In the small town of Ridge Creek, South Carolina, a typical fall day often boasted temperatures reaching the upper sixties. With cloudless skies, endless sunshine brought those numbers even higher. Today was different. A cold front had blown in from the north. There were a few townspeople that resented it, but most welcomed the change. At least for high school girls, it made for a rare opportunity to show off their stylish overcoats and knee-high boots.
Seventeen-year-old Kalista was less concerned about fashion and more worried about not killing the boy who currently had his tongue stuck in her ear. The trendy jacket she had worn to school that morning lay in the grass, tossed aside only moments before. But Kali was oblivious to the chill. If anything, the icy air made a nice contrast to Trevor Walker’s warm embrace. Each time his fingertips grazed her bare skin, she shivered. If Trevor got his way, a lot more of her clothing would join the jacket in the dirt.
He nuzzled Kali’s neck, pulling her closer. Her body gave in to him willingly, while her mind channeled all its energy into rigid concentration. That concentration slipped a fraction when Trevor lifted her onto his lap. “You have good upper body strength.”
She took a second to acknowledge.
He mumbled something unintelligible.
Trevor paused mid-kiss. “I said you have a great body.”
“Thanks,” she replied with little enthusiasm. It wasn’t the most original compliment.
Kali had remained flat and straight until her second year of high school. But in the summer that followed, she had eaten an hourglass. Ample curves appeared out of nowhere to fill out Kali’s athletic figure, exponentially complementing her already olive-skinned, dark beauty. A well-above average height lent her the illusion of maturity, and people constantly mistook Kali for a college student. More than one old geezer even tried picking her up. Teenage girls envied her, but most of the time Kali felt like a freak. Her secret urges only added to that feeling.
As a sophomore, the hunger got worse. Kali’s feedings gradually increased in frequency and intensity. But the population of teenage boys available for mealtime remained the same. So the newfound sex appeal had benefits. It made boys want her. She needed them. Everyone was happy. Well…everyone except for Callan.
One of Trevor’s hands moved higher beneath her shirt and edged toward the band of Kali’s bra. His gaze was questioning, as if to ask, is that alright? Kali smiled. “That’s just what I needed.”
Closing her eyes as he leaned in to kiss her again, she thought of Trevor. She pictured the person that he was and what he must look like on the inside. She found the spark that made him, that was him, and concentrated until it became bigger and brighter. Then she called to it softly, drinking at its edges. The feeling that had plagued Kali for days began to subside as her hunger slowly dulled. His spark remained bright. He was strong.
Trevor pulled away with an expression that was a little confused. “Kali?” He sounded dazed.
She looked at him through lowered lashes, bringing her lips to his in a heated kiss. Then her mouth left his lips and trailed down to his neck. She slid his collar aside and kissed his shoulder, nibbled at it slightly. That did the trick. Trevor was suitably distracted. And Kali dared to drink deeper. As she was beginning to feel satisfied, Kali was interrupted by the high pitched screaming of Trevor’s girlfriend, Stacy.
“Trevor?! Ohmigod! Trevor!”
All it took was a second. Kali lost focus, and the flow that was being carefully drawn away, spiked. His spark dimmed alarmingly. She broke away but wasn’t fast enough. Trevor slumped over to the ground and didn’t move.
“Crapola,” Kali muttered. She threw a resentful glare at the brunette.
Stacy was screaming again. “Ohmigod, you tramp! You total slut! What did you do?”
Hurriedly, Kali bent down alongside him. He was still breathing.
“Get away!” Stacy yelled. “Get away from my boyfriend.” She rushed over and shoved Kali backward.
It was a struggle, but Kali remained calm and kept her voice level. “He’s okay. He’ll be fine. Give him a sec.”
With perfect timing, Trevor sat up, rubbing his head. His face was blank. Then it turned brilliant red as he took in the two young ladies facing off. “Hi, Stacy.”
“Hi?” the girl repeated. “Is that what you have to say to me?” Helping him up from the ground, she steadied him before shoving angrily at his chest. “Why her? Anyone but her, you pig.”
On that note, Kali walked away while the two of them were busy arguing. She overheard Trevor begin an explanation ripped straight out of a cheater’s handbook of lame excuses.
“It’s not what it looked like.”
“Then tell me what it was--because it looked like you were making out with Kalista Metts under the bleachers!”
Swinging her long legs over the fence, Kali landed easily on the other side. A purple messenger bag sat leaning against the chain links exactly as she had left it. She grabbed it up and jogged across the field, taking the rear entrance to the gym in a hurry. The clock over the basketball court displayed a time that meant the period would be ending soon. Kali was grateful for it. Once Stacy finished with her two-timing boyfriend, the girl would certainly seek out the evil seductress who had lured Trevor astray. But the bell sounded and Kali was saved. She quietly slipped out of the gym just as the happy couple reentered.
