In every myth there is a modicum of truth…
Creatus, the reason we believe in fairy tales—and monsters.
Creatus, the reason we believe in fairy tales—and monsters.
In my new novel, for the first time ever, I deleted the prologue and first chapter and jumped right into the story, but I do love character build up, as I know many of my readers do as well, so I couldn't part with these excerpts.
Instead, I'm going to give you a first peek at my new novel, and a little insight to the above scene. I hope you enjoy.
Deleted Scene ~ Prologue
Kristina cowered against the damp building, looking to her mother for direction. Even at eight, she could see the wild gleam in the man’s eyes.
Pepper spray in hand, her mother pushed her toward the street. “Run, baby!”
A knife glinted in the man’s hand as he held it up in front of him. “I just want the jewelry and your money, lady. Don’t make me hurt you or the kid.”
Her mother took her eyes off him for a fraction of a second. “Run, Kris—” Her words cut off as the man slammed the knife into her mother’s chest and then reached for Kristina, but she ran as her mother had instructed. As she fled, she heard her mother’s cries. How could she have left her, especially when it was all her fault? She stopped in the middle of the street. She had to stop him. Her legs felt heavy and sluggish as she ran back down the alley toward the mugger, tears blurring her vision.
A silhouette of a man landed in front of her with a soft thump. When he stood up, a sliver of light from the street revealed that he was dressed in black and much larger than the guy who’d attacked them. An anguished scream shredded the air as the new man tore the thug off her mother, slamming him into the concrete. He knelt down over her mother, checking where the man had forced the knife, but she didn’t move. The kind man lifted her to her feet and she stumbled forward.
“Mommy!” Kristina screamed, seeing the blood drip from her mother’s mouth and seep through a rip in her dress.
Her mother’s eyes and mouth opened, but nothing came out.
“Go,” the man in black shouted. His voice was deep and strong, his eyes dark as he turned to the man on the ground and pulled him up by his hair.
Kristina wrapped her arms around her mother’s waist, doing her best to hold her upright. As they staggered away, one lone wail filled the air and then silence. She hoped it was the bad guy, not the one in black. Normally his dark hair and mysteriously deep eyes would scare her, but she’d felt safe when he looked at her, as if he knew her.
Her mother collapsed in her arms. The blood had soaked through her dress, turning it bright red.
She looked back to the alley where the mugger had pushed them off the sidewalk. They’d just been going to get ice cream. “Help me,” she pleaded to the man who’d saved her. He was leaning over the bad guy, his fingers touching his neck. “My mother’s dying…”
The man in black looked up at the sound of her cry, but didn’t move. “I’m sorry. There’s nothing I can do.”
She blinked the tears out of her eyes, and he was gone.
Deleted Scene ~ Chapter One
Eight Years Later
Kris let the screen door slam behind her, knowing that her foster parents hated it. Good, she hated them.
“Where ya going, Kristina?” Liz called from the porch.
“It’s a school night, young lady. You be home by ten.”
Kris lifted her head in acknowledgement, but then hopped in her friend’s Honda Accord. Yeah, like that was gonna happen. Tonight was the night of her first frat party. Not many sixteen-year-old girls could claim that privilege. She’d posted it all over Facebook, so her friends would be expecting some juicy pics. Her current guardians would be lucky if she came home by three.
She exhaled a long breath as she collapsed in the passenger seat of her best friend’s car. “OMG! Freedom!”
Beth shifted the vehicle in drive and drove away from the lopsided parallel parking job she’d done in front of her apartment building. She pulled her eyes off the road for a second. “Wow. I like the outfit,” her friend said, lifting a few strings of Kris’ vintage shredded jean skirt as her eyes moved up to her peek-a-boo tank. “Where d’ya get the cash?”
Kris propped her feet up on the dash, displaying her new faux fur boots too.
“Dang…girl. Did you rob a bank?”
She smiled. “Not exactly.”
Her girlfriend arched an eyebrow. “You didn’t!”
“How much did you get?”
“Two thousand dollars on eBay. Enough to take off if I want.”
Her friend shook her head, huffing out a breath. “Yeah, right! Where would ya go?
Kris shrugged. “Anywhere? Some place warm. I hate Somerville. We get a few weeks of sweltering heat in the summer, and then the rest of the year is just cold and wet.”
“I don’t know, Kris. I don’t know if I could have sold my mother’s jewelry. Didn’t you say one of the pieces belonged to your grandmother?”
