Grave Walker

To the untrained eye, Victoria Beauregard is a normal sixteen year old girl. That is until she's whisked away to the Verexium, an ancient school created to train Verum, a coalition of people with magic coursing through their veins. Outbreaks of war with the Evelore, the Verum's sworn enemy, threatens their way of life and their very existence, and their fate rests in the hands of a girl raised outside of the society.

Victoria is their Sentinel, their Protector, maybe even the one destined to destroy the Evelore's bloodthirsty leaders, Evelyn LaReizo and the mysterious Grave Walker, once and for all. But no road to victory comes tragedy and deceit. It's up to Victoria to save the Verum from their eminent demise or to lead them down a path from which even they cannot return.

**Credit for cover @ beginning of Ch. 1**

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5. V -- Free Donuts and Romance

No matter how hard I tried to void my head of everything, something always popped in for a visit, keeping me from peace and rest. Instead of sleeping, I watched the clock tick and tock. I watched the red second hand run all over the clock, passing the others over and over and over again like a track superstar, the minute hand, moving slightly, pacing himself slow and steady, and lastly, the hour hand, the lazy kid who didn't want to run and sat around like a bump on a log. Great, I turned my clock into a metaphor for physical fitness. I didn't have any energy left to even stand up, and when I finally crashed, I had a happy and blank brain. Hallelujah for boring standard wall clocks!

The next morning, I woke up at ten o'clock or thereabouts, and I felt like crawling into a hole and staying there until I died. I needed to escape all of this, and Liam was my savior. "Hey, I have coffee and donuts. Can come in?" I knew it was him before he even finished his sentence.

"I'll be there in a second," I called back. I glanced in the mirror. God, what was I wearing? You could see my bra through my tank, and I was wearing spankies instead of pants. "Actually," I said, "I'm going to put some clothes on first . . .  that sounded awkward. I'll be there soon."

"What are you wearing?" he said, but I could tell he was teasing. When I didn't respond he continued, "You know I'm just kidding. I'll wait." I giggled. Oh Liam! I tossed on a t-shirt and a pair of sweat pants and jogged to the door. My hair was up in a messy ponytail, and I still looked like a disaster, but this was the best Liam was going to get right now.

"Hey," I put on a smiley face and answered the door, "So you brought me breakfast?"

"If you don't want it, I can leave," Liam joked, raising his eyebrows.

I grabbed his arm and pulled him, laughing, "No, I'm starving! Come in." Liam put the drink tray on my desk along with a large variety of donuts.

"I guessed you were a caffeinated caramel cappuccino kind of girl, extra whip," Liam handed me my coffee, "Want a donut?"

"Cappuccinos are amazing! Caramel was a good guess, but hazelnut is better. As far as my donut, anything with chocolate is acceptable." He laughed and handed me a chocolate glazed donut.

"I was thinking we could hang out today. Maybe do something fun? Get out of this place," he offered, munching on his own donut.

"I think that's a plan! I really need to let loose and have some fun!"

"Great!" Liam smiled, "I'll be right back."

"Okay, but what am I supposed to do with all these donuts?"

"I'm sure you can figure out something!" he smirked. Yes, yes I could. I took a black Sharpie and scribbled across the top of the flimsy white box 'Free Donuts!' and set it on a table in the hall. They'd be gone within a matter of minutes. Verum are a hungry bunch!

It probably helped that I screamed at the top of my lungs, "Free donuts!" and then ran back inside the safety of my dorm before the relentless mob came! I desperately needed to change. I couldn't help it. I wanted to look cute. I squeezed into a tight pair of boot cut jeans and threw on a leather jacket over my t-shirt. I neatened up my ponytail a bit, just to look presentable.

"Back," Liam tapped my door.

"Alright, let's go!" I wrapped my arm in his, and we walked casually around the school.

"Where do you want to go?" he asked, "We can go anywhere you want." Where did I want to go? I whispered the location in Liam's ear. "Your wish," he winked, "is my command."

Wow . . .  Paris at nighttime. We'd spent enough time messing around at school that it was just past six when we arrived in Paris. There were lights twinkling all around, and I could see the Eiffel Tower off in the distance. The little shops were stuffed with Parisians and probably tourists on account of the bone-chilling weather. There were a few brave souls wandering the streets as well as a couple of daring street vendors.

