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Authors: Kylie Brant

Waking Evil 02

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Table of Contents
An Age-Old Curse
Mark shot Ramsey a look. “I think half of what the kids told us is fueled by that blasted legend folks ’round here insist on feedin’ regularly.”
“Legend?” The case file contained only the facts of the case. But when facts were in short supply, other details took on more importance.
“Guess you’ll be hearin’ it from ’bout every person you talk to in town. I know I can count on you, out of anyone, not to be distracted by nonsense.” Still, it seemed to take him a few moments to choose his words. “We’ve got somethin’ of a local phenomenon here called the red mist. Someone else could explain it better, but it’s caused by some sort of reaction from some plants ’round here and contaminants in the air . . . Once every blue moon, the fog in low-lyin’ areas takes on a red tinge for a day or two. Nothin’ magical ’bout it of course, ’cept the way it makes folks ’round here take leave of their senses.”
“So the kids that found the body saw this red mist?”
“That’s what they’re sayin’. And I do have others in these parts that claim they saw the same thing, so might’ve been true. But local legend has it that whenever the red mist appears, death follows . . .”
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This is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places, and incidents either are the product of the author’s imagination or are used fictitiously, and any resemblance to actual persons, living or dead, business establishments, events, or locales is entirely coincidental. The publisher does not have any control over and does not assume any responsibility for author or third-party websites or their content.
WAKING EVIL
A Berkley Sensation Book / published by arrangement with the author
PRINTING HISTORY Berkley Sensation mass-market edition / October 2009
Copyright © 2009 by Kim Bahnsen.
All rights reserved. No part of this book may be reproduced, scanned, or distributed in any printed or electronic form without permission. Please do not participate in or encourage piracy of copyrighted materials in violation of the author’s rights. Purchase only authorized editions. For information, address: The Berkley Publishing Group, a division of Penguin Group (USA) Inc., 375 Hudson Street, New York, New York 10014.
eISBN : 978-1-101-14525-8
BERKLEY
®
SENSATION
Berkley Sensation Books are published by The Berkley Publishing Group,
a division of Penguin Group (USA) Inc.,
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For Michelle—
who was brave enough to join the family first
and has been enriching our lives ever since.
We love you!
Prologue
The canopy of trees blocked the full moon, allowing only an occasional sliver of light through the dense foliage. The branches were intertwined, like the fingers of lovers, but there was nothing romantic about the still, waiting air of the woods. Even the nightly serenade of nocturnal creatures was silenced for the moment in an eerie lull.
“C’mon.” Robbie Joe gave a slight tug to Becky Ritter’s hand as he sent a quick glance behind them. No lights. The others hadn’t gotten this far yet. “Told you this was a shortcut. We’re goin’ to beat everyone for sure. The trail is right over here.”
“That little bitty thing?” Becky came to a complete halt, playing the beam of the flashlight over the direction he’d indicated. “Robbie Joe Whipple, that is not a trail. It’s barely an animal path and leads right through those brambles. My legs are goin’ to get all scratched up if we follow it.” To remind him of the seriousness of the possible damage, she shone the flashlight on the legs in question. And they were, to Robbie’s adolescent mind, the stuff of fantasies, left bare by minuscule denim shorts. He could imagine how they’d feel under his hands, sleek and smooth, or better yet, wrapped around his hips, tight and demanding.
But even more vividly, he could imagine beating everyone else back to Sody’s parking lot, lording it over the rest of the losers when they came straggling in. Or better yet, rubbing his feat in the face of that hotshot Timothy Jenkins, who was really such a candyass he probably would never get out of the car if he did make it to the woods.
When Becky didn’t respond to a discreet tug on her hand, he switched tactics. “Girl, I purely can see why you wouldn’t want a scratch on those fine legs of yours.” He didn’t have to feign the admiration in his tone. “And I swear on my granddaddy’s grave, if you get one little ol’ mark on ’em, I will personally apply my grandma’s special ointment to every square inch. Scout’s honor.”
She giggled and gave him a slight push. “Don’t you try your fast talk with me, Robbie Joe. I’ve heard ’bout your reputation.”
“Now don’t you go believin’ everythin’ you hear.” Wise advice, since anything that would have reached her ears had been manufactured, exaggerated, and repeated by him in a diligent and as yet unsuccessful quest to end his blasted state of virginity. “If it gets too thick in there, we’ll turn back. You have my word on that.”
But still she hesitated, looking over her shoulder and inching closer to him. “What about those sounds I heard earlier? The ones that sounded like screams.”
“Told you, it was probably just a bobcat. And they’re scared of humans, so it’ll make itself scarce when it picks up our scent.” He hadn’t actually heard the sounds she referred to, doubted that she had either, but he wasn’t going to quibble with an opportunity to get his hands on the girl the football team called “Backseat Becky.” Slipping his arm around her waist, he gave her a light hug and hoped her reputation was more deserved than his own. “I’m not lettin’ anythin’ happen to you. And I’m not gonna let Cami or Merilee get that batch of switchgrass back to Sody’s before you and blather about it for the rest of the summer.”
“That’s true.” To his relief, she began moving toward the path. “Cami does like to go on. And if Merilee and Jon win, we’ll never hear the end of it, either.” Merilee was her latest frenemy, although the girls spent so much time together Robbie had to wonder when Becky had had occasion to earn her famed reputation.
“Here, give me the flashlight.” He noted that the beam had gone dimmer and prayed the batteries lasted until they got out of the woods. He hadn’t made this trip for years, not since he was a kid, and never at night. With false bravado, he said, “I know this area like the back of my hand. We’ll be back at Sody’s before the rest of those guys even get here.” Already he was wondering how many of the other couples
would
make it this far. Easy to talk big back at Sody’s. But laughing at local superstition safely in town was a lot different than being smack-dab in the center of the woods at near midnight.
He swallowed, wished for some water. The night air felt thick and close, as if the dense canopy above shut out oxygen the way it did light.
It was slow going, seeing as how he had to hold the briars out of the way each time for Becky to walk through. And the trail had gotten more overgrown since the last time he’d been here—what? Three years ago? He hoped they’d still be able to get to Ashton’s Pond this way. Becky would never forgive him if they had to turn back without getting that batch of switchgrass that would prove their bravery to the others.
“Oh my gosh, this is so spooky.” Becky’s giggle sounded a little strained. “How much farther to the pond, do you think?”
“It’s not far now,” he lied, although, truthfully, Robbie couldn’t recall exactly how much longer they’d have to walk. He tripped, nearly fell, and threw a hand up to halt Becky while he played the light over the ground beneath him. “Watch out for this log. Almost fell on my ass.”
But when he tried to help her over it, Becky stood stock-still. “What . . . what’s that?”
Those looming shadows had to be trees, didn’t they? Trees and thickets and overgrown brush. He played the flashlight around, saw nothing but a pair of yellow eyes peering at him from a low hanging branch.
Relief flooded him. “That? It’s just an owl, Becky. Can’t hurt you.”
“Not that, ’tard. That!” She flung her hand out, her voice growing shriller. “Where’s that fog comin’ from?”
BOOK: Waking Evil 02
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