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Fate

Contents

Title Page

Copyright Page

Dedication

Author’s Note

ONE

TWO

THREE

FOUR

FIVE

SIX

Author’s Note

Find Scarlett Online

Acknowledgments

Fate

New Hope Academy, Episode One

Scarlett Haven

[]

[*Copyright *]© 2016 Scarlett Haven

http://scarletthaven.wordpress.com 

All rights reserved.

Smashwords Edition, License Notes

This ebook is licensed for your personal enjoyment only. This ebook may not be re-sold or given away to other people. If you would like to share this book with another person, please purchase an additional copy for each recipient. If you’re reading this book and did not purchase it, or it was not purchased for your use only, then please return to your favorite ebook retailer and purchase your own copy. Thank you for respecting the hard work of this author.

[]

This book is dedicated to my cousin, Savannah.

Follow God with your whole heart and don’t let anybody tell you anything is impossible.

This is episode one in the New Hope Academy Series.

Enjoy the ride.

ONE

Weird American things.

Life brings pain. How we deal with that pain is what defines us. Pain can make the nicest of people go mad. If you let it, pain can eat away at your soul until there is nothing recognizable left.

Pain can also make us fierce. It can make a weak person strong. Pain helps us appreciate the good moments… moments we may have otherwise took for granted.

Which of these I am, I can’t say. I suppose it depends on the day. Some days, I feel invincible, and others I want to hide in a closet and let the world think I have disappeared. I haven’t yet decided which I am today, though the closet is looking pretty good right about now.

I look down from the small airplane window at the American city skyline. In a few minutes, I will be landing on American soil for the first time.

“Almost home,” the guy next to me says. When I switched planes in Canada, he was the guy who sat beside me. He’s been on his laptop the whole time and only put it away a few minutes ago.

I’m jealous of him. He’s almost home. I’m already homesick.

“Is Pennsylvania home to you as well?” he asks.

I turn to the guy, feeling surprised that this stranger is talking to me.

“No. I won’t be going home until Christmas,” I answer.

“Are you Russian?” he asks.

“Yes.”

I’m half-Russian, half-British, though I was born and raised in Russia.

“Are you here for college?” he asks.

“I won’t start uni for two years,” I answer. “I’m here to attend New Hope Academy.”

“That’s a nice school,” he says. “I hope to send my kid there when he’s older. If I can afford it.”

I nod, knowing that it’s a nice school. I’ve heard nothing but how nice it is since my parents old me that I was enrolled two weeks ago. And even then, I think they only told me because they had to ship my stuff to the school. I think they would’ve waited to tell me I was leaving until today if it were up to them.

“Are you not happy about going to school here?” he asks.

“I’d rather be at home. With my mum, dad, and brothers,” I admit.

“Well, I hope you like the school,” he says. “I’m sure you’ll make lots of friends.”

“I hope so as well,” I say. This guy seems plenty nice and normal, but I’ve always heard Americans were strange.

“I’m Marcus, by the way. Marcus Smith,” he says, extending his hand.

At first, I’m shocked this guy is extending his hand. A lady is always supposed to initiate a handshake. But then I remember, I’m in America. Things are different here.

I accept his handshake. “I’m Katerina Vasin.”

Marcus smiles at me, which makes me a little uncomfortable. I wonder if smiling at strangers is one of those weird American things.

“Tell me, Katerina, are all Russians so serious?” he asks.

“I don’t understand,” I say.

“I guess what I’m trying to ask is, do you ever smile?”

“Never at a stranger,” I answer, feeling my face grow warm. “Women in Russia who do are considered promiscuous.”

“In America, it’s friendly to smile,” he says.

“I’ll try and remember that,” I say, feeling bad that I thought he was creepy for smiling at me.

Still, Americans are weird.

Say something.

New Hope, Pennsylvania is a lovely town.

But it’s small.

Really, really small.

As the limo drives towards the school, I look out the window, taking in the sights. There are people walking through town, going to shops and restaurants on the sides of the road. Just past the shops, there is the Delaware River, so the limo driver informs me.

As I watch the people, I realize that maybe Marcus was right. Lots of people seem to be smiling.

A few miles out of town, I see a large stone sign that says “New Hope Academy.” The limo turns onto the drive. We drive a little over two versts, or about a mile and a half, to the school.

Along the way, I notice how well maintained the school is. The grass is well tended to, the trees are all trimmed neatly, and the drive looks freshly paved.

For a moment, I wonder how much my parents paid to send me here. But I know what my father would say—there is no price too high for his only daughter.

I have two older brothers, Dimitri and Alik. Dimitri is twenty two years old and is engaged to a wonderful woman named Elana. They are planning a wedding for the Christmas holiday. They were going to marry earlier, but I suspect they are delaying the wedding so I can be there.

Alik is nineteen. He’s enrolled at a great university in Russia. I hope to join him there in two years.

Not only am I the only girl, but I also the baby of the family.

“We’re here, Miss Vasin,” the limo driver tells me, as we pull in front of the busy school. There are a lot of nice cars and limos around, dropping kids off or parking.

I look at the school—there are a handful of matching brick buildings, and a large fountain in the front, with water spraying up. A lot of students are sitting around the fountain—some with friends, some alone. There is even a boy playing guitar.

Everybody looks cheerful.

There are groups of girls talking in circles and groups of guys just hanging out. As I watch them, I wonder which group I will fit in with.

The limo door swings open, making me jump. The driver stands there, waiting for me to get out.

“Don’t worry, Miss Vasin. You will fit in just fine here,” he says, as if reading my mind.

“Brilliant,” I say, then get out.

The limo driver gets my bag from the trunk, and I grab it from him.

“Goodbye, Miss Vasin,” he says. “And good luck.”

The limo driver walks to get back in his car, so I walk forward towards the school. Unfortunately, I don’t notice the curb and I end up falling face first into something hard.

“Hey!” an angry voice yells.

“I didn’t see the curb,” I tell the guy, once I get my balance.

He looks at me and smiles. “Don’t worry about it,” he says. “I love your accent.”

“Okay,” I say, not knowing what else to say. I’m not used to getting compliments from strangers and to be honest, it’s kind of awkward.

“You’re from Russia, right?” he asks.

“Yeah.”

“I’m Kaiden Thornburg,” he says.

“I’m Katerina Vasin.”

“Katerina,” he says, repeating my name. It’s really weird heating my name with an American accent. Or maybe it’s American. He sounds different than what I’m used to hearing in movies. “So what brings you to America?”

“School,” I answer.

“Yeah, but why New Hope Academy?” he asks.

“My mum and dad picked the school out. I have no idea why,” I answer.

“Your mum?” he asks. “Now you sound British.”

“I am. Or half, anyway. My dad is Russian, my mum is British, which is why I speak English so well. We only speak English at home, unless we have company,” I say, explaining.

“So you speak Russian?” he asks.

I nod.

“Say something.”

“Okay,” I say, looking him in the eyes. It’s then that I notice how green his eyes are. “U tebya krasivyye glaza.”

“What did you say?” he asks.

My face grows warm.

There is no way that I’m going to tell him in English.

“You will have to learn Russia and figure it out yourself,” I say.

Because I can’t tell a guy I just met “you have beautiful eyes.” He would probably take it the wrong way. I’m not sure if American boys are as forward as Russian boys, but I’m not going to take any chances.

“Challenge accepted,” he says.

“Your accent if different. Are you from somewhere else too?” I ask, curiosity getting the best of me.

“I’m just southern,” he says. “You will learn that people from different areas in the US have different accents. I’m from South Carolina.”

“I have no idea where that’s at,” I admit. “I don’t know much about American geography.”

“Maybe you can come for Labor Day weekend. My parents will be out of town, as always. I usually bring all my friends,” Kaiden says. “We have a house on the beach. It doesn’t really get very cold there and rarely ever snows.”

Isn’t the point of Labor Day to spend time with family? It’s weird that his parents are always out of town for it, but I don’t question it. Maybe American’s version of Labor Day is different than ours.

“Does it snow much in Russia?” he asks, then immediately says, “Wait. Don’t answer that. It was a stupid question.”

It does seem stupid until I realize that I don’t know much about American climates.

“I better go,” I tell Kaiden. “I should probably unpack.”

“Do you need help finding your way?”

“No,” I answer, pointing to a sign that says “New students here.”

“Oh. Well, it was nice to meet you, Katerina.”

“You too, Kaiden,” I say, then walk off.

At least all the Americans I’ve met so far have been friendly.

I still think Americans are weird.

After I get checked in, I head to my room to unpack. My roommate is already all unpacked. My stuff is all put together too—the stuff my mum shopped here. I don’t know who set it up, but I am glad I don’t have to. I hate unpacking.

As I am in the middle of unpacking my one carry one bag, my phone goes off. I’m glad to see it’s my brother Alik and not my mum or dad. I’m mad at them right now.

Privyet,” I answer, saying hi in Russian.

“Hey, Katerina,” he answers back in English. “You have a nice trip?”

“As well as it could be, seeing I spent eleven hours in the air,” I say. “I miss you already.”

“Miss you too, lil sis,” he says. “I’m leaving for uni in September, so it would’ve just been you, mum and dad at home. Maybe it’s best you’re in America. You know how they like to hover you.”

It’s true.

I’m the baby and the only girl in my family, so they are very protective. Though, it has been worse lately.

“Still, I don’t like being in a foreign country all alone,” I say, feeling overwhelmed. I just want to go home.

“You will make friends, Katerina. Lots of them. After you graduate, you probably won’t want to come home,” Alik says, obviously trying to cheer me up. But he’s not the one in a strange country.

“If I was home, I’d be starting uni next year. Now I have two years before I can go,” I say, reminding him of how different American education is.

New Hope Academy is the best college prep school in America. You’re going to learn a lot and you will have fun. Just promise me you will try and make friends,” he says.

“Alik…”

“I’m serious, Katerina Mikhailovna Vasin.”

My mum, whenever she gets onto me or my brother, uses our full name. So I know that Alik really is serious.

“Okay, Alik. I will try.”

“Promise?” he asks.

“Promise.”

“Good,” he says. “I’m going to get off here. But I promise to call again soon.”

“Okay. I love you, Alik. Please tell Mum, Dad and Dimitri too.”

“Love you too. And I will,” he says. “Bye.”

“Bye,” I say, as the line goes dead.

I want to take a minute to cry, but instead I finish unpacking.

When I go back to Russia after graduation, things will be different. I’ll be going to uni and probably getting married soon. My family won’t be the same and it’s scary to think about.

Not that my family has been the same since my brother, Eduard, died.

Still, growing up is not always fun. I miss the simplicity of being a child. And I know I’m only sixteen, which some might consider a child, but I’m not. I know pain that most adult have never felt.

When I was younger, my mum used to tell me, “beauty is pain.” Usually when I was complaining about wearing heels. After my brother died, she stopped saying it. I think she realized that sometimes, pain is ugly. Sometimes pain leaves behind scars.

I finish putting away my stuff just as the door opens. I look behind me to see a blonde girl walk in.

The girl is kind of pretty. She has dirty blonde hair, light brown eyes, and she’s tall—I’d say about 170 centimeters. She’s also wearing a pair of yellow jeans. I know enough about American culture to know that she’s wearing skinny jeans. They’re so tight, I don’t see how they could be comfortable. She’s also wearing a black Star Wars shirt.

“Hi,” the girl says. “You must be my new roommate.”

I nod.

“I’m Savannah Arrington,” she says.

“I’m Katerina Vasin,” I say.

“Cool accent. Where are you from?”

“Russia,” I answer, wondering how many people are going to ask me that question.

“Cool,” she says. “I’m from Chicago.”

“Do you have a lot of siblings?” I ask.

“Nope. Only child. What about you?” she asks.

“I have thr… two older brothers. Alik and Dimitri,” I tell her.

“Cool,” she says.

I think Savannah likes the word cool.

“I have a cousin who goes here,” she says. “We’re close. He’s like a brother to me.”

“Oh. That’s nice.” I don’t have any cousins. Or none that I know of. My dad’s parents died when he was just a baby, so he never had any siblings. And my mum has a sister, but I’ve never met her before and my mum doesn’t like speaking of her. So maybe I have a cousin and just don’t know it.

“Yeah. Well, do you want to meet some people?” she asks. “I can introduce you. It’d be more fun than sitting in the dorm room.”

“Sure,” I say, remembering my promise to Alik.

I follow Savannah out the door.

“So how is your English so good?” she asks. “Do you visit America often?”

“My mum is British,” I answer. “This is my first trip to America.”

“Cool,” she says. “Are all Russian girls as pretty as you are?”

“Ugh…” I’m not sure what to say. I feel like that’s an awkward question for her to ask me.

I feel like I look like the stereotypical Russian woman—blonde hair, blue eyes, and pale skin. Ironically, I get my hair and eye color from my British mum. My dad has dark hair and dark eyes.

“It’s a compliment.”

“Thanks,” I say, remembering my mum saying that English people like to be thanked.

“There’s my cousin!” Savannah says, getting excited.

I look to where she is pointing, but it’s a group of people. We walk up to them.

“Asher, hey,” Savannah says, giving a guy with dark hair a hug.

The guy I’m assuming is her cousin doesn’t look like her at all. He has dark hair and dark blue eyes. But then again, I don’t look anything like my brothers.

“I missed you,” Asher tells her.

“How was summer in Paris?” she asks him.

“Eh, you know,” he says.

She laughs. “No, I don’t. I spent my summer in Chicago, bored out of my mind.” Savannah looks over at me. “Asher, this is my roommate, Katerina.”

“Pleased to meet y…” Asher stops talking, as he looks me in the eyes. “Wow.”

Savannah giggles.

Asher just stares at me.

“Hi, Asher. Nice to meet you,” I say, hoping he will start speaking.

His mouth falls open.

“She’s Russian,” Savannah tells him.

“I may like Russian accents better than French ones,” he says, as he continues to stare.

“Is your cousin mad?” I ask Savannah.

“Mad? Why would he be angry?” she asks.

“Mad… like crazy. Not angry,” I say.

Savannah laughs even harder.

“Sorry,” Asher says. “I’m usually much better with words. I’m Asher Arrington. It’s nice to meet you, Katerina.”

“You too…” I pause. “I think.”

Savannah, still laughing, points at a boy next to Asher. “This is Asher’s friend, Seth.”

Seth nods his head at me. “Hey. My step-dad’s mom is from Russia.”

“What part?” I ask.

“I don’t know,” he answers, shrugging his shoulders.

“You’ll have to excuse Seth. He doesn’t realize that there is a whole big world outside of the east coast,” a girl beside him says. “I’m Amanda, by the way.”

“Hi,” I tell her. “It’s nice to meet you.”

“Come on. Let me introduce you to some more people,” Savannah says, pulling me away from the three I just met. I wave goodbye to them and follow her.

As we walk through the crowds, quite a few people yell at her and wave. It seems like everybody in this school knows her. But she doesn’t stop to introduce me to any one of them.

Savannah walks up to the boy I met earlier this morning. Kaiden, I think.

“Kaiden, hey,” Savannah says.

“Hey,” he says, then looks at me. “Hey, Katerina.”

“You already met?” she asks, looking disappointed. “I wanted to introduce you.”

“Yeah. We sort of ran into each other,” he says, grinning.

“What he means to say is that I fell on him,” I day.

“Yeah, she fell [_for _]me,” Kaiden says.

Savannah laughs. “That was cheesy.”

“I don’t get it,” I say, trying to think about what was so funny about what Kaiden said.

“Good,” he says. “Because now that it’s out of my mouth, I’m rather embarrassed that I said it.”

“I introduced her to Asher,” Savannah says. “Trust me, he made a much bigger fool out of himself.”

“Asher is bonkers,” I say. “No offense, Savannah.”

“He’s not so bad once you get to know him,” Savannah says. “He just thinks you’re hot.

“Hot?” I ask, wondering what she means. Then I remember an American show I watched once. The word “hot” is sometimes used to describe somebody you’re attracted to. “Do you mean he likes my physical appearance?”

