"You waiting for a call?" Kylie asked Hayden Yates when she walked into his classroom ten minutes later and he was holding his cell.
"Hoping." He frowned and looked around as if making sure they were alone. "It's Jenny. She's left home. God only knows where she is."
Kylie bit down on her lip. "If you found her, what would you do?"
"What do you mean?" Suspicion made his eyes tighten.
"Would you take her back to her parents? If she's run away, it's probably because she's like you when you were young, and she can't handle that lifestyle anymore."
His suspicion faded. "She doesn't know how hard it is to be completely alone."
"She wouldn't be alone," Kylie said. "She'd have you."
He frowned. "I know nothing about dealing with a teen."
Kylie rolled her eyes. "You're a teacher. You deal with us daily."
"I teach, I don't parent. There's a difference. But discussing this is silly." He ran his fingers through his hair. "She's young, she's naive."
"She's not that naive." Kylie remembered Jenny standing up to Derek and how she helped them escape.
"What if I knew where she was?"
Hayden glared at Kylie. "Christ! The alarm?"
Kylie nodded. Hayden frowned. "Do Burnett and Holiday know?"
He blew air through his teeth. "If the elders find out she's here, they'll expect Burnett and Holiday to bring her back."
"I know," Kylie said. "That's the problem."
Hayden locked both of his hands behind his head. "And Holiday and Burnett will have to do it. They can't legally keep her without some serious consequences."
Kylie sighed. "That's the other part of the problem."
He pressed a hand on his desk. "This is so screwed up."
Kylie's mind raced. "I want to talk to Holiday and Burnett about it, but if this whole Mario thing calmed down, I think I'd have a better chance of convincing them."
He shot up. "Where is she right now?"
"She's staying at Derek's."
He looked puzzled. "Derek?" Hayden's expression went from teacher to big brother and Kylie got the feeling Derek could be up against some issues.
"It's better than my place because Burnett is watching me like a hawk. When Jenny jumped the gate, she couldn't get close to me because I had shadows. Jenny and Derek met the night I escaped and she thoughtshe could trust him. And she's right. Derek's the nicest guy I know. He would never ... you know."
"He better not ... you know!" Hayden bit out.
"I think it would be safer to move her to your place. Not because of Derek. But..."
He exhaled. "It would be safer if she went back and-"
"No!" Kylie said. "Just give me some time. I think I can solve this."
"How? She's not mature yet."
Kylie pointed to her pattern. "I'm not completely mature and I'm doing just fine."
"You can really say that with a straight face?" he asked. "You have a murdering rogue after you. The FRU is chomping at the bit to get their hands on you to test you. In my book that's not doing okay."
"Just give me a few days. Please."
"You can't fix this, Kylie," Hayden said.
Hayden's earlier words echoed in her head. The FRU is chomping at the bit to get their hands on you to test you.
For the first time, Kylie saw this for what it was. A window! "I can try to fix it," Kylie said. Maybe die trying, Kylie thought, but maybe not. Besides, staying alive might not be in her cards anyway.
She popped off Hayden's desk and started walking backward to the door. "I gotta go. I'll tell Derek to bring Jenny to your place after classes today."
During lunch, Kylie waited to see if Lucas showed up. She sat beside an angry Della, who scowled at her the whole time because she'd heard Kylie had gone off with Steve. Across from her sat a suspicious Miranda, who'd been pre-warned by her shape-shifter and Kylie's shadow that she was acting strange.
Perry was wrong. She wasn't acting strange, she was acting scared. Yet even scared, she knew it was the right thing. Her gut told her.
Her mind shot away from her fears when Lucas walked into the room. He wore a navy T-shirt and his older jeans, the ones that were faded in all the places the material caressed his body. His hair looked windblown as if he'd been out on a run. In less than a week, they'd see a full moon. No doubt he ran to burn off some of the anxiousness.
He looked around the room.
She met his dark blue gaze head-on.
He started toward her, without even going to get a food tray. When he sat down, his shoulder brushed against hers. She dropped her fork and glanced at him. "Would you be up to skipping class for practice?"
His brows tightened. "What's up?"
Was she that readable? "I've already cleared it with Holiday." And the camp leader had asked the same question. What's up, Kylie?
She gave Lucas the same answer she'd given Holiday. "I feel like practicing." Face it, she couldn't tell the truth. Not here. But she planned on telling him when they were alone.
"How's your window?" she asked.
"Still jammed. But I'm working on it."
The optimism in his voice had her smiling. He grabbed the roll off her plate.
When she looked at him oddly, he said, "I'll need some kind of nutrition to take you on. You seem extrafeisty today."
"You're right. You'd better eat the rest of my salad, too," she teased.
He leaned his head down and whispered, "I love you."
Love you, too, Kylie thought, but couldn't bring herself to say it yet. She wanted to save it until all their windows were open and life offered them promise. And more than anything, she wanted that promise.
As they walked to Lucas's cabin to collect the swords, Kylie tried to figure out how to tell him about what she was doing. Instinctively, she knew he would fight her on it. And today of all days, she didn't want to fight.
"So this window you mentioned, you got a plan to get it open?" she asked.
He nodded. "It was what you said about the elders being young at one time. I remembered not too long ago my grandmother asking about one of the elders on the Council. She said he and her twin sister had fancied each other when they were young, but that she'd already been promised to someone else. I hadn't even known my grandmother was a twin. When I asked about her sister, she said she'd died. But I got a feeling there was more to the story. I went to see her this morning."
"And?" Kylie asked.
"She confessed that her twin killed herself the day before she was supposed to marry the other guy."
"So you're going to go and talk to this elder?"
"It's not that easy. He wouldn't agree to see me. But he might agree to see my grandma and she could perhaps talk him into seeing me."
"Did your grandma agree to do it?" Kylie asked.
"No," he said, frustration sounding in his voice. "She's stubborn. I'm supposed to go meet her for tea in a couple of hours." He sighed. "Tea always softens her a little. I think I'll be able to convince her."
"I think you will, too."
They arrived by the lake, and Kylie still couldn't find a way to tell Lucas her plans. So she just let it slide for now. They warmed up for a good twenty minutes, practicing the same moves he'd taught her.
Kylie didn't need to watch him to keep up. But she watched him all the same. She loved how his body moved, with strength, with control, and the way his muscles rippled under his jeans and cotton T-shirt.
Cotton had never looked so good.
He stopped the warm-up exercises and faced her. "You ready?"
She nodded. They held up their swords against each other. He pulled back and moved in, his blade swiping in the air a good six inches from her. She followed his lead, and after five minutes, she felt like they were really fighting for the first time.
The sense of danger didn't hold her back, it actually enthralled her. Who knew deep down she was such a thrill seeker?
She felt the sweat pour from her brow. And in the quick glances she caught of him, she saw the sheen on his skin and the damp shirt clinging to his chest. Wet cotton looked even better than dry.
"You're amazing when you fight," he said, sounding winded.
She looked up and lost her focus, never realizing how deadly that little mistake could be until she felt her blade make contact.