I step inside, stomach churning slightly at what to expect. Ms. A leans against her desk, arms crossed and a deep scowl on her face. Glaring at me.
Avoiding her eyes, I look beside her and freeze in my tracks. Mom warned me I’d find out some people were different. She wasn’t lying. But shock roots me to the floor.
Melody sits on a desk to her right, bare legs swinging in the space underneath. She winks at me and flips her long ponytail over her shoulder. Sitting next to her is another surprise member of the wiz club.
Gabriella Blanco. Hmm. Never would have pegged the quiet Latina as a witch. She’s always been friendly, seemed pretty normal. But then again, so had I.
I meet her dark gaze and she nods, lips pressed together into a hard line.
“Late on the first day, Zaidyn?” Ms. A says.
I glance at Iggy, but he only smirks at her.
Dry-throated, I glance at the clock and squeak out my answer. “We’re not—”
“This is my class, Mr. Mitchell. I decide who is late.”
“S-sorry, Ms. A. The halls were crowded.”
She pushes off the desk and walks toward me, heels clicking out the seconds until my destruction. Jeez. I’ve already screwed up.
“Here’s your first lesson, never be late. Now drop. A hundred pushups should be enough.”
Iggy snorts and I frown. “What?”
“You heard me,” she says. “Now get on the floor.”
Melody chuckles. Gabby covers her face with her hand. Ignoring them, I stare into Ms. A’s eyes—brown, not green. Wait. What the hell? My gut clenches. Not Ms. A. They’re messing with me because I’m the new kid. High off my success with Piper, I take a stand and shake my head.
“I’m not doing pushups. This isn’t gym class.”
“No?” She taps her finger against her chin. “Hmmm, better make it writing sentences then, since this is a classroom. Or maybe, you should bang the erasers for me. Have you ever banged anything before?”
Melody lets out a bark of laughter and Gabby blushes. My cheeks catch the heat from hers
“Ky, you’re a jerk, you know?” Iggy laughs. “Knock it off.”
Ms. A—or whoever it is—laughs too. She closes her eyes and tilts her head back, chin pointing to the ceiling. Blurring, shimmering like a mirage, she moans. Her long hair retreats into her head and her body shrinks. Her slender arms and legs widen into a more muscular shape, and the skin covering them goes from pale to a darker olive-tone.
Even the clothes change. From the skirt and jacket into khaki shorts and a black t-shirt. With my jaw hanging open and my heart racing, I glance back to her—his—unfamiliar face.
He’s at least six inches shorter than me but built strong like he lives in the gym. Combined with his stick straight jet-black hair and dark brown eyes, he could be Bruce Lee’s long-lost cousin.
“Who are you?”
Eyes wide with laughter, he extends his hand. “I’m Ky Muto.”
A little shaky, I reach out to shake hands, but Iggy slaps mine away.
“Don’t.” Iggy frowns. “Ky is a skin-changer. Voluntarily touching him gives him the ability to mimic your appearance.”
I meet Ky’s grin. “You don’t go to school here, do you?”
“No.” He shrugs. “Ms. A won’t let me.”
Gabby hops from her desk and walks to Iggy’s side. “There’s a good reason for that.”
“What?” Ky puts his hand on his chest. “They just don’t understand me. Classic teenage angst. I’m a good boy.”
“Of course, you are, sweetie.” Melody skips over and holds Ky’s arm. He smiles at her.
Gabby sighs, shaking her head.
“Maybe it’s because you do shit like this and we can’t trust you.” Iggy hops on a desktop, dangling his legs off the side. He glances from me to Ky. “Ms. A’s gonna be pissed if she hears you shifted into her.”
The smile leaves Ky’s face and he squints at Iggy. “So, don’t tell her.”
I rub my neck. Iggy looks calm, but I sense a current of something flowing from him to Ky. Magic maybe? Was this how my parents felt around me before I changed?
“Promise you won’t mess with Zaidyn anymore and I won’t.”
“What does it matter to you?”
Iggy shrugs. “I know how you are, Ky. You like to fuck with everyone, so you can play alpha male. Just leave Zaidyn alone.”
Part of me wants to tell Iggy to shut up. From the growing look of amusement on Ky’s face, I can tell Iggy’s interference is making things worse. Not better. And he’s making me look like a total wuss.
“That’s so sweet, Ig.” Smirking, Ky glances at me. “You and Iggy been dating long? I bet he rocks your world every night, doesn’t he?”
My cheeks burn but anger sends ripples of fire along my veins. Unconsciously, I lift my hand, imagining my fist slamming into Ky’s face.
He falls backward like I hit him, tumbling into Ms. A’s desk and scattering the neatly stacked piles of paper. I stare at my hand, flipping it back and forth, expecting to see blood on my knuckles. I’m not supposed to be able to do this.
Jumping up, Ky’s face contorts, blurring again, into a creepy wide-mouth mask with glowing red eyes and fangs like a tiger. Enraged, he hunches over, facing me, the muscles flexing in his arms and calves.
(Note to self: Run.)
