Prom Nights from Hell Chapter Five Thanks, Sheeb. Back at you
“Thanks, Sheeb. Back at you.”
Jezebel winked once, and then smiled wider until the black of her teeth seemed to envelop her entire face. She evaporated into the night.
Sheba lingered in the dirty alley until the alluring scent of brimstone had faded away entirely, and then break time was over. Invigorated by the idea of joining the front lines, Sheba hurried back to her misery.
The prom was in full swing, and everything was falling into place.
Celeste was scoring high in her malicious game; she awarded herself a point for every girl who cried in a dark corner of the ballroom. Two points for every boy who threw a punch at a rival.
All over the room, the seeds Sheba had planted were flowering. Hate was blooming alongside lust and rage and despair. A garden straight from hell.
Sheba enjoyed it all from behind a potted palm.
No, she couldn’t force the humans to do anything. They had their innate free will, and so she could only tempt, could only suggest. Little things-high heels and seams and minor muscle groups-she could manipulate physically, but she could never force their minds. They had to choose to listen. And tonight, they were listening.
Sheba was on a roll, and she didn’t want any loose ends, so before she turned back to her most ambitious scheme-Cooper was pliant with intoxication now, ready for her direction-she sent her thoughts searching through the crowd for those small, annoying bubbles of happiness.
No one was walking away from this prom unscathed. Not while Sheba had a spark in her body.
Over there-what was this? Bryan Walker and Clara Hurst were staring dreamily into each other’s eyes, totally oblivious to the wrath and despair and bad music surrounding them, just enjoying each other’s company.
Sheba considered her options and decided to have Celeste interfere. Celeste should enjoy that-nothing was more evilly fun than flaunting your power right in the face of a pure romance. Besides, Celeste listened to every suggestion Sheba fed her, entirely agreeable to any demonic scheme.
Sheba continued with her evaluation before acting.
Not too far away, Sheba found that she’d dropped the ball in an inexcusable fashion. Was that her own date, Logan, actually enjoying himself? Impossible. So, he’d found his Libby after all and they were both unacceptably happy. Well, that would be easy enough to rectify. She’d go reclaim her partner and send Libby running away in tears. Amateur and crude to intervene bodily… Still, better that than let happiness win even one small battle.
Sheba’s assessment was almost done. There was just one more tiny pocket of peace-not a couple this time; it was a lone boy wandering into the far end of the room from the hall. That annoying Gabe Christensen.
Sheba scowled in his direction. What did he have to be happy about? He was rejected and alone. His date was the scourge of the prom. A normal boy would be full of rage or pain right now. But he insisted on making more work for her!
Sheba inspected Gabe’s mind more closely. Hmm. Gabe wasn’t really happy. In fact, he was worrying intensely at the moment, searching for someone. Celeste was quite clearly in his view, writhing to a slow song with Rob Carlton (Pamela Green watched the display with shocked eyes, despair leaking deliciously into the air around her), but she wasn’t the source of Gabe’s worry. There was someone else he wanted to find.
So he wasn’t happy-that wasn’t the sensation that had trespassed on Sheba’s atmosphere of misery. It was goodness itself that was exuding from this boy. Even worse.
Sheba ducked behind the palm and pushed out with her thoughts. Smoke oozed from her nose. “Gabe.”
Gabe shook his head absently and continued with his search.
He’d waited half an hour as throngs of girls left the bathroom, drove after drove. Here and there Gabe had felt a weak pull, but nothing at all like that one girl’s raging, suffocating need.
When three separate groups had all come and gone, Gabe had stopped Jill Stein to ask after the girl.
“Black hair and a red dress? No, I didn’t see anyone like that in there. I think the bathroom is empty.”
The girl must have slipped past him somehow.
Gabe had just returned to the dance floor, brooding over the mystery girl. At least Bryan and Clara and Logan and Libby were having fun. That was good. The rest of the class seemed to be having an exceptionally nasty evening.
And then, there it was again. Gabe’s head jerked up, feeling the desperation he’d been searching for. Where was she?
Sheba hissed in frustration. The boy’s mind was entirely sober and singularly closed to her insidious voice. Well, that wasn’t going to stop her. She had other tools.
It was time the evil girl tormented her own date.
Sheba leaned lightly on Celeste, suggesting that avenue. After all, Gabe was attractive by human standards. Certainly good enough for Celeste, whose standards were hardly rigorous. Gabe was tall and subtly muscular, with dark hair and symmetrical features. He had pale blue eyes that Sheba personally found a bit repulsive-they were so decidedly un-damned, almost heavenly, ugh! – but that appealed to mortal girls. It was looking into those clear eyes that had made Celeste say yes to this squeaky clean do-gooder’s invitation.
Do-gooder, indeed. Sheba’s eyes narrowed. Gabe had already been on her list before he insisted on disregarding her here at the prom. This was the very boy who had ruined her plans for the lecherous math teacher-just a little bit of pre-prom fun Sheba had arranged in between making sure that everyone asked exactly the wrong person to the big dance. If Gabe hadn’t confronted Mr. Reese at a critical moment of temptation… Sheba gritted her teeth and sparks flickered out of her ears. She would have ruined the man and the impossibly innocent girl, too. Not that Mr. Reese had had far to fall, but it would have been a fantastic scandal. And now the math teacher was being especially careful, made wary by those same sky-blue eyes. Feeling guilty, even. Considering counseling for his problem. Ugh!
Gabe Christensen owed Sheba some misery. She would get her due.
Sheba glared at Celeste, wondering why the girl had made no move toward her date. Celeste was still wrapped around Rob, enjoying Pamela’s pain. Enough fun! There was havoc to be wreaked. Sheba whispered suggestions in Celeste’s mind, nudging her in Gabe’s direction.
