A fun upper middle-grade romantic fantasy.
A Fairy Godmother is not some pixie in a pink tutu.
She’s a guardian and a warrior.
Lilliana Skye is sent undercover to a Texas high school to save one of Cinderella’s troubled descendants, but everything goes wrong.
Jessica Harrison hates Lilliana. She doesn’t believe in fairytale magic or happily-ever-afters. Jess is tough, angry, and so intelligent it’s scary. If she ever did see a mythical fairy she would probably stomp it into oblivion with her army boots. Matters go from bad to worse when Jess’s older brother meets Lilliana and falls hard for the new girl. And Lilliana can’t keep her wayward heart in check. Jake is, well, just plain dangerous.
Falling in love with a human is forbidden, not to mention… deadly.
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A Fairy Godmother is a guardian and a warrior, not a giggling pixie in a pink tutu. It is no longer enough for a guardian to wave her wand and give a girl a new dress. This seldom solves the problem. A wise Fairy Godmother will carefully observe Cinderella’s granddaughters, her offspring, and determine the girl’s needs, rather than her wants.
—Beyond Ball Gowns: The Definitive Training Manual for Today’s Fairy Godmother
by Gryndelyn Myrddin
Great-granddaughter of Merlin
Headmistress, North American Fairy Academy
The Music of the Mission
Lilliana Skye stood in the upper branches of a tall oak overlooking Lake Elm High and peered through the leaves. She listened closely to the strange music of human emotions as students shuffled through the front doors of the small Texas high school. Some of them emitted low, plodding oboe sounds with sad notes of doubt and aloneness. Others pulsated like wild offbeat snare drums.
Her first mission. She’d studied and prepared for this day her whole life. Soon, very soon, she would walk among the humans. Her own inner music soared up, whistling excitedly, flying out of harmony with the trees and wind. With a deep breath Lilliana calmed herself and tucked her training manual securely under her arm. Any minute now her orders would arrive.
She tugged down the short, uncomfortably tight skirt—a perfect disguise. A new dress may not solve any problems, but it sure was fun. Lilliana had duplicated the outfit, every last detail, from page thirty-eight of the latest Teen Vogue. She was totally prepared. Ready. Nothing to worry about. After all, these humans were just teenagers, like her. Well, except, none of them had a pair of five-foot-seven-inch wings sprouting out of their backs. Lilliana retracted hers.
Just then a bright red cardinal burst through the thick canopy of the old oak tree. He swooped down and dropped a small scroll into her hands.
“Thank you, Napoleon.”
The feathered messenger landed on Lilliana’s shoulder as she unrolled the parchment and read “School records altered. Proceed.” Gryndelyn’s official seal glowed on the bottom. As soon as Lilliana finished reading it, the message disintegrated into dandelion fluff and scattered on the breeze.
Suddenly, thunder shook the air. Except there wasn’t a cloud in the sky.
Lilliana’s attention snapped back to the school. The deep rumble blotted out the noise of the students. She searched for the source of the explosive roar. There! The loud, angry vibrations came from a girl in army boots and a camouflage T-shirt, the one who resembled a third world dictator stomping up the school steps.
Lilliana drew in a quick breath. She knew that girl. She’d memorized that profile, and she recognized the wild unruly hair, hair the color of deep red autumn leaves. It was Cinderella’s offspring, Lilliana’s C.O., the girl she was supposed to help. It was Jessica Harrison whose soul thundered as violent and black as a winter storm.
Yet, beneath Jess’s throbbing drums of rage, Lilliana heard the unmistakable strains of anguish—taut strings of grief. Grief that resonated so sharply it hurt to listen.
For the third time that week, Jessica Harrison sat in Principal Jamison’s office listening to him lecture about how he expected her to treat other students courteously and stop undermining his staff. Apparently, this time he thought Jess shouldn’t have told her history teacher to get her facts right or find another line of work.
