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Abducted Life


Patricia Josephine






Abducted Life

Patricia Josephine



Copyright 2015 by Patricia Josephine (Patricia Lynne)

http://www.patricialynne.com

All rights reserved. No part of this publication may be reproduced, stored in a retrieval system or transmitted in any form or by any means, recording, or otherwise, without written permission from the author.

This is a work of fiction. Any names, characters, places of incidents are products of the author’s imagination, and used fictitiously. Any resemblance to actual persons, living or dead, businesses, events, or locales is entirely coincidental.

Cover design by: S.A Hunt; http://www.sahuntbooks.com/art.html






Acknowledgement



I want to say thank you to all my cheerleaders. The writing friends I’ve made, who pushed me, and Story Dam on Twitter who never let me slack off. Family and friends who bugged me about the next book. My hubby for putting up with me when all I wanted to do was write and not worry about dinner.

Thanks to S.A. Hunt for the beautiful cover. I’m in awe of your skills. Thanks to my beta readers and critique partners, Christine, Elsie, and Marie. Your feedback was invaluable. Also, thanks to Chrys Fey, my editor. You helped me polish this story so it shined. A big thanks to everyone who helped me promote and spread the word about this series.

Lastly, thanks to everyone who has read my stories, whether it be this book or my young adult novels. I’ll eat an IC friendly cookie in your honor.






Other books by Patricia Josephine

Michael: Path of Angels Book 1

Zadekiel: Path of Angels Book 2

Jophiel: Path of Angels Book 3

Gabriel: Path of Angels Book 4

YA under pen name Patricia Lynne

Being Human

Snapshots

Influence of Love






Table of Contents

Chapter 1 (Xxxx)

Chapter 2 (Savannah)

Chapter 3 (Xxxx)

Chapter 4 (Savannah)

Chapter 5 (Xxxx)

Chapter 6 (Savannah)

Chapter 7 (Xxxx)

Chapter 8 (Savannah)

Chapter 9 (Evan)

Chapter 10 (Savannah)

Chapter 11 (Evan)

Chapter 12 (Savannah)

Chapter 13 (Evan)

Chapter 14 (Savannah)

Chapter 15 (Evan)

Chapter 16 (Savannah)

Chapter 17 (Evan)

Chapter 18 (Savannah)

Chapter 19 (Evan)

Chapter 20 (Savannah)

Chapter 21 (Evan)

Chapter 22 (Savannah)

Chapter 23 (Evan)

Chapter 24 (Savannah)

Chapter 25 (Evan)

Chapter 26 (Savannah)

Chapter 27 (Evan)

Chapter 28 (Savannah)

Epilogue

About the Author






Chapter 1: Xxxx

White-hot light stung his eyes. The roar of an engine shook his eardrums, threatening to burst them. His arms and legs were pinned to the cold ground. Above, a massive craft hovered. It was black and sleek, like a giant Porsche with wings instead of wheels. Turbines beat out a frantic rhythm, and yellow lights flashed along its belly. With a low warble, the craft lifted up, vanishing among the stars in a matter of seconds.

Silence settled over the field. He rose to his feet. His only thought was to reach the girl lying motionless nearby. He stumbled across the flattened grass to Savannah. Her skin was washed white in the moonlight, and her strawberry blond curls were in tangles. She didn’t respond to his touch, but her breathing and pulse were steady. He gathered her into his arms.

In the distance, sirens wailed. Headlights raced down the road toward them. Panic lodged in his throat, and he bolted up. If they saw him…

The unconscious girl sprawled at his feet made him pause. He reached for her, but the dark green stripes coloring his arm made him recoil. He couldn’t allow her to see him either. She wouldn’t remember and would be repulsed with what they had done to him. He curled his fingers into a fist and ran to the edge of the field where the trees promised safety.

Hidden, he watched the police cars turn onto the field, kicking up dust in their wake. They skidded to a stop. Their headlights illuminated Savannah. Officers hurried to her with their hands on their guns. One knelt next to Savannah and placed two fingers on her neck.

“Call an ambulance,” he said. “She’s alive.”

“Is it her, Jimmy? The Janowitz girl?”

“I hope so.”

“But where did she disappear to? It’s been a year since she and Evan Sullivan went missing in this field.”

The officer beside Savannah shook his head. He stared at the starry sky. “Dunno.”

An ambulance’s red and white lights flashed in the darkness. Its call was mournful. The paramedics tended to Savannah. She woke as they worked. Tears blurred his vision when she whispered his name.

I’m here, Savvy.

But he wasn’t. He sank into the shadows of the forest and vanished.