He growls and lunges toward me. I take a step back, raising my hand again. This time the chair from the desk next to me flies between us, striking Ky in the shoulder and knocking him to the floor.
A powerful connection pulses from my hand to the objects surrounding me, throbbing in time with my pounding heart. Magic. Continuing backward, I pull on the connection and two more desks scrape across the floor between us—added ammo.
“Fucking newbie!” Ky jumps from the floor, twisting to face me. “I’m gonna kick your ass, wizard.”
“Shit,” I mumble under my breath, scooting around a third desk.
Ky must have super hearing. He smiles and crouches, springing at me with the speed of a snake.
I try to jump back. Pushing off with my feet, I sail to the ceiling, and Ky crashes into the desk below me.
“Dammit!” he shouts. Ky flips over on the floor, searching for me. He lifts his gaze and growls.
I claw at the acoustic tiles, pulling myself toward the other end of the room away from him. He scoots along the floor on all fours, almost like a tiger, prowling underneath me.
“Stop it, Ky.” Gabby grabs at his arm, but he swats her away. She grunts and blood oozes from the scratches on her forearm.
“That’s enough, Ky.” Iggy pulls Gabby behind him, his eyes glowing red.
“Shut up,” Ky growls. He points to me and I see the cause of Gabby’s wound. Razor-sharp claws protrude from Ky’s fingertips, curving like those of the cat he’s emulating.
“What the hell is wrong with you?” I yell. Losing focus, I drop to the floor, landing on my hands and knees with a huff. I jump to face Ky. “She didn’t do anything. Leave her alone.”
Iggy groans. “Zaidyn, back off.”
Ky ignores Iggy and looks at me, his lips curling over the fangs. “Sure thing, lover boy.” His legs, no longer human, take the shape of a tiger’s as do his arms. His torso elongates, and fur replaces the shorts and shirt.
Holy shit. I knew I should have stayed home today. Instead, I’m fighting a tiger on my first day of senior year. Heart in my throat, I focus on the magic inside, willing it to help me, mentally pushing it into my hands.
The energy courses through my arms, like when my parents and I bonded. My hair stands on end and the current tingles along my skin. I look at Ky, muscles rippling in his back and legs, his orange and black striped fur glistening under the lights.
“Ky, please get control.” Gabby pleads. Melody sits on Ms. A’s desk, smiling. All she needs is popcorn for the show.
Iggy stands across the room to my left, holding his hands out in front of him. “Ky, relax. Zaidyn didn’t mean to challenge you.”
Challenge? What the hell did that mean? Ky started this.
I’m not sure Ky can even hear Iggy. All traces of the person are gone. If anyone walked in now, they would think they were at some twisted zoo.
He turns his enormous head and stares at Iggy, tail twitching, his giant jaws open in a snarl.
Iggy backs up then trips over a fallen chair, missing Ky as he leaps, jaws spread, aiming for Iggy’s head. The heat fills my hands again, but this time I focus on Iggy. Lifting my hands, Iggy flies into the air and smacks against the ceiling. Bits of broken ceiling tile rain down to the floor. Ky skids across the floor where Iggy had stood, claws raking the tiles.
“Iggy!” Gabby screams.
Ky turns back to me, hunching for the attack. With my magic focused on holding Iggy, I stare at Ky. I’m cat chow.
Ky hunches to the floor preparing to pounce, his fangs bared, and narrowed eyes set on my face.
And he freezes.
I glance to the ceiling where Iggy hovers glaring at Ky. His eyes glow red and horns surround his temples. He switches his gaze to me.
“You can put me down now.” He smirks. “Don’t drop me.”
I pull back on the heat in my hands, concentrating on one finger at a time and slowly lower my arms. Iggy floats toward the floor, landing on his feet. He walks past Ky’s frozen form to where I stand on shaky legs.
“Thanks.” He pats me on the shoulder. “Not bad for your first day as a wizard, eh?”
I nod to Ky. “Did you pause time again?”
“Only on Ky. I had to. I didn’t want to see your gut ripped open from those fangs.” He grins. “Then I’d have to clean up the bloody mess.”
Melody hops off the desk and walks over to Ky. Petting his head, she giggles “You are so busted, Ig.”
Iggy glares at her.
“Shut up, Mel.” Gabby rubs a finger along the scratches from Ky’s claws. The inflamed skin shivers, squirming almost like Ky’s when he changed forms. Gabby gives a quiet groan as the edges of her wounds fuse back together. Her skin returns to its normal smooth brown.
Iggy reaches for her hand but she hugs his neck and his cheeks turn red.
My heart races, a little from the fear and a little from the magic. Magic I used. “What does Melody mean, you’re busted?”
Iggy opens his mouth, but the door closes with a bang and he snaps his jaw shut.
Turning to the door, my stomach plummets.
“Now what is going on?”
The real Ms. A stomps across the room to Ky with a scowl. Eyeing his angry, animalistic face, her scowl deepens, and she turns to Iggy.
“Why did you do this? You know you aren’t allowed to use your powers on us.”
Iggy nods, his face smooth and calm.
