Chapter 18

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I inhale sharply as Cal's arrow speeds past my face

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I inhale sharply as Cal's arrow speeds past my face.

I feel it happen almost in slow motion - the whoosh of cool air, the feather fletching brushing against my cheek, and the surge of adrenalin that makes my heart pound and my entire body feel cold.

There's a satisfying thunk as the weapon hits it's target and I spin round to see it embedded in the concrete wall above the closed exit.

I turn back around, my hands shaking.

"Cal!" I demand "What the Hell?!"

The matchmaking agent furrows his fair eyebrows and looks at me blankly.

He genuinely doesn't think he's done anything remotely odd.

With another sudden movement he pulls out a second arrow. This one is a deep gold in colour, with a dark, blood red tip. He holds it up so I can see it.

"Arrow two," he states matter-of-factly. "The Ardor - or the Burning Flame."

Before I have time to react he shoots again. I flinch as the second arrow pierces through the air beside me and embeds itself next to the first.

I scowl and begin to protest.

"And lastly," Cal says, ignoring me and pulling out a sleek black arrow. "The Cupids' arrow."

With a final movement arrow three hurtles past into the wall.

Cal watches this one with a dark expression on his face that I can't quite read.

I stand frozen to the spot, my heart racing.

"Was there any need?!" I ask weakly, raising an eyebrow as I attempt to regain my composure.

"Look behind you," Cal replies.

I look at him curiously then turn around. I breathe in sharply.

The three arrows, all lined up above the exit, simultaneously turn into ash and crumble slowly to the ground.

"I wanted you to see," he says.

He turns back around and walks away from me to a large blue gym mat which has been dragged out onto the floor. Elegantly he lowers himself to the floor and sits cross legged - placing his bow and three arrows in front of him.

I follow him and sit down.

"You said there are three types," I say, looking at the line of pointed weapons laid between us.

The evening sun from the window just below the ceiling reflects sharply off the golden arrow in the centre.

Cal nods.

"The first one, the Capax, is the mildest," he says. "It lasts a couple of hours - longer if the person hit is pierced in the heart. Someone who gets hit by that can become more susceptible to love or suggestion. It was used in the old days before we had access to technology to speed up our matches."

I raise an eyebrow.

"Like mind control?" I ask.

Cal shrugs.

"More like hypnosis," he says. "There has to be a feeling there in the first place for it to work."

I gently run my finger along the body of the bronzed arrow. It's cool to the touch, and there are ridges where some kind of runes are carved into it.

"Does it hurt - to get hit?"

Cal shakes his head.

"Humans can't feel it," he says. "In fact, it is known to give a certain feeling of euphoria. It leaves no mark once disintegrated and humans immediately forget they have been hit"

I look at the second arrow - deep red and gold.

"What does this one do?" I say.

Cal looks at me seriously.

"The Ardor is much more severe than the last," he says, "get hit by that and it fills its victim with a fiery obsession. It was meant to be dealt out only in punishment. It consumes a person - some will stalk people they believe to be their match, others will die of longing."

Something creeps into the corner of my mind as he says this but before I can grasp onto it it is gone. I frown.

"What about the last?" I ask.

A dark look flickers across Cal's face.

"The last one is arguably the worst of them all," he says.

He pauses; taking a moment to look down severely at the black arrow before us.

"The last one can turn a human into someone like me," he says without looking up. "A cupid: Strong, fast, powerful, destined."

He flicks his gaze up to mine - his silvery eyes deep and sad.



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