Ace of Blood

Alice has found a new kind of wonderland.
Jamie Cunning is just an ordinary girl. Sort of. Bearing the scars of a thousand painful memories, old an new, she found a strange set of friends in the abandoned and untended headstones of a nearby cemetery. But this girl who prefers the company of the dead to that of the living finds a shocking new life thrust upon her when she is shoved into a world of danger and death. The worst of all: it lurks just around the corner. The paperboy. The school bully. The neighbor. They may all be a part of it. Watch out, because Ace is always watching, and you never know how the cards will fall.


6. Careless

 Zack took off at a run, weaving quickly through the gathering crowd of relieved teens in pursuit. The girl was almost off campus by the time he finally broke free of the press of bodied, but he caught her in a few strides. “You! We need to talk.”
 The girl’s short brown hair fanned out to the sides as she spun, her thin face dominated by familiar hazel eyes. He saw in those eyes that she recognized him, even as she flinched away from him, twisting to pull her shoulder from his grasp. “Nothing to talk about,” she mumbled, looking away. Zack felt an overpowering urge to grab her chin and force her to look in his eyes, but he shoved it down.
 “Look, the way you spend your time is none of my business, but the next time you want to defile graves, do it somewhere else.”
 “You’re right, it is none of your business.” The girl turned and started walking away. Zack reached out and grabbed her wrist, and this time he didn’t let go when she tried to jerk away. Rather, he squeezed tighter, gripping her hard enough that he was sure she’d bruise.
 “Stay away, freak.”
 She looked back at him, pain and loneliness reflecting in the tears in her eyes. But beneath that, there was determination. “Or what?” She tore free, leaving two of her bracelets behind, and practically ran from him.
 Great, now I terrorize little girls. Zack turned back to find Blake, but the boy was gone. That’s right, he’s waiting in the car.
 Zack let out a breath he hadn’t realized he’d been holding and looked down at his shaking hands. Forcing them to relax, he watched in mute fascination as the thin leather bands fell to the sidewalk. Hot rage burned inside him, and he felt it consume him until there was nothing left but anger. He wanted to hurt someone, wanted to feel them break beneath his hands, the life leave their battered body.
 The sweet desire was so strong in him that knew he couldn’t go join his friend, not like this. Blake wasn’t weak by any standard, but he was fragile. He was sick, and like this Zack wasn’t sure what he’d do to the thin boy. He didn’t trust that the small, lucid part of himself was enough to restrain his violence. And when he felt this way, not many could stand up to him. Fewer could hope to walk away unscathed.
 So he turned the other way and pushed through the crowd milling around the gate, shoving through the unlocked doors to the gym. The water from the drinking fountain was stale and tasted of metal, but it was cold, and it felt good on his face. The chill helped to calm him, bringing Zack back to reality. He felt the fire die inside him slowly as he choked off the oxygen feeding it, smothering the flames of hatred with patient determination.
 It took ten minutes before he felt quiet inside once more. It was a temporary solution only, the way he’d shut off his emotions. It left him still inside, unable to feel much of anything, but it was better. Blake hated him when he was like this, but at least he wouldn’t hurt his friend this way. A surge of dark humor threatened to break the thin wall as he remembered some of the things he’d done when he felt this way. The blood, so warm and sticky and red, that had washed over his hands, that he barely remembered normally, now reeked in his nose and made his eyes water.
 But it was so very tempting. It was so easy when he thought rationally. Pain, death, fear. They made his heart race in his chest and his throat constrict with longing.
 Zack walked across the lot to his car slowly, lost in his memories and dreams, the thoughts that haunted his mind now a sweet relief. When he passed the edge of the senior lot, he watched in dark humor as a somewhat familiar junior boy limped by. He was almost past by the time Zack’s laughter stopped and he went pale. It wasn’t possible. No.
 There must have been some signal when he approached, because he could see them melting back into the maze of parked cars, still faceless and unidentified. But they weren’t Zack’s real concern as the calm inside him shattered into murderous intensity. Blake lay behind his car in a small but spreading pool of blood. Already purple-black bruises bloomed across his face and his nose looked broken, leaking more of the red liquid onto his face and into his hair with every breath. Those didn’t come near enough.
 But the biggest problem was the way his body convulsed, as if struck by invisible blows. Zack knew that his friend was conscious only because of how he hunched inward, as if to stop himself from hurting anyone else. Only Blake would be idiotic enough to do something like that.
 Blake winced and moaned, more blood bubbling over his lips and down his chin, as Zack slowly slid his arms under the thrashing body, gently lifting him and setting him across the backseat. An ambulance would be worse than useless and dangerous for both of them. Only Blake’s brother would be able to help, if the episode was this bad.
 Blake screamed as Zack put the keys into the ignition, his back arching off the seat, coughing up more blood. Zack put an arm between the front seats and pressed it to his friend’s arm in an attempt to calm him, but it was only marginally successful.
 “It’s her fault,” Zack whispered, realization dawning. The cold fury coursing through him drove him to recklessness as he sped through the streets, weaving through traffic carelessly. Someone honked, but he was too far gone to notice.

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