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Not Quite Fate by Hearts Cadence
Dark Omens by Hearts Cadence
A/N – WOO HOO! One week! Not too shabby. ‘Course, it’s all due to Thanksgiving break being this week, but still lol.
Things are really moving along now (and hopefully will continue in that vein), so enjoy!
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Chapter 14 — Dark Omens
“I knew it!” Pansy exulted, practically bouncing on her heels, hands clasped to her chest. “Oh, Draco, I just knew you would come around!” She tossed her arms around his neck, apparently unable to keep her excitement to herself. “Everyone else said to give up, but I knew.”
Biting down hard on his tongue to keep himself from cursing, Draco reached up to unlatch the girl. It took a Herculean effort to hide his disgust. They currently stood in the middle of the empty common room, everyone else having long since gone to bed. He’d come straight from dropping off Ginny to Pansy, and when he offered her the ultimatum — he would join if she would refrain from insane kidnapping schemes — the girl had hesitated, obviously disappointed, but with only a little more persuasion on his part she accepted.
Now she could barely contain herself.
“It’ll be just like before,” she chattered happily. “And everyone else will be so thrilled as well, and we can all be one big happy family again.” Her grin stretched from ear to ear.
Draco could feel a headache coming on. “Yeah, just like before.” He didn’t think the term “one big happy family” ever applied to them, but he also didn’t want to argue.
“Oh, we should celebrate!” She looked around expectantly as if expecting some wine and party balloons to appear.
That was about the last thing on the planet Draco wanted at the moment, so he hastily said, “We should, but I really can’t. I’ve got rounds really early tomorrow morning. I need to get to bed or I’ll be asleep on my feet all day.”
She pouted, but gave a reluctant nod. “Oh…all right. Some other time, then.”
Rather than agree to that, he said simply, “Good night,” then made a fast retreat before she could stop him.
He fell onto his bed gratefully, spreading his arms wide across the mattress. Of course, he didn’t really have early rounds the next day, but another second with the celebrating banshee and he would have snapped. He rolled onto his stomach, wondering what in the world he’d gotten himself into.
Despite the opportunity for a much needed lie in, the next morning found him wide awake bright and early. Cursing bad luck and his uncooperative internal clock, he fought his way out of tangled sheets and into the shower. He spent a long time reveling in the downpour of hot water, accustomed to rushing through bathing to make breakfast. After finally emerging into a steam-clouded bathroom, going mechanically through the routine and yanking on his robes, Draco trudged through the common room and out of the dungeons.
He blinked in surprise when he got his first look at ground level — it still seemed dark, like the sun hadn’t even risen yet. He rubbed at his eyes, muttering several choice words under his breath, and walked out the Entrance Hall doors to have a look for himself. Sure enough, the sun just barely peeked over the horizon, giving the light outside that gray, soft quality of pre-dawn and very early morning.
Autumn’s chill started to seep past his robes, and he was about to turn back inside when he saw a small figure out by the Quidditch pitch, bent into an extremely odd position. Squinting, he started when he recognized an unmistakable splash of brilliant scarlet standing out in sharp contrast to the dreary surroundings. He jogged down to her without thinking about it, unable to believe Ginny even practiced at this ungodly hour.
When he reached the pitch his breathing came in irregular puffs, and since she hadn’t spotted him yet anyway, he leaned against one of the Quidditch ring posts to recover. He watched her curiously as he did, her stretching — that’s what he assumed she was doing, anyway — offering him all sorts of interesting views. It was when he caught himself staring at her bum, thinking it was odd he’d never noticed how cute and round it was before, that he suddenly straightened up with disbelief, squeezing his eyes shut and shaking his head. Merlin, that was exactly why one should never get up this early.
His eyes flew open, greeted by the image of Ginny Weasley staring curiously at him.
She gave a small, amused smile. “Hi. Stalking me now, are you?”
He glowered. “No. I just saw you from up at the castle. What are you doing out here so early?”
“You’re out here this early too,” she pointed out reasonably.
“Not by choice, I assure you. I couldn’t sleep.”
“I thought you usually didn’t stumble down to breakfast until the last minute. Some mornings you put Ron to shame you have to shovel it down so fast.” She laughed in response to his scowl at that, then growing suddenly serious, almost anxious, asked, “So…um, how did it go with Pansy?”
