The Shadow Prince Page 44

I give a slight nod, hoping he’ll go away once I’ve answered his question.

“Then you’ve got about five seconds to vacate this table.”

I can feel Garrick twitching beside me. His gravy-smeared butter knife is in his hand. Do Lessers even know how to fight?

“Don’t move. Don’t speak. Don’t even breathe,” I growl at Garrick in a low voice. “Let me handle this.” I feel my fingerprints starting to burn into the wood surface as I grip the edge of the green cafeteria table. Not so hard, I remind myself, and my fingers relax slightly as the boy comes around the table and stands in front of me. I do not know what I have done to offend him, but if a fight is truly what this boy is looking for, it will not end well for either of us.

“I told you to get lost.”

Electric heat courses through my body, but I stay silent, with my shoulders hunched forward. I don’t dare respond. Not out of fear of this boy—but out of fear of myself, what I’m capable of doing in this room filled with humans, if I lose control again.

“Do you need me to count to five for you?” he asks.

I try to keep my eyes trained on the yellow gravy congealing on top of my mashed potatoes. I can only hope Garrick will follow my lead and stay still.

“I’m talking to you, creep.” The boy leans down and pushes his face right up to mine. He shoves my shoulders. My elbows slide sideways, hitting my lunch tray and sending its contents toppling into both my and Garrick’s laps.

Garrick shoots up from his seat. His fists are clenched and red.

“I said not to move!” I seethe at him. I grip the table harder—almost too hard—as electric heat surges into my fingertips. Garrick steps back and loosens his fists, but I need to do something fast to keep him at bay. I remove my sunglasses. Gravy and bits of corn ooze down my pant leg as I slowly stand and face the angry boy. He is not nearly as big as he is acting. I square my shoulders and lift my head, making myself at least eight inches taller than him, and look him in the eye.

But the boy doesn’t back down. He sends a fist flying at my face. I see it with enough time to block it, but I don’t. If I touch him right now, the electrical current that would leave my hands could kill him. And Simon would surely have my hide for exposing my powers in public. Instead, I duck, and the boy swings wildly at the air above my head. He goes for a lower blow, and I twist out of the way.

The boy’s eyes widen, and for a split second, the angry look on his face wavers, and I realize he is not nearly as brave as he’s pretending to be. He raises his fists to block his face, thinking I’m going to retaliate.

“If you want our lunch table, then you can have it,” I say as calm and coolly as I possibly can, but I can feel my voice crackling with energy. “No harm done.”

“No harm?” he says. “This isn’t about a lunch table. I couldn’t give a crap where you sit. As long as it’s nowhere near this town.” His voice is shaky, but he stands his ground. “I know you don’t belong here,” he says. “So I suggest you and your friend go back to where you came from before some actual harm gets done.”

His words surprise me, but it’s the look in his eyes that makes me take a step back. It’s a look of recognition. My shock leaves me unprepared for the blow he lands against my chest with the heel of his hand. I fall backward and my back slams into the edge of the table. I slump onto the bench. The boy pulls his arm back to strike me again while I’m down. I close my eyes, willing myself to take the punch without losing all control.

“Tobin!” A new voice rings out behind us. I know it’s her without seeing her face. “Stop.”

I open my eyes in time to see a flash of long, golden hair as Daphne throws herself between her friend and me.

“What on earth are you doing?” she asks him.

I want to know the answer also, but Tobin doesn’t get a chance to respond. I feel a swift movement and burst of heat as Garrick lunges, his fist swinging ferociously in the direction of Tobin and Daphne. I push up from the bench and fling my arm out at Garrick, catching him by the collar of his shirt, and wrench him back just as his red fist is about to slam into Daphne’s face.

She stumbles backward and covers her cheek with her hand, even though I’d stopped Garrick before he struck her.

“Are you all right?” I ask, reaching for her.

She jerks away from my grasp like she had in the grove.

Tobin steps in front of her, angrier than ever. “Don’t you touch her.” He tries to wrap his arm around her shoulders, but she twists away from him.

“Don’t either of you touch me,” she says. She looks at me. “And you, stop stalking me!” She stumbles away, still cupping her hand to her cheek.

It’s against my nature, but my first instinct is to go after her, and it must have been Tobin’s also. We both start in her direction, but a woman steps in front of us. I assume she’s a teacher who’s been summoned from her lunch, because she’s still holding half of something that resembles what Simon had called a sandwich in her hands. “All three of you”—she points to Tobin, Garrick, and me—“principal’s office. Now!” she commands as if she were the king of the underworld.

The teacher is a small, middle-aged mortal, and I can hear the arthritis grinding in her knees. It would take me less than a second to disable this feeble mortal and make my escape, but I am in barely enough control to know that probably isn’t the wisest course of action. I watch the human boy for cues to the proper reaction. He hangs his head and says, “Yes, Mrs. Canova,” and surrenders himself to the teacher. I do the same and give Garrick a stern look until he follows suit, and we allow the teacher to propel us toward the main office. She leaves Garrick and me to sit in two chairs under the watchful eye of a dark-haired woman with glasses that remind me of the shape of Brim’s eyes.

The teacher takes Tobin to an office marked VICE PRINCIPAL JORDAN and knocks on the door. “Your mother just happens to be meeting with the administration. I’m sure she’d like an explanation of your behavior.”

Tobin hangs his head lower.

The door opens, and I catch a glimpse of a man who must be the vice principal and a woman in a bright red suit. She looks surprised to see Tobin in the teacher’s grasp.

“What’s the meaning of this?”

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