Kaiden grins. “I think I’m going to like having you around, Katerina.”

“Me too,” Savannah says. “By the way, Katerina, Kaiden is my best friend.”

“You have to fight Madox for that title,” he says.

Savannah smiles. “Fine. Whoever wins at least two of three rounds of Halo gets the title.”

“You know he sucks at first person shooter games,” he says.

“Exactly,” she says, smiling. “I win.”

They may as well be speaking Chinese. I don’t understand anything they’re saying.

“Do you play video games?” Kaiden asks me.

“No. I never got into them,” I answer. “I have three… I mean two older brothers. They are more outdoorsy. Not much for playing games.”

“I bet your brothers are gorgeous,” Savannah says.

I shrug. “Well, Dimitri is engaged. And Alik, well, he likes to date around. Exploring his options, I suppose. He dated a supermodel once. He broke up with her for some stupid reason. He’s just too picky. Mum tells him he’ll never find a girl like that. I think she just wants lots of grandchildren.”

“How old are your brothers?” Savannah asks.

“Dimitri is twenty two and Alik is nineteen,” I answer.

“And they’re already thinking about marriage?” she asks.

“Well, yeah. Of course. Dimitri’s fiancé, Elana, is eighteen,” I say.

“Isn’t that… young for marriage?” Kaiden asks. “Shouldn’t they finish college first?”

“Why wait until graduation?” I ask. “All the good ones will be taken by then.”

“I think it might be different in Russian than here,” he says.

“When do Americans get married?” I ask.

“Depends on the person,” Savannah answers. “Usually after college. I’ll probably get married when I’m, like, thirty.”

“Don’t you want to have kids? The chances of having a baby goes down a lot after thirty,” I say. “My mum had me when she was twenty nine and couldn’t have anymore. The doctor told her that she ran out of eggs.”

“But that’s rare to run out of eggs that young. And if I can’t have kids, I will just adopt,” she says.

To each their own.

I still think Americans are weird.

It sounded romantic.

After Savannah drags me around campus introducing me to more people than I will ever remember, we go to a coffee shop. I don’t like coffee, but I go because it beats hanging out alone in the dorm. When we get there, I am pleasantly surprised that they serve tea as well. Unfortunately, it’s not very good tea.

After we get our drinks, Savannah and I go sit in an empty booth. She asks me about my school schedule and then she tells me which teachers are good, hard, or fun. As we are talking, a boy comes up to our table.

“Excuse me, ladies,” the guy says.

I look up at him, noticing his hazel eyes and dark hair. If he wasn’t American, I might actually find him attractive.

“Who are you?” Savannah asks.

Wow. Somebody she doesn’t know. I was beginning to think she knew everybody on campus.

“I’m Tristan Thomas,” he answers.

“I’m Savannah Arrington,” she says.

He looks at me.

“I’m Katerina Vasin,” I tell him.

“Nice accent. What part of Russia are you from?” he asks.

“Central. Near Ufa,” I answer.

“That’s a nice area,” he says.

“You’ve been to Russia?” I ask.

“Yeah,” he answers. “A few times. My… ugh… my father did some work there.”

“So, did you need something?” Savannah asks him.

“Yeah. Where is the student lounge?” he asks. “I’m supposed to meet my campus guide there, but I seem to be turned around.”

“Just go that way,” Savannah says, pointing. “You’ll see the sign.”

“Thanks,” he says, then looks at me. “Uvidimsya, Katerina Vasin.”

Uvdimsya,” I say back, thinking his Russian is very good for him only being there a few times. But then again, maybe he just learned a few words.

“What did he say?” Savannah asks, as he walks away. “It sounded romantic.”

“He just said bye,” I say.

“Oh,” she says, drumming her fingers on the table. “He’s cute.”

I grab her almost empty coffee cup. “I think you’ve had too much coffee.”

She grabs it back. “This is my first cup today.”

“I don’t believe you.”

“It’s true,” she says. “But I may have had some energy drinks.”

“How many is some?” I ask, thinking I may need one soon. The time on my phone says it’s noon, and if I’m not mistaken, that means it’s about one in the morning back home. I feel like I’m about to crash.

“Like one…” she coughs, “plus two.”

I reach to grab her coffee cup back. “I’m throwing it away.”

She hands it over easily.

Now I know why.

Because it’s empty.

I glare at her and she just smiles.

I throw away her empty cup and my half-empty one. I decide then that it’s definitely time for a nap.

An odd guy.

I end up sleeping for four hours. Then Savannah wakes me up. Four hours wasn’t enough though. So, I drink one of her energy drinks—which is nasty, but it does wake me up. For three hours anyway. By seven, I am dragging along.

Savannah seems to just be getting started.

We go to the dining hall to grab dinner. While the food looks okay and there is a lot of variety, I can already tell I’m going to miss my mum’s cooking. It’s all junk food here. And American food has so many preservatives. Also, I’ve noticed almost everything I’ve ate tastes like corn. The sweets are so sweet that I can’t stand more than a bite. I suppose I’ll get used to it.

I end up getting rice and steamed veggies, hoping it’s a safe choice.

Savannah loads her tray up with a burger, fries and sweets.

I follow her to a table on the edge of the cafeteria. I forgot her cousin’s name, but I notice him sitting in the middle of the cafeteria, surrounded by friends. I’m surprised that she doesn’t sit by him.

Instead, we take a seat by her friend Kaiden and some other guy. I met him earlier, but I can’t remember his name.

“Katerina, hey,” the boy says.

“Hey… you,” I say back.

“Madox,” the boy reminds me. “Madox Lockhart.”

“Right. Madox,” I say, hoping I can remember. Madox is a weird name, even for Americans.

“Do you remember my name?” Kaiden asks.

“Kaiden, yes,” I say.

“Katerina, how do you feel about zombie video games?” Madox asks me, right before taking a huge bite of his burger.

“Umm…”

Privet,” a voice says behinds me. I turn around to see Tristan Thomas standing there.

Privet,” I say, greeting him back. I need to figure out how good his Russian is. “Ya skychayu po russkoy kukni.”

“Something about Russian food,” Tristan says.

“I said that I miss Russian food.”

He takes a seat across from me, by Kaiden. “I’m not that advanced.”

“Who’s your friend?” Kaiden asks.

“Tristan,” I answer. “He’s new too. I think. Tristan, this is Kaiden and…”

Crap.

I forgot his name again.

“The name’s Madox,” he says. “I feel like I should be offended right now.”

Savannah laughs. “Madox, you’re just forgettable.”

“I’m just not used to some American names,” I say. “It’s my first trip here, and I’ve only been here about twelve hours.”

“How is your English so good?” Tristan asks.

“She has a British mom,” Kaiden answers for me. “Or I guess I should say mum.”

“Growing up, we tried to mostly speak English at home, unless we had company,” I explain to him. “I’m very comfortable speaking English and Russian.”

“Interesting,” Tristan says, typing something into his phone.

“Texting your girlfriend?” Savannah asks him.

“Nope,” he answers, putting his phone into his pocket. “Family stuff. Just my big brother.”

“No need to say more. I have two older brothers,” I say.

“Two?” he asks, as if he sounds surprised.

“Yep. Alik and Dimitri,” I answer.

He pulls out his phone and types something else into it.

“So… Katherine,” Madox says.

“Katerina,” Kaiden and Savannah correct him at the same time.

“I know. I was just trying to get her back for forgetting my name. Twice,” he says. “Anyway, are you going to the after curfew party on the soccer field?”

“I’d rather not get expelled on my first night here. My mum and dad might be angry,” I say, even though I’d like to go home, I’d rather not go home that way. “Besides, I don’t drink.”

Alcohol is a pretty big part of Russian culture, but my mum’s dad was an alcoholic. She’s told me a few stories, so I find alcohol to be vile and repulsive. I promised myself a long time ago I’d never touch the stuff. My dad and brother’s respect my mum by not drinking as well.

“You won’t get in trouble,” Savannah says. “The school knows we sneak out. They monitor it, which means there is never any alcohol.”

“I didn’t know they monitored it,” Madox says, sounding surprised.

“You haven’t noticed the cameras?” Kaiden asks.

“Nope,” he says.

Savannah shakes her head at Madox.

“I guess I will come. As long as there won’t be any trouble,” I say.

“Awesome!” Savannah half-says, half-sings.

Tristan, who is looking down at his phone, stands suddenly, mumbles a goodbye, and runs out of the dining hall.

What an odd guy.

One down.

After dinner, Savannah agrees to let me sleep from nine to eleven, and then wakes me in time to go to the party.

Really, I’d rather sleep. Sleep has been my friend longer than her. But I promised Alik I’d try to make it work here, so that’s what I’m doing. Maybe if I make friends and have fun, the time will pass quickly.

“Come on,” Savannah says, yelling at me from the other side of the window. She’s obviously had a lot of practice at sneaking out and doesn’t have any problems climbing out of a window.

“I’ve never done this before,” I say, finally jumping from the window. I nearly fall down. Savannah’s body blocks me from falling. She ends up loosing her footing and falls forward onto the ground.

Oops.

“That wasn’t so bad,” I say, holding out a hand to help her up.

“Didn’t you ever sneak out in Russia?” she asks, once I pull her up.

“There is a ten PM curfew for minors, so no. I really didn’t want to risk going to jail,” I say.

“Some American cities have curfews, but they don’t really enforce them,” she says. “But they’re usually midnight or later. Ten is so early.”

I shrug. “It’s never bothered me before.”

“Huh,” she says. “I guess Russia is a lot different than America.”

“Very,” I say. “But that’s not a bad thing.”

“Which do you prefer?”

“Russia,” I answer easily. “That is where my family is—where my life is.”

Savannah and I walk from our dorms towards the soccer field. It’s a pretty long walk, and we pass a lot of other sports fields along the way. As we get closer to the soccer field, I see that it is lit up. There is no way they could hide this from school security. I guess Savannah was right—the school is okay with us breaking curfew. I have to wonder if my parents would’ve sent me here if they knew. But then again, I never thought my parents would send me to an American school. If anything, I should be in England, where my mum is from.

I’ve been to London a lot. I go there every other summer to see my grandparents. We were supposed to go this summer… before everything happened. None of us felt like going. Instead, my grandparents came to visit us in Russia. We all had a great time and was sad when they went home.

“Katerina,” Savannah says, pulling me from my thoughts.

“What?” I ask.

“Are you okay?”

“I’m fine.”

“Oh,” she says. “I’ve just been talking and you’ve stayed quiet. I hope I haven’t bored you by talking about COD.”

“COD?” I ask.

“Call of Duty,” she says, as if I should’ve known what it stood for. “Kaiden, Madox and I are playing all day tomorrow if you want to come. Just until the dance. We can teach you how to play.”

“Dance? What dance?” I ask.

“The [_Welcome Back to School _]dance,” she answers. “Anyway, do you want to play COD with us?”

“Not really,” I answer truthfully.

“Oh, okay,” she says, sounding disappointed. “What do you like to do?”

I think about her question and don’t know how to respond. I used to like reading before… but now, I don’t know.

“I don’t like sitting for long,” I answer. “I like to be busy and not have time to think.”

“Maybe you should join a sports team. They have a lot to offer here—dance, cheer, soccer, horseback riding, basketball, field hockey, track, lacrosse, tennis, golf, softball. I’m sure there is more that I can’t think of,” she says.

“Is there a ski team?” I ask, then wonder if it even snows here.

“No. But we are taking a ski trip in February,” she says. “We go every year and it’s always a blast.”

“Fun. So it snows here?” I ask.

“Oh, yeah. Usually it snows a lot,” she answers. “But we go to Colorado for the ski trip.”

I nod, having no idea where Colorado is.

“Savannah! Katerina!” Somebody from behind us yells.

We stop and turn around. Her cousin, who I can’t remember his name, comes running up to us.

“Hey, Asher,” Savannah says.

Asher. Right.

“Did you finish introducing Katerina to everybody in the school?” he asks.

“About,” Savannah says, as we walk towards the fields. “At least the juniors and seniors.”

“So she can hang out with me then?” he asks her.

“Well, ask her. Not me,” she says.

“Katerina, come with me,” Asher says. “I want to show you something cool.”

“Umm…” I look at Savannah.

“Go,” she says. “You can meet up with me later.”

“Okay. I guess I will go then,” I say to Asher.

Savannah walks to the soccer field and I follow Asher towards the woods. I stop at the edge, looking at how dark it is in the thick trees.

“You coming?” Asher asks, turning to look at me.

“Yeah, it’s just really dark,” I say.

He pulls his phone out of his pocket, pushes a few buttons, and lights up part of the forest. It’s not super bright, but it’s better than the total darkness.

I walk beside Asher, silently hoping that he isn’t taking me out here to murder me. I’ve never been alone with a guy before and it’s kind of unnerving. My brothers have taught me self-defense, but Asher is a lot bigger than me. If nothing else, I can probably out run him, though I’m not sure how far I’ll get out here in the dark.

Then again, I think Savannah would know if her cousin was a murderer. I’m sure I’m fine.

“Do you miss Russia?” Asher asks.

“I miss my family,” I answer. Russia is my home. That’s what I miss—being home. I miss Mum, Dad, Alik and Dimitri. 

“Most people here like to get away from their family,” he says, and I wonder if he’s including himself in that.

“It’s the other way for me. My family wanted to get away from me,” I say, even though it’s not true. It does feel that way lately, though. The sad part is, I can’t blame them for wanting to get away from me. Sometimes, I want to get away from me too.

“I doubt that,” Asher says. “You don’t seem like the kind of girl anybody tries to get away from.”

I don’t respond, because he hasn’t known me long enough to say something like that.

“Is America a lot different than Russia?” he asks.

“I haven’t been here that long,” I answer. “But so far, there seem to be a few differences. Teenagers are much more defiant here. And you guys smile at strangers. You guys also say sorry a lot. It’s weird.”

“You don’t apologize in Russia?” he asks.

“I have apologized two times in my life. And one of those times I lit my friends cat on fire. It was an accident, and the cat was fine. Hairless, but fine,” I say.

He laughs. “What about the other time?”

That isn’t something I want to tell him. Or anybody, for that matter.

“It’s personal,” I say. “I’d rather not tell you.”

“I understand,” he says. “Savannah is lucky. Her mom and dad are… awesome. But most of the people here come from screwed up family. Money changes people.”

My family is messed up, but not because of money. It’s because we lost a very important family member. I’m kind of wondering how my mum and dad are able to afford this school. We’re not poor, but we’re also not really wealthy. Sending me to a boarding school in America can’t be cheap.

I stop walking and listen.

“Is that… water?” I ask.

“Come on,” he says, walking forward. “We’re almost there.” I follow him.

The further we walk, the closer we get to the sound of rushing water.

“Just through here,” Asher says.

I follow him through some thick trees into a clearing. In the clearing, there is a crystal clear lake and a waterfall. It’s not a huge waterfall. It’s only about ten feet tall. I follow him to the top.

“Where does the water come from?” I ask. The water looks like is coming right out of the rocks.

“I’m not sure,” he answers. “Maybe an underground stream.”

“How did you find it?” I ask.

“By accident. Not many people know about it,” he says. “What do you think?”

“It’s beautiful,” I answer, looking at the beautiful, clear lake.

“Can you swim?” he asks.

“Of course. What does—.” My voice cuts off as I feel Asher’s hand on my back. Before I have time to even think about what he’s doing, I’m falling off the edge. I hit the strangely warm water and then swim to the top. About the time I reach the top, I hear a splash and Asher swims up beside me.

“Are you mad?” I ask him. “Why did you do that?”

“Your Russian accent makes me forget your half British,” he says. “What was it like? Living in Russia?”

Nice subject change.

I guess I can’t be too mad.

“It was normal,” I answer. I find myself actually liking the warmth of the water. “To be honest, I can’t imagine being raised here is too different. I mean, we have different traditions, but that’s probably normal no matter where you live.”

“But aren’t you guys not free?” he asks.

