Relentless, p.11Part #1 of Relentless series by Karen Lynch
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I climbed into Roland’s truck and squeezed in between him and Peter. “So where are we headed?”
“We narrowed it down to two options, and we’re going to let you pick,” Roland said as we drove along the waterfront. “Party at Dell Madden’s house or party up at the lighthouse with Dylan’s band.”
“So a party or a… party.” I put my finger to my lips. “How will I ever decide?”
“Well, you said you wanted to have some fun.”
“Okay, then let’s do the lighthouse party.” I knew Dylan better than Dell Madden. And an outdoor party would be less crowded.
The lighthouse’s overgrown parking lot was already half full of vehicles when we pulled in. Dell Madden had picked the wrong night for his party because it looked like everyone was coming to Dylan’s shindig instead.
Parked in front of the lighthouse was a white van belonging to one of Dylan’s band mates. Two large speakers had been rigged up, and music was already blaring when we arrived. Someone had brought a bunch of solar lights and battery operated lanterns and strung them up around the lighthouse yard, and on the beach at the lower end of the bluff, a group of boys were starting a bonfire. Everywhere I looked there were coolers of ice.
Roland reached behind his seat and pulled out a six pack. I raised an eyebrow at him and, he smiled and tossed his keys to Peter. “Pete’s designated driver tonight.”
Peter pocketed the keys. “It’s my turn,” he explained glumly.
“Well, if Roland would teach me to drive, I’d get my license and I could be the designated driver next time.” It wasn’t like I drank often anyway.
“Great idea!” Peter hooted as he and Roland high-fived each other. I just shook my head and followed them over to the small group of people standing by the van.
Dylan gave me a goofy smile that made his hazel eyes twinkle. “Sara, this is the second time I’ve seen you in two weeks. I’m starting to think you have a crush on me.”
I gave the ginger-haired boy an exaggerated sigh. “You know me, full of yearning and all that.”
Everyone laughed, and Dylan introduced me to the rest of his band and two of the band members’ girlfriends. Everyone seemed to know Roland and Peter pretty well. The drummer, who had long, wavy blond hair and surfer good looks, gave me a quiet smile as he shook my hand then offered me a beer. I shook my head and said maybe later.
“Didn’t I see you at the Attic last time we played there?” Samson asked, popping open a beer for himself.
“Yes.” I smiled even as my gut clenched at the mention of that night. Watching Samson do his solo was one of the last normal things I’d done before my world went to hell. Determined to put that night behind me, I said, “You guys were great. A lot better than the rap thing Dylan used to do.”
“Hey, don’t be a hater!” Dylan cried with mock outrage.
Samson laughed, and I saw that he had a great smile. “Not into rap?”
“Sara likes the old stuff, classic rock,” Roland told him. “I bet she can name every one of Carly Simon’s albums.”
“Who’s Carly Simon?” asked the tall raven-haired girl named Beth. All the boys snickered, and I struggled to keep a straight face as I told Beth who Carly Simon was.
Roland put his beers, except one, in Dylan’s cooler. “Come on. Let’s go see who all is here.”
A lot of the kids who knew Roland and Peter were strangers to me. Dylan’s band mates had all gone to another school, and most of the kids were from there. I did see some familiar faces from St. Patrick’s, and most of them looked surprised to see me at a party. It’s not like I was a hermit. I did go out and have fun, just not as often as everyone else.
Based on the number of girls who came up to us, Roland’s popularity extended beyond our high school. A couple of girls flirted blatantly with him, and a few others – who had already dated him – attempted to act casual, hoping he’d notice them again. Sometimes their attempts to catch his eye seemed a bit ridiculous to me, and I wanted to tell them all to stop behaving like idiots. If I ever got this stupid over a guy, I hoped someone would slap some sense into me.
I did feel bad for one of the girls who gave Roland a forced smile when he said hello to her. Cassidy Downs was the last girl Roland dated just before school started, and she still had a “what did I do wrong?” look that made me want to sock my best friend. The tall brunette tossed her hair and tried to look unaffected when Roland flirted playfully with other girls, but I could see the hurt in her eyes. Cassidy and I were not friends, but I hated to see someone hurting, which is why I finally pulled Roland aside.
