Home > Crave (Crave #1)(13)

Crave (Crave #1)(13)
Author: Tracy Wolff

And maybe she does. From the way everyone in the room turns to look at her, I can believe it. At least until I realize my worst nightmares have come true and they’re all looking at me. And none of them seem impressed.

So I decide to focus on the décor instead, which is amazing. I don’t know where to look first, so I look everywhere, taking in the crimson and black velvet baroque wallpaper, the three-tiered iron chandeliers with black crystals dripping from each elaborately carved arm, the fancy red chairs and black cloth-covered tables that take up the back half of the large room.

Every five feet or so, there are dark wall sconces with what look like actual lit candles in them. I step closer to check them out and find myself completely charmed by the fact that each wall sconce is carved into the shape of a different dragon. One with its wings spread wide in front of a fancy Celtic cross, another curled up around the top of a castle, a third obviously in mid-flight. In all the dragons, the candle flame is lined up to flicker in their wide-open mouths, and as I get even closer, I realize that yes, the flame is real.

I can’t imagine how my uncle gets away with that—no fire marshal in the country would be okay with letting a school have unattended candles around students. Then again, this is the middle of nowhere, Alaska, and I also can’t imagine a fire marshal actually paying Katmere an unscheduled visit.

Macy tugs at my arm, and reluctantly I let her pull me away from the dragons and farther into the room. That’s when I glance up and realize the ceiling is also painted red, with more of that black molding lining the top edges of the walls.

“Are you going to spend the entire party staring at the decor?” Macy teases in a low whisper.

“Maybe.” Reluctantly, I take my eyes off the ceiling and focus them on the large buffet tables that run the length of the front wall, loaded down with cheese trays, pastries, sandwiches, and drinks.

No one is at the buffet table, though, and almost no one is seated at the other tables, either. Instead, students are grouped together in various areas of the room. This self-imposed isolation might be the only thing here that feels familiar. Guess it doesn’t matter if you go to a regular high school in San Diego or a high-end boarding school in Alaska—cliques are everywhere.

And apparently—if you are at a high-end boarding school—those cliques are about a thousand times snobbier-looking and more unapproachable than normal.

Lucky, lucky me.

As Macy and I step farther into the room, I find myself eyeing the different…factions, for lack of a better word.

Energy—and disdain—permeate the air around the students near the window as they look me over. There are about thirty-five of them, and they’re all huddled into one large group, like a team going over plays right before they take the field. The guys are all wearing jeans and the girls are in tiny little dresses, both of which show off strong, powerful bodies with some major muscle definition.

Curiosity and a healthy dose of contempt cover the faces of my new classmates at the back of the room. Dressed mostly in long, flowing dresses or button-up shirts in luxurious patterns and fabrics that fit the room perfectly, they’re a lot more delicate-looking than the group near the windows, and even before Macy waves excitedly at them, I know that this is her group.

She starts moving toward them, and I follow, disguising my sudden nervousness with a smile I’m far from feeling.

On our way, we pass another large clump of students, and I swear I can feel heat radiating from them in waves. Every single person in this group is tall—even the girls are close to six feet—and the fact that they’re watching me with varying degrees of scorn and suspicion makes walking past them distinctly uncomfortable. Basketball, anyone?

At least until I see Flint in the center of the group, grinning and wiggling his eyebrows at me so wildly that I can’t help but giggle. Like every other guy in his group, he’s dressed in jeans and a tight T-shirt that shows off his chest and biceps. He looks good. Really good. Then again, so do most of his friends. He sticks his tongue out at me right before I turn away, and this time I full-on laugh.

“What’s funny?” Macy demands, but then she sees Flint and just rolls her eyes. “You know how long I spent trying to get his attention—and being totally ignored—before I gave up? If we weren’t cousins who are also destined to be best friends, I would resent you.”

“Pretty sure Flint and I are destined to be friends, too,” I tell her as I hustle to keep up with her ridiculously long stride. “I don’t think guys cross their eyes like that at girls they’re interested in.”

“Yeah, well, you never know. Dra—” She breaks off on a violent cough, like she’s just choked on her own saliva or something.

“You okay?” I pat her back a little.

“I’m fine.” She coughs again, looks a little nervous as she tugs at one of her flowy sleeves. “Drastic.”

“Drastic?” I repeat, more than a little puzzled at this point.