“We are free,” I say. “Maybe in different ways than Americans. But we have freedom.”

“Huh,” he says. “I always thought you guys were a communist country.”

“Not for a while. Before I was born,” I say.

“I guess now I understand why I failed my foreign politics class last year,” he says.

“I don’t know much about politics either,” I admit. “Russian or American.”

“I’ve got a pretty girl alone in the middle of a lake and I’m talking to her about politics. What’s wrong with me?”

I don’t like him calling me pretty. It feels—weird.

“I think we should get out. I need to dry off,” I say, and start swimming towards the edge. Asher follows me. We swim to the side and I pull myself up on a rock. I lay back and look up at the sky.

“The sky is so beautiful here,” Asher says.

“Yes it is.”

We lay there is silence, looking up at the stars. It’s a completely cloudless night.

I’m glad I came with Asher, even if he did push me in.

I hear a rustling in the trees and sit up. I see a shadow, but it’s too dark to tell what it is.

“What is that?” I ask Asher, who is still laying back.

“Probably just a squirrel,” he answers, without looking.

“What if it’s a bear? Or a tiger?”

“This is America. There aren’t a lot of wild animals here,” he says. “Relax.”

About that time, I hear something running through the woods. It’s moving away from us, but it’s way too big to be a squirrel.

“There. It’s gone,” he says, sitting up. “Ready to head back?”

I nod.

I’m wet, tired, and desperately wanting a shower so I can wash off the day. At least Asher pushing me in the water gives me an excuse to head back to the dorm early.

One day down, too many to go.

TWO

It’s a promise.

I wake up to voices in my dorm room. I look out the window and see that it’s still dark, but there is no way that I can go back to sleep. I sit up and see Asher, Kaiden, Madox, and Savannah all sitting in the room.

The clock says half past five.

“You guys are bonkers,” I say, sitting up. I’m sure my hairs is a mess after sleeping on it all night. At least I took the time to blow-dry it after my shower last night. I hate going to bed with wet hair.

None of them say anything. They just sit there with serious looks on their faces.

“What’s wrong?” I ask.

“They found a dead body on school grounds,” Asher answers me. “By the lake.”

The lake.

Where we were last night.

Asher brings his index finger discreetly to his lips. I’m guessing that means he doesn’t want me to say anything about being at the lake last night.

“The lake?” I ask, pretending like I have no idea where the lake is hidden.

“There is a lake in the woods. The students aren’t supposed to know where it is, though we all do,” Kaiden says. “A couple freshman went out there last night and found the body.”

“Was it a student?” I ask. “Who was found?”

“No,” Savannah answers. “Nobody knows who it was. It wasn’t a student or facility.”

“I thought this school was secure,” I say. It was one of the things my parents told me was so great about this school. That I’d be safe here.

“It is,” Asher says. “There are a lot of politician kids here. And a lot of kids have famous parents.”

My eyes widen in shock.

Why am I here?

How am I here?

“The president’s son goes here. He hasn’t arrived yet, but I’m sure he will soon. And Asher’s dad is governor of Pennsylvania,” Savannah tells me. “He won’t be happy about this.”

“He’ll insist the school add security,” Asher says. “Might have to be careful when we sneak out after curfew. Probably have to cut out soccer field parties for a while.”

“So they’ll tell our parents?” I ask.

“They’ll have to,” Madox says. “My mom will probably be calling me obsessively for a while.”

“At least your mom will be sober enough to call you,” Kaiden says.

My parents haven’t called me since I got here. I can’t believe they haven’t. I’ve never gone a whole day without seeing them. I assume Alik told them he talked to me, but still… this is weird. But then again, they did send me to another country.

I’m here because they care about me. I know that. I still wish I was in Russia with my family. I miss them. A lot.

“I guess there will be a lot of cops running around campus,” Savannah says.

“Possibly feds,” Madox says.

“They won’t send feds for one body,” Asher says. “We don’t even know if it was a murder.”

“Hopefully we will find out more today,” Savannah says, then looks at me. “How does your hair look perfect when you wake it? It’s not fair.”

I shrug. “I figured it was a mess.”

“It’s so long. Is that a Russian thing?” Kaiden asks.

My hair is long—past my waist long.

“No, it’s not a Russian thing,” I answer.

“Then why?” Savannah asks. “I don’t get why you keep it so long. It’s too much work.”

“Maybe you guys will think it’s silly, but somebody gave me a Bible once,” I say. “My family is not religious. My dad might even be an atheist, I’m not sure. We never ever talk about God. But I read the Bible. And when I did, I felt something. I believe in God. The fact that I’m here is proof to me. And the Bible—I think it’s the true word of God. And there is a verse that says a woman’s glory is her long hair. I figure I need all the glory I can get.”

“My family goes to church sometimes,” Asher says. “I’ve read some in the Bible before, but never understood it. I’ve never heard that scripture preached in my church.”

“The Bible is simple and complicated at the same time. It’s like a puzzle. But if you have faith, the pieces just go together,” I say. “I read the Bible out of curiosity. I’ve only been to church one. The priest took one scripture out of the Bible and preached about it, but he took it out of context. The Bible has to be interpreted as a whole, not just one verse that makes people feel good.”

“Well said,” Kaiden says. “I’ve never enjoyed church much. It’s kind of boring. But maybe I should read the Bible for myself.”

“How long did it take to read?” Savannah asks.

“The first time it took me seven days,” I answer.

“Wow,” she says. “That was fast.”

“I was twelve at the time.”

God’s word has gotten me through some rough times. I guess it gives me hope—hope that someday I will see my brother again.

To me, it’s not just hope. It’s a promise.

Guilty.

I think about my brother, Eduard, often. If he were still alive, he would be seventeen. And I would be in Russia with him. My family would be whole again.

The only time in my life that I’ve ever questioned God’s existence is the night he died. But then God spoke to me—not through dreams, visions, or some loud booming voice only I could hear. He spoke to me through scripture—through His word. Every time I would question God, he would answer me through a verse that I had read before. And that’s why it’s important to read the Bible to me—so I never lose faith. So it’s always one of the first things I do in the morning.

After breakfast, I decide to try and talk to Asher alone. I end up finding him on the lacrosse fields.

“We need to talk,” I tell him, as I walk up to him and his friends.

“Yeah, I suppose we do,” he says.

“Who’s your friend, Asher?” One of the guys asks.

Asher ignores the other guy and throws down his helmet. “Be right back guys.”

We walk to the other side of the field while the other guys take a break.

“What’s the deal with the lake?” I ask Asher. “Why did you not want me to tell Savannah and the guys that we were there? They should know. So should the police for that matter.”

“We were there, but we didn’t see anything,” he says. “If we admit we were there after curfew, we will get in trouble.”

“But somebody died, Asher.”

“And what could you tell them about her death?” Asher asks.

“Her? It was a girl?”

“Guy or girl, it doesn’t matter. What could you tell them about the death?” he asks.

“Nothing,” I answer.

“Exactly,” he says. “So just keep your mouth shut. I don’t want to talk about this again. Not with you. Not with anybody.”

With that, he runs off, back to his friends. And I can’t help but wonder if he knows more than he’s letting on. Why wouldn’t he want to tell?

Maybe he’s scared. I can’t blame him for that. I’m scared too.

Still, not telling seems like it would be worse. What if they find out we were there later? Wouldn’t we look guilty if somebody did murder the person?

I decide to talk to Asher again.

I look at him, and he glares at me.

Maybe I should give him time to cool off first.

Interrogating questions.

As expected, Savannah is with Kaiden and Madox, playing video games. I’m not quite bored enough for that, so instead I take a walk around the campus. I don’t go too far, partly because I’m scared to wander off alone, partly because police are patrolling the campus. I get the feeling that something is up with the body they found. If somebody just… died, they wouldn’t be making such a big deal about it. Somebody must have been murdered.

My phone starts to vibrate, so I pull it out of my pocket and see that my dad is calling.

Hello,” I answer, speaking Russian. I miss my native tongue and want to speak to him not in English.

Katerina, are you okay?” he asks, speaking Russian back.

I’m fine, Dad,” I answer.

We heard somebody was killed at your school,” he says.

There was a body found in the woods, but I don’t know if they were killed here. Maybe somebody dragged the body here,” I say. “I’m not worried about it though. There are a ton of cops on campus today. If I wasn’t safe before, I definitely am now.

Yes, definitely,” Dad says. “They told us they’re beefing up security.”

I sigh.

That’s great.

I just wanted to make sure you were okay,” he says.

I’m fine. Thanks for calling, Dad. I love you,” I say.

Love you too, Katerina,” he says, then the line goes dead.

This year is going to be way too long.

I wipe a few tears from under my eyes, forcing them to stop. I am not a weak girl, and I don’t want anybody here to see me crying.

“Katerina,” a voice says.

I turn around and see Tristan, the weird boy, walking towards me.

“Hey,” I say.

“Hey. How are you?” he asks.

I shrug. “Okay, I guess. Just got a call from my dad. I miss him.”

“I bet,” he says. “You probably miss your three brothers too.”

Three?

Did he just say three?

“I only have two brothers,” I say, even though it’s not entirely true. “I had three, but one of them died.”

“I’m sorry,” he says. “That must be hard.”

“It is,” I say. “But that’s life I suppose.”

“Yeah.” He doesn’t sound convinced, making me believe that maybe his life hasn’t be all sunshine and rainbows either. Though, from what I understand, most people around here have had it rough.

[_Yes, having rich parents must be tough, _]I think to myself, a bit bitterly.

“So, I was wondering, why did you parents send you to boarding school in America? I mean, you said your mom is British. So it would make sense that she would send you to England. I mean, their schools are better than ours, no offense to American education,” he says.

“I’ve asked myself that exact question,” I answer. “It doesn’t make sense at all. But I guess they want me here for a reason. I wish I was in London, though. At least then I would be close to my grandma and grandpa.”

“You don’t have any family in America?” he asks.

“Not that I’m aware of,” I answer. “What’s with the interrogating questions?”

“Sorry,” he says, frowning. “I was just curious.”

“It’s all right,” I say. “I’d probably be curious if an American showed up at my school in Russia. Of course, we don’t have a lot of students studying abroad there. I suppose there must be nicer places to get an education.”

“Russia has a nice schooling system, from what I understand,” he says.

“Oh, we do. But it’s cold there. If I were to study abroad, I’d want to be somewhere warm,” I say, thinking about the time my family went on Christmas vacation in Bora Bora. It was in the eighties that week, and it was amazing. I didn’t want to go back home. When we did finally get back, there was a foot of snow on the ground. What I would have given to have sand instead of snow.

“I hate to break it to you, but Pennsylvania gets cold in the winter.”

“I know,” I say. “I don’t [_mind _]the cold, I just prefer the warm. I guess I’m ready for some snow this year.”

“It’s only August,” he says.

“Winter will be here before you know it,” I say. “By the way, did you figure out everything with your brother last night?”

“My brother…” his voice trails off. “Oh, yeah. Sorry I had to get out of there so quickly.”

“No problem,” I say. “So, what is there to do for fun around here? Savannah and her friends only like to play video games.”

“You don’t?” he asks.

I shake my head. “It seems like a waste of time. Plus, I can’t sit still for that long. It seems boring.”

“Agree,” he says. “Do you like hiking?”

“Yeah.”

“There is a hiking trail here at the school. Do you want to go hike it with me?” he asks.

I nod. “Can we? Without getting in trouble I mean.”

“Yeah, that won’t be a problem,” Tristan says, smiling at me.

He has a nice smile.

I stand by my original statement. He’s cute. Really cute. But also, a little bit odd. There is something different about him than the other students, but I can’t quite put my finger on it. I would say maybe it’s because he’s done a lot of traveling abroad, but I bet a lot of kids here have traveled abroad.

But odd behavior aside, I think I like him. He’s pretty cool.

I think I’m going to like going hiking with Tristan. Maybe it will be my turn to interrogate him.

Be careful.

I go up to my room and change into more comfortable shoes for hiking and then meet Tristan in the student lounge. The lounge is full of people—all of them whispering things to each other. They’re probably talking about the body they found at the school. I wonder what they’re saying, but then again, it doesn’t matter. They’re probably all lies.

I’ve never known what the point of gossiping is. What’s the point of talking about something unless you’re certain is true. Lies hurt people.

As I’m standing in the room, waiting for Tristan, a younger girl walks up to me.

“Excuse me, are you Katerina Vasin?” she asks.

“Yes,” I answer. “Who are you?”

“I’m Jade Bello.” She looks at me expectedly, like I should know who she is.

Jade is most likely a freshman. She is shorter than me, though I’d say most freshman are taller than me. She’s really skinny, but I’d say that’s because she [_is _]a freshman and has a lot of growing to do. She has dark brown hair, and blue eyes. Her eyes are familiar somehow, but I don’t know her at all.

“It’s nice to meet you, Jade,” I say.

Her face falls just a bit, and I feel bad.

“Do I know you?” I ask. “Have you been to Russia?”

She shakes her head. “Well, sorry to bother you.”

With that, Jade slips through the crowd, away from me.

That was odd.

A few seconds later, Tristan walks up. “Were you just talking to Jade?”

I nod. “How do you know her?”

“She was my tour guide. She showed me around campus,” he answers.

“But she’s only a freshman,” I say. “Wait, how come I didn’t get a tour of the campus? I’m new.”

“I asked for one,” he answers.

He’s got an answer for everything.

“So, how do you know Jade?” he asks, and gives me a look similar to Jade. Like he’s expecting me to answer a certain way. I wish I knew which way that was.

“I don’t. She just walked up to me and introduced herself,” I say. “She knew my name. I’m not sure how. Maybe I should have asked her.”

Tristan grins, like something I said was funny.

“What?” I ask.

“Nothing,” he says. “Ready to go on that hike?”

“Yeah.”

I follow him out out of the student lounge and down the corridor. We go out the double doors at the end, and are met with blistering heat. It’s hotter than it was earlier. Maybe taking a hike in this heat is a bad idea. But hopefully the trees will shade us from the sun.

“Katerina, tell me about your family. What are they like?” he asks, as we make out way down the sidewalk, towards the trees.

“My family has always been really close. My dad met my mum when he was on a European vacation. London was his first stop, but then he met her. He stayed there instead of going on to the next destination. When it was time for him to go home, he didn’t want to leave her. So she went with him. They got married, and the rest is history. They had Dimitri a year after they got married. Then Alik. Then Eduard. Then me,” I say.

It’s weird to say Eduard’s name out loud. I haven’t said it in such a long time.

“You’re the baby,” he says.

“And the only girl,” I say, sighing. “I’m surprised my mum and dad sent me here. They’ve always been very clingy when it comes to me. They don’t let me do anything without them or one of my brothers. I never minded, though. Eduar…” I clear my throat. “Eduard was my best friend. We did everything together.”

“He’s your brother who die.” It’s not a question.

I nod.

“My older brother died when I was your age,” he says. “It’s the kind of loss that leaves scars.”

“When you were my age? How old are you?” I ask.

“You’re a junior, right? I’m a senior,” he says.

“Yeah. I’m sixteen,” I say. “I’ll be seventeen in December.”

“What day?” he asks.

“December fifth,” I answer. “And I’m sorry about your brother. It’s only been four months since my brother… well, anyway, I miss him a lot. Does it get better? I mean, I know your brother’s death is still recent, but I’m just hoping this pain will ease.”

“I’m not sure the pain will ever go away, or even ease,” he says. “It may seem better, but really, you just get used to the pain being there. It becomes familiar. Someday, I hope to be happy. But I’m taking it one day at a time.”

“Taking it one day at a time doesn’t seem to be helping,” I tell him. “A day turns into weeks. Then months. But I’m here and I’m breathing. I guess that is a start. My brother, Alik, made me promise I’d try here. And I guess that’s what I’m going to do. Try. That’s all I can do.”

“Maybe we can be friends. We’ll be miserable together,” he says, his voice sounding off.

