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Welcome again to YAFF Muse: blog rounds. The ladies of YA Fiction Fanatics have come together for YAFF Muse. To have a little fun, explore different styles of writing and to give you some kick-butt shorts to read. Enjoy!

Photo Credit: Gingerkrick from wikimedia commons

 

We ducked behind the twisted metal of what was left of an old station wagon. Ace grabbed my hand, jerking me toward the alley.

 “Come on Rina, you need to move, now.” He shoved me into the shadows right as flares erupted overhead, lighting the whole street.

 “There’s nowhere to hide. They’ll find us.” I swallowed hard. Today was Blood’s Day. A day we were forced to celebrate and give to those who’d allowed us to live.

 It’d been seven years since the world had been punished—nearly obliterated. Or so the Grand Mayor said. But I didn’t remember anything, other than the moment Ace found me six years ago. Everything before that was lost. I had no family. No home. Nothing. Hell, I didn’t even remember my own name. So Ace gave me one. Rina.

 Screams echoed off the crumbled buildings as people ran, trying to hide from the soldiers. No one ever came to this side of town, until they needed something. Or rather, someone. We all knew what they came for and none of us wanted to give it willingly.

 “Damn it, Rina, move your ass.” Ace ducked inside the remnants of the cinema. His grip on my arm tightened as we dove behind the rows of dilapidated cinema seats.

 Dust kicked up like we’d been sucked inside a vacuum, and the loud whir of helicopter blades sounded from above.

 Bright light exploded. I covered my face to shield my eyes. But it was too late. A man repelled down a rope, snagging hold of me.

 “Ace,” I screamed. The last thing I saw were his startled blue eyes as I was ripped into the air. “Let me go.” My foot connected with my captor’s shin, but he held tight like a coiled snake constricting its victim.

 “Stop thrashing or I’ll drop you right here.” The soldier warned.

 The chopper carried us a short distance, where a wooden platform stood erected near several white tents. Fear ensnared me like a giant bear trap. This was it. We landed several feet from the stage and two armed guards immediately met me.

 They ushered me under one of the canopies.

 “Let’s get you cleaned up, shall we?” a woman with white cotton ball like hair said. “Such an honor to be chosen.”

 My jaw clenched. “Chosen? I wasn’t chosen, I was stolen. I don’t want to do this.”

“Come now. We can do this the easy way or the hard way.”

 Then maybe you should go in my place you rich piece of crap. The words rolled around my thoughts like marbles.

 The guards raised their guns. I closed my eyes, sucked in a deep breath, and followed the woman. She showed me to a steaming wooden tub.

 “Get those grimy clothes off and I’ll have Greta come give you a good washing. We don’t have much time, it’s nearly midnight.”

 My fingers trembled as I unbuttoned the baggy shirt and tight pants, they fell to the floor in a heap. Hands shoved me from behind, until I stumbled into the scalding water. It burned my skin and I yelped.

 “Sit down,” another woman, Greta, I think, said. “Can’t having you look like vermin in front of the Gods.”

 I wanted to tell her to go to hell and to take her fake Gods with her. Every year the Grand Mayor ordered young women to be taken from the city and brought here. He made a celebration of death, while everyone cheered and partied and carried on as if this was a joke. And every year, the Gods ignored the gifts—we still suffered and the Grand Mayor still controlled everything. Well, everything but the Labyrinth.

 Strong hands forced me down, dunking me under the fiery hot liquid. I couldn’t breathe. She’s drowning me. My lungs burned. Bubbles rippled in my vision.

 At last she jerked me upward, scrubbing at my head, face, and back with a thick brush. Tears ran down my cheeks as the bristles dug into my skin. Any moment now, I expected to see my flesh come away or spatterings of blood in the tub.

 “Hurry Greta, they’re almost ready,” the other woman called.

 Arms the size of tree branches hefted me from the bath and rubbed me dry. “Here, put this on.”

 I was handed a long white robe. My stomach churned. I reached forward to steady myself on a nearby chair. The Blood’s Day girls always wore white. So the whole village could see us bleed.

 Trumpets sang in the distance and cheers from the plaza nearly deafened me.

 “Ah, so here is our little flower.” The Grand Mayor parted the flaps of the tent; his beady eyes rested on my legs, which were visible beneath the sheer fabric of the robe. “You should hold your head high this day.”

 He reached a meaty paw out to caress my face.

 “Burn. In. Hell.” I spat.

 His eyes narrowed. “Take her to the Labyrinth’s center.”

 Guards dragged me forward, the stones scraping my legs as I fought to free myself. When the spectators saw me, they cheered louder—whooping and hollering. My gaze drifted over the gathered crowd. Mothers held tight to their daughters, relief flooding their features, for their children were safe for another year.

 “Rina!”

 My head snapped up. Ace pushed his way through the throng of people. Shaggy dark hair fell across his forehead nearly hiding the piercing blue eyes I’d grown so accustomed to. Even with dirt smudged across his face, he was perfect. Strong. Beautiful. And I’d never get the chance to tell him.

 “Ace.” My fingers brushed his before the guards pinned him to the ground, keeping him from me. My throat thickened with emotion. Sorrow washed over me. I love you. And I’d die to keep you safe.

 Two other girls were rushed through the center of the chaos both adorned in white, like me. One cried, clutching tight to a gold chain at her neck. The other marched forward on her own, no resistance at all as if she was proud to give herself over to this madness.

 We were ushered to the middle of the Labyrinth like stones. The Grand Mayor tapped on a microphone, taking his place at the raised podium.

 “Good people of New Virginia Beach. Today is a special day for us. A day we celebrate and offer blood unto the gods. We ask only for their continued blessings. And for the opening of the powerful Labyrinth, which will grant us what it is we seek.”

 Three of the guards stepped toward us each armed with a ceremonial dagger.

 “Which of our Blood Girls offers first blood?” The Grand Mayor’s toothy grin reminded me of a hungry monster.

 “Me,” the proud girl said.

 “Very well.” He gestured for the soldier to proceed.

 I turned my head, but as the crowd quieted I heard the first slice of flesh then felt the spray of blood on my own skin. My stomach rolled, but the onlookers hollered their approval.

 “Thank you for your sacrifice Milicent Wendell,” the Grand Mayor said. “But she is not the one. Next girl please.”

 The girl with the necklace shrieked even before the knife made contact. I have to get out of here. I can’t die, not like this. Help me. Please.

 More agonizing yelps sounded, drowning out all other noises. My heart pounded and I kicked out my legs, knocking one of the guards to the ground. It was fight or die. My mouth clamped down on my captor’s arm. He released me and I leapt over the bodies of the fallen girls, blood already pooling around the Labyrinth like tiny rivers.

 Crimson fluid splashed against my legs as I tried to run.

