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       Emblaze, p.16

           Jessica Shirvington

  „Violet!" he yelled as soon as he was off the phone. He hadn"t even made it into the living room, but I could see him standing by the door, looking at my bag He stormed into the room.

  „What"s going on? And why weren"t you at school today?"

  I wasn"t surprised the school had called - I"d made no attempt to cover up my non-attendance when I realised what was happening. I didn"t get up and I didn"t raise my voice.

  Instead I looked at him, honesty in my eyes, and love.

  „I have to go away for a few days. I"ve been waiting for you to get home so I could see you before I left."

  „And just where do you think you"re going?" he barked, incredulously.

  „Dad …" I stood up and wiped my hands up and down my thighs, anxiously. I didn"t want to hurt him like this. „I wish I could tell you everything but please trust me when I say I"m doing the right thing. I know you think I"m part of some cult or something - but I"m not. I"m a good person and I wouldn"t do this to you if I didn"t have to. Dad …" My throat tightened, but it was the only chance I had of helping him understand. „I"m doing what Mum asked me to do."

  He stumbled back. I glanced at my watch anxiously. "I don"t have much time. Mum wasn"t … she wasn"t always honest with you, but I know she loved you and that you loved her. I … I don"t want to lie to you like she did so … I"m giving you this." I held out the wooden box. "It"s time you read the letter she left me and when I get home I promise I"ll try and answer your questions … if you want me to."

  Dad didn"t take the box. Instead he stood, immobilised, his mouth open, eyes darting between mine and the box.

  „You have no right to speak about her like that," he said in a low voice.

  I smiled sadly. „Actually, I have more right than anyone." I walked to the door and opened it, realising that trying to explain to him like this wasn"t going to work.

  „You are not walking out that door!" Dad ordered, taking strides across the room to intercept me.

  „This goes beyond you and me, dad. I wish it didn"t, I wish I could be just your daughter and be who you want me to be but I … it doesn"t matter what you say or what I want. One way or another - I"m going.

  I reached down and picked up my bag, but Dad got there at the same time, grabbing my wrist, desperately trying to force it free.

  „Dad, stop!" I said, trying not to resist him. „Please," I begged, „I don"t want to hurt you."

  He didn"t let go, pulling harder, confusion at my ability to block his efforts showing in his strained expression.

  „Let go of this bag!" he roared.

  I heard a car horn from the street. Steph was here and I had no more time.

  „Dad," I held still and looked at him. „Dad, I"m sorry."

  He returned my gaze for an instant, desperation flooding his eyes.

  „I love you, Dad." I pulled my arm out of his hold using a physical strength he couldn"t possibly comprehend, leaving him holding only the bracelets that had covered my markings.

  We both gasped, looking down at the inhuman patterns that started to churn and swirl, reflecting different - impossible - colours and then, as if rising from beneath, outlines of the feather-tip markings that matched those on the carved box my mother"s wristband. All of it entirely inhuman.

  I pulled down my sleeve in shame.

  „What are you?" he said in a daze.

  My eyes welled. „I"m your daughter, Dad, but … I"m her daughter, too." I picked up my bag.

  „Don"t blame this on her!"

  „No," I half laughed. „Of course not."

  I walked through the door, snapping off the handle when I closed it, locking him inside. I got into the elevator to the sounds of Dad pounding on the door, screaming my name.

  I"m sorry, Dad.

  I didn"t know if I would ever get the chance to make things right again.


  Steph didn"t talk much on the way to the airport. She could tell things hadn"t gone well with Dad. I should have just lied to him. Steph clearly hadn"t had any major drama getting away from her place, though it hadn"t left her in the best mood either. Her Mum had helped her pack.

  The taxi pulled outside the terminal. Spence was waiting for us.

  He hoisted out bags under his arms.

  „You"re being awfully helpful," I said, attempting to shift into a better mood.

  „Hey, we might be on our way to Death Island, but I"ve always wanted to go to Greece."

  He shrugged, almost dropping a bag. „And it beats another desert."

