(Annals of Ellie #2)

by Wendy Lohr

Events from the past, secrets of the future, all mix to confuse and confound. Hormones and naiveness plague Ellie as she navigates her special talent and her new world of college, foretelling, and sleuthing. Add her out-of-control roommate and adventure is sure to follow. Normalcy is always in question and perspicacity is all she has. Or does it have her?


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Chapter One
Awkward & Edgy

As my eyes fluttered open slowly, I stared in confusion and wondered if I’d somehow been moved to a different room during the night. Usually when I awake in the morning, my gaze lands on a vibrant, glossy poster of a half-naked soccer guy across the room. But this time, all that I saw was a bare wall and an unslept-in bed. I was still at Dark Hollow University, wasn’t I?

Rubbing the grit out of my eyes, I rolled onto my back and was greeted with the sight of a half-naked soccer guy I don’t normally see smiling down at me from the ceiling. As more synapses began firing, I slowly registered that I was in Brit’s bed and was relieved that I was still a college student at the prestigious university. A quick glance beside me confirmed that my roommate and best friend wasn’t in the bed with me and I struggled to a sitting position as more of the sleep fog began to lift.

“Morning, Sunshine,” Brit greeted cheerfully, emerging from the bathroom. She was already dressed for our exercise routine, looking way too cool for this early in the morning, and I grunted at her in response, still trying to figure out what was going on and why I was in her bed instead of my own.

It took me a minute of stumbling around, shedding my PJs and dressing in shorts and a t-shirt, before I finally remembered what had taken place last night. I’d made out with my best friend. Well, not all the way, but close. And I’d liked it. A lot. And then she’d suggested I sleep with her in her bed. After lots of contemplation about how my life had reached this point, I’d eventually fallen asleep with her spooning me.

Not entirely sure how to feel about our make-out session/spooning, I remained quiet as I watched her put away the untouched wine coolers we’d left on her nightstand. Brit seemed to be her usual self, cheerful and full of it, but I was worried our sexual explorations the night before had somehow affected our friendship. After all, it was my first time for trying something with a girl and even though it was just kissing and cuddling and I had enjoyed it at the time, I was feeling a little awkward and weird now.

Trying not to make a big deal out of our expanded relationship and probably failing miserably, I attempted to follow her lead and went through our usual workout as well as the additional exercises Guardian Kristoff, my scrumptiously hunky instructor for Combat Techniques for Beginners, had given me. I hadn’t had a chance to incorporate them yet after my horrid vision episode the previous Friday and wanted to make sure I got them into my routine before my next Beginner’s Combat class at the end of this week. After we were done, we took turns getting showers and pulling on our school uniforms (plaid pleated skirt, white blouse, vest, and clunky shoes; a real mood killer of an outfit). Brit, as comfortable as ever, wandered around in the nude as she gathered up her outfit and slowly got dressed while I was still a little shy and preferred to dress without her looking on.

As I was putting my shoes on in the common room, she plopped down next to me on the couch and demanded, “Alright, out with it, love.”

“Out with what?” I asked in confusion, leaning back once I had my shoes tied.

“Why are you being so weird this morning? You’ve barely uttered three words since you woke up,” she pointed out. The way she was looking at me told me she already knew why, but was going to make me voice my weirdness out loud.

Blushing a little, I pondered how to even breach the subject and decided bluntness was probably the best avenue with her, especially if she already knew what was bothering me. Sighing a little, I fidgeted with the hem of my skirt and shifted my eyes to avoid her caramel gaze as I responded softly, “I’m still processing what we did last night. And… I don’t know… maybe a little worried about how it affects our friendship now.”

“It doesn’t, silly. We’re still besties regardless of whether we swapped spit or not,” she insisted, making me snort a little at her crudeness. “We were both having some fun and yes, I’d like to do more with you. But we’re not dating, if that’s what you’re worried about. And no, we’re not going to suddenly experience weirdness and awkwardness; I absolutely forbid it! We’re women of the 21st century, Ellie Marshall, and we can enjoy a bit of bedroom fun together if we want to.”

Giggling by this point, I held up my hands in mock defense and cried, “Okay, okay! Don’t lynch me! It’s just… this is my first time and I’m still trying to figure out how I feel about it.”

“Did you enjoy it?” she asked curiously, twirling some of my hair around her fingers.

