In this next chapter of Spell Tracker, Luca finally gets to know what Cass is hiding behind her prickly exterior. There's also a hint that Cass might remember something about their shared past life as gladiators in Ancient Rome. This terrifies Luca because she won't be allowed to graduate her earthbound life path if her memories of past lives or magic are restored in any way. Failure to graduate would invoke her contract with the Spell Tracker, leading to a very painful death. Finally, I'd just like to give a sensitivity warning that this chapter deals with the death of an off-page character. Please don't continue if you think this might be a problem for you. You can catch up on earlier chapters by using the New series label at the top of this post, and thank you very much for reading 💕
11 A Chink in the Armor
the gymnasium as fast as I could, hoping that the scream of frustration would
remain trapped in my throat. By the look on Gabe’s face, he wouldn’t be
following me. Probably just as well. I’ve never felt so angry.
When I judged
I was far enough away, I went into an empty classroom, grabbed the first chair
I could reach, and threw it at the wall. It glanced off a map of Europe,
tearing a hole in the middle of it, and landed on the table underneath with a
satisfyingly loud crash. I glanced behind me. “Taceo!” I shouted.
more chairs followed in quick succession. Unfortunately, it was much less rewarding
now that I’d silenced the noise. I picked up a table and lifted it to shoulder
height, ready to launch it at the wall, but started to feel ridiculous. I set
it back down and leaned against it.
just as annoyed with myself as I was with him. This was exactly the kind
of thing he enjoyed, and I should have been prepared for it. Time was never
straightforward. No matter what the dimension, it could be a gift or a burden,
and he manipulated it to his advantage either way.
As a guardian,
I only saw him at the worst of moments, when an assignment faced the ultimate
penalty. It didn’t happen often, but still more often than I would have liked.
He always treated me like a child, telling me I didn’t understand how necessary
he was. How no one else was prepared to do what he did.
doesn’t mean you have to enjoy it,” I’d said on one particularly painful
laughed. “Are you telling me your noble sensibilities would tolerate me better
if I bowed my head and wept? No. I am not in the business of hiding the truth
and certainly not to protect the likes of you.”
my hands off the table and turned around. The room was a mess. I should
probably replace the furniture by hand rather than take the easy way out with a
spell. Screw that.
I said, and watched everything return to its former state. The table was the
last to move, and I had to jump out of its way to avoid being knocked over.
the silencing spell and turned to the doorway, where Cass was standing with a
look of disbelief on her face.
not what you think,” I said immediately.
her bangs out of the way. Her eyes were wide but she showed no sign of being
afraid. “Really? You know what I’m thinking, too?”
course I don’t. Sorry.”
she took a couple of steps into the room.
you don’t know what I’m thinking, how do you know I didn’t guess right?”
I said, before I could change my mind. I’d wanted to try using magic on her
anyway, and after what he’d just done with the deadline, I figured I had
nothing to lose.
don’t…” She blinked.
to see if the spell would work. Suddenly aware that I was watching her far too
closely, I forced myself to walk up to the map of Europe and I leaned in to
examine that instead. My right hand reached into my pocket to grip my phone, as
if I could somehow prevent it from receiving a text telling me what a huge
mistake I’d just made.
No text, and no sound from Cass, either. I turned around. She was frowning.
I said, pretending surprise. “How long have you been standing there?”
just happened?” she asked, ignoring my question.
what do you mean?”
remember,” she said. Her breathing sped up. “I don’t remember. Oh God. I
it’s OK.” I walked up to her. “Everything’s OK.”
people always say that?” She gave me a frantic look. “It’s the most ridiculous
statement ever. It’s a lie. Why say it?”
swallowed. “Tell me what the problem is. What don’t you remember?”
an incredulous laugh. “Are you serious? I don’t remember. That’s kind of
I didn’t say that properly. I meant, what’s the last thing you remember?”
rubbed her forehead and attempted to steady her breathing. “I was looking for
you. You left the gym while I was on the other side of the court, waiting for
play to stop so I could cross, and you looked majorly pissed off. I thought I
might finally get past that façade of yours.”
I don’t have a façade,” I said indignantly.
raised her eyebrows. “Hello? Can we try to keep on topic? I’m more concerned
about the fact I just had another blackout than your ego right now.”
blackout? What does that mean?”
glaring at me for a few seconds, the fight seemed to go out of her. She pulled
out a chair and sat down. I took the chair next to her, moving it back a couple
of feet to give her some space.
happened after my father died.” She gave me a resigned look. “I assume you know
about that. Everyone does.”
know is that it happened when you were in fourth grade and he was Devin’s
that about sums it up. The thing is… I was fine at first. Well… not fine, but…
I lived through it, if you know what I mean. I was sad. I grieved for him, even
after the truth came out.
shocking, but I think on some level I must have known, you know? I don’t think
we were his favorite family. He got impatient a lot. Distracted.”
shrugged, and my chest tightened painfully at the thought of the brave
nine-year-old girl who’d lost her father twice over.
heard Dev was going around smashing up his school. I remember feeling sorry for
him. I was really close to my mom,” she continued, her voice getting quieter,
“and she told me everything would be OK. That the two of us was all we needed.
face went blank and I braced myself for what she was about to say. “Cross my
heart and hope to die. That’s what my mom said. And she did. She carved an X
under her collarbone, then slashed her wrists.
her after school one day. Her bed was covered in blood. I never knew one person
held so much.” She hesitated and raised her hand to cover her nose and mouth.
