Home > Day Zero (The Arcana Chronicles #3.5)(7)

Day Zero (The Arcana Chronicles #3.5)(7)
Author: Kresley Cole

Tableau: A young man wearing a red robe, holds a wand skyward while pointing to the ground with his free hand. On a table before him lies a pentagram, a chalice, a sword, and a cane. A bed of roses and lilies grow at his feet, vines trailing above.

Icon: Ouroboros.

Unique Arcana Characteristics: Speaks a mysterious magician language when he conjures illusions.

Before Flash: “Problem” kid from California, sent to visit his extended family.

Backwoods, North Carolina

Day 0

“I heard you used to live in a mansion in Malibu,” the girl said.

What was this chick’s name again? I racked my drunken brain. A double-barreled name. Tammy-Something. Uh, what was she doing on the couch with me? She was Buck’s girl. “Yeah. I used to.”

Until my parents had exiled me.

Only for the summer, they’d said. Finally my time in the woods had been dragging to a close.

Then my folks had enrolled me in school here. They had tricked me.


Tonight, I’d guzzled a vat of Natty Light, but this fact wasn’t changing. All it’d done was make me more depressed.

Tammy-Something drew her tanned legs up under her, getting comfy. “This must be a big change for you. Going from Cali to the sticks.”

When I’d asked my aunt if her grits were non-GMO, she and the rest of the family had laughed till tears streaked down their faces. I told Tammy-Something, “You could say that.”

Back home, I’d surfed every morning before school with my best friends. Yet my parents had abandoned me in a place where I had no friends and surfing didn’t exist.

No. Freaking. Waves.

It was like my folks hated me. Which sucked. Because I missed the hell out of my mom and dad.

And it wasn’t as if I could control all this weird shit that kept happening to me. The illusions and hallucinations . . .

Tammy-Something twirled her shiny brown hair. “Is Buck gonna be back anytime soon?”

My oldest cousin was nicknamed Buck—because he’d killed so many deer. Their heads adorned the basement wall; their glassy, accusing eyes were giving me the wiggins.

He had a full gun rack in the back of his souped-up gas guzzler. Weirdly, he and I didn’t agree on conserving resources. Or anything at all, for that matter.

“Not likely,” I said. He and his two brothers had forced me out into the nearby woods on a mission to go shoot Bambi’s mom, and I’d reached my limit. So I’d conjured an illusion of the biggest deer imaginable, the second coming of trophy bucks. They’d set out after it like they were on a quest for freaking fire.

“Guess I’ll just wait down here with you.” Tammy rose and headed to the fridge, snagging two more beers. She was smoking hot in her tank top and cutoffs—but off-limits.

She returned to the couch, sitting a little too close for comfort. I didn’t want Buck to mount my stuffed head up on the wall.

She handed me another Natty Light. Had I finished mine? I accepted the can. A little different from the artisanal brand I’d favored in Malibu. “Appreciate it.” Was I slurring? The room seemed to tilt.

“How do you like school here?”

I hated Redneck High, home of the Fighting Hicks. Last week, one of my teachers had winked as he’d said, “I reckon we can chalk this dry season up to—heh-heh—global warming.” The cafeteria was neolithic. No gluten-free food. Nothing organic. Not even a juicer.

“It’s all right, I guess.” My mom had gotten out of this place at eighteen, heading as far away as possible, and she would never return—yet she’d ditched me here.

All because of a few pranks. Maybe she and my dad sensed something was really wrong with me.

When I’d been the only one who could see the illusions, that’d been one thing. But then I’d kinda started using them to jank others. And then I sorta hadn’t been able to stop. Even with my folks.

Since their divorce a couple of years ago, they didn’t agree on much, yet they’d agreed to cast me out of their lives.

“What are you thinking about?” Tammy-Something asked.

What I usually thought about: “Home.”

“A guy like you must have a girlfriend there.”

“Nope.” Despite my best efforts. I was just the happy-go-lucky buddy type to males and females alike.

She scooted in closer to me, her blue eyes locked on me like I was a target. In a lower tone, she said, “Maybe you could take me for a visit, Finneas. I’d kill to see California.”

I swallowed thickly. I was wasted, but I could swear she was putting the moves on me. Natty Light commanded me to kiss her.

I was leaning in when she grabbed my face and put her lips on mine. She had soft lips. They tasted like strawberries and beer. My eyes slid closed when she touched her tongue to mine.

She pulled me in closer, kissing me harder. This chick frenched me like Tongue was an Olympic sport and she was on a medal hunt. I was down. We maneuvered till I was lying on top of her.

In between kisses, she yanked off her shirt, revealing heaven.

I rose on straightened arms just to gawk. “Whoa.”

With a grin, she pulled a condom from her pocket. This just got better!

Though I always swaggered around like I’d done the deed, I . . . hadn’t. Was that about to change at long last?

As I watched in disbelief, she wriggled from her cutoffs and panties.

My eyes widened, my hands fumbling with my fly. We were really about to do this! While she opened the foil pack, I shoved my pants down. She reached for me, and I groaned.

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