 “Rina, now is the time to remember,” Ace shouted. He shoved aside the armed soldier who’d held him at bay only moments ago. With a sickening crack, he broke the guys neck.

 Remember what?

 “Remember us.” Voices sprung up from the stones beneath my feet. “Come home my daughter.”

 The ground rumbled causing people to fall to their knees. The moon turned red, casting scarlet shadows on the surrounding buildings and faces At last, Ace reached my side, clutching me tight. The Labyrinth sprung up around us. Air whooshed and thunder boomed. Painful howls and shrieks spiraled from outside our protective wall.

 “What’s happening?” I clung to Ace, burying my face against him.

 “You’re going home, Goddess. You’re job here is done.” Ace’s dirty rags fell away to reveal bronze armor beneath. He clutched a sword in his hand. “The people have been punished. And after the Grand Mayor’s death today, no one shall be sacrificed again.”

 “Goddess?” I whispered. Then I remembered all.

 The light. My arrival to Earth. The battles. The deaths. And now, it was over. I could go home. Ace held tight to my hand and we stepped into the light.

Thanks for coming by. Please be sure to drop by my fellow YAFFers blogs and don’t forget to leave a comment.

Vanessa Barger

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Welcome again to YAFF Muse: blog rounds. The ladies of YA Fiction Fanatics have come together for YAFF Muse. To have a little fun, explore different styles of writing and to give you some kick-butt shorts to read. Enjoy!

PHOTO CREDIT JARI from MORGUEFILE.COM

 

“C’mon, Dara. Trust me, you want to see this.” Cal Carruthers rushed ahead of me, the setting sun making his auburn hair look like it was on fire.

He dashed into the shadowy crevices between the trees and boulders. I sighed. The whole day was like a dream come true. I mean, in what world did the hotness that is Cal Carruthers ask a band geek like me on a picnic?

I stepped over a moss covered log, my long hair blowing into my face.

“So how much further is this place?” I called.

Leaves crunched under my feet as I made my way deeper into the woodland. Silence enveloped me. The birds had stopped chirping and I didn’t hear Cal’s footsteps any longer.

“Cal?”

The stench of rotten wood and moist earth assaulted me. I wrinkled my nose. My eyes scanned the thick canopies above me, daylight fading fast.

“We’re almost there.” Cal poked his head out of the brush, nearly causing me a heart attack.

“You scared the crap out of me.” I sucked in a deep breath, trying to get my pulse back to normal.

He reached for my hand, his fingers entwining mine. “Sorry.”

His brilliant smile practically blinded me. “It’s okay.”

Dang straight it was okay. I mean, this was Cal Carruthers. He could do anything to me and it’d be okay. Like kiss me. Or hold me. Or well anything.

He grinned as if hearing my thoughts and tugged me along behind him. After a few more minutes we came to stop in front of a large, stone structure. It was covered with moss and reminded me of a large hive.

“What is this place?” A cold wind picked up my hair, sending chills down my neck. Forest debris blew across the forest floor as if trying to run away.

“Some place special.” Cal’s eyes darkened and a low humming reverberated around us.

I gasped as tiny winged creatures darted from the hive. Fairies. No way. This wasn’t real. I took a step back, but Cal caught hold of me, cementing me in place.

The fairies flickered in and out of the trees like sparkling Christmas lights, their wings beating behind them. They looked so celestial. So beautiful.

One flew closer to me and landed on my arm. It cocked its head to the side then lowered its head.

“Ow! It bit me.” I shrieked, trying to get the creature off me.

“Of course they did. They’re hungry Dara. Hungry for blood. Your blood.”

I staggered backward. “No. This isn’t possible.”

“Come my sweets. Dinner has arrived.” Cal waved his hands in the air. At once, thousands of vampiric fairies were upon me.

Teeth nipped and gnawed at my flesh. The beings swarmed me, covering me like a heavy net until I fell to the ground. Pain erupted in my veins. They pulled at my hair and my skin. Biting and sucking. I wanted to scream, but the fairies covered my face, muffling me.

And Cal stood there. Watching. Waiting for me to die. My dream come true had turned into a nightmare. A nightmare, I’d never escape.

Thanks for coming by. Please be sure to drop by my fellow YAFFers blogs and don’t forget to leave a comment.

Traci Kenworth

Vanessa Barger

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Welcome again to YAFF Muse: blog rounds. The ladies of YA Fiction Fanatics have come together for YAFF Muse. To have a little fun, explore different styles of writing and to give you some kick-butt shorts to read. Enjoy!

 

Photo Credit V Barger

 
 
 

I hurried to the front gate, practically dragging my grandma.

“Alice, slow down.” She chuckled, attempting to refold the map of the Tower of London.  “Why don’t you run along and see if you can make some of the tours.”

I frowned. Her poofy white hair looked like someone pulled apart a cotton ball and taped it to her head. “I’m not gonna leave you here by yourself.”

“I’ll be fine. Besides, all this walking made me thirsty. I want to sit in the shade and relax. Now go.”  She swatted me with her folded umbrella.  “I’m sure Elizabeth will be along shortly. Her reenactment group was supposed to be done by one o’clock.”

With a grin, I rushed through the crowd. Tendrils of blonde hair tickled my cheek as the winds picked up. An array of foreign accents swept through the throngs of people. Camera’s flashed as tourists posed in front of the gate. I slowed my pace, not wanting to appear too eager.

My gaze flashed to the White Tower. All summer I’d dreamt of coming here. Grandma had booked the trip to London as a graduation present. She said I needed to have one last “hurrah” before I left for the University of Michigan in the fall. Although, I had my suspicions she was trying to hook me up with some British guy. For an old lady, she seemed pretty obsessed with Prince William. If I had to hear about his “manly physique” one more time…

Oomph.  I crashed into a sturdy frame.

“I’m so sorry.” I glanced up to see a tall, dark haired guy staring down at me. His blue eyes were startling. Like a cold shock of ice on a hot summer day.

He seemed surprised and looked over my shoulder, then in a British accent said, “Are you speaking to me?”

My face burned. “Um—yeah. I didn’t mean to run into you.  I was in a hurry.”

He smiled. It was then that I noticed the old-fashioned garb. He wore breeches, tucked into high leather boots, and a white flowy tunic, with an embroidered navy colored waistcoat.

“Pardon my manners.” He took my hand and brought it to his lips. “Let me introduce myself. I’m Lord Edmond Fuller.”

My pulse quickened at the touch of his mouth to my skin. “Alice.”

“Perhaps, you’ll allow me to show you around today?” He laced my arm through his.

“I’d like that.” Oh. My. God. Grandma would so freak out if she saw me with this guy. Not only was he hot, but he had an accent. A very smoldering accent.

Okay. Stay focused. Don’t act like an idiot.

