Chapter One

I stood on the landing outside of the main entrance and watched as the students filed off the buses, laughing with one another and pushing each other. The young and new students looked timidly at the older students who greeted one another with hugs and slaps on the back. The professors milled around all of the chaos, directing newcomers to the right destinations. There wasn't much directing to be done, however, because all students were to meet in the auditorium before dinner.

"Hello, Gail," a voice said behind me. "How does it feel to be one of the head advisors for the student council this year?" I turned to look at the dark haired man who was in charge of Bruster and

Smeth Academy.

"Like nothing has changed," I replied coolly. He arched an eyebrow and then a small smile appeared on his face.

"Indeed, dear, nothing has changed with you," he told me as he moved to stand next to me. "There is someone I want you to meet later. He shall join us for the council dinner after the assembly."

"And I thought attendance wasn't required," I muttered. He chuckled.

"Indeed you would," he replied. "I hope your parents are doing well."

"As well as can be expected."

"The pain will lessen, Miss. Graver. I wish I could say that it would entirely disappear, but that would be a lie and you know as well as I do that I am not one to lie," Headmaster McGuire said as he stared at the gates of the academy. "Your family will find a way to manage the pain and then you shall be able to, not move on, but to accept what has happened."

"No offense, Headmaster, but I have already accepted what has happened," I replied, looking at him. "I can assure you that accepting what has happened does not help to ease the pain whatsoever." He sighed and closed his eyes for a brief moment.

"My offer still stands, Miss. Graver. My door is always open if you need someone to speak with," he told me. I brushed a dark curl from my face and looked him in the eye.

"Again, no offense, Headmaster, but I won't be accepting that offer. I don't need to talk to someone," I informed him. "What happened was a terrible accident, I know that, and I have accepted that my brother is officially dead. Unless you know a witch to take the pain away, I don't believe that anything will help me."

"You never know what can help to ease the pain, dear," he replied. "Sometimes we manage to surprise even ourselves."

"Don't you have a student body to address?" I asked, tilting my head to the side. He shook his head.

"My brother said that his daughter was even more difficult than his son," Headmaster McGuire murmured, "but I never thought she would be this difficult."

"My father doesn't know his own children," I replied as I started to walk away. "That's why he feels so guilty about Alec's death." I turned and stuffed my hands into my pockets, not waiting for my uncle's response.

There was a time that I never would have spoken to authority in such a manner, let alone my own uncle, but that was a different girl and a different lifetime. That girl would have loved to be one of the heads of the student council, but now I didn't want it. I didn't want the responsibility, the popularity, or the honor that came with it. All I wanted was to disappear into the shadows like my kind was supposed to. The spotlight wasn't the place I wanted to be.

All around me people chattered about how their summer break had been and all of the things that they had done. I'd spent the summer in Italy, keeping myself entertained as my family attended to their jobs in the council.

My father was what would be equivalent to the vice president in the United States. He assisted the "president" of the council, but our kind referred to him as the Head of the Council. My father's position is one of respect and authority, even though it may not seem that way. His position holds nearly as much power as the Heads, but he does not have the final word on issues. That is the one power that only the Head holds.

My mother, on the other hand, works for the Council of Defense. Her job is to enforce the rules and the laws of the Council. She is the Head of the Council, which makes her the person that is called to places all over the world whenever serious violations of the Law are committed.

So, basically, my parents were, and never have been, around. My brother, being two years older, was the one who practically raised me. If it hadn't been for him, then who knows what kind of person I would have turned out to be. Perhaps I would have been the person I became after he died.

Someone bumped into my shoulder, dragging back to reality. In front of me, the Creatures Auditorium loomed like a dark omen. It's stone walls and small, almost nonexistent windows was exactly what was to be expected of a school packed full of vampires, but that didn't mean that the buildings on the campus didn't creep out even the students. My father had always referred to Bruster and Smeth Academy as the gloom and doom version of Hogwarts. When he said it, my immediate reaction was that he really didn't know anything about Harry Potter, but then I realized that perhaps he was right. Even though Bruster didn't have an evil wizard trying to kill everyone, a vampire school was definitely depressing. At least they didn't have to go to school when it was dark.

"Gail!" a voice called over the sea of people. "Hey! Gail!" I stopped walking and watched as a red haired boy pushed his way through the crowd as his twin sister trailed along behind him.

"Hi, Jordan," I said once he reached me.

"Did you hear the news?" he asked breathlessly. Around us, people grumbled for us to get out of the way, but I merely arched an eyebrow at Jordan.

"What news?" I questioned. He looked at me with disbelief.

"I thought for sure that the council advisors knew already," he told me and then grabbed my wrist, pulling me away from the crowd. He brushed his bangs out of his eyes and looked at me. "Everyone's all worked up over supposed royalty coming to Bruster. I didn't get to hear everything that the professors were talking about because my dad caught me."

"I thought you were supposed to be the sly one, Jord," I said. He shrugged.

"Doesn't matter. I just know everyone's all worked up over this kid," he replied.

"Did you get a chance to find out who it is? Or, even how they're supposed to be royal?" I asked him. He shook his head.

"I just heard them talking about some kid coming and the faculty is worried about how the school has to increase security for one kid. My dad wouldn't let me listen to anything else. Apparently it wasn't appropriate to eavesdrop," he replied with a shrug. "I'll just have to be sneakier next time."

