Chaos (Kardia Chronicles) by Christine O'Neil
My name is Maggie Raynard. After sixteen years being just plain me, suddenly, when I lose my temper, my fingers become weapons of mass destruction. Turns out I'm a semi-god, descended from Aphrodite. Sounds cool in theory, but when I accidentally put my ex-boyfriend in a coma, things go downhill pretty fast.
Now some new guy named Mac Finnegan has made it his mission in life to continually piss me off. I'm stuck learning how to use my new powers while also dealing with regular high school problems, and with this annoying—and super-hot—guy all up in my business, I'm about to flip out.
But it gets worse. I just learned there's this watchdog council of semis who keeps an eye out for any bad apples. They think I'm the baddest of the bunch and want to take me out before I do any more damage. My nemesis Mac might turn out to be my salvation, only he's got secrets of his own...and they may just kill us both.
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My boyfriend is obsessed with video games. Like, that's all he ever wants to do. Even if I get him to take me on a date, we end up at Joe's Crab Shack, and the second we're done eating, he's dragging me into the back room arcade to make me play some stupid game with him. What can I do to get him to stop this B.S. and pay more attention to me?
Sad and Lonely
Dear Sad and Lonely,
I'm going to skip the A and lob a Q your way: Why do you even want to be with a guy who's too dumb to recognize what he has? You might not want to hear it, but my advice? Bounce. There are some guys — even high school guys, if you look really hard — who are mature enough to realize there's more to life than video games. Join drama or chorus and maybe you'll find a guy who's interested in the arts. Like the intellectual type? Join the debate team or the academic squad. There are a ton of options out there just waiting for you. Don't sell yourself short or settle for less than you deserve.
I clicked my mouse over the send icon with a satisfied sigh. Today's Q&A for my anonymous column, "That's What She Said," was officially in the bag and on its way to my loyal readers. Not bad for the back half of a forty-two-minute study hall on a Thursday.
I logged off the PC and then scooped up my messenger bag just as the bell rang. Next stop, chem lab. Not exactly my favorite subject, but at least my BFF, Libby, was in that class with me.
"Miss Raynard," a stern voice called.
Dread pooled in my gut as I pasted on a smile and turned to face Hortense Verbiglio, harpy of the computer science department. Mrs. Verbiglio was even less attractive — both inside and out — than her name suggested, and her stopping me could mean nothing good.
"Yes, Hort — erm, Mrs. Verbiglio." Pretty much the whole school privately referred to her as "Hortense," so sometimes it was hard to make the switch, but if she noticed my glitch, she didn't let on.
"What exactly did you accomplish today? I saw a whole lot of type-ity type-ity." She wiggled her stubby fingers like she was tapping a keyboard. "But I didn't see you print your work. Do you mind telling me what you were doing all period? This is study hall not goof-off time."
"Oh, I know. It's just, I had a big report to do and didn't want to use up all your paper." Because I was a real sweetheart like that and all.
She crossed her beefy arms over her chest and stared me down for way longer than was comfortable. Finally, she tipped her head in a short nod. "Go ahead, then. Next time, though, I'll be expecting to see your work."
The tension in my shoulders released, and I shot her two cheerful thumbs up, then busted ass toward the door before she changed her mind and kept me there for more grilling. The school administration allowed us what felt like thirty-seven seconds to get from one class to another, and she'd just wasted twelve of mine. If I was late for chem, it was squarely on Hortense.
"Hey! Wait up."
Libby's musical voice had me skidding to a stop in the middle of the crowded hallway, which earned me a few dirty looks and someone's jam-packed book bag slamming into my shoulder blade. Ouch.
"Oh, good," Libby gushed breathlessly, her hazel eyes bright with relief. "You're late, too. Now I don't have to walk in alone. I was finishing up this test in psych. It was brutal."
She fell into step beside me, although her runner's strides were much longer, so I had to hurry to keep up. Yet another reason to despise being five-three. At five-eight, Libby liked to complain her height was a guy deterrent, but since she'd been asked to the Snowflake Swirl by four different people already and it was still technically autumn, I'd have to call bullshit on that theory. Either that, or the height issue was somehow offset by the fact that her legs went on for years and her bra could comfortably hold a grapefruit in each cup. Not that I cared. Being "blessed" with a solid set of oranges myself, I was of the opinion that boobs mostly just got in the way. Running in gym class was embarrassing as fuck, and forget about sleeping on my stomach. If they were any bigger, they'd be worthy of serious male attention and that was the last thing I needed.
I was done with guys.
Not in that fake, I-say-that-but-deep-down-I-really-wanta-boyfriend kind of way, but in, like, the seriously-I'd-rather-eat-maggoty-cheese kind of way. No relationships. Not for me. Not now and maybe not ever. Who I am ... what I am, and what I'm capable of? Everyone's better off this way.
"I have to stop at my locker real quick." I veered to the right and cut through the crush of kids heading straight at me, like wildebeests to a watering hole. Libby followed and then stood by me as I fiddled with the lock.