“Unacceptable behavior,” Mr. Jamison complained. “Insensitive. You made poor Ms. Hargrove cry.” Blah, blah, blah…
Jess growled low in her throat. It wasn’t her fault Ms. Hargrove was menopausal and needed a refresher course on the events leading up to World War II.
Jamison sighed. “A little diplomacy, Jess, that’s all I’m asking.”
“Whatever,” she conceded.
“Most girls in your situation would be depressed. Depression would be perfectly normal, but you…”
Depression? What did he know? A black hole of depression yawned its mouth at her every morning, threatening to suck her into its dark abyss. Jess would never give in to it.
She would scratch everyone’s eyes out if she had to, but she would stand out here in the land of the living and fight. Right here, right now, where she could do something. Change things. Protect the family she had left from the rotten people in this rotten world. And if she couldn’t protect them, she’d—
Jamison interrupted her thoughts, saying something that made her want to punch a hole in the universe. “I’d like you to meet with the school psychologist to discuss your anger issues.”
“Issues?” Jess sputtered. What did he know about her issues? And what right did he have to bring them up?
He leaned forward with so much syrupy sympathy contorting his features that it made Jess want to puke. “After all—” He hesitated. “It’s been almost a year since, uh, since your brother’s unfortunate accident and—”
“Unfortunate accident!” It was all Jess could do not to hurl her backpack against the wall and shatter all of Jamison’s neatly framed diplomas. Instead, she jumped to her feet. “Is that what you call it? Are you referring to the night Ryan decided to show off for his stupid girlfriend? The night he accidentally blew through a red light going a hundred and twenty miles an hour? The one where he lost control and cremated himself and her? You mean the unfortunate accident that has my parents walking around like numbed-up robots? That one? Really? Because you know what I call it? I call it the night my world exploded!”
Jess slammed her palm against his desk so hard the oak should’ve split. She clamped her lips together, letting the pain in her hand fuel her. “And if you think I want to talk about that with some second-rate school shrink, then you’re the crazy one.”
Jess stormed out of the principal’s office. Let him suspend her. She didn’t care. High school was a gigantic waste of time anyway. She was only a sophomore, but she’d taken the SAT early and scored higher than anyone in the senior class. Jamison could expel her right now for all she cared. She wasn’t going to put up with him butting into her issues.
Jess shoved past a group of kids milling by the drinking fountain. Other students hustled out of the way as she stomped down the hallway.
Everyone at Lake Elm High knew her well enough to know they’d better move. Respectfully cautious. That’s what they were, and that was the way Jess wanted it.
But then she saw something that made the volcano churning inside her turn into an iceberg.
A ghost opening Ryan’s locker.
Memories of that night slammed into Jess—police pounding at the door at two in the morning, red and blue lights churning across the dark lawn. Once again, as in countless nightmares, Jess felt the searing heat of flames. Flames she’d never actually seen. Flames that had consumed her brother. And now, standing at Ryan’s locker was the girl who got him killed.
Except Cheryl was dead, and there’s no such thing as ghosts. There’s a scientific explanation for everything. Action. Reaction. Cause and effect. Physics, that’s what Jess believed in. Not ghosts.
So, why was one opening her dead brother’s locker? A ghost who looked exactly like his dead girlfriend? Same skinny body. Same dark hair, pinned up loose and messy, half of it falling over her ears in the same stupid attempt to look sexy. It was Cheryl. Only…
It couldn’t be. Jess marched over and yanked the interloper’s arm. “What are you doing in my brother’s locker?”
Just like Cheryl, the girl had dangerous green eyes. They widened. “Jess?” she gasped.
Jess jerked her hand back as if she’d been burned. “How do you know my name?”
Ghost girl caught the corner of her lip in her teeth and gnawed on it like someone hunting for a plausible lie. Jess closed the distance and bore down on her with all the diplomacy of an irate drill sergeant. “I said how do you know my name?”
