Saving poughkeepsie, p.39
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       Saving Poughkeepsie, p.39
 

           Debra Anastasia

  The other boys in the class peeked in the doorway. Obviously the show Mr. Fake Concussion had put on was over. When the teacher finally gave up and told them she’d meet them outside when they were changed, the Westlake kids helped each other up. The ringleader walked over to Beckett, hand extended.

  “Hey, we’re cool, dude. Right?”

  Beckett took his hand and squeezed it tight, pulling the guy close, whispering just for him in his ear. “You want a serial killer? You fucking found one.”

  He maintained eye contact until the guy finally looked away, wrenching his hand free. “You’re crazy. Jesus.”

  Cole, Blake, and Beckett let the Westlake guys leave first, staying in the locker room until it emptied out.

  “You think they’ll stay quiet?” Blake wondered.

  Beckett nodded. “They will.” He didn’t tell them he was planning to visit the ringleader tonight at his home. Or that he’d found a starter pistol in Rick’s basement and painted the orange tip black. Beckett had every intention of threatening the guy until he crapped his pants and made sure his football friends never pulled this shit again. On his brothers. On anyone. He looked at Cole, then Blake.

  Each of them had blood streaming down their forearms. The part of their arms that signaled a need for solace in the forest now dripped with violence.

  Beckett held up his arm in an arm-wrestling stance. “Grab on.”

  Blake complied, then looked to Cole. “You too.”

  The three-way handshake brought them close together. Beckett was hopped up on adrenaline, but he knew this was real. He knew it deep.

  “Brothers?” he asked.

  “Brothers,” Blake responded, smiling.

  “Forever,” Cole added solemnly.

  Sneak Peek from The Revenger

  a stand-alone novel

  by Debra Anastasia, coming in 2015

  Cracked

  Sitting in a car had never been this tough before. God, it was hard. The man next to her had a red aura and demanded a pounding for that alone. Savvy sat on her hands and tried counting the trees that passed. It failed to calm her.

  She kept taking peeks at the driver. He seemed pretty shaky too.

  When he spoke, she jumped. “My name’s Bugs. I handle the computers and surveillance cameras at the house.”

  Savvy was afraid to talk. She didn’t want to lose control, and she was so very close to doing just that. As they drove, the clock ticked off twenty painful minutes on the dashboard. They were heading toward the beach; she could smell the change in the air coming through the vents. Bugs pulled out this phone and hit send, and Savvy could hear everything coming through it. Her senses were enhanced so close to his red aura.

  The ringing stopped, but the person now on the other end of Bugs’ cell said nothing. He filled the silence with hurried words. “Yes, I have her right here. She came peacefully. Do you want her delivered straight to your bedroom?”

  Bugs’ hand clenched and unclenched around the phone.

  Savvy could hear the silky reply as if the man speaking were whispering in her ear. “No. Put her in the Blue Room. Bring her through the back entrance.”

  The phone clicked as Bugs’ boss hung up.

  Another ten minutes passed before Bugs pulled up in front of a gated entrance. He lowered both their windows, and a screen appeared from the ground on each side. Bugs put his hand on the closest one and a laser tasted his fingerprints. Savvy wanted to tear the screen on her side of the car from its pole and beat Bugs with it. Steady, girl.

  “Put your hand up to the screen, please.” Bugs waved in the direction of the technology.

  Savvy turned her head slowly and met his eyes. “Kiss my ass. I’m not putting my hand on that thing.”

  Bugs looked from the clock to his phone, obviously running through his options. “Look, if you don’t put your hand up soon, this car will explode with gunfire. It’s programmed to kill us.”

  Savvy smiled at the thought of Bugs being physically removed from his evil aura.

  “Okay, I get it, you don’t care if I die,” he said. “You don’t care if you die. But my boss? If he doesn’t talk to you because you’re dead? He’ll kill your brother anyway.” Bugs pointed to the screen again.

  He could very well have been lying, but the sweat on his forehead told her he was at least scared.

  She shook her head. She’d already lost two battles: getting in the car and now this. She placed her hand on the square. The laser engaged, and it felt like a butterfly’s wings were tickling her palm. She was marked in their system now. Who knew what they could do with her fingerprints. The gates slid open, and Bugs gunned engine. Even before opening fully, they were closing again behind them.

