You will be mine, p.1
You Will Be Mine, page 1part #2 of The Cellar Series
ALSO BY NATASHA PRESTON
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Copyright (c) 2018 by Natasha Preston Cover and internal design (c) 2018 by Sourcebooks, Inc.
Cover design by Elsie Lyons
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About the Author
A Sneak Peek of The Cellar
Alice, you share a birthday with Valentine's Day, so I thought it was fitting to dedicate my Valentine's book to you.
Sorry you have to share again!
Valentine's Day. Ugh. Of all the holidays, this one is my least favorite.
I give the paper hearts Charlotte decorated our living room with a mental eye roll. Two of my roommates, Sienna and Charlotte, are super into Valentine's Day.
Fourteen days until all of social media is swarmed with cutesy couple photos and declarations of love, and I'm already living in an explosion of pink and red do-it-yourself crafts.
The theater students put on a show every year about the story of Saint Valentine. Only they use dramatic license to make it sexier and bloodier. Last year was amazing, and this year is supposed to be better.
Plus there's an after-party.
My housemates--Chace, Sonny, Isaac, Charlotte--and I are lounging in the living room waiting for Sienna to be ready so we can head out. There is just enough space for us all in the modest room.
"Turn it up, Lylah," Sonny orders. Sonny is from London and speaks like he's a gangster. He's far too soft to be one though.
I stand and dip in a sarcastic curtsy before adjusting the volume on the speakers that are paired with Sonny's iPhone. Puff Daddy's I'll Be Missing You blasts through the room.
Sonny is the oldest and, like a child, thinks that gives him the right to order everyone around. He's not all bad, but I don't think he heard the word no his entire childhood.
He ignores me and taps on his phone, likely lining up tonight's hookup.
Chace, who is a media student like me, smirks. I stick out my tongue at him. We met on our first day at college when we got lost on campus together and then stuck together in an attempt to look like we knew where we were going. Since then, we've spent countless hours watching movies, working on projects, and hanging out. Besides Sienna, Chace is my best friend. It didn't take long after meeting him to start having feelings for him--actually, it was about three minutes. I don't think he feels the same way though, because he treats me like one of the guys. But recently he's been finding more and more reasons for us to spend time alone together. I'm definitely not imagining it. Well, I don't think I'm imagining it.
Sienna appears in the doorway. "Lylah, are you sure this is the one?" she asks, running her hands down the sides of her blood-red dress.
Raising an eyebrow, I reply, "No, you look awful." She doesn't and she knows it.
Sienna is stunning. Born in Korea, she and her family moved to the United Kingdom when she was two years old. Her hair is unfairly sleek and shiny, and she wouldn't be out of place on the catwalk, though she's probably a bit short for that.
"Shut up. Tonight is my night with Nathan. I'm going to make him fall in love with me if it kills me."
Two weeks until Valentine's Day, and everyone is supposed to be coupled up. Chace doesn't seem to hate the day, so maybe he'll surprise me. Maybe I wouldn't dislike Valentine's Day as much if he had feelings for me too. "Sie, don't give it away, babe," Isaac says, throwing an arm around her shoulders. "Make him work for it."
Isaac is a brave, stupid man.
Sienna's black eyes darken as she shoots Isaac a look that could kill. "Thanks for that," she replies, sarcasm dripping from each word.
Taking a step back, he drops his arm and runs his hand through his short, black hair.
"Only trying to help," he defends.
Charlotte watches our interaction with interest. She's the quiet one who came to live with us by pure chance. Over the last five months, since we've all been living together, she and I have become friends. But she's still a bit of an outsider, preferring to stay in and keep to herself, rather than joining in activities with us.
"You okay, Charlotte?" Chace asks, sensing her tension.
"Maybe I'll stay here tonight," she replies. "It doesn't exactly sound like my thing."
Charlotte is dressed in a long denim skirt and a coral T-shirt. Her pale blond hair is pulled back in a high ponytail. She doesn't look like she's going out, but I know she'll enjoy it. Every time we've managed to drag her with us, she's had a good time.
I lay back against the cushions on the sofa. "No way. You're coming."
She leans in. "I know I said I wanted more of the university experience, but I'm pretty sure a play about martyrdom isn't it."
"It's not only about the play. You know we're going for the after-party."
"Now I know I won't enjoy that."
"What did you do before Lylah adopted you, Charlotte? Stay home and play chess against yourself?" Sonny asks, laughing at his own comment.
I grit my teeth.
