Demitri paused in front of a wall shelf. He glanced over his shoulder at me and said, “We need to use the library to get to the Chem lab.”
“The lab’s on the second floor.”
He tugged at a large book on the fifth shelf up from the floor. A section of the shelves slid to the right, exposing a dimly lit, upwardly spiraling staircase.
“I will not risk having other Night Students see you. The danger is too great.”
I gave the center of his broad shoulders my best scowl, the kind hot enough to melt butter.
At the top of the stairs, a light fixture like the ones along the west hallway illuminated a dead end. I was about to give Demitri a piece of my mind when he yanked at the sconce and a concealed panel swung open. I yelped in surprise.
Sure enough, the Chem lab that I knew was located on the second floor now sprawled before us. I had to blink several times to adjust my vision. The dimness of the staircase couldn’t compare to the brightness of the lab.
After the black spots in my eyes receded, I took in the room. My jaw dropped for the second time in less than an hour. The lab was always left clean at the end of the day, but beakers, test tubes, funnels, and other lab paraphernalia currently filled every table. Liquids of different colors bubbled and gurgled. The Chem geeks wouldn’t be happy if they found out someone else used their equipment without their knowledge.
We came to a stop at the end of the room where a boy in a lab coat sat bent over a microscope. He had short midnight hair that stuck out in messy spikes. He was as oddly beautiful as the rest of them. I shouldn’t be surprised at this point, but I couldn’t help myself.
“Dray, I need the Pill,” Demitri said.
The boy didn’t move or speak.
The boy Demitri called Dray jumped, barely staying seated. “Damn it, Demitri! Don’t surprise me when—who is that? And what’s that smell?” His pale complexion turned ashen while his penetrating eyes studied me. Then he pointed a shaky finger at us. “Is that—”
Demitri blocked me from view. “The Pill,” he said.
“Stop doing that!” Annoyance vibrated in me. I wasn’t some secret he could keep from the world when he wanted to. I leaned around in time to see Dray flick something the size and color of a pearl at Demitri.
Demitri caught it and immediately popped it into his mouth. He chewed, producing a quick crunch like breaking candy between molars. After he swallowed, he said to Dray, “I trust you to keep quiet about this.”
Wide-eyed, Dray nodded.
“Good. And I expect you to be in class when I return.” Demitri turned around and led the way back to the staircase. The night was getting stranger by the minute.
“You know, you don’t have to keep holding on to me,” I said as we descended back down. “It’s obvious I’m not going anywhere.”
At the bottom of the stairs, Demitri let my wrist go and turned around to face me. I was a couple of steps above him, so we were at eye-level for the first time. I sucked in a breath at how close our faces were. I dropped my gaze and busied myself with wiping my slick wrist on my skirt.
“I cannot risk anyone else getting to you,” Demitri said. He grabbed my wrist and ran his thumb over the red welts. I shivered despite the heat of his touch. “I can see that I have made you uncomfortable.”
Among other things. I managed to hold my tongue.
He let go of my wrist again. “If you promise to stay close—”
“Where else will I go?” I interrupted. “It’s obvious I’m not supposed to be here.”
The memory of my expulsion crumpled my heart within itself. And I’d just started liking it at Barinkoff too.
Demitri tilted his head down until vertebrae on his neck popped. Then he shook his head. “Stay close.” He whirled around and exited the secret passageway. He waited until I joined him before he pushed the book he’d pulled out back. The shelves slid back into place.
I whistled. “That’s so cool. I’ve spent hours in this library and never thought there’d be a secret passageway.”
“This is the only one here,” Demitri said as if he wanted to discourage me from further exploration. “Come on, I have to get you back to the dorms.”
Not even half an hour later, and after I had insisted we pick up my things from where I’d left them in the library, I found myself inside a black Aston Martin, Demitri at the wheel, headed home to the dorms.
On the steep mountain road, Demitri pushed the car over the speed limit. I said a silent prayer that he wouldn’t send us over the mountainside.
