Cover Art by Brittany Chavez and Steele Walston




НазваниеCover Art by Brittany Chavez and Steele Walston
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Epilogue


Three weeks have passed since Valor marked me with his rune. I think there must be some sort of numbing agent in gargoyle venom because it hardly hurt at all. Valor wrapped his strong fingers around my upper arm and exposed the barbs on his free hand. Then he slowly carved his rune into my skin. It was pretty much exactly the way Reason had said it would be.

When Valor was finished, he blew on the rune for a few minutes. Then he kissed it better. He was really cute. Afterward, I got the longest kiss ever.

You’ll be glad to know that his barbs don’t leak anymore when he kisses me, which is a good thing because those blue stains don’t come out. I had to tell my mother I spilled some blue ink on my bedroom carpet while making an art project for one of my classes.

I hate lying. Sadly, I’m getting better at it.

Mom got all ready to freak when she saw the blue artwork on my arm. Then she realized it was the same as Valor’s tattoo and decided it was romantic. My mother is incurable. If all of her friends jumped off a cliff, she probably would too…as long as they were doing it for love.

She met the rest of the guys on her last trip home. Even though she’s had a security system installed at the house, I think she feels safer knowing they spend a lot of time here. Dare is probably her favorite, which might have something to do with his being a Beatles fan. But she bought all of them gift cards for Christmas.

Christmas is less than two weeks away. I’ve wrapped all my presents and they’re underneath the tree in the living room. I bought up all the old emo belts I could find on the internet, so the guys are all getting white belts. Except for Dare. His is powder blue.

In addition, Havoc’s getting a cookbook. And I found an old hardback copy of Great Expectations for Dare. I bought Defiance a pair of designer sunglasses that are gonna look really hot on him. Victor was harder to shop for. I ended up getting him a small digital camera that will probably make Havoc totally jealous.

I’ve wrapped up a cell phone for Valor. Mom said she’d add him to our plan as long as he paid the monthly charges. That shouldn’t be a problem; we sold a bow last week and have had several more inquiries.

I even picked up a set of drawing pens for Reason in the hopes he makes it home before Christmas.

Maybe it’s my imagination, but sometimes I think I look more like the picture Reason drew of me. Some of the girls at school have asked what I’m doing different and some of the guys, who were never interested in me before are suddenly hanging around and asking what I’m doing next weekend. Three months ago, I would have been thrilled if Josh Saxon had asked me out. Now I try to avoid him. I don’t know how many ways I can tell him I already have a boyfriend.

It might be the venom pumping through my veins that has caused the difference in my appearance but my skin is definitely clearer. Mom says it positively glows. My lashes are thicker and I’ll swear my lips are fuller. I can’t help but wonder if that’s the way Reason and the rest of the pack saw me right from the start, because they don’t think I’ve changed at all. If that’s true, then I wonder how they see Mim. I wish one of the other gargoyles had Reason’s artistic skill. If one of them could draw, I’d ask him to sketch Mim’s portrait.

That’s assuming she’d let him.

On a negative note, Mim seems to think the guys had something to do with my injuries. I’m horrified she reached this totally wrong conclusion but I can’t tell her the truth because of the promise I made to the gargoyles. So now she doesn’t trust them.

I hate the fact that she thinks they might be capable of hurting me when the exact opposite is true. They’d do anything to protect me. It’s really sad. Dare is devastated. He’s so upset that she thinks his family could ever do anything like that. The others seem to understand she’s only being loyal to me but Dare is taking it personally. I don’t know if he’ll ever forgive her.

That’s where lies will get you. I never have liked them. Somehow, someday, I’m going to have to convince the gargoyles to let Mim in on their secret. I might even have to call a pack meeting so we can discuss the subject. I wonder if I can do that without a knife. If not, I might have to find something in the kitchen drawer.

You’re not gonna believe this next part but a tree fell on my neighbor.

I swear I had nothing to do with it! In fact, if Reason is right and I can cast no harmful spells, it couldn’t have been me.

It was a windy day on the weekend and we weren’t around to hear Blocker’s shouts for help but he had his cell phone with him so he was able to get through to the emergency services. The tree that pinned his leg to the ground was the one I leaned against when I cast my spell to stop him from cutting trees.