He made a face at the reminder. “Oh, yeah. Don’t worry, she bought it all right. And she’s bloody ecstatic about it.”
Ginny had the grace to smile sympathetically. “She get a little annoying?”
“Understatement of the year. She hugged me.” He shuddered, catching the way Ginny bit her lip to fight back a giggle. “I had to make up an excuse about early rounds just to get away before she decided to throw a spur-of-the-moment party.”
“I’m so sorry about all this,” she told him earnestly.
“Well you should be. After all, you did ask Pansy to go after you,” he drawled sarcastically.
Her lips quirked. “I know, I know. But still, thank you all the same.”
He shrugged. “You know, you never answered my question.”
“What on earth possessed you to come down here so early?”
“Oh,” she smiled, “I jog in the mornings.”
“Don’t sound so surprised,” she teased.
He shook his head. “I just didn’t think you would need to with all the flying you do.”
She shrugged. “That’s a different kind of exercise. This builds up better endurance than you can get from just flying.” She shrugged again. “And I don’t know. I just like it.”
“Oh.” He stood by awkwardly for a second, not really wanting to go back to the castle where his housemates would undoubtedly be trickling down for breakfast by now. He couldn’t just ignore them anymore — now he was “back on their side” and had to act like it. But he sensed the conversation was over, so shoving his hands into his pockets, he said, “Right, well…have a good run then. I guess.”
She nodded and another uncomfortable moment passed, then Draco murmured, “Right,” and turned around to head back.
He stopped, turning around to see her running up to him.
“Um,” she said when she stopped in front of him, a curious blush blooming high on her freckle-dusted cheeks. “Did you want to come?”
He raised his eyebrows. “What?”
“I mean you don’t have to,” she assured, speaking quickly. “You just seemed like maybe you wanted to.”
He hesitated, looking past her towards the grounds, sprawling empty and silent beyond them.
“Besides,” she grinned wickedly, returning to her usual bold self in that one gesture, “I remember how you were huffing and puffing when you ran after me from Hogsmeade yesterday. You could probably do with the exercise.”
He snorted. “Think so, do you?”
She shrugged, but the playful smile on her lips and the twinkle in those dark eyes of hers said it all.
Well, it wasn’t as if he hadn’t thought the same thing during his various sprints yesterday. He even ran out of breath coming down here this morning, for Merlin’s sake. “I’m not exactly dressed for it,” he pointed out.
“Malfoy, aren’t you forgetting something?” she said in a very good imitation of his own drawl. “You’re a wizard.” She pulled out her wand, transfiguring his robes into more appropriate jogging pants and t-shirt. “It’s amazing, isn’t it?” She said in his same drawl. “Almost like magic.”
It took him a second to figure out what she was playing at, but when he did remember he couldn’t help but chuckle. She’d just mimicked his own words, the ones he’d said to her back earlier in the year when she couldn’t fit all her books in her bag, and he had expanded it for her. “Very funny.”
“I thought so,” she returned sweetly. Then she spun around, her pony tail swinging to one side, and she peeked at him coyly over one shoulder. “Well? Let’s go. Try and keep up, hmm?”
And she was off.
Draco stared after her for a second, then spurred on by his pride and the challenge in her words, took up after the girl. It took a considerable burst of speed to finally catch up, but once he did the pace was relatively comfortable. He let himself relax a little, falling into a comfortable rhythm, lulled into a dreamy sort of state by the cadence of their combined breathing. This wasn’t so bad.
“We’ll start out with a few warm-up laps around the Quidditch pitch,” Ginny informed him, breaking through his trance. He just nodded.
He managed the first lap without difficulty, and the second didn’t prove much harder. Still, by the end of it his chest felt tight, his breathing sounded loud in his ears, and he was ready for a break.
“Okay,” Ginny announced as they finished up that second lap, speaking as easily as if she were taking a stroll, “time to actually get started. I like to jog along the Forest until I run out of grounds, and then I circle back the other way. All right?”
His mind was still having trouble wrapping around the words “actually get started,” but stubborn till the end, he nodded his assent anyway. She sped up in response, strides smooth as they lengthened to carry her farther faster. Despite his increasing pain, he couldn’t help but admire the strength, the easy grace in the way she moved.
