Author's Note: Hello! :D Enjoy the read. Thanks goes to Sue for betaing and being my bounce board for ideas and ramblings. It's 4.30am, and I believe I do not have any other words to offer without a working brain.

x X x

Of Blondes and Devils
Chapter o1

What a beautiful morning, Arianne thought. It wasn't overly humid – which was a near miracle in southern Florida – and the sky was clear without a foreboding rain cloud in sight.

Smiling, she stretched her arms over her head and continued her trek to campus from the academy-owned boarding facilities.

Walking down the path, she didn't think anything of the fact that she could hear footsteps behind her. After all, many girls walked this route to the gates of Welton's Academy for Young Ladies.

"Cole, hey, Cole! How do you get a twinkle in a blonde's eye?" The deep voice that resounded behind Arianne was pleasant to listen to. She could have listened to it until the end of time – if it had not been for the subject of his question. Wrinkling her nose, she couldn't believe her gorgeous morning was taking a turn for the worse.

Arianne hated blonde jokes.

Not bothering to turn around to match a face with the voice behind her, Arianne continued heading down the street towards the opened gates of Welton's Academy.

"I don't know, Leighton." The dry retort from the second male left Arianne smug. Good, at least someone was raining down on this so-called Leighton's party. What had Leighton called him? Cole? Perhaps he was her knight in shining armor? Slay thy evil beast and its wicked tongue. "How?"

Her shoulders slumped about half an inch.

"Cole, my man. Don't you know? You just shine a flashlight in the blonde's ear!" Arianne could hear the smirk in his voice. She wanted to punch his Adam's apple.

"That was weak. You're losing your touch, Leighton." Lei--no, that would be Cole: the offensive audience.

Arianne shouldered her backpack, not giving into the urge to stomp her way back to the punks and pop 'em one in the shins. No, she wouldn't give them that satisfaction, she thought as she held her head high. Her blonde locks had always made her a victim of blonde jokes. From Goldilocks jokes to dumb blonde ones.

And the senior high boys that always hung around the gates of Welton's obviously never left kindergarten if they were trying to pick girls up by insulting the color of their hair. Honestly, they couldn't have picked one of the more affluent girls with their uniform short plaid navy and gray skirts? Those girls were far more formidable. They could wield a guillotine in the form of a credit card. One swipe and it would be goodbye, nuisance.

Rolling her eyes, she brushed them off the way she flicked her hair over her shoulder. To hell with infantile boys, Arianne thought. She had better things to do than listen to them mock her golden—

"So, what do you call an eternity?"

Finally, Arianne thought. No more blonde jokes. She slowed her pace down to let them catch up with her a bit, hoping to hear what the answer to this riddle would be.

"No response, Cole? All right, an eternity is four blondes in four cars at a four-way stop sign!"

One of the boys snorted as he laughed. It would be too much to ask for just an ordinary riddle, wouldn't it?

She'd put faces to the names and pray to God she never saw the boys again. After all, goodness knew that they were now on her Strangle On Sight list.

Glancing over her shoulder as she walked, she couldn't prevent the small stumble in her heart.

One was a golden Adonis easily topping her by a good six inches while the other was a smoldering Lucifer, his tanned arm holding onto the Jansport backpack slung over his shoulder. Meeooow. What a gorgeous forearm, Arianne admired without a functioning brain cell left in sight.

Blonde, indeed. Only around these two, she thought.

Drawn to the darker boy of the pair – Cole? Leighton? – her pale green eyes caught with his hazel ones. She wasn't sure what went through his mind: perhaps, her beauty, her grace, her obvious intelligence, or maybe the fact that she was Juliet to his Romeo?

She would never know since she happened to walk straight into a stop sign.

Blonde, indeed, she reflected painfully.

Her head had done a full plant into the stop sign's post. Following the rush of humiliation from not just one embarrassing collision, she quickly tripped over her own feet and hit the pavement, chin-first, arms sprawled.

Arianne wished she had never gotten up that day.

