There’s something strange about the Layne sisters, and Wade Diaz wants nothing to do with them. Especially the one who ripped his heart out and set it on fire before tossing it in the garbage several months ago. Iris. He can’t even think her name without unconsciously rubbing the spot in his chest where she left a gaping hole. But now her sisters are claiming some evil spirit is after his soul, and Iris is the only one who can save him. Well, at least his heart would stop hurting, right? Didn’t sound so bad.
Iris Layne has always been the sweet sister. She’s kind to everyone, including her best friend Wade… Until she makes a horrible mistake and breaks his heart. All she wants is to go back to before ‘the dumping’. Of course, Wade would rather see her in hell first. But then Iris touches her sister’s tarot cards and unleashes an evil curse intent on playing a deadly game where no one Iris loves is safe, especially Wade.
How do you convince someone they need your help when you’re the one who hurt them most?
The Fated series is best enjoyed in order.
Book #1 - Touching Fate
Book #2 - Cursing Fate
Book #3 - Seeking Fate
About the Author
Read an Excerpt
The Fated Series
By Brenda Drake, Liz Pelletier
Entangled Publishing, LLCCopyright © 2016 Brenda Drake
All rights reserved.
Having any sort of control seemed elusive lately. Iris Layne fidgeted next to her science project, her eyes firmly set on one person in a cafeteria jam-packed with students, teachers, and parents. Three-dimensional boards, colorful and full of information, kept blocking her view of him as he shuffled among the displays, inspecting the projects.
The cafeteria was hot and muggy.
Iris unscrewed the top to her water bottle and took a long swig, catching another glimpse of him between two tables. His shoulder-length dark hair was pulled back in a man bun. He wore one only after he'd just gotten off his motorcycle, his hair messy from the helmet.
Wade Diaz looked like a typical bad boy, complete with leather jacket and ripped jeans, but she knew the real him. His softer side. They'd known each other since eighth grade when he was scrawny and annoying, but he'd grown up nicely in the last two years. She bit her lip. Would he avoid coming by her display? He'd been dodging her ever since school started several weeks ago. And she hadn't seen him all summer.
They were friends most of ninth and tenth grade, slowly growing into more than friends junior year. When they'd finally gotten together, Iris abruptly ended things and went back to her jerk of an ex-boyfriend. No wonder Wade hated her. But she couldn't stop missing him. He was her best friend. The one she could always count on. If only she could tell him what really happened.
"Hey." Carys startled Iris, and she flinched. "Sorry, didn't mean to scare you." She glanced over her shoulder to where Iris couldn't quite look away. "I wish the two of you would make up already."
Iris had glimpsed him once over summer break during the Fourth of July celebration on the Ocean City boardwalk. After spotting her, he'd abruptly turned and got lost in the crowd. Add that he'd ignored all her texts and calls, even unfriended her on his social media accounts, and she doubted they would ever make up.
Iris gave Carys a slight smile. "Me, too."
"It isn't right that he looks better than me in a bun," she said, scrunching the ends of her dark shoulder-length hair. "I don't know how you gave him up for that."
Iris glanced at her, then to where she was looking. Her heart skidded to a stop. Josh, aka ex-boyfriend, led his pack of idiots down the aisle. Ever since Iris broke things off with him, he'd been a creep. Her once-popular status had plummeted, and now Marsha Simmons was the new queen of the school and Iris had become an outcast.
"Just ignore them," Carys said, pulling a dollar out of her pocket. "Why don't you get me a bottled water? I'll watch your display until they're gone."
"Thanks. You're the best." Iris took the money and made her way through the maze of projects, stopping at the vending machines.
Iris didn't deserve Carys as a friend. She'd been horrible to Carys. Ditching her to hang out with Josh all the time. Despite all the things she'd done, Carys was the first to forgive Iris. Over summer, they'd grown closer in their friendship.