“Yeah. But if my mother hadn’t been wearing that stupid ring, that dirtbag probably wouldn’t have jumped us when I was eight. I’m better off without it.” Kris reached for the stereo and cranked up the alternative rock station. “Anyway, shut up! I wanna rock tonight.”
Within minutes, Beth pulled up in front of the red brick manor with gray trim and made a phone call. “We’re here…” Her voice took on her silky, sweet voice she reserved for her boyfriend. She clicked end and turned to Kris. “Jason said he’d meet us here and park the car.”
Kris faked a swoon against the passenger door. “You’re so lucky. Jason’s soooo sweet.”
“Well, from what he tells me, his suitemate can’t wait to meet you, so I’m sure he’ll be just as great.”
“Squee! So cool! I’m so excited.”
“Chill, girl. We’re supposed to be smooth and calm. Know what we’re doing, you know? Act like college girls.”
Jason ran across the grass and pulled Beth’s door open. “Go on up to the front door, and I’ll be right back.” He pecked Beth on the lips and then jumped inside the Honda and peeled off.
Beth and Kris sauntered up the front stoop, staring up at the four-story dorm, which looked like a mansion. Most of the students who walked by didn’t give them a second glance, but Kris caught the glower from a few girls. She’d always stood out among the dark-haired girls in Boston with her long blond hair, especially since she’d added streaks of eggplant and fuchsia.
Jason took the front steps two at a time and then swung Beth around in his arms. He turned to look at Kris, as though studying her from head to toe; well, maybe he didn’t get past the hem of her skirt. “Looking hot, ladies. Come on, Greg’s anxious to meet you.” He held the door open and they followed. The inside of the old brick manor was spacious with red leather sofas and even a grand piano. He smiled as their mouths dropped open. “You think this is nice, wait’ll you see our suite.”
When he opened the room to their apartment, Kris understood what he’d meant. One side of the room had a full bar built into the wall, and the other side had a terrace overlooking the courtyard. The sun had set within the last half hour, and the sky was ominous looking with its oranges and deep blues, making her wonder whether Boston would get a final snow before springtime. God she hoped not.
A tanned hottie with dark blond hair combed to one side, wearing skinny jeans and a black t-shirt, stepped into the room. She crossed her fingers behind her back, hoping the guy was Jason’s roommate Greg.
He fist-bumped Jason and walked right up to her. “You must be Kristina,” he said in an accent that didn’t fit New England, as didn’t his hair and clothes. Yummy, she thought. He was exactly her type—different. He lifted her hand to his lips and she felt lightheaded.
“Call me Kris,” she said. “Only my guardians call me by my full name.”
One side of his lip quirked up. “I wouldn’t mind being your guardian. I’ll keep an eye on you all night.” He dropped her hand and strolled behind the bar. “So, what would you ladies like to drink?” Greg looked at Jason. “You already checked their IDs? They’re twenty-one, right?”
“Of course,” Jason said, kissing Beth. “Give them our house specialty.”
Greg reached behind him without taking his eyes off her and pulled down two bottles. One with green liquid, the other clear. He flipped the bottles once and poured equal amounts into a short glass, twirled again, and poured another few shots into a second glass. “Two house specials.”
Jason grabbed one and handed it to Beth and then walked over to a stereo and cranked up some tunes, pulling Beth to the middle of the room. As soon as the music started, college students funneled into the apartment.
Kris’ blind date—she’d have to thank Beth later for setting her up with him—stepped around the bar and handed her the green concoction.
She touched a tiny bit to her lips, tasting the drink. It was strong, but good. “Melon?”
“Yep…and a few secret ingredients. If I told you, I’d have to kill you though.” He wiggled his eyebrows at her. “Careful, they taste so good they can sneak up on you. I wouldn’t want you getting drunk and falling asleep before the party’s over.” He lifted her hand and directed her out the French doors to the terrace. “So tell me about yourself, Kris. Where do you go to school?”
She opened her mouth, but then snapped it shut as she’d almost said the name of her high school. Jason knew she was a junior. Had he really not told his roommate, she wondered. “Hmm…there’s not much to tell. I live in Somerville.”
“Yeah, I know, but I’m leaving soon.”
He stuck out his bottom lip. “Really? Where? We just met.”
“I don’t know. Someplace warm.”
He laughed. “Yeah. Me too. Back to Cali as soon as I graduate.”
