Chapter 1:

Still at the computer lab, I did another half hour of homework and ate two more cupcakes, before I finally dared a look at the black envelope sitting at the edge of my vision. I knew I couldn't avoid it all night.

Breaking the seal, I shook out a black card with a small heart embossed at the center. The word sorry was scripted across it. The card was scented with bittersweet perfume. I raised the card to my nose and breathed deeply, trying to place the strangely intoxicating scent. The smell of burned fruit and chemical spices stung all the way down my throat. I opened the card.

I was a jerk last night. Forgive me?

Automatically I slid the card an arm's length away. Patch. I didn't know what to make of his apology, but I didn't like the commotion it caused inside me. Yes, he'd been a jerk. And did he think a card from the drugstore could negate it? If so, he was underestimating the damage he'd caused. He'd kissed Marcie. And not only that, but he'd invaded my dreams. I had no idea how he'd done it, but when I woke in the morning, I knew he'd been there. It was more then a little unnerving. If he could invade the privacy of my dreams, what else could he do?

"Ten minutes until closing," a librarian whispered from the doorway.

I sent my three-paragraph essay on amino acids to the printer, then scooped up my books and wedged them inside my backpack. I picked up Patch's card, hesitated once, then ripped it multiple times and tossed the scraps into the trashcan. If he wanted to say sorry, he could do it in person. Not through Vee, and not in my dreams.

Halfway down the aisle to pick up my print job, I reached out to steady myself on the nearest desk. The right side of my body felt heavier than the left, and my balance wavered. I took another step, and my right leg crumpled, as if made of paper. I crouched down, gripping the desk with both hands, tucking my head between my elbows to get the blood flowing to my brain again. A warm, drowsy feeling surged through my veins.

Straightening my legs, I came to a wobbly stand, but something was wrong with the walls. They were stretched abnormally long and narrow, as if I was looking at them through a mirror at a fun house. I blinked hard several times, attempting to bring my vision to a focal point.

My bones filled with iron, refusing to move, and my eyelids sank against the stark fluorescent lights. In a panic, I ordered them open, but my body overruled all. I felt warm fingers curl around my mind, threatening to drag it off to sleep.

The perfume, I thought vaguely. In Patch's card.

I was on my hands and knees now. Strange rectangles wavered all around, spinning before me. Doors. The room was lined with open doors. But the faster I crawled toward them, the faster they jumped back. Off in the distance, I heard a somber tick-tock. I moved away from the sound, lucid enough to know that the clock was at the back of the room, opposite the door.

Moments later, I realized that my arms and legs were no longer moving, the sensation of crawling nothing more than an illusion in my head. Scratchy, industrial-grade carpet cushioned my cheek. I fought once more to push myself up, and then shut my eyes, all light spiraling away.

I started to gain some sense of movement. I had no idea where I was, but it felt like I was in a car. I was slumped over in a comfortable chair with something restraining me. Slowly, I opened my eyes. I was definitely in a car. I glanced around and saw Patch clutching the steering wheel glancing backwards.

"Patch?" I asked nervously, my head pounding. I remembered the card. "PATCH!" I screamed louder this time.

"Nora, drink the water, you'll feel better." He said, his eyes not leaving the road.

"No, I don't trust you. You drugged me!" I said shaking my head. I reached to undo my seatbelt but Patch grabbed my wrist.

"I didn't do this to you, Nora. An archangel told me that you were in danger and I needed to protect you again. I'm your guardian angel again. I came running toward the school to get you, but there were people trying to drag you away." He explained, and then suddenly images came into my head. I believed him. "Nora, could you please drink the water." This time, I nodded my head and grabbed the water. I chugged it all instantly then sat back into the chair.

Suddenly, I noticed the speedometer going 150 kilometers an hour.

"Patch, slow down." I said calmly.

"They'll catch up to us, I didn't fight them to the death, just enough to get you out of there." He said, pushing his foot to the floor. I turned around to look out the back window.

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