Archangel Academy is more than a school to Michael Howard. Within its majestic buildings and serene English grounds, he's found friends, new love, and a place that feels more like home than Nebraska ever did. But the most important gift of Archangel Academy is immortality. . .
Life as a just-made vampire is challenging for Michael, even with Ronan, an experienced vamp, to guide him. Michael's abilities are still raw and unpredictable. To add to the turmoil, the ancient feud between rival vampire species is sending ripples of discord through the school. And beneath the new headmaster's charismatic front lies a powerful and very personal agenda.
Yet the mysteries lurking around the Academy pale in comparison to the secrets emerging from Michael's past. And choosing the wrong person to trust—or to love—could lead to an eternity of regret. . .
Michael Griffo is an award-winning writer and one of six playwrights whose career will be tracked by WritersInsight.com until 2010. He is a graduate of New York University, has studied at Playwrights Horizons and Gotham Writers Workshop, and has written several screenplays.
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UnwelcomeAN ARCHANGEL ACADEMY NOVEL
By michael griffo
K TEEN BOOKSCopyright © 2011 Michael Griffo
All right reserved.
Chapter OneAfter the Ending
Michael was being watched. He liked how it felt and so he kept his eyes closed even though he wasn't sleeping, hadn't been sleeping since he crawled back into bed a few hours before. He could feel the sunlight on his face, not strong, but enough to remind him it was morning and he could smell the fresh chill of rain that lingered in the air. January was colder than the locals had predicted, snow had already made several appearances, so Michael, like most sixteen-year-olds, preferred to stay in bed on a Monday morning rather than be up and about, getting ready for class. Especially since he had an audience.
Ronan loved watching Michael. It didn't matter if he was talking to friends, swimming, reading a book, or as he was now, pretending to be asleep, he cherished the view. And even though Michael's attempt to get a few more moments under the covers would result in his being annoyed when he'd ultimately have to scramble to get dressed and get to class on time, Ronan smiled at the boyish trick. He then decided one boyish game deserved another.
Leaning over Michael, Ronan let his tie dangle an inch over his boyfriend's face, swaying in the air like a benign pendulum, casting a thin horizontal shadow across Michael's cheek. Michael lay still. He could feel Ronan's presence, he knew what was coming, but he didn't move, because that would ruin the game.
Bending over even further, Ronan's tie scraped the tip of Michael's nose, but Michael still didn't respond. He didn't move until the endpoint of the tie brushed against his lips, then he smiled. He felt the silky material glide over his lips, his chin, his cheek, as if to say hello, good morning, it's time to get up. Then the tie began to fold and bunch up as Ronan lowered himself and brought his face closer to Michael's. Both boys were smiling mischievously now, knowing how their game would end, but Michael kept his eyes closed; he knew the rules.
"Who's there?" Michael said, purposefully adding a nervous tremor to his question.
Ronan lowered his voice as low as he could and growled, "It's the big bad vampire."
Michael opened his eyes and feigned a look of fear, but forced himself not to laugh. "Oh no, not again."
In one fluid movement, Ronan whipped off the blanket and sheets and jumped on top of Michael, his naked body now practically hidden by Ronan's larger frame. Then he did his best Dracula impersonation, "I've come to suck your blood." Instead of inciting fear in Michael, Ronan's imitation of the legendary icon made him laugh out loud, which it always did, and so Ronan continued to speak the way the count was portrayed in all the old movies. "You are not afraid of me? You do not fear my power?"
Ronan was many things, Michael thought, but a mimic was not one of them. "Not when your accent sounds more Jewish than Transylvanian."
It was Ronan's turn to laugh, hearty and buoyant, and he kept laughing while kissing Michael, wishing they could stay in bed all day exploring and enjoying each other's bodies, but they had to get to class, couldn't start the new semester off by being late for first period. Before he could drag Michael out of bed and make him get ready, however, he noticed something in his eyes, resistance perhaps. Could it be sadness, disappointment? "You're not still upset about your father, are you?" Ronan asked quietly.
Michael looked surprised and shook his head before he spoke. "No. I didn't expect him to call on Christmas, not after I told him I didn't want to spend the holidays with him in Tokyo." As usual, Michael's father changed their plans at the last minute and informed him a few days before Christmas that he had to go out of town on a business trip to oversee yet another crisis at one of his factories. Far from being upset, Michael was relieved. He was not looking forward to spending his break with Vaughan, not after the endless series of arguments and disagreements they'd been having lately. He was much happier spending every moment with Ronan. But Michael was bothered by something and he found it curious that he was actually still a bit disappointed by his grandfather's inaction. "You know, I kind of convinced myself that he would call either on Christmas or New Year's Eve," Michael confessed. "I am the only family he has left."
"Age doesn't make people wiser, Michael," Ronan said, brushing the smooth side of his tie against Michael's cheek. "Just makes them older."
