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Awake at dawn, p.16

Awake at Dawn, page 16

 part  #2 of  Shadow Falls Series


Awake at Dawn

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Chapter Sixteen

  Kylie opened her mouth to scream, but neither air nor words came out.

  Panic gripped her throat and blocked off all oxygen and verbal communication.

  She swung around, not certain if it was to fight or to run.

  He wasn't there. Her gaze shot back to the mirror as if only his reflection had been real. He wasn't there, either.

  Her gaze shot to the open door to the dressing room. It had been closed. He'd really been here.

  She slammed the door. Sucked a bit of oxygen into her lungs. Tried to scream again, but stopped when the dressing room door swung open and whacked against the wall.

  Every muscle in her body clenched. Fight. The one-word command echoed inside her. Then Della appeared behind the door that now hung half off the hinges.

  "Was someone here?" Della asked. Her eyes shined bright amber. Her canines appeared sharp and threatening under her raised upper lip. Still unable to speak, Kylie nodded.

  Della careened forward when Miranda rammed into her back.

  "What happened?" Miranda peered over Della's shoulder. "Why did you take off like that?"

  Tears stung Kylie's eyes. She sometimes cried when she was scared, and she had been scared-mortified, actually-but these weren't frightened tears. These were tears of anger. No, make that fury. Fury from feeling violated. I like the black one best.

  His words rang in her ears. How long had that slimeball been watching her try on bras?

  "Is someone here?" Miranda asked. "Ghost? Non-ghost?"

  "Vampire," Della snapped at Miranda, and looked back at Kylie. "You okay?"

  Kylie nodded again. "Is he gone?"

  "For now. " Della snatched up Kylie's purse and bras and handed them to Miranda. "Go pay for these while she gets dressed. "

  Miranda took off. Della looked back at Kylie. "You really okay?"

  "I think I'm mad enough to rip out someone's heart and beat him with it. " She bit down on her lip to keep from crying. "How long was he here playing Peeping Tom?"

  "Just seconds. " Della's color grew paler. "It wasn't Chan, was it? I mean, it didn't smell like him, but . . . all I could mostly smell was blood. "

  "No. " Kylie grabbed her shirt and yanked it over her head. Her mind flashed the image of the blood dripping from the guy's hair.

  "So you did see him?" Della asked.

  Kylie poked her head through her T-shirt and met Della's eyes. "It was . . . it was that creep that we fought at the wildlife park. The one who grabbed me. "

  Della lifted her nose in the air. "Oh, shit!"

  "Is he coming back?"

  "Somebody is. " She grabbed Kylie by the arm and hurried her out. When they walked out of the dressing room, Miranda was taking the package from the woman at the checkout counter. Della motioned her to follow and she did without questioning. Obviously, Miranda could see panic in both of their eyes.

  "What's going on?" Miranda asked.

  "We have to get back to camp," Della said.

  "Is he here again?"

  "Let's just go," Della snapped.

  The moment they stepped out of the door, a black SUV came to a screeching stop in front of the store. Della growled and then pushed Kylie and Miranda behind her.

  The window lowered and Burnett stared out. His own eyes were a fierce golden color. "Get in. "

  "What about the car we drove?" Kylie asked, though she didn't know how she could even think, let alone drive responsibly with the panic still bouncing around her gut.

  "Get in!" Burnett's tone demanded obedience.

  And they complied.

  "What's going on?" Della asked Burnett once they'd all piled into the backseat.

  Burnett didn't answer. He focused on driving. The SUV took off before Kylie realized someone was sitting in the front seat with him. It was a dark-haired woman around Burnett's age. She looked familiar and Kylie realized she'd been among the crowd of FRU the night of the fight at the wildlife park.

  "Toss them the scrubs," Burnett told the woman.

  Three plastic bags with what looked like a pair of hospital scrubs tucked inside each were thrown in the backseat. "What are these for?" Kylie asked.

  "Take your clothes off," Burnett ordered. "Put all your clothes back in the bag. Shoes, socks, underwear. Everything. Then put the scrubs on. "

  "Do . . . what?" Kylie asked.

  "You heard me," he snapped.

  "Why?" Kylie and Della asked the same question.