She licked her lips and smiled. “I like the sound of that.”
“Well, Kris, maybe we should get to know each other better before you move away then.”
Kris’ entire body tingled at the fact that this hotter than hot college boy was interested in her. Heck, she may even get to L.A. faster than she thought. His parents probably owned a beach house in Venice.
Greg touched his fingers to the bottom of her glass. “Drink up, babe. There’s a lot more where that came from, and we have a lot of partying to do.”
She tilted back the glass, savoring every drop. He left her on the terrace to greet more students filtering into the suite, all carrying dishes of food in one hand and a bottle of some kind of liquor in the other.
Kris wandered around the apartment, meeting new people, but kept her mouth shut and mostly just let them talk about professors and what they were gonna do for spring break. Every time she turned around, Greg was close by, offering her a sweet smile. She’d been so lucky that he’d chosen her as his date with all these older college girls around.
When she walked back into the main living area, all the couches, chairs, and tables were back against the walls of the apartment, leaving space in the middle for swaying bodies. An eighties’ dance song belted out of the Bose speakers, and Beth squealed in response, pulling Kris into the middle of the room. Within seconds, Greg handed Kris another drink and moved up behind her, pressing her closer to her friend. She tipped the glass back and drained it. He handed her his glass and she pounded it too.
The warmth that surged through her body felt de-lish. She’d needed a release from the strains of her life. A day didn’t go by that thoughts about the night she’d lost her mother didn’t plague her, and every evening, nightmares inundated her sleep as she attempted to rewrite the events of her past. She had no parents, no siblings. And every six months, or less sometimes, she ended up with new foster parents when her current guardians were finally able to adopt a baby or have their own child. No one wanted a troublesome teenager. Beth was the only person on the planet who even cared about her worthless existence.
Greg slid his hands around her waist and pulled her closer. The room blurred for a second, and she stumbled backward into his arms, feeling as though she might fall.
He steadied her. “You okay?”
“Yeah. Just hot, I guess.”
He lifted her hand and pulled her toward the door. “Let’s go get some fresh air.”
Kris followed behind him gratefully. “That sounds good.” Beads of sweat dropped between her shoulder blades even though she could feel the air was cool.
Greg led her down a staircase and outside to the courtyard behind the building. He crossed the common area, walking until they were in the shadow of two buildings. He dropped down into an Adirondack chair and pulled her onto his lap.
Kris’ heart immediately thumped out a nervous rhythm. She’d only known him a couple of hours; she wasn’t ready for this.
He slid one hand up her shirt and the other between her legs.
She jumped off his lap and staggered backward; he hadn’t even kissed her and was already trying to feel her up. “What are you doing? We just met.” A wave of heat flashed through her body, and the world seemed to twist and bend around her as she tried to steady herself. Her mind was clear, but the ground felt as though it was moving beneath her as if she were rocking in a boat.
Greg’s face distorted, and she wasn’t certain if she was imagining the devilish sneer or if she was hallucinating. He stood up. “I thought this is what you wanted. To get to know each other.” He approached her and pushed her back against the brick wall. The grainy material pierced through her thin t-shirt, scraping her back.
She clawed at his hands and arms. “I mean it! Stop it!”
He smashed his hand over her mouth and slammed her harder against the wall. She tried to scream, she tried to push him off, but his body against hers was too strong. It felt as if her arms were floating and her legs could no longer hold her weight.
The loser must have put something in her drink. He tugged up her skirt as she struggled to free herself, but he pulled her body back away from the wall and then bashed her head back into it. White stars filled her vision as the world began to close around her. She couldn’t pass out; she had to fight.
Greg’s body soared backward, hitting the wall of the building opposite her. She blinked in an attempt to clear her head, trying to register what she’d just seen. Then her body felt weightless as cool air rushed over her skin. Strong arms cradled her body, but they weren’t hurting her; someone was carrying her.
She barely had the strength to keep her eyes open. “Who…are…you?”
“You stupid girl.” A familiar deep voice filled her ears, resonating through her body as he held her against his chest.
Hearing his voice sent a thrill through her soul. Every time she’d tried to convince herself that she’d made him up as a child, her heart argued that he existed. She tried to focus on his face, but she couldn’t open her eyes enough to make out his features. She needed to see his eyes, those deep and mysterious eyes that filled her good dreams when she had them. The ones where he whisked her away, as opposed to the nightmares when the thief returned to kill her.
