Hailey Wittlow is a loner. Which is okay with her, everyone is safer that way.
Ask Hailey about parties, drinking or drugs, she won't have a clue what to say. Ask her about evil beings like vampires, lycans or fae and she could tell you a whole hell of a lot.
No, Hailey is not the poster-teen for normal. But it's not until an elf named Tobias drops in that she learns just how messed-up she truly is.
Chapter 1: first encounter
I was born with a curse, with the ability to see beyond the Veil between realms. From the age of four or five I realized I was able to see Fae of all kinds. The bone-white faces of Vampires, the bright ones belonging to the Faeries and the pearly black eyes and hairy features of the Lycanthropes. Secrecy became a part of my life.
If I were to look for one second too long at their brusque or beautiful faces any one of them would kill me. They feel no sympathy, no mercy; like a hurricane, destroying everything and leaving nothing but devastation in its wake.
Sitting on my bed, I listened to the sounds of an oncoming storm. I cracked the window an inch, breathing in the scents of fresh rain on grass. A crack of lightning illuminated the window and I looked through the water streaked glass counting to three before thunder shook the pane. The blackness of the late hour returned, reflecting the soft glow of my grandmother’s jade necklace against my pale chest. Another dagger of lightning made me start and erased every trace of my reflection, leaving me alone.
A soft knock on my door announced the arrival of my mother, but of course she didn’t wait for my reply before waltzing in. “Hale?”
She was still in her nursing uniform. Her long dark hair was piled on top of her head, a few stray pieces dangling down to kiss her shoulders. I’ve been told I’m the spittin’ image of my Mother, but aside from our long dark hair and wide eyes, I don’t quite see the resemblance.
“I asked to leave early tonight.”
I rubbed my tired eyes, thankful I had remembered to remove my coloured contacts. Until I was born, violet eyes were hereditary in the family, along with the Sight, which only the first born was cursed with. But of course I had to be the anomaly, an outsider even among the outsiders. Luckily my mother’s eyes can almost pass for a deep blue, so hardly anyone notices the strange color, but I am forced into wearing coloured contacts. My eyes change colour... frequently. My irises are like mood rings, switching shades according to my emotions. I wear deep brown contacts because they’re the only ones that cover my range of chameleon colours, from silver to black and everything in between.
I sighed, "I wish Nana was here.” I couldn’t help the constant reminder the storms gave me of my Nana, how that stubborn old woman loved the rain.
Narrowly avoiding my comment, my mother tried to cheer me up, “I’m on my way up, meet you there?”
She smiled because she already knew my answer. Every thunderstorm we sat up on the roof under the awning and watched the sky until the storm subsided. It had become a sort of tradition since my Nana’s passing. Now it was only my mother and I, alone in our Sight, sworn to secrecy, only able to confide in each other.
Most seventeen-year-olds I knew hated their parents or ignored them. I couldn’t imagine having that sort of relationship with my mother. We had an understanding, a kind of deal. She wouldn’t interfere in my life if I didn’t dig into hers. As long as my grades were halfway decent and I stayed out of situations that would put me in danger, we would trust each other. This way we never had any reason to lie to one another.
“I’ll get some hot drinks.” I hopped down off the window’s ledge and started towards the kitchen, catching the harsh scent of antiseptic that was eternally fused into my mother’s scent.
“See you in a minute,” she said.
Our house was small, but we didn’t need a big house. My father left when I was two, when Mom finally decided to relinquish our secret to him. I knew she kept a photo album filled with pictures of us as a ‘happy family’ somewhere in her room. Every time I asked about him, the only response I got was, ‘he was a good man and I’m sure he’s happy living his life somewhere.’
I traced the banner of floral wallpaper going down the stairs and through the hallway. Feeling eyes on me, I turned around smiling, expecting my mom to have followed, but no one was there.
“Mom..?” I whispered, thinking she had ducked into the bathroom around the corner, but when no answer came I found myself tip-toeing down the hall on the suddenly chilled linoleum tiles.
I took out the tea kettle, plugged it in and grabbed two mugs. Blindly, I reached for the tea can and dropped two bags into the mugs, fastening the strings to the handles out of habit.
I popped some Smokey Bacon chips in my mouth, sighing as I noticed the bag was almost empty, I’d have to put them on the grocery list. Resting my back against, I waited as the kettle began to heat.
Above a cluttered table was a group of pictures of me when I was smaller, and a few of the drawings I had done in grade school were framed among them. I smirked at the one I drew of my mom holding my hand in our front yard when we lived in Quebec. I would bet every kid drew one like it, except for the missing father, the addition of Nana and the dark haired Faerie peeking from behind the branches of a willow.
A sinking feeling in the pit of my stomach alerted me to the fact that I was being watched. My senses piqued and a shiver rolled up my spine. I spun holding the metal tea spoon like a tiny weapon. My eyes darted all around, but I had a feeling whoever was watching was not there because eyes burned holes in the back of my skull.
I turned from my leaning stance on the counter, clutching the edge for support. Keeping my head down, my heart racing, I faced the sink. Nervously bringing my head up to the window above it, I prepared myself for the face of a monster, but there was nothing, only rain and the riot of thunder in the darkness.