I like Tristan. I feel like we have a lot in common. “I’d like to be your friend, Tristan.”

He turns and looks at me. He looks at me like he’s seeing me for the first time. Not as a fellow classmate, but as a friend. It’s like we’re connected because of the hurt that we feel so deeply for our lost siblings. It doesn’t matter that he’s American or that I’m Russian. Because of circumstances, that doesn’t matter. All that matters is that we’re here, talking to each other.

“You turned out to be so different than who I thought you were originally,” he says to me.

“What do you mean?” I ask.

“Nothing,” he says, shaking his head. “Come on. The path is up this way.”

We walk towards the trees. Just as we’re about to step onto the path, I hear somebody yell behind us.

“Students aren’t allowed to go here,” the voice yells. “Stop where you are.”

We both turn around and face a police office. He’s a heavyset guy, probably in his mid thirties. As he looks at us, his mean expression fades.

“Sorry, Tristan. Didn’t realize it was you. You’re free to go,” the officer says.

“Thanks,” Tristan says, as the officer walks off.

I stand there, staring at his figure disappearing towards the school.

“Wha… How?” I ask.

“The cops like me,” he says.

“How? You just got here,” I say. “And they just got here. You made friends with them that fast?”

He grins. “Katerina, surely you’ve found out by now that people in this school have connections.”

“Of course,” I say. “This is some kind of school for rich people.”

“Let’s just say that I have connections,” he says, then takes off walking down the path.

I stand there, watching him walk away, wondering what kind of a school I just came to. Is this real?

“Are you coming?” he asks.

Am I?

One of my first impressions of Tristan Thomas is how odd he is. That is still true. But something about him makes me want to be his friend. And maybe being friends with somebody like him, somebody with connections, wouldn’t be such a bad thing.

I walk forward, making my decision.

We pace beside each other, making our way down the path.

“Tell me about your other brothers,” Tristan says. “Alik and Dimitri. What are they like?”

“Well, Dimitri is… serious,” I answer. “He’s always been a very into his studies. Dad swears one day he will be president. Maybe he’s right. And Alik is the complete opposite. He likes to goof off and have fun. He’s always getting mediocre marks in school. He’s smart and has a lot of drive, but unfortunately, none of it is geared towards his studies.”

“What about you?”

“I am somewhere in between,” I say. “Eduard and I both are. The main difference between us was, he was daring, where I am safe. He pushed me to do crazy things. It was fun. I am smart, like Dimitri, but I don’t have to try. I’ve always made good marks with very minimal studying. What about you? What kind of person are you?”

“I’m… boring,” Tristan says. “I’d much rather talk about you.”

“If we’re going to be friends, I have to know you too, don’t I?” I ask.

He sighs. “Fine. I’m smart, I guess. I study hard and work harder. I like to run, and run at least five miles every single day. I hate country music, cats and reality TV. I love coffee, history, and pushing my body to the limit with physical exercise.”

“What about your family?” I ask.

He comes to a stop and turns to me. “I told you about my brother, but that’s all your getting. If we’re going to be friends, you can never ask me about my family—ever.”

I search his eyes. I want to know why he won’t talk about his family. I’m about to ask, when I see something in them. Sometimes so familiar. I know it’s familiar, because I see the same thing in my eyes everyday. Pain. Except his is deep. It’s like he was cut right to the core of his heart, and then rebuilt. The problem is, something like that leaves a scar that will never heal.

“Okay,” I say. “Fine. I won’t ask about your family.”

We start walking forward.

I wonder what happened with his family. Are they close? Did they have a fight? Or are they dead?

So many questions swim through my mind, but I know I’ll never ask him. I don’t want to see the hurt in his eyes again.

“I like to run too,” I tell him. “After Eduard… left… my brother Alik refused to let me lay in bed all day. He told me I had to move my muscles. So everyday, he took me out running. It kind of became an addiction. My mum caught on and made us take shorter runs—only an hour at a time. But still, that hour was always my favorite time. I hate sitting still. When you sit, you have time to think, and I hate thinking. I don’t get how Savannah can play video games all day long. I’d go crazy.”

“You and I are a lot alike in some ways,” Tristan  says.

I wonder if that’s a compliment, but I’m too scared to ask him.

“Do you know what happened with the body they found?” I ask.

If anybody would know the truth, it’s Tristan.

“Yes,” he answers.

“What happened?”

He stops again and looks at me. “You ask a lot of really hard questions, you know that?”

“Oh,” I say.

“The body… it was a young girl. She goes to a nearby public school. They think she was sneaking on campus to see her boyfriend,” Tristan says. “Somebody murdered her, Katerina. They’re going to cover it up and say that she died of natural causes, but you need to be careful.”

We start walking forward again, only now I am too scared to ask him anything else.

She was murdered.

What if somebody else is killed? What if I’m next?

Be careful. Tristan’s words swim around in my head, ready to explode.

Before I can say anything else, I realize that I hear water.

We’re walking towards the lake.

It’s a different path than we took last night, but it’s leading there.

“Tristan, are you sure we should be going this way?” I ask.

He doesn’t say anything. He just keeps walking, and I keep following him. Maybe I shouldn’t. I just found out somebody was murdered last night. But I trust Tristan, which might be stupid.

We stop and I look ahead to see the lake. I see the rock that Asher pushed me off of last night.

“Katerina, I know you were here last night,” he says. “And I need to tell me everything that happened.”

I sigh. Maybe I shouldn’t tell him, but I want to tell somebody “Last night, Savannah wanted me to go to the soccer field party. I really just wanted to sleep, and maybe I should have. But I came with her. And before we could get to the field, her cousin met us. Asher. He wanted to show me something. I didn’t want to leave Savannah, but she told me it was okay. So I went. I want to make friends, and Asher seems cool. So he took me here. To the lake. Only we came in from the opposite side. We climbed up on top of that rock. Asher… well, he pushed me in. I guess he was trying to be funny. After, he jumped in. We swam for a few minutes and talked. Then we climbed out onto a rock so we could dry off. I heard something in the woods. Asher told me I was paranoid and that it was probably a squirrel. I told him it could be a tiger or a bear and he made fun of me, saying there aren’t wild animals here. But then we heard whatever it was go the opposite way. I figured we were safe. So Asher walked me back to my dorm. I took a shower, blow-dried my hair, and went to bed. That’s it.”

“Why didn’t you go to the police this morning? When you found out they found a dead body here?” Tristan asks.

“Because Asher said we would look guilty. I wanted to, and still want to. I just want to talk to Asher again first and make sure he’s all right with it,” I say. “How did you know I was out here?”

“I followed you,” he says, casually, as if he was telling me his favorite color.

“You followed me? Why would you do that? Are you mad?” I ask.

“Asher has a reputation. I just wanted to make sure you were safe,” he answers.

“Oh,” I say, not sure how I feel about that.

“Katerina, did you know the president of the United States’s son goes here?” Tristan asks me.

I nod, remembering Savannah said something about it earlier.

“He hasn’t arrived yet. He’ll be here later tonight, in time for the dance. He’s late coming back from his summer vacation,” he tells me. “His safety is important. So I need you to be honest with me.”

“I’m not a liar,” I tell him, defending myself.

“I’m not saying you are. I’m just telling you, it’s important to always be honest with me,” he says.

“How do you know the president’s son will be here?” I ask. “You’re new too.”

He shrugs.

“Who are you?” I ask.

“Tristan Thomas.”

I narrow my eyes.

“There was a threat,” he says.

“A threat?” I ask.

“On the school. On the president’s son,” he answers. “Look, this school… it’s a private school.”

“Yeah, I know.”

“No. I mean it’s really private. You can’t get into school here unless you’re somebody. Like the president’s son,” he says.

“But what about me? I’m just a girl from Russia. I’m nobody. How did I get in?” I ask.

“You’re somebody, Katerina. Somebody important,” he says.

My eyes widen. “You know why I’m here. How I’m here.”

He nods.

“Tell me.”

“I… can’t,” he says.

“Why not?” I ask.

“It’s not safe,” Tristan  tells me. “I shouldn’t even be telling you any of this, but I have to give you a heads up.”

“Why?”

“The terrorists organization that wants to kill the president’s son is a Russian group,” he says. “And your father is the head of it.”

I stare at him, the world spinning around me. My ears start to ring and I feel dizzy.

“What did you just say?” I ask.

“Your father is part of a Russian terrorist group,” he says again.

“No! My father is a good man! A great man!” I say, defending my dad. There is no way Tristan is telling the truth.

“Maybe he is to you. But I’m telling you the truth. Your father is the head, and your brother Dimitri is most likely joining after his wedding. I’m almost certain that Alik is following in their footsteps and he would probably try to recruit you too. Once you are older,” Tristan says.

“You’re lying!” I turn to run away.

“Your mom called me,” he says, saying the one thing that will make me stay and listen.

I stop in my tracks and turn around.

Now he has my attention.

“Your father believes what he’s doing is good. Noble even. But he’s wrong,” he says. “I had to know what side you were on. You’re not like them, are you? You really didn’t know about it.”

I swallow back tears.

“Eduard?” I ask.

He shakes his head. “I don’t know. I don’t think so, but I’m sure they were going to recruit him when he was old enough.”

“What about my mum?” I ask. “What did she say to you?”

“She told me you were in danger. The group—it’s not safe for girls. Your brother’s death gave her the perfect opportunity to send you here,” he says. “Your dad saw how much you were hurting and your mom convinced him you would be better off here in America.”

“How does my mum know you?”

“We’re trying to defeat the group,” Tristan says. “Your mom has been secretly working on our side for quite sometime now. We’ve promised to protect her kids in exchange for information. You father doesn’t tell her much, but he tells her enough.”

Suddenly, it all makes sense. The long trips my dad used to take. My mom’s late night phone calls while he was gone. The arguments they used to have when they thought we were gone to bed. The fear in my mother’s eyes every time my dad wanted to talk to me.

Tristan is telling the truth.

“I’m not really a high school student. I’m twenty one years old. I’m here undercover,” he says. “I work for the United States government and I’m here to protect this school. To protect the president’s son. But most of all, I’m here to protect you.”

My heart beats hard against my chest and I feel like it’s breaking into a million tiny pieces.

My dad isn’t who I thought he was.

My happy family—it was all just an illusion. One that I made up.

Eduard used to tell me that things aren’t always as they seem, but I didn’t want to believe it. I wanted to believe in my happy world. I wanted to stay in my bubble, safe and protected from everything bad around me.

“I’m going to train you,” he tells me. “I’ll teach you how to protect yourself—how to fight. Hopefully you won’t ever have to fight. But in case you do, I need you to know how to protect yourself.”

“What does my dad have against the presidents son?” I ask, needing to know.

I have only happy memories with my dad. Him taking me to the theater, teaching me how to swim and ride a bike, him helping me with my studies. He was always so soft and kind to me. He even called me this morning to see how I was after that girl’s body was found.

“It’s not the boy he has a problem with,” Tristan says. “It’s his dad. The president.”

“My dad called me this morning,” I say, holding back tears. “He asked how I was doing. He was worried because they found a body on campus. Does that sound like somebody who is a terrorist?”

“Katerina, they haven’t alerted the parents yet,” he says. “Dean Bello is getting a script ready now so they can start calling parents.”

My legs feel weak, but I refuse to let them buckle in front of him.

“Why would my dad send me here? If he is attacking this school, why am I here?” I ask. “It doesn’t make sense.”

“I haven’t quite figured that one out,” he says. “But I have a theory. I think your dad is wanting you here for a reason. So you can become friends with the people at this school. That way, when he recruits you, you will have a way in.”

“He thinks I would kill my friends?” I ask.

“It’s just a theory.”

Oh, God.

I think I’m going to be sick.

My knees give away, and I fall down onto them.

I lose my breakfast all over Tristan’s shoes.

Sarcasm.

I called my mum while Tristan cleaned the vomit off his shoes.

She confessed everything to me.

Well, I think she left out some, but she confirmed everything that Tristan said. My dad is a terrorists. My brother Dimitri is possibly joining, and Dad is trying to recruit Alik now. She’s hoping they won’t join, but my dad is a master manipulator.

How have I lived with him my whole life and never known? I feel like such a twit.

I go back to my room to sulk, but at four o’clock Tristan comes into my dorm room and informs me that I have to get ready for the dance because I’m going. He reminds me of my promise to Alik, and pretty much guilts me into it.

As I get ready, I think about yesterday. When I met Tristan, I thought he was cute. Of course he’s cute. He’s twenty one. I should’ve known that a teenager could never be that muscular. I didn’t realize then that he was going to change my life.

Oddly enough, I don’t find Tristan attractive anymore. Maybe it was because I puked on him. Or maybe it was the bomb he dropped on me this afternoon. I find myself wishing that I had never met the man.

“Whoa,” Savannah says, as she walks in. “You look good.”

Savannah, who is still in jeans and a t-shirt, walks in literally fifteen minutes before the dance is going to start. Her hair is in a pony tail. There is no way she can be ready in time.

“You’re going to be late,” I tell her.

“No, I’m not,” she says, quickly changing her clothes. She slips on a dress, and I zip it up for her. She doesn’t change out of her Converse shoes. She pulls out her pony tail and runs a brush through her wavy hair. “Done. With five minutes to spare.”

This girl is a mess.

“You should be glad you’re not Russian,” I say, shaking my head at her.

I spent a long time on my hair, because what else was I going to do? I curled each section with a fat curling iron, giving myself big curls. I did a braid, pulling the front back and leaving it down in the back. I have on a blue dress that compliments my eyes nicely. It’s not super formal, but it’s not really a formal dance. My shoes add four inches to my height, and Savannah is still taller than me by a couple centimeters.

We walk towards the dance together. Apparently this school has a ballroom, which Savannah tells me about on the way. This school was founded in the late 1800’s. They don’t have balls anymore, but still use it for dances, prom, homecoming and other alumni events.

When we go inside, I can’t help but be impressed by the inside. I expected to see a lame school dance, like ones I’ve seen in movies with balloons and streamers, but they went all out.

The ballroom is a circle. There are arches all around that lead to the outer hallway. On each wall there are old light fixtures that look like candles. I can tell they’ve been kept up nicely. And hanging down from the ceiling there is a chandelier that matches the light fixtures. The floor is marble, and the ceiling has a mural on it. I’m trying to figure out what the mural is when Tristan  walks up.

“Katerina,” he says.

“Tristan,” I say, trying to sound like I’m not still freaking out.

“There’s Kaiden and Madox,” Savannah says, running off to join them.

“The president’s son should be here any moment,” he tells me. “Do you want me to introduce you?”

“And say what? This is Katerina Vasin. She’s from Russia. And, oh, by the way, her father wants to kill you,” I say, not bothering to keep the sarcasm out of my voice. “No thank you.”

“He doesn’t know,” Tristan  says.

“It doesn’t matter if he knows or not. I know. How can I look him in the eyes knowing what I do?” I ask. “I would feel like a monster.”

“Try to remember, it’s your father who is the monster. Not you” he says, not saying anything more.

I look at the entry way and notice a bunch of guys in dark suits walk in. In between the group, there is a boy. I know immediately that this must be the president’s son. As soon as he gets inside, he is surrounded by a bunch of girls, all trying to get his attention.

I roll my eyes.

How desperate.

“Are you going to dance with somebody?” Tristan asks.

“With who?” I ask, looking around. “With one of my many admirers.”

“I guess Russian teenagers are sarcastic too,” he says. “Good to know it’s not just an American thing.”

“You’re beginning to get on my nerves.”

“A lot of guys will ask you to dance tonight,” he tells me. “You’re very unobservant for being the daughter of such a powerful man. Hasn’t your father taught you anything?”

“What do you mean?” I ask.

“Do you not see all the guys in here looking at you?”

I turn around to face him. “Are you mad? Nobody is looking at me.”

“If I was a teenage boy, I’d probably look at you. It’s the accent,” he says.

“Well you’re not a teenager. So don’t look at me,” I say, turning back around.

He laughs. “I have no interest in looking at a sixteen year old girl.”

