Devil's Prey

By: S. E. Chardou

A Dance With The Devil Novel #1



Summer, 2002

You know how everyone talks about the most pivotal moment in their life when everything changed? Yeah, well, that happened to me when I was thirteen.

I waited outside Vasil Kazlou’s School of Gymnastics for my mother to pick me up. As usual, she was late, not uncommon since my mother would be tardy to her own funeral. The Vegas sun started to set in the west but since it was summer, at seven in the evening, there was still daylight and the temperature hovered around one hundred and six degrees.

I pretended to read The Kitchen God’s Wife, a required book we had to complete over summer vacation before my freshman year in high school started. To suggest the novel was any more exciting than watching paint dry would be an understatement. I had no idea how I would skim my way through this coffee-table drivel, let alone finish it in time for the start of the school year.

That was a depressing thought.

School started in less than six weeks. No more lounging around watching my favorite shows and doing the requisite exercise my parents required from me. No more lazy days in the pool with my friends. Life wouldn’t be fun anymore. I had absolutely no delusions being a freshman in high school would be anything other than a major pain in the ass—friends or no friends.

The only bright spot about school was at least I’d made the junior varsity cheerleading squad. That was a major plus. I’d been a cheerleader since seventh grade and loved it. There was something about the adrenaline of being on stage and doing all those impossibly difficult movements in front of a large crowd.

I wish I could always say I was confident but really, I knew it’d only grown over the past year. I was at that awkward stage, not a girl anymore with budding breasts, pubic hair and my period yet certainly not a woman. I suffered from perpetual crushes. This week, it was Jared Leto. His band, Thirty Seconds To Mars, had just released their self-titled album, and I loved it so much, it played constantly on my iPod.

“Edge of the Earth” blasted in my ears from the crappy Apple buds. I thought about how I would have to beg my mother for a better pair since there was absolutely no bass or treble to be heard and the music had a tin can sound to it. The Kitchen God’s Wife stuck to exposed skin where my shorts ended while the wooden bench underneath me warmed my ass almost to the point of burning me.

I stuck the book into a small, pink paisley backpack and continued to look around for any cars turning down the quiet street. Mom was pretty hard to miss since she drove a canary yellow, late-model Range Rover that had been a gift from my dad. He was in the pawnshop business and managed to score big time when Golden Sins was picked up for a reality show by a cable network.

The show had taken off and visitors to Vegas regularly visited the dingy little place downtown. I’d grown up there so although now it was a famous landmark, I made it a habit not to visit much anymore. The last issue I wanted was to be featured on television. Hell, to be honest, I’d rather not be known as Justin “Riggs” Reynolds’ daughter at all.

I’d started giving up all hope my mother would actually pick me up when I saw the “Yellow Submarine”—the nickname I’ve given to my mother’s SUV—as it swung around the corner and turned into the parking lot. She drove quite erratically but I’m pretty sure that had more to do with being late than anything else.

I stood to my feet and walked over to the passenger door before opening it and sliding inside. The leather, soft and cool against my skin, felt perfect in contrast to the hot weather I’d left outside the moment I closed the door.

“Sorry, I’m late, Mags. You know how traffic is at this time of the day,” she offered without any further explanation.

I smiled wryly. “No problem, Mom. I’m just glad you managed to get here in one piece.” I paused before I stared at her profile. “Are you okay?”

Mom glanced at me in a distracted manner. Although her shoulder-length, sable brown hair was perfectly coiffed and her dark designer jeans paired with a black silk blouse made her appear to be her usual regal self, her rich olive skin looked pale and her deep amber eyes appeared distracted and troubled. She flashed a winning smile at me instead and said, “Everything’s fine, baby. Your dad needed help at the shop and I kinda lost track of time. It’s my fault but there’s absolutely nothing for you to worry your beautiful little head about, okay?”

Uh oh. When my mother insisted there was nothing for me to worry about, usually there was some kind of trouble around the corner. The alarm bells went off full throttle in my head despite her calm, outward appearance.

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