Heartless (The Heartless Series) (6 page)

BOOK: Heartless (The Heartless Series)
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I take my papers from Marcy.

"Miss me?"

Wait, so she wasn't here? I did come to class? There's that at least. Not entirely crazy or dreaming random crap. "I did. Very much."

"Did Lucien take care of you? He's new, and I told him what to do, but I'm not sure he listened. He seemed preoccupied." She leans closer to me like she's my bestest buddy as her gaze darts around the room. "Between you, me, and the wall, I'm not sure he is mature enough to be a T.A. He's, like, really young. Sexy as hell, but young…"

Funny, when I think of Lucien, young isn't the first word that pops into my mind. Saint is. At least with what I know of Lucien, and those facts may or may not have been gathered in dream world. Still…

Let's move this conversation along.

"I heard you got lost in the woods or something." Wasn't that what I heard?

She shrugged like it was no big deal. "I think that story got blown up. You know how it is. Did you hear about that girl from class? Danika?"

Danika. The person I didn't want to think about. The person I had to think about. "Yeah. I saw it on the news feed. So sad. Her heart got torn out."

Marcy nods and lowers her gaze. "It's so sad. Who would do something like that?"

I shake my head and bite the inside of my cheeks. Not an hour ago, I thought I might've been able to do something like this. Maybe not me, but
him
… the other part of me.

"I heard you sorta lost it in class yesterday."

"That was real?" I say before I can stop myself. It's clear I've screwed up by the look Marcy gives me. The confused, weirded out, what's-this-chick-on expression. Screwed up big time.

Idiot.

Some people start walking in behind me, so without saying another word, I go to my seat. I can't sit in the one I sat in yesterday. Danika sat next to me yesterday, and it feels wrong. Instead, I sit a few rows toward the top and all the way on the far end of the left row. There's a set of stairs that go down to the bottom of the room next to me, but I doubt many people use them. Some do. But most use the middle aisle. I do my darndest to not look at Marcy, because every time I do, she's staring at me like I'm a freak. Perfect.

Moron.

Try as I might, I can't keep my eyes off the seat I sat in yesterday. I'd been so oblivious to everything I hadn't even noticed the girl in my dream until Professor Mitchell had been very far into his lesson. And then I snapped, and Lucien had taken care of me.

I guess he's real, too.

I wouldn't hate it if he were real. He was nice. And he fixed my hand somehow. The bad—well, one of the bads—is that Hart seems to know Lucien. I don't think I like that. If Hart knows people outside of my brain, then I have more problems than I thought. And that's saying a lot.

Professor Mitchell strolls in with his briefcase in hand and plops it down on his table. He leans over and says something to Marcy before he opens his case and pulls out some papers. Everyone settles, and I notice no one has sat in the seats Danika and I sat in yesterday. I can't blame them. I never want to sit there ever again either. On Danika's seat, someone had placed a memorial candle. Why had I not noticed that before? It's one of those battery-operated ones that people put in their windows at Christmas. Except this wasn't a festive occasion.

The professor has a slide presentation for us today. He gets someone to lower the lights. I turn toward the back of the room to see that someone is Lucien. His eyes lock with mine, and he nods. Then he turns to leave just like that.

Oh good Granny.

Professor Mitchell begins going through the slides, and I move my hand over the paper to take notes. My eyelids become very heavy, and I can't stop staring at the candle on Danika's desk. It's so pretty, flickering like that. I know it's a fake light, but who really knows what's real anymore? I watch the light dance, and my eyes start to close.

Nope. That can't happen! I slam the nail of my thumb into the thick part of my middle finger on the same hand. I've always done this to either stay awake or to wake up from the really awful dreams. That is, if I could remember to do it. Pain, real life pain, always woke me up. The pain you feel in your dreams and the pain you feel in real life are different. I know that more than anybody.

Still, my eyes won't cooperate.

"Tsk, Tsk, Tsk, Gracen Sullivan. Sleeping in class. Whatever are we going to do with you," Hart Blackwell whispers in my ear. I look next to me and there he is. Sitting like a student. Dressed like a student with dark jeans and a dark blue shirt under a white and blue plaid one. My devil wears plaid. Don't judge.

