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wings of change sneak peek!

Enjoy the first look at
Wings of Change, A Faeries of Aērelis Academy Novella.
Available only in the Wings of Fate Anthology, coming July 1st!

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CÉLEST

 

Hunting is all about knowing your surroundings…

 

The sounds of the forest vanished as my senses took over, searching, listening, willing my prey to reveal her whereabouts to me. My eyes remained closed as I sat still on the tree branch, waiting for a sign… and then I heard it. The slight rustling of fallen leaves with her steps, the deep yet careful intake of breath as she tried to move through the woods undetected, and the sounds of the waterfall that bounced from her, telling me exactly where she was.

“Gotcha.”

Eyes snapping open, I lunged from the tree onto the next branch, landing softly on the pads of my feet a second before I jumped again, moving through the Wandering Woods almost as naturally as its inhabitants.

The mystical giants shifted with my approach. Their emerald green branches adorned with moss rose and fell, roots sliding along the earth to rotate them, trunks curving and bending to offer me a landing place. On any given day, their dance was mesmerizing, but today it was a precise and flawless instrument to aid my hunt.

Large purple leaves sparkled like amethyst crystals when they tilted, lending me their foliage for coverage as I quietly landed on the curved, barkless trunk.

Cara’s form came into view then, crouching behind a large boulder as she, too, searched for me in the forest, hunting me. Not that she was doing too good a job at that. I leapt from the tree the next second, flipping in the air at the same time I pulled my bow and arrow and let the arrow fly.

Her lemon-colored hair flew when her head whipped around, finally hearing the whistle of the arrow coming for her. She jumped expertly out of the way, but it was too late. My shot hit its mark. The magical arrowhead crashed against her corseted white suit, and bright green lily pollen exploded out of it, engulfing her whole.

Pink eyes widened with rage as the pollen stained her skin and her pristine battle suit, just as I landed in a crouch in front of her. My lips tilted into a slow grin.

“Argh!!” The fury in her scream reverberated through the forest, and I swore the plants shuddered in humor. “I’m going to kill you, Célest Bloom!” Cara vowed, the green tint covering her pale cheeks, forehead, and adhering fearlessly to the leather that covered her body. “Did you really have to use magical lily pollen?!”

“You know, that is why I don’t wear white.” I tsked, standing, and hooking one hand on my right hip while the bow and arrow disappeared from my grasp and reappeared on my back. “It’s gorgeous, but it takes too much to maintain.” I fake-cringed. “That’s going to need lemon juice… lots of it.”

Her pink irises might have turned red, because she lunged for me like a mad elk.

Laughter burst out of me as I whirled around, running through the forest with the fuming girl behind me. Majestic flower shrubs twirled with our approach, clearing the path and getting out of our way while we dashed through the land. The whistling of something heavy behind me urged me to drop to the ground, and I rolled to my back to see a massive rock fly past me.

“Really?!” I shrieked at her. “You could have taken my head off with that thing!” I jumped to my feet just as said rock crashed against a tree, leaving a hefty mark.

Her steps jogged to a stop, and she crossed both arms over her chest, shrugging. “You started it.”

I scoffed. “Hardly.”

It was no secret Cara and I couldn’t stand each other. Most called it friendly competition, but I had no doubt that if there were no consequences for her, she might truly try to take me out. After all, I was the only thing standing between her and the one spot in the queen’s guard that all seniors in the academy wanted to claim.

Part of me was glad she didn’t have her true powers, and she only had access to the basic magic the Solara Faeries offered us in sisterhood. If Cara had been able to summon fire like her ancestors used to wield, I would be extra crispy right about now. That rock would have been a fireball no doubt.

“Why did you stop chasing me, anyway?” I grumbled, wiping the fallen flower petals that stuck to my black leather suit. “It was just getting exciting.”

Rolling her eyes, she nodded to something behind me, and my heart lodged in my throat the second I turned to look. I staggered back, putting as much distance as I could between the Neach-dìon Dearg—Red Guardian—and me.

