The ghost hunter a paran.., p.33
The Ghost Hunter, a Paranormal Romance (The Hunter Series), p.33Lori Brighton
I smoothed my fingers over the arm rest as Emily took off. I didn’t bother leaving Grandma a note. She knew where I was going. At least, she would until I got out of range. At some point, and I still wasn’t sure where, she wasn’t able to read my thoughts anymore. It was a realization I’d stumbled upon three years ago when I’d gone off with a friend without telling Grandma, only to return and find her frantic with worry. The only time she’d shown she cared.
It was the same for me. Once a person was a football field or so away, I couldn’t read their minds no matter how hard I tried.
It was a thrilling feeling of escape that coursed through my body as we drove out of town toward the coast. Emily whipped around a curve and I fell into the door, laughing. Excitement followed Emily wherever she went. It was part of the reason why I liked her; she could make me forget that I was a freak. The world was a movie, and she was the star. At the moment she was pretending she was some hot spy and being chased by an equally hot guy. Of course she’d never admit how many times she invented movies in her head and she’d probably kill herself if she realized I knew.
“Where should we go?” I asked, a secret smile playing on my lips.
“Lakeside!” she said.
Lakeside was a diner near the ocean. Half the teens worked there after school, the other half hung out. There wasn’t a lot to do in our small town, but years ago the students had quickly taken over the restaurant as their own.
“So get this, Trevor suddenly has to study Saturday night.” Emily glanced briefly at me, interested in catching my reaction. The wind was blowing her hair around her perfect face. But while my hair was getting stuck in my mouth, whipping me in the eyes and wrapping around my neck in a chokehold, she somehow managed to look like a model in a print ad. Ugh, so not fair!
“What do you think?” she asked.
I thought, no, I knew Trevor was seeing someone else from another school. But I also knew how Emily wanted me to answer. I shrugged, not quite meeting her gaze. “Maybe his parents are on him about his grades.” Emily didn’t want to know he was cheating. Most people didn’t really want to know the truth.
“Yeah,” she seemed relieved. “That’s what I figured.”
Emily couldn’t stand the idea that someone would dump her. No, Emily dumped boys, boys didn’t dump her. Hurt them before they hurt her. She was worried that was exactly what was happening with Trevor. I was no psychologist, but I’d seen enough episodes of Oprah to wonder if her need to be adored had something to do with the fact that her parents were never around.
“Still, if he keeps this up, I just might dump his ass. God, what does he expect? Doesn’t he know how many people would go out with me?”
She was arrogant, but she was right. I’d read enough horny teenage minds to know that 99% of the school’s male population wanted Emily. The other one percent were gay.
She followed the road that ran along the coast, lurching this way and that with the curves. Thank God I didn’t get motion sick. The ocean was rough, the winds and weather making the waves crest into white peaks that looked like snow. It was a volatile life we led here on the coast, and more than one fisherman drowned every year under the unrelenting power of the ocean. Despite the danger, I loved the feeling, the energy that surged from the waves…that secrecy of not knowing what was there underneath the water.
“I swear Kevin was checking me out the other day.”
For a moment I thought I’d heard her wrong. That the roar of the ocean had made me hear something she hadn’t really said. But no such luck, her thoughts were as clear as my own. My heart squeezed, even as I forced my smile to remain in place.
She was looking at the road, but she was wondering what I was thinking. “If Trevor doesn’t get his shit together, maybe I’ll go out with Kevin.”
My heart thundered painfully in my chest, my palms growing damp. The urge to shout out No! bounced around my skull. But I didn’t move, didn’t dare move for fear she’d read something in my gestures.
She slid me a sly glance. “You don’t still have a crush on him, do you?”
Yes. “No,” I somehow managed to get out, although my voice sounded strangled.
“I didn’t think so.”
