Chapter One: A Hottie in the Afternoon

As Meggie was walking home from school the day that she would always remember, she stumbled and dropped her book. Bending down to get it, she switched her iPod on and it started shouting, "I'm bringin' sexy back! Yah!" and she jumped in fright. She didn't like that song, so when she hit shuffle, and it started playing "Loosen up my buttons, babe. Uh-huh" She did a little dance and then kept on walking. When she returned home she was looking around for her father, Mo. When she did not see him she decided that he was in his bookbinding room, a.k.a. his office.

"Mo?" she called into the hallway.

"In my office, Meggie," came a reply. It sounded nasally.

"Mo, are you okay? You sound a little sick."

Another nasally reply said, "Oh, Meggie I'm okay. I'm just a little tired from working almost all day."

Meggie replied in a matter-of-fact way, "Well, then come and sit with me we can talk. Then after that I want you to go right to bed to get a rest!"

"Well, look who's being the parent today," Mo said as he was coming out of his office. He went over to Meggie and they both sat down. He put his arm around her shoulders and sighed.

"Meggie, you are becoming such a lady. Soon you will be taking care of me instead of me taking care of you."

Meggie grinned at Mo. "Yea, you'll need a lot of taking care of, too." She hugged him, and then went to her room to do homework.

She flopped down on her bed and grabbed her science book out of her backpack. She was about to open it when she spotted a small little figure out of the corner of her eye. When she got up to look out of her window, she saw it scurry away. When she got back to her bed she swore on her life that the little figure had horns. It looked something like a ferret, too. She glanced at her ferret's cage, Sunshine, just to be sure.

But the gray ferret was chattering and running around in the safety of the bars. Besides, the little figure had brown fur, or at least what Meggie had seen of it.

Suddenly, her window burst into flames. Screaming, Meggie instinctively grabbed her bedspread and threw it at the flames, but it only fed them bigger. She grabbed Sunshine out of his cage and ran out, screaming for Mo.

"What is it, Meggie?" he asked, running through the hallway.

"FIRE!!" Meggie yelled, and ran back to show Mo the fire.

Only there was no fire.

Not anymore, at least. The window was cracked, and her bedspread was lying near it, but from this angle Meggie couldn't detect a burn on it. She knew it was there, though, but Mo shook his head and looked at her, confused.

"Meggie, you sure have some imagination," he said shaking his head. He turned to walk away.

"No!" Meggie tried to run after him. "Mo, you have to believe me!"

Mo looked at her strangely. "Meggie, there is no fire."

Suddenly, they heard a cry from outside, and a furry animal jumped onto the windowsill.

"Sorry!" someone yelled, and then a face appeared at the window. It was a man, with three unattractive looking scars running across his cheeks. The furry animal beside him—Meggie was pretty sure it was a marten—lashed out its tail and swiped it across the window. Meggie suddenly realized that the furry animal was the figure from early that day, before her fire. The man's faced turned from apologetic to surprised when he saw Mo.

Mo stared at the scar-faced man for a long time. Meggie recognized the look on his face: sheer disbelief. She was utterly confused.

Mo opened his mouth to speak, but for a moment nothing came out. "D-Dustfinger?" he asked cautiously.

The scar-faced man nodded and stared at Mo. "Silvertongue?"

Mo nodded. "How did you get back here? After he captured you, I thought—"

"I escaped," Dustfinger interrupted him, glancing at Meggie.

"Of course." Mo glanced at the furry animal. "Is that Gwin?"

Dustfinger looked at the marten. "Yes. He escaped too." He picked up the marten, avoiding its sharp snapping teeth, and put it into his backpack.

All this time, Meggie was staring at Dustfinger and thinking, He's hott! Then all off a sudden she stopped daydreaming and realized that the man with the scars and Mo know each other.

"How in the name of all the hott men in the world do you know each other?" Meggie asked while jumping up and down to get Mo who was in his own la-la-land.

"Meggie why don't you go to your room and do you're homework," Mo said still in a daze.

"I am in my room, you big old goof. Tell me how two you know each other!" Meggie shouted.

"Dustfinger, would you like to come in and have something to eat? You look starved," Mo said.

Dustfinger nodded and walked to the door.

"Meggie you stay here and do your homework," Mo said as he said as he walked to meet Dustfinger. Still in shock Meggie could not protest. The two men left the room and Meggie looked around, still thinking about how hott Dustfinger was. She switched on her iPod; once again, it sang, "I'm bringin' sexy back" but this time she decided she liked the song a lot more than she had thought. She danced along and started scribbling things down in her science notebook without thinking.

The next time Mo came in it was ten o'clock and he told her to go to bed and have sweet dreams. She knew she would have sweet dreams because she would be thinking of Dustfinger.

In the morning, Meggie got up and started humming a song, "The pages of a book, hold our secrets!" yet she didn't know why. When she got into the kitchen she noticed that there was an extra plate on the table so she knew that Mr. Hottie, Dustfinger, would be eating breakfast with them. She was very happy. Mo was making breakfast at the stove, and she marched over to him.

"Mo, I want to know more about how you know Mr. Hot—I mean, Dustfinger."

Mo turned to face her, a grim look in his eyes. "Meggie, the story is too complicated to tell now. Perhaps over breakfast." But Meggie was stubborn.

"Tell me, Mo," she demanded. "And don't lie, either." Sometimes her father fibbed to her to keep a cold truth away, and she felt he was going to do it soon.

Mo sighed and turned to her, but just as he opened his mouth, instead of words came out, "Ouch!" and he pulled his hand away from the stove. At first, Meggie thought he had been burned, but then she saw Dustfinger's marten, apparently called Gwin, clambering around on the counter. Mo uttered a soft swear at the furry animal and shooed him away. Gwin chattered crossly at him and scurried away, leaping off of the high counter top. Sunshine was stalking around the table legs, his gray pelt fluffed up at the sight of Gwin. The marten hissed at him and snapped, but Sunshine was much bigger and with a swipe of his claws got Gwin to back off.

Just then, Dustfinger walked through the doorway, swinging his backpack off of his shoulder and placing it around the back of his chair. "Good morning," he told them. Meggie was so happy to see him. "So, Silvertongue, what's for breakfast?" he asked as he sat down. "I'm starved."

"Toast," Mo answered, taking a piece of toast and biting into it.

Meggie went over to the table and sat down. She liked toast, but right then her head was swarming with a million questions. When Mo sat her plate of toast down she barely acknowledged it, but instead bit into it without any feeling, and she felt like she almost couldn't taste it.