First Look: Chapter 1 through 3 of Sweet Nightmare by Tracy Wolff!

“I’m safe…at least until the next time.” 

Welcome to Calder Academy, where it’s never just a bad dream…these nightmares have teeth.

We are so in love with Sweet Nightmare and excited to give you a preview of this incredible paranormal romantasy from #1 New York Times bestselling author, Tracy Wolff. 

Prepare yourself because these first three chapters will pull you into this world and get your heart racing!

Ready to meet Clementine Calder and experience some of what is haunting and hunting her at Calder Academy? Enjoy this early look and come back on Wednesday at 12:00pm EST to find out who wins the showdown! 




– JUDE –

I know your worst nightmare.

No, not that one. The other one.

The one you don’t trot out at parties.

The one you don’t whisper to your best friend late at night.

The one you don’t even acknowledge to yourself until it’s three a.m. and the lights are out and you’re too paralyzed with fear to even reach your arm out and flick on the bedside lamp. So you lay there, heart racing, blood pumping, ears straining for the slide of the window, the creak of the door, the footstep on the stairs. 

The monster under the bed.

The monster inside your head. 

Don’t be ashamed. Everyone has one—even me.

Mine always starts out the same.

Full moon. Hot, sticky air. Moss hanging low enough to brush your face on a late-night walk. Waves crashing against the shore. A cottage—a girl—a storm—a dream, forever out of reach.

I know it doesn’t sound like much, but the story isn’t in the setup. It’s in the blood and the betrayal. 

So fall asleep if you dare. But don’t say I didn’t warn you. Because the only thing I can promise is that my nightmares are worse than yours.







 Of all the punishments this school for misfits and fuckups could throw at a person, I can’t believe I’m stuck with this one. Just last week, one of the new vamps nearly drained a witch and all she got was dish duty. 

 Ironic? Absolutely.

 Fair? Not even close. 

 Then again, here at Calder Academy, fair is pretty much a nebulous concept, right up there with safety and good judgment. Hence the reason my mother—aka the headmaster not-so-extraordinaire of this not-so-extraordinary establishment—thinks assigning me to chrickler duty is actually a reasonable thing for an administrator to do. 

 Spoiler alert: it’s not. It is, however, absolutely miserable. Not to mention dangerous as hell.

 Still, nearly three years of this nightmare have taught me a few tricks—chief among them, to walk softly—and slowly—and carry a really big bag of kibble.

 A quick scan of the large, shadowy enclosure shows me the food has once again done its job. The little monsters are actually distracted—at least for now.

 With that thought in mind, I take a small, calculated step back toward the door. When none of the chricklers raises so much as a furry eyebrow, let alone actually looks up from their long troughs full of kibble, I take another. And another. The old, wooden door that separates me from the basement hallway is almost in reach. A couple more steps and I might actually make it out of here without losing any blood.

 Hope, like assholery, springs eternal. 

 A drop of sweat slides down my spine as I take another cautious step backward. Then I hold my breath as I reach behind me for the old-fashioned latch that keeps the chricklers—and me—locked in this cool, dark pen.

 But the moment my fingers touch the lock, a huge clap of thunder rumbles across the sky.

 Shit, shit, shit.

 Hundreds of heads lift at the same exact time—and every single one of them turns straight toward me. Eyes narrow. Teeth flash. Growls echo off the rough stone walls. 

 And just like that, I’m totally fucked.

 Nails skitter across the floor as they race toward me as one.

 Fuck slow and steady. I whirl around and dive for the door just as the first wave reaches me. 

 Nails rake down my calves as I fumble for the door. I shake off the first few then gasp as teeth tear into my thigh and hip. Reaching down with one hand, I rip several more of the little bastards off of me. 

 But one enterprising chrickler manages to hang tight as it climbs up my back. It’s got long, pointy teeth that scrape a gash across my shoulder while its longer, even pointier claws drag straight down my right biceps as it tries to hang on. I muffle a yelp as fresh blood—my blood—hits the toe of my battered but beloved Adidas Gazelles, but I don’t bother trying to pull it off a second time. Freedom is right here. I just have to reach out and take it…and avoid getting swarmed yet again while I do. I flounder around trying to flip the iron latch. The lever is ancient and likes to jam—but I’ve done this enough to know all the tricks. I push the left side in, jimmy the right side up, and pull as hard as I can. The latch gives way just as another chrickler—or maybe the same one, who can tell at this point—bites down hard on my ankle. To shake it off, I kick straight back as hard as I can and wildly thrash my leg around while simultaneously yanking on the door, also as hard as I can. It’s heavy and my shoulder is throbbing, but I ignore the pain as the door finally moves. I rip the last chrickler off my shoulder and dive through an opening barely wider than my hips before slamming the door close behind me. 

