Chapter Five

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Chapter Five

We tumble onto the grass in Nate's back garden. I sit up immediately, afraid that Zell will somehow follow us through. But the only thing that breaks the silence on this quiet street is the sound of our labored breathing and the occasional cricket chirp.

I collapse onto my side—the side that wasn't hit with Zell's magic. My stylus rolls from my open palm onto the grass beside me. I try to reach it to return it to my boot, but my hand is in such pain I can't even move my fingers.

Nate takes a few deep breaths before propping himself up on one elbow. He looks down at me and says, "Of all the places in the world we could have landed after falling off that cliff, you chose to take us back to the very people who just tried to kill us?"

I sit up in disbelief, blinking away the dark spots that threaten to engulf my vision. "Shouldn't you be thanking me?"

"Vi," he says, a smile turning his lips up. "I'm just—"

"You were the one who was convinced they weren't actually going to harm us. You ruined our chance at escaping last night. You didn't even try to run away when I attacked Drake on the cliff! I have been trying to save your ass since the moment that reptiscilla appeared in your bedroom—a job you haven't exactly made easy for me—and now that we're finally out of harm's way you can't even be bothered to—"

He leans toward me, cutting off my words by pressing his mouth to mine. He's kissing me. He's kissing me! I freeze for a second, then shove him away from me before realizing that I actually kind of like it. "I—I'm sorry. That was just—instinct. You, um, took me by surprise."

Do I want him to kiss me again? Is it a good idea? No. Yes. I don't know!

"No problem," says Nate, refusing to look at me. "Just trying to get you to stop shouting at me."

I can't seem to get any words out.

"Looks like it worked," he adds. "And I wasn't trying to make you angry with that comment. I was just . . . making a light-hearted observation. And thanks. For saving me. Again."

He isn't going to try to kiss me again. It's probably for the best. No, it's definitely for the best. I shouldn't be kissing human boys. I'm sure it's on some list of Guild rules.

"Oh, wow, have you seen the back of your shoulder?" Nate asks, leaning to one side so he has a better view of my back.

I stare at him.

"Sorry, dumb question. Of course you can't see it. It, um, looks pretty painful."

"Not as painful as this." I hold out my scorched wrist. It's throbbing with such intensity I think I might be sick.

"What the hell?" Nate whispers, touching my elbow to bring my arm closer to his face. The skin around the metal band is blistered and raw. "This happened because you used magic?"

"Yeah. I think this band is meant to make the use of magic so painful that the wearer is basically powerless. But, you know, we had to get away."

"You have to get this seen to." Nate's eyes are large and worried.

"I suppose." The black spots are swimming in front of my eyes again. "Normally I'd heal from something like this pretty quickly, but—" don't pass out, don't pass out "—um, I guess this band thing is stopping that."

Nate looks toward his house. "Let's go inside. I can get you some painkillers at least. My parents like to go to bed early so as long as we're quiet we won't—"

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