"What's that?" She pointed to a white piece of paper sticking out half an inch from one of the slots in the olive metal door.
I tugged the padlock open and flicked the catch with my thumb. "Dunno." Maybe Bink had left me another note. Bink was my neighbor, bud, and — most days — my ride home. Last time I'd found a note in my locker, his cell phone had died and he needed to bail early. I seriously hoped this wasn't a repeat performance.
I mentally ran down the list of people I could bug for a ride and came up empty. Libby always had to stay after for some activity or another, and I only really had two other people I could call "friends" and neither lived near me. I wrinkled my nose in anticipation of the dirty-sneakers-meets-day-old-bologna smell of a bus filled with kids who'd had last-period gym and opted not to change clothes. With a sigh, I pulled open the door and the white rectangle floated to the floor.
Libby bent to grab it and read it out loud. "'Dear Sad and Lonely ...'" She trailed off and went quiet for a few seconds until her peachy complexion went hot pink, and then she gasped. "Oh my God. Holy ... Oh, Mags, you are so not going to like this."
I snatched the paper from her, trying to ward off the growing pit in my gut.
Dear Sad and Lonely,
Since I can almost guarantee She is about to give you some seriously shite advice like she does every week, let me be the voice of reason. Your boyfriend is just like most high school guys. Cut him some slack and, even better, why not offer to learn how to play some of the games he likes? He'd probably appreciate the effort and might even take you somewhere nice after. If that doesn't work, sit him down and let him know how you're feeling so he can tell you what's going on with him. Could be that constantly calling the things he likes stupid isn't the best way to get what you want in this situation, yeah? In any case, don't let the ramblings of some bitter emo chick who's probably never had a boyfriend ruin your relationship.
Hope it helps,
My skin prickled with alternating hot and cold flashes while my brain churned. The shock was too thick to let the anger in right away, but as stunned as I was, I knew exactly who was behind this. There was only one person in the whole school who would use the word "shite."
Opinionated, annoying, hot — did I mention annoying? — Mac Finnegan, who had barely given me the time of day since he'd come to Crestwood High. Mac Finnegan, who thought he was soooo cool with his Irish accent and his mocking smile. Mac Finnegan, who inexplicably made me want to lick him like an ice cream cone and then immediately rinse my mouth out with acid.
How had he discovered my secret? Only Bink and Libby knew I was the girl behind "That's What She Said," and I would have bet everything I owned that neither of them would have ratted me out.
Didn't matter though. One way or another, he knew.
Even worse, he'd chosen to taunt me with it. Bitter emo chick who's probably never had a boyfriend, indeed. I had a boyfriend once, and it hadn't ended well for either of us. I was in no rush to repeat the experience. Besides, what did this Irish asshat care?
Anger tightened my chest, and my vision went hazy. I could feel the power rising in me, clawing to get out, roaring to be heard. The hair on my arms stood on end as I tried to breathe through it, to let the fury dissipate and flow out of my pores in harmless pings of energy, but it was no use.
I pressed a hand to my locker and opened up the tiniest of escape valves, the spout of a teakettle, whistling off a stream of steam. The cheap metal instantly heated against my skin, the door buckling and warping on the spot just beneath my fingertips.
"Uh, Mags —" Libby whispered urgently, but a male voice cut her off.
"How's it going there, Libby? Maggie."
I turned around, still trying to catch my breath, and there he was, strolling by, a cocky grin splitting his sinfully beautiful face.
Mac Finnegan, who had decided that being the new kid wasn't bad enough, so he had to actively go out of his way to make enemies. Mac Finnegan, who wanted to turn my world upside down rather than minding his own business. Mac Finnegan, who didn't know the meaning of live and let live.
Mac Finnegan, who clearly had no idea who he was fucking with.
It was one fifty-three, and I stared at the clock, willing the hands to move faster. Dr. Pepper — I so wish I was kidding — droned on endlessly and everything seemed like it was moving in slo-mo as I seethed.
I'd get a tardy for cooking class if I went to track down Mac at his locker on the opposite wing before sixth period, but my head would literally explode all over these avocado walls if I didn't. So for the good of the school, I'd suck it up and take the detention if I was late.
Earlier when Mac had strolled past my locker, I'd tried to get my shit together and let him know exactly what I thought of his little note. To hit him with one of the dozens of cutting put-downs that would've been on the tip of my tongue had I been a different person. A regular person. The kind of person who used her brain to come up with kickass comebacks instead of letting anger get the better of her, making her think — and sometimes do — bad things.
Instead, I watched him walk by, impotent rage writhing under the surface of my skin like a nest of vipers.
Now that I'd had time to settle down some — I was still mad, but I had things under control — a gazillion witty comebacks waited in the wings, each one carefully crafted and designed to wipe that smug fucking smile right off his face.
Still, I needed to find out what the hell was going on with him. More importantly, I needed to figure out why he'd chosen me as the person he wanted to screw with most.
