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Crush (Crave #2)
Author: Tracy Wolff





Woke Up Like This



   Being the lone human in a school for paranormals is precarious at the best of times.

   At the worst of times, it’s a little like being the last chew toy in a room full of rabid dogs.

   And at average times…well, at average times, it’s honestly pretty cool.

   Too bad today is most definitely not an average day.

   I don’t know why, but everything feels a little off as I walk down the hall toward my Brit Lit class, the strap of my backpack clutched in my hand like a lifeline.

   Maybe it’s the fact that I’m freezing, my whole body trembling with a cold that has seeped all the way to my bones.

   Maybe it’s the fact that the hand clutching my backpack is bruised and sore, like I got into a fight with a wall—and most definitely lost.

   Or maybe it’s the fact that everyone, and I mean everyone, is staring at me—and it’s not in that “best of times” kind of way.

   Then again, when is it ever?

   You’d think I’d have gotten used to the staring by now, since it kind of comes with the territory when you’re a vampire prince’s girlfriend. But nope. And definitely not okay when every vampire, witch, dragon, and werewolf in the place is stopping to stare at you with their eyes wide and their mouths gaping even wider—like today.

   Which, to be honest, really isn’t a very good look for any of them. I mean, come on. Aren’t I supposed to be the one weirded out in this equation? They’ve known all along that humans exist. It’s only been about a week since I found out the monster in my closet is real. As are the ones in my dorm room, my classes…and sometimes in my arms. So shouldn’t I be the one walking around with my mouth wide open as I stare at them?

   “Grace?” I recognize the voice and turn with a smile, only to find Mekhi gawking at me, his normally warm brown complexion more waxy than I’ve ever seen it.

   “Hey, there you are.” I shoot him a grin. “I thought I was going to have to read Hamlet all by myself today.”

   “Hamlet?” His voice is hoarse, and the hands that fumble the phone out of his front pocket are anything but steady.

   “Yeah, Hamlet. The play we’ve been reading for Brit Lit since I got here?” I shuffle my feet a little, suddenly uncomfortable as he continues to stare at me like he’s seen a ghost…or worse. This definitely isn’t typical Mekhi behavior. “We’re performing a scene today, remember?”

   “We’re not rea—” He breaks off mid-word, thumbs flying over his phone as he sends what his face says is the most important text of his life.

   “Are you okay?” I ask, stepping closer. “You don’t look so good.”

   “I don’t look so good?” He barks out a laugh, shoves a trembling hand through his long, dark locks. “Grace, you’re—”

   “Miss Foster?”

   Mekhi breaks off as a voice I don’t recognize all but booms through the hallway.

   “Are you all right?”

   I shoot Mekhi a “what the fuck?” look as we both turn to find Mr. Badar, the Lunar Astronomy teacher, striding down the hall.

   “I’m fine,” I answer, taking a startled step back. “I’m just trying to get to class before the bell rings.” I blink up at him when he stops directly in front of us. He’s looking a lot more freaked out than an early-morning hallway exchange warrants. Especially since all I’m doing is talking to a friend.

   “We need to find your uncle,” he tells me as he places a hand under my elbow in an effort to turn me around and guide me back in the direction I just came from.

   There’s something in his voice, less than a warning but more than a request, that gets me walking through the long, lancet-arched hallway without complaint. Well, that and because the normally unfazed Mekhi scrambles to get out of our way.

   But with each step I take, the feeling that something isn’t right intensifies. Especially when people literally stop in their tracks to watch us go by, a reaction that only seems to make Mr. Badar more nervous.

   “Can you please tell me what’s going on?” I ask as the crowd parts right in front of us. It’s not the first time I’ve seen the phenomenon—once again, I do date Jaxon Vega—but it is the first time I’ve seen it happen when my boyfriend is nowhere around. It’s beyond weird.

   Mr. Badar looks at me like I’ve grown a second head, then asks, “You don’t know?” The fact that he sounds a little frantic, his deep voice taking on an incredulous edge, ratchets up my anxiety. Especially since it reminds me of the look on Mekhi’s face when he reached for his phone a couple of minutes ago.

   It’s the same look I see on Cam’s face as we sweep by him standing in the doorway of one of the Chem classrooms. And Gwen’s. And Flint’s.

   “Grace!” Flint calls to me, bounding out of the classroom so he can walk alongside Mr. Badar and me. “Oh my God, Grace! You’re back!”

   “Not now, Mr. Montgomery,” the teacher snaps, his teeth clicking together sharply with each word.

   So definitely a werewolf, then…at least judging by the size of that canine I see peeking from beneath his lip. Then again, I guess I should have figured it out by the subject he teaches—who’s more interested in the astronomy of the moon than the creatures who occasionally like to howl at it?

   For the first time, I wonder if something happened this morning that I don’t know about. Did Jaxon and Cole, the alpha werewolf, get into it again? Or Jaxon and another wolf this time—maybe Quinn or Marc? It doesn’t seem likely, since everyone has been giving us a wide berth lately, but why else would a werewolf teacher I’ve never met before be so panicked and single-minded in his determination to get me to my uncle?

   “Wait, Grace—” Flint reaches out for me, but Mr. Badar blocks his hand from connecting.

   “I said not now, Flint! Go to class!” The words, little more than a snarl, come from low in his throat.

   Flint looks like he wants to argue, his own teeth suddenly gleaming sharply in the soft chandelier lighting of the hallway. He must decide it’s not worth it—despite his clenched fists—because in the end, he doesn’t say anything. He just kind of stops in his tracks and watches us walk by instead…just like everyone else in the corridor.

   Several people look like they want to approach—Macy’s friend Gwen, for example—but a low, warning growl from the teacher, who’s pretty much marching me down the hallway now, and the whole group of them decides to keep their distance.

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