Dear Readers,

I’m super excited to share the first chapter of SHIFTERS AND GLYPHS! I thought up the final scene for this book way back in 2002, so part of this novel has been floating around my head for more than 15 years. Yipes! So glad to finally share this story.

Hope you enjoy Chapter One!

Christina

Shifters and Glyphs
Chapter One

I’m a teenager who can wield magic, so you might think my ultimate in fun would be casting a spell.

Not really.

Plus, I live in Manhattan and—since my aunties no longer have me locked me up in a penthouse—you’d imagine that I love roaming the city.

Nope.

I’m also a werewolf, so racing under the moon could be my fav for fun.

It’s not.

Instead, my ultimate smile comes from what’s happening right now: snuggling on the couch with my boyfriend Knox. To be specific, Knox and I are wrapped in a blanket with my head resting against his right bicep.

Perfect.

It’s almost time for dinner, but I hardly notice my stomach growl. Knox is in jeans and a t-shirt; I’m sporting what I call my unshreddable outfit: black leather pants and a cropped top that I got from the fairies. Why unshreddable, you ask? Because before I got my enchanted clothing, shifting into were form was murder on my wardrobe. One magically enhanced outfit later, and it’s all good. I never again have to worry about turning into a wolf and then into a very naked girl, all in the age of camera phones. And without that worry hanging over my head, I can more fully relax. Like I am now.

In fact, at this very moment, Knox and I are chilling out while watching an old movie called The Breakfast Club. In it, a bunch of human kids get detention at high school. For me, this particular movie is valuable life research, considering how tomorrow’s my first day in a typical classroom.

Ever.

On screen, most of the action takes place in a library. The place looks as large as the Metropolitan Museum of Art. I sniff. “You think our high school will be like that?”

Knox leans in to kiss the top of my head. “Like what?”

“All that space for like six people. Plus, they’re in the library, right? I think there should be other kids around studying or whatever.”

Not that I knew these things from personal experience. Growing up, my aunties always home-schooled me. But come morning, I start senior year at West Lake Prep, a high school for other Magicorum kids like me. In other words, for shifters, fairies, and witches/warlocks. I’m unusual in that I can wield all three types of magic. Recently, I found out that makes a kind of magic user called a Trilorum. So, not only am I weird, I have a weird name, too. Go me.

“This must be one of those Hollywood schools,” says Knox. “I mean, they take six bad kids and put them in a room without anyone to watch them. That’s unlikely.”

“Right?” All of a sudden, this story seems very unfair. “They should be more careful. Maybe there are other kids out there like me, who need honest representations of high school for life research.”

“There’s no one like you,” says Knox. “And I mean it in a good way.”

I cuddle back onto Knox’s bicep and smile. He’s being sweet, but I’m not all that special. In fact, I’m pretty typical for Magicorum (Well, apart from the Trilorum part of it.) Why? I live by a fairy tale template: Sleeping Beauty. To begin with, I look the part, what with my slim build, brown hair, and blue eyes. Plus, I’ve got three fae aunties as well as an odd friendship with Colonel Mallory the Magnificent, a fairy dragon shifter who cursed me with a sleeping sickness for the first seventeen years of my life. Not that I’m complaining. The Colonel did it for my own good—his sleeping curse hid my triple-magic from people who wanted to kill me and steal my powers—but I still fell asleep at odd times.

School wasn’t an option before.

But that’s all over now. These days when I fall asleep, it’s mostly at night. Sure, I take the occasional cat nap during the day, but my eyes are closed like a normal person. This is a lot better than what used to happen, which involved me freezing like a statue and staring off into space like a nut job.

Needless to say, I’m glad the curse is over.

As an extra bonus, ending the curse also released my fairy, shifter, and witch powers. The next step? Master that magic by attending West Lake Prep. Plus, I’ll learn typical human stuff, too, like math, science, and literature.

It’s all super exciting.

And totally terrifying.

At least Knox is also attending West Lake, along with our best friends, Elle and Alec. Even so, every time I think about school, my insides knot up. So I actively avoid more thoughts of West Lake by focusing on the movie. Specifically, I’ve been following one of the characters, John Bender, a broody guy who reminds me of Knox. Honestly, I’m not watching the movie as much as waiting to see what Knox-Bender will say next. I drum my fingers on the comforter, ready and waiting.

