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Courtney Cole

  "My mother had a great deal of trouble with me, but I think she enjoyed it."

  --Mark Twain

  Mom, I’m pretty sure you didn’t enjoy it, but I do hope it was worth it.

  This book is for you.

  Chapter One

  Colored lights pulsed erratically in the dark gymnasium, creating odd reflections on the squirming mass of people on the dance floor. I squinted into the heat of the spotlight and gripped the microphone tightly as I scanned the room for the most important face. And I found him, as beautiful as anything I’d ever seen, laughing at a joke that I couldn’t hear as he leaned against the doorway.

  His bright, white smile was a beacon from across the room and I found myself wanting to drop the mic and run off the stage, straight to him. I imagined the way his arms would fold around me, holding me tightly to his chest and I fought the urge to act on my impulse. My need for him was almost palpable because any time that wasn’t spent in his arms was just ... wasted. Our time was always so limited.

  I exhaled slowly as I felt the bass beat in my chest and I concentrated on the pounding rhythm to keep myself in the moment. I wasn’t nervous and I wasn’t afraid. My life was what it was. And I was okay with that. My issue now was a petty one. I was just second guessing our band’s decision to play for Homecoming tonight. I would rather be dancing with Gavin right now rather than entertaining the student body.

  My best friend Jessa picked up the tempo on her electric guitar and I felt my cue coming up. The air practically crackled with the music and I lifted the mic. Singing into it, I felt Gavin’s eyes shift to me and I held his dark stare. His eyes were so dark that they were almost black ... endless, bottomless, total sexiness.

  "Every breath is a promise and I swear, baby, I won’t break it. You were meant for me, meant for me…"

  I gyrated around the stage, ignoring the annoying way my leather pants clung to me, as I danced in time to Jenn on the drums. She was wearing thick black eyeliner and bright red lipstick tonight, the total opposite of the fresh-faced look that she normally shared with her sister.

  My best friends, the Gray sisters, were identical twins, hence the name of our band, Macy and the Grays. Yes, we had secondhand equipment and yes, we practiced in my garage. But we loved it. We loved performing, we loved the attention, we loved actually writing the songs.

  We pretty much loved everything about it. And since we’ve been performing together since junior high, we’ve actually gotten pretty good at it.

  Jess finished off her guitar solo, ending the song which wrapped up the set. I lifted the mic again, breathing hard.

  "Thanks, guys. Hope you’re enjoying Fall Homecoming! We’re going to take a ten minute break. Don’t go anywhere!"

  I hopped down from the stage and found myself face to face with Gavin. His dark hair had gotten longer over the summer and it was now carelessly falling over one eye. He shook it out of the way and stepped closer to me.

  "So, do you come here often?" he asked, grinning.

  I sucked in my breath. His smile was breathtakingly beautiful. Especially when it was directed at me.

  "Hmm, sometimes. Every day, actually."

  "So, you would know a good restaurant ..." he smiled and stepped even closer. I grinned back. He was copying our first meeting in the tiny deli in my neighborhood a few months ago.

  Corny, but charming at the same time. Of course, with that smile anything he said was charming.

  "You haven’t gotten any better at pick-up lines, just so you know."

  I grabbed his arm and pulled him to me, burying my face in his neck. Closing my eyes, I inhaled the musky, cedar smell that belonged so specifically to him. And as we lingered in our intimate embrace, I knew that if I could freeze time right this second, I would.

  To an outsider, we appeared just like any other teenage couple. We went to movies and got pizza and hung out and flirted. And technically, we had only met a few months ago. But I knew a secret. We’ve actually known each other for thousands of years. The problem is, he doesn’t know that. No one else knows that.

  I know it because I’m different.

  I have a tiny birthmark on my wrist that marks me as a Keeper of Fate in an ancient organization called the Order of the Moirae. Life after life, my soul stays the same and I have the same purpose. I guide my Daedal through each life, ensuring that she makes the right decisions. And while keeping track of one person might sound easy, it is definitely not.

