At last, Avery thought that she had made it back to a normal high school life-- except for the death threats on her head and the harpie in her backyard. Trouble never stays far away though, and Mikhail hatches a plan that endangers life as she knows it. Avery is drawn back into a vicious harpie war and is finally forced to confront her relationship with Mason whether she is ready to or not.
ISBN 13: 978-1461158028
Where to buy Grounded:
Below is a glimpse inside the pages of Grounded. Keep in mind this is UNADVISABLE to read before Airborne because its spoiler packed. The first chapter is as follow:
The warehouse burned hot with thick billows of black smoke crawling along the ceilings and red sparks bursting from the corners. Breath held tight, she struggled forward. Her feet felt like lead but her painfully slow progress still brought her to a door. With no other exit in sight she reached for the scolding metal knob but never got the chance to turn it.
A sound suddenly alerted her to someone approaching from behind. She whirled around to face the intruder. The person’s figure remained distinctive even against the flickering shadows. Splays of dark hair hung over his black eyes that fixated on her retreating figure. The man’s sturdy shoulders showed faded scars and bulky muscles, and his bare chest sufficiently revealed the sharp blade strapped to his side. Massive grey wings affixed to his back made his already tall stature barely fit within the crumpling hall.
He was calm, as if the building collapsing around him could topple everyone else but leave him unscathed.
“I trusted you.” He hissed, darkly intent on his focus. “I trusted you and you betrayed me.”
“It’s not like that. You don’t understand.” She held her hands up but the platonic gesture did nothing but put her at a disadvantage.
“Don’t make me fight you.” She warned but he continued to advance towards her. The building let out a guttural moan, the red flames licked their way closer, and the berth between them rapidly disappeared. The knife freed from his belt, he came ready to attack. She had to make the choice. It was either him or her who got to live. And she was going to choose herself.
The shocking cold suddenly woke her from a dead sleep and Avery Zane shot up in her bed. The real world returned to her and she found herself in her dimly lit dorm room. The last fragments of her confusing dream rapidly slipped away before she could grasp them. It was then she noticed the figure standing in the shadows.
“Mason!” She gasped, eyes taking in his tall lanky form pressed into the dorm room corner.
She noticed the open window next—no doubt where he’d climbed through—that let the snow and cold wind blow in. She sprung free from her tightly wrapped sheets, fought with the blowing curtains, and slammed the window shut.
“Are you nuts?” She whirled on him next. “What if someone sees you?”
Mason came forward, eclipsed in the moonlight and looking as stunning as ever. He dropped his thick parka to the ground allowing his massive white angel wings to shake out freely and strode up to her bedside.
“Your roommate is gone. I watched her leave.” He said unconcerned.
Avery cast a quick glance across the room where the other twin bed sat empty. Usually her best friend and roommate Leela would have been there and long asleep by midnight. Recently though, Leela had been out most nights.
“No excuse. Someone could have seen you climb in!” Avery hushed her voice and scooted so he could sit on the foot of her bed.
Mason shrugged. “Don’t care.”
She was sure he didn’t either. Mason was a harpie that was a race of creatures known for being prideful and vicious. Thinking he was above “being caught” wasn’t farfetched behavior on his part. Rather than complaining, she only huffed quietly. Mason, on account of being banned from his own society, had been staying with her the past few months at her boarding school. Avery knew it couldn’t be easy for him. Humans like her typically didn’t know about mythological creatures like him so he couldn’t exactly spend much time socializing or even risk being on seen campus. Even with his disguise, Mayweather Academy wasn’t big enough for him to exist inconspicuously. He was stuck hiding out in the forest and waiting around for available time just like this.
“Are you cold?” She asked but naturally Mason only shrugged, usually undaunted by the temperature.
She had grown chilly though, thanks to the window trick earlier, and pulled the rosy comforter up on her bed to crawl underneath it.
“So what’s up?” She prompted him after finding a comfortable spot.
Green eyes focused on the distance, he took a moment of silence before saying anything.
“Avery.” Mason said suddenly. Not looking at her, he then continued with, “We have to leave your school.”
She went still.
“We have to leave soon. This place isn’t safe.” He reiterated.
Avery let out a slow, practiced breath before she could overreact.
