CHAPTER 1

I woke up on the morning of my seventeenth birthday, still tired. I had spent the night with the servants, setting up for my twin sister's birthday party. My birthday couldn't be celebrated along with hers, of course, because I was supposed to be dead.

I was the troubled cousin with dead parents. I was to keep inside the castle walls at all times, no matter what, because I was a troublemaker, and I would create problems wherever I went. I was to treat my sister as royalty, only to have her treat me as a peasant.

But I had been through all of this in all the years past. It was nothing new to me. I was an embarrassment, and Sunny reminded me of this every day. Sunny was a cruel person. Her ability was manipulation. She could convince anyone she was telling the truth, even when a blatant lie was passing her lips. I was the only one who could see through it.

I climbed out of bed slowly, rubbing my eyes and looking around the room. My servant and best friend, Katrina, was waiting by the door. She smiled when she saw me and headed over, her orange-gold hair flowing behind her, her green eyes shining.

"Good morning, sleepyhead. I've drawn a bath for you in the washroom. Come. Today is a special day." She beamed at me as I shuffled toward her.

"A special day for Sunny, perhaps. Not for me. I'm simply another family member here to celebrate with her," I said rather bitterly.

Katrina's smile turned to a concerned frown. "You should be happy, Rain. Today you are a woman. All the people who matter know it. Aren't you content with that?"

I sighed. "Of course I am Katrina. I just wonder how different today would be if my mother were still alive. My father would have repealed the law forbidding…" I paused for a moment, searching for a word, "people like me, and I would be happy. I wouldn't be trapped in this goddamn castle."

"Try not to dwell on the past and what could have been," Katrina said gently, taking my hand. "Appreciate what you have now instead. You'll be much happier in life if you do. Now come, your bath is getting cold."

I smiled at her for her words. She always knew how to cheer me up in any circumstances. She understood me better than anyone else. She understood how awful being trapped was. She was trapped here too, and until she married, there would be no escape for her.

I lay in the bathtub for a while, thinking about the few hours when I had escaped to castle to go outside and enjoy the air. At a very young age, I met a woman who had wings. When she touched me, I grew wings too. Luckily, she hadn't noticed, and my father smuggled me out of the room. From then on I could fly, and tried to sneak out as much as I could to stretch my two extra limbs.

I was what people called a 'leech'. We were called that because we took a bit of each person into us. Their power became ours, too. However, we didn't hurt them when we took their powers. They didn't lose their abilities either. They simply shared them.

I hated the power. I already had too much stored in my body. I could feel the power sometimes escape me. Luckily, most of the abilities lay dormant until I chose to use them. But some were harder to control, like my annoying ability to hear the thoughts of others. I tried to block it, and most of the time I could. But sometimes my concentration slipped, and I began to hear things I didn't want to hear.

Besides the flying, my ability to change my appearance was the only useful power. I could slip out more easily by simply making myself look like a servant. But there were so many powers inside me, I sometimes had trouble even comprehending my own power. All I wanted to do was leave. I wanted to go somewhere far away. I hated the extravagance of the castle, and all the fake personalities sucking up to my father. The worst of these was his wife.

I hated my stepmother more than anything. If Sunny wasn't my twin, I would have assumed she was my stepmother's daughter. They were both manipulative, although Sunny was much better at it. My father loved them both unconditionally, despite the cruel, unnecessary crimes they committed against anyone they weren't particularly fond of, just for fun.

Leaving was my best option, and I had contemplated it many times, but I had never gotten the courage to do it. I mostly didn't want to leave Katrina; I didn't want to be alone. I didn't know what the world was like outside the castle. All I had were dim memories of what was beyond these walls. I had asked Katrina many times to leave with me, but I understood why she couldn't. She was obligated to stay here, and the tracker that was my father's right-hand man would find her in an instant. Only I could escape him.

I climbed out of the bath, knowing that if I stayed much longer I would be late for the brunch that had been organized for Sunny. It was meant to be a family event, but 'family' wasn't really the right term. All of my stepmother's friends would be there, and Sunny's also. And, of course, all the most eligible bachelors for Sunny would be attending, so that they could get to know her more personally.

When I asked my stepmother why all these people were necessary, she simply asked me, "Well, how else are we going to cover up your presence?"

I reentered my bedroom from the washroom, and Katrina helped me dry off. I dressed myself in a more casual dress, and then Katrina did my hair for me. I had always been hopeless with it. I didn't know how she styled it so well.

"There," she said when she finished. "Now you're perfect."

"Thank you so much Katrina," I said sincerely. "For everything."

"Rain…" she began. She knew what this meant. She knew I was thinking about leaving. She could tell from my tone. It made me sad.

"I don't know for sure yet," I told her. "But what other choice do I have? I can't stay trapped here. I can find a way to make money. This is my only real choice if I plan on being happy."

She cast her eyes down as she realized the truth of my words. "I suppose you're right. It's just… it's so hard to think about life without you."

"I know, Katrina. I've become dependent on your friendship. Especially these past few years. I will miss you more than anyone else." I felt the truth of this statement radiate through the words, and I could tell from her eyes that she had heard it.

I smiled at her and hugged her, then ran out before I could cry.