The Healing Power of Sugar

By: C. L. Stone


“I’m just so nervous,” I said. “I don’t know where to start with this. And it feels selfish to consider it. I don’t know what I’m doing.”

He held me tighter, the muscles in his arms firm around my shoulders. “No one does, Sang. No one. Relationships are always hard.”

I sniffed, getting a lungful of his musk. I breathed it in again, finding comfort in his arms. “Even families,” I said, repeating something Mr. Blackbourne had told me. “Even friends.”

“Even families and friends,” he echoed. He dipped his head down, until his nose buried into my hair and he kissed my scalp. “The really good relationships are extra hard. You have to put a lot of effort into it.” He lifted his head and pulled back enough that he could look at me. “I don’t mean to sound down. I’m just realistic. All of this really relies on you.”





The Academy

The Ghost Bird Series





Book Nine






PERMANENT MARKER





North was snoring like a buzz saw.

I’d learned that expression from books I’d read. I didn’t know what a buzz saw was, or how it differed from other saws, and I’d never personally heard one in action, but I thought if anything fit the sound of what I imagined a buzz saw sounded like, North’s exhausted snoring seemed to be the perfect match.

He didn’t normally snore, only when he was really beat. The few times I’d heard it this bad, it was usually like now: middle of the afternoon and he’d managed to pass out.

He had every reason to be super tired. We all did. We’d been on the run from McCoy but had finally returned back to almost normal a couple of days ago when he had started chasing a fake Sang around town, thanks to the Academy. I didn’t know who the girl was; I wasn’t sure it was even the same girl each time.

I thought it was a bad idea to use another girl as a decoy. It was too dangerous for me to be followed, but someone else could be bait? Someone we didn’t know?

It was a couple of days before the Thanksgiving holidays, so nearly all teachers were trying to fit in last-minute, very important tests. With all the running around, none of us had studied. A couple of the boys were dismissive of the tests. But I was paranoid of getting bad marks. Old habits; if my grades stayed normal, no one at my old house would have anything to say to me.

My main concern was going back to school while Mr. McCoy was following a fake Sang. We couldn’t skip this week, because it was some part of their plan. I was nervous. Mr. Hendricks would inform Mr. McCoy that I was in school. That meant he’d know he’d been following a false lead. They’re hoping for explosions.

At least we had the day off today to prepare.

We were at Kota’s house. I was parked on the floor, going over last minute studying. North had been up most of the night, doing some work for the Academy.

Kota had left to walk Max. I was babysitting the house. And North.

I closed my textbook, ready to give myself a break and maybe even have a nap, too.

I heard the side door open. I dismissed it, assuming it was Kota returning.

I felt a tug at one of the locks of my hair. I turned, ready with a quip, but spotted no one.

My heart raced. Now I wasn’t just paranoid. I was imagining things.

I spun around to check the other side of the room. Luke’s face hovered within an inch of mine.

Startled, I fell back a little, grinning. Didn’t he know better than to tease right now? We were all too stressed and jumpy for surprises like that.

Luke beamed, his brown eyes happy. His long blond hair was tied back into a sloppy ponytail, with a few locks hanging around his face. His baby blue button up shirt hung mostly open, only two buttons closed. He cupped my cheek and leaned in close, kissing the opposite side of my face. He drew back and released me, using sign language to talk to me. “Morning, sweetie.”

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