Disclaimer: I don't own Daughters of the Moon. If I did, Collin would have had a speaking role in book 13!!
You're falling back to me
The star that I can see
I know you're out there somewhere out there
You're falling out of reach
I know you're out there
Somewhere out there
—Somewhere Out There, Our Lady Peace
Serena's hand slammed down on the alarm clock. Sunshine poured in through the French doors, sparkling and warm. Groaning, she slipped out of bed, body aching even as she stretched. The night from days before—you know, when she nearly became evil-incarnate?—still plagued her mind. Seeing Zahi in the school hallways was something she dreaded and anticpated.
In the beginning, from what she learned, it seemed he'd transformed into what she wanted. It was a trap set to lure her to him so he'd gain the ultimate prize as a member amongst the Cincti. His charming smile, melodiously deep accent, and dazzling looks haunted her mind. How could she resist? But still, her heart couldn't help but sing at the sight of him. He'd retain that charm. Everything about him—his angular face, black locks, and chocolate-colored, thoughtful brown orbs—screamed amazingly handsome.
But, it appeared, she'd fallen for Stanton first, so says erased memories. Both Followers stringing her along. She'd remain with Stanton. He was handsome and became the knight in shining armor that every girl dreamt of. Instead of the chiming of French she'd been accostumed to, it'd be a harmonious, husky voice that captured her heart. Even better, luminous azure irises that could be hard as stone or as deep as the ocean, depending on the current emotion.
But Zahi is so... He's still the same, right?
She'd miss his in-depth analysis of her cello playing. It is you. The cello is only wood and a bow. You are the real instrument. It is your deep emotion that I hear when you play. His words echoed throughout her mind, a memory she'd buried deep within. It pained her, how someone so genuinely intune with her thoughts, her feelings about the cello, could slip away so easily. Or be an evil creature sent out to terminate her existence. He may have been saying what she wanted to hear, but somewhere, caged deep inside of him, everything was truly him. His thoughts, opinions, words.
It was him, Zahi, and she would miss that.
"Stop that," she commaned aloud, having entered the bathroom and begin combing her tangled curls. "You're with Stanton." Stanton saved you, he cares for you, even though your friends would disagree if they'd found out. They'd say he's using you. Is he? Despite her smoldering attraction to him, a smaller fraction of her believed it to be a facade. A Follower alive since before the 1400's would surely never change his ways in devotion to a Daughter? The idea of it was preposterous, yet she forced her mind to trust him.
After easing into some casual attire and threading hair products through her curls, giving them a breezy bounce and a lustrous shine, she was skipping out the door, opting to walk to school. The sun cascaded down across the sidewalk, caressing her skin. Clouds tumbled in, white and full; the skies a baby blue that was a serene sight. Her boots thudded against the cement, yet the noise was lost.
His name refused to leave her mind. He could provide insight that Stanton may be able to, but chose not to. Stanton was more secluded, sometimes shy, it seemed. As if providing to much emotion was too foreign and strange for him to tolerate. He could compliment her, call her beautiful, and she delighted herself in it, but... it seemed so different. Zahi had stared into her eyes. Stanton merely gazed at her face, seeing her but... not seeing her. Stanton seemed to paint her face and body in his mind, in case she ever left his world, while Zahi simply mesmorzied the coloring of her orbs. As if that was enough.
"God damn it," she hissed. The struggle in her heart was fierce. It had been a month fawning over Zahi. Escaping those feelings would be near impossible, despite how much she loved Stanton. But they were two different men, straight down to their appearance—so much that she couldn't help but compare. Theirs personalities contradicted one another, so intensely unequal.
A cool breeze stroked her arms. Entering the school, she immediately swerved off, wanting to avoid her friends at the moment. They were huddled around Michael, who held a guitar in his arms, fingers picking at the strings. Not soon later, more girls began sprinting toward him, starry-eyed and hypnotized. Rolling her eyes and cracking a smile, Serena ignored this spectacle and hurried to her locker, hoping to find him.
Indeed, when she approached her locker and began dialing the lock, the hairs on the back of her neck stood up. A familiar presence edged closer, and a strong, intoxicating fragrance—his cologne bought from one of the high-priced European stores of La Brea Mall—englufed the air. Savoring it, she swiveled around and smiled beamingly, heart hammering against the inside of her chest.
"Hello, Zahi" she greeted, voice high with excitement.
He bowed his head, limp black tresses falling in his eyes. His black shirt hugged his torso closely, outlining the subtle hints of muscles. He wasn't too toned out, in the way that Stanton was, but a bit more lean, somehow leonine at the same time. "Serena," he replied humbly, voice velvety smooth to her ears, that accent thick yet feathery all in one. "I wanted to apologize—"
"For what? I was just being what I was sent to be." Stupid line, she mentally added, wishing to smack herself on the cheek. But Zahi, smiling meekly, cocked his head, and his dark eyes seemed to lighten under the sunshine.
"Thank you," he finally breathed.
Serena, stepping forward, wound her arms around him, the warmth of him soothing her. He, too, embraced her, truly delighted and welcoming, although his grip did tighten, as if afraid to release her. His thoughts were still mostly French, a few Arabic words coming forth, so she could not read his mind. But their whole-hearted moment was cut short by the profound clicking of heels.
"Aw, how adorable."
Serena pulled back, eyes narrowing into slits. Morgan stood before her, hip cock and arms folded across her chest. Zahi, glancing nervously at Serena, watched as she nodded her head. Go, she whispered across his mind. After staring into her eyes for several prolonged moments, he nodded once before ambling off, shoulders slouched.
"I know what you are," Morgan sneered, come-hither lips outlined by a garish burgundy color. "And you know what I am. This fight is real now. This no more high school clash, and I can't wait to start."
Serena shook her head, eyebrows pinched together in silent grief. "I never wanted to fight you. You can come back before it corrupts you—"
"You would like that, wouldn' you?" she snapped, venom coated with each word. "But I know how much everyone hates you for taking Zahi away, so I plan on bringing him back."
Her chest emptied of emotion, panic boiling her blood. "I won't let you."
"Right." Morgan sidestepped her, eyes locked on where Zahi had gone, but Serena clasped her arm and shoved her back. The blonde, eyes widening and upper lip curling back, hissed. A faint note of energy sliced through the air. It was meager, barely there, and Serena couldn't help but throw her head back and laugh mockingly. The energy vanished as Morgan's concentration blew away.
"What's so funny?" she demanded, uncomprehending and outraged.
Serena, flushed pink, grinned. "You don't know how weak you are..." Her own energy crackled, slicing through the atmosphere. Ribbons of pink and orange cut through. Paper and trash, ruffled, scurried across the corridor ground. Morgan, shifting on her feet, bit her bottom lip. Serena, curls lifting somehow, eased back down, body relaxing. The power declined; papers on the ground settling, light dispersing as other people began shuffling toward the smaller lock area, the one where newer people were appointed to.
And the blonde flounced off, heels tapping annoyingly on the ground. Serena, eyeing her, waited a short while before heading in the opposite direction. Protecting Zahi brought upon a tremendous sensation of pride and bliss. She'd be his angel, his savior, and she appreciated that. But in the end, she'd only be his hero. Nothing more. Because he needed to eliminate his ties, any, that traced back to his previous existence as a Follower. He needed to live life as a mortal, hope restored and the conflicts of evil gone from his new life.
And she'd allow it with a bright smile and a final embrace.