While fairies buzzed outside the glass walls of the Hall of Dark Arts, the urge to play with magic overwhelmed Beth. She stared at them as they flew in and out of the vines that clung to the glass walls that enclosed the building.
Bored. That’s what she was as she rolled out of bed that morning and headed to the first course of her senior year. As she wound a lock of raven-black hair around her finger, electricity flowed within her veins. Still, she kept it at bay. Such an ability was addictive, especially after years of developing her strengths and learning how to control what unique gift she’d been born with. She chewed her bottom lip and sighed as she and the other ninety-nine students in the stadium-seating lecture hall waited for their professor.
“I hear he’s very strict,” Lora whispered while peering down at an ancient book on possession and soul-stealing. “Like a drill sergeant.”
“Well,” Constance said, tapping her pen on the desk that folded over their laps. “I hear he’s hot…like movie-star hot.”
Beth shrugged. “All that matters is that he gives me an A, or my parents are going to kill me. I can’t come home and show my face unless I am valedictorian.”
Constance snorted, a bit too loudly and several other seniors at Wonderland University of Supernatural & Combat Studies turned around to look at her.
Did they think she was kidding? Being less than top of her class was out of the question.
Beth shot a glare down at the on-lookers, and they looked away. A pleased smile came to her lips.
Works every time.
“I’m just saying. You’re a princess. The future queen of the Red Throne. No one would dare give you less than an A,” Constance said, turning her blue-eyed gaze on Beth. “And, of course you’ll be valedictorian. Even if you decide to stop showing up for class, no one’s going to not give you that title, your majesty.”
“Listen to her,” Beth said, nudging Lora who adjusted her glasses and closed her book. “She talks as if she’s a lowly peasant.”
The double doors to the lecture hall opened, and in walked their professor—the wizard they’d all heard about since they began their first year at the university. Now, as seniors, this was to be their toughest course.
Dark Arts 101.
For most students majoring in Supernatural Studies, this single course could determine their place in the world. Consequently, Iracebeth, Lora, and Constance were all royalty. Constance was referred to by many as the Snow Princess, future queen of an icy land just north of Wonderland, and Lora preferred to keep her title as the Sea Witch, and not princess at all, despite her parents ruling much of the cluster of islands just south.
The Princess Pack. That’s what everyone called them.
Their paths were set. That didn’t mean they didn’t sweat a bit thinking about the stories they’d heard about Professor Hatter.
He walked into the room, carrying a stack of folders and a worn, leather laptop satchel at his hip.
Beth leaned forward and licked her lips as she watched him saunter in. A brown mouse dressed in a little red suit, with a top hat, carried a bag of his own and followed close behind the professor. He hopped onto the white desk and started pulling out papers and lining little colored pencils beside them.
His familiar. Interesting.
“Goodness,” Beth whispered. “You weren’t kidding, Constance.”
Despite the glasses on his face, he was astonishingly handsome. He couldn’t have been more than thirty, with dark wavy auburn hair cut short, a tall athletic frame, and the style of a trendy librarian. With a collared shirt under an evergreen sweater and dark charcoal-colored slacks, he was just the kind of guy Iracebeth avoided. She usually went for soldiers back home, or warriors-in-training while on campus.
But, there was something alluring about Professor Hatter, especially when he cast his green-eyed gaze directly at her as she were the only person in the room.
Her cheeks flushed red even though she tried to play it cool.
“Seems we have our future queen in this room,” he said, lifting his wire-rimmed glasses up.
Everyone turned to look at Beth and she gave a slight nod of acknowledgement. It wasn’t a secret on campus. Most people knew exactly who she was and gave her the respect her title afforded her. Still, she wasn’t keen on being called out.
“Come on down,” Professor Hatter said, a mischievous smile coming to his lips. “You can be the first volunteer of the semester.”
Constance nudged her, and Beth tried to hide her annoyance. What was she volunteering for?
She came to her feet and sidestepped her way past the other students in her row to head down the narrow stairs that led to the front of the classroom. As she walked closer to him, her heart began to thump harder, louder inside her chest. From this distance, she noticed that he had freckles across his nose and cheeks, and a strong jawline. She also noticed tight muscles hidden underneath his sweater as he rolled his sleeves up to his elbows.
He was a warrior in geek clothing.
She absently smoothed the front of her red dress. “What’s the lesson?”
He held a hand out toward her, and a brief warning sparked in her belly.
The classroom was so silent, she could hear her own heartbeat and how her breaths quickened as she took his hand and he guided her to stand right before him.
“Right,” he began. “As you all must know by now, I am Professor Stuart Hatter, your guide through the most difficult subject you’ll ever learn. The Dark Arts.”
“I still don’t understand what’s so dark about them,” Beth said, tilting her head as he looked down at her and held her gaze.
“I could tell you,” he said, lifting a brow over thick dark eyebrows. “Or, I could show you.”
Beth didn’t like the change in his tone as he said those words. They were menacing. She looked down, realizing that he hadn’t let go of her hand and her gaze flickered back up to his as he pulled her even closer to his chest.
Her mind whirled at the first whiff of his intoxicating scent. She was certain her lashes fluttered as she drew in another breath of the tangy aroma of cedar and mint. From what she knew, he was one of the greatest wizards to ever be born in Wonderland, and lived in an old castle in the middle of the Dead Forest.
“Tell me,” he said, lowering his voice. “Do you feel this?”
Beth gasped as a rush of cold filled her veins.
She nodded. “Yes, what’s happening?”
He tilted his head and lifted her into the air. When he let go of her hand, she reached down to hold her skirt around her legs as a gust of wind blew her higher into the air.
Eyes widened, she looked down at the classroom as she hovered a few feet above their heads. A collective gasp of awe erupted from the students as Beth began to spin.
“What you see here,” Professor Hatter said. “Is a simple levitation spell. Maybe one day, after years of practice, you’ll be able to master this art on both a willing subject, and yourself.”
With that, he flew into the air and wrapped his arms around Beth’s waist.
“How did you do that? You didn’t even say any anything.”
“Not all spells have to be said, Iracebeth. Some can be thought. But, only if you’re powerful enough.”
Their eyes locked as he slowly led her back down to the floor.
She swallowed as her feet found their footing.
College just got exponentially more interesting.