Author's Note: I've been working on this story for quite some time now and kind of just decided today to go for it and publish the story here. Your thoughts are welcome. I'd love to hear from you.
Disclaimer: This is a work of fiction. Any similarities to real life people, situations or events are unintentional and purely coincidental.
- Prologue -
We all have our own demons.
Ava Montes simply could not remember who she heard that line from, but the thought made her shudder. As she uncomfortably shuffled her feet over the marble floor of their school office's lounging area, a sharp chill climbed from the base of her spine to the nape of her neck. She stood frozen, feeling like the walls were closing in on her and the wide, airy room suddenly felt too crowded.
Her friend, JM Lupe, was saying something in his usual animated, light-hearted way, but Ava could not hear a word he was saying. Each accelerated heartbeat was drumming against her chest in what sounded to her like loud, deafening thuds. She was breaking into a cold sweat and just like she always did when she was terrified, she began fumbling nervously with her skirt's lining, trying to draw comfort from the soft linen against her palm. She never felt more petrified than she did at that moment. And it was all because of the guy JM was introducing to them.
Ava's breath hitched. No, it wasn't appropriate to simply blame her terror on the unsuspecting young man. The true source of her fright wasn't just Matthias Vaughn – it was Matthias Vaughn and three beastly and horrendous creatures surrounding him.
Are those demons? Ava fought the urge to scratch her head. Am I going mad? Demons...
Before Ava could even bring herself to comprehend the word, she gasped and flinched when soft fingers firmly grabbed her elbow. She turned to her side and saw a strange mix of concern and irritation on her best friend, Racquel Quintana's raven eyes.
"Ava…" Racquel hissed, before her eyes pointed to the direction of Matthias' extended hand.
Like a dumb fool, Ava stared at Matthias' hand as if she had no idea what to do with it. She then raised her eyes to his handsome face. The charming smile that formed on his lips did little to calm her down. He said something to her, but his words came to her in a messy jumble, none of them coherent, lost in the spaces between her fear and her confusion.
Throwing all sense of diplomacy and decorum to the wind, Ava grabbed her best friend's hand and began pulling Racquel away. "We have to go, Racquel. Now."
"You okay, Ava?" JM asked, his brows furrowing as he stepped forward to find out what was going on.
Ava simply looked his way and snapped, "Leave it alone, JM." She then continued to move away, dragging Racquel behind her, both of them storming out of the roomy office's sliding glass door and out to the school quadrangle.
"Ava…" her best friend began to protest, only to have her protests drown under Ava's determination to flee.
Like a carousel spinning out of control, the one word repeating on her whirling mind over and over again was demons.
They already sped a couple hundred meters away from Matthias and JM when Racquel screeched to a halt. In fact, she literally screeched Ava's name before crossing her arms over her chest and letting out one big harrumph. "I am not going any further. What is wrong with you today?"
Ava searched her thoughts for an explanation, for anything she learned over the years that would explain what she just saw. She blinked her brown eyes several times, her lids fluttering through long lashes.
Am I just seeing things?
She twisted her upper torso to look back at the boys, who by then moved on to fooling around with some of the other guys in their class. Ava dared herself to look back at Matthias, and when she did, she instantly wished she didn't. Her eyes grew wide with shock once again and her heartbeat doubled its already accelerated pace.
I'm not just seeing things.
She was desperate to pry her eyes away, but for some reason, she couldn't. She found herself attempting to suppress a shudder, losing herself in unbelieving wonderment at the sight that was presenting itself to her. She most likely would not have been able to look away from the new student if Racquel didn't hold her by the shoulders and non-too-gently began shaking her.
"Ava, what is going on?" Racquel snapped.
Ava could feel the blood draining out of her face as she tried to focus on her best friend. "We have to stay away from him."
"From who? Matthias?" Racquel dropped her hands to her sides and creased her brows at Ava. "Why on earth would we do that?"
Ava could almost read the thoughts going through her best friend's mind. Racquel already made it clear that morning how excited she was about meeting the young actor, and now, Ava was suggesting that they steer clear from the matinee idol. What was she going to tell Racquel without sounding like a total lunatic? It wasn't as if Ava could just tell Racquel what she saw when she herself could not understand what it was. "We just have to, Racq."
At that moment, Ava was aware that it would be impossible for Racquel to understand. She also knew for a fact that nothing in her entire life had ever come close to being as terrifying as meeting Matthias.