The heart paperweight hit him in the chest. Shocked, he tried to catch it, but missed. It bounced off his wide, masculine upper body and whizzed off. It stopped in the middle of the room, hung in the air like something filled with helium, and then it rocketed forward, aiming again for Burnett. And like the first time, it didn't miss.
But this blow was much ... much worse.
Right in the crotch. Or as Della would say, his "boys" took a direct hit.
"What the hell!" he growled. He doubled over in pain. The heart moved back, and he snatched the leather-covered, sand-filled paperweight from the air, and squeezed it until it burst. Unfortunately, when the sand exploded from his tight fist, it regrouped in the shape of a heart and managed to hover in the air.
"Is Miranda in here?" Burnett growled, still doubled over.
Kylie, realizing the screwed-up witch he sought was her, raised her hand and said, "Stop." When nothing happened, she remembered to extend her pinky. "Stop!"
The sand fell to the floor and scattered like ... well, like sand.
Holiday sat back up in her chair, looking too stunned to speak.
Burnett, fist still pressed into his thigh, rose up to his full height.
"Damn!" Holiday muttered finally.
"Damn!" Burnett echoed.
Kylie looked from the shocked Holiday to the hurting vampire. Kylie thought his outburst was due to the pain, but nope. He stared at her forehead.
"Interesting," said Holiday.
"Strange," Burnett followed, never taking his eyes off Kylie's forehead.
"Just lovely!" muttered Kylie. Their dumbfounded expressions were a foreshadowing of what was to come at breakfast. Leave it to Kylie to be the mealtime freak-show entertainment.
"You're a witch," Burnett said in disbelief.
"Appears that way," Holiday agreed.
"No. I'm a chameleon." And each time Kylie said it, she believed it a little more. It didn't matter that she could reverse spells and turn animals back into their normal form, or that she'd sent a heart flying around the room and ball-busted a vampire. Her father told her she was a chameleon and she believed him.
"Maybe chameleon means something else," Holiday said. "Maybe it has something to do with you being a protector. For that matter, all the other gifts could be due to that as well." The camp leader's phone rang. As if needing a distraction, she eyed the caller ID. Raising her gaze, she met Kylie's gaze with empathy.
"What now?" Kylie bellowed.
"It's ... Tom Galen, your stepfather."
Just lovely, Kylie thought. A call this early couldn't be about anything good. So, what new disaster did he want to add to the mix?
"Is everything okay?" Derek shot inside the office door. "I heard a commotion," he muttered.
"No," Kylie said just before Holiday answered the call. "At this particular moment, I can't think of one single thing that's okay."
After breakfast, Kylie and Miranda walked out of the dining hall to head back to the cabin. Della had some kind of meeting with Burnett. Kylie had begged out of Meet Your Campmate hour due to her sucky start of the day. Plus she was supposed to go to the falls with Holiday and Burnett as soon as Burnett talked with Della.
"They like you. They're just surprised," Miranda said, apologizing for the entire witch group, who'd done nothing but gape at Kylie's forehead during breakfast. "I mean, we all thought you were vampire or werewolf. Some people had bets on you being a shape-shifter, but none of us ever thought you'd turn out to be one of us."
"You seriously took bets on what I was?" Kylie asked.
"A couple of warlocks started it." She frowned. "Sorry. If it makes you feel better, I lost five bucks."
Kylie shook her head in disbelief. Not that it was just the Wiccan gals or guys reacting. The entire Shadow Falls breakfast crowd had ignored their runny eggs and raw bacon and had eyes only for Kylie's newly emerged witch brain pattern. Or they had until Della, bless her cold heart, tried to help.
The vampire had vaulted up in the air a good five feet, landing with big thump on top of the table-her black tennis shoes landing half on and half off several campers' trays of food. Then with concern for Kylie, Della announced that Kylie had just whispered a curse and anyone gawking at her forehead would be turned into a flatulent goose.
It was, of course, a bald-faced lie. Since Kylie had sent the heart paperweight zipping around the room, she'd been super-conscientious about not moving her pinky. Not an easy feat either when trying to fork up runny eggs. Nevertheless, her two pinky fingers were on time-out until Kylie figured out the witch thing.
Kylie stopped out front of the office and debated popping in and asking Holiday if she'd ever gotten in touch with her stepfather. The two were playing phone tag. Kylie also wanted to check and see if Burnett had heard from Malcolm Summers, her real grandfather.
He'd told Burnett he would be here tomorrow, but what were the chances of that happening now when he'd had his phone disconnected and dropped off the face of the earth? Kylie suspected it was because of Burnett's tie with the FRU. Then again, maybe he just didn't care about her. It wasn't as if he'd even known his own son, her father.
That thought stung until she realized it didn't make sense. If it were true, why would he and her aunt have come to the camp pretending to be her father's adoptive parents? The fact that they'd come disguised as humans reinforced that he didn't trust someone at Shadow Falls. And that someone had to be Burnett because of his connections to the FRU.
"Don't you just love Della?" Miranda asked. "She's a pain in the ass, but when it's about protecting us, she steps up to the plate, or on the plates." She giggled. "I'll bet she stomped on about six breakfast platters this morning."
"I know. She's great." Even if the plan backfired.
"I mean, really? A flatulent goose? Where does she get these ideas?"
"I wouldn't know," Kylie muttered. Frankly, she wasn't even completely sure what flatulent meant. Nevertheless, feeling overwhelmed, she decided to chalk it up to a learning experience. Not only did she have a word definition to look up, but she'd learned another important lesson-that being stared at wasn't any worse than when people refused to look at you. Nope, not one person chanced even giving her a quick peek after Della's warning. Flatulent must be really bad.
"This is still so cool. You are a witch like me!" Miranda rubbed her hands together with complete glee.
