’t be involved with so much Fae magic and not have some of it rub off you. You must have seen some signs by now, Mina,” Mrs. Colbert coaxed.

  “I don’t know what you mean,” Mina lied uncomfortably, not willing to share that the flares of power had been coming and going around her. They scared her.

  And why was she only just finding out about her house having artifacts inside it?

  Constance closed the lid over the piano keys with a click. She ran her hand over the wooden cover softly and gave Mina a small chiding smile.

  Suddenly, Mina felt overwhelmed. There was simply too much mystery—and too much out of her control. “I don’t know what to do. I feel alone, and I need help.” She rubbed her palms on her legs in an attempt to keep her focus.

  “You have help. You have us.” Mrs. Colbert answered adamantly.

  “I want my friends.”

  “Well, that’s—”

  “No,” Mina interrupted. “No more messing with their minds. I want Nan and Brody to be protected from the resets.”

  “Mina, I don’t think that is possible.”

  “Yes, it is. When the fairy-tale quest is over, and everything goes back to normal, all of the Fae retain their memories, and I do. Why not my friends?”

  “Well, you’re a Grimm. Your protection is in your blood. Same with Charlie.”

  “What about our mom?”

  “She’s only Grimm by marriage. She’s been allowed to retain her memories so she can protect you.”

  “How?”

  “Well, we help with tokens and such.”

  “The charm bracelet that she always wears. This morning I saw that you’ve added another charm.”

  “Yes, that one was created for the sole purpose of helping her forget about Charlie’s kidnapping and staged death by the Stiltskin. She needs to keep some of the Grimm memories so she can do her duty in protecting her children, but she doesn’t need to hold on to the worrisome ones.”

  “So now you’re playing God and getting to choose what memories my own mother gets to keep. You’re getting as bad as Teague,” Mina argued.

  “Now that’s a little harsh. We’re doing what we need to do to protect ourselves.”

  “Well, I want you to create more of these protection charms.”

  “They do nothing against physical attacks. They are only strong enough to protect the mind.”

  “Exactly. Right now, my mind is my greatest weapon, and I need my friends’ minds too.”

  Constance closed her eyes and sighed loudly. “I’ll see what I can do about getting the Guild to allow a protection charm for your friends.”

  Mina nodded. At least Mrs. Colbert was going to try instead of saying no. “Oh, um, there’s one more thing.”

  “What is it?”

  “This morning, my brother was playing with items in a suitcase, and I swear he disappeared right before my eyes for a split second. Does this have anything to do with what happened to him on the Fae plane? I have to admit, I thought maybe it was something he touched but I’m not sure. Can you ask around as see if there are any after-affects to staying over on the Fae plane for too long?”

  Constance looked worried and pulled out her cell phone. “I’ll have the Guild look into it. We will try and find you answers.”

  “Thank you.” Mina felt relieved. Hopefully, she was wrong about her brother and what she saw. Maybe she could write it off as her being overly stressed and plagued by nightmares.

  Chapter 4

  Once she was home, Mina began tearing the house apart, looking for the dagger. In desperation, she pulled all of the old books off the bookshelf and felt along the back for hidden compartments. Nothing.

  Seeing Teague had been no fluke. He would certainly be sending a quest after her and soon. Especially if she didn’t find the item he was asking for.

  Life was so unfair.

  The rain that started this afternoon at school still hadn’t let up, and now and again lightning lit up the sky followed by thunder. The pelting of water on the roof and windows was unnerving, especially when she was all alone.

  Leaving the piles and piles of books on the floor in the library, she turned her attention to the walls and picture frames. Wasn’t that how it was in the movies? Pull on a sconce and a hidden room opened up? Or a safe appeared behind some old portrait of an aged, overweight smiling millionaire? Of course it couldn’t be that easy either.

  Mina wasn’t worried about the mess upsetting her mother or Charlie since they had gone out to see the new animated Disney movie. She’d politely excused herself with a ruse of a headache and too much homework. That was partially true. She did have lots of homework—sort of. If you counted that it took work to tear their home apart.

  She glanced at the clock and counted down the minutes in her head before her mom and brother came home. It took twenty minutes to get to the theater, wait in line, order popcorn, fifteen minutes of previews, an hour and a half movie, and the return trip. She’d been banking on two and half hours, and she was down to an hour and a half left.

  Mina was underneath the study desk when a loud knock at the front door startled her, causing her to bump her head on the bottom of the desk. Funny, she hadn’t heard a car pull up. And no one other than Nan came to visit her old creepy house. Crawling out from underneath, she grabbed a fireplace poker and slid to the window, being careful to not pull the curtain too far. Nothing. The library window didn’t give a clear view of the front porch without her leaning farther out. She heard gravel crunch and ducked back behind the safety of the dark drapes, right as someone else pressed their face to the same window and looked in to the room.

