Prelude

She was gone. They were coming for us, the wolves with their sharp teeth and long claws. There wasn't enough time to look back. There wasn't enough time to make sure she was there, not that that was an excuse…I should have made sure…I should have… I collapsed onto my knees. My hands shook as my nails dug deep into the dirt.

My life was an endless torment before, constantly turning from bad to worse. There wasn't a thing I could do to stop it. One day I would be killed, I had thought that for certain every night I went to sleep. Then she came into my life like a hurricane wiping everything away in its path. Everything was new to me from that point on, and together we could take on anything-nothing would stand in our way. I was safe, and that is something I hadn't felt in years. I've missed my hurricane more than anyone could possibly imagine.

She could be dead now, and I never noticed her absence until it was too late; I was the worst friend in the world. My eyes started to water, a silver tear ran down the side of my face, but I quickly wiped it away. I didn't like to show weakness, especially not with a threat so close. The wolves could be watching us now and we'd have no idea until they were upon us. My head snapped up, looking in either direction, but I was alone.

Alone…was she all alone right now? Was she laying in a ditch dead somewhere? I gritted my teeth and pulled myself out of the dirt, dusting off my jeans. I wished there was something I could do, but at the moment there was nothing to go on. I sat down on a nearby log with a 'humph', and crossed my arms against my chest. It was getting harder and harder to keep my emotions at bay, but at least I've gotten better. Before I would flee from my family or destroy something of value…a store, a car, or television etc.

My thoughts found their way back to her again-they always did eventually. I've never had a friend before her, a true friend that is. She taught me everything I knew, and showed me right from wrong. I would've been a true monster if I never had help, and I owe her much more than this. I thought of all the good times we shared, ice skating on the river, the many road trips, my first full moon, and all those parties. My friend, my sister; I knew she would never do me wrong. She helped me when no one else could, and how no one else would ever again. I would give anything to have her back with me right now.

Of course, I knew she was perfectly capable of protecting herself, and I really had no reason to worry. It's just that she is so small, so easily taken down by larger enemies, even an oversize wolf. I had saved her twice from the wolves before we were separated, and that's exactly why I am so worried. I hunched over leaning towards the wet dirt and held my stomach tightly. It was in knots, feeling as if I were punched hard in the gut.

I wanted to find her, to run away and look in every possible location. However, that would be pointless because I knew exactly where she was-if only they would listen. The Royal's castle was only on the other side of town. There was also no place more dangerous for someone like me, an abomination in their eyes. I could not search the royal's home, as I wanted. Those who entered have never been seen again.

There were many enemies, and any one of them could have done it. All of which were smart enough to cover their tracks. The wolves, their owners, and even humanity were against our kind. However, I had stolen something precious from the princess, and she had made it clear she wasn't happy. My family didn't believe it was the person with the most obvious motive, considering all the other enemies we had. No one seemed to believe me that the princess was responsible.

The wind blew through my hair, twirling it behind my back. Its warmth kissed my face, but it wasn't pleasant as it used to be. I looked over to the shimmering lake, watching the others search the waters below, and let out a long sigh. They dove in and out, causing the water to ripple towards me, getting my boots wet. I felt lost, helpless. Why hadn't I made sure she was following us?

I tried to keep the negative thoughts out of my mind, with very little luck. Something deep inside kept telling me that I was too late and I was never going to see her again. Was I right? Had I had lost her forever?

Chapter One

Stranger

I was dead. If I'd had known I would have gotten caught I never would have tried it. My sister ran downstairs screaming and crying the way she always did. I should have stayed out of her bathroom, even though she didn't provide me with the same courtesy. Revenge was never the answer, and I knew that all too well. Still I had put up with her for eighteen years now and enough is enough. I looked around my room quickly, wondering if I should just climb out the window. It was a long ways down, but that seemed like a much better option.

