Chapter Fourteen: Greymalkin's Academy
On the morning of her first day at the Academy, Penny awoke at five a.m. She brushed her teeth, had a shower and went to the kitchen, where she consumed three cups of blue Gecko tea and a toasted bagel. After that, she went back to her room to look over her school equipment. The Greymalkin’s uniform consisted of a purple blazer, matching pleated skirt, a bowtie, a black shirt and black knee socks. Boys wore purple robes and mortar boards.
English, Maths and Science were compulsory. Students then had to choose a specialised set of subjects according to their race: witches, for example, had the option of Familiar training or Scry lessons; ghosts had Haunting classes. Penny was the spinead, which meant she had no particular powers so couldn’t fit into a category. Thankfully, Hollow’s mother, Saffire Walker, was a teacher at the school, so Blythe put her on the vampire timetable for convenience. Penny had been nervous and excited at the thought of attending vampire lessons, which included Combat, Flying and Blood Biology. She had Blood Biology for her first lesson.
Blythe had been very scanty in his instructions for the mission. He was obviously waiting for any opportunity to call Penny useless and fire her, but the spinead wasn’t going to allow that to happen. Forrest had given her the suggestion of joining the different societies and asking to help the teachers around the school, which would give her access to the staff room. She knew that it would be difficult; as the one student who was closest to Gardien matters, any Blood supporters would be weary of her, but she hoped that with enough time they would let something slip.
She was also trying to overcome the revelation that she had special powers, somewhat. Yes, her blood was red, but her skin was impenetrable. When she told Forrest and Riider about Armand’s findings, they discussed at great length what it could mean, before Riider tested her out, jabbing her with blunt knives and laughing with glee when they all melted. They did this for hours, giggling and laughing, until Forrest locked the knives away in the cupboard. Both wraiths, Blythe, and Armand decided it was best to keep this aspect of Penny’s body a secret, and she agreed—if they did find a spy in the school, they would only report it back to Tarquin, and who knew what consequences such information would have? Annoyingly, it also meant that Penny would have to avoid getting into any accidents to avoid suspicion from her peers.
She thought about all of this whilst waiting downstairs until Forrest was ready. He was appeared enough, without Riider, who had firmly stated the day before that getting up at eight o’ clock would be too early for her, but she promised to throw Penny a Well Done party when she got back.
“Are you ready?” Forrest asked, slipping on his coat.
“I suppose so.”
Forrest smiled at her.
“You should feel proud to attend Greymalkin’s, Penny. Not everybody does.”
“Is it?” said Penny as they exited the house and got into the carriage outside. Forrest cracked the reins and the horses charged forwards.
“Going to Greymalkin’s isn’t compulsory. Some people are home-schooled, others go straight into trade. Frasier and I are the only members of the Gardner family who went to Greymalkin’s; Faust and Faun took up the family business.”
“What do wraiths study, anyway?” asked Penny.
“We’re mainly trained in our Vanishing abilities. A lot of wraiths choose to work with the police, in the reconnaissance department, or in the prisons. Some are even selected to be special Creep bodyguards for the Royal Family. Being able to Vanish has its perks, and it is seen as the best ability wraiths have. I personally believe there is too much emphasis put on it, to be honest. Every wraith is different. Take Frasier; he’s always been into astrology, but that was something only available to mages. But he got his way in the end.”
Forrest blushed at whatever Frasier had done. Penny decided the culprit was Manda the mage.
“I recognise this,” she said suddenly. They had just arrived at the muddy fells outside Scare. Armand’s black laboratory was to the left, the massive structure that loomed over the immediate area; Penny and Forrest took off to the right, where another series of fells were assembled, shrouded in ivy curtains. The most prominent fell had an open entrance in the middle which they passed through. The interior was covered in black ivy that had been adorned with white faerie lights. Upon closer inspection Penny saw that the lights were real faeries, with little wings and robes and halos above their heads, hovering over the leaves.
The tunnel opened, revealing a massive field covered in black grass and with black bushes all around it. The centre was home to a cathedral made from purple stone, with navy stained-glass windows and a gigantic dome that shone in the eerie lights of The Cave. A sign read Greymalkin’s Academy: Est. 1841 by the long oak door. Hundreds of pupils dressed in the purple uniform milled about on the violet pathway leading to the cathedral; witches arrived on their broomsticks and several others came by carriage. Forrest pulled up next to a white carriage and gave the reins to the keeper before helping Penny onto the ground. Butterflies gnawed at her stomach as they walked down the path and into the school. There were whispers and stares and nudges all round.
