Authors: Brenda Drake
This book is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places, and incidents are the product of the author’s imagination or are used fictitiously. Any resemblance to actual events, locales, or persons, living or dead, is coincidental.
Copyright © 2016 by Brenda Drake. All rights reserved, including the right to reproduce, distribute, or transmit in any form or by any means. For information regarding subsidiary rights, please contact the Publisher.
Entangled Publishing, LLC
2614 South Timberline Road
Fort Collins, CO 80525
Entangled Teen is an imprint of Entangled Publishing, LLC.
Visit our website at www.entangledpublishing.com.
Edited by Liz Pelletier
Cover design by Alexandra Shostak and Kelley York
Interior design by Heather Howland
Photos by Shutterstock/31moonlight31
Ebook ISBN 978-1-63375-222-1
Manufactured in the United States of America
First Edition January 2016
For those not afraid to jump no matter the dangers.
And to Kayla, my first fan, who is fearless.
nly God and the vendors at Haymarket wake early on Saturday mornings. The bloated clouds spattered rain against my faded red umbrella. I strangled the wobbly handle and dodged shoppers along the tiny makeshift aisle of Boston’s famous outdoor produce market. The site, just off the North End, was totally packed and stinky. The fruits and vegetables for sale were rejects from nearby supermarkets—basically, they were cheap and somewhat edible. The briny decay of flesh wafted in the air around the fishmongers.
I cupped my hand over my nose, rushing past their stands.
My sandals slapped puddles on the sidewalk. Rain slobbered on my legs, making them slick and cold, sending shivers across my skin. I skittered around a group of slow-moving tourists, cursing Afton for insisting I get up early and wear a skirt today.
Finally breaking through the crowd, I charged up the street to the Haymarket entrance to the T.
Under a black umbrella across the street, a beautiful girl with cocoa skin and dark curls huddled next to a guy with equally dark hair and an olive complexion—my two best friends. Nick held the handle while Afton leaned against him to avoid getting wet. Nick’s full-face smile told me he enjoyed sharing an umbrella with her.
“Hey, Gia!” Afton yelled over the swooshing of tires across the wet pavement and the insistent honking of aggravated motorists.
I waited for the traffic to clear, missing several opportunities to cross the street. I swallowed hard and took a step down.
You can do this, Gia. No one is going to run you over. Intentionally.
A car turned onto the street, and I quickly hopped back onto the curb. I’d never gotten over my old fears. When the street cleared enough for an elderly person to cross in a walker, I wiped my clammy palms on my skirt and sprinted to the center of the street.
“You have to get over your phobia,” Nick called to me. “You live in Boston! Traffic is everywhere!”
“It’s okay!” Afton elbowed Nick. “Take your time!”
I took a deep breath and raced across to them.
“Nice. I’m impressed. You actually wore a skirt instead of jeans,” Nick said, inspecting my bare legs.
My face warmed. “Wait. Did you just give me a compliment?”
“Well, except…” He hesitated. “You walk like a boy.”
“Never mind him. With legs like that, it doesn’t matter how you walk. Come on.” Afton hooked her arm around mine. “I can’t wait for you to see the Athenæum. It’s so amazing. You’re going to love it.”
I groaned and let her drag me down the steps after Nick. “I’d probably love it just as much later in the day.”
As we approached the platform, the train squealed to a stop. We squeezed into its belly with the other passengers and then grasped the nearest bars as the car jolted down the rails. Several minutes later, the train coasted into the Park Street Station. We followed the flow of people up the stairs and to the Boston Common, stopping in Afton’s favorite café for lattes and scones. Lost in gossip and our plans for the summer, nearly two hours went by before we headed for the library.
When we reached Beacon Street, excitement—or maybe the two cups of coffee I had downed before leaving the café—hit me. We weren’t going to just any library. We were going to the Boston Athenæum, an exclusive library with a pricey annual fee. Afton’s father got her a membership at the start of summer. It’s a good thing her membership allows tagalongs, since my pop would never splurge like that, not when the public library is free. Which I didn’t get, because it wasn’t that expensive and would totally be worth it.
“We’re here,” Afton said. “Ten and a half Beacon Street. Isn’t it beautiful? The facade is Neoclassical.”
I glanced up at the building. The library walls, which were more than two hundred years old, held tons of history. Nathaniel Hawthorne swore he saw a ghost here once, which I think he probably made up, since he was such a skilled storyteller. “Yeah, it is. Didn’t you sketch this building?”
