Girls' Night Out

(A book in the Faeriewalker series)

A Novella by Jenna Black


For my readers. Thanks for all the love you’ve shown the Faeriewalker series!

Chapter One

At the risk of making myself sound like a geek extraordinaire, I was really looking forward to the first day of school. It wasn’t the first time I’d felt that way—when school was out, I had to spend way too much time in the presence of my mother, the drunk—but it was even more welcome this year than most. This year, it promised a kind of normalcy that had disappeared from my life the moment I’d set foot in Avalon, the one place in the universe where Faerie and the mortal world intersect.

You see, I’m a Faeriewalker—a rare individual who has just the right mix of Fae and mortal blood to be able to travel freely in both the mortal world and in Faerie. I can also take magic into the mortal world and technology into Faerie. My unusual powers—and my late aunt Grace’s attempts to use me as a weapon to usurp the Seelie throne—had made me very unpopular with the two Queens of Faerie, and I’d been living in a bunker-like safe house under threat of death all summer. I had reached an agreement with Titania, the Seelie Queen, and she was no longer out to kill me, but my status with Mab, the Unseelie Queen, was less clear. I had recently revealed that unlike Faeriewalkers past, I could actually sense and use magic, and that my magic could turn a Fae into a mortal. I hoped the knowledge would encourage Mab to just leave me alone as long as I didn’t bother her.

My trip to Faerie, and my revelation of my power, had certainly made me safer than I’d been since the moment I’d set foot in Avalon. However, safer wasn’t the same as safe, and my dad, who had legal custody of me, insisted I remain ensconced in my safe house under twenty-four hour guard. Whenever I

complained, he pointed out that until I was eighteen, it was his decision to make, and that ended any argument. I wished I had another power: to speed up time so I could turn eighteen already!

My dad was paranoid enough that he’d categorically refused to let me go to school like a normal person. He thought having me out in public on a predictable schedule for seven hours a day, five days a week, would be inviting trouble. I’d wheedled, cajoled, begged, and otherwise made a major pain in the butt out of myself and finally got him to break down and compromise. To keep me from feeling like I was being buried alive in my safe house, Dad had agreed that I could audit one class at Avalon University so I’d be around other kids every once in a while. Kids who were all older than me, true, but after the things I’d gone through during the endless summer between my junior and senior years, I wasn’t sure I could even relate to ordinary high school kids anymore.

At first, I’d wanted to choose a class my best friend, Kimber, or my boyfriend, Ethan, were attending, but one look at their schedules had convinced me to strike out on my own. Kimber’s a brainiac sixteen-year-old who’s already a sophomore and studying to be an engineer. Her classes were way over my head and not even remotely interesting to me. Ethan is Kimber’s older brother, but he’s just a freshman, and his schedule is full of required classes—ones I would have to take myself for credit next year when I presumably would enroll in Avalon U full time.

I ended up choosing History of Avalon, because I was woefully uninformed about the history of my adopted home and because Kimber had had the professor before and said he was really good.

I was both nervous and excited as I made my way from my safe house to the university, carrying a backpack with my textbook, a notebook, and a handful of pens over my shoulder. Finn, my bodyguard, had offered to carry it for me, but I wanted to cling to any pretense of normalcy I could, so I stubbornly insisted on carrying my own bag, even if the textbook did weigh about thirty pounds.

I’d been anxious enough to get started that I’d managed to get us to the lecture hall almost a full fifteen minutes before class was scheduled to start, but at least I wasn’t the first one there. A handful of seats in the auditorium-style lecture hall were filled, and I paused for a moment at the back of the room to decide where to sit. I glanced back over my shoulder at Finn.

“Are you going to sit with me?” I asked, hoping and praying he would say no. He was a really nice guy and all, but he wasn’t exactly unobtrusive—he was a Knight of Faerie, and he dressed like he was playing a secret service agent in an action movie, complete with dark glasses no matter the weather, indoors or out. I might as well carry a billboard saying “Look at me, I’m not normal” if he was going to sit next to me.

Finn gave me an ironic half-smile. “I’ll sit in the back.”

The few kids who were seated had taken notice of us already. Out of the corner of my eye, I could see more than one curious face watching us. Even if Finn sat in back, people were going to know he was with me, but at least I wouldn’t be flaunting it.

“Thanks,” I told him, then blew out a steadying breath and started down the stairs with an eye toward snagging a seat in the center. I didn’t have the guts to actually sit next to some stranger, but I was hoping someone would eventually end up sitting next to me. Maybe someone who would come in later and hadn’t seen me arrive with a bodyguard in tow.

Pretty soon, the classroom started to fill up, students at first trickling, then pouring in. I was used to being the new girl in school, my mother having made us move about a thousand times while I was growing up, and I knew there were a lot of freshmen, who were all as new as I was, but I still felt a pang as people came in in pairs or groups, or as friends were reunited after the summer break. I even started to feel a bit sorry for myself, sitting alone in the middle of the room with empty seats all around me. People who already knew each other were sitting in little clumps together, and the really extroverted strangers were striking up conversations, but the more introverted people, like me, picked seats that weren’t directly next to others.

When the clock struck eleven and Professor Matheson stepped in through a door at the front of the room, about three quarters of the seats were taken, and there was still no one sitting on either side of me. I told myself it didn’t matter. It took a special kind of person to make friends with someone who never went anywhere without a bodyguard, and I was lucky to have any friends at all. I shouldn’t be hoping for more. I glanced back and saw that Finn had taken an aisle seat in the back row. He probably thought he looked more inconspicuous that way, but the people near him kept turning to peek at him when he wasn’t looking.

The class started to settle down, conversations dying out as the professor arranged his lecture notes on the podium. The sudden hush made it easier to hear one of the doors at the back squealing open, and I—along with half of the class—looked over my shoulder at the new arrival, expecting to see an ordinary student running late, perhaps flustered and embarrassed by his or her not-so-silent entry.

The girl who stepped through that doorway was anything but ordinary. She was Fae, with the typical height and willowy build of her people, but that was about the only thing about her I could label typical. The Fae are mostly blond, with a few redheads here and there to spice things up. The only naturally dark-haired Fae I’d ever met was the Erlking, the leader of the Wild Hunt, and he was one of a kind.

The girl who stood in the back of the room, taking her time to look over the available seats at her leisure, not a bit flustered at being late, had long, jet-black hair with bright purple streaks in it. She wore a flimsy black camisole top—I would freeze to death wearing that in Avalon, where summer temperatures soared into the sixties, usually with mist or rain to add to the chill—paired with an ultra-short black skirt of fluffy tulle that looked almost like a tutu. The skirt revealed about twelve yards of leg, encased in purple and black striped stockings with a couple of artful tears in them, and calf-high unlaced combat boots. She finished off the outfit with about three tons of silver jewelry, including countless rings in her ears, as well as a ring through her eyebrow and a ball through her lower lip.

Clearly, this girl knew how to make a grand entrance. The fact that

practically everyone in the room was staring at her didn’t seem to faze her a bit.

She was so striking that for half a second, I failed to notice the Fae man who’d slipped through the doorway behind her, and that’s saying something. He was built like a football player and dressed much like Finn in Secret

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