Sisters of Blood and Spirit Page 26

“Not so, buttercup.” Buttercup? “I’m dying to know what your future plans are. Rock star? President? Goodwill ambassador?”

I laughed. I couldn’t help it. “Therapist. I really just want to help people, you know?”

He grinned, teeth flashing in the sun. God, he was really gorgeous. Like, unfairly gorgeous. And the more time I spent with him, the less that fact intimidated me. “Well, you’re so caring and giving.”

“What about you?” I adjusted my pace to match his, and we drifted along side by side. “Are you going to follow in your father’s footsteps?”

He snorted. “Not likely.”

When he didn’t say anything else, I prodded, “So?”

“You seriously want to know?” He seemed surprised by the idea. To be honest, I was a little surprised, too. I actually wanted to know, and normally I didn’t care about other people that much. Not when I could count the ones who had cared about me on one hand—on the first two fingers of that hand.

“Yeah. I want to know.”

“History prof.”

I never would have guessed that in a million years. Funny thing was, I could easily imagine him in front of a room of people, holding their attention. “Cool. Any particular period or civilization?”

“Mostly European—Second World War.”

I nodded. “I think you’d be good at that.”

Mace stopped paddling, and I had to stop so I wouldn’t lose him. “Did you just pay me a compliment?”

Heat rushed to my face. Thank God for the sun. “Don’t let it go to your head.”

“My heart, buttercup. I’m going to let it go straight to my heart.”

I didn’t like to be teased—it felt too much like mockery—but I didn’t feel like Mace was making fun of me. What I did feel like was returning the honesty. “I want to be a shoe designer.”

He started paddling again. “I can see it.”

“I’ve never told anyone that,” I blurted. Now, why the hell did I do that? “Not even Wren.” I was sure she knew, though. She saw me drawing shoes all the time.

“Neither have I.”

We paddled in silence for a bit—a comfortable silence. It was...weird. Nice.

“I was thinking,” I began as we reached the opposite shore and began to turn, “that we might find answers faster if we all go together and researched Haven Crest.”

“Good idea. I’m free this afternoon.”

I blinked. “Okay.”

“I’ll call Kevin and the others. Meet at ’Nother Cup?”

I’d rather eat glass than have Kevin around. It wasn’t that he was a jerk, though he could give me a run in the obnoxious race, it was that I didn’t trust him with my sister. “Provided no one calls the cops on me again, that should be fine.”

“Don’t worry. I’ve got an in with local law enforcement.”

I rolled my eyes.

By the time we made it back to shore it was almost noon. Mace helped me strap my kayak to the Beetle, even though I said I didn’t need his help. I felt compelled to help him lift his boat into the back of his father’s truck.

“Give me your phone,” he said, holding out his hand.

“Why?” I didn’t know why I was so suspicious. What was he going to do? Change my ringtone? Criticize my choice of apps?

He gave me an impatient frown. “Hand it over, buttercup.”

I took my phone from the pocket of my shorts and slapped it into his palm. “What’s with this ‘buttercup’ crap?”

“You don’t like it?” He wasn’t even looking at me as he tapped away on the screen.

I shrugged. “Just wondering where it came from.” Great dodge. I couldn’t very well tell him that part of me liked it very much.

“I dunno. It suits you.”

“Is that supposed to be a good thing?”

He laughed as his own phone rang. A man’s muffled voice shouted, ‘Answer your phone, idiot!”

“Nice,” I commented. “Filled with self-loathing much?”

Mace only smiled. Then, he tapped my phone again and gave it back to me. The man’s voice cut off. “Now you have my number and I have yours.”

I stared at the phone. His number. I only had Nan’s. Roxi had given me hers but I hadn’t added her to my contacts yet. “Thanks.”

“Sure.” He started around the truck. “So, I’ll see you around two at ’Nother Cup?”

“Sounds good.” I turned to open the car door.

“Hey, Lark?”

I turned. He was looking at me over the top of the truck, the open door helping him balance as he stood on the threshold. “Yeah?”

Mace smiled. “We should do this again sometime.” Then he dropped down into the seat and shut the door. The truck’s engine roared to life as I stared dumbly. Then he was gone with nothing but a little puff of dust as his tires stirred up the sandy road.

What the hell had just happened? Had Mace Ryan and I just become friends?


The Shadow Lands were a lot like the living world, but less vibrant. The only way I can think to describe it was a perpetual twilight, caught between night and day. Everything was muted, but there was something shimmery about the place. It sounded like it ought to have been depressing and dark, but it was actually a beautiful place. Magical. I was real there—tangible. I’d forgotten how good that felt, I’d been spending so much time in Lark’s world.

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