Boundby Erica O'Rourke
I beat you. Twice. No magic, and I still beat you. And that was when I didn't know what I was doing. I smiled, cold as the winter sky outside. "Imagine what I'm capable of now."
Mo Fitzgerald has made her choice: A life in Chicago. A future with Colin. To leave behind the enigmatic Luc and the world of the Arcs. But every decision she's made, from avenging… See more details below
I beat you. Twice. No magic, and I still beat you. And that was when I didn't know what I was doing. I smiled, cold as the winter sky outside. "Imagine what I'm capable of now."
Mo Fitzgerald has made her choice: A life in Chicago. A future with Colin. To leave behind the enigmatic Luc and the world of the Arcs. But every decision she's made, from avenging her best friend's death to protecting the people she loves, has come at a terrible price.
As her father returns from prison and the Seraphim regroup, war breaks out in both her worlds. And Mo isn't the only one with secrets to hide and choices to make. The more she struggles to keep her magic and mortal lives separate, the deadlier the consequences. In the end, Mo must risk everything – her life, her heart, her future--or lose it all.
Praise for Erica O'Rourke's Torn
O'Rourke's heroine is refreshing: determined, spunky, and unpredictable." –Library Journal
"Fast-paced action, a mysterious underworld and a dark, exciting quest for vengeance. O'Rourke had me hanging on every word." –RT Book Reviews
"A beautifully written dramatic story of loss, destiny, sacrifice, and love." –SciFiChick.com
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By Erica O'Rourke
K Teen BooksCopyright © 2012 Erica O'Rourke
All right reserved.
Chapter OneThe problem with terrible ideas is that the people who have them don't recognize how truly awful they are until it's too late. After all, nobody deliberately chooses the worst possible course of action. They have great plans and good intentions. They're caught up in the thrill of the moment, seeing the world as they wish it to be, blind to any hint of trouble. You can warn someone that they're running headlong into disaster, beg them to stop, plant yourself in their path. But in the end, people have to make their own choice.
Even if it's a terrible one.
My father's coming home party was a perfect example of good intentions gone awry.
"This is ridiculous," I said to Colin. "Who throws a huge party for someone fresh out of prison?"
My mom, that's who. I'd tried to talk her out of it—I felt less than celebratory at the prospect of my dad's return—but she'd insisted. Then I'd argued that a small family gathering at the house might be more appropriate. But for once, my mother wasn't concerned with propriety.
So I was stuck at my uncle's bar with everyone we'd ever known, waiting for my dad to walk in the door for the first time in twelve years.
Around me, the crowd was growing impatient, their small talk taking on an irritable note. I should have been setting out bowls of peanuts and pretzels, but instead I slumped against the back wall and watched a game of darts. "You know she's hoping for one of those big reunion scenes. Like we're all going to hug and cry and be a happy family again."
Colin's hand found mine and squeezed, but his eyes swept across the sea of people, searching even in the dim light of the bar. "Just hang in there a little bit longer."
"I don't know why I even agreed to come," I said.
"Because it's important to your mother," my uncle said, appearing beside us. Irritation flickered across his face at the sight of my fingers linked with Colin's. "Be grateful I told her you had to work, or you'd have been off to Indiana along with her. They'll be arriving any moment, so start practicing your smile."
I bared my teeth. "How's this?"
"I'll not have you spoil her day, Mo. She's waited a long time for this."
"Longer than she needed to, right?"
Billy's eyes narrowed, and beside me, Colin made a low noise of warning. "Don't bait the bear," he was telling me, and any other day I would have listened. But tonight, my nerves were stretched to breaking.
Ignoring the ripple of tension along Colin's arm, I lifted my chin and stared at my uncle. A moment passed, and finally Billy made a show of looking around the room. "Make sure everyone has something to toast with, and then you're free for the night. I'll need you back on Monday."
With that, he was off to mingle. I leaned my head against Colin's shoulder and he murmured, "The sooner we get The Slice up and running, the better. I don't like you working for Billy."
