Taylor Smart kept hoping things would get better, but they didn’t. The world was dull and gray. She had little to no appetite. Her favorite songs sounded tinny and distant when they played on the radio. Even something as relaxing as sitting at the piano and practicing her lessons left her unenthused. It was as if someone had turned a giant, invisible dial and watered down everything.
If Taylor were an ordinary thirteen-year-old, she might have just been in some weird hormone-induced funk. Nothing a hot fudge sundae or a trip to the mall with Jill couldn’t fix.
But nobody had ever mistaken Taylor for an ordinary thirteen-year-old. It wasn’t just that she was very bright. And it wasn’t just the vibe she gave off that told the world she knew full well she was probably the smartest person in the room. There were plenty of quick-witted, snarky teenagers in the world. That didn’t even set her apart at Bulloch Middle School. (Although she was reasonably sure she was in the top five.)
“Morning, sweetie,” her mom called from the door.
“Good morning,” Taylor said. “Time for work?”
Her mom nodded. “I just wanted to say goodbye before I left. Are you still sure about this?”
“I’ll be fine. You and Dad go on to work. I can fix myself breakfast.”
“Are you sure you’ll be here okay by yourself?”
“I’ve got my cell phone,” Taylor protested. “I can call if I need anything.”
“Whatever you want. I can have Mrs. Dibney check in on you if you like.”
“That’s not really necessary!” Taylor said. She tried to keep frustration out of her voice. The last thing she needed was their nosy neighbor snooping around—least of all today! “Besides,” she continued in a more even tone, “it’s just for one day. I can handle it.”
“Of course, you can. I love you, honey.” Mrs. Smart moved on.
Taylor sighed as she stumbled to her closet.
Get a grip, Taylor, she told herself. Just a few more minutes.
She rifled through the shirts hanging her closet in search of something to wear. She couldn’t help but grin when she thought about what she had planned for the day. While her parents were at work, Taylor was going on an adventure that might—just might—break her out of her funk.
Taylor’s problems all started in April, when she met her birth mother for the first time. That was when she discovered the truth: she was not entirely human. She was, in fact, a faery.
“Fae,” she corrected herself. Her Kind didn’t like that other word—though she still wasn’t entirely sure why. Whatever they were called, her birth parents were from a race of magical beings that had lived alongside humans in secrecy for thousands of years.
A month ago, she found this out when her classmate Danny Underhill kidnapped her on orders from her grandmother. Since then, she tried not to think too much about her biologi- cal family. It was enough to know that her true father, Aulberic Redmane, was dead—the victim of a deadly feud that pitted his family against that of Taylor’s mother, Shanna Hellebore. A lot of people thought Romeo and Juliet was a beautiful love story. They must have not read to the end, where everybody dies. But whatever the case, that was pretty much the story of Taylor’s biological parents. Fortunately, her birth mother survived and, after fourteen years in the Hellebore dungeons, was finally safe, living with Fair Folk in North Carolina.
But Taylor was stuck between two worlds. She wanted to fit in with her Topside friends and her Topside parents. But she wasn’t very good at it—even before magic started getting in the way.
And she still hadn’t figured out how to tell her parents about all this.
Maybe this little field trip she had planned would clear her head.
She got a quick shower and then put on the clothes she had picked out: khaki shorts, tennis shoes, and a royal blue top. It was cute and casual but not grungy. Perfect. She threw a few things into her new beaded purse—a souvenir from her first visit to the Wonder—wallet, some sunscreen, her cell phone, her asthma inhaler, and a few other odds and ends.
She also packed her seeing stone, a smooth, black stone with a hole in the middle. Her Kind used stones like this to communicate with each other over long distances. Actually, it was through a seeing-stone conversation that Taylor learned about Ichisi, a nearby fae town. When her new friend Ayoka scryed her right at the end of the school year and said she would be coming to Macon soon, Taylor’s heart did a somersault.
Now, at last, the day had come.
Read more of The Devil’s Due…