SHADE’S ONLY THOUGHT was of running. She let the ground fly under her feet, feeling the dirt shifting with her shoes as they were imprinting themselves into the dark, soft earth. She wasn’t afraid, nor did she have to run. No, she wanted to run. The need to feel the air rush past her with its fingers ripping through her hair, and the bushes and leaves whipping on her skin was overwhelming. The fresh earthy air fed her lungs, and the beating of her racing heart was the drummer of the tempo.
Running in the forest had turned into a soothing meditation for her since returning from the Santiran Fountains. It was funny that the woods seemed to have become her sanctuary, even though her adventures in the great outdoors had been no less than scary. She often wondered; since her powers had grown, did it mean the faery in her now craved the intimacy of nature more and more? Regardless, she enjoyed her daily sprints in the forests around her house.
The solitude gave her time to think. To think about her powers, her life, her future, and her commitments. She had pledged her allegiance to the Guildrin Clan, a Seelie Court of Faeries. Shade hadn’t realized how much allying oneself with Faeries would involve, but for now she was happy it did involve a lot of magical training, weapons training, fight training, and the history of the Fey lessons. It was a Fey University of sorts. Her brain was often fried and required her to use her daily runs to recharge it.
SHADE’S REFLECTION STARTLED her in the dismal dark of night. The mirrored closet doors reversed the room enough to make her wonder where the heck she was. Blinking, she rubbed her face and let her eyes adjust to the dim twilight. She let her breathing slow to a more calming rate as her heart slowed its frantic flutter. It was just another nightmare to wake her from her sleep. They’d become more and more frequent since returning from the long journey across Faerie. The dangers she’d endured to retrieve a powerful Santiran Water Magic for Queen Zinara of the Guildrin Seelie Court had left its mark. She wasn’t exactly sure what had triggered the nightmares, but the delirium of sleeplessness was getting old fast.
The soft tap on her door as it slowly creaked open made her jump again.
“Shade, are you alright?” Dylan’s whisper floated across the room to her. His hair was growing out and lay in dark wisps across his left eye. His piercing steel-grey eyes seemed to glow in the dim twilight and flashed about the room as if scanning for disturbances. She lay back, relieved to see the Faerie guard. Dylan waited patiently as she reached over to click the nightstand light on.
“Yes, Dylan, I’m fine. Just another bad dream.” She yawned and rubbed her eyes. Her hair was a messy chestnut tangle which snarled around her shoulders. She watched Dylan as he gave her a slight nod and retreated, clicking the door shut behind him. She wondered how he always knew when something was going on with her. He just seemed to be there, immediately, every time. Of course, being so near and down the hall at her house did seem to have something to do with it.
Her mom had been cool when Shade had brought him home and introduced him as her new friend from school who needed a place to stay so he could graduate from their high school. They had played it off like his family was moving for his father’s work, and he didn’t want to change schools. Dylan had appeared as innocent as a teenage boy could appear. He had used his glamour and charms on her mother. Somehow, it had worked, and Shade’s mom had agreed to let him stay. Her mother wasn’t naïve; she had her hawk eyes on them constantly, but she seemed to loosen up after a few weeks had gone by without incident.
Shade smiled at the thought. Dylan did make her heart jump with a flip or two when he was nearby, but they had not really had much time together since returning from the journey. School graduation, parties, and high school friends had sucked up her time like leeches. Ultimately, it had kept their conversations to a minimum, but that hadn’t kept her from dragging him along to every function. He hadn’t found them quite to his liking, but he’d been too curious to admit he really hadn’t minded going with her that much and seeing what went on at the parties. At the very least, he liked to be near her. She was glad her mother hadn’t objected when Dylan had asked to stay longer, probably for the whole summer. Her mother had just nodded and smiled while moving about her day as usual.