We walked toward the Tower Green, where two men were dressed in black and red outfits, complete with large hats.

Edmond steered me past the ancient structures and crowds. He pointed out the different buildings, giving me a brief history. It was like my very own tour guide. We chatted about London and the weather and about soccer. The conversation just seemed to flow, like we’d been friends since childhood.

“Do you mind if I have someone take our picture?” I asked when we stopped in front of Tower Gate.

“Not at all.” His fingers brushed mine as he released my arm. Tingles trailed from my toes to the top of my head, my heart beat out of control. For a moment, I thought I might explode. Down hormones.

I stopped a nearby couple to ask if they’d snap the shot. Edmond and I posed together, his arms wrapped about my waist. This feels right. When they finished, I put the camera back in its case and turned to him.

“Thanks for showing me around today. I had fun.” Please ask me for my number. Or kiss me. Or cop a feel. Something.

“My pleasure.” He bowed, giving me a lopsided grin. “How long are you in London for?”

“Another week. My grandma and I are staying a few blocks from Kensington Palace.”

“Only a week?” he said, half to himself. His smile slipped away and he stared at the dark clouds. “Well, Alice, I shouldn’t keep you any longer. It seems like you’re being paged.”

He pointed at Grandma who hobbled toward us.

I moved to her side and when I turned back around Edmond was gone.

“Who was the nice looking young man? You got a hot date?” She winked.

I fanned my face. “No.”

“Tell me you at least got his number!” Grandma Pearl swatted me with her umbrella when I shook my head no.

“I didn’t have time. And now I’ll likely never see him again.” How could I be so stupid? Here I’d just had the perfect day, with the perfect guy and I had no way to get a hold of him again.

Thunder boomed overhead and large drops of rain spattered against my face. Grandma snapped her umbrella open and tugged me beneath it. “He probably works here. We can come back tomorrow and ask for him.”

“But what if he doesn’t want to see me again? I mean, he might think I’m some weird stalker or something.”

She snickered. “As your generation likes to say, you my girl need to grow some.” She gestured at her private parts.

“Grandma, really?”

“You never know when you might meet your Mr. Right. Do you want to chance missing out on it?”

Truth was, I didn’t. But what was the point? I was from the US and although Grandma made frequent trips here to see her friend Elizabeth, I was about to start school. Not to mention being separated by an ocean might put a damper on things like a long distance relationship.

***

I tossed and turned most of the night. All I could think about was Edmond. His smile. His eyes. The way he held my hand. And obviously, I was turning into Grandma with my obsessions. I slurped up the last bite of oatmeal and shoved my bowl aside.

 I have to go find him. Today.

“So, are we making a trip back to the Tower?” Grandma glanced at me over her newspaper.

“Yes. I have to.”

“Then let’s go.”

I wiped my clammy hands on my pants as we approached the gate. With Grandma close behind, I found the closest employee.  “Excuse me, I wondered if you could tell me if Edmond Fuller was working today?”

The lady gave me a dirty look. “Is this a joke?”

“Um—no.”

“Lord Edmond Fuller died in the 1700’s.”  Her eyes narrowed as she walked away, muttering something about stupid tourists.

Shit. This was insane. Maybe I’d dreamt the whole day up. I jerked my camera from its case and scrolled through the pictures. When I came to the photo I wanted, I stopped. He was there. No ghostly see through images. No smoky tendrils. He was a solid human being.

“This doesn’t make sense.”

Grandma leaned closer, gasped, then started laughing.

“What’s so funny?” God, you’d think she’d be more sympathetic when it came to my love life.

“Nothing. Why don’t you let me use your phone so I can call Elizabeth to meet us for lunch. I bet, between the three of us, we can come up with a plan to find your young man.”

“Just face it, Grandma, it’s hopeless. Besides, he gave me a fake name. He didn’t want me to find him.”

****

An hour later we stood in front of the Goat Tavern, waiting for Elizabeth. Traffic buzzed by, while people streamed in and out of shops.

“There she is!” Grandma dragged me toward the curb, where a taxi stopped.

A short, grayed haired woman climbed out. Her black coat unbuttoned.

“Pearl, Alice, so good to see you. I hope you don’t mind, but I brought my grandson Oliver along.” She smiled at Grandma.

I gasped as my “Edmond Fuller” slid from the taxi.

“Alice?” He seemed as stunned as I was. “I didn’t think I’d see you again.”

“I went back to find you today, but you gave me a fake name…”

He blushed. “Sorry about that. I was helping Gram’s reenactment group yesterday. We have to stay in character. And then I had to leave before I could give you my real name or get your last name.  I started to call the local hotels to look for you, but realized I only had your first name.”

I stared into his eyes as he took my hand.

“Luckily, I recognized him in the picture,” Grandma said beside us. “Elizabeth has been bugging me for ages to introduce the two of you. But it looks like you’ve done all right on your own.”

“Maybe I ought to give you another tour.” Oliver smiled. “My flat isn’t too far from here.”

“Oliver Russell!”

“I’m kidding Grandma.” His fingers traced my cheek. “How about lunch?”

“I’d love to.” I didn’t know how things would work out, but I knew fate had intervened.

Thanks for coming by. Please be sure to drop by my fellow YAFFers blogs and don’t forget to leave a comment.

Traci Kenworth

Vanessa Barger

Kit Forbes

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Welcome again to YAFF Muse: blog rounds. The ladies of YA Fiction Fanatics have come together for YAFF Muse. To have a little fun, explore different styles of writing and to give you some kick-butt shorts to read. Enjoy!

 

Photo Credit:  Stage 11 by Clarita

The magician swooped across the stage, his cape billowing behind him.  His dark eyes scanned the crowd.  Locks of raven colored hair swept across his forehead as he focused on me and Natasha.  Why did he seem so familiar to me?

“For my next trick, I need a volunteer from the crowd.”  His melodic voice danced over my skin, causing goose bumps.

Natasha flipped her long, chestnut hair over her shoulder and smiled at me.  “Come on, Claire raise your hand.  He’s so, freaking hot!”

I clenched tight to the edge of the table, my stomach churning.  My blood felt as if it were on fire.  The way he’d watched us all night made me dizzy.  The Great Kalif, magician and illusionist.  He couldn’t be much older than me at seventeen.  If only I could remember where I’d seen him before.

“Claire.”  Natasha jerked on my arm.  “Either you volunteer or I will.”

My gaze narrowed.  “No.  I’m not going up there. You know I hate crowds.”

Her crimson lips turned up into a wicked smile.  “Then don’t be pissed when I snag him.”

My hands fisted at my side.  Why am I so jealous?

“Come on, there must be one brave soul.”  Kalif sauntered to the edge of the stage, his eyes once more on our table.

I squirmed under his scrutiny and ducked my head, right as Natasha jumped to her feet and said, “I’ll do it.”

