“What were you planning to do if it didn’t work?” Ezra asked, taking my empty glass from me and placing it on my nightstand. “Run for the rest of your life?” He gently helped me to sit on my own, making sure I was steady this time.

I nodded sheepishly, pointing down. “I’ve got a suitcase packed under the bed. It’s always ready. Just in case.”

All three scowled.

I didn’t blame them. I would have cut and run, leaving them without a second’s hesitation. If the situation was reversed, I would be upset too. “It’s what Antonio and my mom trained me to do. I’ve lived in constant fear my entire life. Try to,” I licked my suddenly dry lips, troubled I had upset my friends, “look at it from my point of view.” I paused, and added, “I’m sorry.”

Their faces softened incrementally, and they nodded one at a time.

Ezra murmured, “We’ll still have to come up with a plan to get her out if the trial Awakenings don’t work.”

“I don’t…” Jack cleared his throat. “I don’t want her to run.” His eyes met mine as he stuck his hands in his pockets. “I’d miss you too much.”

Ezra grunted. “That wasn’t what I said. I said we’ll have to come up with a plan to get her out. Not for her to run away from us.”

Pearl nodded firmly. “We’ll figure it out.”

I smiled, feeling a sense of bravery I had never felt before, knowing they were behind me. “I don’t want to run from you guys.”

Pearl said simply, “You won’t.”

Chapter Fourteen

Wiping sweat from my brow, I glowered at Felix. I had no clue where Ezra was right now, and apparently neither did Mr. Bertrand, so he had paired me with Felix. It was almost the end of class, thank God and, to my surprise, I wasn’t doing too badly. If you didn’t count the twenty or so times I had hit the mat.

But who’s counting, right?

“Your butt has hit the ground twenty-eight times,” Felix muttered, staring at said butt. Of course, he would count. “I can think of better uses for it.”

This was the first real time we had spoken since I had found out about his “elite” position. We hadn’t even spoken for the last hour. I still didn’t want to speak with him. “Don’t talk to me unless you need to.”

He slammed me against the mat and, as I tried to catch my breath, he lay over me, feeling all warm and big and very much male, reminding me why I had taken him as a regular lover in the first place. He grinned slowly. “I don’t need to talk to use my mouth, so I think I can follow that order.” He leaned down, his lips a breath away from mine as he whispered, “I’m only going to say this once. I did not have sex with you for my job. Not once.” His eyes lowered to my lips, and stayed there. Truth to all.

“Hey!” Pearl whispered sharply, unexpectedly at our sides. Her face was at our level on the mat. Except, that was all there was of her. A head. Sort of. It was almost transparent, like an apparition.

Felix jerked.

Even I had to hold back a scream. I had no clue she could do that!

Her see-through, golden eyes darted to Felix on top of me, narrowed. “Why is he lying on you? I thought…” The floating head shook, eyes back on mine. “Never mind. We’ve got more important matters to handle. Meet me outside the girls’ locker room. Jack’s already here with me.” She turned her gaze back to Felix. Glared. “That means get off her, ass**le.”

He growled, his panther voicing its annoyance. “She doesn’t answer to you.”

“No, she doesn’t.” Her eyes rolled before they met mine. “It’s Ezra. Come on.”

I nodded. “Coming.” The floating head disappeared. I slapped Felix’s shoulder. “Off. Now.” It was a command.

Again, his panther growled low hearing my tone but, nevertheless, he lifted off me. He had never defied me, which I was grateful for, but he was strong enough to cause problems if that was his intent. He grabbed my hand as I got to my feet, saying softly, “Seriously, Lily. Think about us. You have the wrong idea and we both want the same thing.”

I bit my lip, considering it, and eventually said, “I’ll think about it.” It had been really nice between us, and if he was telling the truth, then there wouldn’t be any reason for us not to be bed partners.

He grinned before I turned and walked away. I could feel his eyes. I glanced back, and yep, his heated gaze was on my butt. He hadn’t known I was going to look back, which proved that he thought me attractive. That was definitely a plus for him.

Slinging my book bag over my arm, I raced out of the locker room to where Jack and Pearl stood. They didn’t say anything, but Pearl put her cell away, which she’d had to her ear, and they turned and started running, so I followed. It had been three full months since Jack had found his sweet mate and, coincidentally, since I had told them about my hybrid nature. The time had flown by. Luckily, the Kings had stopped the babysitting gig a month ago for our study’s sake — our finals had been this week — and we had pretty much been together non-stop as, fortunately, our continual “grounding” didn’t restrict us from being with each other at the Kings’ houses.

We raced clear to the administrative building before we stopped, and Jack immediately filled me in. “Ezra’s in trouble. Big trouble. We aren’t sure why, but one of my classmates was gossiping about how they heard Mrs. Jonas yelling at him through her office door. Expulsion and jail time were mentioned.”

Pearl nodded, fixing her windblown hair. “Gideon just called and said he saw King Kincaid and King Venclaire’s cars stop in the parking lot from his classroom window.”

I took a steadying breath. This wasn’t good, whatever it was, if jail time was being threatened to a Prodigy. Pearl and Jack didn’t know anything else, so there was nothing really to ask, and we stalked into the receptionist’s area, giving the look to said receptionist, who shut her mouth real fast but, as soon as we were past her, we saw her get on the phone.

We picked up the pace.

The door to Mrs. Jonas’s office was locked, and we could definitely hear her yelling inside, so I — oopsy — vandalized school property by turning the knob and pushing so violently it broke the lock. And some of the doorframe. Everyone in the room turned to look at us as we continued to stalk inside.

Mrs. Jonas was there, red-faced. A Shifter named Rebecca was there. A Vampire named Viper — yeah, she thought she was hot stuff — was there. Ezra stood against a row of bookcases wearing a pair of silver-laced handcuffs on his wrists and his ankles, barely visible beneath his jeans.

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