Being a Sentinel isn’t all fairytales and secret gardens.
Sure, jumping through books into the world’s most beautiful libraries to protect humans from mystical creatures is awesome. No one knows that better than Gia Kearns, but she could do without the part where people are always trying to kill her. Oh, and the fact that Pop and her had to move away from her friends and life as she knew it.
And if that isn’t enough, her boyfriend, Arik, is acting strangely. Like, maybe she should be calling him “ex,” since he’s so into another girl. But she doesn’t have time to be mad or even jealous, because someone has to save the world from the upcoming apocalypse, and it looks like that’s going to be Gia.
Maybe. If she survives.
The Library Jumpers series is best enjoyed in order.
Book #1 Thief of Lies
Book #2 Guardian of Secrets
Book #3 Assassin of Truths
About the Author
Read an Excerpt
Guardian of Secrets
A Library Jumpers Novel
By Brenda Drake, Liz Pelletier, Stacy Abrams
Entangled Publishing, LLCCopyright © 2017 Brenda Drake
All rights reserved.
If you could drown in boredom, I was about to gulp my last bit of air.
I leaned against the tree I sat under and pulled my knees up to my chest, watching the frail-looking neighbor girl clamber up the porch of our newly purchased home on Pine Orchard Road. She handed a plate of something to Pop. They exchanged pleasantries before she pirouetted, scrambled back down the steps, and headed down the long driveway. She resembled Snow White, with her dark hair and pale skin. The widow's peak on her forehead and her sharp chin made her face look like a pasty heart.
You'd think I'd be happy for quieter times after accidently jumping into a gateway book in Boston and transporting through a portal to a library in Paris. That's right. I had jumped into a book — long story for another time. Not to mention, my normal life had changed drastically. Being a Sentinel, which was just a fancy word for a magical knight, and able to fight unfathomable beasts would be cool if it weren't real life and was just a video game. In real life, people died.
I wondered if Conemar and his band of rogue Mystiks — yep, the worst bad guys ever — would give up searching for us. Uncle Philip had said I shouldn't worry and that there wasn't a threat anymore, but I seriously doubted it.
Unfortunately, even after defeating Conemar, I still had to go into hiding with my family and friends just in case his followers wanted to seek revenge. Having a price on your head would be bad enough in the human world, but having one in the Mystik's realm was more than terrifying.
I glanced at the fancy new phone Pop had bought me so I could video chat with everyone I missed back home. Which was mostly my best friend, Afton, since Nana's cell phone was from the Stone Age and didn't have the video feature. I found Afton's name in the recent calls section, tapped the call button, and waited for her to answer.
Stuck in Branford, Connecticut, alone without my boyfriend, Arik, and the other Sentinels for two weeks was getting to me. My other best friend and newly discovered cousin, Nick, moved into a home down the street with his parents four days ago, but I hadn't spent much time with him. He was too busy helping his parents get their restaurant ready for its big opening.
Afton's face popped onto the phone's screen. The awkward video angle made her large brown eyes look kind of buggy over the phone. "You know I love you, Gia, but this is the third time in less than an hour." Another call beeped through and I ignored it. I really needed my best friend. "I'm at work," she was saying. "I can't chat right now. I promise I'll call you as soon as I'm off."
"Okay, I'm sorry ... it's just ... well, I miss you."
I waved at Pop zipping down the street in his Volvo. With his focus fixed on the road, he didn't see me.
"I miss you, too." Afton leaned back, glanced over both shoulders, and brought her face close to the screen. "Why don't you hang out with Nick?"
"Cause Deidre's with him again. Those two never separate. It's sickening —" I stopped when I noticed the disappointment cross her face. "Shit. I didn't mean ..."
"No worries. I'm fine," she said over a slurping espresso machine somewhere off screen. I knew every one of her expressions. The forced smile and sad eyes told me she was lying. "I had my chance. He's moved on. Anyway, why don't you go to a movie or something?"
"I just got back from one. This has to be the longest Saturday ever."