I looked out to the ground below, and remembered the thick vines growing next to the window. Should I climb out there anyway, despite the possible injuries? My eyes wandered to my mother's garden for a moment while I was lost in thought. They had focused on a figure standing behind the trees, something was looming in the darkness.

I had frozen.

It was definitely a man from the lack of curves the figure possessed, but in a way he didn't seem normal. His eyes were peculiar, looking as if they were glowing green emeralds. The eyes burned into mine, holding me there in a frozen state of panic. Nothing about this man or the situation seemed real; it was almost inhuman. I was finally able to move when Katharene screamed from somewhere in the house below.

"Mother did you see what she did to me?" Katharene screamed from below the bedroom. Her voice was squeaky and sharp, a normal habit when she screamed. "I know it was her. Who else would destroy me like this?" She still hadn't found mother. Katharene just liked to scream and rant until our parents were found.

Always so dramatic, I rolled my eyes.

When I looked back the man and his green eyes were nowhere to be seen. Where did he go? I panicked, looking at every inch of the garden-hopefully it was my imagination. With his disappearance, I decided it wasn't a good idea to go outside and I turned my attention to Katharene. I shook my head and ran into the hallway to stop her before she found mother. I ran down the stairs, almost falling twice. I was sure I was too late to stop her now with how much time I just wasted.

If Katharene got to mother first I knew she wouldn't listen to me, and I couldn't tell her about the man outside. The hairs on the back of my neck stood up when I thought about his eyes again, and I shook away the memory.

My sister Katharene was in the kitchen, still raising hell. Our mother wouldn't be in the kitchen so there was no point for her being there. Mother never cooked…she never lifted a finger to be honest; that was the servant's jobs. It was possible that I wasn't too late to stop this after all; I was halfway down the stairs when I was spotted by my mother. Out of habit, I ducked to avoid touching her, but she didn't bump into me this time.

"Claudia," I addressed her. Not once have I ever called her 'mom.'

Claudia seldom looked my way. She had a knack of ignoring like I had no presence and it wasn't exactly something out of the ordinary, but she would pay attention when I was to get punished. I never expected her not to punish me.

"There is a man outside," I told her with high alarm. Normally I am not one for urgency or caring for others, especially when they've never seemed to care for me. It's just that this man in particular scares the hell out of me.

My mother walked past me on down the grand staircase with the pearls in her hand clasped tightly. Every time my mother wore those pearls that meant there was going to be a party, and I despised their parties more than them, maybe even more than my sister…maybe. I didn't hate the parties for not being allowed to go, but because of who was invited.

"My darling we are having a party tonight, the best party the city has ever known," my mother announced to my father, who had just appeared in the doorway.

Figures they would care about the party more than anything I had to say.

They started ignoring me around the time I turned five, but I hadn't been treated badly. I think they were simply more preoccupied with Katharene; she had poor nutrition and a low immune system. Katharene was always sick; always needing constant care-she almost died when I was six. Pneumonia and a poor immune system just doesn't mix; mother and father had turned to alcohol after that. Normally I'm not bothered by their lack of parenting towards me, in fact I often find it peaceful, but my best friend Raya and I have stopped talking as of three months ago.

Raya Vincent had been my best friend since middle school. We did everything together, or at least we had up until recently. Raya became distant, tired, and always angry. Then she rarely showed up for school, and that was something she never did. After awhile it was safe to say that we were no longer friends.

"Are we inviting the usual?" James asked.

"Of course! Don't be ridiculous." Claudia hiccupped, taking another sip of scotch.

The guest list named hundreds of wealthy, crooked, and famous people in the Crystal Falls area. I swear a few members of the city mafia were invited to the last one. For that reason I never wanted to attend the parties, despite how tempting the loud music and laughter was. I gritted my teeth, while staring at my unresponsive mother and wondered if she would actually help this time.

Claudia, my mother; would just drink and sprawl herself across the couch like last time. Actually, that has happened every time since I was thirteen…how lovely. The governor would be here tonight, and I would have be the one to make sure everything is perfect again. I'd have to order the food and place it out on the tables, which the servants would set out. I would also make sure the house was spotless and our winery was fully stocked.

