Page 64


Revenge of the

Body Snatched

“Grace, I’m sorry.” Hudson must finally realize the full weight of my fury, because he rushes in to try to calm me down. “I didn’t mean to take your choice away from you—”

“Yeah, well, that’s exactly what you did, and I am not going to put up with it for one more minute. Not from you, not from anyone.”

Rage at everything that happened over the last five months wells up inside me, and I let Hudson have every single bit of it—partly because he deserves it and partly because I can’t hold it in for one second longer. “Ever since I first heard of this ridiculous school, my right to choose how to handle my own life has been almost nonexistent.”

“Grace, please—”

“No! You don’t talk now.” I point my finger in his face. “You don’t pull what you just pulled on me and then think we’re going to go back to the way we were. I’ve had you yammering in my head for nearly a week but you are going to listen to me now.

“I take back what I said before. My control over my life didn’t end when I got here. It ended even before I got to this school—because of you. Because of your psychotic, twisted, fucked-up ex-girlfriend. She was so in love with you that she murdered my parents. She murdered them, just so I would have to come to this school. Just so Jaxon could find his mate. Just so she could use his power to bring you back.

“I know everybody laughs; I know it’s a great big joke in my friend group now that I was almost a fucking human sacrifice, but think about that, will you, please? Just think about it. A regular, human girl from San Diego ends up in fucking Alaska, tied up on an altar so that an evil, heinous bitch could bring back her genocidal asshole of a boyfriend.”

Hudson’s eyes are going wider and wider with each word that I shout at him, and he looks absolutely devastated. But I don’t actually care right now. I’ve been devastated for months. He can handle it for five damn minutes.

“Even before that, things weren’t exactly rosy, were they? People tried to kill me left and right, all because they were afraid of you! So there I am, mated to a vampire—a vampire—when I didn’t even know they existed two weeks before that. And that’s great, actually. He’s wonderful and kind and I love him and yay for us.

“But I don’t even get to enjoy that, do I? No, of course not, because we’re barely recovered from Lia’s attack when you show up out of nowhere and try to murder my mate. So I step in and save him and now I’m locked up with you somewhere for three and a half months. Three and a half months, mind you, that I can’t even fucking remember.”

My hair has fallen in my face, so I pause in my diatribe just long enough to shove my ridiculous, out-of-control curls away and try to ignore this additional thing I can’t tame.

“And then you do what you do. Body snatch me and turn me into an attempted murderer and a thief, leave me to wake up covered in someone’s blood.” I poke his chest with each of those words for emphasis. I will never get over that experience, and he needs to know it. “You live in my head for days without my permission, and then you think I’m crossing the line for freaking out when you take control of my body because you don’t like where I want to sit? Who the hell do you think you are? You may think you’re trying to protect me, but I’ve got to say, every single bad thing that’s happened to me in the last five months can be traced directly back to you.

“So instead of asking me to think for a minute, why don’t you think instead? Why don’t you listen for a minute and figure out why anything you have to say should matter to me at all?”

By the time I’m done, Hudson’s face is ashen. And now that I’ve gotten out all the bitterness and rage and pain inside me, I know that mine is, too. I hate losing my temper, hate yelling at people, because nothing good ever comes of it. And I’ve never in my whole life lost my temper like I just did. Is it any wonder my head now hurts like I’ve been on a week-long crying jag?

But at the same time, being nice wasn’t cutting it with him. He was going to keep rolling right over my objections like the steamroller he is, and I’m not about to let that happen. I won’t let him take control of my body ever again, and he needs to understand that.

“I don’t—” He breaks off. “I didn’t mean—” He breaks off again. “I’m sorry. I know it doesn’t mean anything to you and it probably shouldn’t, but I am sorry, Grace.”

“Don’t be sorry,” I answer with a sigh. “Or be sorry, it doesn’t really matter anymore. But don’t ever do that again. Ever.”

He starts to say something else, but I’m done listening. The assembly is about to start, and I don’t have any time or interest in listening to him say he’s sorry again or offer platitudes about why he did what he did…or worse, start back on me again about where I sit or who I should be afraid of.

