No one knew for certain when the trouble started at the Colgan School. Some members of its alumni association blamed the decision to admit girls. Others cited newfangled liberal ideals and a general decline in the respect for elders worldwide. But no matter the theory, no one could deny that, recently, life at the Colgan School was different.
Oh, its grounds were still perfectly manicured. Three-quarters of the senior class were already well on their way to being early-accepted to the Ivy League. Photos of presidents and senators and CEOs still lined the dark-paneled hallway outside the headmaster’s office.
But in the old days, no one would ever decline admission to Colgan on the day before classes started, forcing the administration to scramble to fill the slot. Historically, any vacancy would have been met with a waiting list a mile long, but this year, for some reason, there was only one applicant eager to come at that late date.
And most of all, there had been a time when honor meant something at the Colgan School; when school property was respected, when the faculty was revered–when the headmaster’s mint condition 1958 Porsche Speedster wouldnever have been placed on top of the fountain in the quad with water shooting out of its headlights on a particularly warm evening in November.
There had been a time when the girl responsible—the very one who had lucked into that last-minute vacancy only a few months before—would have had the decency to admit what she’d done and quietly take her leave of the school. But, unfortunately, that era, much like the headmaster’s car, was finished.
Two days after Porsche-gate, as the students had taken to calling it, the girl in question had the nerve to sit in the hallway of the administration building beneath the black-and-white stare of three senators, two presidents, and a Supreme Court justice, with her head held high, as if she had done nothing wrong.
More students than usual filed down the corridor that day, going out of their way to steal a glance and whisper behind cupped hands.
“She’s the one I was telling you about.”
“How do you think she did it?”
Any other student might have flinched in that bright spotlight, but from the moment Katarina Bishop had set foot on the Colgan campus, she’d been something of an enigma. Some said she gained her last minute slot at the school because she was the daughter of an incredibly wealthy European businessman who had made a very large donation. Some looked at her perfect posture and cool demeanor, rolled her first name across their tongues and assumed that she was Russian royalty—one of the last of the Romanoffs.
Some called her a hero.
Others called her a freak.
Everyone had heard a different story, but no one knew the truth—that Kat really had grown up all over Europe, but she wasn’t an heiress. That she did, in fact, have a Faberge egg, but she wasn’t a Romanoff. Kat could have added a thousand rumors to the mill, but she stayed quiet, knowing that the only thing no one would believe was the truth.
“Katarina?” the headmaster’s secretary said. “The board will see you now.”
Kat got up, but as she stepped toward the open door twenty feet from the headmaster’s office she heard her shoes squeak; she felt her hands tingle. Every nerve in her body seemed to stand on end as she realized that somehow in the last three months she had become someone who wears squeaky shoes.
That, whether she liked it or not, they were going to hear her coming.