The kitchen door slammed loudly against the wall, drywall dust scattered the floor behind it. Once again the drywall behind the door cracked and dented inward, which happened every time my sister was mad. This time in particular was my fault, and honestly that was accurate most of the time.

"Do you know what your child has done?" James, my father; declared. His dark hair was greased back and his jacket was disheveled. I could smell the scent of whisky a mile away from him, and knew he must have been at the bar again.

I turned to run back to my room.

"Get back here!" He turned to follow me up the stairs.

"She is not my child," Claudia replied.

Father said something unintelligible, which sounded something like me not belonging to him either. This was a common statement from the both of them, and I was quite used to it. Father cussed, attempting to grab me by the shirt, but I dodged him just in time.

"What has the monstrosity done now?" Claudia sighed.

I tried to ignore the way my heart sank every time she said those things about me. I knew she was drunk, and most likely didn't know what she was saying. The pain was still present, regardless and I wished she wouldn't drink constantly. However, this is the way things have always been and I knew they would never change.

Father griped my arm when I was distracted and turned to look at mother. "Just look at our daughter," he pointed to Katharene. Katharene looked at me, turned bright red, and started to scream again.

Claudia gasped and choked on her scotch.

"She did this to me!" Katharene accused, and of course they believed her-they always did. "I can never show my face in public again," she wailed, hurling herself against the banister of the staircase.

Katharene did the most horrific things to herself, and then blamed me, however; it was my fault this time. Once she threw all of her own belongings out of the window, then she destroyed all the fine dining china, and consistently damaged the neighbors property. I got the blame for all of her actions, even when she was caught by one of the neighbors. Of course I would get caught when I finally got my revenge for all the wrong she caused me. James gripped my arm and pulled me the rest of the way down the steps. I tripped over the last step and fell onto the hard marble floor. He yanked me up off the floor by the arm, stinging it a little.

Yes, he was very drunk already; this was not his normal behavior.

They were both staring at Katharene in shock, but only my father still looked angry. I honestly couldn't help smiling again when I saw my work. Katharene's hair dripped down her robe, making water droplets every time she stepped; it was a gray mess tangled around her head. Most of her hair and some of her eyebrows were streaks of white and gray because I filled her shampoo bottle with white dye. The dye had worked great! I couldn't have been more pleased with the results.

James had placed me in front of my sister without saying a single word. I assumed that he wanted me to apologize, but I wouldn't do it, not with what she had done to me yesterday. Katharene had tried to shave part of my hair off while I was sleeping. Luckily, I woke up and fought her off me in time.

"Well," James said.

"I am sorry that you've aged so drastically," I told her. I couldn't help, but smile just a little.

Katharene started bawling again and threw a punch, but I ducked in time to miss her small fist coming at me. She then ran to her room, but didn't slam the door like she usually did. Claudia glared at me from the moment that she turned away from Katharene. I started to walk away from them, but James pulled me back again.

"I gave you a room, clothing, everything you needed, and this is how you treat us? I didn't have to do anything for you. Why can't you leave Katharene alone?" He demanded, pulling me close.

"Why can't she leave me alone?" I protested.

"I don't know what you're going on about…Katharene is a good girl. Take her back to the room, James; she can stay there for the night. I don't tolerate liars," Claudia said coldly to me.

"No," I said at once.

"Give Katharene a real apology, and then help her fix her hair." James shoved me towards the stairs. "You have ten seconds and then maybe you can join the party…maybe."

I shuffled up the stairs noisily. "Fine, James." They wished I had never been born, and sometimes even I wished the same. Right now I just wanted to be as far away from them as possible. As if I really want to attend a party with shady politicians and criminals.

"Eight seconds," James called.

