Raven a creepy hollow st.., p.9
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       Raven (A Creepy Hollow Story Book 2), p.9

           Rachel Morgan
 
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  “Why are you sorry?” Tora asked. “Birthdays are for celebrating, not for hiding away from people. It’s totally fine that you’re here. Besides, you gave me a birthday present. Can’t really shut you out after that, can I?”

  “Tora, don’t be rude,” her mother murmured.

  “It’s fine,” Raven said with a laugh. Flint’s mother gave her a polite smile before heading for the stairs, leaving Raven feeling as though she should have done more or said more to prove that she was worthy of hanging out with an amazing guy like Flint.

  “You really don’t have to feel weird about being here,” Tora said, probably reading Raven’s uncertain expression. “I’m happy you came back. I like you a lot more than the other girl Flint brought home.”

  Raven was surprised by the flash of jealousy that heated her veins. “What other girl?”

  “Oh, it was a while ago, don’t worry.” Raven placed her book on the cushion next to her and crossed her legs. “It was during his last year as a trainee at the Guild. She was in his class. I didn’t mind her when she was just Flint’s friend, but as his girlfriend she was bossy and possessive. And Flint is polite, but he isn’t a doormat, so he didn’t appreciate being bossed around. I mean, who would? So anyway, they fought a lot, and he finally broke up with her when he started working at the Guild after he graduated.” She smiled at Raven. “You seem much nicer than her.”

  “Well, thank you.” Raven’s face warmed. “But, you know, it isn’t like that. He works for my parents, and we’re just … sort of … friends. Although my parents don’t know that part.” She frowned. “It’s a bit weird, I guess. Not a normal kind of friendship.”

  “Yeah …” Tora drew the word out, giving Raven a doubtful look. “Definitely not just friendship.”

  “Shall we go?” Flint asked, coming down the stairs two at a time.

  “Yes.” Raven stood up. “Where are we going?”

  “Karaoke.”

  Raven frowned. “What’s that?”

  “It’s quite lame, actually, but I have these two friends who are really into it. It’s kind of an entertainment form in the human realm. They play instrumental versions of popular songs, and the words come up on a TV screen. You get on stage and sing along into a microphone.” He paused. “You know what a TV is, right?”

  “Yes, Flint. I may not hang out on the non-magical side of the veil all that often, but I’m aware of the box known as the television.”

  “How about a microphone?”

  She bit her lip. “Okay, so I’m less familiar with that one.”

  “No problem.” Flint grinned. “We’ll soon get you well acquainted.”

  Raven had close to zero talent in the singing department, but that didn’t stop her from getting on stage and embarrassing herself in front of a half-empty bar—and loving every minute of it. Flint had a go, and he was actually quite good. Raven clapped and hugged him when he returned to their table, then pulled away quickly when she realized it was the first time she’d ever hugged him. It was strange. Strange, yet something she wanted to repeat very soon, if possible.

  When one of his friends got up to sing for the third time, Flint asked Raven if she wanted to get some fresh air. “There are some stairs back there leading to the roof.” He motioned over his shoulder.

  “Yeah, that would nice. It’s a bit stuffy in here.”

  They climbed the rickety metal steps and walked through the half-open door onto the roof. It wasn’t nearly as high as the skyscraper they’d been on top of a few nights before, and the surrounding area was a little run-down, but Raven didn’t mind. She didn’t think she’d mind any setting as long as Flint was standing next to her.

  “What went wrong at the party tonight?” he asked. “You left far too early for it to have been over.”

  Raven stood on tiptoe and peered over the wall at the street below, trying to decide how to explain herself. She leaned against the wall and looked at him. “First it was everything, and then it was Orson, and then it was everything all over again. I just didn’t want to be there anymore.”

  “How mad was your mother?”