  The driveway was insanely long, and the greenery transitioned to more and more sand as they got closer to the house. Bugs was talking again. Warning her about rules and etiquette that she guessed she should listen to, but she couldn’t. The mansion in front of her called her name and demanded her righteousness.

  She knew there were many, many red auras inside. So many. She looked at her knees and tried to breathe. Bugs had parked the car in a huge circular driveway with a spouting fountain in the center of it.

  “We need to go in the back entrance, so you’re not seen.” Bugs had come around to her side of the car.

  Savvy got out and walked past him. He hurried alongside, begging her to follow him, but he was too smart to put his hands on her. He’d seen the surveillance videos of her beating criminals senseless with a superhuman strength, after all.

  Savvy’s high heels clicked loudly on the marble staircase that led to the two-story tall front doors. When she was close enough, she kicked the doors and smiled as they easily obeyed her command, smashing wide open.

  She waltzed into the foyer and looked from person to person. Almost every man had a gun drawn or was in the process of doing so. The women were stifling screams and hitting the floor.

  Savvy tracked an imaginary path of destruction, wondering how many she could tear to pieces before their bullets felled her. A man jumped in front of her and blocked her body from the men defending the mansion.

  “No! He wants this chick alive. Put your fucking guns away.” The man’s neck was Savvy’s only view at the moment, and she wanted to snap it in half. His aura stopped her because it was confusing. It was definitely red, but closer to his body, it was gold.

  She reached a hand out to touch it. The red outline was hot, and it fed her strength, but a little deeper, the gold felt cool. His peculiar aura was the only thing that kept him alive.

  He turned to her. “I take it you’re the new one? He wants you in the Blue Room. My name’s Boston. I’ll show you the way.”

  He had dark hair and deep blue eyes. When he smiled to encourage her, he revealed his dimples as well. She didn’t move. The wave of red auras was taking her good sense. Her eyes were drawn to each of the men surrounding her again. Even some of the women had red.

  To be loose in here for five minutes would be amazing.

  Her brother’s name brought Boston’s face into focus again. “Tobias will only be safe if you cooperate,” he said.

  The gold got darker around the man. So confusing.

  “Can you walk with me?” he asked.

  He wasn’t being polite, she knew he could tell she was paralyzed from the inside out. Savvy had to recover—she had to. Tobias’s life might depend on it. She looked at the floor and nodded, keeping her gaze down, free from all the temptation around her.

  But her skin knew the red was there, could still feel the pull.

  One step, another step.

  It took forever to get to the Blue Room, but finally, Boston opened a large door. Savvy noticed belatedly that Bugs had gone. Keeping to his namesake, he’d disappeared when the action started.

  “Just go in and sit down.” Boston closed the door behind her, and she heard a large bolt slide into place.

  Savvy couldn’t sit if she tried, so she stood in front
of a conference table hedged by fancy boardroom chairs.

  She waited. The room was blue, as was expected. Its only decoration was a large mural of the surf that Savvy figured was right outside the mansion, judging from the smell in the air.

  She had no idea how much time passed, but she knew it was a mind game, and frankly, she sucked at those. There was so little of her rational mind left.

  Finally, the mural crackled to life. Savvy stepped into her fighting stance and watched. Instead of a picture, she was now looking at a flat-screen TV—much like the ones Tobias ogled in Best Buy when he dreamed of hitting the lotto.

  Soon it had a picture again, but it took a few seconds for Savvy to put the images in context. It was Tobias on the very screen he dreamed of buying. He was parking in the lot at the police station and dialing his cell phone. After what must have been an unsuccessful call, he cursed. Although there was no sound, Savvy recognized her name on her brother’s lips. He spotted her car and trotted over. The video faded out as Tobias used his elbow to break her driver’s side window.

  The mural returned. This was happening in real time, and they weren’t bluffing. Someone from this place was watching her brother. Screaming began in her head, and she fell to one knee while holding her hair.

  The sound was so clear and so desperate. It was Sara’s scream during the accident. Savvy hadn’t heard it since that night—her brain had saved her from recalling it. Or maybe it was her soul’s survival instinct that kept her protected from the sound. Until now.

