This is a work of fiction. Names, characters, and incidents are either the product of the author’s imagination or are used fictitiously. Any resemblance to actual persons, living or dead, or events is entirely coincidental.
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All rights reserved. Copyright © 2013 Desni Dantone
ISBN 13: 9780989509008
To my mom, who never got to finish this.
I couldn’t escape the worst night of my life.
The screams and the sound of shattering glass sent a ripple of fear coursing through my body. I felt the dizzying disorientation and the flip-flopping of my stomach as the car somersaulted end over end. I heard the merciless roar of the river and felt the bite of the cold water that spilled over me. I saw the lifeless bodies of my friends, their souls already departed behind their sightless eyes.
It was all so real, so vivid, for a dream. Then again, it wasn’t so much a dream as it was a memory. The outcome never changed. He saved me.
That was the point at which I usually woke up. Not this time.
This time, I lay wet and cold on the riverbank, the deafening rush of the water behind me, the river and the car it had swallowed out of sight. My nails dug into his skin, my desperation as real now as it had been that night, as I pleaded with him to stay. His eyes were mournful as he peeled my fingers from their grip on his arm. He turned to say one last thing. What, I never knew.
The blackness engulfed me and I woke up.
The scream rose in my throat, but didn’t reach my lips. I choked it back with short ragged gasps as I sat up and struggled to breathe. With one satisfying breath, the panic attack was snuffed out before it began.
My abrupt awakening had not gone unnoticed. Probably because I wasn’t at home in bed, but seated in the middle of my seventh period English Literature class. The teacher stood frozen, chalk in hand, at the front of the room and twenty sets of curious eyes turned to me. It wasn’t the first time I had dozed off in class, but it was the most embarrassing. Because it was me, no one laughed. They stared and waited for the meltdown they all expected.
The only sound came from the legs of my chair as it slid across the floor. I tossed my book bag over my shoulder, and hurried out the door as excited whispers erupted behind me.
The bathroom was a quick sprint away and, to my relief, empty. Frustrated by the lack of a lock on the entrance, I punched the door. More tears sprung up in my eyes, but the pain in my hand was only an excuse. The true source was a pain that wouldn’t fade anytime soon. I splashed cold water on my face, washing away the tears, but the ache in my chest remained. Blotting my cheeks with a paper towel, I frowned at the stranger staring at me in the mirror.
Weeks of restless sleep have given her the appearance of two black eyes. Red rimmed the amber in the middle, making them appear drab and weak. Her skin was pale and puffy. Even the tiny freckles that speckled her nose looked washed out. As if all of that weren’t bad enough, it looked as if someone had acted out their psychopathic tendencies on her face with a serrated knife, leaving her forever marred by a red puckered line angled across her forehead.
In reality, it hadn’t been a knife, but shattered glass, and it hadn’t been a psychopath, but a speeding Cavalier and a patch of black ice on a bridge. It was the reminder of the night I would carry with me forever. I hated it, so I avoided it.
I checked the time on my cell. Only a few minutes left before the bell, and then one more class to go. Physics. Normally, I looked forward to the challenge. Not today.
It was the first week back from winter break, and almost four weeks since the accident that had claimed two of my friends. It had been a rough week. I was tired and emotional. Really, I just wanted to go home.
When the bell sounded, I retreated to the last stall to ride out the three minute break. I didn’t want to see anyone. They all looked at me the same, like I was some freak because I had survived what I shouldn’t have. Some said it was luck. Some called it a miracle.
I knew the truth, and it was neither.
That didn’t mean I knew why I had been saved. Nor did I know who my savior was. Not really. Granted, that night had been the third time in fourteen years he’d come to my rescue in one way or another. On paper, and by that I mean my journal that is dedicated solely to him, I knew every detail of his appearance—short brown hair, steel blue eyes, tall, buff. That part was easy. The guy met the definition of hot and, well, he never changed. Not one grey hair, one wrinkle, or extra padding around the middle. It wasn’t because of good genes or plastic surgery. It was because of something unusual, something I couldn’t explain.
There wasn’t much about him I could explain. Hence the journal full of questions I was dying to ask him if I ever had the chance. He never hung around long enough for me to ask anything, except the night he brought me here, to live with the old lady the whole town called Gran, when I was eleven. Unfortunately, I had slept for most of the car ride, and had woken up in a strange bed, in a strange house, with a strange lady hovering over me, and my hero gone.
While I couldn’t deny the weirdness of his unchanging good looks, my obsession with him ran far deeper than physical. I knew nothing of his motives or what he was doing in my life. I didn’t know whether he was my guardian angel or a very clever—or very confused—enemy. It was enough to keep me up most nights, and many professionals would probably say I needed therapy. But then, I would have to break my promise to not tell anyone about him, and I didn’t want to piss off the guy who literally held my life in his hands. Lying on a leather couch, discussing his existence with someone who wouldn’t believe me anyway didn’t sound like the smart thing to do. So I endured the dreams, suffered through the nightmares, and pretended my journal was a skilled therapist. It helped. Most of the time.
The second bell rang without anyone invading my hideaway, and I emerged from the stall. The peace was brief, interrupted by an unexpected late arrival bursting through the door. I started to scurry into hiding before I recognized the voice calling my name.
“Kris? You in here?” Callie Sanders has been my best friend since the second day of sixth grade, when I not-so-accidentally smacked the class bitch in the back of the head with a volleyball in gym class. Callie had promptly given me a high five, which had earned us both a trip to the principal’s office. We have been inseparable ever since. Seeing me now, she entered, letting the door shut behind her. “You okay? Hannah said you freaked out in class.”