"Hey, I've got to go. Customers. Talk to you later." She hung up, and the screen went dark. I pushed the end button.
Though I was lonely, I kept to myself out of fear of saying something I wasn't supposed to about the Mystik world. I needed to talk to someone who knew about the ridiculous stuff going on in my life. Someone to listen and assure me I would be okay. I needed my friends, but Nick and Afton were too busy.
The neighborhood girl strolled along the side of the road in my direction. She hadn't noticed me earlier when she passed on her way to my house, so I hoped she wouldn't again on her way back to hers, which was a lot bigger than ours was. Still, we had more than three thousand square feet in our gray Victorian home that needed some serious renovations. It had a pointy turret and sat on an acre lot at the end of a quiet road with a crooked street sign.
When the girl neared, she spotted me in the shadows of the tree and practically skidded to a stop.
Please don't come over. Please don't come over. Shit. She's coming over.
She stepped cautiously across the browning grass as if worried she might kill it. Before long, she hovered over me.
"Hi, Deidre," she trilled. "Did you get my text?"
She thought I was my "pretend twin." Having my Changeling around was like having a walking mirror around all the time.
I stood, the fall leaves crunching under my feet. "Um, Deidre's my sister. I'm Gia."
"Oh, right, she did say she has a twin. You're identical."
This one's observant.
She smiled. "I'm Emily ... Emily Proctor. I live next door."
"I know. I saw you with your dad yesterday."
Her smile slipped, and she looked down at her hands. "He's my uncle. My parents are gone. The house used to be my grandparents' home."
"I'm sorry," I said uncomfortably.
When she looked up, the sun hit her light blue eyes and glistened against the tears gathering on her bottom eyelashes. "Thanks. It's been a few years now, so, you know ..."
No matter how long or how young you were at the time, when a parent passes away it leaves a wound. One that is always gaping, leaving you vulnerable to attacks of emotions at the most awkward moments. Like now. "Yeah, I do," I said softly. "My mother died when I was four."
She smiled again. "Now I'm sorry. That sounds insensitive, right? I never know what to say in this kind of situation."
"How do you know Deidre?" I asked, hoping to change the conversation to something less depressing.
"She's in my biology class."
"Oh, right —" A loud motor cut off my words. As if on cue, Nick's junkyard special pulled up, dark exhaust coughing out of the pipes in the back. I plugged my nose to block the burnt oil smell.
My heart almost burst at the sight of him, but I forced myself to act unaffected by his arrival. We were supposed to pretend there wasn't a long history between us.
Nick got the motorcycle even though his parents protested. Nothing said we're sorry for lying to you all your life about being adopted and about being the Antichrist aka Conemar's son than turning a blind eye to his new rebel attitude.
Deidre swung her leg over the seat and hopped off the bike. She removed her purple and black helmet, and I wasn't sure if it was me, or Emily, or both of us who gasped. Her long brown hair was gone. The new style was bleached and short, with long lavender bangs hiding one eye.
"Oh my gosh," Emily squealed. "I love your new hairstyle. You look so ... um ... couture."
Nick unsaddled himself from the bike. "She looks biker chic to me."
I lowered my head and rolled my eyes at his comment. Nick was too lovesick to notice. It was obvious what Deidre was going for — the complete opposite of me. Who could blame her? After all, she was a Changeling and born to be me, and finding that out had to have messed with her head.
"You look amazing." I feigned excitement in my voice. There I went again, trying hard to bond with her, and she ignored my effort. Having to share a room with her was awkward and somewhat quiet. I did all the talking and she'd give me quick, simple answers. At the rate it was taking Pop and Carrig to renovate the other rooms in our house, we'd be roomies for a lot longer than I'd like.
Nick cocked a brow at me and gave me a look that spoke more than words. That he knew I was faking it.
I gave him a wide grin. "What's up?"
"Not much," he said. "Just dropping off Deidre."
Deidre stared into the bike's rearview mirror, fixing her helmet hair. "You and Nick have some sort of meeting with Pop."
