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Infamous (Chronicles of Nick #3)(4)
Author: Sherrilyn Kenyon

His eyes flashed red, then black. “You’ll be able to do it without saying a word to them. One thought from you and you’ll be able to push those buttons.”

Oh, now that was cool. “So I’ll be like Obi Wan Kenobi with my Jedi mind tricks.” He held his hands up and fanned them around like he was conjuring the Force. “‘These are not the droids you’re looking for.’”

Grim let out a long breath in frustration before he glanced up at the ceiling. “It’s like trying to train an ADD cat in a mouse factory.”

“Hey, now. I’m focused.” Especially compared to how he was in a real classroom.

Grim scoffed. “I only have about thirty percent of your attention twenty percent of the time. The rest of your brain is off on gaming strategies, scantily clad women, and all the things you intend to do once you’re grown and out on your own.”

Okay, Death had a point. But what was wrong with that? Nick felt like he had a noose around his neck. Physically and mentally, he was grown, and yet everyone still treated him like a kid. A fact that was really beginning to annoy him. At his age, his mother had been out on her own with a baby. Kyrian had been a veteran Greek soldier, fighting against Roman occupation. And who knew what all Grim had been in to at his age.

For all of his mom’s acting like he was mentally defective and couldn’t tie his own shoes, he’d been taking care of her most of his life. Helping pay bills. Doing chores. Watching out for her. Helping Menyara with her car.

Over the last year, he’d been shot and had battled preternatural enemies from every corner. The only people who didn’t treat him like a five-year-old were Kyrian and Acheron.

And Grim.

If you want respect from others, you have to give it. His mother’s words came back to haunt him. Sobering, he gave a curt nod to Grim. “All right. You have my undivided attention.”

“That’ll last three seconds,” Grim said under his breath. “Honestly, if I didn’t know better, I’d swear you’re not the Malachai. It mystifies me that something as worthless as you could have any power whatsoever. You were born white trash and that’s all you’ll ever be.” He raked Nick with a scathing sneer. “You’re nothing.”

Rage darkened Nick’s gaze. Blood rushed through his veins so fast that his entire body heated up to the level of molten lava. “I ain’t nothing, boy. You about to find out just what I can do.”

Grim laughed. “That’s it. I finally do have your attention, and you’ve just learned the first lesson of influence. You use your divination and clairvoyance to strike the nerves of the person you’re trying to manipulate. Even someone with a will as strong as yours can be influenced. Not with your mind, rather with your mouth or actions. I can’t control you, but I can set you off and manipulate you to have the emotional or physical response I want you to. That is one power no one is immune to.”

Nick scowled as he tried to understand all the nuances of Grim’s lesson. “You didn’t mean what you said?”

“Oh, I meant it. But I used your triggers to get the response I wanted. However, what I did wasn’t subtle. It’s the subtle you have to master, and that is what will make you truly dangerous. The best influence is always the one that goes undetected. The one that your target thinks was their idea.”

“It sounds impossible.”

“You would think, but it’s not. People are very simple, and you’ll be amazed at how easy they are to sway, no matter who they are or where they come from.”

And Nick didn’t like how easy it’d been for Grim to rile him. Kyrian, Menyara and his mom were right. He was way too hotheaded for his own good. “Is there any way to detect it when someone is trying to use it on me?”

Grim nodded.

“Then teach me, Great Master. For I don’t want to be nobody’s bitch.”

A dark light shined inside Grim’s spooky eyes. “Aw, Nicky-baby, therein is the problem. Sooner or later, we’re all somebody’s bitch. And there’s a power heading for you right now that is going to test every part of you. One you’re not going to see coming until it pins you to the wall and guts you. Oh happy day for me, eh?”

CHAPTER 2

Nick grimaced as Stone Blakemore drove his over-developed muscular shoulder into Nick’s in the hallway of his high school. Pain exploded down his arm, making him want to pummel the beast with his two-hundred-pound backpack until Stone begged him for mercy.

“Watch where you’re going, trailer park!” Stone snapped as he shoved at Nick and kept walking toward his locker. Stone’s pack of ubiquitous idiots followed in his wake, laughing about it. Yeah, okay, ’cause running into a guy in the hallway was such a hoot. Oh to have the intellect of a Cro-Mag so that something as innocuous as picking belly lint could be amusing.…

Nick turned to answer that insult with one of his own, but that thought fled as Nekoda appeared in front of him from out of the crowd. Dressed in a tight cream sweater and jeans with her brown hair pulled into pigtails, she took his breath away and instantly vaporized all thoughts of Stone.

Forget his powers, hers were much more impressive. She could turn a guy’s brain into mush with nothing more than a single smile. One touch and he was completely helpless before her. Her mere presence could suck out every part of his intelligence and leave him a drooling loser, trailing after her, desperate to do anything she asked of him … even carry her shiny pink purse.

“Hi, handsome. Where were you last night?”

Not where he’d wanted to be. That was for sure. He’d have much rather been holding hands with her in a dark movie theater than listening to Grim tell him what an idiot moron he was.

Man, he could stare into Kody’s green eyes forever, especially when she looked at him like she was doing right now. Like he mattered to her. “My mom wouldn’t let me go. Sorry.”

She frowned. “Why?”

Shifting his backpack to the shoulder Stone hadn’t bruised, Nick sighed. “She considers anything I do with you to be dating, which she thinks I’m too young to do.” Then under his breath, he mumbled, “Don’t get me started.”

Her scowl deepened. “I don’t understand. We’ve done plenty of things together. Why would she object to a movie?”

He gave her a sheepish grin. “She doesn’t really know about those other things. I didn’t exactly tell her I was meeting you for them.”

She tsked at him. “Lies of omission are still lies, Nick.”

