The Devil's Tree

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Hunter jammed his boot into the gas pedal and the engine of his F-150 roared to life. Thankfully, the truck was in park or we'd have shot straight through his daddy's newly painted white picket fence. That would be bad. Real bad. His daddy would've come out screaming, shotgun in hand. And he was already three sheets gone. Whiskey. Wild Turkey, I think. At least that's what Hunter's mama always bought at the supermarket when I worked the night shift.

Hunter clapped his calloused hand on my knee, high enough that his fingers could tickle my thigh beneath my denim skirt. I smiled; naughty boy.

"Why can't we just go to Mojo's and grab a burger instead of goin' to some haunted tree at night?" I asked, running my fingers through my lighter-than-natural blonde hair.

"Because I promised Dylan I'd take him."

I rolled my eyes. What on God's good Earth did Hunter even have in common with Dylan? Hunter was tall, buff, good looking. Captain of the football team. Dylan? Ha. Skinny, pale, glasses, short sleeve button down shirt, buttoned all the way up to his neck. Total geek.

Tanya told me the boys had been in diapers together. Yeah, that long. Still, I understood it just about as much as I understood why Tanya and Dylan were together. Dylan. Tanya had been a good friend until he came along. A sister cheerleader. Hottest girl next to me. Not. Any. More. I snorted, flipped open the sun visor mirror, grabbed lipstick out of my purse, and precisely applied.

Ck-ck-ck-ck-ck!

Five loud taps on my window made me drop my lipstick, and about made me crap my pants.

Hunter laughed and rolled down my window.

"Dammit, Tanya. Why'd you do that?" I asked, scraping a waxy, red lump off my skirt. "That was my Siren in Scarlet. You owe me a tube."

Tanya rolled her eyes and batted her totally fake lashes at me. "Next time I'm at Walmart."

"Whatever." Still, that lipstick cost me nearly an hour's pay. She'd better get me a new one. Dating Dylan she could afford it. At least Dylan's daddy could. Richest man in town. Smart, too.

Tanya opened my door, shoved my seat forward with me in it, and climbed in back. Bitch.

"Sorry, Kaitlyn," Dylan mumbled, eyes darting to my boobs that were crunched to my knees.

"Don't be so damned polite," I snapped and shoved my seat back with a snap, causing Dylan to fall into his seat. "If I hadn't been datin' this jerk for the last six months," I said and hooked a thumb toward Hunter, "I'd never have agreed to go on this stupid ghost hunt."

Hunter snorted, put the truck in reverse, and tore out of his daddy's drive.

"It's not a ghost hunt." Dylan flipped open a page in his notebook and scribbled somethin' I couldn't see. "It's the Devil's Tree."

"Oh, whatever." I dropped my damaged lipstick tube in my bag, snapped it closed, and buckled my seatbelt. "It's no joke, Kaitlyn." Tanya leaned over Dylan to look at me in the visor mirror, her doe-like eyes serious. "People've been run off the road near that tree. Say they hear moaning there at night; think it's the spirits of those black folks they lynched way back when. Some say Old Joe died after he tried to cut it down."

I swallowed the ridiculous ball of fear that had formed in my throat, trapping my words inside. I would so not let this scare me. I had no room in my life for superstition or ghost stories. My mama always told me that stories like that were nonsense. Silly tales made up to scare kids away from other people's property. I shrugged. "Guess I've got nothin' better to do on a Saturday night."

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