"Really? Pop just left. Why didn't he take me with him?"
"He said he couldn't find you." She frowned at her reflection. "He had to overnight a package before the post office closed. You can go with Nick and I'll hang out with Emily." She looked over at her. "If you're not busy, anyway. I'd love to do some shopping today, and I like your style."
Emily beamed. "I'd love to."
"I'm not riding that thing." I nodded my head toward the rusted metal.
Nick patted the cracked seat. "It looks like shit, but it runs."
"But is it safe?" I gave the bike a curious eye. "I'd rather walk."
Deidre threw down a gauntlet. "What, are you scared? I rode it."
I wasn't one to pass up a challenge. I snatched the helmet from her and put it on. "If you wreck, I'll kill you," I said to Nick as I straddled the bike.
"See you later, babe," Nick said, and planted a firm kiss on Deidre's lips. "Later, Emily."
"It was nice chatting with you, Gia," Emily said and frowned.
Did she see me roll my eyes at Deidre's hair? Or see Nick and I exchange looks?
"Yeah, it was great," I finally answered.
Nick revved the bike, and I quickly wrapped my arms around his waist before he sped off.
"Where are we going?" I yelled over the loud motor.
He turned his head to the side and yelled, "The library. The new librarian arrived Friday. She's a plant" — he adjusted himself on the seat —"from the Wizard Council. She's here to monitor the gateway book."
The thought of entering a library again made my stomach clench. Libraries had once been my escape, but now they were a doorway to my nightmares. To the Mystik world.
Nick took a corner fast, the tires squealing, and I gripped him tighter.
"Hey, easy there!" he said. "You'll crack a rib."
"Stop complaining. You're such a baby!"
Nick sped the bike around another corner, revved the engine, and released the throttle, obviously to freak me out, which worked. I squeezed him tighter, and he winced.
After another horrifying turn, we ended up at the James Blackstone Memorial Library adjacent to the town square. Made out of white marble and with four pillars holding up an overhang draping the porch, the place resembled a state building. It looked like some Greek architecture Afton had showed me in one of her books. Nick slowed the bike into an open parking spot.
I yanked off the helmet and shoved it at him. "What were you thinking? You could have killed us."
"I had it all under control." He lifted the seat and packed in the helmets.
"You're an ass."
He snickered and slammed the seat down. "Yeah, but you love me anyway."
A big stupid grin spread across my lips. He was right, but I'd never admit it. Nick and I were like brother and sister. We didn't do mushy. "I'm glad we finally have some alone time," I said.
"Me too," he said.
Pop pulled his Volvo into a space down the row from Nick's bike. He swung open the door and crossed the parking lot, meeting us at the steps. Beyond the opened bronze doors was a rotunda. The walls were pink marble, with varnished wood doors and frames. I gazed up at the dome above our heads, my mouth dropping in awe. Eight large paintings with scenes illustrating some sort of history timeline adorned the inside, and medallion-shaped portraits of important-looking people created a circle between arches exposing the balcony just below it.
A draft from the open door swirled around me, raising the hairs on my arm. An uneasiness settled around me, and I absentmindedly reached for my sword. Of course, it wasn't there. This wasn't a mission. We were just there to meet whoever it was Uncle Philip sent to watch over the gateway book.
"Isn't it beautiful?" A young woman wearing black-rimmed glasses that matched her thick, straight hair stood next to me. "The paintings depict the history of bookmaking. The portraits are of famous authors. Harriet Beecher Stowe"— she pointed each one out as she named them — "Nathaniel Hawthorne, Ralph Waldo Emerson —"
"Are you Kayla Bagley?" Pop interrupted her.
"Oh ... N-no, sorry, I'm Maira. I volunteer here. Miss Bagley is new. She's filling in for a librarian who's on a leave of absence. Maybe I should get someone with more experience to help you?" She looked nervous about what she had said and quickly corrected herself. "I mean, Miss Bagley is still acquainting herself with how things run around here."
