‘Then it has to be you!’
‘They can ask, if they like. Or not. As they wish.’ Isabella tilted her chin haughtily. ‘Perry Hutton is – what do you say? – gagging for it. But it’s not as if I care one way or the other.’
Yeah, thought Cassie dryly. Sure.
‘What about Katerina? Is she Head Girl?’
‘Boss Cat, more like.’ Isabella wrinkled her nose.
‘Where’s she from?’
‘Sweden,’ said Isabella carelessly.
Oh, right. So Cassie’s movie-star casting had been spot-on. Not that she could imagine Katerina ever Vanting to Be Alone, though. Who else was Swedish? Abba? Cassie wrinkled her nose. Not such a good comparison.
‘I can see her in a silver catsuit, though,’ she muttered under her breath.
‘What? Oh, look. Here they come.’ Isabella dug her in the ribs.
The chattering throng of students in the marble hall quietened, parting nervously. Through them came the missing students from their maths class, together with another six or seven others, equally beautiful. Some of them – Ayeesha, a blonde girl at her side, and the Irish boy, Cormac – called to friends and peeled off from the haughty group. The others stalked past their fellow students as if no one existed but themselves.
‘They must have finished their Congress. You see? Sir Alric’s favourites cannot even have meetings like anyone else. They have to have a Congress.’
Cassie got the impression Isabella wanted to spit, but her air of mischief was quickly restored. ‘Cassie, come! I must introduce you to Ranjit!’
Why the bolt of sheer terror? Cassie shook her head. He was only a boy. Kind of a beautiful one, though, and even nicer up close. Fanciable. And he had style too. His black jacket was as sharp as anything she’d seen, but he wore it with a casual confidence that Cassie had never seen in someone of her own age. She felt her mind drain of all intelligent thought as Isabella dragged her up to him.
He turned, and Cassie took a breath. He was standing right beneath one of the more stunning statues. God, thought Cassie, he makes Achilles look like a slob …
It was hard to believe those gentle amber eyes had seemed so frightening last night.
Ranjit nodded. ‘Isabella.’
The Argentinian girl kissed him briskly. Cassie hoped she wasn’t going to cut herself on his cheekbones. ‘Ranjit, this is Cassie Bell. She is new here. Say hello!’
‘Hello,’ he said, ‘Cassandra Bell.’
She managed to smile. Or something. More of a grimace, really. She’d never heard such a low and beautiful voice, and it made her insides mush. God Almighty. The only word that popped into her head – apart from wow – was unattainable.
‘Cassandra Bell,’ he repeated. ‘You’re the—’
‘Scholarship girl,’ she said tightly.
Ranjit made an odd face that was half-smile, half-frown. ‘I was going to say, you’re the clever one.’
‘Oh,’ said Cassie lamely. ‘Right.’
‘So, what do you think of the place so far?’
Blimey. He sounded genuinely interested. Perhaps not so unattainable after all.
‘Well, it’s very different—’ she began, but Ranjit’s gaze was already slipping past her.
‘I’m sure,’ he interrupted brusquely, his focus now somewhere over her left shoulder. ‘Well, excuse me.’ And with that he turned away and vanished into the crowd.
Ouch. Cassie had never felt so comprehensively snubbed. Not so interested, then.
‘Oh.’ Coming to a halt beside them, Katerina pouted. ‘Always rushing off. Poor Ranjit. So hard-working.’
Richard was at Katerina’s shoulder, and he murmured in her ear, ‘Didn’t you have something to discuss with him?’
‘I did indeed.’ Smiling, Katerina kissed him on the cheek and slipped away.
Now she’d had a moment to recover, Cassie’s empty feeling of shock was rapidly being filled up with anger. Poor Ranjit, indeed. Who did the stuck-up tosser think he was?
If anyone in this place deserved sympathy, it was Jake. Just about every boy in the hall was surreptitiously ogling Katerina, but the American, belatedly arriving after his scolding from Stolz, was hypnotised. Even when the Swede had disappeared from sight, he still stared after her. Oh, he had it bad all right. But the boy wearing his heart on his sleeve this morning was the same boy who was prowling the corridors last night. What was he up to?
‘Cassie Bell, you’re quite the star.’
Cassie jumped back into reality as Richard took hold of her arms and kissed her cheek before she had time to jerk away.
She gave him a suspicious look. ‘Oh, yeah?’
‘Stolz’s new golden girl – the maths genius. You’ll put me to shame.’
‘Really?’ she said coolly. ‘I thought the rest of us had to cram to keep up with you.’
‘Touché!’ He winked. ‘Not the rest of you. Just the one.’ He leaned closer to whisper in her ear. ‘Actually, me and Jake? It’s pure jealousy on my part. Those hawkish eyes, that grim jaw, the shaved hair. He’s so all-American, they could carve him on Mount Rushmore, couldn’t they?’ Releasing her, he sighed, folding his arms. ‘And that grungy chic! The foppish looks of an Englishman cannot compare.’
Cassie found herself returning his mischievous grin. Well, at least he was honest. Cutely self-deprecating, too. It was an appealing combination, especially coming from a boy who looked as much like a young god as the rest of the Few.