Fox knew it was the worst day of his life. The universe, for whatever twisted reason, wanted to prove it.
“Damn it, Fox!” Magic charged smoke clouded the air of the underground classroom. In moments it was impossible to see, never mind breathe.
“Shit. Sorry, guys.” Loud coughs shook Fox’s short, slim form as he jumped to his feet. His tanned skin was coated gray as he raised his arms up and tried to catch pieces of the falling ceiling. Dust and stone showered down on the class of snarling shifters and sorcerers despite his best efforts.
“This is the second time today,” Wylie growled from where he was glaring through the smoke with face covered in dust and soot. He was crouched protectively over his boyfriend, Dorian, who simply sighed in annoyance at the chaos. A piece of ceiling had hit Wylie’s back before his scales sprouted free, and his blood was a scarlet contrast to the layer of gray dust.
Fox’s gut tightened with guilt when he saw his roommate was hurt. “Damn, I didn’t mean to—crap!” The unstable slab of ceiling he was holding cracked and crumbled down in a dangerous clatter around his narrow shoulders and sneakered feet.
“Silence.” Master Theodore pushed his way through the mess and waved his hand. Jagged pieces of ceiling tile froze midair, and stone and dust stilled and floated around the patients’ ducked heads.
Theodore was a shining gleam of perfection in the middle of the turmoil. His waist length red hair was still sleek in its neat ponytail, and his violet dress shirt crisp against coal-gray slacks. Even his leather dragon-hide boots were scuff free in the midst of an explosion. Dust and smoke parted to the immaculate instructor as he turned and addressed Fox. “Sit down and let me focus. All of you,” Theodore added sharply to the rest of the coughing group.
Fox let his arms fall to his side, and he plopped back in his seat. Theodore’s accusing glare felt like a weight, and Fox slumped forward with a dejected sigh. His huff of breath sent a broken piece of tile across his desk to shatter on the floor. “Damn it.”
When he first arrived at the Academy, the walls of the Body Magic class were decorated with diagrams of the magical centers of the body. After Fox’s first explosion and the many that followed from his unpredictable power, the posters were removed one by one until the room was stripped of all adornments. Now the stone itself was trying to escape.
Fox jerked when his pocket vibrated. He scrambled to pull his cell phone out before the noise could be heard by Theodore. Fox squinted at the screen and pulled it to his face as he blinked through the stinging smoke to see who texted him. “Raider?”
“Scheisse! That damn arsch!”
Fox’s gaze snapped to a fog shrouded desk where Vincent Frost was swearing in German. “Oh no.” Fox jumped up and his phone clattered to the desk. He didn’t care he was half blind and his nose useless with all the dust. Fox tripped and maneuvered around a broken desk and pieces of fallen ceiling tile like his life depended on it.
It might have. If anything happened to Vincent because of his uncontrollable explosions, he might just kill himself. Fox covered his arm over his mouth as he coughed and stared down at where Vincent was sitting and gingerly touching his shoulder.
“Are you okay? Are you hurt?” Fox reached for Vincent’s arm when he saw the blood soaking through his sleeve. “Damn, you’re really hurt. Let me…”
“Go away, idiot.” Vincent growled and yanked himself back before Fox could touch him. He hissed from the sudden motion and held his arm close to his chest.
Fox couldn’t help but stare at Vincent’s stunning, dust streaked face. The anger flashing in his silver eyes and the grim set to his mouth did nothing to make him any less beautiful. Fox’s heart twisted painfully when Vincent glared at him through the smoke.
“You’re making things worse. Master Howld said to sit.”
“Oh, uh, right.” Fox tried to smile but failed. Vincent would rather hurt himself than touch him. Today was definitely the shittiest day of his life. “You sure you’re okay?”
“I’m fine, even if you are trying to kill me.”
Fox inhaled sharply to deny it and ended up with a lung full of smoke. He turned his head and hunched over as coughs raked his body.
“Go! Stop skulking, Zorro.” Vincent waved his good hand at Fox in a shooing motion that sent smoke swirling around him in a soft mist. “You’re going to get me in trouble.”