Just like that my good mood fled. Time to face facts. Emily was getting worse. Her bitterness toward her parents coming out in her actions more often now. I’d known she was changing, but most of us were. Half the senior class was nervous at the thought of graduating and being alone, the other half were eager to taste freedom. It was an odd year, full of odd emotions and I’d wanted to ignore the signs that Emily had finally taken a step fully into the dark side.
Morose, I rested on my elbow on the window and gaze at the passing scenery. Less than half a year and I’d be gone. I’d been through so many schools, never staying long enough to make true friends, that I’d been desperate when we’d moved here a year ago. When Emily had taken an interest, I admit my self-esteem had savored the attention of the most popular girl in school.
I’d had a plan, enjoy senior year as best I could and try to go out on top. I so badly wanted the sort of relationships I’d seen on television… girls who were best friends since elementary school. But for the last two months I’d noticed her changing, but had hoped I could stick it out until graduation.
But I couldn’t ignore her bitterness anymore. She wanted me to feel horrible, less than her, she loved it. Knowing she could get any guy she wanted, knowing I couldn’t, made her feel special. Still, I was her friend because for the most part, we had fun and as pathetic as it sounded, being her best friend made me feel special. Besides, I didn’t want to ruin this last year. And so we used each other. Believe me, the irony wasn’t lost. But how much longer could I take her cattiness?
The gray clapboard sided diner came into view, perched there on the edge of the sea, looking ready to tumble down at the first sign of a storm. Emily pulled into the parking lot, gravel crunching like boney victims under the wheels of her perfect car.
Although school had only been out an hour, the lot was already half full. And there was Kevin’s black SUV. A guy I hadn’t even had a chance to start a relationship with because I’d already lost him to Emily. And that’s how it was; I was friends with girls who were popular because I knew what they wanted from me. I knew exactly what to say, when to say it. But while they got the boys and got to be prom queen, I stood cheering on the sidelines.
Oddly numb, I barely listened to her happy chatter as we made our way up the rickety steps to the front porch. Emily was so caught up in her own conversation, she didn’t even notice the gray rat scurry across the steps. Every time we came to the diner, I was amazed it was still open. I’d expected the Health Department to shut the place down long ago. But if they shut it down, we’d have no place to go and that’s why the city left it alone.
“Hey! Cameron, I need to talk to you.” Annabeth came rushing across the deck where she’d been serving drinks to students brave enough to sit outside in the wind. She stuffed a couple dollars into the apron tied around her thick waist. Her pink sweater clashed with her red hair, and she’d never exactly been called gorgeous. Still, she was friendly and had soft brown eyes and a wide smile that always made me want to smile back. I liked her the moment we’d met. I’d been a new student and she’d been the first to talk to me. For that, I’d always be grateful.
“I’ll wait for you over there.” Emily hated Anne, not because she didn’t think Anne was popular or pretty enough. Nope, Emily was jealous because she didn’t like the fact that I spent time with someone other than her. She was also jealous that Anne was a genius at math and science while Emily could barely pass. I’d tried to explain this to Anne, but Anne couldn’t possibly believe the most popular girl in school would be jealous of her. Of course I couldn’t tell her that I knew it for a fact.
“What’s up, Anne?” I asked.
We leaned against the railing; I huddled deep within my jacket. The sun was setting, sending brilliant re
“I’ve met someone.”
I snapped my gaze toward her, more than surprised. As far as I knew, Annabeth had never dated anyone. “Who?”
George Miller she thought right before she said the words. “George Miller.” A man popped into her mind, an image she’d conjured. Tall and thin, with dark hair, brown eyes…actually kind of cute, but older than her. Definitely older and she was nervous that he was older. She didn’t want anyone to know.
“How old,” I blurted out before I thought better.
Her round face grew red and I knew she was wondering why I’d brought up the topic. Frantically, she tried to decide what to tell me, I could almost taste her nervousness. Twenty-five. “Twenty,” she squeaked.