"They understand what you meant, Maira," an overly sweet voice came from behind us. "You may continue with whatever you were doing. I'll take care of our guests."
"Yes, Miss Bagley," Maira muttered.
Miss Bagley was a ginger in her mid-thirties. Smaller than what I was expecting. Her apricot-colored hair was pulled back in a bun. Her plain white shirt, loose gray pants, and sensible chunky shoes said she wasn't obsessive about her appearance, which apparently Pop didn't mind. He was giving Miss Bagley that awkward smile he gets when he likes someone.
Look away. I stared back up at the frescoes on the ceiling, feeling uncomfortable for Pop.
"It was nice meeting you," Maira said, and shuffled away.
"Mr. Kearns, I assume," Miss Bagley said through nude-colored lips. "And you must be Gianna?"
"It's just Gia."
"Oh, that's right. Sorry. Your uncle ... I mean, Professor Attwood did a wonderful job describing both of you." She pulled out a tube of lip balm from her pocket and applied it. "Sorry, my lips get so dry, and I hate wearing lipstick."
A woman after my own heart. I preferred my root beer–flavored Lip Smacker, too.
Pop turned a bright smile on for her. "Please, call me Brian."
She smiled back and it was like the sun came out to blind us. "And you may call me Kayla." They were totally flirting in front of us.
Ugh. As much as I wanted Pop to have someone special in his life and be happy, I didn't need to be a witness to it.
"I'm Nick," he said, elbowing me and nodding at Pop and Miss Bagley. He had noticed the flirting, too.
"Well, if I knew I would be working with such handsome men, I would have dressed better." She winked at Pop. She actually winked at him.
"How old are you?" I blurted out.
"Gia ..." Pop gave me that glare again.
"No, it's fine. I just turned thirty-six," she said.
That could work, so I decided to offer, "Pop's forty-two. He'll be forty-three in a month."
"You don't say? You look so much younger."
Miss Bagley turned, and Pop gave me the warning eye again.
She headed for a door that must have been freshly polished. A lemon scent hung in the air. "Shall we get your library cards?" she asked. "Then I'll give you a tour. We just received a new reference book this morning. It contains photographs of the world's most beautiful libraries. You simply must see it."
"That will be fantastic," Pop said, and then mouthed to me behind Miss Bagley's back, "Behave."
"Dude, you're in trouble," Nick whispered to me.
"Shut up," I hiss-whispered back. "Why were you smirking, anyway?"
"Did you see them? Your pop likes librarians."
I wrinkled my nose at him. I didn't want to think about Pop and his possible fantasies. "Please stop. Besides, she's not a real librarian. You do know that, right?"
He laughed. "Well, your pop forgot."
I elbowed him. "I will cut you."
"You could try."
Pop scowled at us over his shoulder.
I couldn't shake my bad mood. It had started that morning and just kept growing. And Nick's teasing wasn't helping.
At her desk, Kayla issued us library cards, then took us on a tour of the library.
She guided us to a room off the rotunda, with book stacks and a staircase leading to a balcony. "This is the reference room where I put the gateway book." She pulled a familiar-looking leather-bound book from a case behind the stairs. "I'll keep track of it, so it will be here whenever you need it." She slipped it back into place. "There's a quiet study area in the mezzanine. Follow me."
She went up a staircase with Pop right behind her. Witnessing Pop check her out was more than uncomfortable. I glanced at Nick, and he was holding back a snicker.
Nick mouthed, "Nice butt."
"Really?" I hissed at him, holding onto the wood railing as I climbed.
"Hey, what can I say," he whispered through a smirk. "I'm a proponent of well-formed structures."
"Is that right?" Kayla said from above us. "I'm always impressed when kids appreciate historical landmarks and architecture."
"Oh, I appreciate it," he said.
Excerpted from Guardian of Secrets by Brenda Drake, Liz Pelletier, Stacy Abrams. Copyright © 2017 Brenda Drake. 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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