Chapter 2: Savannah

Four years later

The wine glass tipped, and its red contents sloshed. Savannah’s hand flashed out and caught it before the base could leave the table’s surface, sparing the beige carpet. She placed the cup on a coaster, far from the table’s edge.

“Whoa, Savannah. Nice catch.” Mandy’s jaw hung open. Disbelief widened her hazel eyes. She was still reaching for her drink.

Savannah gave her roommate a tight smile. “It was luck. Besides, we’re not supposed to have alcohol in the dorms.”

Mandy pressed a finger to her lips. “Shh. We aren’t drinking wine. We are indulging in a fruity beverage.”

“That makes you tipsy.” Savannah grinned and settled back.

Mandy grabbed her glass and took a swig. Her cheeks were flushed red and she swayed slightly in her seat. “You’re tipsy too. You’ve drunk as much as I have.”

Savannah straightened up. A lump formed in her throat. Her hands were steady, though, as she sipped her drink. The alcohol tingled through her, giving her a fleeting, lightheaded sensation before dissipating. “I hold my juice better than you.”

Mandy snorted. She downed the remainder of her wine then gathered her notebooks. “I’m done studying tonight. Gonna go to bed. Night.”

“Night,” Savannah murmured.

She finished organizing her notes and packed everything up. Tomorrow she’d finish her paper. Her feet dragged as she plodded to her room, and a yawn escaped. The pink and purple blankets on her bed called to her as she changed into an oversized shirt with the word Shiny in gold across the chest. Briefly, her fingers paused on her stomach and the marks stretched around her belly button. Other marks marred her body; tiny pinprick scars on her legs, and burns down her back, but none of those filled her with longing as the ones on her stomach did, as if something had been ripped away.

Shaking the emotion off, she burrowed under the blankets. The muffled voices of students in the hallway of their dormitory floated in the air. She shut her eyes, ignoring the noises, and drifted to sleep.

The room was cloaked in darkness when Savannah’s eyelids popped open. She sat up, grabbing her phone. The time was just before two in the morning. Looking around her bedroom showed nothing out of place. What had disturbed her wasn’t there. She tilted her head, listening. The halls had become silent in the dead of night, but if she strained hard enough, she heard the sounds of the other students sleeping in their dormitories.

A whispered moan turned her toward the far wall. On the other side was Mandy’s bedroom. She heard shuffling then another moan. With a grimace, she slumped back. That’s what woke her? Mandy’s boyfriend coming over for some late-night sex?

Savannah covered her ears. She was tempted to bang on the door and disturb them for waking her, but they were being quiet. If only her hearing wasn’t so freaking sensitive.

Then again, everything about her was more sensitive.

She saw her bedroom as if a light was on: the desk and dresser with photos of family and friends adorning the top, prints of Van Gogh’s paintings and works by artists she discovered online hanging on the wall, and rumpled clothing by the desk that she hadn’t bothered to throw in the hamper. She smelled the tang of sweat and bodily fluids coming from Mandy and her boyfriend, and felt the electric pulse as their orgasms drew closer. Their pounding hearts also indicated it’d be over soon. Quickly.

Her stomach flopped. She felt like a dirty pervert. Grabbing her phone and earbuds, she put on a soothing melody with violins. The song wouldn’t drown out the smell or tingle against her skin, but it muffled the sounds. From under her bed, she pulled out a scrapbook her mom made for her before she left for college. A smile pulled at her lips at the memories of her childhood: summer camp with friends, family vacations, cheerleading competitions, and school dances.

The happiness was snuffed out when she turned the page. Images from a formal dance put a lump in her throat. She had worn a sky-blue dress. It matched her eyes, he had said.

She traced his face, remembering how silky his honey brown hair had felt in her fingers, the softness of his lips against her neck, and his deep, purring voice. Adoration for her had burned in his amber eyes. Whenever he had seen her, a goofy grin had lit his face. So many vivid details that made her life empty without him.

They had been childhood friends, meeting on the first day of kindergarten and getting into trouble for not listening to their teacher. He had always been there for her, defending her from a bully, and she for him by helping him with homework. It took a while for their friendship to grow into something more. A few boys distracted her along the way, and other girls had caught his attention, but they had always reunited. One balmy summer night––when she was sixteen, and he was fifteen––they had shared their first kiss. Her heart had belonged to him from that moment on.

A tear trickled down her cheek. She closed the book and clutched it to her chest. Their fairytale romance ended the night he went missing without a trace. She had disappeared, too, but somehow, she had returned. No memories, save one: a bright light, a pain in her neck, and the boy she loved screaming her name.

