Adley and I left the library only to head to Stella’s Diner once the heat became too unbearable. Stella’s had an abundance of milkshakes, coveted on days like today. The short walk from the Library to Stella’s Diner had the two of us coated in a thick layer of sweat. My damp hair had dried quickly as we walked in the humidity, and now clung to the back of my neck.
“Your hair looks like it’s on fire.” Adley giggled, tugging at a strand of my flaming locks.
“Yours looks almost white.” I chuckled, noting how the sun seemed to bring out the platinum tones in her hair.
“I’d look amazing with white hair.” Adley shrugged, her grin still intact.
Stella’s was unusually packed, kids from our school crowded in small booths. Platters of burgers, fries and milkshakes cluttered most of the tables. It seems Adley and I had the same idea as everyone else, not that I could blame them. The summers in this town were unreasonably harsh and going to Stella’s meant getting out of the house.
I noticed Leo sitting in one of the booths, crowded around a bunch of kids we went to school with. I averted my eyes from him, wondering why he had bought me a drink the other day. Leo had never been a close friend of mine, but in a town this small it was near impossible not to know everyone. He looked the exact opposite from Aiden, with his shaggy blonde hair and lanky form, but his smile was kind enough.
‘Kind enough?’ Rayna snorted, ‘Don’t sound too excited about finding our mate.’
‘Leo is not our mate.’ I shook my head, relieved when Rayna agreed.
‘He might not be, but come tomorrow every unmated male is going to be begging for your hand.’ Rayna grunted.
While I looked forward to finding my mate and blowing this town, it was easier said than done. The only way to truly detect a mate is by touch. Both parties have to be eighteen or older and have some form of physical contact. Rayna was right, I’d have to touch every single unmated male at the party tomorrow, but there was only one person I was interested in. I knew none of the men in town were my mate, but Aiden I was unsure of.
Aiden hadn’t contacted me all day, but that happened at times. His Dad would travel out of town to buy some old cars to fix up, and usually dragged Aiden along. The drive there lasted three hours alone, so I resigned myself to seeing Aiden tomorrow. While Aiden’s Mom worked at the Food Mart in town, he often watched his little sisters. Another set of twins in this little town was odd enough, but Aiden’s little sisters were nearly identical. The two of them caused more trouble than I did, and that was saying a lot.
“Let’s just get our milkshakes to go.” I suggested, noting the way Leo glanced our way.
The two of us walked to Luna Maria’s house with our milkshakes in hand. Adley had gone with Stella’s newest concoction, a peach milkshake. After giving hers a taste, I decided peach and vanilla ice cream paired well together. I sipped at my peanut butter banana milkshake, enjoying the rush of cold down my throat.
The Luna and Alpha’s house was cloaked in modern furniture and shiny new appliances. Why they couldn’t extend their good fortune to the rest of us was beyond me. Everyone seemed content living in hovels while the Alpha and Luna lived in luxury.
‘Just another reason to leave.’ Rayna grumbled in agitation.
After going over some plans for the party tomorrow, Adley and I walked back to my house. The visit itself was completely pointless, as I couldn’t care less what the color scheme for tomorrow was. I wasn’t worried about the food or the kind of music they played, not that my opinion mattered much anyway.
Just before bed I gave Aiden a call, staying on the phone with him until the sun had long disappeared from the sky.
“Dad and I have to run out of town again tomorrow, but we should be back in time for your birthday party.” Aiden sighed, and I could picture the frown that had formed on his face. “The guy who owns the junkyard just got a huge shipment of cars in. He’s giving Dad a good price for them. Once we fix em’ up and sell em’, we’ll give him a cut.”
“You promise you’ll be there tomorrow?” I grimaced, unable to keep the disappointment from my voice. Adley’s presence alone would make the party just a little more bearable, but I needed Aiden there.
“I wouldn’t miss it. I know how much you’re looking forward to it.” Aiden snickered, his chuckle low and raspy.
“How did you know?” I snorted, sarcasm dripping from my voice. “Being paraded around the whole down is a dream of mine.”
“Maybe we can escape early, ditch Adley, and go somewhere more private.” Aiden suggested, though his voice sounded somewhat nervous.
My stomach leaped at the thought. Aiden and I had spent countless days alone together, but I could hear the underlying message in his words.
“I got to go.” Aiden sighed, shouting at the twin’s whose giggles played through the phone. “I have to get them ready for bed. I’ll see you tomorrow, beautiful.”
