*The Secret Keepers*
By: Sophia Dovetree

Chapter 1

The late summer breeze was cool, but not cold, as 16-year-old Briar Moss
settled onto the thatched roof of Discipline cottage.
He stared out over the wall that bordered Winding Circle's temple community
in Emelan.
He could hear a faint mumbling coming up from the garden below.
Briar knew that the only person down there right now was his teacher,
Dedicate Rosethorn.
He shook his head, thinking She's talking to her plants again.
The other four people who lived with him and Rosethorn were otherwise busy
for the rest period between lunch and lessons.
Dedicate Lark had taken Sandry to the Water temple loom houses for a
thorough inspection of their bandage supply.
Daja was probably at the forges with her teacher, Frostpine. And Tris and
Niko had left for the seashore hours ago.
Personally, Briar sort of liked all the mayhem living with five women
caused; though he would never tell anyone.
This relaxed quiet, however, was perfect if you wanted to take a nap.
Which he did.
Briar shifted to the left to block the sun from his face with the chimney.
He was almost asleep when he heard someone climb up the ladder onto the
roof next to him.
He peeped one eye open to see who had joined him.
Sandry froze when she saw that he was awake.
"I'm sorry Briar. Did I wake you?"
"No, I was just resting my eyes."
"Oh. Well in that case," she smiled and sat down next to him,
"You go right back to resting and pay me no mind. I'll just sit here."
"Thank you your majesty."
She blushed and for some strange reason, Briar thought that she looked very
pretty like that.
He smiled and closed his eyes again, wondering what it would be like to
kiss her.
Suddenly, he jumped up.
Sandry looked at him with concern as she too stood.
"What's the matter Briar?"
"I-" he stopped not sure what to tell her,
"I- I can't sleep with breathing in my ear."
Sandry narrowed her gaze, trying to figure out if he was joking or if he
was serious.
He looked scared.
Sandry took a deep breath to settle her nerves.
Briar was staring at her chest.
She did it again.
His attention never wavered.
Sandry frowned in confusion; something odd was going on here.
She felt as if a loop of silk was tightening around her stomach, and she
didn't know if she liked the feeling or not.
And Briar still hadn't stopped gawking.
"Briar," she whispered, but not sure why she was whispering,
"What are you looking at?"
His eyes flew to hers as he slowly exhaled.
"Nothing. I was just thinking about, um, how cold it was up here."
He tried to move around Sandry without touching her, but in the end their
hands brushed.
Startled, she took a step backward, forgetting that she was standing on the
roof.
Her feet slid perilously close to the edge before two warm hands grabbed
her around the waist and Briar hauled her up against him.
"You've got to be more careful, Sandry"
He was shaking.
He couldn't get the image of Sandry falling off the roof and breaking
bones, or worse, out of his head.
Briar swallowed convulsively and purposely cleared his mind.
When he'd grabbed onto her, Sandry had looped her arms around his waist for
balance.
Now she had rested her head on his chest for support.
"Thank you for saving me Briar."
He looked down into her face and felt his heart squeeze.
There were tears in her eyes and on her cheeks.
He'd never seen her cry like this before.
Sometimes he heard her crying at night, but those had been tears from her
nightmares of the dark.
Briar gathered her close again, relieved that she hadn't shoved him away.
"It's okay," he murmured, stroking her hair,
"It's okay, just calm down. It'll be all right. Don't worry, I'll protect
you."
When she had stopped breathing erratically, Briar tipped her head up and
leaned closer. Closer.closer.closer-
"BRIAR!"
He started, and let go of Sandry to lean over the edge of the roof.
"What?" he called back to Rosethorn.
"Don't 'what' me, boy! Get down here and help!"
Briar looked over his shoulder at Sandry, who was making her way down the
ladder.
"I'll be right there." He yelled, then followed Sandry down into the house.