“Are you purposely trying to deflate my ego?” I ask.

“Maybe,” he says. “Somebody needs to.”

“I can’t believe I thought you were cute when I met you,” I say to him.

“You thought I was cute?” he says, in a mocking tone. “I’m flattered, really.”

“Shut up,” I say, looking at the crowds of people dancing. They look like they’re having fun. It’s then that I decide, it doesn’t matter who my father is. I want to be apart of this. Apart of them. I want to be friends with them.

I look over and see Savannah, Kaiden and Madox all dancing together. They look like they’re having a good time. Maybe I will join them at some point, but I think I need to meet other people too. People I have more in common with.

Continuing to look around, I see the president’s son, still surrounded by girls. As if he feels me watching him, he looks up. When he meets my eyes, he doesn’t look away like most Americans do. He just looks back. He looks a bit surprised, maybe like he was expecting [_me _]to look away. One of the girls puts her hands on him, and he breaks his gaze to look at the girl. He pushes her away and the girl looks hurt.

He leans over and says something to a guy in a suit. The guy says something to the girls and they all walk away.

Wow. He has a lot of power.

“Are you sure you don’t want me to introduce you?” Tristan asks.

“I’m positive,” I answer, looking away from the boy.

“You know, in America, it’s impolite to stare.”

“It’s not in Russia,” I say back. “So I can stare at whoever I want.”

Tristan laughs. “I think I’m going to like having you on my team.”

About that time, a guy in a suit walks up to me. One of the guys who was surrounding the president’s son.

“Damon wishes to speak with you,” the guy says, in a polite, but authoritative tone.

“If he wishes to speak to me, then tell him to speak to me,” I say.

“I’m sorry, maybe you misunderstood me. Damon [_Hartley _]wishes to speak with you,” he says, insinuating the last name.

“Well you can tell Damon [_Hartley _]that if he wishes to speak to me, he can do so himself,” I say. “He doesn’t need to send a goon to come do his talking for him.”

The guy is obviously not amused.

“It’s all right, West. I got this,” a voice says from behind him.

He steps out of the way, and I see the president’s son standing in front of me.

“I’m Damon Hartley,” he says. “But you already knew that.”

“I’m Katerina Vasin,” I say back.

Ya rad tebya videt’,” he says, in perfect Russian.

To she samoye,” I reply. “You speak Russian?”

He nods. “English, Russian, French and Spanish. I’m think about learning Chinese next. What do you think?”

“Chinese is good,” I say, lamely.

“What brings you to America, Katerina Vasin,” he says.

My crazy father who wants to kill you.

“Oh, you know… family,” I say, like it’s no big deal.

“So is your family in politics too?” he asks.

“You could say that,” I say.

“Maybe my father knows your father,” he says.

“Maybe,” I say, then decide to do a quick subject change. Thought I’m sure his father [_does _]know my father. “So where are your adorers?”

“Something else caught my attention,” he says, smiling at me. He has a nice smile. “You are very pretty, Katerina.”

The way he says my name makes my stomach feel funny.

Gah, why do I have to find such an arrogant guy attractive? I mean, seriously! Not to mention this is the guy my father wants to kill—possibly he wants [_me _]to kill him. Yet, here I am, finding myself attracted to him.

The song switches from an uptempo tune that has been playing since I arrived to a slow one.

“May I have this dance?” Damon asks me, holding out his hand.

I find myself reaching for it before I even have time to think.

As he starts to lead me to the dance floor, I see Tristan laughing, obviously amused at what just went on in front of him. I hit him with my free arm as we walk past him, and I hear him say “ouch”.

Good.

It hurt.

Damon pulls me close to him out on the dance floor, and I start to question why I agreed to dance with him. Touching is definitely not a good idea, because my stomach is all tight, and my heart is racing.

“All the boys in the school are jealous of me right now,” Damon says softly to me.

“I highly doubt that,” I say, looking in his dark grey eyes, which definitely is not a good idea. His eyes are amazing.

“Trust me, they are,” he says. “You know, I’ve never believed in love at first sight, but I think you may have changed my mind.”

“Don’t mistake attraction for love,” I say, wondering why he would even be attracted to me. “Besides, you haven’t seen me in the daylight. Suppose I’m hideous. Or what if I’m an awful twit? Or if I’m bonkers? You don’t know.”

“My lady, you sounded British when you said that,” he says, using a fake, but good, British accent. “And besides, I don’t need to see you in the daylight to see how breathtaking you are. Trust me, you’re far from hideous. I guess time will tell with the rest, though I highly doubt it.”

“I sound British sometimes because my mum is from London,” I say. “At home, we only spoke English, unless we had somebody over. Though, one of my older brother’s friends ended up learning English because he was over so much.”

“So you don’t think somebody could fall in love at first sight?” he asks.

“No. That’s rubbish,” I answer. “Though my dad swears he fell in love with my mum at first sight.”

My heart hurts when I mention my dad.

“If your mom is half as beautiful as you are, I can see why he did,” he says.

“I look like my mum,” I say. “My brothers all took after my dad.”

“How many siblings do you have?”

“Two. Both older brothers,” I answer. “What about you?”

“I’m an only child,” he says. “My mom died when I was three, so maybe my dad would’ve had more kids if not. After that he kind of focused only on his political career and never remarried.”

“That’s sad.”

“I don’t remember her, so don’t feel sad for me,” he says.

“I can’t imagine not knowing my mum.”

My mum is the best.

I mean, she has to be the best in order to stay married to my dad all these years, even after finding out he’s a terrorist. I know she only did it for me and my brothers. And the deal she made to protect us—that’s selfless. I guess she sort of makes up for my dad.

“You have the most gorgeous eyes I’ve ever seen,” Damon says.

“Umm… thanks,” I say.

“I want to kiss you,” he says.

“Well, I don’t want to kiss you.” I step back from him. “I’m sorry. I shouldn’t have agreed to dance with you. I don’t even know you.”

“Then get to know me,” he says, stepping closer.

We start dancing again.

“What do you want to know about me?” he asks me.

“What is your favorite color?”

“Out of all the questions in the world, that is what you ask?”

“What’s wrong with that question? It’s a good one,” I say. “My favorite color is purple.”

“Mine is black.”

“Black?” I ask.

“Yes. Do you have a problem with that?”

“No. It’s just… weird that it’s your favorite.”

“You asked.”

“Right. I did. Well, I would ask where your from, but that’s pretty obvious,” I say.

“I live in DC now, but I’m from Georgia,” he says. “And trust me when I say, I spend as little time in DC as possible. Politics give me a headache. I spent my summer in Peru, just so I didn’t have to deal with my dad.”

“Is it nice?” I ask. “I’ve never been.”

He nods. “It’s beautiful. I’ll have to take you sometime.”

“You shouldn’t make plans with me,” I say.

“Right. Cause I have to see you in the daylight first and make sure you’re not hideous, right?” he asks.

“You are so frustrating.”

“And you are so fun to mess with,” he says. “You can ask me more questions, if you like. Or you can just Google me. I’m sure Google will have all the answers you’re looking for.”

“What’s Google?” I ask.

His mouth falls open.

“Wait. I think I know. It’s that search engine thing, right?” I ask.

“That and a lot more.”

“Well, if it makes you feel any better, I won’t search you on Yandex.”

“What is Yandex?” he asks.

“It’s Russia’s version of Google,” I answer.

“Oh,” he says. “Why not?”

“I’d rather just ask you. Besides, a lot of things online are a lie,” I say.

“Good. Cause the paparazzi has gotten some horrible photos of me.”

I just look at him.

“You think I’m crazy, don’t you?”

I nod.

“You’re probably right,” he says, grinning.

A girl darts past Damon’s minions and stands by us. She stares for a few seconds before she is able to speak.

“May I cut in?” she asks.

Damon doesn’t give me time to respond. “Sorry, my dance card is full. Katerina is my date.”

“Oh,” she says, her face falling.

She walks off, and I feel bad for her.

“I’m not your date,” I tell him. “You only asked for once dance.”

“Do you want to be my date for the evening?” he asks.

“No,” I answer.

“Come on, Katerina. I can tell you’re attracted to me too.”

“I’m sure all the girls are attracted to you,” I say. “I can’t help what my body feels when it’s around you. However, I am not controlled by my hormones. Just because you make my knees weak and my heart race doesn’t mean I have to be your date.”

“I make your heart race,” he says, grinning entirely too big.

I probably shouldn’t have told him that.

My face warms a bit.

“You don’t have to be embarrassed,” he says. “To be honest, you make my heart race too.”

“We should be friends,” I tell him.

“Friends,” he says, looking confused.

“Yes, friends. My brother Dimitri was friends with his fiancé, Elana, before they dated,” I say. “We should be friends too.”

“Dating friends?” he asks.

I shake my head. “Friends. And you have to stop telling me I’m pretty.”

“But you are.”

“You also have to stop saying you’re in love with me,” I say, ignoring his comment.

“But I am.”

“I’m serious, Damon,” I say.

“So am I,” he says. “But I can be friends with you. For a little while. How long does the whole friendship thing have to last anyway? A couple days? A week?”

I shake my head at him.

“I vote we go to Vegas now. Though I am only sixteen, so that could be a problem,” he says.

“Vegas?” I ask.

“I forgot you’re not from here,” he says. “Vegas is… well, let’s just say they have a lot of drive through chapels.”

“A drive through church?” I ask.

“Yeah,” he says. “And you get married there.”

My mouth falls open. “Americans are so weird.”

“You’re telling me.”

The song comes to an end, finally. Though, I think it was a mashup of a few songs. I step away from him. “It was nice dancing with you, Damon.”

“Can I get your phone number?” he asks.

I pretend like I’m thinking.

“Friends text each other, right?”

“I suppose,” I say.

“Give me your phone and I’ll program my number in,” he says.

My face grows warm.

My phone is currently stuffed inside my bra. No way I’m handing it to him.

“You give me your phone,” I say.

He pulls it out of his pocket and hands it over. I put my number in and save it. I told it out to him, and he takes it, sending me a text immediately. I feel it vibrate.

“Do not give my phone number to anybody,” he says. “Only a hand full of people in this school have it.”

“So I shouldn’t write it on the bathroom wall?” I joke.

He laughs. “If you do, I’ll write yours on the boys bathroom wall.”

“Fine. I’ll only share it with a few of the girls who are obsessed with you.”

“You better not.”

“Promise I won’t,” I say. “I can’t believe you trust me with it, though. We just met.”

“Well, we are friends, right?”

“Right,” I say. “I shouldn’t dominate your time anymore. It was very nice meeting you, Damon.”

“You too,” he says.

I walk back over to where Tristan is standing. He starts laughing.

“You suck,” I tell him.

Tristan just keeps laughing. “I knew you’d like him.”

“I don’t like him.”

“Keep telling yourself that,” he says.

“I will,” I say. “I’m going to go hang out with somebody else now.”

“Okay,” he says. “Training starts in the morning at five. Meet me in front of your dorm. And wear comfortable shoes. I’m going to bed. I’m sick of dealing with teenagers.”

I grin. “I’m going to have so much fun torturing you.”

“We will see who is doing the torturing tomorrow after I train you,” he says, then walks off.

I wonder what he meant by that.

THREE

Number one priority.

I wake up at half four. I get up, quickly get dressed, and grab some toast and water before meeting Tristan outside. I have a feeling that whatever we are doing today will require me to have a lot of carbs. When we get back, I’ll have to grab some fruit or something.

“Morning, coach,” I say to Tristan when I see him standing outside my building.

He grins, making my heart skip a beat. At least I have something fun to look at while he trains me. “Ready to be tortured?”

“Yes, sir,” I say, mock saluting him.

“We are going to start out by running four miles,” he says.

“Piece of cake.”

“Fine then. Five mile,” he says. “Let’s go.”

He starts running and I follow him.

While we are running, we fall in step beside each other, running in silence. I can’t help but think about all the early morning runs I did with Alik, and how much I miss them. I’m glad I get to run with Tristan, though.

Tristan reminds me a little bit of Alik and Dimitri. He’s about their age and he’s athletic, like they are.

As we are running, I get a text. I pull my phone out of my pocket, keeping the same pace.

Damon: I had fun dancing with you last night.

“What are you smiling at?” Tristan asks.

“Nothing,” I say quickly.

“Did somebody text you?”

“Maybe.”

“Was it Damon?” he asks.

I roll my eyes instead of reply.

Me: What are you doing up at 5 in the morning?

His response was immediate.

Damon: Thinking about you, of course.

Damon: What are you doing up?

Me: Running. Doing five miles today.

Damon: We should go running together sometime.

I nearly run into a tree, so I put away my phone away.

Tristan, of course, laughs.

“Think we can speed up a bit?” he asks. “We’re nearing the two mile mark. I want to see just how fast and far you can run.”

“No problem,” I say, and then give it all I’ve got.

Alik and I used to do intense runs a few times a week. I loved them. I like to push my body to the limit and see what it can do. I also like seeing how I improve over time, and how much better my breathing has gotten. My legs don’t cramp as bad anymore either, which is nice. And my lungs don’t burn. I can run for a lot longer than five miles at a time.

We run like that, side by side, until Tristan says, “Okay, slow back down.”

We slow back down to a normal pace.

“How far?” I ask.

“We’re at four miles now,” he says. “You’re good. I think you could’ve made it another mile. You’ve got great leg strength.”

He doesn’t even sound out of breath.

Of course, I’m not either.

“Thanks,” I say.

“What about your arms?” he asks.

“I’ve tried boxing with my brothers, but that’s about it. My arms aren’t as strong as I’d like,” I say.

“We will work on that,” he says.

“So why did we start with running?” I ask.

“I thought that would be obvious. Whatever situation you’re in, it’s always best to run. Run first, ask questions later. Though, sometimes you might have to fight. But if you can outrun somebody, that can be one of your greatest defenses,” he answers. “I want you to be prepared for whatever situation you may find yourself in.”

“So, does Damon know you work for the government?” I ask, changing the subject. I don’t want to talk about being in danger. Especially not if I’m going to be in danger from my own father. Somewhere, deep inside, I’m hope him and my mum are wrong about Dad.

“He knows I’m undercover and that he can trust me,” Tristan answers. “But he doesn’t know why.”

“Will he think it’s weird we are hanging out?”

“No. He knows that there is a situation where another student needs protecting. I’m here to protect him if needed, but you are my number one priority. Always,” he says, and gives me a look that tells me just how serious he is. “So, after this is over, do you want to go to church?”

“Sure,” I say.

The only church I’ve ever been to is in Russia, so it’d be nice to see how different American churches are.

“Is Damon a good guy?” I ask, hoping that he doesn’t give me grief for asking. I can’t deny that I’m very attracted to Damon, and I want to know if I can trust him before my attraction turns into a crush.

“He seems to be,” Tristan  says. “I’ve worked for his dad a few times before, as well as people from my agency. The girls all love him, as you saw, but they’re only after his money and power.”

“Oh, yes. I’m sure that had absolutely nothing to do with his good looks,” I say, thinking about his grey eyes.

“I’m a dude. I don’t know if Damon is good looking or not,” he says. “But just remember, he’s lived a very privileged, sheltered life. He has money, cars, private jets, yachts and goes on exotic vacations all over the world. Things that are normal to him are outrageous to me. Though, I guess your family has a lot of money too.”

“No,” I say. “I mean, we’re not poor, but we’re not rich.”

He stops running.

So I stop and turn around.

“What?” I ask him.

“Katerina, your dad is a billionaire,” he says.

“I think I would know if my dad was a billionaire,” I say, shaking my head at him.

“Right. Just like you’d know if your dad was a terrorist.”

His words hit me hard, and emotions overtake me. I start crying, which is something I never do in front of somebody else. None of my brothers, aside from Eduard, or my father have ever seen me cry. And here I am, crying in front a person I’ve known three days.

My dad is a liar.

He’s everything that he’s taught me [_not _]to be.

