Introductions, p.1Part #1 of The Academy series by C. L. Stone
“Come on...” Victor urged under his breath, his hands twisting at the wheel.
Silas and Kota both appeared at the doors and stepped out. They tried to look casual but they were walking double time and went right for the car. Silas climbed in back with me and Kota took the front seat.
I turned, putting my knees in the seat and facing backward to look out the rear window, watching for any sign of Greg or his friends.
“Are they out there?” Victor asked.
“I don’t see them,” I said.
“I think we lost them,” Kota said, sounding breathless, leaning against the seat.
“Sang, I think we're safe. You can sit,” Silas said. His finger jabbed me in my side. Unfortunately it was the side that was bruised and I wasn’t expecting it. I winced and cried out an ouch before I could catch myself.
Silas’s eyes widened. His large hand pushed me back up against the seat. He lifted my blouse away from the top of my skirt. Cool air caressed the bruise and I shivered.
“Where did that come from?” he demanded.
He let go of me, turning his body to face the door. His hand clutched the handle. “Turn the car around.”
“Silas,” Kota started.
His fists clenched and he spoke through his teeth. “I said turn it around.”
T he A cademy
Written by C. L. Stone
Copyright © 2012 C. L. Stone
Published by Arcato Publishing
All rights reserved.
This book is a work of fiction and any resemblance to persons, living or dead, or places, events or locales is purely coincidental. The characters are productions of the author’s imagination and used fictitiously.
Other Books By C. L. Stone
From The Academy Series:
Thank you, Terese, for beta reading and being awesome.
Thank you, Chrystal, for putting me on the path for the best thing I've ever done. Writing will forever be different for me.
Thank you, Karin, for being the best cheerleader ever.
Thank you, WPLH, and all friends for putting up with our craziness – Monday through Weekend Warrior Days.
Thank you, Chad, for putting up with my obsessions.
My heart thundered under my breast. I was sure my parents could hear me, asleep in their beds inside the two story, gray-siding clad house on Sunnyvale Court.
Rain puddled at my feet, soaking the dirt of a thousand walks into my off-brand tennis shoes. I usually enjoyed the rain. I liked the feel of walking barefoot in puddles in the grass and the smell of rain mixed with pine trees. Tonight, the air was cool and the rain was crisp against my skin for an early August in South Carolina. I would be out all night, though, so this was completely bad timing.
With my toes pointed out to the street, I stood at the edge of the long driveway. A cool wind split through my dark poncho. I wanted to shiver, but I steeled myself and ignored the cold.
This is it, I told myself. If you’re going to leave, you need to do it now.
A new house sat half-finished around the bend of Sunnyvale. I explored it yesterday while on a walk and discovered the back door was unlocked.
My hand gripped the straps of my overloaded backpack. One night, I told myself. One night where I’m not sleeping under the same roof as my parents. I’m not going to die like my mother seems to think would happen if I did. I knew that normal people, everyone else in the world, they weren’t all murdered and raped the moment they went outside.
Thoughts of my bedroom in the house behind me flooded my mind; the soft green comforter, the mauve pink carpet, the warmth of the cotton sheets, a quiet symphony playing from the stereo. I shook my head at the thought, lifting a hand to my brow to flick away the collection of water there. No. I had already made the decision. Besides, it was too late to turn back. Sneaking out of the house was hard enough to do at night. I wouldn’t want to be caught trying to sneak back in.
I forced my leg up and out to step foot on the dark pavement of the road. My parents’ house was the newest on the half-circle street, tucked away behind a forest near a new highway. There were only twenty homes in the neighborhood. In front of my parents’ house was an empty lot, room for one more house but the land was still undeveloped. The rest of the street had several middle income homes and made for a very quiet neighborhood. Unfortunately the street light was never installed in front of my parents’ home. Even though I knew the blacktop was flat, it made me nervous that I might trip on a stick -- or an ax murderer.
I stomped my other foot onto the road, turned left and started walking. The wind swept up around my face, and I tucked my head down to brace myself against it. I fell into the deeper shadows of the road, shielded from the glow of neighbors’ outdoor lights. I shivered as a breeze picked up around me.
Even as my heart continued to pound, I moved forward. Every second I envisioned my sister or my parents waking to find me gone and glancing out the window to spot me. Only I knew better. They probably wouldn’t notice until well in the afternoon that I was nowhere around. The reluctance I felt was only the whispers of my mother echoing in my head.
A slippery thudding sound started racing toward me. It was so soft at first that I thought it was my own heart. The sound drew closer. I imagined some maniac running barefoot toward me. I stared out into the dark, trying to use the light from the house further up the road to catch whatever it might be. I should move, I thought. I should get out of the way. I willed myself to turn around. A gust swept into my face. My eyes watered.
A mass hurled itself at me and I fell back. My book bag slipped away from my body and I crashed onto my butt and my left arm. My hand and wrist scraped against the street. Something heavy and wet sat on top of me. A warm, salty breath filled my nose.
