This one's for my dad!


Act normal, I told myself as I pushed through the front doors of Erin Heights High School. Everything’s going to be just fine.

That thought lasted exactly thirty seconds. Then I saw Melinda, my best friend, waiting for me by our lockers. The look on her face immediately made me nervous. She looked way too excited about something.

It was eight thirty on a Monday morning and freezing cold outside. The roads were sheets of ice that only looked like roads. Everything else was blanketed in thick snow. Christmas break was still a whole week away. Obviously, in my opinion, there was nothing for Melinda to get all that excited about.

It was probably nothing. But I couldn’t help being on edge. After all, I now had a secret that had to be kept from everyone, including Melinda.

A week ago, I was a normal, boring teenager.

Then I met my father for the first time and found out he was a demon. And not just any demon: he was also the king of another dimension, called the Shadowlands.

Which made me a princess — a demon princess.

So very not normal.

That was the secret I now had to keep from everybody. After all, I didn’t live in the Shadowlands. I lived here, in the real world. With homework, crabby teachers, and a curfew.

Not that anyone would believe me if I actually told them the truth. It sounded all kinds of crazy, didn’t it?

I approached Melinda warily. I hadn’t spoken to her since Saturday morning — during a quick ten-minute phone call in which I pretended I was sick to get out of going to the mall with her. I’d been recovering from my near-death experience in the Shadowlands, when my demonic aunt Elizabeth had tried unsuccessfully to kill me and my father so she could take over the throne. That I wasn’t up for a few hours of shopping the next day didn’t make me a bad friend — just one who needed to sleep in as long as possible.

This morning the blonde, model-pretty Melinda looked as perfect as she always did. She was the queen of the “Royal Party,” which is what a group of the most popular kids at Erin Heights were called.

“Nikki!” Melinda greeted me enthusiastically.

“Hey, what’s going on? You look like you’re ready to explode.”

“There’s a new guy starting today in our grade,” she said. “Wait till you see him. He’s gorgeous.”

“New guy?” I repeated. “That’s why you look like you just won the lottery? There’s a new student. Big deal.”

She had a serious perma-grin thing going on. “I think I’m in love.”

I relaxed a bit. Happily, this seemed to be an issue that had nothing to do with me. I could deal with any new student Melinda thought was hot.

Not a problem.

I shifted my heavy backpack to my other shoulder. “I thought you only liked older guys.”

She shrugged. “I’m making an exception to my over-sixteen rule. Rumor has it he’s a foreign exchange student, but he doesn’t have an accent.”

“You’ve talked to him?”

“Not yet. But Larissa bumped into him and he said ‘Excuse me’ and asked for directions to the principal’s office. She’s so lucky.”

I tried to refrain from rolling my eyes. Larissa and I didn’t get along that well. “That’s definitely one of the words I’d use to describe her.”

Melinda worked on the combination to her locker and swung it open.

“Nice crown.” I nodded at the top shelf inside.

“Thanks. I want to keep it close. It makes me happy.” She ran her fingers over the shiny silver plastic headpiece tipped with snowflakes. She’d been crowned Winter Queen last Friday night at the school’s formal dance. “I’m still dying to know how everything went with you and Chris. You guys left so early and I haven’t seen you since.”

With that, she gave me a huge grin, as if she thought Chris Sanders and I were soul mates and she was taking the credit for setting us up in the first place. Which, admittedly, she kind of did.

“There’s not too much to say,” I began, trying to think of a way to change the subject as quickly as possible.

Melinda looked over my shoulder. “Oh, here he comes now. Hey, Chris!”

My face froze and I slowly turned around.

Chris Sanders stopped walking, right in the middle of the hallway, and his eyes widened a little when he saw me. He was just as good-looking now as the first time I’d seen him when my mom and I moved here two months ago — all tall, broad-shouldered, and blue-eyed. I’d developed an immediate crush on him. I had been so thrilled when he’d asked me to Winter Formal, you have no idea.

Funny how things changed.

“H-hey, uh, Melinda.” Chris stuttered the greeting in an awkward manner that majorly conflicted with his usual confidence. “And … Nikki … um, good to see you.”

I pasted a smile on my face. “Yeah … you, too.”

Melinda looked at us each in turn, confused.

Then again, she didn’t know what happened between Chris and me when we left the dance early. He’d had too much to drink and cornered me in the back of an empty limousine. I freaked out and tapped into my demon side. We’re talking black leathery wings, horns, talons, extra strength, the works. A teenage she-demon who could kick butt.

I’d … sort of kicked Chris’s butt.

Well, he totally deserved it.

Unfortunately, he now knew my secret. I was really, really hoping that he’d convinced himself he’d imagined it all. I mean, he was pretty drunk.

“You’re coming to my party on Saturday night, right?” Melinda asked after a long, uncomfortable moment of silence passed among us in the busy hallway.

Chris nodded stiffly. “Wouldn’t miss it.”

“You have to choose a name for the gift exchange. So do you, Nikki.”

The frozen smile on my face was starting to cramp. “Sounds like fun.”

“Yeah,” Chris agreed halfheartedly. For just a moment I thought he was going to leave without another word, but instead he looked directly at me. “Nikki, I … I want to talk to you.”

“Now?” I squeaked.

I really hated it when I squeaked.

“No, but soon. Really soon. It’s important.” He gave me a significant look and then walked away.

He wanted to talk to me. About what?

Like I had to ask.

I could deal with him. Sure. I’d just convince him that he’d seen things. Spiral- horned, black-winged, red-eyed things that threw balls of energy in self-defense. While wearing a fancy dress and

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