She gained a lead almost right away, but with sheer willpower dragged up by his ego, he forced himself to at least stay in step just behind her. He remembered how she said she liked this and wondered if maybe there was something wrong in her head, because surely no sane person would do this for enjoyment. His legs were aching miserably, lungs on fire and heart twisting into sharp pangs in his breast when she suddenly stopped.
Not questioning the early respite, he dropped right away into a crouch, hanging his head and sucking in oxygen like he was taking his first breaths. His stomach felt sick, his chest still tight, and he vaguely recalled from somewhere that cool downs helped to avoid those sorts of symptoms. Surely if he knew that, Ginny must as well. He raised his head, trying to figure out what prompted her actions. She was bending over something gray and distasteful-looking on the ground, a little frown on her lips.
“What the hell are you doing?” he grumbled, irritable from the recent torture.
“Come here,” she waved him closer, not taking her eyes off the object. Debating whether or not to obey her or hex her, he finally settled on the former and, with much wincing, hauled himself over. She was saying, “Isn’t that a…?”
“Forest Sprite,” Draco finished, momentarily forgetting his discomfort. This sprite looked very different from the ones they caught for Professor Pierce, though; it lay with limbs thrown out at unnatural angles, body dull and gray like old clay instead of shining with vibrant green light, the network of webbed wings having lost its pearly shimmer. “And a not very live one, at that,” he concluded.
“Poor thing,” she said sadly.
“Yes, it’s a terrible shame,” Draco dismissed unfeelingly, interest already gone and his mind wholly focused on the idea of a nice, long, hot soak in the prefect’s bathroom. “We should probably go ba—”
Ginny interrupted him. “Draco, look.” A hint of fear laced the words, and her finger trembled a tiny bit when she pointed.
Curious, he followed the direction of her gaze and felt his stomach clench just a little. Burned black and ugly on the creature’s abdomen, the Dark Mark stared back at him. “Shit.”
She looked up at him with wide eyes. “What’s it mean?”
He shook his head. “Hell if I know.”
“Do you think it’s serious?” she pressed anxiously.
“I told you I don’t know,” he snapped, then instantly regretted it when a wounded look passed over her face. “Look,” he tried more calmly, “let me think, all right? I don’t know anymore than you do.”
She nodded mutely, and uncomfortable watching her watch him, he stood up and started pacing slowly. His mind raced over the possibilities, finally arriving at a theory.
“Those things give answers,” he reminded Ginny. “That’s what we use them for, to answer our questions.”
“So obviously there’s a Death Eater out there looking for answers.” He frowned. “The only thing I don’t understand is why risk sprites?”
“What do you mean?”
“Well, there’s more reliable ways, not to mention easier ones. It’s not like You-Know-Who has any shortage of resources. And sprites are dangerous — they can tattle.”
Ginny gazed solemnly down at what remained of the Forest Sprite. “That’s probably why she ended up like this.”
“I’m sure. She must’ve made it pretty far before she did, though.”
“Why do you say that?”
“Because aside from the ones that’re students or professors, it’s impossible for Death Eaters to get on the grounds.” He paused, amending, “Well…almost impossible.” He saw the recognition flicker in her eyes as she picked up on the reference to his own feat of last year, finding probably the only way to smuggle them in. She tensed noticeably, but said nothing. Ignoring the sudden awkwardness, he concluded, “So this sprite had to have come from a different forest.”
“It was trying to warn us,” she murmured. Her hand stretched out and hovered over the corpse as if she intended to touch it, but then her fingers curled into a fist and she pulled back. “Even if you’re right, I still don’t understand the Mark on her.”
Draco frowned. “I don’t know. Not for sure, anyway. I could guess though, knowing how those people are: pride, arrogance, wanting to show off who did it.” He shrugged. “Or who knows? Maybe it’s the side effect of some new spell we don’t know about yet.”
Ginny shivered. “I hope it’s the first one. I don’t like the idea of them having new tricks.”
Draco said nothing, staring without expression at the unfortunate body.
“Draco, what if she didn’t come very far?”
“I told you, it’s — ”
“Yeah I know, but you said ‘aside from students or professors.’ Well…we both know a few students who could qualify, right?”
Draco considered that. “I doubt it,” he finally answered. “I would have heard something, even outside the ‘inner circle.’”
“But it’s a possibility,” Ginny insisted.
He studied her, and then sighed. “Let me guess. You want me to ask Pansy about it.”
