1.1 | Monsters in the Shadows

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Something wasn't right about the view outside the window. Nika Dimitrovich squinted through the glass, finding Konstantin Academy swathed in the hazy hues of twilight. She fixated on the army of dark pines that surrounded the campus, where two golden blurs flickered like flames between bush and branch.

Are the third-years setting something on fire again?

The color winked out for half a heartbeat, then returned, glowing vibrantly.

No, Nika decided. Just a pair of fireflies.

As soon as she reached that conclusion, the door burst open. Nika whipped around to find her roommate's brown eyes bulging.

"Did you hear?" Jade exclaimed between gulping breaths.

Nika swiftly finished knotting her shoelaces. "Hear what?"

"The school is on lockdown. Classes are canceled."

"Why?" Nika asked, running through the list of possibilities.

As North America's primary boarding school for supernatural beings, Konstantin Academy rarely experienced such incidents. Not for lack of danger, but for mighty defenses.

Over sixty percent of the student body—and a multitude of staff—possessed superior strength and speed, and all had been trained to use them. Only for the most severe situations was a lockdown required.

"Who cares? It's primetime for pranking," Jade said, reaching for Nika's narrow bed. "Your pillow has feathers, right?"

Nika blinked. "There's a lockdown, and you're planning a prank?"

"Don't say that like it's crazy."

"It is crazy." She snatched her pillow from Jade's grip and returned it to the bed. "But that's beside the point. How do you know there's a lockdown? I didn't hear an announcement."

"Because it hasn't come yet."

Nika squinted in suspicion. Jade Ramsay had several peculiarities—a grungy style of dress, delight in torment and chaos, and, most notably, an uncanny ability to unearth information. She seemed to know everyone's secrets and could solve any mystery, so Nika wasn't surprised that she knew about the lockdown before it even began. But there was cause for concern regarding how Jade had acquired the knowledge.

When Nika asked as much, Jade smiled wickedly and said, "A magician never reveals her tricks."

"Don't you mean meddler?"

"Speaking of meddling..." Jade reached into her pocket and removed a white envelope. "Found this for you."

She held the letter into the light, angling her head in an attempt to decipher the writing within. Nika grabbed it from her slender fingers and scowled.

"Stop trying to read my mail."

She removed a box of old belongings from a shelf in her closet, then added the envelope to the pile. Jade shook her head in disapproval, swishing the jet-black hair that framed her face.

"Five years, and you still haven't opened any of those letters. What if there's money in them?"

"Don't care."

Markos Dimitrovich had been sending his daughter monthly mail ever since she began classes at Konstantin Academy, and, in accordance with her grudge against him, Nika had neglected to read a single one.

Jade scoffed. "Yes, you do."

"If I cared, then I'd open them."

"If you didn't care, you'd throw them away. But instead, you keep them in that obscure box. Sounds pretty careful to me."

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