BY : ElementChild
Category: Original - Misc > General
Dragon prints: 301
Disclaimer: The events and characters depicted in this story are fictitious. Any similarity to actual persons, living or dead, is purely coincidental.

Chapter One

The full moon cast an eerie pale yellow glow onto the wooded outskirts surrounding the sleepy Illinois town. Two drunken teenagers out camping huddled around a crackling campfire to stave off the autumn chill. Empty beer bottles littered their makeshift campsite from earlier that night. The girl shivered and leaned into her boyfriends side as a chilling breeze whispered past them rustling the fallen leaves on the forest floor. Staring down at her, he wrapped his arm around her.

“You know,” he began alluringly with a playful grin spread across his lips, “We could use our body heat to stay warm if you’re cold. But we’d have to be naked for it to work.” She giggled at the come on.

“Oh, and who told you that?” she asked keeping up the banter. The fire popped and crackled in front of them before a black shadow whisked past disrupting its light. The pair immediately sat up at attention. Fear shot up their spines as quick as lightning as the feeling of being watched prickled at the backs of their necks.

“Christian, what was that?” she whispered in an uneasy tone clutching on Christian’s jacket with a vice-like grip. Grabbing the flashlight off the ground at his side, Christian flicked it on and scanned the area around them.  His movements were shaky at best, but he tried to appear strong in front of his girlfriend.

“Nothing, Courtney, must have been the wind or something,” he answered seeing nothing around them. Her nerves settled at the statement and she breathed a sigh of relief.

“Yeah, you’re right,” she agreed feeling dumb for having thought for a second that something was there. They were all alone out here. The wind was just playing tricks on them. “I’m gonna get some more beer, ‘kay?” she announced suddenly, standing and turning away from him. There was no way she was going to let a little creepy wind ruin her night. Courtney only made it a few feet before there was a sudden whoosh and the campfire was snuffed out plunging the entire area into darkness. She screamed as she fumbled reaching into her jean pocket to grab her phone and excessively jabbed her finger on the touch screen to turn on the lighted display.

“Christian?” she called out tentatively, looking back to see where her boyfriend was. In the dim blue light of her phone, she caught sight of his body lying on the ground by the remains of the smoldering campfire. His throat was torn open and gushing blood as he gurgled and drowned in it.

“CHRISTIAN!” she cried in utter horror as something black lunged out of the darkness with inhuman speed and chomped onto his shoulder before dragging his body back into the awaiting shadows. Courtney let loose another chilling scream as she turned and ran in the other direction. Tears streamed down her cheeks as she bumbled around in the dark trying to make it out of the woods and to the highway alive. She didn’t want to die out here! Behind her arose the sound of strange clicking unlike anything she had ever heard before.

“No, please,” she begged raggedly. The clicking grew louder as whatever had taken Christian closed in on her. She tripped on an outstretched root and it was all over. She screamed as the first set of jaws sank into her calf like a hot knife through butter and continued to scream until another pair enclosed around her throat. The woods grew deathly silent thereafter.

A man cast in shadows walked casually up to her mangled corpse as the sound of teeth gnashing on bone filled the once calm air. His deep piercing gaze glanced away from the body with disinterest and up to the highway that was only a few feet away. A sign was posted a little ways down the empty road. It read Welcome to Grace Way, Illinois.

“Emery Clark,” he said to open air,” It’ll be soon now.” Soon he’d rip out her heart.

5 Hours Earlier

Emery leaned heavily against the dark walnut countertop that ran the length of the small coffee shop Coffee Lovers. Whatever professionalism she had possessed this morning had gone long having been replaced with a deep-rooted morose for her job. At present, the little shop was almost deserted of customers baring Vergil Ross the town drunkard who was nursing his cup trying to keep the inevitable hang over at bay.

“Why are we even open this late?” Emery complained looking to Jaclyn, who was currently painting her perfect nails at the counter, for some kind of moral support. “No one drinks coffee this late,” she commented blowing out an irritated breath. Emery stood on the short side at only five foot four. Though she had a slimmer build, Jaclyn had told her on more than one occasion that she had her own set of curves. Long golden brown hair flowed in waves down her shoulders framing her face lovingly. Soft features brought out her gray eyes that were speckled with flecks of pale blue. On her cheeks a light dusting of freckles remained barely visible from when she was a child. She wasn’t beautiful per say more akin to cute than attractive. Her oversized knitted purple sweater hung off her frame as did her black dress pants.

Ever since the latest in a long line of new trainees had quit and abandoned Grace Way for a far more glamorous life elsewhere at college, Emery had been picking up double shifts making her irritable far easier than normal. Jaclyn brushed off her attitude.

“Because we have a duty to caffeine addicts everywhere to supply them with endless amounts of coffee at whatever time they desire!” Jaclyn answered grandly, blowing on her newly finished nails. Emery narrowed her eyes on her. Jaclyn was the staple of a beautiful woman with gorgeous ebony hair, long legs, and a fit build with curves that made men swoon at the very sight of her.

