1. Sparks at first sight

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She felt the world slip away around her. It was like falling asleep, only a whole lot more painful. Her hands felt like rubber as she hopelessly tried to escape the choke hold. He didn't let up. Her head felt like it was about to explode. Finally, the darkness at the edge of her vision hemmed in even closer and then blanketed her completely.

She woke up to the intense scent of smelling salts and immediately rolled away, flipping into a defensive position. Almost fifteen years of martial arts classes had bred in her a total dislike for feeling vulnerable. She glared at her martial arts instructor as she organised her thoughts, letting her muscles tense in defense in case of an attack. Most times her instructor wouldn't give her time to recover and she'd taught herself to be ready for that. He didn't move toward her this time. She straightened up and smiled. He grimaced. This was going to be fun. No use being taught what you couldn't practice.

*

Jeisa let her walnut brown hair fall past her shoulders after a quick blow dry that hadn't really dried it much. The fruity perfume of her strawberries and cream shampoo swirled around the changing room, mixed into the steam from the shower. Her hair gently fell around her, framing her oval face just the way she liked it. The silver highlights gleamed faintly in the harsh light of the fluorescents in the small changing room of the martial arts center. She'd usually get compliments about the few strands of varying shades of silver grey streaking her hair, but she had never told anyone that she'd been born with them. They went well with the silver specks that dotted her honey brown eyes. She ran her hands through her hair once more then tugged the front sides of her favourite black leather jacket and brushed away a hair strand from her jeans.

Jeisa walked over to her truck, duffel bag over her shoulder, just as the sun set. She liked her silver pick-up, an eighteenth birthday present from her father. It was slightly too big to be anything but a gas guzzler, but she didn't mind. It was a fine way to move about. The autumn chill was in the air, much earlier than it should have been. Behind the wheel, as she let the engine warm up, she looked at the brochure she'd picked up a few days ago.

The Gap Year Program was an interesting concept to her. She'd been home-schooled all her life and had just graduated high school, but she wasn't in a hurry to run to college. Her father had suggested this instead. He definitely had an ulterior motive to keep her around, seeing as she was a major part of his business, but Jeisa didn't mind. She was curious to hang out with the gap year teen crowd. Fraternising with her peers without the pressure of study sounded like a great way to spend a year. She wasn't looking for friends. Not really. But she wouldn't mind being immersed, with wild abandon, in a crowd of others her age to find out what that actually felt like.


She'd been driving for hours, not really ready to go home yet. The streets were empty now. It was a few hours after midnight. The Wraith Hamlet streets she was now driving through were slightly seedy, but Jeisa didn't mind. She could take care of herself. She parked across a street with mostly broken street lights. She turned off her headlights and put the shift gear on neutral, yanking on the handbrake as she watched the night life unfold before her. She was as nocturnal as any of these people that she could see hiding in the shadows, but she wasn't working tonight.

Jeisa enjoyed people-watching. Some people went to cafes to watch the crowd, Jeisa liked the dark, shady spots of Wraith Hamlet during the after-midnight rush hour for seedy and suspicious people. No, she didn't have any Pretty Woman fetishes going on. She wasn't here to save any of the girls or boys, the collection being made up of a younger and younger crowd each new night. No. It was just interesting to watch them. Morbid and slightly creepy, she agreed, but interesting nonetheless. Kind of like watching one of those undercover documentaries on National Geographic. The knock on her tinted driver's window pushed her out of her thoughts.

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