Better off Dead A Lucy Hart, Deathdealer
Author:Eva Sloan

Better off Dead A Lucy Hart, Deathdealer - By Eva Sloan

Chapter 1

SOMETHING glinted out in the cool September night and caught Lucy Hart’s eye. She peered out the large picture window over the kitchen sink and scanned the area between the swimming pool and the cabana house. Just trees and perfectly manicured privacy hedges, and a cluster of swaying hibiscus.

Speaking of perfectly manicured, she spotted a chip in her own manicure—she would need to duck out on second period study hall to get it repaired. She’d go before school but her nail salon didn’t open its doors until nine.

She gazed out the window again to the thicket surrounding the back yard. She had always been able to see extremely well in the dark. Just some freak genetic quirk—handy in haunted houses on Halloween, or when rolling blackouts intruded on California life.

“Weird…” she said as she turned her attention to her near empty can of diet Coke.

“Talk about weird!” Tara exclaimed dramatically. She had scarlet and gold paint not only speckled on her nails, in her golden blond hair, but smeared on her white sketchers and a smudge on her cheek. “Did you see Kara Strom today at lunch? She was totally trying to move her skanky butt in on Drew!”

She rolled her eyes as she gulped the last of her diet Coke, tossed it in the trash can and retrieved another cold can from the refrigerator. “Sorry, didn’t see your name monogrammed on the boy.”

Tara made that little noise, like she was choking on a peanut, and she knew she’d pressed the right button to get her off the subject. She certainly wasn’t going to spend twenty minutes listening to Tara vent about a boy she had only gone to one minor dance with. It wasn’t even a formal. And since Tara was her number two on the cheer squad, she had pressing business to discuss before she went up stairs to the more entertaining possibility waiting in her bedroom.

“Everything cleaned up?” She pulled her long mahogany tresses back in a casual ponytail and tied it back with a silver hair-band.

Tara shook the unhappy look off her face and replaced it with a sycophantic smile. “Yep. I got all the paint off your mom’s floor, the other girls took the banners to the gymnasium for tomorrow, and I took everything else out to the trash.”

The entire cheer squad had been there creating lavish, cloyingly spirited banners for the pep rally at the end of school tomorrow. She had supervised while the other girls had done all the painting and cutting and hot-glue gunning. Tara had supervised, and obviously participated, in the cleanup while she changed into her nightshirt.

“Did you tell Mellissa she’s on probation?” Lucy asked. “She has to cut ten pounds. Her skirt is starting to ride up and everything.”

She watched the naughty smile spread across Tara’s lips. “She was in tears. Maybe we should tell her fifteen pounds, see if we can’t make her into an Olsen Twin.” She giggled wickedly.

She ran her finger over the outside of her diet Coke can, picking up the condensation on her fingertip. “She’s not the only one that needs to trim a few pounds. I’ve still got knee marks on my back from this afternoon’s practice…Tara!”

“Me?” She made that little choking sound again, and she sniffled. The color drained from her face. “But I’m the smallest girl on the team.”

Which she was, thus she was always the apex of their cheerleader pyramids. And since by size Lucy was on the very next level, she knew without a doubt that somewhere on that birdlike frame Tara had packed on some pounds.

“I expect you to lose it by next week’s game.” Lucy gently ushered Tara from the kitchen and pushed her down the hall to the foyer, and the front door. “So that means a dry bran muffin for breakfast, a tuna salad sandwich on wheat for lunch, and a salad with light dressing on the side for dinner. Got it?”

Tara’s intake of breath rattled. “I will…I promise.”

Lucy smiled. It was just too easy to manipulate people.

“Okay, good. Then I’ll see you in first period and we can go over exactly how much you need to lose. Night, night!” She shut the door in Tara’s face, turned on her heal and returned to the kitchen. She let her mind wander upstairs to where her boyfriend waited in her bedroom.

She’d just changed into her Stanford nightshirt when Jeff had knocked on her window, teetering perilously from a trellis of bougainvillea. The nightshirt was just an oversized men’s Stanford embossed T-shirt her daddy had picked up at his last class reunion. It was his alma mater, and he wanted her to matriculate there as well.

Her grades were excellent, and she had quite the resume of extracurricular activities—and since her father was an alumnus of their law school, and rich as sin, she felt she was a shoe in.

She’d left Jeff alone so he could deliberate whether he wanted to do as she commanded, or leave the way he came: through the window, and without even a kiss goodnight. She was certain he would obey—when it came right down to it, guys always conceded. Their pride almost never precluded them from embarrassing acts of degradation, especially if they were horny.

She grabbed her diet Coke and her phone, and right before she clicked off the kitchen lights she glanced out the window again. A dark figure stood by the privacy hedge, billowing in the Santa Anna winds like a pitch black swath of night. It was so much darker than anything else. She shivered as her hand touched something soft.

