Home > Crave (Crave #1)(12)

Crave (Crave #1)(12)
Author: Tracy Wolff

“So what kind of party is this exactly?” I ask as I curl up under the hot-pink comforter that is rapidly growing on me—maybe because it’s the softest, most comfortable one I’ve ever owned.

“It’s a welcome to Katmere Academy party—for you.”

“What?” I sit up so fast that my head starts to throb all over again. “A welcome party? For me? Are you serious?”

“Well, to be fair, the school hosts a kind of high tea one afternoon a month to promote student unity. We just decided to make today’s tea a little more festive in your honor.”

“Oh, yes. Because the students have all been so welcoming so far.” I bury my face in my pillow and groan.

“I swear we’re not all bad. Look at Flint. He’s great, right?”

“He really was.” I can’t help smiling as I think of the way he teased me, called me New Girl.

“Most of the people you meet here are going to be like him, not like Marc and Quinn. I promise.” She sighs. “But I can cancel if you want. Tell everybody that your altitude sickness is too bad. Which, at the rate you’re going, might not even be a lie.”

She’s trying so hard not to sound disappointed, but I can hear it, even with a pillow over my face.

“No, don’t cancel,” I tell her. “As long as I’m not puking, I’ll go.”

I’ve got to face these prep school kids en masse sooner or later. Might as well get it over with today when they’re all under adult supervision and presumably on their best behavior. So much less chance of me being tossed into the snow or out a window that way… I shiver. Too soon for that joke.

“Awesome!” She plops down on the bed beside me, holds out the water bottle she’d given me earlier. “Don’t forget, water is your friend right now,” she says with a wink.

“I don’t want to,” I whine playfully.

“Yeah, well, I’d do it anyway. Altitude sickness requires lots and lots of hydration. I mean, if you don’t want to get pulmonary or cerebral edema, which, you know, could kill you almost as fast as hypothermia.”

“Seriously?” I roll my eyes at her, but I take the bottle of water and drink half of it in one go. “Has anyone ever told you you’re a lot tougher than you look?”

“My boyfriend. But I think he secretly likes it.”

“Good for him.” I take another long swallow of water. “Do you have Netflix?”

“Are you kidding?” She gives me a look. “I live on a mountain in the middle of Alaska. I’d die without Netflix.”

“Point taken. How about Legacies? My BFF Heather and I just started watching it last week.”

Macy’s eyes go huge. “Legacies?”

“Yeah. It’s this really cool show about a bunch of teenage vampires, witches, and werewolves all living together at a boarding school. I know it sounds a little silly, but it’s fun to imagine.”

“It doesn’t sound silly at all,” Macy says with a cough. “And count me in. I mean, who can resist a hot vampire?”

“My sentiments exactly.”

We start the show back at the first episode so Macy can catch up. And as we watch the main character’s foster brother become a werewolf, I can’t help thinking about what Marc and Quinn said about the moon. I mean, I know it’s just that they needed the brightness of the moon to illuminate the dark wilderness around here.

Of course I know that.

Still, after going two rounds with Jaxon—both of which ended with him warning me off—it’s hard not to wonder exactly what I’ve gotten myself into here.

9

Even Hell

Has its Factions

“Stop fidgeting!” Macy tells me several hours later, smacking at my hands as we get ready to head to the party. “You look amazing.”

“Are you sure?” I open my closet door, look in the full-length mirror for at least the tenth time since I got dressed.

“I’m positive. That dress is amazing on you. The color is perfect.”

I roll my eyes. “It’s not the color I’m worried about.”

“So what are you worried about?”

“Oh, I don’t know.” I tug on the neckline a little, try to pull it up an inch or three. “My boobs falling out, maybe? So not the first impression I’m going for here.”

She laughs. “Oh my God. The dress is gorgeous. And you look gorgeous in it.”

“The dress is gorgeous,” I agree. Because it is. And it probably looks perfectly respectable on Macy’s tall, willowy figure. My big boobs make things a little trickier, though. “Maybe if I don’t take a deep breath for the whole night, things will be okay.”

“Look, maybe you should wear the jeans you originally planned.” Macy crosses to my bed and holds them up. “I don’t want you to be uncomfortable.”

It’s tempting, so tempting. But… “Are any of the other girls going to be in jeans?”

