And a wolf meets his match.
A girl meets a wolf.
Beatrix Cruz – Bee for short – has exactly one goal; kick her dad’s severe depression in the ass. She’s got a foolproof plan;
1. Get into the elite high school Lakecrest Preparatory on a scholarship
2. Study like crazy
3. Graduate into NYU and become a shrink
Nothing can stand in her way – not even Lakecrest’s rich, hot, and notorious Blackthorn brothers. Not Fitz Blackthorn, with his flirting and his elite computer hacking, not Burn Blackthorn, with his intimidating height and emotionless face, and certainly not sinfully handsome Wolf Blackthorn, who hands out ‘red cards’ to students who displease him, and expels the ones who keep doing it.
But when Bee stands up for a student, she pisses off Wolf, and he’s suddenly itching to pull her scholarship from underneath her. To keep it, Bee strikes a deal with the devil – father Blackthorn himself; spy on Mr. Blackthorn’s sons, become friends with them, and learn their secrets in exchange for staying at Lakecrest.
Betraying the Blackthorn brothers’ trust is supposed to be easy.
Becoming friends with the Blackthorn boys makes it hard.
And falling in love with Wolf makes it impossible.
I first fell in love with Sara Wolf’s writing when I stumbled upon Lovely Vicious and each book I’ve read since has just solidified that love. She writes such deep, strong, flawed, amazing characters. You get hooked on the snark and witty banter between characters but it’s the underlying story and message that holds you. Burn Before Reading just captivated me from the beginning, I needed to know what made these characters tick, what were they covering up with their snarky words. And as you follow these characters along you find out so much that makes you really connect to all of them on some level. Because even though this is fiction and dramatized, we’ve all dealt with some the same struggles and feelings. I think that’s what I love the most about Sara’s writing is how real and raw it is.
You know me, paper-and-pen. You know I absolutely despise people who have it easy. And the Blackthorns had it so easy. They were rich. They were gorgeous. And everyone liked them. They lived charmed lives.
Or so I thought at the time.
Anyway, it wasn’t the fact everyone stared at them constantly and would stare at them for the rest of eternity until they left the room that pissed me off. It was the fact they never seemed to care about the attention.
There was Bernard, or Burn, for short. Taller than his brothers by at least a head, he was the oldest of three – a senior. His green eyes were always heavy-lidded, like he was perpetually on the verge of falling asleep, though he had the same dark, thick lashes as his brothers and high cheekbones. I knew he was on the Varsity basketball team, and was the whole reason Lakecrest went to states for four years. He didn’t talk much, but he didn’t need to. With his height and width, he was more than a little intimidating. Some people called him ‘the bear’, half-jokingly, half-terrified. Now that I think about it, he was definitely most of the reason people gave the Blackthorn brothers such a wide berth, physically speaking.
The second brother was Fitzwilliam – Fitz, to everyone outside his family. Aside from the fact their mother was clearly on a big Victorian England trip when she named her sons, he was the most likable. And by ‘likable’ I mean he deigned to acknowledge people. Sometimes. If they were pretty enough for his tastes. He grinned more than the other two brothers. Once, he even winked at a girl, and the poor thing dropped her textbooks on her foot and she limped for a whole week straight with a dumbstruck smile on her face. The teachers and staff at Lakecrest were just as susceptible to his charms – he had a way with a smile and a compliment that got even Mr. Nomsky, the grizzled old English teacher, to soften up. Fitz was part of the computer science club, though I’d heard from the other members he never attended a single after-school meeting.
Fitz had wavy hair like golden lace, neatly slicked-back, and the same green eyes as Burn, but with a friendlier edge to them. He was the only one with freckles on his nose, and he wore his uniform like it was a casual toga – his tie-half loose and his jacket slung over his shoulders. He was the baby of the three, and it showed in the way he never took anything seriously. I had three classes with him, since he was a sophomore, too, and not once did I see him pick up his pencil or try to read the textbook. And strangely enough, the teachers never harped on him to do it, either. I chalked it up to the general unfairness of wealth until I saw his test results; nothing lower than 98% on every single test. And here I was, busting my ass from the time I got home from school till midnight just to make an 80% in one of the most strict, college-oriented curriculums in the country. Needless to say, I hated him. Still do, actually, but back then I hated him without knowing him.