"Don't be a dick, Sonny," Chace says, backhanding Sonny's chest.
Charlotte ducks her head to avoid Sonny's gaze, and I glare at him.
Sonny sighs. "You're right. That was mean. Char, I'm sorry."
She nods, but I don't think she forgives him. I wouldn't if I were her.
"Can we move on and have a good night tonight, please?" Sonny asks. "We're all single, and since everyone"--he stops and looks pointedly at me--"well, almost everyone loves Valentine's Day and doesn't want to be alone, hooking up is practically a guarantee."
Sonny doesn't have a problem getting girls, but if every woman on campus could hear how he usually speaks, I don't think he would be as popular.
Charlotte looks up and nods. "It's forgotten."
Sonny's gaze meets mine. "Lylah?"
I shrug. It's really not for me to forgive him. "Sure. I just want to have a fun night." And for Chace to realize he's in love with me. Having fun at the party might make this time of year a little more bearable. "No more breaking hearts this year, Lylah," Isaac teases.
Here we go again...
I harrumph and point at him. "Shut up, you. I didn't break anything."
"Please. Jake left school because you rejected him."
Jake, one of our other friends, tried to kiss me last year. It was right before I went home to spend Valentine's Day, the anniversary of my parents' death, with my brother, Riley. Jake knew that I was upset and still thought it was appropriate to kiss me. Er, no. I pushed him away and told him he could go to hell.
Looking back, I could have been a tad more diplomatic telling him I didn't like him, but I was emotional. My anxiety was raging, and I was dreading going home. It still felt--feels--so fresh that they are gone.
He could have chosen a better time to get rejected.
"Jake did not leave because of me. He left five months after that happened."
"Because even after all that time he couldn't get over you," Sonny adds, winking at me.
Chace stands up. "Guys, cool it."
He's always there to tell everyone to back off when they're teasing me. I can handle myself, but they're relentless with the Jake thing, so it's nice to have Chace backing me up.
"Mate, we're only joking," Sonny says to Chace.
I'm about to jump in when the doorbell rings.
"Want to wager who's out there?" Chace asks.
"I bet it's one of Sonny's ex's who can't take no for an answer," I guess.
Sienna laughs. "I bet it's the girl who keeps following Isaac around like a lost puppy. She's a total weirdo."
"Nah," Isaac says. "I bet it's Nora trying to be Lylah's BFF."
I roll my eyes and walk to the hallway.
Nora lives in a house across the street. She's nice, and we've studied together a few times, but she's been forcefully trying to insert herself into my circle of friends. It's not that I don't like her, but we have nothing in common besides our classes.
I tug open the front door, and am greeted by an empty porch. "Guys, it's just a prank ring and run!" I call.
I'm about to shut the door when I see an envelope on the doormat. It's cream and addressed to Sonny in typed letters. There is no return address or postmark, so it must have been hand-delivered.
Bending down, I grab it and take it inside.
"Who the hell plays ding-dong-ditch after the age of twelve?" Sonny asks.
I hand him the envelope. "Must be one of your friends. This was left on the doorstep."
With a frown, Sonny rips open the envelope and pulls out a piece of paper. The next words out of his mouth are wholly unpleasant. His glare is so intense, it's like he could set the paper on fire.
"What is it, man?" Chace asks, looking over his shoulder. "Secret admirer?"
"Probably. Whoever it is, they're dead when I find them out."
I share a look with Sienna, silently asking if she's in on whatever prank has been pulled on Sonny. She shakes her head.
"Show us," Isaac orders, and Sonny turns the note so we can see.
My eyes widen as I read what's on the paper. Each letter has been cut from a magazine or newspaper. It reads:
"That's creepy. Who would send that?" I ask. Students around here hit pranking pretty hard, like any college. But it's usually stuff like replacing ketchup with hot chili sauce in the dining hall or filling communal areas on campus with pink and red balloons. People don't usually write personal notes, not that I'm aware of anyway. Usually they stick to big, public pranks with a large audience and a large laugh.
"Do you think it was one of your castoffs?" Charlotte asks, her blue eyes glistening. She's enjoying Sonny's discomfort.
"I don't think I've done anyone that clingy," he replies.
"Whatever, it's only a prank," Chace says. "Is everyone ready? Let's go."
Sienna and Isaac head out first, Sienna practically glowing with excitement. Charlotte follows Sonny out, looking like she'd rather do anything else. Chace waits for me and holds out his arm. I loop my arm around his.