“Yeah, I did. Honest,” I answered without hesitation, meeting her eyes to show my sincerity even as I felt my cheeks growing a little warm.

“Well, so did I. So, what else do you need to ponder?”

“Nothing… I guess.”

“Exactly. So, stop acting like a ninny and let’s get on with our day. We’ve got breakfast to eat, boys to flirt with, and the world to conquer!”

Laughing some more, I finally felt myself relax as I realized we were still besties, as she put it. Nodding, I stood up and checked to make sure I had everything before declaring, “Alright, then, let’s go get our flirting on!”

“That’s my girl!” she cheered and we headed down to the dining hall, my tummy ravenous for some yummy sustenance.

Along the way, I warily observed some of the creepy paintings hanging on the hall walls of stodgily dressed men. Some of the oil portraits were of older stern looking men while others were younger with softer features. All of them appeared to be watching us in the dim light of the flickering medieval sconces that lined the hallways. I’d gotten mostly used to the strange décor and lighting of the university, but those paintings still put me on edge. Forcing my gaze ahead of me, I cast about in my head for anything to say to shake off the sudden chills I had from looking at the portrayals of ancient men.

Recalling Headmaster Anton’s announcement last night during dinner about a possible change in the school uniforms that none of the students liked, I gave a wistful sigh and shared longingly, “I so can’t wait to see what they finally decide to go with for the new school uniforms. I really hate these outfits!”

“I’m with you on that, love. Even though most people don’t know, I think I can speak for the entire student population that we are all grateful you had that discussion with Master Gabriel!”

Laughing, I recalled how strange yet exhilarating that conversation had been with Master Gabriel, my intimidating mentor and Dean of Faculty for the school. Half turning, I gave Brit a goofy curtsy, stumbling a little because we were still walking, and declared, “You and the student population are most welcome!”

Giggling at my antics, she tugged on my ponytail and urged, “Now hurry up so we can get in some good flirtations with the guys before we have to head off to class!”

Grinning as we picked up the pace, I was relieved that there wasn’t any lingering awkwardness between us. Instead, it felt like always, the bantering and chatting. Maybe a bit more close and intimate, but nothing that screamed we were a couple or anything. Brit seemed happy to explore and play around without commitment and I was slowly discovering that I was feeling the same way. So, I was definitely pleased that we’d talked this morning about our sexual adventure and that I’d managed to try something new with Brit that actually wasn’t illegal.

Thinking of illegal adventures, I recalled our other escapade yesterday which had involved breaking and entering, or B&E as Brit referred to it, into the Maintenance Woman’s apartment. And that was probably the reason I’d been worried this morning that I’d somehow been kicked out of the university and had landed in some strange bed. But fortunately, only Brit and I knew about our foray into illegal activity. Grinning widely at my recent successes in expanding my horizons, I followed her into the dining hall and quickly got some food before joining Rafe and Jackson at our usual table.

After a typical lively breakfast, my morning and afternoon classes flew by in a blur, me taking whatever opportunities I could to get in some flirting with Rafe. I seriously doubted he was oblivious to the fact that I was interested in taking our interactions further, but for some reason he was continuing to keep a slight barrier between us. Well, that barrier was going to eventually come down if I had anything to say about it. But before that happened, I had decided I needed to get in some more make out practice with Brit to make sure I was on my game when the time did come for me to test my more ‘physical’ feminine wiles on the big, gruff Aussie.

Smirking at that thought, I strolled into the library to wait for Master Gabriel and my brain switched gears to my fast-approaching independent study session. I was relieved I’d managed to get my assignments done this time, having finished the character sketch and all of the reading for today’s discussion. Recalling the chastisement I’d received the last time from Master Gabriel for not being prepared, I was determined not to endure that again.

Then I got to thinking about our last interaction when I’d accidentally run into him (literally) yesterday after my B&E adventure with Brit and quickly checked my bag just to make sure I did have my character sketch with me and the books I needed for any discussions we might have. No need to have it appear as though I was taking advantage of my unique talent by not doing the assignments given to me.

As I was putting the sketch back in my bag, I was startled when Ms. Chandler, the Liaison to Master Roberto as well as the Head Librarian, approached me and requested in a somewhat formal manner, “Miss Marshall. May I speak with you for a moment?”

“Uh, sure, Ms. Chandler. Is something wrong?” I asked uncertainly, closing my bag and slinging the strap over my shoulder once more.

