Prom Nights from Hell Chapter Two part one
“Are you kidding? I barely got off suspension in time to be allowed to come tonight.” Of course, at the moment Gabe was wishing the timing hadn’t been so helpful. “I’m lucky I didn’t get expelled.”
“Mr. Reese had it coming. Everyone knows that.”
“Yeah, he did,” Gabe said, a sudden edge sharpening his tone. Everyone at school was wary of Mr. Reese, but there wasn’t much they could do until the math teacher crossed a line he shouldn’t have. All the upperclassmen knew about Mr. Reese, too, but Gabe wasn’t about to stand by while he stalked that clueless freshman kid… Still, knocking out a teacher was a bit extreme. There was probably some better way to have handled the situation. His parents had been supportive, though, as usual.
Logan interrupted his thoughts. “Maybe we should take off,” Logan said.
“I’d feel bad-if Celeste needs a way home…”
“That girl is not your type, Gabe.” She’s pure evil-and a full-on whore, Logan could have added, but those just weren’t the kinds of things you wanted to say about any girl while Gabe was in hearing range. “Let her get a ride with the guy sticking his tongue down her throat.”
Gabe sighed and shook his head. “I’ll wait to make sure she’s okay.”
Logan groaned. “I can’t believe you asked her. Well, can we ditch out long enough to pick up a few decent CDs at least? Then we could hijack that pile of crap the DJ’s playing…”
“I like the way you think. I wonder if the limo driver would mind a side trip…”
Logan and Gabe ended up in a mock argument over the best CDs to retrieve-the top five were obvious, but from there down the list was a little more subjective-both of them having a better time than they’d had all evening.
It was funny, but as they joked around, Gabe had a sense that they were the only ones having a good time. Everyone in the room seemed to be frowning about something. And over in the corner by the stale cookies, it looked like a girl was crying. Wasn’t that Evie Hess? And another girl, Ursula Tatum, also had red eyes and smeared mascara. Maybe the music and the punch weren’t the only things about this prom that sucked. Clara and Bryan looked happy, but aside from those two, Gabe and Logan-both recently humiliated and rejected-seemed to be enjoying themselves more than everyone else.
Less perceptive than Gabe, Logan didn’t register the negative atmosphere until Libby and Dylan started arguing; abruptly, Libby stalked off the dance floor. That caught his attention at once.
Logan shifted his weight, his eyes glued to Libby’s departing figure. “Hey, Gabe, do you mind if I ditch you?”
“Not at all. Go for it.”
Logan nearly sprinted after her.
Gabe wasn’t sure what to do with himself now. Should he find Celeste and ask whether she minded if he bailed? He wasn’t entirely comfortable with the idea of prying her loose from someone else in order to ask, though.
He decided to get another bottle of water and find the quietest corner possible to wait for the evening to drag to an end.
And then, as he went searching for that quiet corner, Gabe felt the strange pull again, stronger than he’d ever felt it in his life; it was like someone was drowning in black waters and screaming to him for help. He glanced around frantically, wondering where the urgent call was coming from. He couldn’t understand the vital, jagged edge of this distress. It was like nothing he’d ever felt before.
For just a moment, his eyes locked on one girl-on her back, as she was walking away from him. The girl’s hair was black and glossy, with a mirrorlike sheen. She wore a spectacular floor-length dress the color of flames. As Gabe watched, her earrings flashed once, like little red sparklers.
Gabe began walking after her in an almost unconscious movement, drawn by the wrenching need that surrounded her. She turned slightly, and he got a glimpse of an unfamiliar pale, aquiline profile-full ivory lips and black slanting brows-before she ducked through the ladies’ room door.
Gabe was breathing hard with the effort of not following the girl into no-man’s-land. He could feel her need sucking at him like quicksand. He leaned against the wall across from the bathroom, folded his arms tight across his chest, and tried to talk himself out of waiting for the girl. This lunatic instinct he had was way off base. Wasn’t Celeste proof of that? It was all just imagination.
Maybe he should leave now.
But Gabe couldn’t force his feet to move one step away.
Though the girl barely reached five foot three inches in her stiletto heels, something about her figure-whip-slender and rod-straight as a fencing foil-made her appear tall.
She was a walking contradiction in more ways than height-both dark and light with her inky hair and chalky skin, both delicate and hard with her tiny, sharp features, and both inviting and repellent with the mesmerizing undulations of her body under the hostile expression on her face.
Only one thing about her was not ambiguous-her dress was, without question, a work of art: Bright red tongues of leather flame bared her pale shoulders and licked down her willowy curves until they kissed the floor. As she crossed the dance floor, female eyes followed the pathway of the dress with envy and male eyes followed it with lust.
There was another phenomenon that followed her; as the girl in the fiery dress passed through the dancers, little gasps of horror and pain and embarrassment rippled out from around her in strange eddies that could only be coincidence. A high heel cracked, twisting the ankle inside it. A satin dress split along a seam from thigh to waist. A contact lens popped out and was lost on the dirty floor. A vital bra strap snapped in two. A wallet slipped from a pocket. An unexpected cramp announced an early period. A borrowed necklace scattered in a shower of pearls to the floor.
And on and on-little disasters spinning small circles of misery.
The pale dark girl smiled to herself as if she could somehow sense that misery in the air and enjoy it-taste it, perhaps, considering the way she licked her lips in appreciation.
And then she frowned, furrowing her brow in fierce concentration. The one boy who was watching her face saw a strange red glitter near her earlobes, like shooting red sparks. Everyone else turned just then to stare at Brody Farrow, who clutched his arm and shouted in pain; the slight movement of the slow dancing had dislocated his shoulder.
The girl in the red dress smirked.