He set her down inside what must be Beth’s car.
“It’s you, isn’t it?” she struggled to speak through the haze that threatened to steal her into unconsciousness.
“Yes, it’s me.” He brushed her hair from her face, and her world went black.
And now, a first peek at the actual book.
Kris staggered down the stairwell of the apartment building, cursing aloud for what her life had become. Just twenty-two and she’d poisoned her body so many times she hardly even recognized herself.
A stale stench of sweat and liquor assaulted her senses, causing her stomach to lurch, compelling her to escape the dilapidated structure. The rusty railing swayed beneath her grip, giving her minimal support as she descended the stairs. As soon as she stepped onto the street, she inhaled a deep breath, trying to rid herself of the rancid smell. The smell persisted, which meant it was on her. Sadly, she wasn’t sure if the odor belonged to the stranger whom she’d spent the last few hours dodging sexual advances or if she smelled like the walking dead. How had she let herself become such trash?
“Why did you save me?” she screamed into the black void, similar to her life. She hadn’t asked him to save her when she was eight years old.
As always, no one answered her ridiculous peal, which was probably just as well. Attracting attention in this part of town wasn’t smart. She clicked the key fob for her Grand Am as she scanned the street. She barely even remembered driving here after she left the nightclub.
The problem with drinking too much, which she did far too often these days, was that as her inhibitions fell, so did her standards. The man from the bar had been cute, but he’d obviously wanted something other than money in exchange for a hit. What else should she expect when she followed a man home whose name she couldn’t even remember.
She hadn’t planned to go home with a stranger. But when he’d suggested they could get high together, it had sounded like fun, a chance to escape her nightmares and her empty apartment. A chance to do anything but feel the pain she endured by her guilt every time she closed her eyes.
Kris strained to hear the chirp from her vehicle as she weaved along the sidewalk. Her heels lodged into the cracks in the concrete, causing her to trip several times. Somerville was such a dump. She should have used the money from selling her mother’s jewelry six years ago on eBay and moved to California. Instead, she’d stayed in this frigid, run-down suburb of Boston. But she knew why she hadn’t. She was afraid if she left, she’d never see her protector again. A day didn’t go by that she didn’t get an eerie feeling that someone was watching her.
Out of nowhere, a chill would travel the length of her spine she’d swear was her Dark Angel’s breath on her neck. But every time she turned around, no one was there. So instead of escaping, she’d used the money to buy a P.O.S. car and drugs and started on her debauched journey. She knew she was better than the life she’d been living, but every night she found the answers no one offered her at the bottom of a bottle.
Sometimes she wished her Dark Angel hadn’t saved her. If he didn’t care, why had he bothered?
Not once, but twice.
She was beginning to think she’d conjured up his image to erase the guilt of her mother’s death. Her Dark Angel, as she called him since she had no name for the handsome stranger, had accosted a degenerate who’d attacked her mother and her when she was eight, allowing her to escape. Unfortunately, her mother had still died.
When she was sixteen, he’d rescued her a second time. She’d been so excited to go to her first college frat party, but her date had laced her drink with some type of date-rape drug. Seconds after he’d helped her outside to get fresh air, he’d ripped at her clothes. When she’d refused, smacking his hand away, the college sophomore had turned aggressive. He’d smashed her head against a brick wall of the dorm, slamming his hand over her mouth. He would have raped her, and she wouldn’t have been able to stop him. The drugs he’d given her made it impossible to stand, let alone thwart off his attack.
But again, out of nowhere, she’d felt the warm embrace of her Dark Angel’s arms after he tore the loser off her, the same way he’d wrenched the thief away from her mother. His mysteriously ebony-colored eyes had gazed into hers as he’d whisked her away. His deep, melodic voice had whispered that she’d be okay. The same aspects she’d distinctly remembered about him when she was eight. But then he’d disappeared again after depositing her inside her vehicle, ordering her to lock the doors until her best friend came out to the car.
She’d never told anyone about him. Not even her best friend.
Beth would have said, “Dark, mysterious stranger who watches over you… yeah, right!” It did sound preposterous and melodramatically romantic, so it couldn’t possibly be true. But no matter how many times her brain tried to convince her he didn’t exist, her heart refused to listen. He’d protected her for a reason, she was certain. Though sometimes, Kris wished her Dark Angel had allowed the thief in the alley to kill her too, saving her from a life of loneliness.