Greymalkin’s Academy was big and airy inside. It was lit by giant black candles in brass chandeliers, and clusters of faeries outside the windows cast blue shadows on the polished marble floors. There were pillars and arches and canopies everywhere, and it was silent. The students walked solemnly and reverently, and even Penny felt a wave of quiet wash over her. The cathedral gave her a feeling she had never experienced in the Lockview Village Schoolhouse.
“We’ll go to the headmistress’s office,” said Forrest. He led the way through dark, eerie corridors and long, stone stair cases. They passed classrooms and labs and cloakrooms and bathrooms before entering a secluded tower at the rear South Quarter of the school. Penny and Forrest walked up a tight winding staircase and down a corridor with flamed torches on the walls. There was a single white door at the end of the corridor with a gold plaque on it. Forrest walked up to the door and knocked on it three times.
Penny gasped when Forrest opened the door. The office reminded her of a painting she had once seen of an Ancient Greek courtyard. The floor was so white it reflected the ceiling above it, which had been painted such to resemble the sky. There were blackbirds and fluffy clouds painted upon it, looking so realistic that Penny peered to examine the detail. When she did, she noticed that the birds were moving, flapping their wings slowly along the wall. The office was encircled by a series of pillars and they were adorned with trails of black ivy and faeries. A witch sat behind an oak desk at the centre. She was the only good looking witch Penny had seen. The woman was beautiful, with shoulder-length black hair that flopped over her piercing black eyes, and her black lips were full and set in a pout. Her green skin was unblemished and smooth, emanating a richness reminiscent of deep emerald. She wore the typical black pointed hat and a cassock-like dress. A black cat lay sleeping on the desk beside her.
“Good morning, Mistress Rookwood,” said Forrest.
They remained by the door whilst the witch surveyed them through steepled fingers. Penny looked from Forrest to the witch and back again, taking in the embarrassed and awe-stricken look the former had on his face. Forrest finally looked at his feet and began twirling one of his dreadlocks around his fingers.
“Do come in, Forrest William Anthony Gardner,” her bottomless eyes fell on Penny, and the spinead felt a wave of dread as she was reminded of Blythe Mason’s penetrating stare. “Penelope Dido. Come in, take a seat.”
She ran her hands through the thick black coat of the cat on her desk until it began to purr.
“Tolkien,” she whispered to it. “Our guests need seats.”
The cat opened one green eye and concentrated it on the space in front of the desk. A moment later, two plush chairs rose from the ground, waiting for Penny and Forrest to sit on them. Once they were seated, Mistress Rookwood placed her hat on the table and ran a hand though her thick mane, before turning to Penny once again.
“So I believe, Penelope, that this is your first day of school.”
“Not that much.”
“And you shouldn’t be. Greymalkin’s is an excellent school and we are glad to have your attendance. Forrest Gardner.”
“Yes, Mistress Rookwood?”
“How are your father and your mother? What about Frasier?”
“They’re all fine, thank you very much.”
“I hear Frasier is Lead Astrologer of the Star Society.”
“Yes, that’s true.”
“And you are in Gardien? Congratulations.”
Forrest started to pale.
“How did you know?” he asked her.
Mistress Rookwood’s eyes narrowed. Her lips parted into a smile, flashing a set of sharp, white teeth.
“Blythe Mason knows not to hide things from me. I found it rather strange that he should be so adamant that Penelope Dido join my school. And you know me, Forrest Gardner: I can make an amazing Truth Elixir. Blythe Mason didn’t want to fall victim to this, so he told me the full list of the members of Gardien. Now, I do not like Blythe Mason all that much, for he believes his family is above mine, so I decided to wait until you came to ask my important question.”
Mistress Rookwood stroked her Familiar again. “Pumpkin pie? Mulled wine?” she asked, as three plates and three glasses appeared.
“That’s not the question, is it?” asked Forrest.
“Eat up, please.”
Forrest snatched his plate of pumpkin pie from the table and Penny did the same. The pair nibbled nervously under the strong gaze of the witch, feeling smaller with each bite.
“Now, Forrest,” she said, swallowing a generous helping of pie, “why is Penelope Dido here?”
Forrest sighed. His brows furrowed and the scarlet in his eyes darkened dangerously.
“—Forrest, do not tempt me—”
“—you are being difficult—”
“—I will get mad, Forrest—”
“—this is classified information—”
“—this is my school!”
