The Better to Bite(9)

By: Cynthia Eden



“Bet he told you to stay out of the woods, huh?” Rafe asked in that rumbling voice that I was sure all of the girls loved.

My dad had, but I shrugged. “He knows that I can take care of myself.” He’d taught me to be able to defend myself against an attack, but the defensive moves I knew would only work against another actual person. He hadn’t prepared me for wolves.

Rafe tossed me another smile, but then he nodded to his buddies. “Come on.”

And just like that, he left.

Um, okay.

“Well, it was nice to see you, too!” I called to his back. Whoops. Blurting problem again. Or maybe my “attitude”-sometimes, it was hard to tell for sure what was the deal with me.

But my words made Rafe glance back. He stared at me with a kind of confused look on his face. Like he wasn’t sure what to make of me.

Join the club, buddy. I’d seen that look on my dad’s face plenty of times.

Then Rafe was gone. Folks started talking again, and I ate my now-cold food.

“OhmyGod!” Came Jenny’s high-pitched whisper once more. Seriously, that was just weird. I wondered if she practiced that particular sound at home. “You know Rafe Channing?”

“Not well.” I stopped being lady-like and dug into my food. I was freaking hungry today, and my arm was throbbing again. Great.

“He is so…oh, wow.”

He was. But the guy knew it—I’d seen that much in his cocky half-grin.

“He’s…he’s kind of…bad, though,” Jenny continued, her voice soft but no longer that strange whisper-shriek.

I glanced up at her.

She leaned across the table like she was about to tell me a very big secret. Maybe she was. “Rafe has been in juvie a few times.”

Bad boys. I happened to have one big weakness. Them.

Maybe it was because my dad was the sheriff. I’m sure a shrink would say I was acting out, trying to rebel, but, the truth was, I just liked boys with an edge.

No, I had liked them that way. I was turning over a new leaf now.

“I’m not interested in him,” I said and knew I was lying. It was the first day—I shouldn’t be interested in anyone this soon.

Right?

But when the bell rang, and I headed for my next class—history, someone save me—I found myself looking for Rafe.

And I found him, huddled in the corner and talking real close with Valerie.

Figured.

Not interested.

At least, that’s what I was determined to keep telling myself.

***

The strange, little shop caught my eye. I’d done my bit at school, made it through the day by only pissing off one jock—score for me!—and I was doing my good girl routine and heading to the sheriff’s station for my after school care.

Then I saw the shop.

Small, tiny really, with glass windows and a tilted sign near the entrance that just said, “Charmed.”

I squinted, but I couldn’t see inside the shop. All I saw was my reflection. Pale skin. Red hair.

Me.

I walked closer, feeling almost like I was being pulled into the shop. A little bell jingled overhead when I slowly opened the door.

The scent hit me first. Incense. Not a bad smell, but rather one that tickled my nose. My gaze scanned the shop. Shelves of books. Small glass jars, all carefully labeled. Gargoyles watched me from the corners of the room. Candles lined one wall, all shapes and colors.

My breath eased out. A spell shop. Did Dad know this place was here?

“Can I help you?”

I jumped because I hadn’t even heard the lady approach. She was tiny, with stooped shoulders and weathered, brown skin. Her dark eyes were coal black, and her smile was big and warm. “Is there something you need, child?”

Child? Not quite. “I was just looking.” I offered her a tentative smile back. “What kind of shop is this?” I asked even though I already knew. I actually knew far too much about places like this.

“Why ask when you know.” She was still smiling but her gaze had taken on an assessing quality. Then she came closer, definitely invaded my personal space, and she caught my arm.

Her touch was cold. Like, ice cold, and a shiver worked over me as her fingers clamped around my wrist. “Dark,” she whispered.

Coming into the shop had been such a bad move. Now I had to deal with this weird lady.

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