"The Headmaster told me there was someone he wanted me to meet at the council dinner tonight, but he didn't tell me anything about them," I mused, pursing my lips.

"I guarantee that's who the special someone is," Jordan said, putting his hands into his pockets.

"Probably, but I'm just trying to figure out how to get kicked out of the council," I replied as I leaned against the cool brick of the building. "I should have never signed up for it."

"Well, you did, you dork," Jordan said. "Come out with us tonight. Maybe we'll mess up and get caught and then you can plead for your punishment to be getting kicked out of the council. Wouldn't your parents just love you then?" I smiled at him.

Of course they wouldn't love me then. It would be a disgrace if their daughter had gotten kicked out of the student council of the most prestigious schools for vampires in the world. That would be something that would certainly get their attention, but that wasn't what I wanted. I didn't need my parents prying into my school and personal life. All I wanted was to not have to deal with being on the student council. Nor did I want to be an advisor of it, either.

"We should get in there," Jordan said, breaking into my thoughts. "Headmaster McGuire doesn't tolerate tardiness."

"Since when do you care about being tardy?" I asked, furrowing my brow. He shrugged.

"It's only the first day of school. I promised my parents I wouldn't do anything reckless until at least the second day. Hence while we're waiting until later to go out," he replied. I shook my head, smiling.

"As soon as the clock strikes twelve we're out of here, right?" I asked. He grinned at me.

"Always."

Jordan and I made our way to the auditorium and managed to find empty seats in the back of the crowded room. On stage, the professors were sitting in chairs, wearing the robes of their departments. Headmaster McGuire stood with Professor Bartlett, who was the head of the history department. Both of their heads were bent, absorbed in their conversation and oblivious to everyone around them.

A blonde boy slipped into the seat next to me and leaned forward, speaking to the dark haired girl who sat directly in front of him. I exchanged looks with Jordan before elbowing the boy in the side. He gave me a dirty look before sitting back in his seat.

"Lovely to see you, Gail," he said, rolling his eyes.

"Of course it's always lovely to see me, Cody. Did you miss me over break?" I asked. He shook his head.

"How could I possibly miss you when we spent the entire break together?" he questioned. The dark haired girl turned around to look at us.

"He enjoyed his time with you, Gail," Amber informed me. "He just has to mope because he didn't get to spend it in France like I did."

"I didn't say that."

"Well, you didn't not say that."

"He just likes to mope," Jordan interjected. "He even moped in preschool whenever he didn't get the dinosaur bandage after getting a paper cut."

"If I remember correctly, he was full out crying over that one," I replied.

"Yeah, I think that's how it went down," Amber confirmed as we all looked at Cody.

"Great friends, great friends," he muttered.

"Look who it is, Miss. Perfect," Jordan called out as Shelby Snow walked by, her blonde curls perfectly framing her face. She paused in the walkway and looked at Jordan and then at me.

"Hey, Abi," she said, choosing to ignore him. I put my feet against the back of the seat in front of me and plastered a fake smile on my face.

"Shelby," I replied. She bit her lip and looked as though she wanted to say more, but at that moment McGuire stepped up to the microphone, forcing her to go and find an empty seat.

"I hate that girl," Cody said under his breath. I crossed my arms over my chest.

"You hate everyone," I murmured in response.

"That's true, but I really hate that girl. How did you ever put up with her?" he asked, looking at me. I stared at McGuire as he delivered his yearly welcome back speech that never changed.

"I was a different person," I replied. He turned his attention towards the stage.

"That's for sure."

I picked at thread on my shirt as McGuire continued to give his speech. Shelby was my roommate the year before. After my brother's death, I started rooming with Amber because Shelby's personality was one that I couldn't deal with at the time. Even now I wasn't able to stomach her concern and her sympathies. I knew that she was just trying to be a good person, but that wasn't what I wanted at that time. I wanted someone to be truthful with me, to let me be because that was all I really wanted.

That was part of the reason that I returned to my childhood friends. We'd separated in junior high, as most friends do, but while they stuck together, I drifted from group to group. They were still the misfit trouble makers that they had been whenever I remembered them and whenever I joined them for dinner one night, we fell back into our old habits as though seven years hadn't passed and that was what I needed. They didn't ask questions, they didn't try to make me talk, and they certainly didn't try to make me feel good again. They just accepted things as they were.

On stage, Headmaster McGuire was addressing the new students and telling them how Bruster was going to feel like home to them. I wanted to tell them that it wouldn't feel like home. How could a place such as Bruster ever feel like home? The freshman were intimidated by the older students. The new kids were like fish out of water because each academy did things differently. Plus, they didn't know anyone. As a council advisor, it was part of my job to make sure that everyone felt "included and welcome", but I had a feeling that McGuire already knew that was one duty that I would not be fulfilling.

"Now, it is time for the important announcement," Headmaster McGuire said, his eyes scanning the room and stopping on me for a moment. "We will have a special guest joining us for this term. I expect you to treat him like any other peer and to give him the respect and privacy that he deserves."

"Who is it? The king?" Cody muttered under his breath. I shot him a grin before turning my attention back to the stage. The Council didn't have a specific leader, much less a king. The heads of the Council departments were in charge of their departments and in turn they created the High Council, which was in charge of all of our kind.

"Please join me in giving a warm welcome to Mr. Mat Kensington," McGuire said, clapping his hands as a dark haired boy walked confidently on stage. Cheers and applause went up throughout the auditorium as I exchanged looks with Jordan, Cody, and Amber.