Her eyes were unfocused. “It smelled sweet and disgusting at the same time,
like air freshener in the trash or something. There was no note.”
lowered her hand. “I never knew what tipped her over the edge. The police kept
it all hushed up for my protection. The inquest was private. No reporters.”
I don’t know what to say.” My voice came out low and scratchy. I was determined
not to cry. It’s not about me.
Avi,” she said, mocking me. “No one ever knows what to say.” She sighed. “I
started getting blackouts a few months later after I started junior high. They
said it was probably the shock and wanting to forget what I’d seen. I had all
kinds of therapy and medication, tests for epilepsy, you name it. They were
never certain if the cause was physical or mental. One day I just stopped
folded her arms together and bit her lip. “If they’ve come back… I’ll lose my
driver’s license. I’ll have to declare it on my college applications. I won’t
be able to act anymore, and”—her voice broke—“everyone will feel sorry for me
know where to begin. All I wanted to do was put my arms around her and look
after her until she stopped hurting. I can’t even touch her. “It wasn’t
a blackout,” I said, going for the easiest thing to fix. “It was my fault.”
fault? Don’t be stupid. How was it your fault?”
I said, and waited as it all came back to her.
few seconds Cass just looked at me, speechless. Then she got angry. “You did
that to me? You made me think I was going crazy again?”
didn’t actually know about your blackouts when I…”
chair fell backward with a clatter and she leaned over me, fist pulled back. “You
complete and utter asshole. How dare you?”
me wanted her to land that punch. I deserved it, and the last thing she needed
to do was suppress her emotions more than she already had. However, the second
she touched my skin she’d be in agony, and I couldn’t let that happen.
I said, standing up and backing away.
knuckles tightened but her fist didn’t move. “You can kick me if you want,” I
said. “But you can’t use your hands.”
I can kick you?” She shook her head. “Is that a serious suggestion?”
nodded. She lowered her arm and I relaxed slightly. Too soon, as it turned out.
She sprang forward and kicked me extremely hard in the knee. I went down like a
gods, gods,” I said, clutching at my kneecap.
she repeated, standing over me. Her mouth twitched. “Just how many do you need
to help you feel better?”
I replied through gritted teeth. “Sano,” I added, and the pain receded.
I exhaled slowly. “What about you? Do you feel better now?”
I do,” said Cass. “I feel…” She trailed off and looked at me more closely.
“Have you ever had déjà vu?”
said quickly. “I don’t believe in it.”
grinned. “Really? You just believe in the twelve gods, then?”
no god of déjà vu,” I said defensively.
you get that scar?”
you want to know?”
knelt down on the floor, close enough to touch my face if she wanted to. “I
just… I think it has something to do with me.”
hell could it?” I said, scrambling to my feet and backing away.
know. I thought you could tell me. You’re the one rearranging the classroom
no answer to that.
scar has nothing to do with Cassandra Vryson,” I said, my voice rising. “I know
that for a fact, and that’s all I’m going say on the subject.”
sound like a teacher. Great strategy, Luca. Cass gets on so well with teachers.
she said, standing up. Her smile had gone. “We both have secrets we want to
keep. I won’t talk about this as long as you don’t talk about my mom.”
regarded each other warily for a few seconds. She took a step backward, then
another. I couldn’t let her leave. Not now. She’d voluntarily given me a
glimpse of her life path. This was my chance to help her. I had to do
something. She was nearly at the door before I had an idea.
should I?” she asked. “You made it pretty clear you were done talking.”
There are some… rules. And I won’t break them. I really can’t talk about the
déjà vu thing because the consequences would be irreversible. But there is
other stuff we can do.”
what?” she said.
and I’ll show you.”
raised her eyebrows. “I hope you’re not going to tell me to close my eyes and
make my lips into a pout.”
to suppress a smile. “I know this will come as a huge disappointment, but I
can’t kiss you.”
toward me until she was standing close enough that I could feel her breath on
my face. My smile faded. Her energy signature surrounded me, familiar and
exciting. The rest of the world disappeared. It was just the two of us.
want to kiss me, Avi?”
couldn’t stop myself. “Yes.”
to kiss you.”
trembled with the effort of keeping still. Desperately, I reminded myself she’d
experience terrible pain if my skin touched hers. Not to mention that she
might remember our shared history.
can’t.” I moved my head back a fraction. “Believe me, if there was a way to get
around this, I’d be taking it. Frigus,” I added, hoping the shock of the
cold air would help to strengthen my self-control.
looking,” said Cass. “For a way around it, I mean. Although… this is freezing.
I think the moment might have gone.” She rubbed her arms. “What were you going
to show me, if it wasn’t your amazing kissing skills?”
quick “Occludo… sero,” I closed and locked the door. Then I lengthened
my sleeves until they formed makeshift gloves and I took her hand.
Globe,” I said, “die 18 Iunii, 1600.” The classroom disappeared.