  "Do it," the woman ordered.

  Della and Miranda started to undress, but Kylie grabbed their hands and stopped them.

  "No. We're not taking our clothes off until you explain why. And it better be a damn good reason because I don't take my clothes off just because someone tells me to. Just ask my ex-boyfriend!"

  The woman turned in her seat and glared. Her eyebrows twitched as if trying to get a reading on Kylie. Too bad it wouldn't work.

  Not that the woman gave up immediately. She continued to stare. Her amber-colored eyes grew a bit brighter, and somehow Kylie suspected that she was werewolf. Pissed-off werewolf. "Do it," the woman insisted.

  "No. " Amazingly, Kylie didn't feel intimidated. She glared right back. She even did her own twitching and tried to see the woman's brain pattern.

  It didn't work, but the were didn't know that.

  "Do as he said! Or I'll do it for you," she ordered.

  Burnett caught the woman by the shoulder. "Selynn, let me handle this. " His gaze shot to the mirror and Kylie met his golden reflection. "Kylie, please. . . "

  "No!" Kylie honestly didn't know where her newfound gumption stemmed from, but it felt good. It gave her some small sense of control.

  She really needed to feel in control to help combat the feeling of being victimized.

  "Do you realize what you're asking?" Kylie continued to hold both Della's and Miranda's hands. "For us to take our clothes off in a car with a man sitting in the front seat with a rearview mirror. And you aren't going to explain why?"

  Burnett reached up and ripped the mirror from the car's window. "Damn!" Miranda said.

  "Two girls were killed in town," Burnett said.

  "Shit," Della said.

  "Oh, hell," Miranda said.

  The only thing that came out of Kylie's mouth was a gasp.

  Burnett continued, "I need your clothes to prove that you three weren't involved with their murders. The FBI and FRU will demand it. So, please, do as I say. "

  Kylie let go of their hands and started undressing. In a few minutes, all three of them sat in green scrubs, looking like surgical doctors. No one said a word during the process.

  Miranda collected the three bags and handed them to Selynn. "Here. "

  "Do you really think anyone will think we had anything to do with this?" Kylie asked, remembering the blood all over the rogue vampire's head and shirt.

  "No," Della said. "But they'll believe I did. " She sounded hurt. "It was a vampire kill, wasn't it?"

  "Yes," Burnett said. "But I don't believe you did this. I'm just taking precautions until we know who did. "

  "We already know who did it," Della said. "Kylie saw him. "

  "Saw who?" Both Selynn and Burnett swung around.

  "It was the rogue vampire," Kylie said. "The one who attacked me at the wildlife park. "

  "Damn it!" After almost running off the road, Burnett pulled over and rammed the car into park. He twisted in his seat again and met Kylie's eyes. "You aren't hurt, are you?" His eyes shot to her neck as if . . . "No. I'm not hurt. " A big wave of I-wanna-cry, I-wanna-cry-right-now filled her chest.

  "Did he say anything?" Burnett asked.

  I like the black one best. "No," she said.

  Burnett's stare deepene
d. "Now isn't the time to be lying. "

  Kylie swallowed. "He didn't say anything that would be helpful. "

  "Let us be the judge of that?" Ms. Badass Werewolf sitting in the front seat said.

  Kylie frowned. "He said he liked the black bra best. I was in the dressing room. " The feeling of being violated hit strong again and the anger accompanying it welled up in her chest.

  Burnett's expression changed from demanding to empathetic in a split second. "Are you sure you're okay? He didn't. . . "

  "I'm fine," she managed to say, but she felt the tears fill her eyes and looked away from Burnett's concerned expression.

  "He came and left so fast that by the time I sensed he was there he was gone," Della said.

  The memory of his reflection in the mirror filled Kylie's head. "He had blood . . . all over him. His shirt. His hair. "

  Miranda slipped her hand into Kylie's and gave it a squeeze as if offering moral support.

  Burnett's frown deepened and he turned back around and started the car. He looked over at Selynn sitting in the seat beside him. "Make the call. Tell them it's a Code Red. "

  "You sure you want to attempt that?" Selynn asked.

  "What's a Code Red?" Della asked right before Kylie posed the question.

