Her Darkest Nightmare (The Evelyn Talbot Chronicles #1) - Brenda Novak


Kill one and you might as well kill twenty-one.


When she came to, Evelyn Talbot could hear nothing. She couldn’t see anything, either. Darkness had fallen, and the shack, where she lay on the cool dirt floor, didn’t have electricity.

Or … was she no longer in the shack?

Her thoughts were fuzzy.…

Maybe she was dead. She’d been expecting death, been thinking that, unlike most people, she wouldn’t live long enough to graduate from high school. If she was alive, there would be pain. There’d been plenty of that in the three days Jasper Moore had held her captive in this place. Yet, in this moment, she felt … nothing.

That made no sense.

Unless she’d dreamed the whole thing. Was it all just a terrible nightmare? Would she wake up and go to school to find Jasper hanging out near her first-period class, lounging against the wall along with some of the other guys on the baseball team, talking about where they should eat dinner before prom?

She imagined telling him that she’d dreamed he killed Marissa, Jessie and Agatha—all three of her best friends. They’d have a good laugh, blame it on the horror movie they’d seen together not long ago, and he’d sling his arm around her neck and draw her in for a kiss, which would fix everything, put her world right.

But the brief flash of hope that shot through her didn’t last. Her own bed didn’t feel like the lumpy, hard-packed earth. Even the old mattress they’d dragged out here when they first found this place and made it their secret hideaway didn’t feel that uncomfortable. As soon as she inhaled, she could smell smoke and remembered Jasper tossing a lighted match on some kindling he’d gathered from the forest. He’d sat there, on one of the stools they’d also brought to this place, for what seemed like forever, smoking a joint. He’d never smoked weed before, at least not around her, and they’d been together for six months. But this Jasper Moore wasn’t the boy she’d known; this Jasper Moore was a monster.

While he studied her, she hadn’t dared to so much as twitch. She’d kept her eyes closed, couldn’t see what he was doing. But she’d had the feeling he was watching her carefully, waiting to be sure she was dead.

Since he’d released her from the rope he used to tie her up, she’d had the use of her hands. It had been all she could do not to use them to staunch the blood pouring from her neck. She could hardly keep from gurgling as she breathed—and the smoke that thickened the air made those shallow breaths even more difficult. She’d thought she might suffocate if she didn’t bleed to death first. But gut instinct had told her that her last and only chance depended on convincing him he’d finished the job he set out to do when he slit her throat.

“That’ll teach you to mess with me, bitch,” he’d muttered when, at long last, he walked out, leaving her to the fire he’d started to destroy the evidence.

Once he was gone, she’d tried to get up, but she must’ve blacked out. It had been light then, light enough that she’d pictured him hurrying home so he wouldn’t be late for baseball practice. He’d attended school while keeping her out here. When he returned each night, he’d laugh and tell her how frantic the whole community was to find her and her friends—even what various kids and teachers were saying at school—as if he found it quite thrilling. He’d talk about the prayer circles, the yellow ribbons, and the anxious news reporters who were hounding everyone she knew for the smallest detail. When she asked him how he was able to keep slipping away to come back to the shack, he’d explained that he told everyone he was going out searching, too. The worried boyfriend was a part he claimed to play well, and she had no doubt of it. He could play any part.

He’d certainly fooled her.

If only someone would realize he wasn’t sincerely upset and take a closer look at him! But that would never happen. With his chiseled face, athletic body, sharp mind and rich parents, he was so convincing, so believable, so unlikely a killer. No one would ever suspect him of committing a crime like this.

Squeezing her eyes closed, she struggled to staunch the tears that welled up. That he could betray her love in such a terrible way was the