Secret Beast - Amelia Wilde
The heater in my Toyota Camry blows snowflakes into the air.
I’m not a car person, but I’m pretty sure that’s not supposed to happen. The saving grace of this situation is that I’m almost home from class. Fall semester is over. I’m one semester away from graduating with a degree in literature. And I won’t have to drive to campus tomorrow getting tiny shards of frozen snow in my eyes.
The Camry huffs dutifully down the hill to our house, tucked as it is toward the back of Bishop’s Landing. My headlights land on the front porch with its spinning wind chime that changes colors based on wind direction. The light swings over the patches of chipped siding and the dent in the garage from when my dad backed into the door a few years ago.
Bitter wind cuts through my coat on the run from my car to the front door, shoulder bag banging against my hip. I need a different bag for next semester. One that can balance the weight of my laptop and books. The weight of my entire life right now. Some Constantines would just hire an assistant to solve this problem. We’re not that kind of Constantine. If we were, we might also have skipped town to avoid the soul-crushing dark and cold.
Nothing, nothing, feels better than pulling open the door and stepping into warmth and light. After the frigid outdoors the air feels hot on my face.
My brother Cash—all the Constantine good looks, none of the Constantine money—comes out of the kitchen with a big, steaming mug in his hands. “You’re letting all the heat out.”
He’s wearing a cable-knit sweater and glower, which is...not like him. I make a show of shutting the door. He’s usually pleasant. Easygoing. “Did something happen?”
When you have an inventor for a father, things happen. Sometimes, those things are whimsical color-changing wind chimes. Other times, they’re chemical fires.
“The house is still standing,” Cash says darkly. “He—”
“Haley, sweetheart, you’re home.” The warm delight in my father’s voice crashes through Cash’s bad mood. My dad appears at the door to his workshop, patting at his hair like he just woke up and discovered the rest of us are here. He hurries across the room, presses a kiss to my cheek. “Look at you. All these heavy things. Let me take your bag.”
“I can get it, Dad.” I don’t stop him from taking the bag. These are the things that matter, in the end. A dad who loves you enough to help you out of your coat. He hangs it up on a hook by the door, a big smile on his face. “The heater in my car is broken, I think. Can you give me a ride back from Hal’s tomorrow?”
“Sure, honey. Sure.” His grin isn’t proportional to my broken heater. He’s happy, the kind of happy that only comes from an engineering breakthrough. “Did Cash tell you the good news?”
I throw a look at my brother, who scowls back at me over his mug. My dad doesn’t seem to notice. “What’s the good news?”
Dad’s entire face brightens, throwing out several more megawatts of excitement. “You know I’ve been working on my energy project. A long time now, Hales. I’ve found an investor.”
“Daddy, that’s amazing.” I throw my arms around him because screw Cash’s bad mood. This is our dad, and he’s happy. Even so. Worry pricks at the back of my mind. Even the less-rich Constantines know that you can’t trust everyone who walks around with a checkbook. Even my absent-minded professor of a father knows that. Right? “Who is it? Is it official?”
“It’s a Morelli.” Cash has never sounded so flatly pissed.
My father’s face falls and my heart drops with it. I turn my back on my brother, pulse pounding. “Dad, you know you can’t work with the Morellis.” The heat in the house closes in, but I’m glad for it. If we lost this heat, if we lost this house, I don’t know what we’d do. “The Morellis are evil people. And more importantly, they hate Constantines.”
Determination powers on in my dad’s eyes. “They understand the vision, Haley. That’s what matters. He understands what I’m trying to do.”
“We can’t, Daddy.” I hate the way my voice rises to match the dull panic at the pit of my gut. “They could be trying to hurt you. I know how much the world needs your invention, but this is dangerous.” My mind sputters to a halt, fried by a day of making