  „True," I said, agreeing wholeheartedly. I never wanted to see another desert again.

  My phone rang and I pulled it out of my pocket.


  I pressed end and turned it off.

  „Where is everybody?" Steph asked, keeping the conversation moving as she brushed a hand over my arm in silent support.

  „Waiting for our plane. It just landed," Spence said, weaving through the crowds.

  „Whose plan is it?" I asked, following him past the maze of people checking in.

  „The Academy"s," he answered, shooting me a sideways glance.

  I stopped mid-stride. „Spence, is Josephine on the plane?"

  His worried look deepened and he nodded.

  Perfect. This day just keeps getting better.

  I"d forgotten all about the Academy sending in their pit-bull.

  „Where do we check in?" Steph asked, looking around.

  „We don"t - private flight. We just have to go through passport control over there." He pointed to a small tunnel with a sign saying „Private Aircraft."

  We presented our passports and I snuck a peek at Spence"s. it just looked like mine, a blank cover that didn"t say anything on it.

  „Why didn"t they ask why our passports look different?" I whispered when we"d gone through.

  He smiled devilishly. „Because they"re all under a glamour. Wherever we are they will present as if they"re passports of that country. No matter where we will go, when we arrive, someone will say, “Welcome home!”"

  It was genius.

  Then I saw something else. „Spencer Gregory - that"s your name?"

  Spence took his passport back and put it away. „Don"t have a reason to be anything else.

  No one knew my parents" last names and I"d always been Spencer Smith before that - or whatever my foster parents made me call myself." He pushed through the door at the end of the corridor. „Here we are."

  Despite the easy-going explanation, I felt a history in the weight of his words, the loneliness that lurked behind them, and I had a sudden urge to wrap him up in cotton wool and keep him safe always. Instead, I gave him a gentle shoulder nudge, which he ignored, as we entered the holding room.

  Everyone was there, wearing casual, easy-to-fly-in clothes. I didn"t need to look to know Lincoln was in the far corner, but I couldn"t stop my eyes travelling to him. He was leaning against a glass wall looking out over the airstrip. He didn"t turn my way, but by the tight set of his shoulders - he knew I"d just walked in.

  Samuel and Kaitlin were sitting in a lounge area with Nathan and Becca. After acknowledging our entrance they went back to their conversations.

  „Violet," Griffin said. He was standing with Dapper and whatever file they were looking at was quickly closed. „You"re here," he said, sounding relieved.

  „Said I would be," I replied, wondering if Lincoln had mentioned something to Griffin about me not going.

  Onyx was sitting at a small table with more than a dozen tiny bottles of alcohol, several already empty. He waggled a few fingers at me and then sunk another one.

  I shot a look back at Griffin. He just averted his gaze as if there was nothing he could do about it.

  Dapper, though, walker over to Onyx and started to pocket the bottles. „I"ll portion them out."

  Surprisingly, Onyx shrugged and put up little fight.

  A long sleek jet rolled along the tarmac and we all watched as it pulled to a halt. I"d seen that pla
n before; when we arrived back from Jordan the Academy had had people waiting to take Nyla and Rudyard. Griffin had carried Nyla aboard.

  By the haunted look on his face, Griffin was reliving that memory, too.

  The plane"s engines shut down and men dressed in dark blue overalls ran towards it with fuel hoses.

  „We board in ten minutes," Griffin called out. Everyone nodded and started gathering their bags.

  „Violet," Griffin said quietly. I followed his lead and moved towards the back of the room with him. „You"ve probably already figured out …" He looked at the jet.

  „Josephine"s on that plane?" I asked rhetorically, but when he kept looking at me, I realised it was more than that. „She"s coming with us." I thought at least she might be staying to rest for a day or so.

  He nodded. „Listen," he said, hurriedly. „I promise you I will do everything I can to stop them forcing you into anything. More of the Academy will meet us in Santorini. If things get to … If Phoenix is successful, we will need all the forces we can gather. There are fifteen thousand innocent civilians living on that island." He looked down.