“Well, you have some books that are overdue. You know, the ones you checked out last week from the restricted section,” she informed me in a no-nonsense manner that was a little intimidating. “Also, you weren’t authorized for two of the books. So, if you have those books with you, please turn them in now.”

Cringing at having forgotten about the books being due and for having gotten caught with regards to the other two books, I started to reach into my bag when Master Gabriel’s unexpected voice caught me off guard. “You checked out books I didn’t authorize you to, Miss Marshall?”

When had he arrived? Feeling completely on the spot, I couldn’t bring myself to look at him as I stammered sheepishly, “Uh, well, I didn’t realize I wasn’t allowed to check out others, Master Gabriel. I thought I was just getting your permission to enter the restricted section.”

“I’m assuming you now know how this works then,” he stated tersely.

“Yes, sir,” I uttered, my eyes shifting anywhere but him. Turning my full focus on the Liaison, who was looking just as stunned and unsettled by his sudden appearance as I was, I asked tentatively, “Um, do I have to check them back in right now, Ms. Chandler? I’m not actually done with them yet.”

“Which books do you have besides the one I assigned you?” Master Gabriel insisted on knowing, not allowing her a chance to respond.

Sucking in a shaky breath, I reluctantly turned my gaze to Master Gabriel and found he was standing close to me on my right. Too close, in my opinion, as I found myself getting distracted by his enticing appearance again. He was dressed all in black, the silver Celtic pendant resting at the base of his throat like always, and his thick sable hair was falling in perfect waves to just above his shoulders. As my gaze became locked with his cerulean eyes, I found myself wanting to move closer to him. Somewhere in my befuddled brain, I knew that wasn’t something I should do and practically ordered my body to remain frozen in place instead of giving in to that temptation. The last thing I wanted to do was embarrass myself or cause issues with the two adults who were currently flanking me. Stupid hormones.

Clearing my throat as it became obvious that I had yet to answer his question, I blinked to break the magnetic hold he always seemed to have on me and hesitantly shared with him the titles, sheepishly noting the slight quirk of his dark eyebrow at my mention of the Lycan book. I couldn’t even begin to imagine what was going through his mind, his captivating gaze unwavering in its intensity, but Ms. Chandler spoke up this time before he could begin chastising me. “Actually, Master Gabriel, the History of Lycans book was requested by Mr. Gibson upon your permission. So, it’s up to you as to which student you prefer to have that book right now.”

As my eyes widened, I barely managed to smother the surprised gasp that was bursting to escape. I only knew one Mr. Gibson and that would be Rafe, but him requesting to check out the book puzzled me. Even though he’d expressed an interest in borrowing it from me earlier, when I’d told him I couldn’t loan it to him, he’d shrugged it off as if it were no big deal. So why would he go through the effort of getting permission to check it out of the restricted section? And why would Master Gabriel give him that permission?

As my brain tried to find answers, a previous conversation with Brit came to mind. She had told me that no one usually got permission to go into the restricted section, let alone check anything out of it, unless they were a graduate student or a faculty member. Sometimes seniors were given permission but it had to pertain to a research project they were conducting. But we weren’t seniors and Rafe was in all but one of my classes, so I was confident he hadn’t been assigned a research project on Lycans. Therefore, I couldn’t begin to fathom why he would a) seek permission to check the book out, and b) why Master Gabriel would grant him that permission.

Eyeing the Vamp inquisitively as my mind raced to understand what this could mean, I noticed with satisfaction that he was clearly a bit on edge now. It didn’t happen often, so I knew what I’d just learned was something important, even if the why of it was evading me. In fact, the way he was now not meeting my gaze gave the impression he hadn’t wanted me to know that he’d given Rafe permission to check out the book and I wondered why that was.

Before I could spend time mulling over what it all meant, he stated abruptly, “Miss Marshall, you’ll need to turn those books in you were not given permission to check out. But I will grant you permission to keep the book I originally assigned you since you still have research to do. Ms. Chandler, what do I need to provide you with so that Miss Marshall may retain History of Seers?”

“I just need you to fill out a form indicating how long Miss Marshall is permitted to keep the book, Master Gabriel. I have one at the help desk, if you’ll both follow me,” Ms. Chandler answered promptly and turned to lead the way, clearly having fully recovered from her earlier startlement at the intimidating Vamp’s appearance.

