Sarah Rennelle is a teacher who longs for nothing more than summer to return and her crazy roommate to find some sanity. Unfortunately, one wrong step into an alley and she becomes an eye-witness to a terrible crime. The episode leads her to a chance meeting with a handsome man who has his own terrible secret. Even with his mysterious demeanor she finds herself drawn to him, and more than for his good looks.
Adam Grayson is a creature like no other. He's neither vampire nor dragon, but a strange combination of the two. He wants only to survive in his dark world, but a young woman interferes with his single-minded focus. She brings with her a fresh face among old acquaintances, and with her comes a stirring hunger which he has forbidden himself to satisfy. He knows he must keep her out of his world, but a part of him wants her to stay by his side. His two halves fight over his decision, and her, as a deadly danger draws nearer to both of them.
CHAPTER 1READ MORE
A cold evening surrounded the high school campus. The air was filled with the scent of absence as the teachers and students were long removed from their day within the confines of the classrooms. Dark hallways were broken by the light of a graying janitor dutifully at work cleaning up the day’s messes. He vacuumed up the dirt from countless feet and rolled his machine out into the hall.
A noise caught his attention. He looked up. All the doors were shut, but from down the hall he glimpsed a light beneath one of them. He exchanged his vacuum for a broom and crept down the hall. A noise reached his ears.
“Fail. Fail. Pass. Fail.”
He slipped up to the hall and grasped the handle. A slow turn and the door opened a crack. He peeked inside.
The rows of empty chairs faced the white board. Close to the door was a large wood desk. Facing him was the hunched back of a small figure with long black hair.
“Pass. Fail,” came the mantra from the figure.
He slipped inside and cleared his throat. The figure shrieked. Papers scattered and a red marker fell to the floor.
The frightened person spun around and revealed herself to be a woman of twenty-five with passable features and sharp brown eyes. Her eyes fell on the janitor and her shoulders slumped. She clutched her heart and glared at him. “Did you really have to do that, Mr. Usher?”
He leaned on his broom and grinned at her. “Sorry, Miss Rennelle. I didn’t know it was you.”
She nodded at the broom in his hand. “So you were going to clean the clocks of the intruder, is that it?”
He held up the broom in both hands in front of him. The wood handle was scratched and scuffed, and duct tape in two spots didn’t improve its appearance. “You can bet your buttons. Me and Bessy here have been through a lot, and a little intruder isn’t going to get the best of us.”
Rennelle stooped and picked up the graded papers and the marker. “Then I should get out of your way and let you two go about protecting the school.”
He shook his head. “You’re no problem. We’ll just clean up another spot.”
She stood straight and smiled at him. “Work with me here, Usher. I’m trying to find a good excuse to leave this place before I finish the grading.”
He chuckled. “I see. That’s the way. Well, let’s just get you swept out of here.” He slid around her with his broom in hand and waved it at her. “Go on. Shoo. I need to get some cleaning done, and having you down here’s just going to tempt me to do more talking than working.”
Rennelle laughed and gathered her large bag that doubled as her purse. “I’m going! I’m going! Just watch those pieces of straw.”
He lifted the broom and wrinkled his nose. “They don’t make these things out of straw anymore. Sometimes I wish they did.”
She slipped over to the door and looked over her shoulder at him. “The people of the world with hay fever are glad they don’t. Goodnight.”
“Goodnight, and be careful walking home, Miss Rennelle.”
“I will, and good luck on the rooms.”
“Thanks. I’ll need it.”
Rennelle slipped into the hall and glanced down at the hefty bag at her side. She sighed and trudged down the hall. “Wish I could sweep these things under a rug. . .”
She stepped outside into the cool night air. The streetlights lit up an empty parking lot. She jumped when the funeral march began to play. Her eyes narrowed and she dug into her bag until she found her cellphone. The screen was lit up with a familiar phone number.
Rennelle pressed the answer button and held it up to her ear. “Did you change your ringtone again?” she growled.
“Maybe,” came the sweet female voice on the other end.
Rennelle rolled her eyes. “When did you even get a hold of my phone?”
“When you weren’t looking.”
The young woman shut her eyes and pinched the bridge of her nose. “What do you want, Jenny?”
“Can’t a roommate find out when her friend is coming home? It’s almost six, ya know.”
Rennelle sighed. “I know, but I had a lot of papers to grade.”
“You’re way too kind, Sarah. You should just cover them all in red marker and hand them back saying a serial killer broke into your home and murdered all their papers.”
Sarah strolled across the parking lot and onto the streets. “Was there a purpose in calling me other than to show me I need a new hiding spot for my phone?”
“Actually, I was going to offer to pick you up. It’s kind of dark out there right now,” Jenny pointed out.
Sarah crossed the street and into the residential area that surrounded the high school. “I’ll be fine. It’s not like I haven’t gone this way a million times.”
“Fine, but if you don’t hurry I’m going to eat all the pizza.” There was a pause and Sarah could just imagine her friend tapping her chin. “Though come to think of it that might be a good thing. The delivery boy did give me a strange look, so the pizza might be poisoned.”
“Did you ask for something to be written on the box again?”
“What’s it say?”
“Something about worshiping Santa. I can’t quite read the guy’s handwriting.”
“Yeah, that would be why the guy was giving you strange looks. Anyway, I’ll be there in thirty minutes.”
“You sure you don’t want a ride? There’s been some weird stories going around about gang fights.”
“I’ll be fine. I don’t have anything to steal except fifty cents and a bunch of papers. They’ll probably run at the sight of school work, anyway.”
Jenny sighed. “I wish you weren’t such a night owl. Why don’t you just give up your wanderings and get a car?”
“You know why I don’t like cars. Besides-” Sarah looked up at the sky filled with twinkling stars. A small smile parted her lips. “The view is great and I don’t have to deal with traffic.”
“All right, but I’m timing you. Thirty minutes.”
“Thirty minutes, and save a poisoned slice for me, will you?”
“Can’t make any promises.” Click.
Sarah sighed and shoved the phone back into her bag. “How did I end up with the weirdest roommate in the city?”
She strode down the streets to the center of the current block. To her right lay the well-lit, paved street. To her left was a graveled alleyway encased in darkness. The shadows of garbage cans and spare tires loomed out from against the tall wooden fences. The friendly lights from the houses didn’t penetrate even the edges of the alley.
Sarah grasped her bag and took a deep breath before she stepped into the alley and toward her fate.