Home > Mystic City (Mystic City #1)

Mystic City (Mystic City #1)
Theo Lawrence

• PROLOGUE •

So little time is left.

“Take this.” He folds the locket into my hand. It throbs as if it has a pulse, giving off a faint white glow. “I’m sorry for putting you in danger.”

“I would do it all again,” I tell him. “A thousand times.”

He kisses me, softly at first, and then so fiercely I can hardly breathe. Rain falls everywhere, soaking us, splashing into the canals that twist through the hot, dark city. His chest heaves against mine. The sound of sirens—and gunshots—reverberates between the crumbling, waterlogged buildings.

My family is drawing closer.

“Go, Aria,” he pleads. “Before they get here.”

But footsteps are behind me now. Voices fill my ears. Fingers dig into my arms, tearing me away.

“I love you,” he says gently.

And then they take him. I scream in defiance, but it is too late.

My father emerges from the shadows. He aims the wicked barrel of his pistol at my head.

Inside me, something bursts.

I always knew this story would break my heart.

• I •

The party has begun without me.

Slowly, I descend the main staircase of our apartment, which curves dramatically into the reception lounge, currently packed with important guests. Tall ceramic vases line the room, overflowing with roses of every variety: white albas from Africa, pink centifolias from the Netherlands, pale yellow tea roses from China, and roses altered with mystic dye right here in Manhattan to produce colors so electric they hardly seem real. Everywhere I turn there are roses, roses, roses—more roses than people.

I reach behind me for assurance. My friend Kiki gives my hand a squeeze, and together we slip into the crowd. I scan the room for Thomas. Where is he?

“I hope your mom doesn’t notice we’re late,” Kiki says, careful not to trample on her dress. Gold, but not garish, her gown falls to the floor in luxurious waves. Her black curls flow past her shoulders in delicate dark loops; both eyelids are dusted with a shimmery pink that makes her brown eyes sparkle.

“She’s too busy schmoozing to care,” I say. “You look mag, by the way.”

“So do you! Shame you’re already taken.” Kiki eyes the room. “Otherwise, I’d marry you myself.”

Practically all the members of the New York State Senate and Assembly are here, as well as our most prominent judges. Not to mention the businessmen and society folk who are indebted to my father, Johnny Rose, or his former political rival, George Foster, for their own success. But tonight isn’t about them. Tonight, the spotlight is on me.

“Aria!”

I quickly find the speaker. “Hello, Judge Dismond,” I say, nodding to a large woman whose blond hair is swept up into a tornado funnel.

She smiles at me. “Congratulations!”

“Thank you,” I say. Since the wedding announcement, the entire city has been celebrating the end of the war between Thomas’s and my families, or so I’m told. The Times is going to do a profile on me as a political darling and a champion of bipartisan unity—Kiki’s been mocking me about it ever since I told her. My best friend, the darling, she says in her best phony newscaster voice. I have to cross my eyes and smack her just to get her to stop.

Kiki at my side, I continue my meet-and-greet duties, floating through the party as if I’m on autopilot. “Thank you for coming,” I say to Mayor Greenlorn and our state senators, Trick Jellyton and Marishka Reynolds, and their families.

“Quite an engagement party,” Senator Jellyton says, raising his glass. “But then, you’re quite a girl!”

“You’re too kind,” I say.

“We were all surprised to hear about you and Thomas Foster,” Greenlorn says.

“I am just full of surprises!” I laugh, as though I’ve said something funny. And they all obligingly laugh with me.

I’ve been groomed for this since I was born—practicing the art of small talk, remembering names, graciously inviting senators’ daughters to sleepovers and birthday parties and smiling even when their horrible, zit-faced brothers pretend to bump into me so they can cop a feel. I sigh. Such is the life of a political darling, as Kiki would remind me.

We make our way along the edge of the party, dodging guests and waiters dressed in white who weave through the room carrying trays of hors d’oeuvres and never-ending champagne. I search for Thomas but don’t see him.

“Are you excited?” Kiki asks, plucking a miniature lamb burger off one of the trays and popping it into her mouth. “To see Thomas?”

“If by ‘excited’ you mean ‘about to vomit,’ then, well, yes.”

Kiki laughs, but I’m being serious—I am full of nervous jitters. I haven’t seen my fiancé since I woke up in the hospital two weeks ago with partial memory loss. After my accident.

From a distance, the guests seem happy, Rose family cronies mixing easily with Foster devotees. When I look more closely, though, I can see that nearly everyone is shooting nervous, shifty glances around the room, as if the social niceties will be cast aside any second and the families will go back to treating each other as they always have.

As enemies.

My family has despised the Fosters since before my father’s father’s father was born. Hating them and their supporters is part of what it means to be a Rose.

Or rather, part of what it meant to be a Rose.

“Aria?” A young girl rushes up to me. She’s around thirteen, with frizzy red hair and a burst of freckles across her forehead. “I just want to say that it’s so upper about you and Thomas.”

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