You’d be surprised how many people lie and how often. It was common, but still, it annoyed me because we were friends. I nodded slowly, wondering if I should call her out on her lie. Even a person without my abilities could tell she was fibbing. But I could sense Emily’s impatience from across the porch. She was about ready to interrupt and that would hurt Anne’s feelings.
“That’s cool,” I said.
She grinned, relieved I didn’t say anything more. “Yeah, gotta work, but do you want to meet him? He’s inside.”
No! I nodded. Not really. What creepy twenty-five year old would go out with someone who wasn’t even seventeen yet? “Yeah, sure. In a bit.”
She briefly clasped my hands, her fingers cold. “Okay great! See you in a minute.”
“Can’t wait,” I lied.
I watched her as she walked inside. Anne was only sixteen and looked even younger. Her mom would freak if she knew her daughter was dating someone nine years older. I didn’t mean to be rude, but what would a man twenty-five years old want with Anne? Something was off and I couldn’t help but feel like everything was changing suddenly, and not for the good.
“What’d she want?” Emily muttered bitterly as she came to stand next to me.
“Nothing.” I sure as heck wasn’t going to tell Emily so she could mock Annabeth.
“Hey, ladies, what’s up?” Trevor strolled out the door, that arrogant smirk on his face that only the captain of the Basketball team could get away with. He leaned over to kiss Emily. What an idiot, he actually thought he could juggle two women and they wouldn’t find out. Okay, so maybe my opinion of Trevor was influenced by the fact that he thought my breasts were too small for his liking. Although I’m happy to report he’d still “do me,” as he’d thought the other day. As if he’d ever have the chance.
With a huff, Emily turned her head to the side. She was playing hard to get. She wanted him to beg and plead. I rolled my eyes. This could get nauseating real fast.
“What did I do now?” he asked with a sigh.
She snapped her head toward him. “Where were you last night?” She placed her hands on her hips; she meant business. “I called you, I text’d.”
He averted his gaze and rubbed the back of his neck. “With the guys.”
Allow me to translate. With his other girlfriend.
“Playing video games in the basement.”
He smiled his charming smile, those blue eyes twinkling. “You know I don’t get reception down there.”
He’d turned off his phone.
With a sigh, I spun around, giving them the privacy they didn’t seem to care about since they were arguing in the middle of the front porch. I didn’t have to read minds to know this wasn’t going to end well and then I’d have to pick up the pieces until Emily got a new boyfriend, which shouldn’t be long. A boyfriend who would most likely be Kevin. I felt sick.
Taking in a deep breath of chilly air, I gazed out over the ocean, attempting to calm my racing heart. You’d think a person who could read minds would be able to get a boyfriend. It’s not like I was totally disgusting, but I knew some people thought I was weird; quiet, standoffish and I knew a little too much. It was the same no matter where I’d lived. Still, being friends with Emily had helped keep the whispers at bay. No one would dare talk bad about the most popular girl’s best friend. What would they say about me when I finally had enough and dumped Emily?
“What do you mean you don’t believe me?” Trevor demanded, his voice rising with anger and panic.
I rolled my eyes. They’d had the same fight at least once a week for the past three months. I seriously didn’t understand why some people dated and honestly I didn’t think they really understood either. Afraid to be alone. I didn’t blame them. I’d been alone much of my life and frankly it sucked. I wanted that normalcy of living in the same town for more than two years. Of having life-long friendships, an actual boyfriend.
“Of course I don’t….” She paused for one long moment. “What’s that?” Emily was looking toward the shore where a piece of drift wood lay upon the gritty sand.
“Just driftwood,” I said.
She moved toward the steps, only to hesitate. “No, there’s something else…”
I narrowed my eyes and leaned over the railing, trying to get a better view. She was right, there was something there just behind the drift wood. I stepped closer to her. Near the shore lay a bundle. Something…I couldn’t quite see in the fading light. I moved off the steps, Emily following.
“Em,” Trevor whined, he wasn’t used to people just walking away from him.