Mortification was withering her soul away. She would die that very day. Her blood pressure had to be soaring if her heart's pounding in her ears were any indication.

Did she dare look at the boys behind her?

Utter silence left her cringing and she never wanted to pick her face up off the grainy sidewalk again.

Please, oh please, let them have disappeared, Arianne prayed. She would get up and dust off her skirt like nothing had happened; no one would be around to witness her shame. Please, that was all the happily-ever-after she would ever need, she implored whatever God there might be.

"I guess an eternity works best with three more blondes, Cole."

Stifled raucous laughter spilled out from the corners of the other boy's lips. "That, or maybe she should have read the sign first." She was sure their laughter would be imprinted on her face forever. Arianne – patient with a permanent case of blushing.

Finally picking herself and her battered pride up off the floor, Arianne glared at the hand that made its tardy appearance.

Grinning, the boy attached to the hand asked, "You okay? Didn't damage any other neurons there, did you?"

"No, I enjoy headbutting stop signs," she replied tartly.

The mirth that guffawed its way out from the other golden boy had her turning pink again. "Cole, do you think she'll kill me if I keep going with the blonde jokes?"

"Maybe we should cut her a break," Cole answered Leighton.

So, Cole was Lucifer boy. Yummy, Arianne thought. He looked so athletic with his leanly built body and tan skin. She wondered what it would be like to run a finger from his jawline down his neck, to his muscled shoulder and down the center of his body, across what she knew had to be well-defined abdominals, towards the waistband of his slacks and past—

At the rate her face was burning, whatever brain cells she did have were liable to sizzle away.

Arianne straightened her uniform, unsure if she was blushing now from her lewd thoughts, Cole's amused attention or the fall.

With her head bowed towards the ground, Arianne didn't notice Cole had moved closer to her until his hand was on her cheek.

On her cheek.

Her cheek.

She lifted her head to stare at him.

Some vestigial part of the metaphorical angel on her shoulder was telling her to get thee away from Lucifer. However, even though a part of her knew she ought to just pick up her things and head for first period, she was rooted to that block of cement on the side of a busy street.

Arianne could not take her eyes off the boy who was brushing his fingertips across her temple. Clearly, he was feeling the connection she had with him. He must have felt the spark of lust she felt for him on first sight. It was obvious in the way he was touching her face with such tender regard. He was just waiting to get on bended knee, apologize for his friend and his earlier rude behavior with the blonde jokes, and then swoop her off her feet in a bone-crushing embrace—

"Look, Leighton. She's bleeding."

And with that, his fingertips left her forehead.

x X x

"Oh, my God. What happened next?" Giggling, Arianne's best friend, Emily, speared the day's Cafeteria surprise meat with her fork.

"It was torture, I tell you. I was horrified with where my thoughts were going. I think that's the kind of situation we obviously should be educated for. Literature, history, chemistry, et cetera – these subjects are wonderful on exams and on paper. But one look from a hottie and bam my IQ dropped a total of a hundred points. What – the – heck, Emily?" Frustrated, Arianne stabbed at the dead cow meat on her cardboard tray.

Welton's "posh" Academy, and they were being served cheap food for five bucks, Arianne thought crossly.

"So that was it? You meet two hot guys, klutz out on them, and that's it? How anticlimactic, Arie." Emily patted Arianne on the back while pretending to sigh dramatically, as if disappointed.

"Well, no. They walked me to the gates and left. I'm not sure if they were walking me to make sure I was okay, or if they wanted to continue to badger me with jokes at my expense." Recalling the morning's events brought a slight blush to her cheeks.

"So? Who were these mysterious gorgeous teenagers, hmm? If you think they're eye-candy, they must be pretty smokin'. You never have a random crush." Grinning, Emily playfully added, "My little girl is growing up and discovering hormones."

"Haha, Em, very funny. And, umm, one was named Cole and the other one was named Leighton."

Picking up their trays and dumping it into the waste bins, the two girls made their way for the restroom.

