Friday evening, I leave Iggy’s house and head downtown for the council meeting. The stack of signatures he collected sits next to me in the passenger seat in a pile almost an inch thick. He came through for me like a champ—or a lust demon.
(Note to self: Having a demon who knows what people desire comes in handy when you need them to sign up for stuff.)
Leaving the radio off, I practice my speech in my head. I turn onto Main and pull up to the building then circle the lot to find a spot to park.
“A hundred people or so. Right.” I should have known better than to listen to my English teacher’s math assessment. Enough cars for twice that number of people fill the available spots near the building. With a death grip on the steering wheel, I park a few blocks away, using the walk to breathe and attempt to fight my rising nausea.
I almost succeed, then I see Piper standing on the steps outside the front door. Her eyes narrow and she shakes her head, sending her long black hair over the shoulder of her red dress. I catch my breath and adrenaline—or maybe magic—sends my heart into overdrive.
“Uh, hey.” I grimace. “How are you?”
Really? That’s your best line?
“Fine.” Piper glances around the paved courtyard, nodding to a student council member as she walks past.
“You look… great. I mean, p-professional.” Perfect. And now I sound like a pig.
But her cheeks turn red and she quits frowning. I’ll take what I can get.
“I know you probably… forgot. But did you ever ask your parents about the owners of the land.”
Despite the coolness to her tone, her eyes widen, and my chest tightens.
I shake my head and her face falls. “They wouldn’t tell me. Said they weren’t allowed to share that info.”
Her frown returns. “Don’t they realize we’re about to lose this battle? That if the owners don’t come forward soon, they could lose the rights to the land?”
The pain in her thoughts teases me, pulling against my magic and inviting me into her mind. I want to reach out. Instead, I take a step back, putting physical space between our heads, and go with my standard phrase when I can’t help anyone. “Sorry.”
“Right.” She waves a hand and rolls her eyes. “I know. Not your priority.”
Now what do I say?Somehow, I don’t think the childish “Your dad asked first” would make a difference to her.
“Sorry,” she says, raising her eyebrows. “That was rude.”
“No.” Rubbing my temple I swallow my heart from my throat. “I deserve that.”
I clutch the folder holding my petition, rolling it into a tube and spinning it in my palms like I’m trying to start a fire with sticks. But the fire is in my face and chest.
(Note to self: Damn my stupid plans.)
“I need to tell you something. I want—"
“Hello, Zaidyn. I’m glad to see you made it. Ready to speak to the council for the library?”
Heart in my throat, I look up as Mr. Duke climbs the last step and stops next to Piper. She turns her narrowed gaze on me.
“Y-yes, sir.” I shift on my feet, trying not to levitate myself away from this shit-show. I open my mouth to explain, but her glare burns the moisture from my throat.
The look on her face makes me wish I could face Ms. A’s knives again. I grit my teeth. Five minutes. If her dad had waited five more minutes, I would have told her what I had planned.
“Well, then I guess I’ll let him get to it.” She lifts her chin in that all too familiar piss-off-Zaidyn way and walks into the courthouse, taking my heart with her.
“Good luck.” Mr. Duke pats me on the back and follows Piper into the building.
Lies. Secrets. My parents, Mr. Duke… making my head spin until I can’t take it anymore. Even me, lying to the girl I like because I was “butt hurt” by her rejection and didn’t even give her a chance to explain. It’s time to fight for what I want for once, instead of trying to please everyone else. And I know what I want—and who.
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