by Elena Dillon
Genre: Young Adult Romantic Suspense
Word Count: 62,300
Cover Artist: Alexa Dillon
Jasmine’s life wasn’t normal for a 16 year old girl. It hadn’t been normal since the murder of her older sister, Daisy, two years ago. Her life had been changed forever. The monster that murdered Daisy was never caught. That was the reason her family decided to move away from their hometown in Southern California, to start over. Hopefully in a place where the last name Rourke wouldn’t bring on staring or judgment or morbid curiosity.
In Lafayette, Louisiana things are quite a bit different but in a good way. Good manners, Cajun accents and a whole lot of Southern Hospitality all make her think things are going in the right direction. On top of that the most gorgeous boy she has ever met is interested in her. Her new friends are better than she could have hoped for even if she is worried about what they might think when they find out who she is. Life would be perfect if odd things didn’t keep happening. Creepy phone calls, texts, and flowers in her locker start adding up quickly to something terrifying. Could the Monster have followed them to Lafayette? Was he coming after her this time? Maybe she was just worrying unnecessarily…or not.
Most days I can almost forget someone murdered my sister. I try to go through every day like a normal sixteen-year-old. I can eat breakfast, go to school, do homework, but then something will remind me that my family will never be the same. I’ll see my mom looking out the kitchen window—she has this blank look and her clothes are hanging on her. I worry she doesn’t eat enough to stay alive. Or I catch a glimpse of the picture on the coffee table we took three Halloweens ago, when Daisy and I dressed up like crayons, and Caedan and Lily were Skittles. It seems like a long time ago, and then, again, I remember it like it just happened.
We finally moved two weeks ago. Mom decided we couldn’t continue to live in Burbank. Besides the obvious reason that Daisy’s murderer was never caught, someone was always staring at us with that look that said, “Isn’t it so sad what happened to the Rourke family?” But you know in their hearts they are thinking how glad they are it didn’t happen to them. It’s obvious they’re thinking my mom must have done something wrong. She wasn’t a good enough parent, didn’t supervise Daisy enough, didn’t call the police soon enough. They wanted to believe the murder of a teenage girl happened for a reason and they could avoid it, if they just did everything right. The thing is, I think the exact opposite is probably true.
So, three months ago, we had a family meeting. We got out a map of the US and each chose a city and state. Mom and I did research on ours, Caedan picked his based on name only, and Lily did the spin-around-and-wherever-your-finger-lands routine. Thankfully, we pulled mine out of the hat. I don’t know how I would have felt living in Smackover, Arkansas. Caedan thought it was hilarious. He is so twelve.
Tonight, my mom drove us all to Wal-Mart in our new town of Lafayette, Louisiana. School supplies were the one thing we hadn’t shopped for in the last two weeks, and school was starting tomorrow.
“Jas, take your brother and sister to the school supplies, while I go grab stuff for lunches this week, will you, hon?” my mom asked, as she walked away without waiting for my reply.
“I was going to—” I clamped my mouth shut. She didn’t even hear me.
I was stuck with this life now. I love my brother and sister, but I hadn’t always been the oldest and in charge of herding them. These are the times Daisy’s absence hits home the most with me. She had been good with them. I used to slip into the background. Do my own thing. Sneak off to the books and browse, while she did her Junior Mommy act. I’m less patient and easily irritated. I’m angry at Daisy for leaving me here with this mess. I don’t want to be the responsible one. I want my life back. I just inherited her spot and, honestly, I don’t want it. Not that anything is going to change it now.
“I want to get all matching Justin Bieber school supplies,” Lily decided, as we found the school supplies section. The place was crawling with kids and parents getting all their last-minute items. I thought we would be lucky to find filler paper and some pencils, as picked over as it all seemed.
Caedan was pushing the cart around the corners and down the aisles with the precision of a NASCAR driver on Sunday. He knew that one incident, and his driving privileges would be revoked. I was trying to find Justin Bieber anything, as Caedan turned onto the next aisle. Suddenly, I heard a crash and a loud oomph as I rushed around the other side.
“Caedan!” I shouted.
“Jas, I’m sorry I didn’t know he was there. It was an accident,” he pleaded.
“So sorry,” I mumbled to the man pushing the other cart. He shot me a look and moved past us. “That’s it! I’m driving.” But when I looked down at Lily, who had been walking next to Caedan, her eyes were big and full of tears.
“My Justin shirt!” she cried out. I looked down, and in the collision her purple slushy had spilled all over her shirt.
“Don’t be such a baby! It is just a shirt,” Caedan told her with all the sensitivity of a pre-teenage boy.
“Shut up, Caedan. I hate you.” Lily shoved him in the chest.
“Purple is not your color, Lils.” He was looking at his twin with pure disgust.
People next to us were starting to stare. I could feel the blood rushing to my face. Why did anyone have children anyway? They were cretins. By this time Lily was starting to melt down.
“Okay, okay, we are going to fix it,” I hurriedly told her. Lily had always been emotional, but since Daisy’s murder she was hypersensitive to anything upsetting her world, and Justin Bieber was her world.
Into this chaos, my mother arrived. In the past, she could handle these situations quietly and easily. The twins fighting, or Daisy and I arguing over the mess in our room, would not even get us a raised voice. She was an RN for geriatric patients, and she was used to calming situations and peacemaking. Since Daisy’s death, even simple sibling arguments seemed overwhelming for her.