Luckily, age was not something Michael and Ronan were going to have to worry about. And for that matter, Michael thought, neither should education. "Hey, why don't we go see Germany today instead of hearing a lecture about it? Or what the hell, why not Tokyo?" Michael suggested. "I'm sure it's really exciting even if, you know, my father's there."
Oh, I can't wait to travel the globe with you, Ronan thought, country by country, but those kinds of adventures will have to wait. "We have forever for me to show you the world," Ronan said. "First we have to learn about it."
Underneath Ronan, Michael sunk deeper into his pillow, one hand pressing into the back of Ronan's neck, the other into the small of his waist. "That's 'cause you have a crush on Old Man Willows."
Taking the bait, Ronan pushed his body closer into Michael's, making the mattress bend even further under their weight. "No, but McLaren's bloody hot."
"I knew it!" Michael cried out in mock jealousy, slapping Ronan on the shoulder. "That's the only reason you like to read!"
"And if you want to read past a tenth-grade level, you need to get up now and get dressed," Ronan declared. "You've world history in fifteen minutes."
Thanks to his preternatural speed, a minute or two later, Michael was completely dressed, his clothes a bit unkempt yet presentable, and ready to leave, but still he was without his usual enthusiasm for education. "Seriously, Ronan, why do I need to go to school anymore?" Michael moaned.
The question surprised Ronan. "I thought you loved school."
"I did, but that was, you know, before, and, well, now ..." Michael stuttered, then announced, "I'm a vampire."
"Um, so am I, mate."
"And you're also a student, which just doesn't make any sense."
Tucking Michael's shirttail into his pants, Ronan looked knowingly at his boyfriend. He understood his questions, his desire to be an active part of the world and not just read about it in a textbook, but he also understood that outside of Archangel Academy the world was different, it wasn't as safe, it wasn't as receptive to their kind and so, for now, this is where they needed to remain, to learn and prepare themselves for the world beyond the academy's borders. "We may be immortal, Michael, but we're not infallible," Ronan said, aware that his tone was dangerously close to patronizing. "If we want to prosper and lead, we can't be ignorant prats; we have to study, learn everything we can."
"You can teach me everything I need to know," Michael said.
Ronan blushed and thought how wonderful it was to have someone need him so much, someone who revered him, but no, he was forced to acknowledge that even he had limitations. "About being a vampire, yes, but Double A will teach you how to become educated." Michael couldn't stop his eyes from rolling. "And trust me," Ronan whispered, his lips a breath away from Michael's, "there is nothing sexier than an educated vampire."
Sitting in world history, listening to Professor Willows drone on about some military skirmish that lasted for a couple weeks over a century ago, Michael thought he would risk being the most unsexy vampire who ever walked the earth if it meant he could escape having to hear another one of his monotonous lectures ever again. Now that he was equipped with the armor of immortality, he shouldn't have to act as if he was like everyone else, like he had to follow rules. Oh, but maybe Ronan was right. He has been a water vamp longer than me, but still, Willows's voice is just so grating, especially when he asks a question.
"The Serbo-Bulgarian War, Mr. Howard," Professor Willows said. "Which side emerged victorious?"
Michael had no idea, but luckily he didn't have to know everything when he possessed other skills. Because of his inhuman dexterity, no one saw him flip through his history book and in less than a second find the answer. "That would be Bulgaria, sir, winning on November 28, 1885," Michael replied. "In just under two weeks, or, um, a fortnight."
If the professor was impressed that his student, who he felt certain was daydreaming, answered his question immediately, correctly, and with added information, he kept all thoughts of surprise to himself. His expression was as unexpressive as his speaking voice. "Hmm, yes, quite right." Just as Willows opened his mouth to continue his oratory, the bell rang signaling the end of class and mercifully, Michael thought, the end of his pain. Shoving his books into his backpack, Michael smirked. How thankful he was to have his vampire skills; it would have been a lot more painful if he failed to answer Willows's question correctly. His smirk grew as he silently remarked, You may think I'm ignorant, Ronan, but I'm not stupid.
"What do I think?"
Startled, Michael turned around to see Ronan standing behind him. "What are you doing here?"
Not exactly the greeting Ronan was hoping for. "I thought I'd walk you to your next class," he explained. "But what were you saying? I never said you were stupid."
Damn that telepathic connection. Michael would have to be more careful if he wanted to keep his private thoughts private. Smiling the way one boyfriend should smile at the other, Michael said, "I didn't say that." He kept smiling as he tried to think of a plausible explanation for his words, but couldn't, so he flirted. "If you're going to eavesdrop, sir, please do it right."
Whatever Ronan thought Michael had said no longer mattered, not while his beautiful green eyes were sparkling, not while it was clear that Michael really was happy to see him. "Well, sir," Ronan replied, "next time I'll be sure to try harder."
On their way across campus, Michael continued to smile, in part because he was walking alongside Ronan and in part because he was getting a little bit smarter every day.