The blue ceiling flushed grey. Lightning streaked across the surface. Penny jumped in her seat and looked fearfully between the pair once again. Both were livid. She had never seen Forrest so annoyed before.
“Can I say something?” she asked, feeling her heart jump when all eyes fell on her. “I’m not sure what the secrecy is,” she said, looking at Forrest apologetically. “I’m not doing anything bad here.”
“That is beside the point, Penny. Some things are beyond school matters, and Mistress Rookwood needs to remember that,” he leaned forwards until his face was inches from the witch’s, “there is a killer on the loose, Mistress. Stop being so conceited.”
Mistress Rookwood gasped. The sky turned blue again and the lightening disappeared.
“Just tell me!” she said. “What is it? What is going on? If Gardien is coming to my school—”
“—I think you know, Mistress,” Forrest looked at her sadly, his voice becoming soft and quiet.
“Blood has poisoned the school, hasn’t he?” the witch said, banging her fist on the table. Her hair fell about her head messily, but she did nothing to tame it. “I hear the whispers! I hear the rumours! I know the pupils are thinking of joining his side!”
“So it’s the students?” asked Penny, leaning forward.
“Yes, it’s the students. The teachers are dismayed, but they’re not sure who is starting the trouble.”
“Why haven’t you done anything about it?” asked Forrest.
“I just … you don’t understand. Greymalkin’s Academy has been an institution of excellence since 1841. I have seen it grow and flourish. The thought of such a thing infecting the school gets me so angry! What am I supposed to do? I know I needed to tell Gardien, and I was going to, I really was! But then Blythe Mason got there first and … ugh!”
She pounded her fist on the table again.
“It’s okay, Mistress Rookwood,” said Forrest. “Penny is going to investigate it for you.”
Mistress Rookwood looked at Penny with deepest loathing. Penny suddenly felt under pressure. Seeing the headmistress in such a state made her realise how serious this spying job was, and she was ashamed of herself for merely approaching it as a way to kill time, or even worse; as a way to get back at Madeline Mason.
“Yeah,” she said rather weakly. “You don’t have to worry or anything…”
“And will you report to me as well as Blythe Mason?”
Looking somewhat satisfied, Mistress Rookwood flicked through the leather notebook on her desk that had appeared shortly after the pie and wine.
“Penelope Dido. You will be in Saffire Walker’s class: 11E. Vampire lessons should be interesting for you. Blood Biology, Combat, History, Healing, Beautification and Textiles are your vampire classes … English and Maths will be taken by Mr Groote on Fridays, Science by Mr Matis on the same day. Do you know where all your classes are?”
Penny held up an identical notebook from her bag, which contained her timetable and a map of the cathedral, and nodded.
“Well, there’s not much more for me to say,” said Mistress Rookwood. “Forrest Gardner – do not speak to me like that again.”
The awe-stricken expression took over Forrest’s face again, making his previous anger flare seem imaginary. He nodded once and beckoned for Penny to follow him outside. Penny glanced over her shoulder before she left the room. Not surprisingly, she found Mistress Rookwood staring at her so intensely that her eyes flashed. The Familiar opened its green eyes to watch her also. Penny was almost certain she saw it smile.
When Forrest closed the white door behind her, he sighed deeply.
“That witch has been here from the very beginning, Penny,” he said. “She is three hundred years old.” He suddenly looked very fearful, and started fiddling with his fingers. “I can’t believe I spoke to her like that. What was I thinking?”
“She was being unreasonable,” said Penny. “And a bit of a nervous wreck, for someone who’s been in charge of this school for so long…”
“I suppose you’re right. But still, I think I could have been less rude...”
They walked through the torched corridor and down the spiral staircase. Penny extracted the timetable from her bag and looked it over.
“I’m in the West Quarter,” she said. “Thank god for Saffire Walker; at least I’ll see a familiar face.”
“You don’t have Saffire for all of the classes, do you?”
“I only have her for 11E’s lessons, sadly. Combat, Beautification and Textiles are with other vampires. Ah well, I hope they’re kind.”
“They’ll be nice to you, Penny.”
His tone was enough to make Penny look at him askance. From the look on his face, it looked like Forrest as was annoyed at Penny’s status as ‘the spinead’ as much as she had been, before it became her ticket to get into school and be a spy. She felt her cheeks flush at the thought of her sudden change in attitude towards the whole thing, and she looked away from him, lest he caught on to her method of abusing power.