  Because a Daedal always plays a vital role in history, which means that his or her life is never easy and it almost always ends tragically. Keeping mine on a collision course with destiny is not an easy task. But it is a necessary one. In a prior life, my Daedal was Cleopatra and I was her handmaiden, Charmian. Our deaths in that life were legendary. Cleopatra, my Daedal, hasn’t found me in this life yet, so I had absolutely no idea what this life would bring.

  But I had no doubt that it would be interesting.


  I startled back to reality as Gavin searched my face quizzically.

  "I’m sorry, I was spacing off. What did you say?" I focused on his handsome face, not exactly a difficult feat.

  He smiled again and I consciously stilled my heart.

  "I asked who you wrote that last song about. It wouldn’t be me, would it?"

  Cockiness radiated from his every pore, but I loved that about him. I would be hard pressed, actually, to think of something I didn’t love about him. He had a great sense of humor, was as loyal as the day was long and was as beautiful as an underwear model. I had lucked out in the soul mate department.

  I leaned up to kiss him, but was knocked out of the way as Jess rushed up to us and grabbed my arm.

  "You haven’t even gone to the bathroom yet, Mace? You’ve only got a couple more minutes," she stared at me disapprovingly and then tugged at me. "Come on, say goodbye to Prince Charming and let’s go get you taken care of. You are in desperate need of fresh lipstick."

  I stared helplessly at Gavin as she pulled me away. He laughed and waved and I rolled my eyes.

  As Jess dragged me toward the restrooms through the throng of people still milling about on the dance floor, I noticed my ex-boyfriend, Derek, standing on the periphery of the gym with his new girlfriend, Tara. The girl that he cheated on me with last year. The acrid taste of bile rose in my throat. Even though I knew that I was never meant to be with him, the mere memory of his betrayal turned my stomach.

  Now though, I watched with interest as Tara shouted at him and he cringed away from her.

  Hmm. Apparently there was trouble in paradise. Someone should have mentioned to him that Karma was a venomous witch. What goes around comes around and maybe, just maybe, he was getting his. Was it wrong to feel happy about that?

  I yanked on Jessa’s arm.

  "Did you see that?"

  She nodded while she smirked. "I heard about it already. Apparently, he cheated on Tara. And they’re trying to ‘work through it’."

  I should be embarrassed by the deep sense of satisfaction that I instantly felt, but I really wasn’t. At one time, Derek’s betrayal had cut me to the core. And now he had done it again to someone else. I guess it really was true- once a cheater, always a cheater. I would never have to worry about that with Gavin. I knew that with every ounce of my being. He was as steady as a beating drum. He always had been.

  I glanced over my shoulder and found him staring at me, his dark eyes scorching me from across the room. He smiled a small, intimate smile and I felt warm all over. Nope. I would never have to worry about him in that way. Just one more perk of being a soul mate. I wrenched my eyes from him just in time to step into the girl’s bathroom.

  The brightness of the fluorescent lights seemed garish in contrast to the darkened gym and I blinked my eyes
against it, staring at the dirty, pink tiled floor. Before I could focus, someone bumped into me and a sudden jolt of electricity almost dropped me to my knees. No.

  Broken images flitted through my mind, like a deck of cards thrown into the wind ... a pair of dark, twinkling eyes, glittering gold tableware, the sparkling Mediterranean Sea. No. Not now.

  I could feel the Keeper side of me emerging, an unconscious awakening from deep within, guiding me to turn around, compelling me with a force that I couldn’t resist. I had no choice but to stop in my tracks and pivot with the magnetic pull.

  A girl was standing next to me, waiting her turn at the hand dryers. Small and slight, her chestnut colored hair was stick straight and hung to her shoulder blades. She glanced my way and I froze, my breath catching in my throat. I had seen her dark eyes a million times before.

  The last time I remembered staring into them, I had been saying good bye to her two thousand years ago, when she was Cleopatra and I was Charmian.

  She was my Daedal.

