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Authors: Charity Santiago

Blood Lust

BOOK: Blood Lust
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Blood Lust

by Charity
Santiago

edited by Evan
Hale

http://charitysantiago.blogspot.com

Copyright © 2013 by Charity Santiago. All rights
reserved. No part of this book may be used or reproduced in any manner without
written permission from the author. Please do your part to discourage piracy,
and purchase only authorized editions.

Chapter One

The summer air was warmer than I’d expected when I stepped
outside, and I stopped, inhaling the scent of fry bread and corn dogs. Even
though the street light closest to me was burnt out, there was plenty of
illumination coming from the nearly-full moon above me. From the doorstep of my
grandmother’s store, I could see the telltale lights of the carnival in Main
Street Square.

I locked the door and made my way down the two steps leading
up to Books, Lore & More, where I’d been working for the past three weeks.
Tonight was my first night closing the store alone, and the experience had been
somewhat less than scintillating- only two customers all evening. One, an aging
man with a cane, had only stopped by to talk to Grandma Sam, and hadn’t
bothered to hide his disappointment at her absence.

The second customer had been friendlier, if a little odd.
She was an upbeat redhead named Mara, and she was looking for a book by a local
author, titled
The Wolves of the Black
Hills: Something like Human.

“It’s for my English class over the summer,” she told me,
rolling her eyes.

“Are you taking summer school?” I asked as I pulled up the
title on the store computer.

“I go to college online. The only break we get all year is
two weeks for Christmas.” She rolled her eyes again and snapped her gum. “At
least we get to pick our topics for this essay. I’m writing about all the
mystical stuff that’s happened in Rapid City over the years.”

“Mystical stuff? Has there been a lot?” It seemed like a
quiet enough town to me- a world apart from where I’d grown up in Manhattan. If
only my friends in the West Village could see me now.

“Mostly just the wolves.” Mara leaned forward, blue eyes
sparkling conspiratorially. “People say that the wolves of the Black Hills are
different from normal wolves. They’re intelligent. Not like animals at all.
Some might say…almost human.”

She was practically quoting the book title back to me. I
realized then that this girl, despite being close to my age, was just as
wrapped up in supernatural lore as most of the older customers who frequented
this store.

“I can order the book for you,” I offered, not knowing what
else to say.

She placed her order and left, but not before inviting me to
tag along with her to the carnival. I begged off, telling her it would be
another two hours before I could close the store. She’d insisted that I think
about it, at least.

“Everyone knows everyone here,” she’d said as we programmed
each other’s numbers into our cell phones. “You’ve already been here a couple
weeks, right? It’s time to live a little. You can’t hide out in this bookstore
forever.”

After locking up for the night, I pulled my cell phone out
of my pocket, staring at its darkened screen as I chewed my lower lip. Mara
seemed nice enough, and I didn’t really know anyone in Rapid City. What harm
could it do to spend the evening at the carnival with her?

I sent a text to Mara.
Walking
to the Square now. Are u still there?

I walked past the hotel and the theater, heading for Main
Street Square and keeping my hands in the pockets of my hoodie. We’d been having
a heat wave this last week or so, and I didn’t really need the hoodie, but I’d
dropped strawberry jam on my shirt earlier and I didn’t want anyone to see the
stain.

My phone rang, and I pulled it out of my pocket, expecting
to see Mara’s name on the screen.

It was my dad.

I answered it. “Hi, Dad.”

“Evie! How’s it going?”

“Good.”

“How was your first night closing the shop?”

“Good.”

“That’s…good.”

I had to crack a smile. “How are you, Dad? How’s Anna?” Anna
was my dad’s new girlfriend. My parents were in the middle of a very messy
divorce, and yet somehow they had both felt it was justified to start seeing
other people right away.

“She’s great!” he said with forced gaiety. “She’s enjoying
summer break. We were thinking about making a trip down to see you sometime
before school starts up again. Would that be all right with you?”

My dad’s girlfriend, Anna, was a grad student and was closer
to my age than to his, but he didn’t seem to see any issue with this. My mom’s
new boyfriend was only ten years younger, at least, but I still thought that
both my parents were acting like spoiled children. The biggest reason why I had
decided to move in with Grandma Sam was to escape all their drama.

I weighed my response. I definitely didn’t want to see my
dad right now, but if I said no, that would probably trigger an argument.
“Sure,” I said finally. What were the odds he would actually follow through on
a visit, anyway? He didn’t get along with Grandma Sam and it seemed highly
unlikely that their relationship would become any less frigid now that he’d
dumped my mom for a twenty-five-year-old.

“Maybe we can visit NAU while I’m there, so I can see where
you’ll be going to school in the fall,” he said, startling me out of my
reverie.

College. Right. The second reason I had decided to move in
with Grandma Sam. National American University wasn’t exactly NYU, where both
my parents were professors, but it was the best excuse I had to get as far away
from the divorce as possible.

“Sure,” I repeated. “Actually, Dad, I’m on my way to the
Square. My friend Mara is waiting for me.” A white lie, but he would never
know. “Can I call you back tomorrow?”

“Of course. Say hi to Gram for me.”

Whether or not Gram would say hi back was highly debatable. “I
will. Love you.”

“Love you, too. Have fun.”

“Bye, Dad.” I hit the end button, debating whether or not to
text Mara again.

Maybe I’d see her at the carnival. It wasn’t far now, and if
I couldn’t find her, I’d just head home. I quickened my pace as I drew closer
to Main Street Square. There were crowds of teenagers everywhere, most of them
clustered around the stage at the far end of the Square, jamming to a rock band
that sounded vaguely familiar. There were games, vendors and food booths, but
no rides. It wasn’t like any carnival I’d seen before.

