Page 1 of 83 - Burn Before Reading
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Chapter 1



 If I told you Lakecrest Preparatory School ruined my life forever, you wouldn't believe me.

 'But Bee!' You'd say. 'How can a collective of buildings centered around high school learning ruin your promising young life?' And I'd look you right in the eyes and grasp your innocent, naive hands and say three words;

 Wolfgang Alexander Blackthorn.

 And you'd be confused, of course, because who is he, and how can one person ruin a life forever? You'd have questions. Hell, I still do, even after all this time.

 But let's start from the beginning, shall we? God it feels good, saying that. Like this is a proper story, something long and epic that deserves to be written down. Maybe it doesn't. I did screw it up royally, after all.

 Whatever. I'm doing it anyway. A little screw-up's never stopped me before. I'm writing in the caveman style, too - with ink and paper instead of my laptop. I've had enough of computers, and phones. I've had enough of people texting me non-stop about how badly I messed up. And holy shit, did I mess up.

 Pen-and-paper is safer, too. Nobody can hack me, especially not Fitz, the sneaky bastard. We'll get to him, don't worry. All you need to know is Fitz is smart. Smarter than me, which I like to think is a feat in and of itself.

 Where the hell was I? Oh, right. Wolfgang Blackthorn, and how he ruined my life.

 And my heart.

 Let's start at the beginning.

 My name is Beatrix Cruz, and no matter what anyone else says, this is how it went down.




 It started three months ago, when someone left a very helpful and informative note in Eric Jones' locker.

 I didn't like Eric. I still don't. I barely knew him at the time, but we had art class together and I'd just started at Lakecrest and asking him to pass me the charcoal was about as much of a friend as I'd made thus far. The note was a red post-it, with just the word STOP on it. I knew that because his locker was also right next to mine, and I saw him take it out with shaking hands.

 He looked up at me, his mousy brown hair - which always reminded me of a dirty mop - quivering with the rest of his body. Being both a kind and considerate member of society, I voiced my concern gently.

 "What's up, my dude?"

 Eric gestured at the post-it. It took a while, but I solved his riddle.

 "Ah! So either you've contracted lockjaw, or I'm supposed to know what that is. You do realize I've been here all of two weeks, right?"

 "It's a red-card," He whispered.

 "From...a soccer match?" I tried. He suddenly looked even more scared. "A teacher? The principal? I've got it - the Principal's soccer match!"

 While I played one-man charades, Eric's eyes rooted over my shoulder, and I could hear a faint crescendo of laughing, giggling, and 'good mornings'. At that point I'd spent all of fourteen days at Lakecrest, but I already knew who was causing the ruckus.

 "The Blackthorns," I sighed, and turned to watch their approach. It was dazzling, to say the least. Good-looking guys of their caliber don't usually show up until like, college. Or until you turn on the TV. Even in a richy-rich Pacific Northwest school like Lakecrest, where every single student drives their own BMW or Mercedes or, at the very least, a brand-new Prius, a huge majority of the guys didn't give a second thought to their appearance. Sure, they all wore the same gray plaid and brass-buttoned uniform, but some of them knew how to take showers more than once a week, and some of them definitely filled it out better than others, thanks to puberty.

 Unfortunately, the Blackthorn brothers filled it out the best. Doubly unfortunately, every girl in school loved them for it. It was genes, some whispered. I once caught two teachers arguing whether or not it was plastic surgery. God knows they could afford it - with their dad being CEO of a huge shipping firm. Whatever it was, it worked. Pretty people get everything they want, and no one stops them. Everyone the Blackthorn brothers passed in the hall chimed in with a 'hello' or a slight wave, even the guys, and the shier girls just made do with lingering glances.

 You know me, paper-and-pen. You know I absolutely despise people who have it easy. And the Blackthorns had it so easy. They were rich. They were gorgeous. And everyone liked them. They lived charmed lives.

 Or so I thought at the time.

 Anyway, it wasn't the fact everyone stared at them constantly and would stare at them for the rest of eternity until they left the room that pissed me off. It was the fact they never seemed to care about the attention.

 There was Bernard, or Burn, for short. Taller than his brothers by at least a head, he was the oldest of three - a senior. His green eyes were always heavy-lidded, like he was perpetually on the verge of falling asleep, though he had the same dark, thick lashes as his brothers and high cheekbones. I knew he was on the Varsity basketball team, and was the whole reason Lakecrest went to states for four years. He didn't talk much, but he didn't need to. With his height and width, he was more than a little intimidating. Some people called him 'the bear', half-jokingly, half-terrified. Now that I think about it, he was definitely most of the reason people gave the Blackthorn brothers such a wide berth, physically speaking.

 The second brother was Fitzwilliam - Fitz, to everyone outside his family. Aside from the fact their mother was clearly on a big Victorian England trip when she named her sons, he was the most likable. And by 'likable' I mean he deigned to acknowledge people. Sometimes. If they were pretty enough for his tastes. He grinned more than the other two brothers. Once, he even winked at a girl, and the poor thing dropped her textbooks on her foot and she limped for a whole week straight with a dumbstruck smile on her face. The teachers and staff at Lakecrest were just as susceptible to his charms - he had a way with a smile and a compliment that got even Mr. Nomsky, the grizzled old English teacher, to soften up. Fitz was part of the computer science club, though I'd heard from the other members he never attended a single after-school meeting.

 Fitz had wavy hair like golden lace, neatly slicked-back, and the same green eyes as Burn, but with a friendlier edge to them. He was the only one with freckles on his nose, and he wore his uniform like it was a casual toga - his tie-half loose and his jacket slung over his shoulders. He was the baby of the three, and it showed in the way he never took anything seriously. I had three classes with him, since he was a sophomore, too, and not once did I see him pick up his pencil or try to read the textbook. And strangely enough, the teachers never harped on him to do it, either. I chalked it up to the general unfairness of wealth until I saw his test results; nothing lower than 98% on every single test. And here I was, busting my ass from the time I got home from school till midnight just to make an 80% in one of the most strict, college-oriented curriculums in the country. Needless to say, I hated him. Still do, actually, but back then I hated him without knowing him.

 And finally, we came to the grand emperor of all evil - Wolfgang himself. He didn't always walk in-between the other two, but he seemed to like to, as if they were his personal gargoyles instead of his brothers. Taller than Fitz, but a hair's shorter than Burn, Wolfgang - or Wolf for short, because of course there's always a 'for short' with them - walked like a sidewinder moves in sand; utter silence and perfect poise. I think that's what intimidated most people - that he looked like he could never be ruffled, or upset, or tilted off-balance, not even by a passing tornado. There was something unshakeable about the way he held his head, his broad shoulders. It scared people. Well, maybe it was also the fact it looked like he hated everything. Where his brothers' eyes were green, Wolf's were brown-green, hazel if you really wanna get all gushy and poetic with something like Satan's eye color. Regardless, Wolf's eyes burned. They burned with a deep poison I can only describe as utter contempt. His gaze was always sharp, and started to hurt a bit if you maintained eye contact with him for too long. It was a small mercy his hair was as dark a black and shaggy as it was - it got in his eyes a lot, and put a buffer between the world and his acid-fire. Unlike Fitz, he wore his uniform perfectly pressed, though he always kept several silver rings on different fingers, and it was no secret he played with them, turning them around his skin in idle moments, or even when he walked. The middle brother, Wolf was a junior, and the rumors were already swirling he was poised to go to an Ivy League. He was on the Varsity swimming team, and nothing else.

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