Sure enough, Bender’s character mouths off to the school principal. “Does Barry Manilow know that you raid his wardrobe?” True fact: my auntie Mirabelle loves the musical stylings of Barry Manilow, so I happen to know that if you adore polyester leisure suits, then Barry Manilow is your guy.

I snort-laugh. Does Barry Manilow know that you raid his wardrobe? Perfect.

“That man reminds me of our mate,” says my wolf.

“That he does,” I reply in my head.

Now, most shifters can only sense the moods of their inner animal, like if their wolf is happy or sad. But I have inner conversations with my inner wolf, which requires major levels of magic. With magic disappearing from the world, that’s a rare skill.

I can always block my wolf out, but she likes to watch movies as much as I do. And how she just called Knox my “mate”? Even though I’m seventeen and Knox is eighteen, we’re mates. To shifters, that means your soul has found its other half, which is awesome. In my case, my other half is over six feet tall with black hair, sharp bone structure, ice-blue eyes, and a protective streak a mile wide.

I’m one lucky werewolf.

Speaking of Knox, he tightens his arm around my waist. “You were laughing again.”

“That bit about Barry Manilow.” I bite my knuckle to stop giggling. “That’s absolutely something you’d say.”

“I’d say something like that? Nah.”

Wow. I can’t believe he’s fighting the obvious. “Yesterday, you asked Alec if he got his clothes from Preppies R Us.” As a powerful warlock, Alec also lives his life by a fairy tale life template. In Alec’s case, that template is Prince Charming. Alec sure looks the part, too, what with his blond hair, blue eyes, and winning smile. And yes, Alec dresses like he fell out of the Preppy Catalog.

“Oh, that.” Knox’s voice is a deep rumble. “I said Alec dresses like Biff McPreppy. But that was only one time I sounded like this Bender guy. Once.”

“Once? What about last week? At Lucky’s, that werewolf Rich challenged you.” Lucky’s is a shifter bar in Brooklyn. Knox and I don’t typically hang out in bars, but Lucky’s is where Knox’s guardian Azizi lives.

“Yeah,” says Knox slowly. “I remember that were. He wanted to prove he’s the best fighter. Not sure how that makes me like Bender.”

I shake my head. “At Lucky’s, you said another line from the movie. Remember when Bender was talking to the principal…and that guy’s name happens to be Richard, too, just like the were at Lucky’s?”

“Oh, I remember that part.” Knox’s shoulders shake with a held-in laugh. “Bender calls him a dick.”

“Bender says and I quote: ‘Uh, DICK? Excuse me, Rich.’ You said that at Lucky’s. Word for word.” It was hilarious, too, since the shifter in question was being a total jerk. Knox didn’t want to fight him, but the other were wouldn’t back off. Dick-Rich ended up with a broken nose.

“Well,” says Knox. “Rich is that werewolf’s name.”

My head is still curled into Knox’s bicep, so I can’t see his face. There’s no missing the smile in his voice, though. “You might have a point,” he says. “Maybe I’m a little like this Bender guy.”

“Nope.” I look up, catch his gaze, and grin. “You’re way better.”

“Correction,” says my wolf inside my mind. “He’s the best.”

“I agree.”

“Don’t spoil me, Bry.” Knox kisses the top of my head, and we go back to snuggling. Within a few minutes, the movie winds down. On screen, all the kids from detention go outside to get picked up.

The sight makes my breath hitch.

Remember how I was avoiding the fact that school starts tomorrow? All of a sudden, there’s no avoiding this reality. Why? In the movie, the kids leave detention by getting into cars driven by someone else.

Their parents.

I’ve never met my mother and father. I don’t even know their names. The closest I have to parents are my three fairy aunties, and they’re pretty much evil. What else would you call people who raised me to be zombie bride for Jules, an evil Denarii mummy-king who started off life as none other than the real Julius Caesar? The good news is that my aunties’ plan flopped and all their magic got drained. Now my aunties spend their days hiding out in a fairy shantytown hidden under a boulder in Central Park.