I wasn't a fan of the arrangement, either, but I had no choice. As long as I worked for my uncle, Colin was safe. He didn't know about the deal we'd struck, and he definitely wasn't aware my job was more than wiping down tables and carting empties to the recycling bins out back. He assumed, like almost everyone else in my life, that I was working at the bar until my mom's restaurant was rebuilt, at which point life would go back to normal.
I had learned the hard way that normal was not an option anymore.
I went up on tiptoe, brushed a kiss over his lips. His hand tightened on my waist for an instant before he edged away.
"What? Everyone knows we're together." I sank back down, trying not to feel hurt.
"I'm not crazy about having an audience."
I glanced around. There were a few people eyeing us—not many, but enough to make Colin uncomfortable. "Fine. But we're not staying here all night."
He grinned and ducked his head, his breath warm against my ear. "Wasn't planning on it."
I made the rounds of the bar, my back aching from carrying a full tray back and forth. The whole time, I could feel Colin watching me, an anchor in a stormy sea, and I clung to the sensation. But gradually, I became aware of another one, a prickling awareness that made me rub my arms to ward off a chill, despite the overheated room.
Around me, voices faded to a murmur. I spun, looking for Colin, but the crowd hid him from view. The magic stirred— anticipation and stress and dread waking up the force inside me. Something was happening.
Luc? He had a knack for showing up at the worst possible moment, and I couldn't imagine a worse one than tonight. The connection between us had lain dormant for nearly three months, a welcome break while I got acclimated to my new life and the constant presence of the magic inside me. I'd always known he would come back. I'd just hoped to have things under control before he turned my world inside out again.
My hands clutched the empty tray to my chest like a shield. I squeezed my eyes shut, feeling along the lines for the vibrating tension that would indicate an Arc was here. But the lines were quiet, their power held in abeyance. There was no sign of Luc or anyone else in the room working a spell— even a concealment. I opened my eyes and searched for a familiar green gaze and sharp cheekbones, but they weren't there. Better that way, I told myself.
People stood three deep in front of the oak counter running along the side of the room. Behind them I could see the backs of the regulars hunched over their drinks, and Charlie, my favorite bartender. He was pulling beers and gauging who'd hit their limit, working his way down the line in a steady rhythm. He seemed to pop in and out of view as the people milled in front of him.
It was a familiar sight, but something seemed off-kilter. Like a puzzle in a kid's magazine, where you compared two pictures of the same scene and circled the differences. What was the difference? The bar. Charlie. The customers. The party. What was out of place?
A gap opened in the crowd, giving me a clear view of the bar for only an instant. But it was enough.
The regulars all faced Charlie or the front door. From my spot at the rear of the bar, only the backs of their heads were visible. Except for one guy, facing the opposite direction.
For a split second, I could see him as clearly as if I'd taken his picture—eyebrows raised mockingly, mouth twisted in a caustic smile—and then the shutter closed as the crowd filled the gap again.
Suddenly, I wished it was.
Anton Renard. Leader of the Seraphim. A renegade Arc who wanted me dead.
The feeling was mutual.
I forced myself to walk toward him, but when I reached the barstool, he was gone, and the lines were silent as the grave.
"Problem?" Colin asked from behind me. He rested his hands on my shoulders, the weight reassuring.
I drew in a shaking breath, turning to him. "I thought I saw Anton. Here."
His expression hardened. "You're sure?"
"No." If it was Anton, I would have felt the spell he'd used to hide himself as it resonated along the lines. Either I was mistaken, or he'd managed to blend convincingly into a Flat bar on the South Side of Chicago. But the Anton I knew was too arrogant for blending.
Something had triggered the magic's fretfulness, but maybe it was my own unhappiness. Three months ago, I'd willingly given myself over to the magic—taken it inside of me, bound myself to the source of the Arcs' power—and discovered that it wasn't just a supernatural energy source, but a sentient being. Alive. Since then, our connection had strengthened. We couldn't carry on a conversation, but I was getting better at interpreting its moods, and it responded to mine: a pleasant hum beneath my skin when I was content, a tremor every time I crossed the threshold of Morgan's. I didn't know which one of us was responsible for the disturbance I felt now.
