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Chapter 1

Only when I pulled into the school parking lot did I feel the heaviness settle in my gut. I turned the engine off, but I couldn't quite make myself move. I let my eyes sweep over the students walking towards the cream-colored building, laughing and hugging as they filled each other on how their summer had gone.

I looked away, fixing my gaze on the steering wheel instead.

Inhale. Exhale.

I could do this.

I had to do this.

The feeling of unease in the pit of my stomach hadn't yet subsided, but if I didn't want to miss first period, I knew I had to get going, so I pushed the car door open and climbed out.

I wove into the crowd, trying to ignore their conversations as they exchanged I miss you's and how are you's, and for a moment, I almost wanted to go back to my car and drive home. I wanted to give up and admit I couldn't face this year without him, because how could I, when he was the one who always made sure I wouldn't stumble?

But I knew I couldn't do that. I had to be strong. So I bit the inside of my cheeks, forcing myself to ignore everything that reminded me of how alone I was, and focused on taking one step after the other.

There was no room for weakness.

So I kept going.


 "Is this seat taken?"

My mouth automatically opened to answer yes, as I usually saved it for Hail, but I caught myself before the word came out.

I looked up to see who it was.

Unfairly straight teeth, unruly sandy brown hair, bright blue eyes and the confidence of someone who knew exactly how well his features looked together.

I bit back a curse.

He didn't wait for an answer. With a wide smile directed at me, the one and only Seth Everett dropped his black backpack on the floor and took the seat. I forced myself to look away, trying to fight the urge to stand up to take a different seat across the room.

I didn't like Seth, and neither did Cedric.

Granted, Cedric never really told me about it out loud, but I knew him enough to feel his disdain whenever we crossed paths with Seth by accident. His shoulders would stiffen, his hands would clench into fists, his eyes would harden to show an emotion that resembled disgust.

It wasn't exactly difficult to see why Cedric was wary of him.

Seth Everett had a reputation for sleeping around. He could sleep with anyone willing enough to do it with no strings attached. Sure, I'd only heard stories and rumors and while there was no guarantee that they could be true, I'd always been cautious of him.


Instinctively, I turned to him.

His lips were pulled into a small smile and his eyes regarded me with a coolness that made it seem as though we'd known each other for years. "Think I could borrow a pen? I kind of forgot to bring mine."

I knew I wasn't exactly fond of him, but it wasn't like I needed two pens, so I found myself reaching into my bag for the extra pen I carried around. I held it out to him, holding it at the very tip to keep our fingers from accidentally brushing.

He reached for it, sending me another smile that showcased his perfect teeth. "Thanks."

"It's fine," I replied, not quite looking at him.

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