Desires of the Dead Page 1

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Prologue

Violet leaned forward on her hands and knees over the frozen landscape. Inside her boots, her toes felt as if icy shards were burrowing beneath her skin and slithering into her veins. Her fingers were very likely frostbitten within her gloves.

The flashlight’s beam slashed through the veil of blackness that had settled over the wintry forest, creating a spotlight where Violet had been trying to uncover the ground beneath the soft layer of snow.

In her drugged state, she couldn’t be certain that she wasn’t hallucinating as she stared at the man who towered over her. His weathered skin seemed to glow with an unnatural life of its own. It was both strange and beautiful.

But her thoughts were thick, and she struggled for each one, dredging them up from the swampy depths of her confused mind.

He spoke to her, unaware that her brain filtered his words, jumbling them and making them something less than coherent. She tried to concentrate as the tranquilizing sensation bled through her, deadening her senses.

But she was cognizant enough to be afraid—terrified, even—of this man. She could understand enough of what he was saying to recognize that he was disturbed. And dangerous.

He’d followed her. In the middle of the night. And even through the haze that distorted her awareness, she realized that he must have known why she was there. That he somehow knew she had found the body.

She glanced down at his hand, at what he held there, and her tangled thoughts immediately cleared.

She watched while he gripped the handle of the shotgun tightly in his fingers, and then he looked at her. “I’m really sorry that you found her,” he explained sadly. “I didn’t want anyone else to die.”

Chapter 1

January, Five Weeks Earlier

Chelsea leaned down to Violet like she had a secret to tell, something she didn’t want anyone else to hear. “Check out the new eye candy!” Chelsea shouted, making Violet jump.

Violet was pretty sure that everyone in the cafeteria had just heard her friend. As usual, Chelsea’s internal filter seemed to be turned off.

Come to think of it, Violet couldn’t remember Chelsea ever screening her words.

The boy Chelsea was referring to happened to be walking right past them and, like everyone else, he’d heard her too—he would have had to be deaf not to hear—and he looked up in time to catch Violet glancing his way. Chelsea turned back to Jules and Claire, and pretended to laugh at something funny they’d said, giving the impression that it had been Violet who’d made the outrageous comment.

He smiled sheepishly at Violet and kept on walking. Violet felt her cheeks burning, and she was grateful that he at least had the good sense to look embarrassed by all the attention he was drawing. As humiliated as Violet was, she also felt a little sorry for him. It must suck to be the new kid in school. Even a really good-looking new kid.

As she watched, a girl joined him. Violet might have guessed from the resemblance—the similarity in coloring between the two of them—that they were related, except she didn’t have to guess; Violet already knew that the girl was his younger sister.

They had a new student every now and then at White River High School, but in a town as small as Buckley, Washington, the fact that there were two new students on the very same day was cause for major gossip. Even if they were brother and sister.

Violet watched the pair until they found a table at the far end of the cafeteria, away from the activity and the busier tables at the center of the large, noisy space, and then she turned to Chelsea.

“Thanks a lot, Chels. I’m sure that wasn’t at all awkward for him.” Violet glanced down and examined the contents of her plastic tray. The pizza looked greasy and runny, and the applesauce had a faintly grayish hue to it. The food made her lose her appetite altogether.

Chelsea grinned back at her. “No problem, Vi. You know me: I’m a giver. I just wanted to make him feel welcome.” She shoved a spoonful of the grim-looking applesauce into her mouth, smiling around the flimsy plastic utensil. She gazed over Violet’s shoulder to where the two new students sat by themselves. “If he didn’t want people talking about him, he probably shouldn’t look so tasty.” She was still gawking at them when her face wrinkled up and she pulled the spoon from her mouth. “What’s your boyfriend doing over there?”

Violet twisted in her seat so she could see what Chelsea was talking about just as Jay joined the two new kids at their table. He sat beside the girl, but he was already talking to her brother like they were old friends. And then he turned and pointed in Violet’s direction—right at her, in fact—and smiled when he saw that she was watching him. He waved at the same time the new guy looked up to see her studying them.

It was the second time she’d been caught staring at the new kid.

Violet tried to smile, but it didn’t actually reach her mouth. She thought about pretending she hadn’t seen them but realized it was too late, so before turning around she gave a halfhearted wave. She hoped the new boy wasn’t telling Jay that she’d just called him “eye candy” . . . especially since she hadn’t. Jay had been her best friend long before he was ever her boyfriend, so she hoped he would know she wasn’t the one who’d said it.

“Oh, look,” Claire announced, typically unaware of anyone else’s discomfort. “I think Jay’s inviting them over here.”

Of course he was. Why wouldn’t he be?

“Great,” Violet muttered under her breath. She didn’t bother turning around this time; instead she just glared at Chelsea.

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