Home > Spring (Evermore Academy #2)

Spring (Evermore Academy #2)
Author: Audrey Grey

1

“Summer Solstice, I need to see you running so hard your heels are tapping your mortal ass!” Eclipsa orders from her purple and yellow leopard printed hammock chair, where she’s been overseeing my run around the Lake of Sorrows for the last forty minutes.

“Yeah, tap that ass!” Ruby cheers from her perch on my shoulder. “Tap it so hard the prince will have to ice it down later.”

Oh. My. God. My friends have no idea how dirty they sound.

I would laugh—would, if I wasn’t getting my butt kicked five ways from Sunday. Pumping my arms, I burst through a patch of dandelions, my legs disturbing the wispy white seeds into the air.

“I’m . . . trying,” I pant, glaring at the Lunar Court assassin turned sadistic torturer. Her moon-white hair is pulled back in a high ponytail, her lithe body poured into metallic silver-blue yoga pants and a sports bra, showing off the lunar tattoos cresting her ripped abdomen. The half-moon jewels over her brow glimmer beneath the afternoon sun.

I’m pretty sure she added a couple jewels, which means the Fae assassin killed again.

Eclipsa summoned me to the Everwilde a week early to train. I think she thinks I should be appreciative—and I am, I suppose—but that’s in between my near constant pity party.

When I round the final leg of the run, I sprint across the meadowscape, the bright pink Nike trainers Eclipsa loaned me skipping over hyacinth flowers and daisies, and collapse at the finish line in front of her.

Six freaking miles. And I just sprinted every single one of them like a boss. Thank Queen Titania I kept up my training during the summer. My routine was grueling. Mornings I ran the paths around our land. Afternoons I practiced my yoga regimen. And nights were spent squatting, deadlifting, and planking my way into the best shape of my life.

This was going to be my year. Winter could suck it.

Yet, none of it prepared me for Eclipsa’s brutal punishment.

Eclipsa glances over the neon green stopwatch in her hand. “You shaved two seconds off your time.”

“Yeah I did,” I boast, winking at Ruby.

“Okay, badass. Now stop gloating and get up.”

“More torture? You can’t be serious.”

She cuts her dark eyes at me. “Why? Is today special or something?”

Nope, it’s just my birthday. But I don’t say that. Who knows how the Fae celebrate birthdays, or if they even do, considering their long lifespans?

Groaning, I drag myself to my feet, hands on my head, and suck in giant gulps of the sweet spring air. Around us, a vibrant tapestry of color unfurls. Wildflowers in every hue imaginable blanket the campus grounds, contrasted against an ocean of tranquil blue. Pink trees bloom like fireworks, their buds so large they look like cotton candy caught in the branches.

It’s hard to believe this is the same academy I left three months ago.

Ruby buzzes toward the side table, her magenta hair smudging the air, and wraps her tiny arms around the dark gray hydroflask Mack sent me as an early birthday present. The hot pink words, Property of the WP, are engraved into the steel.

Mack’s idea of a joke. Hardy har.

The spell my BFF paid to make the words only visible to me must have cost a pretty penny.

“Look at you,” I tease, “being all useful.”

Ruby hands off the water and bows, her shimmery wings flapping so fast they’re a blur. “With what that savage is about to put you through, you’ll need every drop.”

Holy Fae. I throw a pleading look at Eclipsa. “Please not burpees. Anything but those.”

Eclipsa springs from the hammock chair. Every muscle in her abdomen flickers, the moon cycle tats rippling as if alive. I’m pretty sure she does sit ups in her sleep.

“That’s right, beotch.” Eclipsa grins. “Prepare for an epic beat down.”

That’s when I notice one hand is behind her back.

Squealing, she thrusts her arm out, a sparkly silver-wrapped gift in her hand. “How dare you not tell me it’s your birthday.”

“Ruby!” I scold. “You little snitch.”

“What?” Ruby grins. “She bribed me with sugar drops.”

Eclipsa stuffs the gift into my Puma gym bag. “Open this later, okay?”

I nod as Ruby flits up level with my face, holding out a half-chewed Charms lollipop. “Here you go, Kid.”

“Thanks.” I take her gross birthday offering, still wet with slobber, and glance at Eclipsa, suddenly hopeful. “Does this mean no more trying to kill me today?”

Eclipsa’s eyes light up, and she waves her hand through the air. “Who said anything about taking it easy on you?”

A translucent golden portal just large enough to step through appears in front of her.

Crap. The last time she sent me through a portal for training, I ended up fighting two orcs. Granted, they were a miniature variety, and not fully grown . . . but still.

I glare at Eclipsa.

She grins back. “After you, Princess.”

