Winter (A Four Seasons Novel) Online - Nikita Rae

THE NAMES of the men my father killed are a mantra, a twisted beat to accompany the throb of my heart and every single step I take through life. Sam O’Brady. Jefferson Kyle. Adam Bright. Sam O’Brady. Jefferson Kyle. Adam Bright.

When I breathe in, it’s Sam. When I breathe out, it’s Jefferson, or Jeff depending on how well you knew him. Adam exists somewhere in the space between breaths, the stretched out moments when I forget to breathe at all. I knew Adam. He was Maggie’s father, the basketball coach at Breakwater High. His brother was the town’s mayor, so everyone had known his face.

I had this dream that once I escaped the confines of Breakwater, things would change for me, things wouldn’t be as hard, but I haven’t taken any chances. My family name is synonymous with pain and murder no matter where I seem to go, and that’s why I’ve abandoned it. That’s why, when I left my past behind in small town Wyoming to come to college, I became Avery Patterson.

“Avery! Hey, Avery! Wait up!” Morgan Kepler jogs after me down the corridor as I exit my English class. She either recognizes me by my bright blonde hair, or because I’m clutching my file to my chest, keeping my head down like always. I give her a smile as I hurry out of the School of International and Public Affairs, one of the most infamous landmarks of Columbia University. Morgan, for some reason, has befriended me. She’s wild and outspoken in a way I never have been. Maybe I would have turned out like her if my father hadn’t shot three men dead when I was fourteen years old. But then again, who knows who I could have been.

Morgan smells like mint gum and Issey Miyake. She flashes me a bright smile when she pitches up at my side, nudging me with her shoulder. “Are you coming to the ceilidh tonight?” The word, sounding like ‘kaylee’, is foreign to me.

“The what now?”

She twists her dark auburn hair around her index finger and grins. “Tate says it’s Irish for party. The girls from Upsilon are dressing up as sexy leprechauns. Didn’t you get the memo?”

I groan, hiding behind my folder. “No way, Kepler.” Sexy leprechauns my ass. I’m not spending my evening hanging out with a bunch of Xanax popping, neurotic bitches. Especially when it’s a Thursday and last time I checked, classes aren’t done ‘til Friday. “I’m not partying tonight. I have midterms next week.”

“So do I,” Morgan laughs. “But that doesn’t mean I can’t give myself one night off!” She lets go of her own hair to tug at mine, and I find myself wishing I’d given in to the insane urge I’d had to chop it all off a few nights back. If it were an inch long instead of curling loosely well past my shoulders, she would have nothing to grab hold of. And guys wouldn’t stare at me whenever I passed them in the corridor, making assumptions based on my appearance, like I just know they do. After all, the majority of girls at Columbia with hair my color get it out of a bottle and are known for being all party.

I slap Morgan’s hand away and give her a tight smile. “I’m no good at cramming. I have to work harder than you to score a good grade. You don’t want me to crash and burn, do you? I’ll be a massive failure and no one will hire me. I’d have to come live with you for the rest of my life. You’ll be forever wishing you’d let me alone so I could concentrate.”

“Pssshhh.” She tips her head back and moans. “Please! We’re going to be living together after college, anyway. And besides, you’re never gonna be home. You’re going to be some hotshot journo that gets invited to all the celeb parties, out all night harassing the A-list elite for the inside track on their failing marriages and boob jobs.”

Morgan has entirely the wrong idea about why I want to become a journalist. The very last thing I have in mind is reporting on the society and celebrity columns. “Yeah, real funny.”

“Avery!” Morgan hooks her arm through mine and pulls me off my path toward the Low Memorial Library, instead guiding me off campus, towards Morningside Heights, where we both live. “You have to start enjoying yourself.” She gives me the look she reserves only for me, the one that says I’m