  Now Sara, her daughter—scared and screaming—filled Savvy to the brim.

  “No,” Savvy whispered. “No, no, no, no.”

  The screaming became a pinpoint, the center of a black hole located just behind the mural. She snapped her head up and looked closely. She could make out his outline. Sara’s screams were coming from him. His aura was her exact pain.

  Sagan stood in his office waiting, watching the surveillance camera Bugs was running. The girl’s name was Savannah Ann Raine, according to the information derived from her license plate number. She had deliberately defied him and kicked in the front doors of his house. Sagan bit his lip as he watched her entrance again on the monitor.

  Boston had worked his magic and calmed the beast that she was. Yet she stood instead of sitting in the Blue Room. Antagonizing him yet again.

  God, it was refreshing.

  He had watched her fidget for eighteen minutes before he had Bugs run the footage of her brother’s arrival at the police station. He loved letting his new acquisition know he was everywhere and that his power was more potent than any law.

  She was furious and clearly worried by the time the painting had returned to its passive seascape. He checked his hair and straightened his tie, even though both were already impeccable. He nodded at Boston as he entered the observation room and shut the door behind him. It was located just behind the mural, and the picture served the purpose of disguising the watcher from the watched.

  The minute he set foot in the small, narrow room, Savannah fell to one knee in obvious pain. At first Sagan was just fascinated to see this seemingly invincible girl in such a vulnerable position. The room was well wired, so he could hear her whisper, “No, no, no, no.”

  He decided then to call Doc. Savannah was experiencing something that obviously required medical attention. She looked right into his eyes, and she was feral. Her hair was wild from where she’d raked her hands through it punishingly, and her face was set in determination. Sagan licked his lips in anticipation. It was like watching a hungry tiger in a zoo.

  Her movements were so flawless, it was like she had choreographed them and practiced for weeks. She grabbed the back of one of the chairs and stepped up to the mural. The chair didn’t make a dent on its first downward strike. But Savannah didn’t stop. She kept pounding on the bulletproof screen until it started to crack. Boston stepped into Sagan’s private sanctuary.

  “Sir, you need to get out of here.” Boston pulled out his handgun and aimed it at the girl.

  Sagan waited.

  Her gaze had never left his eyes, as if she could see right into his mind. The screen cracked again, a sure fissure from top to bottom. She was actually going to break through the impenetrable glass.

  Finally the chair dropped from her grasp. She walked to the mural and put one hand on it. Sagan mimicked her motion despite Boston’s protests. Hand to hand they stood, and he could feel her hot hatred. This close to her face, he could see into her cloudy, gray eyes. They held so much pain.

  Sagan almost felt sympathy.

  Her perfect lips, rose-colored from exertion, began moving. He hoped the camera was still functioning so he could replay her words again and again. Her voice was reverent, a promise wrapped in a threat.

  “Know this: I will kill you. Take these words and carve them onto your horrible soul.” She looked from his lips to his eyes and smiled. “I will be the one who kills you.”

  Savvy could only see sand and a stationary ocean, but she could feel his eyes. She knew where his lips were like they were the center of her universe. Her daughter still screamed over and over in her head as she promised to kill the man who stood inches from her. He had made Sara scream somehow. Instead of hugging her daughter’s memory and feeling her soft hair, Savvy could only remember her agony as crisply as if it were happening again.

  Whoever was behind the screen had to die. Savvy stepped away so she had enough power to punch. Feeling the glass crunch under her fists was much more pleasing than the chair attack had been. She was making headway, but then it hit her: If he’s on the other side, there’s a door. She gave away her intention as she headed for the exit to the Blue Room. She leveled kicks at the door’s sweet spot, but the bolt held for a few extra seconds. Finally, with a crack, she was free. She turned toward the most likely place for a secondary room. The door stood ajar, and the narrow room was empty. Savvy closed her eyes as she heard the clatter of approaching defenders, those she’d already scared enough to have them draw their guns when she busted into their world.

