Saturday, May 24, 2014

Catalyst: First Chapter

Here is the first chapter of Catalyst!  You can purchase the entire novel for $2.99 here.

Chapter 1

How long had it been since she had seen him?  Since she touched him?  Since he touched her…?

Keirah Shepherd swept the stray strands of dark brown hair behind her left ear before grabbing her broom and placing it into a white bucket.  As she cleaned the hall, she gritted her teeth, trying her damndest to forget him.  It was the only reason why she agreed to attend this New Year’s party with her sister.  Her mother would be out with her friends – Judy’s first social outing since Keirah’s father left – and since Judy had kicked Andie out of the house, she would otherwise be home alone, and that would be the worst.  She needed to forget the way he looked at her with those enigmatic golden eyes of his.  She needed to forget the way he could slap her across the face in one moment, punishing her for something she didn’t realize she did wrong, and caress her in that same moment, apologizing with his unspoken tenderness.  She needed to forget that tenor voice that could clip words in half or draw them out; it didn’t seem to matter what he did to them.  People listened to him anyways.

But that was probably because he was Onyx City’s most notorious criminal mastermind, the very reason for deaths of numerous innocent citizens.  He captivated people because they were afraid of him, and instead of being offended, he decided not to let that fear go to waste.  Instead, he used it against them.  All of them.  Even her.  But in the time Keirah spent with him, she felt her fear of anything, really, slip away.  It wasn’t as though she had numbed everything out, but she just didn’t see the point of wasting time on an emotion that wasn’t going to help her, only hinder her.

She really wasn’t sure about anything now.  It almost felt like waking up from a dream she wasn’t quite sure about.  Was it a nightmare, or a fantasy?  Could dreams be a mixture of the two?  Life was.

“Are you going to talk today?” a voice asked from behind her.

Keirah bit her bottom lip and managed to refrain from rolling her brown eyes.  As usual, she didn’t respond to Chad’s inquiries.  Before her initial capture by the villain, she hadn’t really been social.  Friendly, yes, but not sociable.  Now she didn’t bother with people she didn’t like.  Sure, her classmates and colleagues at Abby Ward thought she was stuck up, too quiet, or just plain weird, but she didn’t care. 

She didn’t care.

This, of course, did not mean Keirah was ungrateful.  After she had to quit her internship at Dr. Hawkins’s renowned criminal psychologist practice thanks to her entanglement with Noir, Commissioner Jarrett got her a replacement internship at Abby Ward.  She knew he still felt guilty for what had happened to her, and even though many citizens believed she was incahoots with Noir, Bonnie to his Clyde, Jarrett still had this unwavering faith in her.

Which was why Keirah didn’t want to think about how she had felt about him.  She considered her feelings to be buried deep, hidden safely away from the world and herself.  People – including both her mother and Andie – believed she was plagued with Stockholm Syndrome.  She scoffed at the idea.  Keirah had studied Stolkholm Syndrome and was a firm believer that she was not experiencing any delusions with the man (because, he was, in fact, a man).  Maybe it had started out that way, but it grew into something deeper, something more.  She loved him, as hard as that was to believe. 

She frowned at the thought, annoyed with her heart for clenching together when musing about how she had felt, as in, past tense.  She dropped the heavy mop back into the bucket, accidentally spraying Chad and herself with water.

“Watch the uniform, Helen Keller,” he told her with obvious distaste, casting her a dark glare before going back to what he had been doing in the first place; staring at her ass while she moved the mop back and forth across tile that never seemed to ever get clean.

Uniform.  Right. 

Keirah herself didn’t give a shit about the uniform she had to wear.  It was one of those ugly, dark grey jumper suits that was way too big for her slim frame.  Her hair was always falling in her face, even if she styled it for a half an hour before hand, but she had to be careful when wiping the strands away.  Rubber gloves were a requirement, but she didn’t want the bacteria collecting on them to somehow get into her eyes.  On her feet were very worn Converses, and though they were comfortable, they didn’t really offer her any arch support.

Keirah didn’t like her internship, especially since it was janitorial work rather than criminological research, but she was thankful for it.  Despite everything she had been through, Onyx High still required she get a passing grade in her business class if she wanted to graduate in June.  Commissioner Jarrett got her this internship, even though Abby Ward didn’t offer them to high school students.  She had free reign of the ward, except for the fourth floor. Both he and the ward’s director, Caroline Abby, emphasized that her presence on the fourth floor was strictly forbidden, but to this day, Keirah didn’t know why.

The ward, like much of Onyx, was a corrupt place, but Caroline Abby really was in this line of work in order to rehabilitate those that were cast aside by society because of their wicked deeds.  She even offered jobs to those deemed most likely to successfully reintegrate back into society.