The sun hadn’t come up yet, but the hue of the horizon was fading from a deep navy to a lighter shade of violet. Another beautiful spring day she’d spend sleeping off a massive hangover she felt making its way to the surface. Another day she wouldn’t make it to work, and this time they’d fire her. Her boss had made that crystal clear last time.
Another sharp odor hit her senses, knocking her backward a few steps, stumbling again. The pungent scent of rotting vegetables instantly transported her to the night of her mother’s death. For years, she’d been unable to keep fruit for more than a day in her apartment because the scent brought back the painful memories. But this time, it felt as if she were actually there again, as if the scent had literally transported her to that horrible moment when she lost everything.
Kris took a moment to survey the alley where the reek emanated. Her eyes raked over the faded red brick, a flickering sign at the end, and a dumpster overflowing with garbage from the mom-and-pop grocery store, the source of the insulting pong. Sucking in a breath, she almost retched as the memory hit her fully.
Oh, God! She was in the same alley where her mother had been murdered.
Shaking her head to dislodge the painful recollection, Kris tottered in her high heels. The rough texture of the wall dug into her skin, reinforcing the memory. The image of the thief’s face flashed in her head. Even before he’d plunged the knife into her mother’s chest, she’d detected the murderous gleam in his eyes.
Nothing would obliterate the memory of him shoving them against that decaying building, the glint of the knife as he’d wielded it erratically. The blood—so much blood. Her mother’s blood.
Kris whipped her gaze to the rooftops, knowing her Dark Angel was watching her, knowing he was always close by. “You were there,” she cried. “I don’t know who or what you are, but I want to know why you didn’t save my mother?” She gasped out a breath, attempting to contain her cries. “And why you left me alone!”
No matter what she wanted to believe, the memory was real. She hadn’t imagined him coming off the building, landing in front of her with a soft thump, the sliver of light from the street revealing he was much larger than the guy who’d attacked them. Nor had she dreamt up the anguished scream that had escaped his throat as he tore the thug off her mother, the crack of the degenerate’s skull as he slammed him into the concrete.
As they’d tried to get away, her mother collapsed in her arms. She’d pleaded for the angel to help her. But he’d just stared from where he squatted by the thug, his dark eyes focusing on her as though he recognized her, and said, “I’m sorry. There’s nothing I can do to save her.” She’d blinked the tears out of her eyes, and he was gone. Kris had buckled in the dark alley, crying over her only parent’s lifeless body until the police arrived.
She’d hated him for protecting her but not her mother. Since her mother had never told anyone her father’s name and no relatives had claimed her, she’d spent the next ten years of her life in a different foster home every six months or so. Every time she’d gotten into trouble or the couple was able to adopt a newborn, they had tossed her back to the state, and the state pitched her right into another unloving home.
Realizing her Dark Angel wouldn’t show unless her life was in danger, Kris yanked off her shoes and started running down the walkway. The icy pavement burned her feet, as if she were running on coals, and the uneven surface caused her to stub her toes. But she had to escape the rancid memory of her mother’s death, and she had to force him out of the shadows.
“Where are you?” she shouted, deciding that maybe she did want to attract the wrong kind of attention. Again, no one answered. Figures, she thought. No thieves or rapists around when you need one.
She pressed the button on her key fob frantically, spinning in the street, her arm raised high as she checked every direction, desperate to find her car. Finally hearing the chirp, she careened toward her vehicle. After fumbling with the door handle, she slumped in the seat, her head sinking against the steering wheel.
“Why did you save me?” she blubbered again. “So I could drink myself to death?” Of course, her choices weren’t his fault. She’d just hoped that he would feel compelled to rescue her from her stupid decisions, like going outside with that college guy. He’d been right to call her ‘stupid girl’ as he carried her away.
Kris examined her face in the rearview mirror, blanching at her reflection. Even with her creamy skin and golden blond hair, she looked old. Swirled and smeared lines of mascara streamed down her cheekbones, filling in the few creases on her face. She’d obviously been crying in her sleep again.
She vaguely remembered the nightmare that had woken her a mere hour after she’d crashed on the stranger’s couch. She’d been attempting to save her mother, trying to grab the knife. The thief had stuck her this time, and she was happy. Happy she’d taken the punishment for asking to go out for ice cream that fateful night. The reward she’d received for making the honor roll was that her mother had died.