I’m not naive, either, even though Hudson doesn’t seem to believe that. So I turn away from him and head back into the auditorium, but as I walk toward the center aisle, instead of turning left, I turn right…and walk up to the third-from-the-last row and sit down behind two huge dragon males. I can still see the stage, a little, and can still hear everything that’s being said, but I’m pretty sure it will be hard for anyone to see me.

With that thought in mind, I pull out my phone and text Jaxon a quick note, telling him I’m sitting alone near the back because I have a headache and might need to leave early.

It’s not a lie, considering my head is killing me, but I don’t want to get into everything in text right now, either. Plus, I don’t want him to come looking for me. I figure I can stay inconspicuous only if I’m not actually sitting next to their son.

“Thank you,” Hudson tells me as he slides into the seat next to me, but I don’t answer him. Not because I’m still angry but because I don’t have anything else to say to him. Not right now, and maybe not ever if he doesn’t get his act together.

I wait for him to say something obnoxious or try to argue with me, but he doesn’t say a word. Maybe he’s learning after all. I guess time will tell.

Jaxon texts back, asking if I need anything. When I tell him no, he explains that he’s backstage right now—a command performance with the king and queen.

Maybe I should be disappointed, but I’m not. Him being away from me is that one extra layer of anonymity I was looking for.

And as the king and queen and the rest of the Circle file onto the stage, my palms begin to sweat. I’m not ready to forgive Hudson yet, but I can’t lie that there’s a part of me very grateful I am very, very far away from his parents as I watch both of them scan the audience while they take their seats.

It’s obvious they’re looking for someone…and it’s not their son, as he was just with them backstage. But the longer they search, the more convinced I become that they really are looking for me. And after seeing Hudson’s memory of his parents last night, I’m more than happy to make sure they don’t find me. At least not until I’m ready for them.


Welcome to the

Paranormal Jungle

I start to text Jaxon again, but before I can figure out what to say, Uncle Finn turns on the microphone. He talks for a few minutes about the Ludares tournament, laying down the rules, talking about how many teams have signed up (twelve) and how the brackets are going to be run.

When he gets to the prize for winning the tournament, he turns toward the dignitaries seated behind him in ornate chairs—I snort; who am I kidding? Those are thrones and they want everyone to know it—and announces, “To discuss the prize for this very special Ludares tournament, we are incredibly lucky to have none other than King Cyrus and Queen Delilah from the Vampire Court here to announce the very special prize. Please join me in welcoming them and several other members of the Circle.” He starts off the applause, but soon the auditorium is filled with the sound of respectful clapping, which amuses me because in my experience, so few things at this school have ever engendered such a tepid response.

Apparently, there are very few members of my generation who actually have any interest in the Circle—and especially the vampire king and queen—at all. Not that I blame them, but it’s still interesting to see. And even more interesting to watch as that knowledge hits Cyrus full-on.

He tries to hide it, but I’m watching closely from a little spot between my two shields, and he. Looks. Pissed.

He doesn’t say anything, though, as his eyes scan the crowd. He’s smiling and waving as the queen moves to the microphone, but he’s not missing one face. I slink down lower in my seat and all but feel Hudson’s relief.

The queen introduces herself in a melodic British accent and with a smile that looks surprisingly sincere as she thanks everyone for such a warm, warm welcome. Even as her gaze—like her husband’s—moves from face to face in the crowd, I can feel people opening up, see their shoulders relaxing and their bodies leaning forward as if they’re suddenly afraid of missing even one word that falls from her bloodred-painted lips.

Her eyes are the same near-black as Jaxon’s, and her skin has the same unique—and slightly odd—olive and alabaster tint to it. Her features are sharp, angled, and it’s suddenly obvious just where the Vega cheekbones and jawline that I love so much come from. The long, lithe build and dark hair, too, though the queen wears hers in a long braid wrapped around the crown of her head—and then balances her gold-and-jewel-encrusted crown on top of it, just in case someone at Katmere doesn’t know who she is.

She makes a striking picture, no doubt, and her sons are the spitting image of her, though Hudson’s eyes are a different color. And like them, there’s a regality—an expectation of how things should be—to her that simply can’t be taught.

This is a woman who was born to rule…and to do it warmly, in such a way that nearly everyone watching her somehow feels like they have a connection to her. That she is speaking directly to them. No doubt, it’s a spectacular talent.