For the past month, this was how Keirah spent her days, cleaning the filth the inhabitants, the psychologists, and the guards would leave behind.  Instead of speaking to the patients or socializing with her colleagues, she spent her time daydreaming.  It was a pastime she had given up long ago in hopes that being more serious would help her get a job being a psychologist.  After the first month, it was easy to ignore the ribs and innuendos coming from both the patients and the guards.  Now, they reminded her of flies; they were annoying, but they didn’t make too much noise, and most of the time, could be ignored.

She had no idea where she was going nowadays.  She didn’t seem to have any long-term goals, and this bothered her because even when she was with the man, she all but oozed ambition.  Keirah wasn’t sure if she wanted to start dating, if she wanted to get married, have kids.  She didn’t even know if she could get a job that might lead to some sort of career because she didn’t know if she wanted to be a criminal psychologist anymore.  Hell, she didn’t know if she wanted to go to college, which was just silly.  She had wanted to go to the University of Onyx since she was seven, when she and her father watched one of the football games together one Saturday afternoon.  Andie had been out shopping with Mom so it was just the two of them.  But now…

“Hey,” Chad said, reaching out and pushing Keirah’s elbow in order to catch her attention.  She was so consumed in her thoughts that his simple touch caused her to under extend the mop and nearly slip on the wet tile.  Chad seemed amused by this because he chuckled, causing her to grumble silently under her breath.  But he wanted her attention for a reason, so when he stopped laughing, he said, “We gotta get up to the fourth floor, pronto.”

Keirah gave him an annoyed look.  “Why?” she asked, placing the mop in the bucket before placing her hand on her hip and leaning slightly on the wooden stick.

“She speaks!” Chad exclaimed in mock-surprise.  Suddenly, his pudgy face became dry once again before explaining.  “Fred called in sick and the orderlies want you to do the fourth floor before you leave tonight.” 

Keirah said nothing, but began to push the bucket towards the elevators with Chad following, muttering something about how she was being quiet now all of a sudden.  Like that was a surprise.

It was probably her fault that she didn’t remember Jarrett’s warning of not going up to the fourth floor.  Maybe she should have sensed a bout of foreboding, but she didn’t.  In fact, Keirah treated it like any other floor.

When the elevators released the two, Chad slipped in his identification card and then typed in a unique code that pertained to each patient.  13225.  Not that she was paying attention or anything, but Chad wasn’t exactly trying to hide it.  One advantage for being deemed a mute: people seemed to underestimate her.

Keirah’s fatal mistake, however, was looking into the cell before pulling her equipment in.  Standing there, arms handcuffed to his bedpost and staring at the door was a familiar set of gold eyes that still managed to make her feel as though she was nothing more than transparent.  She swallowed and immediately looked away, her focus on the bucket of dirty water.

The man smiled at this before smacking his lips together in his usual fashion.  “Well, well, well-ah,” he drawled in his normal dark velvet voice, keeping his eyes firmly on the back of the young woman in front of him.  Look who we have herrre…”

Keirah could feel her whole body freeze at his words, and the hair that encompassed her body stood erect on their own accord.  She clenched her teeth, realizing she should have prepared herself better, even though she wasn’t quite sure whether or not those rumors about him being here were true.  She knew she should have been aware that she might encounter her former lover one way or another, especially now that she knew that he was locked in the very place that she worked.  Immediately, she scolded herself silently for allowing her defenses to be dropped at such an inopportune time.  But more importantly, she hated the way her body responded merely to the sound of his voice.

The dark velvet that broke through the silence and caused spark-filled tension to consume the atmosphere between them did not go unnoticed by the young woman.  How her body longed to be consumed by that voice, that mouth, those hands that were handcuffed to his bedpost.  Just the sound of his voice caused a soft ache to penetrate her pelvis, and she could already feel herself get wet.  If she looked at him again, she knew she would be doomed.

Instead, she forced her attention on her task at hand: cleaning up the patient’s cell.  Because that was all he was to her, just another patient.

You know that’s not true, another voice taunted from the back of her mind.  Any other patient couldn’t make you tremble with need and ooze desire the way he does and you know it.

If Keirah’s teeth weren’t clamped together, she no doubt would have told herself to shut up.  However, they were, and instead, she let out her frustration with herself with a heavy sigh from her long, upturned nose, and lifted the heavy mop out of the bucket with the intent on getting her job done as quickly as possible.

“Aw,” he continued, his gold eyes penetrating through her body and to the essence of her very soul.  To be honest, he was quite amused at how she was trying to ignore him, but he could tell her attempt was useless.  Commendable, maybe, but useless all the same.  “Don’t pretend like you don’t um… know me, sweet-tart,” he continued.  His scar crinkled around his left eye, and his chapped lips curled up into a predatorial smile, his teeth still stained a dull yellow.  “After all-ah we’ve been through…”  He let his voice trail off, trying to get some sort of reaction from her.  He frowned when he failed to do so, and instead, refocused his eyes on her body, simultaneously trying to gauge its reaction to him while scoping out what he had been missing the past eight months.