Living under a rock. Sounds about right.

Knox inhales deeply, checking my scent. Weres can tell a lot about someone by catching their smell. “What’s wrong, Bry? You thinking about those dreams of yours again?”

I’ve always been plagued by weird dreams. Time was, those dreams were about ancient Egypt and translating papyri. Lately, I can’t remember them at all when I wake up. I’m just left with this uneasy feeling.

Honestly, I wake up terrified.

When I open my eyes each morning, my pulse is racing. I’m covered in sweat. And I have absolutely no memory of what scared me so much. Unfortunately, I also seem able to catnaps any time of day or night, so the whole fear-sleeping phenomenon can strike anywhere. It’s a little bit like my sleeping curse, part two.

Stupid fairy tale life template.

“No,” I say slowly. “It’s not my dreams.” For once.

Knox leans in to whisper softly in my ear. “What is it, Bry? You can tell me anything.”

I squirm under the comforter. Not sure why the true answer is hard to share, but it is. “Everyone in the movie has someone to pick them up.”

“And we don’t, is that it?”

I nod, not trusting my voice to reply. All my life, I’ve searched for my parents. There’s no trace of them. After I left my aunties, I thought it might be different. After all, Lauralei, Fanna, and Mirabelle could’ve been using magic to hide my family for some reason. But after lots of checking around—in other words, hacking into secret systems with Elle—I haven’t been able to find out anything new.

“I get you about the family stuff,” says Knox.

And he does.

Knox’s parents were killed by the Denarii. Sure, he has Azizi, but Az isn’t really a “drop you off at school” kind of guardian. Azizi was the warden of all shifter magic, meaning he used to be the most powerful shifter on the planet. Now, Knox has both the job and the power.

Thinking about Knox and his wolf puts everything in perspective. After his parents were killed, Knox spent years racing around the world, hunting down evil Denarii as a way to avenge their deaths. My poor mate.

I take in a deep breath. “You know what? Everything will be fine.”

“Are you about to give a pep talk now?” asks Knox. I’m well known for my pep talks—mostly because they’re either really great or totally dismal. Either way, it’s always something to remember.

That said, my next talk will be awesome. No question about it.

“Yup,” I say with confidence. “Prepare for some serious pep.”

“Let’s hear it.”

“Well, to start with, magic is disappearing from the world. Sure, you and I have a ton of it and most Magicorum kids have next to none, but that won’t be a big deal to everyone else at school. High school kids are well known for being mature.”

I wince. That wasn’t my best argument. Shaking my head, I keep going. My next bit will be absolutely stunning.

“And yes,” I continue, “we’ve had different life experiences from most kids. I was almost force-married to a mummy-zombie king last summer. You spent most of your life hunting down Denarii, but the other kids won’t care. And the whole parent thing? It definitely won’t hurt like hell to see everyone else with a mom and dad all the time. Only in the beginning.” By the time I finish my speech, my eyes are prickling with tears.

“Is that it?” asks Knox softly.

“Not one of my best talks, huh?”

Knox sits up and slides me onto his lap. His six-foot tall frame and heavy arms wrap around my shoulders. “Remember what Azizi always says about relatives?”

“Sure.” My voice comes out all dull and lifeless. “There’s your family of chance and your family of choice.”

“That’s right. And I choose you. We’re mates. That’s forever.” He rubs my arm up and down in a soothing motion. Closing my eyes, I lean into our embrace. Knox’s scent of sandalwood and musk surrounds me. Hugging Knox always makes the world feel all things safe and comforting.

I blink back my tears. “Most people never find the other half of their soul. We’re lucky.” Looking up, I scan the familiar features of Knox’s face. Loose black hair. Scar on his brow and chin. Sharp bone structure. Ice-blue eyes.

My mate.

“We’re a team.” Knox’s full mouth quirks with a grin. “Don’t forget, Elle and Alec care about you, too. Alec’s parents are putting a computer workstation into West Lake Prep for you. They even found you some new papyri. That way, you can keep translating, only now it won’t just be a hobby. You’ll get class credit.”

“That’s really nice of them.”

