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By C.J. Pinard

Copyright 2013 C.J. Pinard

This book is a work of fiction. The names, characters, places, and incidents are products of the writer’s imagination or have been used fictitiously and are not to be construed as real. Any resemblance to persons, living or dead, actual events, locales, or organizations is entirely coincidental.

This ebook is licensed for your personal enjoyment only. This ebook may not be re-sold or given away to other people. If you would like to share this book with another person, please purchase an additional copy for each recipient. Thank you for respecting the hard work of this author.

Cover Art by =Shiny-Shadows @ deviantART


Published by Dark Shadows Publishing®


The Prelude

Do you believe in love at first sight? I don’t. I thought I did at one time, the one time I have actually been in love, but of course hindsight is always twenty/twenty, and I soon realized notions like that are just crap. You are probably already thinking I’m a skeptic – well, I am. I’ve earned the right to be one, I believe, but you can be the judge of that.

There’s really no easy way to describe what I’ve been through. You may think this is a tale about revenge, forgiveness, or even reconciliation, but it is not. It’s a story about violence, plain and simple. When you’ve endured something so horrific that people are still talking about it ten years later, you know you’ve been through quite the doozy. My name is Evan Grant, and while it kills me to put it out there – no pun intended – this is the story of how I died.

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There wasn’t much to her, yet every chance I got, I stared at her from across the classroom. Thank God I sat behind her, or she would have pegged me as a creep for sure. But I wasn’t a creep. I was a shy college sophomore who had barely got to second-base in high school. I was determined to leave college having hit a homerun.

Very studious, this one. She sat up very straight in her chair, her eyes seemingly intent and focused on the teacher. She would occasionally fidget with her deep auburn curls or take out the gum she’d been chewing and wrap it in a wad of either tissue or an old receipt she’d pulled from her purse. Guess I am a bit stalkerific if I’d noticed these things so intently. Her name was Karina Walsh and I was about ninety-nine percent sure she didn’t know my name, and wouldn’t even recognize me as a fellow student out on the street.

Physics was a complete and utter bore. It doesn’t seem like I would get As and Bs in such a hard class, but I did. It was boring to me because it was easy. I rarely listened to the lectures, and the homework was almost like the physics I did in high school, so it wasnt much of a challenge. The only challenge I was gonna face in class this semester was summoning up the courage to speak to Karina Walsh.

The buzzer sounded and Professor McNalley announced to the class that there would be a pop quiz on Thursday when we returned. Oh, yippee. I couldn’t wait. (That was sarcasm, by the way). I barely heard him as Karina exited her seat and headed in my direction. She didn’t make eye contact, she actually seemed a bit distracted; no, not distracted, she looked worried. There was a crease down the middle of her forehead that extended between her pretty blue eyes and she was gently biting the side of her lip.

It’s now or never, I told myself. I might be able to capitalize on her angst and see if I could help with whatever was bothering her. I bet it was the pop quiz. Just those two little words seem to strike fear in the hearts of students everywhere. I chuckled internally, as I couldn’t care less about the stupid quiz.

I was up and out of my seat as she headed toward me, but she suddenly took a right down another aisle of seats and bee-lined straight for the door. I rushed behind her, trying to think of what to say, but words escaped me. I filed out behind her, the smell of strawberries wafting off of her.

As she turned to make her way down the hall, I lightly touched her shoulder. “Excuse me?”

She turned around, that worried furrow still on her brow, but it gradually dissipated into what I assumed was a forced, polite smile. “Yes?”

Now that we were standing face-to-face, I noticed how tall she was. I’m about five-foot-ten, and she wasn’t much shorter. I glanced down at her feet and saw she was wearing those little flat shoes. You know, the ones that look like ballerina shoes? Nice legs, though. I lifted my eyes to hers, expectant and waiting for a response. “Um, I’m sorry to bother you, but I couldn’t help but notice you looked a little upset as we left the class. Are you worried about the pop quiz? Because I could help you study, if you want. I mean, I’m pretty good at physics, and I get A’s, normally…”

A genuine smile this time lit up her face, amusement dancing in her eyes. She let out a small laugh. “No, I’m not fretting over the quiz, no worries there. I have other issues, personal issues.” Her smile started to fade, and I didn’t like that.