  Mina gasped, her heart pounding, and debated her options. She could open the door screaming like a banshee, and chase the intruder away with the fire poker. Or she could cower on the floor and call the police. Her imagination running wild, she didn’t stop to think whether she’d locked the front door. And then she couldn’t remember. She kept low and crawled to the door of the library. Just on the other side were the foyer and the front door. Four more steps and she could turn the deadbolt. She was about to make a run for the lock when she heard it.

  The loud squeak of the rusty hinges from the screen door. Usually, she complained about the annoying noise.

  All alone in this house, that simple sound was terrifying.

  Her heart thumped loudly, and all she could do was plead in her mind. No no no. Don’
t try the door. It’s locked. Nobody’s home.

  But all her inner dialogue did nothing to persuade her visitor. Too late. The old metal knob jangled and turned.

  Utter silence followed as the well-oiled inner door pushed open.

  Frozen, she had to make a completely illogical decision.

  Attack!

  Chapter 5

  Mina rushed around the wall, poker raised above her head in the most intimidating pose she could muster. She closed her eyes and swung at the dark figure invading her foyer—there was a whoosh of air followed by a gasp and a thud on the floor.

  Still in a state of panic, she opened her eyes. Nix lay sprawled out on the ground and staring up at her, his hands protecting his red head from being decapitated. A pair of shocked green eyes greeted her.

  When he recognized her expression, his turned amused. “Honey, I’m home,” Nix quipped, mimicking one of the old TV reruns he’d been obsessed with lately.

  “Nix, what in the world are you doing sneaking into my house?” Mina said, still brandishing the poker over her shoulder like a baseball bat.

  “Careful, Lucy, I’ve brought company.” Nix said still lying on the floor. He gestured with his laughing eyes to the doorway.

  Mina looked up in confusion to see Brody filling out the doorframe very well. He appeared entertained at the situation and the fire poker in her hand. She let out a small gasp and dropped the poker.

  A soft thud and a yelp told her she dropped it on Nix’s foot.

  “Serves you right,” she muttered under her breath. “For breaking and entering.”

  “I didn’t break anything. You, on the other hand, could’ve broken my head if I hadn’t ducked. Besides, I knocked. You didn’t answer,” Nix whined, as he sat up and nursed his injured leg.

  “That’s because nobody’s home.”

  “Of course you’re home. I saw you walk by the window.”

  “Maybe I didn’t want company, did you think of that?” she mumbled between clenched teeth.

  “Why wouldn’t you want company? Now that’s just dumb. No one likes being alone.”

  Mina sighed loudly in frustration. Nix still didn’t understand human etiquette. Since Nixies didn’t have doors on their underground caves, they were used to just letting themselves into each other’s dwellings. And since Nix only one of his friends and family that hadn’t disappeared or turned into an evil Sea Witch, being alone was a terrible thought.

  “Well, I happen to like being alone,” she answered.

  “Being alone isn’t good for the soul. It’s not healthy. I should know.”

  “Nix, this isn’t really the time to be debating this,” Mina hissed under her breath as Brody just leaned against the wall and watched the whole exchange with a bemused expression.

  “And you,” she turned on Brody. “Were you going to let him just walk into my house?”

  Brody shrugged his shoulders and started to chuckle. His hair was slightly damp, and his shirt clung to his shoulders. He seemed wetter than he would have been from walking a few feet in the rain from the car to the house. They must have driven here straight from water polo practice. Over the last few weeks, Brody and Nix had bonded over their love of water sports. “When he gets his mind set on doing something there’s hardly a way to stop him,” he answered and motioned to Nix. “It’s way more fun to sit back and watch.”

  Mina rolled her eyes and picked up the poker from the floor, stashing it in a corner of the room.

  “Yay, the weapon of decapitation has been dispensed with. Now we move onto business,” Nix said happily.

  Mina put her hands on her hips and tilted her head. “What are you talking about?”

  Nix started toward the open doors that led into the library. When he saw all the books on the floor, he looked surprised and entered. He began to pick up random books and flip through them, ignoring her question.

  Brody followed Nix into the library and looked at the mess. “Got something against reading?”

  “No, I’m just alphabetizing,” Mina answered quickly, knocking a pile of books over. The pile fell sideways, and the top one slid across the floor into Brody’s foot.

  They both reached for the book at the exact same time, and their hands touched. She inhaled deeply and held it as a whiff of his shampoo washed over her. He smelled so clean. Her heart pounded in her chest. She had almost forgotten what Brody smelled like.

  “I’ll help you.” He pulled gently on the book, and she let him have it. He walked over to a semi-empty bookshelf and placed the book upright.