****

Savannah leaned against the bathroom sink as she brushed her teeth. Fatigue weighed down her limbs. Mandy’s boyfriend had lasted a lot longer than she had expected. She needed to invest in earplugs. Or maybe soundproof her walls.

“Mooooorning,” Mandy greeted when Savannah padded into the living room. Her short, auburn hair was a mess, as if she had stuck her head in the dryer. “Wow. You look tired.”

“I didn’t sleep well. Tossed a lot,” Savannah lied. No way was she letting her roommate know she heard the nighttime romp. How would she explain it? Her fast reflexes could easily be shrugged off, but not elf-like hearing.

“I have coffee in the pot, if you want some.”

“Thanks. Sounds good.” Savannah poured herself a cup, but caffeine was like alcohol; the hyped-up jolt it caused faded after a moment or two. She couldn’t get drunk if she wanted, nor could she get a caffeine high.

What happened to me when I was missing that made me a freak?

Savannah had no memory of her missing year. Hours spent with therapists had revealed nothing. The most the doctors had achieved was helping her deal with the nightmares. After she had reappeared, she’d wake at night crying for him, thrashing at invisible bonds, and terrified of disappearing again. Sometimes, she missed the nightmares. It was messed up, but he was there, reaching for her and trying to reunite.

A knock on the door interrupted her thoughts. Mandy bounced to answer it and threw her arms around the athletic brunette in the doorway. Todd looked tired as well, but he had the strut of a man who had gotten laid.

Savannah cleared her throat, reminding her roommate she was still there. “I better get to class. See you, Mandy. Todd.”

Both gave her a distracted goodbye.

Hadn’t they had enough of each other last night?

Savannah paused in the hallway and rubbed her face. She shouldn’t be bitter toward Mandy and Todd. It wasn’t their fault she had lost someone she loved. She’d cope eventually. Somehow. She came back. He didn’t. And he wouldn’t want her waiting to see if he returned. He’d want her to live her life. It was why she finished her senior year and enrolled in college. She had dreams and plans and a future to look forward to. Maybe she’d meet someone…

But what if you forget him?

Tears stung her eyes, and she blinked them back. “I won’t,” she whispered.

Lifting her chin, she walked outside and into the throng of students. Life awaited.






Chapter 3: Xxxx

The flow of students surged past the clock tower. They smiled and chatted. Their laughter rang out. The sound grated against his nerves. They took their freedom for granted, unafraid of interacting with each other. He wanted to wipe the happiness off their faces.

Spotting Savannah among the crowd distracted him from the bitterness simmering in his gut. Her blond hair glowed in the sunlight, and her cheeks were tinted pink. She tipped her face back, closing her eyes. Her content expression made his mouth twitch, a smile trying to form. Seeing her was bittersweet. He was forced to stay away, unable to do anything but watch and yearn for her.

He turned away with a hand to his chest, as if he could stop the pain seeing her caused. He needed to stop stalking her like some sicko. She was safe and moving on with her life.

Had she met a guy?

Heat pulsed through his veins. He tried to clamp down the jealousy. She needed to meet another guy and get over him.

He won’t love her the same.

A hiss slipped past his teeth. It didn’t matter. She was living a normal life. As she should.

Unlike him.

The hiss turned into a low growl. He slumped to the dusty floor. His fists trembled at his sides. Normalcy was beyond his grasp now.

Beneath his clothing, his skin was covered in dark green markings. Porcupine-like quills along his spine ached from being bound, causing muscles in his back to twitch. His fingernails were razor sharp. Despite the warm weather, he wore a black toque that soaked his hair in sweat. Breathing was difficult with the scarf covering the lower half of his face, but it hid his mouth and the gills on his neck. If people saw…

They had changed him, and he had learned to survive. The only comfort he had was the fact they hadn’t done the same to her. They had wanted something different.

The disgust and anger receded to the pit of his stomach and became the familiar knot that always sat there. He crept down the stairs and peeked out the door. Students mingled, but he didn’t intend to stay holed up in the clock tower until nightfall. The risk of someone stumbling upon him was too great. Then he wouldn’t be able to escape. The door he hid behind was marked “Authorized Personnel Only.” He was better off if he walked out during the day. People might stare, but he had become accustomed to that whenever he dared to venture out of the woods near the college.

Straightening, he strode into the light as if nothing was out of the ordinary.






Chapter 4: Savannah

The thump of the bass vibrated through Savannah. She gritted her teeth to stop them from rattling. Her head ached from the blasting music and voices shouting to be heard. The smell of sweat saturating the living room made her gag. Across from her, on the couch, Mandy and Todd were engaged in a tonsil hockey contest.