Tristan walks over and pats my shoulder. It’s so awkward that I find myself laughing through my tears.

“What?” he asks, clearly confused.

“You’ve obviously never consoled anybody before,” I say, wiping away my tears.

“Why do you say that?” he asks.

“You just patted me on the shoulder,” I say.

He laughs, making me laugh harder.

“What should I do next time?” he asks.

“I don’t know,” I say. “I would say hug me, but that would just be awkward.”

“I don’t hug anyway,” he says.

“Right,” I say. “Well, let’s get this training session over with so we can get to church.”

“Okay,” he says, then takes off running.

I think I’m going to like training with Tristan.

What are you fighting for?

After training and going to church with Tristan, we run into Damon in the dining hall. His bodyguards are standing around the room, but they’re not annoyingly beside him today. At least he didn’t send his bodyguard to talk to me first.

“Hey,” he says. “You stopped texting me this morning.”

Tristan laughs from beside me. “That’s because she almost ran into a tree.”

I glare at him.

Damon wasn’t supposed to know about that. I want him to think I’m graceful. I usually am, but he distracted me.

“Tristan, hey man,” Damon says, as if just noticing he’s standing there.

“Hey,” he says back.

“He’s your bodyguard?” Damon asks me.

“Sort of,” I answer.

“Not that you need one,” Tristan says, cupping his shoulder. I may have accidentally kicked him a little to hard while he was training me. Since he told Damon I almost ran into a tree, I’m kind of glad I did kick him. “You’re crazy strong for such a little girl.”

I ignore the little girl comment.

“So why do you need a bodyguard? Who is your family?” Damon asks. “They must be some crazy high up politicians in Russia to get support from America. Or rebels. Is your family trying to take down the Russian government?”

“You know you’re not allowed to ask questions,” Tristan tells him.

“This is stupid. I deserve to know,” he says. “I used to get two bodyguards at school. Now I have six, and they’re [_always _]with me. I thought they were going to try to come in the shower with me this morning. It’s crazy. And then I heard about that dead girl in the woods. Dean Bello said the girl died of natural causes, but I heard she was murdered. How many fourteen year olds die of natural causes?”

“I just do what I’m told. You need to talk to your father if you’re upset,” he tells Damon, then looks at me. “And don’t tell him. If you do, it could not only put your life in danger, but his as well.”

“Fine, whatever,” I say. “I won’t tell.”

“Good,” he says, then leaves the dining hall.

“Your bodyguard doesn’t have to stay with you twenty four seven?” Damon asks.

“No. Thank God. Tristan would get on my nerves if he was around me that much,” I answer. “Mostly I think he’s just around to train me. Or torture me.”

“Train you for what?” he asks.

“To fight, of course,” I answer.

“I mean what are you fighting for?”

“For my life.” Because if my dad is as bad of a person as my mum thinks he is, as bad as Tristan tells me he is, I might just have to fight for my life.

“Something bad must be going on,” he says. “Do you think Tristan would let me train with you guys?”

I shrug. “I don’t know. Maybe. Why don’t you ask him?”

“I think I will,” he says.

“But why do you need to fight? You have six bodyguards.”

“A back up plan won’t hurt, right?”

“Guess not,” I say. “Though I could beat up a few bad guys for you.”

It’s a joke. I am not sure I’d be able to fight off a bad guy. Me kicking Tristan’s shoulder this morning was complete luck. I am fast, but I’m not that strong. Running and boxing with Alik has helped, but I have a long way to go before I’m ready to take down bad guys.

“I can’t let my girlfriend be a better fighter than me. That’s just wrong,” Damon says.

“Good thing I’m not your girlfriend.”

“But you will be,” he says.

I roll my eyes. “You wish.”

“Yeah, I do.”

Ugh.

Why does Damon have to be the president’s son?

Why does he have to have a crush on me?

Better yet, why do I have to be so attracted to him?

“I know you like me too. I can see it in your eyes,” he says.

“Damon, I’m attracted to you. I admit that. But that doesn’t mean I want to date you. I hardly know you,” I say.

“I think I love you,” he tells me.

“You think?” I ask. “Damon, love isn’t just a feeling. It’s not words. Love is an action. If you really love me, then you would have to show it.”

“How?” he asks.

“I don’t know. I’ve never been in love.”

“Me either,” he says.

“Then why do you think you love me?”

He shrugs. “Maybe you’re right. Maybe it is just attraction. But attraction can grow into something more. I mean, doesn’t all love start with an attraction?”

“I suppose so,” I say. “But, just for future reference, I don’t think you’re supposed to say stuff like this to a girl when you first meet her. To be honest, it’s kind of weird.”

“Oh,” he says. “Sorry.”

“Don’t apologize,” I say. “But like I said last night, I want to be your friend.”

“I’d like to be your friend, Katerina.”

I like the way he says my name. It sounds good with his American accent.

I think I’m going to like being friends with Damon Hartley.

FOUR

I know it’s not.

It’s the first day of class, but that doesn’t stop Tristan from making me meet him at five o’clock in the morning for training. When I get outside, I suddenly wish I would’ve combed my hair, because standing beside Tristan is Damon. He only has two of his six bodyguards with him.

“Ready for training?” Tristan asks.

I nod. “How many miles today?”

“Let’s do four. I have a feeling some of us need to catch up,” he says, looking at Damon.

“Four miles?” Damon asks.

“Running,” Tristan answers.

Damon looks a little pale.

“You said you wanted to go running with me sometime, right?” I ask. I hope he’s up to running four miles. Four miles is nothing.

“Oh yeah,” he answers. “I love running.”

Tristan, who is smiling, takes off running. I quickly catch up to him. I look back and see Damon is a little behind us, but we don’t slow our pace. He seems to be keeping up for the most part. HIs two bodyguards are on each side of him.

“Maybe tomorrow we can do ten miles. I’m going to get out of shape just running four,” I say to Tristan.

“Ten?” I hear Damon behind us. He sounds out of breath.

“We can run ten miles,” Tristan says. “How long can you run before getting tired?”

“My brother and I used to do a half marathon twice a week on a trail behind our house,” I tell him. “I never get tired doing that. But we decided to run a marathon a couple times. I guess I’d get tried three fourths of the way through then, but not tired enough to stop.”

“We should do a half marathon tomorrow then,” he says. “Let’s try to do them twice a week so you stay on schedule.”

I hear Damon breathing hard behind us. Feeling sorry for him, I stop. Tristan does too.

Damon bends over, putting his hands on his knees, breathing hard. “Was that four miles?”

“That wasn’t even half a mile,” Tristan  says.

“I thought you were a runner,” I say.

“I wanted to impress you,” Damon says. “Sorry. I will learn to run if it means I get to spend time with you.”

Tristan now looks thoroughly annoyed. “When you can run five miles without taking a break, I’ll train you. Until then, you’re holding Katerina back. Her life depends on this, and I can’t have you in the way. You have six bodyguard to protect you. She only has me, and I can’t always be with her.”

“Okay,” Damon says. “I’ll start running. You guys should go on. I don’t want to hold her back.”

“Come on Katerina,” Tristan says to me, and takes off again.

I give Damon an apologetic look, and then run after Tristan. I catch up to him in no time.

“Let’s take it easy today on the running,” Tristan says when I catch up to him. “I noticed yesterday that you have a lot of leg strength, but your upper body could use some work. I think I’m going to start you on some weights.”

“Sounds good,” I say.

My phone vibrates and I pull it out of my pocket, careful so I don’t run into any trees. I’m surprised that it’s not Damon.

Savannah: Where are you at?

Me: Running.

Savannah: You are such a freak ;). Physical exercise and I don’t get along.

Me: You should try it sometime.

Savannah: Nooooo thank you. I was going to ask if you want to go get breakfast but I guess you’re busy.

Me: Sorry.

I slip my phone back in my pocket, grateful for her offer. Savannah doesn’t know anything about my life. She knows I’m from Russia, but she doesn’t know my dad’s a terrorist. She doesn’t work for some secret government agency and her dad’s not the president. It’s kind of nice having a normal friend.

I get the feeling that Savannah comes from a very ordinary family that definitely doesn’t have a lot of money. Part of me wonders if Asher’s dad pays for her to come here. It would make sense. But I don’t want to ask her, because I’m afraid it would embarrass her. I like that she’s not like everybody else here.

Until yesterday, I thought I came from an ordinary family. Turns out my dad is a billionaire.

I wonder why he would hide that from me. I also wonder if my mum and brothers know. We live in such an ordinary house and my parents drive ordinary cars. When I was at home, my parents gave me an allowance for going out with friends, but it wasn’t a lot of money. I had plenty of clothes, but most of them I had bought on clearance. It just doesn’t make sense—none of this makes sense. Shouldn’t I have known that my dad is a billionaire?

I just wish I was back at home. I wish that Eduard never would’ve died and I never would’ve found any of this out. I wish that it was a lie. Coming here changed my life, and I just want to undo the past few days.

But deep down, maybe I am glad I found out. I was living a lie. Besides, I’ve always knows something was up with my family. I just never thought it would be this.

Starstruck.

Damon is in three of four of my morning classes, which doesn’t surprise me. Something tells me that he had something to do with the fact that our schedules are so similar. Savannah and Kaiden are in two of my classes, and Madox is in one of them.

Thankfully, Asher isn’t in any of them. I haven’t seen him since he went off on me Saturday, and I really don’t want to see him. I get that he was scared, but he had no right to talk to me like that.

By the time lunch time rolls around, I am starving. I couldn’t eat much this morning after training. My stomach was in knots. I couldn’t stop thinking about my family. Now I am paying for it. I’m so hungry that my stomach hurts.

My stomach isn’t all that hurts. My arms do too. Tristan’s morning work out was intense, and my arms are already sore. I hope tomorrow we focus on running and not on lifting weights. I can hardly lift my pencil without my arms shaking. Carrying my books is torture enough right now.

After I grab my lunch, I take a seat with Savannah, Kaiden and Madox. They’re all wearing shirts that say [_Minecraft _]on them. I have no idea what it is, but with them, I bet it is some kind of game.

I’m only seated for a few seconds when Tristan joins us.

“Hey guys,” Tristan  says.

“Hey,” they all say back.

One good thing about Tristan pretending to be a senior is that I don’t have any classes with him. I don’t know what he will do next year when he will be graduated, but I guess we will figure that out when the time comes.

“My arms hurt,” I tell him.

He laughs. “Good.”

“Not good,” I say, whining just a bit. “I can hardly lift a pencil. There is no way I can lift weights tomorrow.”

“Tomorrow we are running a half marathon,” he says.

“Awesome,” I say. “I’m excited.”

“You’re excited to run a half marathon?” Kaiden asks, with his mouth open.

“She’s a freak,” Savannah says. “Who enjoys physical exercise?”

“I do,” Tristan says.

“Me too,” I say.

“You guys are crazy,” Madox says, shaking his head.

Another plate joins us at the table, and I don’t have to look to know it’s Damon. He sits directly across from me.

“Hey, Katerina,” he says.

Savannah, Kaiden and Madox all just stare at him, like he’s got an extra head or something.

“Damon, these are my friends,” I tell him. “Savannah, Kaiden and Madox. Guys, this is Damon.”

“You haven’t replied to my texts this morning,” Damon says to me.

“My phone is in my dorm,” I tell him. “We’ve been in class. Why do you even have yours out?”

“I just do,” he says.

I look down and see the three of them still staring at Damon.

“Guys,” I say, waving a hand in front of their face.

Finally, they look at me.

“Damon might be the president’s son, but trust me, he’s just a normal person. Like me,” I say. “Don’t get all starstruck.”

Tristan looks amused by the whole conversation, but he stays quiet.

“So why is he sitting here?” Savannah asks me.

Damon answers. “Katerina and I are dating.”

I laugh. “Correction, he wishes we were dating. I just met him Saturday.”

“We are [_going _]to be dating,” he says. “Soon.”

“Guys, I’m trying to eat here,” Tristan says. “All this mushy love crap is making me sick.”

I don’t respond. Instead, I take a bite of my sandwich.

A silence falls around the table, and I can tell Savannah, Kaiden and Madox haven’t gotten over the shock of Damon sitting here. Haven’t they gone to school with him the past two years? This is a small school, only about two hundred students in total from grade 9 to 12. It isn’t like he was hiding.

“So what is Minecraft?” I ask.

“It’s an awesome game,” Savannah says, getting excited. “You have to cut down trees and mine stone and coal to survive. Monsters come out at night. And you can fight them.”

“It’s a bit more complicated than that,” Kaiden says.

“You get to build stuff,” Madox says. “I’ve built a whole city once.”

“Oh, yeah. I remember that,” Savannah says to him. “That was awesome. Didn’t we destroy it with lava and dynamite?”

“Yeah,” he answers, frowning. “It took me all summer to build it and one afternoon to destroy it.”

Tristan looks at me. “Do you have any idea what they’re talking about?”

“No clue,” I answer.

“I used to play [_Minecraft _]when I was a kid,” Damon says. “I didn’t have the patience to build a whole city back then.”

“Why’d you stop playing?” Savannah asks.

“I don’t know,” he answers. “I guess I got bored. I don’t like playing video games anymore. Sitting around isn’t much fun to me.”

“Now you sound like Katerina,” Kaiden says.

“How can anybody outgrow playing video games?” Madox asks, like it’s something completely mental to him.

“Are you running a half marathon with them tomorrow?” Savannah asks Damon.

“No. I’m not quite up to running that much,” he answers.

“How much did you end up running today?” I ask him.

“West said I ran just over half a mile,” Damon answers. “And my legs are still hurting from it.”

“My arms hurt,” I say, rubbing my muscles. “I think they might fall off.”

“What did you guys end up working on?” he asks.

“He made me lift weights,” I say, pouting just a little. “It sucked.”

“He made you?” Savannah asks.

“Tristan is my…” I let my voice trail off, trying to think of a word besides bodyguard. I don’t think anybody is supposed to know he’s my bodyguard at this point, besides Damon and us.

“I’m her trainer,” Tristan says, coming to the rescue.

Savannah looks at him, grinning.

I don’t have to be a mindreader to know what she’s thinking.

Tristan is good looking. He’s twenty one, after all. His body is way too nice to belong to a teenager. I am positive that he gets hit on a lot by the girls in the school, but I know he wouldn’t be interested in any of them.

Savannah is probably thinking that she wouldn’t mind getting trained by him. And she hates physical exercise.

“He’s going to start training me with Katerina when I can run five miles,” Damon says proudly.

“Maybe skip running tomorrow and just walk instead,” Tristan says to him. “Give your legs time to heal. Also, drink lots of water and eat bananas. It’ll help your legs from cramping.”

Alik and I used to drink smoothies every morning with at least two bananas in them, along with other fruits and kale. He’s right about the bananas. They helped the cramps a lot, though I still did get a few in the beginning. I rarely get them now. For the first few weeks, I woke up in the middle of the night with bad leg cramps. Of course, I pushed myself really, really hard. Probably too hard.

“So what are you training for?” Kaiden asks.

What am I training for? That’s a good question. One that I can’t answer him. I won’t lie.

“Just training her so she can get in better shape,” Tristan says.

It’s technically not a lie. I am getting in better shape. He just left out the [_what _]I’m getting in shape for.

“I don’t think you have anything to worry about,” Kaiden says, looking at me.

“Hey, stop checking out my future girlfriend,” Damon says.

“Future ex-girlfriend,” Madox mumbles, making everybody, besides Damon, laugh.

I’m not sure why I’m friends with Savannah, Kaiden and Madox. We have absolutely nothing in common. But I like them. They make me laugh.

And Tristan… well, I have a feeling we’d be friends, even if he wasn’t stuck with me.

Well, that’s technically not true. If he wasn’t stuck with me, he wouldn’t be at our school and I wouldn’t even know him. He’s twenty one. I probably never would’ve ran into him outside of school.

I wonder where Tristan is from. I supposed I can’t ask him, because he pretty much told me I’m not allowed to ask him any personal questions. It’s not fair. He knows all of my dirty little secrets and I know none of his.

