The Alicorn Court - Megan Linski Page 0,1

campus at this hour. It was too early. We’d precisely picked this time to meet up to avoid being overheard. I walked directly to the clocktower at the center of campus. I opened the door to the tower— it was already unlocked— and wound the spiraling stairs upward to join the rest of my friends in the clock’s inner workings.

Gears turned as I reached the top of the tower, and I entered into an open square room that contained the mechanisms of the clock. The clock face was circular, massive and see-through, like a window that displayed the main part of campus and the city beyond. The large hands of the clock moved steadily, while a loud ticking noise clicked in the background as the clock moved through time.

It reminded me just how little time I had.

Students weren’t allowed up here, but we’d figured it just as good a place as any to speak privately. My heart grew less heavy as I took in the faces around the room.

She wasn’t here yet. I nearly breathed a sigh of relief. Kiara and Alexei were in the corner, poring over a book together; Odette was humming a tune and pirouetting in place, while Theo practiced some of their lifts. She gave him a fond smile every time he raised her upward, though it seemed more friendly than romantically inclined.

Stefan had his arm over Delmare. They spoke in soft voices, heads tilted toward each other as they remained in their own little world.

It pained me to look at them. They had what Emma and I had lost. I could not feel happy for them. I could only feel pain.

I hadn’t seen my friends all summer. When the semester ended, we’d all agreed to travel to different places, searching for clues on the locations of the Crystals of Harmony. I’d been hopping from place to place on the ruse of doing just that, but to be honest, I had bigger issues. I’d just gotten back from Africa a few days ago. Another failed attempt.

You’ll never be rid of me, the leshane cackled. I ignored him.

As the door shut behind me, heads snapped up to look at me. Jaws dropped open. Odette put a hand over her mouth, while Alexei’s eyes widened.

Stefan’s face was hard to read. He chewed on his lip, as if considering what to say to me before deciding against it.

Theo voiced what everyone was thinking. “Wow…” Theo said. “You look…”

“Like shit? I know.” My hair was unkempt, and there were dark circles around my eyes— not to mention bruises, from where I’d hit myself in the face trying to make the demon stop talking.

Yeah. I was a mess.

Kiara stepped forward. “I knew you were taking the breakup hard, but… Ethan, this isn’t okay.”

“I’m fine, Kiara. Honestly.”

“Fine? You look like you’ve dropped twenty pounds,” Alexei protested.

“I’ve merely been busy.” I hadn’t eaten. Sleep was an afterthought. I’d refused myself both in an attempt to starve the demon out. Hadn’t done any good.

Delmare gave a sigh. Her lips twisted into a frown as she said, “Ethan, you’re a dumbass.”

“I fully accept that.” I stared at the floor. That they were even welcoming me back into the group was honorable of them. I didn’t deserve to have friends.

“But that doesn’t mean you aren’t our dumbass,” Delmare rushed to say. “You made a mistake last semester when you hurt Emma. A big one. But we forgive you for it.”

“Has she?” My voice came out in a rasp. I was all but half a man.

Odette played with her hands uncomfortably. “We haven’t talked to Emma much,” Odette confessed. “She spent some time back in Detroit for the summer, at some big skating camp. She wanted to be alone.”

The little wolf was running away from her problems. Something I desperately wished I could do.

It was at that point the door opened behind me. I turned. I felt a physical hit to the gut as a familiar and beloved smell hit my nostrils, making my instincts go insane and my wolf to howl in longing.

The sight of her red hair cascading down her shoulders was enough to make me want to cry. Her green eyes sparked against the yellow light, and her beautiful body was inches in proximity to mine, driving me mad with a want I could never have again.

I could feel the demon physically retreat at her presence. My chest grew lighter, and the glow of my magic warmed against me. It was like if she