“I gotta get out of here.”

Mandy pulled back, giving Savannah a wide-eyed look. “What? Why? We’ve barely been here fifteen minutes.”

Savannah struggled to hear herself think over the noise. “It’s… It’s hot. I need some air, okay? I’ll be right back.”

The floor felt uneven, and she stumbled like a drunk as she wove through the people filling the cramped room. Finally, she burst free of the house and made it outside. The air was cool, like a gentle caress that wiped away the sweat dampening her skin. The grass was still wet from the recent rain, and she breathed deep the smell of petrichor. She slumped against the porch railing. She didn’t want to go back inside. A dull pain throbbed behind her eyes. She massaged her temples while plotting excuses to bail on Mandy.

“You look like you had a little too much to drink.”

Savannah eyed the man as he approached. He looked her age, maybe a year younger, with ebony hair and gray eyes. He smiled hopefully.

“Needed some clean air. The party started early tonight,” she replied.

He leaned against the wall with his arms folded casually. Savannah caught the shift in his scent and heard his heart pick up pace. He was nervous. “Yeah, it always starts early on game night. People are hyped up from the win, or they’re trying to drown their disappointment.”

“Not a football fan?”

“I enjoy a good game. You?”

“I was a cheerleader in high school, but I’m not a big fan of crowds.” Not anymore. Not when it played havoc on her senses.

“Why come if you don’t enjoy parties?” He cocked his head as if mystified by her.

“My roommate dragged me here. Said I needed to get out because I’ve been studying too much.” She smoothed out a tangle in her hair with her fingers. “I have a sneaking suspicion she’s trying to hook me up with one of her boyfriend’s friends. She kept talking about how we’d ‘get along great.’”

The guy stepped closer, and a sweet and faintly sour aroma surrounded her. “I hope she doesn’t succeed.”

An ember of heat glowed to life in Savannah’s belly. It pulsed through her like an electric current. She tensed at the sensation and looked up. Clouds covered the evening sky.

She moved away from the guy. “Yeah, me, too. Look, you were right, I drank too much. I’m going back to my dorm.”

“What about your friend?”

“I’ll text her I’m leaving.”

“I can walk you. Make sure you arrive safe.” His expression was hopeful, like an excited puppy.

“Won’t be necessary. It’s not far.” She pointed to the cluster of brightly lit brick buildings next to a full parking lot across the street. “There’s campus security.”

He snorted. “Rent-a-cops. They can’t protect you.”

She glared. “I don’t need protection.”

He held up his hands and backed off. “I’m not saying you can’t handle yourself. Just trying to help.”

Savannah forced her hands to unclench. This guy wasn’t bad. He was only flirting. Briefly, she entertained the idea of flirting back and seeing where it led. A boyfriend was part of moving forward with her life, after all, but her pounding headache and the heat in her stomach made her want to get back to her dorm ASAP. If she were being honest with herself, she’d admit her main reason was because this guy wasn’t him. “I appreciate the gesture.” She managed a smile. “Thank you.”

“Anytime.” He grinned widely, dug into his pocket, and pulled out a crumpled receipt. He scribbled a number on it. “Call me when you’re feeling better.”

Savannah reluctantly took the slip. “Uh, yeah. See you.”

“See you,” he called after her.

In her apartment, she lunged for her laptop. Her hands shook as she looked up the next full moon.

“Shit.”

Tomorrow night. Her professors had been piling on the homework, and she forgot to keep an eye on the moon’s cycles. Nothing to do about it now. The full moon, in reality, only lasted a few seconds. She had made it through countless phases before. She’d endure this one as well.

Two weeks after Savannah had reappeared, doctors had cleared her as physically healthy, and she was scheduled to start therapy. Wanting normalcy back in her life, her parents had allowed her to go to a school dance. Her classmates had applauded as she stepped through the door, and friends hugged her, happy to see her safe.

As she partied and danced, her head had throbbed from the sensual overload, and the people around her blurred. A pulse beat through her, growing hotter until it burned her like lava. She surrounded herself with boys, rubbing against their bodies and flirting. They were there for her. One had led her away, sneaking her into the gym teacher’s office.

She barely remembered the sex, only recalling how desperately she had clung to him. There was a drive in her, a desperate call to procreate. She wanted to mate. She snuck four boys to secluded locations that night.

The urge disappeared as quickly as it had consumed her. She struggled to understand what had come over her. It had been like a possession; someone else in control of her body. The incident terrified her, and she had dreaded going to school the next Monday. But no one mentioned it. The boys didn’t even look her way. She caught whispers and gossip about the night in general, but everyone acted as if her promiscuous behavior never happened.

