Fated, p.1
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       Fated, p.1
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         Part #1 of The Soul Seekers series by Alyson Noel
Fated


  In memory of my Abuela

  contents

  Title Page

  Dedication

  Animal Spirit Guides

  Epigraph

  Then

  Now

  One

  Two

  Three

  Four

  Five

  Six

  Seven

  Eight

  Nine

  Ten

  Eleven

  The Spirit Road

  Twelve

  Thirteen

  Fourteen

  Fifteen

  Sixteen

  Seventeen

  Eighteen

  Nineteen

  Twenty

  Twenty-one

  Twenty-two

  Twenty-three

  The Raven’s Song

  Twenty-four

  Twenty-five

  Twenty-six

  Twenty-seven

  Twenty-eight

  Twenty-nine

  Thirty

  Thirty-one

  Thirty-two

  Thirty-three

  Thirty-four

  Thirty-five

  Thirty-six

  Thirty-seven

  Thirty-eight

  Thirty-nine

  Forty

  Forty-one

  Forty-two

  Forty-three

  Forty-four

  Forty-five

  Dark Harvest

  Forty-six

  Forty-seven

  Forty-eight

  Forty-nine

  Fifty

  Fifty-one

  Fifty-two

  Fifty-three

  Fifty-four

  Acknowledgments

  Also by Alyson Noël

  About the Author

  Copyright

  Animal Spirit Guides

  Raven

  Raven represents mystery, magick, and a change in consciousness. Raven teaches us how to take the unformed and give it form. By helping us to confront our shortcomings, Raven reminds us that we have the power to transform anything we have the courage to face. A natural shape-shifter, the spirit of the Raven allows us to disguise ourselves as necessary in any situation, even to the point of being invisible to others. Raven helps us to work the magick of spiritual laws to manifest that which we need and bring forth light from darkness.

  Coyote

  Coyote represents humor, wiliness, and reversal of fortune. Coyote teaches us how to strike balance between wisdom and folly. As a cunning adversary, Coyote reminds us to understand circumstances fully before developing a plan to achieve our goals, but as a survivor, Coyote will take extreme measures to insure the well-being of its lineage. A resourceful trickster, the spirit of the Coyote shows us how to adapt to and find fun in virtually any circumstance. While Coyote’s use of magick doesn’t always work as intended, it always serves a purpose.

  Horse

  Horse represents freedom, power, and enlightenment. Horse teaches us the benefits of patience and kindness, and that positive relationships are cooperative ones. Possessing great stamina and speed, Horse encourages us to awaken our power to endure and reach our full potential. A strong and powerful animal, the spirit of the Horse reminds us of our inner strength and gives us the courage to move forward and head in new directions. Horse calls on us to carry the burdens of life with dignity, while remaining solidly grounded in our spiritual quest.

  Wolf

  Wolf represents protection, loyalty, and spirit. Wolf teaches us to balance our needs with that of community, while informing us of the importance of ritual to establish order and harmony and that true freedom requires discipline. An intelligent animal with keen senses, Wolf encourages us to go out of our way to avoid trouble and fight only when necessary. A great teacher, the spirit of the Wolf urges us to listen to our internal thoughts to find the deepest levels of self and intuition. Wolf guards us as it pushes us to take control of our lives, find a new path, and honor the forces of spirituality.

  Eagle

  Eagle represents illumination, healing, and creation. Eagle teaches us that while free to choose our own path, we must respect the freedom of others to do the same. With its ability to soar and survey all directions, Eagle reminds us to see life from a higher perspective. As a symbol of great power, the spirit of the Eagle means taking on responsibility greater than oneself and using the gift of clarity to help others through dark times. Having wings and strong legs, Eagle transcends worlds, encouraging us to soar to spiritual heights while remaining well grounded in reality and to fulfill our full potential as a creative force.

  We don’t receive wisdom; we must discover it for ourselves after a journey that no one can take for us or spare us.

