Atomic number 79.
Dictionary definition: “a yellow malleable ductile metallic element.”
You could say my family is obsessed with it. For my mother’s fortieth birthday, my father commissioned a grand piano with 24-karat gold keys. The entire piano is covered in gold leaf and is the tackiest instrument ever played. He tried to smash it with a hammer after she disappeared, but my oldest brother talked him out of it. So he satisfied himself with sealing the double doors of the music room shut.
All of which only partially explains why I was stuck on the chandelier in the foyer, dangling upside down and hoping that the chain holding the chandelier wouldn’t break.
I’d planned to spend this Saturday night out, with the goal of healing my shattered heart. You see, according to our family stories, back in the Dark Ages when we both hunted and were hunted, our ancestors used to console themselves after being thwarted in love by gorging on elk carcasses, telling stirring tales of heroic exploits, and burning all their ex-lovers’ belongings--and occasionally the ex-lover himself. So I’d decided that I’d go back to my roots by eating buttery popcorn, watching an action movie with no romance whatsoever, and then burning old mementos of my ex-boyfriend Ryan on the barbecue grill.
Bringing Gabriela (a non-wyvern who sits next to me in Modern Wyvern History class) so I wouldn’t be alone--my old friends ditched me when Ryan did--I’d bought my ticket and a tub of popcorn, but I couldn’t do it. Just couldn’t. I’d fled the theater, abandoning Gabriela and the popcorn but taking my mementos--a Valentine’s Day card that played the chicken dance, a strip of photos from a carnival photo booth taken on Santa Monica Pier during a trip to the California Stronghold, and the perfect replica (in miniature) of a talon, cast in gold, on a matching gold chain that Ryan gave me for my birthday only a few weeks before he decided to end years of friendship and several months of enthusiastic kissing. I wore the necklace home, tucked under my shirt, over my stupidly sentimental heart.
I was looking forward to moping in an empty house--you know, sighing loudly, singing off-key to depressing music, and wearing pajamas inside out because you’re too sad to reverse them--without any commentary from any of my brothers. All of them have zero tolerance for a proper sulk, and they’re impossible to avoid, even though our house is enormous, with six bedrooms and eight bathrooms. (Don’t ask me why so many bathrooms. My brother Liam, one of the twins, claims one of our grandfathers was enamored with the idea of indoor plumbing--apparently they didn’t have it back Home and he was a recent exile. Liam said our illustrious grandfather had even purchased gold bathroom fixtures, then immediately panicked about thieves and hid them. So underneath the floorboards in one of the six bedrooms, there’s supposedly a stash of solid-gold toilet handles. I looked for them one summer but no luck. It’s possible Liam was lying. He likes to mess with me.)
Anyway, I came home, let myself in, kicked off my shoes, reset the locks and perimeter alarms, and then raided the refrigerator for leftover Chinese food. Taking a container of lo mein, I was walking up the back staircase to my bedroom when I heard the faint tinkle of breaking glass from the front of the house.
Midstep, I froze.
I ran through the possibilities: someone dropped a glass (impossible, since no one was home), a knickknack was precariously perched and fell on its own (possible, since we have a lot of knickknacks), or a thief was breaking in (unlikely, since the alarms hadn’t sounded). I was certain it was the middle option, but we’ve been raised to be paranoid, so I clutched my lo mein and raced the rest of the way upstairs to the security room.
My feet were silent on the plush carpet. Stopping in front of the door, I pressed my finger on the ID pad. It didn’t unlock. I tried another finger. Still no click of recognition. Beginning to worry, I tried the doorknob, and the door swung open easily.
Inside, all the security TVs showed static.
The lo mein slipped from my fingers. It hit the floor, and the noodles scattered across the carpet. Lunging forward, I slapped the master alarm.
No red light. No siren.
I picked up the phone. Also silence. And there weren’t any cell phones in the house. We don’t use them. They’re too easy to hack and track.
I knew exactly what I was supposed to do: get to the safe room, triple-lock the door, and stay there until Dad came home and I heard the all clear. We’d drilled this dozens of times. Over the years, my brothers and I had stashed all our favorite snacks and games in the safe room to entertain us during the longer drills. But this wasn’t a drill, and my brothers weren’t home. So I did something stupid. Standing in the security room, noodles around my feet, static on the screens . . . I lost my temper.
My name is Sky Hawkins. You may have seen my family name in the newspapers or on TV. Wyverns, distantly related to King Atahualpa (who saved the Inca Empire), Sir Francis Drake (a pirate who was knighted by the queen of England), and that guy who started the California Gold Rush and also the guy who stopped it. Billionaires who lost half our fortune in an investment scam. Socialites whose mother went missing in the midst of the scandal. And me, the youngest, the debutante, whose boyfriend publicly dumped her in the wake of the mess, during the last Wyvern Reckoning. It’s been a rotten month, and I did not want to add “estate robbed” to the list of things that went wrong.