Hidden Beauty (Beauty and the Beast Trilogy #2) - Amelia Wilde Page 0,1

and her face pales. “I think we have to go right now. Please. Let me call an ambulance—they can get here faster, and—”

“Rather die.”

My sister presses her lips into a thin line. I can tell she’s scared. I’m not. I’m already dying. Already dead. Past saving, probably. I hate to let her down.

“Right now,” she pronounces, like she’s ordering me to say a hundred Hail Marys as penance. I wait for her to absolve me. She doesn’t. Eva levers her arm underneath me and separates me from the comforter. Once I’m in motion, a new, panicked instinct takes over. If I keep rolling, I’ll end up on my back. Too much. That will be beyond flame and heat. I get one hand out seconds before it happens and push myself to sitting.

The room wheels overhead, spinning, spinning, spinning, and Eva puts both hands on my shoulders. “Can you walk?”



I can’t.

The room turns over again. My vision flickers. The fire consumes all the oxygen and there’s none left to feed my brain. Why can’t I just die already? It would be simpler than this. Much easier.


She’s still close. I can still feel her hands. “Yeah?”

“You have to—” Another sickening turn. “You’re going to have to—”

“Jesus, Leo. I’ll hurt you.”

I can’t do this much longer. I pick my head up with Herculean effort and look her in the eyes. “You have to.”

Eva doesn’t want to do this but there are no other options. It’s die, or hurt. “Okay,” she whispers, mostly to herself, then clears her throat. “Okay. I’m sorry.”

She sits next to me on the bed and hesitates. A pure, hot rage spirals through me and into the fire. I’m so pissed. I can’t get up. Can’t help myself. Can’t help anyone else. If anything happens, I won’t be able to stand in front of my brothers and sisters. “Waiting. Won’t. Help.”

“I’m sorry. One, two, three.”

On three she loops an arm around my back and pulls us both forward and up. It almost doesn’t work. She’s not big enough, what with the inches I’ve put on the past two years, but we can’t do this twice. We cannot. I cannot. My feet make contact with the floor. The floor is not steady. It’s a minefield, collapsing under my feet, but I stay standing. I have to stay standing.

“I’m so sorry,” Eva says, and oh—it’s me who’s gasping. Every gasp is torture. The air sears my lungs. Her arm is a band of molten bone around my back and it’s set off all the other cuts from the whipping like explosives. One after the other. All in a row. “Come on. We have to go.”

We must be in the window. There’s a gap between when we get home from school and when my mother returns from whatever charity bullshit she’s pretending to work on. I can’t take a step with Eva touching the wounds. What comes out is a hiss, barely anything. Somehow she understands. Eva slings my arm around her shoulders and takes my wrist tight in her hand. Her fingerprints feel cold. Tiny circles of ice.

“Okay.” She blows fallen tendrils of her hair out of her face. “We’re up. One step. Another one. Good. Another one…” If this were any other time, I would roll my eyes and tell her I’m not five years old. I don’t need coaching to walk. I don’t roll my eyes. I can’t. Eva bends to pick up her backpack and my balance threatens to run away.

Outside the door to the upstairs study, she props my hands against the wall and disappears in another angelic blur. I’m whipped by wind and heat, the floor rocking under my shoes. At some point in the distant past, I must have considered school. I lean my head on the wall and look at my dark uniform pants and the white shirt. How did I put all this on? Why? I can’t wear white. Not anymore. The blood—

Eva returns, her hands moving quickly at her pockets, at an envelope, at her backpack. I can’t go any farther. I can’t. But she puts my arm back over her shoulder and we take one step.



My sister’s voice becomes a whispering echo spilled down from our cathedral ceilings. A prayer. I’m taller than she is. Heavier. She’s got her backpack and me. Too much for one person. But Eva doesn’t falter. There’s a scent of burning incense. Someone must be giving me last rites. The person receiving last rites isn’t supposed to