 To make sure nothing follows me out—chricklers are sneaky like that—I throw my back against the old wood as hard as I can. Just as I do, my best friend, Luis, saunters into the dim light of the basement hallway. “Looking for something?” He holds up my first aid kit, then stops short as he finally gets a good look at me. “Damn, Clementine. Has anyone ever told you that you really know how to make an entrance?”

 “Don’t you mean an exit?” I rasp, ignoring the horrified look on his face. “The incoming storm must have riled up the chricklers more than usual today.”

 “‘Riled up’? Is that what you want to call it?” he shoots back but is nearly drowned out by a loud, animalistic crying coming from behind the door. “What is that godawful noise?”

 “I don’t know.” I glance around, but I don’t see anything. Then again, this entire hallway is lit up by exactly one sad, bare lightbulb hanging from the ceiling, so it’s not like I’ve got a fantastic view. Like the rest of this school, darkness is definitely the basement’s friend. 

 But the crying is definitely getting louder…and now I can tell it’s coming from inside the pen.

 “Oh, shit.” As I slide the last lock into place, I see a small chrickler paw caught between the door and the frame.

 Luis follows my stare. “Fuck, no. Clementine, don’t even think about it!”

 I know he’s right, but— “I can’t just leave the poor thing like that.” 

 “That ‘poor thing’ just tried to eat your entrails!” he shoots back. 

 “I know! Believe me, I know!” Considering how many parts of my body are currently throbbing, it would be impossible for me to forget about it. 

 He rolls his silver wolf eyes so hard I’m a little surprised they don’t actually disappear into his skull.

 By now the crying has turned into muffled little yelps and I can’t just leave the thing like that, monster or not. “I have to open the door, Luis.”

 “Damn it, Clementine!” But even as he says it, he’s moving behind me to back me up. “I want the record to state that I oppose this decision.” 

 “The record shall so reflect,” I tell him as I take a deep breath and reluctantly flip open the lock I just closed. “Here goes nothing.”





 “Keep your hand on the door!” Luis urges as he leans over my shoulder to micromanage, something he tries to do in so many areas of my life.

 “I’m planning on it,” I answer, wrapping one hand around the handle and bracing the second one directly above it so I can push the door shut as soon as the chrickler’s paw slips free.

 I pull what I’m hoping is just hard enough, and the second the paw slips back through the opening, I throw all my weight behind the door and slam it shut again as hard as I can. By some miracle, I actually manage not to create a new disaster.

 A chorus of outraged yowls arises from the enclosure, but nothing escapes.

 I’m safe…at least until the next time.

 Exhausted now that the last burst of adrenaline has left my body, I lean back against the door, slide down until my butt hits the floor, and then breathe. Just breathe.

 Luis sinks down next to me, nodding to the first aid kit he’s dropped a few feet away. He’s taken to bringing it down here for me every day that I have chrickler duty—and, unfortunately, I’ve rarely not needed it. “We might want to get started patching you up. The bell’s going to ring in a few minutes.”

 I groan. “I thought I was getting faster at this.”

 “There’s faster and then there’s fast,” he says with a rueful grin. “You really don’t have to make sure every single one of the little monsters’ bowls is filled with perfectly cold ice water. Room temp will suffice.”

 “It’s September. In Texas. Cold water is a necessity.”

 “And what thanks do you get for your concern?” His black hair flops over his left eye as he looks at the shredded sleeve of my T-shirt—and the deep scratches below.

 It’s my turn to roll my eyes as I reach for the first aid kit. “The headmaster stays off my back?”

 “I’m sure your mother would understand you giving them room-temperature water if it means saving yourself copious amounts of blood loss. She is the one who insists on boarding these damn things, after all.” He eyes the large Band-Aid I’ve extracted from the kit as we’ve been talking. “Want help with that?”

 “Maybe,” I answer grudgingly. “Just do the one on my back, okay? And I think the whole point of chrickler duty is that it’s a punishment, so I am not sure my mother has my feelings at the top of her list.”