She chewed at her lip, avoiding his eyes. “Well…I mean it might be important,” she finally admitted.
Draco closed his eyes, rubbing his hands over his face. “You know, I agreed to pretend I was on their side. I never agreed to playing spy.”
“I know. I’d understand.”
He stared at her, surprised that she didn’t try harder to talk him into it. Instead, she just looked steadily back at him, calm and accepting but at the same time clearly hoping. He muttered a curse under his breath. “Fine,” he gritted out. “Next time I get the chance I’ll bring it up. Happy?”
She smiled, dropping her eyes. “Thank you.”
“Just keep it in mind next time I need a favor,” he told her, old Slytherin habits kicking in. “Now, I don’t know about you, but I’m going back to the castle for a good long soak before the day starts.”
“All right, you go ahead. I want to finish my run.”
Draco grimaced. “Right, you have fun then.”
He turned to leave, but Ginny called out, “Draco!” He stopped and looked back expectantly. “Think you’ll wanna do this again tomorrow?” He wanted to laugh at the notion and was all set to respond with a decisive No way in hell when she added, “That is, if you think you’ll be able to drag your out-of-shape bum out here.”
He glared, straightening up unconsciously. “I’ll be able, Weasley. I’m not in that sorry of condition.”
She grinned. “Excellent. See you tomorrow morning then!” And with that she jumped to her feet and took off, pony tail swinging behind her.
Draco’s mouth hung open as he watched her recede into the distance, wondering what exactly just happened. Slowly he closed his jaw, unable to help the very small but appreciative smile growing on his lips. If not for all those bothersome morals, she would have made an excellent Slytherin.
- - - - -
In the end, he never did get his soak, a fact that made him more than a little cranky. Instead, he’d walked into the Slytherin common room for spare robes to change into and found Pansy sitting alone on the couch.
She presented him with a huge smile. “Draco!”
He started to scowl but tried to force the expression into something pleasant. The result was a sort of grimace, but she didn’t seem to notice, or didn’t think anything of it if she did. “Hi, Pansy.”
She eyed his wardrobe curiously. “What in Salazar’s name are you dressed at?”
He looked down at himself. “Oh…I went jogging.”
“I do now, apparently,” he muttered.
She gave him a puzzled look. “What?”
He shook his head. “Never mind. Where is everyone?”
He walked over and dropped into a chair adjacent the sofa. “Why aren’t you at breakfast?”
“I thought you were still sleeping.” She smiled almost shyly. “I thought I would wait for you.”
Oh, just bloody brilliant. He could already see that she would be sticking to him like glue from now on. He was about to make up an excuse and slip away when he remembered he was supposed to ask about the stupid dead sprite when he got the chance. With everyone but the two of them gone, he couldn’t ask for a much better opportunity, so loath as he was to do it, he said, “Pansy, can I ask you a question?”
She leaned forward eagerly. “Of course, you know that.”
Draco hesitated, trying to figure the best way to go about this. “Is something…going on?”
Confusion scrunched up her features. “What do you mean?”
“With the Dark Lord,” he clarified. “I mean, is he…I don’t know, planning something big? Or at all?”
She seemed to think the question over a moment. “Why do you ask?” she finally inquired.
To tell the truth or not to tell the truth. Thinking rapidly over possible repercussions and unable to finding anything significant, he decided it couldn’t hurt to be honest. “When I was jogging I found a Forest Sprite…dead. Branded with a Dark Mark.”
Her eyes grew wide, then contemplative. “I don’t know about that…”
“But?” he prompted, sensing there was more.
She glanced around as if making sure they were really alone, then lowering her voice conspiratorially, said quickly, “Well, my father sent me an owl the other day that hinted at something, but I don’t know for sure what it is. You know how it is with owls, it’s too risky to be very clear. But he did sort of imply that the Death Eaters have some increased activity right now, and that whatever it is, the Dark Lord’s in a right snit about it.”
“No idea what it might be, though?”
She shook her head apologetically. “No. But Daddy said he would send me more when he could, so maybe he’ll be able to say more then.”
“Maybe,” Draco murmured absently, looking off at nothing in particular.
“Don’t worry, if it’s anything really big, I’m sure we’ll get a chance to help,” Pansy offered brightly.
He held back the urge to roll his eyes, but he couldn’t quite manage an expression appropriately hopeful or excited either. “Sure.”
