Bloodspell (The Cruentus Curse, #1)(8)

Canville was perfect—far enough away but still close to Holly. She was staying with an old friend of Holly's who rented out a tiny apartment in her house. To offset her tuition, she'd secured a job at a local restaurant, the Black Dog, as a waitress and bartender. Luckily, Maine was the only state that allowed bartenders at seventeen, so she'd be able to get more shifts and make more money. Her part-time job as an assistant to the music director would be just enough to cover the rest of her costs.

Despite her recent disturbing tendency to know what people were going to say before they said it, things had been quiet over the summer. She'd spent most of her time working at the local bookstore in Millinocket. All she'd wanted was to be normal—no strange voices, no weird energy, and no mysterious music boxes with hidden family secrets. The strange blood disease and her stay in the hospital had faded into a distant, if troubling, memory. That part of her life—St. Xavier's, the hospital, Brett—was over, and she was determined to forget it. She'd buried her grandmother's music box in a carton full of other unwanted things in a corner of her new apartment.

Victoria hadn't told anyone, not even Holly, that she'd remembered what had happened with Brett. At first, it'd just been bits and pieces over the months, but eventually she'd remembered it all in cold, gruesome detail. She had almost killed him. She also remembered what had happened in the hospital, which was a little harder to come to terms with, because it was in every sense, impossible.

She died.

She'd read Dr. Mills' report from the hospital. Her heart had stopped beating for forty-three minutes, enough time for her to be completely brain-dead, and they'd tried everything including a defibrillator at its highest level to resuscitate her. And just as Holly had said, when they'd been about to call it quits, her pulse had resumed of its own accord. No wonder Dr. Mills had looked at her as if she were a freak.

In the end, her regeneration had been so dramatic that within days, despite her blood's atypical dark color, her blood count was back to normal, healthy levels, and the abnormal cells that had supported the initial diagnosis seemed to have disappeared. They'd kept her in a medically induced coma for four days after she'd been admitted, but for all intents and purposes, her recovery had been deemed a medical miracle.

A miracle or the devil's own luck?

Victoria breathed slowly and ignored the errant thought, inhaling through her nose and exhaling through her mouth as she walked to the entrance of the building. That chapter of her life was now closed. Over.

After she'd turned seventeen, things had just felt different. It had felt like she could do anything. Maybe it was the freedom from the chains of St. Xavier's, but at Windsor, Victoria discovered a new lease on life. This was her fresh start—new school, new personality, no craziness. She had even made sure that she looked different. Her hair had been cut in a flattering shoulder length style, and she'd chosen to wear a scarlet sweater, a far cry from the more somber colors she usually favored. She was older and wiser, and things would be different.

"Admissions, please?" she asked the security guard at the entrance. He nodded over his shoulder to the right without even raising his eyes from the magazine he'd been reading. Victoria went into the building and filed the required paperwork with the clerk, receiving her senior class schedule in exchange. She was finished in ten minutes. As she turned to leave the Admissions Office, she collided with someone walking in from outside and her papers went flying.

"Omigod, I am so sorry! That was totally my fault. I wasn't watching where I was going."

"I hardly think you were solely to blame," said a melodic husky voice.

Was that a French accent??? Victoria's head whipped up from where she was kneeling to collect her papers, and she immediately banged heads with him again as he knelt down to help her. The single thought that registered before stars blinded her vision was that he didn't look anything like the boys she'd known at St. Xavier's! He had strange eyes that were so light they didn't seem to have any color in them. They seemed hard, out of sync with the boyish contours of his face.

"Ouch," she said, suddenly tongue-tied. "That was ... me. I'm so sorry." Her eyes met his startling silver ones and her heart almost stopped as he smiled at her. His smile did not quite seem to touch his eyes despite the brilliance of it, and she bent her head quickly.

"Apology accepted. I'm Christian, Christian Devereux." The velvety voice washed over her already overheated senses, and her hands shook as her own voice stuck, paralyzed in her chest. Where she came from, boys did not speak like that, with mellifluous, perfect diction and voices that sounded like butterscotch! It was a voice that was also at odds with the hardness of his eyes. It confused her.

"I'm Tori Warrick. I'm a senior, I mean, I just enrolled ... transfer," she said. God, what was wrong with her! He was just a boy, for goodness' sake. Her hands felt clammy as she gathered up her papers. Her heart was hammering heatedly in her chest.

Stop it, she told herself. She couldn't understand the sudden rush of adrenaline deafening her ears, the unexpected liquidity of her limbs. His eyes met hers, and her blood burned in response.

Christian was not what she would consider in conventional terms to be good-looking. His face, though perfect in its symmetry, lacked the softness that would make him handsome. But he was ... magnetic. Dark blond waves of hair framed a face of striking sharpness, with strange silver-colored eyes as she'd noticed before. A thin white scar curved into his left eyebrow.

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