The purr of the car’s engine reminded me of the time I’d “borrowed” a car just like this one for fun. A secret smile curled the corners of my lips. My father had been presiding over a meeting of prominent businessmen when I’d been nabbed by the Italian polizia. When I’d made my allotted call to Dad, he’d refused to leave his meeting and instead sent his secretary to bail me out. Even with everything written about me in the Italian and international papers the next day, he never came to my hotel suite to reprimand me. Never even grounded me. He hadn’t expressed anger—just indifference.
My smile faded.
I forced myself to concentrate on the present inside a different Aston Martin in a whole different part of the world with someone I’d met barely a few thousand heartbeats ago.
I flicked on the overhead light switch. Even in the dim light, compared to Eli and Dray, Demitri embodied Adonis. A straight nose. Lush lips. Long lashes that framed intense eyes. A jaw line that could cut. Too good. Too perfect. A dude who underwent cosmetic surgery? All the kids at Barinkoff were beyond wealthy—but perfection like Demitri’s usually came by way of a scalpel and loads of cash thrown at a private plastic surgeon.
“Who are you?” I blurted out. “I mean, you’re too good looking to be human.”
“Not as naïve as I thought,” he said, more to himself.
“Spare me the insult.”
“Good looking, huh?” His lips curled upward.
A flush burned its way across my face. “Forget I said anything.”
“Why were you on campus past curfew?”
Despite his monotone, softness laced his words. I flicked the switch off, more comfortable sitting in darkness if I had to confess my sins. “I fell asleep in the library, okay?” No sense in lying about it. “I sat down in my favorite spot—between mystery and mythology—with my e-reader. Unfortunately, somewhere between Alexander conquering half the known world and Hitler destroying it, I dozed off. When I woke up, I was alone.” I paused. The next thing I was about to say would make my situation real. I took a deep breath and exhaled slowly. “I’m going to get expelled, aren’t I?”
“Your name, what is it?” Demitri asked.
Phoenix.” I rubbed the back of my neck. “McKay.”
“If you promise never to miss curfew again, and that you forget what you have seen, then Alek will never have to know, Phoenix McKay.”
“Alek? Alek.” The name sounded familiar. I thought about where I’d heard it. When the memory clicked, I said, “Aleksander Kiev! You’re on a first name basis with the headmaster?”
Demitri shifted in the leather seat.
“What about the Night Students?” I continued. “I assume you’re one of them. Why is Barinkoff hiding the fact that other kids go to school there? So what if there are students at night?”
“You do not want to know the answer to that question.”
Because of the way he said it, all final and without reproach, the more I wanted to know. But I kept the rest of my questions to myself. There was time. If what he said was true, then I wasn’t getting expelled, which meant I could find out answers. For now, I needed to figure out a way to sneak into the dorms without getting caught, and Demitri dropping me off at the front gate where the guard would surely see me wouldn’t be the wisest choice. An ember of happiness sparked in my chest.
As the imposing stone walls of the dorms neared, I pointed. “Can you drop me off by the corner there?” I asked.
Demitri obliged, easing the car to a stop. “Have you been to all those places?” He pointed at my e-reader filled with travel stickers.
“This one’s my favorite.” I tapped the one with the Eiffel tower.
“It must be nice to see what the world has to offer.”
“Are you telling me you’ve never travelled before?”
Demitri pressed the car unlock button. “You better get going.”
I gathered my things and opened the door, but before I could step out, he grabbed my hand.
With a blank expression, he said, “Promise me, Phoenix.”
I nodded then got out of the car. I balanced all my stuff on one arm and used my free hand to close the door. The Aston Martin made a quick U-turn and sped off. When the red taillights disappeared into the gloom, I shifted my gaze to the stone wall. How the hell am I getting inside?  

Copyright © 2012 Kate Evangelista
All rights reserved — a Crescent Moon Press publication

© 2013 All Rights Reserved.