Still reeling from her father's murder, sixteen-year-old Noelle Hart returns to Whisper Preparatory Academy, an exclusive private boarding school in the sleepy town of Whisper, Connecticut. She tries to move on with her life, but things get off to a rocky start. Arguing with friends, dodging the overbearing Headmaster, and staying out of her nemesis' line of fire are almost her undoing.
Until she meets Gabriel Merriweather.
Over night, Noelle's luck takes a turn for the better. For the first time in her life, Noelle is the girl that every other girl at school wants to be. Once and for all, Noelle is able to step out of her older, perfect sister's shadow and be the center of attention. At last, her world is perfect.
But, all good things must come to an end.
When one of her friends is brutally murdered, Noelle becomes the prime suspect. Noelle's world is turned upside down when she learns that a secret sisterhood known as the Hive may be responsible for her friend's death and others. If Noelle and Gabriel cannot fight their way through the labyrinth of lies and secrets surrounding the Hive, then she may be next
The rest of the afternoon proved to be pretty uneventful. True to her word, I did not see Willow again until it was time to meet back at our dorm, Truth Hall, to get ready for the bonfire. Normally, the students at Whisper Prep were required to wear their uniforms to all school sponsored activities. However, the Administrative Assembly made an exception for the bonfire. Everyone was allowed free dress as long as it was “appropriate.” After dinner, the student body rushed back to their respective door rooms to get ready. Forget New York Fashion Week. Tonight, all of the top designers’ fall lines would be on display by firelight.
The entire campus buzzed with excitement. There was something special, something electric in the air. The atmosphere was so saturated with it that the feeling was almost palpable. It was as though you could reach out and touch the excitement.
“What are you wearing tonight?” Willow asked. “Don’t even think about wearing your uniform!”
“I have no idea. Wardrobe has always been your area of expertise,” I replied while I feverishly rifled through my closet. “Help!”
Willow and I searched through my closet for nearly 30 minutes before finally agreeing upon black boots, a purple pencil skirt that hugged my curves, and a white sweater that I wore leaving one shoulder exposed. I even let Willow do my make up again. Only this time, instead of the working girl look, Willow opted for a smoky eye and pale lips. I had to hand it to her. I looked hot.
On the contrary, by the time that we left for the bonfire, Willow looked almost angelic in white. I say “almost” because Willow had decided to make a bold statement by wearing a filmy white blouse tucked into impossibly tight skinny jeans with nude peep toe pumps. She had also loosely curled her long, sunny blonde hair so that it fell in soft layers down her back.
Although Willow had always been tall, thin, and beautiful, she had also been a late bloomer. She was so flat chested that the Witches started a rumor last year that her application for President of the Itty Bitty Titty Committee had been rejected. That had pointed out that even the Committee had standards.
But, things had changed over the summer. After years of wishing and hoping, Willow had finally bloomed from a petite 32A to a perky 32c. From the looks of the semi-sheer white top and lacy nude bra underneath, Willow wanted everyone to know it.
“Wow! You look hot, Will!” I told her.
“Thanks!” she said while giving herself one final look in the mirror. “Do you think that Tucker will like it?”
I groaned. “I guess there’s only one way to find out.”
With a wicked little smile, Willow opened the door. We quickly made our way
across the dimly lit campus to Pembrook Park. Willow waved to her ever-swelling sea of admirers as we joined our friends on the makeshift dance floor. Our bodies hummed to the beat of the music and you could not help but be consumed by the inferno. We were all having a great time until Hannah and Isaac started doing a spastic version of the robot. And, when they started to draw a crowd, I decided that it was the perfect time for me to take a break.
“I’ll be right back. I’m going to get some punch,” I told them.
“Ok. Just remember not to spill any on Sabrina’s shoes when you come back,” Willow joked.
Willow dodged a searing look from Isaac while I fought my way through the crowd over to the punch bowl. I was still laughing when I accepted a cup of red punch from one of the chaperones, Mrs. Bluitt. The old lady was retelling the fascinating and rather disturbing details of her recent bunion surgery when the little hairs on the back of my neck stood up for the second time that day.
Someone was watching me again.
