I don’t have to be told twice. I scramble over the threshold and through the reading alcove, desperate to make it to the stairs…and as far from this evil incarnation of Jaxon as I can possibly get.
It’s a small alcove, only a matter of feet between me and freedom. But I’m so light-headed right now that I can barely stand upright and I sway with every step I take.
Still, I’m determined to get to the stairs. Determined to save Jaxon the pain of having killed another person that he cares about. Whatever is happening right now isn’t his fault—even as messed up as I am at the moment, I can see that something is very, very wrong.
But there will be no convincing him of that if anything happens to me, no way of getting him to believe that this—whatever this is—isn’t completely his fault. And so I dig deep, push myself harder than I ever have before in an effort to save myself…and in turn, save Jaxon.
I use every ounce of energy I have to make it to the top of the stairs, but I do make it. Crawl down them if you have to, the voice inside me yells. Do whatever you need to do.
I grab on to the wall, push myself around the edge of the stairs, and prepare to take my first shaky step down. Except I slam right into Lia before I can ever take that step.
“Not feeling so good, Grace?” she asks, and there’s an edge to her voice that I’ve never heard before. “What’s the matter?”
“Lia, oh thank God! Help him, please. Something’s wrong with Jaxon. I don’t know what it is, but he’s losing control. He’s—”
She slaps me across the face so hard it knocks me into the nearest wall. “You have no idea how long I’ve wanted to do that,” she tells me. “Now sit down and shut up, or I’ll let Jaxon have you.”
I stare at her in shock, my sluggish brain having trouble assimilating this new turn of events. Only when Jaxon races, snarling, out of his room, does any sense of clarity kick in, brought on by the terror sweeping through me.
I’m pretty sure Lia’s no match for Jaxon on a normal day—no one is—but now that something’s wrong with him, I’m not so sure.
“Jaxon, stop!” I yell, but he’s too busy putting himself between me and Lia to listen.
“Get away from her!” he orders, as things start flying off the shelves all around us.
Lia just sighs. “I knew I should have made the tea stronger. But I was afraid it would kill your little pet, and I couldn’t let that happen. At least not yet.”
She shrugs, then says in a kind of singsong voice, “No worries,” right before she pulls a gun out of her pocket and shoots Jaxon straight in the heart.
Girl Gone Wild
I scream, try to get to him, but all I manage to do is fall to my knees. I’m weak and dizzy and nauseous…so nauseous. The room is spinning and waves of cold are sweeping through my body, tightening my muscles and making it impossibly hard to breathe, to move.
And still I try to reach Jaxon. I’m sobbing and screaming as I crawl across the floor, terrified that she’s killed him. I know it’s not easy to kill a vampire, but I’m pretty sure that if anyone would know how to do it, it would be another vampire.
“God, would you shut up already!” Lia kicks me so hard in the stomach that she knocks the breath out of me. “I didn’t kill him. I just tranq’d him. He’ll be fine in a few hours. You, on the other hand, won’t be so lucky if you don’t stop that incessant whimpering.”
Maybe she expects me to get hysterical all over again at that threat, but it isn’t exactly a shock. As drugged and unable to think as I am right now, my mind is still working well enough to figure out that I won’t be getting out of this alive. Which is saying something considering I can barely remember my own name at the moment.
“You should have drunk more tea,” she tells me, disgust evident in her voice. “Everything would be easier if you just did what you were supposed to do, Grace.”
She’s looking at me like she expects me to say I’m sorry, which definitely isn’t happening. Besides, what would that even look like? Oops? So sorry I’m making it harder for you to kill me?
Give me a break.
Lia keeps talking, but it’s getting harder and harder for me to follow what she’s saying. Not when the room is spinning and my head is muddled and all I can think about is Jaxon.
Jaxon, twirling me through the aurora borealis.
Jaxon, staring at me with hellish eyes.
Jaxon, telling me to run, trying to protect me even when he’s drugged out of his mind.
It’s enough to have me rolling over, enough to have me trying to crawl to him even though I don’t have the strength anymore to push up to my knees.
“Jaxon,” I call, but his name comes out so slurred I can barely understand it. Still, I try again. And again. Because the voice inside me is screaming that if Jaxon knows I’m in trouble, he’ll move heaven and earth to get to me. Even if it involves waking up from a stealth-tranquilizer-gun attack.
