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Mortal Kiss: Fool's Silver *Chapter 1*
As the final bell of the school year rang at Winter Mill High, Faye McCarron could feel the excitement sparking in the warm air. All day, she and her friends had been discussing what they were going to do over the summer vacation. The memory of the strange, cold winter that had settled over the town just a few months previously had still not quite faded. Now, everyone was looking forward to enjoying long sunny days full of nothing to do but whatever they wanted.
‘Faye! Come on – we haven’t got all night!’
Faye looked up to see her best friend, Liz Wilson, standing beside the school gate. Liz was hopping from one foot to the other, full of impatience.
‘Hurry up! We’ve got outfits to choose! Or have you forgotten what’s happening later?’
Faye grinned. Of course she hadn’t forgotten. Lucas Morrow had decided to throw a huge end-of-year party at his mansion, and had invited the whole of their year. Although Faye’s Aunt Pam had officially become Lucas’s guardian since his mother’s disappearance, she couldn’t really live in the mansion permanently – she still had the bookshop to run. So Lucas had been living pretty much alone in the huge place since the events of the long winter. It was far too big for one person, but he frequently had visitors – and it was perfect for hosting a spectacular party.
Everyone was excited about it. Faye couldn’t wait – she’d been so busy finishing off school assignments over the past few days that she had barely even seen her boyfriend, Finn, properly. The party would be the perfect place for them to spend some time together, and her heart leaped just at the thought of it. But before that, she and Liz were going to get ready for the party together.
‘What’s the rush?’ Faye teased as she reached her friend. ‘We’ve got two hours before the party even starts. Anyway, we picked out our outfits yesterday, remember? I’m wearing the ditsy-print playsuit with my new wedges, and you’ve got your colour-block dress.’
‘Yes, but that doesn’t allow for emergencies, does it?’ Liz said as they started off in the direction of town.
‘What sort of emergencies?’
‘Those outfits were fine last night, sure. But what if we put them on now and decide they don’t work?’ Liz asked. ‘You think it won’t happen to you, but it can. That’s why you should always build in extra outfit-emergency time. Just in case. Besides, I thought you said Lucas wanted us to be there early, to help set up?’
‘He did,’ said Faye, ‘but I haven’t seen him all day. I tried to call him, but he didn’t answer. I figured he just couldn’t pick up and would call me back. Have you seen him?’
Liz shook her head. ‘No. Maybe he didn’t bother coming in. It’s not like we actually did any school work today, is it? He probably stayed home to prepare for the party. Oh my God, Faye, I’m so excited! Could this day get any better? The party of the year, and it’s the start of summer!’
In the event, neither of them decided to change their chosen outfits, although getting dressed still took far longer than they intended. Faye still loved the playsuit that she’d bought from MK. It had a scoop neckline, short puff sleeves, and the pale blue fabric had a print of tiny flowers all over it. Teamed with her leather strap wedges, she thought it looked great. Faye was lacking a tan after the winter, and anything bolder would have made her look sickly. But the soft colours went perfectly with both her pale skin and her brown hair, which had grown long enough to touch her shoulders. Meanwhile Liz’s dress was sensational, as usual – it was a one-shoulder, knee-length wiggle-fit, in a hot pink that showed off her dark skin and curly hair perfectly.
‘We’re late,’ said Faye, looking at her watch as they got into Liz’s car. ‘Where’s Jimmy? He is coming, isn’t he?’
‘Oh, yeah – he just wanted to go home first, to check on his mom. She’s not really been right since . . . well, since Mercy glamoured her. Jimmy worries about her. Which makes me worry about him!’
Faye smiled. ‘You two are so cute together. It’s great that you’re both so happy.’
Liz smiled back with a shrug. ‘I can’t believe I used to think he was a boring geek. Jimmy’s amazing.’
‘I always told you he was!’
‘No, you always told me he wasn’t a geek,’ Liz corrected. ‘And honestly, he really is. He’s just not . . . boring!’
