CHAPTER 22

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"I see you two have accepted your roles nicely," Mr. Smith said, as he looked out of his office window, his back to Tom and me.

We sat facing the desk in the large, dark office. Paintings of mythical dragons and warriors decorated the walls. He was on campus as head of security, but his office looked more like a shrine to all things mythological.

He turned toward us. "I'm not surprised it was Dakota chosen for your protector, Tom. But I'm a little concerned about how close you two have gotten."

"Whoa, what?" I asked. "What do you mean?"

"I've seen you on campus the last week. Constantly by each other's side. Holding hands...and more."

My cheeks burned. He'd been watching us? True, Tom and I had spent nearly every waking moment together. Whether at the gym practicing, classes, studying, or free time learning more about one another.

But to haul us into his office and scold us like a parent would?

"Mr. Smith, with all due respect, it's part of the process," Tom said.

"Process?" The tall administrator sank into his chair and ran his bony fingers over is buzz-cut, brown hair, then looked over his black-rimmed glasses. "Explain."

"Since Red and I have been paired, have we not vanquished several demons near or on the campus over the last few weeks?" Tom shifted in his seat, then reached for my hand. "With the exception of two, all were aware of my arrival so to speak."

"You are written about in the mystical text books so the dark ones are just as aware of your existence as we are."

"But they know exactly who I am. How is that? And then, before me and Red connected, the attempts on her life lead me to believe they've known something about her before even I did."

"They know of the existence of the Melace, but how'd they know it was Tom?" I squeezed his fingers.

"Good question." Mr. Smith flipped open a notebook of some sort. "I'll-"

A knock on the door interrupted. It opened with a rush of air, forceful enough to startle me to my feet.

"Briana?" I said.

"I tried texting and calling you. You two better get over to the Town Square."

I looked down at my phone. The screen was black. I'd shut it off for the meeting.

"What's happening, Briana?" Mr. Smith asked as he rounded the corner of his desk. "Why did you not code it in if there was a problem?"

Tom was on his feet now as well, and he and I stood side-by-side. "How far is it from here?"

"Need to drive to make it there quick. Bree what's wrong?"

"Sean's causing trouble. He and Charles were out, seems like Sean was getting a little-" Briana glanced at Smith. "Um, well, he's getting a little carried away. When Charles couldn't reach you, he texted me cuz I'm your roommate."

Tom grabbed my hand and tugged me past our chairs toward the door. "Come on, we'll take my bike."

"Sweet." I loved riding on Tom's motorcycle.

"Dakota. Call me if you need any help," Mr. Smith said, as I went through the doorway.

Within fifteen minutes Tom navigated his cycle through the round-a-bout near the Old Town Square. The sun had almost set, and it cast a subtle red glow against the buildings lining the street.

Every Thursday, throughout summer, the town shut down several blocks and opened it to vendor stands. With so many people out and about in the warming weather, often the dark ones crept out to feed on the innocents wandering around.

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