  My heart sped up, racing erratically against my rib cage. It was funny, I had known that I would come across her at some point, but being face to face with her now was alarming and emotional. It meant that my cycle was beginning again. Right now. This very second. From this point on, she and I would rocket toward our destiny. And I knew that it wouldn’t end well.

  It never did, which meant my time was limited. I could practically feel hourglass sand dripping onto me. I gulped.

  "Can I help you?" she asked, her dark eyes twinkling. At the sound of her voice, I jumped.

  I had been blatantly staring and didn’t even realize it.

  "I’m sorry, I didn’t mean to stare. I was thinking about other things." For the second time in ten minutes, but I didn’t point that out.

  "Otherwise called, spacing off," Jess piped up. "Don’t hold it against her. She does that a lot. She can’t seem to help it."

  Jess laughed and so did ... Cleopatra. I briefly wondered what her name was in this life before deciding to just find out. I held out my hand.

  "I’m Macy Lockhart. Are you new here?"

  She grasped my hand and shook it, her hand small and delicate. A pinkie ring cut into my palm. I glanced at it and froze. It was amethyst. As Cleopatra, she had worn a massive amethyst ring on her middle finger. It was astounding how some things were always so similar.

  "I’m Jade Greene. And yes, I realize the irony of my name. My parents must have strange senses of humor."

  She rolled her eyes and smiled an impish grin. I sucked in my breath. She’s always had that mischievous grin. It had gotten us both in and out of trouble more times than I could count. Also, the way she phrased that sentence gave me pause as though she was only guessing because she didn’t know her parents. But I didn’t ask.

  Instead, I simply murmured, "It’s nice to meet you."

  She stared at me appraisingly, jutting her slim hips out.

  "So, you must be the Macy from Macy and the Grays. I’ve gotta say-- you guys are awesome. I wish I had that much talent," she smiled ruefully.

  "Oh, everyone is good at something," I replied. Such as being a legendary queen of Egypt.

  Jade was no slouch herself. She just didn’t know it yet.

  I turned to look at myself in the mirror. Dancing around on stage under the hot spotlights in tight leather pants had not done wonders for my makeup. My eyeliner was smeared and my hair was in wild disarray. Jade watched me examine myself and offered her makeup bag with a smile.

  "Do you need this?" she grinned again, holding it out to me.

  I sighed and grabbed it. "You’re a lifesaver."

  "Oohhh- can I borrow too?" Jess asked as she emerged from a bathroom stall. "My lips are dying for some gloss. And someone who will remain nameless left our makeup bags at her house. Macy."

  I rolled my eyes as I ran a brush through my long dark hair. I couldn’t help it. She had been rushing me, like usual.

  "You’ve got gorgeous hair," Jade remarked. "But your eyes. Wow. They’re amazing. I’ve never seen eyes that color of green. Are they real or contacts?"

  I smiled because I get that a lot. My eyes are a startling, vivid green- so bright that they do seem like they should be contacts. In fact, they almost seem to glow. But I’ve had the same eyes in every life; it is one physical trait that has been constant. That and my dark hair.

  I nodded. "They’re real."

  Jess elbowed me. "We’ve gotta go—Jenn’s going to kill us if we leave her up there by herself."

  I handed Jade back her make-up bag.

  "Thanks again. And if you get bored and want to hang out sometime, give me a call. Do you have a pen in your purse? I’ll give you my number."

  She nodded and dug one out, handing it to me with an empty gum wrapper. I scrawled my number on it and handed it back.

  "It was nice to meet you. Welcome to San Marino."

  "Thanks. I’ll call you soon- it would be nice to hang out."

  I nodded and let Jess pull me out, wondering if Jade felt the same vague familiarity that I did. I was in the loop this time, though, and that was nice.

  This cycle was different than any of my others, because my memories had already been unlocked. Normally, I live just like a normal girl until it is time for my cycle to begin, at which time, my Aegis (my handler, of sorts) appears to me and gives me my bloodstone, a powerful stone created just for me. The second I touch it, my memories are unlocked and my cycle begins.