“Stop being a douche,” I scolded him when we were out of earshot of everyone.
He looked genuinely surprised. “I’m being a douche?”
I shook my head and groaned. “Roland, I know you think girls are okay if you only date them once or twice, but not all girls are the same. Can’t you see that Cassidy still has a thing for you?”
“She does?” He looked over my shoulder at the group of girls we had just left. “But we only saw each other twice, and that was weeks ago.”
“I guess you made a bigger impression on her than you thought.”
“What am I supposed to do? I can’t help how she feels.”
I had to stop myself from shaking him. Boys could be so dense sometimes. “I know that, and I’m not saying you have to stay away from other girls. Just try not hook up right in front of her face.”
After that, Roland kept a polite distance between him and Cassidy. He continued to flirt with other girls but to his credit, he toned it down a bit. An hour later, I saw Cassidy laughing with one of her friends, and I was glad I’d decided to say something to Roland.
By ten o’clock the crowd had almost doubled and I recognized a lot more of the faces. At some point, I separated from Roland and Peter and made my way down to the beach where a dozen or so people sat around the fire drinking. I found a flat rock to sit on and enjoyed the warmth of the fire on my face and the sound of the waves in the darkness.
The sensation of being watched made me glance around at the other faces to see who was looking at me. One boy I didn’t know smiled at me, but I knew that wasn’t what I’d felt. My eyes travelled along the top of the bluff. It was more like…
Son of a bitch. My gaze landed on Jessie Clark and Marie White practically hanging on the tall blond man watching me. If this was Chris’s idea of staying in the background, I’d hate to see what the alternative was like.
By the time I made it up the low embankment, Chris had detached himself from the two girls and met me at the top. The girls’ crestfallen expressions changed to open glares when they saw who the object of their attention had left them for. Jessie and Marie were two of Faith’s cronies, so I couldn’t have cared less what they thought.
“What are you doing here?” I hissed at Chris. “What happened to keeping your distance?”
Unfazed by my anger, Chris checked to make sure no one was close enough to hear us. “There have been some developments. We are bringing more people into Portland to investigate, and we thought it would be best to keep a closer eye on things on this end.”
A small chill ran down my back. “What kind of developments?”
“Nothing I can elaborate on at the moment.”
“Well, since it obviously has to do with me, you’d better give me more than that,” I whisper-yelled at him. Did they really expect me to accept their vague explanations just like that?
Chris gave me a patient smile, and I had the feeling that between him and Nikolas, he was the more temperate of the two. That was probably why I was dealing with him instead of Nikolas. I think he knew it, too.
“All I can say right now is that we believe the vampire who attacked you may be stepping up his attempts to find you.” He scanned the partiers as if assessing them for threats. “It might be advisable for you to go home and stay there for the next few days.”
I blinked at him. “Are y
“Nikolas said – ”
“That’s another thing. Since when does he get to call the shots here? So I’m an orphan. That doesn’t give him the right to run my life.” I spun away from him. “And if I want to party, then I’ll party.”
I stomped away, looking for Roland and Peter. Seeing neither of them, I headed for the crowd standing around by the van. Samson intercepted me as soon as I got close.
“I thought you’d run off. You ready for that beer now?”
“Alright.” He flipped open the nearest cooler and pulled out two beers. He opened one and passed it to me, and I took a long swallow. I didn’t care what kind it was. It was cold and wet, it tasted like rebellion, and I was thirsty.
Samson grinned at me. “Slow down there, chugger.”
I let out a loud burp and slapped a hand over my mouth. “Oops, sorry.”
He laughed good-naturedly. “That’s what happens when you drink the first one too fast.”
A laugh bubbled out of me. “I’m not exactly much of a drinker.”
“That’s funny coming from one of Roland’s friends.”
“He thinks so, too,” I said as we moved away from the cooler to grab a couple of plastic chairs at the edge of the crowd. I noticed a few girls watching us, and their expressions told me they were not happy to see the drummer with me. What is with girls and good looking guys? A girl couldn’t even talk to a guy without every other female baring their claws. Nate had no idea what he was talking about when he said he wanted me to be like normal girls.