Someone else who boasted a nontraditional kind of intelligence was Fritz. He may not be aware that creatures other than humans also called Double A their home, but when it came to social networking and interaction, knowledge acquired outside of the classroom, he was the smartest kid on campus. Running through the parade of students, Fritz finally reached Ronan and Michael and wedged himself in between the couple, pausing a moment to pant from his sprint. When he finally spoke, tufts of cold air emerged like crowns above each word, which was appropriate since his words were a proclamation: "At tomorrow's assembly they're going to unveil the new headmaster to replace Hawksbry," he announced.
"Really?" Michael asked. "So it's official, then; he isn't coming back?"
"Nope, just up and left town, the old sod. Not a bleedin' word to anybody."
Ronan knew that wasn't the truth, but he wasn't about to share the information. Let them believe that Alistair was simply irresponsible and grew bored with being sequestered in the countryside, or could no longer take the stress of being in charge of so many young lives so he left unannounced and without explanation. Better that than the truth, that he was either killed or, worse, transformed into one of Them, one of Brania's people. Ronan hoped it was the former, though based on one of the last conversations he had with the Headmaster, where he alluded to the fact that he knew the truth about Ronan and was disgusted by his presence, Ronan was led to believe that he had been turned into their kind. No need to mention any of that. He would keep those beliefs to himself and instead offer a new suggestion. "Maybe he finally found a totty and ran off to Las Vegas to get married."
Michael appeared confused. "Totty is, um, British for girl, right?"
"You're starting to catch on," Ronan said, happy that Michael could make him smile no matter what he was thinking.
"But you're not, mate," Fritz said. "Hawksbry's a pouf, you know that. We caught him red-handed with his hands all over that chauffeur bloke."
An image of Alistair and Jeremiah walking arm in arm down an alleyway in Eden pierced Michael's memory. "That's right, Ro, we did."
"If he ran off anywhere to get married, he and the chauffeur would've driven to Canada, which is like Vegas for you people!" Fritz laughed so hard at his own joke that his whole body shook and he slipped on a piece of ice on the walkway in front of St. Joshua's. If it weren't for Michael grabbing his arm and steadying him, he would've fallen flat on his back. "Quick reflexes, Nebraska," Fritz said. "I owe ya one."
Another change. Michael noted to himself that Fritz was becoming a real friend. Ever since Penry's death, they had been getting closer. And the closer they got, the more Michael realized his loud, abrasive exterior hid a loyal, thoughtful guy. He wasn't as innately kind or amiable as Penry was—very few of the students he met were—but he was proving to have worthwhile qualities all his own, the most obvious one being the ability to make Michael laugh. But unfortunately, thinking about Penry inevitably made Michael think about his girlfriend, Imogene, which wasn't a laughing matter. "So, do you have any news about Imogene?"
Fritz shook his head, his smile gone, in its place a look of concern and apprehension, his dark bronze complexion growing pale. "Looks like she really did run away." Once again, Ronan remained silent while Michael and Fritz discussed how out of character that seemed. Imogene was not the type of girl to run from something. Whether it be a problem or an opportunity, she ran toward things. Even still, the police investigated the situation and concluded that that's what had happened; Imogene ran away from the trauma center either because it was something she had always planned on doing or as a result of Penry's death. It didn't make sense to either boy, but since the only other alternative—that Imogene could also be dead—was too painful to consider, both Michael and Fritz chose to believe the police department's official statement.
Let them believe in their own hypotheses, Ronan thought. Sometimes ignorance is preferable. It wasn't a luxury he could embrace, but he had learned to hide darker secrets; one or two more wouldn't matter. And what did he really know anyway? Only that Alistair was definitely not on his honeymoon, and Imogene wasn't a runaway. Ronan shrugged. "We may never know where either one of them is."
How did we get to talking about such unpleasant things? Fritz thought. Isn't the first day back to school unpleasant enough? Must change the subject and must change it now; luckily, I always save the best piece of information for last. "True, but I do know where one of our friends has been spending all of his time lately," Fritz declared proudly. "And the new and much older boyfriend he's been spending all of his time with."
* * *
What was that horrible smell? For a terrible moment, Nakano thought it was coming from him. He'd dressed quickly this morning, but he did remember to use deodorant, didn't he? Yes, of course he did; he wouldn't forget, not when he had an early morning date. Could the odor be clinging to his clothes? No, he just had his whole uniform washed; he felt like making a good impression for the first day of class. Oh, that was such a lie. He couldn't care less about his classes, about Archangel Academy even. The only reason he remained enrolled was because Brania told him that her father revered education and rewarded those who demonstrated academic excellence. No, the only reason he washed his clothes was to impress his boyfriend. And despite whatever that offensive smell was, he seemed to be doing just that.
Excerpted from Unwelcome by michael griffo Copyright © 2011 by Michael Griffo. Excerpted by permission of K TEEN BOOKS. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
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