Chapter Twenty-Three

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I spent the rest of the evening agonizing over what my mom had told me through Emory. Could I really leave everyone again? It had been difficult enough the first time; I wasn't sure I had it in me to do it a second. And the idea of just giving up made me want to throw up. It went against everything I'd ever stood for.

It was also particularly confusing, given that my mom had always been the one to encourage me to fight. All those lectures about preparing for a possible battle . . . why would she have pushed so hard for that if she was just going to tell me to wave the white flag in the end? Unless she knew that things would be much worse if we didn't.

Frustrated and more confused than ever, I chose to sleep on it. The decisions I had to make were too big to reach in one night. I knew time was of the essence, but I really felt like I needed a little time to digest it all. So I put on my cute pajamas of capris and a cami with little seagulls all over them and slipped under the covers. Magic took a lot out of you and we'd been going strong for most of the day. My whole body was sore from tensing up during the spells and I could feel small bruises forming in spots where the others had hit me with both their fists and spells. It was a good hurt though, the kind that came with knowing that you worked a hard day.

Even so, I was looking forward to getting a good night's sleep. That's why, when I heard a light knock on my door just as I was drifting off to sleep, I wished I could ignore it. But when it happened again less than a minute later I threw the covers off and padded reluctantly to the door. Ever since getting back, I'd been trying my hardest to show the others that I wanted to be here and that we were a team, not just a coven of individuals. Which meant that I couldn't just do whatever I wanted to with no regard for anyone else. Even if I was currently debating whether to stay or go.

Besides, if there was anything I did understand from what my mom had been trying to tell me, it was that I needed to stop thinking only of myself. She'd seemed pretty clear on that. So I plastered a smile on my face before unlocking my door and opening it.

"Hey. You weren't already asleep, were you?" Asher asked quietly. He was leaning up against the door frame and looked unbearably adorable. It was like something out of a movie. In fact, maybe I'd already fallen asleep and this was a dream.

Then I grew sad. How was I supposed to leave Asher, too? Especially since I'd been the one to get him into this mess.

"Uh, no," I said, looking back at the bed that I'd obviously just been lying in a few seconds before. With a quick glance down at my pj's, I crossed my arms over my chest and tried my best to appear awake. "Not yet, anyway. What's up?"

"Oh, nothing. I just didn't get to see you much today. Thought maybe we could hang out or something." He looked at my outfit and then smiled. "Unless you want to go to bed."

"Nice try, Asher," I said sarcastically, hearing the flirtatiousness in his voice.

"There you go with your mind in the gutter again," he said, wagging his finger at me.

"Please, like you weren't trying to get into bed with me."

"Well, if you insist!" He breezed past me and jumped halfway across the room, landing with a thud on my mattress. I watched with amusement as he lay back, crossed his legs at the ankles, and folded his arms behind his head. "You coming?"

I paused for a second, trying to decide what to do. Then with an exaggerated eye roll, I closed the door and locked it behind me. If there was a possibility that this would be my last night with Asher, I was willing to take the chance of being alone with him. I highly doubted that anything serious was going to happen with a house full of kids.

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