Raven a creepy hollow st.., p.11
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       Raven (A Creepy Hollow Story Book 2), p.11

           Rachel Morgan
 
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  “I’m sorry, Cecilia,” Raven said carefully. “That’s awful. But … killing your sister won’t make you feel any better.”

  Cecilia sniffed and dried her eyes. “Of course it will. And it’s your dress that’s going to do the job.”

  “What?”

  “Don’t worry, I’ve got it all worked out. I changed the records so that it looks like Director Drizwold did approve your dress. We’ll lower the model down from here—” she rolled Cass’s unconscious body over so that Raven could see another one of those circular holes in the floor “—and it will seem as though it’s part of the show. Since the dress has wings, it’ll work perfectly. When she reaches the end of the runway and the fire spells—which haven’t been fixed—ignite, she’ll pull off the headpiece just like you did, and throw it at Mella. Of course, it will look like an accident. A model panicking and saving herself. Then my sister will be killed by the explosion, and in a few weeks or months, when everything is settled, I will step up to take over the House of Cascata.”

  Raven almost laughed out loud at this ridiculous plan. “But there’ll be an investigation, and the director will say she didn’t approve the outfit. And what about all the other students who know that my dress wasn’t approved?”

  “Director Drizwold is sitting right next to Mella. She probably won’t survive the explosion. And the other students …” Cecilia waved her hand in dismissal. “It will all work out. No one believes what students say.”

  Raven was convinced by now that Cecilia wasn’t entirely in her right mind. “And what about me? I will tell the Guild everything that’s happened. You could try to kill me too, I guess, but you said just now that you need me on your side.”

  “Well I don’t need you, but I’d like you to be there. Your designs are only going to get better and better, and together the two of us could ensure the House of Cascata remains at the top of the fashion pyramid forever. Just think about it. This is the best opportunity you’re ever going to get.”

  The model in the sprite dress leaned forward to look down the hole. “Raven’s first model just came on.”

  Raven had the sudden urge to start crying. This was her moment—her final show—and she was missing it because her favorite teacher had turned into a vengeful nutcase. “What if I say no to this amazing opportunity you’re offering me?”

  “Unfortunately, your parents will then suffer the consequences.” Cecilia knelt down and waved her hand across the hole. The semi-transparent glass that had sealed it vanished, and the music abruptly grew louder. Raven’s music. Music she’d spent hours choosing. “You see,” Cecilia continued as she straightened, “I’ve been gathering funds for a few months now. Funds for a children’s charity—or so I told the generous donors. In reality, the money has gone to a service that will ensure a fake version of Mella’s will winds up in the right hands. A fake version that will leave everything to me. Oh, and your parents happen to be the only donors. So if you decide to tell the Guild what I’ve done, your parents will go down with me.”

  “I’ll bet they’re the only donors because they’re the only people you asked.” Raven angrily balled her hands into fists. “Just so you’d have something to blackmail me with. You really have gone crazy.”

  “I don’t think so.” Cecilia pulled her model closer and helped her to sit at the edge of the circle. “I think you might be crazy if you don’t see the obvious benefits of this plan.”

  “All I can see are the obvious holes. You can’t get away with this, Cecilia.”

  “Yes I can. And I’m about to start now.” She pushed the girl off the edge.

  “Wait, no!” Raven dashed to the edge of the circle, but the girl was descending slowly, gracefully, instead of plummeting down onto the runway as Raven had feared. “You didn’t give me any time to think.”

  “What’s there to think about?” Cecilia asked. “Would you really bring complete ruin to your family by exposing the illegal activity your parents have been involved in?”

  “They didn’t know what they were doing.”

  “Doesn’t make it any less illegal.”

  “Cecilia, you have to stop this,” Raven pleaded, growing more desperate. “You can’t kill people.” If Cecilia brought this plan to a halt, Raven wouldn’t have to stop it herself and reveal her parents’ involvement. She might disagree with them about a great many things, but she didn’t want to ruin their lives. She loved them.

  “I’m not stopping anything.” Cecilia closed the hole and stood over it. “Raven, just let this happen. You don’t even have to watch it. It’ll end up being a tragic accident. People might blame you for a while, but the House of Cascata will become stronger than ever, everyone will remember that Mella was actually a horrible person, and I’ll restore your name by showing you forgiveness and extending an invitation to work with me.”

  Raven said nothing. Her heart pounded painfully fast as she ran through every move Flint had shown her. Unfortunately, it had been some time since she practiced anything, and she was sure that absolutely nothing would come instinctively to her.

  But she was out of time, so she threw herself at Cecilia and hoped for the best. The two of them tumbled into the stack of chairs. They fell onto Cass, then rolled over the hole. Raven pushed sparks out from her hand—formless and directionless, but sparks nonetheless—and Cecilia cried out as her cheek burned. Raven’s hand moved down to the glass circle. Come on, magic, come on. What would work? A pulse? Heat? Kicking the darn thing? “Come on!” she yelled, and a shockwave of power finally released itself from her hand just as Cecilia tore at her face.