The second time she wasn’t as lucky. She slept with the entire basketball team and the word got out. The girlfriends of the players weren’t happy with her. Her friends turned their backs on her. She was forced to quit cheerleading after the other girls went to the coach. Their complaints were lies, but it was Savannah against their word. Even the outcasts of the school ostracized her. The shaming was relentless. Whore. Slut. When she confided to her therapist, he said she was scared of what had happened to her and was acting out with sex. He dismissed her strange urges to mate as her way of coping.

She never spoke of it again. The impulse returned the next month, and she stayed home, faking sick. It wracked her body like a tsunami, making her writhe on the floor and growl like an animal. She tried masturbating, but it only fueled her need to mate even more.

Eventually, she realized the moon’s connection and began tracking its cycle. Sheer willpower was how she survived each month. Cold showers helped dull the heat, and she doused herself in perfume to drown out other scents. The strange drive was also linked to her heightened senses. Both appeared upon her return home.

What had happened to her?

Savannah grabbed a bottle of perfume from her make-up bag and sprayed the receipt with the guy’s number on it. It dripped on the carpet as she ran through the dorm and tossed it in the kitchen trash. Coffee grounds were dumped on top. Next, she sprayed each room with air freshener to douse Todd’s scent. She’d tell Mandy she was sick and didn’t want Todd to catch it, so he’d better stay away.

Sniffing, she caught faint traces of Todd and Mandy, but spraying any more would cause questions she didn’t want to answer. It would be enough, she assured herself, and shut herself in her room.

****

“Savannah? Can I come in?” Mandy inched into Savannah’s bedroom but stayed by the door. “How are you feeling?”

Savannah barely lifted her head from the pillow and whispered, “Like shit.”

“Can I get you anything? I was gonna run to the campus café. I could pick up some soup.”

“I’m not hungry. Going to stay in bed and sleep more.” Savannah rolled over so her back was to Mandy. She waited for her roommate to leave the apartment before flinging the blankets off. Her skin prickled. Heat pulsed through her. Her shirt rubbed against her hard nipples. Exhaling, she closed her eyes to steel herself and grabbed her perfume. The bottle was half empty. She’d have to make it stretch.

A whimper worked up her throat as she sprayed her door. Did Mandy bathe in Todd’s scent? It was like a sledgehammer to Savannah’s nose. A tremble rolled through her. She needed Todd, her mate.

No. NO! That was the moon talking. What she needed was to survive until the compulsion faded. Until it happened again… next month.

She crawled back into bed and under the blankets. It was sweltering and suffocating, but the fabric stopped outside scents, and she breathed easier.

Mandy returned a half hour later. Savannah listened to her bustle around the apartment. She checked on Savannah a few times, ensuring she was okay.

“Savannah?” Mandy poked her head into the room. “Some guy was in the lobby asking if anyone knew a tall blond who was at the party this weekend. I told him you were sick.”

Savannah peeked from under the blanket and caught a familiar scent. A groan vibrated in her throat. He was persistent. At least Mandy sent him away. “I know who you’re talking about. We talked a little that night.”

Mandy’s eyes glimmered, and she smiled.

“Don’t get any ideas,” Savannah warned. She added a cough. Remember the charade.

Mandy’s shoulders slumped. “I don’t get why you’re resistant to meeting guys.”

“Maybe I like girls.”

“Your phone’s lock screen says otherwise,” Mandy said in a singsong voice.

Savannah grimaced. Tom Hiddleston as Loki graced her background. “It’s not a big deal.”

“I guess…”

“What?” Savannah prompted at the wistful look on her roommate’s face.

“Sometimes I catch you watching me and Todd,” Mandy said softly. “And you have this look, like you want someone. Or you had someone once. It makes me sad. I want you to be happy. If that means helping you find someone, I’ll do it. But if you don’t want to date, I’ll respect your choice.”

Savannah nibbled on her lip. Mandy was more observant than she gave her credit for. Beneath the carefree smile was a kind soul.

“You’re a great friend,” Savannah said. “I appreciate you wanting me to find happiness. That’s what I’m trying to do. I promise. If I ever need help with that, I know I can turn to my roommate.”

“You’re a good friend, too.” Mandy smiled. “I’ll let you rest. Hopefully, by tomorrow you’ll be over this bug. Then we can do something fun.”

“It’s a deal.”

****

Birds chirped outside the window when Savannah woke. She stretched and sighed at the feeling. The heat was a tingle that faded with each beat of her pulse. It would be a few days before it fully stopped, but the worst part was over. She wouldn’t be fighting herself anymore.