With her heels ringing sharply against the tile floor, she strode down the hall to the ladies’ room. Faint moans of pain and chagrin trailed after her.
A crowd of girls hovered in front of the wall-length mirrors inside the bathroom. They only had a moment to gape at the stunning dress, to notice how the slight girl inside it shivered briefly in the stuffy, too-warm room, before the chaos distracted them. It started with Emma Roland stabbing herself in the eye with a mascara wand. She flailed in dismay, striking the full glass of punch in Bethany Crandall’s hand, which then drenched Bethany and stained three other dresses in the most inconvenient places. The atmosphere in the restroom was suddenly hotter than the temperature as one girl-sporting a hideous green smear across her chest-accused Bethany of throwing the punch on her purposely.
The pale dark girl only smiled slightly at the brewing fight, and then strode to the farthest stall in the long room and locked the door behind her.
She did not make use of the privacy the way one might expect. Instead-showing no fear of the less-than-sterile environment-the girl leaned her forehead against the metal wall and squeezed her eyes shut. Her hands, balled into sharp little fists, also rested against the metal as if for support.
If any of the girls in the ladies’ room had been paying attention, they might have wondered what was causing the red glow that shone dully through the crack between the door and the wall. But no one was paying attention.
The girl in the red dress clenched her teeth tightly together. From between them, a hot spurt of bright flame shot out and singed black patterns into the thin layer of tan paint on the metal wall. She started to pant, struggling with an invisible weight, and the fire burned hotter, thick fingers of red crackling against the cold metal. The fire reached up to her hair, but did not scorch the smooth, inky locks. Traces of smoke began to seep from her nose and ears.
A shower of sparks popped from her ears as she whispered one word through her teeth.
Back out on the crowded dance floor, Melissa Harris looked up, distracted. Had someone just called her name? There didn’t seem to be anyone close enough to be responsible for the low sound. Just her imagination, then. Melissa looked back at her date and tried to concentrate on what he was saying.
Melissa wondered why she had agreed to go to the prom with Cooper Silverdale. He wasn’t her type. A small boy, consumed with his own importance, with too much to prove. He’d been oddly hyper all night, bragging about his family and his possessions nonstop, and Melissa was tired of it.
Another faint whisper caught Melissa’s attention, and she turned.
There, too far across the crowd to be the source behind the sound, Tyson Bell was staring straight at Melissa over the head of the girl he danced with. Melissa looked down at once, shuddering, trying not to care who he was with, forcing herself not to look.
She moved closer to Cooper. Boring and shallow, maybe, but better than Tyson. Anyone was better than Tyson.
Really? Is Cooper really the better option? The questions popped into Melissa’s thoughts as if they came from someone else entirely. Involuntarily, she glanced up into Tyson’s heavily lashed dark eyes. He was still staring.
Of course Cooper was better than Tyson, no matter how beautiful Tyson was. That beauty was just part of the trap.
Cooper babbled on, stumbling over his words as he tried to capture Melissa’s interest.
You’re out of Cooper’s league, the thought whispered. Melissa shook her head, embarrassed for thinking that way. It was vain. Cooper was just as good as she was, as good as any other boy.
Not as good as Tyson. Remember how it was…
Melissa tried to keep the images out of her mind: Tyson’s warm eyes, full of longing… his hands, rough and soft against her skin… his rich voice that made even the most common words sound like poetry… the way just the lightest pressure of his lips against her fingers could send her pulse sprinting in her veins…
Her heart thumped, aching.
Deliberately, Melissa dredged up a new memory to combat the rebel images. Tyson’s iron fist smashing into the side of her face without warning-the black spots blossoming in front of her eyes-her hands bracing against the floor-vomit choking in her throat-raw pain shaking her whole body-
He was sorry. So sorry. He promised. Never again. Unwanted, the image of Tyson’s coffee eyes swimming with tears clouded her vision.
Reflexively, Melissa’s eyes sought Tyson. He was still staring. His forehead creased, his eyebrows pulled together, grief-stricken…
Melissa shuddered again.
“Are you cold? Do you want my-?” Cooper half-shrugged out of his tuxedo jacket and then stopped himself, his face flushing. “You can’t be cold. It’s so hot in here,” he said lamely as he withdrew the offer, buttoning the jacket back into place.
“I’m fine,” Melissa assured him. She forced herself to look only at his sallow, boyish face.
“This place kinda sucks,” Cooper said, and Melissa nodded, happy to agree with him. “We could go to my father’s country club. There’s an incredible restaurant, if you’re in the mood for dessert. We won’t have to wait for a table. As soon as I mention my name…”
Melissa’s attention wandered again.
Why am I here with this little snob? asked the thought that was so strangely unfamiliar in her head, though it came in her own voice. He’s a weakling. So what if he couldn’t hurt a kitten? Isn’t there more to love than safety? I don’t feel the same need in my stomach when I look at Cooper-when I look at anyone besides Tyson… I can’t lie to myself. I still want him. So much. Isn’t that love, that wanting?
Melissa wished she hadn’t drunk so much of that vile, burning punch. It was impossible to think clearly.
She watched as Tyson left his partner stranded and crossed the floor until he stood right in front of her-the perfect broad-shouldered football hero cliche. It was as if Cooper didn’t exist there between them.
“Melissa?” he asked in his melting voice, sorrow twisting his features. “Melissa, please!” He held his hand out toward her, ignoring Cooper’s wordless spluttering.
Yes yes yes yes yes chanted in her head.
A thousand memories of desire rocked through her. Her clouded mind buckled.
Hesitantly, Melissa nodded.
Tyson smiled in relief, in joy, and pulled her around Cooper and into his arms.
It was just so easy to go with him. Melissa’s blood ran through her veins like fire.