Wicked Kiss (Nightwatchers) - By Michelle Rowen

Chapter 1

Crave used to be a prime hangout for dangerous monsters, but tonight I seemed to be the only one here.

A week ago, I lost my best friend in the whole world in this very club. Literally lost her, in a swirling black vortex that opened up and swallowed her whole, and took her...somewhere else. Somewhere horrible.

I didn’t know how yet, or when, but I clung to that small yet resilient hope that had taken firm root inside of me: I would find her.

Carly had loved this all-ages nightclub and came here every weekend like clockwork, dancing till the place closed down. If I shut my eyes I could still see her on the dance floor, the one place she could forget her problems and let the music become her entire world.

Damn, I missed her.

But I had to come back tonight. I couldn’t wait any longer.

There was somebody I had to find who used to hang out here a lot. Somebody I’d been searching the city for. Somebody who’d stolen something from me that I needed back before it was too late.

I had no real idea when “too late” was going to be. But I had a sick, gnawing feeling in the pit of my stomach that we were getting really close.

“You look way too serious, Sam,” Kelly said lightly from across the booth. “And you’re not even listening to anything we’re saying.”

“Sorry,” I began, my head still in a fog. I forced a smile to my lips and looked at Kelly and Sabrina—both blond and perky cheerleader types. I wasn’t blond, nor was I particularly perky or cheerful. But they were both good friends of mine, anyway.

Well, maybe good friends was pushing it. We usually ate lunch at the same table and we had gym class together. I think they liked me. That totally counted.

After their invite earlier today, I’d decided to join them here for a “girls’ night out.” At least, that’s what they thought it was. For me, it was an excuse to be here on the off chance I might find the boy who’d literally stolen my soul.

“Yeah,” Sabrina agreed. “Like, earth to Samantha. What’s up with you?”

“Nothing. I’m just a bit distracted tonight.”

Understatement, table for one.

Kelly took a sip of her Diet Coke and eyed the remains of the nachos that sat on the table between us. There wasn’t much left, thanks to me—just a bit of cheesy sludge and a couple soggy tortilla chips. A single jalapeño pepper remained, lying there mournfully after the battle its friends had lost.

I couldn’t help it. I was really hungry tonight. And when I was hungry I needed to eat so my other cravings didn’t kick into overdrive.

Unfortunately, the plate of nachos hadn’t helped a bit.

“FYI, we were talking about Halloween,” Sabrina reminded me. “Do you know what you’re wearing to Noah Tyler’s party?”

“Noah’s having a party?” I asked absently, keeping my eyes on the club over her shoulder while still trying my best to appear attentive.

“Yeah. And he did tell me that he really wants you to be there.” She grinned. “I think somebody’s got a crush on you.”

It took me a moment to clue in to what she meant. I cringed at the thought, and also the vague realization that Noah had been checking me out lately. I’d tried to ignore it. “He doesn’t.”

She shrugged and the girls shared a knowing look. “Whatever you say. But you’re coming, right?”

“Wednesday night?” I forced a look of interest as well as a cheery smile though I felt anything but. “Wouldn’t miss it for the world.”

I was definitely going to miss it. No question.

They discussed their costumes. I half listened. The jalapeño pepper died a quick and painless death.

Then I stayed behind as a song came on that they got incredibly excited about and they made their way to the nearby dance floor. A sprinkle of colorful lights fell across their faces as they joined the swell of other kids dancing to the throbbing beat of the techno song—from a close bump and grind to a frenetic waving of arms and legs. I used to do a kind of uncomfortable shuffle thing when it came to dancing. I had always been hyperaware that somebody might be watching, judging, laughing. All of the above.

“Dance like nobody’s watching,” Carly always insisted.

“Did you see that embroidered on a cushion somewhere?”

She’d give me a grin. “Probably. But it’s still true. Gotta enjoy every moment because you never know when it’s going to be your