  Raven let out a humorless laugh. “I think I embarrassed her dreadfully by leaving the party early. Although, knowing my mother, she probably made up an excuse for my absence. Perhaps she told everyone I wasn’t feeling well.” She sighed. “It’s just … it all feels like a silly game sometimes. You dress up and say all the right things to the right people at the right time, and for what? Mom seems to enjoy it, but I don’t. I’d rather have a handful of real friends and hang out with them.”

  Flint nodded. “I think I have to agree with you on that one.”

  “Anyway, let’s talk about something else.”

  “Okay. Have you received any other strange amber messages?”

  “No, nothing else. Have you heard anything from the Guild about who the handwriting in my notebook might belong to?”

  “I don’t know details, but I think they’re still looking through samples of handwriting from everyone at Delphinium College. It isn’t a particularly promising lead, though, since there’s no way of proving that the owner of a piece of handwriting in your notebook had anything to do with the explosion.”

  “But it’s at least somewhere to start, right?”

  “Yes, I suppose so. They can question the person if they find him or her.”

  A breeze drifted by, lifting the ends of Raven’s hair and raising goosebumps on her bare arms. “Flint, does your mother not like me?”

  Confusion crossed Flint’s features. “What?”

  “I mean, is she maybe still upset about when we arrived in the middle of the night and woke her and Tora?”

  “No, why?”

  “I just get the feeling she doesn’t like me.”

  “She does like you. She thinks you’re lovely.”

  “Really? But she seemed very … careful? Distanced? I don’t know. Just not particularly warm toward me.”

  “That’s just … because …” Flint shook his head, his cheeks flushing. “It doesn’t matter. It’s just a silly thing.”

  “What silly thing?”

  “Look, she does like you, okay? You haven’t done anything to offend her.”

  “Okay.” Raven wished he’d explain further, but she decided not to press him. She ran her hands up and down her arms, chasing the goosebumps away.

  Flint removed the hoodie draped over his shoulders and offered it to her. “I’m sure it’ll be far too big on you, but at least you won’t be cold.”

  “Thanks.” Her heart jolted into a faster rhythm as she took the hoodie from him and pulled it over her head. If she hadn’t crossed a line earlier when she messaged him, she was certainly crossing one now by wearing his clothes. To be honest, though, they’d probably crossed the line of propriety a year ago when they decided to keep meeting every week on the tower. She pushed the long sleeves up to reveal her hands and tried to act normal, though she was beginning to feel anything but. “I don’t think I’ve ever worn a hoodie before.”

  “Yeah, it doesn’t quite fit in with the rest of your wardrobe, does it.”

  “I like it. It’s comfortable.” And it smelled like him, though she hadn’t realized until now that this precise scent, something warm and spicy, was a scent she associated solely with Flint.

  She looked around the rooftop at the rickety old bench and the flowerpots filled with overgrown plants. “I think roofs are our thing. We always end up on one. The tower at home, the skyscraper, this old building.”

  He looked at her, a hint of a smile on his lips as he said, “I didn’t realize we had a thing.”

  She played with the sleeves of the hoodie as she focused somewhere on the region of his chest, too self-conscious now to meet his eyes. “I think you have realized we have a … thing.”

  “I’m getting the feeling,” he said softly, “that you’re not referring to roofs anymore.”

  She bit her lip and shook her head. “I’m not.”

/>   He reached for her hand and slowly wove his fingers between hers, sending more goosebumps racing up her arms. “I don’t know what—or how—I just wish I …” He shook his head and took a deep breath. “I wish I wasn’t in the position I’m in. It just … complicates things.”

  Raven finally managed to look up and meet his eyes. “Can’t I just be me and you be you? Without my family and your position and all the extra stuff that makes this complicated?”

  “I don’t know. Can we?”

  She raised her hand and placed it carefully on his chest. She felt the steady pounding of his heart. “Yes.”

