The Sunday before school was scheduled to start, Dee took me into town to pick up notebooks while she replaced almost everything she used for school with a new item. We only had three more days of vacation and then we had Labor Day. I was already yearning for it. Before we headed home, Dee was hungry as usual, and we stopped at one of her favorite places.

"It's quite a...quaint restaurant," I said.

Dee smirked, her sandaled foot continuously tapping. "Quaint? It would be quaint to a big city gall like you, but it's the place to be here." I stole another quick glance around. The Smoke Hole Diner wasn't bad; it was actually kind of cute in an earthy, down-home way, and I did like the clusters of rocks and stones that jutted out around the table's edge.

"It's a lot busier in the evening and after school," she added between sips. "It's hard to get a seat then."

"You come here often?" I found it kind of hard to imagine beautiful Dee hanging out here, eating hot turkey sandwiches and drinking milkshakes.

But there she was, on her second hot turkey sandwich and her third milkshake. Ever since I met Dee, I had been constantly amazed by the amount of food she could consume in one sitting. It was actually a little disturbing.

"Daemon and I come here at least once a week for their lasagna. It is to die for!" Her eyes lit up with a mixture of excitement and longing.

I laughed. "You must love their food, but thanks for inviting me out today. I'm glad to get out of the house since Mom is home. She has been hovering over me every second she's there."

"She's worried."

I nodded, toying with my straw. "Especially after news broke about the girl who died the same night. Did you know her?" Dee looked down at her plate, shaking her head. "Not very well. She was in a grade lower than us, but a lot of people knew her. Small town and all. I thought I read they weren't sure if she was murdered? That it looked like a heart attack." She paused, her lips pursed as she looked over my shoulder. "Strange."

"What?" I asked, turning to see what she was looking at and turned back around to face her as fast as I could. It was Daemon.


Dee's head was cocked to the side, her dark hair falling carelessly around her. "I didn't know he would be here."

"Oh, man, it's he who shall not be named." Laughter erupted from Dee, drawing attention from everyone in the diner. "Ah, that was funny."

I sunk in my seat. After the morning he and his sister made me breakfast, he'd avoided me and that was fine. I had wanted to thank him for sort of saving my life. A proper thank you that didn't end in insults, but the few times I'd been able to catch him, he stopped only long enough to give me a look that warned me not to even think about approaching him.

Daemon might be the most physically flawless male I'd ever seen - his face was something that any artist would die to get a chance to sit and sketch - no light reflected badly off him. But he could also be the biggest jerk on the planet.

"He's not going to come over here, right?" I whispered to Dee, who suddenly looked very amused.

"Hello, sis."

I sucked in a deep breath at the sound of his husky voice. I slid my bandaged arm under the table. I was positive if he saw it, it would remind him of how inconveniencing I'd been.

"Hey there," Dee said as she rested her chin on her hand. "What are you doing here today?"

"I'm hungry," he responded dryly. "This is where people come to eat, isn't it?" I stared very intently at my half-eaten burger and fries, moving them around on my plate, praying to whoever was listening that I could fade into the rustic-colored booths until he left. I forced myself to think about anything - books, television shows, movies, Daemon, the grass outside -

"That is, except you, who must come here to play with her food?"

Aw, dammit. I plastered the brightest smile I could muster and steeled myself. My smile faltered the instant I met his eyes. He looked at me expectantly, as if he knew what I was really thinking, wanted me to fight back. "Yeah, see my mom normally takes me out to Chuck E.

Cheese's for dinner so I'm a little out of my element. Missing the ball pen and all." Dee snorted and looked up at her brother. "Isn't she great?"

"Just lovely." He crossed his arms, his tone as dry as ever. "How's your arm?" His question took me off guard. My arm actually felt fine. I wanted the splint off, but my mom refused to let me even shower without it.

"It's better. It's okay. Thank you - "

"Don't," he cut me off, running a hand through a mess of black waves. "Your face looks a lot better, by the way."

I subconsciously placed a hand on my cheek. "Well...thanks, I think." I looked at Dee with disbelief and mouthed the words my face to her.

She exchanged an amused look with me before turning back to her brother. "Are you going to join us? We were just about finished." It was Daemon's turn to snort. "No, thank you."

