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"Protector of the Melace?" I read, as I tugged at my hair. "What the freak is a Melace?"

I flipped back a few more pages of the textbook propped on my lap. My illuminated hand provided enough light to read, but I hadn't like what I'd seen so far.

It just prompted more questions.

Darkness blanketed the small patch of grass at my favorite spot. Off campus, away from everything and everyone. No one, not even Sean, my so-called partner, knew of the spot.

Moonlight spilled over the short treetops that surrounded most of the small area. A hill just beyond the college, behind an undeveloped subdivision, served as a nice hideout when I needed one. And I needed one today.

Its height gave me a birds-eye view of the city in one direction and the campus in the other. But, its distance from both allowed me complete silence. No need for throwing up mental blocks to keep Sean-well and now Tom-out. No need to plaster a smile on my face to show a strong front for the team. No need to deal with my raging hormones for Sean and Tom.

The darkness, though, didn't subdue my fears over the newest words in my vocabulary: Patronus and Melace. Although I knew I'd never heard them, they felt familiar, like I'd heard them before or read them. And Tom called me Patronus.

I doused my light and tossed the book into the surrounding darkness, then flopped onto my back and scrubbed my face. The soft grass brushed against my bare arms, tickling them. I glared up at the starry sky and sucked in a deep breath of the cool, night air.

Maybe that big, flashing star had the answer to the one question burning my aching soul, "What does all this mean?"

"It just means you're chosen to protect the Melace," Tom's deep voice resonated through the black blanket around me.

I sat up. Tom's outline materialized from the trees off to my left.


"I told you, Patronus."

I hugged my knees to my chest, suddenly wishing I'd brought a sweatshirt. I'd hustled off campus so quickly to get away from everyone, I hadn't even stopped at my room.

"I met your roommate." Tom stood a few feet from me and shoved his hands into his front pockets.

He looked even taller than normal since I was on the ground. But with his hands in his jeans pockets, and his gaze shifted to the side of me, not looking at me directly, he didn't seem so domineering and controlling.

But he didn't look weak, either. I remembered those lethal hands. His determined glares at Sean when they were sparring.

A wave of calm, like slipping into a warm bath, washed over me.

"Briana's worried." Tom nudged a little rock out of my grassy spot with the tip of his shoe. "You're not answering your cell."

"Shut it off." I focused on the grass at my feet. "No one knows about this place."

"But like I said-"

"Yeah, cryptic crap about Patronus. Melace. Yadda-Yadda."

He sat and crossed his legs, facing me. Moonlight splashed over his pale skin. His eyes flickered, but they were no more than little black pools of darkness against his light skin.

"Professor Adams was about to explain what I am to you, but Sean wouldn't leave. Then you ran."

"Yeah, well, the testosterone levels in that room were skyrocketing. Didn't want to have to zap one of you again."

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