The doors were propped open by kickstands at the bottom, letting in the smell of fresh-cut grass from the football fields. The light breeze felt good against her sweaty skin. Maryland was beautiful in the fall with the leaves on the trees changing from green to vibrant reds, oranges, and yellows. Soon the pumpkin patch would open, and it would be strange not going with Wade. It was one of their many yearly rituals.
She flattened out the wrinkled dollar before feeding it into the money slot. The machine whirled before rejecting it. She straightened the corners and tried it again. It slid back out.
Someone held a crisp new dollar in front of her face.
"Try this one." Wade's voice sent her stomach to swirling.
Iris turned to face him. "Hey." She didn't know what to say, the speech she'd memorized for if he ever spoke to her again forgotten. His deep brown eyes made all ability to think difficult.
When she hadn't taken the dollar from him, he inserted it into the machine. "What did you want?"
"Um ... a water," she said.
He pushed the button, and a bottle thumped into the retrieval bin. She bent to grab it at the same time as he did, touching hands, a spark passing between them.
"Oh," Iris said, straightening. Panic fluttered in her chest. It was silly, but ever since Aster, her older sister, revealed her gift, Iris feared even the littlest static charge.
With a simple touch of a tarot card, Aster could change someone's fate. Usually a bad one. The problem was, she could transfer it to anyone she came into contact with, and a shock would pass between Aster and her victim.
Relax already. Aster isn't here. Iris took in a calming breath.
Wade retrieved the water and raised a curious brow at her. "You okay?"
Iris laughed. It was a soft, nervous one and by the look on Wade's face, he'd noticed. "I'm fine," she said, not sure it was convincing.
"There's a lot of friction in here." He winked. The fact that his comment meant more than just the static between them hadn't escaped her. It was clever how he tied it to their uneasiness toward each other.
He held out the water bottle to her. She reached for it, their hands touching briefly again before he let go, sending her stomach into a nervous flurry again. Why did he always do that to her? It used to be comfortable around him. She could tell him anything and not worry that he'd think she was lame. But things had changed.
They had changed.
When she hadn't spoken, he nodded at the bottle and asked, "That's what you wanted, wasn't it?"
"Yes. Th-Thank you." The tremble in her voice annoyed her.
He gave her one of his killer smiles. The one that tilted slightly and exposed his perfectly aligned teeth. He could be the model in a Crest commercial with that one.
There was a sadness in his eyes that matched how she felt. The night he had come to her house after she ended it with him, just before her Sweet Sixteen birthday party, played like a nightmare in her mind. He had looked tortured — eyes rimmed red. He'd begged her to rethink her decision to get back with Josh. Told her that Josh was a loser and he'd hurt her again. And he was right. Josh had destroyed her.
"I should go," he said. "I'm meeting someone. We'll stop by and check out your project later."
"Okay," was all she could manage to say. Jealousy surged through her. Are you meeting a girl? It wasn't her business. She'd had her chance.
As he walked away, all the words she'd wanted to say came to her. I'm sorry, Wade, for breaking your heart and for getting back with Josh. But it was out of my control. My stupid sister changed our fate. Can we start over? I so wish we could. I miss you.
She wished she had Aster's ability. Then she could fix things. Gram and Mom had a tarot reader on the boardwalk, Miri, test Iris along with her twin, Violet, to see if they carried the gene. Both came up negative.
They weren't sure if her younger sister, Daisy, carried it. She'd been too freaked out to touch tarot cards after all the crazy stuff that had happened with Aster shifting them. Death, sickness, and messed-up love lives had been the result. But everything worked out, and Aster was off at MIT with her boyfriend, Reese, studying physics.
Except the damage done by changing Iris's and Violet's fates had remained. Violet suffered bullying courtesy of Josh and his friends. And Iris had lost Wade.
And she had lost her friends after her big blowup with Josh. He was the star of the basketball team. His friends had become hers. When they had broken up, their group all sided with him.