It seemed so random. He'd barely even acknowledged my existence at school since he'd enrolled in September, and now he was all in my business. I couldn't understand for the life of me what I'd done to deserve it. Did he really just hate my column so much he felt like he had to put me on blast like that?
My cheeks grew warm again, and I wondered who else, if anyone, had read his response. Was he passing them out everywhere, or was that a special edition just for me? While neither was ideal, option B was at least less humiliating. It was also the less likely one, but a girl could hope.
I looked up again and realized, while I'd been stressing, the clock had finally decided to cooperate and Dr. Pepper started wrapping it up. About time.
"So with that, I need you to read pages eighty-three through eighty-nine for homework and answer the questions at the end of the chapter for tomorrow." The bell cut him off, and per the status quo, we all stood, grabbed our books, and walked out with his nasally voice chasing us. "Make sure you restate the question in your answer, and —"
I didn't wait for the rest of his speech or for Libby, and went barreling down the hall.
"So what are you going to do?" she asked, rushing behind me to catch up. Funny how much faster my stubby legs could go when I was hella pissed off.
"I'm going to call him out, and then I'm going to tell him ..." What? What exactly was I going to tell him? That my unauthorized and highly frowned-upon little school column was the only one allowed, and he'd better stop stepping on my turf? I pictured a bad dance-off à la High School Musical between us and smiled despite my fury. Mainly because, in my imagination, I'd saddled Mac with a pair of red leather pants and a faux-hawk, and he looked like a friggin' idiot.
"You know what? I'm just going to ask him flat out what he thinks he's trying to pull. I mean, we don't even know each other."
Guilt pricked me at the white lie. We knew each other a little.
He'd just moved in two streets over from me, and one night, when I'd gone out for a walk to clear my head, I'd seen him at the park on the corner playing with his dog. He was impossible to miss. Tall ... so frigging tall, with shoulders wider than any guy on the Crestwood football team, even with their pads on. I'd tried so hard not to look when he squatted low to give his German shepherd a pat, but his button-fly jeans pulled tight over his muscular thighs and it was a wonder I didn't wind up drooling on his hand right next to Fido. So. Hot. I don't know if I whimpered or he just sensed my presence, but when he looked up it only got worse.
His face was beautiful. The kind of face with the power to make even a seriously badass girl start scribbling her first name next to his last name in the margins of all her notebooks. Straight, masculine nose, chiseled cheekbones, full but firm lips, and perfectly groomed light brown hair made for a pretty fine picture. Then he smiled and "pretty fine" became "holy-mother-of-God" and my stomach bottomed out.
Luck was with me, for once, and before I could make a total fool of myself, his unleashed shepherd came at me fast, barking like he meant serious, unpleasant business. An animal lover through and through, I stayed chill and waited, grateful for the reprieve and using that time to get my shit together before I became a stuttering idiot or worse. The dog stopped barking and sniffed my leg, eventually licking my hand while I patted him.
Mac had come running up, breathless and semi-apologetic. Ish. The blood was pounding in my ears, but I think I made some sense as I responded. Then again, who's to say? We talked for a minute but things got ... weird.
If it had only happened that day, I could make sense of it. First sighting of a gorgeous guy around my age, maybe my insta-lust had made it awkward. But months had passed and things had never gotten less weird. We only had two classes together — Art II and Mythology — so it wasn't like we had to spend a whole lot of time together, but the time we did spend?
Like I wanted him in a way that made no sense. Like I was drawn to him even though I knew almost nothing about him. And when he looked at me a little too hard, and his smile was always sort of mocking ... I wanted to grab him tight and smack the shit out of him all at the same time. Yeah, weird. Enough that I wanted to turn away the second our paths crossed. But that was before. Those days were over.
If anyone should be uncomfortable now, it was him. Because I didn't care about his body or his stupid face anymore. I was about to get medieval on his ass.
Libby continued chattering from behind me. "At least if he does go public with his column, he didn't name you in his response. Maybe he'll keep it to himself."
I didn't get my hopes up because although she was right so far, there was still a very real chance that he'd blow my cover whenever it suited him.
"Maybe he just wants to make more friends and thinks this will make him popular or whatever," Libby said, not even bothering to hide her disgust at that theory.
Libby was like the patron saint of nerds, which was pretty odd if you were on the outside looking in. Blond, beautiful, funny, with a body from long-distance running that made most of the cheerleaders want to rush to the bathroom and hork up their chicken nuggets and tater tots after lunch. She was exactly the type of person you'd think would be all about her image and what people thought.
Not even close.
Libby was a theater geek, with a passion for woodwind instruments and Victorian literature. She loved clothes and dressing up but always seemed to miss the mark, with kooky stuff like berets and leg warmers making appearances, sometimes simultaneously.
Excerpted from "Chaos"
Copyright © 2013 Christine O'Neil.
Excerpted by permission of Entangled Publishing, LLC.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
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