Revelation (Private Series #8)by Kate Brian
The hunt is on for Cheyenne Martin's killer and everyone at Easton Academy agrees that Reed had most to gain from her death. Reed, who took over Cheyenne's role as president of Billings Hall, is now well and truly outcast. She's lost her friends, her boyfriend and her home. All she can do is search for Cheyenne's killer . . . but will anyone be around to hear her… See more details below
The hunt is on for Cheyenne Martin's killer and everyone at Easton Academy agrees that Reed had most to gain from her death. Reed, who took over Cheyenne's role as president of Billings Hall, is now well and truly outcast. She's lost her friends, her boyfriend and her home. All she can do is search for Cheyenne's killer . . . but will anyone be around to hear her scream when she becomes the next target?
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Suspect Numero Uno
I skipped breakfast, spending the hour calming my nerves, adding to my list of evidence against Ivy, and sending Noelle an e-mail apologizing once again for what I had done. All I could do was hope that she would have an unguarded moment and read the message, and that my words might start to melt the ice wall she had put up between us. I finally headed out in time to make it to morning services at the Âchapel, where I sneaked in at the back of the crowd.
The vibe in the air was hushed, paranoid. Apparently everyone had heard about the murder investigation at breakfast. And if they hadn't, the two uniformed cops stationed near the doors of the chapel certainly set an eerie tone. "...police are taking over Dean Marcus's old office...."
"Are they going to interrogate everyone? I didn't even know the girl."
"...everyone knows who did it anyway -- "
When I heard that one, my head whipped around, but I couldn't tell who had said it. I was soon bustled right down the center aisle to the junior section, where I was about to sit in my usual pew -- until I realized it was a Billings pew. Instead, I took the one two rows back and tried to hold my head high.
"Hi, Reed," Constance whispered as she slid into the pew in front of mine. "How was your first night in your new room?" she asked, trying to sound all positive and upbeat.
"Fine," I lied, the back of my neck flushed with heat. I could practically feel Noelle watching us from a few rows back. I knew she wouldn't like the idea of Constance fraternizing with the enemy. "But the room itself is kind of dark and depressing."
"I missed you," Sabine added as she joined Constance. "It was so odd, sleeping in that room alone."
A lump of sorrow filled my throat, nearly choking me. Meanwhile, Missy shot me a death glare as she, Lorna, Astrid, and Kiki filed in next to Sabine.
"You guys better quit it," Missy hissed to my friends while Âglancing at me. "Noelle will eat you alive for talking to her."
My heart squeezed tightly in my chest.
"I don't care what Noelle thinks," Sabine said defiantly.
"No, you guys, Missy's right," I said, as much as it pained me to agree with her. "You don't want to get on her bad side right now. I'm fine. Just...face forward."
Constance and Sabine turned their backs to me reluctantly and I slumped against the hard pew. A few other juniors filled in the seats to my right, all eyeing me with curiosity, wondering why I was in their row. I supposed the news of my expulsion from Billings hadn't completely made the rounds yet. Either that or they were still obsessing over the Reed-and-Dash-seminude show they had all gotten to see. I had been the subject of whispers and stares ever since the night of the fund-raiser.
"Good morning, faculty and students of Easton Academy!" Headmaster Cromwell announced, taking his spot behind the podium.
"Good morning, Headmaster Cromwell," we dutifully recited.
With a nod, our fearless leader got right down to the morning announcements. He wore a gray suit and blue tie this morning, along with his ever-present American flag tie tack. His white hair was perfectly slicked back from his face and his voice boomed throughout the chapel as always, but I noticed something different about him. There was something almost jaunty in the way he spoke and held his head. Like Mr. Serious was actually excited about something.
How was that possible, when we had another murder on our hands and the Easton Police Department taking over offices in Hell Hall so they could question students?"And now, a final announcement that I'm hoping will bring a bit of levity to our lives here at Easton," he said, looking across the room. A never-before-seen sparkle danced in his normally dead blue eyes. "This year I have decided to reinstate an old Easton Academy tradition -- the Easton Academy Holiday Dinner."
Instantly, the entire chapel filled with an excited buzz. Everyone, it seemed, knew what this dinner was -- all except me.
"For those of you who are new to our community, the Easton ÂAcademy Holiday Dinner is a catered banquet held in the dining hall. There will be traditional holiday fair and decorations, the ÂEaston Academy Chorale will treat us to a holiday concert, and everyone will have a chance to relax and unwind before finals. All students and faculty are invited. In my day this dinner was the social event of the season. I'm hoping it will be that again."
The buzzing intensified as the girls around me started gabbing about how their mothers and grandmothers had always talked about the Holiday Dinner and how fabulous it was. I was surprised my classmates could get so excited about a dinner in the cafeteria.
"The dinner will be held next Friday night. Dress will be formal," the headmaster continued. "Also, each student will be receiving a special note in his or her mailbox this afternoon. This note will contain the name of another Easton student. You are to select a gift for this student and bring it, wrapped in holiday paper, to the dinner, to be placed under the Easton tree."
"Yay! Presents!" Lorna said, clapping her hands. "I hope someone good gets me."
Now the talking was at an all-time high. Headmaster Cromwell raised his large hands and called for silence. Instantly, the chapel went quiet. We were all used to following his demands by now.
"Finally," he said, "the Holiday Dinner also includes a toasting hour, one of my favorite traditions. During this hour any student who wishes to do so will have the opportunity to stand up and toast another member of the Easton community, whether it be for their service to the school or their academic achievement or their steadfast friendship. It is an honor to be singled out during toasting hour, so if you intend to speak for someone, please prepare your toast in advance. Your speeches should be eloquent and from the heart. Anyone giving an inappropriate speech will, of course, be dealt with accordingly. That is all."