I returned to poking my food around on my plate. As if the idea of eating with us was the most absurd thing.

"Well, that's too bad." Dee didn't miss a beat.

"Daemon, you're here already!" I glanced up at the sound of a very excited female. A small, pretty blonde waved from the main entrance. Daemon waved back, not as joyously, and I watched as she practically bounced over to our table. When she reached Daemon she stretched up and gave him a quick kiss on his cheek before wrapping a possessive arm around his.

An ugly, hot feeling unfurled in my belly.

He had a girlfriend? I glanced at Dee. His sister didn't look happy.

The girl finally looked down at our table.

"Hey, Dee, how are you doing?" Dee returned her smile with a very tight one.

"Great Ash, how have you been?"

"I've been really good." She nudged Daemon as if that was a private joke between the two of them.

I couldn't breathe.

"I thought you were leaving again?" Dee asked, her usually warm eyes turning sharp.

"With your brothers and coming back when school starts?"

"Changed my mind." She glanced up at Daemon again, who was beginning to shift uncomfortably.

"Hmm, interesting," Dee responded, her expression taking on a very catlike quality. "Oh, how rude of me. Ash, this is Katy." She gestured over at me. "She's new to our exciting little town."

I forced myself to smile at the girl. I had no reason to be jealous or to care, but damn, this girl was pretty.

Ash's smile faded. She took a step back.

"This is her?"

My eyes darted to Dee.

"I can't do this, Daemon. Maybe you guys can be okay with this, but I'm not." Ash tossed her blonde hair back with a tan hand. "This is wrong."

Daemon sighed. "Ash..."

Her full lips thinned. "No."

"Ash, you don't even know her." Dee came to her feet. "You're being ridiculous." The traffic in the diner literally stopped.

Everyone stared.

I felt heat, a mixture of embarrassment and anger, creep across my face as I stared at Ash.

"I'm sorry, but did I do something?" Ash's extraordinarily bright blue eyes fixed on me. "Yeah, how about breathing, for starters?"

"Excuse me?" I said.

"You heard me," Ash snapped. Then she turned to Daemon. "Is this why everything is going to shit in a handbasket? Why my brothers are running around the country - "

"That's enough." Daemon grabbed Ash's arm. "There's a McDonald's down the street.

We'll get you a Happy Meal. Maybe that'll make you happier."

"What's going to shit?" I demanded. The urge to get up and rip out her hair was hard to ignore.

Ash's glare burned into me like twin lasers.

"Everything is going to shit."

"Well, this was fun." Daemon cocked a brow at his sister. "I'll see you at home." I watched them leave, boiling with anger.

But under that anger was also hurt.

Dee plopped back in the seat. "Oh, my God, I'm sorry. She's a complete bitch." I looked at her as my hands shook. "Why did she say those things to me?"

"I don't know. She might be jealous." Dee toyed with her straw, not meeting my eyes. "Ash has a thing for Daemon, always had. They used to date."

My brain got hung up on the words 'used to'

for a second.

"Anyway, she heard about him coming to your rescue that night. Of course she's going to hate you."

"Are you serious?" I didn't believe her. "All of that because Daemon saved me from being killed?" Frustrated, I slammed my splint down on the table and winced. "And Daemon treats me like I'm a total terrorist. Ridiculous."

"He doesn't hate you," she replied quietly.

"I think he wants to, to be honest. But he doesn't. That's why he acts like that." That made no sense to me. "Why would he want to hate me? I don't want to hate him, but he makes it hard not to."

Dee glanced up, her eyes full of tears. "Kat, I'm sorry. My family is a little weird. So is this town. So is Ash. See, her family a friend of our family. And all of us have a lot in common." I stared at her, waiting for her to explain how in the hell that had anything to do with Ash's bitchiness.

"They're triplets, you know?" Dee sat back against the booth, staring listlessly at her plate.

"She has two brothers, Adam and Andrew."

"Wait." I gaped at her. "You're telling me there is a set of triplets here and you guys are twins?"

Her face scrunched up as she nodded.

"In a town with a population of, like, five hundred?"

"I know, it's weird," she said, glancing up.