He grinned, then held out his hand as she pushed her way to the front of the stage.  Once there, he helped her up the stairs and to a black chair. 

Already, wisps of fog rolled across the room, while strobes pulsed with a rainbow of color.

“What is your name?” Kalif asked in a thick accent.

“Natasha.”

“Natasha, that’s lovely.”  He pressed her down onto the chair, then turned back to the crowd.  “Now, if you’ll focus up here.  You’ll witness the most horrific of illusions.  But I assure you, it is all in your head. Or is it?”

I swallowed hard.  Something wasn’t right.  The idle chatter faded as people in the room faced forward. Eerie music tinkled through the loud speakers and everyone around me sat straighter, eyes focused intently on the stage.

“Yes, that’s it.  Watch the show.”  Kalif’s white teeth beamed against his tanned skin.  He raised a hand and ran it along Natasha’s shoulder.  “Relax.  You won’t feel a thing.”

A content smile formed on her lips.  Then came the glint of a blade.  His arms moved quicker, bringing the knife across her skin several times.  Blood sprayed across the floor.  Tattered fabric from her shirt littered the stage like confetti.  Natasha screamed, but no one moved.

Oh God, this was real.  Frightened, I leapt to my feet.  “Stop!”

Just then something warm spattered my face.  I raised a shaking hand.  My fingers trembled as I stared at the crimson liquid. No.  This wasn’t happening.

I stumbled backward, covering my ears against the shrieks.  Why was everyone so still?

A breeze swirled around me and I jerked back as a black wing blocked my vision.  “Please, let me go.”

“But I can’t.”  Kalif appeared in front of me.  Large ebony colored wings protruded from his back, his suit ripped away.  “I’ve come for you, my dear Claire.”

“I—I don’t understand.”  My heart pounded in my ears.

“I think you do.”  He ran his fingers through my long blonde hair.  “You and I are always at odds.  Dark vs Light.  But I’m tired of the games.  I want to be with you.  Why must you fight this?”

My throat thickened.  “Because I don’t want to die.”

“You don’t have to.  Your friend offered herself up freely in your place.”

My eyes widened.  “No.  You can’t have her.”

“Then give me something else.”

His skin was warm against mine as he traced my cheek.  How had I forgotten about him?  I’d spent centuries hiding from the Dark Prince, yet he’d found me, just like he always did.  Every century he descended upon me.  He’d utter sweet words, tempting me.  And each time I’d run away only to find death and madness. 

“Bring her back to life.”

“It will cost you.”  Kalif stepped back.

“You can have whatever you want.  Just please, save her.”

“Anything, I want?”

“Yes.”

“No tricks this time?”

“I promise.”  No sooner had I said the words when I felt a strange burning beneath my skin.

“Then I chose you.  From this day forward, you are bound to me.”

He waved his hand and I watched the cuts on Natasha close. All traces of blood on the stage disappeared.  She gasped, staring around the room.  Her gaze met mine.

“Claire, what have you done?” she whispered.

“Saved you.”  I gave her a sad smile.

Kalif wrapped his arms around me, cocooning me in the folds of his wings.  Already, I felt the shadows embracing me.  White feathers fell from beneath my sweater as the light slipped away.

“I love you, Claire.  I always have.”  His lips captured mine.

For years, I’d fought against my yearnings.  But to no avail. I wanted to be good. I wanted to share my light. But it’d always been Kalif for me, even when the Council threatened to take my wings.  For too long, I’d let them rule me and decide my fate.  How many times had I been sacrificed in order to punish Kalif?  No more would I allow it. Today, I’d done one last good deed.  I’d saved Natasha.  And now, I was through fighting.

“I love you, too,” I said.  My arms encircled his neck.

“Nothing will keep us apart again.”

Thunder rumbled from above, but I’d made my choice.  I chose love.

Thanks for coming by. Please be sure to drop by my fellow YAFFers blogs and don’t forget to leave a comment.

Traci Kenworth

Vanessa Barger

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Welcome again to YAFF Muse: blog rounds. The ladies of YA Fiction Fanatics have come together for YAFF Muse. To have a little fun, explore different styles of writing and to give you some kick-butt shorts to read. Enjoy!

A strong hand shook me awake, and I glanced up to see my sister leaning over me.  “Kendall, listen, you’ve got to get out of here, now.”

Her bright blue eyes pierced mine as she tugged me out of bed.

“Shit.  What’s your problem?”  I glanced at my alarm clock.  “It’s two in the morning, Paige.”

My older sister knelt next to me.  “If you don’t leave, they’re going to kill you.”

Blonde hair cascaded into my face as I let her pull me to my feet.  “Who’s going to kill me?”

“Listen, the Federation stopped here earlier.  I heard them talking to Mom about you.”

My throat went dry.  The Federation.  Crap.  They’d been trying to recruit me since I was thirteen.  But my being underage had kept them from touching me, from using me in their games.

But now, at seventeen, I was legal. 

Paige jerked my duffel bag out from underneath my bed and shoved some of my clothes in it.  Then she turned to her dresser and pulled a wad of bills from her purse.

“What did Mom say?”  I met her gaze as she shoved the money into my hand.

“I told them they could have you, if they promised to leave your sisters alone.”  Mom flicked on our bedroom light.  She refused to meet my eye.  “It was either I send one of you, or lose all of you.”

Two grizzled men pushed past my screaming sister and gripped hold of my arm, dragging me toward the door.

“Stop.  Please!”  They covered my mouth with a gag and tied my hands behind my back.

People taken to the Federation, never came back.  At least not alive.  What had mother done? 

Tears burned my eyes as I watched Paige’s grief stricken face disappear from sight.  Then everything went black.

***

I struggled to open my eyes as my arms brushed against the coolstone walls behind me.  But when my lids fluttered opened, I noticed I was in a tunnel. 

Tiny red lights flickered along the ceiling and I knew the cameras watched my every move, broadcasting it for the sick fucks who bet on people like me making it through the Labyrinth.

High pitched alarms blared in the distance.  The games had begun.  Too bad they didn’t know who the hell they were messing with.  With a smile, I wiped the make-up from my neck.  My tattoo blazed in the darkness.  Flames licked at my fingertips as my magic shot forth.  I rushed forward where a shower of bullets came at me from a lone sniper in the corner.

I rolled to the ground, creating a shield around myself.  The ammunition fell to the floor in front of me. 

“My turn.”  Heat licked at my body as I thrust fiery orbs at the gunman.  He screamed as his flesh burnt on contact.  I wrinkled my nose against the scent of his charcoaled body.

“Shut down the Labyrinth,” a frightened voice came over the intercom.

I laughed.  “Too late.  The Federation is going down.  You really should do better background checks before you recruit people.”

