Authors: Sara Brock
Table of Contents
Copyright © 2015 by Sara Brock
All rights reserved. This book or any portion thereof may not be reproduced or used in any manner whatsoever without the express written permission of the publisher except for the use of brief quotations in a book review.
All characters appearing in this work are fictitious. Any resemblance to real persons, living or dead, is purely coincidental.
For my mother and my Aunt Karolyn, for always encouraging me to write
I’m sure that the coffee shop was filled with sounds, but I had cranked the volume up so loud on my dollar-store earbuds that I couldn’t hear any of it, and that is just the way I liked it. Jumpin’ Java was my haven, my place to relax. The walls were full of colorful pictures and witty sayings, like,
it is important to you, you’ll find a way. If not, you’ll find an excuse.
Comfy chairs and little tables filled the cafe, making it seem cozy, and the air always smelled like coffee and cinnamon buns.
Out of the corner of my eye, I saw someone sit on the arm of my chair, which was annoying, but I could live with it. As I drummed my fingers on the table to the beat of the music in my ears, I heard a voice speaking over the rhythm. I ignored it. It spoke again, a little louder.
“Hello, I need to talk to you.”
I looked over and saw a guy with dark hair and intense-looking eyes.
He looked about the same age as me. I had never seen him at Ross High, but I felt like I had met him somewhere before. He spoke again, but I ignored him and turned up my music even louder.
I felt two fingers reach into my ear and yank out my earbud.
Oh. no. he. did. not.
?” I asked, with as much ice in my voice as I could manage. I swept my long brown hair behind my shoulder and gave the guy sitting next to me a glare that I hope gave him nightmares. I almost lost my edge when I realized how handsome he was, but then I caught myself and gave him the extra evil eye.
At least he had the decency to look alarmed. His dark eyes widened as he jumped back just a tiny bit.
“Um, I’m sorry, Erica. I just really need to talk to you,”
“My name’s not Erica.” I was lying, of course, but why should I let this stranger know my name?
“Oh, okay, well, I still need to talk to you.”
“Talk away,” I said, putting my earbud back in and closing my eyes.
I dozed off for a second, and when I woke up, the mysterious guy was gone.
I stood up and stretched before swinging my backpack over my shoulder. Locating my ancient Chevy in the parking lot was easy; no one else’s car was so rusty that the owner couldn’t identify the original color. I never risked locking my doors because half the time, the locks were too rusted to open again.
I walked over to my car and patted it lovingly. Even though it was old, I knew I was lucky. Not every sixteen-year-old has her own car, especially not when they have three siblings like I do.
When I got home, I almost didn’t notice the note on our table, which was already cluttered with unread magazines, mail, and dishes that no one had picked up yet.
We’re both working late again. There’s no food in the fridge, but there’s money
the table for you to eat out.
Mom and Dad
It took me a full seven minutes to locate the envelope that my parents had mentioned.
I had learned long ago not to ask Julia, Stephen, and Joey what they wanted for dinner, because they could never agree on anything. I simply took the envelope of money with me, and returned with two pepperoni pizzas.
“Julia! Stephen! Joey!” I yelled up the stairs, “Food’s here! It’s pizza!”
Stephen and Joey appeared at the bottom of the stairs before I had even finished my sentence. Julia walked daintily down the stairs a few moments later.
When Julia saw what the boys were putting on their plates, she wrinkled her nose.
“Pepperoni?” she asked, “but you
I’m a vegetarian.”
“You’ve only been a vegetarian for two days,” I said, “but if you feel that strongly about it, you can pick them off.”
“Whatever.” By the time Julia had started picking off the pepperoni, the boys were already back in the bedroom that they shared. I could hear the music from their video game drifting down the stairs. They weren’t up there doing their homework, but at least they weren’t fighting.
I opened my mouth to tell Julia about the annoying stranger that had forcibly removed one of my earbuds, but she had already dialed the number of one of her friends and was chatting about what shoes they were going to wear to school tomorrow. She carried the pizza up to her room, and I ate by myself in the dining room, my plate of pizza placed on top of a pile of mail that no one has opened.
The next evening was even worse. The dog was barking, my brothers were fighting, and I had a mountain of homework to do, as usual.
“Julia, can you let Snickers out?” I was busy trying to calm my brothers down.
“Sorry, I just painted my nails,” Julia said.
I walked away from my dueling brothers to let the dog out myself.
“While you’re up, can you bring me a diet Coke?” Julia asked.
Joey threw a plate at Stephen and it hit the wall behind him.
Julia jumped at the noise, spilling her bottle of fuchsia nail polish on the couch.
Snickers had stopped barking. I looked over and realized that he was eating the dinner that I had cooked for the family.
I started shaking, like, really shaking. I felt weak and my vision was a little blurry.
“That’s it!” I shouted, “You people… figure it out!” I ran up to my room and slammed the door. I was glad no one could see the tears dripping down my face. I just sat there crying for the longest time and eventually, I fell asleep on the floor.