 He snorts in acknowledgment of this truth as he drags the collar of my red uniform shirt down just enough so that he can slap the bandage on my scratched and still-bleeding shoulder. “But it’s not like you got yourself sent to this school for some nefarious deed or big, bad behavior like the rest of us.”

 “And yet here I am. The joys of being a Calder…”

 “Yeah, well, Calder or not, you’ve got to lay off chrickler duty or I don’t think you’ll actually make it to graduation.”

 “Oh, I’m making it to graduation,” I tell him as I slap on a few more bandages, “if for no other reason than I can finally, finally, get the hell off this island.”

 I’ve been counting down the days since freshman year. Now that I’m finally a senior, I’m not about to let anything stand in the way of me getting out of this hellhole and actually starting a life somewhere where I don’t have to watch my back—and every other part of myself—every second of every day.

 “One more year,” Luis says as he holds out a hand for the first aid kit. “Then we’re both out of here.”

 “More like two hundred and sixty-one days.” I shove the box of bandages back in the first aid kit and hand it to him. Then I push to my feet, ignoring all the places that hurt.

 As we start down the depressingly dank hallway, the lightbulb starts to sway and sizzle in the completely still corridor. “What the hell is that?” asks Luis.

 “A strong suggestion that we get a move on,” I answer, because lingering in the Calder Academy basement/dungeon is never a good idea. But before we can take more than a few steps, the bulb makes a popping sound. Seconds later, a bunch of sparks explode out of it—right before the hallway is plunged into darkness.

 “Well, this certainly isn’t eerie at all,” Luis deadpans, coming to a complete stop to peer hesitantly into the black.

 “You can’t honestly be afraid of the dark, can you?” I can’t resist goading him as I pull my phone out of my pocket.

 “Of course not. I am a wolf, you know. I do have night vision.” 

 “Doesn’t make you less of a chicken,” I tease.

 I swipe my thumb across the flashlight app on my phone and shine the light straight down the hallway.

 After all, the chricklers aren’t the only monsters down here—just the smallest and the nicest.

 As if on cue, the door directly in front of Luis shakes violently on its hinges.

 We don’t need any additional motivation. We both take off running, the beam of the phone flashlight bouncing along with my strides. As I look behind me to make sure that nothing is following us, the beam catches what looks like a hulking shadow in the adjacent corridor. I swing the light in its direction, but nothing’s there.

 My stomach clenches because I know I saw something. But then a loud thump comes from the room on the left, followed by a clatter of chains and a high-pitched, animalistic screech that doesn’t seem muffled—at all—by the thick wooden door between us.

 Luis picks up the pace, and I join him as we pass several more doors before the one in front of us starts to vibrate so violently that I’m afraid it could shake off its hinges at any second.

 I ignore it, forcing myself to stay calm. One more turn, a mad dash, and we’ll be at the staircase. Home free. 

 Apparently, I’m not running fast enough for Luis, because he grabs my hand and pulls me along with him as a loud, furious shriek follows us around the corner.

 “Move, Clementine!” he shouts, throwing me into the stairwell in front of him.

 We pound up the stairs and burst through the double doors at the top just as the warning bell rings.





 “You have the power to defeat the monsters inside of you,” a soothing voice says over the intercom. The affirmation that doubles as the bell fills the hallway as Luis and I pause to catch our breaths.

 “No offense to your aunt Claudia and her daily affirmations,” he gasps out, “but I don’t think it’s the monsters inside of us that we’ve got to be worried about.”

 “No shit,” I agree, even as I fire off a text to Uncle Carter to let him know that he needs to double-check the locks on the monster enclosures.

 My uncle Carter is in charge of the basement menagerie. Back in the day, Calder Academy Island started out as a sanatorium where rich paranormals would ship off family members to “convalesce.” But rumor has it that the basement was actually reserved for the criminally insane—which explains the giant, eighty-pound doors on each of the cells. Not great for humans, but the setup comes in handy when you need to keep creatures from wreaking total and complete havoc. 

 “Remind me again why your mother thinks it’s a good idea to board some of the most fucked-up monsters in existence?” Luis asks as he finishes tucking his red polo shirt into his black uniform shorts.

 “Apparently, the school needs the money to ‘keep the students in the style to which they’ve become accustomed,’” I quote.

 We take a moment to admire that supposed style before we’re forced to duck as a loose ceiling tile falls to the floor. After the sanatorium closed, it didn’t take much work to convert the ornate Victorian buildings into a luxury hotel for paranormals, which occupied the island until my family bought it eighty years ago. 