With a smile playing at the edges of my lips, I hung up the phone. While I still planned on leaving this town far behind, perhaps being mated to Aiden was a blessing in disguise.
I woke to Adley’s face inches from my own, her body draped across my small bed. A startled wail tore through my throat as I stumbled to my feet and rubbed the sleep from my eyes.
“What the hell, Adley!” I grunted, a glare forming on my face as she flashed me a cheeky smile.
“You’re cute when you sleep, but you drool a lot.” Adley snorted, standing from my bed in a cat-like stretch.
Her platinum hair was curled in light ringlets, smoothed down her back in a sea of gold. Her dress matched the color of her eyes, crystal blue like the streams and ocean’s I longed to visit. The dress sat just above her knee, but hugged her slim figure perfectly.
“Why were you watching me sleep?” I grimaced, knowing my bad attitude would only make her press harder.
“I figured I’d let you sleep in, but I got bored.” She shrugged, already digging through my poorly stocked closet. “Happy Birthday by the way!”
“Thanks.” I mumbled, stalking into the bathroom to wash my face.
I let Adley take the reins and watched as she curled my fire-kissed hair into delicate ringlets. She hoisted her overstuffed bag onto my bed, pulling out countless palettes of makeup and hair products.
Nearly two hours later, she spun me around in front of the bathroom mirror. The light eyeshadow she dusted on my lids brought out the golden ring around my eyes, enhancing the green to make it resemble glistening emeralds.
Out of my limited clothing supply, she handed me a cream-colored sundress, one I hadn’t worn since last summer. The dress was snug, but managed to fit over my full chest and hips.
Mom’s face contorted emotionally as Adley and I walked downstairs. A camera sat in her hand, and it took all of my willpower not to roll my eyes. Zack, oblivious to today’s events, scarfed down his pancakes gleefully.
After grabbing something light to eat, we left the house and headed to the old community center in town. The building was hardly used and smelled of stale air freshener. The building was reserved for weddings, pack meetings, and the occasional birthday party.
Purple streamers hung from the ceiling in various shades, looking nearly identical to how our Senior Prom was set up. Aiden and I had gone to our Prom together, only to ditch half an hour in.
Plastic tables spanned the room with trays of finger foods curtesy of my Mom and Stella. Cans of soda and cheap wine from the Food-Mart sat on the tables in neat rows. Some upbeat pop song played on the old radio across the room, too low to truly make out the words.
‘Luna Maria spared no expense for the twins.’ Rayna snorted, and I couldn’t help but agree.
Connor and June’s birthday celebration were set in the same building, but the interior had been completely remodeled. They even flew out a DJ for the event, and ordered catering from one of the most popular restaurants in the nearest town. I couldn’t exactly blame her, as Connor was the future Alpha, but I could’ve thought of better ways to spend the money.
I plastered a false grin on my face as Adley and I traveled the room. Not a single person looked particularly excited to be here. Connor and June stood at the end of the room, their usual group of friends circling them. Neither spared a look in my direction, as they were only here out of duty.
Most of the unmated males approached Adley, hope and unmet expectation on their faces. Each time Adley would entertain their conversation, but hold a look of absolute disinterest on her face. The sight was amusing to watch, as most of the unmated males seemed oblivious to her blatant disregard to their advances.
“You weren’t kidding when you said this party would blow.” Adley murmured in my ear, a look of distain on her face. “I’m going to get some wine. If you want to make it through this party, I’d suggest stealing a bottle for yourself.”
“Unfortunately, no amount of wine will get me through this.” I snorted.
I had lost count of the number of guys I touched hands with. Instead of disappointment, relief flooded through me as I realized none of them were my intended mate. I couldn’t imagine being saddled with someone from my pack, especially if my mate were one of the guys who looked down on me. The thought of trying to build a life in this town made me cringe.
Disappointment continued to bubble within me as I scanned the room looking for Aiden. His trip with his Dad was taking longer than anticipated, and I refused to stay at this party longer than necessary. I promised myself I’d wait another half hour then make my escape. I would just have to meet up with Aiden this afternoon, alone, as he suggested.As Adley wandered over to one of the tables, Leo approached me. His face was friendly, and for a moment I allowed myself to relax. Irritation blossomed within me as I watched his eyes flicker over to Adley, lingering on her exposed legs for a few seconds
As a child, I remember the excitement each year as twenty people gathered for Iridian. Parades would be thrown, people dressed in costumes depicting magical creatures that had once roamed our earth. Countless celebrations would be held as families gathered together and hoped for an invitation of their own. I had loved watching the parades on our old television, had loved the glittering costumes of the dancers that pranced down the streets. The celebrations continued until a victor emerged, gloating of the adventure and wonder that is Iridian.What the television didn’t talk about
A rough knock sounded on the front door, taking Mom’s attention off of me. She brushed past me with a disappointed sigh, walking from the kitchen into the living room. The floor creaked under her feet as she padded over to the front door.“You’ll thank us for this someday, Rachel.” Dad frowned, and though I could see the concern burning in his eyes, it did nothing to stifle the anger running through me.