Lia must know it, too, because she hisses, “Stop it,” as she towers over me.
Which only makes me try harder. “Jaxon,” I call again. This time, it’s little more than a whisper, my voice failing as everything else does, too.
“I didn’t want to do this the hard way,” Lia says, raising the tranquilizer gun and aiming it straight at me. “When you wake up feeling like a herd of elephants is running through your head, remember you’re the one who chose this.”
And then she pulls the trigger.
Toil and a
Whole Lot of Trouble
I wake up shivering. I’m cold…so cold that my teeth are chattering and everything—I mean everything—hurts. My head worst of all, but the rest of me is almost as bad. Every muscle in my body feels like it’s being stretched on a rack, and my bones ache deep inside. Worse, I can barely breathe.
I’m awake enough to know something is wrong—like really wrong—but not quite awake enough to remember what it is. I want to move, want to at least pull the blanket from my bed up and over me, but the voice deep inside me is back. And it’s ordering me to lie still. Ordering me not to move, not to open my eyes, not to even breathe too deeply.
Which won’t be a problem considering I feel like a fifty-pound weight is crushing my chest—kind of like how I felt when I was fourteen and got pneumonia, only a million times worse.
I want to disregard the voice, want to roll over and find a way to get warm again. But flashes of memory are starting to come back, and they scare me into lying very, very still.
Jaxon, with hellfire burning in his eyes, shouting for me to run.
Lia brandishing a gun.
Jaxon falling over, passing out.
Lia screaming at me that everything is all my fault right before she—
Oh my God! She shot Jaxon! OmigodOmigodOmigod.
Panic slams through me, and my eyes fly open before I can think better of it. I try to sit up, determined to get to him, but I can’t move. I can’t sit up. I can’t roll over. I can’t do anything but wiggle my fingers and toes and move my head a little, though I’m still not coherent enough to figure out why.
At least not until I turn my head and see my right arm stretched out to the side and tied into an iron ring. A quick glance to the other side shows my left arm in the same predicament.
It doesn’t take a genius to figure out that my legs are tied down, too, and as more of the fogginess fades, I realize that I’m spread-eagled on top of some kind of cold stone slab. And I’m wearing nothing but a thin cotton sheath, which, honestly, is just adding insult to already egregious injury.
I mean, she drugged me, shot me, and tied me up. She has to freeze me as well?
As my memories come flooding back, adrenaline surges through my system. I try to tamp it down, try to think around the sick panic winding its way through me. But with the cold and the drugs and the adrenaline, clear thinking isn’t exactly easy right now.
Still, I have to figure out what happened to Jaxon. I have to know if he’s alive or if she killed him. She said she wasn’t going to, but it’s kind of hard to trust anything she says considering her original invite for tonight was for mani-pedis and look where I am now.
Just the thought of something happening to Jaxon has emptiness yawning inside of me. Has my panic turning to terror. I have to get to him. I have to figure out what happened. I have to do something.
For the first time since coming to Katmere Academy, I wish I had some supernatural powers of my own. Namely the power to break through rope. Or teleport. Hell, I’d even take a shadow of Jaxon’s telekinesis at this point—something, anything that might possibly get me untied and off this horrible rock.
I shake my head a little, struggle to clear the light-headed, packed-with-cotton feeling that’s going on in there. And try to figure out how the hell I’m supposed to get these ropes off me before Lia comes back from whatever level of hell she’s currently visiting.
Wherever I am, it’s dark. Not pitch black, obviously, because I can see my hands and feet and a little beyond where I’m lying. But that’s it. Only about four feet past my hands and feet in every direction, but after that it’s really dark. Like really, really dark.
Which isn’t terrifying at all considering I’m in the middle of a school filled with things that go bump in the night. Lucky, lucky me.
I think about screaming, but the chill in the air tells me I’m not actually inside the main school anymore. Which means there probably isn’t anyone around to hear me—except Lia, and I definitely don’t want to attract her attention one second sooner than she wants to give it to me.
So, I do the only thing possible in this situation. Strain against the ropes as hard as I can. I mean, I know I’m not going to be able to break free from them, but rope stretches if you pull on it long and hard enough. If I can just get some wiggle room around one of my wrists, I can slip my hand through, and I’ll at least have a fighting chance.