The wild of my imagination ran through every possibility. Rapist. Murderer. The instinct to scream swept through me but my throat caught and I only gasped. I was paralyzed.
A slobbering tongue licked my arm and then a soft, cold nose nuzzled it. My heart continued to beat but I finally took a breath, relieved.
“Hey,” a shout came from up the road from the direction I had been heading. “Are you okay?”
My whole body went rigid again. The sound of footsteps came closer and I tried to angle myself out from underneath the dog. The dog wouldn’t budge and instead continued to sit on my legs. It barked and then licked my arm again.
“I’m sorry,” said the voice. “Max, get off of her.” In the shadow of the street, I couldn’t tell who it was. I wasn’t that familiar with the neighbors anyway. The voice was smooth, masculine. While his tone was gentle, there was a strength hidden behind it. Since he wasn’t shouting at me or telling me he would kill me, I tried to calm my heart.
They’re not as bad as she thinks, I told myself. People aren’t all evil.
The dog was pulled away from me. The guy knelt by my side. An arm went around my shoulders, lifting me slightly. “Are you hurt?”
His touch around my shoulder sent a shiver through me that I couldn’t control. It was such a warm gesture and I wasn't used to people touching me. Through my shivering, I felt the pang at my hip where I had fallen. Pain seared through the scrapes on my arm. I coddled it to my chest. “I’m okay,” I said through my teeth. “It’s fine.”
“No, you’re not,” he said. The strength in his voice shining through more. “You scraped your arm.” He put another arm around my waist and prepped his knees. “You can stand, right?”
My cheeks flushed so hot, I could have been glowing. As much as I felt awkward, I was scared to admit that this stranger’s kind hands on me felt so reassuring. “I think so.”
He pulled me up gently with him until we were standing together. The wind whipped around us. My poncho flew like a flag behind me. He turned his body until his back was against the wind, protecting me from the worst of it. He brought his hands up to cup around my face. “I’m going to take you to my house.”
It was the first time I noticed the glasses. The light from up the road reflected in them. I still couldn’t guess his age. From what I felt of his body, he was easily a head taller than me and there was some definition to his muscles.
I blushed at the thought that I had been touching his chest.
He bent over and picked up my book bag. He grunted at first as he lifted it.
“Let me take it,” I said.
“No.” He heaved it over his shoulder. With a free arm, he wrapped it around my shoulder and guided me up the street. “Let’s get out of this rain. We’ll access the damage inside.”
“What about your dog?”
My heart pounded again as I followed him up the street. My hands shook, my knees quivered. I tried to think calmly, that this was just him being nice. My mother’s voice shot through my head, all her warnings swirled through my mind.
I could only hope that I wasn’t on my way to die.
His house was the first one on the right after the empty lot. I remembered seeing it from my bedroom window. It was a one story, brick, ranch-style home, with a finished room over the two-car garage. The garage door was open, with one car parked inside. Another car was parked in the corner of the wide driveway toward the back. A safety light flicked on automatically as we crossed into the garage, revealing the green poncho he wore. The hood covered most of his face. If I had seen that coming toward me in the night, I would have run screaming. I wondered if it was wise now to follow him into his house.
The dog followed us and he sat by a crate that was leaning against the wall. He waited, waging his tail. In the shadows, he looked so big, and I could smell the heady wetness of his fur, making my nose tickle.
“Not right now,” the guy said, waving his hand at the dog. The dog sank to the floor, head on top of one of his paws. The guy hit the button for the garage door to close and the light went out, sinking us deeper into the dark, so much that I was blinded by it.
“Come on,” he said. He took my uninjured arm and pulled me inside. I stumbled in behind him.
Once we entered the house, there was a short hallway with a wood floor at our feet. The house was dark and I crept along behind him, keeping close to his back so I wouldn’t get lost. I caught a glimpse of a dining room beyond the hallway. Before we got to it, he opened a door to the left just before the end of the hall. It opened to a stairwell, with light blue carpeting covering the steps. There was a dim light on somewhere above.
He started up the stairs. I didn’t know if I should follow but I didn’t want to be caught downstairs if there were other people in the house.
Imagining that we were alone in the house also scared me.
I followed him up. At the top, the bedroom above the garage was spacious. There was door open to the left that led to a small bathroom. There was another door next to it that was closed and I only guessed it to be a closet. There were windows facing the driveway and one looking out onto the road at the front of the house. There was a bench seat near the window toward the front with a couple of neatly embroidered pillows in the corners. A bed was pushed up against the wall by a window overlooking the driveway, leaving a huge amount of space in the middle. In the far left corner was a computer desk, monitor turned off. A small bookshelf sat next to it.
A brass lamp glowed on his desk. He crossed the room, touching it a couple of times and the brightness increased. He turned to me.
