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“I don’t know yet.”

I take a deep breath, try to get my racing heart back under control as I struggle to think through the panic slamming through me. It takes a minute, but I finally get the anxiety to recede enough that I can answer, “It doesn’t make sense. I’m harmless.”

Especially at this school. I mean, I’m not a threat at a regular high school. I’m sure as hell not a threat at a school where a quarter of the residents can shoot fire and fly.

“There are a lot of words I’d use to describe you, Grace. ‘Harmless’ isn’t one of them.” He glances around the room, eyes narrowed, whether in thought or warning, I can’t be sure. “And if I know that, so do they.”

“Jaxon.” I wrap my arms around my waist and rock back on my heels a little as I try to convince him to see reason. As I try to convince myself that his words don’t mean anything. “You can’t really believe that. You’re just upset at the near miss. You’re not thinking clearly.”

“I always think clearly.” He starts to say more, but then something over my shoulder draws his attention. His eyes narrow to slits that have my heart racing all over again.

I turn and follow his gaze, only to find him staring at the rope that ties to the chandelier so it can be lowered for cleaning. Or should I say what’s left of the rope, because even from here, I can see that it’s in two pieces.

“It broke,” I tell him, but there’s an uncertainty to my voice when I say the words. Because how often does one of those ropes actually break? “Sometimes ropes—”

Jaxon interrupts me with, “Your uncle’s here,” and a small shake of his head.

“So? I want to talk about this.”


Before I can voice another objection, Uncle Finn closes in.

“Grace, honey, I’m so sorry it took me this long to get to you. I was out on the school grounds.” He pulls me into a hug and holds me tight.

Normally, I’d find it comforting—the way he feels and smells so much like my dad. But right now, all I can think about is the look in Jaxon’s eyes when he said someone was trying to kill me. His face was completely blank, completely unreadable. But burning deep in his eyes, where most people don’t get close enough to look, was the most terrifying rage I’ve ever seen.

I don’t want to leave him alone with it, don’t want to let him stay trapped in his own head. But no matter how I pat Uncle Finn’s back and assure him I’m okay, my uncle doesn’t seem to be letting go any time soon.

“I can’t begin to tell you how horrified I am that this has happened to you,” he says when he finally pulls back. His blue eyes, so like Macy’s and my father’s, are sad and shadowed. “Once is unacceptable. Twice in two days…”

I guess I should count myself lucky he doesn’t know about me falling out of that tree a few days ago. Three near-death experiences in a week are a lot for anyone.

Then again, when I think of it like that, suddenly Jaxon doesn’t seem so paranoid. And maybe I don’t seem paranoid enough.

“Well, let’s get you out of here,” my uncle says. “We hadn’t planned on you going to class today anyway, but I would like to talk to you before you go back to your room.”

“Oh, sure.” I can’t imagine what there is to talk about—I mean, what is there to say except whew, close call—but if it will make him feel better, I’m all for it.

Except every instinct I have is screaming at me not to leave Jaxon, screaming that this isn’t the time to walk away from him, though I don’t know why. “But can I come by your office a little later? I have a couple of things I need to do first—”

“Jaxon’s already gone, Grace.” I whirl around to find that my uncle is right. Jaxon is gone. “And I want to talk to you before you see him again anyway.”

I don’t know what that means, but I don’t like the sound of it. Any more than I like the fact that, once again, Jaxon took off without so much as a goodbye.

How does he do it? I wonder as I reluctantly follow my uncle. How does he just disappear without my even hearing or sensing him moving? Is it a vampire thing? Or a Jaxon thing? I’m pretty sure it’s a Jaxon thing, but as I walk toward the dining hall doors, I realize every other member of the Order is gone, too. They all left, and I didn’t have a freaking clue.

Which only backs up what I was telling Jaxon before my uncle showed up. I’m just a harmless human—why on earth would anyone here think I’m dangerous enough to try to kill me?

I mean, Jaxon, sure. I’m surprised they aren’t lined up around the castle to take a shot at him—everything about the guy screams total, complete, absolute power. I’m pretty sure the only thing keeping him safe is that those same things also scream dangerous af. I can’t imagine anyone here being foolish enough to challenge him—even Flint backed down right after the snowball fight.