“No one cares if we talk,” Fox muttered once he could stop coughing long enough to speak. “I just wanted to know if you were okay. It’s not a fucking crime.” He rolled his eyes when Vincent glared at him like he was breaking some sacred freaking rule by standing next to him. “Fine. Whatever. Sorry to bother you.”
Fox shuffled dejectedly back to his desk. He brushed off the thick layer of grit from his chair and sat heavily. He felt far too old for his nineteen years. Vincent hated him. Everyone could see it including himself, but it didn’t stop Fox’s stupid heart from crushing every time he was near the guy.
“Dumb. I’m so fucking dumb,” Fox muttered under his breath. His gaze fell to his phone on the desk, but his attention was across the room where he could still hear Vincent bitching.
Damn it, he was bleeding. He could have seriously hurt Vince…
“Uh, Master Theodore?” Justin called out, his voice full of uncertainty. “I think my book is on fire.” Through the thick, white smoke, the orange glow of flames flickered to life.
Fox firmly planted his face against the desk and groaned. “Fuck.” There wasn’t enough smoke in the world to hide the angry scowls sent his way.
He just had to say it in front of the entire pack. He just had to open his mouth and promise like a total dumb ass. Twenty bucks. He bet twenty bucks just to shut Leo up, and now he was paying for it.
Today was the day Fox promised to man up and finally ask gorgeous, crazy, shifter hating Vincent Frost out on a date. It was officially the worst day of his life. He should just get it over with and blow up the Academy. He had a better shot at bringing the whole building down than ever winning a date with Vincent.
“Stupid, flea-ridden, clumsy arsche. Every class. Every damn class. He’d find a way to explode water.”
Fox ignored the scrape of grit on his cheek as he turned his head and peered through the smoke for the source of the angry muttering. He tugged his yellow bandanna up and sighed wistfully when he found Vincent. The guy was seriously hot, even when covered in soot and dust. Maybe extra hot. Vincent’s blue black hair, formal button down white shirt, and dark slacks were covered in light gray dirt. He looked like someone dusted him in powdered sugar, and Fox wanted more than anything to lick him clean.
“Reckless, idiotic bastard,” Vincent growled down at his ruined backpack. His hands were clenched so tight, he looked like he was going to break his desk in retaliation.
Silver eyes flashed his way and Fox froze in Vincent’s familiar death glare. It lasted a second, maybe two, but Fox’s body lit up and his blood felt like it was boiling by the time Vincent looked away with a hiss and slammed his backpack on the ground.
“Fuck.” Fox breathed out carefully and licked dust coated lips. “Fuck, this can’t be healthy,” he rasped against the desk as he tried to will his erection away.
The things he would do to Vincent Frost if he wasn’t certain he’d be cursed dead an instant later. He made him crazy. Like, crazy crazy. Fox couldn’t be in the same room as him without feeling flustered as fuck. And when Vincent swore at him, usually in sexy German while looking ready to murder? Hell, it made him want to be a total bastard just to get Vincent to hit him, touch him, glare until he saw him and only him.
“I’m so fucked.” Fox pulled his bandanna down to cover his eyes. Looking at Vincent was torture. The guy was impossibly sexy in a way that said he didn’t even care. All the sorcerers at the Academy looked like models, but Vincent—fuck, he looked like an emo prince straight out of a magazine. One who seriously needed to get laid.
He was pretty sure Vincent had never been with anyone, and not just because he had that whole unattainably hot thing going on. No, it had more to do with how angry and defensive he was, not to mention oblivious as fuck to any and all social situations. When Fox considered the many cutting words that fell from Vincent’s lush, sexy lips on a regular basis, he doubted anyone would hang around once he opened his mouth.
Vincent might actually be a really terrible person.
“Doomed. I’m totally doomed,” Fox groaned.
“Dude, you’re whining.” Forest leaned sideways and elbowed him on the shoulder. “Stop sulking. At least he didn’t hex you.”