The translucent red barrier swayed before us, both graceful and ominous, promising to obliterate anything that dared to touch it. It resembled the flow of blood that created it, shimmering under the sun filtering through the giant trees.

Daingead. How had I been so careless to forget the Wandering Woods were on the edge of Aērelis, or what was left of our land protected by the barrier?

The thrill of our rivalry quickly faded, and Cara and I were helplessly hypnotized by the sight on the other side of the Red Guardian. Warning grays and blacks replaced the vibrant jewel tones of the mystical forest we stood in, scorched earth extending for miles in a Ring of Death around us. A fierce and continuous reminder of the true power evil could have.

Nothing but ashy trunk stumps and charred broken branches sticking out of the ground were left of the majestically live trees, plants, and flower bushes that used to adorn our extraordinary land. Carcass remnants of the animals lost during the ancient fight lay strewn along the once green and lush grass, now only a thick carpet of ash, death, and loss.

The contrast between the two sides was both startling and grounding. A shudder made its way down my spine.

“One day we will rise again, stronger than before, and bring justice to Aērelis.”

I recited the words that always gave us hope for the future. Our elemental powers might be gone, but nothing was forever.

“Let it be so,” Cara vowed beside me as we all did every morning during the headmaster’s address.

“You know, that almost makes me want to like you.” I tapped a finger to my chin in consideration while her lips twitched.

“And here I was hoping you’d take two more steps back and make my day.” She sighed in lament for the lost opportunity of my demise, and looked at her nails with boredom. The sight of her green stained hands brought the ire back to her eyes, and they widened. She lunged for me once more.

Bursting out of my back, colorful gossamer wings pulled me from the ground just as the victory horns sang in the air, their magic sensing the mock battle had ended after I efficiently outwitted my opponent.

“Argh! You better sleep with one eye open, Bloom!” Cara shouted from the ground, running under me back to the academy. I’d never been so happy to have wings.

“Sure thing, Leech!” I shouted back.

“It’s Lynch!!”

Laughter escaped me.

* * *

After receiving the golden ribbon for winning the latest mock battle, and taking a hot shower, I stepped out of my dorm. The halls of Aērelis Academy buzzed with students coming out of the classrooms, and heading for their next class.

I headed towards the fourth floor of the castle, otherwise dubbed “the hotties floor”, to search for the only Faery in all the land who could stand the sight of me… most of the time.

When I opened the door to Aedan’s room, his fresh and familiar scent drifted into my nose instantly. Notes of mint and grapefruit danced deliciously in my senses. I caught him on his way out of the bathroom, in nothing more than a towel around his waist.

“Excuse me, can you, I don’t know, knock on the door and wait for me to actually answer?” he grumbled, not even bothering to interrupt his stride on his way to the closet.

“Why? You know it’s me. Besides, you are not fooling anybody. I know your tracking abilities let you sense me before I even get to the door, which is why you always leave it open for me,” I reasoned with a grin, letting my body fall onto his bed. I sighed, curling on my side.

“Um, I didn’t open the door for you. Besides, you should have knocked because I’m barely decent,” he mumbled, but couldn’t hide the twitching of his lips. Busted. Pulling out the academy’s shirt and pants from the closet, he threw them over me on the bed, getting a squeal out of me.

Pushing them off my head and face, I snorted. “I’m sorry to be the one to tell you this, but I’ve known you since we were three years old. There is nothing you have above that towel or below that I’m interested to see. Trust me. Best guy friend does not equal sexy guy friend. Like, ever.”

He actually chuckled at that, taking the clothes from my lap and stepping into the closet to dress—and spare my innocent eyes the naked show. “Oh, please, I know you dream of me each night,” he teased, his voice partially muffled.

“Yeah, terrible nightmares.”

“Ha!”

I silently chuckled. “Also, why do you want me to knock? Are there any other Faeries in this school who waltz into your quarters knowing they’ll be welcomed?” I raised a challenging brow at him when he poked his head out of the closet, a sinful smirk tilting his lips.

