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Authors: Kendra Kilbourn

Lovely Shadows

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Lovely Shadows

by

Kendra Kilbourn

For Kristin
Who Loved Aidan From The Start
Copyright © 2011 by Kendra Kilbourn
All rights reserved. This book or any portion thereof
may not be reproduced or used in any manner whatsoever
without the express written permission of the publisher
except for the use of brief quotations in a book review.
Cover Art:
Copyright © 2011 by Amanda Fries
All rights reserved
Printed in the United States of America
All names and circumstances are the product of the author. Any similarities are purely coincidental.

1.

My best friend Billie Adams and I sat in the ReelTime Theater huddled under our sweaters, our teeth chattering in near unison. Outside, the temperature hovered somewhere near a hundred degrees, hot enough to fry an egg on the sidewalk. Inside the theater, the central air was turned down so low I half-expected to see icicles forming on the armrest of my seat. That was the beauty of the ReelTime: You could freeze to death in the middle of a Kansas heat wave.

Browton, Kansas—the epicenter of sheer boredom and temperatures so hot sweat evaporated before it exited your pores. I carried a bottle of Evian with me everywhere I went to stay hydrated. Billie kept Dasani stashed in her whichever of her ten million oversized purses she happened to be carrying at the time. It was either melt or be burned to a crisp. Our choices for comfort were limited.

“This movie sucks, Jessa” Billie complained, tossing her blond hair over her shoulders.

“What do you expect? It's a horror film.”

“I expected it to be scary. This is just...cheesy.”

We watched as a busty redhead raced up a flight of stairs while screaming. Behind her, a masked figure wielding a knife laughed wickedly. The girl burst through a door and the masked man was magically already in the room. She sprinted from the room, lost her balance, and crashed out the second-story window. Her broken body sprawled among the shattered glass. The masked guy gracefully jumped down and landed next to her.

“You can't hide from me,” he told her in his gravelly voice.

“Please, don't!”

Without another word, he dragged the knife across her neck. Blood squirted a good six feet from her punctured vein.

“Really?” Billie's sarcasm hung thick.

“You picked the movie. You know they feature horror films on Friday nights.”

“Right, but this is awful. I mean, the last one we saw scared the crap out of me! I didn't sleep for a week.”

“That was bad,” I admitted. That movie involved ghosts haunting an unsuspecting town. It hit too close to home for me.

“Are you ready to get out of here?”

She stood up. “Please.”

We tucked our sweaters over our arms and walked out into the twilight. Eight-thirty at night and the air was still stifling. The dryness seeped down into my lungs, making each breath burn. We waited for a thin flow of traffic to clear before hurrying across the road to my banged-up Honda. Even with the windows rolled down, we sweated through our clothes.

“This is so gross. Why can't your grandfather fix the damn AC?” Billie whined, fanning herself with an old brochure for Bible camp.

“You know how he feels about unnecessary luxuries.”

“So, he'd rather have you die of heat stroke?”

“If there's a lesson to be learned from it.”

“Sure, no AC equals heat stroke which equals death. There, there's your lesson learned.”

“Thanks for the math equation. How is it that you failed Algebra?”

“Mr. Hansen hates me. He hates all women.”

We discussed our disdain for most of the teachers at Browton High School as I drove to Dairy World, the only local hangout in a twenty-mile radius. Like I did most times when Billie began to rant, I tuned her out. I loved her like a sister but sometimes I just wanted her to shut up.

My black hair stuck to my neck like wet noodles on a wall. Sweat dripped down my back and glued me to the seat. Everything about Kansas summers irritated me. At least we didn't have to worry about the humidity.

“Jessa!” Billie snapped her fingers impatiently.

“What?”

“You spaced out.”

“Sorry. What did you say?”

“What's going on with you and Levi? Are you guys official?”

I shrugged. “We haven't declared anything.”

“Do you love him?”

I considered Levi Moore, my semi-boyfriend of three months. Short curly blond hair and blue eyes, tan skin and well-built muscles from years of working on his dad's farm. Every girl at Browton High wanted him, and he only wanted me.

“I think I do.”

“Think? You better know! If you don't claim him someone else will and you'll die alone, lamenting the loss of your one great love.”

“You read way too much smut.”

I parked at the far end of the wide dirt lot at Dairy World. We surveyed the crowd as we ordered milkshakes.

“Ugh, Becky is here.” Billie nodded toward a picnic table under an oak tree. Becky Shears sat among several other girls from school. Of the group, Lindsey Graver was the only one I was good friends with. Billie disliked them all, Becky especially. Last year they battled over a guy from a rival school named Bryce. He dated Billie first, then cheated on her with Becky. When they found out, all hell broke loose. Only instead of blaming Bryce, they blamed each other. The following month Bryce announced he was gay.

“Do you think you can be nice?”

She nodded. “Sure, as nice as I can be to a backstabbing snake.”

