Expected Release: March 31, 2014
Chira Kelly thought she didn’t need anyone…until she met Ben.
Because of one ugly rumor, Chira lives as an outcast at her school. Which is fine with her, because she works better alone. Always has, always will. And at least she has her one and only true friend, Tasha. When Tasha insists that they join a group to visit a possibly haunted abandoned old schoolhouse, she’s wary, but joins her friend. Because of that decision, their lives are in jeopardy as a malevolent spirit targets the group. Tragedies and accidents pick them off one by one, and Chira finds herself drawn to the one person who can see the truth. But can he protect her?
She rips my hall pass from her pad and points it toward the young man sitting across from her desk. “Chira Kelley, meet Ben Oscuro. He’s new here and needs someone to show him around. It just so happens he’s also a member of class 18B.”
I finally lay my eyes on the boy. He doesn’t look up at me, and his disheveled dark hair is just long enough that it hides his eyes. But he pushes himself up from his chair and his slim form towers over me. He’s at least six feet two and his uniform is almost as crumpled as his hair. He swings his backpack onto a strong, square shoulder and nibbles his full bottom lip. His smooth olive skin and dark hair make him look like a foreign rocker, and there’s something about him that seems vaguely familiar.
“Here’s a copy of his class schedule. When you’re not in the same class, I want you to leave a few minutes early and help him find the next class room. That’s your job for today. Got it?”
I swallow back and resist sniffling again. Taking the hall pass and the copy of the schedule from her, I say, “Um…sure.”
“Excellent. Robin, you’re off the hook.”
The office aide pumps a fist in the air before returning to file more papers in the cabinet. The secretary’s chair squeals a dismissal, and Mrs. Campbell picks up her phone, returning to her duties without another word.
Ben pulls open the office door and stands to the side to allow me to go first. The hallway that was empty only a short while ago is now full of students and their incessant conversations. With a shrug, I eye his class schedule quickly. Except for second and sixth period, we have exactly the same schedule. He’s in all of the advanced classes, too. Only he has gym for second period and Latin for sixth – opposite of my schedule, except I take French.
Piece of cake.
I glance up at him again, and his eyes meet mine. My breath hitches. His intense gaze makes me feel like he’s measuring me. The dark pools of his eyes seem deep and bottomless, but there’s something strange about them. They’re brown, but he has colored contacts. Why would anyone color their eyes brown?
My heart flutters. A sniffle escapes me before I can stop it. Ugh. I clear my throat and start in the direction of first period. “Follow me.”
We elbow our way down the freshman hall toward the second floor, but before we start up I point down the way. “Do you know what your locker number is?”
Ben nods and pushes his backpack up on his shoulder further.
I wait for a second and then smile. “What is it?”
“706.” He has a slight accent and his voice is deeper than I expect. I suppress a shiver at the jolt that the musical timbre of his voice sends through my body. I’m resonating like a tuning fork. I really want him to speak again with every fiber of my being. What’s with me?
“Uh…okay.” I swallow, trying to regain composure. And take him to the general area of the locker. “Here it is.”
He looks at it, nods, and returns his hard gaze to me. Is he always so stiff? Probably just nerves from being new.
“I know you don’t have any books to put in it, but do you want to try out the combination?”
He lifts one shoulder in a shrug and spins the combo quickly through the three numbers. I purposefully avert my eyes so he knows I’m not peeking. He opens the locker wide, nods toward me and then closes it again.
“Great. We have first period over here.”
“You and I have the same first period?”
My body vibrates again, and I blink hard. So glad my back was to him so he couldn’t see the effect his voice has on me. I swallow and face him. “Actually, yeah. Our schedules are very similar. It’s a smallish school so there’re only a few tracks that juniors can be on.”
He nods, and his eyes are half lidded as if he’s bored already.
I lead him toward our class room. “We don’t really have assigned seats, so you can pretty much sit anywhere you want. I’ll show you to the gym at the end of class. I have French next, but it’s not too far from there.”
I lead him to the front of the class, and my friend, Tasha, gives me a wan smile and raises her eyebrows, looking back and forth between me and Ben. She mouths, Who’s that?
I roll my eyes and put up one finger toward her to let her know I’ll tell her in a minute. Then I turn to the teacher. I hand him the schedule from the office. “Hi, Mr. Scott, this is Ben Oscuro, a transfer.”
Mr. Scott sets down the Mountain Dew he was drinking and offers Ben a wide grin. He puts a hand out for him to shake. Ben hesitates but takes the hand in what looks like a firm grip. Mr. Scott shakes his hand afterward. “That’s some grip you’ve got there.” He laughs and leans down to the bottom drawer of his desk and hands Ben a Geography text book.
With a nod, I return to Tasha and squeeze into the desk next to hers. Because I’m at Jackson Hall partially on scholarship and partially on my father’s insurance money, I’m somewhat of a social pariah. My only real friend is Tasha Brown, a pariah herself, being one of the few African-American kids in the school. Still she tends to be more popular than me, because at least her family has the money they’ve made in the night club and music business. But then there’s that rumor…
“So who is the new hottie?” Tasha hops up and down in her seat.
I shake my head at her. “You are one big hormone, you know that? Sure, he’s cute, but is there any guy in the room you don’t consider a hottie?”
Tasha scans the room, considering for a moment with her hand on her chin and a very serious expression on her face. Her hair is in the typical pigtail braids she usually uses to play up the uniform. She has on no sweater, and her shirt is one size too small, causing the buttons at the front to bow and expose part of her red bra. Finally she returns her gaze to me. “There’s only one guy in here that doesn’t rank hottie.”
She leans in conspiratorially and whispers, “Mr. Scott.”
I nearly choke on a laugh as I eye the middle aged, balding teacher at the front of the room. But I have to admit, Jackson Hall is a prep school. And no one can afford to make their children look their best more than the wealthy. I guess if I take my father’s words to heart, it’s better to be the poor kid in the rich kids’ school…than the other way around. Right?
Tasha’s smile returns and I follow her gaze to figure out why. Ben Oscuro walks down the aisle between us and takes the desk right behind mine. The hairs on the back of my neck stand on end. I close my eyes and take a deep breath. He smells like pine and mint, and it reminds me of the outdoors. When I open them again, Tasha’s smile has grown impossibly wider. She leans towards me and whispers, “What was that you said about hormones again?”
I shove my elbow toward her but she dodges me with a giggle.