Chapter Two: Lachlan Island

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My heart hammered at his words, his tone, his penetrating stare; the one that threatened to devour me completely. I tried to swallow, but my mouth was too dry.

Say something, stupid. I found myself thinking. You've been quiet for too long.

Inhaling slowly, I closed my eyes and exhaled in a silent burst.

"I'm sorry," I said after opening my eyes. "Have we met?"

He had been waiting for me? Why?

Suddenly, the man seemed stunned, his mouth agape and his blue eyes wide--but only for a split second.

"Apologies," he said with a subtle accent I hadn't noticed before. It sounded English, or maybe British, I wasn't sure. "I'm Gabriel Lachlan the third. Dean of this fine institution."

He was the Dean? But he looked so young; maybe just a few years older than me, save for the snow white hair he wore combed back.

"And you must be Mr. Malone," Dean Lachlan turned to Connor, breaking his hold over me.

"Yes, sir, Dean Lachlan." Connor gave him a short nod, his voice shaky.

Guess I wasn't the only one intimidated by Dean Lachlan.

Other students began gathering behind us, and when all the passengers were safely on the dock, Dean Lachlan cleared his throat.

"Students new and old," he spoke with perfect diction, commanding everyone's attention. "Welcome to Lachlan Island. I am Dean Lachlan, but if you prefer, you may call me Gabriel." His sights fell on me when he said the last part.

I had to admit, he was very good looking.

He was tall, nearly a foot taller than I was, and he was lean; a hint of muscle could be seen under the white button down he wore a blazer over. And though his face seemed youthful, it was still unmistakably masculine. Hooded blue eyes, a straight nose that rested above a set of firm, yet soft looking, lips. I could stare at him all day...if it weren't for our group shuffling to follow him off the dock.

"...campus is just up ahead." Dean Lachlan said, his back to us.

Had he been talking that whole time?

"You okay, Audrey?"

Connor whispered to my right.

He, Jo and I were no longer at the front of the group, but in the middle. We trudged forward with everyone else, and I gave Connor a short nod as the Dean continued speaking.

"Since it is nearly dusk, and most of you are already familiar with the campus, a tour for the freshmen will be conducted tomorrow morning."

We were heading for a thick forest, lush with various green plants and tall trees. It seemed so different from the openness of the rocky shore just a dozen or so feet behind us. I wanted to reach out, to feel the dampness that clung to the leaves and branches, but I was still caught between Jo and Connor.

"Now, I need you all to form a single line."

Dean Lachlan stopped abruptly, causing everyone to bump into each other. Mumbled apologies and excuse me's were exchanged as we all shifted into order. Connor, Jo and I were last in line, with me at the very end.

I didn't like being at the end.

I was short--shorter than most of the other students in front of me, which made it hard enough to see what was going on. And given my position in our newly formed line, I was totally out of the loop. I couldn't tell what was ahead of us as we trudged forward, shoes gently plopping into wet earth. Even as I got closer to our destination, I couldn't see anything besides the back of Jo's red head and thick forest on either side of me. It was a bit frustrating.

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