All manner of preening, fluffing and adjusting was happening, as everyone vied for the only two mirrors in the packed changing area of the lakeside public restroom. The jangle of female voices reached decibel levels that made Clare’s eardrums ache.
“Get out here!” Eva ordered over the din.
“I’m half naked!” Clare shouted back through the changing stall’s mildew scented curtain. LB threw back the curtain and Clare screeched throwing her hands up to cover herself.
“Perfect!” LB proclaimed. “Except those.” She narrowed her silver eyes at Clare’s feet.
“These are my favorite shoes.”
“They’re boy shoes!”
“Well, next time you see him you should give them back.”
“C’mon!” Eva grabbed Clare’s wrist and pulled her out and through the swarm of girls. “Make way!” she hollered, elbowing her way to the only full-length mirror. “Scoot!” She shoved Clare in front of it earning glares from those ejected.
Clare stared aghast at herself. It was worse than she’d thought.
The spaghetti strap halter-top was both cropped and sparkly pink, the green denim skirt just covered her butt; its only virtue was it had pockets in the front for her phone and her lipstick. Her star pendant winked at her from its place around her neck though and she gave it a fond glance and reminded herself of her vow for tonight.
“Yeah, yeah you’re gorgeous sweetie,” said a girl elbowing her aside. “Let someone else have a turn.”
“Sorry,” Clare mumbled.
Eva hissed at the girl flashing her silvery sharp teeth before leading the way to the door. Once outside Clare drew in a full breath, her ears ringing as she knew they would.
LB rubbed her hands together. “So, where should we start? Drinks, food, or boys?”
“How about all three?” Eva pointed to across the beach to the tree line where the food carts were set up and a Remy High School run burrito cart manned by three boys.
“Your eye is uncanny,” LB said. “Very…” she turned to Clare, “…what is the human term for very enticing?” she asked her.
Clare shrugged. “Hot?”
“Hot!” LB and Eva said together, giggling. They then took off across the beach—eyes on the prize.
Clare trailed behind the two heat seeking flirts, gripping the hem of her skirt, not at all confident it wouldn’t ride up as she walked. With her other hand she worried her star pendant between her thumb and forefinger.
As she and her friends drew near the burrito cart Clare’s stomach bottomed out. Eva’s eye was uncanny all right; of all the boys at Revel she had set her sights on the biggest creeps in Remy. Clare groaned and used a favorite of her mother’s human swears under her breath.
Mitch Abrams, Shane Hall and Bobby Raubenau were known as Remy High Schools “dream team.” They were the popular, on every team, rich guys who thought the whole town revolved around them and their families.
Last year, during her stint as a senior Clare had dubbed them the “Jerkwad Squad.” It was especially true of Bobby, their leader. His family had been cousins to the long gone Remy clan of whom founded the town. All the Raubenau’s carried on like they were royalty. Clare snorted, they wouldn’t know royalty if it bit them on the—
She looked up to find herself being addressed by his highness himself.
“Clare,” she corrected.
“Yeah, Clare, right,” He gave her a slow and thorough look that made her a little queasy. “Wow, if I’d known all that was underneath the freaky crow uniform, I would have dropped by the library more often.”
Crow clothes: the snide term the cool kids had for her usual black jeans and t-shirt combo.
Clare was winding up with a smart comeback when Eva poked her in the ribs and LB threw an arm around her.
“Will you not introduce us to your friends, Clare?” LB smiled coquettishly.
Clare mumbled introductions and LB and Eva locked onto Mitch and Shane, leaving her side to chat them up. Giggling, hair flipping and not so subtle leaning over the small counter of the cart to display a goodly amount of cleavage and soon the girls’ quarry were fairly well charmed. Clare would be impressed by their proficient skills if she hadn’t been so nauseated by their recipients. Which left her still in Bobby’s crosshairs.
“Right,” He smiled that homecoming king of the world smile. “We’re about to knock off here, why don’t you ladies head on over to our spot, we got a primo set up.”
He’d phrased it like an invitation but Clare got he feeling he expected her to fall all over herself to comply. Like Hell!
“We would love to!” Eva practically screamed.
“Cool!” Mitch said. “There are blankets and chairs and stuff. You gals can set everything up just the way you’d like.” He winked and Eva’s eyes lit up.
“But I thought you wanted…”
“Shush!” LB hissed at Clare.
“Our treat for the food, beautiful.” Shane handed over the burritos. “I put extra crema on yours,” he told LB.
More winking, more giggling—gross! What was going on? It was the humans who were supposed to be enthralled not Eva and LB.
Again she trailed the girls and it seemed they had all but forgotten about her as they made for the Jerkwad Squad’s spot. It occurred to her that she could make a break for it; they probably wouldn’t even miss her, but when they reached the spot Clare stopped in her tracks.
A jumble of lawn chairs, blankets, a cooler and some wet towels lay in a heap on the grass. Did they really expect them to set up for them? More amazingly, she was stunned to see her friends begin to gamely pick their way through the mess.
“Are you kidding me?”
“Are you really going to play happy helpers for those three goons?”
LB looked up a defensive frown on her pretty face. “We’re just helping out. Being nice.”
“Being beguiled is more like.”
“They treated us to dinner, it’s the least we can do.” Eva spread a blanket making sure it was perfect.
Clare’s mouth dropped open. “It was their choice to give you free food. You don’t owe them.”
LB’s eyes narrowed. “If you don’t wish to stay that’s your choice!”
Eva nodded. “We hoped you would learn to be more sociable tonight Clare, but you’re not even trying.”
“I am trying, I really am. You don’t know those guys like I do though. “
“And maybe you don’t know them as well as you think.” LB said. “Isn’t Revel Night supposed to be about making friends?”
Clare was silent.
“So do what you want but we’re staying right here!”
Hurt then anger rose up and Clare was about to stomp away when she remembered something.
For all their bravado and boldness, this was Lilybelle and Eva’s first foray in the Mortal realm. They had both grown up in the Seelie court, their families highborn. They were used to refined manners where folk knew to follow protocol in dealing with the daughters of the aristocrats.
In the human world a girl grew a thick skin at an early age and learned to be wary. There was no free lunch, or in this case burritos.
She decided to stay, but only to keep an eye on her friends, who she hoped would wise up before night’s end; though she would be damned if she would lift a finger to help set up the boy’s spot.
Sitting outside the perimeter of blankets, trying not to flash her undies, she eyed her burrito and decided she’d rather eat dirt. Looking up she found herself being watched. The sorrowful eyes of a dog, its fur a mix of salt and pepper, looked longingly at her food.
“You want some, boy?”
The dog slinked forward a little, eyeing her warily.
“It’s okay, Pup.” Clare spoke gently and the dog walked over and sat beside her. She unwrapped the food and arranged it for him atop the wrapper. The burrito was gone in two big snarfs moments later.
Clare laughed, delighted at the dog’s manners. He then gave her what she took as a smile and wagged his tail then ambled off into the crowd.
“What are you doing?” Eva asked, having witnessed Clare giving away the sacred burrito.
She grinned. “Making friends!”
THE DARK STAR will be released on June 21! Preorders for Kindle are live now!
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