Both girls dissolved into giggles. ‘He is different now, though, isn’t he?’ Faye asked, once they’d managed to stop. ‘Jimmy, I mean. Since he was bitten by the werewolf.’
Liz nodded. ‘Oh yeah. He doesn’t even need his glasses any more! Last week I asked him if he’d been working out – he’s so much more buff than he used to be. But he says he hasn’t . . . I guess it’s just a side-effect. He’s stronger. Not,’ she added cheekily, ‘that I’m complaining!’
They giggled again. ‘Finn really likes Jimmy,’ said Faye. ‘I think they’ve grown to be friends while Finn’s been teaching him how to ride the bike. It’s good.’
‘It’s nice that they get on,’ Liz agreed. ‘Oh my God, how awful would it be if our boyfriends hated each other? How is Finn, anyway? I mean, after everything that happened with his dad, and finding out about Mercy . . .’
Faye frowned slightly. ‘I’m sure he thinks about Joe, but he doesn’t really talk about it much.’ It was something that she had wondered about herself. Sometimes it felt as if she and Finn had been a couple for ever, but other times it all felt very new. Finn was such a private person, and Faye didn’t want to pry. ‘He even seems to be avoiding the pack,’ she told Liz. ‘I haven’t seen him with them for weeks.’
Finn Crowley had come to town as part of a group of bikers led by his father, Joe. They had been tracking Mercy Morrow, Lucas’s mother. Mercy was a supernatural being who had lived for centuries, selling the souls of others to the underworld in return for long life and beauty. Joe and his bikers were cursed men – werewolves who had once served her – but they had decided to put a stop to Mercy once and for all. It was Mercy who had brought the winter to Winter Mill, and all because she had seen Faye’s face. Mercy had realized that Faye was identical to a woman Finn had loved many, many years before, and knew that the pair would fall in love. She had conspired to make them think that sacrificing that love would save the town – but really, the ritual was designed to curse everyone. Joe had dragged Mercy into the underworld instead, but not before revealing that Mercy was Finn’s mother – making Lucas Finn’s half-brother. It had been a lot to take in, for all of them. Sometimes Faye still woke up thinking it had all been a dream.
Dreams . . . She shifted uncomfortably in her seat, glancing at Liz. Dreams were something Faye was not enjoying at the moment. She’d been having the same dream, over and over, every night for weeks . . . She’d told Liz about it before – the wolf chasing her, always chasing her, through endless dark woods. Her friend had put it down to what had happened over the winter, and said they’d fade eventually. But they hadn’t.
‘Do you think you two will stay together?’ Liz asked, oblivious to Faye’s thoughts as she turned into the road that led up to the Morrow mansion. ‘You look so good as a couple. But all that stuff when you got together – thinking that you had to save Winter Mill and everything – that was heavy. And the idea that Finn’s been alive for so long . . . It must be difficult. You shouldn’t think . . .’ Liz trailed off.
‘I shouldn’t think what?’
Liz shrugged. ‘I don’t know. I guess I worry that you think you have to stay with him because of all that destiny stuff. But if you don’t want to – if you’d rather—’
Faye interrupted. ‘I do want to. Honestly, Liz. I love him – I know I do. And it’s so deep inside me that nothing will ever get it out. So however difficult things seem at times, it’s where I want to be.’
Liz glanced over with a smile. ‘Have you told Finn that?’
Faye shook her head. ‘No. I keep thinking it’ll sound stupid. Anyway, it’s too early. We’ve known each other for less than a year. I don’t want to scare him off!’
‘Less than a year can feel like hundreds of years with the right guy,’ Liz pointed out as her car tyres crunched on the pebbles of the driveway that led up to the mansion. ‘And if you don’t tell him how you feel, how will he know?’
Faye looked at the huge stone building looming in front of them. ‘How could he not know? Anyway, we’ve got time. There’s no need to rush.’ She assumed that was what Finn would say, anyway. He was so much older than her, had seen so much more of the world . . . This was why she’d been making an effort, over the last few weeks, not to spend her every free moment with him, and to concentrate on school work. She sighed to herself. Maybe she should just stop thinking about it so much; Finn probably didn’t worry about this stuff at all!
