Excerpt from If We Were Villains by M L. Rio, plus links to reviews, author biography & more

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If We Were Villains

by M L. Rio

If We Were Villains by M L. Rio X
If We Were Villains by M L. Rio
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  • First Published:
    Apr 2017, 368 pages
    Paperback:
    Apr 2018, 368 pages

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SCENE 1

The time: September 1997, my fourth and final year at Dellecher Classical Conservatory. The place: Broadwater, Illinois, a small town of almost no consequence. It had been a warm autumn so far.

Enter the players. There were seven of us then, seven bright young things with wide precious futures ahead of us, though we saw no farther than the books in front of our faces. We were always surrounded by books and words and poetry, all the fierce passions of the world bound in leather and vellum. (I blame this in part for what happened.) The Castle library was an airy octagonal room, walled with bookshelves, crowded with sumptuous old furniture, and kept drowsily warm by a monumental fireplace that burned almost constantly, regardless of the temperature outside. The clock on the mantel struck twelve, and we stirred, one by one, like seven statues coming to life.

"'Tis now dead midnight," Richard said. He sat in the largest armchair like it was a throne, long legs outstretched, feet propped up on the grate. Three years of playing kings and conquerors had taught him to sit that way in every chair, onstage or off-. "And by eight o'clock tomorrow we must be made immortal." He closed his book with a snap.

Meredith, curled like a cat on one end of the sofa (while I sprawled like a dog on the other), toyed with one strand of her long auburn hair as she asked, "Where are you going?"

Richard: "Weary with toil, I haste me to my bed—"

Filippa: "Spare us."

Richard: "Early morning and all that."

Alexander: "He says, as if he's concerned."

Wren, sitting cross-legged on a cushion by the hearth and oblivious to the others' bickering, said, "Have you all picked your pieces? I can't decide."

Me: "What about Isabella? Your Isabella's excellent."

Meredith: "Measure's a comedy, you fool. We're auditioning for Caesar."

"I don't know why we bother auditioning at all." Alexander—slumped over the table, wallowing in the darkness at the back of the room—reached for the bottle of Scotch at his elbow. He refilled his glass, took one huge gulp, and grimaced at the rest of us. "I could cast the whole bastarding thing right now."

"How?" I asked. "I never know where I'll end up."

"That's because they always cast you last," Richard said, "as whatever happens to be left over."

"Tsk-tsk," Meredith said. "Are we Richard tonight or are we Dick?"

"Ignore him, Oliver," James said. He sat by himself in the farthest corner, loath to look up from his notebook. He had always been the most serious student in our year, which (probably) explained why he was also the best actor and (certainly) why no one resented him for it.

"There." Alexander had unfolded a wad of ten-dollar bills from his pocket and was counting them out on the table. "That's fifty dollars."

"For what?" Meredith said. "You want a lap dance?"

"Why, are you practicing for after graduation?"

"Bite me."

"Ask nicely."

"Fifty dollars for what?" I said, keen to interrupt. Meredith and Alexander had by far the foulest mouths among the seven of us, and took a perverse kind of pride in out-cussing each other. If we let them, they'd go at it all night.

Alexander tapped the stack of tens with one long finger. "I bet fifty dollars I can call the cast list right now and not be wrong."

Five of us exchanged curious glances; Wren was still frowning into the fireplace.

"All right, let's hear it," Filippa said, with a wan little sigh, as though her curiosity had gotten the better of her.

Alexander pushed his unruly black curls back from his face and said, "Well, obviously Richard will be Caesar."

"Because we all secretly want to kill him?" James asked.

Richard arched one dark eyebrow. "Et tu, Bruté?"

Excerpted from If We Were Villains by M L Rio. Copyright © 2017 by M L Rio. Excerpted by permission of Flatiron Books. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.

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