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Episode 5

So instead of melting into Macy for the hug I so desperately need, instead of letting myself think about how much I miss home and my parents and my life, I pull back and give her the best smile I can manage. “Why don’t you show me to our room?”

The concern in her eyes doesn’t diminish, but the sunshine definitely makes another appearance. “Our room? Really?”

I sigh deep inside and kiss my dream of a little peaceful solitude goodbye. It’s not as hard as it should be, but then I’ve lost a lot more in the last month than my own space. “Really. Rooming with you sounds perfect.”

I’ve already upset her once, which is so not my style. Neither is getting someone kicked out of their room. Besides being rude and smacking of nepotism, it also seems like a surefire way to piss people off—something that is definitely not on my to-do list right now.

“Awesome!” Macy grins and throws her arms around me for a fast but powerful hug. Then she glances at her phone with a roll of her eyes. “Dad still hasn’t answered my text—he’s the worst about checking his phone. Why don’t you hang out here, and I’ll go get him? I know he wanted to see you as soon as we arrived.”

“I can come with you—”

“Please just sit, Grace.” She points at the ornate French-provincial-style chairs that flank a small chess table in an alcove to the right of the staircase. “I’m sure you’re exhausted and I’ve got this, honest. Relax a minute while I get Dad.”

Because she’s right—my head is aching and my chest still feels tight—I just nod and plop down in the closest chair. I’m beyond tired and want nothing more than to lean my head back against the chair and close my eyes for a minute. But I’m afraid I’ll fall asleep if I do. And no way am I running the risk of being the girl caught drooling all over herself in the hallway on her very first day…or ever, for that matter.

More to keep myself from drifting off than out of actual interest, I pick up one of the chess pieces in front of me. It’s made of intricately carved stone, and my eyes widen as I realize what I’m looking at. A perfect rendition of a vampire, right down to the black cape, frightening snarl, and bared fangs. It matches the Gothic castle vibe so well that I can’t help being amused. Plus, it’s gorgeously crafted.

Intrigued now, I reach for a piece from the other side. And nearly laugh out loud when I realize it’s a dragon—fierce, regal, with giant wings. It’s absolutely beautiful.

The whole set is.

I put the piece down only to pick up another dragon. This one is less fierce, but with its sleepy eyes and folded wings, it’s even more intricate. I look it over carefully, fascinated with the level of detail in the piece—everything from the perfect points on the wings to the careful curl of each talon reflects just how much care the artist put into the piece. I’ve never been a chess girl, but this set just might change my mind about the game.

When I put down this dragon piece, I go to the other side of the board and pick up the vampire queen. She’s beautiful, with long, flowing hair and an elaborately decorated cape.

“I’d be careful with that one if I were you. She’s got a nasty bite.” The words are low and rumbly and so close that I nearly fall out of my chair. Instead, I jump up, plopping the chess piece down with a clatter, then whirl around—heart pounding—only to find myself face-to-face with the most intimidating guy I’ve ever seen. And not just because he’s hot…although he’s definitely that.

Still, there’s something more to him, something different and powerful and overwhelming, though I don’t have a clue what it is. I mean, sure. He has the kind of face nineteenth-century poets loved to write about—too intense to be beautiful and too striking to be anything else.

Skyscraper cheekbones.

Full red lips.

A jaw so sharp it could cut stone.

Smooth, alabaster skin.

And his eyes…a bottomless obsidian that see everything and show nothing, surrounded by the longest, most obscene lashes I’ve ever seen.

And even worse, those all-knowing eyes are laser-focused on me right now, and I’m suddenly terrified that he can see all the things I’ve worked so hard and so long to hide. I try to duck my head, try to yank my gaze from his, but I can’t. I’m trapped by his stare, hypnotized by the sheer magnetism rolling off him in waves.

I swallow hard to catch my breath.

It doesn’t work.

And now he’s grinning, one corner of his mouth turning up in a crooked little smile that I feel in every single cell. Which only makes it worse, because that smirk says he knows exactly what kind of effect he’s having on me. And, worse, that he’s enjoying it.

Annoyance flashes through me at the realization, melting the numbness that’s surrounded me since my parents’ deaths. Waking me from the stupor that’s the only thing that’s kept me from screaming all day, every day, at the unfairness of it all. At the pain and horror and helplessness that have taken over my whole life.

It’s not a good feeling. And the fact that it’s this guy—with the smirk and the face and the cold eyes that refuse to relinquish their hold on me even as they demand that I don’t look too closely—just pisses me off more.

It’s that anger that finally gives me the strength to break free of his gaze. I rip my eyes away, then search desperately for something else—anything else—to focus on.

Unfortunately, he’s standing right in front of me, so close that he’s blocking my view of anything else.

Determined to avoid his eyes, I look anywhere but. And land instead on his long, lean body. Then really wish I hadn’t, because the black jeans and T-shirt he’s wearing only emphasize his flat stomach and hard, well-defined biceps. Not to mention the double-wide shoulders that are absolutely responsible for blocking my view in the first place.

Add in the thick, dark hair that’s worn a little too long, so that it falls forward into his face and skims low across his insane cheekbones, and there’s nothing to do but give in. Nothing to do but admit that—obnoxious smirk or not—this boy is sexy af.

A little wicked, a lot wild, and all dangerous.

What little oxygen I’ve been able to pull into my lungs in this high altitude completely disappears with the realization. Which only makes me madder. Because, seriously. When exactly did I become the heroine in some YA romance? The new girl swooning over the hottest, most unattainable boy in school?

Gross. And so not happening.

Determined to nip whatever this is in the bud, I force myself to look at his face again. This time, as our gazes meet and clash, I realize that it doesn’t matter if I’m acting like some giant romantic cliché.

Because he isn’t.

One glance and I know that this dark boy with the closed-off eyes and the fuck-you attitude isn’t the hero of anyone’s story. Least of all mine.


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