Prom Nights from Hell Chapter Three part one
“Yes!” the pale dark girl hissed, hidden in her stall, and a forked tongue of flame lit her face with red. The fire popped loud enough that someone might have noticed if the bathroom hadn’t still been full of shrill voices raised in irritation.
The fire receded, and the girl took a deep breath. Her eyelids fluttered for a moment, and then closed again. Her fists tightened until the pallid skin looked like it would split over the sharp ridges of her knuckles. Her slim figure began to tremble as if she were straining to lift a mountain. Tension and determination and expectation were a nearly visible aura around her.
Whatever difficult task she had set for herself now, it was clear that completing it was more precious to her than anything else.
“Cooper,” she hissed, and fire poured from her mouth, her nose, her ears. Flames bathed her face.
Like you’re nothing at all. Like you’re invisible. Like you don’t exist! Cooper trembled with fury, and the words in his head fed the rage, brought it to a boil.
You could make her see you. You could show Tyson who the real man is.
Automatically, his hand reached toward the heavy bulge hidden beneath his jacket at the small of his back. The shock of remembering the gun cut right through the rage, and had him blinking rapidly, like he’d just woken from a dream.
A line of goose bumps flashed down his neck. What was he doing with a gun at the prom? Was he crazy?
It was such a stupid thing, but then, what else could he do when Warren Beeds had called him on his thoughtless brag? Sure, it was true that the school’s security was a joke, that anyone could sneak in anything they wanted. He’d proved that, hadn’t he? But was it worth it to have a gun at his back, just to show up Warren Beeds?
He could see Melissa, her head on that stupid jock’s shoulder, her eyes closed. Had she forgotten Cooper completely?
Fury bubbled again; his hand twitched toward his back.
Cooper shook his head more vigorously this time. Insanity. That wasn’t why he’d brought the gun… It was just a joke, a prank.
But look at Tyson. Look at that superior, smug smile on his face! Who does he think he is? His father is no more than a glorified gardener! He’s not afraid I’ll do something about the fact that he stole my date. He doesn’t even remember that I brought her. He wouldn’t be afraid of me if he did. And Melissa doesn’t remember I exist.
Cooper gritted his teeth, hotly resentful again. He imagined the superior look on Tyson’s face vanishing, turning to horror and fear as he stared down a gun barrel.
Cold fear snapped Cooper back to reality.
Punch. More punch, that’s what I need. It’s cheap, gross stuff, but at least it’s strong. A few more cups of punch, and I’ll know what to do.
Taking a deep breath to steady himself, Cooper hurried to the refreshment table.
The dark girl in the bathroom scowled and shook her head with annoyance. She took two deep breaths and then whispered calming words to herself in a throaty purr.
“There’s plenty of time. A little more alcohol clouding his mind, taking his will… patience. There’s plenty still to attend to, so many other details…” She gritted her teeth and her eyelids fluttered again, for a longer moment this time.
“First Matt and Louisa, then Bryan and Clara,” she told herself, as if she were working her way down a to-do list. “Ugh, and then that interfering Gabe! Why isn’t he miserable yet?” She took another steadying breath. “It’s time my little helper got back to work.”
She pressed her fists to her temples and closed her eyes.
“Celeste,” she snapped.
The voice in Celeste’s head was familiar, even welcome. All of her best ideas came like this lately. Don’t Matt and Louisa look cozy?
Celeste grinned toward the couple in question.
Someone having a good time? Now is that really acceptable?
“I’ve got to go…”-Celeste looked into her partner’s face, searching for his name-“Derek.”
The boy’s fingers, creeping up her ribs, froze in shock.
“It’s been fun,” Celeste assured him, rubbing the back of her hand across her open mouth as if to wipe away any trace of him. She pulled herself free.
“But, Celeste… I thought…”
Celeste’s smile was sharp as a razor’s edge as she strutted toward Matt Franklin and his date, mousy little what’s-her-name. For a brief second, she remembered her official date-squeaky-clean Gabe Christensen-and she wanted to laugh. What a nice time he must be having tonight! The humiliation she was putting him through almost made it worth coming with him, though she couldn’t imagine what she’d been thinking, saying yes. Celeste shook her head at the irritating memory. Gabe had turned those innocent blue eyes on her, and-for half a minute-she’d wanted to say yes. She’d wanted to move closer to him. In that brief moment, she’d thought about giving up her delicious scheme and just having a nice time at the prom with a nice guy.
Wow, she was glad that goody-goody notion had faded. Celeste had never had more fun in her life than she was having now. She’d ruined prom for half the girls in the room, and had half the boys fighting over her. Boys were all the same, and they were all hers for the taking. It was time the rest of the girls saw that. What a fabulous bit of inspiration this plot for total prom domination had been!
“Hey, Matt,” Celeste cooed, tapping him on the shoulder.