I ran up the stairs to Katharene's door without bothering to knock, however; the room was strangely empty with only one open window. I didn't think she would go outside looking like that, like an old lady, I snickered. I looked out the window, peering over the edge slowly. There was no one outside, but I was half expecting that strange man to reappear. I shook my head, trying to get the thoughts of him out of my mind.

A beach was right below our house, it was my favorite beach in fact. I could go there now and skip the stupid apology. A light thud came from behind me; I blinked and turned around slowly.

Someone kicked me hard in the butt, sending me out the open window. I screamed a loud short gasp, but then I happened to catch the edge of the window with one hand. My grasp wasn't tight and I couldn't hold on for long, but I didn't know if I could pull myself up either.

I gripped the edge of the window tighter… my fingers were already started to slide away from the frame. My body dangled a startling three stories above the ground. I shivered as I dug my nails into the wood, desperately trying to hang on.

Katharene appeared at the top of the window with a smile on her face, and my eyes went wide as she slammed the window shut. My fingers gave away before the window crushed them. My mouth clamped shut so I couldn't scream as the butterflies in my stomach rose. The cold wind rushed past my face and through my hair until I landed in the middle of a red rose bush.

The scent of roses was all around me, as was a sickly metallic smell of fresh blood. My right arm throbbed with incredible pain and I could barely lift it up to be examined. Roses and their sharp thorns were wrapped from my wrist to my elbow. Not one bit of skin was visible from all the dripping blood.

"Katharene, where are you? You are going to be late for your sister's ceremony," Claudia's voice came from the bedroom above me.

Did she say my ceremony? What ceremony?

"I'm dying my hair. Why do we have to go to something that is for her? Besides…I don't think she will be there," Katharene complained, while still trying to sound innocent.

"Everyone has to keep up with their own charade," Claudia responded. Then she hiccupped and sounded like she took another sip of her scotch.

None of that told me what they were talking about, though. I tried sitting up since there was no need to be in the bush any longer. My back ached as I rolled over and out of the thorny roses. I sat there for awhile picking the thorns out of my skin. Each time I plucked one out, a small groan escaped my lips.

"Where is your sister, anyway?" Claudia asked Katharene.

"I have no idea," she said innocently, too innocently. She knew exactly what she had done to me.

I slowly crawled to the front of the house, but when I tried to stand I fell back onto my knees. I screamed when my legs hit the side of the concrete boarder to the garden. Claudia always said you were no woman until you owned your own garden. Her garden was award winning, the best in the entire city of Crystal Falls, but it was not helping me today at all.

Victoria, why do you always get yourself into so much trouble? I asked myself this over and over. My arms and legs were bleeding quite profusely, and I'm pretty sure my leg was fractured. Unconsciousness overcame me. I felt myself slide back against the brick of the house as my vision blurred. I was alert again after a minute or so, but then I was out.

Someone came out of nowhere and scooped me up into their arms. I was instantly alert again, but my vision was poor. I smelled the sweet scent of peppermint and vanilla, oddly enough. A bright green light was flashing across my face occasionally; I couldn't understand where it was coming from.

"You will be fine," a man whispered in my ear.

"Thank you," I said barely above a whisper, sounding more like a dim gargle.

I wasn't sure why I wasn't afraid…perhaps because I was barely conscious and unable to move. I might have attacked him if I could, but this man hadn't hurt me so far and I was in no position not to accept help.

I awoke on my bed in what seemed like seconds later, however; I was completely fine, not a scratch on me. I flexed the muscles in my arms and legs. They both worked perfectly fine. Did I even fall out the window? The time on the clock read 11:32.

"What are you doing in here?" Claudia demanded.

"I don't know," I said slowly, as if I was completely lost mentally.

"Get ready," she attempted to touch me, but I jumped up and ran to the bathroom. "You have a large family gathering to get to, now hurry!"

"You are inviting the family to the party?"

"The graduation Victoria," she sighed. "Your graduation, I don't understand how you can forget it."

"What about the party tonight?"