She gasped and jerked her gaze to what she’d touched. Her mother’s orange tabby cat purred up at her from his perch on the counter by the light switch. His green eyes sparkled, begging her for attention.

“Tigger!” She turned back to the window and found the yard vacant once more. She looked harder, held her breath then slowly let it out as relief spread through her. Nothing or no one looked back.

She shook her head and gave the tabby a quick scratch from behind his ears down his back, and then clicked off the lights.

Weird the things you think you see when you look out into darkness.

Heading up stairs she passed by her door, purposely wanting to say good night to her parents before they decided to knock on her door and ruin her little boyfriend fashion show. She couldn’t dim the grin that thought gave her as she leaned against the doorframe of her parents’ bedroom. It was huge, even bigger than her room—and the master bathroom was to die for.

She’d asked them…well… back when she was twelve she’d demanded they swap rooms with her, but that was one of the few things her father, Adam Hart, would not budge on.

“Turning in?” her mother said in her singsong voice, a tennis equipment catalogue spread in her lap. Tennis and its many very expensive accessories were her mother’s most recent obsession. Lucy cringed every time she saw her mother’s fuller figure packed into some little white tennis dress.

She should try black…it’s always slimming, and out in the hot sun it might just help her burn off some weight.

She gave her mother an innocent smile and said, “Me sleepy…yawn…” and brought her hand up to pantomime quelling an actual yawn.

Her father stepped out of the master bath and his face lit up—as usual—the instant he looked at her. He’d taken off his suit jacket, but still had his tie on, which meant he had some briefs or something lawyerly to look over before he turned in.

That meant she would need to keep Jeff quiet. She’d had Jeff in her bedroom before without incident. The bathroom and a linen closet were both positioned between their room and hers. With her door shut nothing much could be heard.

Her father stepped up and pecked her affectionately on the cheek. “Good night, my little girl.”

She pretended his calling her a little girl still, even though she was a senior in high school, was gross—but secretly she loved it every time he said it.

And she loved his aftershave—Lagerfeld—and she inhaled a long whiff of it before she blew her mother a kiss and retreated down the hall to her room.

She passed up her brother Seth’s closed door. The sign tacked to the door read to “KEEP OUT!” and she found it infinitely easy to honor his request. They hadn’t had anything in common besides their parents since she was thirteen.

Excitement bubbled through her veins as she turned the doorknob and let herself into her room. She leaned against the door and it shut with a click. Her eyes widened and her breath caught as she took in the sight before her.

On the fly, she took the opportunity to bring her cell phone up while he wasn’t looking and snap a picture. She licked her lips as she clicked the button, taking the picture. Though ridiculous looking, the sight of Jeff Haas in her bedroom naked, except for the short, green and blue plaid catholic-school-girl skirt she’d coerced him into wearing, was starting to turn her on.

Guys will let you do anything to them if they think it is foreplay.

“What are you doing with that?” Jeff said when he caught sight of her.

She froze for a moment before she said, “Tara texted me.” And since they exchanged texts roughly every half-hour, she silently blessed plausibility and routine.

Jeff’s expression lightened, but then his brow furrowed. Oh no, he’s having an actual thought.

“But it didn’t ring.”

She held up the razor-thin device and gave it a dainty shake. “Got it on vibrate.”

He suddenly had that “Oh” expression on his handsome face. Flimsy excuse bought, thank god.

I wonder…will he fall for it again when I ask him to kiss my Zac Efron poster? That would be a hilarious shot to text everyone when she ultimately tired of stringing him along and broke up with him. She wasn’t about to sleep with him, not now or ever.

She was saving herself for when she married a multimillionaire, a prince, or for her senior year in college. By then she’d know whether she would be a kept woman, or if she’d be the one doing the keeping. She had plans: places to go, things to buy.

But if he’s a good boy, he might make it to second or third base in that get up. She’d told him to ditch the underwear, and she was now dying to see if he had. An “accidental” grope would tell her.

Jeff was captain of the football team in the fall and captain of the wrestling team in the winter. To say he was buff would be a waste of the language. Jeff’s shoulders were huge, broad and marble hard, as was his smooth, hairless chest, and bulging arms. All of it wrapped up in the dreamiest tan skin. A strict diet of cheddar-chili fries, cheeseburgers and pizza had failed to obscure his washboard stomach with even the thinnest layer of fat.

His hair was short and brown, and could never, ever be messed up—she’d tried, in earnest. And with a face like his you’d think he wouldn’t have to play dress-up just to get some action. This, most of all, amused her. Jeff Haas could have any girl in the school, and yet there he was, letting her degrade and humiliate him, all for the chance to get in her pants.

