Bad girls burn hot…
Red is the color of Kia Alcott's hair.
It's her temper, which blazes hot and always gets Kia into way too much trouble.
And it's the color of fire. Fires that Kia can start…just by thinking about them.
When her latest "episode" gets her kicked out of school, Kia is shipped off to her grandmother, who works for the wealthy Blackwoods. It's an estate shrouded in secrets, surrounded by rules, and presided over by a family that is far from normal…including the gorgeous and insolent Ethan Blackwood.
Ethan knows far more about the dangers of the forest surrounding the estate than Kia can ever imagine. For this forest has teeth, and Ethan is charged with protecting the outside world from its vicious mysteries.
But inside, even the most vibrant shade of red doesn't stand a chance against the dark secrets of the Blackwood family…
|Entangled Publishing, LLC
|12 - 17 Years
About the Author
Alyxandra Harvey lives in a stone Victorian house in Ontario, Canada, with a few resident ghosts who are allowed to stay as long as they keep company manners. She loves medieval dresses, used to be able to recite all of The Lady of Shalott by Tennyson, and has been accused, more than once, of being born in the wrong century. She believes this to be mostly true except for the fact that she really likes running water, women's rights, and ice cream.
Aside from the ghosts, she also lives with her husband and their dogs. She likes cinnamon lattes, tattoos, and books.
ALYXANDRA HARVEY studied creative writing and literature at York University and has had her poetry published in several magazines. When not writing, she is a belly dancer and jewelrymaker. She lives in an old farmhouse in Ontario with her husband, hawk, and two dogs. www.alyxandraharvey.com www.heartsatstake.com
Read an Excerpt
By Alyxandra Harvey
Entangled Publishing, LLCCopyright © 2015 Alyxandra Harvey
All rights reserved.
Sometimes an electric fence wasn't enough.
As much as I hated checking the wards, I felt like I could finally breathe only when I was miles away from the house and my father. The castle loomed over everything, and although the forest was just as dangerous, at least I could pretend I wasn't trapped out here. Pine and cedar crowded around, touching me with green fingers as I maneuvered the ATV over the uneven ground. The woods always went unnaturally silent when the wards were fed. No one wanted to be the thing they ate.
The red cardinal was too slow. His wings flapped violently, but momentum carried him forward even as he recognized something wasn't right. As he crossed the invisible line, magic immediately sparked through him. For a brief moment, it flared visible to the most untrained eye. The cardinal went stiff and fell to the ground. The wards had done their work: fencing the estate with magic that tracked or prevented creatures of all kinds from leaving. I usually imagined it like a line of lasers or a force field out of a Star Trek episode.
The feathers were beautifully, impossibly red, made of blood and fire. The curve of the black beak was deceptively gentle. Dad would expect me to lash the bird under one of the wards until the fence became strange dark art made of bones and feathers and bits of fur. Death and blood served both as a warning and energy for the protective magic.
Today, I dug a small hole in the earth instead. When I picked up the bird, it was still warm, like a feathered ember. I buried it, a small unnoticed rebellion. Magic might need to be fed so that it wouldn't run out, but I could at least choose how I fed it. Sometimes a smear of my own blood was enough. Dad never realized how many of my scars were due to feeding the wards instead of fighting monsters. He'd be pissed as hell.
I continued along the edge of the property, an arbitrary line drawn by men in business suits in an office in town. The forest was the forest and it only cared about its own ferocious appetite. The Blackwood wards looked innocuous enough: palm-sized Gorgon heads with snakes for hair. Unlike the myth of Medusa, they couldn't actually turn people to stone, but they worked on the same principle. The magic inside kept people and beast alike away from the estate.
I wished it worked on me.
I wondered if Kia would notice anything, if she managed to get this far into the forest. Most people didn't. She didn't seem like most people, though — I could already tell she saw more than she let on. And in this place, that was as dangerous as anything else the magical wards banished.
I painted dozens of hidden Gorgon heads with a mixture of blood and bone dust — most from the butcher shop, others best left unexamined. Magic flickered and flared, intensifying. Even though I'd done this once a month since I turned ten, the hairs on my arms still lifted, prickling like needles.