"The party was last night Victoria. What is wrong with you?" Claudia rolled her eyes and slammed the door. She yelled at me to hurry again from down the hall.

The party was last night?

I went to the bathroom more confused than ever. My clothes scattered the floor and makeup covered the counter, but I didn't care. My hair wasn't that bad really, so I just put it up in a bun. It was still curly from the night before when I had used a unique curling iron. My hair hung down in waves from my bun; hopefully it would look nice when worn with the right outfit.

"Where are we going?" I asked through the door, but then shook my head because she had already told me. I was scatterbrained today.

Mother groaned so loud it echoed throughout the mansion.

"Sorry," I mumbled under my breath. I had a jade green dress on, although I hated the way they made me feel exposed, and not because I was a prune. I liked jeans and I liked shorts, but anything else usually got thrown into the trash. Claudia always made me wear dresses, even when it was below zero outside. I ran out of the bathroom with only the bare minimum for makeup on, but only because Claudia would have complained if I wore the amount I usually did.

"Get downstairs," Claudia smacked me on the butt as I ran down the steps. She had another glass of scotch in her hands. Of course she would bring it to the graduation ceremony.

Our white limo was waiting for us outside, but I stopped right before entering to look back at the house. There was a bloody handprint on one of the stones next to the rose bushes. I looked down at my blood-free hands in confusion. It really had happened, then. I really did fall out of the window this morning…or was it yesterday? I admit I was a little afraid, mostly confused, but the fear was still present. My hands started to shake, despite my efforts to stay calm, how did I get back into my room?

I stared at the handprint, getting lost in the tangled web of my mind, knowing someone had to have taken me to my bedroom. The handprint and possibly the bushes could provide me with the necessary proof, but what proof was I looking for? Perhaps I wanted to know if I had really fallen, just to be sure…and figure out who it was that saved me.

I tried to get a closer look, but Claudia pulled me into the limo. Who had helped me? There was no indication that any other person had been present, but I knew there had been. I sat in the back of the limo, as far away from Claudia and my sister as possible. If I were to go near them they would complain about me.

They were making plans to go skiing in Switzerland, for my graduation. It wasn't a total bummer for me since I got a week free from them. I wouldn't have to worry about father either; we knew how to avoid each other. I'd have the place to myself and wouldn't have to do a single thing - that thought had me smiling.

"Victoria, where were you this morning?" Katharene grinned.

My smile slowly faded.

"I don't recall seeing you at breakfast…or even for lunch. Was there a boy in your room again? Wouldn't that make it the seventh time this week?" Katharene continued.

Claudia looked at me with disgust, though she had heard this lie before. I had already been punished many times for it, the last time earned me bars over the windows, but it was only for a few months.

"I don't know what you're talking about," I finally said to Katharene.

"Sure you don't," Katharene said slowly.

I looked at her dubiously, and then at Katharene as if she were the devil. She was the devil, my own personal demon sent straight from hell. I looked away from her demonic eyes to focus on the trees passing outside. Claudia started telling me about all the times I had embarrassed her and how to avoid doing it again. I had a long list of manners and how to speak properly, which lasted nearly an hour. I was not allowed to speak until I was spoken to, in no way could I join them in conversation, and I was to curtsy when meeting someone new.

Yeah, that's really going to happen.

At the last party I had spilled punch on my dress, and Claudia pretended that she didn't know me. At another one, I excused myself to go to the bathroom, and she didn't look at me for a week after.

We pulled up to the school after an hour had passed; I had always hated how long it took to get there. Katharene didn't go to my high school, but she would next year. She went to school somewhere closer to the mansion, but I had no idea where it was. Katharene was seventeen, just a year younger than me and she had been held back four years. I found it hard not to laugh when I thought about that fact.

