Page 10

I shook my head. "Then, why?"

Cal took his time before answering. "For one thing, I like your dad. He's done good things for Prodigium. And it-"He broke off with a long exhale.

"It felt like some kind of honor, you know? Being asked to be the head of the Council's son-in-law. Plus, your dad, he, uh, told me a lot about you."

My voice was barely above a whisper. "What did he say?"

"That you were smart, and strong. Funny. That you had trouble using your powers, but you were always trying to use them to help people."He shrugged. "I thought we'd be a good match."

The vast dining room suddenly felt very smal , like it consisted only of this table and me and Cal. "Look, Sophie,"he started to say.

But before he could finish, Jenna walked in. "I am so glad I stil get to eat human food, because that bacon smel s insane ..."she said, and then froze. "Oh!"she exclaimed, her earlier bounciness draining out of her. "Sorry! I didn't mean to interrupt...whatever. I c-can...leave?"She gestured with her thumb over her shoulder. "And then come back, uh, later?"

But the moment was broken. Cal sat back, and I pushed my hair behind my ears. "No, it's fine,"I said quickly, concentrating harder on my eggs than I had on my SAT. "We seem to be the only people up yet."

"Everyone's awake. They're just quiet,"a voice said from the doorway.

I looked up and tried very hard not to choke on my food. It was the demon girl. Her black bob was messy and she was stil wearing pajamas-cute ones, too, made of dark blue silk and covered in little silver moons and stars. She was watching me with an expression I couldn't read.

She moved into the room with an easy grace, but her shoulders were up, and she kept her head tilted so that her profile was hidden by her hair. She took a piece of toast and an orange before coming to sit next to me. Her power set my teeth on edge, but I made myself smile.

"Hi. I'm Sophie."

She plucked at the orange's peel. "Yes, I know,"she said, her accent every bit as crisp as Dad's. "And you're Cal, and you're Jenna. I'm Daisy."

They murmured hel o, then Jenna shot me a look and mouthed, "Daisy?"I knew what she meant. With her jet-black hair and translucent skin, this girl looked a lot more like a Lilith or a Lenore than a Daisy.

We al sat in silence while Kristopher, Roderick, and Elizabeth came in. I was kind of surprised to see the other three Council members. I figured they'd already be at work, like Lara.

Once everyone was seated, Kristopher looked down the table. "I'm glad to see you and Daisy getting to know one another, Sophia."His bright blue eyes practical y gleamed. Like Lara, he seemed way too enthusiastic for so early in the morning.

"Yeah, maybe later we can al sing a demon version of 'Kumbaya,'"I said. As far as jokes went, it wasn't exactly stel ar, but the three Council members laughed like it was the funniest thing they'd ever heard.

"Daisy, didn't we tel you Sophie had a wonderful sense of humor?"Roderick, the tal faerie said, his wings fluttering.

But before she could reply, the demon guy walked into the dining room. Jenna was right: he did look a little like Archer. He wasn't quite as handsome, and when he glanced my way, I saw that his eyes were blue instead of brown, but there was definitely a resemblance.

"Good morning, Nick,"Kristopher said, patting his mouth with a napkin. "I trust your new room was to your liking?"

Nick headed over to the buffet, flashing a wink at Daisy, whose lips curved in response. "Very much so, Kris. Thanks for that,"he said before helping himself to breakfast. Unlike Daisy, he was American. He sat down on Daisy's other side and leaned across her to say to me, "Got tired of the view in my old room. I mean, how many times can you look at a pond, right? Kris here was nice enough to hook me up with digs overlooking one of the gardens."He grinned as he broke open a muffin. "Guess it'l do for now."

Kristopher smiled again, but it was strained. "We strive to keep our guests happy,"he said.

"What about you, Daisy?"Elizabeth, the grandmotherly werewolf asked, reaching out to pat Daisy's hand. "Are your rooms stil al right, dear?"

"They're fine, thank you,"she said softly, and I could've sworn Elizabeth sighed with relief.

"So, Sophie,"Nick said. "I'm guessing you've worked out that Daisy and I are your siblings in demonhood?"

"Right,"I said, straining for nonchalant. I cleared my throat and asked, "So were you guys born demons, like me, or made?"

Elizabeth answered for them, her voice warm and sympathetic. "They don't remember, poor things. When we found the two of them, they were both in mental institutions. They didn't even have names."

"Yes, and we're ever so thankful for the rescue, Liz,"Nick said, slurring his words slightly. I looked closer at him. His eyes were kind of red, but not in the demon way; in the drunk way. Holy crap, who started drinking first thing in the morning? And why?

"So,"Nick said to me, "how do you like Thorne?"

"Love it,"I replied, but I sounded unconvincing, even to myself.

"Wel , it's gotta be better than that dump you guys cal a school,"Nick said with a snort.

Cal's expression turned positively stormy at that, so I rushed in to say, "Hecate's not that bad. It just has, uh, character."

"Didn't L'Occhio di Dio raid Hecate last year?"Daisy asked, reaching across me for the marmalade. That's when I noticed the jagged, purplish scar running along her inner arm. It looked a lot like the scar on my hand. I remembered what Dad had said about both Daisy and Nick nearly being murdered, and tried not to stare.