She caught a final glimpse of Wade before he disappeared behind the displays. He was staggeringly gorgeous in tight jeans and Doc Martens with those wide shoulders and toned body. Her heart squeezed with so much disappointment and regret, she could hardly breathe.
With a sigh, Iris shuffled around people through the makeshift aisles back to her project and to Carys. Josh Adams and his squad were only a few tables down from hers. With his perfectly styled hair and his steely blue eyes, he was perfect — too perfect — the fantasy of every high school girl with a pulse. Clutching his arm, Marsha Simmons flicked one big blond curl over her shoulder. She'd won the boyfriend lottery, and she wanted everyone to know. Her laughs at his jokes about other students' works echoed through the cafeteria.
Josh was confident on the outside, but inside, he was a boy in pain. He had suffered horrible abuse from his father. It was so bad that Mr. Adams had been arrested three years ago for doing something Josh refused to tell her. No one at school knew about it. He hid it well, except from Iris. Everyone believed his parents were divorced and his father had moved to Seattle for business.
Had Josh told Marsha about his past? Iris had held Josh many times when he'd been upset after therapy sessions. He was such a mess, and she felt the need to fix him. It was probably the reason it took her so long to realize he was a bully.
Stalking the two lovebirds were Perry, Matt, and Iris's ex–best friend, Lauren. Perry was tall and skinny like a pole — he made a perfect center for the basketball team. Matt played point guard. He was shorter and stockier than his friend was. Lauren, a cheerleader, wore her makeup too light for her dark skin, which made it look ashy. She had been Iris's first friend, before Wade, when her family moved in with Gram.
It made her sick to think she had been a part of their circle. Sucked into the thrill of being in the popular crowd. Thrilled to be Josh's girlfriend. His pain causing her to overlook the mistreating of others. It was Wade who had snapped her out of it, reminding her of who she really was. He'd showed her she wasn't the awful person she'd become with Josh. That she could be better. Be strong on her own.
Iris was so distracted watching them, her hip bumped into a table with a complicated-looking science project on it that had all sorts of gadgets and metal wheels.
"Watch it," a girl peeking through long, blue bangs said. Her name was Jenna or something. A victim of Josh and his group's bullying. She was thin, smart, and a bit awkward. All things that put a target on her back. And Iris should have helped her but hadn't.
"Sorry," Iris said and rushed off, not able to look the girl in the eyes. She stopped. This has to stop. Swallow your fear, Iris. But it terrified her to think of how Jenna, or whatever her name was, would react to it.
Iris turned and marched back to the girl. "Hey, Jenna?"
The girl pulled aside her bangs to look at Iris. "It's Johanna," she said and lowered her eyes.
"That's right," Iris said. "Sorry. Um ... I've been meaning to tell you —"
Damn this is hard. Okay, you can do this. Just say it already. Iris rubbed her nose. Why is this so difficult to say?
Johanna glanced up at Iris, then around the cafeteria, obviously feeling as awkward as Iris.
"Listen," Iris finally said. "I'm sorry for not stopping Josh and the others when they were bullying you. I should have done something."
"You were always nice to me." The corners of Johanna's lips twisted up slightly. "I've stood aside when others have been bullied by them. It's a survival thing. I get it."
"Well, if you ever need anything, let me know." Iris wasn't sure what to do. Should she say anything else? Go in for a hug?
"Thanks. I will." Johanna pretended to adjust something on her project, releasing Iris of her dilemma.
"Okay, so I'll see you around," Iris said and shuffled off to her project.
"How come they're not at their stations?" Carys said when Iris arrived back at her table.
Iris shot a glance in the direction Carys was looking.Josh. I came back too soon. Could this night get any better?
"They were at the beginning," Iris said, handing Carys the water bottle. "The judges must've already seen their work."
