Page 68

The bell rings before I finish her lines, and I stop as the rest of the class starts shoveling their books into their backpacks as fast as they can go. “Thank you, Grace. Tomorrow, we’ll pick up where you left off.”

I nod, then shove everything back into my purse, doing my best not to think about the death scene I just read. Doing my best not to think about my parents—and about Hudson. About Jaxon’s grief over who Hudson was and what that forced him to do.

It’s harder than I want it to be, especially when I realize my World History of Witchcraft Trials (and yeah, okay, now that I know about the whole paranormal thing, classes like this one make a lot more sense) is next.

It’s not the class that bothers me; it’s the walk through the creepy af tunnels. Especially now that I wonder what would have happened to me down there alone with Flint if Lia hadn’t come along when she did.

But I’ve got to get to class, so it’s no use spending too much time dwelling on might-have-beens. Especially now that Jaxon has pretty much made me untouchable. What happened in that lounge might have been horrifying to witness, but I’m not going to lie. The fact that I no longer have to be afraid of chandeliers falling on my head or random shifters shoving me out into the snow isn’t a bad thing.

And when Mekhi walks with me down the hall instead of racing off to his next class, I realize that Jaxon’s protection extends even further than I thought. The threat was made—and I’m pretty sure heeded, judging by the wide berth everyone is giving me at the moment—and still it’s not enough for him. Still, he wants to make sure I’m safe, so much so that he’s called in other members of the Order to ensure I am.

Maybe it should bother me.

And honestly, if this was a normal school or a normal situation, it would probably bug the hell out of me to have such a protective…boyfriend? But I’m currently surrounded by shifters, vampires, and witches—all of whom play by rules I don’t have a clue about. Plus, it’s been less than three hours since a chandelier nearly crushed me to death. Not accepting Jaxon’s and Mekhi’s protection would be foolish, at least until things calm down around here.

I turn to thank Mekhi for walking with me, then freak out a little when Flint pretty much shoves his way between us. “Hey, Grace. How are you feeling?” he asks, all sweetness and concern. “I’ve been worried about you this morning.”

“Worried about me or worried that the chandelier didn’t do its job well enough?” I query, walking faster in what I already know is a useless attempt to get away from him.

He doesn’t stop walking, but everything about him kind of stills when I confront him with what Jaxon told me—which tells me all I need to know.

And still, he tries to play it off. “What do you mean? Of course I’m worried about you.”

“Give me a break, Flint. I know what you’ve been up to.”

For the first time in our entire “friendship,” anger flashes in his eyes. “Don’t you mean you know what that tick told you I was up to?” he sneers.

Mekhi’s face goes livid at the insult to Jaxon, and suddenly he’s right there between the two of us again. “Back the fuck off, Dragon Boy.”

Flint ignores him and continues talking to me. “You don’t know what’s really going on, Grace. You can’t trust Jaxon—”

“Why? Because you say so? Aren’t you the one who’s been trying to kill me since I got here?”

“It’s not for the reasons you think.” He shoots me a pleading look. “If you would just trust me—”

“Not for the reasons I think?” I repeat. “So you actually think there are good reasons for trying to kill me? And you still want me to trust you?” I wave an arm his way in a step right up kind of gesture. “Fine. Then tell me the truth about what happened during the snowball fight. Did you jump out of that tree to catch me, or did Jaxon knock you out of it?”

“I… It wasn’t like… Jaxon overreacted. I was—”

I let him stutter all over himself for a few seconds, then cut him off. “Yeah, that’s what I thought. Stay away from me, Flint. I don’t want to have anything to do with you from now on.”

“Well that’s too bad, because I’m not going away.”

“You know, there’s a name for a guy who continues to hound a girl after she tells him to leave her alone,” Mekhi tells Flint after we make the turn into the hallway that leads to the tunnels.

Flint ignores him. “Grace, please.” He reaches out and grabs hold of my arm. Before I can tell him not to touch me, Mekhi is right there, fangs bared and warning growl pouring out of his throat.

“Get your filthy dragon hands off her,” he hisses.

“I’m not going to hurt her!”

“Damn right you’re not. Step back, Montgomery.”

Flint makes a frustrated sound deep in his throat, but in the end, he does what Mekhi asks. Mostly, I think, because there was going to be a fight right here in the hallway if he didn’t. One where Mekhi tries to tear him to pieces.