“It’s the last semester of my senior year. I can’t leave. I’m not.” It sounded too much like begging, and even though Avery knew he couldn’t control the danger she wasn’t above pleading with the universe.
The first semester of her senior year—over four months ago now—Mason had shown up on her doorstep outing his entire race. It had turned out that she’d picked up a magical harpie amulet and added herself to the hit list of every harpie thief in existence. The mere fact that they’d survived the escapades that followed was miraculous but they didn’t exactly do it without making any enemies. Enemies that Avery and Mason both knew would come back one day, but five months later seemed a little early for it. Plus, if she was uprooted again, she might never graduate and Avery wouldn’t give that up willingly.
Mason didn’t squash her protests immediately. He sat quietly while wringing his long fingers together. After a moment, he leaned back onto her bed even though all six foot seven of him wouldn’t quite fit. She stretched out next to him and had to ask the necessary question.
“Why do you say that now? What’s changed?”
“This place has never been safe. It’s unpopulated and in the middle of nowhere. They could attack us and no one would know the difference. They’ve done it before.”
By them, Mason referred to two harpies named Mikhail and Eva. Both of who had been in a group called the Band of Thieves and were notorious criminals. Mason didn’t use their names because Avery would shudder when she heard them. Just the thought of those two had been giving her nightmares lately, but she still argued with Mason’s logic.
“That’s not why you brought it up now.” She sighed, knowing that he was avoiding talking about it.
Mason had the habit of knowing something
The conversation lulled and Avery’s mind slowly began to drift. She could hear his steady breathing next to her and felt the heat radiating off of him. The hint of feathers tickled her cheek and the musk of his grassy scent wafted over her. She rolled onto her side. Propping herself on her elbow, she looked down at him.
The move was brazen on her part. Not only did it put their faces mere inches apart, it made her camisole night gown cling to the outline of her body. She did it casually of course, knowing that she could feign innocence on this one. Mason wasn’t exactly “fair game” in the dating world, but she wasn’t above giving him an opening. A few months ago they had made out and the sexual tension still lingered. Lazily watching her, Mason didn’t seem bothered by the sudden closeness. Encouraged, she stayed put.
“How long can you stay?” She asked, really inquiring when Leela would be home.
He gave a sideways smile.
“Why, will you miss me?”
He reached out and touched her, the movement catching her momentarily off guard. It was only a friendly gesture but she blushed anyways when he brushed her chin lightly.
“I’m not the one that crawled through the window and then into someone else’s bed.” Avery countered.
“Uh huh, tell me to get out then.” That shut her up quickly. She let out a frustrated groan, knowing he was just teasing her now. Maneuvering back some, she gave up on pushing the situation and changed the subject.
“What do you think Leela is up to?” She asked.
“Not my friend. Don’t know and don’t care.”
“Don’t be like that. I’m worried. She said they were going to a party but she’s been acting strange ever since she got back. When Mikhail bespelled her, did...” She tried to find a way to describe what exactly happened to Leela. She had been taken hostage by Mikhail a few months ago and the harpie had used magic to snare her mind.
“Did she forget everything?” Mason finished the question for her, obviously knowing where the comment was going.
She’d been concerned about it for awhile. She’d never really been bespelled like Leela had and couldn’t understand how a week’s worth of memories could just fade away. It didn’t seem realistic. Mason had repeatedly assured her that Leela wouldn’t remember what a harpie was or anything that Mikhail might have done.
“Yea.” Avery nodded finally.
“I wouldn’t worry about it. Even if she remembered faintly, she’d write it off as a dream. People see what they want to see after all.”
He leaned forward and brought them significantly closer. She could feel his breath on her cheeks. Avery’s mind threatened to go blank. The situation was tempting. She’d had a crush on Mason for quite some time now but never had the audacity to act on it. He added to the fiery confusion by giving her mixed signals and she often wondered if he wanted her to act on the pink elephant in the room.
Avery finally decided to give it a shot but before she leaned in to kiss him, Mason said something unexpected.
“Adalyn called me.” He said abruptly.
Moment shot, Avery sprang back with no regard.
