Natalie Watson doesn’t believe her parents are dead, even though they disappeared five years ago. Discovering the truth about their fate is one of the only things that get her out of bed in the morning. But after moving from her home in Georgia to her aunt’s boarding school in Maine, solving the mystery of her parents’ whereabouts is just one of several challenges she must face. When she’s not fending off attacks from the popular kids, she puzzles over the rumors about a strange boy in her math class–one with fiery red hair who rarely speaks.
Despite suspicions that he murdered his sister a year earlier, Natalie finds it impossible to stay away from Liam Abernathy–especially when he confesses to knowing something about her parents. Soon she’s following him into the forest, where things happen she doesn’t understand…things that shouldn’t be possible.
Natalie soon realizes her connection to Liam is deeper than she ever imagined, and not everyone she counts as a friend can be trusted. When she finds herself at the center of a centuries-old quest for immortality, she must work with Liam to stay alive–even if it means facing a truth about herself and her family that will not only shake her perception of herself, but of the entire world around her.
I’m stretched out on my bed, working on a crimson and gold striped scarf with my favorite knitting needles. They’re metallic blue and have my name etched into the sides. Natalie Watson, the silver cursive reads. My mom gave me these needles six years ago, the summer she taught me how to knit.
I prefer to think of it that way, instead of remembering it as the last summer we spent together.
In the cinderblock dorm room I call home, there are two single beds with crinkly plastic-covered mattresses, two fiberboard nightstands, and two metal desks. A small television, (five channels, all local), perches on top of the microwave, which sits on top of the mini-fridge, which is wedged between the desks. The closets take up the whole wall across from the beds. Michelle’s closet is so full she can barely close the door. Mine is half empty. Sweatshirts and ratty jeans don’t really require hangers, so I store most of my clothes in the laundry basket at the foot of my bed.
I’ve almost finished a row of stitches when the door bursts open and Michelle—my gum-smacking, Gucci-clad roommate—flounces in. An invisible cloud of J.Lo perfume thickens the air.
She stops short when she sees me, her blue eyes wide. “Whoa!”
I frown. “What? Did you forget about me or something?”
“No,” she says, striding across the room. She tosses her bag on the floor—an orange leather satchel that I’m sure cost as much as a small car—and snorts. “You’re just always asleep when I get home. You know, because you don’t have anything else to do.”
I look at the digital clock on my nightstand. It’s ten-thirty. She’s right—I’m normally in bed by nine.
“I’m surprised you’re in for the night,” I say, ignoring the jab about my lack of a social life. At this point—over a month into the school year—I’m pretty much a pro at brushing off Michelle’s constant deluge of snide comments.
“I’m just dropping off my bag. Ethan’s taking me out to the cliffs.” Her eyes linger on my half-finished scarf. “Why does that look familiar?”
“It’s the Gryffindor scarf. You’ve probably seen it in one of the Harry Potter mov—”
“Um, I know you’re not about to imply that I watch Harry Potter. I’m not twelve.”
I sigh. “As I’ve said before, Michelle, it’s not just twelve-year-olds that like—”
She throws up a hand, exasperated. “Please don’t try to defend it. I know you have a wand somewhere in this room, and I can’t even deal with it.”
My eyes flicker instinctively to my nightstand drawer, where I do, in fact, keep the wand I ordered online last year. Fourteen and a half inches, yew with a Phoenix feather core. Surprisingly swishy.
“One of these days,” Michelle says, applying a thick layer of pink lip gloss and puckering her lips at the mirror over her bed, “I’ll have a roommate who’s not a loser.”
Even though she’s said things like this a million times, I still feel a twinge of hurt. I stare at my knitting needles and focus on each stitch: through the loop, around the needle, pull it through. Over and over. Forget what she said. Forget what she said.
If she knew what happened to my family five years ago, she might act differently. But I’ve never told her.
I’ve never told any of them.
She flips her head upside-down and whisks her fingers through the dark roots of her otherwise blond, stick-straight hair. This little ritual of hers always leaves me feeling self-conscious about my dull brown waves, which look like maybe they’re trying to be curly, but lost their motivation somewhere along the way.
“Okay,” she breathes, standing up and fluffing her hair one last time. “See ya later. Have fun with your Grippador thing.”
“It’s Gryffindor!” I call as the door shuts.
Ethan—Michelle’s blond, muscled boyfriend—takes her out to the cliffs at least twice a week. It’s this place on the east side of campus where people go to make out because there are all these boulders you can hide behind. It’s freezing out there this time of year, but apparently the sacrifice in comfort is worth the privacy. And getting caught with a guy at the cliffs gets you in less trouble than getting caught in his room.
These are all things I’ve heard from Michelle, of course. I wouldn’t know firsthand.
The only reason they’re able to get away with sneaking around after curfew is that Ethan’s family paid for the entire science building, including several very expensive labs. Even if he’s caught running around campus tonight, nothing will happen to him. Just like the time he set a mouse loose in the auditorium during the band’s spring concert.
Snow begins to fall outside our window. It’s nothing to write home about, but after growing up in Georgia, I’m still shocked when the Maine drizzle transforms into white flakes. I gaze across the courtyard between the girls’ and boys’ dorms, thinking about my parents and how excited they always got whenever the weatherman mentioned “winter weather advisories.” Even a dusting of snow is enough to cancel classes at the University of Georgia, where they teach. Or rather, where they taught.
My throat tightens as I realize they don’t teach there anymore.
I give my head a little shake and swallow hard, forcing myself to remember that “missing” does not necessarily equal “dead.” Aunt Tessa has spent the past five years hammering this into my brain. I need to start believing it. I need—
Who in the world is that?
A shadowy figure slinks out of the woods and heads toward the dorms. It moves quickly, skirting the athletic fields and staying near the tree line before scurrying along the shore of Lake Lion. No matter how much I squint, I can’t see the figure well enough to determine who it is. Maybe it’s Ethan, coming to meet Michelle before they sneak off to the cliffs.
But Ethan is short, and this person is tall. Judging from the loping way it moves, though, it does seem to be a guy.
He passes the lake and creeps around the edge of the boys’ dorm, directly across the small courtyard that separates their building from ours. He avoids pools of light from the wrought iron streetlamps that line the sidewalks and keeps to the shadow of the tall gothic building next to him. Because I need a distraction, I entertain myself with all the dramatic possibilities: Murderer? Thief? Rapist? One of those urban legend guys who wait for a specific night to go on a killing spree?
Not likely. I’m sure it’s just some dude who’s been making out with his girlfriend at the cliffs.
But then, as he slips through the front door of the boys’ dorm, a shaft of moonlight pierces through the clouds. His head catches the light, and the last thing I see before he disappears is the glint of fiercely orange hair.
There’s only one person at Lubec Academy with hair like that, and the very thought of him sends my stomach churning with fear.