Authors: Chrissy Peebles
Part 2 of The Hope Saga
Copyright © 2012 by Chrissy Peebles
All rights reserved. No part of this publication may be reproduced, stored in or introduced into a retrieval system, or transmitted, in any form, or by any means (electronic, mechanical, photocopying, recording, or otherwise) without the prior written permission of both the copyright owner and the above publisher of this book. This is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places, brands, media, and incidents are either the product of the author’s imagination or are used fictitiously. The author acknowledges the trademarked status and trademark owners of various products referenced in this work of fiction, which have been used without permission. The publication/use of these trademarks is not authorized, associated with, or sponsored by the trademark owners.
My brilliant editor, Autumn J. Conley
Months passed, and since no one had any feasible leads as to who had murdered the two girls, everyone was constantly on high alert. Fortunately, the killer hadn’t struck again, but we all had to wonder if he would, if he—or she—would catch us off guard. The killer could have been absolutely anyone, and that was what scared me the most.
I still had my secret admirer, and bouquets kept showing up when I least expected them. I had to wonder why they couldn’t be delivered in person. My aunt reassured me they couldn’t possibly be from the killer and that it had to just be some crazy, love-sick crush. I tried to believe her, but her words really didn’t bring me much comfort. Two girls had died, and I’d started receiving mysterious gifts right around that same time. Maybe one thing had nothing to do with the other, but neither of those things made any kind of sense whatsoever.
My eyes fluttered open at eight a.m., and something instantly struck me as odd.
Why are the lights on?
To conserve energy, I always turned them off before I went to sleep; we all did. I assumed it was my niece, sneaking in to borrow an outfit again without asking.
If that girl doesn’t quit wearing my clothes…
A sweet fragrance drifted past me.
I threw the covers off and sat up in my bed. Potted African violets with rich, green leaves sat all around my room, likely delivered by my aunt or cousins, who had left the lights on. Most girls would have been delighted to wake up to such a sweet-smelling garden, but I was growing sick and tired of unwanted flowers from an unidentified admirer.
I could hear voices in the living room, and since I’d fallen asleep in just a long t-shirt, I hurried and slipped into some comfortable jeans and a clean t-shirt, then threw my hair up into a messy bun. When I opened the door and crept out, I heard my aunt having a heated argument with Mr. Tams.
“You’re supposed to be in charge down here!” my aunt said.
“I know, but what do you expect me to do?” he asked. “I can’t arrest somebody for showing your niece a little attention. There’s no law against sending flowers.”
“Ted, you know as well as I do that there’s more to it than that. Somebody sneaked in here during the night and filled her room with more flowers. Sky doesn’t want or need that kind of obsessive attention.”
“You want me to search everyone’s room to see if anyone’s doing a little gardening on the side?” he asked, arching an eyebrow at the ludicrous suggestion.
“If that’s what it takes to find Sky’s stalker, yes,” my aunt said sternly.
“That’s crazy, Sarah! All this fuss over a few flowers. There are so many teenagers down here, and their hormones are raging. I’m sure this is just some puppy-love crush, just kids’ stuff. Eventually, it will stop.”
“Somebody sneaked in here while we were sleeping. It’s a matter of public safety, and that
“Yes, I understand that, but I really don’t think the young Romeo means any harm.”
“There’s a killer on the loose, strangling young women, yet you’re wondering why I’m so upset that somebody sneaked in here while we were asleep.”
“It obviously wasn’t the killer, or Sky would be dead. It’s just a dumb kid with a crush. Sky’s an attractive young lady, and—”
“You have no proof that it was a teenager. What if it’s an older man, a lonely pervert who is repeatedly harassing my niece? You need to do something about this.”
“Fine. We’ll find the kid,” he said.
“How did he get in here anyway?” she asked, fuming. “Do you think he has a key? Because the door isn’t broken.”
“I’ll look into it,” he said. “I promise that we’ll get to the bottom of this.”
I cleared my throat, and the two of them looked at me.
“Oh…hi, Sky,” Mr. Tams said, running a hand through his thick, bushy hair. It was obvious how the thin man had earned his position: He did whatever our leaders told him to, without so much as batting one of his brown eyes at them. There was an art to sucking up, and Mr. Tams had definitely mastered it. He was a yes-man all the way, and he never dared to ask questions.
My aunt walked over and wrapped a comforting arm around me. “Are you okay, hon’?” she asked.
“I can’t believe somebody sneaked in my room while I was sleeping,” I said. “I didn’t even wake up when he turned the lights on. This guy has guts. What if I’d have woken up? Why would he take a risk like that?”
“Well, if he didn’t hurt you,” Mr. Tams said, “it might be best to keep this to yourself. The last thing we need is more panic.”
Goosebumps rose up my neck, and I shuddered. “But he broke in! What if he…ew, what if he just stood there and watched me sleep or something? What if he’s some kind of creepy, weird pervert? What if he stole a pair of my panties!?”
“I want the locks changed,” my aunt demanded. “Get Walter, Chad, or Melvin down here today.”
Mr. Tams sighed. “All right, as long as you promise not to cause a riot over this.”
“Fine!” she snapped. “But you’d better be bustin’ your butt to find out who’s doing this, and when you do, tell him to knock it off. Sky doesn’t need any more flowers, and we don’t want any more break-ins!”