Letting go of the breath I’d been holding, I freed my iron grip from the countertop and closed my eyes. Gulping down deep breaths, I slowly began to relax. A loud crack broke through my calm front and I flinched. I opened my eyes with a start to see that the kettle’s switch had popped up. I almost laughed at my paranoia.
I stumbled over to unplug the kettle, but something was there that hadn’t been before, something small and round, bound in leaves and twine. I paused, and then unplugged it, ignoring the item within a finger’s reach. My eyes jerked around the kitchen, lingering on the hallway and furtively falling back to the parcel. One of them was in my house. I felt the hair on the back of my neck prick.
Quickly and carelessly, I filled the mugs with shaking fingers.
I tried to ignore it. Maybe to a normal person it would be a spoon or a cup cake or maybe it wouldn’t really be there at all. I still wasn’t very good at seeing the illusions. I felt a cold sweat beginning to break out over my body as I picked up the drinks, not permitting myself so much as a sideways glance at the mysterious object. Whoever put it there could still be watching.
I held the mugs as steady as I could, still spilling some sweet tea here and there. I cringed as a scalding droplet fell on my bare foot. Too afraid to stop walking, I disregarded the burn. I couldn’t seem to stop my eyes from shifting in all directions as I walked farther down our narrow hallway. It felt as though the floral wallpaper was closing in and it became a challenge to stay upright. I was used to them coming and going, seeing them right in my back yard or across the street, but none ever dared to enter my house, not once, not ever.
The attic door loomed, a beacon of safety. Shakily, I set one mug on the floor and reached for the door. A shiver slid through me as my fingers closed around the freezing handle. Gasping, I jerked back, my throat closing in fear. The mug was gone. My heart roared in my ears. I stared in horror at the leafy object I’d left on the kitchen counter. I stumbled back, whimpering, my lips pressed together in the vague hope of preventing my hyperventilation from drawing attention.
Straightening up, I turned back to the wooden door of the attic and the stairs that would take me to my mother.
There he waited. Standing perfectly still with menacing jade eyes that were too bright, too unnatural. His perfectly tan and angular face, illuminated by the stairwell lamp was slightly hidden behind a shroud of choppy caramel hair. A pair of nearly unnoticeable pointed ears pushed their way through. If I hadn’t known what to look for I never would have spotted them.
I ripped my eyes away, slamming the attic door. I knew he was following me, every instinct within me screaming at the deathly silence surrounding me. My fingers clenched the mug as I ran but still the hot tea was sloshing my skin as I bolted back to my bedroom, tripping over my own unsteady feet as I went.
A faint crackle of lightning in the distance and the roar of thunder sounded as I pounded up the stairs. My heart in my throat I spun on my heel, searching the shadows behind me. With fear clogging my throat I darted into my bedroom and kicked the door shut only to stagger backwards with a muffled scream. A chill trickled over me and my mouth went dry, the trap was set atop my pillow, the leaves unfurling.
I gasped, my chest tightening at the sound of the lock engaging on my bedroom door.
My legs trembled as I allowed the facts to sink in, I was trapped and I wasn’t alone. Rough translation: I was as good as dead. I struggled to breathe against the oppressive weight on my chest, gripping the mug until my knuckles turned white. I couldn’t turn around, I couldn’t move.
No! Startled by the sudden reminder mother was still in the house, the mug slipped from my cold grasp, shattering on the floor. Mother’s echoed steps were coming faster down the hallway now. The remainder of the tea burned the edges of my feet, but I didn’t budge. There was no conceivable way that she hadn’t heard the mug shatter into tiny pieces. What would I say if she tried to get in?
I spun around, coming face to face with the creature. He was so near that I could smell his thick earthy scent, moist dirt and mown grass. I could almost taste it on my tongue. Falling back a step, my eyes darted around the room, trying to find something, anything that would help me escape.
Looking through the man in my room as if he wasn’t there, I screamed, “Mom! Stop…” but his calloused hand slapped onto my face, choking off my attempt to warn her. I looked into his angry eyes and he glared into mine. I drew in a sharp breath, sucking in cool, clean air when he let go. My relief was short-lived as he snatched up both my wrists, a smirk pulling at one corner of his mouth. The floor broke free from under us and we fell, my stomach dropping. A pounding on my locked door was the last thing I heard before darkness enveloped us.
I tried to rip my hands away from him as we fell, but his grip tightened with every jerk I gave. Any tighter and I was sure my wrists would snap. Dizziness made my vision blur but I was determined not to pass out, I didn’t understand what was happening, but it was as if we were dropping straight through the earth.
Amid the inky shadows the only thing I could see were his jade eyes. They didn’t as much as blink and I couldn’t seem to shift my gaze from them.
The darkness never completely abated, but within seconds the moon and stars appeared below us and we dropped through the clouds. I shivered as we sank through the icy tendrils, desperately whipping my head around searching for some sign of hope but all I could see was the tree speckled earth rushing up to meet us. My heart racing, my palms sweaty, I met my assailants stare. “Please,” I begged him, barely recognizing my own strangled voice. His jaw clenched in response and I knew there would be no mercy, not for someone like me. A sob tore out of my chest, death had come for me and there was nothing I could do but close my eyes and wait.