"But we do have it in common and all of us are kind of tight-knit. Small towns don't do well with weird. And I'm sort of dating her brother Adam."

I gaped. "You have a boyfriend?" When she nodded, I shook my head. "You've never mentioned him before."

She shrugged, looking away. "It's not something I thought about bringing up. We don't see each other a lot."

I clamped my mouth shut. What girl doesn't talk about her boyfriend? If I had one, I'd talk about him, at least mention him once. Maybe twice. I stared at Dee with new eyes, wondering how much more she wasn't telling me. Sitting back, my gaze drifted beyond Dee, and it was like a switch being thrown.

I started noticing things - little things.

Like how the redheaded waitress with a pencil stuck in her bun kept glancing over at me and touching the shiny, black gemstone on her necklace. Then there was the old man sitting at the bar, food untouched, staring at us while muttering under his breath. He looked a bit crazy. My eyes flitted around the diner. A lady in a business suit caught my eye. She sneered and turned back to her companion. He glanced over his shoulder, and his face paled.

Quickly, I turned back to Dee. She looked oblivious to it all, or maybe she was trying real hard to ignore it. Tension clotted the air. It was like an invisible line had been drawn somewhere and I'd skipped right over it. I could feel all of them, dozens of eyes, settling on me. All of their gazes filled with distrust and an emotion far, far worse.


The last thing I wanted to be wearing was a splint on my first day at a new school, but since my mom was insistent that I'd wait until my checkup tomorrow after school, I was stuck with more than the 'Look, a new girl!' reactions I got the moment I stepped into the halls of PHS. I had those looks plus 'Look, a new girl who's been beaten up!' too.

Everyone stared as if I were a two-headed alien rolling up into school. I wasn't sure if I should feel like a celebrity or an escaped mental patient. No one spoke to me.

Luckily, PHS was easy to navigate and find classes. I was used to high schools that were at least four stories tall, had multiple wings, and open campuses. PHS had a couple of floors, but that was it.

I found my homeroom class easily and sat through curious stares and a few tentative smiles. I didn't see my neighbors until second period, and it was Daemon who strolled in seconds before the bell rang, with an easy smile on his full lips. Conversations practically ceased.

Several of the girls around me even stopped scribbling in on their notebooks.

Daemon had a sort of rock star entrance with that deadly swagger. He had everyone's attention, especially when he shifted his trig textbook from one hand to the other and then ran his fingers through the tousled waves of his thick hair, letting it fall back over his forehead.

His jeans hung low on his hips, so when he lifted his arm, he flashed a row of golden skin that somehow made math all the more interesting.

A girl with reddish hair sighed next to me and said under her breath, "God, what I wouldn't do for a piece of that. A Daemon sandwich should be on the menu." Another girl giggled. "That is terrible."

"Along with the Thompson twins as a side dish," the redhead replied, flushing as he drew close.

"Lesa, you're such a ho-bag," laughed the brunette.

I hastily averted my eyes to my notebook, but I still knew he'd taken the seat directly behind me. The entire length of my back tingled.

A second later, I felt something poke me in my back. Biting down on my lip, I glanced over my shoulder.

His smile was lopsided. "How's the arm, Kittykat?"

Excitement and dread warred inside me. Did he write on my back? I wouldn't be surprised if he had. I felt my cheeks redden at the sparkle in his green eyes. "Good," I said, tucking my hair back. "I get the splint off tomorrow, I think." Daemon tapped his pen off the edge of the desk.

"That should help."

"Help with what?"

He circled the pen in the air, apparently encompassing my fashion sense. "With what you've got going on there."

My eyes narrowed. I didn't even want to know what he was referencing. There was nothing wrong with my jeans or my shirt. I looked like everyone else in the classroom, with the exception of kids who had their shirts tucked into their pants. I hadn't seen a cowboy hat or teased bangs yet. These kids looked like the kids in Florida, just with less potential for skin cancer.

Lesa and her friend had stopped talking, watching Daemon and me with openmouthed stares. I swore to God if Daemon said anything ignorant, I was going to lay him out in class. My splint was heavy enough to do damage.