  Burnett answered hesitantly. "Right now, the only ones who know about this are the FRU. Code Red means we'll fix it so it looks like a car accident. "

  "You're going to let him get away with it?" Kylie asked.

  "No," Burnett said. "But neither can we let something like this leak out. Any rumors start floating around, making higher-ups nervous, and they'll close down the school. "

  Selynn held up her hand as if to silence everyone. Then she spoke into the phone. "It's a Code Red. " She paused. "I know. " She cut her eyes to Burnett. "He gave the order, I'm just the messenger. "

  Burnett frowned and Kylie got the impression that whatever Burnett was doing, he was doing it for the school and maybe even Holiday. But she couldn't help but wonder about the good of the townspeople-the human people who would never know that a murderer had come and taken two of their own.

  When they walked into Holiday's office thirty minutes later, Holiday practically leapt out of her chair and ran over to them. "Thank you, God," she yelped, and wrapped her arms around all of them in a group hug. Della was the first to pull away.

  "We're fine," Della said.

  Speak for yourself, Kylie thought. She could have used a few more seconds of a hug. It was the closest she'd felt to Holiday since the whole Burnett issue.

  "Look. " Della pointed to the television screen mounted on the wall. Kylie glanced up and her breath caught. The screen showed a wrecked car and then two pictures of girls. It couldn't be. She felt suddenly nauseous. Holiday grabbed the remote and turned up the volume.

  "Two girls were killed today in an automobile accident. It appeared. . . " the reporter continued.

  "We met them in town," Kylie blurted out, her chest filled with heaviness.

  "We talked to them. " For some crazy reason, that short encounter made their deaths even more personal. "The redhead is named Amber. I don't know the blonde's name. "

  "They weren't very nice. " Della voice sounded tight. "But they didn't deserve to die. "

  "No, they didn't. " Miranda put her hand over her lips and just stared at the screen.

  Kylie would have verbally agreed, but she couldn't. She recalled with clarity the blood on the rogue vampire's shirt and emotion closed her voice box. It had been their blood she'd seen. When the tears prickled Kylie eyes, she felt like a crybaby, but then she noticed both Della and Miranda had a wet sheen to their eyes, too.

  "I feel. . . " Kylie forced the words out. "I feel as if it's somehow my fault. "

  Holiday stabbed at the remote and turned it off. "It's a terrible thing. But the only person responsible for this is the rogue who did it. " Then she just stared at each of them as if needing to visually memorize them. "When I heard two girls were found . . . I thought. . . " Holiday's eyes pooled with tears. And that pretty much made it a cry fest. Even Della joined in the tear party.

  Right then, Burnett walked into the office. His gaze went from one female to the other. Kylie could almost hear him groaning inwardly.

  "I . . . I'll be . . . right out here. " Obviously even a hard-bodied vampire trained by the FRU wasn't capable of dealing with four crying women. Fifteen minutes later, Burnett poked his head back in the room, and when he saw they were no longer in tears, he walked in. On his heels came Selynn, the werewolf who'd been with him in the car. She stood so close to Burnett's side that her shoulders brushed up against his forearm.

  Burnett stepped to the side and started explaining that he needed to interview them separately. He opened the door and told Kylie and Miranda to wait outside of Holiday's office.

  As the two of them started out, Selynn looked over at Holiday. "You should leave as well. " Selynn's voice held such a condescending tone that Kylie decided right there and then that she really didn't like her. Not even a little bit.

  Holiday shot the woman a look that Kylie could only describe as fiercely protective. "Sorry, but I don't take orders from anyone when it involves my campers. Or has Burnett not informed you of this?"

  "She can stay," Burnett interjected.

  Selynn placed a palm on Burnett's forearm. "I really don't think that's wise. "

  "The girls will feel more comfortable with her here. " He stepped away from her touch. But Kylie noticed Holiday's gaze take in the familiar way the woman treated Burnett.

  Jealousy flashed in Holiday's eyes. Not that it lingered more than a second. One blink and the emotion vanished. And probably for a reason, too. Selynn glanced at Holiday as if looking for a reaction. Which led Kylie to assume that Selynn had feelings for Burnett. Not that Kylie sensed that Burnett returned any of the feelings.

