Chapter Three

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I close Tora's door to find Nate sitting on the floor with a tree sprite in his hand. At the sound of my footsteps, the sprite pokes his cheek with her tiny finger and flutters away, laughing. Nate, looking somewhat disoriented, gets to his feet.

"Did she do something to me?" he asks, blinking his eyes several times.

"She probably gave you a sleeping shot," I say. "It'll wear off in about ten seconds, considering you're at least a hundred times bigger than her normal prey." Nate yawns and stretches his arms above his head, revealing a strip of tanned skin just above his jeans. I'm surprised by the jolt in my stomach.

Get a grip, Vi. I see bare skin all the time in training, and it's never had any effect on me. I look away, just in time to see Ryn come out of his mentor's office a few doors down the corridor. He saunters over, his eyes gleaming like shards of blue glass. I fold my arms across my chest, my anger returning in full force. "I would have told her, you know."

"But that would have been no fun for me, Pixie Sticks," he says.

If I look at him any longer I might do something irrational, like smash his perfect teeth in. I look at Nate instead. He raises an eyebrow. "Pixie Sticks?" he asks.

I imagine a thick wall forming between Ryn and me. He's not here, he's not here, he's not here. "It's Ryn's highly mature way of insulting me," I tell Nate. "Pixies are these small, annoying creatures—"

"Very much like Vi here." Crash, there's goes the imaginary wall. "And her legs—" Ryn glances down "—they look just like little sticks, don't they?"

Nate looks down too. "Actually, I think they're quite attractive."

So. Not. Happening.

I grab Nate's arm and pull him down the corridor, away from Ryn, before either of them manages to embarrass me further. "Goodnight, Oryn," I shout without looking back.

"Have fun with the human, Violet." He makes a series of kissing noises. I walk faster.

It's not long before I feel Nate's eyes on me. "You guys dated, didn't you?"

I stumble over the stray vine that always manages to find its way down this corridor, no matter how many times someone sends it back to the main stairway. "Are you insane? Not even if the continuation of our kind depended on it would I be tempted to do something so awful."

We reach the main foyer, and Tank opens the entrance for us. I jump down the stairs into the dark forest night. Nate follows. "Okay," I say as I begin to walk. "We can spend the rest of the night at my house and leave as soon as it gets light. It's usually safer to travel here during the day." And I need to feed Filigree and let him know I won't be around for a few days.

"Sure. Where exactly is 'here' anyway?"

"Um . . ." What harm can it do to tell him? "We're in a forest humans can't get to from the outside. It's called Creepy Hollow."

"Creepy Hollow?" He snorts. "Like Sleepy Hollow?"

"No, like Creepy Hollow. It has nothing to do with sleeping."

"Yeah, I get that." I could be mistaken, but I think he just rolled his eyes at me. "What I mean is, it sounds like the legend."

"And what I mean is, I have no idea what you're talking about." How dare he roll his eyes at me?

"Never mind," he says with a sigh. "Okay, so why would you want to live in a place filled with creepy things?"

"I'm training to be a guardian. If there were no creepy beings around I'd have no job."

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