  Flint’s eyes traveled across her face and down to her lips as he leaned—

  An unexpected crack and crunch startled them both, followed by the door slamming shut and a spiral of sparks zipping its way around the bench. The bench that now sloped down on the right due to two of its legs having snapped in half. “Oh, that’s so embarrassing,” Raven said with a giggle. She covered her blushing face with her hands. “I wish magic didn’t make it so hard to hide one’s emotions.”

  Flint gently pulled her hands away from her face. A smile stretched at his lips. “Why would you want to hide anything from me? And hey, maybe it was my uncontrolled magic that escaped, not yours.”

  Raven released a breathless laugh as she watched tiny sparks escaping their joined hands. “Pretty sure it was mine.”

  “I think,” Flint said, leaning closer, “it’s actually both of us.”

  He kissed her, softly, carefully, and in a way that made her desperate for more. He released her hands and spread his fingers through her hair. Her arms, which she seemed to have no control over anymore, slid around his back. She breathed him in, pressed herself closer, and her skin, her lips, her tongue—everything tingled with magic. Sirens could have raced by on the road below and she wouldn’t have heard them. The sky could have cracked open and released a deluge, and she wouldn’t have felt a thing but Flint’s hands and his breath and his heart beat and the sparks he trailed across her skin.

  She never wanted it to end.

  Chapter Twelve

  She was in so much trouble the following morning. Her mother came into her room and shouted up a storm before Raven had even climbed out of bed. Admittedly, it wasn’t exactly early. She’d stayed in bed far longer than usual, half awake and dreaming of Flint. Then her mother had thrown the door open and ruined her reverie.

  “You can’t go running off like that in the middle of the night without a guard. What if you had been killed out there? I didn’t get a moment of sleep until Rex informed us you’d returned.”

  “How would I have been killed, Mom? I was just hanging out in the human realm, that’s all.”

  “The human realm? That’s even worse! How would we have found you if something had happened?”

  Raven covered her face and groaned. “Nothing happened.”

  “And nothing will be happening. You’re finishing your outfits, going to college, and that’s it. Nowhere else.”

  “Mom—”

  “Nowhere!”

  “Do you realize you’re trying to ground an eighteen year old who will very soon be graduating and possibly moving out?”

  “Moving out?” Zalea looked at her in disbelief. Then she shook her head and started laughing. “What nonsense. Where would you go?” She continued laughing as she marched out of the room. “You should have been here last night,” she snapped to someone in the passage. “You could have stopped her from running off and doing whatever wild and dangerous things she was getting up to.”

  Was that Flint her mother was talking to? Raven leaned to the side and tried to see out the door, but Zalea slammed it shut. She ran her fingers through her mussed up hair, unable to contain the smile spreading across her face. If Flint was here, it didn’t matter how long she was grounded for. He was the only one she wanted to see. Even if she spent all day in her bedroom working on her dress, while Flint patrolled the house and the passage outside her room, talking to her through the open door, she’d be happy.

  She floated in the pool in her bathing room for a while, enjoying the hot waterfall that cascaded over a rock display and onto her shoulders. When she went downstairs for breakfast, Flint wasn’t outside her room. She kept an eye out for him while eating, but he must have been in another part of the house. Returning upstairs, though, she found him standing near her door. She almost ran toward him, but managed to restrict herself to a normal walking pace. She couldn’t keep the smile from her lips, though. “Hi,” she said, stopping in front of him.

  “Good morning, Miss Rosewood.”

  “Apparently you should have been here last night to stop me from doing something wild and dangerous.”

  Flint cleared his throat and made an admirable effort at keeping a straight face. “Thank goodness I wasn’t.”

  “Thank goodness, indeed.” She pressed her lips together and forced herself not to laugh as she walked past him into her bedroom. “Do you mind checking the door to my balcony? It feels like it’s got stuck, and I can’t come up with the right spell to open it.”

  “Uh, certainly.” Flint looked anything but certain, though, as he walked into Raven’s bedroom. He crossed the floor to the balcony doors and opened them easily, because of course there was nothing wrong with them. “Look at that,” he said. “Must be my magic touch.”