Pansy stood up then, shaking out her robes. “Ready?”
He blinked up at her. “For?”
“Breakfast, silly. It’s going to be over soon.”
He waved her off. “You go.” He sighed at the clock, seeing that he no longer had time for his bath. “I at least want a quick shower before classes start.”
She pouted. “Oh…okay. Do you want me to save you something?”
“No,” he answered shortly, wishing the girl would just leave already.
Still pouting disappointedly, she said, “All right, if you’re sure.”
She nodded, hanging her head a little. “Well…see you in a bit, then.” Then, at long last, she turned around and trudged out of the room.
Draco closed his eyes and massaged his temples, sighing heavily. He already missed the days when he could just ignore her completely, or if worse came to worse, hurl a few sharp barbs at her virtue.
When he opened his eyes again, he jumped at the sight of Theodore Nott reclined sideways in the chair across from him, chewing thoughtfully on a half-eaten orange.
“Where the bloody hell did you come from?” Draco snarled, trying to recover lost dignity.
“Breakfast.” He held up the orange to prove it.
Draco stared at him, then shook his head. “I’ve got to go.” He stood and started moving away. “Nice talking to you.”
“So what’re you trying to accomplish, exactly?”
Draco stopped mid-stride, schooling his features before turning around very slowly. “Did you say something?”
Nott nodded, attention focused on carefully peeling off a slice of orange. “I asked what you’re game is.”
Draco folded his arms over his chest. “Is this supposed to make sense?”
Nott tilted back his head to drop the piece of orange in his mouth, chewing slowly and swallowing before speaking again. “You desert, ignore all of Pansy’s attempts to get you to change your mind, but then all on your own you decide maybe you’d mosey on back to our side after all?”
“Look, I just got tired of — ”
Nott waved his orange. “Yeah, yeah Pansy told me the whole bit. You’re sick of being a weakling and want power blah blah blah.” He tore off another casual bite. “Why don’t you tell me the real reason?”
Draco sneered at the other boy. “You don’t know what you’re talking about. Now, I need to shower.”
“For someone who genuinely re-joined,” Nott observed to Draco’s turned back, “you didn’t seem very excited about increased Death Eater activity. Or the fact that you’re ‘sure to get a chance to help.’”
Again, the boy’s words had Draco turning back. “You were eavesdropping?”
Nott raised his eyebrows as if surprised by Draco’s anger. “Of course.”
“What happened to coming from breakfast!”
Nott smiled a little and took a bite out of his dwindling fruit. “I did,” he said innocently. “I just got back before your little chat with Parkinson.”
Draco rolled his eyes. “Nott, do yourself a favor and stay out of things that don’t concern you.”
“Another thing Pansy mentioned,” Nott went on, unfazed as Draco made to leave. “Your little requirement for joining up again, the one about Weasley. Been spending a lot of time with the little Weasel, haven’t you?”
For the third time, Draco turned back around from walking away, though this time he more or less spun back. “What?”
Nott shrugged, again focusing his entire concentration on slowly peeling away a slice of orange like he were working with explosives. “Just noticed you around her a lot, is all. And then your ultimatum. Funny coincidence, hmm?”
“What are you insinuating?” Draco asked in a low, dangerous voice.
“Nothing at all.” He finally placed the newly liberated slice in his mouth, jaw working thoughtfully on it. “Just curious — what are you doing with her?”
Draco’s mind raced. Nott had him in a checkmate, and they both knew it. With the earlier accusations Draco could still claim that Nott just read his reactions wrong, but there was no denying that he was indeed spending excessive amounts of time with Ginny. The truth didn’t present an acceptable option either because if he admitted he didn’t entirely hate her anymore, even if he explained Pierce’s role in that reversal, Nott would immediately realize Draco returned just to protect her, not out of any real desire. That would inevitably get back to Pansy, defeating the purpose of him playing this game in the first place.
Then he had an idea.
Looking around them as if checking for intruders, he leveled a frank gaze on Nott. “Know of anyone else who might be eavesdropping?”
Nott raised his eyebrows. “We’re alone.”
Draco nodded, tossing himself carelessly into a chair. He allowed a lazy, arrogant smirk to surface. “So you want to know why I’m spending so much time with Weasley, do you?”
“That’s the million-galleon question for the day, yes.”
