CHAPTER ONE

PARTY

The sun slunk away, over the horizon, and the moon shone brightly in the sky. The air trilled with energy. It was a night for fun, frivolity, a final Summer bash before school came to steal away our days, and fill our nights with homework too. It was a night for living. And, as we'd later discover, a night for dying.

'So, do I finally get to meet your James tonight?' I asked Kayte as I watched her flick through Nathan's wardrobe. Her hand paused, and I smiled as I saw her cheeks take on a faint pink colouring.

'Must be some guy,' I continued teasingly, 'He seems to have cast quite the spell on you.'

Her face seemed to light up as she turned to face me. 'Oh, he is,' she gushed, 'I'm so glad you'll finally get to meet him! You'll love him too, I just know it. He's just… amazing.'

'I'm sure he is.' I agreed.

'He hasn't actually… I mean, we know that this guy isn't…' Nathan asked as she came back into the room, clutching a handful of clothes she'd dug from somewhere and a bag full of make up.

'Oh, no need to worry about that, James is most definitely human,' Py interjected, as she followed her into the room. You could almost hear her rolling her eyes.

Nathan smiled, 'Sorry, but better to check now then find out later. Now that's out of the way, we can focus on making Kayte look absolutely perfect for him.'

She chucked me the make up, while she and Py started assembling her outfit.

Kayte cast me a wary glance. 'Don't make me look too slutty.'

'Fine, fine. Have it your way. You'll have more places to keep weapons then anyway.' That earned me a much more pointed glance. I shrugged, 'Just because James is human doesn't mean everyone else there will be.'

Kayte sighed but didn't argue, and in return I toned it down a bit. Py was busily trying to get Kayte's light-red, normally very curly, hair to cooperate with the straightener.

'And I've managed to find you the perfect dress too. Not too slutty, I promise,' Nathan announced, waving around a beautiful red dress with long sleeves, and fell to just above the knees. Kayte couldn't help but grin as she tried on the dress, and the expression was reflected on all of our faces. Everyone was in a wonderful mood, which we wanted the world to see.

As Kayte showed off her ensemble, I felt a sudden fit of giggles bubble forth.

'What? What's wrong?' Kayte asked frantically, heading back towards the mirror, concern etched across her face.

'Nothing, nothing…' I spat out between bursts of laughter. Nathan and Py were both staring at me, their confusion made clear through their faces. 'It's just… you look exactly like Mrs Scarlett, from Clue.'

There was a moment pause as the three of them reappraised Kayte's outfit, and then we were all laughing.

It still surprised me how much I loved and needed these girls. We could never agree on just how we'd become friends. We had all attended the same schools, but while I would be starting this year as a sophomore, Nathan and Kayte were about to embark on their senior years, and Py was the year below me. Our group also extended to include Fishy and Ranting from Py's year level, Lamp, Kalene and Jess from mine, and Ni from Nathan and Kayte's.

While the exact 'how' of how we got together continued to elude us, the resulting friendships were something I'd never give up, not for the world. Somehow, from that horrid, dangerous feeding ground for the denizens of hell that they'd called a school, I'd managed to happen across nine equally lovely girls. Maybe it was that hell whole that forced any like-minded individuals to band together. Maybe we were meant to help each other through our screwed up lives. Maybe it was because we needed to help each other through everything else that was about to happen.

The last peals of laughter had faded away, but no one wanted to make a move just yet and break the peace of the moment. I glanced at the clock and let out a groan.

'Kayte might be sorted, but the rest of us still need to get ready.'

With a collective sigh, we all stood up and went back to surveying Nathan's wardrobe, most of which was now conveniently spread out across the floor.

Nathan was able to sort herself out fairly quickly, pulling out a short black tartan skirt, which she paired with a simple white button down shirt, and long white socks. She finished it off with a pair of Oxford-style black and white heels and pulled her dark red hair back into a ponytail. She looked classy, I had to admit, despite her outfit bearing a striking resemblance to a slutty school girl costume. But then, she did have an uncanny ability to make anything look classy.