Which is true. Setting me up with a workstation is a cool thing for Lydia and Nixon Le Charme to do. Even so, just thinking about Alec’s parents makes me fidget. They are too smart, too beautiful, and too totally obsessed with me translating the papyri that make up the Book of Isis. In fact, Alec’s parents remind me a little of the Denarii. Those zombie mummies were all killer instinct wrapped in 1950’s style perfection and odd obsessions.

“But…” prompts Knox. He can always tell when I’m holding back.

“Don’t get me wrong,” I say. “It’s really nice of Alec’s parents and all. But they must have their reasons.”

Knox sighs. “True.”

I don’t need to say anything more; Knox knows what I mean. While Knox is the warden of magic for shifters, Alec is the warden for witches and warlocks. Wardens have a responsibility to find and guard the fountain of all magic, which has been hidden for thousands of years. No one knows why. If the wardens don’t find the fountain, then they can’t marry without magic killing their spouse. It’s the system’s way of keeping them focused on what’s important: the fountain.

Talk about a motivating factor.

Closing his eyes, Knox tilts his head. I’ve seen that move before. My mate is having an inner conversation with his own wolf. I take Knox’s hand in mine. “Your wolf is talking to you, isn’t he?”

Knox opens his eyes. Lines of worry tighten across his face. “More like howling. He’s hurting. Says he feels like he’s on fire.” He scrubs his hands over his face. “My wolf is always unpredictable this time of year, but not like this.”

“Why would this time of year affect him?” Knox and I have only been dating for a few months. Before that I was locked up by my aunties. Long story short, I’m constantly learning new stuff about shifter culture.

“The fall equinox is coming up,” explains Knox. “It’s always rough on wardens. No one knows why, though. Not even Az.”

“Autumnal equinox.” The words rattle around my brain. I rise and pace a line by the couch, my mind churning at double speed.

Knox has seen this routine from me before. “You getting something, Bry?” And by something, Knox means an idea on my papyri translations.

Here’s what’s going on. For as long as I can remember, I’ve had dreams of ancient Egypt and papyri. Wardens like Knox and Alec can’t get married until the fountain of magic is found. And the location of that mysterious fountain? It’s listed in the Book of Isis, which is currently just a bunch of papyrus scraps. For some reason, I’m the only one who’s had any real luck assembling them. And now, the words autumnal equinox are making me picture my old translations in a new way.

“I just translated something about this.” Turning on my heel, I speed over to my workroom. It used to be one of Knox’s extra bedrooms. That is, until he fixed up for me with a mega-computer, monitor and cloud storage. I can get at my papyri scans from anywhere. After rushing into the room, I fire up the system, grab my mouse, and start sifting through old translations. Knox moves to stand behind me, resting his hand on my shoulder.

All the staring at screens makes my inner animal turn restless. “We hates computers.” For the record, when my wolf gets grumpy, she starts talking like Gollum.

“It’ll only be a minute,” I reply in my mind.

“But you always say that and it’s a lie.”

“Not this time.” I tap the screen with my pointer finger and look over my shoulder to Knox. “Here’s the section I was looking for.”

Knox leans over my shoulder. He and Alec have translated their share of papyri over the years, so it’s no problem for my mate to translate these glyphs.

 

Once every five thousand years, the fountain shall rise.

 

Knox frowns. “But you translated that a week ago. Where’s the equinox part?”

“Here.” I tap on a new section. “It says here…”

 

Look to the crossing of the sun and earth.

 

“The next part is all smudged out,” I continue. “However, the next glyphs clearly say something about twice a year. I bet they’re talking about the fall and spring equinoxes.”

“I think you’re onto something.” Knox keeps reading.

 

The fountain shall be born at one crossing, and then shall begin to give its bounty at the second.

 

Knox winces. “Born? That’s an odd way to put it. It takes eons for fountains to form.”

“Not always. Sometimes geysers erupt out of nowhere.” Over the years, I’ve become a self-taught expert on fountains. Personally, I believe that the fountain of magic is actually a geyser. Those erupt on a schedule, and the fountain of magic only ‘gives its bounty’ once every five thousand years.

Definitely a geyser.

