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Today’s Spooky Legends guest is Kimberly Derting, author of the wildly popular The Body Finder young adult paranormal series from Harper Teen. I absolutely love this series. It begins with THE BODY FINDER, followed by DESIRES OF THE DEAD (both already available). The next installment, THE LAST ECHO, is due in April 2012. Kimberly also has THE PLEDGE coming out, which is the first in her new dystopian series hitting shelves on November 15, 2011. Our story is written in the voice of some of our favorite characters from The Body Finder series, and features a take on The Visiting Family Member urban legend.
The tires squealed as they fishtailed on the wet pavement.
“Did you see that?” Chelsea’s eyes were wide and unblinking, her grip on the steering wheel was white-knuckled. “The guy? In the road? I almost hit him.”
Jules turned to glare at her. “I couldn’t see anything, Chels. I was too busy watching my life flash before my eyes. You know, because we almost died.”
“I gotta see who that was.” Chelsea unbuckled her belt and threw her car door open. “Come on.”
“Wai—“ But Chelsea was already gone, and Jules dropped her chin defeatedly as she decided her friend must’ve hit her head or something, that brain damage was already setting in. She hadn’t seen any guy in the road.
She was surprised, then, when she followed Chelsea and found her talking to someone. A boy.
She approached slowly, blinking and wondering how she’d missed him. Surely if he’d been there, standing in the middle of the deserted stretch of highway, she’d have noticed him too, wouldn’t she?
Maybe she was the one with the concussion.
As she approached, she could hear Chelsea’s voice, at least an octave higher than usual, and she recognized the tone. He must be hot, Jules thought. That’s the way Chelsea talks to all the hot boys.
“It’s no trouble at all,” Chelsea was saying. “It’s right on our way.”
Jules cleared her throat, and suddenly two sets of eyes shot her way. “Can I talk to you for a minute, Chels?” Her voice was strained. “Alone?”
Okay, so he was hot, but that didn’t mean he couldn’t be some sort of serial killer.
Chelsea practically skipped toward her. “Oh my God, Jules, did you get a look at him? I told you there was a guy!”
Jules jerked Chelsea’s arm, bringing her close enough so she could whisper in her friend’s ear. “Are you crazy? We can’t give him a ride. We don’t know anything about him.”
Chelsea pulled away, frowning. “Sure we do. His name’s Jacob Evans. He’s on break from the U-Dub where he’s studying bio-chem, and he was on his way home when his car broke down. His house is only a couple miles away. You’re not gonna make him walk, are you?” She batted the fakest puppy-dog eyes Jules had ever seen. “Not in the rain?”
“You’re telling me you found out all that in the two seconds we’ve been out here?”
Chelsea shrugged. “What can I say, I’m efficient. Come on, it’ll take us less than ten minutes.”
Jules shook her head, but heard the word, “Fine,” escape her lips.
Jacob climbed in back, despite Chelsea’s best efforts to convince him to take shotgun. It might have had something to do with Jules impressive glaring skills.
“So…Jacob, your car broke down? I didn’t see it anywhere?” Jules asked skeptically, flipping down her visor and watching him from the small, lighted mirror. Chelsea was watching him too, from her rearview mirror.
He rubbed the back of his neck. “I’m not surprised. It’s a black Lexus on a road with no streetlights. Besides, I pushed it as far onto the shoulder as I could. I didn’t want anyone hitting it.”
“Why didn’t you just call your parents for a ride?”
“No cell service. Check for yourself.” Jules pulled out her phone. The single bar blinked on and off. Not enough service to make a phone call, which made her even more uncomfortable about the stranger in the backseat.
She was starting to sweat. Just a little. “How much farther did you say it was?”
“Not far,” he answered, his sandy-blonde curls spilling onto his forehead. He was smiling now, and it was a nice enough smile—white and pearly. But Jules knew that serial killers could smile too. Nice smiles. “It’s just off Jackson Avenue. First house on the right. The only one with a turret.” He chuckled. “My dad’s an architect and went through a weird medieval phase about ten years ago.”
“Nice.” Chelsea giggled, unable to take her eyes off of him.
Which was exactly why she didn’t see the deer in the middle of the road.
“Stop!” Jules screamed, reaching for the steering wheel.
For the second time that night, the brakes slammed and Jules was crushed by her seatbelt seizing up.
“Oh my God…oh my God…oh My God…” Chelsea chanted, just as the deer loped off into the woods, unscathed. “Is everyone okay?”
They both glanced toward the backseat at the same time.
But the back door was open…
…and no one was there.
Jules and Chelsea crept up the front steps of the oversized brick house.