I woke up a couple hours later and opened the door. There was a vase full of exotic flowers with a card that said, “Everything is going to be alright.”
I went out into the house, expecting a mess, but to my amazement, everything was pristine.
“Thank you for the flowers,” I said to Julia, “and for cleaning the house.”
“Those aren’t from me!” Julia said excitedly, “This really hot guy came over and said he was your friend. He made us stop fighting and clean the whole house! I bet the flowers are from him!”
“You let a stranger into our house?!” I exclaimed.
“He wasn’t a stranger - you knew him,” Julia said, not even giving me the satisfaction of getting angry back.
“I don’t know anyone that nice!” I said, “I don’t know anyone who would do that for me!”
I really didn’t know anyone that nice, which led me to the conclusion that Julia must be lying. She must have done all this for me and then covered it up so that I wouldn’t know she cared. I silently thanked her and headed back upstairs.
I rolled out of bed and rubbed my eyes. Getting Stephen and Joey ready for school was the worst part of my day. I knocked on the door of their bedroom,
I heard some movement in the bedroom, so I decided to jump in the shower. I got dressed, combed my hair, and put on just a touch of mascara and pink lip gloss before checking on them again. They were awake alright, but they were playing some army video game and they were still in their pajamas.
I unplugged the TV and my brothers stared at me is horror.
“Time to get ready,” I said, “Meet me downstairs.”
Next, I knocked on Julia’s door. I knew she would already be up because she likes to spend upwards of an hour and a half putting on makeup and making sure her hair is perfect.
“Ahhhhhchooooo!” Julia let out a massive sneeze.
“Time for breakfast,” I said, opening the door.
“I can’t go to school like this!” Julia said, “I’m sick! Just look at my face! People will laugh at me!”
I stared at Julia, trying to figure out what was wrong with her face. Her nose was a little red. Maybe that was it. I shrugged and went downstairs to pour cold cereal for my brothers and me.
After sending my brothers out the door to the bus stop, I hopped into my beat-up sedan and hit the gas. I had the oddest sense I was being watched, but I ignored it. About four blocks from my house, a voice spoke from my backseat.
“You have to listen to me now.”
I am not ashamed to admit that at this point, I let out an earsplitting scream. I cut across the right turn lane and earned some well-deserved honks as I pulled into an empty parking lot. I was so startled, I thought about jumping out of the car.
“Sorry about that,” the voice said, sounding sincere, “You didn’t seem like the type to scare easily.”
I spun around and looked at him. Black hair. Dark eyes. A complexion most people would kill for.
“You’re the guy from the coffee shop!” I shouted, “You snuck into my car?!”
“It wouldn’t be much use to deny it, I suppose. My name’s Ian.”
“I would say it’s nice to meet you, but I’m not a great liar,” I said, “So far you’ve done nothing but cause me trouble.”
Ian had the nerve to laugh, and it really ticked me off.
“Trouble?” he said, “I’m trying to save your life.”
“Funny way of doing it since you nearly made me get into a car accident!”
“No,” he said, “You don’t understand. There are people after you. Lots of them.” Ian looked around like he was afraid someone might find us at any second.
“What on Earth are you talking about?” I asked him, “No one’s after me. I’m
“No, you’re wrong. This is going to sound crazy…”
“Well, can’t argue with you there,” I said, “Why don’t you get out of my car before I call the cops?” I unbuckled my seatbelt so that I could turn around better and give Ian what I hoped was an intimidating stare.
“I’m serious,” he said, “These people want to kill you.”
“You’ve got the wrong girl,” I said, and if these people are so dangerous, why don’t you go to the police?”
“They’d never believe me,” he said.
“Well, let’s call them and find out,” I suggested, taking out my cell phone, “I have a stalker problem that I need to talk to them about anyway.”
“You know what?” Ian said, “I give up. There’s nothing I can do to help you. Don’t say I didn’t give you fair warning.”
I was sitting on my bed staring blankly at my homework when I heard it.
My parents were both working late again and my siblings were asleep, so who was making that noise? The doorknob to my bedroom turned and a tall man with white-blonde hair and a sinister expression entered.
“Ah, so this is the fabled Erica that everyone’s been talking about,” he had a strange, not-quite-British accent.
“Who’s been talking about me?” I asked, numb with panic.
He shrugged, “Who hasn’t? Look, it’s nothing personal, but I have to do this. If you hold still enough, you may even live.” The man pulled out a silver dagger.
I gasped and backed away, but he came closer. The man raised his dagger, but before he could swing down, he fell to the ground. Ian was standing behind him with a heavy bookend in his hand.
When I looked down at the man, he had disappeared. Had he run away that fast?
“Did he hurt you?” Ian asked, looking concerned. He picked up my hands one by one and looked at my fingers, as if checking to
they were all there. Then he grabbed my hair and examined the tips of each strand.
“Who was that man? What did he want?” I asked.