BRIGHTEST KIND OF DARKNESS
Nara Collins is an average sixteen-year-old, with one exception: every night she dreams the events of the following day. Due to an incident in her past, Nara avoids using her special gift to change fate…until she dreams a future she can’t ignore.
After Nara prevents a bombing at Blue Ridge High, her ability to see the future starts to fade, while people at school are suddenly being injured at an unusually high rate.
Grappling with her diminishing powers and the need to prevent another disaster, Nara meets Ethan Harris, a mysterious loner who seems to understand her better than anyone. Ethan and Nara forge an irresistible connection, but as their relationship heats up, so do her questions about his dark past.
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BRIGHTEST KIND OF DARKNESS
by P.T. Michelle
Chapter One (excerpt)
For me, being surprised was like wearing my best friend’s favorite shirt; cherished for its borrowed uniqueness. Some people loved potty humor. I loved watching life’s surprises happening all around me. It was so rare that I got to experience them myself.
But after last night, I’ve decided I hate surprises.
Before I fell asleep, I’d whispered, “Can I just have one surprising day?” And four short hours later, I was zooming across an empty Walmart parking lot in my car, shoulders knotting with each spin of my wheels. “I should’ve defined ‘surprising’,” I muttered as I squealed to a stop in a parking spot. Grabbing my white-framed sunglasses, I jerked them toward my face, then slowly lowered the shades back to the dash. What was I thinking? The sun wasn’t even up yet.
Could I be wrong? I glanced at my mom’s favorite wool scarf sitting on top of my jacket in the passenger seat. I’d brought it for practical reasons, but I’d also wanted a part of her with me, as if her scarf riding shotgun meant she’d approve of my decision. How would she react if I was wrong and got arrested for reporting a false crime? Would she be shocked? Disappointed? Think I’ve lost my mind? Would she show any emotion? Or would she wait until the end of the day—after her last meeting was over—to check her messages and then come post my bail? It’d almost be worth the risk to find out.
With a heavy sigh, I cocooned myself in a layer of winter clothes. Halfway across the parking lot, sweat began to coat my skin under the thick jacket. The scratchy scarf only made it worse. All I could think about was clawing my irritated neck, but the building’s security cameras hung like gargoyle guardians nesting on the shoulders of a red and blue striped elephant. Tucking my chin into the scarf’s folds, I pulled my knit cap lower. I didn’t care if I looked like an idiot dressed like the boy from A Christmas Story in fifty-degree fall weather. Anonymity was my top priority.
Near the payphone, a blast of frigid air whisked dead leaves along the edge of the building, turning my sweat to chill bumps. Wind whistled and tunneled, pitching low and then high. “No!” brushed past my ear in a harsh, grating whisper, and the top layer of my hair charged, floating above the scarf. I froze and smacked my hair down as I scoured the area for the source. Wind and leaves battled the empty space on both sides of the building. My car sat alone in the dark lot, yet I couldn’t shake the feeling I was being watched…or reminded of the past.
I have no idea how many times I’ve forced myself to stand back and just be a knowing observer. But I couldn’t today. When I stepped toward the building, an invisible weight began to crush my head and shoulders, compressing my spine. I tried to inhale calming breaths, but thick, icy moisture swept into my lungs, stealing my air.
My vision blurred and I stumbled forward, my feet heavy weights dragging across the asphalt. Falling against the building, I pressed my cheek against the cool rough bricks and wheezed. I wasn’t certain things would go right, but there was one truth I knew for sure. “I can’t ignore this!” I whispered harshly.
As the crushing sensation slowly tapered off, I sucked in lungfuls of air, my gaze glued to the building’s sharp edge. Would someone come around the corner and tell me I was wrong? I waited. A minute passed. And then another. I was running out of time. Blowing out a breath, I pushed away from the wall. At least I wouldn’t have to peel off the wad of turquoise gum covering the phone’s coin slot. This call was free.
I picked up the grungy handset and dialed.
“911 Operator. What’s the nature of your emergency?” an older woman’s gravelly voice shot across the line.
God, what if I got it wrong somehow? Palm sweat soaked my gloves. “I—I want to report a potential threat to Blue Ridge High School.”
“Speak up!” the operator pitched higher.
Clearing my throat, I spoke again, my words huskier. “I think someone’s going to bomb Blue Ridge High today. A student who was recently expelled.”
Typing sounded at rapid speed. “Your name?” The woman demanded.
I hung up and ran on shaky legs to my car. I hated that I didn’t know what would happen next.
