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“Stay in my—” I bristle at what he’s implying. “Are you saying I’m responsible for what happened tonight?”

“Don’t be ridiculous. Of course I’m not. They should both have better control.”

It’s a weird way of saying they shouldn’t go around trying to murder people, and I start to ask him about it. But he continues before I can figure out how to phrase it. “But I warned you before that you need to be careful here. This isn’t like your old high school.”

“How do you know what my old high school was like?”

“I don’t,” he says with a smirk. “But I can guarantee it’s nothing like Katmere Academy.”

Jaxon’s right—of course he’s right—but I’m not about to back down now. “You don’t know that.”

He leans forward then, as if he can’t help himself, until his face, and his lips, are barely an inch from mine. And just like earlier, I know it should make me uncomfortable. But it doesn’t. It just makes me burn. And this time, when my knees shake, it has nothing to do with fear.

My lips part, my breath hitches in my chest, my heart beats faster. He feels it—I can see it in his blown-out pupils, in the way he goes wary and watchful. Can hear it in the sudden harshness of his own breath, sense it in the slight tremble of his body against my own. For a second, just a second, I think he’s going to kiss me. But then he leans in farther, past my mouth, until his lips are all but pressed up against my ear. And I get the strange sense that he’s smelling me just like Marc and Quinn had, although it has an entirely different effect on me.

“You have no idea what I know,” he says softly.

The warmth of his breath has me gasping, melting, my whole body sagging against his of its own volition.

He lets it happen for one second, two, his hands on my waist, his shoulders curving down and into me. And then, just as suddenly, he’s gone, stepping back so fast, I nearly fall without the support of his body.

“You need to go,” he repeats, voice even lower, rougher than before.

“Now?” I demand, incredulous.

“Right now.” He nods to the staircase, and somehow I find myself moving toward it, though I never make a conscious decision to do so. “Go straight to your room and lock the door.”

“I thought you said I don’t have to worry about Marc or Quinn anymore?” I ask over my shoulder.

“You don’t.”

“Well then, why do I need to—?” I break off when I realize that I’m talking to myself. Because again, Jaxon is gone.

And I’m left wondering when I’ll see him again. And why it matters so much that I do.



and Let Die

Not going to lie. I’m a little shell-shocked when I finally make it back to my room. It’s nearly five a.m., and the last thing I want to do is crawl back into bed and stare at the ceiling until Macy wakes up. But it’s not like I feel safe wandering the school anymore, either, considering I could be dead by now if Jaxon hadn’t shown up when he did.

And since the last thing I can do—and the last thing I want to do—is count on him to save me if I end up in another bizarre situation like that, I think my best bet is to hang in my room until Macy wakes up and I can get her opinion on what just happened. Although, if her opinion is anything other than OMG, WTF?!?! I’m taking my unpacked suitcases and heading back to San Diego. Freeloading off Heather’s family for the next eight months is better than dying. Or at least that’s my story and I’m sticking to it.

Especially since I don’t get altitude sickness in San Diego.

The nausea hits me as I’m tiptoeing across the room, and I barely make it back to my bed with a soft groan.

Macy must have heard me because she tells me, “I promise the altitude sickness won’t last forever.”

“It’s not just the altitude sickness. It’s everything.”

“I bet,” is all she says, and silence stretches between us. I’m pretty sure it’s because she’s giving me the space to sort through my thoughts and decide if I want to share any.

I stare at the gray stone ceiling above my bed pressing down on me, then take a deep breath. “It’s just… Alaska’s like a foreign planet, you know? Like everything about this place is so different than home that it’s hard to get used to it.” Normally I don’t dump my stuff on people I don’t know really well—it’s easier to just keep everything inside—but Macy is the closest friend I have here. And there’s a part of me that feels like I’ll explode if I don’t talk to someone.

“I totally get that. I’ve lived here my whole life, and some days it feels bizarre to me, too. But you’ve only been in the state about twelve hours, and you’ve been feeling gross for most of those. Why don’t you give it a few days, wait till the altitude sickness wears off and you’ve gone to a couple classes? Maybe things won’t seem as strange once you get into a routine.”