Well, he is in my skirt, or at least my mother’s skirt from when she actually was a catholic school girl. What more did he really expect tonight? Jeff really looked great shirtless, and his legs were not only strong but rather shapely, accented by a thin dusting of brown hair.

She had to give herself snaps. Not two weeks into her senior year and she had the captain of the football team in naughty school-girl drag.

She could feel heat rise up under her skin and lick up her spine and ribcage. Her cheeks burned. She looked into the mirror of her vanity; she was starting to blush. She smiled into the mirror. Ever since she could remember, the mirror had always been her friend: she had yet to find one that wasn’t.

“Oh, dude...” She looked up to see that Jeff had caught his reflection in the looking glass, and from the panic in his eyes, he didn’t like the view.

Just then two men with guns drawn and bulletproof vests with FBI emblazoned on them smashed through her bedroom door. Their guns were big, sinisterly shiny, and pointed right at her.

She shrieked and dropped her cell phone, and shot up out of her chair.

The two agents moved in forcing Lucy and Jeff back to the opposite wall.

“I wasn’t really going to have sex with him…” she blurted. “I swear!”

From behind her Jeff muttered, “Oh shit...”

The two FBI agents shot Jeff an ugly, disgusted glance, both agents moving their big shiny firearms between Jeff and Lucy. They seemed unable to discern which was more of a threat: the muscular, nearly naked seventeen-year-old boy in the skirt, or the girl who’d gotten him into it.

“I can’t believe you’re going to arrest me for maybe having sex.” She shook her head, as tears welled up in her eyes. “It’s so unfair!”

Thoughts rushed through her head, none making much sense, a few making her want to throw up. Then suddenly she screamed a hysterical “Daddy!”

The agents gave each other a look, and then one shook his head bitterly as he pressed the button of his walkie-talkie. “The girl has been found, and there’s an unidentified teenaged male...will detain both until told otherwise.”

The other agent, with silver hair at his temples, told Jeff, “Son, put some clothes on.” And Jeff leapt at the chance to get out of the skirt. Thankfully he pulled his jeans on under the mini skirt before pulling the skirt off. Hopping around, he tried to stuff himself into his jeans.

Her head began to spin, her breathing quickened…she was starting to hyperventilate. Get a hold of yourself…

Jeff was buckling his fly when Lucy’s mother gave out a blood curdling scream, and they both turned to the bedroom door.

Her mother’s screams turned to sobs of crying, and suddenly her father appeared in the hall by her doorway, his arms handcuffed behind his back, and another FBI agent pulled him to a halt in front of her door. His usually perfectly pressed clothes were rumpled, the shoulder of his silk dress shirt was torn, and buttons had popped off. A thin line of blood ran down his chin from his mouth.

She stared with bewildered eyes at her father, not able to comprehend why the FBI was taking him away in handcuffs. He looked in through her door, his face angry one moment and then horror-stricken the next. He looked on the verge of tears—but then he caught sight of Jeff, still standing there, still shirtless, with his jeans still open.

Her father’s gaze turned steely, and red hot anger jerked back into his eyes. All he said was “Lucy...” The anger and disappointment in his voice was staggering.

It said: You’re not my good little girl. Not you! Not anymore...

She couldn’t move, couldn’t speak; she couldn’t even breathe. She just stood there, staring at the angry stranger that had replaced her father. A moment later another FBI agent joined the one with her father, and together they pushed him down the hallway in front of them.

Her panicked scream made Jeff and the two FBI agents flinch. She ran toward her bedroom door, but one of the agents grabbed her around the waist and kept her anchored to the spot as she cried out, “No, Daddy...no!”

She didn’t know how many times she blubbered and bawled this, or how long the agent held her. She finally got control enough of herself to say, “Please...I have to see him. I have to explain.” I have to tell him nothing happened. Please, please, please!

“Miss,” The other agent said and lowered his firearm. “He’s already gone.”

Gone? The word echoed in her head as her human restraint slowly let her go, and then sat her down on her bed like a rag doll.

He’s gone...he’s just gone...Daddy’s gone...

She pulled her knees up to her chest and pushed her face into them. She couldn’t remember the last time she’d sat like this. When she was younger she’d sit like this when she was upset or unsure of herself. But she hadn’t let those thought touch her in so long. Those feelings were so foreign, and so suddenly painful, that she shuddered when she finally took a breath. The hot rivulets of her tears cascaded effortlessly down her face, yet she refused to utter a single sound.

She did not register it when the agents sent Jeff away, or when they searched through her room, checked the air conditioning vents, and pawed through her private bathroom. She also hadn’t realized when they’d left her sitting on her bed in her room. She sat there with her tear-wet cheek pressed against her knee, alone.