  „What do you want me to do?" I asked, putting a hand on his arm but dreading what he was about to say.

  „I have to go to mainland Greece. There are Grigori there who need to be informed and complications that we must prevent. It"s the way things are done there and since I"m still officially the leader - it is my responsibility, unless we hand over the entire case to the Academy … which we won"t." He emphasised the last words. „I"ll take Nathan and Becca with me but it might take a couple of days to sort everything out. The Grigori there are hard to find - few in number and overrun by exiles. Josephine is of a Seraph so while I"m gone she will automatically assume control over any Grigori who answer to me. I can nominate someone to speak in my absence but Josephine will ultimately have rank."

  „What does that mean?"

  The doors leading out to the tarmac opened and a small vehicle drove a set of stairs up to the jet door.

  „Do what she says," Griffin said, looking increasingly nervous. He put a hand on my back and guided me forwards. „She is very good and you can trust that she wants to stop Phoenix, but Violet …" he leaned in close, whispering now. „Lincoln told me how your senses have developed. Don"t tell her anything about your powers that you don"t need to.

  And don"t defy her. She prides herself on being the most powerful of us all."

  We left the holding room and walked onto the tarmac. Lincoln moved quietly, loading our bags into the baggage compartment. I passed him mine trying not to look at him, but when out fingers brushed our eyes met. I didn"t know what to expect, maybe he would say something about me not coming or maybe nothing at all, but instead he gave me a crooked smile and I felt a little of that warmth, that only ever came from him, seep into me like a ray of sunshine. I smiled back and his stunning green eyes lit up for me and I knew, though they weren"t nearly as spectacular, that mine did the same.

  Despite everything else, I let myself soak in the warmth as I climbed the stairs behind Steph. Until, that is, I walked straight into the back of her.

  „What-" I started to say, but Steph"s yelp drowned me out.

  „I can"t believe it!" she cried, now running up the steps two at a time.

  I leaned to the side to see what she was looking at and there they were: Salvatore and Zoe.

  Before I knew what I was doing I yelped, too, and followed Steph"s pace, bounding up the steps.

  Steph was already in Salvatore"s arms and he was speaking quickly in Italian to her. I grabbed Zoe and we hugged like the friends we now were. Friends who had fought and suffered loss together.

  „You came back!" and I realised then that I"d started to doubt they ever would. At lest not for this, not when they knew it was such a lost cause.

  „We told you we would, didn"t we?"

  I pulled her tight. Someone coughed behind me.

  „Ah, Eden, you might want to let her go now."

  „Oh," I said, releasing my grip and actually looking at Zoe properly. Her spiky short hair now had pink tips, which somehow still managed to look dangerous. She was wearing a dark grey camouflage-pattern pinafore. Only Zoe would pull the overall look together so well, finishing it off with heavy leather boots and her dagger hanging from her waist.

  Spence lifted her into the air.

  „Let"s move the reunion into the plane, people," Griffin said, coming up the stairs behind us. But he was beaming, too. We"d all needed some good news.

  I moved past Zoe into the cabin and Salvatore and Steph broke their embrace long enough for him to say hello. I could tell instantly that his English had improved even more and that I would be able to understand almost everything he said.

  Everyone shook hands and hugged as we moved inside. I reached the main cabin area first and spotted the small entourage already seated at the back.

  A woman who must have been Josephine sat with her legs crossed. She had long brown hair with auburn streaks that were highlighted by her tight ponytail. She wore a figure-hugging scarlet wrap dress, more feminine than most Grigori attire, and was clicking the top of a pen in her hand as she started directly at me with aqua-blue eyes.

  Six Grigori flanked her and it was clear to see why: dressed in similar black clothes and with their eyes not on me so much as on everything, they were definitely bodyguards.

  The woman, who looked about thirty, was older than any Grigori I had met. I had no idea of her real age but knew, perhaps by her frighteningly superior air, that she was significantly ancient. She stood up, taking her time, making a point. This woman rushed for no one.

