The Graces (The Graces #1)


by Laure Eve

PART 1

CHAPTER 1

Everyone said they were witches.

I desperately wanted to believe it. I’d only been at this school a couple of months, but I saw how it was. They moved through the corridors like sleek fish, ripples in their wake, stares following their backs and their hair. Their year groups had grown used to it by now, or at least pretended they had, and tried their hardest to look bored by it all. But the younger kids hadn’t yet learned how to hide their silly dog eyes, their glamoured, naked expressions.

Summer Grace, the youngest, was fifteen and in my year. She backchatted the teachers no one else dared to, her voice drawling with just the right amount of rude to make it clear she was rebelling, but not enough to get her into serious trouble. Her light Grace hair was dyed jet black and her eyes were always ringed in black kohl and masses of eye shadow. She wore skinny jeans and boots with buckles or Victorian laces. Her fingers were covered in thick silver rings and she always had on at least two necklaces. She thought pop music was ‘the devil’s work’ – always said with a sarcastic smile – and if she caught you talking about boy bands, she’d slay you for it. The worst thing was, everyone else joined in, even the people you’d been excitedly discussing the band with not three seconds before. Because she was a Grace.

Thalia and Fenrin Grace, at seventeen, were the eldest. Non-identical twins, though you could see the family resemblance. Thalia was slim and limber and willowed, her fine-boned wrists accentuated by fistfuls of tinkling bangles. She had a tight coil of coarse, caramel-colored strands permanently woven round a thick lock of her honey hair. She wore her hair loose, rippling across her shoulders, or pulled carelessly into a topknot from which tendrils always slid out to wisp around her neck. She wore long skirts with delicate beadwork and rows of tiny mirrors sewn onto the hem, thin open-necked tops that floated against her skin, fringed scarves with metallic threading slung around her hips. Some of the girls tried to copy her, but they always looked as if they were wearing a gypsy costume to school, which got them no end of grief, and then they never wore them again. Even I hadn’t been able to resist trying something like it, just once, when I first came here. I’d looked like an idiot. Thalia just seemed like she was born in those clothes.

And then there was Fenrin.

Fenrin.

Fenrin Grace. Even his name sounded mythical, like he was more creature than boy. He was the school Pan. Blonder than his twin, Thalia, he let his hair grow loose and floppy over his forehead. He wore white muslin shirts a lot and leather cords wrapped round his wrists. A varnished turret shell dangled from a leather thong around his neck every day. He never seemed to take it off. The weight of it rested against his chest, a perfect V. He was lean, lean. His smile was arrogant and lazy.

And I was completely and utterly in love with him.

It was the stupidest, most obvious thing I could have done, and I hated myself for it. Every girl with eyes loved Fenrin. But I was not like those prattling, chattering things with their careful head tosses and thick, cloying lip gloss. Inside, buried down deep where no one could see it, was the core of me, burning endlessly, coal black and coal bright.

The Graces had friends, but then they didn’t. Once in a while, they would descend on someone they’d never hung out with before, making them theirs for a time, but a time was usually all it was. They changed friends like some people changed hairstyles, as if perpetually waiting for someone better to come along. They never went out drinking in the pubs at the weekends, never went to the Wednesday student night in the local club like everyone else. The rumour was that they were barely allowed to leave their house, except to come to school.

No one had real details of their personal lives – except for whoever Fenrin was sleeping with in any given week, as he never hid it. He’d tour the girl around school for however long it lasted, one arm slung over her shoulders in a lazy fashion, and she would drip off him, giggling madly and dying with happiness. I’d never seen one of these girls around him longer than a month or two. They were nothing, just distractions. He was waiting for someone special, someone different who would catch his attention so suddenly and so completely, he’d wonder how he had survived all this time without them. They all were, all three of them. I could see it.

All I had to do was find a way to show them it was me they’d been waiting for.

CHAPTER 2

At first, I’d thought moving to this town was punishment for what I’d done.

It was miles from where I’d grown up, and I’d never even heard of it before we came here. My mother had spent a couple of holidays here as a child and had somehow decided that this tiny, old coastal town caught between the sea and acres of wilds was exactly the right kind of place to move on with our lives after the last few awful months. Dunes, woods and moors peppered with standing stones crawled across the landscape, surrounding the place like a barrier. I’d come from a cement suburb rammed with corner shops, furniture warehouses and hairdressers. The closest thing to nature we’d had there was the council-maintained flowerbeds in the high street. Here, it was hard to forget what really birthed you. Nature was the thing you walked on and breathed in.

Before the Graces noticed me, I was the quiet one who stuck to the back corners of places and tried not to draw attention. A couple of other people had been friendly enough when I’d first arrived – we’d hung out a little and they’d given me a crash course in how things ran here. But they got tired of the way I wrapped myself up tight so no one could see inside me, and I got tired of the way they all talked about things I couldn’t even muster up fake enthusiasm for, like getting laid and partying and TV shows about people getting laid and partying.

The Graces were different.

When I’d been told they were witches, I’d laughed in disbelief, thinking it was time for a round of ‘lie to the new girl, see if she’ll swallow it’. But although some people rolled their eyes, you could see that everyone, underneath the cynicism, thought it could be true. There was something about the Graces. They were one step removed from the rest of the school, minor celebrities with mystery wrapped around them like fur stoles, an ethereal air to their presence that whispered tantalisingly of magic.

But I needed to know for sure.

*

I’d spent some time trying to work out their angle, the one thing I could do that would get me on their radar. I could be unusually pretty, which I wasn’t. I could be friends with their friends, which I wasn’t – no one I’d met so far was in their inner circle. I could be into surfing, the top preoccupation of anyone remotely cool around here, but I’d never even tried it before and would likely be embarrassingly bad. I could be loud, but loud people burned out quickly – everyone got bored of them. So when I first arrived, I did nothing and tried to get by. My problem was that I tended to really think things through. Sometimes they’d paralyse me, the ‘what ifs’ of action, and I didn’t do anything at all because it was safer. I was afraid of what could happen if I let it.