In less than an hour, the backlash hit. It was lunchtime. As usual, Kali sat alone at one of the blue, circular tables until her boyfriend, Callan, joined her. He was one of the tallest boys in the school and a star athlete, great at anything that involved hitting or carrying a ball. With perfect blond hair and flawless skin, Callan was also one of the best looking guys around. Needless to say, he was very popular.
He and Kali shared a volatile, on again-off again relationship. When he pushed her buttons, she retaliated by taking a steel bat to his. But for some reason the guy had stuck. Kali figured him to be some kind of glutton for punishment.
Cal walked over to their table. His gorgeous blue eyes were stormy. Kali focused on her lunch as he neared. He took the seat beside her, slamming his lunch tray down before he sat. Kali didn’t flinch or look up. If he wanted her attention, acting like a Neanderthal wasn’t going to win it.
“I just heard the craziest thing…” he trailed off, no doubt noticing the painstaking detail with which she was eating a stale slice of cheese pizza. “Babe, will you look at me?” When Kali did, he continued, “Stacy broke up with Trevor.”
She took another bite of lukewarm pizza. “How is that news?”
“Those two have been going out since grade school. She’s crazy about him.”
“Oh. Maybe it was time for a change then,” she said flippantly.
Cal worked his jaw. He was pretty sexy when he was angry. “The word is that Trevor was caught red-handed, spit-swapping with another girl beneath the bleachers. A girl who looked a lot like you. Can you explain that to me?”
Kali wasn’t a slut. And she didn’t necessarily enjoy stepping out on her boyfriend. But she couldn’t draw energy from Cal again. She couldn’t revisit that darkness…
So realistically, it was either kiss other boys or experience the agonizing pain of starvation that came with not feeding. But Kali couldn’t possibly tell him that. She shrugged, feigning indifference. “What’s there to explain?”
Cal pounded his fist on the table, causing several students nearby to jump. His temper was nothing to kid around with. Once he had slammed a teammate’s face into a locker because the guy made the mistake of making a joke about Cal’s family life. Nearly two years ago, at the age of sixteen, Cal emancipated himself from an abusive home. The same tenacity that ensured his survival often collided with Kali’s bull-headedness. “Tell me why my girlfriend is letting some other guy feel her up again.”
She hesitated, her eyes studying Cal. He was leaving soon anyway. Rip the bandage off. Kali took a deep breath. “Maybe you should go find your girlfriend and ask her.”
He didn’t even blink. “Maybe you should grow up and decide what you want.”
The remark instantly pissed her off. Kali hated it when Cal talked down to her like she was child. He knew that but did it constantly anyway. Stabbing her fork into the pizza, Kali narrowed her eyes. “I don’t know what I want. But I do know what I don’t want—you or this crap right now.”
“You don’t mean that.”
Kali stood up, banging her chair back. The whole cafeteria went silent. With a dark glare, she turned away from Cal and started to leave the room. He caught her arm. The cold look in his eye stopped her from jerking away.
Pulling Kali outside, Cal closed the door behind them. Then he put his face directly into hers. “I’ll get over this. You know it. But this slutty trash you keep slinging around school isn’t making you any friends.”
Cal was right on so many levels. And it was selfish to keep him around, to keep hurting him just for the sake of feeling like a normal girl that had a normal boyfriend. End it now. She moved her face even closer to his, showing no sign of backing down. “You’re going to college in a few months. This will mean nothing to you when a twenty-one year old sorority Barbie is sitting on your knee helping you chug a beer.”
“Is that what this is about? Jeez, Kal. Just because I’m going away to school doesn’t mean it has to be over between us.”
“Callan, we barely make this relationship work as it is. How on earth do you expect us to make it long distance? We’ll be over next summer, so why wait until then? It’s not honest.”
“That’s ridiculous. You cheated on me because you think we’re going to break up five months from now?”
“I didn’t cheat on you.”
Throwing both hands up, his eyes flew wide with bewilderment. “What would you call it then, a casual exchange of DNA?”
She explained it as simply as she could. “He had something I needed.”
“Why, Kali? Why can’t I be what you need?”
She bit back the first reply. Something about you is too dark, and feeding from you makes me want to hurt people. The next one wasn’t good either. Your spark can’t satisfy me, Cal. The last time I took from you, I slapped my science teacher and almost got expelled. At a loss for a response, Kali said nothing.
Her silence had always driven him nuts. Looking as if he were at his wits end, Cal did what he usually did whenever they had a fight. He walked away.