The smoke was starting to clear enough so Fox’s dejected expression was visible to anyone who looked his way. Forest’s desk was right next to his, and had received the brunt of the latest magical explosion. The wood tried to light, but the anti-fire wards placed on the furniture only allowed the tabletop to char black. Unlike Justin’s book, which hadn’t survived but disintegrated into curls of ash before Theodore got to him.
“I’m doomed,” Fox sighed dramatically and with feeling.
Forest silently rolled lamp-yellow eyes. The unique leopard spot pattern colored over his skin was marred by dark soot, but he was otherwise unharmed. “It was just one explosion,” Forest offered after a moment. He met Fox’s orange eyes when he huffed. “Fine, this hour. So what if you’re a little accident prone today? He’s still got all his hair. Eyebrows too.”
Fox wrapped his arms around his desk, ducked his head, and groaned in misery. He immediately coughed as dust filled his lungs. “Damn it.” He clunked his head on the desk and hid within the darkness of his arms. Fox stared at the clawed butterfly tattoo of his family’s goddess on his forearm, and carefully wiped the soot off the inked flesh.
Body Magic in general was his worsts, and not just because it was the only class he took with the sorcerers and sexy as fuck Vince. Fox wasn’t really good at magic. He wasn’t sure he even wanted to be good at magic, except to keep from exploding things. Vincent, in comparison, was perfection with every spell he attempted. It was a reminder, one Fox hated to face. Some things were hard to get over when you grew up with family who were hunted down and killed by sorcerers.
Fox gritted his teeth and glared at the tattoo of Itzpalotl. She was a mix of horror and beauty, destruction and protection, and it felt all too much like his heart lately. Most sorcerers weren’t about to start hunting down shifters and tear them open for their magic soaked organs. That was messed up horrors that happened in the past and the world knew better. Fox just wasn’t sure if Vincent knew better. When Vincent first arrived at the Academy and started learning English, he had said a lot of fucked up shit, things he only learned later not to say. A lot of it contained knowledge of what spells shifter organs would be needed for.
Unhealthy. Crushing on Vince was seriously unhealthy. Fox pressed his palm over Itzpalotl’s skeletal face, but the feeling he was betraying his entire pack and every ancestor who ever lived wouldn’t leave him.
Forest sighed when Fox’s pitiful, dismayed howl reached his ears. “Dude, just get it over with. I hate seeing you like this.”
Fox lifted his arms and peered at him with eyebrows furrowed. “Like what?”
“Pathetic,” Forest spat with a scornful expression. “Really fucking pathetic. You can do so much better than him.”
“Shit, it’s just a date,” Fox muttered and slumped forward again. But it wasn’t just a date. If it was just a fucking date his heart wouldn’t feel like it was twisting in half just thinking about Vincent saying no.
And if he said yes? Fuck, that might even be worse.
It wasn’t like Vincent was pure evil or anything. Well, not really. Fuck, okay, he really hoped the guy wasn’t evil. Fox groaned and buried his head into his palms. Even if Vincent was the evilest, craziest sorcerer out there, he couldn’t stop liking him. There was just something about him, something that was probably going to get him killed.
Forest was tired of watching Fox lament. “Hey. Tell him.” He reached over and nudged Justin, who glanced cautiously in Theodore’s direction. The smoke was mostly gone, but Theodore was more interested in keeping the ceiling from falling down than if they talked at the moment. Justin leaned over and rested his elbows on Forest’s desk.
“So, I didn’t tell you because I didn’t want to make you nervous and all. I have a feeling that doesn’t matter at this point, though.” Justin smiled ruefully and spun his finger to indicate the ruined room.
“What?” Fox raised his head and pushed his dusty bandanna back. He paused when he saw Justin’s eyes. Normally a warm brown, they were currently gold with an otherworldly, feral glint. “Shit, I’m sorry. We never should have planned this for today.” Fox sighed heavily. “Are you okay? Did I freak out your wolf?”
