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Scroll down and read Chapter One!






Her long dark hair fans out beneath her as she lies sprawled on the ground.

What a pitiful excuse of a girl.

Squatting down beside her, I take in her huge irises as I tighten the white scarf around her neck and watch the life in her eyes start to fade.

She had been warned.

She didn’t listen.

This is what she gets. For everything.


Whoever installed this mess must have been high.

Crammed under a desk in the library, I reach for a wad of tangled wires, completely aware that my butt sticks straight up in the air and hoping nobody notices.

“Dammit.” I bang my head on the underside of the desk and try yet again to wrap a label around one of the wires.

“Can I help you?”

I stop, and pushing my glasses up my nose, I glance over my shoulder to see a pair of tanned muscular legs standing right behind me. He’s probably staring at my butt. Great.

“Can I help you?” he repeats, and I catch a hint of accent.

“I’m all right,” I call back. “Just trying to label some wires.” What’s he doing here, anyway? The semester doesn’t start for two more days.

“You new here?” he asks.


“Student tech crew?”

“Yeah,” I answer again, wondering if he’s going to keep standing there staring at my ass. At least I’d thrown on jeans. Although they are low rise.

“Sure you don’t need any help?”

Obviously he’s not leaving, and I’m so not comfortable with the probable direction of his stare. So I wiggle my way out.

I smile up at him, trying not to show my irritation at being interrupted, and catch him looking right down my V-neck T. His eyes jump to mine in that embarrassed, I-just-got-busted-looking-down-your-shirt way that makes him seem more harmless than anything.

I tighten my ponytail as I stand and zero in on those eyes, and phew, what eyes they are. Amber? No, green. No, a combination of both.

He wears his dark hair long enough that it curls against his neck. He smiles then, and I catch a flash of dimples that flutter all kinds of girlie things through me that I have no business feeling. As I take him in one more time, I think of this Calvin Klein poster my momma has of a young Antonio Sabato Jr.

Yes, my momma has an underwear ad hanging in her locker at work.

I remind myself I need to speak. “Great accent,” I tell him. “Where’re you from?”

“Spain. You?”

“Backwoods, Tennessee.”

“Tennessee?” He laughs a little, and Lord help me if it’s not the best I’ve ever heard. All deep and chuckly. “Guess that explains your twang.”

“Guess so.”

“Big change coming south to the Keys.”

“Yeah, big change.” He has no idea how huge of a change. Where everything in my life is concerned. “Well, I need to get back to work,” I say, more because I don’t need an amber-eyed, Spanish, chuckly distraction. “Thanks again for the offer of help. I guess I’ll see you around when class starts.”

“Sorry, didn’t introduce myself.” He offers a hand, and I take it, finding it warm and dry and perfect. Nothing worse than a clammy hand. “I’m Riel Villanuevo.”

“Oh! You’re my peer mentor. The guidance office gave me your name.”

His lips curve in confusion. “They did?”

“I’ve heard all about you. I’m Viola Burnett, the academy’s scholarship recipient.”

His smile slides away as does his hand from mine. “I’m sorry, did you say scholarship recipient?”

The air between us suddenly chills. I blink and take a step back. “Yes?”

The muscles in his jaw tick. “As of when?”

“Last…week.” What’s going on? Why is he suddenly so pissed?

“Who called you?”

I stare at him a second, unable to wrap my brain around his sudden temper. “Dr. Williams, the director.”

Riel doesn’t say anything for a few seconds, then he jerks his fingers through his dark hair. “Something’s not right.”

I don’t know what to say to that. I’m so completely clueless why he’s upset.

He grabs his books off the computer desk.

“I already moved into the dorm,” I say, not really sure why.

“Listen,” he tells me. “There’s been a mistake.”

“A mistake?” Dread settles through me. “No, I don’t think so.” There better not have been a mistake. I spent my entire school career trying to get into this private academy, and I’m here. I’m finally here. No way has there been a mistake.

Riel doesn’t respond and instead turns and strides off.

It takes me a solid minute of standing in a befuddled haze to realize he’s probably headed straight to the director’s office to dispute my scholarship.

Oh, wait a minute! No, he’s not! I charge off after him across the library and down the hall, and as I march into the administrative suite, I immediately hear them.

“But Dr. Williams,” Riel pleads. “I thought you said the scholarship was mine.”

I come to a halt. His? Oh no. This isn’t good.

“No,” Dr. Williams patiently responds. “I said you were a candidate for the funds. You know as well as I do that it goes back up for review every year.”

“But I’m a senior,” Riel says. “This is my last year. I’ve had the academy’s scholarship every year I’ve come here. Shouldn’t I get seniority?”

“It doesn’t work that way,” the director says.

“Why didn’t somebody tell me?”

“I thought the committee did. I apologize for the oversight.”

Riel sighs. “Is there any other available money?”

“No, Riel, I’m sorry.”

Silence falls between them, and guilt works its way through me at the things I said, and didn’t say, to get the scholarship. Of course I know nothing about Riel so I don’t know if he really deserves it more than me or not, and look at me trying to justify everything. Reverse the roles, and I’d be pissed, too.

“If Viola for some reason doesn’t work out, what will you do with the funds?” Riel asks.

“That decision will ultimately go to the committee. Generally, though, the money goes to our second choice, which would be you. But I can’t see why she won’t work out.”

The guilt turns to foreboding and stirs darkly in my gut. There’s no reason anyone around here should find out that I stretched the truth on my application.

“I know your situation,” Dr. Williams says. “I’ll do everything I can to help you.”

Situation? What situation?

“Right.” Riel finally speaks. “Well, thanks for seeing me.”

“Riel?” Dr. Williams stops him from leaving. “How is everything at home?”

Riel doesn’t answer, and I take a step closer to hear.

A phone rings. “Need to take this,” Dr. Williams says, and I quickly turn to leave.

“Have fun eavesdropping?” Riel snips as he brushes past me.

I want to snip back but have no place. He’s right; I had been eavesdropping.

A blond guy sticks his head in the door to the administrative suite. “Yo, Riel, you coming tonight? Gonna be a kickass beginning-of-the-year bash.”

Riel shakes his head. “Too much going on.”

“Sucks for you,” blond guy says.

“See you in a couple days, though, when school starts,” Riel tells him.

Blond guy glances at me, giving me a once-over. “Freshman?”


He gives me what I’m sure he thinks is a sexy smile. “Welcome. I’m Peter.”

Ugh. “Thanks.”

With that, blond guy’s gone and Riel turns to me. Confusion, worry, and strain reflects in his gaze for a beat, bringing on my own confusion and worry. What have I done to this guy?

It seems like he wants to say something, so I hold my breath and wait. Instead, he shakes his head and walks off.

I close my eyes. This is not how I expected to start my year.