That tree had a good old heart.

Valor is drying the wood and plans to make me a staff for my seventeenth birthday. He’s going to carve a place at the top to set my phone in. Pretty clever, eh? I think the staff will come in handy. My foot is still in the cast but Dr. Anders says I’ll probably always have a limp.

We never did figure out why my neighbor got up one morning and decided to level the forest around his home. Maybe he was clearing his lot to improve his view because he planned to put the place up for sale. The realtor sign went up last week. And yes, I did cast a very small, harmless spell suggesting he might be happier living somewhere else. Alaska to be specific. It was the furthest place I could think of, short of sending him to Siberia. But his decision to sell his property might have been a coincidence, just like it might have been a coincidence that he stopped cutting trees the day after I cast my spell on him.

I’ve tried to levitate my keys since that morning when I found Alexa blocking the driveway but I haven’t been able to budge them an inch. Here’s what I think about my powers. I think Defiance and the others were right when they said I had to involve my emotions in order for the magic to work. Evidently, I have to be angry or sad or emotionally invested in the outcome.

So, the only reason I was able to locate Valor—when I failed to find his three missing cousins—is because I desperately wanted to. When the tool chest fell on me, the conditions were similar. Ditto when I yanked those keys from Alexa’s fingers. And finally, I was in a tough spot when I woke Valor in time to save me from that harpy in the mansion.

So here’s the bottom line. If the situation is desperate, you can probably count on me to be a witch. Otherwise, forget it.

On the home front, the step-Greg was pretty upset when Mom told him about his sculptures being stolen. As I expected, he didn’t want to report the theft.

The shipping company still hasn’t explained what happened to the three crates they lost. They’re sending insurance forms, which isn’t a good sign. Greg might be satisfied with a big payout but I’m calling the shipper every day until they tell me the last known whereabouts of those crates.

He’s beginning to think the statues are cursed. Out of the nine sculptures he started with, five have been “stolen”, three are missing, and the one he sold has been rejected by the buyer.

Yes, that means Reason is finally on his way back from the millionaire’s place in Texas. I expected Greg to be angry with me for sending the wrong crate. When he told me the customer was really unhappy, I prepared to give him my story about how I’d sent the right box. But before I could start lying, he said something strange.

I pushed the speaker on the phone so the pack could listen to our conversation.

The customer insisted he ordered a beautiful piece of art,” Greg grumbled. “Not an ugly relic.”

Ugly? Relic? Reason was a lot of things but he was never ugly.

The guy sent me a picture of the shipment he received and I had to agree it wasn’t the piece he ordered and it wasn’t the statue I meant to send. Hell, I didn’t even recognize the damn thing.”

I held my breath, trying to make sense of his words.

So, I don’t know what the hell is going on,” he sighed. “Maybe my shipment got mixed up with someone else’s. At any rate, the crate he received is on its way back to the house.”

Will you be heading home soon?” I asked Greg.

Not right away. I have a few more leads to follow.”

What kind of leads?” I asked, wondering about the possibility of more gargoyles.

Similar stuff,” Greg answered evasively.

I hung up the phone and shared a troubled look with the pack. Greg had said he didn’t even recognize the “thing” that was supposed to be Reason.

Maybe Reason made himself…look bad,” Dare suggested.

There was no way any of the gargoyles could make themselves look that bad. “We all saw him go into the sealed box,” I pointed out. “He didn’t look like a…relic.”

Maybe he got a chance to change after he was removed from the crate,” Valor murmured as he pulled me into his side.

I looked up into my boyfriend’s troubled eyes. Maybe he was right. But I was concerned just the same. And I knew I wouldn’t stop worrying until Reason returned safely home.


About the Author


Taylor Longford lives with her family in Colorado. She doesn’t have red hair but she does drive an old Jeep Cherokee with 260,000 miles on it. She’s rolled it once and it looks like crap but it still goes fast! If she can make a living as a writer, she’ll buy something a bit nicer and write some more stories.


You can find Taylor at http://www.taylorlongford.com/
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