The West Quarter was airier than the South Quarter; it had plenty of stained-glass windows and instead of candles, there were baskets of ivy hanging from the ceiling, with clusters of faeries fluttering between the leaves. Penny felt warm just looking at the glowing corridors and hallways. She walked through them almost drunkenly, and had almost missed the line of pale faces and multi-coloured hairstyles when it appeared from one of the few shadows.
“There’s class 11E,” said Forrest.
Penny shot a furtive look towards them. The vampires were all stunning and skinny and pale. They had dark circles under their eyes and haughty expressions. A few of them looked towards Penny with slight interest, but the rest acted as if she wasn’t there. Just when Penny was ready to turn on her heel and run away, a pink-haired vampire with likewise coloured eyes detached herself from the queue. She was several inches shorter than the other vampires, who only started watching Penny with softer expressions once they saw this vampire approach her.
The vampire even had pink freckles on her cheeks, and Penny found this so bizarre that she ended up gawking at her.
“Penelope Dido! I’m Chloe. Chloe Manheim. Nice to meet you,” she shook Penny’s hand before staring, mesmerised, at Forrest. “Hello Forrest.”
“Good morning, Chloe.”
Penny eyed the pair suspiciously. Forrest made a deliberate effort not to look in her direction. He coughed into his hand before fixing Chloe with a look of reproach.
“Can I trust you to look after Penny?”
“Sure. I think we’ll be great friends, isn’t that right, Penny?”
Forrest sighed again. Penny was worried that Forrest would deflate; so much had he sighed that morning.
“Well, have a good day, Penny,” he said, finally looking at her. “Don’t get into trouble, work hard, and try your best.”
“I will. Thanks for coming Forrest.”
He smiled, turned on his heel, and disappeared down the corridor. When he had gone, Chloe burst into a fit of giggles.
“He’s so sweet, ain’t he?”
“I’m not sure what I just witnessed,” said Penny.
“He went out with my older sister when they were both younger, you see. He’s supposed to be all intellectual, isn’t he? Well, it made my sister feel like a dimbo, so they had a big argument in front of the school and she dumped him! It was a few years ago, and I was only twelve or something, but I still remember it!”
“That’s not funny,” said Penny.
“Well I think it is, only because everyone was on Forrest’s side, and my sister ended up looking more dumb than she already is – not that I thought that was even possible or anything. You see, my older sis is a model, and she thinks all the boys in the world just fawn after her like loved-up zombies. You should have seen her face when she saw Forrest hook up with that Riider Malone, ‘cos, of course, most boys suffer withdrawal symptoms after dating her – yeah, ridiculous, I know – she looked like a bloody slapped bottom.”
“Anyway, let’s join the front, Penny. I want first pick of the seats.”
Chloe grabbed Penny’s arm and pulled her towards the front of the line. Some of the vampires looked annoyed at this, but none of them said anything. Chloe and Penny went to stand in front of a vampire with round, red-rimmed glasses, who looked so happy to be near Chloe that her face flushed and she started panting. Upon hearing the heavy breathing, Chloe looked alarmed and turned around.
“Are you okay, Laura?” she asked with genuine concern.
“Mmhmm! Mmmhmm! Nothing wrong here!”
Laura the vampire had such a strong likeness to Peter McDonald that Penny’s stomach panged with pity. She looked away from the vampire and glanced at the others. They were watching her with looks of envy. Penny blinked back at them in surprise, but before she had a chance to ponder the situation, Saffire Walker emerged from behind the room door. She wore a similar dress to Mistress Rookwood, but hers was shorter and had pleats in the skirt.
“Hello, Penny,” she said before turning to the class. “Come in, everyone. We have an intense lesson today!”
The class filed into the room, which was circular and made of dark stone. Flamed torches lined the walls in white brackets, and the desks were mahogany. The vampires seemed to be making a deliberate effort not to sit down. Chloe scanned the room, pointed at the desk in the back left corner, and pulled Penny towards it. It wasn’t until Penny and Chloe were seated that everyone else took their seats.
“Good morning class,” said Saffire from the front. “How are we today?”
There were murmurs from the congregation.
“Well, you lot should be more excited than that! The First Hunt is coming up soon.”
At this, the class pricked up and looked at one another with wide, excited eyes.
“Can’t wait!” Chloe whispered beside Penny.
“What’s the First Hunt?” the spinead asked her.