  —Marcel Proust

  then

  First came the crows.

  An entire murder of them.

  Circling the graveyard in strict formation, their dark beady eyes watching, relentlessly watching, their sleek black bodies buffeted by the wind. Oblivious to the dry sweltering heat, the oxygen choked air—the result of the raging wildfires that scorched the sky crimson and rained hot squares of ash onto the mourners below.

  For those attuned to such things, it was a sign that could not be missed. And Paloma Santos, sure that her son’s sudden death was no accident, saw the crows for what they truly were: not just an omen but a herald of sorts—signaling that the next in line had arrived—was in fact, right there in that cemetery.

  Her suspicions confirmed the instant she slid a comforting arm around her son’s grief-stricken girlfriend and sensed the life form growing within.

  The last of the Santoses.

  A granddaughter whose fate had long been foretold.

  But if the crows were aware, then there were others who might know as well. Those who’d like nothing more than to destroy the unborn child—ensure she never get the chance to lay claim to her birthright.

  With her granddaughter’s safety in mind, Paloma abandoned the burial long before the first handful of earth spilled onto the casket. Vowing to stay silent, out of sight, until the child’s sixteenth year when she’d find herself in need of the counsel only Paloma could offer.

  Sixteen years in which to prepare.

  Sixteen years in which to restore her own dwindling powers—keep the legacy burning—until it was time to pass down.

  She hoped she would last—her son’s death bore a price far beyond grief.

  If she failed to survive, failed to reach her granddaughter in time, the child’s life would end tragically, prematurely, just like her father’s. It was a risk she could not afford.

  There was no one to follow.

  Too much at stake.

  The unborn child held the fate of the world in her hands.

  now

  one

  There are moments in life when everything pauses.

  The earth hesitates, the atmosphere stills, and time shrinks and folds onto itself until it collapses into a big tired heap.

  As I push through the small wooden door of the riad where Jennika and I have camped out the past several weeks, trading the hush of the rose-and-honeysuckle-scented courtyard for the chaos of the serpentine maze of medina—it happens again.

  But instead of mimicking the stillness like I usually do, I decide to go with it and try something fun. Easing my way along connecting salmon-colored walls, I pass a small, thin man caught in midstride, press my fingers against the soft white cotton of his gandora, and gently spin him around until he’s facing the opposite way. Then after ducking beneath a mangy black cat that, caught in midleap, appears to be flying, I stop at the corner where I take a moment to rearrange a display of shiny brass lanterns an old man is selling, before moving on to the very next stall where I slip a pair of bright blue babouches onto my feet, decide t
hat I like them, and leave my old leather sandals along with a fistful of crumpled-up dirhams as payment.

  My eyes burning with the effort of keeping them open, knowing the instant I blink, the gandora-clad man will be one step farther from his destination, the cat will land on its mark, and two vendors will gaze at their wares in total confusion—the scene will return to one of perpetual chaos.

  Though when I spot the glowing people hovering on the periphery, studying me in the careful way that they do, I’m quick to squinch my eyes shut and block them from view. Hoping that this time, just like all the others, they’ll fade away too. Return to wherever it is that they go when they’re not watching me.

  I used to think everyone experienced moments like that, until I confided in Jennika who shot me a skeptical look and blamed it on jet lag.

  Jennika blames everything on jet lag. Insists time stops for no one—that it’s our job to keep up with its frantic forward march. But even back then I knew better—I’ve spent my entire life crossing time zones, and what I’d experienced had nothing to do with a whacked-out body clock.

  Still, I was careful not to mention it again. I just waited quietly, patiently, hoping the moment would soon return.

  And it did.

  Over the past few years they’ve been slowly increasing, until lately, ever since we arrived in Morocco, I’ve been averaging three a week.