"No, it wasn't a raid. There was a warlock there. Archer Cross."It was the first time I'd said his name out loud in a long time. "He was working for The Eye. But he didn't hurt anyone."

Everyone fel silent, and I real y hoped that that was the end of this particular conversation. Then Nick said, "I heard he tried to cut your heart out in a cel ar."

If everyone hadn't been hanging on my every word, they certainly were now. "That's not true,"I said evenly. I could feel Cal's gaze on me, but I kept my eyes on Nick. "We fought, but he never pul ed a knife on me."

"You fought?"Roderick asked. "With your hands?"

"Um, yeah,"I replied, confused. "I think I might have kicked him somewhere in there, too, but-"

"What Roderick means is why didn't you use your powers?"Kristopher said, folding his arms on the table. "You are a demon. You could have vaporized him if you'd wanted to."

My mouth went very dry and I stammered a little as I said, "I-I wouldn't have any idea how to do something like that."

"Wel , if you ever learn, I don't think I want to be your roommate anymore,"Jenna chimed in. But if she'd thought joking was going to change the subject, she was wrong.

Nick leaned forward, his eyes practical y burning. "Or maybe the rumor is true. Maybe you didn't kil him because you're in love with him."

My heartbeat pounded in my ears. I quickly put my fork down so that no one would see that my hands were shaking. But I met Nick's gaze across the table and said, "No. I'm not. But we were friends. He had a girlfriend, Elodie Parris. She was one of the girls kil ed by a demon at Hecate."

My words hung in the air for a minute while Nick and I stared each other down. He broke first. "Okay, wel good, then,"he said, his voice jovial. "Glad we got that cleared up. Just wanted to be sure your boyfriend wouldn't be dropping by with any of his buddies."He smiled at me, and it was easily one of the scariest things I'd ever seen.

Roderick cleared his throat. "Nick, please remember your manners,"he said. "Sophie is our guest."

"I'm just making conversation, Rod,"Nick said. "After al , involvement with The Eye is something me and Sophie have in common."

"What do you mean?"I asked.

"Oh, just that they tried to kil me too."He leaned back in his chair and tugged his shirt up, revealing a vicious purple scar that snaked from his waistband to just below his sternum.

Everyone at the table was deathly silent, and next to me, Daisy shuddered.

"I was fifteen when they found me. Living in a foster home in Georgia, not knowing why I could make things happen with my mind. Not knowing much of anything, for that matter."

"Nick doesn't remember anything before he was thirteen,"Daisy interjected, her voice so quiet I could barely hear her.

Nick nodded. "I was homeless for a while, but then the great state of Georgia took me in. Shuffled me off to the Hendricksons'house."He snorted.

"Which ended up real y sucking for the Hendricksons. The Eye kil ed al four of them while they were trying to kil me."

"How did you get away?"Jenna asked. Her shoulders were tense, and I know she was remembering her own escape from The Eye.

Nick shot another look at me. "Used my powers. Figured that made more sense than attempting hand-to-hand, you know?"Something crackled against my skin like electricity, and Daisy's hair ruffled. There was a distant look on Nick's face as he continued. "One of the guys caught me as I was trying to get out a window. He had this black knife."The china on the table began to rattle, and I saw Kristopher and Elizabeth shoot each other worried looks. "I didn't know what demon-glass was then,"Nick said, "but I knew it hurt like a mother-"

Suddenly, Lara reappeared in the doorway. "Nick,"she said, her tone just a little too sharp. "Perhaps that story can wait for a more appropriate time.

If you're finished with breakfast, why don't you and Daisy go practice the exercises Mr. Atherton taught you?"

Just like that, the surge of power evaporated, and I let out the breath I hadn't known I was holding.

"Sure thing, Lara,"Nick said, smiling that creepy smile again. He rose from the table, and Daisy fol owed suit. "Oh yeah,"he added. "Meant to ask if Daisy and I can take Sophie and her friends out tonight."

I started at that. After what I'd just seen, the last thing I wanted to do was go anywhere with these two.

"Out where?"Lara asked.

"Just to the vil age. Isn't she here this summer to spend more time with her own kind?"

Lara hesitated, and Nick went in for the kil . "James asked me specifical y to take Sophie under my wing, Lara,"he said, laying a hand on my shoulder. It took everything I had not to throw it off.

Stil not total y convinced, Lara said, "I'l talk to James this afternoon and see what he thinks. Now go on."

Nick gave my shoulder a squeeze before he and Daisy headed out of the room. Cal, Jenna, and I sat in silence, staring at each other. At least now I knew how Elodie, Chaston, and Anna had pul ed off that three-way glance thing. Final y, the other Council members and various underlings trickled out of the room until it was just the three of us.

It was Jenna who spoke first. "So that was creepy as al get-out."

I shivered. "No lie. Captain Mood Swing total y gives demons a bad name, which is quite an accomplishment."

But Jenna shook her head. "It wasn't him. Wel , I mean, it was him, but not just him. It was the Council members. Did you see how weird they were with Nick and Daisy? Nick looked like he was seconds from blowing us al away, and no one said anything. And that stuff about changing his room?"