My Mom's warning stuck with me as we drove down the road. I contemplated asking the man when the game actually begin, but I doubted he would give me a straight answer. Those who returned from Iridian were unable to speak about the details of the game, but I heard the rules and setting changed every year.'Must be a lot of work to change your entire pack every year.' Rayna mused, 'If they change the rules and setting, why are they so secretive about the game itself?''Maybe, they're trying to hide the fact that they don't have Magic. After all, Grandpa Kent said Magic left us a long time ago.' I shrugged.'Maintaining a healthy skepticism, I see.' Rayna chuckled, 'Grandpa Kent also said, the only place that still has Magic is the Iridescence Pack.''Maybe they don't want people finding out how some of the contestants vanish, or how some are driven mad.' I grimaced, feeling the food I had eaten at my birthday party swirl within
After Apollo's vanishing act, I wasted little time stepping onto the train. The sliding doors opened with a quiet hiss, revealing a guy just a few years older than myself. The guy was nothing like Apollo, with his flamboyant suit and shimmering hair. This boy looked quite normal, and was sporting what looked to be a waiter's uniform. His lips turned up with a polite smile, and I visibly jumped as the doors behind me closed. "Welcome, Rachel. I am sure you have questions, but unfortunately, I am not the one to ask. This entire compartment belongs to you and four other female contestants. Food and drink are provided, as are sleeping quarters for your time here. We will arrive at the Iridescent Pack in four days. This train also houses the other contestants, male's included, though you will not have access to them. Do enjoy your stay."Without another word, the guy gestured to his right. The scent of food wafted in the air, much different than wha
I had slept like the dead, only waking to the sound of two unfamiliar feminine voices. Sliding the door to my small sleeping quarters open, I peeked my head from the room. The woman with a permanent sneer on her face, Liliana, was chatting with another woman, one I hadn't seen before. I assumed she was the fifth contestant on our small portion of the train. Her hair was impossibly long and curly, her skin a shade of deep bronze. She looked as though she spent most of her days under the sun. I'd have assumed she worked outside if it weren't for the shimmering crystal necklace that wrapped around her throat. She held the same air of superiority Liliana sported. Whatever conversation they were having halted at my entrance. Two sneers turned on me, and I didn't bother resisting the urge to roll my eyes.'Already making enemies, I see.' Rayna yawned, shaking out her fur.'I didn't do anything.' I snorted, padding down the hallway to the small bathroo
That night we tried a decanter of scarlet liquid, thin in viscosity with little chunks of what looked like fruit inside. As I inhaled the scent pouring from the decanter, I noted strawberries, cherries, and other fruits I had no name for.I looked over the symbols carved onto the bottom of each decanter. Some were small stars with five points, the ones I was warned about, others had large eight-pointed stars, while one decanter in particular had a crescent moon. I couldn't help but wonder what effects the decanter with a crescent moon held. The liquid in was midnight black, but was ripe with hues of indigo and purple, with little silver flecks dancing around. The bottom of this particular decanter had an eight-pointed star.Helena had been true to her word, bringing the scarlet liquid to her lips, her eyes bright with anxiety and bravery. For a moment, Helena looked around confused, until her gaze landed on Camille and I. Her eyes widened; her l
Yesterday we had let Helena choose one of the decanters, and today Camille wanted a turn. I had warned them both about the decanters marked with a small star, and was pleased that they took my word seriously.I had scanned the bottom of each bottle, noting how they either had a small star, or a large eight-pointed star carved onto the bottom. Only one bottle had the carving of a crescent moon, and I was growing more and more curious of its effects. The nameless waiter hadn't said anything about the bottle with the crescent moon, and I could no longer stifle my curiosity. Once we arrived at the Iridescence Pack, I would no longer have the opportunity to try it. The decanter with the crescent moon held a liquid the shade of night, though the color was anything but flat. Inky black mixed with deep shades of indigo, plum, and silver. Tomorrow would be my turn to choose, and I wanted to try the decanter with the crescent moon.Camille chose a pleasant beig