Adalyn was technically Mason’s fiancé even though the relationship was on a temporary hiatus. Avery had thought that the relationship between Adalyn and Mason had begun to dissipate, but apparently the harpie woman was still contacting him. Feeling gross now, Avery backed off completely.
“And what’d she have to say?”
His eyes were downcast, reminding Avery that he was still hurting about this.
“She wanted me to come home. She said they’d lift the charges.”
A wash of complex emotions swarmed through Avery when she heard that and unable to hide them from her face, she sprung off the bed and paced across the room. While this was good news and something she should be happy about, that also meant Mason would be leaving her. If he returned back to his kind, there was also a good chance she’d never see him again.
Avery stalked up to the sink and splashed cold water on her face, hoping it’d help get control over her emotions.
“Is that why you wanted me to leave? If I go somewhere more populated then you wouldn’t have to worry about me?”
It sounded selfish, asking him to give up his life to be a body guard in hers, but she couldn’t help it.
“I should at least see...”
She sighed while dabbing her face dry with a fluffy red towel. If he really wanted to leave, he wouldn’t have been running the idea by her.
“You’re right. When are you talking about going?”She asked.
She whipped around to look at him.
“Mason, even if I could leave, I couldn’t leave by then. And flying out tonight isn’t an option.” She’d at least need time to form a cover story.
“I know.” He slid off the bed and crossed the room to stand beside her. “I’ve asked one of my friends to drop by while I’m gone and keep an eye on things.”
“You wouldn’t know him but he’ll at least have the wherewithal to keep you out of trouble.”
“I’m not worried about the danger. I don’t need a babysitter. And another harpie no less? Didn’t the entire harpie government just try to kill me not too long ago?” It wasn’t a question since she already knew it was true, but Mason got the message.
“Not every harpie is out to kill you, Avery. And this is a personal friend of Adalyn’s so I know he’s cool.”
Avery’s mouth dropped and she struggled to find the appropriate response. She’d rather take her chances with Mikhail than one of Adalyn’s friends. Adalyn had not so subtly threatened her life if Avery continued speaking to Mason. During the time Adalyn made that threat, everyone was making blatant threats on her life so Adalyn’s bullying went mildly ignored. In fact, everything Adalyn did went completely ignored by Mason. It wasn’t fair.
Whether or not he had something to add, Avery didn’t get the chance to find out. The door lock jingled and Mason turned, opened the window, and slipped outside. Avery rushed to shut the window but Leela had already entered the room. The cold breeze slipped in and the room’s heat slipped out. Avery froze, unsure if she should move after being caught in the act.
“What are you doing?” Leela’s eyebrows shot up.
“Nothing. Just letting out some of the stuffiness ya know.” Avery slammed the window shut and whirled to face her friend.
Leela was usually a mousy girl, petite with big brown eyes that spelled kindness. Lately though, she covered her eyes with thick black makeup and lost the kindness in them. It was probably just the thing to do in senior year. Leela was big at the campus parties and maybe it was expected of her. Avery just couldn’t help but see it as a red flag.
“I thought I heard someone talking.” Leela said.
“I was on the phone a minute ago. Just Chase checking up.”
Whether or not Leela believed it was unclear but she nodded. The girl then crossed over to her bed and hopped on the mattress. It was well past midnight and if they both didn’t sleep soon then they’d regret it. Avery headed to fix her own covers, mildly annoyed to find that Mason had left a few feathers in her sheets. She swept them under the covers quickly.
“Hey, I have a question for you.” Leela said after awhile.
“Do you ever have strange dreams?”
Avery flinched more than she should have. Forcing herself to act casually, she grabbed her pillow and stuffed it under her chin. Crossing her legs like she was at a sleep over, she watched Leela.
“What about?” Avery asked lightly
“About a man and a book?”
Avery’s brow pinched. That didn’t sound like Mikhail. That sounded more like Jericho and his journal, but Leela wouldn’t know about that. It was yet another harpie-related incident that should have long since faded from her friend’s memory.
“No. Why do you ask?”
“Just wondering.” She said. “By the way, I’m going out with Nathanial on Saturday for whatever movie they’re gonna play. You should come.”
Avery, dumbfounded, agreed absently.
© Copyright 2011 by Constance Sharper