Liz pulled up and the girls climbed out of the car.
‘I thought you said Lucas was going to make it a garden party?’ Liz asked, frowning at the well-kept but empty lawn that circled the house. ‘I imagined he’d have tables and chairs out here.’
Faye nodded, puzzled herself by how quiet the place was. She’d been expecting all the big glass windows to be open, with music pouring out – Lucas loved music, and it was rare for him not to have his iPod plugged in and playing. ‘That’s what he said. Maybe he’s waiting for us to help him get them all out.’
Liz looked at her watch. ‘He’s cutting it fine, then,’ she said. ‘People will start turning up soon. What’s he been doing all day?’
‘Let’s go find him,’ Faye suggested, heading for the mansion’s huge front door. She pulled the cord of the large antique doorbell that was set in one wall of the porch, hearing the loud ring echo inside the house. The girls waited, but there was no sound of footsteps, or a shout to let them know that Lucas was coming.
‘Hold on,’ Liz said. ‘Look . . .’ She pointed at the door, and Faye realized it was open a fraction. Liz shrugged, reaching out to push it open. ‘He is expecting us – maybe he thinks we’ll just let ourselves in.’
‘Lucas?’ Faye shouted, her voice echoing as they walked into the huge hallway. ‘It’s just me and Liz. We came early, to help!’
There was no answer. Beside her, Liz shivered. ‘Sorry,’ she whispered when Faye looked at her. ‘I just . . . suddenly got the creeps.’
Faye nodded. She’d felt it herself – a sudden chill after the hot sunshine.
‘Lucas?’ she called, walking across to the bottom of the grand staircase. ‘Are you here?’
There was still nothing. Both girls looked at each other, confused.
‘Maybe he’s gone out to get something in town?’ Liz said. ‘Something he’d forgotten to get for the party?’
‘Wouldn’t he have just called us to pick it up?’ Faye asked doubtfully. She pulled her cellphone out of her pocket and dialled Lucas’s number. She heard the ringing tone, but there was no answer. They couldn’t hear it ringing anywhere in the house, either.
Then, from somewhere distant, they heard music – a pumping bass line. At first Faye thought it was coming from somewhere in the mansion, but it quickly grew louder, and she realized it was coming closer. With a screech of tyres a car pulled into the driveway – and then another, and another.
Faye and Liz went outside to see Candy Thorson’s brand-new shiny black BMW draw to a sharp stop beside Liz’s car. It was full of their friends – and so was Jennifer Perino’s, which pulled up beside it, and Madoc Sinclair’s, beside that. Candy jumped out of the car, the music dying immediately as she killed the engine.
‘Faye! Liz! Wow, you both look great!’ Candy hugged them both, her blonde curls bobbing in the breeze. ‘But why is it so quiet? Where’s the music? We can’t have a party without music!’
‘We can’t find Lucas,’ Liz explained.
‘What do you mean, you can’t find him?’ Candy asked as the crowd headed for the mansion, chatting and laughing.
‘He’s not here. Look, maybe we should come back later?’ Faye suggested. She was worried about the idea of starting the party without their host.
‘Oh, don’t be silly,’ said Candy. ‘He can’t have gone far. Look – his car’s still here.’
Faye and Liz both looked in the direction Candy was pointing. The mansion had a separate garage – which was bigger than Faye’s entire house – and the doors were open. Lucas had sold all his mother’s cars, and now only had one – his bright red Ferrari. It was parked in the corner of the garage, sleek and still.
Candy grinned. ‘He’s probably just got lost in this huge house of his,’ she laughed. ‘Come on – let’s get some music on to help him find his way back to us. I know where his sound system is – he showed us last time we came up here, remember?’
She disappeared into the house. A moment later, music began to play, flooding out of the open windows on the breeze. There was a cheer.
The party had started.
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