"Leave it to Cromwell to end on a sour note," Lorna said under her breath.
Still, everyone around me was chatting happily, and smiles abounded. I couldn't help thinking that, for once, the Crom had gotten it right. This dinner was exactly what Easton needed. Something to look forward to. Something to get our minds off Cheyenne's murder investigation.
As soon as we were dismissed, I jumped up and exited the chapel as fast as I could. Outside, the bright sun bounced off the white blanket of snow covering the quad, nearly blinding me. I had to close my eyes for a split second, and my foot came down on someone else's. Blinking, I could just make out the purple-y shadow of Amberly Carmichael, freshman and heir to the Coffee Carma empire. I was just opening my mouth to apologize when she cut me off.
"Watch it," she snapped, yanking a white wool cap over her wavy blond hair. "I don't want to be your next victim."
Her two sidekicks, who always hovered behind her, laughed before they all sauntered off. For a second, I didn't move. I was too stunned. Since when did Amberly talk to me that way? Since when did any freshman talk to any upperclassman that way? And next victim? What was that about?
I looked around at the crowd still pouring through the doors. ÂSeveral people who had been looking at me looked away, and a few sophomore girls hanging out near the outer wall of the chapel sneered in my direction. I saw Detective Hauer coming my way with a Âuniformed police officer and my pulse froze in my veins.
Please. Not here.
They walked right by me. But that was when I heard the whispers.
"She totally did it."
"...capable of anything."
"Psycho whore, basically. That's what we should call her."
My heartbeat pounded in every inch of my body. These weren't the same scathing remarks I'd been getting before Thanksgiving break. These were worse. Venomous. What was going on?
Just then Gage Coolidge slipped through the chapel doors and started past me. My hand shot out, grabbing his leather-clad arm.
Gage paused, looked down at my hand like it was a leech, and slowly pulled his arm away. He dusted off his designer coat like I'd left a trail of ants behind.
"Not cool," he said, looking past me. His handsome face was ruddy from the cold and his eyes darted around as if concerned about who might see us together.
"Don't worry. This'll only take a second," I said, bravely squaring my shoulders. If there was anyone on this campus who had no right to judge someone else based on their sexual escapades, it was Gage. Plus, he had always been brutally honest. It was one of the only things I liked about him. And hated, depending on the situation. "What the hell is going on? Everyone's looking at me like I'm about to blow up the building."
"Funny!" Gage said. "Amazing how you can be funny right now, Brennan. They must've raised you tough out on the farm."
I grabbed his arm again and pulled him around the corner, away from the prying eyes of the crowd. "What are they saying about me now?"
Gage scoffed, his head tipping back as he did so. "What aren't they saying? Rumor has it that you were the one who got dragged in for questioning before break. Apparently you are suspect numero uno in Cheyenne's murder."
"What?" I breathed.
"Good surprise face, kid. I like a girl who can act," Gage said, amused.
"I'm not acting, idiot," I replied. "Yeah, Hauer questioned me, but that was before they even knew for sure she was murdered. And I am not a suspect."
"That's not what everyone's saying. They're saying you offed Cheyenne so that Noelle could get back into Billings," Gage reported bluntly. He reached up to smooth his short, brown hair forward, rolling his eyes skyward as if he could see what he was doing.
"That again?" I said, throwing up my hands and letting them slap down at my sides. "Noelle quashed that one a couple weeks ago."
"Yeah, well, it's back. Only no one thinks Noelle was involved anymore," Gage informed me. Apparently satisfied with his coif now, he shoved his ungloved hands under his arms to keep them warm. "They're saying you couldn't stand not having Noelle down the hall from you because you worship her so hard-core, so you forced Cheyenne to take those pills and forged the suicide note. They're also saying that having Noelle in Billings wasn't enough. You wanted to be Noelle, and that's why you got all horizontal with her boyfriend."
My brain couldn't process this information. It was bad enough being looked upon as a backstabbing slut. Now everyone thought I was a murderer, too? I glanced around at the few people walking along the path to the library and once again, every last one of them quickly looked away.
"Was it because you didn't get enough love out there in East Bumblefart, Pennsylvania?" Gage asked, his voice dripping with false sympathy. "Is that why you do the things you do, Brennan?"
"I didn't do anything," I said through my teeth, my fingers clenching into fists. "Cheyenne was leaving anyway -- she was expelled."
"Yeah. You just keep telling yourself that," Gage said. "You know, if the world isn't giving you enough hugs, you can always hug yourself," he said mockingly, crossing his arms in an X over his chest with a sad little frown. Then he laughed and strode away with his signature swagger.
I stood there for a moment in shock, unable to move or think or breathe. Noelle was the only person who knew I had been the one to be questioned by Hauer that night. Why would she do this? Why would she start such a vicious rumor? Hadn't I been through enough already?
Unless she was trying to send me a message. Trying to tell me how very over we actually were. This wasn't something you did to a person you planned to eventually forgive. This was something you did to a person you hated to her very core.
My eyes filled with hot tears. Noelle hated me. She really and truly hated me.
A few girls from Pemberly walked by and saw me standing there, looking like I'd just been told I had three days to live. They all clutched each other and moved quickly away, like they thought I might suddenly attack. On their retreat they nearly ran over Josh Hollis and Ivy Slade. My boyfriend and my stalker. My boyfriend and the murderer.
My whole body went numb at the sight of Josh. His dark blond curls danced in the wind, and his blue eyes looked pained as he passed by me, like he wanted to talk. Almost like he was desperate to talk to me. But then Ivy tightened her grip on his arm and he turned away, ducking through the door to Hull Hall.
That was it. It was all I could take. I shoved my notebook into my bag and took off for class alone. Copyright © 2008 by Alloy Entertainment and Kieran Viola
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