“I did.” She bumped me with her shoulder. “I didn’t think you actually paid attention to my drawings.”
“Well, I do.”
Nick pushed open the crimson door to the private realm of the Athenæum, and I chased Afton and Nick up the white marble steps and into the vestibule. Afton showed her membership card at the reception desk. I removed my notebook and pencil from my messenger bag before we dropped it, Afton’s purse, and our umbrellas off at the coat check.
Pliable brown linoleum floors muffled our footsteps into the exhibit room. A tiny elevator from another era carried us to an upper level of the library, where bookcases brimming with leather-bound books stood against every wall.
Overhead, more bookcases nested in balconies behind lattice railings. The place dripped with cornices and embellishments. Sweeping ceilings and large windows gave the library an open feel. Every wall held artwork, and antique treasures rested in each corner. It was a library lover’s dream, rich with history. My dream.
A memory grabbed my heart. I was about eight and missing my mother, and Nana Kearns took me to a library. She’d said, “Gia, you can never be lonely in the company of books.” I wished Nana were here to experience this with me.
“Did you know they have George Washington’s personal library here?” Afton’s voice pulled me from my thoughts.
“No. I wonder where they keep it,” I said.
Nick gaped at a naked sculpture of Venus. “Locked up somewhere, I guess.”
The clapping of my sandals against my heels echoed in the quiet, and I winced at each smack. Nick snorted while trying to stifle a laugh. I glared at him. “Quit it.”
“Shhh,” Afton hissed.
We shuffled into a reading room with forest green walls. Several busts of famous men balancing on white pedestals surrounded the area. A snobby-looking girl with straight blond hair sat at one of the large walnut tables in the middle of the room, tapping a pencil against the surface as she read a book.
“Prada,” Afton said.
I gave her a puzzled look. “What?”
“Her sandals. And the watch on her wrist… Coach.”
I took her word on that because I wouldn’t know designer stuff if it hit me on the head.
Nick’s gaze flicked over the girl. “This is cool. I think I’ll stay here.”
“Whatever.” Afton glared at Nick’s back. “We’re going exploring. When you’re finished gawking, come find us.”
“Okay,” Nick said, clearly distracted, sneaking looks at the girl.
I slid my feet across the floor to the elevators, trying to avoid the dreaded clap of rubber. “Are you okay?”
“I’m fine.” By the tone in Afton’s voice, I suspected she didn’t like Nick ditching us.
“At least we get some girl time,” I said.
I must have sounded a little too peppy, because she rolled her eyes at me. She pushed the down button on the elevator. “Yeah, I can give you the tour before we get to work. The Children’s Library has some cool stuff in it.”
I didn’t see the point of riding an elevator when you could get some exercise in. “We could take the stairs. You know, cardio?”
. My feet are killing me in these heels.” The doors slid open, and we stepped inside. “Did you know there’s a book here bound in human skin?”
“No. Really?” The elevator dropped and my stomach slumped.
Afton removed her sweater and then draped it over her arm. “Really. I saw it.”
“You can’t tell it’s actual skin,” she said. “They treat it or dye it or something, silly.”
“I bet they
” The doors rattled apart. There was a slight bounce as we exited the elevator, and I clutched the doorframe. The corner of Afton’s lip rose slightly, and I knew her mood was improving. I released my death grip on the frame then followed her into the hallway. “Besides, isn’t it illegal or something?”
“Well, the book is from the nineteenth century.” Afton shrugged a shoulder. “Who knows what was legal back then?”
“Why would they even do that?” This entire conversation was making
“It’s a confession from a thief. Before he died, he requested his own skin be used for the book’s cover.” The spaghetti strap on Afton’s sundress fell down her arm, exposing part of her lacey bra, and she slipped it back in place.
A thirty-something guy passing us gaped, then averted his eyes and hurried his steps, probably realizing Afton’s underage status. I rolled my eyes at him.
Every single move Afton made was sexy. Nick was right. I walked like a guy. I leaned into her side. “Did you just see that perv check you out?”
“Oh, really?” She looked over her shoulder. “He’s not all that bad for an older man.”
“You seriously need a therapist. He’s almost Pop’s age.”
She laughed, grabbed my arm, and turned on her scary narrator voice. “They say this library is haunted.”
“Stop it. Are you trying to freak me out?”
