Read Shadow Bloodlines (Shadow Bloodlines #1) Online
Authors: A. R. Cooper
Shadow Bloodlines series
This book is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places and incidents are either the product of the author’s imagination or are used fictitiously. Any resemblance to actual persons, living or dead, or to actual events or locales is entirely coincidental.
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Copyright © 2016 A.R. Cooper
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Cover art design:
To my husband, who loved me even when I forgot about making dinner so I could finish one more chapter, I love you.
To my children and readers, don’t give up on your dreams. Reach for them, always.
Table of Contents
Don’t go to school today! – Dad.
I re-read the text message and double-checked the unlisted number. Was this a practical joke? Dad hadn’t contacted Mom since before I was born, let alone me. I didn’t exist as far as he was concerned.
Why would he suddenly send me a message anyway, and at five after eight in the morning? Did he do a Google search on me or something? Whoever it was must not have read the school rules about no cell phone use period until lunchtime or after school. Made that mistake too many times before, so the text was too late now…four hours and twenty-nine minutes too late.
I shoved the phone into my pocket and dragged myself back to my seat in the school cafeteria. The smell of greasy fries, burgers, and spicy nachos with fake cheese choked the lunchtime air. The bell rang and metal chairs scraped across the linoleum floor as everyone finished their lunch. I’d lost my appetite since finding Dad’s text, as evidenced by my burger sitting half-eaten on the table.
Wrong number perhaps?
“You ‘k, Beth?” Melody pushed away from the table.
“Yeah.” I nodded, refusing to bring up my Father issues with my swim team partner. If I ignored the message, I could pretend it never happened.
“Thanks for covering my babysitting shift yesterday,” Melody said.
“No problem. The twins are cute.”
She picked up her tray and a crease marred the space between her brows. “If you say so. I had to clean toothpaste off the ceiling and mirror last weekend. Those kids are monsters.”
I forced a smile and wadded up my napkin. “They’re not too bad.” Not as bad as receiving a message from an estranged father. The next words flew from my mouth before I could stop them. “Hey, did you guys get any weird messages on your phones?”
Melody glanced at her phone and frowned. Ryan, who sat across the table from me, shook his head. “Nah, nothing except my mom reminding me to take out the trash when I get home. Why, did you?” he asked.
A creepy feeling tickled the back of my neck; the same kind I get right before something jumps out at me. “Just spam.” Must be a wrong number. My thoughts shot to Mom who had raced out the door this morning without even her normal hug goodbye, just a quick peck on my forehead. I shoved my textbook back into my backpack and stood, thrusting the paranoia to the back of my head where it belonged.
Biology II was next. An added requirement for my senior year.
I could do without the dissecting and rancid smells. Even now, as I rushed with the other kids out of the lunchroom, I could already smell embalming fluid. While no one else seemed to mind the odor, especially outside the classroom, for some reason it gave me the worst headache, like someone pounding with a sharp knife on either side of my temples.
“Beth!” Jacqueline elbowed me as she careened through the crowd after leaving her Calculus class. “You still coming over after the college tour? I’ve got the perfect dress you can borrow for tonight, and I rented that B-Horror movie that everyone’s raving about,
Night of the Demons
She was skipping the local college tour. She’d already gotten into the University of Texas’s software engineering program. Swim scholarships had been given out late January, but I was still debating between Texas A & M and the University of Florida. Mom suggested keeping my options open and visiting some schools closer to home. I preferred to be near the ocean, but that would mean leaving my friends and my mom. Both University counselors said they’d give me until the end of June to decide. The tour was an easy way to get out of school early.
“Not your crazy B-trash movies again. I swear the last one gave me nightmares about that three-headed croc.” I fought to hold the cafeteria door from slamming into me as a horde of fellow students shoved past.
“It’ll be great, you’ll love it.” She winked at me, then took off toward gym class.
Inside the crowded classroom, I retrieved my notebook and pen from my backpack; the light on my cell blinked, but I ignored it. No use having my phone taken for using it during class time. Since I was staying with Jacqueline for the weekend while her parents were away on their cruise, maybe I could trace the call somehow and confront my loser Dad. Mom would never go for it, but the idea of seeing him face-to-face and telling him off made me smile. Jacqui loved an adventure.
