Acadia hurled another book across her room, the hard cover making a square-shaped dent in her blue walls. “I’m not going back to Vanaheim, and I’m definitely not going to marry some stupid, arrogant, traitorous prince because of some lousy order!” she said angrily, throwing another book.
A faint tap on the window stopped her in mid-swing before throwing another book. She turned toward the window and the book fell from her hand. Chris waved at her, trying not to laugh.
Acadia crossed her room and tossed open the window. “What are you doing?”
“Your mom said you were in here, and I’d be more likely to get to you this way,” he answered, eyeing her baggy sweats and low-cut tank top. “Your mom’s actually pretty cool.”
She rolled her eyes and crossed her arms. “So what do you want?” she asked gruffly, but not unkindly.
“I wanted to steal you away for the day and take you somewhere special,” he replied, staring at her chest.
“Chris, eyes above the shoulders. My head is up here,” she snapped.
He blushed and looked at the top of her head. “So what do you say?”
“Give me twenty minutes,” she said, a slightly amused grin playing across her face as she closed the window and pulled the blue-green curtains closed. Acadia grabbed a shirt from her drawer and quickly pulled it on, then grabbed a pair of shorts from her floor. As she pulled them on, she quickly ran her hand over the stubble on her legs, made a face, then used magic to shave. She slowly opened her bedroom door and made sure the hallway was clear before leaping into her bathroom, running a brush through her tangled hair and killing her morning breath.
Twenty minutes later, she pulled back her curtains and threw open the window. “So where are we going?” she asked, stepping out on the fire escape.
“It’s a surprise,” Chris said. “But you’re going to like it.”
Acadia took this as an answer and followed him down the nineteen flights of stairs to his truck. The engine started without a problem, and she smirked.
“See? Told you it was user error,” she laughed.
Chris rolled his eyes. “Whatever helps you get to sleep at night.”
She laughed and leaned back in the seat, crossing her legs in front of her.
“You’re good at hiding it, but something’s wrong,” he said after watching her from the corner of his eye for a few minutes. “You okay?”
She sighed and closed her eyes. “It’s my sister.”
“You have a sister?” he asked incredulously.
Acadia nodded. “When my mom and I left Vanaheim, Caylis and Drew went to Asgard until it was safe to go back home. Somehow, Caylis found me and wants me to go back home with her. She won’t leave until I do.”
“That’s a lot to handle,” he replied, stopping to let a dog run across the road. “Why does she want you to go back so badly?”
“Because apparently I’m betrothed,” she said between clenched teeth. “To an old guy who’s one of the reasons I had to leave in the first place. The princes allied with the dark elves and showed them how to get the help of the Amazons, then showed them how to invade Vanaheim. Because my family now hates the royal family, the king has ordered that Caylis and I marry his sons to bring an alliance. That way he knows his sons are safe from anything the military would do. My father would rather die than have something happen to us.”
“So if you’re betrothed, then does me kissing you last night count as you cheating?” Chris asked, trying to lighten the mood.
A small smile flickered across Acadia’s face. “Probably. But I don’t count it as that because I’m not going back and I’m not marrying a stupid prince!”
“Most girls would die to marry a prince,” he told her.
“Most girls weren’t forced into exile because said prince had their home invaded,” she retorted.
“Do you really feel like you’re in exile here?” he asked softly, shutting off the engine.
She sighed. “Yes and no. At home, I didn’t have to hide all of my powers, I could fly down the street instead of walking, and no one would say anything about it. Here, I have to act like a normal human because I could end up in a science lab somewhere. In Vanaheim, my rooms were filled with all kinds of jewels and rare metals and I had everything and anything that I wanted. But no matter how great that was, I was a prisoner in my own home. Because my mom is an Amazon, and not a Venhir, I was always treated differently because I’m different. But here, no one knows about my heritage, and no one cares that my parents are from two different planets. I’m trapped no matter where I am, but here, I have more freedom than I ever would have on Vanaheim.”
“You don’t have to hide your powers with me,” Chris said softly.
She smiled. “That’s a nice thought, but we’re out in public most of the time,” she reminded him.
“Which is why I brought you here,” he replied, gesturing out the window to the empty beach. “This is turtle breeding grounds, and the public isn’t allowed here. But I can come here anytime I want because my mom is the marine biologist that studies the turtles here. Since it’s isolated, I’ve always used it as a place to use my powers, and to practice controlling them. It’s nice to have a place outside of my home that I can use.”
Acadia’s smile widened as she took in the empty beach in front of her. “It’s beautiful,” she said softly.
“Come on, the turtles laid eggs last night, and my mom needs someone to count how many nests are there,” he said, opening his door, then coming around to open hers.
She followed him down to the beach, leaving her shoes on the hood of the truck. “Why isn’t your mom down here counting nests?”
“Because I asked her if we could do it,” he replied, intertwining his fingers with hers. “And she also had a ton of paperwork to do at the office.”
“How do we know what a nest looks like?” she asked.
“The sand will be disturbed and kind of raised off the ground,” he answered, pointing to a nest a few feet in front of them.
She nodded and pointed to a dark shape climbing out of the sand close to the water. “What’s that?”
Chris squinted and leaned forward. “Oh, that’s Lola. She was born without one of her back flippers. Mom’s been studying her for years. This is the first year she’s laid eggs.”
Acadia nodded. “Should we help her back to the sea?”
He shook his head. “If she made it this far, she’s strong enough to make it back,” he replied, giving her hand a squeeze.
“But sometimes even the strong are rendered weak by circumstance,” countered a husky voice behind them.
Acadia closed her eyes and took a deep breath. “What are you doing here, Caylis?”
Caylis stepped out from behind them and stood next to Chris. “When I came to check on you, your room was empty. Gwen told me where you were. I was hoping we could spend some time together today. No talking of Vanaheim or marriages or anything else like that.”
Acadia looked between Chris and her sister. Chris nodded and smiled.
She sighed and reluctantly let go of his hand. “Where do you want to go?”
Caylis grinned and ran down the beach. “Follow me!” she called over her shoulder. As she ran past Lola, she flipped the injured turtle on her back and left Lola lying there, three flippers waving in the air. Laughter came drifting back on the wind.