Justin’s smile was terse. He put on a strong front, but his psycho werewolf frightened Justin just as much as it did everyone else. “I saw Michael spell up a bed before class.” Justin ducked closer and pitched his voice low. “Go for it now before some new guy snatches him away.”
“Wait, we’re getting a new patient?” Fox gaped. “Are you shitting me? Today? Today, today? Fuck.”
“Yeah, so stop freaking out and go for it,” Forest muttered. “We’re all going nuts waiting. Just do it already.”
Fox blinked in surprise and looked around. All the shifters in the class grinned back knowingly. It was practically impossible to keep secrets from the pack with their hyper sensitive hearing. Even Wylie had gotten over his anger to shoot Fox an encouraging nod from where he was leaning in his seat talking to Dorian.
“Well, fuck.” Fox hadn’t expected this. He knew Vincent wasn’t really anyone’s friend with his bitchy personality and all, and most of the shifters didn’t trust him. Fox was suddenly really proud to have his pack. They might think he was fucking up his life, but at least they supported him to the bitter end.
A new patient. Fuck, he needed to do it soon. Fox didn’t want more competition when it came to Vincent’s very cold and potentially absent heart. It was hard enough when he thought Vince might like Wylie for a while. Vincent was everything Fox wanted, even if there were tons of moments when he couldn’t actually stand the guy.
Fuck, this was such a bad idea.
Fox sat up straighter and looked to where Vincent was scowling at his soot covered notebook. He had spelled his hair and clothes back to immaculate order already, and looked as gorgeous as ever. He also looked angry as fuck, which Fox was certain only made him extra sexy.
It was just one date. It wasn’t like the world would fucking end if he scored one date with Vincent Frost.
“Ask him now. Just get it over with,” Forest prodded under his breath.
“Come on, Fox,” Justin whined softly. “The anticipation is killing me.”
Fox licked his teeth and tore his gaze away from Vincent’s fuming form. “I’m not asking him in front of everyone. He’ll say no.” Fox narrowed his eyes when Forest snorted. “He’s shy.” Fox grinned and flashed a fang as he glanced at Vincent again. “He’ll think I’m teasing him if I ask with all of you watching. I’ll ask him after class.”
“Wuss,” Forest called while pretending to cough.
Oh, Fox knew he totally was, but he wasn’t about to admit it. He didn’t need any witnesses to his heart being broken and possibly spelled to ash depending on how pissed off Vincent got at the prospect of a date.
“Pussy,” Fox shot back. He snickered when Forest stopped his antics and hissed in warning. He might turn into a giant, deadly leopard, but that didn’t mean Forest appreciated being called anything pussy related.
“Shit.” Fox jolted when his desk vibrated. He scrambled to grab his phone and quickly silenced it. When he thumbed the screen on, he paused as Raider’s text came into view.
‘Listen, I fucked up. It’s bad. You might not hear from me for a while.’
Fox stared at the screen in silence as his mind raced. What exactly did that even mean? Was Raider grounded, or did something serious happen?
He never knew with Raider. Sometimes the simplest shit was the end of the world to his friend back home. He hadn’t heard from him in a while, either, which only made it worse. Actually… it had been almost a month now.
Fuck, how had he not noticed Raider hadn’t spoken to him in that long? Was he that caught up in his own life he completely ignored his friend? Guilt churned in his stomach, and Fox quickly texted a reply.
“Fox.” Theodore’s voice cut through the chatter of the patients, and silence immediately fell.
Fox gulped when he saw the instructor staring at him from his desk at the front of the room. He swiftly thumbed his phone off and slipped it into the back pocket of his jean shorts. “Yeah, Master Howld?” he answered as innocently as possible.
“Come up here so we can go over how that last spell went wrong.”
“Crap.” Fox winced when he realized he spoke out loud, and his inner fox whined when Theodore’s violet eyes pierced into his.
Theodore Howld might look like any other impossibly beautiful man in his thirties, but he was actually a dragon shifter, a really powerful sorcerer, and on most days intimidating as fuck. Seeing as Fox had blown up his classroom twice that day, Theodore’s normally grumpy tones were extra surly.