Smoke filled the Labyrinth as I went path by path, taking out the workers who’d aided in killing people for fun.  All so they could place bets and watch our fear on TV.  Tonight, they’d get their fill.

When I came to the end of the maze, I kicked opened the door.  A helicopter loomed overhead, its spotlight focused on me.  “I don’t even think so.”

With a flick of my finger, I sent a fireball right for the gas tank.  I dove to the side as it exploded mid air, in a shower of hot metal and body parts.  I slipped into the shadows and raced towardNickletreePark. 

There, I found Paige waiting for me, a slow smile upon her lips.  “I knew you’d do it.”

I hugged her tight.  “Did you make the bets?”

“Oh yeah.  The monies already in the account.”

“And Mom?”

“Taken care of.  She’ll never betray us again.”  Paige grabbed my hand and jerked me to our getaway car. 

At last, we were free.  Free of our mother who’d sold us for various things over the years.  But most of all free from the Federation.  Never again would I have to hide my powers or be afraid of the dark.  No.  I was the one to be feared.   

Thanks for coming by. Please be sure to drop by my fellow YAFFers blogs and don’t forget to leave a comment.

Traci Kenworth

Vanessa Barger

Joey

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Welcome again to YAFF Muse: blog rounds. The ladies of YA Fiction Fanatics have come together for YAFF Muse. To have a little fun, explore different styles of writing and to give you some kick-butt shorts to read.  Enjoy!

 

 

Photo credit: Kakisky from Morguefile.com

Tiny dancers swayed across the dance floor, their multi-colored tutus gave me a headache. Already I felt the ballet moms’ eyes burning into the back of my head. They probably thought I was a perv. I mean, I was the only guy sitting in the dance studio. My balls itched, but I didn’t dare scratch them. Otherwise, they really might think I was playing with myself.

Classical music echoed across the room and I groaned. Why in the hell did I tell Katie Nigel I’d give her a ride home from dance today?

Because she has a nice rack.

“Okay girls, now move your hips like this,” Katie said.

My eyes bulged as they trailed up her long legs to her pelvis. Shit. I shifted in my chair, dropping my coat in my lap to hide the bulge.

Okay, breathe Damien. You’ve seen chicks dance before.

“All right. That’s it ladies. We’ll see you next Tuesday.” Katie smiled, swiping a strand of loose dark hair from her face.

High-pitched little girl voices echoed as they scurried out to their moms to put on their coats and tennis shoes.

Katie came out last and made beeline for me. “Damien, hey, I hate to be a pain, but do you think you could stick around for another fifteen minutes? I so need to practice my routine.”

I’d eat dog crap if she asked. My lips twitched. “Yeah. Take as long as you need.”

She held out her hand to me. “Want to watch?”

She had no idea.

I let her lead me into the mirrored room, my combat boots heavy on the wooden floor. Katie grabbed a chair from the corner and set it up at the center of the room.

“So why aren’t there any guys hanging around here?” I ran a hand through my blonde hair.

“Because we eat them up.” She rolled her eyes. “Trust me, all guys are the same. They hate dancing and gymnastics. You know if it doesn’t have a football or baseball in it…”

I shrugged. “I don’t mind ballet.” Especially if it meant watching Katie.

 

Katie smiled then dimmed the lights. Music with a heavy drumbeat pulsed in the air. She spun around me, her leg gliding over my head as she kicked up and out. My heart thudded as if it might burst through my skin. Her movements were almost ritualistic, the way they kept time with each beat.

She bent backward then twisted to face me once more. Her finger traced my cheek. God, if she didn’t stop, I’d have to make a quick trip to the bathroom.

Her lips turned up at the corners as if she read my thoughts. “See, you’re all the same.”

“What?’

“I know what you’re thinking, Damien. Trust me. I know that look. You would follow me anywhere. Do anything I say. All for the chance to be with me.” Katie stopped moving. “The thing is, you don’t stand a chance. Because in the end, you’ll end up just like the rest of them.”

The rest of who?

Then the lighting changed and I saw the bones lining the walls of the room. The stench of spoiled meat made me gag. I tried to stand, but strong hands held me in my chair. Katie laughed, deep and throaty. Then her jaw unhinged, and rows upon rows of teeth gleamed like butcher knives.

I screamed, but no sound came out as she lunged forward. My flesh tore from my body, as she ripped into me. Warm liquid poured into my eyes. My blood.

“Damien, come on, get up. You’re going to be late for school.”

With a howl, I fell from my bed. Sweat drenched me.

“Mom?”

She stood with her arms crossed. “I’ve been calling your name for the last ten minutes.”

It was just a dream. Relief flooded me.

“Listen, Mrs. Nigel and I are supposed to go to a purse party tonight. Do you think you can give her daughter Katie a ride home from dance class?”

I went still. “No. Absolutely not.”

Mom frowned. “You don’t have to be rude.”

“I’m not. I’ve got plans.”

“Since when?”

Since my effed up dream of being eaten alive by her. “I promised Matt I’d teach him some new guitar chords.”

“Fine. I’ll tell her no.” Mom stormed from my room.

She’d probably be pissed at me for the rest of the day. But I didn’t care. I threw on a pair of jeans and a t-shirt. After I grabbed my book bag, I headed out the door to my blazer.

I pulled onto the main road then sped up in order to avoid getting stuck behind the school bus. As I turned ontoMonroe Avenue, I spotted Katie. She glanced at me, a smile forming on her lips. I jerked my head around and stared straight ahead. No way in hell would I ever look at her tits again. As a matter of fact, I considered talking to Mom tonight about transferring schools.

For a moment, I thought I heard her laugh.

It was just a dream,” I whispered. Wasn’t it?

Thanks for coming by. Please be sure to drop by my fellow YAFFers blogs and don’t forget to leave a comment.

Miranda Buchanan

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Welcome again to YAFF Muse: blog rounds. The ladies of YA Fiction Fanatics have come together for YAFF Muse. To have a little fun, explore different styles of writing and to give you some kick-butt shorts to read.  Enjoy!

 

PHOTO CREDIT delboysafa from Morguefile.com

 

The cage bars were cold against my skin. “Let me out!” I screamed as I slammed into them once more.

The tigers lay in the fake jungle like surroundings, watching me. Traitors. How could they bask away beneath the sun, letting him decide their next meal? So docile, as if they didn’t remember what it was like to slink through the thick grass and hunt for food.

The door at the back of the tiger exhibit opened, and one of the handlers came in carrying slabs of raw meat.

“Please, help me,” I called, shaking the bars.

His startled gaze met mine. “What are you doing in here?”

“The zookeeper kidnapped me. He’s had me locked up in here for days.” My face crumpled, tears streamed along my cheeks.

One of the tigers, Felix, the male, let out a roar. The handler tossed him a hunk of meat.