“Oh,” I replied lamely. Think of something quick. “Well, if you ever need a study partner, I’m happy to help. I shifted my backpack to my other shoulder nervously.

She smiled again. “I’m Karina, by the way.”

“Evan.” I put my hand out, and looking amused, she shook it. Her hand was soft, and her grip was very gentle. I’m quite sure she didn’t appreciate my sweaty palm.

She also shifted her pink backpack and said, “Well it was nice meeting you, Evan. I’ll see you Thursday in class.”

And with that, she turned on her heel and headed down the hall. Now I knew what they meant by the old cliché, I hate to see her go, but love to watch her leave.

I shook my head at how stupid I’d behaved, but I still couldn’t help smiling at the fact that I’d actually summoned up the courage to speak to her. She didn’t reject me, she was just having some personal issues. Dammit, why didn’t I ask for her phone number? I wondered if I’d look like a total douche if I fast-walked down the hall and caught up with her and asked? Nah, I better not. I could wait until Thursday.

* * *

After class, I bolted through the door to my two-bedroom apartment. I found my roommate, Kendrick, sitting at our cheap wood dining room table, his books and papers spread out over the entire thing. His small ten-inch netbook was next to him, light blinking like the battery was about to die. He had a pencil perched between his teeth and he mustered a smile through it.

“What’s up, dude?” he asked, looking up from the keyboard.

“Nada, man. Just gotta get ready for work. What are you working on?” I asked as I took off my jacket and slung it over a chair. I headed to the fridge and yanked it open, its light bathing me in a sickly yellow glow. I snatched some Chinese leftovers from the top shelf and closed the door. Digging through a drawer, I found a fork and tucked into the lo-mein noodles.

“I have a stupid English essay due on immigration. What kind of stupid shit is that? As if I give a crap.”

I chuckled between bites and pointed the fork at him. “Remember, college doesn’t make you smarter. It just helps you get ahead.” I shoveled another forkful in and added with a shrug, “That’s what my parents tell me, anyway.”

Kendrick shook his head and went back to his netbook.

When I was done with my cold Chinese leftovers, I tossed the box into the trash and headed to my room, changing into my uniform.

I waited tables at Applebee’s. Not exactly my dream job, but the tips were nice if I flirted enough with the college chicks who came in. And in a couple of years, if, God forbid, I was still working there, I was gonna ask to be taught how to work the bar, where all the cute girls hang out at night. But I wasn’t twenty-one yet, so no bartending for me.

I slipped on my polo shirt and thought I should probably iron it as I looked at myself in the closet mirror. Then I decided I didn’t care enough and I’d probably spill somebody’s artichoke dip on it later anyway. I found some hair gel and put a little in my hands to slick back my unruly, wavy, dark brown hair. I really needed a haircut. I’d add that to the list of errands I needed to do on Saturday. Especially before going to my parents’ house to do laundry. My mom would fuss at me for sure if I showed up with hair this long. I could almost tuck it behind my ears. I really should shave before work, too, but I thought the five o’clock shadow made me look older, so I decided to skip it. My blue eyes were a bit bloodshot, and I leaned in to the mirror to peer at them closer. I stalked to the bathroom and fumbled through a drawer until I found some drops and then checked my watch. Fifteen minutes before I had to be there. I grabbed my keys and jacket from the cluttered table and shouted out a goodbye to Kendrick before I slammed the door behind me.

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I carried my empty tray to the wait station at the back of the restaurant and saw Dana, a fellow server, standing there, counting her tips. “What an insane night,” I said, watching her.

She smiled up at me, her brown eyes twinkling. “Yes, it is.”

“If this is how Monday goes, what’s Friday going to be like?” I sighed.

She pocketed the money and pointed to one of the multiple TVs. “It’s football season, honey. Of course it’s busy on a Monday night.”

Damn. Totally forgot. Guess I just got my man card yanked for not realizing football season had started. In my defense, I am a college fan (Go Longhorns!) and they don’t follow the same schedule as the NFL.

I’m from the South, what can I say? It’s all about the college ball down here.

I glanced up at the TV to see the Cowboys were indeed playing, and shook my head. Not a fan. Nope.

My manager, Rick, popped his head into the station and looked at me. “Got a group of cute girls at table twenty-four waiting on you,” he said with a smile.

