The library was at the end of the corridor, so there was no escape. Panicked, Mia dashed behind the sofa and slid down until she was entirely concealed.
It was only then that she truly understood that she had entered that final, innermost circle of hell.
The boys were discussing a love poem.
Not just any love poem, either.
They were puzzling over The Love Song of E. Septimus Brody—in other words, a poem addressed explicitly to Vander—that Mia herself had written. That she had poured her heart, her love, and her tears into.
It wasn’t very good; none of her poems were very good.
Still, it was her poem, and it was supposed to be safely in her desk back home. Not being bandied about at a musicale. And definitely not in the hands of the very boy she’d written it about.
Even in the midst of a wave of nausea, Mia guessed what had happened. Her father had found the poem and thought it would be amusing to share with his mistress, and his mistress had in turn shared it with her son. Mia had been such a fool to give it that title.
At least Vander wasn’t howling with laughter, probably because he couldn’t understand it. He and Thorn were hardly literary types, if a fifteen-year-old boy could be such a thing.
“Do you suppose the part about how moonbeams kiss the sea is some sort of innuendo?” Thorn asked.
Mia rolled her eyes. What an absurd suggestion. He probably still moved his lips when he read.
“I don’t think so,” Vander answered, rather uncertainly. “Let’s toss it in the fire. I don’t want anyone to see it.”
She had scarcely breathed a sigh of relief when there was a clatter of boots and a boy shouted, “I’ve been looking all over for you fellows. One of the Villiers twins just threw up from nerves. It stinks down there!”
“I can’t imagine why you were looking for us, Rotter,” Vander stated, sounding all of a sudden like a future duke. “We told you last week that we wanted nothing more to do with you.”
“Bloody hell, no need to be nasty,” the boy retorted, entirely unmoved by this set-down. “What have you got there?” To Mia’s horror, the question was followed by the sound of a scuffle and tearing paper.
If Dante had conceived of a tenth circle of hell, this was it. Francis Oakenrott was a boy as rotten as his name implied. She had met him twice, at house parties her father dragged her along to. It was a case of mutual loathing-at-first-sight.