It's quite a pitiful reason behind the four long years, and Katharene hates when people talk about it. So naturally I tell it to every person we come into contact with; I get heat for it later, but it's worth it. First of all, you cannot possibly be expected to pass when you do absolutely nothing! Katharene has failed every class since sixth grade…and our parents allow it, no form of punishment whatsoever. Also, when certain teachers were a bit more aggressive with her she had attacked them. We won every lawsuit that they threw our way, with wealth and knowing a lot of people, but Katharene was still kicked out of every school. The one she's in now is full of criminals and school rejects, obviously I wouldn't know where a place like that is.

Claudia made it clear that they would be leaving for the skiing trip that night; of course I didn't bother to say anything about it. I was just glad that they would be gone for a week. I climbed out of the limo as soon as the door was opened for me, but didn't stick around for Katharene to lie more. The ceremony had already begun; I was lucky that they were still on the F's and not the H's. I took my seat closest to where I was supposed to be, and hoped that they wouldn't be upset with me.

They called name after name, and each person walked across the stage slowly. I had it all down, honestly it was simple enough. You walk up the four steps, shake hands with two men you didn't know, and then face the crowd to be applauded. Getting your diploma was somewhere in that process.

Raya Vincent was sitting a few rows away from me; I watched her face, wondering if she had changed in the few months of her absence when she caught my gaze. My thoughts were confirmed when she turned towards me with a glare. Raya hadn't changed at all while she was gone; honestly I was surprised that she was even able to graduate. The glare suddenly vanished, replaced with a small smile and wave.

That was strange.

Raya hadn't spoken to me in months, and now she was giving me the time of day? I wasn't really ready to wave back, not yet anyway. I snapped my head up to the front as friends and admirers screamed out my name. 'Victoria Harper,' had been called; I slowly stood to my feet and made my way up the steps.

Flashes from many cameras' and the bright spotlights blinded my eyes. I covered the side of my face with one hand as I stepped onto the first step. Hundreds of people were staring at me, smiling, but I didn't look at them. None of them mattered at the moment.

There was only one face in the crowd that stood out; one particular man towards the end of the auditorium. A man with the most spectacular bright green eyes I had ever seen. Those couldn't possibly be human eyes…my mouth fell agape as I once again lost myself in the soft glow of them. Fear bubbled in my stomach, and rose higher with every second; I had stopped breathing before I got to the last step.

The bright green flashes I remembered were his eyes-they were practically like stars in the dark, small auditorium. The man who saved me last night…it was him. I knew it was him. Where did he come from? Had this man followed me here? Why had he been at my house this morning?

My temperature skyrocketed under the dark robe, and the hat didn't help either. I felt my face go red as beads of sweat rolled down my forehead…damn these bright lights. The green eyes held me until he was lost in the other pale faces of the crowd. He always disappeared when I started to get a good look at him.

I tripped as I looked away from the crowd, stumbling over the corner of my pointed heel. I fell in slow motion, giving me time to see Claudia's face when I hit the floor; it was a mixture of horror and disgust. I had embarrassed her for the last time, and she would now disown me like she'd always wanted to. Katharene was laughing hysterically as if she had begged for this to happen.

I got up off the floor at once and brushed myself off. To my added embarrassment, one of the men helped me up the last two steps. A few students laughed at that, and I gave them a glare, but most of them knew not to mess with me. A few years back I beat up a girl who tripped me in the hall; I had never been bullied or talked negatively about since.

The man had simply disappeared, but I made a mental note to confront him the next time I saw him. I kept peering over my shoulder as if he would suddenly appear. Was this man a danger or a savior? He could be a little bit of both.

"Thanks," I mumbled, taking the certificate the man who helped me. I didn't stop for pictures or smiles; I simply walked off the stage quickly and returned to my seat. A few students giggled behind my back and I sank down into my chair, wishing I were dead.

I did notice when Raya crossed the stage…she had never looked more proud. I finally returned her smile as she got her diploma. Her twin brother Azeal was applauding loudly behind her on the stage, but no one else did. Their parents had died a few years ago, and there were no other living relatives. Sometimes I wondered if I misjudge just how much she misses her parents, and I really need to be more understanding.