“What is going on?” she said between clenched teeth. Lily chose this moment to burst into full tears, while Caedan started protesting about it not being his fault and how mean I was not to let him drive. “I guess it’s too much to ask for you to get one thing done for me without any uproar,” my mother remarked to me sarcastically. “Jasmine . . .” The use of my full name was never a good sign. “Go to the car and get your sister her sweatshirt, while I bring her to the bathroom to get her cleaned up.” She looked at my brother with narrowed eyes, “You will stand outside the ladies room door with the cart, quietly, while I handle the mess you made. And I don’t want to hear another word from you while we are in this store. Are we clear?”
I made a face at Caedan behind my mother’s back before I whipped around and stomped off to the car. Why was his obnoxious behavior my fault again? Whatever. Being the oldest really was the worst.
As I reached the electronic sliding doors to the outside, I slowed down and caught my breath. It had gotten dark since we had been in the store. After Daisy’s murder I had found myself starting to get anxious in particular situations. Outside in the dark could be a problem, sometimes escalating to panic attacks. I tried to keep these little incidents from my mom. She was definitely starting to pay more attention these days.
I scanned the parking lot quickly to find the car. My breath started to come in short gasps. The car was halfway down an aisle, three rows over . . . and not under a streetlight. Damn! I grabbed my keys out of my purse and stepped into the lot. I would just hurry. I was being ridiculous. This was Lafayette, not Los Angeles. I had nothing to worry about here—lots of miles between us and him.
When I was three feet from our car, “Hey there,” a male voice said from behind me. I jumped and squealed at the same time. I turned around fast with my pepper spray out. Thankfully, I noticed, before I sprayed, that the nozzle was pointed at me.
“Hey, hey, sorry. I just, um . . . saw you drop something . . . um . . . here.” A tall brown-haired boy around my age was holding my mother’s list of school supplies. He kept moving toward me. “I didn’t mean to scare you.”
I kept backing up until my rear end hit the end of our car. “Okay. I, uh . . .” I said weakly. All of a sudden there was a loud buzzing in my ears, and the world started to tilt.
“Whoa.” I heard as everything went black.
I could hear voices around me as I started to wake up.
“Hey, Sleeping Beauty. No time for a nap,” a deep, soothing voice said quietly in my ear. “Trenton, what did you do to her? She fainted dead away.”
I became aware that I wasn’t on the ground, like when I normally wake up from a faint. Since this had happened more than a few times in my teenage life, I found that odd. Due to some hormonal upheaval or whatever, since I hit puberty, fainting had become a fairly common part of my life. But right now, I felt warm, surrounded by the most amazing smell. I was not on the ground with a goose egg on my head as usual. I opened my eyes and saw the most handsome face I’d ever seen. I thought I must still be passed out and was dreaming.
“I was just trying to give her back the paper she dropped, and she acted like I was gonna attack her or somethin’. I don’t know why she fainted. I didn’t touch her—I swear. Why would that happen? I can’t believe you caught her. That was awesome! Is she okay? Do you think there is something wrong with her?” The grating voice kept on until . . .
“Trenton, shut up,” the dream said, still looking into my eyes. I tried to shake my head to wake up and realized I was cradled against his chest like he had swept me up in his arms.
Not a dream then. Crap. I became instantly mortified. “I, uh . . . Can you put me down? Please? I’m so sorry. I didn’t mean to faint.” Duh.
“Well, I guess, if you really want me to,” Dream Guy said as he lowered my feet to the ground.
I couldn’t believe he had been holding me while I was passed out. It’s not like I’m so heavy. I’m actually kind of skinny, but I’m five foot nine, and he was holding me in the air like I weighed less than a bag of groceries. Time to make a graceful exit. Or any kind of exit. I probably wouldn’t be able to accomplish graceful. Who was I kidding?
“Do you normally mean to faint?” he asked.
“Um, no. Thanks for catching me. I really have to go,” I babbled, while I searched for my keys.
“Here,” he said, as he carefully handed me the keys.
“Thanks,” I said, as I opened the car and grabbed Lily’s sweatshirt.
“Maybe you should—” he started to say, but I interrupted.
“I’m fine, really. Thanks again.” I shut and locked the door. They were both standing there looking at me like I was nuts. Well, I guess they weren’t far off. This had to be the most ridiculous moment of my life. My face felt like it was burning. I meet the cutest guy ever and what do I do? Faint. Like an idiot. I shouldn’t be shocked.
I gave them a little wave as I ran/walked back to the store. I concentrated on getting inside without looking back. If this day was any indication as to how my life in Lafayette was going to go, I should have closed my eyes and pointed.
About The Author:
Elena lives and writes in a suburb North of Los Angeles. She has never lived anywhere besides California which is probably a good thing since she hates being cold and is terrified to drive in the snow. She loves being a wife and a mother to her three kids and three dogs, although really the bulldog is the fourth child who has never matured beyond the toddler stage.
A self-proclaimed nerd, she has been writing since she was a child. She has only recently, however, come out of the closet about this to her family and friends. They now understand better, but not completely, why she talks about characters in stories as if they are real people.