 “Shut up.”  Chad spat from the doorway, narrowing his brown eyes at the prisoner.  “There is no way that you could possibly know Elen, not even in your fucking imagination.”

Noir threw his head back and laughed at that, causing Keirah to jump slightly.  She had yet to get used to it, and some nights, it would be the last thing she heard before slipping into slumber.

How amusing this was to him.  He couldn’t have asked for a better show.

“Is that what they’re hum… calling you now… Keirah?”

The sound of her name on his lips caused her pelvis to squeeze involuntarily and she masked a whimper with a cough.  However, she couldn’t stop the telling flush as it started to invade her cheeks, and despite her adamant orders to herself not to, she glanced over her shoulder and locked eyes with Onyx’s most notorious criminal.  Upon seeing those brown orbs of hers, he smiled lazily, and then slicked his tongue over his lips.

Chad wasn’t exactly the brightest crayon in the box, but in his time at Underwood Mental Institution, he had learned to read body language.  Maybe he wasn’t an expert at it or anything, but he could definitely see that the two shared something that he wasn’t all aware of.  His eyes snapped over to Keirah, and narrowed dangerously in her direction.

“It was you?” he asked, suddenly recognizing her.  She had always come off as familiar to him, and now he knew why.  She was Noir’s accomplice.  “You were his little partner in crime?  You were that, that slut who stood by his side despite everything he’s done?”

From the corner of her eye, Keirah noticed Noir’s eyes snap over at Chad when he heard the guard call her a slut, and they bronzed as they took in the sight of him yelling at her.  A guttural growl emitted itself in the bowels of his throat, and he pulled his lips back to bare his teeth in an animal-like threat, scowling threateningly at the man. 

“You cold-hearted bitch!” Chad continued to say, completely ignoring Noir’s warning, his anger increasing with every word he said.  You should be locked up in here with the rest of them, not free, out on the streets.”  He gritted his teeth together, his brown eyes molding into black as he looked at Keirah.  “You think you’ve seen pain?  I’ll show you pain!” 

Before Keirah or Noir could act, Chad stalked over to the young woman and grabbed her head into his hands.  Without warning, he slammed her head into the tile wall, causing pain to shoot through every fiber of her being.  She let out a pained yelp, but collapsed to the ground, overcome with dizziness.  Blinking a couple of times, Keirah tried to push herself up, doing her best to ignore just how badly she felt at that moment.  She had to get out of there before Chad did something with his uncontrollable temper he would later regret.

Chad, however, was not exactly finished with the woman.  Before she could get herself to stand, he reached down and yanked her up with her hair, causing another yelp to slide past her lips.  Though she was still dizzy and her head was still throbbing in pain, Keirah lifted her knee, and with as much strength as she possibly could, threw it into Chad’s groin area.  He cried out, immediately releasing his grip on her to aid his ailing nether region.

“Get under the bed hum… Now,” Noir ordered, his dangerous gaze still focused on the guard that could barely stand.

Keirah didn’t have to be told twice.  Noir was obviously the lesser of two evils at present and Chad seemed intent on continuing to hurt her, so as best as she could, managed to slide her body underneath the bunk bed that belonged to a sociopath.

“Get out here, Elen,” Chad said, his pale face now red due to Keirah’s infraction on his body.  He didn’t look, nor did he sound, too pleased with the young woman before him.  “Come on, you bitch, get up.  Crawl back out from underneath that bed and get up.”  His breath was ragged, and his hands were on his knees as he struggled to catch his breath.

“Don’t you uh, well don’t you worry, princess,” Noir drawled, tensing his body as though he was some sort of animal, preparing to attack his prey.  “If he wants you, he’ll uh… get you.”

The next moment still left Keirah thinking about what could have happened if Chad’s patience was still intact, if he wasn’t in so much pain, and if he wasn’t dangerously mad at her.  But he was all of those things.  In fact, Chad probably wasn’t thinking as rationally as he normally would because if he had been, he wouldn’t have placed himself in such a fatal position.  Because of this, Chad did what any other enraged man would have done in his position, and that was to lunge for her, currently curled up underneath the bed.

Noir smiled, knowing exactly what Chad was planning to do, and though an amused glint shimmered in his eyes, the smile itself did not quite meet them.  He reached up, coiling his fingers around the metal bed post, preparing himself for what he had known would come.  Just as Chad threw himself across the floor in order to get to Keirah, Noir gripped the metal and locked onto Chad’s neck with his long, strong legs.

“No one touches herrrrr,” Noir growled in a rough voice.  He grinned as he heard a satisfying crunch, snapping Chad’s neck fatally between his legs.  When was the last time he had killed anyways?  It felt so… good to have done it this time.  He didn’t even look at the slain guard as he released the body onto the floor.

“You can um come out, now,” he, before he smacked his lips together.  The sound echoed off of the walls.  “Yanno, it is such a hum… pleasure to… see you again.”

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