  Raven stifled a giggle and moved closer to him. She took his hand. “I had fun last night. The singing, and meeting your friends, and then …” She blushed. “Obviously everything on the roof.”

  Flint looked over her shoulder, then bent quickly and kissed her. “I don’t know how we’re supposed to make this work,” he whispered, “but we can figure it out.” He kissed her again. “I don’t want to let you go.”

  She wrapped her arms around him and rested her head against his chest. “You don’t have to.”

  He left her room soon after that, and she got to work on more of the leaves for the snake dress. Hopefully, by the end of the weekend, she could begin putting the whole thing together. Then she could ask the model to come in for a fitting on Tuesday, and she’d be finished just in time for Friday’s show.

  Zalea poked her head into the room several times during the day to check that Raven was working hard and hadn’t disappeared again. She mentioned that someone would be there the following day to adjust the faerie paths access magic so that Raven could no longer travel anywhere from inside her bedroom. Raven said nothing, knowing that if she wanted to leave badly enough, she’d simply do it from somewhere else in the house.

  Sunday continued in the same way, with Raven on her bedroom floor surrounded by leaves, jewels and scattered notebooks, and with Flint stopping by every hour to talk to her. By the time she climbed into bed that evening, she was ready to put the dress together the next day. The process would involve quite a few spells she needed to get absolutely right, so a good night’s sleep was probably important.

  But it took a while before she drifted off to sleep. Thoughts of Flint filled her mind, making her smile into her pillow. She’d never looked forward to a Monday as much as she did tonight. She craved the feeling of his arms around her, and it would be a whole lot easier to spend time alone with him in the grounds outside the college than at home with her parents nearby. Raven knew she’d have to tell them eventually and deal with their unpleasant reactions, but for now she would enjoy her happiness.

  Chapter Thirteen

  “So you’ve finished?” Flint asked on Monday afternoon. “It’s all done?” He pulled her closer and placed a kiss on her forehead.

  “Almost. The model’s coming tomorrow, so I’ll do final adjustments after she tries it on. But yes, then it will done. So I’ll have two days to make sure the rest of my pieces are still looking good, and I’ll be ready for Friday.”

  “Perfect.”

  They were in the trees outside the college walls, far enough away that no one would see them. They only had about another ten minutes before Fl
int would be in trouble for not bringing Raven home straight after college.

  “I’ve been thinking about us,” he said slowly, “and … it doesn’t feel quite right.”

  She went still in his arms, a chill running through her. “What do you mean?”

  “I don’t mean being with you. That feels more right than anything. I mean being with you in secret without your parents knowing. It doesn’t feel like the honorable thing to do.”

  “I know, but what’s the alternative?”

  “We could tell them.”

  She laughed. “Tell them? Are you serious? You know how they’ll react.”

  “Yes, but … you’re their daughter. If this is what makes you happy, why can’t they be happy too?”

  “Because …” Raven sighed. “Because they think they know better than I do about what will make me happy.”

  His fingers slowly traced her spine from the top of her neck down to the small of her back. “Is that the only reason you don’t want our relationship to be public?”

  “Yes. What other reason could there be?”

  “Perhaps you’re … ashamed to be with someone like me?”

  “What?” She stepped back. “Where did that come from?”

  “Would you really be proud to stand beside me in front of all your friends and all your parents’ friends, with everyone knowing that you’re an heiress to a fortune, and I’m just the guy who guards the front door?”

  It probably wasn’t a good time to point out that he guarded more than the front door these days, so she decided not to mention that. “Of course I’d be proud to stand beside you.”

  “And yet we’re hiding in the forest right now, because it isn’t just your parents we’re keeping this from, it’s everyone.”

  “Yes, because Delph is filled with people who can’t keep their mouths shut, and the news would reach my mother before we even get home.” She placed her hands gently on either side of his face. “I want to be with you, Flint, no matter how difficult it might end up being.”

 
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