“Good morning.”

The male voice froze her. She didn’t want to open her eyes and face the truth. The smells surrounding her weren’t familiar. She wasn’t even in her dorm building.

An arm snaked over her stomach, and warm breath tickled her neck. “Last night was amazing.”

At least it wasn’t Todd. A trickle of relief slithered through her. She’d never be able to face Mandy if it had been her boyfriend. She had met this person before, though. She recognized his scent and voice. Daring only a glance, she wasn’t shocked to see the guy from the party who had given her his number. He grinned and brushed a lock of her hair behind her ear. She repressed the urge to recoil. Act natural.

“Yeah, it was good.”

His smile widened. “Are you hungry? I can make breakfast.”

She forced a smile. “Sounds great. I’m famished.”

He sprang to his feet, dressed in a pair of blue plaid boxers, and strode out of the bedroom. She grabbed her clothes and inspected them. It was her pajamas she had worn while pretending to be sick. Great, she walked around campus in fleece Futurama PJs.

Unimportant. She wracked her brain for when she had left her dorm to hunt this guy down. At what point in the night had her control lapsed? She wasn’t sure. She hadn’t paid attention to the time while she located his scent. It had been easy. His scent hung heavy in the air and led her straight to him. There had been no internal struggle as she hunted. Only need.

She snatched a condom wrapper on the nightstand and slumped to the bed. A memory of grabbing it flitted through her mind. At least she had that much sense last night.

Dressing, she headed to the kitchen. The guy—she didn’t recall getting his name last night—was making pancakes. He grinned crookedly and flipped one, sending it high in the air. When it came back down, half missed the pan. She couldn’t help but laugh.

“What time did I show up here?” she asked. “I… didn’t pay attention.”

“About one, one thirty.”

Savannah cringed. About the time the full moon peaked.

“You okay?”

She wiped the emotion from her face with a smile. “Yeah. Just hungry.” At least that wasn’t a lie.

He made chit chat as they ate. Savannah did her best to keep up and nod when appropriate, but she was focused on the knots of shame twisting through her stomach that made her feel like vomiting.

“Did you hear me?”

Savannah blinked. “Oh, sorry, zoned out. What did you ask?”

“If you wanted to go see Jonathan’s Revenge this weekend with me? You said you didn’t like parties, so I figured those were out.”

She gulped down a bite of pancake. He wanted more than a one-night stand. That was bad… no, no, it was good. Maybe she should hook up with him. Then she could turn to him monthly instead of fighting her urges.

But you don’t like him.

The guy was nice, even cute with his button nose and neatly combed hair that gave him a boyish look, but there was no fluttering heart, no longing to spend time with him. She felt nothing for him. It would be wrong to use him for sex. More shame burned her.

Setting her fork down, she kept her voice flat. “Sorry, but I’m not looking for a boyfriend right now.”

“Oh… I see.” He hung his head.

Guilt surged up her throat. “It’s nothing against you. I just need to focus on my classes.”

His eyes narrowed. She didn’t need heightened senses to know his thoughts. He believed she used him. In a way, he wasn’t wrong. Why hadn’t she been strong enough last night?

“I better go. Sorry.” She rushed out without looking back. In the sunlight, she paused to compose herself. A lot of one-night stands happened. He’d brush her off as a slut and forget her.

That made her feel worse.

She trudged to her apartment. It was silent; Mandy was at class for the next few hours. What a relief. Savannah didn’t want to deal with her bubbly and happy roommate right now. She curled up in bed as tears formed. She’d give herself a pity party and get over it. She had a life to live. No regrets allowed.






Chapter 5: Xxxx

The dorm building loomed before him, four stories tall. Windows glowed with light and warmth. A voice yelled inside, followed by laughter. He guessed about fifty students resided inside. A mash of body odor, food smells, perfumes, and colognes clashed in the air. Among it, though, he caught a whiff of honey and lilies, Savannah’s scent. He could pick her scent out no matter how much perfume she used.

He hadn’t meant to follow her. The night had been clear, and the stars and moon were shining brightly. While walking the empty hallways, he had been imagining what college was like. They had talked about attending the same university. This one in fact. He wanted to study criminology, and she marketing.

At least one of them was living their dreams.

Footsteps had alerted him that he wasn’t the sole person out. Hiding behind a parked truck, he had watched Savannah stalk down the sidewalk in her pajamas. She had stopped and looked around before continuing. Curiosity and longing to be closer had him tailing her. He refrained from following her inside the building, but he did find the room. On the second floor, belonging to some guy.

