Frostbite (#4 Destroyers Series)

By: Holly Hook
Book 4 of the Destroyers Series


Chapter One





"No."

This was the evidence Sophia had been dreading for weeks, finally played into her hands.

Her hands tightened around the edges of Shane's laptop as his video played in front of her. A sad, blue glow filled the space under the bleachers as shadows grew long around her. Rain beat down on the ceiling above, followed by a crack of thunder. There was no other sound. The janitor had long since left the gym, leaving the backpacks of the Film and Media Club forgotten in here.

Seagulls cackled out of the laptop's speakers as waves ate away at the beach onscreen. It seemed innocent enough, but Shane's footage told another story, one she had been hoping was only her imagination.

Her boyfriend had been spending his time stalking someone else.

Onscreen, the ocean grabbed for the feet of a girl in a pink hoodie and a middle-aged man. Both of them stood, their backs turned, facing down the expanse of water. The guy wore a baseball cap, hiding his hair from view. The girl--his daughter?--kept all of her hair tucked inside her hood. It was a pair of people who didn't want to be noticed, oblivious that Shane's camera was focused on them both.

The camera trembled, catching the green blur of a leaf for a few seconds as it struggled to focus on the girl.

Sophia paused the video and glanced at the basketball court to make sure the Film and Media Club hadn’t returned from outside. They hadn't. The gym outside the bleachers was barren, stale, lonely. Desolate. The soccer game wouldn't finish until six, and the coach wouldn't want them to miss catching any important plays even in this terrible weather. Sophia wanted to put the laptop back on top of Shane's pack and leave. It just wasn't cool to snoop in other peoples' stuff. This made her feel about as clean as a locker room floor.

But Shane hadn’t even called her much in the past few weeks. He'd even stood her up at the bowling alley yesterday, something he'd never done before. Something was up, and it was this.

The two white pause lines on the monitor grew brighter and brighter in her vision until she could close her eyes and see their afterimages.

If she didn't look now, there wouldn't be another opportunity until the basketball game next Friday. The video might be gone by then or transferred into another folder. This had to happen now. Sophia could always feel slimy about this later if she was wrong.

Maybe this is just for his club. She turned the volume most of the way down on the laptop in case the janitor came back through and heard her under here. Maybe. Possibly. Her inner voice sounded like a hopeful kid asking to get a motorcycle for Christmas.

A chill swept through her body, covering her skin and filling her veins. It soaked down to Sophia's bones, filling her marrow with the Arctic.

No, she pleaded. It was coming again. The cold was always the signal for the other voice inside of her. The one she couldn't control. The one that wasn't hers.

The words of a much older woman reverberated through her from somewhere deep inside a frigid void. On his personal computer, Sophia? You know where this is leading.

She hated that old, wise voice, but it was right. Shane transferred all his Club videos to the computer lab upstairs as soon as he'd finished filming. She'd dated him long enough to know. This definitely wasn't for school.

The cold retreated a bit, leaving her toes and fingers warm, but it lingered on the edge of her senses, ready to come rushing back at any second. Sophia couldn't wait for it. She needed to see this on her own, without the Other interfering.

With a hammering heart and a shaking hand, she set the video to Play again.

Green focused in and out in front of the lens. Shane was hiding in the bushes. His victim continued to stare at the ocean. The girl turned and said something to the man, but Sophia couldn't hear it. The camera zoomed in closer, blurring and focusing again on the other girl.

The other girl.

Pain rose in Sophia's chest, squeezing her heart and making a lump form in her windpipe. She gripped the gold chain Shane had given her last September, for their one-year anniversary. It felt thinner than usual, almost nonexistent in her hand as the scene continued to unfold on the screen.

The mystery girl held up her hand, palm facing the ocean.

Something else was happening onscreen. Something she had never expected. The tightness fled from Sophia's chest as she watched, transfixed, wanting more than anything to shut the laptop and run away, but her legs refused to rise from the floor.

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