Samson leaned toward me so I could hear him over the din. “I don’t know any girls who are into the older music. What stuff do you like?”
“I don’t know. Most of it, I guess. Not the real heavy stuff. I like Janis Joplin, the Eagles, Fleetwood Mac, Foreigner. Stuff like that.”
“What, no Backstreet Boys or ’N Sync?”
I made a face. “Did you really just ask me that?”
We both laughed. Samson had the rocker look nailed, the hot drummer with groupies and all, but he was a lot more down to earth than I had expected. We talked a lot about music and the different bands he’d been in. He told me Delilah’s Crush was the first band he’d started on his own, and he had great hopes for them. I was surprised when he told me he was also doing a couple of business classes at USM. He said you had to have a backup plan.
“So you haven’t said much about yourself,” Samson said when he returned from getting us another beer.
“Not a lot to say really,” I replied, accepting the cold beer from him. I took a long drink. “I’m a senior at a Catholic school, so you know there’s not much to say about that. I live with my uncle, and unlike you I have no idea what I want to do in college, even though my school counselor keeps telling me I have to start applying soon.”
He raised his eyebrows suggestively. “Catholic school girl, huh?”
“Ha, don’t believe the hype,” I quipped, earning a laugh from him. I laughed with him, aware that I hadn’t been this relaxed in a long time and never with a boy who wasn’t Roland, Peter, or Greg. I always figured that if you talked to boys too long, they’d make something out of it. I wasn’t the best at reading male signals, but Samson seemed to be genuinely interested in only talking. Maybe he was tired of girls clamoring for his attention all the time and just wanted some normal conversation.
Our laughter drew the curious stares of the people nearby. I caught Dylan’s eye, and he winked at me. I couldn’t tell if he was playing along with his earlier comment about me crushing on him or if he was insinuating there was something going on between me and his drummer.
I turned my attention back to Samson, and I found him watching me with a soft, almost wistful expression. As soon as our eyes met, he turned on his good-natured grin again, but it was too late. Uh-oh, there it was. I groaned inwardly. Men need to come with a user manual. One that said, “Don’t push this button.”
My first impulse was to start looking for a way to politely slip away from him. But then I thought, Why? I liked Samson, and he seemed like a great guy. We laughed a lot, and he hadn’t tried anything inappropriate. He hadn’t even pushed me to drink more like a lot of guys would have. And it wasn’t like I had anything to be afraid of. I was here with Roland and Peter and a Mohiri bodyguard.
Samson must have seen the conflict in my eyes because he stood and said, “Come on, we can’t sit over here by ourselves all night. People will call us wallflowers.”
“Ha. Can’t have that. It would totally ruin your image.”
“Damn straight.” He took my hand and pulled me to my feet. The world spun for a second, and I suddenly remembered why I didn’t drink. Only two beers and I was tipsy.
Samson reached out to steady me. “Whoa. Lightweight.”
My scowl only got a laugh from him. “You know what the best cure is for that?” he asked, and I shook my head. He tugged me toward a group of people dancing on the other side of the van. I tried to pull back because I wasn’t much of a dancer, but he wasn’t having any of it. I soon discovered that he wasn’t much better than me, but that didn’t stop him. Soon I was dancing with everyone else and really enjoying it. We danced two fast ones before it switched to a slower song. Samson stood back and gave me a questioning look. I shrugged. What the heck?
He was a lot taller than me so my head only came to his shoulder. It felt awkward at first, dancing so close to him, but he suddenly began dipping me and acting all goofy. I was flushed and laughing by the time the song ended. Could I really be enjoying myself at a party… with a boy? What had come over me?
A sudden annoying niggling sensation in my head told me a Mohiri was near, and my lips thinned as I scanned the area looking for Chris. What was his problem now? Was dancing with a boy some kind of security risk? When I found him I was going to let him know how creepy it was to have someone watching me all the time.
My watcher stood in front of the lighthouse, arms folded and a shuttered expression on his face. When I faced him, he moved slightly and I saw the set of his jaw and the stormy stare that I was starting to think he reserved just for me.
Relentless by Karen Lynch / Fantasy have rating 4 out of 5 / Based on20 votes