The girl edged back and bumped into the locker. “I, um, I was sent…” Finally she blurted, “I’m here to help you.”
Jamison’s shrink? Jess stepped back and shook her head. No, it couldn’t be. She was way too young. A student counselor? No, this girl looked clueless. So who was she? And why had Jamison sent her?
It didn’t matter. “Tell Jamison to butt out.”
“Jamison?” The girl blinked, pretending she didn’t know the principal.
“Nice try,” Jess snapped. “I don’t care who you are or why you’re here.” She pushed the intruder aside and slammed Ryan’s locker shut. “Stay out of my brother’s locker!”
“But…” Cheryl’s clone held up a newly printed schedule and pointed to a number in the upper left corner. “This is the locker they assigned me.”
Jess scanned the schedule. Not only had the idiots in the office given away Ryan’s locker, but half of the new girl’s classes were the same as Jess’s. Worst of all she’d be in Biology with—
This was not good—not good at all. Red-alert sirens screamed in Jess’s head. “Go ask for a different locker,” Jess shouted. “And stay away from my brother.”
“Your brother? You mean his locker?”
Jess didn’t wait around to explain. She elbowed her way through the crowd. Her combat boots thudded against the tile as she double-timed it down the hall to recruit backup.
Be tolerant of humans. Don’t be alarmed if they exhibit strange or abrasive behaviors. You must endeavor to understand them. Adapt to your C.O.’s culture so that you may truly be of assistance.
“Wait!” Lilliana hurried after Jess.
The first day of her mission, the first hour, and she’d already messed up. Rushing to catch Jess, she dashed around a cluster of students. The hallway was packed. A crowd of football players were teasing each other, laughing and throwing things. She tried to squeeze past, but one of them stepped out and blocked her path. She couldn’t see anything past the blue football jersey covering his broad chest.
“If I were you, I’d let Jess go,” he said.
She was losing sight of her C.O. Lilliana pushed against the roadblock, but he didn’t budge. Annoyed, she glanced up and listened. She had expected his emotional music to sound like a typical conceited athlete, brassy trumpets and marching drums. But, no. He was cello to her violin.
Instantly, Lilliana’s inner music tuned to his. She stopped trying to shove past him. Except her hands were still pressed against his muscled chest. She quickly withdrew them.
“Trust me,” he said. “Give her time to cool down.”
Trust him. The timbre of his voice drew her eyes upward to the strong lines of his jaw and his mouth the color of summer plums. Lilliana blinked, unable to remember why she was running or who she was running after. Suddenly, she couldn’t think about anything except his melting brown eyes and the wry smile on his lips. She scarcely remembered to breathe.
The music they made together intoxicated her. “Time?” she asked.
“Yeah,” his smile broadened. “When my sister gets mad, it’s best to give her some space so she’ll—”
“Sister?” Her inner violin screeched to a halt. “Then you’re…”
Light danced in his eyes. His cello strings rippled with infectious amusement. “Jess’s brother, Jake.”
“Of course.” She connected his face to a photo in Jess’s dossier. This was the other brother, the one between Jess and her oldest brother, who had died. Lilliana had dismissed Jake as unimportant. “Right. I mean I’ve seen your picture. It’s just that, in person, I didn’t expect…”
She didn’t expect she’d want to rest her head against his chest and listen as his soul played music so rich and deep that it flowed through her like an achingly beautiful river.
She had to focus on the mission. Lilliana swallowed hard and stepped back.
Jess charged down the crowded hallway past dozens of familiar faces. None of them mattered. She had to find the only two people in this whole dumb school that she could trust, the only two she could count on. Jess knew exactly where they’d be—huddled at Cai’s locker. Cai and Maggie were reliable that way, predictable constants in Jess’s ugly sea of change.
They were her friends, and not just because she’d known them since kindergarten. In a school where most of the girls only cared about what kind of mascara would stay on the longest or which boy was on the Hot Ten List that week, Cai and Maggie stood out. They had objectives. Goals.
