• Chapter I

    IT SEEMED as if all Landon Barrett ever did anymore was work, work, work. Couldn’t he just get a break?

    “Mr. Barrett,” someone called his name from behind.

    Apparently not.

    He sighed inaudibly and rolled his eyes before responding with a debonair smile. “Yes?”

    It was the new receptionist that had inquired his attention: blonde hair, blue eyes. The same awful orange tan that so many teenage girls had these days. She was definitely no different from any teenager he’d seen in Orange County, and he didn’t have to think twice about why she was hired. The boss had quite a sweet tooth for the pretty ones.

    “Mr. Weldon asked me to give you these. He says they’re of high priority.”

    High priority?

    To Mr. Weldon any document that required more than a glance to sign off on was “high priority,” and a new wave of weariness washed over him as he retrieved the manila folder from the girl’s hands. He definitely was not going to get a break today.

    “Thank you, Miss…”

    “Miss. O’Neil.” She smiled, revealing all of her perfectly whitened teeth.

    “Miss. O’Neil, then. Have a nice day,” he said as he began to walk away.

    “Oh, Mr. Barrett!”

    He winced and contemplated ignoring her, but his soft heart got the best of him again. “Yes,” he asked, putting on his award winning fake smile. He could see her cheeks flush slightly.

    “Well I was wondering if you could help me with my writing later. I have a article coming
    up for the school paper.” He watched her with great interest as she bit the inside of her cheek. It was always amusing how nervous women got when they spoke to him.

    With a head-full of blonde hair and eyes that could only be compared to the clearest of blue skies, Landon had an exotic, European appeal that for some reason attracted American women. He didn’t get the same attention in England, and he assumed that it was the accent that gave him that extra charm.

    “Of course,” he replied. “But I really must get back to work now.”

    Her eyes lit up with excitement, and Landon actually felt a bit of pity for the girl. Unfortunately for her, he couldn’t give her the type of attention she wanted.

    LANDON WATCHED the manila folder sit on his table unopened as he slouched back in his chair. The last thing he wanted to do right now was see what Mr. Weldon considered to be of “high priority.”

    But work was work.

    He sat forward and opened the folder, revealing a stack of photos. The top photo was of a woody scene, and amidst the leaves of one of the trees was the figure of a tiny woman. The wings were easily scene protruding out of her back.

    “You can stay here,” she said, pointing to a tiny cabin amidst the trees. Stanley was confused and frightened. His leg was bleeding and the pain unbearable. He didn’t understand why these things were happening.

    “Please. Tell me why they’re after me.”

    The girl’s eyes lowered shamefully. “Because of me.”

    “But what did you do,” he asked baffled. Stanley had never seen this girl before.

    “Because you can see me.”

    He shook his head. “But—”

    “Please,” she interrupted. “You must forget about all of this. You must forget about you’re old life. You’re new home is here. I promise that you will be safe. Now go.”

    “But what about Mother?” He wanted to cry so badly, but he distinctly remembered all of the lectures his father had given him about being strong in the face of fear.

    “She is lost now. Her soul has passed.”

    Stanley conjured up every bit of strength he had to hold back the tears. “Can’t you at least tell me who you are?”

    The corner of the girl’s lips turned up slightly, revealing a set of serrated teeth, and a strange and uneasy feeling entangled Stanley’s stomach.

    “Faerie,” Landon said aloud as he rubbed the protruding scar on his calf. Every now and again it would start to burn a little. A reminder of his grisly past he guessed.

    He continued to look through the photos, taking note of every single detail: the lighting, the pixilation, te camera angles. He soon came to the conclusion that every single one of these photos was obvious hoaxes, and the realization irritated Landon. That wasn’t an emotion easily brought out of him. For some reason Mr. Weldon was very good at that.

    THE FOLDER made a perfect slapping sound as it landed on Mr. Weldon’s desk. The boss arched his brow.

    “They’re all fakes,” Landon said, remaining as reserved as possible. He knew that Weldon was trying to get some sort of annoyed emotion out of him.

    Weldon smirked and leaned forward on his desk, that same arrogant gleam in his eye. “Very nice, Landon. You’re reputation exceeds you.”

    Landon pursed his lips. Out of all the people he could have worked for it just had to be Weldon. “You made them, didn’t you?”

    Weldon chuckled, obviously pleased with himself, and leaned casually back in his chair. “Once again, Landon, you amaze me.”

    “I thought we agreed that there would be no more of these tests.”

    “Who said this was a test?” Weldon’s eyebrows rose innocently. “Maybe I just wanted to make sure that they were magazine worthy.”

    “Mr. Weldon—”

    “Call me Jack,” he interrupted.

    “Jack,” Landon corrected. “I thought I was hired in order to prevent fake articles be posted in the magazines. And the answer is no. There’s no way people would buy that, they’re obviously unauthentic. Real faeries can’t be caught on camera in such lighting and—”

    “Real faeries?” Jack snorted and leaned back. “I think you need a break, Son.”

    As marvelous as that sounded, Landon couldn’t help but feel insulted by Jack’s insinuation. “What are you implying?”

    “I’m implying that you’re crazy! Real faeries? You don’t actually believe in this stuff do you?”