Before I knew it, everyone was throwing their graduation caps into the air, but I was too late. Instead I walked away from the group, hoping to put this horrid day behind me. I could already see Katharene closing in, hoping to make the day worse. I was almost to the door Raya and her brother stopped me.

"Congratulations." They both smiled at me. Raya couldn't have picked the worst moment to start talking to me again.

"Thanks," I paused to look around in paranoia. The man was always where I didn't expected him to be. I smiled back at her. "Congrats to you guys as well…I can't believe it's finally over and done."

"Took long enough eh, so what are your plans now?" Raya asked. She pulled her cap off and ran a hand through her wild spiky hair. Her chocolate eyes glowed with excitement, complimenting her dark skin.

I grinned, even though I was having trouble talking with her. I felt awkward, which is something I've never felt with her before. Maybe it was hopeless and we could never be friends again, but I really hope not. "I hope to move as far away from my family as possible." Raya knew me well enough to know I spoke the truth, and honestly I did hope to get away from them someday.

"I don't blame you there," Raya agreed, turning towards the auditorium doors, "speaking of which your sister is coming over here. Do you want to talk to her?"

"No, not at all." I shook my head quickly, making Raya laugh. "Katharene is the last person I want to be around right now."

"Well I guess that settles that." She walked away from me, harboring a strange smile on her face.

Her brother and I watched Raya walk over to Katharene; she waited until Katharene's back was turned before pushing her into the punch bowl. Katharene screamed as she slid over the table and onto the floor. The bowl had come with her, dropping upside down over her head. People were laughing, but I don't think anyone laughed harder than me. Claudia let out a loud gasp of horror, only to join in on the laughter. All that scotch had taken a toll on her, and I didn't want to deal with Claudia; I would simply wait in the limo for them to return.

The wind was wild and the rain was something else entirely; I was soaked by the time I found the car. The limo driver was passed out in the front seat, but it didn't look like he had fallen asleep on his own. His head was in a very unnatural position for sleeping, very uncomfortably shoved against the window. I'd never seen anyone fall asleep in that manner, but my other suspicion was the green eyed man standing in front of the limo.

His dark hair was drenched by the rain, as was his black jacket. The man stared at me as if he could see through the thick blanket of water. I watched him, preparing to make a run for it, but his lips curved in a small smile. My mind went blank for a moment, not for very long, but long enough to get a good look at him.

He was the most beautiful man I had ever seen, but I couldn't have been more frightened. It was his eyes…no human looked that way, no eyes glowed! There was that, and that fact that he's basically been stalking me. I felt cold on the inside, almost like I was dead already, and I knew that was altogether very likely to happen soon. You hear about stalkers and serial killers on the news, but you never think it would happen to you. On the inside I started to cry, but not on the outside, never on the outside; he would not have the pleasure of seeing that.

I could only picture him on the cover of a fashion magazine, but I knew that was unlikely. A flash of lightning blinded me for a moment, giving him the perfect opportunity to disappear. I gritted my teeth in frustration as I looked around…the perfect pale features, sculpted nose, and messy hair were all I could remember.

He was completely gone…again.

The driver would not wake up. I even shook him and slapped his face. The man didn't move a muscle so I figured it was up to me to be the designated driver. I placed my finger against his neck to check his pulse, relieved to feel its small twitch. I moved Charlie over to the side of the passenger seat and he slumped over against the window. Good thing, too, because Katharene and Claudia came out of the building a few minutes later. I assumed she had to calm down everyone's laughter at our family.

"Charlie, start the car already. I want to leave immediately." Claudia sounded madder than a hornet. I started the car, hoping she wouldn't look at me too closely.

"Where did Victoria go?" Katharene asked in a snooty voice.

"I couldn't care less where that girl went. Your father must have bad blood on his side. She didn't get any of my charm, obedience, and good looks. Your father's side has always been very plain. You should be happy you didn't get that gene, dear."

