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Magic University Book Two : The Tower and the Tears
Kyle is a college sophomore worrying about the usual things students do, like what he's going to major in and getting along with his dorm mates, but he attends a most unusual college. He's a student at Veritas, the hidden magical university inside Harvard. Before he got to Harvard, Kyle hadn't even known he was magical. Now he finds he has a talent for sex magic and the erotic arts. Not only that, a girl in his sex magic class has a crush on him. Kyle looks forward to lots of "study sessions" together with Ciara and their friend Marjory, but when their professor is mysteriously attacked, Kyle finds himself embroiled in a mystery deeper than university department politics. Someone has been stealing magical artifacts and the dean suspects Ciara, sending Kyle on a quest to discover the real culprit. Kyle will learn sizzling sexual technique and unleash powerful magic on his incredible erotic journey, but is the study of sex really the route to true love? Perhaps what Kyle needs to learn about most is himself. The Tower and the Tears is the second book in the Magic University series by Cecilia Tan. Bringing together myth, magic, eroticism, and the Tarot, the Magic University books are for all the adult readers of classic fantasy who want a bedtime tale of their own.
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January 26, 2010
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Excerpt from Magic University Book Two by Cecilia Tan
Kyle was surprised to hear his cell phone ringing at nine in the morning. He cracked open an eye and fumbled for the phone in his pack, knocking a few things out onto the floor, momentarily not even sure where he and Alex were, then recognizing the enclosed porch they'd been sharing as a bedroom for the past two weeks. They'd moved around so much this summer that in his half-asleep state his brain needed to catch up.
"Kyle Wadsworth?" It was a voice with a slightly disapproving tone, familiar, yet he couldn't quite place it.
"Um, yes?" But then he suddenly had it. "Master Brandish?"
"Quite. You're late for orientation."
"Orientation?" Kyle sat up, blinking. "I thought classes didn't start until..."
"Have you not been receiving letters or e-mail? You are supposed to be attending the freshman orientation you missed last year."
"Oh, sh--um...when did it start?"
"I'm on Cape Cod..." Kyle began to fish around, stuffing scattered belongings back into his pack, then stopped when something he picked up made a crunching sound. He set the small black square aside and began to look for his jeans. "So I'm not that far away."
"Well, thank mighty Minerva for that," she said drily. "I suggest you be here by two o'clock if possible, when we are having a house meeting in the common room."
"I'm packing right now. Thanks for calling." He flipped the phone shut and pulled on the jeans he found hung on the back of the door.
Alex was either still unconscious or pretending to be, sprawled halfway off the mattress on the floor. There was still a smudge of paint on his forehead, mostly obscured by his hair.
Kyle's own hair was nearly as wild, sun-bleached and overgrown from a summer spent bumming around the beach towns of the Cape with Alex, picking up odd jobs when they had to, like this last one, helping a guy named Jones repaint his boat and staying on his porch in exchange.
Somehow Alex always found them a place to sleep when it was raining, or a bar with free appetizers when they were nearly broke and hungry, or a ride to the next town when it was time to move on.
What Kyle needed now was to get back to Boston. Well, to Cambridge. To Harvard. To Veritas. He buttoned his jeans and nudged Alex on the foot. "Hey."
"Hay is for horses," Alex said and rolled over, hiding his head under one arm.
"I'm going back. Apparently I was supposed to be there yesterday." Kyle hunted around to see if he had a clean shirt. "Shit. That probably means they've been bombarding Agatha with letters." Although, he thought, he hadn't received a phone call from his great aunt. Perhaps she'd just been tossing them out, afraid they were bills. "How should I get back?"
"Bus, train, boat, or hitch," Alex mumbled, then forced himself to sit up. "I can't remember. What town are we in?"
"Onset." It was a nice little town, not crammed with tourists like some and not overbuilt with rich people's summer homes like others.
Alex grunted. "Hitch. You need me to come with, or have you got the knack now?"
"Jones's boat isn't finished." Kyle chewed his lip for a moment, classes and campus seeming unreal and far away and the life of living hand to mouth and painting the boat seeming very present and compelling.
"Tsk. What's more important, the boat or your education? I'll stay and finish the boat. It's almost done, anyhow." Alex shook out his hair. "You mean you're leaving this second?"