“Whatever.” We crossed the short lawn and sat down with our classmates. They greeted us indifferently. We returned the favor. Conversation centered around the stifling July heat and the local gossip. I halfheartedly listened, distracted by the constant movement of the crowd around us. As usual for Friday night, Dairy World was the busiest place in town.

A converted barn with fiberglass hay and fake farm animals in the yard, Dairy World sat on ten acres of flat fields, not unusual for the middle of Kansas. Two baseball diamonds flanked the right side of the property, two volleyball pits to the left. There was an area for horseshoes. Across from that was the largest playground in Browton. As long as the weather held out, the place was packed.

“So,” Becky said with her usual exaggerated Southern accent, “ I hear you and Levi are quite the pair.”

“Ugh, save the Scarlett O'Hara act,” Billie moaned.

“No one asked you,” Becky shot back.

“We're together,” I told her, hoping to delay a fight.

“Does the Reverend approve?”

“I don't think he knows, to be truthful.”

Lindsey raised a bushy eyebrow. “Your grandfather doesn't know? How long do you think that will last?”

I shrugged. “As long as everyone keeps their mouth shut, which I know is a feat in itself.”

“My lips are sealed,” Lindsey said.

“Mine too,” chimed Billie.

Becky shook her head. “I make no promises.”

I grinned. “I wouldn't expect anything less.”

As I drove Billie home, I thought about what Lindsey said. My grandfather not knowing about my new relationship wasn't going to last. Grandpa knew everything about my life—and everyone else in Browton's life. He was Reverend Paul Grace, Sr., a modern preacher who thrived on the hellfire and brimstone stories from the Bible. He loved preaching about ghosts, angels, demons, and all other Biblical forms of paranormal activities. Despite his preaching, I never quite believed in those things myself. Or at least I didn't until six weeks ago.

I pulled up in front of Billie's house and waited while she got out. She shut the door with her butt then leaned back through the window.

“So, are you going to Levi's? His parents are gone for the weekend.”

“I know. I thought about it.” A swim in the family pond sounded good at the moment.

“Don't think, just do. Honestly, you guys have been chasing each other since kindergarten. What's the holdup?”

“I don't know,” I admitted. Billie never let anything hold her back from getting what she wanted. No guy was safe with her.

“Tonight would be a good opportunity to get over yourself and find out what you guys have. He could be your soul mate.”

“You know I don't believe in that stuff.”

“Maybe you should. We all need something to believe in.”

“I believe in plenty.”

“But not the right things. Now go. Have fun.”

I waved back at her as I pulled away from the curb. I hated it when she was right. Because really, what was I waiting for?

Dark shadows moved over the car as I drove down the long dirt lane that led back to the Moore farm. A hundred and sixty acres spread in every direction, disappearing into the horizon. Trees encroached over the driveway as I wound my way back to where Levi waited for me. Beside me, in Billie's formerly empty seat, a shadow of a different kind shifted uncomfortably.

I ignored it, whatever it was, as I parked on the hill. Down below, the glass-like pond rolled quietly in the moonlight. The shadow figure moved along side me as I walked down to the dock that jutted out into the water. For six weeks the shadow had, literally, shadowed me. At first it freaked me out to the point I slept with the lights on and refused to be home alone. Then when it became obvious that it was here to stay, I learned to ignore it. Sometimes, I even missed it when it wasn't there.

I had no idea if it was a he or a she or if is was a real ghost or just a figment of my imagination. No one knows about it, not even Billie who undoubtedly would spout some line about how “it was the soul of my other half from a different lifetime.” I rarely kept secrets from Billie but this one...This one was mine alone. There was something about the shadow I couldn't ignore, a feeling deep in my gut that told me my life was forever changed. When the shadow was absent, I felt it painfully. Somehow I had become addicted to it and that was dangerous. I didn't know how to get rid of it.

Levi greeted me with a kiss, one of the many we'd shared over the years. Friends since we were in diapers, there wasn't much we didn't know about each other; there wasn't much we hadn't done together. He was always my rock, especially when my parents divorced. Mom remarried and moved to Canada with my stepfather Tom. Dad was stationed at Ft. Hood. My parents didn't want to uproot my brother Luke and me from the place we'd grown up so we lived with Grandpa. Which had its serious drawbacks.

“What are you doing here?” Levi asked as we sat down on the dock. I took off my shoes and let my feet dangle in the cool water.

“I was bored. Billie and I went to the movies then to Dairy World. There isn't much going on.”

“What movie did you see?”


BloodLust
.”

“How was it?”

“Atrocious. How was your day?”

“Awful. That new tractor Dad bought broke down twice.” He explained about fan belts and gear shifters, all of which could have been French for as much as I understood it. Still, I listened with rapt attention. Whenever he got excited, Levi used his hands to talk. He made big arcing circles with his arms and his facial expressions changed according to his mood. I loved how excited he got about the farm, how deep his passion went. So few guys I knew had any ambition. Sure, Levi planned to stay in a Browton, in some ways a fate worse than death. But at least he was motivated and driven. I wished I had something to be that excited about.

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