Katharene smiled, but then frowned. "Why are we going back home Charlie?"

I had to stop myself from looking back at her.

"You are supposed to take us to the airport," Claudia told me. "I am tired of this rain, and my daughter and I have shopping to do."

Why were they going to the airport?

"What about our baggage, mother?" Katharene exclaimed.

Claudia sighed. "That's why I said we're going shopping dear. We will go shopping in Switzerland."

Oh. That's right…skiing.

"Charles, take us to the airport. I want to leave right away. I have had enough stress for one day."

She's had enough? What about me and all the crap I have to put up with?

I gritted my teeth again as I turned the car around. I reached the airport in twenty minutes. I floored it the entire way there to put some distance between me and my stalker-if that was indeed what he was doing. I did find it possible that he was just checking up on me, simply to make sure I survived. Of course, if that was the case then why wouldn't he come talk to me, and get a thank you for saving my life?

They got out of the car and hurried to the front doors of the airport. I turned the wheel and pressed down on the gas hard in case they decided to change their minds. I didn't know if the storm was bad enough for the airport to be closed either, but I really didn't want to take a chance on that happening.

The rain made it hard to see the road, but I managed it well for a newbie. I had only been driving for a few months now and I'd really gotten the hang of it. I stared at my beach with longing as I drove by. I couldn't go tonight, not with the rain and huge waves. I would have to take a trip down there in the morning when it had calmed down a bit.

As I headed to the front door of my house, I stopped and inspected the bricks on the other side. Unfortunately, all the rain had washed away any traces of my fall. Unless I had imagined the whole thing and there was never any blood. Perhaps none of it had happened after all.

My room was a mess, exactly the way I left it. I had windows lining my entire room, since it was on the corner of the house. I pulled the shades down over all the windows, which was quite a daunting task.

I took another shower, even though it seemed silly after already being soaked, but I needed the warmth to get comfortable. I pulled up my covers, falling asleep instantly.

I don't know how long I had slept, but it didn't seem like very long. The blue curtains were moving, blowing out into the room. Lightning lit the room brightly once, and then a second time. In the middle of the second flash I saw a dark figure near the open window. I jumped back, hitting my head against the headboard, but there was another flash and the figure was gone. I looked around helplessly each time lightning lit the room, considering screaming for my father. Thunder cracked and the figure was in front of my face.

"Gah," I gasped as hand went over my mouth.

The figure's body touched my side…the wet clothing soaked through my sheets. I shivered from the cold sensation or maybe from fear-I wasn't able to think properly. The only thing I knew was that I was probably going to die here. Fingers touched my lips with the lightest of pressure, and then the figure spoke.

"Do not scream," a deep, obviously male voice whispered.

That was easier said than done. I wanted to scream for my father, to grab my bedside lamp and smash it into his skull. My arms were partially pinned down to my sides, but if I tried hard enough I thought could free them.

"You must trust me," he said with more authority. He removed his hand from my mouth.

"I don't even know you," I hissed, pulling my face away from his hand. All I could see was green glowing eyes staring down at me. I felt like I was going to be sick…

"I know, and I know it's a very hard thing to do. All you have to do is hear me out. I didn't mean for it to come to this, but they are coming for you."

I was confused, and about ninety-eight percent sure I was dreaming now. "What are you talking about?" I looked over to the lamp once more, wondering if I could grab it before he stopped me.

"Do not leave your home tomorrow, do you promise?" He was practically begging me, this strange, beautiful man.

"Okay," I agreed. I think I received a kiss, but I remember nothing else. My eyes drifted as I felt the bed move from his weight and I was unconscious once more.

My eyes fluttered open too soon. It was still storming, but no one was in my room. The largest window was open and the carpeting was soaked. As I started to close the window, I noticed something in the yard. The same dark figure was looming near the bushes where I had fallen yesterday. He looked up at me slowly, showing his bright green eyes.