Draco stretched out cat-like, folding his hands behind his head. “Why do you think?” When Nott didn’t immediately answer, he said, “Just consider this: the littlest Weasel isn’t quite so…little anymore. If you know what I mean.”
Nott’s eyebrows shot up. “You fancy her?”
Draco snorted, giving his eyes a dramatic roll. “Please. I can’t stand the bint.”
“I can’t stand her personality, or her mind in general,” Draco clarified. He produced that lazy smirk again. “Now, her body on the other hand…”
Nott studied him skeptically. “Are you trying to tell me you’re shagging her?”
Draco shrugged. “All I’m saying is that she’s a nice piece of arse and painfully na´ve. I’m having my fun now, and later,” he flashed a feral grin, “I’ll have even more fun crushing her dreams.”
Nott spent a long time after that watching him silently, head just slightly cocked as if in thought.
Draco, beginning to worry he didn’t believe him, asked, “Problem?”
The other boy blinked as if emerging from a trance, then shook his head. “No…just thinking that it’s a brilliant idea. The perfect way to use and then destroy your enemy…if she’s good-looking and gullible, I mean.” His eyes locked onto Draco’s, searching. “Mind if I have a go with her when you’re done?”
Draco felt every muscle go tense all at once, almost like a massive, full-body cramp. His hands instinctively tightened on the arms of the chair, but he forced himself to relax before Nott could notice. He only prayed his face betrayed nothing.
“With her being so distraught and vulnerable and all,” Nott was saying, still watching Draco closely, “it should be easy as bedding Greengrass…without the rest of the school’s male population having beaten you to it, that is.” He smiled faintly. “And I’m dying to find out if she can handle a broom as well in the bedroom as on the Quidditch pitch. If she can…well,” Nott chuckled, letting the thought hang.
Draco’s blood was pounding in his ears, and it took every ounce of restraint in his body to keep from thrashing the git black and blue on the spot. After what felt like an eternity spent bringing himself under control, he managed to force out, “Do whatever the bloody hell you like. I don’t care.” Then, unable to stop himself, he added, “But while I’m still playing, you better not touch her. I don’t share well.”
Nott’s eyes were still oddly intent on him, and after a few moments a small, self-satisfied smile rose to his lips. He inclined his head slightly. “Duly noted,” he acknowledged softly.
Draco grumbled something nonsensical under his breath and stalked off, managing to refrain from forming his hands into fists by shoving them in his pockets instead. There, his nails dug into his palm.
Once in the bathroom he stripped off the clothes Ginny had transfigured for him and climbed under the spray of the shower, closing his eyes. He wondered if he’d made the right choice. He was absolutely positive Ginny was going to be furious with him when he told her, and he was going to have to tell her too because he’d just basically told Nott that she was falling for him. If she displayed some evidence to the contrary, all sorts of complications would pop up.
He sighed — just thinking about her reaction to the news made him tired. He resolved to cast some protective charms beforehand…just in case.
Another worrisome bit, though, was that Draco might have unwittingly introduced yet another danger to Ginny. Nott should heed his warning about keeping his hands to himself, but it still made Draco uncomfortable.
Furiously lathering shampoo into his hair, he roughly forced the unfamiliar feelings of guilt and concern from his mind. Bloody irritating girl. Look what trouble she caused just by existing. Making himself relax, he encouraged his thoughts to wander pointlessly, to topics less heavy. They drifted through a myriad of random, half-formed ideas and images, and he was just getting into a comfortable, meditative sort of mood when the sentence, “And I’m dying to find out if she can handle a broom as well in the bedroom as on the Quidditch pitch” rose from the mists of his mind.
His own words concerning her looks followed immediately after before he could stop them, and then he pictured her in his mind, as she looked on the Quidditch pitch. He remembered her face when she competed, fierce and intense, and he remembered how she looked today stretching, running, the interesting things those activities did to her anatomy. And then the sentence replayed in his mind again, and he couldn’t help but picture things a little less innocent this time.
He reached out and cranked the water all the way to cold in one abrupt, vicious twist. Freezing sheets showered down on him, shocking the snowball effect in his head to a dead halt. He exhaled several curses through chattering teeth and quickly turned off the spray completely. His forehead landed against the wall, his eyes squeezing shut.
Like he’d thought earlier, bloody irritating girl.
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