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Killer Among is here! If you’re a fan of the Killer Instinct series, read on for Chapter One. You can also add it to your Goodreads shelf and find it on Amazon.

CHAPTER ONE

Life is supposed to be pretty routine, right? You graduate high school, you work a summer job at Patch and Paw, you help out at home, you get back into stalking…

I now consider the people I stalk my new pals. One can never have too many pals.

“So how are things, Lane?” Victor, my step-dad, asks over dinner on a Tuesday night. Pork chop night. “Enjoying your last summer?”

“Yep.” I don’t know why people refer to the summer before college as the “last summer”. What, I’m never going to have a summer again? I don’t get it.

My sister, Daisy, dredges her roll across her plate. “When’s Tommy coming back?”

Even though I’m not indifferent to that question, I still shrug. “Not sure.”

The last time I saw him, I hopped on the back of his motorcycle after Dr. Issa’s funeral. We went for a very long ride, hours in fact, and then he delivered me back home.

Dr. Issa…now there’s a name I haven’t thought of in a while. My former boss and the first person to make me sexually aware. I used to think my thing for him was one sided until I learned differently. The age difference mattered more to him than me, but that was Dr. Issa for you—caring, intelligent, handsome.

Dead. Killed by Catalina, my copycat.

“Have you guys texted at all?” Daisy asks, and it takes my brain a second to catch back up.

“A few times.” Months have gone by since Tommy left, and yes we’ve texted a few times. He dropped out of college, took a hiatus from his job at Whole Foods, and decided to do a cross-country ride. If I had already graduated high school, I probably would have gone with him. Not that he asked, but a trip like that sounds way too inviting.

BE BACK IN A FEW DAYS. That was the last text I got from him. I ride by his apartment every couple of days to see if he’s back, and no motorcycle yet.

Justin, my younger brother, crinkles his nose. “At camp today this kid fell and busted open his head. There was so much blood!”

Daisy cringes. “Gross.”

I perk up. “How much blood?”

My whole family looks at me, and this is why I need to keep my thoughts to myself.

Victor changes the subject. “So, it surprised me to see you had signed up for freshmen orientation. Doesn’t really seem like your thing.”

It’s not, but I’d like to think I’ve been making more “normal” decisions lately, and these three sitting around the table make that possible. Yes, I’d like to think life is pretty good.

I turn to Daisy, going on this whole normal thing. “So Cheer Camp’s good?”

“Some of the girls annoy me.” She shrugs one shoulder, looking more like me than I think I’m comfortable with. “I’m not even sure I want to cheer anymore.”

Victor and I exchange a surprised glance. Daisy’s going to be a junior and officially inducted into the Varsity Squad. Cheer and Varsity have driven her whole life. I don’t know if she’s growing up or just out of her previous life. I guess her maturing has to start somewhere. Though if I had to put my finger on it, it would be the moment our mother died.

Or rather the moment I killed her.

“Um,” Justin wipes his mouth and lays his napkin aside. “Tomorrow is ‘bring-your-mom-to-camp-day’. Who am I supposed to bring?”

For a couple of seconds, no one says a word, then Victor says, “I’ll go.”

Justin sighs. “That won’t work because then who will go next week on ‘bring-your-dad-to-camp-day’?”

Daisy waves her hand through the air, straightening in her chair. “I’ll go.” She jokingly narrows her eyes at Justin. “That is unless there’s a ‘bring-your-sister-to-camp-day’?”

Justin giggles. “No, there’s not that.”

Daisy nods. “Then I’ll go with you tomorrow.” She glances my direction, and I give her my best big-sister smile because maturing is definitely what she’s doing.

“Cool,” Justin says, just like that. If anyone should have issues out of all this, it should be my little brother. No mother, anger, rejection, abandonment. He could claim it all, but not Justin. He rolls with it and moves on.

I could take a lesson from him. They both get up then, taking dishes in, and chatting about tomorrow.