 The buildings themselves were commissioned back in the day when they built beautiful buildings for architecture’s sake, even if those buildings were part of a hospital. The remnants of that bygone era still peek through the years’ wear and tear. Like the carved marble staircases now worn with steps and age, the large arched turrets, the bay windows, or the intricate brickwork that adorns the entrance to the Admin Building, where we have most of our classes. But all of that potential charm has been overshadowed by the institutional green paint that has been slathered on every wall and the drop ceilings that are surely covering up some pretty cool moldings. 

 Luis snickers and shakes his head as my phone buzzes with a text from my roommate, Eva.

Eva: Where are you?

Eva: I can’t be late to anger management. Danson’s a dick

Eva: If he gives me shit again, I swear I’m going to totally throat punch him 

 I fire off a quick reply letting her know I’m on my way.

 “You okay?” Luis checks as we walk quickly in an attempt to avoid getting yelled at by the hall trolls. 

 “Thanks to you, I am,” I answer, giving him a quick hug before I push the door open to the girls’ bathroom in the center of the hall. “Love you, Luis.”

 He brushes off my moment of tenderness with a snarky, “You’d better,” just before the door closes behind me. 

 “Damn, Clementine. You’re supposed to feed the chricklers, not be their feed,” Eva tells me as she straightens from where she’s leaning against one of the old-fashioned bucket sinks.

 I snap my fingers. “I knew I was doing something wrong.”

 “I brought you coffee.” Her long, black curls bounce as she leans forward to hand me a turquoise-and-pink string backpack.

 Joy floods me as I see the two go-cups of what I know is Eva’s famous cafй con leche, a recipe from her Puerto Rican family that includes just a pinch of a special spice blend. It’s practically legendary among the seniors. I reach out a greedy hand for it. “Give me.”

 She nods to the backpack. “Time is ticking. Change first, coffee later.”

 I groan, but I’m already ripping off my shirt and tossing it into the trash can. I pull out the fresh polo she’s brought me and—after a quick glance at the mirror—add the red hoodie she’s packed on top of it.

 Even though it’s over a hundred degrees of pure humidity outside, it’s still better than walking around for the rest of the day looking like open season has just been declared on my ass. Even the smallest sign of weakness tends to bring out the predator in the other students. Despite the fact that every student’s powers are locked down, they still have fists—and teeth—and are more than happy to use them.

 Thirty seconds later, I’ve got my face washed, my hair pulled into a ponytail, and a long sip of cafй con leche in my belly.

 “You ready?” Eva asks, her concerned brown eyes doing a final sweep of me from head to toe.

 “As I’ll ever be,” I answer, holding up the coffee cup in silent thanks as we head back out into the hall.

 A quick glance at my phone shows a text from Uncle Carter, saying that he’s on his way to check the basement. I wave goodbye to Eva before taking off down the hall toward my British Lit class.

 A small pack of leopard shifters is loitering in the hall near the door to the science lab. One eyes me like I’m his post-lunch snack as a glimmer of ivory fang flashes at me. The girl next to him senses his excitement and starts prowling toward me. I keep my eyes averted—the last thing I need right now is a dominance challenge.

 That’s when I see a freshman—I think she’s a witch—look directly at me and the shifters. Bad move, kid. They immediately smell chum in the water and turn their sights on her. If you want to survive here, direct eye contact is usually not the way to do it.

 I pause, unsure of what to do next, when the girl suddenly lets out an ear-piercing scream that rings out through the hallway. It reverberates off every hard surface as it makes its way to my protesting eardrums. Not a witch, a banshee, I mentally note, as the leopards scatter to class.

 Saved by the scream. 

 I quickly walk to my locker. I grab my backpack and slip through the door into my seat about one second before the final affirmation sounds.

 “I am stronger than all of the problems and challenges I encounter. I just have to believe in myself.”

 A groan goes up from the class even before Ms. Aguilar chirps, “And there’s the bell! Let’s dig deep today, shall we?” in a voice that is way more bubbly than the affirmation bell or this school warrants.

 Then again, everything about Ms. Aguilar is too bright and shiny for Calder Academy. From her electric-yellow hair and her bright-blue eyes to her manic smile and frighteningly upbeat attitude, everything shouts that the pixie doesn’t belong here. And if that wasn’t enough, the snickers coming from the asshole fae currently taking up the last row warn that they’re about to make sure she, and everyone else in this classroom, knows it.