The more magic you used to keep monsters away, the more monsters were drawn to you. It was a delicate balance. Who knew what else had already gotten out?
Or in?CHAPTER 2
"You're not serious." I stared at Abby. Her hair was loose, and she was wearing a simple black dress and shoes that had never seen garden soil.
"I need your help," she insisted, a steely glint in her eye. Behind her, Sara's cheeks were red and Clare was running back and forth between the fridge and the stove top looking slightly insane. What appeared to be half a pig's rib cage sat in butcher paper on the counter. "This is what living here means."
"Abby," I groaned, dropping into one of the kitchen chairs. "I've barely unpacked." And I already knew exactly what it meant to live here: rules and more rules. Don't touch anything. Don't make too much noise in your room. Don't come through the front door; use the back door or the side door. Don't talk to Ethan's aunt Simone. She wouldn't reply anyway. Mostly she had caregivers who pushed her around in a wheelchair while she stared at nothing. I'd only seen her once and I had no idea what was wrong with her.
"I can waitress, but please don't make me waitress for Ethan and his snotty friends." I'd met them a few hours ago. Justine, Justin, and Colt were as polished as he was, but a great deal more rude, if that was possible. When I'd accidentally walked into the pool house while they were swimming, Justine told me "the help" wasn't allowed. Sloane was the only one who was bearable: she actually smiled and wasn't condescending.
"Give them a chance," Abby insisted.
"Yeah, I don't think so," I muttered, my voice muffled when I hid my head under my arms. The table was cool and smooth on my forehead. I couldn't tell if my eyes felt hot.
"Then suffer in silence, because you will do this," Abby insisted.
"Who am I, Cinderella?"
"I'm fresh out of fairy godmothers," she said. "And pumpkins."
She really had no idea why it was mortifying for me to have to serve Ethan, never mind his friends. "I wish you'd warned me," I said. Not that I would have been any more willing. But I would have come down with some kind of flu. Or a broken leg. Anything.
"Do you have something nice to wear?"
"Not nice enough for something like this," I said.
"Wear your school uniform, then, and take out your nose ring," she said, checking her clipboard. "Clare, how are we coming along with the dinner?"
"Fine," Clare replied cheerfully. There were splotches of blood from the meat on her apron.
Abby and I went up to the main dining room, where one of the maids was perched on a ladder, dusting the chandelier. The chandelier. There were flowers everywhere, roses and orchids in glass bowls and tall slim candles dusted with gold. "Serve on the left, clear from the right," Abby said. "And always go around clockwise."
Clockwise, as if they were the sun we revolved around.
"You'll do fine," she assured me, misreading my expression entirely. "Remember to smile and be polite. And I'll leave keeping the water glasses filled as your job."
"Sarcasm will not be needed as a condiment," she said. "Now, why don't you go change into a new shirt? That one has creases. And don't forget to tighten your tie."
I changed but I didn't take out my nose ring. Ethan and his friends could deal with it. It was bad enough I had to do this; I wasn't interested in being a paper princess on top of it. I hid in the kitchen for as long as I could. The air was warm with competing spices — sage and rosemary from the potpies Clare was making and cloves and cinnamon from the tartlets Sara was baking using apples from the castle orchards. Giant silver urns on a wheeled cart waited to be filled with coffee. Maids bustled in and out.
"What are those?" I asked Clare when she switched to the contents of a huge cast-iron frying pan. She slid soft beige lumps onto individual plates garnished with toast points and herbs.
"It's foie gras," she explained, wiping a splatter of oil off the rim of a plate before one of the maids could whisk it away. "Goose livers." She stood back for barely a moment, looking proud. "Want a taste? There are some bits in the pan."
"Okay, gross." I grimaced. "So, no."
"Don't know what you're missing."
Upstairs, it was even worse than I'd thought.
The dining room was like something out of a fairy tale, the soft candlelight glittering off gold frames and the crystal beads of the chandelier. The guests were as polished as the silver cutlery. I'd never seen so many diamonds and pearls. Even Ethan's dad wore an old-fashioned tiepin crowned with a diamond. Ethan's aunt Simone sat silently, her eyes glazed over. There was a nurse standing behind her and a cashmere blanket over her legs.