Bitterness filled the back of his throat. He wanted her to move forward. How many times would he have to repeat the lie before he believed it? But it didn’t change the truth. She was moving on.

He forced himself away from the campus and the memory of last night. Other than small animals searching for food in the foliage, the woods were quiet. His own stomach grumbled for substance. A week had passed since he last fed. He had pushed himself to go longer, but the weakness seeping into his bones made his legs shaky. Time to face reality.

The trees opened up to reveal an abandoned dump. Sloping hills were littered with tin cans and class bottles. Small appliances stood like monuments to a forgotten time. The road leading through it was overgrown. No one came there anymore, not even to dispose of their garbage. It was the perfect hiding place for a reject.

Stopping by the abandoned car that had become his new home, he stripped off his trench coat and scarf and stored them inside. The air made goose bumps rise along his exposed skin—a wonderful feeling. He removed his shirt and stretched. The quills along his back clicked against each other, making a tic-tic noise like hungry mouths.

He returned to the forest, heading away from the college. The darkness of the trees accepted him. Quickly, he located a raccoon curled up in the hollow of a tree. It squealed and snarled as he pulled it out, baring tiny fangs. He hissed back and sank his needle-sharp teeth into its flesh.

Blood burst onto his tongue. As he sucked it down, his hunger pangs faded. When he finished, red splattered his skin. He placed the raccoon back in the tree—a sort of burial—and trudged back to the dump. He cleaned up and put the stifling clothing back on.

Sometimes, he didn’t know who he was hiding from more: humanity or himself.






Chapter 6: Savannah

The two-story farmhouse with navy blue shutters sat among a vast field dotted with bales of hay. Flowers of every color were scattered in flowerbeds around the house. Birds gathered at feeders. Hummingbirds darted among them, perching only for a split second before zipping away. A massive oak tree grew on the west side of the home. It had been planted the year the house was built in 1912. A soft breeze made the leaves quiver. The gentle sound promised serenity.

If only Savannah could find peace at her parents’ home.

She sat in her car with the engine idling. Memories flooded her mind. Playing in the yard and pretending the gas tank was a horse. Climbing the maple tree in the back yard—she got stuck more than once and had to get her dad to help her down—and sitting in her room with friends, gossiping about other girls and boys.

Now there was something alien about the place. What was missing?

Don’t lie. You know who is missing. You can’t escape the truth.

Savannah closed her eyes. He was with her on the gas tank and in the tree. His name was among those mentioned in the gossip she shared with her friends. If she looked out an east window on the second floor, far in the distance by the lake, she could spot his house. A tiny dot of blue she couldn’t miss. He was everywhere.

And nowhere.

How were his parents doing? She had been unable to bring herself to visit. They had been family. Now they might as well be strangers.

It was better this way. She’d only bring bitter feelings. Why did she return and not him?

Grabbing her bag, she headed inside. The kitchen was painted in warm tans and beiges. Cookies lay on a newspaper. The smell of peanut butter filled the air. She picked one and took a bite. The center was still warm. She groaned in delight.

“I thought you’d like to come home to your favorite treat.”

Charity Janowitz smiled. Wrinkles deepened around the corners of her mouth and blue eyes. Her blond hair was braided and hung to her waist. She wore an apron with bluebirds on it.

Savannah hugged her mother. “You’re the best, Mom.”

“And don’t you forget it,” Charity playfully chided. She relieved Savannah of her bag. “Come on, your father is waiting.”

They headed to the living room, passing through a dining room with a table set for three. Flowerpots sat on stands by the windows, and a 1980s-style chandelier hung from the ceiling. Savannah loved how welcoming the home was. In the winter, she’d curled up by the fireplace after dinner to read until she dozed off.

“There you are.” Andrei’s voice boomed. Leaning forward in his recliner, he held out his arms. Nearby, his prosthetic leg sat propped against the wall. He had served in Iraq and lost a leg to an IED. It had taken him months to recover. Sometimes, he needed a wheelchair or walker to get around. His spirit stayed strong, though. He filled every room he entered with a commanding presence.

“Hi, Daddy.” She grunted at the crushing hug.

“Your mother has been looking forward to your visit.”

Charity swatted her husband. “Me? You were the one counting down the days and minutes all week.”

Savannah smiled at the jesting. “I’ve missed you both, too.”

“Tell us. How’s big city life?” Charity asked once they were seated with cookies and mugs of tea.

“It’s not a city, Mom.” Savannah rolled her eyes. “It’s college.”

“You’re close to the city, though,” Charity pointed out. “I remember when there was nothing but trees there. Pretty soon the city is going to swallow everything.”