"Yeah. Brandish wants me there for a house meeting at two."
"Circe's creamy left tit," Alex swore. "And it's what, noon now?"
Kyle checked his phone. "No, only nine."
"Oh, well, in that case..." Alex fell back into a heap and pulled the pillow over his face. "See you when I get there," he said, voice muffled by the pillow.
Kyle laughed. "All right." He pulled on a shirt, rolled his jacket up and put it in the top of his pack, then finished picking up his belongings.
The square of black plastic opened to show two ovals, one of peacock blue eyeshadow, one of glass. A makeup mirror. It was shattered. Kyle had no idea where he'd gotten it. Somewhere along the way one of the women he or Alex had met must have left it. He closed it carefully, small slivers crunching, and tossed it into the garbage can out back as he made his way to the road.
* * * *
Kyle walked into Gladius House with his hair askew, his cheeks peeling a little from sunburn, and his pack on his shoulder, to find the common room crowded with people. He checked the time on his phone. No, there was still a half hour until the meeting Master Brandish had mentioned. He hoped he had time to grab a shower and put on the requisite house colors. Seeing as he was a sophomore now, no doubt Brandish would expect him to at least be wearing a shirt or cardigan with the house crest.
He bounded up the stairs to the tower, only to remember halfway up that he did not have a key yet. He headed back down, looking for an upperclassman or one of their resident tutors, but he didn't see anyone who looked helpful.
He gave in and went to knock on Master Brandish's door.
She opened it herself, and he was surprised to see she was dressed in full robes.
"Isn't that a bit warm for the weather?" he said.
She frowned. "And good afternoon to you, too, Mr. Wadsworth. Is that any way to greet someone?"
Kyle refused to be cowed, though. He felt a kind of confidence flowing through him he rarely did last year. He grinned. "It was a sincere question, and I was taught it was rude to answer a question with a question."
That got a grudging smirk out of her. "May I help you then?"
"Here to apologize for being late. I didn't realize I was supposed to come to orientation, and I haven't been getting mail all summer." He followed her into the apartment, through the hallway of books and into the ornate parlor. "I haven't been checking e-mail, either."
"So I gathered," she said as she dug through a cardboard box for something.
"And, um, well, I guess I need my room key?"
She pulled a small envelope out of the box. "Yes, I gathered that, too." She handed it to him. "You know the drill. Lose it at your peril, or at the very least a fifty-dollar fee. Your trunk is still in the basement, I believe. You'll have to drag it up yourself. Though at least only to the second floor."
Kyle blinked. "Second floor? I'm not in the 'tower' anymore?"
She regarded him with a measuring gaze. "I was never under the impression that you enjoyed being isolated up there. We normally don't put anyone in that room if we can help it."
"Oh. All right. It's just...I hadn't thought about that before. Okay." He slipped the envelope with the key into his pocket. "Thanks."
"I'd also suggest you get over to the health center," she added. "There's a battery of tests you need to go through before you start your esoteric arts class, you know. Better safe than sorry and all that."
Kyle nodded, hoping the blush on his cheeks wasn't too obvious as he left to seek out his new quarters.
The full implications of room reassignment didn't sink in until he opened the door to the new room and found it half occupied by someone else's things. Like most of the rooms, it was made for two.
One bed was made, one desk already cluttered, and one half of the shelf near the door was taken up with books and possessions. The closet was hung with sweaters and things. His actual roommate was not there to be found, though. Kyle hurried down to the basement to bring up his trunk, pulling out a towel and school clothes and hurrying to the bathroom in the hall.
In fifteen minutes he was washed and dressed, his wet hair combed back and looking nearly as dark as usual now that it was damp. His clothes smelled a little musty from being in the basement for three months, and the shirt with the crest on the pocket was a bit wrinkled, but there was no time to do anything about that now.
He made it downstairs into the dining hall just as Master Brandish was calling the meeting to order. He slipped in the back and down to a seat at the end of one of the tables.