Leaning forward, his warm breath danced along my cheek when he spoke. "Less people will stare without the splint is all I'm saying." I didn't believe for one second that was all he was talking about. On top of that, with him this close to my face, everyone was staring. And we weren't looking away from each other. We were stuck in the middle of an epic stare-down I refused to lose. Something passed between us, reminiscent of the strange current I'd felt with him before.

A boy on the other side of Daemon gave a low whistle. "Ash is going to kick your ass, Daemon."

Daemon's grin went up a notch. "Nah, she likes my ass too much for that." The boy chuckled.

Eyes still on me, he tipped his desk forward even further. "Guess what?"


"I checked out your blog."

Oh. Dear. Baby. Jesus. How did he find it?

Wait. More importantly was the fact that he had found it. Was my blog now Googleable? That was awesomesauce with an extra heaping of sauce. "Stalking me again, I see. Do I need to get a restraining order?"

"In your dreams, Kitten." He smirked. "Oh wait, I'm already starring in those, aren't I?" I rolled my eyes. "Nightmares, Daemon.


He smiled, his eyes twinkling, and I almost smiled back, but luckily the teacher started calling roll, forcing an end to, well, whatever was going on between us. I turned around in my seat, letting out a slow breath.

Daemon laughed softly.

When the bell rang, signaling the end of class, I couldn't get out of there quick enough. I did so without looking back to see what Daemon was doing. Math was going to suck butt more than it normally did if he sat behind me in class every day.

Out in the hallway, Lesa and her friend fell in step with me. "You're new here," said the brunette. Observant.

Lesa rolled her dark eyes. "That's not obvious, Carissa."

Carissa ignored her friend, pushing her square-framed glasses up her nose as she deftly stepped out of the way of another stupid kid barreling through the crowded hall. "How do you know Daemon Black so well?" Considering the first kids to talk to me were doing so because I'd been talking to Daemon, I wasn't thrilled. "I moved in next to them in the middle of July."

"Ah, I'm jealous." Lesa pursed her lips.

"Half the population at this school would love to trade places with you."

I'd gladly change positions with them.

"By the way, my name is Carissa and that's Lesa if you hadn't figured it out yet. We've lived here our whole lives." Carissa waited.

"My name is Katy Swartz, from Florida." Oddly, they didn't have thick accents like I'd been expecting.

"You came here, to West Virginia, from Florida?" Lesa's eyes went wide. "Are you insane?"

I smiled. "My mom is."

"What happened to your arm?" Carissa asked as they followed me up the crowded stairs.

There were so many people in the stairwell I didn't want to announce what happened, but Lesa apparently knew. "She was mugged in town, remember?" She nudged Carissa with a curvy hip. "The same night Sarah Butler died."

"Oh yeah," Carissa said, frowning. "They're holding a memorial for her tomorrow during the pep rally. So sad."

Unsure of how to respond, I nodded.

Lesa smiled as we reached the second floor.

I had English at the end of the hall that I was pretty sure I shared with Dee. "Well, it's nice meeting you. We don't get a lot of new people here."

"Nope," Carissa agreed. "No new kids since the triplets arrived here when we were freshmen."

"You mean Ash and her brothers?" I asked, confused

"And the Blacks," Lesa answered. "All six of them showed up within days of each other.

Had the entire school going crazy."

"Wait." I stopped in the middle of the hall, earning a few nasty looks from people I knocked off course. "What do you mean all six of them?

And all of them came here at the same time?"

"Pretty much," Carissa said, fixing her glasses. "And Lesa isn't kidding. It was crazy for months afterward. Can you blame us, though?"

Lesa stopped by a classroom door, brow wrinkling. "Oh, you didn't know there'd been three of the Blacks?"

Feeling even more confused, I shook my head. "No. There's Daemon and Dee, right?" The warning bell rang, and both Lesa and Carissa glanced into the classroom filling up. It was Lesa who explained. "They were triplets, too. Dee and there were two brothers, Daemon and Dawson. They were completely identical, like the two Thompson boys. Couldn't tell them apart if your life depended on it." I stared at them, rooted to the floor.

Carissa smiled sadly. "It's really sad. The one brother - Dawson - he disappeared a year ago. Everyone pretty much believes he's dead."

Most Popular