Slowly, I turned around and searched for the perpetrator, forgetting all about Mrs. Bluitt and her bunions. But, it wasn’t until I looked into the trees surrounding the field that I encountered a dark pair of eyes glowing in the shadows. A shiver slithered down my spine that had nothing to do with the cool night air.
Caught in the act of spying, I expected the mysterious stranger to turn away. Instead, he held my gaze. Seconds passed and neither of us dared to blink. A voice deep down inside of me said to turn away. But, I couldn’t. There was just something irresistible, utterly bewitching, about him. Unable to look away, I did the only thing that I could think of: I took a step forward.
And, so did he.
I didn’t realize that I had been holding my breath until my lungs forced me to breathe. I inhaled sharply as the mysterious stranger took another step into the light. To my delight, I ended up staring into the most beautiful pair of sapphire blue that I had ever seen. Unconsciously, I raised a hand in greeting, hoping that he would return my wave, when I felt something cold and wet strike my hand.
Startled, I looked down at the translucent raindrop pooling in my hand and then up to the sky in disbelief. As I did, two more raindrops fell onto my forehead. Before I could take another breath, the heavens opened. Cold, black rain poured out of the starless sky sending everyone running for cover.
Everyone but him and me.
I knew that I should join my classmates and get out of the rain. Nevertheless, once my gaze met his again I could not tear my eyes away from his face. It was like this invisible force had brought me there—held me there—not to be seen but to be found.
The rain fell harder, nearly to the point of inflicting pain, causing the bonfire to quickly die. Tiny goose pimples popped up all over my skin. But, I knew that it had little to do with my skin missing the warmth of the fire. It had everything to do with a piercing pair of eyes gently caressing me from the shadows.
He took another step closer, a larger one this time. I smiled when I saw that he had nearly cleared the trees. Although his face was still partially hidden in darkness, I could make out full lips, a strong jaw with a cleft chin, and high cheekbones. My fingers itched to touch the sculpted muscles of his chest and arms through his dark long sleeve shirt.
Just one more step.
My pulse raced and my heart was pounding so hard that my chest physically ached. I was freaked out, elated, and totally mesmerized all at the same time. If I had any sense at all I would have looked away. Instead, I stood there utterly transfixed as shadows of darkness and embers of light caused by the fire flickered across his face. I took another step forward only to feel cold, desperate hands grab me from behind.
“Noelle, let’s go!” Willow shouted over the sound of the storm.
“No!” I yelled, my eyes never leaving his.
“C’mon, Noelle, the storm is getting worse!” she said, a touch of panic making her voice sharp.
They storm must have heard her because the black sky suddenly exploded into light and an angry clap of thunder boomed so loud that it shook heaven and everything below it. Even with this warning, I continued to stand there, captivated. I couldn’t bear the thought of leaving without seeing his entire face.
Fear of the storm made Willow strong. She had always been deathly afraid of thunderstorms and now she had a death grip on my arm. It was obvious that no amount of maneuvering was going to gain my release so with a great deal of effort, I finally managed to tear my eyes away from his penetrating gaze and looked into Willow’s face, but only for a second.
“Willow, I have to talk to him!”
“Who?” she demanded.
I pointed over to where he stood hidden within the shadows of the trees. But, when we looked in his direction he was gone. It was as though he had vanished into the smoke, fog, and darkness from which he had come. Stranger still was the hollow emptiness that I felt knowing that he was gone.
Sabrina suddenly appeared at my side. “Are you two going to stand out here all night or what?” she asked. “If you haven’t already noticed, it’s storming out here!”
I searched the trees for him again, but there was no trace of him. It was almost as if he had never been there at all. I shook my head, feeling disappointed and more than a little foolish. Still, I looked over my shoulder to make sure that he had not magically reappeared.
Hannah grabbed my shoulders and shook me hard. “Noelle are you all right?” she asked.
I threw last glance at the trees, but no one was there.
“Yeah, let’s go,” I told them.
The three of us took off at a dead run back to Truth Hall and made it inside just before the storm really got nasty. As the lightning flashed and the wind howled outside, Willow and I said goodbye to our friends and went to our room to get ready for bed. After a long, hot shower to warm up and scrub away the remnants of smoke and disappointment that lingered from the night, I climbed into bed.