I blew out a puff of air. “Is there anything this school doesn’t spread like a wild fire?”
“It’s high school. Gossip is all we have.” Callie looked me over, scrutinizing me with a frown. “You look like hell.”
She wrinkled her nose. “When was the last time you washed your hair?”
“Last night,” I said, pulling the straw-like strands into a hasty ponytail to shield them from her critical eyes. Or was it two nights ago? Hair washing had not been a priority as of late.
She made a face like she didn’t believe me. “It’s looking a little on the orange side.”
That was me, the freak with the burnt orange hair. It used to be pretty—long blonde waves with a touch of strawberry. That was another life, another girl. The girl I was now had more important things than hair to deal with. Like dead friends, classmates who thought I was a witch, and a mystery man whose motives I couldn’t figure out.
“You ready to get out of here?” Callie asked.
“You have no idea.”
But she did. She was my friend for a reason, even if our bond didn’t make much sense.
Callie was everything I wasn’t. She was borderline annoyingly bubbly, wore makeup, dated boys in rapid succession, and had a new hair style and color every other week—today was an almost black bob with dark red highlights. She preferred getting a manicure to watching a football game, loved to shop for fun, and excelled in high school social politics. We were very different, but it worked for us. I couldn’t imagine high school without her. Every day, I was grateful for the turn of events that had kept Callie out of the car that night.
“I have to grab my math book,” she said, stopping at her locker. “Big quiz tomorrow.”
“That you won’t study for,” I added drily.
She shrugged, and slipped the book into her bag anyway. Our lack of interest in school was one thing we did share. Before the accident, school nights had been nuisances that stood in the way of socializing. That was until we had mastered the art of sneaking out. Well, Callie hadn’t, which was why she had been grounded the night of the accident.
“So what happened in class?” Callie asked once we started down the hall. Aside from us, it was empty.
“The usual nightmare.” Callie knew about my dreams, everything except the guy that frequented them.
“Want to talk about it?”
Callie knew the drill. I talked when I wanted to, which wasn’t often. And when I did, I never, ever told her everything. Sure, I felt bad about keeping things from my best friend. I also didn’t want her to think I was crazier than she probably already thought I was. If I didn’t understand my mystery guy, how could I explain his existence to her without sounding like a raving lunatic? The short answer: I couldn’t. So, I kept him a secret. It was easier than defending my sanity.
We crept quietly past the office, the empty cafeteria, and the gym, where the squeaking of shoes on the polished basketball court and cries of war signaled the start of a wild game of dodge ball. Through trial and error, we had learned that the door at the back of the gym was the best route of escape. The student parking lot was a short dash from there.
The sun felt warm on my face, the air chilly. The weather here was often confusing. In western North Carolina, we were far enough south to get mild winters, but elevated high in the Blue Ridge Mountains, the town of Boone saw more harsh weather than mild.
It was a good ski town...for skiers, which I wasn’t.
Callie and I made a beeline for her white Honda Civic, parked in the rear of the lot. About halfway there, she turned to me excitedly.
“Have you seen the new guy yet?” She wiggled her eyebrows as if to say, wow.
“Cute, is he?” I asked with little interest. Callie was boy crazy. I wasn’t.
“Not cute. So hot he doesn’t belong at this school,” Callie amended, and then went into listing all the reasons why he was so hot, but I wasn’t paying much attention.
I recalled my own arrival six years ago. Having played the foster home shuffle as a child, I knew all too well what it was like to be the new kid. That had changed when I came to live in Boone. My life has been different since the move. Better, thanks to Gran, and because of him, the guy who frequented my dreams, the one I couldn’t get out of my head...
The same one I saw now, in the flesh, with my own two non-dreaming eyes.
I stopped and blinked at what I thought at first to be a mirage. He stood on the corner a block away, wearing shades so I couldn’t see his eyes, but from everything else about him—his hair, size, shape, build, and even the way he didn’t move—I knew it was him. I felt his eyes on me, watching me.
I glanced around for the source of danger. Nothing looked out of place. Only him.
“Hey...” Callie was talking to me. “Are you listening to me?”
It occurred to me that maybe he hadn’t expected me. I was supposed to be in school, in class. Not in the parking lot. Maybe my sudden appearance had taken him by surprise? With a determination to cash in on this unexpected encounter, I bolted across the parking lot at a full on run, heading straight for him. Seeing my intentions, he turned and disappeared around the corner. Callie called my name, but I tuned her out and pumped my arms harder. I would not let him get away. Not without some answers.
As I approached the road, I slowed long enough for a car to pass, and then darted across. By the time I reached the corner, he was long gone. I ran into the middle of the street he had fled down and swept my eyes from side to side, looking for movement.
Cars lined the street on both sides, bumper to bumper, the whole way to the next intersection. I glanced over my shoulder to be sure I wasn’t about to be hit by a car, then walked down the road, my feet straddling the single yellow line in the middle.
In the distance, a car door shut and an engine roared to life. A second after I spotted it, a sporty black Jeep pulled away from the curb, sped to the intersection, and took a fast right without stopping. I ran after it but, by the time I got to the intersection, it was nowhere in sight.
I stood in the middle of the road, staring in the direction he had gone, and held a hand to my side as I fought to catch my breath. I hadn’t seen the driver, but I hadn’t needed to. I knew it was him.
Again, he had gotten away. But I had seen his vehicle. I knew what he drove. It was the most I had gotten in fourteen years.
Ignited by Desni Dantone / Fantasy / Romance & Love have rating 2.5 out of 5 / Based on32 votes