She snickered. “You’re such a baby.”
We stepped into the Children’s Library and stopped in the center of the room. A massive light fixture designed to resemble the solar system dominated the ceiling. The hushed rumble of two male voices came from one of the reading nooks. I crossed the room, paused at the built-in aquarium, and inspected the fish. Afton halted beside me.
“This is great,” I whispered, not wanting to disturb whoever was in there with us. “Fish and books. What’s not to love?” Spotting a sign referencing classic books, I searched the shelves for my all-time favorite novel.
The male voices stopped and there was movement on the other side of the bookcase. I paused to listen, and when the voices started up again, I continued my hunt.
Warmth rushed over me when I found
The Secret Garden
. With its aged green cover, it was the same edition I remembered reading as a young girl. The illustrations inside were beautiful, and I just had to show them to Afton. Coming around the corner of the case, a little too fast for being in a library, I bumped into a guy dressed in leather biker gear. My book and notebook fell and slapped against the floor.
“Oh, I’m so sorry—” I lost all train of thought at the sight of him. He was gorgeous with tousled brown hair and dark eyes. Tall. He flashed me a crooked smile, a hint of dimples forming in his cheeks, before bending over and picking up my forgotten book.
He held the book out to me. “
Mistress Mary, quite contrary, how does your garden grow?
” He’d quoted a verse from
The Secret Garden
with a sexy accent that tickled my ears.
I stood there like an idiot, my heart pounding hard against my chest, unable to think of a response. The fact that he had read the book and could recite a line from it stunned me. And impressed me.
Say something. Anything.
“Good read there,” he said when it was obvious I wasn’t going to speak. He winked and nodded to a guy behind him before ambling off. When he reached the end of the row, he paused and glanced back at me, flashing me another killer smile, and then he disappeared around the bookcase.
Tingles rose in my stomach.
He looked back at me.
The guy following his Royal Hotness gave me a final appraisal before departing. His stringy blond hair hung over his large forehead. It looked like he hadn’t washed it in weeks, and there was probably an acne breeding ground under it. He grinned, and I broke eye contact with him, making for the nearest window.
Oh God, you’re so lame, Gia. You could have finished the quote or anything less tragic than not speaking at all.
The response I would have said played in my head.
With silver bells, and cockleshells, and marigolds all in a row.
Why? Why hadn’t I said that?
The window overlooked the Granary Burying Grounds. I hugged my books to my chest and spoke to Afton’s reflection in the windowpane, listening to the guys’ boots retreating from the room, not daring to sneak a look. “I’ve been to that graveyard before. Mother Goose is buried there.”
She strained her neck forward to view the tombstones below.
I shifted to face her. “Did you see that guy? He was—he was—” I was still at a loss for words.
“Probably European by the sound of his accent,” she said, her eyes shifting over the tourists weaving around the gravestones below. “The taller one is delicious, though.”
“I know, and I just stood there. He talked to me, and I just stood there.”
“Well, maybe you’ll see him again.” Her outlook was always positive.
I sagged against the window frame. “I’d probably make a fool of myself again.”
“I don’t get the appeal,” she said, squinting out the window then straightening. “It’s just a bunch of old stones etched with names you can hardly read.”
I feigned a shocked expression. “It’s history. Sam Adams and Paul Revere are buried there.”
“Don’t you get enough history in school?”
“Never. I could walk in it all day.”
We sat at one of the tables, flipping through picture books. It was Afton’s favorite thing to do at libraries. The illustrations inspired her art.
Afton sighed. “I’m hungry. Let’s get some lunch.”
We grabbed our bags from the coat check and texted Nick. He told us to go without him. Afton and I gave each other puzzled looks. He never refused food. We downed lemonades and pretzels on the Common then returned to the Athenæum. I sent a message to Nick that we were back before checking in my bag.
After Afton dragged me on a tour from breathtaking rooms framed by towering bookcases and soaring windows to a balconied patio, we rode one of the small elevators to the fifth-floor reading room. Except for a few patrons, the area was vacant. We found the books we needed for Afton’s and Nick’s summer projects and then settled at one of the tables in the middle of the room. The sucky part about going to a private school was that each summer we had to write an essay over the break. Since I hated having to-do lists hanging over my head, I’d finished mine already.
“Mint?” Afton extended a tin while flipping through a small textbook on Crispus Attucks, an African American minuteman shot during the Boston Massacre.