“That’s not true. Hudson’s doing something to her. He’s—”
“Jaxon.” Foster’s voice slices through my denials. “Do you really think Grace would change back if she thought she was bringing a threat to Katmere?” The headmaster holds my gaze, eyes somehow both solemn and fierce at the same time as I will him not to say what he’s thinking—what we’re both thinking. “Or to you?”
Pain slices through me, destroying me. Eviscerating me where I stand. I can barely think, barely breathe, through the agony of knowing that he’s right. Of knowing that Grace might very well be suffering at this very moment—to save me.
I told her about Hudson, told her about my mother. She knows how much killing him nearly destroyed me. If coming back means bringing Hudson back with her, if it means making me kill my brother again, then there’s no way Grace would do it. No way she would let me face that.
“She’s saving me, isn’t she?” I whisper, barely loud enough for myself to hear it.
But Foster hears it, and he braces a hand on my shoulder. “I think she might be.”
There’s no might about it. Because Grace loves me. She’s already saved me once. I have no doubt that she’ll stay locked in stone for as long as she has to. She’ll stay locked in stone for as long as it takes to keep everyone she cares about here at Katmere safe.
And she’ll stay locked in stone forever if it means saving me again.
My heart starts racing at the realization. My hands shake, my breath turns choppy and it takes every ounce of strength I have to stay on my feet.
I can’t let her do it. I’ve barely made it through four days without Grace. No way can I make it through eternity without her.
For a moment, just a moment, I let myself remember all the little things I love about her. And ignore the fact that every memory breaks me a little more.
The way her eyes go all soft whenever she’s touching me.
The way those same eyes narrow when she’s about to call me out on my crap.
The way she laughs when she tells those awful jokes.
How do you cut the Roman Empire?
With a pair of Caesars.
That was a bad one. Hell, they were all bad ones, but that didn’t matter when she giggled up at me, so proud of herself.
Fuck, I miss her.
I miss her sugar-cookie-and-strawberry scent.
I miss her softness, the way her ridiculously hot body always curves so perfectly into mine.
I miss her curls.
This time when I reach out, it’s not to stroke her hair. It’s to cup her stone-cold cheek the way she always cupped mine.
And tell Foster something that I desperately hope Grace can hear, too. “I’m going to find a way to separate her from Hudson. And I’m going to contain or kill him or do whatever I have to, to make sure he’s never a threat to anybody ever again.”
“That might not be enough, Jaxon,” Amka says. “She might choose—”
“It’ll be enough,” I tell them. Because she loves me. Because she knows that I can’t last much longer without her.
I lean forward, press my forehead to hers for one second, two. And whisper, “I’m going to find a way to stop him, Grace. I swear. And then you’re going to come back to me. Because I need you. I need you to come home to me.”
I close my eyes and swallow down everything else I want to say. Because it doesn’t matter. Nothing does without Grace.
She has to make it back. Because if she doesn’t, I’m going to shatter. And this time, I’m not sure I’ll be strong enough not to take the whole world with me when I do.
End of book one
But wait—there’s more!
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look at three chapters from
Jaxon’s point of view.
Nothing will ever be the same…
You Only Think
You’re a Prince
If You Don’t Have a Tower
I can’t believe Foster did this. Just flat-out can’t believe he did this. I’m spending every fucking hour of every fucking day trying to keep this whole thing from turning into a massive shit show, and Foster goes and does this. Un-fucking-believable.
“Is that her?” Mekhi asks from his spot on the couch behind me.
I look down at the girl currently climbing off the snowmobile in front of the school. “Yes.”
“What do you think?” Luca chimes in. “Does she look like good bait?”
“She looks…” Exhausted. It’s in the way she bows her head after she takes off her helmet. In the way her shoulders slump. In the way she looks at the stairs like they’re the biggest obstacle she’s ever seen in her life. Exhausted and…defeated?
“What?” Byron comes up behind me and peers over my shoulder. “Oh. Defenseless,” he murmurs after a minute.
And yes, that’s exactly the word I’ve been looking for. She looks defenseless. Which, no doubt about it, makes for great bait. It also makes me feel like shit. How the fuck am I supposed to use a girl who already looks like life has kicked her in the teeth about a dozen times?
