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The Legacy of Androva Series

New Book, New Series, Twentieth Chapter 🏫

In the next chapter of Spell Tracker, Luca becomes increasingly desperate to access Cass's life path so he can keep her safe from the Spell Tracker's deadly contract. He also gets a surprise when Devin sends Mina and Gabe to him for some guardian-style help. Once Luca's shown them both a few potential futures, they might reconsider their recent decision. There's no sign that Devin has changed his mind about Luca, but Gabe thinks Luca has reason to hope...

You can catch up on chapters one through nineteen via the New series label at the top of this post, and thank you very much for reading 💕.

20 A Different Way

It became apparent over the next few weeks that I sucked at last chances. The more frantic I became on the inside, the more incompetent I became on the outside. He introduced no more restrictions. He hardly needed to. I was doing an excellent job of messing up on my own.
Cass was never alone with me. All of our rehearsing was done in class or with other students at lunchtimes. She never stayed late. Her foster parents had contractors in to do some renovations, and they expected her to come straight home after school to oversee things. She told me she owed them.
“It’s only for a month, Avi. This is their big project, so they can sell and move somewhere better. They stood by me through the blackouts. I can do this small thing.”
It wasn’t “only a month” from my perspective. It was most of the time I had left. “What about the weekend?” I asked. “Can’t you come back to school then?”
“And get caught on school grounds out of hours? No. I’m on a final warning. One more strike against me and I’ll be excluded. I might not graduate. It’s not worth the risk.”
The more I pushed, and I did push, the more upset she got, until we had a huge fight one day after classes finished. I held her locker door open, refusing to allow her to close it until she agreed to stay behind. My self-control was hanging by a thread. I was on the verge of using concesso right in the open hallway, when anyone could walk by.
She told me in no uncertain terms to back off, saying she was confused about her feelings and didn’t want to be alone with me again just yet.
“And what about your mom?” I said. “Isn’t she important? Or do you care more about your own feelings than hers?”
The second the words were out of my mouth I wanted to grab them back. I used dedisco straight away, but the expression of pain on Cass’s face took minutes to fade. I hated myself. I threw spell after spell at her in an attempt to undo the damage I might have done.
When she left to go home, she gave me a puzzled look, like she didn’t know what had just happened. You and me both. She promised to message me later. My phone chimed before I even made it back to the library.
I only brought the renovations forward by two weeks, Luca. It’s not like you needed the time, right? :)
No, you sadistic shit. It’s not like I need the time you keep stealing from me. Excuse me if I don’t smile back.
I needed to calm down. There had to be another way. Assignments could not be forced to accept help. I knew that. Yet I’d been behaving as if my strength of will alone could change the outcome.
Fortunately, the library was empty. The basketball team was playing away that evening, which meant a lot of students were traveling to the other school. With all the time spent focusing on Cass, at least I’d managed to stay away from Devin. He’d asked me, very politely, to give him a chance to think about everything. I’d agreed. How could I not? It was either that or lose him. I can’t lose them both.
Annoyed, I reminded myself that neither of them belonged to me. I went to the top floor of the library and along to the farthest, darkest section. I was going to approach this differently, and I was going to remain calm.
I began by making a long list of dates and locations. I didn’t have access to Cass’s life path, but I figured I knew enough to make an educated guess. If I could observe even some of what had happened to her, it might help me to understand where her darkness came from.
It wasn’t ideal. Traveling to another place and time directly, as I had with Cass to the Globe, meant that I’d temporarily be part of that place and time. And now that I had a physical covering, that could be… difficult. There was always non video, but it was still dangerous. Non video wasn’t invisibility. It worked best in a crowd.
Using the life path—staying in the shadows—was preferable. Like I’d done with Mr. Mason and Devin. Don’t think about Devin. I was about to start working my way through the list when there was a knock at the library doors. Who the hell?
According to my phone, and the darkness through the skylights, it was pretty late. The school should have been empty. I waited. The knock came again.
“Avi? Are you in there?”
It sounded like Mina’s voice. The last person I’d expected. Well, perhaps not the last. But close.
My first reaction was irritation. I decided to ignore her. She’d turned down my offer of help, after all. The day after she ran out of homeroom, she’d returned to school, head held high, daring people to challenge her. Her grip on Gabe’s hand had been a little too tight, and the smile on his face a little too fixed, but no one else appeared to be looking very closely.
“You want to know if I’m OK?” Mina had lifted her chin and stared me down. “I think you’re confusing me with the person in the mirror.”
She’d made to pat my cheek and I’d ducked away from her hand. Her entourage had laughed. I didn’t care. I’d tried.
I’d seen her in rehearsals, of course, and her performance as Don John was shaping up to be amazing. There was a hard and desperate edge to her delivery that really worked for the character. When she said, “If I had my liberty, I would do my liking,” I had no doubt she was talking about herself as much as Don John.
And now she was here, interrupting me in the middle of something much more important than whatever her latest crisis was. She knocked again. “Please, Avi. I’ve been waiting ages for the janitor to leave. I’m scared to be out here on my own.”
Muttering a series of swear words under my breath, I went to unlock the door.
“What in the hell do you want?”
I all but shouted at her, sliding the door open with so much force it escaped its runners and crashed to the floor. Mina jumped out of the way. For a second we stared at each other.