“What the hell’s going on?” the handler asked. He came close enough for me to see his name tag. Rick.“I—I don’t know. A couple of days ago, I came here with my family. And the head zookeeper asked if we wanted to take part in a special exhibit.” My fingers trembled as I tried to forget the screams. “When he got us in here, he fed my parents to the tigers, and locked me up.”

Rick looked horrified. “Listen, I can sneak you out of here. But you’ll have to give me a minute so I can get you something else to wear.” He gestured to my torn, bloodied clothes.

He slipped from the holding area, his dark hair sticking up in messy tufts. When he returned he carried a khaki colored zoo uniform. He slipped them through the bars, then turned while I changed.

“What’s your name?” Rick asked.

“Tia Queen.”

“Okay, Tia. I’m going to unlock the cage real slow. When I throw the purple ball to the tigers, I want you to move toward the exit.”

I wanted to tell him that they wouldn’t let me go passed. But he already had the toy in hand and rolled it across the floor. Taking a deep breath, I grabbed hold of Rick’s waist, jerking him against me. The tigers growled. They knew what I was doing.

“Hey, what’s going on?” Rick tried to break my grip, but I was too strong.

“Just stay with me, I’ll explain when we get out.” A smile tugged my lips when the tigers backed down. I knew Felix wouldn’t have the balls to go against the zookeeper.

When we reached the door, I released Rick. “Who are you?” he took a step back.

I laughed. “There’s a reason the zookeeper had me locked up. And it’s time I paid him a visit.” A loud crunching sound filled the air as my bones broke, and my skin tore. Pain radiated through my limbs. I cried out. Only it came out a roar instead.

The shift was always the worst when under stress. But I had to take care of the zookeeper. He’d imprisoned me and family, forcing us to work in his zoos. But no more. Tonight it ended.

Rick’s mouth fell open, but he stepped out of the way holding the door to the park open for me. I stopped long enough to lick his hand, then went to find the zookeeper.

It didn’t take me long to pick up his scent. The stench of cheap cologne and day old whiskey. He never saw me coming. He stood leaning against the brick building, talking on his cell phone. Making more deals to buy our kind. I gave one low growl, and he went still. Before he could turn around, I leapt on him. My teeth ruptured his skin, warm blood dribbled down my fur. Finally. Paybacks. He should’ve realized keeping wild animals can be dangerous. My claws dug into his flesh as I used him for my personal scratching post and when I was done he was beyond recognition. No more than he deserved.

Once I shifted back, I found Rick waiting near the back gate for me in a truck. “You need a lift somewhere?”

I smiled. “Yeah, anywhere but here.” As I glanced behind me, I saw Felix standing on the other side of the glass, staring it me. I flipped him the bird.

He sold me out to the zookeeper and for that, he could stay in a cage.

Rick turned on the radio, and I rolled down my window letting the wind blow my hair. Never again would I be anyone’s pet. Today was the first day of the rest of my life.

Thanks for coming by. Please be sure to drop by my fellow YAFFers blogs and don’t forget to leave a comment.

Vanessa Barger

Miranda Buchanan

Traci Kenworth

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Welcome again to YAFF Muse: blog rounds. The ladies of YA Fiction Fanatics have come together for YAFF Muse. To have a little fun, explore different styles of writing and to give you some kick-butt shorts to read.  Enjoy!

Photo Credit manicmorff at morguefile.com

“Hey, watch it nerd.” Greg Weathers rammed his shoulder into my arm, knocking the books from my hands.

“God, he’s such a jerk.” My narrowed eyes followed him down the hallway.

“Here, let me help you.” Stephen shoved his glasses up his nose and bent to get my textbooks.

“Some days, I just wish everyone would disappear,” I said with a frown.

Stephen tweaked a strand of my blonde hair. “Everyone?”

Behind the oversized glasses, a pair of cobalt blue eyes stared back. His shaggy dark hair needed to be cut, but his perfect smile made my heartbeat slug my chest like a boxer pummeling a punching bag.

“Everyone, but you.”

His hand brushed mine as he gave me back my things, a flare of heat shot up my arm. “Do you mean that, Serena?” he whispered.

My gaze flicked to Greg Weathers, who stood propped against his locker with Lindsay Decker pressed against him. Hard to believe he and I dated over the summer. Now he made my life a living hell, all because I wouldn’t do it in his parents’ boat. I was supposed to be popular. But Greg wrecked me. And every day, I had to come to this crap hole called school, only to endure the stupid rumors he spread.

“Serena?” Stephen said, nudging my shoulder with his.

“Yeah, I mean it. I wish you and I were the only people left on earth.”

*****

With a yawn, I rolled out of bed. The sun streamed through my window like a large Broadway spotlight. It warmed my skin, and I smiled. Quick shower. Breakfast. Then off to hell, or school as Mom and Dad like to call it.

Silence stretched throughout the house, and I glanced at my clock. Almost 10:00 pm. Crap. I whipped the door of my room open. The battery must’ve died. But why hadn’t my parents or little brother got me up?

“Mom. Dad?” I hollered, making my way through the house. When I got to the kitchen, they weren’t there. In fact, last night’s dishes were still in the sink. The coffee pot was off, which made no sense since my parents practically needed IVs of caffeine to get around in the mornings.

This had to be some kind of joke. I hurried to my parents’ bedroom. On top of their bed, rumpled, were their clothes. Laid out like they’d disappeared right out of them.

I backed out of the room then ventured into my brother Caleb’s. He wasn’t there. Only a pair of pajamas lay in his spot, still covered beneath the blankets. Panic clutched tight to my throat, constricting it until I couldn’t breathe.

This wasn’t happening. No. Flipping. Way. I’m dreaming, I repeated several times. My legs trembled beneath me as I made my way to the front of the house. I jerked the outside door open and stepped onto the porch.

Dew clung to the grass like tears as I looked around in horror. There were no cars driving in the street. No kids at bus stops. There weren’t even any birds or animals about.

I stepped from the porch, cool cement kissed the bottoms of my feet. Piles of clothes littered two driveways of my neighbors.

“Hello?” I yelled. No one answered.

God, what happened? Maybe Armageddon? Then why am I still alive?

I turned to go back inside, when I heard someone call my name.

“Serena!”

“Stephen.”

He covered the distance between us in several strides, and clutched me to his chest. Gone were his glasses, his feigned nerdiness. In his place stood a tall, confident guy.

“What’s going on?” My voice squeaked.

“You made the wish, Serena. And I granted it.” He pulled back, his eyes held me in place.

“A wi—wish?”

“You said you wished that we were the only people left on earth. So I granted it for you. My love.”

Thanks for dropping by: Make sure to check out some of my fellow YAFF members’ stories too!

