“Everybody get back, now!” Wesley said. “I think we better let Mark cool off. Better yet, party’s over.”
“I’ll say when it’s over,” Mark screamed, spittle flying from his lips like a rabid dog. None of the partiers needed encouragement, peeling away two and three at a time. They piled into beat-up trucks, spewing gravel as they made their escape. Mark stood panting, fist clenched, watching them leave. He pointed a furious finger at Wesley. “You’re next,” he said quietly and stomped past him to his van. “Find your own ride home.”
Mark stepped aside to let him pass, giving him wide berth. He met Sarah’s gaze, obviously shaken by the encounter.
“Come on. You can ride with us,” she said.
Mark took her hand and sighed as he looked at her. “Wow, that was intense. Guess it’s just the two of us tomorrow night,” he said with a grin.
“Did you see it? When you touched him?” she whispered.
He nodded. “What the hell was that thing?”
Sarah could feel him shaking. “The bridge does it to everybody’s aura, even yours, but none of them are like that.”
Emily stumbled down the slope after them to the car, her skirt hiked a bit too high and her hair disheveled. Sarah could tell she had been drinking. As much as she liked her friend, Emily made bad decisions.
Sarah took her by the arm. “So did that change your mind about tomorrow night?”
“No, that was totally Jerad’s fault.” She yanked her arm away from Sarah, nearly falling down in the process. “You never did like him. What’s your problem?”
“He’s a bad person, Emily. Isn’t he, Wesley?”
“Yeah, a lot worse than I thought. I don’t think I’m going to be hanging with him anymore.”
“Well, I like him, and we’re going out tomorrow. I couldn’t care less what you think.”
The ride home was quiet and the next day even quieter. Sarah texted Emily a dozen times and even called her twice. Wesley picked Sarah up, and they drove by Emily’s house, but no one was home.
“I got a bad feeling about this,” Sarah said. “You think she’s already with Mark?”
“I don’t know. I couldn’t get ahold of him, either.”
They drove around town looking for them, cruised the west side, and stopped at all the hangouts to ask about them, but nobody had seen them. They went to every movie theater looking for Mark’s van but found nothing. As night settled in, Sarah finally voiced the fear that had been nagging at her.
“He took her to Sweet Water Bridge, Wes.”
“I’m afraid you’re right. Let’s get out there before it’s too late.”
“Too late for what?”
Wesley just shrugged.
Mark’s van was parked on the bridge, rocking back and forth, its lights splayed across the deck, disappearing into the eerie void.
Wesley gunned his jeep, hit the last gear, and sped up the hill, the rear end fishtailing on the gravel. The rear door of the van flew open, and Emily tumbled out shrieking, her shirt ripped and her hands tied behind her back. Mark hopped out after her, holding a knife. He and his aura jerked Emily to her feet by her hair. Emily screamed again when she saw the jeep’s headlights.
“We have to get them off the bridge. He’s got too much power there.”
“How do you suggest we do that?”
“Tell him he’s a shitty quarterback.”
Wesley gave a short laugh. “Yeah, that ought to do it. Then what?”
“I’ll get Emily in the jeep and we get the hell out of here.”
“Not much of a plan, but it’ll have to do.” Wesley slammed on the brakes and the jeep skidded to a stop, spraying gravel. They both jumped out and approached the bridge.
“Stay back, or I’ll slice her neck.” Mark’s aura leered at them and flashed a black shadow-knife of its own.
“And then what, Mark, you going kill me, too?”
“Guess I’m going have to kill all three of you. You should’ve minded your own business.” Mark’s shadow grinned at them and licked its lips as Mark yanked Emily’s head back to mark her throat with his knife.
“No!” Wesley bulldozed Mark, knocking him to the ground. Emily scrambled away on her knees, sobbing.
Sarah took one last look at the bridge’s timber before touching it for the first time. Instantly she felt a surge of power sweep through her. She ran to Emily and helped her to her feet. “Get in the jeep!” Mark had wrestled Wesley to the ground. Wesley’s eyes screamed in terror. Sarah knew he could see the specter looming over him, helping to hold him down. He could see the onyx blade poised an inch above his throat. “Get off him!”
Sarah charged, her silver aura flashing. The dark aura shrieked as Mark stood up, forgetting Wesley for the moment. Mark side-stepped her attack but couldn’t elude Sarah’s silver angel who grabbed the dark ghoul and hurled it to the railing, dragging Mark with it. Wesley sprang to his feet, rushed at Mark and knocked him over the railing. Mark clung to the barrier with one hand, knife in the other, scrambling for a foothold on the slimy girders. His aura, still intent on its evil deed, clutched at Wesley’s sleeve.
“Help me, Wes. Help me.”
“He’s no good, Wes.” Sarah stepped back, watching Mark’s fingers slowly lose their grip.
“I have to help, Sarah, I can’t just let him fall.” Wesley leaned over the railing and grabbed Mark’s arm. Sarah heaved a heavy sigh and walked over to help him. She looked down at Mark and his writhing aura and took pity on them. She reached down just as Mark swung his knife at them, a sweeping stroke that would have severed her arm. She jumped back just as Wesley released his grip, and Mark plummeted into the swirling obscurity of the Sweet Water River.
Everyone in town knew her now. Emily made sure they heard the story, filling in the parts she didn’t understand with a lie that fit. Sarah still had her secret, a secret she shared only with Wesley. And she had him, the one person who understood her.
The whisper of his breath on her neck caused a shiver to flutter across her skin. She had been waiting so long; craving his embrace, dreaming about his touch, and hungry for his lips. He lifted her chin with a gentle finger and gazed at her with eyes that sent a song through her heart. His yellow aura flitted and danced around him enveloping her, mingling with her own. Finally, his lips brushed against hers.
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