And finally, we came to the grand emperor of all evil – Wolfgang himself. He didn’t always walk in-between the other two, but he seemed to like to, as if they were his personal gargoyles instead of his brothers. Taller than Fitz, but a hair’s shorter than Burn, Wolfgang – or Wolf for short, because of course there’s always a ‘for short’ with them – walked like a sidewinder moves in sand; utter silence and perfect poise. I think that’s what intimidated most people – that he looked like he could never be ruffled, or upset, or tilted off-balance, not even by a passing tornado. There was something unshakeable about the way he held his head, his broad shoulders. It scared people. Well, maybe it was also the fact it looked like he hated everything. Where his brothers’ eyes were green, Wolf’s were brown-green, hazel if you really wanna get all gushy and poetic with something like Satan’s eye color. Regardless, Wolf’s eyes burned. They burned with a deep poison I can only describe as utter contempt. His gaze was always sharp, and started to hurt a bit if you maintained eye contact with him for too long. It was a small mercy his hair was as dark a black and shaggy as it was – it got in his eyes a lot, and put a buffer between the world and his acid-fire. Unlike Fitz, he wore his uniform perfectly pressed, though he always kept several silver rings on different fingers, and it was no secret he played with them, turning them around his skin in idle moments, or even when he walked. The middle brother, Wolf was a junior, and the rumors were already swirling he was poised to go to an Ivy League. He was on the Varsity swimming team, and nothing else.
Burn was the quiet one, Fitz was the flirty one, and Wolf was the nasty one. Everyone knew that.
And as they approached Eric and I, I realized from Eric’s stare and the way he started trembling harder that they were the ones who sent him the post-it. I grabbed it from his fingers and waved it as the Blackthorn brothers came close.
“So you’re the ones who gave Eric this weird, ineffective paper stop-sign, huh?” I asked. Wolf spun a ring on his finger and pointed his volcanic glare at me.
“This doesn’t involve you, scholarshipper. I suggest you keep your nose out of this.” He snarled.
Burn, obviously used to Wolf’s usual venom, closed his eyes and leaned on the lockers like he was taking a casual nap. Fitz turned to the hallway railing and watched the clouds go by, as if he was bored by it all. Scholarshipper. Of course he’d use the fact I’m the only one on scholarship to this school against me. Everyone else had mommies and daddies who could pay for such a prestigious place. I took a deep breath.
“And I suggest you go back to Hot Topic and give them their entire juvenile angst section you’ve clearly gobbled up and repurposed as a personality.”
Burn cracked an eye open. Fitz turned his head over his shoulder, one eyebrow raised. Wolf narrowed his long-lashed eyes to slits. Eric probably peed himself.
“Who do you think you are?” Wolf asked. The way he said it, dark and low and serrated like a knife, made me realize for a split-second why Eric might’ve pissed his pants. Beneath all that rich-boy angst, Wolf had an anger in him, a genuine, awful fire. Burn might’ve been the brawn behind the Blackthorns, and Fitz the affability, but Wolf was the fear.
“I’m just a scholarshipper,” I said brightly to counter his darkness. “Minding her own business.”
“You clearly aren’t,” Fitz chimed in with sweet smile, voice like cool honey compared to Wolf’s ragged one. “This is none of your business.”
“You’re right. One sec.” I held up the post-it and ripped it in half, letting the paper flutter to the floor. I’ve always been one for dramatics. And for a fair fight. Eric versus all three of the Blackthorns wasn’t fair by any definition in the solar system. I smiled at Fitz. “Now it’s my business.”
Sara Wolf is a twenty-something author who adores baking, screaming at her cats, and screaming at herself while she types hilarious things. When she was a kid, she was too busy eating dirt to write her first terrible book. Twenty years later, she picked up a keyboard and started mashing her fists on it and created the monster known as the Lovely Vicious series. She lives in San Diego with two cats, a crippling-yet-refreshing sense of self-doubt, and not enough fruit tarts ever.