 “Fuck, teach, did you snort too much pixie dust at lunch?” Jean-Luc calls, swishing his deliberately messy blond hair out of his eyes.

 “And you didn’t even bring us any.” His friend and henchman Jean-Claude sneers. As he laughs, his green eyes glow with the unnatural electricity common to the dark magic fae. “Don’t you know, sharing is caring.”

 The fact that the two of them—as well as the other two members of their little coterie of immaturity and evil, Jean-Paul and Jean-Jacques—start cackling tells everyone in the room that they’ve got something planned.

 Sure enough, the second she turns her back to write on the board, Jean-Jacques sends a handful of Skittles soaring straight toward her.

 I swear, these guys couldn’t get more annoying if they tried.

 Ms. Aguilar stiffens as the Skittles hit her. But instead of reprimanding the obnoxious fae, she ignores them and keeps writing on the board.

 Her silence just eggs them on, and they throw another whole round of Skittles at her—but this time, they’ve sucked on them first, so that when they hit her white blouse, they leave a rainbow streak of goo. And that doesn’t even count the ones that get caught in her spiky hair.

 When she continues facing the board in what I’m pretty sure is an effort to hide tears, Jean-Luc flashes to the front of the room—fae are still preternaturally fast, even without their powers—and stands right in front of her, making crude faces and flipping her off.

 Most of the class bursts out laughing, though some look down uncomfortably. Ms. Aguilar whirls around, but Jean-Luc is back in his seat by this point, smiling innocently and leaning on an elbow. Before she can figure out what happened, yet another handful of Skittles flies at her. Most hit her in the chest, but a couple strike her right between the eyes.

 She squeaks a little, her chest heaving, but still doesn’t say a word. I don’t know if it’s because she’s a new teacher and has no classroom management skills or if she’s just afraid of shutting down the Jean-Jerks because they come from some of the most powerful—and dangerous—mafia families in the paranormal world. Then again, it’s probably both.

 As spitballs soar toward her, I start to speak up like I usually do, but I stop myself. If she doesn’t learn to stand up for herself and fast, this school is going to eat her alive. I’ve already saved Ms. Aguilar’s butt three times this week—and have the bruises to prove it. After all, you don’t cross members of the fae court with the darkest magic in existence and not expect to get the shit kicked out of you. Plus I’m still shaky from all of the chricklers I spent the last hour fighting off. I’m not sure I have it in me to take on a whole different group of monsters after class.

 She doesn’t say anything, though. Instead, she just turns back around and starts writing something in a flowery script on the board again. It’s the absolute worst thing she could do, because the Jean-Jerks—and a few other less-than-enterprising souls—take it as a sign that it really is open season.

 A new round of spitballs soars straight at her, getting caught in the tips of her pointy hair.

 More Skittles are launched at her ass.

 And Jean-Claude—jackass that he is—decides now is the time to shout a bunch of suggestive comments.

 And that’s it. That’s just it. Fuck the pain. It’s one thing when the Jean-Jerks were just being their regular asshole selves, but they’ve crossed the line. No one, not even the sons of fae mafia dons, gets to sexually harass a woman and get away with it. Screw that.

 I clear my throat, resigning myself to another beatdown by the Jean-Jerks after class, but before I can figure out an insult devastating enough to shut their mouths, a rustling sound comes from the left of me.

 It’s quiet, so quiet that most people in the class don’t even register it. But I’ve heard the slow, deliberate rhythm of that slide from stillness to action before, and though it’s been a while, it still makes every hair on my body stand straight up even as an unwitting relief sweeps through me.

 Apparently, I’m not the only one in this class who thinks their foray into sexual harassment is worse than their usual bad behavior and has to be stopped.

 I shift slightly to my left just in time to see all six-foot-seven, gorgeous, grim-faced, broad-shouldered inches of Jude Abernathy-Lee turn around in his seat. For one second, my eyes clash with his swirling, mismatched gaze, but then he’s looking straight through me to the members of the Jean-Jerk club.

 I wait for him to say something to the fae, but it turns out he doesn’t have to. One look from him has their words, and laughter, crumbling like dust around us.

 For several seconds, silence—long, taut, jagged-edged silence—hangs in the air as the whole class holds its breath and waits to see what happens next. Because the Jean-Jerks’ unstoppable assholery is about to meet Jude’s immovable everything.

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