  Nix flipped his book closed with a loud thud, looked between Brody and Mina, and announced loudly, “I’m hungry. Anyone want any food? No?” He answered for them before they could respond. “Good, ’cause I wasn’t going to make you anything anyway. So if you’ve got something to say Brody, you should say it now. Before I finish eating whatever sandwich I can make out of their leftovers.”

  Brody’s cheeks flushed. Was Brody here to see her? Was this his idea? For some reason, she’d believed Nix was the one behind their sudden arrival on her doorstep.

  Brody looked even more handsome when he blushed. Was that because of her? “Uh yeah, so about the real reason I asked him to come here with me.” Brody scratched the top of his blond head, messing up his sun-kissed locks.

  “Why did you need Nix to come here with you?”

  “To be the first through the door, if you decided to attack us when we broke in, of course.”

  “Of course.”

  “No, I only asked him because you two seem to have grown close. And he swore up and down that you two weren’t an item. When he heard my plan, he said he would come with me just in case you turned me down.”

  “Your plan?”

  “Yeah. There’s this thing at my parents’ country club.”

  “I like things.” Mina rushed the words out, anticipating where the conversation was headed, then inwardly groaned at her childish answer.

  Brody laughed. “I’m glad you like things. I like these things well enough, if someone I like is willing to go too.”

  “And you think this person that you like would like going to this thing?” Mina asked coyly. She chuckled at their verbal game. Flirting with Brody Carmichael was thrilling.

  “Yeah,” he breathed out softly, stepping closer. “That’s why I’m here. To ask this person that I like to go to this thing.”

  “Oh, well, in that case, Nick is in the kitchen,” Mina teased, jumping back as Brody made a playful punch at her arm.

  “That’s not funny,” Brody challenged.

  “Yes, it was,” Mina laughed, “and you know it.”

  Brody grinned and stepped closer. “Yeah, you’re right it was funny.”

  When their laughter died down, she had a moment to contemplate. “But why?” Mina immediately hated herself for doubting his motives. It wasn’t that she didn’t believe him, but more that she wanted to make sure he wasn’t under any Fae influence.

  It was the wrong thing to say. His face fell, and he looked irritated. “If you don’t want to go, you can just say so.” He turned and left the library without another word. She wondered where he went until she heard the screen door slam.

  “Crud.” Mina and rushed out after Brody into the rain. He was only a few feet off of the porch and had stopped in front of his black car. He looked forlorn and lost as the rain ran off of him. When he heard the door shut he turned to look at her. His face was a mirage of emotions—confusion, want, need. She rushed off the steps and went to him. Stopped within arms’ reach and watched him silently.

  “It’s raining,” Brody said as if he just noticed it.

  “Yeah, it is,” she answered. “I’m sorry for doubting your reasons. If the offer is still good, I would like to go with you.” She smiled, blinking through the rain.

  Brody stepped closer, and she closed the distance. She almost leaned into him but caught herself at the last moment. He was standing closer than was appropriate as well, and th
ey were both staring at each other. Neither one said anything, but her thoughts hung heavy in the air.

  What are you thinking? Do you remember me…us?

  Brody opened his mouth to say something, but closed it at the last second and shoved his hands in his pockets. She could see them balled into fists through the denim of his jeans. His smile dropped from his face and he looked irritated at himself.

  “What’s wrong?” she asked, promptly forgetting to breathe.

  “Nothing.” He shook his head.

  “Okay then.” She turned and walked in the pouring rain back toward her dry porch. The storm seemed to have passed, but a strong, steady rain continued.

  “No, that’s not true.” Brody ran after her.

  Mina stopped and turned to look up at him.

  The rain was pelting them, but he didn’t seem to care. “Do you ever feel like you’re losing your mind? I have these dreams, recollections of events that I know deep down couldn’t have possibly happened. But then whenever I go to sleep, I remember everything—clear as day. I tell myself when I wake up, I’ll recall every detail—only I don’t.”

  Mina stood there holding her breath, refusing to believe what she was hearing. “Yes, unfortunately that’s how dreams work. But they’re only dreams,” she said.

  “Are they?” Brody looked at her sadly. He stared at her as if waiting for her to lay his worries to rest or give him answers he desperately needed.

  She shivered at how close they were coming to the truth, and she so wanted to believe he remembered everything they’d shared.

  But then she remembered Teague’s warning. He could hurt her friends. Was it really better if Brody didn’t know?

  It couldn’t be. How many times could the Story mess with her friends’ memories without leaving permanent damage? “Why are you asking me about this?” She had to know.

  This time it was Brody who shivered. “Because I dream about you. Every night, I dream of you…and me. Yet at school we act like strangers. But I know things about you I couldn’t possibly know. I know you hate the color red, hate being the center of attention. Love journaling, love Asian dumplings. I’m right, aren’t I?”

 
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