Readjusting the strap of my heavy bag on my shoulder, I nearly stumbled when Master Gabriel placed his hand lightly on my elbow, urging us forward. And then I did stumble when he uttered softly in exasperation, “Lycans again, Miss Marshall? There’s no telling what you could accomplish if you were to put this much energy into your other talents.”

“I put quite a bit of energy into my other talents, Master Gabriel,” I practically sputtered defensively, keeping my voice low so Ms. Chandler couldn’t hear the intense interaction taking place between us. “That doesn’t mean I can’t be curious about other subjects.”

“Well, your curiosity is going to get you into trouble one of these days,” he warned in a near hiss as we came to a stop at the help desk.

When he didn’t remove his hand from my elbow right away, I glanced at it and then at his face pointedly. He seemed to have forgotten he was touching me at all and hastily removed his hand, clasping both hands behind his back but remaining close by my side, his classically handsome face completely neutral. Finding his continued closeness to be both odd and comforting at the same time, I decided I really did need my hormones examined and busied myself with retrieving the two books I wasn’t supposed to have.

Placing them on the desk next to a thin name placard that read Sherise Chandler, Head Librarian on it, I watched as Ms. Chandler set a piece of paper in front of Master Gabriel and explained which fields she needed him to fill out. While he did that, she began the process of checking History of Lycans and History of Vampires back into the system. As much as I wanted to keep those books, I reminded myself that I’d already read them thoroughly from cover to cover and wasn’t likely to glean anything else from them.

As Master Gabriel finished, he queried with great interest, “Might I inquire as to how you were able to check out books you weren’t supposed to, Miss Marshall?”

Sheesh, were they going to flog me next? They were just books, for crying out loud. Sighing, I shrugged and explained, “I handed the books over to the lady at the check-out counter and she logged them into the system before handing them back. She didn’t ask me anything, so I assumed I could check out whatever books I was interested in from that section.”

“She didn’t ask to see the written permission?” he pressed.

“Uh, no. Besides, I couldn’t have shown it to her anyway. Ms. Chandler kept that after she opened the room up for me,” I answered truthfully, still not entirely sure why this was such a big deal.

Unfortunately, I believe I made an enemy at that point because the attractive black woman was giving me a somewhat ferocious glare that the Vamp didn’t see because he was focused on me. Absently noting that her glares were fiery whereas Ms. Glass’s glares were frigid, I wondered what it was with me and Liaisons that we didn’t seem to get along. Well, except for Ms. Holston, my mega-awesome student advisor; I totally loved her. In fact, if I was being realistic instead of dramatic, I’d only met three Liaisons so far. But somehow, I’d managed to piss off two of them since enrolling at Dark Hollow University and I seriously had no idea what I’d done to irritate either of them.

Upon hearing my explanation, Master Gabriel’s voice went soft as he remarked in a deceptively calm tone, “I see. Well, it appears we will need to discuss a better system for checking out books from the restricted section. As you may not yet be aware, Miss Marshall, there are a lot of books and reference materials in that particular room that could be dangerous in the wrong hands and harmful to a great many individuals.” A little uneasy at that proclamation, all I could do was nod my head in understanding. That seemed to be enough to satisfy him as he then requested while still gazing intently at me, “Ms. Chandler, please make the arrangements for a meeting and be sure to include all library personnel as well as myself and Headmaster Anton.”

Tearing my gaze away from Master Gabriel’s magnetic pull, I glanced over at the Liaison and wished I hadn’t. It was an obvious struggle for the woman to regain a much calmer demeanor considering the looks she was giving me were enough to turn me to ashes, if such a thing were possible. Apparently, I’d inadvertently highlighted a flaw in her system and as Head Librarian, she would be held accountable. Why she was glowering at me, though, I didn’t understand; it wasn’t like I had messed with her on purpose.

As the Vamp turned his attention to her, she managed to slip on a more accommodating expression and responded respectfully, “Of course, Master Gabriel. I’ll begin working on making those arrangements immediately.”

“Excellent! Well, let us get on, Miss Marshall. We still have a lesson to conduct,” Master Gabriel insisted, his tone slipping smoothly into that of an instructor once more. Not knowing what to make of anything that had just transpired, I simply nodded and strode out of the library with the intimidating Vamp, practically feeling hot daggers being visually embedded into my back by Ms. Chandler as we departed.

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