From the front of Morgan's, someone called, "They're here! Where's Mo?"
Colin took my hand, tugging me toward the narrow front doors as they opened. The crowd drew a collective breath as my mom stepped inside, cheeks flushed with cold and excitement. And I forgot all about half-seen faces, because immediately behind her, blinking at the noise of the crowd's shouts of "surprise" and "welcome home," was my father.
I hadn't seen him in five years.
From behind a wall of people, I studied him carefully. He was still my dad, sharp greenish-brown eyes framed with heavy black glasses. His dark red hair, curling at the collar, needed a trim, and his narrow face managed to look surprised, even though the expression was a beat too slow to be genuine. But there were lines at the corners of his eyes that hadn't been there before, and his hair was streaked with gray. His posture was a little more stooped, as if he were trying to withdraw into himself. He looped one arm around my mother, drawing her close as people lined up to greet him.
Billy spotted me trying to fade into the crowd and grasped my elbow. "Don't you dare ruin this," he muttered, and towed me into the circle surrounding my parents. His voice suddenly brimmed with good cheer. "Jack! Welcome home!
Look what I've brought you—a sight for sore eyes, don't you think?"
He stepped back, releasing me. The expectation of the crowd, waiting for our tearful reunion, weighed on me like the air before a storm.
After a moment, my father let go of my mom and took a tentative step toward me, spreading his arms wide. "There's my girl," he said, his voice cracking in the suddenly quiet room. "There's my Mo."
I wanted to turn away, punish him for all the pain he'd caused us. I wasn't going to let him back in, and there was no reason to pretend otherwise.
Until I saw my mom blinking back tears, a wobbly smile on her lips. All her hopes for our family crystallized in a single moment, and my reaction would either let them grow or shatter them on the worn oak floorboards. I licked my lips and swallowed the dust clogging my throat.
"Hi, Dad." I wound the apron string around my fingers until it cut off the circulation, untwisted it again. "It's ... good to have you home."
He was across the room in three strides, wrapping me in the same bear hug he used to give me when I was five, and for a second I let myself believe Mom was right. Tonight could be a fresh start, a chance for us to be a family again. His return might not be such a terrible thing after all.
And then, still squeezing me tightly, my father whispered one word to me. "Liar."
Chapter TwoA hour later, there was still a knot of well-wishers surrounding my father, but my own goodwill was used up. I sat down at the bar, accepted a Diet Coke from Charlie, and poked at the maraschino cherries he'd garnished it with. Colin leaned against the railing, scrutinizing every face despite his casual stance.
"See anyone?" I asked.
"Nobody that shouldn't be here," he said, and laced his fingers with mine. "You look beat."
"I thought he'd be nicer," I said without thinking.
Colin's mouth twitched. "He probably thought the same thing about you. The guy's been in prison for twelve years, Mo. Nice doesn't last long there."
"He went to prison for Billy. Added an extra seven years to his sentence to keep us safe. That's nice, right?"
"Not nice. Desperate. He'd do whatever was necessary to protect his family." He finished the beer he'd nursed all night, set it back on the bar with a crack. "Don't confuse nice with good."
"You think he's a good guy?" Colin saw my family a lot more clearly than I did. If he thought my dad deserved another chance, maybe I could bend a little.
"I think he's on his way over."
The crowd had thinned out, but my dad took his time crossing the room, his attention riveted on us. Colin started to draw away, but I held fast.
"Aren't you going to introduce me, Mo?" my father asked. Without waiting for my response, he said, "You're Colin Donnelly."
"It's good to meet you, sir."
"Annie's told me a lot about you. Says you've done a good job keeping my daughter out of trouble."
I bristled at the words, but Colin's voice was cool. "I try my best. You know Mo."
My father's jaw clenched as he caught the implication—he didn't know me at all. "The good news is, now that I'm home, things will settle down. I don't think we'll need your help for much longer. Annie says you're a carpenter?"