"What are you…" I whisper, because I in no way want anybody to hear me. I can see Hart, but I'm fairly sure no one else can.

He tilts his head and looks at me like I'm crazy. "I just asked if I could borrow a pen. Mine's out of ink, and I should probably take notes… ya think?"

It takes me a minute to make all those words process in my brain in some sort of coherent way. This guy looks just like Hart. Just like him. His eyes, though. His eyes aren't red. They're actually a very pretty chocolate brown. But that can't be right, because no one can see him but me. He's my imaginary buddy, right? He's always been. He's…

"Hey, did you say you needed a pen?" the guy behind me asks the illusion beside me.

I'm totally lost.

Hart turns around and grins, dimples shining. "Yeah, please. If you don't mind."

The other guy, a redhead with freckles on his nose, hands him the pen. Hart thanks him.

He turns to me and smiles before focusing back on the professor, who is strangely looking in our direction. "Something the matter in the back?"

Never do you want to irritate a professor. Never. Especially not as a freshman. Especially not as a freshman who's slightly crazy and had an outburst not twenty-four hours ago in that same room. My mouth goes dry because I know he's looking at me—everyone is looking at me—and I have no idea what to tell him.

"Not at all." Hart, who can't be my Hart, answers and throws the professor a million dollar smile.

I nearly fall out of my chair.

"Good, keep it that way. Focus on the lecture, please." Professor Mitchell glares not at me but at Hart and then continued his lesson.

So, other people can see him. Or I've just completely snapped. One of the two.

I can't pay attention to the lesson for obvious reasons. There's no way I can focus on the Civil War and the Battle of Stones River with my hallucination sitting next to me.

For his part, Hart has his notebook out and is writing lots of things down with his borrowed pen. My eyes won't leave him. I want them to. I want to just get up and run out, but I can't seem to make my legs work. Behind Hart, I see Lucien standing up at the top level of the room, looking down at me and at Hart. Lucien's arms are crossed, and he doesn't look happy.

Great. We can all see Hart. None of us seem to have a high opinion of him.

"The Civil War wasn't just fought over slavery, boys and girls." Professor Mitchell says. I actually hear that part and try to focus. After all, this will be on the test. "I know what you've heard and what you think you know, but I assure you, most of what you know has been skewered by time and history. After all, how do we know about history? It's from books, from movies, and being told by old, boring teachers in a mandatory college course. Time is fluid and the only way we know anything is from what we are taught. Think about it. Everything you know, whether about numbers or reading or even about God, is based on what you are taught. What people have chosen to teach you; the version of events
they
want you to know. Guys, you can change history with the stroke of a pen, with the flick of your gossiping tongue. It's that easy. You can make the villain into the good guy. You can turn angels into demons."

The professor glances my way for a split second before shoving his hands into his pockets and pacing. "You are taught from a very young age that the war was only about slavery. And a big part of it was, but another part was due to the fact that the South wanted to make its own country. People had lots of views on it. When they say families were divided, they weren't kidding. Kin fought kin. Brothers fought brothers." He paused. "Brothers killed brothers."

Hart shifts in the seat next to me.

"The thing about history books," Professor Mitchell goes on, "is that they don't tell the human aspect of, well, anything. You see dates and dashes and lines. You see one or two sentences dedicated to someone who spent his or her life working, fighting, bleeding to make a difference. The bad guys are made simply by the point of view of the writer. For example, take the brothers, Cain and Abel. Do you think Cain would've been a more sympathetic character if he'd been telling the story?"

Can't say I'd ever thought about it like that.

"Come on now, speak up! Show of hands. Do you think you might've been able to see Cain's side if Genesis had been written through his eyes?"

Truthfully, I hadn't thought about it. Cain and Abel were just Bible stories to me. Nothing more. Cain killed his brother Abel because God loved Abel's gift more. Cain got jealous and whacked his brother. How much more of the story would there be from Cain's view? Thinking that way, I don't raise my hand. Lucien doesn't either.

Hart, on the other hand, does.

"You see, children"—the professor seems to love to call us that, although he's not that much older than us even though he acts ancient—"history, or what we think about history, is never just the actual events as they occurred. They are facts, and I use that term loosely, as told by someone as told by someone else. That's what this class is. We are going to get deep into the story and see what really happened. We are going to feel what the people felt during the war. We are going to care about the things they cared about. We are going to put ourselves in their shoes. What would you do if your brother betrayed you?"