* * *
My car screeched into the school’s back parking lot seven minutes before first bell, the smell of burned rubber my constant perfume. Mom was going to be pissed if she had to get me new tires and brakes in the same year. Sliding on my narrow-framed black and red shades, I surveyed the ordered chaos. Police cars and fire trucks surrounded Blue Ridge High, their lights blinking in a strobed rhythm of red and blue. More students seemed to be leaving than arriving.
Digging my fingers into my backpack strap, I started toward the school with a clueless, but curious expression on my face.
The loner guy from my History and Trig classes headed toward me, hands shoved in his jeans pockets. “What’s happening?” I called out.
When he didn’t respond, annoyance kicked in.
I remember the day he’d transferred in a couple weeks ago. It was the end of the day, and Lainey and I were goofing around in the hall with the soccer ball. I’d just passed the ball to Lainey when Sophia jumped in and punted it past me. Not to be outdone by Sophia, I’d gunned for the ball and looked up in time to see I was about to collide with the new guy.
“Look out!” I warned.
Blue eyes, framed with circles of exhaustion, flashed behind longish black bangs. At the last second, he’d jerked sideways and I slid past. Just as I regained my footing and turned around, he’d snagged the ball with lightning speed and sent it back to me, then continued down the hall without a word.
In the brief glance he’d passed my way that day, I’d noticed his hollowed cheeks and the blank “no one cares, why should I give a shit” look. Since then, I’d heard rumors that he’d been kicked out of his last school, so I’d tried to be nice and say “hey” to him in the hall a couple of times, but he’d ignored my attempts, brushing past me as if I hadn’t spoken.
From his first day at school, he’d parked in the back of the classroom and scribbled on a notepad, ignoring everyone. And here he’d done it again. I was just about to yell, “Hey, rude guy,” when I saw ear bud wires dangling in front of him. Had I missed seeing them in the past too?
As he started to pass me, the wind blew his unbuttoned flannel shirt open, revealing a vintage black Rush t-shirt. Cool. A band with deep lyrics. The dark circles under his eyes had faded somewhat, but his gaze never engaged with anyone’s, like he totally existed in his own world. I moved to tap him on the shoulder, but he jerked out of my reach before I connected. What was his deal? Frowning, I lowered my hand.
“Sorry,” he mumbled. Pulling the ear buds out, he shook his black hair away from his eyes. “What’d you say?”
His deep voice stunned me. Though I wasn’t sure what I expected him to sound like, husky wasn’t it. Maybe grittier, to go with his indie look. “What’s happening?”
“Are you serious?”
“Someone called it in.” His blue eyes held mine longer than he’d ever done before.
My shades were dark, but I felt as if he could see right past the lenses. God, I hope my eyes didn’t give me away. Curling my nails into my palms, I tried to keep my expression and voice even. “As in…someone called in a bomb threat?”
He shoved his hands back in his jeans and continued to stare. Was he expecting me to say something else? To confess I already knew the truth? Not in this lifetime.
“Don’t know,” he finally said with a shrug. “I just heard the principal say school’s cancelled and others talking about a bomb.”
Exhaling a pent-up breath, I forced a calm tone. “Thanks.”
When he walked away, I called after him, “I’m Nara. What’s your—” but he’d already put his ear buds back in as he headed toward an old black Mustang in need of a paint job.
“Off!” he barked at a black bird sitting on the car’s roof, then shook his fist as it took flight.
Guess it left a present. As I snickered, a blonde girl from my Spanish class passed me. “Hey, school’s canceled,” I told her. “Some kind of a bomb threat.”
“A bomb?” Her eyes widened. “Thanks for letting me know.”
While she hurried back toward her car, I tried to recall her name. Sarah? No Shannon? Something like that. I could name every girl on my soccer team, but outside of that realm, I wasn’t the best at remembering names.
“Nara!” someone screamed when I opened my car door.
Sitting in the long line of cars exiting the school, my friend Lainey leaned out her window, her auburn hair swirling in the wind. She held up her cell phone and a couple seconds later my cell beeped with a text. I’ll call you later.
I waved, then climbed into my car, welcoming the lingering heat to chase away the chill in the air.
As I set my sunglasses on the rubber mat on my dash, I glanced in the rearview mirror. The guy was still standing beside his Mustang. He’s not looking at you. But when I pulled out of the parking lot, and his attention followed my direction, I glanced away from the mirror, worry echoing in my mind. He knows I’m the one who called.
Copyright 2011-2012 P.T. Michelle. All Rights Reserved.
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