"So, no last names? Did you at least find out where they go to school? Actually, more importantly, who was hotter?" Making their way into the bathroom, Arianne leaned against a wall while Emily freshened up her makeup.

"I think I would have left my hymen on an altar for Cole, if he would have it."

With eyebrows raised in surprise, Emily's lipstick went smudging across her cheek as she spun around to look at Arianne.

"Arie – Arianne Sanders – you have a crush! A bona fide crush! On a guy you know nothing about. Intelligent, my dear blonde friend. So, give me the goods on what these hotties look like." Turning back to the mirror, Emily frowned at the pale pink smear on her cheek.

"Well, Cole is the dark one of the two. He fits the tall, dark, and handsome bill to the T. Good arms. I'd say Body is a four-point-five on a scale of one to five." Arianne smiled with a faraway look in her eyes.

Raising an eyebrow, Emily asked, "So why the negation of point-five points off of Mister Perfect?"

"Well, he hasn't held me in his arms, yet. Didn't get to gauge them properly."

"Yet? Optimistic, aren't you?"

"I have to be."

Exasperated, Emily pushed her best friend. "Good luck, and I hope you aren't let down."

"Well, if it's meant to be, it will be."

"Oh, God. Not more of your destiny bee ess, please. True love is just an escape from reality women create to lose themselves in. After all, if you went home every day to the same drab old man, wouldn't you want a change of pace? A Prince Charming? Hah. Bollocks, I say." Emily finished primping her face and turned to look at Arianne.

"Well, I wouldn't know. My mom and I never have a man to come home to, as you know. But just because true love was a failed attempt with some women, it doesn't mean it's nonexistent." Miffed, Arianne crossed her arms over her chest.

For her entire life, Arianne had only known her family to contain her mother and herself. There was no father figure, not even a hint. There wasn't even a brother, much less any other sibling.

Her mother never said a word about her father. The only thing she had ever let slip in the past seventeen years of Arianne's life was a first name: Derek.

With a whole country to peruse for all the potential Derek's, Arianne never found the need to go and find her missing father.

She wasn't sure she wanted to know who he was. After all, what kind of man would leave his wife and child? What coward left a babe in a woman's womb and just high-tailed out of both their lives?

Arianne had decided early on to never waste her time on a deserter. She had no time for a man who abandoned those who needed him, and she would never pry into her mother's personal issues to ask about it.

With the little time she did have, Arianne spent most of it working on her studies and maintaining her grades. Her mother worked to the bone to keep their lives livable. The money she made sent Arianne to Welton's, and was just enough to cover tuition, books, and the academy's pricey uniforms.

No, Arianne would never squander her time on a father long gone.

Not even out of curiosity.

When the bell rang to signal the end of lunch, both girls were relieved that it broke their tense silence.

"Kay, see you in Physics, Em!"

Running for the math wing, Arianne wondered briefly what led her father to leave wife and daughter.

x X x

BetterThanEmmys: arie, you never told me about the other guy. Spill!

Ennaira: o.o oh. Layton? Leighton? idk how to spell his name.

BetterThanEmmys: good god, woman, who cares about his name? tell me more about his body and his face!

Ennaira: well, to be honest, i was so focused on cole…

BetterThanEmmys: …

Ennaira: plus, Leighton was the jerk who wouldn't shut up with the blonde jokes. T.T

Ennaira: feel my smiley's pain, em! T.T

BetterThanEmmys: i am logging off now. if you have no boy goods to sell to me, i am out!

Ennaira: :'( such a cold friend. you only wanted to speak to me for information on hot boys. what happened to the love you used to have for your best friend? your one and only? T.T lol – oh hold on. phone.

Arianne eyed the clock on her dresser as she dove for the telephone beside her bed. 8:24pm. It was too early for her mother to be calling in for a quick good night, she thought.

"Hello?" Cradling the phone between her cheek and her shoulder, she wondered who was calling. Even though she'd spent all freshman through junior year at Welton's, she was hardly a social butterfly. The only human interaction she had was with Emily. Beyond that, most everyone just ignored her. After all, why bother with the poor girl when you could spiffy up your elbows with other wealthy girls?