I checked to make sure my shirt was not too stained, it was tucked in, and all the obnoxious buttons I had to wear on it were straight and not falling off. I sauntered over to the table and put on my most disarming smile.

Hello, ladies.

As I took in all their faces, I froze momentarily as I saw a mop of shiny red curls and realized she was one of them. “Well, hi, Karina, how are you?” I asked with a nervous smile.

The group of girls, all of different races and builds, giggled a little.

Karina offered me a coy smile. “It’s Evan, right?”

I nodded and pointed to my name badge. “That’s what my nametag says!”

Oh, God, how lame!

“I didn’t know you worked here.”

I grinned at her. “Yep. So what can I get you ladies to drink?”

As they placed their orders, I jotted them down on my notepad and went back to fill them. As I was at the back bar filling water and soda cups, I couldn’t help the smile that spread across my face. It was a surprise to see Karina here, and I found I was a lot happier to see her than I should have been.

I distributed the drinks to their table, took their food orders, and found I could hardly take my eyes off Karina to do my job.

“What are you smiling at?” Dana asked, pulling bills from her pocket and counting them.

“I’m smiling?” I said, of course, smiling.

She shook her head. “Let me guess… a girl?”

“Ha. Am I that transparent?” I asked, now feeling self-conscious.

She nodded. “Honey, if you were any more transparent, you’d be a ghost. But that’s what I like about you.” She winked and walked off.

I had a few more tables to tend to but I did make sure to check on Karina’s table often. On my last check-in, they asked for the tab and I pulled it from my pocket and placed it on the table, smiling mostly at Karina. “Whenever you’re ready, ladies.”

After they paid and left, I was wiping down tables since Rico, one of the busboys, had called in sick and we were short-staffed. I wiped the seat of one booth and turned around to start on another when I almost bumped right into Karina.

She seemed to be out of breath, but smiling, the low-hanging ornate lamp behind her giving her hair an angelic orange glow. She grabbed my hand and placed a slip of paper into it and smiled. I didn’t look at the paper, I was too busy studying her face, trying to get a word – any word – to dispel itself from my mouth.

Instead, she gave me a reprieve by speaking first. “I told my friends I forgot something in the restaurant, and it’s not a lie. I forgot to give you that.” She pointed to my hand and smiled.

I slowly slid my gaze from her excited blue orbs and looked down in my hand to see her name and phone number scrawled in bubbly writing on a slip of paper. I smiled. “Oh, thank you. Awesome.”

“Call me,” she said as she practically ran out of the place, her long legs gliding under the short plaid shirt she wore.

I stared at the piece of paper until Dana walked up and smacked my arm. “I’d like to get out of here before midnight, kid.”

I nodded and put the number in my pants pocket, and wiped down the rest of the tables while whistling.

Of course I called Karina the next day. When a cute girl does something like that, I’m not stupid enough to try to be a player and wait a few days. Plus, I really liked her. I didn’t want to play games.

“So it’s a date then?” I’d asked over the phone.

I could hear the smile in her voice. “Yes. So you will pick me up at six then?”

I smiled even bigger. “Yes. Uh, I’ll see you then, okay? I have to get to work.”

“Bye, Evan.”

“Bye, Karina.” I waited for her to hang up. Thankfully she did and I went into my room to get ready for work.

* * *

The next night I got into my little pickup truck and drove to Karina’s house. Who knew she lived so close to me? Not even two miles. She had given me her address on the phone the night before and I knew right where it was.

I had grown up in Dallas. I didn’t care for the big city, but the small suburb I lived in I had called home since age one when my dad had brought us here because of the military. My parents were over forty when they had me, so my dad was on his last move, and once he got out, he decided to make Texas home. I was grateful, because I loved it here (not that I had anywhere else to compare it to). My parents were getting up in age, but were still pretty active, and I was their only child so I didn’t mind going to see them a couple times a month.

I had turned twenty a few months before, and was anxious to finish school and get a real job. Although I still didn’t know what exactly I wanted to do. I was leaning toward something in the medical field. My parents were happy with that answer, since their first choice had been the military, but I had told them no. Some people are cut out for that (like my dad and my uncle), but not me. I respected what they did, and I was happy to let them do it.

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