Home > Angry God (All Saints High #3)(2)

Angry God (All Saints High #3)(2)
Author: L.J. Shen

My door creaked open. I felt a gust of wind from its direction, raising the hair on my arms wherever it touched. My body tensed like a piece of dried clay, hard but fragile.

“Pale face. Black heart. Golden legacy.”

That’s how I’d once heard Uncle Harry—also known as Professor Fairhurst inside these walls—describe Vaughn to one of his colleagues.

There was no mistaking the energy Vaughn Spencer brought into a room, because it sucked up everything else like a Hoover. The air in my room was suddenly thick with danger. It was like trying to breathe under water.

I felt my knees knocking together under my quilt as I pretended to be asleep. Summers in Carlisle Castle were unbearably humid, and I wore a tank top and shorts.

He moved in the dark, but I couldn’t hear him, which scared me even more. The thought that he might kill me—actually, literally strangle me to death—crossed my mind. I had no doubt he’d knocked out the guard who walked our hall at night to make sure nobody broke curfew or made silly ghost-like noises to scare the other students. No fire was as big and burning as one born of humiliation, and what I’d witnessed tonight had embarrassed Vaughn. Even in my haste to leave, I’d seen it on his face.

Vaughn was never uncomfortable. He wore his skin with arrogance, like a crown.

I felt my quilt rolling down my body, from my shoulders to my ankles in one precise movement. My two Brussels sprouts of breasts—as my older sister Poppy called them—poked through my shirt without my sports bra, and he could see them. I squeezed my eyes tighter.

God. Why did I have to open the bloody door? Why did I have to see him? Why did I have to put myself on the radar of one of the most gifted boys in the world?

He was destined for greatness, and I was destined to whatever purpose he’d see fit for me.

I felt his finger touching the side of my neck. It was cold and dry from sculpting. He brushed it down along my spine, standing over me, watching what we both pathetically pretended was my sleeping figure. But I was wide awake, and I felt everything—the threat wafting from his touch and his scent of shaved stone, rain, and the sweet, faint trail I’d find out later was a blunt. Through the narrow slit of my closed eyes, I could make out the way he tilted his head as he watched me.

Please. I will never tell a soul.

I wondered, if he was so formidable at thirteen, what he would be like as a grown man? I’d hoped to never find out, although chances were, this wouldn’t be our last encounter. There were only so many billionaire-spawns-to-famous-artists in this world, and our parents ran in the same social circles.

I’d met Vaughn once even before he came to school, when he was vacationing in the South of France with his family one summer. My parents had hosted a wine-tasting event for charity, and Baron and Emilia Spencer had attended. I was nine; Vaughn was ten. Mum slathered me in sunscreen, put an ugly hat on me, and made me swear I wouldn’t get into the sea because I couldn’t swim.

That’s how I’d ended up watching him on the beach under a canopy the entire vacation, in between flipping pages of the fantasy book I was reading. Vaughn broke waves with his scrawny body—running straight into them with the ferocity of a hungry warrior—and dragged jellyfish from the Mediterranean Sea back to shore, holding them by their tops, so they couldn’t sting him. One day he’d poked ice lolly sticks into them until he was sure they were dead and then cut them, mumbling to himself that jellyfish always cut into perfect halves, no matter which way you sliced.

He was odd. Cruel and different. I’d had no intention of talking to him.

Then, during one of the many grand events that week, he’d snuck behind the fountain I sat leaning against, reading a book, and split a chocolate brownie he must’ve stolen before dinner. He handed me half, unsmiling.

I’d groaned as I accepted it, because I had the silly notion that now I owed him something. “Mummy will have a heart attack if she finds out,” I told him. “She never lets me eat sugar.”

I’d then shoved the entire thing into my mouth, fighting the sticky goo on my tongue, the rich nougat coating my teeth.

His mouth, a slash of disapproval, had cut his otherwise stoic features. “Your mom sucks.”

“My mum is the best!” I exclaimed hotly. “Besides, I saw you poking sticks at jellyfish. You don’t know anything. You’re nothing but a bad boy.”

“Jellyfish don’t have hearts,” he drawled, as if that made it okay.

“Just like you.” I’d been unable to stop myself from licking my fingers, eyeing the untouched brownie half in his hand.

He’d scowled, but for some reason, he didn’t seem upset by my insult. “They also don’t have brains. Just like you.”

I stared ahead, ignoring him. I didn’t want to argue and make a scene. Papa would be mad if I raised my voice. Mum would be disappointed, which was somehow even worse.

“Such a good girl,” Vaughn had taunted, his eyes gleaming with mischief. Instead of taking a bite of his brownie, he’d passed the second piece to me.

I took it, hating myself for caving in.

“Such a good, proper, boring girl.”

“You’re ugly.” I shrugged. He wasn’t, really. But I wanted him to be.

“Ugly or not, I could still kiss you if I wanted to, and you’d let me.”

I choked on the rich cocoa in my mouth, my book dropping to the ground and closing without a bookmark. Shoot.

“Why would you ever think that?” I’d turned to him, scandalized.

He’d leaned close, one flat chest to another. He’d smelled of something foreign and dangerous and wild. Of golden California beaches, maybe.

“Because my dad told me good girls like bad boys, and I’m bad. Really bad.”

And now, here we were. Facing off again. He was, tragically, nowhere near ugly, and he seemed to be contemplating what to do with our newly shared secret.

“Kill you? Hurt you? Scare you off?” he pondered, exuding ruthless power.

My throat worked around a lump that refused to wash down.

“What should I do with you, Good Girl?”

He remembered my pet name from that day at the beach. It made everything worse, somehow. Up until now, we’d acted like we didn’t know each other at all.

Vaughn lowered himself so his face was aligned with mine. I could feel his hot breath—the only thing warm about him—sliding against my neck. My throat went dry, each breath passing through it like a blade. Still, I kept up the charade. Maybe if he thought I was dream-walking, he would spare me his wrath.

“How good are you at keeping secrets, Lenora Astalis?” His voice wrapped around my neck like a noose.

I wanted to cough. I needed to cough. He terrified me. I hated him with the heat and passion of a thousand blazing suns. He made me feel like a scaredy cat and a snitch.

“Oh, yes. If you’re coward enough to pretend you’re asleep, you’re good enough to keep a secret. That’s the thing about you, Astalis. I can smash you into dust and watch your grains dance at my feet. My little circus monkey.”

I might’ve hated Vaughn, but I hated myself more for not standing up to him. For not opening my eyes and spitting in his face. Clawing his unnaturally blue eyes out. Taunting him back for all the times he’d taunted all of us at Carlisle Prep.

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