~*~



Across town, high above the city in a building still being built, Delia waited for him. Standing at the edge of the scaffolding she peered out into the night. Nothing separated her from the winds that whipped through her long blonde hair. She did not turn as he approached, yet he was certain she knew he was there.

Gabriel strode toward her, breathing heavily from the climb—the service elevator incapacitated when the construction crew vacated for the night. He ignored the sinking feeling that threatened to plummet him to his death, and moved up behind her. He wrapped his arms around her and pulled her against him.

“Why always so high, Delia?” he said breathily. “Are you trying to kill me?”

He could tell she was smiling. “Testing you, maybe…or maybe I’m testing your love.”

He gave a little bark of laughter. “How much more must you test that? By now you should know how much I want you.” He turned her around and gazed into her cool blue eyes. Her arms were bare, her flesh cold to his touch. He hadn’t gotten used to that enough to ignore it. But someday he hoped he would.

She purposely closed her eyes. “Want and love are not the same thing.”

Gabriel’s hands moved up and caressed her face, and then gently pulled her to him. When their lips made contact a cool thrill sparked through his entire body. She gasped as she fell forward, against his broad chest. Even through the shirt he wore he could feel the chill of her touch. He kissed her long and true. There was no other woman on earth he desired, only her.

Delia pushed away from him and held a hand to her lips, the other outstretched to keep him at arm’s length. “As I said, want and love are different.”

Gabriel took hold of her wrist and pressed her hand against his chest, right where his heart pounded with strong, hard beats. “I love you...you know that!”

Her eyes glinted coldly as she appraised him with her gaze. “But we’re stuck.”

“Don’t start that again. I love you. I’ve proven that time and time again. I defy my own family to be with you.”

Delia hissed. “They know nothing of us being together. How is that defiance? It’s cowardice!”

Gabriel still had her hand held to his heart. “Does this heart beat the song of a coward?”

Her eyes bored cold and brutal into him. “But your heart can’t tell your family about me. Only you can tell them how much you love me.” She glared at him, not blinking. “That you choose me.”

Gabriel groaned and shook his head. “And what would happen if I did? What would happen if either of our families found out about us?” He gently took hold of her chin and drew her face up until her eyes met his. “If they had even a clue, there would be war, and you know it.”

“We could make them see!” Her eyes flashed haughtily. “Change their minds.”

“Our families? Changing their minds after all this time? The word impossible comes to mind.”

“You won’t even consider it?” She pushed away from him. “Even if it was the only way we could be together?”

“I think about us being together every day.” He pulled her to him again, buried his face in the cool, smooth flesh of her neck and inhaled her intoxicating scent. “And I want nothing more than to tell my parents about us.” He sighed, conflict storming inside him. “Being in love should be a happy thing, something to celebrate. Not something to hide at all costs.”

“If we were brave we would tell them, force them to accept us.”

“Because that worked so well for Romeo and Juliet.”

Delia’s laughter was bitter as it rattled in her chest. She pushed away from him again and rolled her eyes. “I would have to fall for a freaking bookworm.”

Gabriel held out his hands beseechingly.

“I am a warrior,” Delia said flatly. “In six centuries I have neither run from a battle, nor hidden who I was. I am vampire. The strongest warrior of my people, and they would listen to me.”

“But would your father?” he said.

Delia’s expression faltered as Gabriel continued.

“He’s King, not you. Would he listen to another word you said if you told him I was your man?”

For a brief moment Gabriel thought he had gotten through to her. But then her back straightened and the steely resolve returned to her features. “He would listen to me. I would make him listen.”

“He’d kill me,” Gabriel groused. “Then he would probably execute you. Mingling of the species is against vampire sovereign law. Not even he could change that edict.”

“Coward!” she spat, her expression menacing.

“If there was a way,” Gabriel said, “you know I would do anything to be with you.”

Delia’s eyes snapped open wide and then sparkled as a smile flashed across her face.

“What?” He asked cautiously.

Her gaze flitted away from him, darting here and there as she seemed to be chasing a tantalizing thought. She raised her hand; fingers outstretched, and then clasped shut as if she’d seized a thought out of thin air. “I have an idea.”

Gabriel stared at her for a few beats. “And would you like to share this idea?”

Delia’s gaze darted back to him, brimming with excitement. “No…not yet.” She turned and strode away from him, looking back at him over her shoulder as she came to the edge of the scaffolding. “But soon…”

She stepped off the ledge and disappeared out of sight. Gabriel groaned and gritted his teeth and looked up in exasperation. He hated when she did that. He was certain she would land on her feet, unscathed, but he hated when she willfully tossed herself from such heights.

“Show off!”