“In case you were wondering.” She shoots me an assessing look. “Before. I was going to say drastic. Like, sometimes guys go to drastic measures to get girls they like to notice them. That’s what I was going to say. Drastic.”

“Oooookay.” I don’t say anything else because now I’m just confused. Not so much by what she’s saying as by how emphatic she’s being. Then again, she got weird around Flint yesterday, too. Maybe it’s being this close to him that turns her all tongue-tied.

Macy doesn’t say anything else as we finally make it to the center of the huge, ornately decorated room. Not that I blame her, because the group we’re passing now is filled with the most intimidating people in the place—by far. And that’s saying something, considering nearly everyone in this room is unnerving af.

But these people take it to a whole new level. Dressed entirely in monochromatic shades of black or white—designer shirts, dresses, trousers, shoes, jewelry—they all but drip money…along with a careless kind of power that it’s impossible to miss. Though they are as obvious a clique as any of the others in the room, there’s a kind of formality among them that the other groups lack, a sense that they have one another’s backs against anyone else in the room but that the alliance ends there.

As we walk by them, I realize there is another big difference between the other groups and them. Not one of them has so much as glanced my way.

I can’t help being grateful for that fact, considering my knees wobble a little more with each step I take toward Macy’s friends. I’m completely overwhelmed—not just by the number of people at the party who are looking at me but by how ridiculously tight most of the groups are. Like, seriously, there’s zero crossover—no guy dressed all in black hanging with a girl in a long, flowy dress. No super-tall girl making eyes at one of the sporty-looking guys, or girls, near the window.

No, everyone here at Katmere Academy seems to be staying firmly in their own lanes. And judging by the looks on their faces, it’s not fear keeping them there. It’s disdain for everyone else in the room.

Fun times. Seriously. I mean, I’ve always known prep schools are exclusive and snobby—who doesn’t? But I wasn’t expecting it to this degree. How much money, status, and attitude can one group of people have, anyway?

Guess it’s a good thing I’m related to the headmaster or I’d never make the cut. Nepotism for the win…or loss, depending on how this little soiree goes.

I can’t imagine why I was nervous to come to this thing…

Only pride keeps me from fleeing as we get close to her friends. Well, that and the fact that acting like prey right now seems like a particularly bad idea. I mean, if I don’t want to spend the rest of my senior year dodging every mean girl in the place.

“I can’t wait for you to meet my friends,” Macy tells me as we finally reach the group in the back. Up close, they’re even more spectacular, different gemstones gleaming in their hair and against their skin. Earrings, pendants, hair clips, plus eyebrow, lip, and nose rings, all bedecked with colorful stones.

I’ve never felt plainer in my life, and it takes every ounce of self-control I have not to once again tug on the neckline of my borrowed dress.

“Hey, guys! This is my cousin, Gr—”

“Grace!” a beautiful redhead with a giant amethyst pendant interrupts. “Welcome to Katmere! We’ve heard soooo much about you.” Her voice is enthusiastic to the point of being mocking, but I’m not sure who she’s making fun of—Macy or me. At least until I look into her eyes, which are viciously cold—and focused entirely on me.

Big surprise.

I’m not sure how I’m supposed to answer her—being polite is one thing. Participating while she makes fun of me is something else entirely. Thankfully, before I can decide what to do, a girl with thick, curly dark hair and perfect cupid’s bow lips does it for me.

“Knock it off, Simone,” she tells her before turning to me with what appears (I hope) to be a genuine smile. “Hi, Grace. I’m Lily.” Her soft brown eyes seem friendly and her black hair is worn in locks woven through with sparkling ribbons that beautifully frame her rich brown skin. “And that’s Gwen.”

She nods toward an East Asian girl in a beautiful purple dress who grins and says, “It really is nice to meet you.”

“Um, it’s nice to meet you, too.” I’m trying, I really am. But my tone must sound as doubtful as the rest of me feels, because her eyes grow cloudy.

“Don’t pay any attention to Simone,” she says, all but hissing the redhead’s name. “She’s just bitter because all the guys are looking at you. She doesn’t like the competition.”

“Oh, I’m not—” I break off as Simone snorts.

“Yeah, that’s totally why I’m bitter. I’m worried about the competition. It has nothing to do with the fact that Foster brought a—”

“Why don’t we go get something to drink?” Macy interrupts her loudly.

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