Miranda Buchanan

Traci Kenworth

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Welcome again to YAFF Muse: blog rounds. The ladies of YA Fiction Fanatics have come together for YAFF Muse. To have a little fun, explore different styles of writing and to give you some kick-butt shorts to read.  Enjoy!

Photo Credit:  November 1 106 by jdurham Morguefile.com

After the last of the tourists loaded into the covered wagon, I pulled the canopy tight. Sweat beaded on my brow, in the stifling July heat. My heavy dress and bonnet were one of several downsides to working for my parents at the “Oregon Trail Tours.” The hours sucked, the pay wasn’t great, and I had no life outside of helping out. Not that I minded, too, much. I liked the history, but a date every now and then would be nice.

“Everyone on board, Jasmine?” Dad turned in his seat at the front of the wagon.

I counted five heads. “Yeah, we’re all set.”

Dad took hold of the reins, and the horses began to move. The wagon rolled forward, hitting several ruts and jarring the passengers. I groaned.

I cleared my throat, and gave a forced smile. “Hi, my name is Jasmine. Welcome to the Oregon Trail Tours. Today, you’ll get to see what it was like for families to travel west. Along the way, we’ll reenact what might happen on a true wagon train. For instance, how the pioneers passed the time riding in the wagon, and you’ll have a chance to help take care of the horses.”

The blonde guy snorted. “Sounds like we’ll be doing your job for you.”

“Abe, that’s enough,” his mom said.

My face burned. Seriously, there should be an age limit on these tours. Like no morons under the age of twenty. There were two teen guys on this overnight. Of course they wouldn’t appreciate the westward movement.

With my skirt fisted in my hand, I continued. “We’ll take lunch this afternoon by the creek, so you experience what the settlers would’ve eaten. Then we’ll travel to where the teepees are set up on the plains. You’ll be able to unload your bags and get settled in for the overnight.”

“This sounds wonderful,” Abe’s mom said. She gave her husband’s arm a tug, but he was too wrapped up in his Blackberry.

“Sounds lame.” Abe nudged the boy next to him. “What do you say, Alex? Think we’ll get to see some hot prairie girls running around?”

Alex raised his hooded eyes, and grinned. “I don’t know. Depends on if Jasmine here decides to do laps.”

“Boys, enough,” the mom said again.

Would it be too much to ask Dad to hit a giant rut and knock them out?

*****

We stopped a couple of hours later to make lunch, while Dad fed the horses. The scent of beans cooking over a fire and homemade bread made my mouth water.

Can it get any hotter?
 
My gaze drifted to the creek. Since everyone was preoccupied, I decided to sneak off for a minute. Untying my bonnet, my blonde hair toppled in my face. I swiped it back then made my way to the water. On the shore, I cupped my hand, scooping up cool liquid to my face. 
A loud splash sounded from beside me. My heart jumped. I glowered when I realized Abe had tossed a rock.

“Watch what you’re doing,” I said.

“I am.” Abe’s mouth twitched.

“You look warm, maybe I can help you cool off.” Alex leaned down, flinging water down the front of my dress.

“Ooo, wet t-shirt contest, Little House on the Prairie style!” Abe winked. “C’mon Jasmine, we’re from the east coast. Show us what you western girls are made of.”

I’d show him all right. Maybe if I shoved my size 6 ½ cowgirl boot up is butt, that’d wipe the grin from his face.

“Sorry, I can’t fraternize.” With that, I spun on my heel. Mom and Dad so owed me for this. Because there were like a thousand ways I could strangle the boys with a rattlesnake.

Mom quirked an eyebrow at me, when I offered to help get the food served.

“Why are you all wet?”

“Don’t ask.”

*****

When the teepees came into view, I sighed in relief. I just had to get through a quick tour of the main area and dinner. Then I could ditch Abe and Alex. They’d spent the whole trip making snide comments, while their dad talked on the phone. The mom gave me sympathetic smiles, which didn’t help. And the old guy, who must be grandpa, grated on my last nerve with his “version” of history.

“Make sure the lanterns are on in the exhibits,” Dad said, wiping his forehead with a handkerchief. “I’ll send the visitors through in a few minutes.”

He didn’t have to ask me twice. I raced to the largest of the teepees. My fingers brushed against the switch on the lantern. I gasped, much like I did every time I came in here. The Native American figures stared back at me; a woman posed to grind corn. While a warrior in the back, had war paint streaked across his face. There were native artifacts like blankets, furs, dishes, weapons, and clothing scattered about for people to look at.

But it was the young warrior that always caught my attention. His dark eyes seemed to watch me. Okay, so it was weird to have a crush on an inanimate object. But he was hot for a statue. I gave a small wave then hurried from the teepee.

“You can go in and have a look around now,” I said to the tourists. The three adults headed up first, while Abe and Alex sipped water from canteens.

Abe raised his to me as if it to toast me. I rolled my eyes.

A while later the adults came back to sit around the fire. The boys, however, disappeared. Great! My eyes darted around camp. I needed to find them.

Voices carried from the teepee. With a groan, I moved to the opening to find them on the display side of the fence, messing with the tomahawks and the string of scalps hanging from the warrior’s belt.

“Hey, get out of there!” I grabbed the axe from Alex. “These aren’t toys.”

“It’s not like they need them anymore, they’re dead,” Abe said. He waved the scalps above my head. When I jumped to get them, he shoved me out of the way. “If you want to get tips from us, you better keep your mouth shut.”

He tossed the scalps in the dirt and they walked out, laughing. My eyes narrowed as I retrieved the scalps. I wiped them off as best I could, then hopped into the display.

“Sorry,” I said softly to the statue. I secured his treasures back on his belt then turned to go. Something snagged my skirt. I whipped around to find myself caught up on the figure. Reaching down I pulled the fabric from its hand and gasped. It felt warm. My heart leapt into my throat. For a moment, I thought the warrior nodded.

*****

I awoke the next morning to screams, and leapt from my sleeping bag. Sunlight blinded me, as I hobbled from my teepee.

“My boys are gone!” the mom screeched.

“I’ll look around.” Maybe a coyote ate them. I chuckled at the thought as I made my way to the display tent. The lantern was on, but there were no signs of the boys. Then I caught movement from the corner of my eye. The warrior. He smiled at me. There, hanging from his belt were two new scalps.

For you, Jasmine.
 
Thanks for coming by. Please be sure to drop by my fellow YAFFers blogs and don’t forget to leave a comment.
 
  

 

 
 
 
 
 

 

 

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Welcome again to YAFF Muse: blog rounds. The ladies of YA Fiction Fanatics have come together for YAFF Muse. To have a little fun, explore different styles of writing and to give you some kick-butt shorts to read.  Enjoy!

 

Cool air blasted me as I pushed into the post office, carrying a package for Mom. Already a small line wound through lobby. A toddler kicked his brother in the leg, while their dad attempted to pull them apart.