"You're freezing! Wait right here," Liam felt me shiver next to his and walked up to one of the vendors selling souvenirs and whatnot. I couldn't hear what they were saying, but it was certainly in French. Liam came back carrying a cashmere scarf that was white as snow. He wrapped it around my shoulders, "Here you go!"

"Since when do you speak French?" I asked.

"I grew up with my grandmother. She was born in Lyon and moved to New York after her first husband passed away. My parents died when I was little. No one ever told me how, but I think I know now. My grandma insisted I learn French, so that she could talk to me without anyone knowing what she said. She's funny that way."

"She sounds adorable," I smiled, "You grew up in New York?"

"Yeah, in a less urban area, but it was still New York."

"Did you love the snow?" I said dreamily.

"The snow? It isn't all it's cracked up to be. The city's dirty so the snow gets that way too."

"That's too bad," I sighed. Every shop we'd past as we'd walked had couples sitting, holding hands, and kissing. Realization struck that I'd asked Liam to take me to one of the most romantic places on Earth, but it was a little late for that speculation now. We were already here, and I was content. Imagine that? I, Victoria Beauregard, was actually happy.

We walked on in silence for a while until Liam ended the quiet, "Do you want to go see the Eiffel Tower up close and personal?"

"Yes!" I squealed. I'd always wanted to see the French architectural wonder. It looked so pretty in pictures. We went on for another ten minutes before we reached our destination. It started to snow just as we arrived, and I felt like I was walking on air. It was all incredible, the Eiffel Tower in the snow, breathtaking! "Dance with me."

My request caught Liam off-guard, "What?"

"It's perfect, like a scene out of a movie or a fairytale. I thought we might as well make it like one," I smiled and held out my arm, "Oh come on, you know I don't bite!" Liam took my arm cautiously, but smiled back at me.

"One dance won't hurt," he winked. I was in Paris, dancing next to the Eiffel tower in the snow! Liam was a natural dancer. As in response, Liam said, "My grandmother had me take ballroom dance classes a few years ago as a punishment. She decided it'd be more effective than grounding me."

"It definitely was," I whispered. Liam spun me around, but I clumsily tripped over my own feet and fell into him. He staggered back a step or two and caught me. I held onto Liam's arms to keep myself from falling, and he grabbed my waist. We were pressed up against each other so close that I couldn't breathe. Liam smelled like peppermint and cinnamon sticks. I'd never really noticed how good he smelled, but I'd never really been this close to him before either.

"Victoria," Liam started, and I jumped on the moment. It was now or never. Softly, I pressed my lips against his, and to my surprise, he kissed me back. It wasn't a deep, passion-driven kiss, but more of the friendly heartfelt kind. When we parted, I opened my eyes and felt my lashes brush across his cheek. He pushed a strand of hair back behind my ear, and I rested my head on his shoulder, wrapping my arms around his neck. I could see our breath in the frigid air.

"We should probably head back," I whispered in his ear. He nodded and grabbed my hand.

 "Before we go, there's been something I've been meaning to ask you," he said, "I feel so drawn to you. You're so charismatic, and you have an amazing sense of humor. You keep me on my toes, and I love it. There's something undeniably special about you. I wanted to ask you this the other day, but your friend needed you. I figured there isn't a better time than here and now. Would you be my date for the Night of the Star Ball?"

"Oh, Liam," I sighed, "I can't. I told Alexander that I'd go with him, and I won't back out on him even though he and I are just friends."

"I can't say I'm surprised," Liam laughed, "A girl like you without a date already would be unbelievable. Just promise to save me a dance, okay?" A girl like me . . .  the way he said it made me feel like the only girl in the world.

"I swear," I gave Liam a half-smile, "Let's go back." Once we were at the school again, Liam walked me to my room. We stood outside my door for a few minutes and talked.

"I had a really good time with you today," Liam murmured.

"Me too," I looked up at his grin and felt one spread across my face. Liam's smile was contagious.

He glanced around at the Verum roaming the halls, not shocking considering it was still late afternoon here, and whispered, "I have to go, but I'll see you tomorrow." Liam leaned in and lightly kissed my cheek. My face flushed, and I looked at the floor, not meeting Liam's eyes. "Bye," he gave my hand a comforting squeeze. My heart skipped out of my chest. Liam always was just what I needed him to be. As soon as I opened my door, a figure came rushing at me.

