Gabriel Merrick plays with fire. Literally.
Sometimes he can even control it. And sometimes he can’t.
Gabriel has always had his brothers to rely on, especially his twin, Nick. But when an arsonist starts wreaking havoc on their town, all the signs point to Gabriel. Only he’s not doing it.
And no one seems to believe him. Except a shy sophomore named Layne, a brainiac who dresses in turtlenecks and jeans and keeps him totally off balance. Layne understands family problems, and she understands secrets. She has a few of her own.
Gabriel can’t let her guess about his brothers, about his abilities, about the danger that’s right at his heels. But there are some risks he can’t help taking.
The fuse is lit…
Praise for Brigid Kemmerer and The Elemental Series
“Five hot guys, one tough heroine, plenty of romance and non-stop action… Elemental is the new series to watch.” —Inara Scott, author of The Marked
“Overflowing with action, snappy dialog, and hot guys—The Elemental Series will take your breath away.” —Kim Harrington, author of Clarity
Gabriel Merrick stared at the dead leaf in his palm and
willed it to burn.
He had a lighter in his pocket, but that always felt like cheating.
He should be able to call flame to something this dry. The
damn thing had been stuck in the corner of his window screen
since last winter. But the leaf only seemed interested in flaking
onto his trigonometry textbook.
He was seriously ready to take the lighter to that.
A knock sounded on his bedroom wall.
“Black,” he called. Nicky always slept late, always knocked
on his wall to ask what color he was wearing. If he didn’t, they
ended up dressing alike.
Gabriel looked back at the leaf—and it was just that, a dead
leaf. No hint of power. Behind the drywall, electricity sang to
him. In the lamp on his desk, he could sense the burning filament.
Even the weak threads of sunlight that managed to burn
through the clouds left some trace of his element. If the power
was there, Gabriel could speak to it, ask it to bend to his will.
If the power wasn’t, he had nothing.
His door swung open. Nick stood there in a green hoodie and
a pair of khaki cargo shorts. A girl on the cheer squad had once
asked Gabriel if having a twin was like looking in a mirror all
the time. He’d asked her if being a cheerleader was like being an
idiot all the time—but really, it was a good question. He and
Nick shared the same dark hair, the same blue eyes, the same
few freckles across their cheekbones.
Right now, Nick leaned on a crutch, a knee brace strapped
around his left leg, evidence of the only thing they didn’t share:
a formerly broken leg.
Gabriel glanced away from that. “Hey.”
“What are you doing?”
Gabriel flicked the leaf into the wastebasket beneath his desk.
“Nothing. You ready for school?”
“Is that your trig book?”
“Yeah. Just making sure I told you the right assignment.”
Gabriel always attempted his math homework—and then
handed it over for Nick to do it right. Math had turned into a
foreign language somewhere around fifth grade. Then, Gabriel
had struggled through, managing Cs when his twin brought
home As. But in seventh grade, when their parents died, he’d
come close to failing. Nick started covering for him, and he’d
been doing it ever since.
Not like it was a big challenge. Math came to Nick like breathing.
He was in second-year calculus, earning college credit.
Gabriel was stuck in trigonometry with juniors.
He was pretty frigging sick of it.
Gabriel flipped the book closed and shoved it into his backpack.
His eyes fell on that knee brace again. Two days ago, his
twin’s leg had been broken in three places.
“You’re not going to make me carry your crap all day, are
you?” His voice came out sharp, nowhere near the light ribbing
Nick took it in stride, as usual. “Not if you’re going to cry
about it.” He turned toward the stairs, his voice rising to a
mocking falsetto. “I’m the school sports hero, but I can’t possibly
carry a few extra books—”
“Keep it up,” Gabriel called, slinging the backpack over his
shoulder to follow his brother. “I’ll push you down the stairs.”
But he hesitated in the doorway, listening to Nick’s hitching
steps as he descended the staircase, the creak of the banister as it
supported his weight.
Gabriel knew he should help. He should probably be taking
the place of that crutch. That’s what Nick would do for him.
But he couldn’t force himself through the doorway.
That broken leg had been his fault. Thank god Nick could
pull power from the air, an element in abundance. He probably
wouldn’t even need the brace by the end of the week.
And then Gabriel wouldn’t need to stare at the evidence of his
own poor judgment.
He and his brothers had always been targeted for their Elemental
abilities. Being pure Elementals, they should have been
put to death as soon as they came into their powers. Luckily,
their parents had struck a deal with the weaker Elementals in
A deal that had led to their parents’ deaths.
Their oldest brother, Michael, had been able to keep the deal
in place—until a few weeks ago, when Tyler and Seth, two of
the other Elemental kids in town, had attacked Chris. It started
a snowball of events that led to an Elemental Guide coming to
town to do away with the Merrick brothers for good.
He’d almost succeeded, too. After the Homecoming dance,
they’d been attacked.
They’d fought back the only way they knew how. But Gabriel
had let Nick call storms that were too strong. He’d begged his
twin for more power. When Nick fell, the accident had practically
shattered his leg—if they weren’t full Elementals, he probably
would have needed surgery.
That night, Gabriel couldn’t keep him safe. The Guide had
kidnapped Nick and Chris, had held them prisoner.
Becca and Hunter had found them. But Gabriel couldn’t do
anything. Ineffective and out of control, just like always.
But now they were safe, and things were back to normal.