“Is it a bad time?” she said, making a fair attempt at sarcasm despite her shock.
“What gave me away?” I retorted, still furious.
“Probably the door,” said Gabe, appearing from just out of sight behind her. “Since you ask.”
“It was rhetorical.” I shook my head. “I thought you were both at the game.”
“No.” He stepped over the fallen door and into the library. Mina followed him.
“Look… I don’t know why you’re here, but I can’t—”
“Dev,” said Gabe, interrupting me. “Dev is why we’re here.” He squared his shoulders.
“Wait a minute,” I said. “I haven’t done anything to Devin. He asked me to leave him alone and I have.”
“No,” said Mina. “We’re not here to have a go at you. Dev’s the one who asked us to come.”
Devin. My whole body tensed. The feelings I’d tried to hold back rushed to the surface. It felt as if the library door had fallen onto my chest instead of the floor. “Is he OK?” I said. “Is there a problem?”
Mina watched me as I paced up and down. I put my hands into my pockets and took them out again.
“You really like him, don’t you?” she said.
I scowled, ready to use a spell to wipe the smirk off her face, but when I looked, her smile was genuine.
“Is he OK?” I repeated.
“About to win the game when I last checked,” she replied.
“Then, why…?”
“Dev said you could help us.” Gabe was looking at the floor. “Not that we need your help, or anything, but…”
“He basically said he wouldn’t be friends with us anymore unless we did this,” said Mina, her smile fading. “So here we are.”
Silence. “Er… did what?” I asked.
“I thought you’d know. Dev said you had experience as, like, a counselor or something. I don’t know,” she added, her voice rising. “I figured I had nothing to lose. It’s not like this whole situation can get any more screwed up.”
He wants me to be their guardian.
I sighed. I couldn’t refuse. Even if Devin hadn’t been the one to send them here, I would have wanted to do it. I could save them both so much time.
“Take a seat,” I suggested. They sat next to each other.
“What are you going to do?” Gabe folded his arms and glanced at Mina. “So we’re clear, I honestly don’t see the point of any of this.”
I tuned into their emotions and started to unravel the different strands. I didn’t want to tenuo everything. Just what was tangled up in this particular life lesson. Gabe really does hero-worship his brother. And Mina’s mother is… interesting.
Working fast, I soon isolated what I wanted. “Tenuo,” I said.
“What?” said Gabe.
Tenuo.” I said it again.
“Dude, no offense, but this is weird.” He made to get out of his chair, but Mina pushed him back down. A few seconds later, the spell had dissolved what I’d asked it to.
“It is weird,” said Mina. “It feels weird. But I don’t hate it.”
“No,” said Gabe, his voice quiet. “I don’t hate it either.”
They’d accumulated a lot of fear since the weekend of the party, layered on top of the shame and regret of the summer. Its sudden absence probably did feel weird.
“I want to check something,” I said. “And you’re going to have to trust me.” I got up and walked around the table to stand behind them. Their life paths were easy to read. They had agreed to do this for each other, to create the obstacle behind which the lesson lay.
I rested one hand lightly on each of their shoulders. Gabe flinched. Oh. He likes me. He must have a thing for Light Mages. The sooner I show him who else is out there, the better.
“OK, so you’re boyfriend and girlfriend now,” I said. “Maybe you’ll go to the same college. Maybe you’ll get married, have kids, all of that. Maybe you’ll be able to fool yourselves and everyone else for a very long time.”
I showed them. The ending wasn’t dramatic. There were no breakdowns or affairs, no acrimonious divorce, and no death-bed revelations. But the grief was excruciating. They loved each other too much not to recognize what the other had given up.
Mina was crying. She was half-convinced already. Gabe stiffened. I could sense his stubbornness. He probably thought it was a fair price to pay for a safe, ordinary life. For his brother’s approval.
“But what if you chose something different?” I said. I didn’t rose-tint it. It would be tough at first. But every other path contained moments of bliss that eclipsed all the bad times. They could be themselves and it would be more than enough to pass their life lessons.
Before we returned to the library, I selected a potential next kiss for each of them. A kiss where there was no agenda, only chemistry. We drew as close as I dared. I knew they recognized the difference. Their emotions were clear. Hard to ignore, in fact. Wouldn’t you say, Gabe?
When I murmured, “Rescindo,” Mina protested.
“No, don’t. I want to see more. I want…”
I lifted my hands. “You can have it,” I said. “As much or as little of it as you choose.”
Gabe shifted in his chair. “How can I… how am I supposed to go back to…” He trailed off and looked at Mina guiltily.
“You’re not,” I said gently. “You’re supposed to go forward. Esto fortis.” I looked at Mina, too. “Estote fortes.”
The spell settled in place. It was a start. If I survived, I would come back to check on them, and on Mr. Mason too. They’d need more help once the initial euphoria wore off, and I’d never left an assignment unfinished.
“Well,” said Mina, half laughing, “I’d have had counseling before if I’d known what I was missing. How did you do that? It was…” She ducked her head, embarrassed. “I mean, it felt real.”
I wondered if I should force them to see it as a dream. I didn’t want to. Teenagers were more capable than adults of accepting the extraordinary. And we were less likely to be believed if we told anyone. Sad, but true.
“It’s just what I do. At least you can tell yourself you were right,” I said to Gabe. “There is something strange about me.”
“No shit,” said Gabe. He smiled to take the edge off his words. “I think we should split up,” he said to Mina.
“Can I dump you in the cafeteria in front of everyone?”
“Mina!” I said, dismayed.
She giggled. “Just kidding. Mutual agreement it is, then.”
They left the library looking happier together than I’d ever seen them. People were going to think it was the most amicable breakup in history. Gabe turned in the doorway. “Dev likes you. I know something happened, but I also know Dev. Give him time.”
I nodded. I don’t have time. But he can have as much as I’ve got to give.
When I was alone again, I reinstated the door with a quick, “Exsercio,” and returned to my list. There were a few hours left until morning and I didn’t intend to waste any of them.

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