Kylie wished she shared Miranda's optimism. "I still don't believe it. I don't care that even Holiday half believes it," Kylie said, and then added, "You do know it could change, right? I was all human and now I'm not." And her dad told her she was a chameleon. She believed him.
"But this is the first time you've shown a real supernatural pattern, so it's probably real." The little witch did a butt-wiggling victory dance. "Aren't you over-the-moon excited?"
For Miranda's sake, Kylie plastered a smile on her face, but the over-the-moon comment repeated in her head, reminding her of a certain werewolf.
"I wonder why Lucas wasn't at breakfast," she said aloud. Not that she was all that eager to tell him the news.
"I don't know," Miranda said, still wearing her toothpaste ad smile. Then her smile faded. "Are you worried he'll be disappointed that you aren't were?"
"No," Kylie said, not sure if it was an out-and-out lie. She wasn't worried he'd be disappointed; she was worried he would be devastated. Her heartstrings gave her a few emotional pulls and a knot tightened in her throat.
"Is there any legendary bad blood between weres and witches?" Kylie asked.
"Nothing that I know of," Miranda said. "I mean, weres don't typically like any race but their own. But they don't dislike witches as badly as they do vampires."
Kylie supposed she should be grateful she hadn't morphed into a vamp.
Then again, she had a feeling nothing other than her turning into a were would make her acceptable to Lucas's family and pack. Could their relationship survive the prejudices?
"Do you want to go to the cabin and try out a few spells?"
"Oh, hell no! I don't want to goof anything up."
"You won't," Miranda said. "I'll be with you. I won't let you mess up."
Right, like you've never messed up. The words shot from Kylie's brain and landed on the tip of her tongue, but she managed to swallow them. Just because she was hurting didn't give her the right to hurt others.
"You're just nervous. You gotta trust me." Miranda's bright smile widened even more. "We witches have to stick together."
"Sorry," Kylie said. "I've already managed to zap Burnett in the balls with a paperweight. I'm taking the day off."
"Seriously? You did that?" Miranda snorted with laughter, causing frowns from the group of weres walking past.
Kylie spotted Will and called out. "Will?"
The dark-haired, brown-eyed teen turned around and appeared annoyed. Was it rude to call a were's name? Or was his expression due to more personal reasons? Were all of Lucas's pack members going to start giving her the cold shoulder?
"Yes?" His tone matched his expression.
Kylie moved a few feet away from Miranda. Standing in front of Will, she tried not to let his discontent intimidate her. "Lucas wasn't at breakfast. I was wondering if you know where he is."
Will glanced at the woods, as if stalling. While Kylie couldn't read minds, it was almost as if he were trying to come up with a lie. Why?
"Is something wrong?" she asked.
He motioned the other weres to go ahead. Then he waited for them to get out of hearing range before he spoke.
That had to mean something was wrong, didn't it?
"Lucas was summoned by the Council," Will finally said.
"Is that a bad thing? Is he in trouble?"
"I ... don't know. That's between him and the Council."
Concern pricked at Kylie's mind. "Do you know when he'll be back?"
"No." He shuffled his feet against the rocky path, then glanced off at the woods again before facing her. "I'm sorry," he added, and something about the tone in which he offered the apology, even the sincerity in his eyes, told Kylie he meant it-but why? For what was he apologizing?
"What are you not telling me?" she asked. "Please just tell me."
"If you have questions, you should ask Lucas, not me."
"So something is going on?" She stepped closer, feeling her heart beating against her ribs. Without warning, her gaze shifted to the woods, and she felt it again. As if the trees were calling her name. But with her heart stuck on her concern for Lucas, she focused on the problem at hand, and on Will. "Is it about me?"
Will's discontent grew more noticeable in his frowning expression. "I don't know. I have to go." He walked away. She watched him leave, silently, and got a nagging feeling that something was brewing.
Will disappeared down the path. Kylie's heart remained on Lucas, but her gaze shifted back to the woods where the trees slowly stirred in the gentle breeze. It was the oddest feeling, like being really thirsty and seeing a glass of water. This feeling, the calling, was even stronger than the call to the falls.
What the hell was going on?
Miranda cleared her throat, and Kylie glanced back at her roommate. "Are you okay?" Miranda asked, and moved closer.
Kylie rolled her eyes. "Why does everyone ask that question when it's obvious that I'm not?"
"Probably wishful thinking," Miranda answered, bumping Kylie with her shoulder, and smiling in sympathy. "Don't worry. If Lucas likes you enough, things will work out. It did for Perry and me."
Kylie breathed in. Then she breathed out. She started walking again, consciously fighting the temptation to take a flying leap into the woods-to figure out who it was and why they wanted her attention so desperately.
They walked another five minutes without talking. Kylie concentrated on the rhythmic sound of her own footsteps, which created a sense of calm. But the scream, a cry of sheer panic, pretty much shot that calm all to hell.
Kylie stopped so fast she nearly tripped and grabbed Miranda's elbow to steady herself. The sound came from the very place she felt lured-the woods. Deep in the woods.
"What is it?" Miranda asked.
Kylie looked at her. "You don't hear that?"
Miranda tilted her head. "Hear what?"
Kylie stepped a foot or two closer to the woods and tried to identify the voice of the screamer. The high-pitched sound told Kylie it was female, but there were no notes of familiarity to it. None.
It didn't matter. She felt it-the familiar fizz, the telltale buzz in her blood that happened when she moved into protective mode.
Her breath caught in her throat; everything inside her said someone needed her. She had no choice but to answer the cry for help. She bolted toward the woods.
"Kylie!" Miranda screamed out. "Don't run!"
Right before Kylie entered the thicket of trees, she called back for Miranda to go get help.