"I'd make his life a living Hell," Hart whispers beside me.

I don't think he's talking to me. Not exactly. His eyes are trained on the professor and listening to every single word.

That's it. I'm ready to wake up now.

"And that, my lovely class, is your next assignment. Do some research, look in a book, and find out about brothers who fought in the Civil War on different sides. Read about them. Learn about them. Write about them. Here's the kicker. Write the account from each brother's point of view. I guarantee you each account will be a much different story."

I have no doubt about that. Honestly, though, as cool as the assignment sounds, I can't say I'm excited about it. Too tired. Too sleepy. Too worried I'm insane.

"Lucien, hit the lights," the professor orders. Lucien complies. The bright light forces my eyes shut. Not a migraine. Not now. "Everybody be sure to grab your assignment from Marcy and have it ready to turn in next week. And remember, this is probably one of your first big written assignments in college. People, I don't expect Hemingway, but for the love of God, use proper grammar. Have a good day."

The auditorium roars with people getting their books together, talking to their neighbor, and putting the little tables back in their proper places so the students can walk by them.

I do the same. From the corner of my eye, I see Hart's still there. He hands the pen back to the dude behind us and throws his backpack on. He takes a few steps away, and then faces me. "Hi, I don't think we've been properly introduced."

I'm fairly sure my heart is going to beat out of my chest, which is ironic since the Hart in my head always says I don't have one. He has his hand stuck out like I'm just supposed to take it and shake the thing that cuts me open every night. So I just stare at it like an idiot.

"Okay…" he drawls out after a couple of seconds. "I guess you are the shy type. Sorry, I just… Sorry. It's very nice to meet you…" He pauses like he wants me to tell him my name. Like he doesn't already know it.

"Gracen," I say, because I just do.

"Gracen. That's a beautiful name." He finds my hand, which is sort of limp next to my body, and takes it upon himself to shake it. "I'm Gabriel. It is very nice to meet you."

Gabriel?

He doesn't wait. Just shakes and goes. And when he's gone, my legs can't take it anymore. I sink to the chair and watch him leave. He talks to other people as he goes. There are no words to describe the jumbled mess in my head right now.

Before he leaves the room, he turns back around and gives me a small wave. His hair is different. A lighter brown. His eyes are light blue. He looks like he's gained a few pounds and lost a few inches of height. He's still in his blue plaid shirt.

Gabriel.

He's Gabriel.

Not Hart.

Not my Hart.

Now, he doesn't even look like my Hart.

Did I take too many meds this morning?

I look down at Danika's desk. The candle is gone.

So is she.

If I don't watch it, I will be, too.

I can't take being in the room anymore, so I stand on wobbly legs to make it to an exit. I have a class in ten minutes, and I should probably try to get there today since I missed it yesterday. It would be ironic if Hart, or Gabriel, had that class too.

My brain hates me.

My legs hate me.

Gravity hates me.

I nearly trip on the step at the last seat in the row when, thankfully, two big strong arms catch me. Funny how I didn't see him there two seconds ago. Then again, it wasn't like I'd been paying much attention. I'd been too busy in my own head. I live there way too much for anybody's own good.

Lucien's bright blue eyes look down on me. "Hey, you okay?"

I sort of want to swoon, except I'm completely terrified from the latest events in the Hart/Gabriel story.

"Yeah. Sorry, I tripped. Seems like you are always there to catch me when I do." I try to laugh. I think I sound more like a dying donkey. Dying donkeys aren't sexy or cute.

"Just in the right place at the right time."

He keeps his hands on my shoulders. I guess to steady me. I can't say I hate it. Is it cheating on Sam if I don't really want this guy to let me go? He has huge muscles under his white button up shirt. I'm not hating it, but I'm hating myself for looking. I shouldn't look. It's stupid to look, because I just freakin' sat next to my night torturer the entire history class. Well, maybe, and I have a boyfriend. Still, I have eyes and those eyes choose in that moment to stare the heck out of Lucien NoLastNameGiven.

BOOK: Heartless (The Heartless Series)
9.4Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
ads

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