“More importantly though,” she continued, while pointing a manicured finger at her, “Because Mrs. Moores is paying us to.” Her chocolate eyes could scream poor and defenseless one moment and completely flip to ferocious demon the next. Caramel skin and pouty lips cemented the look. Jaclyn was a simple girl with simple goals, one of those being to seduce every eligible man she could find; she was well on her way to making that a reality.

“If she wanted to own a coffee shop that was open until nine and had business she should have stayed in Chicago,” Emery muttered. Jaclyn waved a dismissive hand at her well versed in Emery’s saucy comments at this point in her life. After all, they had been best friends since they had been in diapers.

The bell chimed once more signaling another customer had wandered in from the cool night autumn air. Looking up on reflex, Emery groaned inwardly. It had to be him. Out of everyone else in Grace Way, hell out of everyone else on the whole damn planet, it had to be this guy. At twenty-five, he stood tall at six foot and tan. He was lean and if Emery had to admit it, which she never would, gorgeous. Unruly brunette hair poked out in all directions, unable to be tamed by a comb, ending over his eyebrows in long strands.

She had first set eyes on him about two months ago on Stillwater Bridge when he had shown up in town with his weird hermit of an older brother Noah. Ever since he had stopped by the coffee shop everyday with his guitar in its soft black cloth case strapped across his back. His name was Grayson Novak.

As soon as he spotted her that alluring smile upturned his lips; she grimaced. High cheekbones and an angular jaw line dared, unflinchingly, any woman not to call him handsome. His bright curious green eyes drew those around him in like moths to a flame and his alluring smile entreated conversation. God, Emery just wanted to smack it off his stupid face sometimes.

“Lover boy is back,” Jaclyn announced in a sing-song tone as she danced around Emery to wipe down the counter. Emery shot her a dark glare silently telling her to stay out of it. Jaclyn thought it was the most hilarious thing in the world that this man kept coming back to the shop just to ask her out to a movie, or dinner, or coffee, or drinks, or dancing, or anything else that happened to pop into his mind only to be shot down every time without hesitation.

“Jaclyn,” Grayson acknowledged as he came up to the front counter.

“Mhm…” she mused looking him over with a flirty gaze before moving to the back room bumping into Emery purposefully as she went. She threw a suggestive wink over her shoulder when Emery glared at her.

“Emy,” Grayson greeted with a grin. Emery rolled her eyes and stepped up to the register to confront him.

“Emery,” she corrected him with disinterest. They didn’t know each other well enough for nicknames. The smile didn’t leave his face. He hadn’t given up after this long. It’d take more than a sour expression to drive him off.

“It’s a beautiful name for a beautiful girl,” he replied smoothly as if he had said this to a dozen other girls. The thought didn’t dampen the light brush of pale pink that surfaced on her cheeks from the compliment. He’d do that when she corrected her name from his shortened version, come up with some quick-witted flirt that always managed to make her unwillingly blush.

“Is there something I can get you?” she asked flatly all her professional demeanor gone at this point in the conversation. Still, he persisted.

“Yes, go dancing with me. Just one dance and you’ll fall head over heels for me.”

“Anything else I can get you, sir?” she inquired with a sharpness in her tone that resembled cut glass. Knowing he had lost the battle today Grayson held his hands up in defense and conceded…for now.

“A medium coffee. Regular,” The visible tenseness in Emery’s shoulders lessened some at the order and she went about getting a cup and pouring the coffee adding sugar and cream the way he liked it. Clasping a lid over the white Styrofoam cup she handed it over to him trying not to think about the way their fingers brushed for the briefest of seconds. Knowing the price by heart, Grayson reached into his jean pocket and pulled out some cash.

“You know,” he began as he handed her the money. “You’re just going to have to say yes to me one of these days,” he said flaunting his pearly whites one last time before turning and heading out. Grayson paused for a moment at the door glancing back to give a casual half-hearted salute before leaving. Emery gave a sigh of relief and leaned against the counter. She always got so frazzled and prickly whenever Grayson visited.

“That boy is fine.” Jaclyn’s voice sounded from the doorway to the backroom as she leaned against the doorframe crossing her arms over her ample chest.

“I’m not going to date him,” Emery said firmly leaving no room for argument. She felt like they had this same conversation everyday after the infuriating man left.

“He’d be quite a catch,” she commented pretending to examine her perfect nails that were a lovely shade of baby pink with black zebra stripes today. Tomorrow Emery was sure they’d be something different. She glanced down at her own hand and experimentally wiggled her fingers that had brushed his. She could still feel the slightest touch of his warmth on them.

“There’s something off about him,” she said quietly peering out the front window. She focused on Grayson as he disappeared from view down the street.

“There’s something off about every guy. That’s what makes them men,” she huffed, miffed that once again Emery wasn’t taking her advice on her dating life.

“You could always date him, Jackie,” Emery suggested.