Chloe opened her mouth to speak, but was interrupted by Saffire, who started lifting large leather boxes onto the desks. She asked them to take out their textbooks. Penny rummaged in her bag for Blood and its Uses and put it on the desk, eyeing the black box with curiosity. The class turned to page twelve and waited. Some of the vampires poked their boxes absently.
“This is an important lesson,” said Saffire. “In preparation for the First Hunt, you will be tested on the different uses of blood, and what to do when you’ve drunken from a human with the wrong blood type.”
“But why?” said a vampire from the front. “We know about all that from our parents!”
“Well if you know so much, you should pass with flying colours,” said Saffire. She flicked through the book and began to read. “Even though it is disputed, Creep scholars believe that Vlad Dracul the Third, known today as Vlad the Impaler, had tasted the blood of an infected vampire. Dracul’s health soon deteriorated, causing him to begin a campaign of horror and sadism. As explained in Chapter Two, humans can benefit greatly from drinking vampire blood, but infected blood causes madness, illness, and in some cases, death. But how does a vampire become infected?
“Well, does anyone know?” Saffire asked.
A hand shot up from the middle.
“Well, my mum said she knew a vampire who drank from an A-positive and a B-negative right after the other,” said Marquis. “And then he turned green. Can that happen, Mistress Walker?”
“Let’s read and find out,” said Saffire. “Blood, whilst the Elixir of Life for vampires, and the reason behind longevity, can be a poison when taken wrongly. There are four human blood groups: A, B, AB and O. These are split into positive and negative. Every vampire is born with a Disposition towards a particular blood group, but this does not show itself until the age of sixteen. Once the young vampire has turned seventeen, he should be feeding from the right human, and will ignore this rule at his peril.
“So you’re right, Marquis. Drinking the wrong blood group is very dangerous. Of course, a vampire can become uninfected, and that’s what you’ll learn in your Healing lessons, but it’s best to avoid it all completely.
“You’ve all taken your medical tests, so you know what your Dispositions are. Today, we need to look at the uses of your blood groups. On each of your tables is a standard blood kit: a phial of the correct human blood sample; a phial of vampire blood and an infected vampire bat. The instructions for today’s lesson are in the kit box. You may begin.”
Everyone set to work. Penny instinctively got to her feet, even though she wasn’t too sure what to do.
“You need to talk me through everything,” she said to Chloe. “I’m totally confused. What’s the First Hunt? The Disposition?”
“The Disposition is a force we’re born with,” said Chloe, fighting to open the box. “It tells us what blood group we’re supposed to drink. Have you seen those blood banks in Scare? The shops with the sacks of blood in the display windows?”
“Well, that’s what we vampires drink before we turn sixteen. It’s a diluted solution of all the blood groups. After a while, our Disposition grows, and we end up sticking to the blood group that suits our bodies best. The First Hunt is, well … the first time we go Outside to drink from humans. You’re supposed to go with your families and stuff, but I think I’ll just go with Mistress Walker. She takes a few vamps every year.”
A loud screeching emanated from the depths of the box as soon as it was opened. Chloe and Penny exchanged a grim expression before the latter lifted the cage from the black contents and rested it on the table. Chloe extracted the phials and they set to work.
It was an easy lesson. They were instructed to sprinkle a few drops of the black blood on the wings of the vampire bat. As soon as this happened, several red smears bloomed on the wings, and the veins pulsed angrily. After feeding the bat with the correct blood group, the infection slowly receded. They had to do a sketch of each stage, and then swap blood samples around the room to watch the different effects on the bat.
“So what made you come to school?” asked Chloe as she drew an eye. “That was brave of you.”
“What do you mean, brave?”
“Well, you’ll get a lot of swooners now. Everyone’s gonna chase after you, pretend that they like you, and then start snooping around your house.”
Penny shrugged. “Don’t care. I’ll just ignore them. What made you come to school? Forrest told me it’s not compulsory.”
“I want to be an archaeologist. I’ll do my History and stuff, and then leave this country and go and study in Cairo.”
It was time to swap phials. Laura, in her enthusiasm to arrive at Penny’s table, tripped over her laces and crashed into the oak desk. The vampire bat twittered and started flapping around the room. Several other bats joined in, and before long, there was a cloud of them flying around the ceiling.
“S-sorry!” said Laura. She looked at Chloe with fearful eyes and ran away to her own desk. There was stifled laughter around the room, and some people shot apologetic looks at Chloe before returning to their desks.