“It’s too bad that you didn’t get to talk to your mystery guy tonight,” Willow said
as she turned off the lamp between our beds. “Do you have any idea who he was?”
I shook my head. “No, I think that I would remember if I had seen him before.”
“Well, I hope that you get to see him again tomorrow, whoever he is,” she told me. “If anyone deserves a little happiness in their life right now it’s you.”
“Thanks, Will. But, knowing my luck, I’ll probably never see him again.”
As hard as I tried, I could not keep the disappointment out of my voice. Although I had only seen him from a distance and did not even know his name, I could not help but feel the growing, aching void left by him. And, if that wasn’t bad enough, Willow’s next question opened a door that I had fought tooth and nail to keep tightly closed all day.
“Did you hear from your mom today?” she whispered, almost too afraid to ask.
“Aria?” she hoped.
Willow sighed. “Maybe they just got busy—you know with your mom building her new medical practice and Aria starting college and all. I’m sure that they meant to call and see how your first day back went.”
I had to give it to Willow: she was the eternal optimist. Like Hannah, if there were a silver lining to be found anywhere, she would practically move heaven and hell to find it. It was one of the qualities that I loved and hated about both of them. I honestly hated to burst her bubble but there was no way that even she could wax positive about the fact that my own mother and only sibling could not be bothered to call me on my first day back at school since I was forced to leave last spring.
“Well, did you at least hear from Aunt Tess?” she hoped.
I smiled. Willow had found a silver lining after all.
“Yeah, she called earlier and said that she wanted to talk about her trip to Fiji,” I said.
But, I knew that she was just calling to check up on me. I guess that Aunt Tess had forgotten that she called last week that she had rescheduled her annual vacation in Fiji to next month.
“She invited me to spend Christmas vacation with her Paris this year.”
Willow breathed an audible sigh of relief. “That’s great! Do you think that your mother will mind?” she asked automatically.
“No, Will, I don’t think that mother will mind. In fact, I think that she might feel relieved.”
Willow cringed and put one slim hand over her mouth. I didn’t have to watch her reaction to know that she regretted asking the question almost as soon as it came out of her mouth. Willow was one of few people who knew just how difficult my life had been since my father’s death. And, she was the only person in the world who understood just how strained my relationship with my mother had become.
Growing up, I was clearly a daddy’s girl, Aria was a mommy’s girl, and everyone was fine with it. Dad and I were totally the left side of the family—into music and the arts—while my rational, type A personality mom and sister made up the right side. Even though we all had our differences, we were very close and loved to spend time together as a family. Our lives just fit together seamlessly like two halves of a whole.
But, when dad died, everything shifted. Mom and Aria got closer and started spending more time together. Deep down, I think that mom began to resent me because I reminded her too much of my dad. So, instead of embracing me, she pushed me away, leaving me to fend for myself.
“I’m so sorry, Noelle.”
“I’m sorry too.”
I blinked back the tears pooling in my eyes and turned my back to Willow, turned my back on the pain and bitterness that threatened to overwhelm me. I closed my eyes and quietly waited for the numbness that only came with sleep. The last thing that I felt before darkness took me was the fingertips of Willow’s hand as she brushed away the hot tears that trickled down my cheeks.
K: “Good morning. I trust that you received the package that I sent you.”
Q: “Yes, ma’am. It arrived this morning at precisely 8 o’clock, just as you
said that it would.”
K: “Do you have any questions?”
Q: “No, ma’am. Everything was pretty self explanatory.”
K: “Good. As the new Queen of the Hive, let me remind you that the
instructions included in the package must be executed with the utmost
care and discretion. We cannot afford any more mistakes.”
Q: “No, Madam Keeper, we cannot. I promise that I will not let you down.”
K: “Good. For the Hive’s sake—and yours—make sure that you don’t.”
Contact Information for Madalynn Davis
Madalynn Davis is not your ordinary Southern Belle. As an author, science teacher, and law school graduate, Madalynn wears many hats. But, even in the midst of it all, she never forgot two of her first loves: reading and writing. When Madalynn is not teaching or preparing for the Bar exam (cringe), she can be found sitting in a quiet corner revising one of her current manuscripts and furiously scribbling down ideas that will hopefully turn into a new book. Madalynn currently lives in Texas. Wicked Rose is her first published novel.