“Makes sense.” Now it’s Knox’s turn to tap the screen. “Next, it lists a number of numbers.” Knox squints at the screen. “Those are dates.”

“Yes, that’s when the first pyramids in Egypt were designed.”

“Or,” Knox says slowly. “Those dates could refer to the equinox stuff.”

I lean back in my chair. Knox’s words rattle around my head. “You’re right. Those dates could say that the fountain first went off five thousand years ago.” The chill on my neck creeps down my spine. Something about all this sets off my sense of danger.

“And it says the fountain activates once every five thousand years. In that case, it’s due to off again, Bry. In five days, no less. That must be why my wolf is hurting.”

My insides twist with worry. Knox is supposed to be guarding that fountain. What will happen to him if we don’t find it?

“We could be wrong, you know.” I glance at Knox over my shoulder. “What about Alec? Are things worse for him this year, too?”

“Good question.” Knox pulls his cell out of his pocket and dials. “Hey, it’s me. Have your spells gone nuts with this equinox?”

In case you’re wondering, most of Knox’s calls to Alec begin with hey it’s me followed by some kind of demand.

A pause follows before Knox speaks again. “Look, man. I know all magic is weird lately, but your spells always go to extra crap around the fall equinox. What I want to know is this—is it any worse this year compared to last year?” Another pause. “So, worse. And are you in any pain?” Knox rolls his eyes. “Nice.” He hangs up.

“What did Alec say?”

“He says his spells are definitely worse this year compared to last year. But he’s not in any pain. And I should stop worrying about him because I’m not his nana.”

I can’t help but smile. “That’s so Alec.” My moment of happiness soon evaporates as I think through our new discoveries. “I don’t like this.”

“What part? The papyri or Alec’s big mouth?”

“You know what I mean. Being a warden with the fountain about to go off.” I twist around in the roller chair so I can face Knox directly. “We should talk to Az.”

“Yeah. I promised to stop by after school tomorrow. We’ll head over together.”

I rub my forehead, thinking all this through. If only we knew all the secrets from the Book of Isis. All of a sudden, the pressure to translate that book presses in around me, tight as a vice. I slump forward in my chair. When I speak again, my voice is a hoarse whisper. “What if I can’t do it? What if I don’t translate the Book of Isis and…everything goes to hell?”

Knox kneels before me. His ice-blue gaze turns intense. “I’m not worried about that, Bry. In thousands of years, no one came close to translating the Book of Isis. Until you. No question in my mind. You will do this.”

The power of his faith in me makes my body feel boneless. Good thing I’m still sitting on a chair. “I don’t know what to say.”

“Say nothing. Just be you.”

Little by little, Knox leans in to give me a kiss. His warm breath cascades over my lips. Our mouths are about to meet when the moment is shattered.

A police siren ringtone blares from Knox’s cell phone. There’s only one person who causes that particular ring: Knox’s ex-girlfriend, Ty. Pronounced Tea—like the drink—and spelled Ty. She’s a real piece of work.

“Damn,” Knox growls. “Alec just put another blocking spell on this thing to keep her away. How’d she break through?”

Ty is not only Knox’s ex, she’s also a powerful sorceress. For years, Alec’s spells blocked her. But now? No matter what Alec casts, Ty can eventually get her call through. It’s not just Ty, though. Word is that everyone’s magic has been going haywire lately.

“Let’s go find this Ty,” grumbles my inner wolf. “Then we bite her face off.”

“We don’t bite faces.”

“But this is for our mate.”

“Knox wants us to stay out of it. We need to respect that.”

My wolf says something that sounds like grumble-grumble-mate-grumble-grumble-bite-grumble-grumble-Ty. Point taken.

For the record, my wolf and I had our differences over the summer, mostly because she was just released from a super-long sleeping curse. Since then, I’ve learned how to give her some structure through my inner magic. Mostly, the process involves calming her down with my shifter powers and—in case of true emergency—putting her in a stasis. That’s like sleep, only my wolf won’t dream or anything. Again, that’s super-rare. Most times, my wolf and I get along pretty well.

Knox pushes some buttons on his phone, but the siren’s wail doesn’t end. “I have to take this, Bry. It won’t stop otherwise.”