“Ah but his eyes are clearly set on you,” Jaclyn replied. Emery frowned done with this conversation. She was too tired to be arguing about an annoying conceited boy.

“Come on, will you just drop it already?” Emery asked exasperated. Knowing when she was beaten Jaclyn put her hands up in surrender and shrugged.

“All I’m saying is that you don’t meet a boy that fine everyday especially not in Grace Way,” she pointed out gesturing toward the door where Grayson had left through moments ago. Emery just shook her head.

“And isn’t that one of the many many reasons we’re getting out of this town the first chance we get?” Emory reminded curtly.

“My point stands. Besides, he’s been here for two months and he’s only ever been interested in you even after all those rejections. What kind of man do you think does that?”

“A crazy one,” Emory muttered as she untied her apron and hung it on the hook in the back. Jaclyn followed her actions and closed up the register.

“Diligent is the word I was looking for, Em,” Jaclyn corrected.

“Uh, huh. That’s fascinating.” Emery commented completely ignoring Jaclyn’s last statement as she got her hoodie from the back room before reappearing in the front.

“You’re ignoring me again!” Jaclyn accused indignantly as she too grabbed her coat. Exiting the shop together they paused to lock up.

“I would never ignore you,” Emery defended as sarcasm oozed from the statement.

“So we hanging at Something Wicked tonight?” Jaclyn asked hoping that she could persuade Emery to not go straight home after work. It had been months since they had gone out anywhere. The familiar autumn chill passed over Emery as she stared out listlessly into the night. Across the way the town square was completely devoid of life. Everyone was either at the local bar Something Wicked or at home. Her eyes flickered back over to Jaclyn who was waiting for an answer.

“No not tonight. I’m kind of beat. I think I’m just gonna head home,” Emery replied. It wasn’t a lie per say. She was tired from her long shift, but that wasn’t why she wasn’t going. Both of them knew that. A knowing understanding smile upturned Jaclyn’s lips and she hugged Emery tight before releasing her.

“Yeah, well tomorrow then,” she said. Emery nodded although tomorrow would probably have the same outcome. Turning away from Jaclyn Emery only made it a few feet before her voice stopped her.

“You know you can talk to me about it, right? I’m always here for you.” Emery didn’t even turn around to look at her.

“Yeah, I know. See you tomorrow,” she said before she started off on her way home down the deserted streets of Grace Way.

This was her life day after day week after week. Nothing ever changed and that was just how it was for someone like her. At twenty-two she didn’t have any goals or thoughts of the future unlike most other young adults her age. She just wanted to get out of this simple little town and see something. That had been the plan when she had turned eighteen. She and Jackie were going to get out, move to Chicago, and room together in college. It had been perfect until reality set in with no funds to make it happen. So they had stayed here, got a job at Coffee Lovers when Ms. Moores came down from the big city to open it, and watched as people they had gone to high school with left year after year to make something out of themselves. It wasn’t that she wished for some grand adventure like some Disney princess, but she was just so mind-numbingly bored with her life. A little excitement for a change couldn’t hurt.

It didn’t take long to reach her house; it was only a few minutes drive from Coffee Lovers, a bit longer walking. Outwardly, it was just a normal house any family would want to own and settle down in. With two stories, white siding, and a good sized front porch complete with porch-swing it was every family’s dream. Kicking her front door closed behind her, Emery immediately shed her sneakers. With three bedrooms, two bathrooms, a full-sized kitchen, living room, and dining room her home was far too big for only one person to be living in it. Some optimists would say that it had plenty of space for her to expand. Emery thought it was lonely.

White-washed walls stared back at her as she went up the stairs to her room. Hung on the wall in order of year was a myriad of framed photographs. The first was of a young couple standing side by side. The man had one arm wrapped around his wife’s side and the other was situated on her very pregnant belly. They had the brightest of smiles like their whole lives were ahead of them. The next was of the same couple with a tiny baby in their arms, Emery. Several followed of her as toddler happily giggling at her parents as they tried to capture her on camera. After those there was one of Emery when she was a little girl at the tender age of six. Along side her in the photo was her mother looking sickly squeezing her tightly like she never wanted to let go. That was the last photo that her mother was in. More photos hung of her growing up from a child to a teenager to her high school graduation with her father at her side. Jackie showed up multiple times. And then the last photo on the wall was a portrait of her father taken from his hospital employee head shot with his funeral pamphlet stuck in the bottom corner of the frame. Jackie had put that one up. She had said that it was good to have photos to remember loved ones. Emery didn’t know if that was true, but she hadn’t taken the photo down yet.

Her house was clean as usual. Most of the rooms Emery didn’t go in anymore like her parent’s bedroom. The only signs that someone was living here were the dirty dishes in the sink, her unmade bed, and the clothes in the hamper. Other than that it was lifeless.

Changing into her pajamas Emery fell back onto her bed. A tired sigh escaped her lips. Maybe she should have gone with Jaclyn. It would have been better than being here in this empty house.


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