"Oh God, Victoria," the voice cried, "I was so worried!" Roxie. She continued to ramble, but she had stopped hugging me as if I might disappear if she stopped, "I came here this afternoon to check on you, but you weren't here. I asked Silva if she'd seen you, I even asked Alexander and Sebastian but all to no prevail. I thought something bad might have happened! I've been waiting here for an hour hoping you'd show up, and now, poof, here you are!"

"I've barely been gone an hour. How did you..."

"Receiver communication powers, remember?" Roxie sighed, "I'm just glad you're okay!" I knew better than to think she was going to let me off that easy. "Where were you anyway?"

"I was out with Liam," I replied, unable to prevent my face from turning scarlet.

"Oh," Roxie smirked, reading my expression, "It isn't my place to be so nosey anyway." Roxie might've looked like she could be Sebastian's sister, but she was nothing like the cold intrusive boy. In fact, she was opposite in all aspects. Roxie was warm and friendly, she didn't overstep her grounds, and she definitely wouldn't hurt Silva like Sebastian was bound to.

"I don't mind. Actually, I'd really like someone to talk to right now."

"I'm a good listener!" Roxie sat down on my bed and patted the spot next to her. Willingly, I plopped down beside her. I really needed to talk to someone. This would be good for me. I didn't want to divulge all the details of my Paris trip, so I gave Roxie a basic idea of what went happened.

"Liam and I went to Paris, and he was really sweet. I mean, he's always sweet, but this was different. He bought me this," I showed Roxie the snowy scarf wrapped around my neck, "We danced next to the Eiffel tower in the snow, and I kissed him. Then..."

"Whoa," Roxie interrupted, "You kissed him?"

"Yes," I said and continued my confession, "It was my first kiss."

"Aw," Roxie cooed, "That's adorable. You had your first kiss in Paris!" She didn't seem one for sappy romance, but she seemed pretty enveloped in my story

"You know I'm going with Alex to the dance, right?" I blurted, suddenly feeling guilty for not telling her earlier, "But I only like him as a friend."

"Why would I care?" Roxie said, suddenly uncomfortable.

"Roxie, don't even go there with me. I've seen this too many times. You like him, a lot."

"Used to," she corrected, "I only used to like him. Not anymore. Anyway, he's evidently moved on."

"What'd you expect? You can hardly look at him, let alone talk to him."

"I know," Roxie sighed again. She was doing that a lot, "Liam seems like he's really interested in you. You two are cute together." I blushed again and brushed my eyes toward the floor. "Ha," she smirked, "Once again the tables have been turned!"

I laughed, "Thank you for this."

"Anytime," Roxie said, "I know you don't want to hear this, but you should talk to Sebastian. He's having a tough time. He just got some bad news from the Headmaster. I know you're mad at him and rightfully so, but even though he won't say it, he really is sorry for whatever he did. He doesn't want to hurt you or anyone else, I know that."

"Bad news?" I raised my eyebrow at her.

"Like I said, you need to talk to him. He's still your friend," and on that note, Roxie left. I hated the thought, but in my heart, I knew she was right. I decided to make use of Roxie's abilities. Tell Sebastian I want to talk to him. Not too much later, there was a light knock on my door.

"You're not going to chew me out again about Silva, are you?" Sebastian asked.

"No, but we need to talk. Come in." Although he followed me, Sebastian stayed as far away as he could. "I wanted to apologize for yesterday," I was probably going to regret this later, "It wasn't my place to judge you."

Sebastian shifted uncomfortably, "About yesterday . . .  "

"Please don't," I muttered.

"Don't I have to say something?"

"It doesn't matter what you have to say about it. That's not why I wanted to see you."

"Well then?" he shrugged.

"Roxie said you had to talk to the Headmaster . . .  Is everything alright?"

Sebastian laughed, but there was no humor behind it, "Define alright."

"What happened?" I'd never seen Sebastian like this. It was like someone had taken everything that mattered from him and then kicked him in the chest for good measure.

"Alice is missing," he uttered, barely audible.

"Missing? What happened?"

