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"What's the difference?" Luce asked, trying to skirt the fact that she'd never actually been to a big party at Dover.

"You'll see." Arriane paused and turned to Luce. "You'll come over tonight and hang out, okay?" She surprised Luce by taking her hand. "Promise?"

"But I thought you said I should stay away from the hard cases," Luce joked.

"Rule number two - don't listen to me!" Arriane laughed, shaking her head. "I'm certifiably insane!"

She started jogging again and Luce trailed after her.

"Wait, what was rule number one?"

"Keep up!"

As they came around the corner of the cinder-block classrooms, Arriane skidded to a halt. "Affect cool,"

she said.

"Cool," Luce repeated.

All the other students seemed to be clustered around the kudzu-strangled trees outside Augustine. No one looked exactly happy to be hanging out, but no one looked ready to go inside yet, either.

There hadn't been much of a dress code at Dover, so Luce wasn't used to the uniformity it gave a student body. Then again, even though every kid here was wearing the same black jeans, black mock-turtleneck T-shirt, and black sweater tied over the shoulders or around the waist, there were still substantial differences in the way they pulled it off.

A group of tattooed girls standing in a crossed-armed circle wore bangle bracelets up to their elbows. The black bandanas in their hair reminded Luce of a film she'd once seen about motorcycle-gang girls. She'd rented it because she'd thought: What could be cooler than an all-girls motorcycle gang? Now Luce's eyes locked with those of one of the girls across the lawn. The sideways squint of the girl's darkly lined cat-eyes made Luce quickly shift the direction of her gaze.

A guy and a girl who were holding hands had sewn sequins in the shape of skulls and crossbones on the back of their black sweaters. Every few seconds, one of them would pull the other in for a kiss on the temple, on the earlobe, on the eye. When they looped their arms around each other, Luce could see that each wore the blinking wristband tracking device. They looked a little rough, but it was obvious how much in love they were. Every time she saw their tongue rings flashing, Luce felt a lonely pinch inside her chest.

Behind the lovers, a cluster of blond boys stood pressed against the wall. Each of them wore his sweater, despite the heat. And they all had on white oxford shirts underneath, the collars starched straight up. Their black pants hit the vamps of their polished dress shoes perfectly. Of all the students on the quad, these boys seemed to Luce to be the closest thing to Doverites. But a closer look quickly set them apart from boys she used to know. Boys like Trevor.

Just standing in a group, these guys radiated a specific kind of toughness. It was right there in the look in their eyes. It was hard to explain, but it suddenly struck Luce that just like her, everyone at this school had a past. Everyone here probably had secrets they wouldn't want to share. But she couldn't figure out whether this realization made her feel more or less isolated.

Arriane noticed Luce's eyes running over the rest of the kids.

"We all do what we can to make it through the day," she said, shrugging. "But in case you hadn't observed the low-hanging vultures, this place pretty much reeks of death." She took a seat on a bench under a weeping willow and patted the spot next to her for Luce.

Luce wiped away a mound of wet, decaying leaves, but just before she sat down, she noticed another dress code violation.

A very attractive dress code violation.

He wore a bright red scarf around his neck. It was far from cold outside, but he had on a black leather motorcycle jacket over his black sweater, too. Maybe it was because his was the only spot of color on the quad, but he was all that Luce could look at. In fact, everything else so paled in comparison that, for one long moment, Luce forgot where she was.

She took in his deep golden hair and matching tan. His high cheekbones, the dark sunglasses that covered his eyes, the soft shape of his lips. In all the movies Luce had seen, and in all the books she'd read, the love interest was mind-blowingly good-looking - except for that one little flaw. The chipped tooth, the charming cowlick, the beauty mark on his left cheek. She knew why - if the hero was too unblemished, he'd risk being unapproachable. But approachable or not, Luce had always had a weakness for the sublimely gorgeous. Like this guy.

He leaned up against the building with his arms crossed lightly over his chest. And for a split second, Luce saw a flashing image of herself folded into those arms. She shook her head, but the vision stayed so clear that she almost took off toward him.

No. That was crazy. Right? Even at a school full of crazies, Luce was well aware that this instinct was insane. She didn't even know him.

He was talking to a shorter kid with dreads and a toothy smile. Both of them were laughing hard and genuinely - in a way that made Luce strangely jealous. She tried to think back and remember how long it had been since she'd laughed, really laughed, like that.

"That's Daniel Grigori," Arriane said, leaning in and reading her mind. "I can tell he's attracted somebody's attention."

"Understatement," Luce agreed, embarrassed when she realized how she must have looked to Arriane.

"Yeah, well, if you like that sort of thing."

"What's not to like?" Luce said, unable to stop the words from tumbling out.

"His friend there is Roland," Arriane said, nodding in the dreadlocked kid's direction. "He's cool. The kind of guy who can get his hands on things, ya know?" Not really, Luce thought, biting her lip. "What kinds of things?"

