“Are you serious right now?” I demand. “Leave your brother alone.”
Jaxon looks over his shoulder at the empty hallway I’m currently yelling at and then raises an eyebrow at me.
I shrug and just say, “Hudson.”
Jaxon’s eyes narrow, but he nods. What else can he do?
Hudson leans against the stone wall, next to another huge tapestry depicting an army of dragons in massive metal armor soaring over a small village. It’s terrifying and exhilarating at the same time, and I make a mental note to look at it more closely after class.
“I’ve got a better idea,” Hudson says as he readjusts, crossing his arms and resting the bottom of his foot against the wall. “Why don’t you leave my brother alone for a little while? Watching the two of you make goo-goo eyes at each other is nauseating.”
“Give me a break. Pretty sure you need a body to be nauseated.”
Hudson shrugs. “I guess that just goes to show how disgusting the two of you really are.”
Refusing to be drawn in to yet another argument with Hudson, I refocus on Jaxon, only to find him staring at me with a frown on his face. “Sorry,” I tell him sheepishly. “Your brother has a big mouth.”
“That’s an understatement if I’ve ever heard one,” Jaxon agrees with a nod of his head.
A random thought occurs to me. “Hey, I’ve been meaning to ask you… Why does Hudson have a British accent but you don’t?”
Jaxon shrugs. “Our parents are British.”
I wait for him to say more, but he doesn’t. Which says everything, I suppose. What must that feel like, to have had so little to do with your parents that you don’t even have the same accent? I can’t imagine, and it breaks my heart for him all over again.
“Of course. We should all feel bad for the boy not raised by the two most vain people on the planet,” Hudson snarks.
I ignore him, then change the subject with Jaxon. “I would love to meet you in the library after I’m done in the art room. Does six o’clock work?”
He nods. “Sounds perfect.” But when he leans down to kiss me, Hudson makes such an obnoxious gagging sound that there’s no way I can actually go through with it.
I duck my head and Jaxon sighs, but he doesn’t say anything. Instead, he presses a kiss to the top of my head and says, “I’ll see you then.”
I watch him go, but the second he makes it around the corner, I turn on Hudson. “Seriously? Was the gagging really necessary?”
He resorts to the British stiff upper lip. “You have no idea how necessary.”
“You do realize that you are completely ridiculous, don’t you?”
Hudson looks like he doesn’t know what to say about that—or even how to feel about it. Half offended, half amused, all intrigued—it’s an interesting look on him, even before he says, “Well, that’s a new one. No one’s ever called me that before.”
“Maybe because they’ve never actually met you.”
I expect a snappy comeback, but instead there’s a contemplative silence for several seconds. Eventually, though, he murmurs, “Perhaps you’re right.”
I don’t know what to say after that, and I think maybe he doesn’t, either, because silence stretches between us—the longest silence there’s ever been, in fact, when one of us isn’t sleeping.
I do an about-face and head into class, leaving Hudson still leaning against the wall.
Something tells me the Physics of Flight isn’t exactly going to be the class I excel in, so I find a seat at the back of the classroom. I wait for Hudson to join me, but he actually does what I asked for once and leaves me alone.
Survival Is So
“You should absolutely compete.” Class is nearly over, so I’m shocked when I hear Hudson’s voice next to me. “Thanks for saving me a seat, by the way.”
I’m sitting in the back of the room because the last thing I want is to draw attention to myself in a class I’m two months behind in—and definitely not because there are empty seats on both sides of me.
“Compete in what?” I mutter to him under my breath, but I’m not really paying attention to his answer. I’m too busy trying to scribble down notes that might as well be another language.
“Ludares. Although, it’s really just an excuse for everyone to try to kill one another doing really dangerous stuff.” He does a quick, “people are weird” eyebrow lift. “Most popular day of the year here at Katmere. Especially among the shifters.”
“Well, of course. I mean, when you put it like that, who wouldn’t want to take part in it? I mean, survival is so last decade.”
He laughs. “Exactly.”
I try to get back into Mr. Marquez’s lecture, but by now I’ve lost even the faint thread of what’s going on, so I decide to just snap a few pics of the lecture notes instead of actually trying to decipher them. If I can’t figure them out on my own later, I’ll ask Flint for help.