  But this time something unusual had happened. Because a mysterious high priest had tried to coerce me into undoing the past, my memories had been unlocked before my cycle even began. My Aegis, Ahmose, and I had to travel back to ancient Egypt in order to, well, save the world.

  It had been gut-wrenching. Being back in Alexandria had been amazing. It had been as though I had never left, which was a little odd. But Gavin was there, in the form of Hasani, the commander of Marc Antony’s armies. He was as beautiful as ever, strong and brave with a warrior’s heart.

  In every life, he is with me in some form. But in Alexandria, I had known he was going to die and how, which made every single second that we spent together wretchedly painful. I had ultimately managed to allow Fate to unfold as it was meant to, which meant that I had allowed a Roman soldier to run his sword through my soul mate. Hands down, it was the most difficult thing. Ever. In the history of the world.

  And here we go again. My Daedal had found her way into my life. Which meant it was time for us to walk her difficult path yet again. I never had any real blueprint for the choices that she was supposed to make, but I had strong innate urges that guided me toward the right decisions. Plus, of course, the bird-shaped birthmark on my wrist throbbed like crazy when we were doing something wrong, sort of like a bad-decision compass.

  As we wound our way through the crowded gym back toward the stage, I shook my head to get rid of my dark thoughts. There was no reason to stress about it now. One thing that I had learned after all of these years, was that no good came from worrying. What was meant to happen would happen. What I should do now instead of stressing, was spend every minute that I still had left with Gavin.

  He was waiting for me at the base of the stage and I leaned into him, brushing a kiss against his soft lips. He smiled and I felt my knees literally weaken. He winked as I jumped up onto the stage, and I felt my heart crack just a little. He had no idea. He thought everything was fine. Normal. And normal it was not ...the absolute story of my life.

  Jenn started banging the drums and the throngs of people on the dance floor cheered, so I focused my attention on their faces, waiting for my cue to sing. The heat from the lights shone on my bare shoulders and I soaked it in now, while it still felt good. In about fifteen minutes, it would start getting too hot.

  Allowing myself to become immersed in the moment, I concentrated on the bass thumping in my chest, tapping my foot to its beat. I could feel Derek’s stare, Tara’s glare and Gavin’s soft gaze. And something else. Scann
ing the crowd, I searched for whatever it was that was making me feel ... wrong.

  Teachers lined the walls, dutifully supervising the hyped-up student body. Bodies writhed and undulated on the dance floor, stirring the subtle smell of sweat and the heavy scent of perfume. The colored lights flashed and shadows were cast against the walls. There was nothing out of place, nothing out of the ordinary. Everything seemed fine, but it wasn’t. I could feel it.

  Jess worked her way next to me and nudged me with her eyebrows raised and I realized that I had missed my cue. She back-tracked and played it again and I lifted the mic, singing into it absently as I continued to examine the room.

  Jade stood alone at the back of the gym, moving gently in time with the music. It was painfully obvious that she didn’t know anyone yet, since she was all alone surrounded by a crowd. I hoped she called me soon. She was bound to be lonely without anyone to talk to. She had always been a social butterfly.

  Just as I was about to shift my attention, something about the way her eyes were fixated on the curtains lining the wall gave me pause. I peered more closely into the darkness, trying to see what she was staring at through the flashing lights. There was nothing there ... but suddenly, as she gazed at them, the curtains began fluttering--starting where she was standing and moving down the long wall like a tidal wave. It took me a second to comprehend. She had done that.

  I gasped but before I could react, a piercing pain ripped through me, radiating from my wrist. My birthmark throbbed wildly, spreading pain into my arm and quickly traveling throughout the rest of my body. The pain was so intense that I couldn’t breathe. I dropped to my hands and knees, the mic flying from my hand and skittering across the stage. I vaguely recognized the shrill metallic feedback as it slid to a rest against a speaker. People covered their ears in the crowd as Jess ran to me and dropped to her knees beside me.

  "Are you okay?" she asked frantically. "What’s wrong?"