Arriane shrugged, using her poached Swiss Army knife to saw off a fraying strand from a rip in her black jeans. "Just things. Ask-and-you-shall-receive kind of stuff." "What about Daniel?" Luce asked. "What's his story?"

"Oh, she doesn't give up." Arriane laughed, then cleared her throat. "No one really knows," she said. "He holds pretty tight to his mystery man persona. Could just be your typical reform school asshole."

"I'm no stranger to assholes," Luce said, though as soon as the words came out, she wished she could take them back. After what had happened to Trevor - whatever had happened - she was the last person who should be making character judgments. But more than that, the rare time she made even the smallest reference to that night, the shifting black canopy of the shadows came back to her, almost like she was right back at the lake.

She glanced again at Daniel. He took his glasses off and slid them inside his jacket, then turned to look at her.

His gaze caught hers, and Luce watched as his eyes widened and then quickly narrowed in what looked like surprise. But no - it was more than that. When Daniel's eyes held hers, her breath caught in her throat. She recognized him from somewhere.

But she would have remembered meeting someone like him. She would have remembered feeling as absolutely shaken up as she did right now.

She realized they were still locking eyes when Daniel flashed her a smile. A jet of warmth shot through her and she had to grip the bench for support. She felt her lips pull up in a smile back at him, but then he raised his hand in the air.

And flipped her off.

Luce gasped and dropped her eyes.

"What?" Arriane asked, oblivious to what had just gone down. "Never mind," she said. "We don't have time. I sense the bell."

The bell rang as if on cue, and the whole student body started the slow shuffle into the building. Arriane was tugging on Luce's hand and spouting off directions about where to meet her next and when. But Luce was still reeling from being flipped the bird by such a perfect stranger. Her momentary delirium over Daniel had vanished, and now the only thing she wanted to know was: What was that guy's problem?

Just before she ducked into her first class, she dared to glance back. His face was blank, but there was no mistaking it - he was watching her go.

Chapter Two

FIT TO BE TIED

Luce had a piece of paper with her schedule printed on it, a half-empty notebook she'd started to fill at Dover in her Advanced European History class last year, two number two pencils, her favorite eraser, and the sudden bad feeling that Arriane might have been right about the classes at Sword & Cross.

The teacher had yet to materialize, the flimsy desks were arranged in haphazard rows, and the supply closet was barricaded with stacks of dusty boxes piled in front of it.

What was worse, none of the other kids seemed to notice the disarray. In fact, none of the other kids seemed to notice that they were in a classroom at all. They all stood clustered near the windows, taking one last drag of a cigarette here, repositioning the extra-large safety pins on their T-shirts there. Only Todd was seated at an actual desk, carving something intricate onto its surface with his pen. But the other new students seemed to have already found their places among the crowd. Cam had the preppy Dover-looking guys in a tight cluster around him. They must have been friends when he was enrolled at Sword

& Cross the first time. Gabbe was shaking hands with the tongue-pierced girl who'd been making out with the tongue-pierced guy outside. Luce felt stupidly envious that she wasn't daring enough to do anything but take a seat closer to the unthreatening Todd.

Arriane flitted about the others, whispering things Luce couldn't make out like some sort of goth princess.

When she passed Cam, he tousled her newly chopped hair.

"Nice mop, Arriane," He smirked, tugging on a strand at the back of her neck. "My compliments to your stylist."

Arriane swatted him away. "Hands off, Cam. Which is to say: In your dreams." She jerked her head in Luce's direction. "And you can give your compliments to my new pet, right over there."

Cam's emerald eyes sparkled at Luce, who stiffened. "I believe I will," he said, and started walking toward her.

He smiled at Luce, who was sitting with her ankles crossed under her chair and her hands folded neatly on her heavily graffitied desk.

"Us new kids have to stick together," he said. "Know what I mean?"

"But I thought you'd been here before."

"Don't believe everything Arriane says." He glanced back at Arriane, who was standing at the window, eyeing them suspiciously.

"Oh no, she didn't say anything about you," Luce said quickly, trying to remember whether or not that was actually true. It was clear Cam and Arriane didn't like each other, and even though Luce was grateful to Arriane for taking her around this morning, she wasn't ready to pick any sides yet.

"I remember when I was a new kid here ... the first time." He laughed to himself. "My band had just broken up and I was lost. I didn't know anyone. I could have used someone without" - he glanced at Arriane - "an agenda to show me the ropes."

"What, and you have no agenda?" Luce said, surprised to hear a flirting lilt in her voice.

An easy smile spread across Cam's face. He raised one eyebrow at her. "And to think I didn't want to come back here."

Luce blushed. She didn't usually get involved with rocker guys - but then again, none of them had ever pulled the desk next to her even closer, plopped down beside her, and stared at her with eyes quite so green. Cam reached into his pocket and pulled out a green guitar pick with the number 44 printed on it.

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