“Or you could ask me?” Hudson says a little sardonically. “I may be a”—he moves his fingers in the universal symbol for air quotes—“‘psychopath,’ but I’m a psychopath who got a ninety-eight in this class.”
“You took this class? Why?” A thought occurs to me. “Can you fly like Jaxon?”
“You make him sound like Superman.” Hudson rolls his eyes. “He can’t actually fly.”
“You get what I mean.” I wave a hand. “Whenever he does…whatever it is he does. If you don’t call it flying, what do you call it?”
“He’s got telekinesis. He floats. You know, like a blimp.”
That startles a laugh out of me. I mean, the description is awful, but it’s also kind of hilarious imagining Jaxon just floating around the top of sports stadiums like the Goodyear Blimp.
“It’s a good picture, isn’t it?” Hudson smiles slyly.
“It’s an absurd picture and you know it. Your brother is amazing.”
“So you keep telling me.”
The bell rings, and I pause our conversation long enough to pack up my things and make my way into the hall. It’s lunchtime, and normally I’d try to find Macy, but the thought of going into the cafeteria right now is too much for me.
Everyone staring at me. Judging me. And finding me wanting. At this rate, I’m probably going to have to repeat my senior year, too.
The whole thing sucks. It just sucks. And I think about getting it over with. Just walking into the cafeteria, standing on a table, and announcing to everyone that I’m responsible for Hudson being back. Oh, and by the way, the rumors are true. I totally make a kick-ass statue.
It would probably be better to just get it over with quickly, kind of like ripping off a Band-Aid. But I’m so tired right now and everything that’s happened is pressing down on me, making me feel like I might crumble at any second.
I hesitate in the hallway, my gaze meeting Hudson’s, and it seems like he doesn’t know what I should do, either. His uncertainty has me wobbling on my feet before I shake it off and turn in the other direction.
I grab a pack of peanut butter crackers out of the nearest vending machine and head out to the art studio to get to work on my painting that I’m behind on now. Hopefully, a few extra hours down there will help me kick my funk mood, too.
The rest of the afternoon goes by pretty uneventfully, as long as you count Hudson talking nonstop uneventful. He’s got an opinion on everything—even things no normal person should have an opinion on.
He thinks the art teacher looks like a flamingo in her hot-pink dress. And while he’s not wrong, it’s hard to focus on what she’s saying with that picture in my head now.
He’s convinced T. S. Eliot shouldn’t be included in British Literature because he was born in Missouri—I get an hour-long diatribe about that particular offense.
And right now…right now he’s arguing about the way that I mix black paint.
“I’m in your head so I know you’re not blind, Grace. How can you possibly think that’s an attractive shade of black?”
I stare at the color in question and then mix just the barest hint of blue into it. Partly because I want to and partly because I know it will upset Hudson even more. And after the last four hours, I’m all about pissing him off any way I can. Payback’s a bitch like that.
“It’s subtle and I like that.” I dab a little on my canvas, and it’s still not quite where I want it, so I go back and add just a touch more of midnight blue.
Hudson throws his hands into the air. “I give up. You’re impossible.”
Thankfully, I’m the only student left in the art room, so I don’t have to worry about other people thinking I’m talking to the stool next to me. “I’m impossible? You’re the one throwing a hissy fit about my painting.”
“I am not throwing a hissy fit.” I can tell he’s offended—all the crisp British syllables are back in his voice, even as he stretches his legs out in front of him. “I am merely trying to provide some artistic feedback based on my long history of art appreciation—”
“Oh, here we go again.” I roll my eyes. “If you bring up the fact that you’re old one more time—”
“I am not old! I’m older. Vampires are immortal, in case you’ve forgotten, so you can’t judge our age the same way you judge human age.”
“Sounds to me a lot like a justification for getting around the fact that you’re old as dirt.” I know that I’m poking a caged bear, know that he’s going to end up taking my head off if I keep needling him, but I can’t help it. He totally deserves it after everything he’s done to annoy me.
From the beginning, he’s had the upper hand during most of our arguments, and now that I’ve found something that bugs him, I can’t help rubbing it in a little. That probably makes me a terrible person, but I’ve had a psychopath inside my head for nearly four months, so I figure I can’t totally be to blame for this new mean streak of mine.