Chapter Fourteen

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Jasmine sat shotgun and held on to the timepiece, guiding me on where to go. We'd been driving about a half hour when we were instructed to turn off the highway and pull into a town that looked familiar to me. Yet it wasn't until I saw the buildings looming ahead that I knew why.

"Fallon ran away to . . . the mall?" I asked incredulously.

"You've got to be freaking kidding me," Jasmine said before reluctantly directing me to enter the giant parking lot.

I pulled up to a spot about thirty feet away from the entrance to the Orange Hill Mall and let the engine die before stepping outside. Taking a deep breath, I closed my eyes and allowed myself to enjoy the quality of air down here in the valley.

God, I love the smell of retail in the afternoon.

"I can't believe I'm saying this—because, hello? We're at a mall—but what was Fallon thinking?" I said.

Jasmine led the way since she still had the watch, and I began to strut toward the big revolving doors. I was vaguely aware of people around me; my eyes focused on the most heavenly place I'd ever known. It was like seeing a mirage in the desert. I just couldn't keep away, even though I knew it wasn't as innocent as it looked.

"I'm not sure Fallon was thinking," Sascha cut in. Since we'd left the car, her eyes had grown big as she took in all the stores in front of us.

"In a way, it was actually quite smart," Jinx said thoughtfully.

"How do you figure?" I asked, not sure where she was going with the comment.

"Well, it's less likely that anyone's going to attack us here, in front of all these people," she said, pointing to the hundreds of shoppers we'd already passed on our way in. "I mean, they wouldn't be that stupid, would they?"

"We're talking about mass murderers with magical powers here," I answered. "I doubt they're worried about being seen."

As we walked across the threshold, we passed a group of guys who looked like they were around our age. The four of them surveyed the four of us in a not-so-subtle way and then gave nods of approval. Sascha let out a girlie giggle, at which Jasmine promptly groaned. Thankfully, our admirers headed into the nearest store and left us to do what we came here to do. Sascha looked after them longingly before speeding to catch up with us.

We weaved in and out of people as we tried to stay on course with where the watch was guiding us. Finally it brought us to the entrance of one of the busiest stores in the mall, the minute and hour hands both pointing us inside. As we walked in, we avoided the gaggles of girls all desperate to find something to make them look either skinnier or curvier in specific areas.

"Whoa, guys," Jasmine said, stopping short just inside the doors. I glanced at the watch, and saw that the metal hands were now spinning around the clock frantically.

I looked around. "He's gotta be here," I said. "Let's split up and try to find him as quickly as possible."

I followed a group of girls onto an escalator to my right and watched the others take off in opposite directions as I headed to the second floor. At the top, I sped off to cover as much ground as I could. The floor wasn't huge by any standards, but going through the whole store would take time we didn't have. I started to rush through the maze of jeans and hoodies, looking for the one person I didn't want to see and yet had to find.

I took a corner too quickly and immediately ran into something. I staggered backward and nearly fell, but before I did, a hand reached out, catching me underneath the arms and depositing me back onto my feet.

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