I resisted the urge to tell him to shut up. It was most likely garbage, but I’d do anything to get out of listening to their fight. If Emily thought it was something great, like buried treasure, I’d follow along.
“Oh my God, Cameron, what is it?” Her fingers bit into my upper arm.
I shrugged off her tight grip. Emily was way too dramatic. Usually it was amusing but right now annoying. “It’s nothing. Probably…”
What was it? Something pale and narrow. The closer we got, the more our footsteps slowed. An odd sense of foreboding tingled through my body, yet I couldn’t seem to stop moving. Closer… closer. Turn back! My instincts screamed, but I couldn’t stop my feet from crunching through the sand.
Something was sticking out of a bundle…something pale, narrow…a leg. The fine hairs on my arms stood on end. My heart denied what my mind knew was true.
A gray leg covered in dirt with brown seaweed wrapped around the calf. Sickening dread sank into the pit of my belly. I knew what it was, I knew what lay there, what horrors life was capable of.
Numb, I barely felt my body as I moved around the driftwood; was barely aware of Emily clutching my arm once again. It was like I wasn’t even there, but watching a television show. A green wool blanket covered the body. But from that blanket her head was visible; long blonde hair matted with seaweed and sand. I froze, Emily pausing beside me. My body started trembling… shocking, violent trembles I couldn’t control.
Her pale eyes were wide open, staring unblinkingly at me. A familiar face. Now a ghastly face that would give me nightmares for the rest of my life.
I was aware of Emily screaming, but the high-pitched noise barely registered.
A girl who had moved to our town only a month ago. A sweet, southern girl, although I didn’t know her well. Now, a dead girl.
I staggered back into Emily’s warm, living body. My stomach roiled, the scenery before me going blurry. The scent of ocean and fish was too much. Acid rose to my throat and I knew I was going to be sick.
I was vaguely aware of people rushing from the diner, the panic of their jumbled thoughts mixed and clambered around in my head. Too much, too many thoughts. My brain ached; my skull felt as if it would burst open. I pressed my hands to my temples and stumbled back.
“What is it?” Trevor asked.
Someone pushed me aside and I spun around. A blur of people rushed by, blocking Savannah from view. Still, I merely stood there, jostled back and forth by curious students. I couldn’t think
“Oh my God,” I heard Emily cry, “is she dead?”
I killed her.
The foreign voice whispered through my head. A voice I didn’t recognize. I jerked my gaze upright. No one was looking at me… ten, fifteen faces pale in horror, focused on that body. But someone had said the words. I hadn’t imagined them, had I?
I killed her.
My heart jumped into my throat, my hands growing clammy. With a muffled cry, I spun around, studying the faces behind me. No one was smiling with accomplishment. No one looked guilty. More people were spilling from the diner, at least five kids were on their cell phones talking desperately to the police.
“Excuse me.” I pushed my way between the horrified group of gawking people.
I killed her.
I froze in the middle of the crush, a shiver- hot and cold- skimming my body. A male voice. Who? I turned, jerking my head this way and that. I had to find him. I must! I knew them all, some better than others, but this voice was unfamiliar. Who, here, would be capable of murder? The girl in front of me shifted, trying to get a better look. Behind her, near the parking lot, stood a stranger.
For one moment the entire world stilled. Nothing existed but that guy.
My heart thumped madly, almost painfully, against my rib cage. Dark hair, but I couldn’t see his eye color. Tall, average build, around my age. Dressed in jeans and a long, black coat. As if sensing my attention, he turned his head ever so slightly and his gaze met mine.
I sucked in a sharp breath and stepped behind Trevor like the coward I was. The world came roaring back into focus. Had the stranger killed Savannah? Had he thought the vile words? Sweat slid down my back, my breath coming out in rapid pants. Fear was bitter on my tongue. Unable to resist, I peeked around Trevor.
The boy was gone.
Lori Brighton, The Ghost Hunter, a Paranormal Romance (The Hunter Series)
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