Which is why dropping a chandelier on Jaxon makes sense. But dropping one on me? Come on. One bad spell, wolf attack, or even earthquake, and I’m a goner. Why go through the trouble of bringing an entire chandelier down on top of my head when a broken window nearly did me in all on its own?

Uncle Finn doesn’t say anything as we walk to his office and neither do I. I have to admit I am surprised, though, when he turns down what has to be the least-ornate corridor in this entire place and then stops in front of the most boring-looking door. Doesn’t exactly jive with my idea of any headmaster’s office, let alone the headmaster of a school that’s taken on the responsibility of educating students from a wide range of paranormal backgrounds.

That impression is only reinforced when he opens his door and ushers me inside the most boring room in existence. Gray carpet, gray walls, gray chairs. The only spot of brightness in the room—if you can even call it that—is the heavy cherrywood desk loaded down with piles of papers, files, and an open laptop.

Basically, it looks like every other principal’s office I’ve ever seen—except the window coverings are sturdier and the gray carpet is a little more plush.

He catches me staring and grins. “Surprised?”

“A little bit. I thought it would be more…”

“More?” His brows go up.

“Just more. No offense, Uncle Finn, but this has to be the most utilitarian room I’ve ever seen. I guess I expected a witch to have more flair.”

“Good thing I’m not a witch, then, huh?”

“What?” My mind boggles. “I thought— Macy said— I don’t—”

“Relax, Grace,” my uncle says with a laugh. “I was just trying to lighten the mood. Macy told me she spilled all the tea.”

“No offense, but it’s kind of hard to keep the tea in the pot when I have fang marks in my neck.”

“Touché.” He inclines his head, gestures to one of the plain gray chairs in front of the desk as he walks around to the back of it. “Have a seat.

“I am sorry you had to find out that way,” he continues when we’re both seated. “It’s not what I wanted for you.”

He looks so miserable, I want to tell him it’s okay, except it really isn’t. “Why didn’t you tell me? Or my dad? Why didn’t he ever admit that he was a—” I break off, still having a hard time wrapping my head around the fact that my dad was a real-life witch. Or at least he’d been born one.

“I believe the word you’re looking for is warlock,” my uncle tells me, filling in the word I’m having such a hard time saying—and believing—with a sympathetic smile. “And yes, your father was a warlock—and very powerful at one point.”

“Before he gave it up for my mother.”

“It’s a little more complicated than that.” My uncle makes a face, kind of wobbles his head back and forth. “No warlock gives up his power willingly, but some, like your father, are willing to risk everything for the greater good.”

That’s not how Macy described it, which makes me wonder just what my cousin doesn’t know about my father. And what my uncle does. “What—what do you mean?” I ask as my heart skips a beat. “What did he do?’

For a second, my uncle looks far away, but his eyes clear at my question. “It’s a long story,” he tells me. “One for another day, considering you’ve got more than enough going on for this morning.”

“Pretty sure I have enough going on for a lot of mornings,” I answer. “For all the mornings, really.”

“Yeah, you do.” He sighs. “That’s actually what I want to talk to you about. You’ve had quite a first week, young lady.”

Talk about an understatement. I wait for him to say more, wait for the other shoe to drop even though it feels like a hundred have already fallen, but time passes and he doesn’t say anything. Instead, he just kind of steeples his hands in front of his chin and stares at me across the desk. I don’t know if he’s doing it because he’s waiting for me to break or if he’s just trying to figure out the right way to say whatever he wants to say. I figure it must be the latter, because I haven’t done anything wrong. I have no secrets to spill, especially not compared to the man who runs a school for monsters.

The prolonged silence does give me time to think, though. About all the wrong things. Including the fact that in the last week, what little control I’ve had over my life has disappeared completely.

I mean, seriously. Death by chandelier has to be one of the most random and bizarre deaths on the planet. The whole thing seems ridiculous, no matter what Jaxon says. But losing my parents the way I did—having them go from happy and alive to cold and dead in the space from one minute to the next—has taught me just how easy it is for life to be extinguished.

As simple as the blink of your eye, the snap of your fingers, making the wrong turn at the wrong time…