Cai was going to be a famous reporter someday. She worked on the school paper, and her ability to uncover a story had already gotten some of her articles printed in the Dallas Morning News.
Maggie had an uncanny way with animals, and despite severe dyslexia she was studying her butt off so she could get through school and become a veterinarian.
Jess pulled out her cell phone to text them. Yeah, yeah, cell phone use was prohibited in school, but Jess had rigged the barrel of a ballpoint pen with a remote smart-microphone that converted voice to text.
“Urgent! Get to Bio ASAP. New girl is a Cheryl clone.” Jess clicked send and rushed into the empty Biology room.
She headed straight for Mrs. Dawson’s seating chart and frowned. There was only one seat open in the whole class—and that one was at Jess’s lab table. She groaned and raked her hands through her hair.
“What’s wrong, Gadget?”
Jess jumped back from the teacher’s lectern. Mark Winslow sauntered in.
“Nothing!” Her cheeks got hot, which meant her face was probably as red as her stupid hair. “Stop calling me Gadget,” she said for the fiftieth time. Just because Mark was Jake’s best friend didn’t mean he had the right to use her brother’s nickname for her.
“Okay, General.” He gave her a lazy salute. “What’s got you spitting hornets today?”
Before she could stop herself, the answer tumbled out. “There’s a new girl coming, and I have to protect Jake.”
“Protect him?” The corner of Mark’s mouth quirked up, and his eyebrows arched so that he managed to look questioning and amused all at the same time.
“This isn’t funny! She’s just like Cheryl.”
“Oh.” His face immediately sobered.
She nodded, satisfied that he understood the seriousness. “I have to keep her away from him. But I don’t want to sit with her either.”
“Listen Jess, about Cheryl. I know you think the accident was her fault, but—”
“No!” Jess smacked her hand against the lectern. “I know it was.” The sound echoed around the room. Jess’d had enough. She didn’t want anyone else to bring up Ryan’s accident today. “Either help me figure out this seating problem or leave me alone.”
Mark sighed and turned his attention to Mrs. Dawson’s seating chart. “Okay, how about this?” He grabbed the dry erase marker, rubbed out his own name and quickly scrawled it into the open slot beside Jess. “Think you could handle having me for a lab partner the rest of the semester?”
Jess swallowed. He’d do that? For her? She didn’t dare look at Mark because telltale heat had rushed back into her cheeks. “Yeah,” she answered a little too breathlessly. “Except that leaves Jake without a partner. Worst case scenario. I don’t want her sitting with him.”
“Well, then we’ll just move—”
Cai and Maggie rushed through the doorway.
“There’s a new girl? Really?” Cai tossed her backpack onto a lab table. “What’s she like?”
“Why? What’d she do? What kind of trouble?” Typical Cai, firing too many questions all at once.
“I told you.” Jess didn’t have time for an inquisition. “She’s exactly like Cheryl.”
Cai considered. “How? Looks like her? Acts like her?”
“Both,” Jess answered tersely.
Maggie tilted her head. White-blonde curls fell to one side like a lopsided halo as she zeroed in on Jess. Dyslexia made it difficult for Maggie to decipher letters, but when it came to people, she had a gift. Maggie could see straight through to the bones. Sometimes it was annoying. Like right now. Jess felt like a bug on a pin.
“What?” Jess demanded. She needed their help, and she needed it now.
Instead of pitching in, Maggie studied her more intently.
“You don’t get it!” Jess tried to calmly explain as she smoothed her hand over the seating chart. “She was getting into Ryan’s locker, and I just know this girl will dig her claws into Jake.” She glared at them. “We HAVE to do something!”
Shouting never seemed to faze Cai. She could focus no matter what, and over the last year she’d developed a fairly bulletproof attitude toward Jess. “Okay. We get it. You’re worried. What do you want us to do?”