Maybe someday he will tell me.

Supreme leader.

After class, I go back to my dorm room to do my homework. I want to get it over with for the night, so I don’t have to worry about it later. I hate procrastinating when it comes to homework.

As I am finishing up the last of my math homework, Savannah comes in and takes a seat on my bed.

“Spill,” she says.

“Spill what?” I ask, knowing that she’s asking about Damon.

“Hello. The president’s son and you,” she says.

“There is nothing to tell. I met him at the dance on Saturday. We danced,” I say. “We’ve texted a few times, but that’s it. We’re just friends.”

“Damon doesn’t give his number out,” Savannah says. “Like, he’s never given his phone number to a girl at this school. He’s also never shown interest in any girls. At least not past a couple of dances.”

“Well, I don’t know what to tell you,” I say, shutting my book. I just have to work on a sort essay for my American lit class and then I am done for the night. Since it’s the first day of school, I don’t have much homework. Though, maybe I should work ahead on studying. I’m taking an American history class and I don’t know very much about American history.

“He likes you,” she says.

“Good for him,” I say back.

“And you like him.”

I sigh. “Savannah, Damon is cute. Really cute. And so far he has a nice personality. But I just met him, like, three seconds ago. Give me time to get to know the guy before you start planning our wedding.”

She lets out a squeal. “I knew it. I so knew it. By the way, you sounded really American when you said that.”

Maybe Savannah is rubbing off on me.

“This is so big,” she says. “Damon Hartley has a crush on [_my _]roommate.”

“Damon Hartley is just a guy,” I say.

“He’s so not just a guy. He is the president’s son,” she says. “Do you guys have a president in Russia? Or like a supreme leader? Or a prime minister?”

“Supreme leader?” I ask, then laugh. “I’m from Russia, not North Korea. Yes, we have a president.”

“Okay, so you do know. It’s not a little thing. It’s a big, huge thing,” she says. “Like, life changing.”

“I’m Russian. If I date an American, it won’t change my life,” I say. “And stop saying stuff like that. Damon and I are just friends.”

“Whatever,” she says. “I’m going to go play Minecraft with Kaiden and Madox. We’re going to try and build a huge city that we can destroy.”

“Have fun,” I say sarcastically.

She goes out the door, leaving me in peace.

I can’t help but laugh again when I think about her supreme leader comment.

Americans really don’t know anything about Russian politics.

FIVE

Bodyguard slash therapist.

It’s Friday at last, which means I have officially survived my first week without any incidents, besides almost being late for chemistry and getting a dirty look from my teacher. But other than that, nothing exciting happened.

I haven’t heard anything from my mum, dad, or brothers all week. Which makes me sad, because I miss them. Tristan told me that my mum probably can’t talk right now. She has to be carefully about when she calls and how she calls. His agency is worried that my dad’s terrorist group is catching on to her trading secrets with the United States, so she’s keeping everything quiet for a while, until they grow bored of monitoring her. It could take a while. Still, I don’t get why she won’t call me. I’m her daughter. It hurts a little.

Tristan and I have kept up out training every morning, and each day it gets just a little bit more intense.

This weekend apparently is a holiday called Labor Day. We have something similar in Russia, except Americans celebrate it all weekend long. Kaiden invited Damon, Tristan and I to his beach house in South Carolina. After much begging, Tristan agreed to let us go. I guess Kaiden’s parents are out of the country, so it’ll just be Kaiden, Savannah, Madox, Damon, his six bodyguard, Tristan and me.

I haven’t talked to Asher anymore since Saturday. He seems to be avoiding me, which is fine with me. He wasn’t very nice the last time I spoke with him. He’s obviously got a lot of friends and is usually surrounded.

After school on Friday, we all pack a bag and get on Damon’s private jet to head to Kaiden’s beach house. It feels very odd to be doing something like this. I’ve never even flown first class, and yet everybody else seems to think this is completely normal.

Looking back, I wonder why my dad didn’t buy me first class tickets for my flight to America. That was a long flight.

He’s so cheap. He’s a billionaire. It’s the least he could have done.

Though, I suppose I would’ve wondered if he had bought first class.

When we get to the airport, everybody goes to get on the plane. I stand back, and look at the not-so-small jet in front of me.

“Pretty nice, huh,” Tristan says to me.

“This is crazy. What kind of sixteen year old has their own private plane? Or a beach house for the weekend?” I ask.

“The kind of kids that have parents rich enough to send them to New Hope Academy,” he answers. “It’s kind of surprising that you’re not used to living like this. I wonder why your dad kept you guys being billionaires a secret from you.”

I wonder the same thing.

Tristan walks towards the plane, and I follow him. Damon’s security guard gets our luggage loaded.

As I get on the plane, Damon is standing there, waiting for me.

“Sit by me,” he says.

I walk up and take a seat. He gives me the one by the window.

“Are you a nervous flyer?” Damon asks me.

I shake my head. “My family and I fly to London every other year to visit my grandparents. I’ve also been other places on family vacations. I’ve been flying my whole life, so I’m just used to it.”

“My mom died in a plane crash,” he tells me. “So even though I’ve been on thousands of flights, I still hate them.”

“I’m so sorry,” I tell him. “My older brother died in a car accident, so I have problems getting in a car. My dad tries to get me to drive sometimes, but I can’t. I freeze up when I get behind the wheel.”

The pilot’s voice comes over the speaker, telling us were about to take off. We get buckled up, and the plane starts moving.

Damon grips the sides of his seat as we start to take off, so I grab one of his hands and hold it. I do it to be nice and hope that he doesn’t take it the wrong way. At my touch, he seems to relax a little bit. He looks over at me and smiles.

“Let’s talk,” I say, trying to distract him from the take off.

“Umm…” his jaw tenses. “Tell me about your brother that died.”

Of course that is what he wants to talk about.

I don’t normally like talking about Eduard, but for some reason, I want to tell Damon about him.

“Eduard was my best friend. He was only eleven months older than me, so we spent every waking moment together,” I tell him. “Even though he’s gone, I still can’t imagine my life without him. He’s the only brother that actually looked like me. He had dark hair, but our eyes were the same, and we had similar facial features. We always got asked if we were twins. Which was a nice, because when I go out with Alik or Dimitri we always get asked if were dating, which is gross.”

He laughs, looking at me. “You’re kind of great, Katerina.”

“Thanks,” I say, feeling a little shy at his compliment.

“I can’t wait to meet your family. They sound amazing,” he says. “Though how could they not be? You’re related to them.”

Now it’s my turn to tense up.

The problem with him meeting my family is that one, possibly two, of my family members wants him dead. Once he find out the truth about my family, he won’t like me anymore. That is why I can’t get close to Damon.

The plane finally elevates and the fasten seatbelt sign goes off.

“What’s wrong?” Damon asks me.

“What do you mean?” I ask, undoing my seatbelt.

“You look like you were freaking out when I mentioned meeting your family,” he says. “Is it too soon to talk like that?”

“No,” I say. “I guess I just miss them.”

That much is true. I miss them like crazy. Even my dad.

I get up from the seat. “I’m going to talk to Tristan for a minute.”

“Okay,” he says, looking disappointed.

I walk to the back of the plane where Tristan is sitting. I let out a sigh as I sink down in the leather seat beside him.

“What’s wrong with you?” he asks.

“Damon said he wants to meet my family,” I tell him.

“Too soon?” he jokes.

“He can’t meet my family,” I say. “My dad wants to kill him. Besides, once he figures out [_who _]my family is, he won’t like me anymore. Coming on this trip was a mistake. I can’t get close to Damon. I’ll just end up getting hurt in the end.”

“Katerina, you can’t help who your family is,” Tristan says. “You’re sixteen, so you can’t see it, but you’re a great girl. Damon, of all people, know that you can’t choose your family. He won’t hate you when he finds out who your dad is. Besides, like I said, you’re sixteen. It’s not like you’re getting married anytime soon.”

“Really?” I ask, feeling hopefully. I ignore his too young for marriage comment. I’ll be old enough in two years. I’m hardly too young to think about marriage.

“Really,” he says.

“Thanks,” I say. “You’re a great bodyguard slash therapist.”

“Apparently I can add teenage romance councilor onto my resume,” he says, shaking his head. “Go sit by Damon. All this romance stuff is rotting my brain.”

I stick my tongue out at him, but go back to sit by Damon. We talk more about my family and a little about his. Before I know it, the plane is landing down in South Carolina, and I get my first glimpse of the Atlantic ocean.

Used to secrets.

Kaiden’s parent’s home is massive. It’s a beautiful, three story home right on the beach. When I look out the back of the house, I see the beautiful Atlantic ocean and a white sandy beach. When I look out the front, I see palm trees. What would make Kaiden want to leave this beautiful place to go to school in New Hope is beyond me.

Their house even has a helipad. His parents helicopter is sitting on top of it, making me feel very insignificant. I’ve never rode on one before.

Damon and I are out on the beach while Savannah, Madox, and Kaiden play video games on a 80-inch television screen. They’re missing the most beautiful sunset so they can play video games. There is something seriously wrong with them.

Tristan and five of Damon’s body guards are checking out the property, and one of them are standing about ten feet away from us. Not close enough to hear our conversation, but close enough to protect Damon if something were to happen.

I really hope nothing happens. Though I don’t think it will. Even Tristan seems to think we’re safe right now.

“This is such a beautiful place,” I tell Damon, watching the soft waves crash onto the beach. “A little extravagant, but nice.”

“What is your home in Russia like?” he asks.

“It’s a simple two story brick home,” I answer. “It’s in the country, but sort of close to the city. Nothing nearly as nice as this, but it’s home. I wouldn’t want to live anywhere else in the world.”

“I’m surprised you live in a small house.”

“It’s big enough,” I say.

“Yeah, but most people at our school are used to huge homes, usually more than one. They have servants, or if they’re like us, they have bodyguards,” he says. “It’s not like we’re exactly normal.”

I guess I’m not normal.

I’ve always felt normal. I come from a larger than average family—six of us, before Eduard died. But we’ve always lived very normally. To come here and suddenly find out that we’re not normal is kind of a shock to my brain, and I’m still trying to process it.

But I can’t tell him that.

“There are things I wish I could tell you about me,” I say. “But I can’t. And I feel like it’s deceiving you.”

“I understand,” Damon says. “Being the president’s son, I’m used to secrets.”

“But what if you hate me when you find out?” I ask him, letting my insecurities creep back in.

“I won’t,” he says. “Katerina, I—”

His voice cuts short there is a loud shot in distance. It echoes through the air.

His bodyguard that I know as West jumps into action, quickly standing in front of Damon. Damon reaches out and grabs me, pulling me behind him.

“I don’t need protection,” I tell him.

I hear another shot, and this time I can tell the direction it’s coming from. I take off running towards it.

“Katerina!” Damon yells.

I look back to see that his bodyguard has him tackled on the ground. I guess he tried to run after me. But this isn’t about him. Well, it’s sort of about him. But it’s about me and my family.

I see Tristan, running towards me, so I pick up my pace, trying to make sure he doesn’t catch up with me. But running in the sand is much harder than running on dirt and pavement. Right before I am about to jump over the gate, Tristan reaches me and tackles me to the ground.

I fight against him, trying to get away.

“Let me go! What if it’s my dad? I want to get to him!” I yell at Tristan.

“Don’t be stupid, Katerina,” he says.

Another shot rings loud.

“Tristan, please,” I say, my voice breaking.

“It’s just somebody target practicing,” he tells me. “It’s not your dad. We were coming back to tell you guys when the first shot went off. And if it was your dad, I wouldn’t let you anywhere near him.”

I stop fighting, and Tristan gets up.

I lay there a little bit longer, with my face in the sand. I don’t want to roll over, because I don’t want him to see me crying—again.

Over the last week, my whole world has been turn upside down. Really, over the past three months. First with Eduard dying. Then coming to America. And now finding out my dad is a terrorist. I don’t know how to handle it all.

“I just want to go home, Tristan,” I admit, still not looking up. I want to hug my mum. I want to run with Alik. I want to hang out with Dad and Dimitri, like old times.

“We can go home right now,” he says, making me excited. “We will go to the airport right now and go back to New Hope.”

My heart drops. “Not New Hope. I mean home as in Russia,” I say, finally rolling over and looking up at him. “I don’t want to be in America.”

“I’m sorry,” he says. “But you can’t go home. Not right now. Not for a while.”

“Christmas, right?” I ask. “For my brother’s wedding.”

“I’m not sure that’s a good idea.”

“I can’t miss my brother’s wedding. Then they would know something was up. I thought we were going to keep my knowing a secret,” I say.

“We will see,” he says, holding out a hand to help me up.

I accept his hand as he pulls me up without any effort.

I turn away from him, and let a few more tears fall.

“Do you need a hug?” Tristan asks.

I nod, not turning to look at him.

He pats my shoulder. “Let’s go back. I’m sure Damon would be more than happy to hug you.”

I wipe my tears and turn around. I can’t help but laugh at what he said. Tristan is so not a touchy feely kind of guy, which is just fine with me.

“When are you finally going to give in and date that boy?” he asks.

“Later,” I say. “After I’ve known him longer than a week.”

“You’re torturing him, you know,” he says, as we walk back to the house slowly. I’m so not ready to see anybody else yet and I think Tristan knows that.

“It’s kind of fun,” I tell him.

He laughs. “Don’t let him hear you say that.”

Damon, who is still standing where we were sees me walking back with Tristan and runs towards me. And he does what Tristan didn’t do—he hugs me. And it’s pretty much one of the best hugs I’ve ever gotten.

I don’t blame Tristan for not hugging me. It would be awkward. He’s a lot older than me—only one year younger than Dimitri. But I’m glad Damon doesn’t have a problem with hugging me, because right now, I need this hug.

“I was so worried about you,” he says when I break the embrace. “I can’t believe you just took off like that.”

I shrug, like it’s no big deal.

“Why is there sand in your hair?” he asks, just now noticing.

“That would be Tristan’s fault. He tackled me,” I say, then look at Tristan. “You’re lucky we were running on sand. You never would’ve caught me any other way.”

“Probably not. You’re fast,” Tristan says. “But you can’t do that again. If that would’ve been real…”

He doesn’t finish his sentence, but he doesn’t need to. I know exactly what would’ve happened if it would’ve been real. Now that the situation is over, I realize I responded stupidly. The first thing I should’ve done was run for cover and assess the situation. Find out who the shooter is and where they are and plan my attack. Running at somebody with a gun isn’t exactly a good plan.

Of course, I was also assuming the shooter was my dad. I don’t think he’d shoot me, but then again, this time last week, I thought my dad wasn’t a terrorist and it turns out I was wrong.

Why does my life have to be so complicated?

“Thank you for looking out for her,” Damon tells Tristan.

“It’s my job,” Tristan responds, like it’s just another day at the office.

I want a job like Tristan’s when I graduate. Chasing bad guys is kind of an adrenaline rush.

Though, pretending to be a high school student when I’m twenty one would be lame. I would want to be out on the battle field catching bad guys.

Maybe I should be nicer to Tristan. Having to re-do his senior year [_must _]be torture.

SIX

For you.

September quickly fades into October, and I adjust to my life at New Hope Academy pretty quickly.

In the mornings, I train with Tristan. Though our therapy sessions have seemed to stop, he is a great trainer. I’ve learned a lot about defending myself and also that I should never run towards somebody who is shooting at me. I feel like I’ve come a long ways.

Damon is wanting to join us soon. He’s up to running two miles, but he still has a little ways to go. He’s worked hard, and I’ve been running with him some after school. I see him getting stronger every day.

I don’t think Tristan wants me to run with Damon, but he hasn’t said anything. Maybe he’s worried I’m working too hard, but running two miles with Damon is nothing. I just do it so I can spend time with him. I have a feeling that’s why he does it too. Maybe he’s taking what I said to him at the dance to heart… that love is more than a feeling, but an action.