“Progress. You can’t stop it,” Andrei chuckled.

The smile on his face nipped at Savannah, guilt surging through her. Why couldn’t she be as strong as him? He had seen horrors in war and survived. She, on the other hand, struggled constantly against things she couldn’t remember, and felt as if she was drowning.

“Well, I like living out here. It’s quiet and peaceful.” Charity folded her arms.

Savannah didn’t disagree. It was nice to escape the deluge of noises and smells. Occasionally, she considered going home and finishing her degree online. But her parents living in a hayfield meant slow Internet, which would cause a challenge with classes.

And if she was being brutally honest, she couldn’t stand the daily reminders of him. She barely endured the occasional reminders college shoved at her.

“How’s work, Mom? Any more young guys hit on you?” Savannah waggled her eyebrows.

Red flushed up Charity’s cheeks. “Your father put a stop to it. He got a little jealous.”

Andrei huffed and grumbled. “I did not.”

“Of course not. You know you’re stuck with me.” Charity winked.

“Doesn’t sound like a bad thing,” Savannah said softly.

Charity clasped Andrei’s hand. “No, it’s not.” Her eyes lit up. “Is someone special in your life finally?”

Savannah stiffened. This was not where she meant the conversation to go. “I’ve met a few guys, but no one interesting.”

“No one like—”

“Mom!” Savannah snapped. Her hands curled into fists, and tears sprang to her eyes.

Charity’s smile faded. “Sorry, honey. I didn’t mean to upset you.”

“Why don’t we talk about something else,” Andrei said quickly.

Savannah released her breath. “I’m sure you saw on the news the governor is signing the petition for the recount.”

“Like that’s a better topic,” Andrei muttered. His face turned sour.

“Oh, don’t get started.” Charity sighed.

“Why do we have to do what the governor wants? He’s only punishing people for protesting him. Who voted for him? Wasn’t me. Voting was rigged. Had to be.”

Charity shot Savannah a glare. Fresh guilt swelled through her, but she ignored it. Anything to keep her parents off the one topic she refused to discuss.

****

A chorus of crickets chirped outside Savannah’s window. She lay in bed, listening and remembering. The sound had annoyed her when she was little. Now, she found it peaceful. A slice of normality. No matter how enhanced her hearing was, crickets always sounded the same; as if they were in the room with her.

Her thoughts drifted to the night her life changed. Questions brewed, but she had no answers. Rising, she dressed and padded to her window. It opened with a loud scraping noise, but she didn’t worry about waking her parents. They were heavy sleepers. The ground was two stories below. She jumped and landed on all fours.

A chill hung in the air. She zipped her jacket up to her chin and began walking. The dirt road passed under her feet. She didn’t think of where she was going though she knew where she’d end up. Jumping over a ditch, she plunged into the field. It hadn’t been hayed yet, and wheat came up to her hips. She held her arms out, letting the stalks run through her fingers. The rustling noise was like a balm that quieted her mind.

When she arrived at the spot, she knew. How, she wasn’t sure. A feeling in her bones, in her heart, told her to stop. This was it. This was where her life had been altered.

It had been a warm, summer night. He had snuck over to her house, throwing pebbles at her window to wake her. She had giggled, at first, refusing to climb down, but eventually joined him. Hand in hand, they had walked along the dirt road. He had pinched her, causing her to scream. He took off before she could sock him, running though the field. She took chase. He let her catch him. They fell to the ground, arms wrapped around each other. Their laughter had echoed through the night. Then, a light. Her next memory was of waking up, surrounded by paramedics and cops. He was nowhere to be seen.

Why did I come here?

Savannah didn’t know. Returning to her parents’ house and her bed, sleep continued to elude her. She hummed her favorite Jordan Sparks songs, thought about homework, even counted sheep, but to no avail. She stayed wide-awake. And what was worse, he kept sneaking into her thoughts like the ghost he was.

When she closed her eyes, she saw him smiling. A tightness gripped her chest. She threw off her blankets and rose again. This time she went to her closet. She dug around until she found the box on the top shelf, hidden by a pile of old clothing she had outgrown.

Her hands trembled as she went through the photos and letters written in blue ink. Unfolding one, she read:

Savvy,

English is boring! I can barely keep my eyes open. You’d think these classic writers would write more interesting books. How about adding a zombie? Or a gryphon? Yeah, then the story would be much more interesting. Traveling on gryphons instead of boring horses and carriages. I know, I know. You like horses. But imagine how much faster it’d be to travel on a gryphon. I’d keep you warm, too. You’d be safe with me.


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