“Are you sure this is the right place?” Chelsea asked again.
Jules glanced up. “How many houses with turrets can there be on Jackson Street?”
“Maybe we should just forget about it. Maybe it’s none of our business,” she said, turning around and starting to walk away.
Jules grabbed her jacket and tugged her back. “Oh no you don’t. You got us into this mess. The least we can do is make sure someone knows he’s out there and needs a ride.” She rang the bell before Chelsea could make a run for it.
After a moment the door opened, and a woman wearing her bathrobe stared back at them. She reminded Jules of the boy. The same sandy colored hair. The same blue eyes…although hers were tired. Weary. And she was younger than Jules had expected. Too young to be Jacob’s mother.
She drew the robe closer around her neck. “Can I help you?”
“Um, yeah,” Chelsea explained a little too quickly. “We picked up Jacob a few miles back.” Chelsea pointed in the direction they’d come. “His car had broken down, and he said he needed a ride so we were bringing him here. But…” She hesitated at the part where it got weird. How did you explain that he’d up and vanished? “But…” she started. “…he-he changed his mind and decided to walk the rest of the way,” she finally ad-libbed. “We just wanted to let you know…in case you wanted to, I don’t know, pick him up or something.”
The woman’s fingers trembled as they lifted to her pale lips. “You-you must be confused,” she said. “My brother—Jacob—isn’t coming home.” She started to close the door on them, but Chelsea’s foot shot out, blocking it.
“Jacobs Evans? Angelic blonde hair? Piercing blue eyes? Chiseled shoulders?” Chelsea clarified, sounding like some sort of groupie. She didn’t wait for confirmation. “Yeah, he is. He said he was on his way home from the U when his Lexus broke down. I’m telling you, it was him. He looks just like you. Well, except for the whole bathrobe thing.”
The woman just shook her head. “You don’t understand. Jacob can’t be coming home. Jacob…” She swallowed hard, her lips quivering. “He died five years ago…on his way home from college. He was hit by a car out on that same highway, trying to hitch a ride…” She started to close the door, and this time Chelsea didn’t stop her. Jules felt a shiver race down her spine as they heard her final words, just before it clicked shut. “…after his Lexus broke down.”
Kimberly Derting is the author of The Body Finder and Desires of the Dead (HarperCollins), which are as much coming-of-age romance as they are paranormal thrillers, as well as the upcoming dystopic-fantasy The Pledge (Nov. 2011, Simon & Schuster). She lives in the Pacific Northwest where the gloomy weather is ideal for writing anything dark and creepy. Her three beautiful (and often mouthy) children serve as an endless source of inspiration, and often find the things they say buried in the pages of their mother’s books.
Want to read more from Kimberly Derting?
Available on April 17, 2012 from HarperCollins/Harper Teen
About the Book:
Violet kept her morbid ability to sense dead bodies a secret from everyone except her family and her childhood-best-friend-turned-boyfriend, Jay Heaton. That is until forensic psychologist Sara Priest discovered Violet’s talent and invited her to use her gift to track down murderers. Now, as she works with an eclectic group of individuals—including mysterious and dangerously attractive Rafe—it’s Violet’s job to help those who have been murdered by bringing their killers to justice.
When Violet discovers the body of a college girl killed by “the girlfriend collector” she is determined to solve the case. But now the serial killer is on the lookout for a new “relationship” and Violet may have caught his eye…
Click HERE to read an excerpt from Desires of the Dead
This giveaway is provided by Kimberly Derting
One winner will receive a copy of The Pledge by Kimberly Derting
Available on November 15, 2011 from Simon & Schuster/Margaret K. McElderry
About the Book:
In the violent country of Ludania, the classes are strictly divided by the language they speak. The smallest transgression, like looking a member of a higher class in the eye while they are speaking their native tongue, results in immediate execution. Seventeen-year-old Charlaina has always been able to understand the languages of all classes, and she’s spent her life trying to hide her secret. The only place she can really be free is the drug-fueled underground clubs where people go to shake off the oppressive rules of the world they live in. It’s there that she meets a beautiful and mysterious boy named Max who speaks a language she’s never heard before . . . and her secret is almost exposed.
Charlie is intensely attracted to Max, even though she can’t be sure where his real loyalties lie. As the emergency drills give way to real crisis and the violence escalates, it becomes clear that Charlie is the key to something much bigger: her country’s only chance for freedom from the terrible power of a deadly regime.
**Don’t forget to visit All Things Urban Fantasy today for her Spooky Legends guest blog with Jessica Sims and a chance to win a copy of BEAUTY DATES THE BEAST**
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