CHAPTER TEN (draft)

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CHAPTER TEN

As Logan and Daniel leave the lobby, Gracie’s avid stare follows in their wake. I know that look. When my sister is interested in something, she gets a very focused expression.

Oh no. Oh, shining heaven, no. . . . Please, Gracie, please don’t let it be you looking that way at Logan Sangre.

Oh no.

“Did you see that guy?” Gracie whispers to me, turning around suddenly. Her eyes are filled with the essence of champagne bubbles.

“Huh?” I mutter. My cheeks are draining of all color.

“Daniel!” Gracie shoves me in the side. “He is so cute! His friend from our school, Logan, he’s way prettier, sure, but Daniel is oozing sexy awesomeness! Yumm! I think I want me some Daniel Tover from Upstate New York!”

“Oh . . . yeah,” I say, feeling relief, and all the bazillion little blood vessels in my cheeks open up like floodgates again, and my sub-dermal circulation is instantly restored to normal. “He’s kinda way older than you, don’t you think? Logan is a senior, and so is Daniel, probably.”

“So?” Gracie glares, and her eyes get very wide.

“So he’s too old for you, Gee Four!” I say comfortably.

“That’s just total BS!” She lets her jaw drop, pausing in an attempt to find words sufficient to express her usual Gracie-caliber outrage. “What does any of that stuff matter now? Who cares how old we are? We could all be dead in a few months, or stuck on some crazy alien spaceship headed to some bizarre planet for lord knows what kind of life—”

“Well—” I play my tongue against my teeth and the inside of my cheeks. What can I say to that? “Well, they do still have laws here on Earth against that kind of thing. He’s probably over eighteen, and you, my little sis, are twelve.”

“Oh, puh-leeeze!”

I let my breath out. “Seriously, Gracie, listen to me, you have no idea about that guy, who he is, anything about him, whatever. Just cool it, okay? Besides, didn’t your Dorm Leaders tell you the No Dating rule? There’s just no time for that kind of silly stuff when we’re all here fighting for our lives. Remember? Qualification, hello? This is not summer camp.” I give her a light shove on the arm.

Gracie is frowning and turns her face away from me.

“Okay, have you seen George or Gordie yet?” I change the subject.

“No.”

“Want to come with me, now? We can go looking for them, check their dorms? There’s still time until curfew.”

“No! Leave me alone!”

“Okay . . .” I pause to consider. Gracie is not looking at me and instead staring at her nails.

A few seconds tick away.

“I want to go home,” my sister announces suddenly, looking up at me at last. Her eyes are intense.

I bite my lip. Immediately, all traces of frustration at her are replaced by a protective desperate pang in my gut. “I’m so sorry, no, we can’t,” I whisper, putting my hand on her arm.

Gracie’s eyes are suddenly liquid with wetness. “I tried calling Mom,” she says. “But the e-dampers are on, and I forgot, I tried over and over, and there was no signal.”

“I know . . .” I press her arm, my fingers feeling her beginning to tremble. We’re out in public, so I know Gracie is not going to fall apart on me completely in front of her new Red Dorm Five friends, but it’s pretty much touch-and-go.

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