That was better. Cooperation. Jess nodded. “We’ve got to position her as far away from Jake as possible.”
Maggie perched on the corner of Mrs. Dawson’s cluttered desk. “What makes you think Jake would fall for a girl like Cheryl?”
“Because Ryan did.” Jess didn’t bother to look up from the seating chart.
“Except Jake isn’t like Ryan.” Maggie slid off the desk and headed down the aisle to her table. “So you can stop worrying.”
Mark nudged Jess. “She’s right.”
“I’m not worrying. This is a preemptive strike.”
Students meandered into the classroom, which meant time was running out. Jess lowered her voice. “I’ve got it. Maggie can be Jake’s lab partner and Cai can sit with the new girl.”
“No!” Maggie dropped her backpack and spun around. “I need Cai to read the assignments to me.”
“She can catch you up after school.”
“No.” Cai shook her head. “You’re forgetting Maggie handles all the dissecting and gross stuff.” She shivered. “If I had to touch cow eyeballs or those ishy goat brains, I’d probably pass out.”
She wouldn’t. Cai was tougher than that, but Jess didn’t have time to argue. “Fine!” she huffed. “We’ll put the new girl with Everett Smythe.”
Mark coughed as if he’d swallowed down the wrong pipe.
“You can’t! That would be inhumane.” Cai snatched the seating chart. “Seriously, Jess. Everett has a psychological block against oral hygiene—his breath is toxic. Really. The school should issue his lab partner one of those big yellow biohazard suits. Dawson only put Ashley B. with him because she knows Ashley’s had so many sinus infections she can’t smell a thing.”
“Well, then who’s going to sit with the new girl?” Jess grabbed the chart back.
“Lab stations, people! Now!” Mrs. Dawson bustled into the room clapping her hands to get their attention. “We have a full schedule today.” She charged up to the lectern, her lab coattails flapping. “What are you four amoebas up to?”
Everyone but Jess and Mark scattered to their seats. “Helping,” Jess asserted.
“Ri-i-ight.” Dawson peered over the top of her bifocals, her voice dripping with skepticism. “If I need help, I’ll ask for it.” She shooed them away and plopped down a stack of handouts.
Jess stood her ground. “But there’s a new girl, and I thought if—”
Mrs. Dawson interrupted her with a half-laugh half-snort. “You’re not exactly the welcome committee type, Harrison. Now if you would kindly allow me to run my own classroom.” She held out her hand, expecting Jess to hand over the seating chart.
Before Dawson took it away, Jess managed to smear her thumb across Mark’s name so that the seat next to her remained open. If she had to give up sitting with Mark to save her brother, then that’s what she’d do. She trudged to her lab station in the back of the room, scuffing her combat boots.
Not that sitting with Mark would’ve made any difference. He didn’t think of her as anything other than Gadget, Jake’s weird little sister. And why would he? She tugged on the cuffs of her camouflage jacket. Half the girls in school had a crush on him. She didn’t stand a chance. Besides, Jess could do the social math. She wasn’t girlfriend material.
Yet there he was sitting at her lab table giving her that lopsided grin that always made her stomach feel like she was parachuting out of a jet. She took a deep breath and slid in beside him. “You’re off the hook. I erased your name.”
He didn’t move.
“You can go back to your old table.”
Mark had an odd stubborn glint in his eyes. He crossed his arms. “And if I don’t?”
“Come on. You have to!” Jess ordered, panic rising. “Jake’s gonna be here any minute. If there’s an empty seat at his table, you know that’s where Cheryl’s clone will end up.” She grabbed Mark’s arm. Her fingers slipped through the loose knit of his sweater and landed on rock hard muscles as she shoved. “Hurry!
He didn’t budge, not even when the warning bell rang.
Desperate, Jess let go. “Please.”
Mark’s rigid shoulders slumped. He shook his head and gathered his books. “You know, Genius Girl, sometimes you just don’t have a clue.”
———— End of Excerpt ————