“And this, Kasey, is why I don’t want kids,” my sister Mia said, nudging me in the ribs.

I rolled my eyes. “Please, you and Mr. Perfect will have beautiful children. Don’t tell me you’re getting cold feet?”

Mia twisted her wedding ring and chuckled. “No. But if that’s what I have to look forward to, I’m not sure I’ll can handle it.”

The line moved forward and I glanced at the posters hanging along the wall. Missing Persons. The first was of a golden haired guy, standing in front of a seventies car. His smile was enticing. I moved closer to read the print. Broxton Leeland, disappeared June 21, 1977 at age seventeen. Okay, so that made him WAY older than me. But he was hot. Next to that was another poster of a sixteen year old girl, named Dawn Sommers. She’d also disappeared on June 21, 1977. My mom’s older sister. I shivered.

“Kind of a coincidence,” I whispered.

The cashier shot me a bewildered look. “Yeah, it’s sad. Broxton moved here to Beggars Way right before summer that year. All the girls in town fawned over him. But it was Mayor Sommers’ daughter he took a liking to. The two of them went to a party on June 21 and were never heard from again. Such a sad story. The whole town searched every inch of town for them. But they were never found.”

I sat my package on the counter, while the clerk rang it up. My eyes flicked back to the poster again. What happened to you?  I handed over a few wrinkled bills for postage then waited for the receipt.

“Here you are. Have a great day,” the cashier said.

“I’ll wait outside,” I told Mia. Shielding my eyes against the sun, I stepped into the sweltering heat. Steamy waves glistened against the blacktop, like a mirage in the desert. Maybe I should’ve opted to stay in the air conditioning.

I plopped down on a wooden bench, staring across the street at park. In the shadows of the maples, I noticed a figure leaned against one of the trees, watching me.

Rays of sunshine burst through the tree tops like heavenly swords, illuminating the boy’s golden hair. A slow smile spread across his lips. I gasped.

Oh. My. God. He looked just like Broxton. Okay, maybe the heat was making hallucinate. I mean, there’s no way it was him. He’d disappeared over thirty years ago. And I’m sorry, but no one looked that good for their age.

“Kasey, did you hear me?” Mia touched my arm.

“What?” I jumped, my pulse practically choking me as it leapt into my throat.

“I said, c’mon lets go home.”

With a deep breath, I glanced back across the street only to find the park empty. Great. Nothing like an overactive imagination. I climbed into Mia’s sedan, and turned on the radio.

***

“We’re home,” I said as we came into the kitchen. Mom sat at the table, a large glass of lemonade sweating onto the oak wood.

she glanced up from her book. “Lacy called a few minutes ago and wants you to contact her.”

I opened the fridge door and pulled out a pop, then hurried to the phone. “Hey Lace, it’s Kasey.”

“Oh, my god. Keith Hardman stopped by today and invited the two of us to his bonfire tonight. You’ve got to go,” Lacy squealed on the other end.

“Are you kidding?” Keith was flipping hot. And an invite from him, meant you were going places.

“No. The party starts at 9:00. Do you think your parents will let you go?”

“Hang on.” I set the phone down. “Hey Mom, Lace wants to know if I can go to a party with her tonight over at the Hardman’s.”

Mom’s brow furrowed as she gazed out the window and into the backyard. “Honey, I don’t think that’s a good idea. Bad things always happen at parties. There’s drinking, and drugs, and sex…”

“C’mon, I’m like the only girl in my class who’s never been to a bonfire.”

She put her book down. “No. It’s not a good idea.”

I gritted my teeth, and stomped back to the phone. “Sorry, Mom’s in dictator mode.”

“I can help with that.” Lacy giggled. “Climb out your window around 9:00 and I’ll swing by and get you.”

My heart raced. I’d be dead if my parents found out. But I was sick of missing out on everything. Ever since my aunt disappeared in the 70’s they were paranoid. “Sounds good.”

***

At exactly 9:00 I said goodnight to my parents, then hurried to my room to change. I waited five minutes then crawled out my window. The sun sat low on the horizon; traces of pink and purple painted the sky. My hands trembled as I ducked beneath the living room window and hurried across the yard. Lacy waited for me, and gave a cheer when I plopped into the seat next to her.

“Oh, my god. You actually did it. And here I thought the good girl would bail.” She put the car in drive and headed out of town.

“Yeah, well, let’s just hope we don’t get caught.”

We followed a dirt road into the woods and parked. People were already passing around cans of beer and cigarettes, which I declined.

A bonfire blazed in the center of the clearing. Flames licked and devoured the dry wood. Keith snagged Lacy almost as soon as we got there, leaving me to stand on the outskirts, tapping my foot to the loud rock music.

A figure stepped from the woods, and I inhaled deeply. There, across from me, stood the boy from earlier. His gaze met mine and he smiled. Broxton. It had to be him. He waved for me to join him. At first, I hesitated. Okay girl, live a little.

Sucking in a ragged breath, I moved to his side.

“Hi,” I said.

“Hi.” His voice sounded deep and inviting. Up close, I noticed his eyes were the color of ivy. The scent of honey clung to the air. “I’ve been waiting for you.”

My eyes widened. “Who are you?”

“You already know.” He held out his hand, and I swallowed hard.

Impossible. It couldn’t be Broxton. A part of me wanted to back away. But the other part wanted the excitement. I took his hand, and warmth spiraled up my fingers.

“Broxton,” I whispered.

He smiled, leading me into the woods. Shadows reached out from the trees, darkness growing closer. Sticks and pine cones crunched beneath my feet as he pulled me to a stop near some briars. There, entangled in the weeds was the car I’d seen in the poster.

My chest tightened, fear blanketing me for the first time. As if sensing my discomfort, Broxton pulled me closer. His fingers traced my face.

“I always come back when I want something, Kasey. And right now, that something is you.”

His lips met mine, and my blood blazed like molten lava. Something snagged my ankle and I pulled back. I watched in horror as vines ensnared us, wrapping us together like a cocooned larva.

“We’ll be together forever, Kasey.”

I tried to scream, but the brambles, and weeds, and vines closed around us. Covering us like dirt tossed on a grave. Broxten held tight, his cheek brushing mine.

“I won’t be alone anymore…” he whispered.

His flesh disappeared, and I found myself entangled with a skeleton.

***

Mia hung the poster of her sister up in the post office. Kasey Sommers missing, June 21, 2010. Last seen with a blonde young man.

“Such a shame,” the cashier said. “The girls around here should know better than to sneak out. He always gets them.”

 

Don’t forget to stop by my fellow YAFFer’s sites to check out their stories too! Make sure to leave a comment…

Miranda Buchanan

Traci Kenworth

Vanessa Barger

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