Victor looks across the table at me, his expression calm. “I wasn’t sure it would happen, but we are definitely falling into place. We’re going to be okay. I’ve got three awesome kids. No drama. Good life. And I’ve finally figured out, it’s okay to drop the ball. To relax. To rely on others. Things don’t have to be perfect. Just okay. As long as I try my best, it’s okay.”

Yep, that’s right. Rely on others. Like me. I’ll make sure things are running smoothly. Like with old Ted Lowman, AKA “Teddy Bear”. He first came to my attention in Judge Penn’s court, where I like to spend some of my free time.

Teddy Bear killed a local high school girl and then was released on some sort of police mishandling of evidence, whereupon he falls off the radar.

Everyone’s radar but mine.

Add to your GOODREADS shelf and find it on AMAZON.

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Scroll down and read Chapter One!

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***

PROLOGUE

(Stalker)

Her long dark hair fans out beneath her as she lies sprawled on the ground.

What a pitiful excuse of a girl.

Squatting down beside her, I take in her huge irises as I tighten the white scarf around her neck and watch the life in her eyes start to fade.

She had been warned.

She didn’t listen.

This is what she gets. For everything.

CHAPTER ONE

Whoever installed this mess must have been high.

Crammed under a desk in the library, I reach for a wad of tangled wires, completely aware that my butt sticks straight up in the air and hoping nobody notices.

“Dammit.” I bang my head on the underside of the desk and try yet again to wrap a label around one of the wires.

“Can I help you?”

I stop, and pushing my glasses up my nose, I glance over my shoulder to see a pair of tanned muscular legs standing right behind me. He’s probably staring at my butt. Great.

“Can I help you?” he repeats, and I catch a hint of accent.

“I’m all right,” I call back. “Just trying to label some wires.” What’s he doing here, anyway? The semester doesn’t start for two more days.

“You new here?” he asks.

“Yeah.”

“Student tech crew?”

“Yeah,” I answer again, wondering if he’s going to keep standing there staring at my ass. At least I’d thrown on jeans. Although they are low rise.

“Sure you don’t need any help?”

Obviously he’s not leaving, and I’m so not comfortable with the probable direction of his stare. So I wiggle my way out.

I smile up at him, trying not to show my irritation at being interrupted, and catch him looking right down my V-neck T. His eyes jump to mine in that embarrassed, I-just-got-busted-looking-down-your-shirt way that makes him seem more harmless than anything.

I tighten my ponytail as I stand and zero in on those eyes, and phew, what eyes they are. Amber? No, green. No, a combination of both.

He wears his dark hair long enough that it curls against his neck. He smiles then, and I catch a flash of dimples that flutter all kinds of girlie things through me that I have no business feeling. As I take him in one more time, I think of this Calvin Klein poster my momma has of a young Antonio Sabato Jr.

Yes, my momma has an underwear ad hanging in her locker at work.

I remind myself I need to speak. “Great accent,” I tell him. “Where’re you from?”

“Spain. You?”

“Backwoods, Tennessee.”

“Tennessee?” He laughs a little, and Lord help me if it’s not the best I’ve ever heard. All deep and chuckly. “Guess that explains your twang.”

“Guess so.”

“Big change coming south to the Keys.”

“Yeah, big change.” He has no idea how huge of a change. Where everything in my life is concerned. “Well, I need to get back to work,” I say, more because I don’t need an amber-eyed, Spanish, chuckly distraction. “Thanks again for the offer of help. I guess I’ll see you around when class starts.”

“Sorry, didn’t introduce myself.” He offers a hand, and I take it, finding it warm and dry and perfect. Nothing worse than a clammy hand. “I’m Riel Villanuevo.”

“Oh! You’re my peer mentor. The guidance office gave me your name.”

His lips curve in confusion. “They did?”

“I’ve heard all about you. I’m Viola Burnett, the academy’s scholarship recipient.”