Celeste shrugged away from Rob and glanced toward Gabe, who was still combing through the crowd with his gaze. Her brown eyes settled on his blue for just a second, and then she moved, cringed actually, back into Rob’s arms.
Odd. Gabe’s light eyes seemed to be almost as repellent to the vicious blonde as they were to Sheba.
Sheba leaned again, but Celeste-for once-shook her off, trying to distract herself from thoughts of Gabe with Rob’s eager lips.
Baffled, Sheba cast around for another avenue to destroy the irritating boy, but she was interrupted by something much more important than one good human.
Cooper Silverdale was simply quivering with rage on one side of the dance floor, glowering at Melissa and Tyson. Melissa had her head on Tyson’s shoulder and was oblivious to the smug grin Tyson aimed in Cooper’s direction.
It was time to act. Cooper was considering another glass of punch to drown his pain, and he was much too close to passing out for Sheba to allow that. She focused on him, smoke at her ears, and Cooper realized dully that the green punch was revolting. He couldn’t stand any more. He threw his half-empty cup to the floor and turned back to glare at Tyson.
She thinks I’m pathetic, said the voice in Cooper’s head. No, she doesn’t even think of me at all. But I can make it so shell never be able to forget me…
His head thick with alcohol, Cooper reached back and stroked his hand along the barrel of the gun under his jacket.
Sheba held her breath. Sparks flew from her ears.
And then, in that vital second, Sheba was distracted by the knowledge that someone was staring intensely at her own face.
Here, in the ballroom, that same sucking need, pulling at him-someone drowning, shrieking for help. It had to be the same girl. Gabe had never felt anything so urgent in his life.
His eyes raked desperately over the couples on the floor, but he couldn’t see her. He paced the edge of the floor, searching the faces of the people on the sidelines. She wasn’t there, either.
He saw Celeste with yet another boy, but his eyes didn’t pause. If Celeste didn’t claim her ride home soon, there wasn’t much he could do about it. Someone else needed Gabe more.
The need tugged at him again, yanked hard, and for a moment, Gabe wondered if he was going crazy. Maybe he’d only imagined the girl in the fiery dress. Maybe this sense of frenzied need was just the onset of some delusion.
At that moment, Gabe’s seeking eyes found what they were searching for.
Stepping around Heath McKenzie’s big sulking form, Gabe’s eyes locked on a tiny, but brilliant, red flash. There she was-half-hidden behind a fake tree, her earrings glinting like sparklers again-the girl in the red dress. Her dark eyes, deep as the pool he’d imagined her drowning in, met his. The vibrant need was an aura surrounding her. He didn’t have to think about moving toward her. There was probably no way he could have stopped himself if he’d wanted to.
He was sure he’d never seen this girl before tonight; she was completely unfamiliar.
Her dark, almond-shaped eyes were composed and careful, but at the same time they cried out to him. They were the focus of the need he felt. He could no more resist their plea than he could tell his heart to stop beating.
She needed him.
Sheba watched with disbelief as Gabe Christensen walked straight toward her. She saw her own face in his head and realized that the person Gabe had been looking for was… Sheba.
She allowed the brief distraction-knowing that Cooper was hers for the taking, that a few minutes’ time wouldn’t save him now-and rejoiced in the delicious irony. So Gabe wanted to be ruined by Sheba personally? Well, she would oblige him. It would make his misery even sweeter knowing that he’d chosen it himself. She straightened up in her hell-hound dress, letting it caress her figure suggestively. She knew what any human male would have to feel when he examined this dress.
But the exasperating boy was focused on her eyes.
It was dangerous to look straight into the eyes of a demoness. Humans who didn’t look away fast enough could get trapped there. And then they were stuck, pining after the demoness forever, burning for her…
Biting back a smile, Sheba met his gaze, staring deep into his sky-colored eyes. Silly human.
Gabe stopped a few short feet from the girl, close enough that he wouldn’t have to shout over the loud music. He knew he was staring too intently-she would think he was rude, or some kind of freak. But she stared back, just as intent, her deep eyes probing his.
He opened his mouth to introduce himself, when suddenly the girl’s careful expression melted into one of shock. Shock? Or horror? Her pale lips fell apart, and he heard a little gasp escape them. Her stiff posture crumpled, and she began to collapse.
Gabe jumped toward her and caught her in his arms before she could fall.
Sheba’s knees buckled when her fires went out. Her internal flame died, sucked dry, snuffed like a candle in a vacuum.
The room was not so cold anymore, and she could smell nothing more than sweat, cologne, and stale, conditioned air. She could no longer taste the delicious misery she’d created. She couldn’t taste anything but her own dry mouth.
But she could feel the strong arms of Gabe Christensen holding her up.
The girl’s dress was soft and warm. Maybe that was the problem, Gabe thought as he pulled her toward him. Maybe the heat of the crowded room was too much combined with her heavy dress. Anxiously, Gabe brushed the silky hair away from her face. Her forehead seemed cool enough and her soft skin wasn’t clammy with sweat. All the while, her stunned eyes never wavered from his.
“Are you okay? Can you stand? I’m sorry, I don’t know your name.”
“I’m fine,” the girl said in a low, purring voice. Despite the purr, her voice was just as stunned as her eyes. “I… I can stand.”
She straightened up, but Gabe didn’t let her go. He didn’t want to. And she wasn’t pulling away. Her small hands had crept up to rest on his shoulders, like they were dancing partners.
“Who are you?” she asked in that throaty voice.
“Gabe-Gabriel Michael Christensen,” he elaborated with a grin. “And you are?”