The Shadow Student (Wraithwood Academy #1) - Teresa Hann
“You know what, I don’t want to do this after all,” Cly whined as the car turned off the highway. “We can still turn back. It’s not too late. Just make a U-turn and we’ll be back home in time for dinner—”
“You will be attending Wraithwood Academy, Cly,” said her bodyguard Aegis, quietly but firmly.
“Because my mother said so?”
“She did, in fact, say so—”
“Come on, Aegis, we’ve known each other since we were kids!” Cly’s tone turned wheedling as the car made its sedate, winding way down residential streets. “You saved me from that griffin! You didn’t tell on me when I broke Father’s auguring glass! Save me just this one more time, pleeeease?”
“I know you don’t like the idea of school,” said Aegis. “And I know you don’t want to leave home. But with your father gone and the fate of the house on the line, you have to do your part for the family.”
Cly scoffed. “Don’t be melodramatic like Mother. We’re House Redbriar. If anyone messes with us, they get crushed. Mother will keep everything running along just like she has forever. Why do I have to go out there?”
“Think about it this way,” said Aegis with infinite patience, slowing to make a turn. “If another mage house tries to attack us, your mother has plenty of stockpiled strength and resources, of course. But it would be… messy. Unpleasant. Wouldn’t it be better if no one dares? Because they’ve seen the strength and aggressiveness of our House’s new head in person?”
“Sure, when you put it that way,” Cly admitted. “But the school’s going to be filled with people jealous of my family. People who’ve heard the rumors about me. Total no-name trash who think they’re better than me.”
“That’s the whole point,” Aegis said as gently as he could. “Many people in mage society wonder if your House is still worth fearing with you as the new family head.”
“Oh, so it’s all my fault,” Cly snarled. “I’m the reason it’s going to be a filthy swamp of horrible people.”
“You’re here to prove them wrong, Cly,” Aegis reminded her. “Do you want people to continue believing the rumors? Do you want them to look at you and see a weakling?”
“Or do you want to go in there and blow their minds? Because you will. With the magic you’ll have, you’ll make them respect and fear you for the rest of your life.”
Cly’s breathing went ragged. The dashboard thumped as she punched it. “God, I’ll show them. I’m the only trueborn child of Priam fucking Redbriar.”
“Yes,” said Aegis softly. “You are.”
“I’m powerful now. I can do what I want. If they look at me wrong, I’ll rip their faces off.”
“They won’t. Besides, don’t you think that’s worth a bit of unpleasantness? To create a place where you’re in charge and everyone knows it?”
Cly’s sigh rattled the windows. “Fine. I’ll give it a chance.”
“That’s all I ask for,” said Aegis, warm as sunlight. The car was picking up speed again. “I honestly think you’ll like it more than you expect. Don’t the stories about Wraithwood tempt you at least a little?”
“The yards and yards of homework? The potion accidents?” But there was anticipation in her voice now, as if she were thinking about how it would all become hers. “The demon chained underneath the Great Hall—”
The air briefly crackled as the car passed through the magical wards that hid the campus to outside eyes.
Cly said, “Ooh.”
And at that moment, I would’ve happily ripped out her eyes and shoved them into my own sockets, if it would let me see what she was seeing. Wraithwood Academy. My dream. My stolen future.
I wanted to see Wraithwood with my own eyes, everything I’d only ever read about. For so many years, trapped in the gilded cage of Redbriar Manor, I’d longed to escape to its ancient halls and night-blooming gardens, libraries and bell towers.
I wanted to see.
But I couldn’t.
Because I was lying bound and gagged in the enchanted trunk in the back seat, stacked under the suitcases.
“Ooh, wow, look at that!” said Cly, her voice only a little muffled through the wood. And I gritted my jaw, tasting the foul, bitter metal of the gag clamped between my teeth, and told myself I’d sooner die than cry.
The thing was, Priam Redbriar was a piece of shit too. Like their namesake, the entire Redbriar family grew strong in a deep, nourishing, fertile bed of shit. But with him, to my shame, I’d never have