Mark and Angel were perfect for one another, I noticed.
I had known Angel since we were babies in the crib, and when she first told me about Mark, I had been skeptical about her seeing him. I didn't want to see her hurt, but seeing them together, I knew I didn't have anything to worry about. They were the kind of couple that everyone knows will be together forever, high school sweethearts, married after high school.
Angel could be a model. She had long, slim legs fit from exercise; she competed in both cheerleading and gymnastics. Her eyes were baby blue, her hair was spun gold that fell to the middle of her back, and her skin was professionally tanned for the bronze look.
Mark was rugged where she was smooth. He had blond hair with brown highlights that fell into his sapphire blue eyes when he tilted his head just right. A dashing smile that could melt any melt any ice lit his face when he looked at Angel. Gold stubble added texture to his otherwise smooth jawline.
Watching them where they sat curled on my front porch swing, I wondered again why they liked hanging out with me at my house rather than going to see a movie or something. Ever since Angel had introduced me to Mark, they had been at my house when they wanted to be together. Angel had once told me it was because my house was better, but I have seen her house, and I know that can't be true.
So, if it's not because my house is better, why do they come to my house, and why have they been watching me closely lately?
"Where is he?" Mark growled suddenly, breaking the silence that had grown between us.
I didn't react from where I sat in my usual perch on the porch railing.
"Who baby?" Angel asked.
"Owen," Mark said, and I could feel his eyes on my back. "He's been moping around the house ever since Victoria dumped him, so I invited him over to get him out of the house. He'll be here; he couldn't say no with Mom in the room, but it seems he's going to take his sweet time about it."
I had no idea who Own was, and I didn't care. It wasn't my problem who Mark and Angel invited over; if anyone caused a problem, I'd make them leave.
And if Mark was trying to play matchmaker, he'd fail there too. There was no way I'd get a boyfriend with my initiation coming up in a couple of days.
I looked at the amulet hanging from my neck. I had been training with Myles for almost a year now, perfecting my magic, so that when the time came for me to be initiated and to accept a shapeshifter charge, I could handle the power flare. I had known since birth that I would be a guardian, and had asked my parents to move us into a neighborhood close to Myles, so I could learn from him. I had even had my amulet for a while. It had belonged to my grandfather, also a guardian.
There was no way I'd have time for a boyfriend once I got a shapeshifter charge in a couple of days. Besides, Myles had told me that many times, a relationship would start between the guardian and the shapeshifter because they were hardly ever apart. The romantic side of me saw that with my grandparents and with Myles and his wife Kayla. I knew it happened, and although a part of me didn't want to have any romantic appeals with any guy, the other part of me (the romantic side) saw the appeal in falling for my shapeshifter charge.
I turned my head to look at the car that pulled into my driveway. It was a sleek black jaguar with gray decals painted on the sides – tribal symbols I didn't recognize. I couldn't see the driver though; the window tint was too dark.
"Finally!" Mark muttered as the car door opened and Owen stepped out.
Owen was the total opposite of Mark. He had short brown hair that went in every direction and gray eyes that looked haggard against his pale white skin. He wore black jeans and shirt with a gray jacket unzipped over the whole ensemble. He looked gothic without all the extra silver, tattoos or piercings.
He frowned when he saw Angel and Mark and nearly seemed to sneer at me, which would have been fine if we hadn't been at my house. I felt all my defenses flare angrily, instinctively, and reached for a bit of magic to protect myself from his hostility. I felt the stone at the base of my throat grow hot with power.
I frowned and looked at Mark.
"I take it, he's your brother," I said.
"Twin actually," he replied with a grin. "Owen, you know Angel. This is Gen. Gen, this is Owen."
"Nice to meet you," I said stiffly and jumped off the porch railing to the ground. I was several inches shorter than him, which I expected. I am shorter than most people and slightly chubby despite the workouts I do every morning. No one has ever made the mistake of calling me fat though. I am content with my weight. I can eat what I want and not worry about gaining too much weight, and I am not so skinny that I look like I puke up everything I eat.
"Jesus, Gen! I really wish you'd quit doing that! You're not immortal or anything."
"No, but sometimes I wish I could be so that you'd quit treating me like a baby. I'm short, not young. I turn eighteen in three days."
Owen was watching me with an interest I didn't like, not when the stone was glowing slightly with power, and magic was trying to escape from my core. I was trembling as I tried to control it and hold it down until I could get away.
"Where are you going?" The worry in Angel's voice was real, and I knew she could tell something was wrong. I could feel the sweat pouring down my forehead.
"I'll be right back. I'm just not feeling very well." It was tradition to hide the fact that you were a guardian until the day you were initiated. Myles had told me that it was because guardians had once been hunted as witches who called forth demons (the shapeshifters). It wasn't true, but it made sense to hide our identities. Still, I had continued to ask why it was all right to tell someone after initiation if it wasn't all right beforehand. Myles had smiled and told me that it was because we weren't initiated until after we'd come into our full power, which meant we weren't vulnerable anymore.
I had come into my full power. The question was: could I handle it?
I didn't know where the extra surge of power came from or why it had occurred so suddenly, but I had a feeling it had something to do with Owen, which didn't make sense. Unless…
I dialed Myles's number on my cell phone and asked him to come over, that I was having a power surge. He said he knew and that he'd be there in a few minutes.
I nearly choked on the bile trying to rise out of my throat and collapsed to my hands and knees to release it. I gagged for a moment, trying to breathe and failing, but then something brushed against me, soft fur brushing against my sides, which were bare because my shirt had slid forward slightly.
A low rumble vibrated through my body as the creature supporting me growled low in its throat as Myles came toward me. I trembled at the power overload and moaned as pain shot through my chest.
"Ground and center, Gen! Ground and center!" Myles yelled as he ran towards me, but my mind was blank and numb. I couldn't remember how to ground and center.
The creature at my side growled at Myles as he came closer, ignoring it, and crouched before me.
"Ground and center, Gen," Myles whispered.
"I can't," I whimpered, desperately wishing I could open my eyes.
"Yes you can. I'll guide you." His hands covered mine, and as magic rushed from his hands into mine and began to guide my overload of magic towards the ground, I was grateful. The pain lessened, and after a few moments, Myles was able to stand back and allow me to finish guiding the magic back to the source of all magic – into the earth's veins itself.
As soon as the magic had emptied from my body, I rolled away from the spot where I had thrown up and stretched out on my belly, putting my forehead to the earth even as I pointed my toes to the ground and dug my fingernails into the soil.
I felt centered a few minutes later and no longer sick. I coughed and spat the last of the bile from my mouth as I sat up and took stock of my surroundings. Myles handed me a cup of water to rinse my mouth out with and chuckled.
"I've heard of early initiations – ones that occurred by accident – but this is the first time I've witnessed one, Gen."
"What?" I asked, confused even as I felt something with fur shove my side gently, nearly knocking me over.
I turned my head and looked at the black jaguar watching me with gray eyes.
"Oh my gosh!" I whispered and let my trembling hand rest on the jaguar's large muzzle. The thing with shapeshifters was that they were always bigger than their normal animal cousins, in order to distinguish them from the real animal.
"Owen?" I asked, as it suddenly clicked my magic had reacted to him the way it had.
The black jaguar growled again, the rumble vibrating through the hand I held on his muzzle and deep into my core.
"Oh my gosh!" I whispered again and shook my head before I stared into Owen's gray eyes once more. Myles laughed at my reaction.
"Congratulations, Gen. You're now officially a guardian."