Friday, January 8, 2010

Exclusive Firespell Sneak Peek + Contest

We walked through the narrow space until it dead-ended at the stone wall that bounded St. Sophia’s.

I frowned at the wall and the grass and gothic buildings that lay beyond it. “We walked around two buildings just to come back to St. Sophia’s?”

“Check your left, Einstein.”

I did as ordered, and had to blink back surprise. I’d expected to see more alley or bricks, or Dumpsters. But that’s not what was there. Instead, the alley gave way to a square of lush, green lawn filled with pillars—narrow pyramids of gray concrete that punctured the grass like a garden of thorns. They varied in height from three feet to five, like a strange gauntlet of stone.

We walked closer. “What is this?”

“It’s a memorial garden,” she said. “It used to be part of the convent grounds, but the city discovered the nuns didn’t actually own this part of the block. Those guys did,” she said, pointing at the building that sat behind the bank. “St. Sophia’s agreed to put in the stone wall, and the building agreed to keep this place as-is, provided that the St. Sophia’s folks promised not to raise a stink about losing it.”

“Huh,” I said, skimming my fingers across the top of one nubby pillar.

“It’s a great place to get lost,” she said, and as if on cue, disappeared between the columns. It took a minute to find her in the forest of them . And when I reached her in the middle, she wasn’t alone.

Scout stood stiffly, lips apart, eyes wide, staring at the two boys who stood across from her. They were both in slacks and sweaters, a button-down shirt and tie beneath, an ensemble I assumed was the guy version of the private school uniform. The one on the right had big brown eyes, honey skin, and wavy dark hair curling over his forehead.

The one on the left had dark blond hair and blue eyes. No—not blue exactly, but a shade somewhere between blue and indigo and turquoise, like the color of a ridiculously bright spring sky. They glowed beneath his short hair, dark slashes of eyebrows, and the long lashes that fanned across those crazy eyes.

His eyebrows lifted with interest, but Scout’s voice pulled his gaze to her. I, on the other hand, had a little more trouble, and had to drag my gaze away from this boy in the garden.

“What are you doing here?” she asked them, suspicion in her gaze.

The boy with brown eyes shrugged innocently. “Just seeing a little of Chicago.”

“I guess that means I didn’t miss a meeting,” Scout said, her voice dry. “Don’t you have class?” “There wasn’t a meeting,” he confirmed. “We’re on our lunch break, just like you are. We’re out for a casual stroll, enjoying this beautiful fall day.” He glanced at me and offered a grin. “I’m guessing you’re St. Sophia’s latest fashion victim? I’m Michael Garcia.”

“Lily Parker,” I said with a grin. So this was the boy Veronica talked about. Or more important, the boy Scout had avoided talking about. Given the warmth in his eyes as he stole glances at Scout, I made a prediction that Veronica wasn’t going to win that battle.

“Hello, Lily Parker,” Michael said, then bobbed his head toward blue eyes. “This is Jason Shepherd.”

“Live and in person,” Jason said with a smile, dimples arcing at each corner of his mouth. My heart beat a little bit faster; those dimples were killers. “It’s nice to meet you, Lily.”

“Ditto,” I said, offering back a smile. But not too much of a smile. No sense in playing my entire hand at once.

Cross-posted at: LiyanaLand! on 4 January 2010.


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