Kris turned the key, and the engine whined in protest. Her car was obviously on its last leg too. When she reached the highway, she headed toward the Mystic River, specifically, the Tobin Bridge.
It was time.
She’d realized before that it was the only way, but now she was going to follow through with her decision. The jump itself wouldn’t do it. But from what she understood, it’d knock her out. Drowning was supposed to be a tranquil way to die, especially if you were unconscious. Hopefully that wouldn’t happen, but he’d left her no choice.
She lifted her phone from her purse and called the one person who’d care. A pang of guilt shot through her. They hadn’t spoken much since graduation five years ago, but Beth had asked her to be her maid of honor. Beth was now a teacher at their old high school and a soon-to-be-married woman. It was ‘Facebook Official’, as Kris would have said a few years ago. Nowadays she couldn’t care less about social media, though. The only notifications she still received were Beth’s updates. They no longer shared common interests, but she was the one person Kris had ever felt a connection with. Well, except for her Dark Angel. Even though she couldn’t see him, she always felt him. Somehow, their souls had connected when he’d saved her. She just needed to get him to reveal himself.
She’d done the rashest things in the last six years to force him into the open, but she’d never been desperate; she’d just been reckless. But no matter how many times she’d put herself in precarious situations, she’d never been attacked again. Maybe that was why she’d decided to kill herself slowly with drugs and alcohol, hoping he’d eventually save her from herself. Did he feel her pain now? she wondered. Would he stop her?
Kris waited as the rings ceased and the message clicked on. “You know what to do,” Beth’s chipper voice came through the phone followed by a beep.
“I love you, Beth,” Kris said calmly through fresh tears, attempting to suppress any audible cries. She didn’t want her friend to hurt in the event she was wrong. “I’m sorry. I really am. But know I’ll be happier wherever I am.” She clicked ‘end’ and tossed the phone on the seat.
Kris drove her car onto the curb and climbed out onto the upper deck of the Tobin Bridge, the highest bridge in Massachusetts.
“Are you going to let me do this?” she yelled into the darkness that engulfed her, wishing the sun would just come up already. “I’ve looked everywhere for you, and you refuse to show yourself.”
Bitter March winds whipped at her hair and body, turning her pale skin into a checkerboard of red and white. She scrubbed at her arms with her hands to warm them. How stupid. If he was a figment of her imagination, or chose not to save her this time, she’d be drowning in the frigid water of the Mystic River in minutes.
“If you exist, you’ll save me. I know you will. But if you don’t, I don’t want to live anyway.”
As the sun’s rays peeked above the horizon, lighting the abyss below her, she inhaled a deep breath, closed her eyes, and jumped. The ice-cold air rising from the river below rushed by her as she plummeted. She didn’t scream; she didn’t look down. As much as she hated her life, she hoped it wouldn’t end this way. She’d really like to see him one more time.
Her life didn’t flash before her eyes as she’d always heard. Just an image of her mother covered in blood and her Dark Angel telling her he was sorry. Those were obviously the only images she’d ingrained into her subconscious as important.
As she hit the water, a second of crushing pain seized her body and then the world turned dark and cold, enveloping her into its chasm.
His deep voice penetrated her brain at the same time the sensation of a stabbing hot poker seared her shoulder. She gasped for air, but fire radiated through her chest as she attempted to inhale the cool air. She opened her eyes but couldn’t see the face above her, only a silhouette of a man. She recognized his voice, though. Her Dark Angel had come for her.
The morning sun glared into her eyes, blinding her as she tilted her head to see him. As she lifted her hand to shield her face, a bolt of pain surged through her arm. “Oww…” she groaned.
“You dislocated your shoulder and you may have a couple of cracked ribs, but you’ll live,” the deep voice she’d longed to hear for six years said.
“I’m supposed to be dead,” she wheezed.
He cupped the side of her face. “No, you’re not. You’re supposed to live, Kristina. For me. I just wanted a few more years, you stupid girl.”
Remembering how he’d called her ‘stupid girl’ when she was sixteen, she tried to pull in a breath to protest, but it hurt too much. So she used what limited oxygen she had left in her lungs. “Stop… calling… stupid.”
He spurted out a breath and stood, shaking his head. “I’ll be back in a minute. Try not to get into trouble.”
Kris sealed her eyes shut, attempting to block out the sun as well as the throb in her shoulder, but then she couldn’t help but smile. Maybe she was dead, because she could swear she’d just heard him say he’d be back.