“Hey, Iron Lungs,” one of the basketball players called out across the classroom, and his buddy high fived him.
I turned around as they both stared my way, waiting for a response. I offered them a wry smile in return and slumped into my seat. Jeez, win one breath-holding contest in middle school and no one lets you forget it.
The bell rang and everyone piled into their seats around me.
A woman with a long nose and squinty eyes behind wide-rimmed glasses entered the room along with a man. They both stood behind the teacher’s desk. “Hello, everyone. Mrs. Adelle is out today. I’m your sub, Ms. Moor. And Mr. Hastings will be assisting me.”
Two teachers? I slumped further down into my seat. I should have skipped with Jacqui.
Maybe Mr. Hastings was a teacher in training? He appeared to be in his late thirties and looked like a wrestler stuffed inside a suit. His eyes scanned the room as if searching a police lineup.
“Now,” the woman straightened her suit jacket, “today we’re going to talk about genetics and recessive genes.”
The class groaned.
“We’ll be taking note of each of your eye colors to see which is most prevalent. Whichever shade has the most votes; those individuals won’t have to do any homework for the weekend.”
The kids and I groaned. One of the football players mumbled a curse word, but Ms. Moor ignored him.
The sub-teacher went around the class, staring into everyone’s eyes. “Brown. Green.” The sub called out over her shoulder and the suited wrestler scribbled across his pad. ”Brown. Blue. Brown.”
I wondered if my dad had sent me another message. Ms. Moor was two rows away. It would just take a second to glance at the phone. I dug through my backpack. Ms. Moor swung in front of me and I dropped my cell back inside the bag. Her eyebrow rose, but she didn’t say anything. My heart hammered in my chest.
Please don’t ask me what I was doing.
If she found my phone on, it would be taken to the principal’s office and my mom would have to pay the fine for me to have it returned. No cell phone use during school hours between eight a.m. and two forty-five p.m., the only exception was during lunch.
Ms. Moor stood before me, squinting. Then she stopped and pulled off her glasses. My cheeks heated as she gawked at me, unblinking. Some of the kids snickered. Great. Just what I needed. She leaned in closer, staring.
“Weird.” Her eyes widened, and she stepped back, bumping into the empty desk in front of mine.
I bit my lip as I glanced around at the other students who were now trying to see my eye color. A guy in the row next to mine even stood up partially in his seat to look back at me. “Back off, I’m not a zoo specimen,” I snapped.
Mr. Hastings dropped the writing pad on the teacher’s desk and flipped open his cell. He exchanged a look of excitement with Ms. Moor and, at her nod, rushed out of the room.
Ms. Moor lurched back to the front of the classroom. “Okay, so brown eyes have the highest count in this class, followed by blue and then green.”
“What about Bethany’s?” Bruce pointed at me. “You didn’t call out hers. They look blue from here.”
My stomach clenched. I knew my eyes had three different colors: blue, green, and gold. I turned toward Bruce. “Maybe focus on your own crap.”
“Shut up, Bethany.”
“Enough,” the teacher said.
“Green. They look green to me.” The girl sitting in front of me twisted in her seat and stared. She’d never said a word to me before, now she glared as if I was a freak on the dissecting table and she’d get ten extra credit points for the right answer.
I wiped my palms on my jeans while my body broke out in a cold sweat and my hands felt clammy.
Ms. Moor straightened her glasses and shuffled through papers on Mrs. Adelle’s desk as though looking for something specific.
When the bell shrilled three times in quick succession, Ms. Moor jumped. “A fire alarm? Now?”
We scrambled out of our chairs.
“Stop,” Ms. Moor called out. “Everyone stay in your seats.”
Yeah, right. Since I didn’t want to come back to class, I snatched up my backpack and threw it over my shoulder and shoved through everyone in front of me until I squeezed out into the hallway.
Ms. Moor snatched my arm, but I wrenched free with the help of two big guys who corralled me down the hallway with a throng of students among them. What was her problem? Ms. Moor gave me the creeps.