Py had located a brilliant green dress. As she twirled, the skirt ballooned out around her, causing endless amusement. She kept everything else simple, small black heels and hair pulled back up into a bun, and then laughed as she spun around once more.

I found myself going against the trend, picking out a pair of tight black pants instead of a skirt or dress. I had a pair of bright blue heels that I was simply dying to try out, and when better than at the end of the Summer party. It took me forever to find a top that didn't clash, but then Nathan finally remembered a singlet top she had somewhere that was green, white and the exact same shade of blue as my shoes, which she was triumphantly able to pull out of the bottom of a drawer for me.

And then it was time to begin accessorising.

I shoved a couple of switchblades in my pockets. Half the school would be there, and while Ni was hosting it, there was no way the uh, less savoury, members of the student body would choose to stay away. Not to mention the fact that large gatherings of that sort provided ideal cover for the monsters that prowled through the streets. The others made their own selections from the array of the weapons I'd brought along.

'Mrs Scarlett in the dining room with the… revolver, then,' noted Py, as Kayte pulled out her choice.

I struggled to swallow my laugh and herded everyone out to my car. Everyone piled into the Cadillac, and I took my place at the steering wheel. Tonight it was my turn to be the designated driver, and make sure everyone got home safely. So of course, I sped the whole way to Ni's to get us there in just under 10 minutes.

'Now remember, back at midnight means back at midnight. If you aren't here, I'll leave without you.'

I was dead serious too. We all had the same policy, and it had caused all of us to be left behind at some point, but normally we were pretty diligent about getting back on time. We all knew that once the clock ticked over into the wee hours of the morning things started to get more dangerous at a much quicker rate. And while it's never fun having to leave someone behind, one person was much more likely to be allowed to simply crash for the night, and had a better chance than a group attempting to make their way home at that time of night.

Everyone was quick to show their agreement.

'Now, go get drunk as hell, and have some fun!'

Ni greeted us as we entered the house.

'Fate, hi! Is Ranting with you guys?' Ni asked.

'She's not already here? She's normally really early.'

'I haven't seen her. I wonder what's holding her up...'

'Well, good luck finding her. Kalene already here?'

'Yeah. And she's driving so she's sober.'

'Oh, good. She's a whoreish drunk.'

Ni laughed. 'Remember the time she hit on you and you didn't know she was drunk?'

'I wish I could forget!'

She laughed some more and I headed off to find Kalene.

The house was more crowded than I'd ever seen it, and I was having trouble keeping track of all the faces that were passing me by. Was that one a tad pale? And I swear that last one was decomposing. I kept my eyes peeled for Jess, she was always handy with a knife, but I couldn't pick her out from among the crowd.

Eventually, after half an hour of searching, I did find Kalene. She was sitting alone on one of the couches, laughing at a drunken pass a guy was making for her.

'FATE!' She squealed when she saw me.

She stood up and I got my first good look at her outfit. A sexy purple shirt with black skulls and baggy black jeans.

She ran over and hugged me.

'Where've you been? I've been waiting forever.'

'Kayte had a date; we had to dress her up.'

'And I wasn't invited?'

'Sorry. You live across town,' I shrugged.

'Fine. Here,' she replied, shoving an unopened soda at me, and some fattening sugary thing, making me feel horribly predictable.

'So I hear you can't get drunk."

'Nope. I'm driving Fishy, Lamp, and Jess home. You?'

'Nah. Driving Nathan, Py, and Kayte home. But it is Piña Colada night. Is that still on?'

'Of course! Why wouldn't it be? It's tradition, is it not?'

'Since we tried to stop drinking.'

She snorted a laugh. 'Well that plan practically exploded.'

'I agree. Now, c'mon! Let's go dance and hit on random strangers.'

'But-' She protested, looking down at the sparkly ring on her finger.

'Engaged or not, you can at least gawk at the hot guys with me.'

'Amen to that, sister!'

We giggled again, and I was pretty sure no onlookers would believe us if we tried to tell them we weren't drunk, before wandering into the crowd, laughing, slapping the occasional nice ass, and getting our own asses slapped a few times.

It was looking to be a great night. If only it had been.