Fox’s shoulders slumped, and he reluctantly pushed up from his seat. He really wasn’t in a rush to fuck up in front of everyone. He dusted off his long jean shorts and brushed some of the soot from his arms but didn’t spell his clothes clean. Fox’s gaze flickered to the other patients as he made his way to Theodore’s desk. At least no one looked badly wounded. The four sorcerers in the class were already sleek and shiny again in contrast to the ruffled, dusty shifters content to wait to shower.
Fox stopped next to Theodore and tried to ignore the anxious gazes fixed on him. He wasn’t great at magic, but Fox was determined not to make an ass of himself while everyone was watching.
Theodore threw his long, red ponytail over his shoulder and waved impatiently for Fox to start.
Fox’s eyes darted to where Vincent was sitting. He relaxed slightly when he saw Vincent looked more bored than vengeful at the moment. The guy was a hard read. Oh, he was pretty sure Vincent hated him most days, but sometimes… Sometimes they could hold a conversation. Some days Vincent looked at him like he was a person. Sure, he didn’t see him as one he necessarily wanted to talk to, but a person nevertheless.
Vincent pushed his hair from his face, and Fox bit his lower lip. Damn, he was hot, and so out of his league. Vincent was absolutely beyond anything he could ever hope to reach.
“Focus,” Theodore snapped.
Fox jolted and blinked back to reality. He fixed on Theodore’s scowl and couldn’t help but grin. “Hey, I totally got this.”
He turned his cocky smile to his classmates, who only grew more unsettled as he straightened and puffed up with bravado. Fox stared down at his hands with brow furrowed in concentration and deliberately brought them together in front of his body. Power sparked, and a white current of energy moved from the tips of his fingers and arced between his palms.
“See? Fucking cake.” Fox beamed, oblivious to the way everyone was holding their breath.
Theodore stepped forward with a book in hand. “All this requires is for you to direct the energy circling in your body to flow through another object.” He raised the book and placed it so the spine was nearly touching the current flowing between Fox’s hands. “Don’t let the object cut the power stream. You need to feel the book with your magic and then allow your power to flow through. Carefully,” Theodore added sternly. “You’re trying to create a safe current so your power can leave your body and return, not destroy everything you touch.”
Someone scoffed, and Fox’s attention jumped from his hands to where Vincent was sitting. He watched with narrowed eyes when Vincent mouthed under his breath, “All he does is destroy everything.”
Bastard. He tried really fucking hard not to blow shit up. It wasn’t like he was doing it on purpose.
“Pull it back, Fox. You’re spiking power levels again,” Theodore warned.
Fox started and focused back on his hands. A drop of sweat trailed down his forehead as he fought to get his power back under control. There was a collective sigh of relief in the room when his magic balanced out.
Fox looked up and grin triumphantly at the other patients. “Told you I got this.”
“Focus,” Vincent called with a frustrated growl. “You’re going to fuck it up.”
Fox’s gaze again drifted his way, and he swallowed hard when Vincent’s sharp, silver eyes locked with his.
He couldn’t stall anymore. He had to ask Vince out before some new guy came in and stole him right from under his nose. Vincent was gorgeous, talented, and could turn his insides into pure mush with just one glare. It didn’t matter how much of an ass he was, Vincent was his, and he was going to win a date.
“For the love of…” Theodore huffed in exasperation and raised his hand to shield himself when Fox’s current of power arced out toward the class. Fox continued to stare dumbstruck at the now wide-eyed Vincent Frost who was about to be hit with his magic. “Focus!”
Fox jumped and scrambled to pull his magic back before he lost control completely. His power was quickly spiraling in a way he was all too familiar with, and he wasn’t sure he could stop it.
Forest ducked under his desk, and Jake quickly followed while Dorian swore loudly.
“Damn it. Fucking damn it,” Fox hissed. He crouched down and covered his head with his arms right before the room shook with a deafening blast.