“That’s fine. I get it.”

I twist back around in my swivel chair; Knox goes to stand by the door. “What, Ty?” A short pause follows before Knox speaks again. “I don’t care what magical junk you found this time. It’s over between us. You get that? Over.” Knox chucks his phone against the wall. It shatters into a hundred pieces. That would be over, all right.

When Knox turns to face me, his eyes glow with golden light. “I need a run.”

And in this case, run doesn’t mean through Central Park. Knox wants to ride his Harley, reach his land in the Adirondacks, shift into wolf form, and race through the night.

Knox rakes his hands through his loose black hair. “Want to join me?”

Inside my soul, my inner wolf lets out a yawn. “We ran this morning,” she says in my head. “Let’s go back to our den and rest.” And by den, she means our apartment, which happens to be in this same building as Knox’s, only two floors down from here.

“Are you sure?” I ask in my mind. “You’re always up for a run.”

“We’ll see many fae in the morning. I need my strength so I can play with them.”

My heart sinks. Unfortunately, my wolf sees fairies as fast-moving chew toys, which is totally dangerous. The fae are crazy. Ugh. Between my wolf and the fairies, I’ll have my work cut out for me tomorrow.

“Thanks for the offer,” I say. “But it’s a school night. I should get some sleep.” Or try to, anyway.

A shiver of dread rolls across my shoulders. Fast as a heartbeat, Knox kneels before me. “What’s wrong? I can scent your fear.”

“I don’t know.” My voice comes out high-pitched and wispy. “Something about sleep…Dreams.”

“Have you been getting night visions about papyri again?”

“No, it’s not that.” Closing my eyes, I try to focus on my latest night visions. Fear ricochets through my system, making me clutch my elbows. It’s those terrible nightmares. I know it. I grasp for the memories, but they stay just out of reach. What have I been seeing?

“Think hard, Bry. I know you can do it.”

“There’s something about shadows and…” The memory vanishes entirely. Searing bright flashes of white appear in my mind’s eye. An odd chill crawls over my skin. Is magic is at work and erasing my memories…Or am I just stressed out about school? Why can’t I remember my dreams?

“This isn’t good.” Knox scowls. “You’re frightened and you don’t know why. I’m not going for a run. Come to think of it, you should stay here at my place tonight.”

Which I definitely could do, considering how Knox has a ton of bedrooms. Still, we’ve only been dating a few months. There’s no way I’m ready for the whole sleepover thing.

“It’s fine. I’ll stay tonight at my place.”

“Then I’m inviting myself over to sleep on your couch.”

I shake my head. “Go run. That’s an all-night activity and we both know it.” Knox sneaks a look at the door. His ex-girlfriend always gets his wolf up.

“You know you need to go,” I add.

Knox shakes his head. “I won’t leave you like this.” The muscle along his jaw is positively jumping with anxiety.

I pull my cell out of my pocket. “Take this. I’ll call you from Elle’s phone if anything goes wrong.” We’ve done this before. As long as Knox stays within a few miles of the phone, his wolf hearing can make out the ringtones just fine. I press the cell into his hands. “Run.” When I speak again, I make sure to use a playful tone. “I can protect myself, remember? In fact, I saved your handsome butt from Jules.”

All of which is true.

Knox stares at the phone for a long moment before slipping it into his pocket. That means one thing: he’s going for a run. I exhale.

“You’ll call me if anything bad happens, yeah?”

“I swear it.”

“In that case, I’ll go.” Knox brushes a gentle kiss across my lips. The press of his mouth makes my stomach do flip-flops.

Hmm. Maybe staying here isn’t a bad idea.

I push against his shoulder. “Get ready before I change my mind.”

“As my mate demands.” Knox steps around his apartment, gathering up his bike helmet, wallet, and other stuff. He’ll also change his outfit to be more road compatible. The good news is that Knox’s jaw isn’t twitching anymore, which is a good sign. In fact, now that he’s heading out for a run, Knox seems far more relaxed in general. Meanwhile, my nervous system goes haywire. The reason? What I said before.

I swear it.

When I make a promise, I do everything I can to keep it. Something tells that this time? That just may not be possible.

—end of sample—

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