“I know you’re right. And I wasn’t even feeling that terrible about things when I woke up, until—” I break off, trying to think of the best way to tell her about what just happened.

“Until what?” She throws back her covers and climbs out of bed.

“I know it’s a pretty big school, but do you know two guys named Marc and Quinn?” I ask.

“That depends. Does one of them have a septum piercing?”

“Yes. It’s a big black ring.” I hold my fingers to my nose to demonstrate.

“Then yeah, I know them. They’re juniors like me. And good guys, really funny. In fact, there was this one time—” I must not have a poker face, because she stops abruptly. Narrows her eyes. “Then again, I’m beginning to think the question I should be asking is how do you know them?”

“Maybe they were just fooling around, but…I’m pretty sure they tried to kill me tonight. Or at least scare me to death.”

“They tried to what?” she squawks, nearly dropping the bottle of water she had gotten out of the fridge for me. “Tell me what happened right now. And don’t leave anything out.”

She seems adamant, so I faithfully recite the events until I get to the point where Jaxon saved me. I’m not sure how I feel about that—or how I feel about him—and I’m not quite ready to talk about it yet. And I’m certainly not ready to listen to Macy talk about it. Plus, I’d sort of silently agreed to keep something about the interaction a secret, although admittedly now, back in my room, I wonder if I’d imagined that silent exchange or not.

“So what happened?” she asks when I don’t say anything else. “How did you get away from them?”

“Someone heard the fight and came to investigate. Once the boys realized there was a witness, they chilled out pretty quickly.”

“I bet they did, the jerks. The last thing they’d want is to be reported to my dad. But they should have thought of that before they put their hands on you. I swear, I’m going to murder them myself.”

She looks, and sounds, mad enough to do just that even before she continues. “What were they thinking? They don’t even know you, so why do this?” She gets up, starts pacing. “You totally could have gotten hypothermia if they’d left you outside for too long, let alone what could have happened if they’d kept you out there more than ten minutes. You seriously could have died. Which makes no sense. They’re always a little wild, super high energy. But I’ve never seen them be malicious before.”

“The whole thing doesn’t make sense. I’m beginning to think they were high or something, because there’s no other explanation as to why they would have been outside in only jeans and T-shirts. I mean, how did they avoid getting hypothermia?”

“I don’t know,” Macy says. But she looks uncomfortable, like maybe she knows for a fact that they do drugs. Or like she thinks I’m delusional for even suggesting that they were outside without any protective clothing on. But I know what I saw. Those two guys were definitely not wearing any kind of cold-weather gear.

“Maybe they were only outside for a minute or two,” she suggests eventually, handing me two Advil. “Either way, whatever’s going on with them, I’m sure my father will figure it out.”

There’s a part of me that wants to ask her not to tell Uncle Finn, because it’s hard enough being the new girl without also being a snitch. But every time I think about what might have happened—what would have happened if Jaxon hadn’t come along—I know Uncle Finn has to be told. Otherwise, what’s to stop them from doing it again to somebody else?

“In the meantime, you probably need to get some more sleep. Unless you’re hungry?”

Since just the thought of food has my stomach spinning in protest, I tell her, “I think I’m going to pass on that. But I’m not sure I can sleep, either. Maybe I should unpack my suitcases, get stuff ready for tomorrow.”

“Don’t worry about your suitcases. I already did them.”

“You did? When?”

“After you fell asleep last night. I figured if you didn’t like where I put things, you could change it. But at least this way, all your stuff is within easy reach.”

“You didn’t have to do that, Macy.”

“I know I didn’t have to. But you’re not feeling great, so I figured a little help couldn’t hurt. Besides, we have a party to go to this evening and you need to be able to find your makeup and hair stuff.”

I’m not sure what amuses me more, the way Macy just casually drops in the fact that she expects me to attend a party with her today or the fact that she actually expects me to wear makeup to it, when mascara and a couple of tubes of lip gloss are pretty much all I own.

Considering she had a full face of makeup on yesterday when she was riding a snowmobile through the Alaskan wilderness, I can only imagine what her party look will be.