  She cried out and jerked away. Cecilia pushed her off. They both managed to scramble to their feet, and that was when Raven noticed the large crack across the glass circle. She ran and jumped—and with a splintering crack, the floor gave way.

  They both screamed as they fell. Stop, stop, stop! Raven’s brain shrieked at her, and her magic cushioned and dropped her just inches above the runway. Cecilia landed with a heavy thump beside her. She barely moved.

  Screams erupted all around them. Raven pushed herself up and looked toward the end of the runway. The sprite-wing dress was already on fire. She clambered up and ran faster than she’d ever thought possible in a pair of heels. The model pulled the flaming headpiece off. She raised her hand, pulled it back—and Raven grabbed the headpiece from her. She couldn’t stop herself in time, so she ended up toppling off the end of the runway and landing in the laps of those in the first row: Mella, Director Drizwold, and everyone else she’d been hoping to save.

  They gasped and shrieked and pushed her away—which was exactly what she needed. She got onto her feet, and with all her might, tossed the metal headpiece back toward the stage. It sailed over the model, over Cecilia, and exploded in midair.

  In the aftermath, with smoke rising from the stage, guardians and healers moving about, and injured guests crying out, Raven stood with her mother and father on either side of her and finished telling the guardian with the tiny notepad everything she could remember—except her parents’ supposed involvement. When she was done, the guardian briefly explained what would happen next, something about an investigation and further questioning, probably under the influence of compulsion potion to make sure her story was true. He continued speaking, but Raven was overcome with tiredness and all his words began to blend together.

  She looked behind him and saw Flint. He was speaking to one of the teachers. He pointed to the stage, the teacher nodded, and he wrote something down. The teacher nodded and walked away. Then Flint looked up, across the auditorium, and straight at Raven. She wished she could smile at him, but it seemed like far too much of an effort right now. Then her mother tucked her against her side and steered her away toward the door.

  Chapter Seventeen

  “Is it finally over?” Poe asked.

  Raven dropped onto the couch beside him in his parents’ living room. “It’s finally over.” It was one month and one day since the disastro
us final show at Delphinium College, and the Guild had finally finished dealing with the resulting mess. “A month isn’t all that long if you think about it,” she said.

  “I supposed it isn’t. I’m so glad we have magic to assist with stuff like this. I hear these things take forever in the human world.”

  “Yeah. Hey, have you seen my green dress with the glowing polka dots? I’m sure I unpacked it into the closet in the guest room, but I couldn’t find it this morning.”

  “You mean the closet that’s perpetually open on the bedroom floor?”

  She rolled her eyes. “It isn’t that bad.”

  “It is that bad. Do you dump everything you wear on the floor?”

  She sighed and pushed herself to her feet. “Okay, I’ll go tidy it up. Want to help me?”

  “Not really. I’ll sit on the bed and watch you.”

  They traipsed up the stairs together. Raven had moved out of her parents’ home several days after the final show. She, Zalea and Kenrick had had plenty of things to argue about before she made her decision to leave: Flint, her failed career, the scandalous revelation that her parents had somehow been funding a fashion school teacher who’d gone crazy and tried to murder people. Raven hadn’t cared if she’d left with only the clothes she was wearing. All she knew was that she needed to get away.

  She went to Daisy’s first, but Daisy’s mom had made it clear that the girl involved in almost blowing up the Delphinium College auditorium wasn’t welcome in her home. Poe, a former scholarship student whose parents didn’t move in the same circles as hers or Daisy’s, had been happy to take her in for a little while. Poe’s house was very much like Flint’s, and Raven couldn’t help thinking of him often. Actually, she could have been surrounded by anything and her thoughts would still have turned to Flint. She missed him terribly.

  “So what did the Guild decide about your parents?” Poe asked as he jumped onto the bed in the room that used to belong to his older sister. Raven perched on the edge and picked up clothes with continuous flicks of her hand, sending them into two piles in the corner: clean and dirty.

  “The charges against them were dropped. My dad obviously had paperwork that proved he was donating money to a charity. Or thought he was donating money to a charity. So everything’s okay. With all the people interviewed under the influence of compulsion potion, the real story couldn’t help but come out.”

  “Cool. And Cecilia? Did they decide she’s crazy after all?”

  “Yes. They sent her off to a home for mentally unstable fae. Anyway, how was your day? Was Mella in a better mood?”

  “Ugh, is she ever in any form of good mood?” Poe draped himself dramatically across the cushions on the bed. “I don’t think so. I was shouted at even more today than yesterday.”

  Poe had come top of the class and won the Cascata internship. Raven hadn’t even placed in the top three. “Poor Poe,” she said without a hint of sympathy. “The price of success is high.”

  He sat up and threw a cushion at her. She caught it and was about to toss it back when the door knocker on the outside of the tree banged three times. “Expecting someone?” Poe asked.

  “Nope. You?”

  He shook his head. They walked back downstairs and Poe headed for the section of the wall where a doorway could be opened. He drew a tiny peephole on the wall with his stylus and looked through it. “It’s a guy with a good-looking top hat,” he said before writing a doorway spell.