Ethan looked as dashing as usual in a hand-tailored black pinstriped suit. I'd never have known he was slightly insane, jumping out of house museums and lurking in corridors. He hadn't said much to me since then. Of course, he looked perfectly at ease in the posh surroundings, while I felt like a little kid at the grown-up table in my school uniform. I forced my shoulders back. Thanks to my dad's job as a plumber, I could work a drill and install new hinges on kitchen cupboards. I could do this, too.
The conversation flowed over the tinkling of crystal glasses. Abby motioned for me to top off everyone's water glasses.
"Watch it," Justine sniffed when a drop fell from the spout of the water pitcher, soaking into the pristine white tablecloth.
I'd learned long ago that some girls hated me on sight and it was best never to let them know I cared. It was obvious Justine had a thing for Ethan, but it was just as obvious that he did not have a thing for me. Maybe that we now lived in the same house was enough to make her jealous. Tonight she was dressed as impeccably as Ethan, with her hair in a glossy waterfall down her back. Her twin brother, Justin, and Colt sat next to each other, laughing over their appetizers. They might not be laughing so hard if they knew they were eating fatty goose livers.
Sloane looked bored and annoyed, which was exactly how I'd look, too, if I didn't already know Abby expected me to smile. Sloane wore a long white summer dress under a dark green coat with military togs and tails in the back. Her red hair fell to her elbows. She rolled her eyes at me, commiserating. I'd have liked to roll my eyes back, but didn't. I couldn't afford friends. Not after what happened with Riley.
I filled Ethan's glass next. He didn't look at me. I pictured ice cubes sliding down the back of his collar. There was another girl next to him, her braces shiny and new. She looked about thirteen and I was pretty sure she was related to the twins, Justine and Justin. They had the same flawless brown skin and slightly snubbed noses. Their names were ridiculous.
It suited them perfectly.
Tobias was clearly uncomfortable in a suit. He didn't glance at me, either, but I wasn't offended, since there was a book open on his lap under the tablecloth. He didn't look a thing like his cousin. For one, Ethan was blond and golden as vanilla cake, and Tobias was like rich hot chocolate. And for another, Tobias actually smiled. Still, Ethan's arms were lean and strong, and his chest was noticeably defined, even under his formal button-down shirt. It was actually physically difficult not to stare at him. Jerk.
Dinner went on forever. My feet started to hurt during the salad course and there were three more courses after that, followed by dessert and coffee, and, later, cheese and sweet wine. I was going to grow old in this stupid dining room.
"Thanks," the girl said when I took away her plate and balanced it on top of Justine's. I wondered if I could stack a third plate or if the whole pile would go crashing to the very expensive hardwood floor.
"You're not supposed to talk to the help, Ariel," Justine told her sister, disgusted. "Didn't you read all of those etiquette books Dad gave us?"
"I think it's ruder not to say thank you," Ariel said, frowning. "Isn't it?" She looked up at Ethan through her lashes. I could practically see her pupils turning into cartoon hearts. "What do you think, Ethan?"
Ethan winked at her. "I'm siding with you, kid."
"You don't even know what I said." Ariel giggled.
"Doesn't matter." He lifted his glass to her in a toast.
Damn it, he could be charming when he wanted to. It was easy to see why Ariel would have a crush on him. And Justine. And most of the girls at school. He was girl kryptonite.
I continued to refill the water glasses, and when I reached Holden, he frowned, touching my wrist. "Did you burn yourself?"
"No, I'm fine." I jerked away, nearly knocking over his glass. His fingers tightened around me, concerned. I was used to burns on my fingertips and palms, but this one was odd even to me. It was like a shower of sparks, or a comet's tail. I didn't really blame him for staring, much as I wanted to slide under the table and disappear. Drawing attention to anything fire related was not in my best interest. And he did seem interested. Was my skin hotter than it should be? What if I sparked again?