“Who cares what the other girls are wearing.”

“I take it that’s a no.” I tug on the neckline one more time, then give up and shut the closet door. “Come on, let’s get going before I decide to stay in and binge-watch Netflix for the rest of the evening.”

Macy gives me a hug. “You look really beautiful. So let’s go have fun.”

I roll my eyes at her a second time, because “beautiful” is a bit more than a stretch—with my curly auburn hair, plain brown eyes, and the random groupings of freckles on my nose and cheeks, I’m pretty much the opposite of beautiful.

On a good day, I’m cute. Standing next to Macy, who is freaking gorgeous, I’m wallpaper. The bland, boring kind.

“Come on,” she continues, grabbing my forearm and tugging me toward the door. “If we wait much longer, we’re going to be more than fashionably late to your welcome party.”

“We could just skip it altogether,” I say even as I let her pull me out the door. “Be fashionably absent.”

“Too late,” she answers with a deliberately obnoxious grin. “Everyone’s waiting for us.”

“Oh, yay.” Despite the sarcasm, I head out. The sooner we get there, the sooner I’ll get the hard part over with.

But as I start to weave my way through the crystal beads outside our door, Macy says, “Here, let me hold those for you. Don’t want them to shock you. Sorry I didn’t think about that yesterday.”

“Shock me? What do you mean?”

“They shock everybody.” She tilts her head to the side, gives me a funny look. “Didn’t you feel it when you went downstairs last night?”

“Um, no.” I reach out and close my fist around several strands of beads, trying to figure out what she’s talking about.

“You really don’t feel anything?” Macy asks after a second.

“I really don’t.” I look down at my favorite pair of rose-tattoo Chucks. “Maybe it’s the shoes.”

“Maybe.” She looks doubtful. “Come on, let’s go.”

She closes the door, then brushes her hands through the beads several times, like she’s trying to get shocked. Which, I know, makes absolutely no sense, but that’s definitely what it looks like.

“So,” I ask as she finally gives up on whatever she’s doing. “Why would you deliberately keep a beaded curtain around that builds up static electricity and shocks everyone who comes in contact with it?”

“Not everyone,” she answers with a pointed look. “And because it’s pretty. Obviously.”

“Obviously.”

As we make our way down the hall, I can’t help but notice the crown molding on the walls. Decorated with black shot through with thorny gold flowers, it’s elaborate and beautiful and just a little creepy. Not as creepy as the lights that line the ceiling, however, which look a lot like trios of weeping black flowers connected by crooked, thorny stems. Gold light bulbs hang from the center of the flowers, partially obscured by their downturned petals.

The whole effect is eerie but beautiful and, while I definitely wouldn’t choose to decorate my room like this, I have to admit it’s stunning.

So stunning that I almost don’t notice that, by the time we make it to the second floor, my stomach has calmed down. More like the pterodactyls have become butterflies, but I’m not going to complain, considering it’s a definite step up. I’ve still got a low-grade headache from the altitude, but for now the Advil has everything under control.

I just hope it stays that way.

I know Macy says this is supposed to be a welcome party, but I’m kind of hoping the tea just goes on as usual. My goal is to be as invisible as possible this year, and a party where I’m the main attraction kind of messes with that plan. Or, you know, totally obliterates it.

As we approach the door, I grab Macy’s wrist. “You aren’t going to make me stand up in front of everyone, are you? We’re just going to kind of mingle and walk around, right?”

“Totally. I mean, I think Dad is planning on giving a little welcome speech, but it won’t be any big deal.”

Of course he is. I mean, why wouldn’t he? After all, who doesn’t think painting a target on the new girl’s back is a good idea? FML.

“Hey, don’t look so worried.” Macy stops in front of an ornately carved set of double doors and throws her arms around me. “Everything is going to be okay. I swear.”

“I’m willing to settle for not catastrophic,” I tell her, but even as I say it, I’m not holding my breath. Not when it feels like there’s a weight pressing down on me. Making me smaller. Turning me into nothing.

It’s not the school’s fault—I’ve felt like this for the last month. Still, being here in this place—in Alaska—somehow makes it all worse.

“You’ll settle for amazing,” she corrects as she grabs my arm and wraps hers through it. Then she’s leaning forward, sending the double doors flying in both directions as she walks in like she owns the place.

   
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