Chapter 21 Temptation

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“I wish you’d snap out of it,” Beth grumbled. “I came home for some fun, not to look at your sour face. Are you coming out tonight or what? Everyone’s been asking.”

“Why do you need me there?”

“Well because your good mood is both obvious and contagious, and I was hoping it would rub off on us…not. Because I want the old Soph back, that’s why…and you promised.”

“I know, but…”

“Look, we’ve been home for two days now. You need to stop moping, forget Seb for a while, accept the fact that life can be shit and you can’t control it, and have some fun.”

“Okay, okay, I give up. I’ll come.”

“That’s my girl.”

I had to admit, it felt good to be among my peers again. Despots was a hive of teenage festivity, and I wasn’t given the chance to wallow. My glass was regularly filled, and Beth saw to it that my imaginary dance card was just as copious.

I submerged myself in the attention of my admirers, drowning in my own wantonness, and not caring that I was leading them on. I craved their advances with the sole purpose of rejecting them. It made me feel better to be wanted. But I went home alone in the early hours and slept solidly for the first time in weeks.

The beast was coming. Claws scraped along the cave floor: faster, closer. I couldn’t move. My legs were pillars of stone, rooted to the spot, keeping me prisoner, holding me for death. He was here. The blackness descended, and Tokala’s image materialised to chastise me.

‘Evil and death seep through the darkness. Recklessness is not the trait of a goddess. It is not your role to be selfish. Do not treat your gifts lightly.’

I sat up abruptly as consciousness returned. Recollections of howls in the night haunted my first waking minutes. Was it my destiny to be always plagued by nightmares?

I had awoken only as the sun was going to sleep, and I shivered in the chill of the twilight hours. A familiar rumble shook the floor as I forced my eyes to remain open.

“Ah, Sleeping Beauty awakens at last,” Beth said, as I mooched through to the kitchen.

“Hard to sleep when the floor’s shaking. I wonder who’s taking up residence?” I pondered, searching the overhead cupboard for painkillers.

“The hearse was going out, not coming in. I saw it through the window. And that reminds me. It was all over the news earlier. A couple were attacked in their car, up on Lyall Ridge, last night. The girl managed to escape and was picked up by a passing motorist, but then she died of shock in Carleigh General this morning before she could be fully questioned. They found pieces of the boy’s body scattered around the area. On all the talk shows, speculation is rife about big cats and mad axe men. You don’t think one of the guys did it, do you?”

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