Then again, how can I afford not to? Something’s going on. Something big. Something fucked-up. I can feel it, and so can the other members of the Order. We’ve been trying to ferret it out for days, but no one’s talking…at least not to us. And since we don’t want to come right out and start pushing in case we send whoever is responsible for what promises to be a disaster of monumental proportions scurrying for cover, we’re screwed if we don’t find some bait to follow.
“Defenseless is good, right?” Liam asks in typical asshole fashion.
I shoot him a look as he grabs a thermos of blood from the mini refrigerator at the bottom of one of my bookcases. He holds a hand up in semi-apology, then explains, “I mean, it’ll lull whoever’s behind whatever this is into a false sense of security.”
“Or it will make her that much easier for them to kill,” Rafael answers. The words are careless, though his tone is anything but. No surprise there, considering he’s always had a soft spot for damsels in distress. He’s also the only one who’s been against this plan from the beginning.
But I don’t know what else to do. I can’t afford to ignore whatever is happening below the surface. Not if I want to prevent another war…or worse.
I turn back to see that she’s made it up the steps now, though it looks a little like she’s going to fall back down. I want to see her face, but she’s so bundled up, I can’t get a good look at anything but the wild corkscrew curls sticking out from beneath her hot-pink hat.
“So what are you going to do?” Mekhi asks. “What will you say to her?”
I don’t have a fucking clue. I mean, I know what I planned to say to her. What I should say to her. But sometimes should is a long way from what is. Hudson taught me that…and so did our mother.
Which is why, instead of answering my best friend, I ask, “What else do I need to know about?”
“Jaxon—” Rafael starts, but I shut him down with a look.
“The dragons are back in the tunnels,” Luca volunteers in his rolling Spanish accent that makes everything seem not quite as bad as it actually is. “I haven’t been able to figure out what they’re doing yet, but I will.”
“And the wolves?”
Liam gives a sarcastic laugh. “Same old assholes, different day.”
“Like that’s ever going to change?” Mekhi asks with a fist bump.
“It’ll never change,” I agree. “But beyond the usual, anything I should be aware of with them?”
“Nothing beyond howling at the moon like a bunch of criminals.” Byron’s still looking out the window, and I know he’s thinking about Vivian. “When are you going to do something about that?”
“They’re wolves, By. Howling at the moon is pretty much what they do,” I tell him.
“You know what I mean.”
I do. “They’re not going to hurt anyone else the way they hurt her. I’ve got Cole’s word on that.”
“Yeah.” He snorts. “Like there’s anything trustworthy about Cole. Or his mangy pack of mutts.”
It’s been five years, but in vampire years, that’s nothing. Especially when it comes to losing a mate.
“She’s going inside,” Byron murmurs, and a quick glance at the front of the school tells me he’s right. The pink hat, and the girl it belongs to, are nowhere to be seen.
“I’ll be back,” I tell them, pulling off the red Katmere Academy hoodie I’ve been wearing all day and tossing it on the back of the nearest chair. After all, nothing says intimidating like a school sweatshirt…
I take the steps three at a time on my way down. I don’t have a clue what I’m going to do right now—if anything—but I do want a look at the new girl. I want to see what kind of trouble she is. Because if there’s one thing I do know, it’s that she is going to be all the trouble.
It’s a feeling that gets reinforced the second I see her standing alone, back toward the stairs and anyone who might want to sneak up on her as she looks at the chess table half hidden by the alcove at the bottom of the stairs.
And what the hell? She’s been here all of two minutes, and Macy and Foster just leave her alone out here? Where anyone could approach her?
And by approach her I mean hassle her…or worse.
In fact, I’m not even all the way down the stairs before Baxter is sidling up to her, eyes burning and fangs flashing, just a little.
I get his attention, give him a look that tells him to back the hell off. Not because I actually care if he drinks the little human dry—and she is little, barely five foot four—but because there are rules. And one of those rules is, very definitely, don’t eat the headmaster’s niece. More’s the pity, because she smells really good. A combination of vanilla and honeysuckle underlays the slight tang of too many hours of travel.