  A guy my age passes, his shoulder purposely slamming into mine, his dark eyes leering in a way that reminds me to arrange my blue silk scarf so that it covers my hair. I round a corner, eager to arrive well before Vane, so I can catch the Djemâa el Fna at dusk. Banging into the square, where I’m confronted by a long line of open-air grills bearing goats and pigeons and other unidentifiable meats, their skinned and glazed carcasses rotating on spits, shooting savory clouds of spice-laden smoke into the air … the hypnotic lull of the snake charmer’s tune emanating from cross-legged old men perched on thick woven mats, playing their pungis as glassy-eyed cobras rise up before them … all of it unfolding to the spellbinding pulse of gnaoua drums that continuously thrum in the background—the soundtrack for the nightly resurrection of a bewitching square returning to life.

  I take a deep breath, savoring the heady blend of exotic oils and jasmine, as I cast a final glance around, knowing this is one of the last times I’ll see it this way. The film will wrap soon, and Jennika and I will be off to whatever movie, on whatever location requires her services as an award-winning makeup artist. Who knows if we’ll ever return?

  Picking my way toward the first food cart, the one beside the snake charmer where Vane waits, I steal a handful of much-needed seconds to crush that annoying ping of weakness that grabs at my gut every time that I see him—every time I take in his tousled sandy blond hair, deep blue eyes, and softly curving lips.

  Sucker! I think, shaking my head, adding: Fool!

  It’s not like I don’t know any better. It’s not like I don’t know the rules.

  The key is to not get involved—to never allow myself to care. To just focus on having some fun, and never look back when it’s time to move on.

  Vane’s pretty face, just like all the other pretty faces before him, belongs to his legions of fans. Not one of those faces has ever belonged to me—and they never, ever will.

  Having grown up on movie sets since I was old enough for Jennika to sling me into a backpack, I’ve played my role as the kid of a crew member countless times: Stay quiet, stay out of the way, lend a hand when asked, and never confuse movie set relationships for the real thing.

  The fact that I’ve been dealing with celebrities my entire life leaves me not so easily impressed, which is probably the number one reason they’re always so quick to like me. I mean, while I’m okay to look at—tall-ish, skinny-ish, with long dark hair, fair-ish skin, and bright green eyes that people like to comment on, I’m pretty much your standard issue girl. Though I never fall to pieces when I meet someone famous. I never get all red-cheeked and gushy and insecure. And the thing is, they’re so unused to that, they usually end up pursuing me.

  My first kiss was on a beach in Rio de Janeiro with a boy who’d just won an MTV award for “Best Kiss” (clearly none of those voters had actually kissed him). My second was on the Pont Neuf in Paris with a boy who’d just made the cover of Vanity Fair. And other than their being richer, more famous, and more stalked by paparazzi—our lives really aren’t all that different.

  Most of them are transients—passing through their own lives, just like I’m passing through mine. Moving from place to place, friendship to friendship, relationship to relationship—it’s the only life that I know.

  It’s hard to form a lasting connection when your permanent address is an eight-inch mailbox in the UPS store.

  Still, as I inch my way closer, I can’t help the way my breath hitches, the way my insides thrum and swirl. And when he turns, flashing me that slow, languorous smile that’s about to make him world famous, his eyes meeting mine when he says, “Hey, Daire—Happy Sweet Sixteen,” I can’t help but think of the millions of girls who would do just about anything to stand in my pointy blue babouches.

  I return the smile, flick a little wave of my hand, then bury it in the side pocket of the olive-green army jacket I always wear. Pretending not to notice the way his gaze roams over me, straying from my waist-length brown hair peeking out from my scarf, to the tie-dyed tank top that clings under my jacket, to the skinny dark denim jeans, all the way down to the brand-new slippers I wear on my feet.

  “Nice.” He places his foot beside mine, providing me with a view of the his-and-hers version of the very same shoe. Laughing when he adds, “Maybe we can start a trend when we head back to the States. What do you think?”

  We.

  There is no we.