The heat from a hundred bodies bustled through the hallways, moving like mindless zombies scenting fresh blood to the nearest exit.
Finally, everyone stood outside in the back of the school and waited for the class monitors to tell us it was safe to go back inside. From across the schoolyard, Jacqueline pushed through people to reach me with a pinched expression on her face. Glancing around to ensure no teacher watched, I handed my phone to her when we met in the middle of the crowd.
“What’s this?” She glanced behind her and her hand shook slightly as she took the phone.
“Are you okay? You seem nervous, but it’s just a drill or I’d smell the smoke already.”
“Uh, nothing. I’m okay.”
Maybe she was nervous about finals next week. “Just read my text message. I got it this morning but didn’t see it until lunch. Do you think it’s him?” I crossed my arms over my stomach. Yeah, Mom would forbid me to chase after this. But I had to know if it was him or not.
Jacqui shrugged and handed me back the phone. “Probably a prank. We can check it out tomorrow if you like. Be all spy girl badasses.” She waggled her eyebrows and did a Bruce Lee impersonation complete with a sidekick and hit a guy’s backpack.
He scowled and scooted closer to his friends.
I laughed, loving the idea. A freshman took a girl’s glasses and they chased each other through the crowd. The chatter of the other students rose in pitch.
“What classes do you have left?” Jacqui asked. She rubbed her arms despite the warmth of the sun.
“French and Swim.” Mom thought foreign language would be good on my rez and for college. But who in the middle of Texas spoke French? Well, besides my teacher. And she acted French—even though I knew she’d moved here from Idaho—or at least the license plate on her car said she did. Spanish class had filled up before the second day of registration.
“Ditch them both.” A breeze tangled her blonde hair and she shoved the strands away from her face.
“Can’t. Practice.” As much as I wanted to, I couldn’t skip swim drills. “Seriously, I don’t even think a doctor’s note would save me, unless... maybe I can get Coach Johnson to let me swim now and skip the weight training and stuff.”
“You can’t call yourself a senior if you’ve never ditched a class.” Jacqueline folded her arms across her chest and glanced around again. Was she searching for someone? “Let’s skip the college tours and go straight to La Promada.”
Promada was a nightclub that allowed eighteen-year-olds in free. I’d been dreaming of attending but never had the time with swim meets, practices, homework, and my mom’s overbearing rules of being home before dark. She only allowed me to skip curfew a few times a year.
Maybe Jacqui was right.
“Okay, I’ll do it. Just let me get a few laps in. I can meet you in an hour since I’ll skip weight and dry land training.”
“’K.” Jacqui dashed off to rejoin her gym class, already headed back inside.
I could have missed swim too, but I’d get caught skipping. Mom would be contacted, I’d be grounded and my weekend with my best friend canceled. No way was I going to let anything ruin today.
Instead of following my biology class inside, I sauntered to the pool. Coach Johnson was folding towels on a bench outside the girls’ locker-room.
“Mind if I take my laps now? I want to be ready for the college bus and not dripping wet.” I really hated lying, and prayed this wouldn’t get me in trouble or Mom notified. She’d ground me forever.
“What class do you have now?” Coach frowned as she looked up at me.
“Umm… French?” Well, Bio was almost over anyway. When she shook her head, I rambled. “But we’re doing crossword puzzles and I have mine already completed.” I yanked it out of my backpack and tons of papers spilled out. “Please?”
After a moment’s hesitation, she nodded. “But I’ll let your French teacher know you’ll miss her class today.”
I didn’t wait but dashed inside the locker room.
Swim trophies loaded the walls in my room. It was one of the things in life that came easily to me. After changing into my swimsuit, I tossed my backpack into my locker and spun the lock. My cell phone vibrated, and I wondered if it was my dad again. I resisted the urge to look, as it would only distract me. Dad had waited to contact me this long; he could wait a bit longer.
Dressed in my gold and green school colors swimsuit, my bare feet smacked against the tile as I padded out to the swimming pool. Did my dad like swimming?