“It’s my fault again.” Shame burns my stomach. I can’t let Ig take the blame. “Ky attacked me, and Iggy stopped him.”
Ms. A frowns. “Why did Ky attack you?”
“Well, because…” Brushing a hand through my hair, I sigh. “Because I pushed him with my magic.”
“On purpose?” she asks.
Ms. A crosses her arms, tapping her fingers on her elbow. “Let me make this very clear, Zaidyn. Since this is your first day, I’ll give you a warning. You will not use your magic against anyone in this room unless it is the direst of circumstances. And by dire, I mean life or death. Do you understand?”
Fighting the bile rising in my throat. I nod, unable to talk.
“Ms. A,” Gabby interjects. “Ky started it. He tricked Zaidyn by shifting, and then made fun of him for being confused. Once Zaidyn challenged him, Ky got angry, like he always does. Iggy was only protecting Zaidyn when he paused Ky.”
She describes the fight, my magic, me saving Iggy, and him saving all of us. Ms. A accepts her matter-of-fact account with a nod—and without question.
“What do you mean I challenged him?” I shake my head. “He just flipped out on me.”
Gabby gives me a kind smile. “As a skin-changer, Ky is more in tune with his animal instincts. When you stood up to him, it set off his instinct for self-defense.”
“Yeah, he doesn’t mean to be a prick. He’s just born that way.” Iggy waves a hand at Ky. “That’s why I tried making the deal with him. If he thinks something is his idea, his dumbass instincts don’t get triggered.”
“That’s enough, Iggy.” Ms. A glances between us. “What did Ky shift into that confused Zaidyn?”
Iggy and Gabby look at me. I widen my eyes. I’m sure as hell not going to tell her. Ky would definitely want to eat me after that.
Then Melody smiles. “He pretended to be you, then implied that Zaidyn and Iggy were gay lovers.”
Iggy blows out a breath through his nostrils and Gabby rolls her eyes. My chest caves in. What the hell is wrong with that girl? From what I’d seen she liked Ky, yet now she rats him out.
“Me?” Ms. A’s face reddens, and she takes a step back. “Excuse me.”
A retina melting bright light fills the room, and for the second time today, a unicorn stands before me. Ms. A stands face-to-face with Ky. Her horn, already glowing with an internal silver light, intensifies, brighter than before when she erased the memories of everyone in the gym.
She dips her head toward Ky, touching the horn tip to his nose. He blinks, then his eyes go crossed trying to focus on the glowing silver tip. His body jerks, legs quivering, tail whipping from side to side and smashing into the desks behind him. His muscles strain like he’s trying to get away, but he doesn’t move.
“Stop. Don’t hurt him.” I reach for Ms. A.
Gabby pulls me back and shakes her head. “She’s not hurting him.”
I’d believe her if Ky didn’t have the look of terror on his face, recognizable even as a freaking cat.
After another moment, Ky closes his eyes and his body stills. Ms. A raises her horn. Ky morphs back into his human form. He slumps to the floor and lays panting on his back, eyes closed, and his hands fisted on his forehead.
“Fuck me,” he moans. “Do you know how long it took me to collect those? Or how hard it was to get a damn tiger? Now I have to start over.”
Ms. A rears up on her back legs, waving the front ones at Ky. I swear her whinny sounds like a laugh. She tilts her head back and her body lengthens, thins, and returns to that of a woman.
“Watch the language. And this is the price you pay for shifting into me, a price you were well aware of.”
Ky stands from the floor and jams his hands in his pockets, glaring at the floor. “It was just a joke.”
I wrinkle my forehead. “What did you do to him?”
“Erased his hard drive,” Ms. A says with a sardonic smile. She glances at Iggy. “Didn’t you explain to Zaidyn about Ky?”
I nod. “Ig said if I touched Ky, he could change into me. So… you erased all of the people he’s touched so he can’t change into them?”
“No,” Ky raises his gaze to me. “The ones who touched me. The ones who gave me permission to shift into their form.”
“Ky, we’ve discussed this before.” Ms. A’s voice loses its hard edge. She lays a hand gently on Ky’s shoulder, refilling one of the touches. “A touch is not consent. I’m sorry you have to start over again, but you need to learn that lesson.”
“Like I said, it was just a joke.” His dusky cheeks turn pink and he glares at us one at a time, stopping on my face. “Nark,” he says just to me.
Gripping my fists, I glare right back.
Melody skips to Ky’s side and kisses his cheek. He wraps an arm around her waist, still focused on me.
“I told her, sweetie. It wasn’t Zaidyn.” Melody giggles and Ky shifts his gaze to her. “You know she would have found out anyway. And you can’t be angry with me.”
Ky frowns but nods at Melody’s confession. She hugs his waist.
Iggy smirks, walking up to Ky. He reaches out to lay a hand on Ky’s shoulder. Gabby follows and places her hand on Ky’s arm.
He nods to them and looks at me. “You don’t have to.”
Iggy meets my raised eyebrows and shakes his head. I stay where I am. Even though Ky tried to eat me, I feel like an ass for not adding my touch to his freaky internal database.
Click Follow to receive emails when this author adds content on Bublish