I tried to pull away, but he didn't let go. Instead he turned my wrist toward Justine's mom. "It looks painful, don't you think?" She just looked sad. I'd look sad, too, if I had to live with Justine. "Mrs. Alameda is a doctor," Holden explained, since even I knew flashing the maid's wounds at your dinner guest was probably bad etiquette.
Ethan's aunt made a noise in the back of her throat. It was roughly the same as the frantic animal sounds inside my head. I felt like a wolverine ready to chew her own leg off to get free of a hunting trap.
"It will heal," Justine's mom said softly, as I tried not to look like I was freaking out. I needed to get out of here. Now. "Keep it clean." They exchanged a glance as if they were having a second conversation underneath, one that I couldn't hear. Ethan's aunt made another sound, this one more agitated. Her mouth worked as if she was fighting to speak. When Holden looked over sharply, the nurse hurried forward with a pill she pulled out of her pocket.
"I'll get more water," I said, finally pulling free while he was distracted. I hurried away, praying there was no smoke, no embers sparking around me. My palms and fingertips hurt, the kind of burn that feels as though your skin is peeling off. I ducked into the hall and jammed my hands into the silver water carafe I'd been carrying and told myself there was nothing to worry about.
I didn't believe me.CHAPTER 3
Monday mornings sucked as much in the fresh country air as they did in city smog.
The drive to school in Sara's cupcake van took me about half an hour, and was filled with more wildlife than I was used to. I'd already been roped into making deliveries for her to the cafés in town. I wasn't complaining — not only did it mean I didn't have to use the limousine Holden had offered, but I'd also make some money for comic books. Assuming anyone even delivered out here.
I saw a flock of wild turkeys, which scared the crap out of me when they waddled onto the road, and a deer lying in a ditch. I could see its exposed rib cage, where something had eaten through its flesh. I looked away, missing the subway more than ever. I passed cottages, more pine trees than a Christmas theme park, and outdoor supply shops. The main lake was three times the size of the Blackwoods' private lake. Docks and expensive boathouses jutted out onto the water.
Havencrest Academy took up most of a block, the lawns trailing to a beach and more forest. There were outbuildings and a boathouse where rows of canoes waited in the grass. The parking lot was filled with expensive cars and two vintage motorcycles. I wasn't just stuck in a small cottage town; I was stuck with the elite. Girls with perfect hair paraded up to the front door, passing guys with white smiles and tans. Everything about them was glossy and perfect.
"I'm in hell," I muttered. It was surprisingly difficult to convince myself to get out of the truck. Tough Kia Alcott of the bad reputation was nervous about trust-fund kids.
I went up the walkway, trying not to feel stupid in my school uniform. The front hall screamed old money, from the black-and-white marble tiles on the floor to the chandelier hanging from the ceiling, and it didn't smell like sweat socks and French fries like my old school. I slipped between the other students, ignoring the sidelong glances, since they were hardly unexpected.
"I hear she got expelled," someone whispered loudly.
"I heard she burned down her last school," someone else added. "Look at her scars."
I whipped my head around, pinning the girl with a straight, unblinking look. "It was the parking lot, actually." And my best friend, but I wasn't about to say that.
She jerked back, startled. I was probably supposed to politely ignore her or run crying to the bathroom or something. And technically, it was the neighbor's rose garden that really got me expelled, but she didn't need to know that. Old lady Greyson threatened to sue the school over the damages. She didn't care that it was an accident — she only cared about her prize-winning roses. And she already hated living next door to a high school. She called the cops over every little thing. As if it was my fault someone built the school there.
I clenched my hands into fists when my fingertips started to burn.
I'd tried keeping my head down after the accident, tried to fade into the background and act meek. It hadn't taken long to realize I was better at mouthing off. So, new plan: being snappy and obnoxious was a good way to make people keep their distance. No one asked questions when no one wanted to get to know you better.
"Don't let them see your fear," Sloane said from behind my shoulder. There were flowers in her hair.
"I'm not afraid. Shut up."
"Please, I can practically smell it on you."
Excerpted from Red by Alyxandra Harvey. Copyright © 2015 Alyxandra Harvey. Excerpted by permission of Entangled Publishing, LLC.
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