Chapter 8 (Part 1)

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*Note: Check out the Audiobook version of this chapter by clicking the Youtube video above! Voiced by Kristen Maglonzo featuring music by Switchfoot, Taking Back Sunday, The Used, Secondhand Serenade, and Ed Sheeran. Thank you for commenting!

Elias

It always starts like this.

Panic sparks to life somewhere in my bloodstream and poisons my body a vein at a time.

It's quiet at first, subtle enough so that nobody notices.

So that nobody picks up on the feeling but me.

Sometimes I get warning signs--little cues that tell me something's bad's about to happen.

But today's different.

'Cause I'm already halfway to hell, and I didn't even get a head's up.

"Ladies and gents, now that our first class is coming to an exciting end, I'd like to reserve the last fifteen minutes for a brief Q&A with the wonderful Mr. King."

I force myself to smile at Professor Hayes like her question and answer suggestion didn't just send my blood pressure soaring through the roof. Even if I begged her not to do it, it wouldn't make a difference at this point.

Contracts are contracts, and if I want a shiny UCLA education, I've gotta play by their rules. Guesting in this class is a part of that deal. Doing whatever Professor Hayes wants is another.

I just hope she doesn't force me into being more "open and honest" than I'm ready to be.

"Sure thing, professor. Fire away, guys," I say.

Hayes pats my shoulder and then goes right back to blabbering about "appropriate and inappropriate" behavior during our open forum, but I tune her out halfway through her first set of rules.

I slide two fingers over the soft spot on the corner of my wrist and push down to find my pulse.

My heart's racing like crazy. It probably has been for the past two and half hours. Just running laps around my veins the longer I sit here pretending not notice her.

But I do.

God, I do.

My whole body's been burning since I spotted her hiding behind her notebook in the corner of the room. But she's barely looked at me once.

Okay, that's kind of a lie.

She did glare at me for a couple seconds when I dropped the title of my book straight to her face and freaked her out.

But that's about it.

Now she won't even glance in my direction, and honestly, I can't even blame her for it.

Alex's hand shoots up outta nowhere, and it takes everything I have not to stare at her.

"Yes, Ms. Summers?"

"Is this Q&A optional?"

"No," I say way louder than I mean to.

Alex rolls her eyes and puffs a stream of hot air out of her nostrils.

"I wasn't asking you, Elia--Mr. King."

Wow, really?

"Even if you didn't intend your question for Mr. King, he's absolutely correct, Ms. Summers. This is a major required seminar. Nothing in this class is optional."

For the first time since class started, Professor Hayes's happy-go-lucky smile isn't anywhere to be seen. I think I'm gonna like this lady.

"But what if I don't have any questions for him?" She asks.

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