Read Deep Within The Shadows (The Superstition Series Book 1) Online

Authors: Teresa Reasor

Tags: #Romance, #Urban, #Fantasy

Deep Within The Shadows (The Superstition Series Book 1) (2 page)

BOOK: Deep Within The Shadows (The Superstition Series Book 1)
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Juliet blinked, blinded by the change in light. Her vision cleared.

Nothing. Nothing was there.

Her heart thudded in her ears. A reactive tremor shook her. What the hell had happened? The sharp edge of the cash register dug into her hip, and she pushed away from it, her legs spongy.

Chill bumps prickled her forearms. She rubbed them away while she scanned the area behind the bar. What had it been?

She peered beneath the counter. Nothing but stacked supplies lined the shelves.

Could it have been some weird reflection, a shadow created by the spotlight? Or maybe smoke from the smoke machine? She studied the gray mist that twined and writhed along the floor around the band and dancers. It crept around the tables.

Yeah, it had to be the smoke.

Jesus—she needed a day off.

One of the few customers at the bar not painted with the heavy Goth makeup beckoned. All right, it was time to shake this off. She tilted up her chin, straightened her shoulders and consciously banked her nerves. She’d deal with this shit later.

The guy’s well-trimmed hair and Armani business suit shouted money. He looked as out of place as a movie star at a car wash. What was he doing with this crowd?

Fighting the urge to search the narrow space once more, Juliet sauntered over to take his order.

The band erupted into a grand finale at the end of the number, their volume increasing. Unable to read the customer’s lips, she leaned across the bar. “What can I get you?” she shouted above the din.

His gaze homed in for several seconds on her breasts, which were plumped up by her leather bustier. When he leaned close, she caught a subtle whiff of Polo cologne. “What time do you get off?” he asked.

“Sorry, house rule. We don’t date the customers.”

“Meet me for coffee after you get off, and I won’t be a customer.”

How many times had she heard that line? She leaned back, taking in the guy’s dark blond hair and darker brows.

Déjà vu overwhelmed her. Tanner Newton’s face came to mind.
Never again.
She’d learned her lesson.

She shook her head. “Sorry.”

As she withdrew, he grasped her wrist, his features taut.

Mr. Money wasn’t used to being turned down. Was he going to be trouble? She met his narrowed gaze with outward calm, though her stomach muscles tightened. After the earlier fright, her nerves stretched taut.

If only Tanner had been a jerk like this guy.

The man shrugged and released her. He flashed her a smile. “Guinness.”

The single word released the tension in her shoulders, but did nothing to alleviate the pain her memories had stirred. The guy even drank the same brand of beer as Tanner.

On autopilot, she reached for a glass to fill the order. She tilted the glass, pulled the lever to draw the beer, built the dark ale and set it in front of him. In the flashing crimson lights from the dance floor, it looked like blood.

Chapter 2

M
iranda Templeton scanned
the open floor space of the library reading area. Couches and chairs were set in nooks and crannies with small end tables and lights. The pillows were plumped, the vacuum cleaner run. Everything was in its place. “You can finish up tomorrow, Vivian,” she said.

The work-study student hovered at her elbow, waiting to sort the final few books she’d scanned into the system. “Might as well finish these. It won’t take but a minute or two to shelve them.” She reached for the books and her shoulder brushed Miranda’s.

Miranda shifted away, uncomfortable with being touched. The woman was a non-traditional student, older than most by eight or nine years. She’d started at the beginning of the spring term and was always eager to work, often to the point of pushiness.

“I know how much you like to start the day with an empty desk and everything in order,” Vivian chirped. She marched down the aisle into the non-fiction section, the books hugged against her generous bosom.

Miranda reached for a calming breath. Yes, she liked to start the day with everything in place. Her OCD demanded it.

Aubrey McClellan, Superstition’s only openly practicing resident witch, laid a stack of books on the desk.

“Those texts you requested through interlibrary loan are here, Aubrey. I’ll get them for you.”

“Thanks. I appreciate it.”

Miranda slipped back into the office behind the front desk and went to the shelf of reserved books, selecting three and carrying them out to the desk. One was a very old book of spells.

Miranda hadn’t called the quarters or cast a circle in years, but sometimes she missed it. That had been one of the most exciting times of her life, during middle school and high school. It had given her and Juliet something to believe in when they had nothing else. It had become their life, and they’d both been forced to walk away from it.

The wave of suspicious hysteria during the nineteen nineties had passed, but they still kept their practice secret from everyone but Aubrey and Sherry Connor, the girl who’d made up the fourth in their tiny coven. It had been a sisterhood. Then Sherry’s father, an engineer on the railroad, had been transferred to Florida, reducing them to three. Soon after, circumstances had driven her, and Julia, away from the Craft and Aubrey. She had been too metaphysically perceptive even then, and Miranda and Juliet had too much to hide.

She looked up into Aubrey’s clear green gaze. Her auburn hair was still as vibrant as it had been in middle school, and her pale skin glowed like alabaster, her Irish heritage made indisputable by her wide, round face and narrow nose.

“I still read things like this sometimes, when I’m missing it.” There. She’d said it. “Let me know if you need anything else.”

Aubrey smiled, her cheery face open and inviting. “Thanks. I will.” After Aubrey had slipped her checked out books into a canvas bag, a troubled frown cramped her features, and she touched Miranda’s wrist briefly. She leaned close. “While I was upstairs—there was something… The second floor, I think. I sensed something up there. It may be time for you to open yourself again. There’s trouble headed your way.”

Miranda studied her face, the serious concern she read there creating a flutter of tension. Aubrey wasn’t one to spread hysteria. She’d come to Miranda in the past when things were going to be particularly difficult. And she’d always been right.