  Then again, he might just be good at hiding his emotions. Could this be part of the reason Holiday refused to get too close to Burnett, because she knew he was already involved with someone? Instant distrust for Burnett stirred inside Kylie.

  Burnett motioned for Kylie and Miranda to leave. Kylie, suspicious of Burnett for Holiday's sake, didn't move until Holiday confirmed the order.

  "Who do they think is in charge?" Selynn asked, annoyed at Kylie's show of authority for Holiday.

  "Can we please just get started?" Burnett said.

  Kylie and Miranda walked out into the front room of the office.

  "He's checking to see if we're lying. That's why he wants to talk to us separately," Miranda whispered.

  "I don't think he thinks we're guilty. " Kylie defended him, though she wasn't so sure she could say the same about Selynn. Then Kylie wondered again about the relationship between Burnett and the rude were.

  "God, it sucks. " Emotion gave Miranda's voice a raspy tone. "I can't believe we actually met the girls who were killed. "

  "I know," Kylie said but, honestly, she didn't want to think about it. She still had this overwhelming feeling that it was her fault. She dropped down onto one of the two desk chairs filling the small entry room and stared at her hands. Was this the bad thing that the ghosts had been talking about? No, the ghost had insisted it was someone Kylie loved. That thought sent another wave of sorrow sloshing in her gut. She hadn't loved those girls, but someone had. They had mothers, friends . . . Closing her eyes, Kylie tried to reconnect to the calm she'd found at the falls. How long could she hang on to that feeling when bad shit just kept happening?

  "It could have been us. " Miranda pulled at a thread attached to her light green scrubs.

  "I know. " Kylie gripped her hands together.

  It was only a few minutes before Selynn and Della walked out. Kylie stood up. Selynn motioned at Miranda to follow he
r. Then she turned to Kylie and Della. "We prefer if you don't speak. And Burnett can hear you if you do. " She practically smirked before following Miranda into the office.

  Della snarled at the werewolf's back. "Bitch," she mouthed the word. And when the werewolf was in the other room, Della said it out loud. "Bitch. " She glanced at the office door. "I don't care if you can hear me, Burnett. She's a bitch. You know it. I know it. And Holiday knows it. "

  Footsteps sounded on the office's front porch. Kylie glanced toward the door just as it opened and Derek rushed in. "Thank God. " He stopped and just stared at her as if noting the hospital scrubs. Right behind him followed Perry, looking just as worried.

  Perry's gaze shot around the room. "Where's Miranda?" Fear and some other deep emotion filled his now copper-colored eyes.

  Kylie didn't have a chance to answer because Derek swooped her into a big hug. She let him hold her, even rested her head on his chest and sighed at how good it felt to be this close to him.

  "Why do you want to know?" Della mouthed off. "You don't like her, remember?"

  "Is she okay?" Perry demanded, his voice a deep rumble of emotions. Kylie didn't bother to pull away to see, but she imagined his eyes were changing colors as he spoke. She'd noticed his eyes shifted with his emotions.

  "Don't go all T. rex on me. " Della lost her smartass tone. Whether out of fear of Perry or if she heard the emotion in his voice, Kylie didn't know.

  "You okay?" Derek whispered in her ear.

  "Yeah. " Hell, no. Kylie pulled back to look in his eyes and she saw the same concern flashing there that she noted in Perry's. A rush of calm flowed from Derek into her. She didn't argue this time. She really needed it.

  The door to Holiday's office opened. Miranda walked out. Perry met her eyes, then he turned and left the building. Miranda watched him go.

  "What did he want?" she asked.

  "To make sure you were okay," Derek answered, and slipped a hand around Kylie's waist. "I saw him right after I heard what happened and I told him. He was worried about you. "

  "But not worried enough to even speak to me, huh?" The look on Miranda's face was half sad and half angry. She met Kylie's gaze again. "Your turn. " She pointed to the office door. "Watch out, the she-wolf bites. "

  Kylie gave Derek's hand a tight squeeze and then walked into the room to face Burnett and the she-wolf. Kylie was no longer as intimidated by Burnett as she was the first time she'd been interrogated by him, but a nervous tickle still fluttered in her chest.
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