His smile slides away as does his hand from mine. “I’m sorry, did you say scholarship recipient?”

The air between us suddenly chills. I blink and take a step back. “Yes?”

The muscles in his jaw tick. “As of when?”

“Last…week.” What’s going on? Why is he suddenly so pissed?

“Who called you?”

I stare at him a second, unable to wrap my brain around his sudden temper. “Dr. Williams, the director.”

Riel doesn’t say anything for a few seconds, then he jerks his fingers through his dark hair. “Something’s not right.”

I don’t know what to say to that. I’m so completely clueless why he’s upset.

He grabs his books off the computer desk.

“I already moved into the dorm,” I say, not really sure why.

“Listen,” he tells me. “There’s been a mistake.”

“A mistake?” Dread settles through me. “No, I don’t think so.” There better not have been a mistake. I spent my entire school career trying to get into this private academy, and I’m here. I’m finally here. No way has there been a mistake.

Riel doesn’t respond and instead turns and strides off.

It takes me a solid minute of standing in a befuddled haze to realize he’s probably headed straight to the director’s office to dispute my scholarship.

Oh, wait a minute! No, he’s not! I charge off after him across the library and down the hall, and as I march into the administrative suite, I immediately hear them.

“But Dr. Williams,” Riel pleads. “I thought you said the scholarship was mine.”

I come to a halt. His? Oh no. This isn’t good.

“No,” Dr. Williams patiently responds. “I said you were a candidate for the funds. You know as well as I do that it goes back up for review every year.”

“But I’m a senior,” Riel says. “This is my last year. I’ve had the academy’s scholarship every year I’ve come here. Shouldn’t I get seniority?”

“It doesn’t work that way,” the director says.

“Why didn’t somebody tell me?”

“I thought the committee did. I apologize for the oversight.”

Riel sighs. “Is there any other available money?”

“No, Riel, I’m sorry.”

Silence falls between them, and guilt works its way through me at the things I said, and didn’t say, to get the scholarship. Of course I know nothing about Riel so I don’t know if he really deserves it more than me or not, and look at me trying to justify everything. Reverse the roles, and I’d be pissed, too.

“If Viola for some reason doesn’t work out, what will you do with the funds?” Riel asks.

“That decision will ultimately go to the committee. Generally, though, the money goes to our second choice, which would be you. But I can’t see why she won’t work out.”

The guilt turns to foreboding and stirs darkly in my gut. There’s no reason anyone around here should find out that I stretched the truth on my application.

“I know your situation,” Dr. Williams says. “I’ll do everything I can to help you.”

Situation? What situation?

“Right.” Riel finally speaks. “Well, thanks for seeing me.”

“Riel?” Dr. Williams stops him from leaving. “How is everything at home?”

Riel doesn’t answer, and I take a step closer to hear.

A phone rings. “Need to take this,” Dr. Williams says, and I quickly turn to leave.

“Have fun eavesdropping?” Riel snips as he brushes past me.

I want to snip back but have no place. He’s right; I had been eavesdropping.

A blond guy sticks his head in the door to the administrative suite. “Yo, Riel, you coming tonight? Gonna be a kickass beginning-of-the-year bash.”

Riel shakes his head. “Too much going on.”

“Sucks for you,” blond guy says.

“See you in a couple days, though, when school starts,” Riel tells him.

Blond guy glances at me, giving me a once-over. “Freshman?”

“Senior.”

He gives me what I’m sure he thinks is a sexy smile. “Welcome. I’m Peter.”

Ugh. “Thanks.”

With that, blond guy’s gone and Riel turns to me. Confusion, worry, and strain reflects in his gaze for a beat, bringing on my own confusion and worry. What have I done to this guy?

It seems like he wants to say something, so I hold my breath and wait. Instead, he shakes his head and walks off.

I close my eyes. This is not how I expected to start my year.

***

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