May leapt forward and tried to snatch the ring back. Unfortunately for her, Jeremy was just tall enough to keep it out of her reach. Undeterred, she jumped onto his lean frame and tried to climb him like a tree.
"You can't!" she grunted as he flailed, her arms clutching around his shoulders.
Jeremy wedged his elbow between them like a crowbar. "What is the matter with you?"
"You can't use the star!"
"Why? Do you want to try it instead?"
May let go and dropped back to the ground. "No," she said. "Neither of us should be using it. Welkin said we would just wind up pissing the Stars off more than they already are."
At this, Jeremy scoffed. "Our very existence pisses them off — it's not like they're going to give us a chance to get into their good books." May scowled at him, and he sighed. "Listen, I realize it's probably not the best idea I've ever had, but we have to know for sure. And how else are we going to do that if Welkin—an actual Star—didn't know what they were looking at when it was right in front of them the whole time?"
"It's not like I ever actually showed it to them," May grumbled, feeling an irrational need to defend Welkin's honor.
"It doesn't matter, May," Jeremy said. "And you know it. So, unless you have any better ideas, one of us is going to have to try."
May hated that he was right. She reached out toward the ring, but hesitated. What would she even wish for? After all, the only thing she wanted was to save Em, and that technically was against the rules; it would have been a wish that benefitted a Star.
"I don't know what I can wish for that wouldn't break the rules or be a waste of magic," she admitted quietly. She looked to Jeremy, who was watching her closely with an intense stare. "Do you have any ideas?"
He gave a quick nod. "I know exactly what to wish for."
With a slow exhale, May raised her hands in resignation and took a step back. "Okay. Do what you need to do."
Jeremy swallowed, licked his lips. He held the ring out in front of him and focused intently on the gemstone. "Do you think I have to say it out loud? Should I close my eyes?"
"I honestly have no clue. However you do it, make sure you're super clear. You don't want to leave room for misinterpretation."
"Right." Jeremy nodded again. "Good point." He thought for a moment, his dark eyes still fixed on the wishing star. May watched the fingers of his other hand twitch and curl anxiously at his side. Then, he closed his eyes and whispered something too softly for May to hear. She strained and leaned closer just as the tiny stone erupted into brilliant light.
May jumped back with a startled yelp. Squinting, she watched as a warm glow bloomed from the center of Jeremy's chest. He looked down at it too, watching it flash in wide-eyed wonder.
And then, almost as quickly as it began, it was over. The light dissipated, the ring went back to being just a ring, and Jeremy lurched forward with a breathless gasp. He doubled over, clutching at his chest, and for a horrifying moment May thought the whole thing had back-fired. She rushed forward to help him.
"Are you okay?" she cried.
Jeremy righted himself. His expression was a mix of shock and relief.
"It worked," he said in a quiet voice. Then his face split into a beaming smile and he shouted, "Holy shit, it actually worked!" Before May could react, Jeremy scooped her up in his arms and whirled her around in a circle, laughing joyously.
"What worked?" she asked, wobbling a little when her feet touched ground again. "What did you wish for?"
The smile on Jeremy's face was perhaps the realest she'd ever seen from him. He looked like an innocent man, once wrongly convicted, getting his first taste of freedom after decades behind bars. He pressed a palm to his chest. "I wished that our devices were no longer operational. All of them — mine, Connor's, Priva's, Gaten's. And it worked!"
"How can you tell?" May peered at his chest, as if the answer might somehow be apparent just by looking at him. "Can you feel it somehow?"
"Remember when you asked me if I was putting us at risk by helping you, and I said I had it covered?"
"Ever since Audrey died, I've been trying to create a device of my own. Something that would essentially intercept the signal from the unit on my heart and relay it to a secondary location."
May frowned, turning this concept over in her mind. "So... to anyone who's tracking the signal, it will look like you're in one place when you're actually in another?"
Jeremy snapped his fingers and pointed at her. "Yes! Exactly! It's taken me a long time to get it right — I actually had to creep through some of Marina's research when we were at her place just to figure out what I was missing. But once I did, it worked like a charm." He tugged the hem of his shirt up to reveal a node that was attached to his chest, right next to his scar. "I mean, this was my first time using it but I figured if there was ever a time to give it a test drive, this was it."
"Okay, but that still doesn't tell me how you know the wish worked."
"Right, right, sorry." Jeremy shook his head. He was talking fast, his hands animated. May was struck by what a different person he was when he wasn't brooding. "The first time I switched the device on, there was a blip in the signal. I could physically feel it — like a quick static shock as the signal shifted sources. And just now, when I made the wish, I felt it again."
This didn't bring May the same kind of comfort it seemed to bring him. "What if that was just your machine? What if it stopped working?"
Again, Jeremy pulled up his shirt. "The node is still transmitting. Or at least it's trying to. See the light?" He indicated to the tiny green LED light blinking gently on the node's surface. His mouth quirked thoughtfully, then he handed the ring back to May. "Here, take this."
May slid the ring back onto the safety of her finger. At the same moment, Jeremy ripped the node from his skin, tossed it onto the ground, and crushed it under the heel of his shoe.
"What are you doing?" May shrieked, frozen in disbelief. "If you're wrong and the device on your heart is still working—"
"Then the Loyals will see that I'm not where I'm supposed to be and they'll kill me. Hold on, let's see what happens."
Every inch of May went numb. She didn't want to watch Jeremy die right in front of her, but she couldn't seem to look away either. A minute passed in tense silence, then another. By the third minute, Jeremy's shoulders relaxed and the smile returned to his face. He punched his fists skyward and crowed victoriously, frightening birds from the surrounding trees and making May jump.
"Now what do we do?" she asked. Fear was rising in the pit of her stomach, though she couldn't quite figure out why. She felt like she was trapped in an hourglass, the sand beneath her feet shifting and giving way.
Jeremy bombed passed her, grabbing her arm as he went. He dragged her back toward the highway. "Change of plans. We need to get back to the others."
"Wait." May planted her feet and wrenched her arm out of Jeremy's grip. "What others? WIND?"
"No!" May shouted. "I realize the Loyals might be pissed now that they've lost your signals, but that's not my problem. The only thing I care about right now is saving Em. I thought you wanted to help!"
"That's what I'm doing," Jeremy insisted. He stepped up to May and put his hand on her shoulders. His touch was as gentle as his tone. "Don't you get it, May? We have the star. Why risk everything on a dangerous rescue mission when we could put a stop to all of this right now?"
She blinked at him. Her body trembled with uncertainty. "How? What does WIND have to do with any of this?"
"First, we need to get the Stars' attention." Jeremy smiled. "And to do that, we're going to need Rue."
YOU ARE READING
The Fire and the Sky (Book 3 of the Starborn Series)Fantasy
Separated from her Starborn girlfriend, Em, and the rogue group of Wishes known as WIND, May Alana knows she can't go back to life she once knew. Now, armed with a family secret that could help put an end to the chaotic power of the ruthless Loyals...