  I felt Lincoln move up behind me, his hand lightly touching the small of my back, cautioning me as much as she was supporting me. I could feel his worry through our partnership and this time I didn"t step away from his comfort.

  The woman looked towards Lincoln and gave a tight smile. „Lincoln Wood."

  „Josephine," Lincoln said, calmly. „It"s good to see you. Allow me to introduce you to my partner, Violet Eden."

  Her eyes briefly cast to me as if I were a fly she had just swatted, though she couldn"t help but pause when her gaze reached my wrists, despite the fact they were once again covered.

  „Yes. Violet … Eden. I"ve heard so much and yet …" she looked me up and down. „Well, let"s just say I was expecting something else."

  Oh. We"re going to be great friends.

  She pursed her lips and looked right through me as I were no longer there at all. „Is that you, Griffin Moore?" she called out and waved a hand in the air. It was odd to hear everyone"s full names, like once she said them a certain command was assumed. I didn"t like it.

  „Take your seats, everyone," Griffin said, not rushing, but heading in our direction. It was a sweet power play and I liked that Griffin made her wait. „Stephanie, perhaps you can do that from a sitting position," he said, squeezing past her and Salvatore in a lip-lock.

  „And far away from me," Dapper grumped, pushing the two of them into a set of seats at the front.

  I don"t think Steph noticed or even came up for air.

  „Oh, come, Dapper, let them have their young love," Onyx teased. „It makes the build-up to tragedy so much more entertaining." He glanced in my direction an raised a hand.

  „Exhibit A."

  „Onyx, it"s not too late to throw you off this plane," Lincoln muttered, under his breath, but Onyx heard and shut up, sitting down next to Dapper, who passed him one of his alcohol miniatures

  „Isn"t this interesting?" Josephine said, looking at Onyx in disgust as he sipped on his drink. „Is he mentally stable?" Intrigued by him, she had difficulty hiding her contempt.

  Griffin reached Josephine and graciously have her a kiss on each cheek. My mouth almost fell open.

  „It is so good to see you, Jossie. It"s been too long."

  Jossie? She does not look like a Jossie!

  Josephine blushed but it looked as though she did it on purpos
e. Why was I suddenly sure that nothing she did was ever not on purpose?

  „It has been too long, old friend. I"ve told you too many times your place is at the Academy - not out in the wild. After everything that happened to Magdalena - tell me you have come to your sense."

  Griffin took Josephine"s hands in his. „Perhaps you were right. Maybe it is time to give it some thought again."

  Josephine smiled. „You"re teasing me, Griffin."

  Griffin turned back towards us, now aligning himself beside Josephine. Another strategic move, I suspected. The eyes of the black-clad Grigori surrounding Josephine were immediately fixed in him.

  Josephine laughed lightly and turned a less friendly eye on them. „Please, relax. We are all on the same side on this place. Except, perhaps, the human exile and his … intriguing companion," she said, making sure we were all aware she"d noticed Dapper wasn"t just human. She flickered a hand at two of her bodyguards. „Go sit near them."

  They scooted to the seats behind Onyx and Dapper.

  „Oh, splendid," Onyx said, sounding drunker by the second. „Company by the way of assassin."

  „The rest of you can relax and enjoy the flight," Josephine said to the others. But none of them shifted their eyes from me so I didn"t thin those were their real orders.

  „Why don"t take a seat with Lincoln, Violet?" Josephine and I have much to catch up on."

  Griffin steered Josephine towards the back of the plane while I felt Lincoln"s hands on my hips, spinning me on the spot and pushing me towards the front seats, furthest possible from her.

  „You know her?" I asked, keeping my voice down, as soon as he was sitting beside me.

  „I spent a couple of years at the Academy, remember?"

  I nodded. Lincoln had spent time there, completing mandatory training before taking a position under Griffin and waiting for his partner - me.

  „How old is she?"

  „No on knows."

  He gave me a quirky look and held out a hand. „If you want to ask her, go right ahead."

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