  I know it. He knows it. And it bugs me that he tries to pretend otherwise.

  The cameras stopped rolling hours ago, and yet here he is, still playing a role. Acting as though our brief, on-location hookup means something more.

  Acting like we won’t really end long before our passports are stamped RETURN.

  And that’s all it takes for those annoyingly soft girly feelings to vanish as quickly as a flame in the rain. Allowing the Daire I know, the Daire I’ve honed myself to be, to stand in her place.

  “Doubtful.” I smirk, kicking his shoe with mine. A little harder than necessary, but then again, he deserves it for thinking I’m lame enough to fall for his act. “So, what do you say—food? I’m dying for one of those beef brochettes, maybe even a sausage one too. Oh—and some fries would be good!”

  I make for the food stalls, but Vane has another idea. His hand reaches for mine, fingers entwining until they’re laced nice and tight. “In a minute,” he says, pulling me so close my hip bumps against his. “I thought we might do something special—in honor of your birthday and all. What do you think about matching tattoos?”

  I gape. Surely he’s joking.

  “Yeah, you know, mehndi. Nothing permanent. Still, I thought it could be kinda cool.” He arcs his left brow in his trademark Vane Wick way, and I have to fight not to frown in return.

  Nothing permanent. That’s my theme song—my mission statement, if you will. Still, mehndi’s not quite the same as a press-on. It has its own life span. One that will linger long after Vane’s studio-financed, private jet lifts him high into the sky and right out of my life.

  Though I don’t mention any of that, instead I just say, “You know the director will kill you if you show up on set tomorrow covered in henna.”

  Vane shrugs. Shrugs in a way I’ve seen too many times, on too many young actors before him. He’s in full-on star-power mode. Thinks he’s indispensable. That he’s the only seventeen-year-old guy with a hint of talent, golden skin, wavy blond hair, and piercing blue eyes that can light up a screen and make the girls (and most of their moms) swoon. It’s a dangerous way to see yourself—especially when you make your living in Hollywood. It’s the kind of thinking
that leads straight to multiple rehab stints, trashy reality TV shows, desperate ghostwritten memoirs, and low-budget movies that go straight to DVD.

  Still, when he tugs on my arm, it’s not like I protest. I follow him to the old, black-clad woman parked on a woven beige mat with a pile of henna bags stacked in her lap.

  Vane negotiates the price as I settle before her and offer my hands. Watching as she snips the corner from one of the bags and squeezes a series of squiggly lines over my flesh, not even thinking to consult me on what type of design I might want. But then, it’s not like I had one in mind. I just lean against Vane who’s kneeling beside me and let her do her thing.

  “You must let the color to set for as long as it is possible. The darker the stain, the more that he loves you,” she says, her English halting, broken, but the message is clear. Emphasized by the meaningful look she shoots Vane and me.

  “Oh, we’re not—” I start to say, We’re not in love! But Vane’s quick to stop me.

  Slipping an arm around my shoulder, he presses his lips to my cheek, bestowing on the old woman the kind of smile that encourages her to smile back in a startling display of grayed and missing teeth. His actions stunning me stupid, leaving me to sit slack faced and dumb—with heated cheeks, muddied hands, and a rising young breakout star draped over my back.

  Having never been in love, I admit that I’m definitely no expert on the subject. I have no idea what it feels like.

  Though I’m pretty sure it doesn’t feel like this.

  I’m pretty dang positive Vane’s just cast himself in yet another starring role—playing the part of my dashing young love interest, if only to appease this strange, Moroccan woman we’ll never see again.

  Still, Vane is an actor, and an audience is an audience—no matter how small.

  Once my hands are covered in elaborate vines and scrolls, the old woman reminds me to allow the stain to take hold while she gets to work on Vane’s feet. But the moment her attention turns, I use the edge of my nail to scrape away little bits. Unable to keep from smiling when I see the paste fall in a loose powdery spray that blends with the dirt.

 
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