Next weekend is the homecoming dance. Damon hasn’t asked me yet, but I have a feeling that he will. It seems weird that I want to go to a dance, considering everything else that’s going on, but I’m really excited about it. I like dressing up and looking girly. Savannah, on the other hand, is already complaining about having to wear a dress.

Maybe dressing up will distract me from my crazy life.

After class that Friday afternoon, Damon convinces me that we should skip our run that day. He says he has “something else” to do, so I hang out with Savannah and Kaiden in the library. We have a hard math test on Monday that is going to be brutal. My brain doesn’t want to absorb any of the formulas.

“I suck at math,” I say, as Kaiden gets done explaining the formula to me for the second time.

“You just think too logically,” he says. “Don’t try to make sense of the formula. Just do it.”

“What’s the point of learning something that doesn’t make sense? And when am I ever going to use this again?” I ask.

“You might use it,” he says. “What do you want to be when you get older?”

“A spy,” I say, thinking about Tristan. He pretty much has the coolest job. Though, I’m not sure if he’s a “spy”, but I know he does undercover work and he’s an epic fighter. I love training with him. It would be awesome to get paid to do it.

“A Russian spy. That’s hot,” Kaiden says.

Savannah rolls her eyes at him. “And Kaiden here will end up teaching eight grade math. He’ll have five kids and a beer belly.”

“Fine with me,” he says. “If I’ve got a beer belly that means my wife will be a good cook.”

I laugh. “Boys.”

Savannah’s phone vibrates. She looks at it and then stands up. “Guys, that’s all the studying for today. My brain can’t take anymore.”

“Agree,” I say, shutting my book. I stuff it into my bag. “Let’s go put our stuff away before dinner.”

“Okay,” Savannah says. “Bye Kaiden.”

“Later,” he says.

Savannah and I walk back to our dorm room. On the way there, we talk about the math test, which I am really dreading. And we also talk about the dance. Savannah, as always, is going with Kaiden and Madox. I wonder if nobody else asked her, but I don’t want to bring it up. I tell her that I’m not going with anybody yet, because nobody has asked me.

“Damon hasn’t asked you to homecoming yet?” she asks, looking truly surprised.

“No,” I answer, feeling a little sad about it. I figured he would have asked me before now. Maybe he isn’t sure he wants to go with me anymore.

When we get to our dorm, I open it and walk in.

Something bright catches my eye.

There are purple balloons all over the ceiling. When I look around the room, I see there are a dozen vases, each with a dozen purple roses in them, sitting around the room. There is a banner hanging up that says, “Will you go to homecoming with me?”.

I look over at Savannah, who is grinning from ear to ear.

I feel a tap on my shoulder and turn around to see Damon standing there.

“What do you say?” he asks. “Do you want to go to homecoming with me?”

“You did all this?” I ask, still in shock.

“All by myself,” he answers. “For you.”

“Why?”

“Because I want to go to homecoming with you,” he says.

“But why go through all this trouble?” I ask.

“Because you’re worth it,” he says. “Katerina, you’re the only girl who has ever turned me down—ever. My heart can’t take much more rejection. Please, come to homecoming with me.”

He does want to go with me.

Damon Hartley wants to take [_me _]to homecoming.

Excited butterflies fill my stomach.

“Okay,” I say. “I’ll go with you.”

“Really?” he asks, sounding surprised.

“Yes, really.”

Damon grabs me around my waist, lifts me up, and spins me around in a circle.

“Put me down,” I say, patting his shoulders.

He doesn’t listen. He just carries me out into the hallway. I dunk so he doesn’t hit my head on the doorframe.

He runs down the hallway yelling. When people come out to see what the noise is, he yells, “I’m taking Katerina Vasin to homecoming!”

My face grows warm with embarrassment.

“I’m starting to second guess my decision,” I say to him, but he doesn’t seem at all fazed.

“What is going on?” I hear somebody yell over the noise.

It’s the prefect for our dorm.

Oops.

“Sorry,” Damon says, putting me down. “I was just excited. Katerina has just agreed to go to homecoming with me.”

“How nice,” she says, crossing her arms over her chest. “Now you need to take this somewhere else, because the girls here are trying to study.”

Damon turns to me. “You heard her. Let’s celebrate somewhere else.”

He doesn’t give me a chance to respond. He grabs my hand and drags me out the dorm. And all I can think is, wow. I am going to homecoming with Damon Hartley.

Don’t talk.

By dinner time, everybody has heard that Damon and I are going to homecoming together. And they’re all staring. I grab my food quickly and hurry over to our table, hoping that people grow bored.

Why does Damon have to be the president’s son?

Better yet, why can’t these people treat him like he’s normal? Because he is. He’s just like every other kid in here. His dad just happens to be the head of the country. No big deal. But nobody seems to look away.

They’re shameless.

I groan and put my head down on the table with a thunk.

“Are they still staring?” I ask, my voice muffled.

“Yeah,” Savannah answers.

I hear a plate sit on the table, and I lift my head slightly to see Tristan sit down.

“Why is everybody staring?” he asks.

“They’re staring at Katerina,” Savannah answers. “Damon asked her to homecoming. She said yes, and then he yelled it to everybody on our floor in the dorms while he carried her down the hall. It was really cute. There were balloons and flowers and a sign. I am a skeptic when it comes to high school romance, but even I thought it was really sweet. And now I wonder how he’s going to top that when he asks you to marry him.”

“Marry?” I ask, sitting up really quick. “We aren’t even dating. We’re just going to homecoming together.”

“Whatever,” she says. “The boy is clearly in love with you. He’s running to spend more time with you, and if you didn’t know, running for non-athletic people is hard and not at all fun. And all that work he went through just to ask you to homecoming. He’s like the sweetest guy ever. You don’t let go of a guy like that. You two are, like, destined to be together forever.”

Tristan stand up, food in his hand. “I think I’m just going to eat on the go.”

“I’m with you,” Kaiden says.

Him and Madox get up and follow Tristan.

Savannah just shrugs, and continues her girl excited talk about how Damon is in love with me and that we’re going to have two and a half kids, whatever that means. I personally think she’s crazy.

“I think I’m going to get out of here too,” I tell her standing up.

“What about your food?” she asks.

“I’m not hungry anymore,” I yell, as I speed up my pace. I’d run if everybody wasn’t staring at me.

I will probably regret not eating later tonight, but right now I just want to get out of this room. As I’m walking out, Damon is walk in. He sees me and smiles.

“Hey, Katerina,” he says.

Before he gets the words completely out of his mouth, I say, “Sorry, can’t talk.” And then run out of the dining hall. I’m sure Savannah will explain why I just ignored him like that. I hope he’s not mad.

I’m not second guessing my decision to go to homecoming with him, but I just wish he was… normal.

Okay, that’s not fair. He can’t help that he’s the president’s son. He is normal. It’s just nobody else, aside from me, sees him that way. I wish they could see that. Damon deserves to have a normal life.

One good thing about me is that I’ve always been under the impression that I came from a normal family. Finding out that it’s a lie doesn’t change the past. It only changes the present and future.

I head back to my dorm, change into some comfortable shoes and clothes, grab my phone and a pair of headphones, and hit the running trail. I put on my favorite playlist as I run, loving the feel of my feet hitting against the ground. We only ran five miles this morning, and I’ve been wanting to run all day.

I listen to the Russian lyrics come out of my headphones, and can’t believe how much I miss my native country’s tongue. I sing along to my favorite part, thankful that nobody is around to hear me. I am not a good singer.

About that time, somebody steps into the path and I nearly run into them.

“I didn’t see you there,” I say, backing away from the person.

What I don’t expect is the person to speak back in Russian. “It’s all right, Katerina.

Katerina.

He knows my name.

I look at the guy in front of me. He’s definitely too old to be a high school student. There is something familiar about him. I feel like I’ve seen him somewhere before. Probably with my dad.

What do you want?” I ask back in Russian. I keep my guard up, ready to put up a fight. Suddenly, I am thankful for every early morning spent with Tristan.

You don’t remember me? That hurts,” he says. “I’m Kazimir.”

Kazimir.

Oh, God.

I know this guy. I’ve only met him once, when I was fourteen, but my dad talks about him a lot. This guy works with my dad.

I see you do remember me,” he says.

Does my dad know you’re here?” I ask him.

He flinches at the mention of my dad, so I know my dad must not know that he’s here.

Fear runs through my veins.

This guy is a lot bigger than me—at least twelve centimeters taller. And he’s buff. He’s probably trained for years, and I’ve only trained for a month. If this guy tries to take me on, he could snap me like a twig.

I should run. After all, that is what Tristan told me I should do if I get into a situation like this.

Don’t run, Katerina,” Kazimir says to me, as if reading my mind. “Why did your dad send you to school here? Is he trying to replace me with you?”

Are you crazy?” I ask him. “I’m sixteen years old. I’m here for high school. I can’t be an engineer.”

An engineer is what I’ve always thought my dad was. I suppose it was his cover story. It was perfect, really. Long hours, last minute trips—he had me fooled. I never once questioned it.

Kazimir looks at me, as if he’s trying to tell if I seriously don’t know what my father really does.

You’re a smart girl. You know your dad’s not an engineer,” he says.

I’m not working for my dad,” I tell him, not admitting to anything. “And I never will.”

I don’t believe you,” he says.

He starts to grab me, but I pull away. I’m about to turn and run when I hear footsteps coming towards us. It distracts me.

Oh, no. Another student is coming out here. I can’t just leave. What if Kazimir decides to attack them. I have to protect them. It’s what I’ve trained for. Let’s just hope I can catch him by surprise.

Before I can react, Kazimir gets an am around my waist and pulls me against his body. I feel something sharp against my neck. I fight to keep calm. Panicking won’t help in this situation. If I fight, he may accidentally slit my throat. Or, you know, do it on purpose.

I watch the path to see who is coming.

Tristan comes around the corner and stops dead in his tracks when he sees me. He rips the headphones out of his ears. “Katerina…” I can hear the panic in his voice, though his face is hiding it well. He clears his throat.

Who is this guy?” Kazimir asks me, speaking Russian.

Just a boy I go to school with,” I answer.

Is he your boyfriend?”

No. He’s older than me. He’s a senior,” I tell him.

Tristan watches the exchange between Kazimir and me. “What are you guys saying?”

Tell him to shut up or I’ll cut your throat open in front of him,” Kazimir says. “Would he like watching you bleed to death slowly in front of him?”

Tristan’s body tenses up before I translate, making me wonder if he does in fact speak Russian. He pretended to only know a few words when we first met, but it would make sense if he did know Russian. His job is to take down a Russian terrorist group, so why wouldn’t he?

I let out a strangled cry. “Tristan, please. Don’t talk.”

Kazimir starts speaking in Russian. “This boy seems to care a lot about you.”

We’re friends.”

Are you sure that’s it?” he asks.

Yes, I’m sure,” I answer.

Who is your boyfriend?”

I don’t have one.” I don’t. Thank God I don’t. I really, really don’t want him to find out about Damon. Damon is the guy that they want dead, and I can’t let anything happen to him. Most of all, I can’t let anybody know I care about him.

Kazimir switches to English and speaks to Tristan. “You, leave. I talk to Katerina.”

“No,” Tristan responds. “I’m not leaving her alone with you.”

Kazimir’s grip tightens on me. “I no like this boy.”

I speak to Kazimir in Russian. “Please, Kazimir. Don’t do this.

Make the boy leave,” he says.

I look at Tristan, who shakes his head very slightly.

“Tristan, please go.”

“I’m not leaving you,” he says.

I know he won’t leave me. Not even for a second. I both love and hate him for it. I just want Tristan to be safe.

It doesn’t matter. He’s American. You can speak to me in front of him,” I say, careful with my wording. None of what I said is a lie. I just left out the part of him knowing how to speak Russian.

Kazimir loosens his grip a little.

Tristan notices it too and springs into action. He grabs the knife from Kazimir’s hand and pulls me behind him before Kazimir can even blink. I don’t even quite understand how he did it. I don’t think I’ve ever seen anybody move that fast before.

Sending a quick thank you to God, I scoot close to Tristan. He makes me feel safe.

“You should go, Katerina,” Tristan says.

“Not happening,” I say.

He is quiet for a minute. I think he knows I’m serious. There is no way I’m leaving Tristan alone with this guy.

Kazimir Anikanov. We finally meet,” Tristan says, speaking in Russian.

Wow. His Russian is very good. If I met him on the street in Russia, I wouldn’t know that he was American, except by his tan. Even his accent sounds Russian.

Kazimir doesn’t stick around to respond to Tristan. He takes off running into the woods.

Tristan turns to me, putting his hands on my shoulders. He looks at my neck and face and arms. “Are you okay? Are you hurt?”

“I’m fine,” I say. Physically I am fine. Inside, I am shaken up.

“I’m going after him. You run back to the school now. Find Damon. Tell his guards Kazimir Anikanov is here. They will protect you. Go!” As soon as the words are out of his mouth, he takes off running after Kazimir, and I run back towards the school. I run faster than I ever have before. I ignore the burn in my lungs. I just push myself to get back as quickly as possible. My life could depend on it. Tristan’s life could depend on it.

My legs feel like jello as I run. They nearly give out from under me a few times, but somehow I find the strength to keep running.

I run into the boys dormitory, where I know Damon will be. I ignore the prefect who is yelling at me for running into the hall without first checking in. It’s getting close to curfew. I run up two flights of stairs and into Damon’s dorm room. I don’t knock, I just burst in. Damon is sitting on his bed with a school book in front of him. Less than a second later, four of his goons come in, and relax with they see it’s just me.

I can’t seem to catch my breath. “Kazimir…” breathe, “Anikonov…” breath, “is here… Tristan… chasing… him… in the woods… now.”

With my words, three of the four run off, leaving behind the bodyguard named West. He’s the only one that ever talks, and he only talks to Damon. I’ve heard Damon say his name a few times.

I sit down, putting my head between my legs so I can breathe. Why can’t I breathe?

“Katerina,” Damon says, but his voice sounds far off. “Are you okay?”

The room is spinning and everything goes fuzzy around the edges.

I feel Damon put a hand on my arm, and I turn to look at him. His face is the last thing I see before everything goes dark.

Episode two, Luck, is coming soon!

Letter from Scarlett

Hey! Thank you so much for reading my debut work, Fate. This is the first book in the serial series, New Haven Academy. Don’t worry, I have a lot more planned in this world and look forward to spending time with these characters. I hope you enjoy it as well! Episode two, Luck, is coming soon.

If you did enjoy this book, it would mean a lot to me if you left a review wherever you picked this up.

For more information on this series, be sure to check out my blog https://scarletthaven.wordpress.com!

Scarlett Haven

Find me online.

Blog: https://scarletthaven.wordpress.com 

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/AuthorScarlettHaven/ 

Acknowledgments.

First of all, I want to give thanks and praise to Jesus. I serve a good and gracious God. I hope that this book is pleasing to Him!

Next, I want to thank my wonderful husband. Thank you for going with me to all the places my dreams have taken us. I’m glad they’ve taken us to New Haven. This is where we belong.

To my mommy and daddy, thank you for homeschooling me and letting me be so creative growing up. Mom, thanks for reading the first novel I ever wrote when I was fourteen. I know it wasn’t very good. Also thanks for putting up with me playing the guitar really loud, even at night time. Best. Parents. EVER.

My wonderful cousin, Savannah. I hope you liked the character I named after you!

Last, thank you to everybody who has read this book. :) You’re awesome!

<3 Scarlett


Fate

Welcome to New Hope Academy—home of the rich and famous. And then there is me. Katerina Vasin. A very ordinary who is definitely not rich. My parents shipped me off to an American boarding school, but I can’t figure out why I’m here. Or how they’re paying for it. I have an ordinary family and an ordinary life. Or so I thought. As it turns out, my family isn’t so ordinary. Life just got a bit more complicated.

  • ISBN: 9781311093172
  • Author: Scarlett Haven
  • Published: 2016-01-05 18:50:10
  • Words: 26631
Fate Fate