“That’s for me to know and for you to find out.” He wiggled midnight blue brows suggestively and went right back into the closet.

“Careful, Aedan, you know I’m very jealous. I’ll cut a bitch so fast he won’t even see it coming.”

Laughter burst out of him as he finally stepped out, heading for the dresser. “You are totally psycho, C. I really need to be more selective with my friends.” Squeezing some gel onto his palms, he rubbed them together and forked his fingers through his midnight hair. Blue streaks glimmered under the light.

Fine, so Aedan was kind of gorgeous. He basically fell under the tall, dark, and handsome category with his shiny midnight blue hair, fair skin, and six-foot-tall stature. He was toned everywhere that counted, funny, sweet, and I could always count on him. Not to mention, he had serious skills when it came to being a warrior.

That said, we had grown up together, and he liked guys. If he’d been into girls, I would have probably claimed him for myself two years ago, but no such luck. Typical. All the good ones were always taken or gay. In any case, we were more like brother and sister, and EW, you never dated your sibling.

I mean, Trolls did that, but that was a whole different story.

“Will you be ready any time soon? Because we are going to be late to our advanced Master Strategy class if you spend two more minutes looking at yourself in the mirror,” I huffed, eyeing his pillow for a moment, and slipped my hand into the pillowcase.

“You could have gone ahead without me, C,” he challenged, wiping his hands clean and spraying a bit more of his fruity scent onto his chest.

“Shut up.” My face scrunched up while I searched for the hidden treasure. The second he noticed what I was doing, he rushed towards me to stop me, but I already had my prize in my hand. “Ha! You lose, sucker!”

Grinning triumphantly, I lifted the chocolate truffle, pulling out of his reach when he tried to take it away. He always hid one in his pillow for the night. He had such a sweet tooth.

“Okay, now we really are going to be late.” Aedan scooped me from the bed while I popped the stolen chocolate into my mouth, and walked us out of the room—pulling the door closed behind us with his foot.

Although, to be fair, carrying me wasn’t a difficult feat, I was five feet tall and 130 pounds of lean muscle on my best day. We girl Faeries weren’t that tall to begin with, but I was proud of my curves.

After I was unceremoniously dropped onto my feet, Aedan and I headed towards the circular landing off the main corridor. Bridges crafted of gorgeous stained glass extended from it to all four wings, depending on which one you took. Rays of sunlight came through the large, arched windows around us, hitting them, and causing the colors from their delicate panels to reflect like dancing crystals all over the light castle walls.

We needed to take the second bridge to the right, so we could go into the west wing of the academy. The senior classrooms were located there.

“Hi, Aedan!” A couple of girls and their guy friend greeted us when we stepped onto the landing.

“Hey, girls. Hi, Ronan.” His voice dropped to a sexy octave when he addressed the hunky blond guy, making the guy instantly blush.

“Hey. See you tonight at the end-of-the-month banquet?” Ronan asked, nervously pushing both hands into his pockets.

“Yeah, I’ll be there. You?”

“Definitely.”

“Good, then it will be worth going after all,” Aedan replied, unashamedly flirting.

Ronan smirked back, eyes twinkling. Giggling, the girls pulled Ronan with them and walked down the first bridge—heading to the north wing.

“See? At least he has the decency to blush in my presence,” my best friend teased.

I snorted at that. Loudly. “That’s because he’s a third-year student and you are a senior. To a junior, every senior is hot. Don’t let it get to your head.”

Snickering, we both stepped onto the glass bridge that would take us to the west wing, just as our names reverberated behind us.

“Guys, hold on!” Kian, the son of our hand-to-hand combat professor waved, making us halt and turn to face him. “The headmaster called for you. Mr. Kavanagh wants you in his office this instant.”

Aedan grunted, sending a chiding glance my way. “Célest, what did you do now?”

I slightly cringed. “You mean before or after I painted Cara green from head to toe?”

~*~

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