Nick was his usual self. Life’s good. Move on. No use complaining. He hadn’t even said a word about what had happened on
As far as Gabriel was concerned, he didn’t need to.
Just like with math, Nick was used to his twin being a failure.
Gabriel pulled onto Becca Chandler’s street and glanced in
the rearview mirror at his younger brother. Chris was chewing
on his thumbnail, leaning against the window.
“Nervous?” said Gabriel.
Chris looked away from the window and glared at him.
Nick turned in his seat. “Make sure you open the door for
her. Girls eat that crap up.”
“Nah,” said Gabriel. “Play it cool. Make her work for it—”
“For god’s sake,” Chris snapped. “She just broke up with
Hunter, like, yesterday, so it’s not like that. Okay?”
Jesus. Someone was worked up. Gabriel glanced back again.
“But she asked you for a ride.”
Chris looked back out the window. “I offered.”
Nick turned his head to look at his twin. “Very nervous,” he
Gabriel smiled and turned into Becca’s driveway. “Very.”
“Would you two shut up?”
Becca was waiting on the front step, her arms around her
knees and her hands drawn up into the sleeves of a fleece pullover,
dark hair hanging down her back.
“She looks upset,” said Nick.
She did, her eyes dark and shadowed, her shoulders hunched.
Or maybe she was just cold. Gabriel wasn’t one for figuring out
Her face brightened when she saw them, and she sprinted for
the car almost before Chris had time to jump out and hold the
door for her.
She stopped short in front of him, spots of pink on her cheeks.
“Hey,” she said, tucking her hair behind her ear.
“Hey,” Chris said back, his voice soft and low.
Then they just stood there breathing at each other.
Gabriel hit the horn.
They jumped apart—but Chris punched him in the shoulder
when he climbed back into the car.
Becca buckled her seat belt. “I’m glad you’re all here.”
Her voice was full of anxiety. So Nick had been right.
Chris shifted to look at her. “You all right?”
She shook her head. “My dad just called. He wants to meet
with me. Tonight.”
No one said anything for a moment, leaving her words floating
in the warm confines of the car.
Her dad was the Elemental Guide who’d been sent to kill
When they escaped and didn’t hear anything for two days,
they’d all started to think he’d run off again, the way he had
when Becca was eleven.
Chris took a breath, and his voice was careful. “Do you want
to meet with him?”
Gabriel glanced at her in the rearview mirror. She was practically
hunched against the door, staring out the window. “I want
him to get the hell out of here.”
Chris was still watching her. “He is your father.” He paused.
“He might have made a ‘contribution,’ but that man is not
“I want to see him,” said Gabriel. His shoulders already felt
She hesitated. “Wait. You’d . . . go with me?”
“Yeah. I owe him a little payback.”
“We,” said Nick. There was heat in his voice, too.
“Did he say why he wanted to meet?” asked Chris.
“He said he wants to help us. That they’ll send another Guide
if he doesn’t report back that you were . . . um . . .”
“Killed.” Gabriel hit the turn signal at the end of her road.
She swallowed. “Yeah. Hey, make a left. We need to pick up
Gabriel glanced at her again. He wasn’t a big fan of Becca’s
best friend, so the last thing he wanted to do was pick her up—
especially when there was so much left to talk about. “Anyone
else?” he said. “Should I pick up Hunter, too?”
Becca faltered and glanced at Chris. “I’m sorry ...I should
“It’s fine,” he said, and Gabriel could feel his youngest
brother’s eyes in the rearview mirror. “I’m sure he’s not intentionally
being a dick.”
Gabriel ignored him. “What time tonight? Did he say where?”
“Annapolis Mall. Eight o’clock. Make a right at the stop
sign. She’s down at the end of the block.”
“He wants to meet at the mall?” said Nick.
“Food court,” said Becca. “I told him it had to be somewhere
“Great,” said Gabriel. “More people in the line of fire.”
“Do you think the mall was a mistake?” said Becca.
Gabriel shrugged. Her father hadn’t hesitated to put normal
people in danger last week.
But really, what difference did it make?
They were pulling alongside the curb, and Quinn threw open
the door and launched herself inside. Blond hair was caught inside
her jacket, and her backpack was barely zipped. Notebooks
spilled onto the floorboards before she could get the door shut.
“Jesus, drive,” Quinn said, hitting the back of his seat. “God,
I hate my mother.”
She was just so frigging overdramatic. Gabriel pulled the car
away from the curb, deliberately moving as slowly as possible.
But Nick turned his head to look at her over his shoulder.
“Everything all right?”
Quinn shoved the notebooks back into her bag and yanked
the zipper. “I’m stuck living with Satan. When’s the car situation
going to improve, Bex? I can’t keep doing this.”
Nick was still looking into the backseat. “We can keep driving
you to school, if you need a ride.”
Quinn stopped fighting with her things and looked up at him.
“We’d love it,” said Gabriel, making sure his sarcasm carried
an edge. “Maybe we can pick up half the junior class.”
“What is with you?” said Chris.
“Don’t worry,” said Quinn. “I already know he’s an ass.”
“Love you, too,” said Gabriel.
But Nick grinned. “You can tell us apart?”
“Please. When you’re talking, there’s no challenge.” She punched the back of Gabriel’s seat again.
He glared at her in the rearview mirror. “What are you, six
“Oh, you don’t like that? What about this?” She licked her
finger and stuck it in his ear.
He smacked her hand away. He’d never punched a girl, but she might be the first.
Becca laughed. “Quinn has two brothers.”