EXCERPT: Shades of Human

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Author: J. L. Myers

Genre: Paranormal Romance/Urban Fantasy

Copyright 2019 © J.L. Myers

Chapter One

The sound of my childhood screams ripped me from sleep. I bolted upright in my seat, throwing my long hair back in an arc. My face throbbed from the indents my hands had left with my head pressed down on my hard desk, and my breathing was rapid. My heart raced, and sweat stuck strands of my fiery hair to my cheek and neck. And then I realized where I was. Oh, goodie. Fifth time this week.

Every student in my occult studies class, including my teacher, stared at me. A sea of eyes filled the stadium-like seating that ran in curved rows from one side of the room to the other with two sets of stairs down either side. "Am I boring you, Calli Rivers?"

"Ah..." Despite knowing where I was and that I was safe, my voice shook as wildly as my hands. I could still see wet crimson smeared across my palms. Her blood. It's all in your head. My face blazed red-hot. "N-no, sorry. I...I gotta go." I snatched up my laptop and backpack and vaulted out into the aisle. Racing up the steps, I fled the many staring faces I knew well, each one belonging to a student I had never spoken to. Never listen to the voices. Never ask for help. Mom's dying words played like a broken record in my head, a promise that I had never broken, not even once, to this day.

I tripped on the last few steps as a guy to the left rose and moved toward the aisle. My head snapped up fast, my arm around my laptop tightening and my other flinging out to catch me before I made a real dick of myself. Too late. But then I saw him as he caught my wrist to help me up.

Tall and jaw-droppingly handsome didn't even begin to cover it.

This guy was flawless, skin perfect, thick caramel bedhead-styled hair, and a facial structure that would make every Edward Cullen fan drool like a Saint Bernard. And-he was a complete stranger.

Sexonlegs didn't speak a word, his ocean blue eyes drilling into me as his kissable lips pressed into an aggressive straight line. The stubble across his face only made him look even more enticing, adding an irresistible edge to his wavy hair that reached his shoulders. I was mesmerized, frozen, and being a complete weirdo!

"If you are done disrupting my class..."

Mr. Callaghan's voice bellowing up from the long desk down the steps brought me out of my head. I tugged my wrist away from Sexonlegs and straightened. Shaking some sanity back into my head-had I seriously been crushing on this guy that was all but glaring at me?-I shoved past him and burst out through the doors.

As I took off down the hallway, a squeak made me glance over my shoulder-Sexonlegs was right behind me, his black hunting boots announcing his about-face to take after me.

With a body built for sport, he looked nothing like the regular nerds and outcasts that took occult studies. His eyes shimmered gold as he stared at me before he swiftly turned, seeming to suddenly realize he needed to head in the opposite direction and away from me. The luminescent lights caught on something as he spun away. He's packing an effing knife?

A shiver danced up my spine, making the hairs across my nape stand on end. I had a seriously bad feeling about this. My spidey senses were jumping off the Richter scale. I backed away slowly at first, watching him stroll down the hallway-and no I wasn't checking out his tight ass in the molded jeans he wore. His head twisted to one side, that shimmer returning to his eyes as he cracked a sly smile. And yeah-that was a freaking knife!

The weapon was a thing of nightmares and similar to the ones I'd heard about in the many supernatural books I'd read over the years. A full-on fantasy dagger. Sporting a black handle, it gleamed blue under the fluorescent lights. Serrated indents ran up along one side to make the encounter more bloody. And it was as long as a forearm and curved for maximum damage.

This guy meant business-deadly business.

But who was he here to take out?

I looked up and down the hallway around me. I needed to get to the office, or at least to a fire alarm so the university could be evacuated. Neither was in sight, and the office was a few buildings over. But mass murder at school was not happening here, not if I had anything to do about it. I might not have known a single student personally, but that didn't matter. The culture here was good, and these people were here to learn, for the most part. Dying by bloody dagger at the hands of some maniac was not something I would wish on anyone, well, except maybe for the thing from my nightmares.

I spun back around and picked up the pace, deciding it was best to hightail it out of there before he could change direction and take after me.

Too late.

The moment I started power walking like that was just a normal thing I did (yeah, because I'm from the eighties, not!), Sexonlegs spun around and started after me. If he hadn't been armed and dangerous, I might have taken a moment to admire the way his messy hair flung over his shoulders and the dark promise that loomed in his eyes. But, yeah...stalking a girl with a weapon will kill the, Could he be the one? out of any girl.

"Hey, wait up!"

And now I had my answer. Which made sense, since stalker guy was in my class. This guy was after me. Orphan nobody me. What the Hell?! And what kind of accent was that? European, Australian, and something else all mixed up into a dialect I'd never heard before.

Now running, I considered throwing my laptop back at him. This guy had long legs and he knew how to use them. Damn he was fast. But I couldn't make myself do it. I may have been lucky enough to get a scholarship to the Three Rivers Community College through hard work, but having just aged out of the foster system, I was dead poor. It had taken all my part-time jobs to afford the equipment, and I would be damned if I was about to break my one chance at passing this year on some psycho. So I had to come up with something else.

Think, dammit!

"Calliope, stop. I only want to talk to you."

Like hell. And how did he know my name? No one ever called me by my real name. Anyone alive on the face of the earth that knows of me only ever knew me as Calli.

Sexonlegs was close now, almost moving leisurely as he caught up to me. The dagger was nowhere in sight, but I wasn't falling for any kind of false sense of security. Bloody five-foot-five. This guy was a few clicks over six foot.

And then I saw it as if my unasked prayer had been answered. A fire alarm. Ripping the jacket from around my waist, I flung it around my arm-hard to do when you're clinging for dear life to a laptop-and smashed the glass over the panel. The sound was loud, and glass shards rained down, hitting the linoleum and my worn-out sneakers. At least there were no holes in them, and my skin-tight moss-colored jeans were full length, protecting my legs. And then the deed was done, my fingers catching hold to rip down the lever as my legs kept my body propelling onward.

The shrill wailing made me want to cover my ears. The fact that Sexonlegs stumbled and actually did cover his made me smile. And then came the noise, the sound of movement a heart-stopping second before students burst from their classrooms and spilled out into the hallway.

Sexonlegs was enveloped into the fray, caught by the mass of guys and girls who shared expressions of mixed concern and celebration on their faces as they got out of class early. Towering over almost every girl and most of the guys, Stalker Guy locked eyes on me over the moving sea of heads. His lips moved, mouthing words I didn't need quiet to make out over the ruckus.

"See you soon, princess."

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