  Sara’s screams lead the way, and Savvy ran down hallways she’d never seen before. Finally, the screams led her to a terrace, and she busted through the glass doors to stand on the balcony. The ocean crashed against the shore below her, in motion and alive. From the roof she could hear a helicopter’s blades pounding the air. She tilted her face to see it rise above the house. The man who held Sara’s screams sat in the passenger seat and looked right at her.

  Right into her.

  He was devastatingly handsome, and his green eyes showed a hint of a sparkle as he realized he was getting away. Behind her, the army of red auras leveled all types of weapons, but she paid them no mind. She was trapped in the eyes of the evil man above her. He winked at her now as the helicopter began to rise.

  Savvy pointed at him from where she stood. She mouthed her next words so only he would get her message. “Run. Run far. I’ll find you. I’ll always find you.”

  She smiled then as his triumphant demeanor fell like a leaf from a tree. In a heartbeat, he was gone from her sight. Savvy turned to face the angry mob. There was so much red she couldn’t even make out their faces.

  Savvy gave them the finger and did a perfect backflip off the fourth-story balcony.

  Watch DebraAnastasia.com and @Debra_Anastasia

  for updates on The Revenger.

  Acknowledgments

  To my readers. You know you are my heart, and you make my farts sing. Thank you so much for being here and letting me frolic in your imagination, even though you know you can’t trust me.

  Midian, for your name and spirit. JM Darhower, for Toni Lynn. Teresa Mummert, because of the veto. Helena Hunting, what’s for lunch? Shalu, my gorgeous friend, for the tattoo. Kiya, I love you down under. Nina, never stop kicking ass. TK, for all the pics on my phone. Tijan, you know cocker spaniels rule. Sara C, you are our researcher. Kelly, as one of your many internet moms. LB, smile!! Jamie, I miss you! Erika, CVS. Amanda,
I see you! Karen, the beach is waiting. Pam, you and me on Sunday night. Mom and Dad S, thanks for the morning FaceTime. Mom and Dad D, thanks for letting me use you again. Beverly Cindy, my amazing Mayor. The Poughkeepsie Street team!!! No one is better. Carol Oates, my Irish sister. My filets. My Omnific Sisters, I love you. What a great year! Nise, Patti, and Alicia, tats forever. Silly Jilly, you are the best.

  Many thanks to: The Sub Club, The Smut Club, Maryse, Aestas, The Rock Stars of Romance, Michele, Beverly, GraceDZ, Jen M, Sarah, Noemi, Trayce, Eve and Ayeisha, Clista, Lori, Nicki, Bookish Temptations, Neda, Thessamari. Uncle T and Aunt J, you are so much fun. All the uncles, aunts, and cousins! TammyVoiced! We make great partners. Hootie and Glo, The Autumn Reviews, Nancee Cain, Chele, Slim Shaydy, Ron Pope and Blair, Catherine Millington, Andarta, Read Love Blog, Fics2Flics, Dymps, XO_BB_XO, Iza Matei, Literary Gossip, Lisa Jane LJ, Xtina, Fred, Sandy G Southern, Lisa, Feather, and to so many I’m forgetting, know that I adore you, and I’m an asshole.

  To Omnific Publishing, for taking risks and putting dreams first every single time. The quiet strength of women who believe in each other can change the world, starting with Elizabeth. To CJ, who reminds me a of a certain revenger. Lisa, Traci, Kim—the beating heart of a dream. To my favorite bitch, Micha, I love the time we get to laugh together. Coreen, thanks for making words pretty too!

  Jessica Royer Ocken, thank you for telling me I was overthinking things. That’s the first time anyone has ever told me that. Please give Debra Jr. my love. Kimberly, I love that your eyes go over all the boys have to offer. Thank you!

  About the Author

  There are a lot of eyes in Debra Anastasia’s house in Maryland. First, her own creepy peepers are there, staring at her computer screen. She’s made two more sets of eyes with her body, and the kids they belong to are amazing. The poor husband is still looking at her after 17 years of marriage. At least he likes to laugh. Then the freaking dogs are looking at her—six eyeballs altogether, though the old dog is blind. And the cat watches her too, mostly while knocking stuff off the counter and doing that internal kitty laugh when Deb can’t catch the items fast enough.

 
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