“Come on, Grace,” he implores. “It’s important. Just listen for one minute.”

I stop because it’s fairly obvious at this point that he isn’t planning on going away. “Fine. You want to talk, talk. What’s so important?” I cross my arms over my chest and wait to see what he has to say.

“You want me to say it now? In front of everyone?” he snarls, looking at Mekhi.

“Well, I’m sure as hell not going to go somewhere alone with you at this point. I may be ignorant about your world, but I’m not downright foolish.”

“I can’t do this. I—” He breaks off, runs a frustrated hand through his hair. “I can’t talk to you in front of a vampire. It needs to be alone.”

“Then you’re not talking to her at all,” Mekhi says, once again getting between us. “Let’s go, Grace.”

I allow Mekhi to guide me away from an increasingly angry Flint. Which is kind of obnoxious when you think about it. He’s the one who tried to kill me with a chandelier, and now he’s the one who gets to be angry? Where’s the logic in that?

“Damn it, Mekhi, at least do me a favor and don’t leave her alone, okay?” Flint calls after us. “I’m serious, Grace. You shouldn’t go anywhere alone. It’s not safe.”


If You Can’t

Live Without Me,

Why Aren’t You

Dead Yet?

The irony of that statement isn’t lost on me. Nor is it lost on Mekhi, if the way he snarls at Flint is any indication. “No shit, Sherlock. What do you think is happening here?”

Flint doesn’t answer, and I don’t bother to look back as Mekhi and I head into the tunnels. He doesn’t say anything about Flint or anything else as we make our way through the first door. But the silence only makes me feel worse about what just happened. And about trusting Flint from the beginning, especially when Jaxon warned me not to.

I just wish I knew what he got out of hurting me when I’ve never done anything to him. Not to mention playing at being my friend at the same time he was plotting to kill me.

“Who knows with dragons?” It’s not until Mekhi answers that I realize I spoke out loud. “They’re super secretive, and nobody ever really knows what’s going on with them.”

“Apparently.” I give him a shaky smile. “I really am sorry about all this—and about you having to walk me to class. I do appreciate it, though.”

“No worries. It takes a lot more than a bad-tempered dragon to ruin my day. Besides, if I end up a couple of minutes late to Calculus, you’ll only be doing me a favor.” He grins down at me as we follow the route into the tunnels.

As we make our way through all the doors, including stops for the security codes and the rest of the stuff I had to do with Flint, I’m struck by how different it feels with Mekhi. With Flint, everything inside me was screaming a warning, telling me to get the hell away from him as fast as I could.

With Mekhi, this trip into the tunnels feels normal. No, better than normal. Like walking with an old friend, one I’m totally comfortable around. There’s no voice warning me to be careful, no uncomfortable shiver running down my spine. All of which tells me the bad feelings were tied to Flint and not the tunnel all along.

Still, I wait for that same voice to kick in as we go deeper into the tunnel. If not in warning, then at least a little self-congratulatory rumba for staying alive against all odds. Something that proves I’m not crazy for thinking I hear a voice deep inside myself that tells me what to do.

I admit, I’ve never had anything like it before, just the normal conscience-type stuff we all have when I’m trying to decide between right and wrong. But what happened the last time I was down here is different. In some ways, it felt almost sentient, like it existed away from my own consciousness and subconscious.

I can’t help wondering what’s actually going on. Can’t help wondering just what Jaxon or Katmere Academy or freaking Alaska itself has woken up within me.

If anything.

I will say that whatever’s happening, I’m at least glad the feeling of doom is gone. For now, I’m just going to accept that it is and worry about the rest when I’ve had a chance to breathe for a little while—which won’t happen until I know for sure what Uncle Finn has decided about Jaxon.

Jaxon didn’t act like he was afraid of being expelled, but that doesn’t mean much. He doesn’t strike me as being afraid of anything, let alone what the headmaster of his high school might do to him. But just because he didn’t look worried doesn’t mean Uncle Finn doesn’t have the power to make him leave school temporarily…or for good.

I check my phone as we walk through the last gate into the tunnels. Still no text from Jaxon.

“Have you heard from him?” I ask as we start the long trek to the art building.