"Some high-ups needed someone to help to one of their own escape from a fortress in Rosenheim, Germany. They chose Alice because of her combat knowledge. She wasn't allowed to teleport to the fort because Rosenheim has been captured by the Evelore, who set up a barrier that informs them whenever there is a magical breech into the city. I know that Alice transported herself into Salzburg, Austria. The high-ups set a checkpoint for her halfway there." What's so bad about that? Alice was helping some very important Verum,it seemed. "About a day after leaving Salzburg, she checked in at the midpoint in Cheiming, Germany. She should have arrived in Rosenheim the next day, but she didn't. They waited two days thinking Alice was lost or held up, but she still didn't show. There are twenty-three miles between Cheiming and Rosenheim, and she could be anywhere. They sent out a search party this morning, but so far they haven't had any luck. They think the Evelore ambushed and captured her."

I didn't know what to say to him. I couldn't understand what he was feeling right now, but if he needed me to be there for him, I'd be there. "I'm sure she's fine. They'll find her soon. And if it really is the Evelore, they messed with the wrong Verum. Everything's going to be okay."

"I doubt it," Sebastian muttered.

"Don't say that! What would Alice say if she saw you moping like this right now?"

"She'd tell me to perk up, that things always get better."

"So listen to her," I suggested.

Sebastian smiled just slightly, but then said, "I should go."

"If you need me, I'll be here for you no matter what happens."

Sebastian stopped at the door, "Please let me apologize for yesterday," he whispered.

"There's nothing to say about it," I shrugged.

"You keep saying that, but I know that you're lying."

"I was just upset for Silva's sake. That's all."

"You should have been. I was being a jerk toward both of you. I don't want to hurt Silva. She's one of my best friends. I never should have tried to kiss you like that."

"Whatever," I murmured and shrugged a bit, "What's done is done."

"You won't even look at me," he frowned, "I don't want things be like this between us."

"I don't want this either, but whenever I think about it I want to cry. I'm pushing you away, and every time I see Silva, I feel like I'm lying to her. When she finds out she's going to hate me," I whimpered.

"Silva adores you. Nothing will change that."

"What makes you so sure of that?"

"It's Silva. She can't stay mad at anyone. I've known her my entire life, trust me. She's such a softie."

I brushed tears from my eyes, "I believe you."

"Then you believe me that I won't hurt her?" I nodded. Sebastian had slowly moved closer to me throughout our conversation. "Thank you," he whispered as he hugged me. When he pulled away, he met my eyes and exhaled.

"Sebastian," I whispered, "No." He grabbed my hand, but I didn't stop him. He leaned in and kissed me, soft and light, knowing I could pull away from him at any second. But I didn't, I kissed him back.He was damaged right now, and I couldn't know what my stopping him would do. It was one kiss, I repeated over and over again in my mind, Just one silly little kiss. But no matter how many times I said it, I knew that deep down I didn't believe it. He drew back and took a deep breath.

"I'm sorry. I'll leave." He booked it out of my room, and I buried my face in my pillowed and screamed at the top of my lungs. He was wrong. Silva was going to hate me, and I hated myself.

"Damn it!" I cursed and attacked my pillow, sobbing. It wasn't even that Sebastian kissed me that was upsetting me. I let him kiss me, and I kissed him back. I was leading Sebastian on while hurting Silva, and I didn't even know what to think about Liam. I didn't want to admit it, but ever since I'd met Sebastian that day at my house when he'd rescued me from that disaster, I'd wanted to kiss him too, and it was exactly how I'd expected it to be. Whether I wanted to acknowledge it or not, I was very attracted to Sebastian, almost too attracted. Even the store clerk, Delia, had made a comment about how gorgeous he was.

I was confused. I liked Liam, and I liked Sebastian, but for completely different reasons. I liked Liam because he was sweet, cute, reliable, and loyal. Sebastian, on the other hand, was unpredictable. I never knew what he was going to do, but I liked how he was mysterious, not to mention beautiful and extremely self-confident. The more I thought, the more I felt like an awful person. Sleep came easily to me that night. Despite everything that was on my mind, I was too exhausted to care. If I didn't sleep, I'd be a zombie in my classes tomorrow which wouldn't be good, and Mademoiselle Harlot would have a reason hate me even more than she already did.

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