"Hello, Ms. Sanders?"

"Er, yes, may I ask who's speaking?"

"Ms. Sanders, please come to the Central Housing main office," was the static reply.

"Um, okay, I'll be there shortly."

Wondering what Central Housing could possibly want with her, Arianne hopped back into her computer chair.

Ennaira: hey girly, ill ttyl. central housing wants me to visit their office. O.o not sure why. night!

BetterThanEmmys: i told you. ditch the illegal porn downloading! :P jk, jk. lol, see you tomorrow :D

Grabbing her keys, Arianne slipped on some sandals and headed out.

As she walked passed the parking lot for the Central Housing employees, she noticed a cop car with its red and blue lights twirling. Wondering briefly what that was all about, she shrugged it off as she stepped into the main office.

"Hi, Mrs. G, I was called into the office?" Arianne asked the evening secretary.

A fleeting look of pity crossed Mrs. G's face as she said quietly, "Sweetheart, go to the back meeting room. The dean will be with you shortly."

Confused, Arianne wondered what she could have possibly done to warrant a meeting with the dean. In all her three years, she'd seen the balding man only from afar during his opening welcome speeches at the beginning of each school year.

With rising trepidation, Arianne made her way towards the meeting room at the back of the office. Glancing back at Mrs. G who left no room for assuming what could be behind Door 1, she stepped into the room.

Standing beside the table were two policemen, each with their hats off. One was short and thin while the other was portly and tall. Dean Welton stood beside them, chatting quietly as she came in.

"Er, good evening, Dean Welton. You asked for me?" Nerves were making her palms clammy.

"Yes, Arianne." Switching his attention back to the officers, Dean Welton bowed his head to them. "Officers, if you please, I'll leave it to you."

Arianne was slightly alarmed that the Dean was leaving her with the officers. She watched as the Dean left the office and wishing he wouldn't.

"Hello, you are Miss Arianne Sanders?"

Staunching the urge to wipe her palms on her sweatpants, Arianne wondered if they were going to play good-cop-bad-cop with her.

"Yes. Yes, I'm Arianne."

"I am Officer Williams," said the short man. He then pointed to the man beside him. "This is Officer Martinez."

"Er, may I ask what this is in regards to?"

Reviewing her rap sheet, Arianne could think of nothing she had done illegally in the past seventeen years of her existence. Okay, so maybe she asked for a water cup and then poured out some Sprite from the soft drinks machine. Well, she also did print out homework using Emily's print card in the library. But that was with Emily's consent. Trying to round up anything she could think of, she was startled by Officer Williams' reply.

"We're sorry to be the bearer of bad news. However, we would like you to please come with us to identify a body."

There was also that time where she ran off with a stick of gum—

Say, what?

"You want me to identify a body?"

"Yes, ma'am."

"Why?" Arianne stared at Officer Williams. "I mean, who do you think it is that you need me to ID it?"

"I'm sorry, Miss Sanders, but at this time we are not allowed to disclose that information. Please follow us." Patting Arianne on the arm, Officer Williams exited the room. Officer Martinez waited until Arianne finally jolted into following Officer Williams before heading out behind them.

They wanted her to identify a body?

As in a dead one?

Strangely, there was nothing but a soft haze of static that cushioned the world from her personal bubble. Getting into the police car with the two officers, she sat without a word as she drifted in a state of denial. Surely, it wasn't a dead body. They were probably on camera and she was about to get punk'd by her previous semester's Anatomy professor.

That had to be it. Professor Stone would pop out of the cop's trunk and say, "Haha, Arie! Punk'd!"

After all, whose body could she possibly identify for the police?

There were only two people who were close enough to her to warrant this kind of emergency response from the police officers.

There was Emily, who was perfectly fine, judging by their recent IM conversation.

And then there was her mom.

Static.

x X x

So, how goes the first chapter for you? Comments/critiques? It's a bit of a different writing style for me, so I'd love any kind of feedback. n.n See you next chapter!