“Oh, hey,” Matt responded, looking up from his date with a confused expression.
“Can I borrow you for a moment?” Celeste asked, batting her lashes and throwing her shoulders back to place her cleavage in the spotlight. “There’s something I want to, er, show you.” Celeste ran her tongue over her lips.
“Um.” Matt swallowed loudly.
Celeste felt her last partner’s eyes boring a hole in her back, and she remembered that Matt was his best friend. She stifled a laugh. How perfect.
“Matt?” his date asked in injured tones as his hands dropped from her waist.
“I’ll be just a sec… Louisa.”
Ha! He could barely remember her name himself! Celeste flashed him a dazzling smile.
“Matt?” Louisa called again, shocked and hurt, as Matt took Celeste’s hand and followed her toward the center of the dance floor.
The furthest stall in the bathroom was dark now. The girl inside it slumped against the wall, waiting as her breathing slowed. Despite the fact that the air in the room was uncomfortably warm, the girl was shivering.
The quarrel in the bathroom had resolved, and a new bevy of girls crowded in front of the mirror to check their makeup.
The fire-breather composed herself, and then there was another sparkle of red at her ears; everyone at the mirror turned to look expectantly at the ladies’ room door while the girl in the red dress ducked out of her stall and opened the low window. No one noticed her slip out the unorthodox exit. They continued to stare at the door, looking for the sound that had made them turn.
The sticky, humid Miami night was as uncomfortable as if it were trying to rival hell. In her thick leather dress, the girl smiled a relieved smile and rubbed her hands against her bare arms.
She let her body relax against the side of a nearby grimy Dumpster, and leaned toward the open top where the stench of rotting food hung in a heavy cloud. Her eyes slipped closed, then she inhaled deeply and smiled again.
Another, even more vile smell-something like rancid, burning flesh, but worse-wafted through the sultry air. The girl’s smile widened as she sucked in this painful new odor like it was the rarest perfume.
And then her eyes snapped open and her body wrenched straight and stiff.
A low chuckle rolled out of the velvet darkness.
“Feeling homesick, Sheeb?” a woman’s voice purred.
The girl’s lips curled into a snarl as the body that belonged with the voice coalesced into view.
The stunning black-haired woman seemed to be clothed in nothing but a lazily swirling black mist. Her legs and feet were invisible-perhaps not even there. High on her forehead were two small, polished onyx horns.
“Chex Jezebel aut Baal-Malphus,” the girl in the red dress growled. “What are you doing here?”
“So formal, little sister?”
“What do I care for sisters?”
“True. And our exact parentage is shared by thousands… But that’s such an unwieldy mouthful. Why don’t you just call me Jez, and I’ll skip over the Chex Sheba aut Baal-Malphus and call you Sheeb.”
Sheba snorted derisively. “I thought you were assigned to New York.”
“Just taking a break-like you are, apparently.” Jezebel looked pointedly at Sheba’s resting spot. “New York is fabulous-almost as evil as hell, thanks for asking-but even the killers sleep now and then. I got bored, so I came down to see if you were having fun at the purrrrrrrrrr-rom” Jezebel laughed. The dark mist around her danced.
Sheba scowled but did not answer.
Her mind was on alert as she focused back on the unsuspecting teenagers inside the hotel ballroom, looking for interference. Was Jezebel here to mess with Sheba’s plans? What else? Most middle demons would go miles out of their way to screw over a little leaguer-to the point of doing a good deed, even. Balan Lilith Hadad aut Hamon had once disguised herself as a human at one of Sheba’s assigned high schools, about a decade back. Sheba hadn’t understood why all her miserable plots kept turning into happy endings. Then, when she’d figured it out, she still could hardly believe Lilith’s gall-the vicious demoness had actually orchestrated three separate instances of true love, just to get Sheba demoted! Lucky for Sheba, she’d pulled off a good betrayal at the last minute that took out two of the romances. Sheba sucked in a deep breath. That had been a close one. She could have been bounced back to middle school!
Sheba grimaced at the succulent demoness floating before her now. If Sheba had a dream job like Jezebel’s-a homicide demon! It didn’t get much better than that-Sheba would stick to the mayhem and forget the petty tricks.
Sheba’s thoughts twisted like invisible smoke through the dancers in the building behind her, looking for any signs of treachery. But everything continued as it should. The misery in the room was reaching new heights. The flavor of human unhappiness filled her mind. Delicious.
Jezebel chuckled, understanding exactly what Sheba was doing.
“Relax,” Jezebel said. “I’m not here to cause you any trouble.”
Sheba snorted. Of course Jezebel was there to cause trouble. That’s what demons did.
“Great dress,” Jezebel noted. “Hell hound skin. Terrific for inciting lust and envy.”
“I know how to do my job.”
Jezebel laughed again, and Sheba leaned in instinctively to catch the brimstone flavor of her breath.