His black-rimmed glasses had droplets of moisture, slightly masking his eyes and almost hid his high cheekbones. His light brown hair stuck to his forehead and at the top of his ears. If I had to guess his age, he might have been a couple years older than I was, if that. He was a head taller than I was, with a medium build and his skin was fair. The way his thin brows angled at the edges made him look curious and constantly interested. His poncho had a Nike swoosh mark and his black Converse shoes looked brand new. If my older sister would have seen him, she would have told me he was a nerd right off. She may have missed the way he was standing upright, shoulders back, with a cool confidence that I could only dream to have. What etched into my mind, though, was the kind smile he had on his face. It warmed me instantly.
I blushed when I realized he was examining me under the same scrutiny. I imagined I looked like a complete wreck. My dark blond hair was tied up in a small bun in a clip, but half undone and sticking to my neck. My small nose was probably bright red from the surprising chill of the night and my green eyes were probably bloodshot or had heavy bags or both. I was probably as pale as a ghost with the dark poncho sagging around me. My jeans were sticking to my legs, my Sketcher sneakers were discolored from wear and dripping.
“I’m sorry,” I said. “I should probably have taken my shoes off. They’re soaked.”
“I’m not worried about the carpet right now. One thing at a time.” He dropped my book bag on the floor by his desk and then moved toward the bathroom door. “Take that poncho off and let’s look at your arm.”
I followed him, pulling the poncho away and bending over a little to pull it off of me. The green t-shirt underneath stuck to my body so much I might as well not have worn it at all. It was up against my breasts, including pushed up between them, clearly outlining even the details of the underwire in the bra I was wearing. The cloth sucked into my belly button.
His eyes followed where I was looking. I tried pulling the shirt away from my body but as soon as I let go, it fell back against me, attaching itself to my skin. His cheeks tinted red as he took the poncho from me and hung it on the curtain rod over the shower tub on the right. The bathroom had just enough room for the tub, a toilet in the middle and a counter for a sink to the left with a wide mirror above it. The powder blue flowery wallpaper and a matching set of rugs made it feel cozy.
He reached over for my left arm lifting it gently. In the light, I could see the blood that had dripped over my wrist from a gash. I sucked in a breath. Now that I saw it, the sharp pain in my arm felt crisp.
He lifted my arm closer to his face. He investigated the cut, using a gentle forefinger to push at my skin to check to see if it was still bleeding. “My god,” he said. “I’m sorry. Really. This was my fault.”
I shook my head at him, trying to look nonplussed about the pain. “It was your dog. Not really his fault. He was excited, I guess.”
“He was excited,” he agreed. He moved away to open a drawer under the counter. He lifted out a red and white first aid kit, and reached for a bottle of hydrogen peroxide. “I’ve noticed the lead was getting thin in the middle for a while. When he smelled or heard you, he took off and it broke.” His eyes met mine as he tugged me gently closer by the elbow so that I would be at a better angle for the light. “He’s not usually that bad. He needed to go out but he hates this weather. So I’m sorry about that. I should have replaced the lead before now. And I don’t know why he jumped on you. He never does that.”
His eyes were an emerald green and with the light from above us, or maybe it was the way his glasses were hanging a little lower on his nose, I felt my breath escape me. I found his eyes to be gorgeous. From the depths of my mind, even while distracted, I knew I was supposed to say something, but the way he was looking at me made my heart skip and my mind went blank. I wasn’t even sure why I felt the way I did. I only knew that he was making my insides flutter. “...name.”
A brown eyebrow arched. “Hm?”
“I don’t know your name.”
The soft lips smiled at the corner, just enough. He was pleased with me. “I’m Kota.”
Kota. It was different like mine so I liked it.
He waited patiently for a moment and then chuckled as if uncomfortable. “What’s yours?”
It took me a moment to guess what he meant. My head was still foggy that following the conversation was difficult. “Uh... Sang.”
“As in, I sang a song?”
I nodded. “I know it’s weird.”
“No weirder than ‘Kota’.”
I smiled a little. “I suppose not. Weird names are nice, though.”
The crest of his high cheekbones tinted to a pink that looked nice on him. “It’s nice to meet you. And please don’t hate me.”
He applied a clean cloth with the peroxide to my arm. I had been so distracted by him that I hadn’t noticed he had prepared one. The sting went straight to my bones. The chill from the weather outside only made it that much more uncomfortable. A shutter ran through my body, wracking my bones together, causing the sting to radiate through me. I bit my lip, holding back the urge to cry out in pain.
As he cleaned my arm, I turned my head, looking out into his bedroom. Not watching him not only relieved the pain but also the awkwardness I felt. I wanted to look at his face but I was too nervous to face him. I didn’t want to get caught staring.
After the blood and dirt was washed away, he applied a large square bandage to cover the spot with. “I think you’re patched up.” He gave the sides of the bandages a few more rubs to ensure they were sticking and then crumpled the plastic wrapper in his hands. “Anything else broken or bleeding?”
Introductions by C. L. Stone / Romance & Love / History & Fiction have rating 4 out of 5 / Based on32 votes