Authors: Lee Monroe
Also by Lee Monroe
Dark Heart Forever
Dark Heart Rising
Other books by Hodder Children’s Books
1. Dark Angel
2. Twisted Heart
3. Broken Dream
Copyright © 2012 Lee Monroe
First published in Great Britain in 2012
This ebook edition published in 2012
by Hodder Children’s Books
The right of Lee Monroe to be identified as the Author of the Work has been asserted by her in accordance with the Copyright, Designs and Patents Act 1988
All rights reserved. Apart from any use permitted under UK copyright law, this publication may only be reproduced, stored or transmitted, in any form, or by any means with prior permission in writing from the publishers or in the case of reprographic production in accordance with the terms of licences issued by the Copyright Licensing Agency and may not be otherwise circulated in any form of binding or cover other than that in which it is published and without a similar condition being imposed on the subsequent purchaser.
All characters in this publication are fictitious and any resemblance to real persons, living or dead, is purely coincidental.
A Catalogue record for this book is available from the British Library
ISBN 978 1 444 90871 8
Hodder Children’s Books
a division of Hachette Children’s Books
338 Euston Road,
London NW1 3BH
An Hachette UK company
For Naomi, my excellent editor and dear friend
he corridors were deserted as I crept along them, my heart in my mouth. The place was eerie at night; all those abandoned classrooms, the sound of a loud clock ticking like a bomb coming from one of them.
‘Ashley!’ I called, my voice echoing. ‘Ashley!’
A sound made me turn to look back down the corridor, but there appeared to be nothing. Nobody. I took a step backwards.
‘Is anyone here?’ I waited, my hands curled up in my pockets. I wanted to get out of here, but I couldn’t leave until I’d found Ashley at least. Something was wrong.
And then, as if in slow motion, a silhouette began to appear around the corner. Not human. Bigger than a dog, but elegant, with a sharply pointed head and a gazelle-like body.
I blinked. I couldn’t be seeing this. An animal inside the college.
I couldn’t make out any features; the creature, whatever it was, was still a silhouette against the moonlit window at the far end of the corridor. I swallowed.
‘What … ?’
The animal’s finely pointed ears pricked up and I glimpsed its imperious snout and then, against the dim light, the almost amber colour of its coat.
The animal seemed to be changing before my eyes, the body shrinking and altering its position. I peered, in spite of my fear, and saw it stand upright.
It was not an animal. It was a human. I felt as though I was going to black out.
‘Who is it?’ My voice was reedy, scared.
‘Don’t be frightened,’ a familiar, almost mocking voice told me. ‘I’m glad you came.’
‘Where’s Ashley?’ I said more forcefully. ‘What have you done?’
He laughed. ‘Ashley,’ he repeated. ‘I had almost forgotten about her.’
‘I don’t know who you really are –’ I tried to stop the shaking come through into my voice ‘– but I’ll just forget about everything … if you tell me where she is.’
‘It’s not that simple, Jane.’ He took a step closer to me.
‘What do you want from me?’ I crossed my arms protectively over my chest. ‘It’s like you’ve singled me out.’
‘Perceptive.’ He moved even closer and I saw the vivid contrast of his hair against his flawless skin. ‘But it isn’t exactly you we want …’
‘Then who?’ I played innocent; I knew exactly who he wanted.
‘He’s big enough to take care of himself,’ he said. ‘And he has known this time would come.’
And then he was standing right next to me, so close I could feel his breath on my face. His eyes, glinting and sharp, made my skin tingle. It wasn’t the first time this boy had had this effect on me. He reached out then and touched my hair, so softly, tenderly, that I relaxed my arms a little.
‘I don’t want your help.’ He took a strand of my hair, twisting it gently in his fingers. ‘I’ve only ever wanted one thing from you.’
‘What?’ I breathed.
Didn’t I already know what he was going to say? Hadn’t I known all along the price I had to pay?
Positioning himself so that he was looking right into my eyes, he waited a few seconds so that I could take in his full mouth, the cool blue of his stare.
‘You, Jane,’ he said. ‘I want you.’
hat are you doing?’ I asked my sister, who had my entire collection of cheap jewellery laid out on my bed.
She scrambled over to the mirror on my bedside table holding an earring against her ear and pushed up her long blonde hair, looking at her reflection from every angle.
‘Dot.’ I put down the magazine I was reading, and frowned at her. ‘Got a date or something?’
‘Ugh, no.’ She screwed up her nose. ‘I was just seeing how I’m going to look.’
‘How you’re going to look when?’
‘When you and Luca get married,’ she said airily. ‘And I’m your chief bridesmaid.’
‘My only bridesmaid, you mean.’ I shook my head. ‘What am I saying? Luca and I are not getting married. We’re far too young for all that.’
Dot turned to face me; she had a humouring look in her eye.
‘Not right now, maybe. But Luca hasn’t moved in with us because the two of you are “seeing how it goes”, has he?’
I laughed. ‘I guess. But we don’t need to get
‘Oh.’ Her face crumpled a little. ‘Ever?’
‘I don’t know!’ I smiled. ‘You’ll get to be a bridesmaid one day, babe. I’d place a bet on it. Ambitious bridesmaids always get their way.’
‘So.’ Dot plumped herself down next to me. ‘You are happy, aren’t you?’
‘Of course,’ I said. ‘Really happy. I didn’t think I could ever be this happy.’
I still hadn’t totally absorbed the fact that Luca and I were finally together, and nobody, nothing, was trying to pull us apart. As I felt Dot lean in to me, pick up Mum’s magazine and absorb herself in the Stylehunter section, I thought of how much she didn’t know. The only one who knew the truth was my mother. And she was the only one who understood. Luca wasn’t like anyone I had ever met – quite literally, because he was only half human. Yet the two of us were soulmates. A notion I would have found ridiculous before I met him, but now … The boy who came into my life in my dreams turned out to be real. It’s like the stuff of romantic comedies, except that Luca is also half wolf. He comes from a world called Nissilum. One vast world populated by all kinds of supernatural creatures. The kinds you only read about in books – or so I thought. Vampires, witches, angels. All stripped of evil intent, with rules and a strict moral code. Luca had broken the rules to be with me. The ultimate romantic gesture.
I sighed out loud and Dot looked up.
‘What?’ she asked.
‘Nothing.’ I ruffled her hair. ‘I was just thinking how incredibly lucky I am.’
‘Hmm.’ Dot hesitated. ‘Does Luca have any family?’ she said after a bit. ‘I mean, he never talks about his family. Nor does Mum or Dad – or you. Are they all dead or something? Did they die in a horrible car accident?’
‘Nothing like that,’ I told her, picking my words carefully. ‘They just live a long way away … and he doesn’t really get on with them.’
‘That’s sad,’ she murmured. ‘I can’t imagine never seeing you again. It would be so awful. Wouldn’t you miss me, too?’
I looked down at her. ‘I certainly would. But you and I – we’re never going to fall out.’
‘I bet Luca thought that once,’ she said thoughtfully. ‘I bet he never imagined it either. He must have
fallen out with his family. Big time.’
‘Something like that,’ I said, biting my lip, wondering how she got to be so grown up all of a sudden.
Apart from Dot’s sudden spurt of emotional intelligence, I was taken aback by how her words made me feel a sudden fear. The family bond is strong, and the bond between a girlfriend and a boyfriend is rarely that unbreakable. Luca and I had only just begun a normal relationship and, ahead of us, there was acres of time. Time for us to fall out of love, and for Luca to realize he had made a terrible mistake.
Suddenly the world, and my happiness, seemed just a little bit fragile.