“I know, Kode. I do.” But telling your mom that you were being pursued by demons out to kill you and that this hot girl in your school was helping to fight them off wasn’t something he wanted to do. Especially not after Ambrose’s dire warning months ago. “Don’t nag at me, okay? I’m over it for the day.”

Her concerned expression went a long way in making him feel better. “Did something attack you this morning?”

Nekoda and Caleb were the only two people in his high school who knew who and what he really was. While Caleb was his demonic bodyguard sent to keep him from dying prematurely, Nick still wasn’t sure what Kody was. She wouldn’t say and he had yet to guess.

Talk about lies of omission.…

But the two of them had bled for him. So until they did something against him, he trusted them implicitly.

“The mother beast sank her fangs into my hide for everything from forgetting to take out the trash last night to not brushing my hair enough this morning.” He didn’t bother mentioning the toilet-seat-was-left-up-again and pick-your-underwear-up-off-the-floor lecture. No need to horrify his girlfriend with anything that personal. “I’m still smarting from it.”

Her smile made his stomach jump. “Gotcha.” She tugged at the lapels of his hideously orange Hawaiian shirt that had oversized bottles of Tabasco sauce all over it. Another thing his mother insisted he wear because she had this mistaken belief it looked respectable and … brace yourself … “rich.” “New shirt, huh?”

He growled in response.

Laughing, Kody rose up on her tiptoes to lay a quick kiss on his cheek, in spite of the “no public displays of affection” laws that governed St. Richards. “Consider this a nag-free zone, and you rock the tacky shirt look in a way no one else can. Trust me. Only you could be that hot in something that foul. But you better hurry or you’ll be late for homeroom again.”

The bell rang a heartbeat later.

Nick cursed his luck as he dashed down the hall with Kody leading the way to their classroom. Just inside the door of their drab tan early morning prison cell, Kody pulled up short, causing him to skid to a halt.

Ms. Richardson, the meanest troll this side of the Nether Realm, clucked her shrewish tongue at them. With a sneer on her ugly face, she tapped at the cheap watch on her wrist. “I see you’re both late again. This is what? Your third tardy, Mr. Gautier? You know what that means.”

Oh yeah. After-school detention. And even better, more quality time spent with Richardson. Just the thing he wanted to add to his Christmas list—right after a vicious attack of intestinal misery.

Why couldn’t a demon come for him now and gut him? Suck him into some grisly hellmouth … That he’d actually welcome. Heck, after the morning he’d had, he might not even fight it.

Closing his eyes, he summoned his silkspeech powers for a solo try. “But the bell hasn’t rung yet.”

Richardson froze for a full second. Then she blinked. “I’ll see you at three o’clock.”

Crap. It hadn’t worked. Big surprise there. And it offered further proof that Richardson wasn’t human.

Irritated, he took the slip of paper from her hand while she glared at Nekoda.

“And you, Ms. Kennedy. One more and you’ll be joining Mr. Gautier’s after-school detention.”

“It’s pronounced ‘Go-shay,’” Nick said, correcting her “Gah-tee-aaa.” He hated whenever people mispronounced his name.

“Of course it is.” Could her tone be any more snide? “How could I forget that backwoods Cajun is a corruption and affront to the beautiful French language.”

And she despised Cajuns with a passion. Something she let everyone know, which begged the question of why the woman lived in New Orleans, home of the Cajuns. One of his ancestors must have run over her cat or something when she was a kid … nine hundred years ago by the looks of her.

At least that was probably the last time that thing she wore for a dress was in fashion.

In spite of the fact he knew he’d pay for it later, Nick gave her his most charming grin. “Quoi d’autre?, cher.” What else, dear? “Laissez les bons temps rouler!” Let the good times roll. The motto of New Orleans and his own personal credo.

He winked at her. Richardson was now fuming at him as he went to his seat behind Caleb, who was rolling his eyes at Nick.

Nick set his heavy backpack down on the floor, and couldn’t resist one last taunt. “Ain’t no Bouki here, cher. Me and my bele gonna pass a good time at lunch. It don madda to moi. I done brought me a boucanée gator po’ boy and some fraîche beignets for eats. Yum!”

The hideous grimace on her face was something she must have copied from a gargoyle. “That’ll be enough, Mr. Go-chay. Or I’ll add another day to your detention.”

Don’t do it. Sit down and shut up, Caleb said in his head.

But Nick couldn’t stop himself. “Go-shay,” he corrected her pronunciation again.

“What was that?” Richardson asked haughtily. “Oh, I know.” She narrowed her mousy eyes on him through her dark-tinted glasses. “The sound of another detention day added. I’m so glad I’ll have someone to clean my room for me tomorrow afternoon, too.”

Oh, he wanted to shove that smug smile down her throat.

Grinding his teeth, he sat down.

I told you. Didn’t I tell you?

He glared at Caleb.

Kody patted his shoulder before she went to her seat on the opposite side of the room. Stone turned around in his desk to mock Nick with silent laughter.

One day, you crotch-sniffing freak, I’m going to have the powers to send a shock bolt at you and watch as you lose control of your form. Yeah, that would be hilarious. Stone lying nak*d in the hallway, flashing back and forth from human to wolf form. And with any luck it’d make Richardson have a coronary.

Talk about a twofer …

Nick returned Stone’s glare. Though he physically appeared to be fifteen, Stone was a werewolf who, in actuality, was in his late twenties. Since Stone’s people didn’t age the way humans did, they were kept at home a lot longer before being sent to school, which was supposed to teach them how to interact with humans. But even with those extra years of home training, Stone wasn’t any more mature than a human teen.

Wait. What was he saying? Stone functioned on the level of a socially stunted five-year-old.

 

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