Josh's blond hair was shorter than usual and he wore that dark blue shirt he loved so much because it matched the color of his eyes. He had his letterman's jacket on regardless of how hot it was in the cafeteria. Such a show-off.
Lauren fell a few steps behind her boyfriend, Perry. Her dark eyes were sympathetic, but she'd never stand up for Iris. Doing so would get her the same outsider status as Iris. In a way, she felt sorry for the other girl. To fit in, Lauren worked tirelessly, straightening her naturally curly hair and painting her face each morning to pass Marsha's approval.
Iris had been the same way. No matter how hard she tried to reach Marsha's standards, it was never good enough. Marsha would point out that Iris's eye shadow was the wrong color or that her hair was too oily. It really gave Iris a complex.
She was about to excuse herself to go to the restroom when Josh spotted her. Dammit. He's not chasing me off.
As the group approached, Carys spun to face Iris's project, pulling Iris around with her. "Yours is the most artistic one here. The universe you painted looks three-dimensional."
Iris gave Carys a confused look.
"Pretend you didn't see them," she said through tight lips. "Ignore them."
Iris had broken up quietly with Josh over the weekend, not wanting it to happen during school. But instead, he'd spread it across all his social media sites that he was the one who broke up with her. Called her names and said she had cheated on him. Iris just wanted it all to go away.
That horrible laugh of Marsha's sounded behind Iris. "How lame. It looks more like an art project than a science one."
"Don't give her a hard time," Josh said. For a brief second, Iris was pleased that he'd defended her. But then he added, "She's not that smart. Art is the only subject she's good at."
His words made her insides collapse.
"Yeah," said Perry. "Her twin got all the brains."
The chuckles from his group scratched down her spine, and Iris fisted her hands.
Before she could turn around, Carys grabbed her wrist. "Don't feed the animals," she whispered.
Their group continued down the row, snickering and whispering to one another. Iris shifted to watch them, spotting Wade across the aisle from her. He glared at Josh and his delinquents' retreating backs. When Wade's gaze found hers, the scowl left his face. There was something like concern in his eyes, or maybe pity.
Whatever it was, it made a sudden ache hit her heart, and she couldn't breathe. Couldn't look at him. All the regret and longing burned her eyes. She spun back around and stared at her project, grasping onto the edge of the table to center herself and keep from losing it in front of a cafeteria full of judging eyes.
The words perfectly aligned at the top of her project read, Composition of a Comet's Tail Using Spectroscopy. Her eyes followed the brushstrokes of varying blue, yellow, and white hues against a black background. She couldn't understand why they had laughed at her presentation. She'd worked on it for a month with Carys, meticulously painting a comet, its tail trailing behind it as it passed in front of the sun. All the data on the cards, neatly glued off to the side, had passed Carys's scrutiny.
The air adjusted behind her and she stiffened.
She slowly turned.
He just stood there, rubbing his chin and studying her project. It was as if an artist tirelessly worked to sculpt his perfect face — sharply angled at all the right places and perfectly rounded at others. Iris realized she was holding her breath, and when she finally remembered to breathe, it came out in a heavy sigh.
Wade raised an eyebrow at her. "You okay?"
Why does he keep asking me that? Do I look like a mess?
"Yes." She could hardly get out the simple word. Why was he here? Whenever he was around, she couldn't think right. Seeing him so much today would definitely cause her to dream about him later. She'd worked hard to rid her mind of the images of her and Wade together. Ones where Wade held her tight and kissed her so deeply it felt like she was that comet on her project, shooting through space so close to the sun she was sure she'd incinerate.
What does he want?
There was a familiar look on his face. One she knew well. He would press his lips together, focusing on anything but her face when he was gathering up courage to ask her something. Just as he was right then.
She swallowed hard. Is he finally going to forgive me?
Excerpted from Cursing Fated by Brenda Drake, Liz Pelletier. Copyright © 2016 Brenda Drake. Excerpted by permission of Entangled Publishing, LLC.
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