The Isle Of Sin And Shadows - Keri Lake Page 0,2

a frigid bite. Once near the flame, a comforting blanket of heat settles over me, reminding me of early mornings in the hunting shack with the propane heater, and the warmth from a thermos of hot coffee leaching into my cupped palms.

Conner tips back the same fifth of whiskey as before, and hands the bottle to me with an unsteady hand. “Here, this should warm you up.”

Taking the proffered bottle, I tip it back, and the moment the fiery liquor hits the back of my throat, I grimace, wiping the dribbling fluid with the back of my hand as I pass it back to him. The sizzling burn of the whiskey settles down into my chest, loosening the unrelenting grip over my lungs. Just shy of twenty, I’m no stranger to drinking, but too much of this will hit hard later, so I sip light, because alcohol and I don’t tend to mix well.

Hands snake around my stomach, yanking me back against the cold stiff body behind me. It’s been over two years since I last saw Connor, or Travis. In high school, the two didn’t pay much attention to me. No one did, really, so I was surprised when they approached me back at the boardwalk, as I was leaving the camera shop where I work parttime. The bulge pressed against my ass confirms his intent, though. “I’ll get you warm real quick. You’ll be nice and hot when I’m finished with you.”

I shove his arm away. “I’d snuggle with a grizzly bear before I’d sleep with the likes of you.” The guy’s probably screwed half the sororities at Central by now. Not that I’d be interested, even if he hasn’t. Contrary to being known as the community whore, I’m pretty particular when it comes to men and sex. I like them slightly older. Not silver foxes, but mature enough not to have to rely on Mommy and Daddy for everything.

Travis’s lips are at my shoulder, fingertips pushing the fabric of my panties to the side. “I’m not talking about sleeping. I’m talking about fucking you. Right here.”

As long as it’s been since the last time I was with someone, I’d almost be inclined to take him up on that, if I thought I’d never see him again. That’s the hell of casual hookups--always being the one to stay behind, and in his case, I’d have to face his smug grin every time he breezed through here on his way to bigger and better things.

Better than here.

I can’t stand the cold, suffocating isolation of this place. The emptiness. The endless stretch of nothing.

Jerking my head away, I push at Travis’s arm again, but he swipes up my wrist.

“Quit playing hard to get.”

“I’ll quit playing hard to get, when you quit pretending that mediocre bulge between your legs is anything special.”

The hold on my arm tightens with that signature Jenkins temper I’ve seen shine through in his father at football games. “I forgot you only fuck old men with fat wallets.”

If he thinks he can rile me with that accusation, he’s sorely mistaken. I’ve been called worse than a gold digger before.

Something flickers out of the corner of my eye, movement at the edge of the otherwise empty beach, and I don’t bother to look. I’m the only one who knows it’s there, the only one who can sense its presence, and looking will only reaffirm their accusations that I’m crazy.

I’m not entirely convinced that I’m not.

Without drawing attention to the move, I gently tap my free hand’s thumb against my thigh three times.

Three. Two. One.

“Give me what I came for.” The cool, unfettered keel of my voice must grate on Travis, the way he grinds his teeth at me. What he doesn’t realize is, inside, I’m one hard shake away from losing my shit, because that image on my periphery is just the beginning. Next will come the voices and a multitude of hallucinations I can’t deal with right now.

I need the pills he’s withholding from me.

“Man, leave her alone.” Still shivering by the fire, Connor glances over his shoulder toward the houses behind him. “Nobody wants to watch the two of you go at it, anyway,” he says, tipping back another sip of the liquor.

Snorting a laugh, Travis turns his attention back to his friend. “Bold words for someone who used to rub one out every night to her--”

“Shut the fuck up!” Conner shoots to his feet, hands balled into tight fists.

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