He was getting rid of Colin? "But ..." I started to protest, but Colin's hand brushed mine, reassuring.
"With all due respect, sir, I work for Billy." Now the words held an edge.
My dad looked disappointed. "I figured you'd say that."
My mom joined us, worry creasing her brow, and my dad settled an arm around her waist. She brightened instantly. "It's a nice party, don't you think? Everyone's so happy to see you."
He dropped a kiss on her forehead. "You did great. Never saw it coming."
Looked like I wasn't the only liar in the family. I coughed, and he frowned at me. "Don't spoil her fun," his look telegraphed. "Can I bail, please?" I asked. "I'm wiped out."
"Honey, it's your dad's party!"
"Yeah, with your friends. Not mine." Like I would have invited any of my friends to this. "Look, I helped set up, and I did the big welcome. Why do I have to stay?"
"Oh, Annie, let her go." Billy approached us, a tumbler of whiskey in hand, doing his best impression of the doting uncle. "What fun is she going to have with a bunch of old people? Besides, we've things to discuss." Her mouth thinned, and she glanced at my father, who shrugged. "It's fine. We'll have plenty of time to catch up."
"I suppose." She gave me a quick hug. "We'll be home in a bit."
While Colin went to warm up the truck, I popped into the back room and clocked out. The sudden quiet was a relief, and I took a minute to steady myself. I'd survived. While I was still reeling from my dad's greeting, the other guests had swarmed in to welcome him, and I'd slipped off to the side. Other than the brief exchange between my dad and Colin, I'd managed to steer clear of my family for the night. It could have been worse.
It could have been much worse. It could have been Anton on that barstool instead of a random stranger.
I'd worked so hard to keep my real life separate from my magical one. If Anton had shown up, it would have meant only one thing: He and the Seraphim, his genocidal cult, were back. Anton and his followers wanted to release the magic from the ley lines that carried it safely through the world. But doing so would be lethal to weaker Arcs and any Flats—ordinary people—who came in contact with untempered magic. They called it The Ascendency, when members of the Seraphim would destroy the Arcs' society and rise to their rightful place. They'd been the ones to order Verity's death last summer, and they'd been after me ever since. We'd defeated them a few months ago, but I knew they would regroup. I just didn't know when.
But Anton never passed up an opportunity to attack me. I'd had no word from the Arcs that I was in danger. The ley lines around Morgan's had been quiet all night. For now, at least, I was safe.
I bent over, trying to untie my apron.
The string was so badly knotted, I was going to have to cut it off or try to wriggle out. Behind me, the door opened and the noise from the party swelled, grating on my nerves.
"The stupid string won't come undone," I told Colin. "Can you help me get this off?" I turned, tugging at the white canvas hem.
It wasn't Colin.
"Nothing I'd like better," said Luc, stepping inside and shutting the door with a wave.
I gaped at him. He looked ordinary—or at least, as ordinary as it was possible for Luc to appear. Dark jeans, dark green shirt, black leather coat, cut close to display his lean swimmer's build. It wasn't his clothing that set him apart. It was the eyes, the smirk, the way he walked into a room and instantly, effortlessly took command, like it was his due.
Which he probably figured it was.
"What are you—" I sighed as the pieces fell into place. "Some people actually say hello, you know. They don't lurk in corners."
He looked offended. "Neither do I."
"You've been watching me all night. It's a little creepy."
"Just walked in the front door." He crossed the room, took my hands in his ice-cold ones. Up close, I could see water beading on the surface of his coat. "City's a hell of a lot less charming in the winter, by the way."
I pulled away, crossed my arms over my chest. "I felt you. Earlier tonight. The magic knew you were here."
"Magic doesn't know anything." He blew on his hands, enveloping them in a red-tinged glow. Show-off. As my words sank in, his brow furrowed. "Wasn't me. What happened?"
Excerpted from Bound by Erica O'Rourke Copyright © 2012 by Erica O'Rourke. Excerpted by permission of K Teen Books. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
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