I let the pulse of the music coat me and mute my surroundings. A mass of people crowd the dance floor of the club, and I sit on an abandoned couch in the corner. The lights beat at the air in blues and greens, and bodies twist and merge to the thunder. I lean back, close my eyes, and try to get lost in it, the smells and sounds of people and their collective high.
Something moves next to me. I look over to find a girl sprawled on the seat beside me, trying to catch her breath. She’s not dressed in the usual club gear, more like a girl who got lost on her way to a beach party: Hurley T-shirt, jean skirt, and red Converse. Her cheeks are flushed pink; her throat and forehead glitter with sweat. She glances at me like she didn’t know I was there. She licks her upper lip, her eyes not leaving mine. Then she says something I can’t hear.
I point to my ear and shake my head.
She smiles and laughs, lighting up the space around her. She rests her hand on my arm, like we’re friends and I just told her the most hilarious joke, and then she gets up and disappears into the mass of bodies again.
My arm tingles, my body reacting to the moment of contact in a sudden and disconcerting way. I think I’ve had my fill of watching people indulge their baser instincts. I need to get out of here.
The beat of the music speeds up, vibrating faster as I move through the crowd. I try not to touch anyone, which is nearly impossible. All the emotions and appetites are overwhelming, as if the rising rhythm of the music makes their yearnings rise, too. Lust buzzes in the air. A hunger stirs in me, a gaping hole, needing to be filled. With touch.
The touch of female fingers. A hand on my arm, taking my wrist, pulling me into the fray, into the pressing bodies. And I don’t try to escape. I let her take me.
Because I’m tired.
Because I’m a dumbass.
A girl moves in front of me—not the Hurley girl, not the one I was hoping for. She presses closer, so close I can almost taste the salty perspiration on her skin. She has thin, birdlike shoulders, a swan neck, a heart-shaped face, and black hair, long and tangled, turning blue and green with the light. Her hands slide up my chest. She wraps her arms around my neck and tilts her head to look up at me.
Her lips are full and painted dark purple. There’s a dimple in her left cheek that gets deeper with her growing smile. And her eyes . . .
Fog fills my head for a second, interrupting my thoughts.
“Hi,” she mouths, calling attention to her lips again.
And then she’s rising up on her toes, pulling me down to her, twisting her fingers in my hair, her lips smashing against mine.
My body buzzes from her touch, and my hands react, drawing her into me. I drink her in. She tastes like the air around me, hunger and urgency, and—
Green apple Jolly Ranchers?
I grip her sides, her ribs so delicate beneath my fingers. The sweet tang of her teases me, the hunger becoming a monster deep inside. I have to press her closer, tighter, try to feed it, as I feel the fire of her need link with mine.
She pulls back a little and looks at me with wide eyes, like she’s shocked. That’s when I see the mark, a glowing, blue-inked line of what looks like Chinese symbols, trailing down the nape of her neck to her shoulder blade. Symbols that I’m suddenly sure mean: touch this girl at your own risk.
It’s the only thing I see for a second: Beware. Beware.
Until her energy reaches for me, wispy tendrils of blue light wrapping their way around my wrists and snaking up my chest.
I jerk away, into the guy behind me, stepping on his girlfriend’s toes. I get shoved— thankfully farther from the hypnotic girl—through a space in the crowd, saying a hundred excuse-me’s even though I know no one can hear them. I find my way out of the press of bodies to the edge of the room again where it’s safe.
It’s time to leave. I should’ve left an hour ago.
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