Aubrey also left herself open, so she could sense things. Miranda had pretty much locked herself down good and tight, and had been closed off for so long she wasn’t sure she could lower the barriers even if she wanted to.

“Thanks for the warning. I’ll be on guard.”

Aubrey looped the handles of her bag over the crook of her elbow. “If ever you need me, or just want to visit, my door is always open.”

“Thank you, Aubrey.”

Miranda watched her walk out and turn left, heading for the side parking lot. Susan, one of the work-study students, came back to the desk from shelving books.

“If you’ll wait until Vivian comes back to man the checkout desk, then you can go, Susan.”

“Will do, Ms. Templeton.”

She studied the student a moment. Her skin looked paler than usual against a tawny mane that fell midway down her back. Half-moon shaped circles discolored the skin beneath her cat-shaped eyes.

“Are you—eating as you should?” Miranda asked, her voice dropping. “You don’t want to let yourself get run down.”

On a campus filled with the unknown, it only took one slip to throw the whole balance off and draw attention where it wasn’t wanted. Finding one of the human students unconscious and suffering a case of instant anemia might send up red flags.

“My boyfriend is picking me up and bringing me—something. I can hold out until then.”

Since there weren’t many students in the library, Miranda took another moment to assess the girl.

“I’m good, Ms. Templeton,” Susan assured her. “It’ll only be five or ten minutes more.”

“Okay. I trust you to know your limits.”

The girl smiled.

With one concern dealt with, and Aubrey’s warning still resonating through her, Miranda took the back stairs directly to the third floor and strolled between the heavy wooden bookcases, straightening and adjusting the books. There was a comforting repetition to this task, and she could usually lose herself in it. By the time she finished a circuit of the room, and found nothing, her tension had eased.

She checked both bathrooms, and finding them empty, moved on to the study areas.

The midnight warning chime sounded, and she heard the two students she’d spotted scuffle down the stairs. She glanced over the railing that opened the third floor to the main floor commons area to search for Vivian, and found her at the desk checking out books.

Miranda paused a moment to look across the empty space to the other areas of the library. The structure—a huge, unwieldy rectangle on the outside—had an unexpected grace in the interior. The open space in the center of the library shot upward to the roof, where a multi-paned skylight stretched across the full distance of the first floor. A third quarter moon shone down through the panes, the summer sky clear of clouds.

The offices across the commons were locked down tight and dark except for the security lights that burned here and there. She’d closed and secured the technology center herself half an hour earlier.

The sound of the front door opening downstairs drew her attention. At the same time Susan and another student were leaving, Caleb Faulkner wandered in. Spotting her near the third floor railing, he tilted his head back to look up at her.

“Hey, Mandy.”

His deep, masculine voice with its husky undertone echoed in the open space and triggered a sharp pang of longing. What would it be like to hear that voice whisper in her ear while they made love? Why did she want someone she could never—? She cut off the thought. She could, if she allowed herself to set aside all her baggage and just reach for it. Every time she looked into Caleb’s eyes, she knew he was waiting for her to do it.

“I’ll be right down. I have to check the second floor and make sure everyone’s gone.”

He nodded. She descended the stairs to the second floor, straightened the study area, placed a couple of magazines tossed on a table back in the appropriate rack, and did a quick walk-through between the shelves to make sure there were no lingerers.

She knocked on the men’s restroom door and heard thumps and heavy breathing, so she paused at the threshold.

Surely they weren’t… Yes, they were. She could see the tangle of feet and clothes about their ankles. She spoke loud enough to startle them. “I’m going to count to ten, and the clothes better be back on and you’d better be out of there by then, or I’m calling security.” For at least two seconds silence reigned, then the hasty scramble was easy to hear.

She leaned back against the wall just outside the door and waited for them to show themselves.

When they did, the cocky, unapologetic smile on Robert Hoag’s face sparked her anger. He was a junior, an honor student, and the apple of Dean Jackson’s eye. His blonde Adonis looks assured he had more than his fair share of female attention, and his place on the tennis team did as well. That in itself wasn’t enough to dislike him. It was his arrogant, uncaring behavior toward the girls that troubled her.

Miranda snapped, “Wipe that grin off your face. This isn’t funny.”

His face turned sullen.

As soon as Miranda saw the girl, her heart sank. Nora Donavan was an A+ student too, but didn’t have the protection Dean Jackson afforded the boy she’d hooked up with. Her cheeks were flushed a bright pink, and she kept her eyes lowered in embarrassment while rubbing her hands up and down her crossed arms.

“Let me tell you what’s going to happen because of this situation,” Miranda said, her tone quiet.

“You,” she pointed at Robert, “Mr. Hoag, have put Miss Donavan in a precarious position, and from the smirk you were wearing as you came out of the bathroom, I doubt very much that you give a damn. I also know that if you had any real affection or respect for the woman you’re with, you would be more interested in protecting her, cherishing her, and finding a more appropriate place to show your affection than a bathroom stall. A deduction you should have reached quite easily with your well-known IQ.”

Robert did have the grace to flush, although Miranda detected more anger than embarrassment.

Nora glanced in his direction and started to speak, but Miranda raised a hand. “I know your grades are just as good as his. But you’re a year younger, and haven’t cemented your ties to any particular instructor who might lend you their support.

“What will happen, Nora, if disciplinary action is taken, is you’ll bear the brunt of it all. The rumors will certainly get around, and the jokes will start, which will enhance Mr. Hoag’s reputation while it splinters yours.

“I realize this is the twenty-first century, and things are supposed to be equal despite your genders, but this is still rural Kentucky, and things aren’t equal or fair when it comes to life in academia. Right or wrong, that’s just the way it is. This is unacceptable behavior, and grounds for expulsion.”

BOOK: Deep Within The Shadows (The Superstition Series Book 1)
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