With Ruby resettled on my shoulder, I jump through the portal, ready for anything.

Anything except . . . Mack’s Manhattan apartment? I recognize the luxurious penthouse immediately, my gaze flicking from the white marble and abstract paintings to Mack’s beaming face.

“Surprise!” she screams.

Like some birthday nightmare come to life, silver and blue balloons and confetti fall from the air. Mack’s parents, Nick and Sebastian, flip on the lights and jump from the kitchen, waving their hands.

When I see Aunt Zinnia appear behind them, wearing the apron with the cats, her frizzy blonde hair haloing her head, stupid tears spring to my eyes. Aunt Vi waits a little ways behind her sister, wringing her hands. She stands ramrod straight, her mouth a stern line, refusing to move, as if Fae magic lurks in the opulent modern steel countertops and appliances.

Maybe it does.

Mack throws her arms around me. “Happy birthday, Beezy!”

My heart swells. We haven’t seen each other in a month. We tried Facetiming, but the internet in our area crapped out recently.

“How’s the academy?” Mack asks as she guides me from the kitchen to the dining room.

“Colorful,” I say, sweeping my gaze over the elaborate setup piled over the long mahogany table. “Everything smells like flowers, the birds are really loud, and I’m still getting used to actual sunlight.”

“You’re so lucky.” She sighs, as if getting an extra week of getting her ass kicked is her idea of heaven. “I would die to train with Eclipsa. I can’t wait until you meet up with Reina this year.”

“Our turn!” Mack’s dads rush over, and before I can escape, I’m locked into a group hug.

“Okay, okay,” Mack says, swatting at both men. “Personal space, remember?”

Her dads back off, and it’s Zinnia and Vi’s turn. I hug them both, surprised and a little overwhelmed that they would venture into the Untouched Zone for me.

Just getting Vi here was a miracle in and of itself. I can’t imagine the effort it took to convince her, plus managing the travel visas and then talking Vi into using a portal.

I owe Mack’s dads big time.

Zinnia pinches my cheeks. “Sweet girl, we’re so proud of you. Now, look what I found you.”

She holds up an opened, near-empty bag of Zapps sweet southern heat barbeque chips.

Vi rolls her eyes. “The old cow ate nearly the entire bag.”

“You can’t just have one chip, Vi!” Zinnia protests. “Those things are like crack in a bag.”

Before the two can get into an all-out brawl in front of Mack’s dads, I take the present Vi is holding. “What’s this?”

“I thought, since we can’t be at the academy to protect you . . .”

“She got you a knife,” Zinnia clarifies, clicking her tongue.

My mouth hangs open as I rip off the red wrapping paper to reveal the wood-handled hunting knife inside.

“It’s made with iron,” Vi clarifies, throwing a not-so-subtle glance at Eclipsa, who’s posted up near the french doors leading to the balcony, watching everything with mild curiosity.

Oh, God. This must have cost them a fortune.

Sebastian frowns at the blade while Nick rushes over. “The academy is perfectly safe. We both attended and survived.”

Aunt Vi doesn’t argue, at least, not with words. But her mouth goes hard, and her hands, weathered by years of gardening in the Texas sun, flutter over her chest.

That’s when I notice the four dark red furrows ridging her collarbone. “What is that?”

Vi and Zinnia exchange glances, and then Zinnia says, “There was an attack recently.”

My stomach hollows out. “Darkling?”

Zinnia nods. “They reopened the farmer’s market near Willowbark Lake, and Vi convinced me to help her sell her canned jams and homemade soaps. The darklings . . . there were so many of them.”

My chest pinches with fear. Normal darkling incidents in the Tainted Zone involve one darkling, usually newly transformed. But a pack of darklings?

I try to hide my growing panic. If they know I’m worried, they’ll try to conceal the true extent of the danger. “Are the attacks getting worse?”

The grooves etched into Vi’s forehead deepen, and she and Zinnia share a glance.

“You don’t need to worry over such things, sweet child,” Zinnia says.

Oberon’s beard. It’s worse than I thought. “How did you get away?”

“Nothing old Betsy and some iron buckshot couldn’t handle,” Vi remarks, using her nickname for the 12-gauge shotgun she keeps near the door. She waves her hand as if the entire ordeal is unimportant. “Enough crass talk. We might be from the country, but we have manners, after all.”

Mack’s dads look horrified at the prospect of a darkling attack. I remind myself that here, in the Untouched Zone, they don’t have to worry about such things.

Nick scrambles to redirect the conversation. He takes my aunts on a quick tour of the penthouse. Unfortunately, his efforts backfire. The more Aunt Vi takes in this new world, the more agitated she becomes.

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