Seated at a small table facing the students were four people, two of whom Kyle knew. There was Talia Pisk, a resident tutor from last year, and Caitlyn Speyer, who had been a resident advisor last year and, he assumed, must be again. The mystery of the other two was soon solved, as Master Brandish introduced them to the assembled freshmen as Brandon Buckle, a new resident tutor, and Esther Dearborn, the new RA. Now Kyle recognized her as a student from last year, but she'd changed her hair both in color and style, and she hadn't been someone he knew well anyway.
Master Brandish was going on about the traditions of Gladius House and Kyle found himself only listening with one ear. He looked around at the students seated near him. To his left was a blond girl, already in a house sweater, hers a feminine cut, just a tad small, accentuating her bust. Her makeup was subtle and perfect, and she had well-manicured nails, looking just that much more put-together than everyone else. Most of the students, both male and female, were in tank tops, shorts, and flip-flops, not yet attired for formal house functions.
Perhaps it was something about spending the summer with Alex--mooching off whomever was willing, and the willing so often being pretty girls who seemed as eager to find someone for attachment-free casual sex as they had been--that caused him to take such note of her.
Alex had never come out and said it, but Kyle suspected their summer adventures were Alex's way of helping him get over Jess, and bringing sex back to a normal, non-magical level for him. Although as Kyle was learning, sex and magic couldn't be completely separated in his case.
When Master Brandish suggested the new students get to know one another by turning to the person adjacent and telling them one thing they hoped to learn this year at Veritas, Kyle turned to the girl and said, "One thing, hm? How about your name?"
She let out a short, somewhat condescending laugh. "Zelda Garrett. And you?"
"Kyle Wadsworth. And what's the one thing you hope to learn?"
"Oh, the secrets of the universe, to be sure. I might settle for why the sky is blue, though." She looked back toward the front of the room, her duty to speak to Kyle having been discharged.
Huh. Kyle had been given the brush-off plenty of times that summer, but he wondered what motivated her to dismiss him now.
Then Brandish was speaking again, explaining the pecking order, and he turned to playing the game of trying to guess which person here was his roommate. Whoever it was had clothes of mostly gray and blue, and a lot of soft baggy things like sweatpants. That wasn't much to go on.
There didn't appear to be anything in this orientation session that Kyle didn't already know. Where the Master's door was, protocol for meals, the arrangement of the house library, the expectations for "Tea with the Master." Speyer spoke a bit about their intention to hold another Masque when Mardi Gras rolled around. Kyle grinned at that.
Then a group headed out to play kickball, another to play Frisbee, some to contra-dance practice. Kyle figured he was exempted from doing these things and decided to head upstairs to unpack properly.
On the way out of the common room, though, he was greeted by a sight in the stairwell that made him stare. Zelda Garrett was there, being bent back by the force of a rather hungry, quite sensual-looking kiss from none other than Timothy Frost.
They broke apart and stared back. "Um. Hello, Frost," Kyle said, wondering if he should just hurry past them or what.
"Wadsworth," Frost said in return with a stiff nod of his head. "Have you...?"
"We've met," Garrett said, no warmth in her voice. Kyle practically expected her to jump back and hiss like a cat at him given her expression.
Kyle looked back at Frost. He appeared to have grown two or three inches over the summer, and was nowhere near as pale as he had last year. Frost seemed to be waiting for something.
Probably for me to leave, Kyle thought. He had thought maybe saving Frost's life last year might have warmed the upperclassman to him, but apparently Kyle had offended his girlfriend somehow. Perversely, this made Kyle all the more determined to talk to them rather than leaving them alone. "Have a good summer, did you?"
The corner of Frost's mouth twitched. "Very funny, Wadsworth."
Frost shook his head. "You have no idea, do you? The only good part about it was I met Zelda." He pulled her hip snug with his own. "Now, if you'll excuse us..." He pulled her by the hand down the stairs past Kyle, heading for the common room or outdoors. Kyle could hear her whispering to Frost before they even got out of earshot.
He went up to his room and made his bed, then lay down on it and texted Alex. Why would Frost's summer have sucked?
He had fallen asleep when the phone beeped to let him know he had a message in reply. If yr boyfriend turned out to be a soul-sucking fiend, wouldn't yours? Then a minute later: For real. Sirens are addictive. Withdrawal sux.
Kyle thought about trying to write a poem about that. Then decided maybe the topic was better off left alone just now.