Home > The Luminaries (The Luminaries #1)(9)

The Luminaries (The Luminaries #1)(9)
Author: Susan Dennard

What if art school is her only option? Ms. Morgan will have had the right of it, and Winnie will be right back here, digging an application out of her locker. Then she’ll spend the rest of her life drawing … Drawing what? She doesn’t even know. She just knows it won’t be nightmares.

The smell of bergamot and lime drifts into Winnie’s nostrils. Then a familiar voice asks, “You okay?”

Winnie pries her face off the metal and finds Jay beside her. He leans against the next locker, no books in hand or backpack in sight. There is, however, a crease on his forehead that suggests he might have just awoken from a nap.

His gray eyes reach Winnie’s then quickly skate away.

“Werewolf,” Winnie says. She turns toward him and mirrors his pose, one shoulder against the locker. “That’s what you thought it was this morning, isn’t it? You didn’t think vampira horde, you thought it was a werewolf.”

“Hmmm,” he replies, staring over the top of her head. “And why do you say that?”

“Because I found the halfer’s feet outside the boundary. There were teeth marks on them. And,” Winnie adds, “you said you’d followed tracks. Were they wolf tracks?”

He doesn’t answer. Instead he shifts his attention to the thinning traffic. “And I presume you told someone?”

“Of course.” She fiddles with her jacket zipper. “I told Mario.”

“Anyone else?”

“Well, no.” Zip, zip, zip, zip. “Should I have?” She doesn’t add that she avoids the Council if she can. The last time she went to them about what she was certain was a melusine kill, they dismissed her with laughs that were a lot harder to stomach than Mario’s.

Melusine don’t kill, Dryden Saturday had said. And then Erica’s mom, Marcia, had added, Don’t blame yourself, Winnie. It’s not your fault that you’re so out of practice. Except the way she’d said it had made it sound like it was definitely Winnie’s fault and she should definitely blame herself.

“Mario will pass along the info if I’m right,” Winnie adds. “He’s waiting to see the Wednesday kill coordinates before he confirms.”

“Interesting,” Jay murmurs, though nothing in his tone sounds interested. He looks like he is about to fall asleep standing, and Winnie abruptly realizes that Jay isn’t waiting for her to answer him so much as telling her, This is not my problem, speak to someone else. “Well,” he says with a pat on her shoulder, “keep up the good work.” He pushes off the locker as if to leave.

But Winnie grabs his flannel sleeve. “Why didn’t you say something?”

“About?” His eyebrows lift. The red mark from his nap stretches long.

“About the halfer. You could have just told me it was a werewolf kill.”

“Except,” he counters, prying her fingers off him with a gentle but firm grip, “we both know you wouldn’t have listened. Now, if you’ll excuse me, I’m going to be late for Spanish.”

“Like you care about being late.”

He doesn’t disagree, just flips a hand in the air and strides away. And as much as Winnie dislikes him, she does appreciate that he stopped to check on her. Somewhere inside all that lean haggardness, a heart still resides.

 

 

CHAPTER

8

 


It is raining as Winnie waits in front of HFHS for Darian to arrive. Because it is her birthday, he insisted on picking her up, and because she would always rather have a ride than take the local bus, she accepted.

As one of only sixteen students who don’t attend the Sunday estate in the afternoons—and as the only student who didn’t willingly give up Sunday training because she wants to move out of town one day—she waits alone in front of the school. The other students are already gone or huddled together, their own special clique who can’t wait to leave Hemlock Falls and the world of the Luminaries behind. They would have taken an application from Ms. Morgan and filled it out right away.

Meanwhile, for Winnie, there has never been a single day when she felt she wanted to leave. For a few years after Dad’s departure, Darian had decided he would. Unlike Winnie, he’d never wanted to be a hunter. His dream was bureaucratic: to one day lead the Wednesday clan and be on the local Luminary Council. But thanks to Dad, that dream had been obliterated.

An outcast—even if it’s only temporary—can never join the Council. Ever. Unlike the rules for hunter trials, that conveniently never mention outcasts, the rules for Luminary councilors are very, painfully clear.

So off Darian had gone into the wider world, hoping he could find a place for himself outside. But after one semester at Heritage University, he’d come right back. Because at the end of the day, even if he’s stuck being a coffee boy for the Council, it’s better to be here in the world he knows. The Luminary cause will always define him. He will always be loyalty through and through.

Culture runs thicker than blood. It was something Dad used to say about the clans, and though Winnie hates admitting it, he wasn’t wrong.

Winnie is also loyalty through and through. Hemlock Falls is all she has ever known. Fighting nightmares is all she has ever wanted to do. So while it’s great that those other people want to leave town—while it’s even kind of nice that Ms. Morgan sees so much potential in Winnie’s art—here is where Winnie is meant to be.

When at last Darian arrives in Andrew’s old white Ford Ranger, a drizzle thickens the air. Winnie’s hair is soaked through. Her jeans too, and her hoodie because she’d panicked over her new jacket and shoved it into her backpack. Is leather waterproof? Is that leather waterproof? She decided to take it off just in case.

Darian stops in front of Winnie, brakes squeaking. “Are those the new glasses Mom got you?” he asks the instant Winnie swings open the passenger door. His skin is sallow—almost anemic—in a way that can only mean it has been an especially tough day working for Dryden Saturday.

“Yes.” Winnie sighs and slumps inside. Her backpack lands on her feet with a thud.

“You should just wear your old pair.”

“I can’t.” Winnie sighs a second time and yanks off the glasses. Water droplets coat the new lenses. “It would hurt Mom’s feelings. Are they really that bad?”

Darian doesn’t answer. Just pushes his own glasses up his own hooked nose. Unlike Winnie, he inherited the Wednesday Mediterranean hair: so brown, so glossy, so thick.

“Check the glove box,” Darian says as he pulls onto the main street that cuts through Hemlock Falls. The sidewalks are empty thanks to the rain, and the truck’s slashing windshield wipers are the only sound.

Everything is gray.

Winnie obeys, a smile perking her lips, and she quickly opens the glove box. Because Darian is the living embodiment of a color-coded spreadsheet, and because he will organize anything that anyone will ever let him near, each item is in its proper sleeve, each emergency supply (matches, snacks, and even a glass-hammer in case the truck ever ends up underwater) in its proper cubbyhole.

He would have done so well as a Thursday. (Family motto: Always prepared. Never without a plan.)

Nestled within the orderly lines of the glove compartment is a tiny, gray velvet box. Too small to be pens or markers or a new sketchpad. Curiouser and curiouser. Winnie slides it out and opens it, holding it to the hazy afternoon light.

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