    Landon shuffled uncomfortably. “I like to think that there is more to this world than meets the eye.”

    Jack’s lips twisted in thought. “And how exactly do you know so much about this stuff?”

    “Personal experience.”

    A loud cackle erupted around the room. “Personal experience?” He shook his head. “I hired you because of your skill in journalism and photography, but I didn’t know you were actually into this stuff!”

    “I’m dedicated,” Landon said frankly.

    “You’re obsessed.”

    Landon’s lips tightened. “There are things in this world that can’t be seen, Jack.”

    Jack’s eyes narrowed faintly. “What…like angels and demons?”

    Landon knew he had Jack hooked, and the thought of messing with his mind a little didn’t seem too harmful. He leaned over Jack’s desk casually, confidence made full on his face.

    “Precisely,” he said with a smirk. “Take for example the little water flea. The only things its eyes can see are light and dark. It has no idea that there is an entire world out there filled with things that to it…are completely invisible.”

    Jack’s eyebrows creased with curiosity, and he averted his gaze to the side.

    Landon moved forward and gently leaned his hands on Jack’s desk. Weldon locked eyes with him. “What if there are things that are completely invisible to us as well? Things that our eyes aren’t evolved enough to see? We’d be completely oblivious to it all.”

    The corner of Jack’s lip turned up slightly, and Landon saw amusement in his eyes. “You know what you need, Landon?”

    Landon looked at Weldon with suspicion. Perhaps he underestimated Jack. “A new
    boss?” he asked cautiously.

    “A woman.”

    Landon immediately busted out with laughter, and he let off of Jack’s desk. “A woman?”

    Weldon chortled lightly. “Yeah! A woman! You’re twenty-five years old, and all you ever
    do is work. You’re young! Go out! Have fun!”

    Landon shook his head in disbelief. “I don’t have time for fun.”

    “Well of course not if you’re cooped up in your house obsessing over faeries!”

    Landon was about to protest when he was interrupted by a knock on the door.

    “Mr. Weldon?” a small voice asked. Landon turned to see the young blonde girl walking in. “I finished making the copies.”

    Jack smiled seductively as he took the papers. “Thank you, Miss. O’Neil,” he said with a wink. Landon watched him with an engrossed curiosity.

    The girl smiled at Landon as she walked past him, and he couldn’t help but smile back. Not because he was flattered or intrigued, more so because he was amused.

    “What about her?”

    Landon’s attention shifted to Jack who was now grinning with his chin resting on his hands.

    “She’s cute.”

    “She’s in high school,” Landon said incredulously.

    “Those are the best kind!”

    Landon snorted. “You’re a pig.”

    “And you’re an idiot.” Jack shook his head.
    “Well thanks, Jack,” Landon replied sarcastically, “but I should probably get back to work.”

    “No,” he replied. “You’re taking a vacation.”

    “A vacation?” Landon hadn’t even been working for the magazine company a whole year. Definitely not long enough to earn vacation. “I don’t need a vacation.”

    Weldon smiled mischievously. “So don’t think of it as a vacation.”

    “I don’t understand,” Landon said cautiously.

    Clearing his throat, Weldon turned his seat around before pulling a file out of the cabinet behind him. “I don’t know why,” he began, “but some Bloc officials stopped by today.”

    Landon’s heart skipped at the reference.
    “They brought these.”

    Landon watched Weldon plop another manila folder in front of him, gesturing for him to read. Obliging, he opened the folder and pulled out a handful of photos, each displaying the image of several grotesque figures congregating in a forest.
    “Why did they bring these?”

    “They asked for them to be tested for authenticity. Why they’d bring them to a tabloid is
    beyond me.”

    Landon’s hands began to shake suddenly. From his experience, he’d learned that the International Order had absolutely no tolerance for faerie talk. The majority of the public was completely oblivious to the existence of celestial beings: objects of mythology and folklore.

    But the Order knew the truth. How much he wasn’t sure, but he did know that they wanted the truth kept hidden.

    “You want me to review them?”
    Weldon smirked. “Not just review them, Landon. I want you to go there.”

    Landon’s head snapped toward Weldon. “Go there? Why would that be necessary? I can tell you in a matter of a day or two whether or not these photos are real.”

    “Well I can tell you right now that they’re fake, Landon. They’re pictures of damn faeries.”

    Landon pursed his lips, resenting the statement. “I don’t understand why you hired me if you already know that every photo sent in is a fake.”

    “Because you’re good, Landon. If it can fool you, it can certainly fool the public.”

    He shook his head. He severely doubted that anyone who read these magazines honestly believed in what they read from them. “So why go there?”

    Weldon leaned forward, concern etched in the wrinkles around his eyes and lips. “Because they asked you to.”

    Landon swallowed hard. “They—asked for me?”

    “For you specifically.”

    Now his hands were definitely shaking. They couldn’t have found out his identity could they? No. That was impossible. If that were the case, he’d be dead already. Whatever the reason for the Order asking for Landon to investigate these photos was nothing more than to hush whoever had sent them in. He’d debouch them as quickly as he could.

    The problem was that the photos he was looking at were the most convincing he’d seen in his entire career.

    “I’ll go.”