The class’s behaviour towards Chloe was really starting to bug Penny. What were all the stares about? Or the fearful, sycophantic glances? Chloe was obviously aware of all of this, for she scowled every now and then, or shot warning looks at people, but for the most part, she ignored it. The chance to ask came when the bell sounded for the end of class. As the vampires filed out, Chloe offered to help Saffire capture the stray bats. Penny, not knowing what else to do, decided to wait for her. She watched in amazement as Saffire and Chloe crouched low to the ground, steadied themselves, and then leaped into the air, hair flaying about their heads as if caught in a gale force wind. Penny wished that she had had Flying on her timetable, as she would have loved to see the vampires learn to fly, but was still grateful for simple Blood Biology.
The bats were coerced into the cages, and Penny helped the two vampires put them back in the black boxes.
“How did you enjoy your lesson, Penny?” asked Saffire, stacking the boxes behind the front desk.
“It was fun, thanks.”
“I’m glad you liked it. Hollow’s really fond of you; I’ll make sure you’re safe in this school.”
“Thanks, Saffire,” said Penny. She followed Chloe out the door, but was left feeling slightly apprehensive. Did Saffire also know about the Blood supporters? Why else would she need to ensure Penny’s safety?
Lost in their thoughts, the pair walked almost dream-like down the long polished corridors and ducked under the faerie hangings. Penny followed her vampire companion subconsciously, and was not aware of where they were going until she felt the almost biting cold. The spinead looked around. They seemed to be in a dark, stone corridor that was only lit by a few oil lamps along the walls.
“Where are we going?” she asked uncertainly.
Chloe stopped abruptly. Penny peered over the vampire’s shoulder, and watched as she pulled the ring of a trapdoor in the floor. Without another word, Chloe walked down the spiral staircase underneath. Penny followed.
The staircase led them to a type of fort. The grey stone walls were decorated with moth-eaten tapestries and silk throws that had elephants and monkeys sewn onto them. Faeries hovered in halos above ivy-covered hat stands, and these, coupled with the massive fireplace in the far wall, gave the room a warm glow. There were plenty of cushions on the wooden floor, and a single divan that faced the fireplace.
“Where are we?” asked Penny.
“My hideout. I think Clover– he’s the caretaker – knows about this place, but he’s let me keep it since year eight. As you can see, I’ve decorated the place, got a little fire going and stuff.”
Penny watched as Chloe curled up on the divan, took a book from her bag, and began to read. She looked so ‘at home’ down here that Penny felt like an intruder.
“And you come down here by yourself?” she asked, sitting on a cushion.
“Why? I noticed a lot of the other vampires like you. Especially Laura.”
Chloe snorted. “Laura. Right.”
Penny raised her brows and continued to stare at Chloe until she gave a suitable answer. The vampire finally relented. She let out a haggard sigh and slammed the book shut.
“I’m famous, okay? My mum’s Morenna Manheim, one of the biggest actresses in the Creep world. My dad’s Morden Manheim, a Ghoul-winning director.”
“The Ghouls. They’re prestigious film awards. My dad’s won three. And not only that, but my two older sisters are models. The eldest one, Felicity, went out with Forrest. The other one’s been out with everyone.”
“And you don’t want to be a model?”
“Well I’m too short, for one! But that’s not the point, is it? The only reason why all the other vampires chase after me is because of my family. The kids at school see all of them on the front pages of BloodType; at all the big awards and film premieres; the department store openings, the parties, and they want in on it. I used to think it was great how I had so many friends, but then I realised that they didn’t really like me at all. So I just cut myself away from everyone.
“And that’s why I’m going to study in Cairo; to get away from it all. My sisters think I’m mad for keeping to myself, but what else am I supposed to do when I can’t trust anyone?”
She frowned. Penny saw, in the dim light, that she was blushing.
“But it’s nice to talk to someone every now and then,” said Chloe. “So when I saw you come this morning, I thought you’d like to hang with me, seeing that we’re in the same boat, and everyone’s going to be after you.”
“Hmm, that makes sense,” said Penny.
She got to her feet, picked up the cushion and placed it by Chloe’s feet before sitting back down. “What are you reading, anyway?” she asked.
“Alice Trent,” said Chloe, looking relieved. “You know Locke Walker, the editor for BloodType? His brother’s a world famous author. He writes the Alice Trent books. There’re three out at moment, but I’ve got an early edition of the fourth book, The Basket of Souls. Come.”
She patted the space on the divan beside her. Penny smiled and took the seating invitation, and in the firelight, the girls read together.