I weaved my way through the throngs of people, keeping an
eye out for Mara’s red hair. There were some younger teens there too, but most
of the people around me looked close to my age.

“Hello, Eve,” someone said from my left.

I took another step before I realized he was talking to me.

“Hi,” I said reflexively to the man in front of me. I didn’t
recognize him. He had long, straight black hair that hung past his shoulders,
his dark eyes and regal cheekbones indicative of his Native American heritage.
My first impression was that he was in his early twenties, but when I met his
calm, direct gaze, he suddenly seemed much older.

“I’m sorry,” I said, noting the brunette girl hanging off
his arm, her face buried in his shoulder. “Have…have we met?”

“I should be the one apologizing,” he said, and held out his
hand. “I’m Max, a friend of your grandmother’s. She has so many pictures of you
up around her house- I recognized you right away. I didn’t mean to startle
you.”

I took his hand, my fingers tingling as they made contact
with his. “No, it’s fine. Max Good Crow, right? Gram never shuts up about you.
I thought you’d be…”
Older,
I wanted
to say, but stopped myself just in time.

His smile flashed white, and I could tell he knew what I’d
been about to say. “I meant to stop by the bookstore to say hello, but I just
haven’t found the time.”

“She’s been busy, anyway. Training me in the bookstore.
Tonight was my first night closing alone.”

There was a pause as the girl on his arm moaned and moved
against him. Max gave me a look that clearly said he didn’t enjoy being used as
a human headrest. “I’d better go,” he said. “My friend here can always find
trouble, and tonight she took it a little too far.”

“It was nice meeting you,” I replied, and jumped sideways as
two boys began shoving each other and almost knocked into me. “I’d better find
my friend…before I get mauled or something.”

“See you around.” He smiled at me again and took off, toting
the girl alongside him. I couldn’t see her face, but her hair was much lighter
than his, just an average shade of brown. She was probably Caucasian, like me. Most
of the Native Americans I’d seen around town since moving here had black hair
and beautifully dark eyes. With my boring blonde hair and blue eyes, I stuck
out like a sore thumb. A comparatively
un-
exotic
sore thumb.

Max was one of Grandma Sam’s best friends. I’d heard the
story several times already. My grandpa had died almost twenty years ago, and
Gram had been devastated, left to wrap up Grandpa’s horse breeding operation
and still somehow keep her bookstore open. Max had lived with his parents on
the ranch bordering Grandpa’s, and he’d been just a kid when Grandpa had died.
But he’d stepped in to help Gram, and kept the breeding operation afloat until
he’d left for college almost a decade ago. Gram had sold off most of the
breeding stock after that, keeping just a few of her favorites for trail riding.

“Max is a doctor now,” Grandma Sam had told me just this
morning. “If only you were a little older, he’d be perfect for you. You’re both
stubborn, hard-working and completely loveable.”

“Thanks, Gram, but I still think boys have cooties,” I’d
replied around a mouthful of biscuit.

“Nonsense. You’ll be eighteen in a few days. It’s time to
start thinking about your future!”

Apparently Gram didn’t consider majoring in Pre-Law at
National American University to be a solid investment in my future.

The carnival was getting so packed that I couldn’t move an
inch in either direction without bumping into someone. The music throbbed in my
ears. I squeezed through an opening to my right and found myself standing in
front of a drink cart. I stepped closer to the cart to try to get away from the
crush of bodies.

“What would you like?” the girl behind the counter shouted
to me.

“Um…” Was I not allowed to stand in front of the cart
without ordering? I wasn’t thirsty, but I’d feel better if I had something in
my hands. “One hot chocolate, please.”

The menu said that hot chocolate was ninety-nine cents, but
when I gave the server a dollar, she didn’t bother giving me my penny back. I
glanced around, looking for Mara again. There was no sign of her. I grunted as
yet another careless person elbowed me aside on their way towards the stage.
This was not my idea of fun.

I pulled out my phone and texted Mara again.
I’m at the Square. Are u here?

I had to wait another minute or so for my hot chocolate, and
by the time the server handed me a steaming Styrofoam cup, I felt like a
pinball from being knocked back and forth so much. If Mara wasn’t going to
answer, there was no point in sticking around. I turned and headed back the way
I’d come, taking care not to spill my drink.

I had nearly reached the street when someone knocked into my
right shoulder, spinning me around. I desperately tried to save the hot
chocolate, but then another guy stumbled backwards, plowing right into me. I
couldn’t support his weight and fall right on my butt, with my hot chocolate splashing
all over my hoodie and the guy landing half in my lap. My elbow hit the
sidewalk, hard.

“Oh, geez. Sorry,” my attacker muttered, not sounding sorry
at all. He looked up at me, still lying in my lap, and smiled. “Want me to get
you another one?”

I glared at him, too hot and sticky to bother with
forgiveness. “No, but you can get off me.” My elbow was throbbing.

“It was an accident,” he said, crawling off me and onto the
grass. The sole of one of his shoes left a wet stain on my jeans.

I climbed slowly to my feet, cradling my elbow and trying to
ignore the hot chocolate dripping off my hoodie.

“Here.” Someone handed me a napkin. When my fingers closed
over it, I realized it was a cloth handkerchief.

I looked up at the man who had handed it to me, ready to
tell him I didn’t want to stain it with hot chocolate, but the words died in my
throat.

“Let me get you-” He didn’t finish his sentence, instead
putting one hand on the small of my back and steering me further down the
sidewalk, away from the crowd. I let him guide me, too stunned to object.

When I didn’t make a move to use the handkerchief, he raised
an eyebrow. “Are you all right? You didn’t hit your head, did you?”

BOOK: Blood Lust
6.68Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
ads

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