AVAILABLE DECEMBER 31ST 2019/ MIRA
Goode girls don’t lie…
Perched atop a hill in the tiny town of Marchburg, Virginia, The Goode School is a prestigious prep school known as a Silent Ivy. The boarding school of choice for daughters of the rich and influential, it accepts only the best and the brightest. Its elite status, long-held traditions and honor code are ideal for preparing exceptional young women for brilliant futures at Ivy League universities and beyond. But a stranger has come to Goode, and this ivy has turned poisonous.
In a world where appearances are everything, as long as students pretend to follow the rules, no one questions the cruelties of the secret societies or the dubious behavior of the privileged young women who expect to get away with murder. But when a popular student is found dead, the truth cannot be ignored. Rumors suggest she was struggling with a secret that drove her to suicide.
But look closely…because there are truths and there are lies, and then there is everything that really happened.
J.T. Ellison’s pulse-pounding new novel examines the tenuous bonds of friendship, the power of lies and the desperate lengths people will go to to protect their secrets.
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The room next to ours looks exactly the same, like it’s out of a sleek, modern hotel. The “something” Piper offers is a black satin sheath with a black lace overlay. Simple. Elegant. An Audrey Hepburn movie costume. She hands it over, the price tag still dangling from the collar. Rents can be paid with such a sum.
“You can keep it. I have another almost identical,” Piper says.
I demur and hand it back. “Thanks. I’ll take my chances with the dean.”
Piper shrugs and hangs the dress back up in the wooden wardrobe. “Suit yourself. If you keep your robe tight, maybe she won’t notice. It’ll be in your wardrobe with your uniform skirts—standard issue, everyone gets them. The seniors’ stoles are black with a white stripe, we lowly sophomores are blue. Freshmen are red—they stand out, trust me, I felt like I had a target on my back all last year—and juniors are dark green. Graduation stoles are different, multicolored based on your area of study, just like a college. I’m ready for the black-and-white stoles, they’re so much easier to match. Our blue—” she pulls the stole out of her gown; it is a sickly pewter blue and doesn’t work with her coloring at all “—is a pain, I look terrible in it. Though you can imagine how I clashed with the red last year. You will need to get some dressy clothes, though, we have a lot of formal events.”
She closes the wardrobe and faces me, looking me up and down with cool, inscrutable blue eyes. She would look severe if it weren’t for the freckles. They ruin the seriousness of her demeanor. She will always look like a girl, not a woman, even when she’s fifty.
“You might as well stick to black. It goes with everything, looks good under the robes, and your coloring is perfect for it.”
“Black. Right.” The color of mourning. I’ve been in black a lot recently.
“I’ll take you shopping if you want. There’s a nice little boutique around the corner. Next to the laundry, which is part of the restaurant where we eat on the weekend, Jacob’s Ladder. It has a pool table, too. It’s not exactly couture, but they’ll have a skirt or two that will work. What else do you need to know? Oh, stay away from the handyman. He’s a creeper. And remember not to walk alone along the back path through Selden Arboretum if you take the shortcut.” Her voice has taken on the warning edge I’ve already heard several times this afternoon.
“Not another ‘I won’t graduate’ legend?”
“Oh, no. The arboretum is haunted.”
“Haunted. A path? Ludicrous.”
“Seriously. It cuts through the woods, and a girl was murdered there.”
“How horrible. When?”
“Ten years ago. That’s when Dean Westhaven—the current Dean Westhaven, I mean—took over from her mother. It’s why she’s so young. She was only twenty-five when it happened. The board sent Westhaven the elder packing over the bad PR. The student, Ellie Robertson, she was the heir to some massive New England fortune, I don’t remember whose. Her dad has serious pull and, after the whole incident, got the dean removed.”
“The incident? That’s a mild word for a murder.”
“The school’s verbiage. They’re always in publicity mode. Ellie had been complaining to anyone who would listen, the dean, school security, teachers, about a townie who was stalking her and the dean didn’t do anything about it. One night, late, the guy followed her home from the laundry and killed her behind the dorms. Raped her, too. There are varying stories about the damage he did to her face, but supposedly, he carved out her eyes and took them home with him. They found them on his mantel. Really freaky shit.”
An intense shiver goes down my spine. “I’ll say.”
“So seriously, you never walk the arboretum path alone. Even if it’s not haunted, it’s creepy and not safe. It’s outside the walls.” This last is said with such earnestness I simply nod.
“Outside the walls equals not safe alone. Got it.” “And stay out of the attics. They’re totally haunted. Supposedly, one of the secret societies found several sets of infants’ bones up there a few years ago, in between the ceiling and the wall. I don’t know what they were doing there.”
“The bones. They were probably the children of some of the girls who lived here, stillborns and the like. You’d think they’d bury them, the graveyard is actually pretty cool.”
“Brilliant. Haunted attics with infant bones in the walls. This sounds like a stellar place.”
“Well, Goode is old, and when you get old, you get weird. Oh, I almost forgot, be careful in the tunnels.”
“There was an Underground Railroad through here. You know what that is, right?”
“Vaguely. To do with slavery, yes?”
“We were a safe haven from the plantations down South to the free North. Pretty cool. The grounds are littered with tunnels and old cottages, but they’re totally off-limits. They’re dangerous, and most of them have collapsed in on themselves.”
“Where would I find one?”
“I don’t know, actually. I’ve only been told to stay away.”
The deep, resonating peal of a very old bell shudders through the building, making me jump nearly out of my skin.
Piper intones, “For whom the bell tolls… Don’t worry, Ash. You’ll get used to it. Even when the hauntings happen, the bells toll and chase away the ghosts. They don’t like the noise.”
She smiles, and I feel a spark of hope. She might be a friend, eventually.
“I can’t imagine why not. It’s unbelievably loud.”
“It’s really not to chase away ghosts. It’s so we never try to use not hearing the bell as an excuse for being late.”
Camille sticks her head in the door. “Are you two coming? You heard the bells, we’re going to be late. Ash, why haven’t you changed yet? Hurry! I don’t want JPs on my first day!”
“Judicial points. It’s like demerits. Get five and you’re stuck in Saturday school. Hurry!”
Mum’s voice rings in my head. Pride goeth before the fall…
“Hey, Piper? Thanks for the warning, and the offer of the dress. I would appreciate borrowing it. But just for today, until I get some of my own.”
“Sure thing,” Piper says, handing it over. I run back to the room, strip, and throw the dress over my head, careful to make sure the price tag is tucked into the collar. I fully intend to hand it back after dinner, though I should probably have it cleaned. The trainers I’m wearing will not do. I have a pair of black flats tucked away in my bag, shoved into the shafts of my beat-up Dr. Martens. I dig through the bag; the boots are at the bottom. The second dong of the bell shakes the building, and by the third, I’m out in the hall, fully clothed, gowned, and shod, and we are racing down the stairs with the rest of the stragglers, out the back of Main Hall toward the chapel.