  A space appeared in the wall, revealing a rotund man with an impressive top hot. He had to bend slightly to come inside. “Good afternoon. Is Raven Rosewood here?”

  “Uh, that’s me.” Raven walked forward, feeling a little bewildered. The man seemed familiar, but she couldn’t place him.

  “Miss Rosewood,” he said. “My name is Mr. Von Milta. Perhaps you don’t remember me, but I run the Von Milta Madness event. We displayed some of your work this year and auctioned it off quite successfully.”

  “Oh, yes. I do remember you.”

  “I heard that the spectacular dress explosion at Delphinium College was your creation.”

  “Oh. Yes.” Disappointment clouded over her once again. Was she never going to live this down? “I was responsible for that, although it was never my intention to use the outfit for—”

  “I know, I know, don’t worry about that.” He waved her words away. “I’m not here to blame you for anything. On the contrary. We’ve been waiting for the whole matter to be cleared up by the Guild before extending an offer to you. We received word this morning that the investigation or the case—cases?—or whatever it is they call these things is finished.”

  “Yes, that’s correct. Wait, did you say offer?”

  “I did indeed.” Mr. Von Milta beamed at her. “We have dozens of projects going on throughout the year. Some for charity, the occasional celebrity event, projects with faerie junior schools, and plenty more. We’d love for you to be part of our creative department.”

  “I—oh—wow.”

  “I have the offer right here.” He held up a scroll. “No need to respond right now. Take a few days, read it over, think about it. If you have any questions, let me know. Then we can take it from there.”

  “Um, okay.” She took the scroll from him, wondering if she might possibly be dreaming.

  “Well, good day then.” Mr. Von Milta tipped his hat, turned around, and left the house.

  Raven blinked at the scroll in her hand. She looked up at Poe, and together they started laughing.

  Chapter Eighteen

  “This way, this way,” Raven called to the line of children leaving the unicorn-themed play park. “Nope, not that way.” She ran after a boy who’d been distracted by a string of bubbles floating past him and veered off course. She took his hand and led him to the back of the line, glancing up to make sure her colleague Ennie was still at the front.

  “Are you new?” the boy asked. “I don’t remember you from last time.”

  Raven looked down at him as she answered. “Yes, I’m brand new. I’ve only been here three weeks.”

  “So you get to come here every day?”

  “I do.”

  “You’re really lucky.” His shoulders drooped and his lips turned down. “I wish I could come here every day.”

  “Hey, if you came every day, it wouldn’t be that fun. This way you have something to look forward to.”

  The boy frowned, as though he wasn’t sure he agreed with her.

  Raven walked with the children back through the Von Milta Building to the door their teachers were waiting at. “Hey, Raven, I just got back.” Maria, another one of her coworkers, ran toward her. “I can take over from here if you want.”

  “Thanks.” Raven removed a clipboard from beneath her arm and handed it over. “Sheesh, they’re a handful. I’m glad I work behind the scenes most days.”

  Maria smiled. “Yeah, they’re crazy, but I love them. Oh, there’s someone waiting for you at reception.”

  “Okay, thanks. Skinny guy, lots of piercings?”

  She laughed and shook her head. “Not even close.”

  Raven took the shortcut to reception: straight down the pole to the ground level. She walked toward the main desk, shaped like a top hat, and saw—

  Flint.

  Her stomach flipped over and her heart leaped into her throat. A surge of magic escaped her hands in the form of glitter-filled bubbles. She forced both hands behind her back. “Hi, Flint,” she said as she walked up to him.

  He turned, dropped something on the floor, and bent quickly to pick it up. “Hi. Sorry. Hello.” He smiled. “It’s really nice to see you, Raven.”

  She took a deep breath and nodded. “It’s nice to see you too.”

  “I, uh, have something of yours that I never returned.” He held the something out toward her. It was her notebook with the sample of Cecilia’s handwriting. She’d given it to him to take to the Guild.

  She started laughing as she took it. “Really? You wanted
to return my notebook? Surely you could have come up with a better excuse than that.”

  Color appeared in his cheeks. He looked down, then back up at her. “To be honest, I had a whole list of potential excuses, but they all seemed equally transparent. This one was the most legitimate, since I thought you might actually want to keep the sketches inside this notebook.” He lifted one shoulder. “I just … wanted to see how you’re doing.”

  “I’m doing very well, actually.” She moved away from the top-hat desk, feeling weird having this conversation right next to the person sitting behind it. Flint followed her. “I like it here,” she added, turning to face him again. “It isn’t what I hoped for while studying at Delph, but I think that’s a good thing. It’s a lot more rewarding than dressing celebrities all day.”

  “I can imagine. Do you miss the clothes casting though?”

  “Not too much. I get to do some of it here and there. But for now I’m enjoying exploring different creative forms.” She pushed her hands into the pockets of her striped shorts. “I’ll save up, and maybe one day I’ll start my own business, or just hire out my skills as a clothes caster. I don’t know. I guess I’ll see where life takes me. How’s it going at the Guild?”

 
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