It's pitch-black outside and bloody freezing. I shudder at the chill. I should have put on a heavier coat. I look up and down the block as we walk the short path from the door to the gate. The area is eerily quiet. The houses look the same on both sides of the road, all Victorian town houses, most of them occupied by students. Our place is nestled in the middle, so there is usually noise of some sort, though living off campus is significantly quieter than the dorms. I love having the independence being away from home, especially my brother, brings. But I still hate doing laundry.
Ahead, Sonny opens the trash bin by the street and throws the note inside, swearing as he slams the lid shut.
I lick my dry lips and look out to the street. Between the sidewalk and road is a stretch of grass with large oak trees, which have grown tall and wide, blocking out the glow from the streetlights. At the end of the row, one of the lights flickers. It's the perfect setting for a stalker; they could come and go easily without being seen. Could whoever left the note be waiting in the shadows?
"Do you think we should be concerned about Sonny's note?" I ask quietly.
Chace drops my arm so I can go out of the gate first. "What do you mean?"
"Well, it's definitely not a love note, and it's not a fun prank either. Could it be a real threat?"
He stops outside the gate and folds his arms. "I think you're letting that imagination of yours run wild."
"But a prank is supposed to be funny. No one laughed. A creepy note cut from magazines is--"
"Someone's twisted idea of a prank," Chace cuts in. "Forget about it, Lylah. Sonny clearly has. You know today is the start of all the Valentine's madness, and apparently people are stepping it up this year."
I open my mouth to object. He's not getting it. We're all friends, we all live together. If someone is messing with Sonny, it affects all of us.
Chace dips his head and smiles. "Lylah, relax. You watch too many horror movies. We're going to have a good night, and you're going to forget that note. No one is threatening Sonny. Okay?"
I nod, returning Chace's smile. It must not be convincing though, because he grabs my hand and squeezes it.
Inside, my heart is racing. But I can't tell if it's from being close to Chace or from worry about who's messing with Sonny.
We arrive at the theater a little early, but the ushers are allowing people to go in. I flash my ticket and follow my friends inside. The large room is filled with round tables, chairs all arranged to face the stage.
"We're unlucky table thirteen," Isaac says, looking around. "Where the hell is that?"
Chace smirks. "You're standing next to the table plan, man."
Isaac turns his head and makes an O with his mouth. Idiot.
"We're over there," he says, pointing to a table near the left side of the stage. Second row from the front. Looks like we'll have a good view, and each table is spaced out well.
Included in our ticket prices are some kind of finger food, which wasn't specified when we ordered them, so I have no clue what's on the menu.
Servers dressed in black slacks and red shirts mill aroun
"When's the food coming? I'm starving," Sonny mutters, grabbing a drink menu from the table.
"The show doesn't start for another twenty minutes, so after that probably," Sienna replies. She scans the room, probably looking for her crush, Nathan, the reason for her outfit, to arrive with his friends.
"You okay?" I ask her.
Her mouth twitches in a fake smile. "I bet he's decided not to come."
"Sie..." I try to say in sympathy.
Air hits my face as she flicks her hand, cutting me off and pretending she's fine with him backing out.
Slowly, the room starts to fill as we talk, and before long, the lights flicker on and off--our cue to get our drinks and take our seats for the show.
"I'll go to the bar," I say, pushing my chair out to stand.
Chace mirrors my action. "I'll come with you."
I knew he would. He's always a gentleman, saving me from carrying a whole tray of drinks on my own. He hangs back a step, letting me go ahead, and puts his hand on my lower back as I walk past him. With my heart racing in my chest, we work our way to the bar area.
The bar smells like lemons, as if it's just been cleaned. I lean on the dark wood next to Chace, who is flagging down a bartender.
The guy, who's very tall, dark, and covered in tattoos, frowns. His green eyes look between me and Chace and his eyebrow raises like he's trying to figure out where he knows us from. He bends down and picks up a polaroid from behind the bar. The way he's holding it, I can only see it's black backing and white border.
"Everything all right, man?" Chace asks. "We were just after some drinks."
He grins. "I thought it was you. Your first round has been paid for."
"Nice!" Chace says. "Who bought the drinks?"
The bartender flicks his wrist, tossing the photo to him.
My mouth falls open and my spine stiffens as I see it. The photo is of the six of us sitting around the table. It must have been taken in the last ten minutes. Someone was watching us?
The bartender shrugs. "No idea, bud. Some dude who looked built to hell. Wearing a dark hoodie. He left cash."
by Natasha Preston / Romance / Thriller have rating 4.2 out of 5 / Based on25 votes