Dangerous to Know & Love(2) by Jane Harvey-Berrick

And college was so different. For a start, she was sharing a room for the first time in her life, which meant there was little privacy, even though Kirsty turned out to be pretty nice. There was that word again. She had to get used to the communal bathrooms, and wearing flip-flops in the shower, irritated that she’d have to wait until her sophomore year for the women’s dorms to be renovated with private bathrooms. She missed being able to cook for herself, and instead having to eat all of her meals in the cafeteria. And the amount of work her professors were piling on had been overwhelming. She felt a little panicky when she realized how heavy her schedule was going to be, and the fact that, by the end of week one, she was already behind in two classes – especially business, which could have been in Ancient Greek for all she’d understood of it.

But it was Friday night, and Kirsty persuaded her to go downtown for a pizza with some of the girls. Despite the fact that Shawna was there, it was more fun than Lisanne had expected. They spent Saturday morning studying and in the afternoon hit the outlets and, at Kirsty’s insistence, Lisanne spent more than she ought to on a new pair of jeans to wear clubbing that night.

By Sunday, Lisanne was so worried about her homework that she was determined to spend the afternoon and evening at the library. Jeez, how sad was that?

Not surprisingly, the library was almost empty, the main study area echoing loudly as she scraped her chair along the floor. Three guys who appeared to be pre-med seniors, hunched over anatomy textbooks, and threw her irritated looks, surprised by her intrusion – and a couple of people wandered aimlessly through the stacks. She turned off her iPod with a sigh, letting the last notes of Love and Theft’s Runnin’ out of Air die away, then Lisanne’s surprised eyes fell on the last person she expected to see in a library, let alone on a weekend – Eyebrow Ring guy.

He was sitting at a table by himself, with his business studies textbook propped open in front of him. Every now and then he’d type some notes into his laptop.

Lisanne flopped down at a table that just happened to have him in view. She’d decided he was most likely there to meet one of his druggie contacts, and if he was, she’d tell the on duty librarian. Probably. Maybe.

But she found herself mesmerized as his long fingers intermittently swept through his hair, or tugged at his eyebrow ring.

After half an hour, she had to admit that he was doing nothing more sinister than studying, even though he seemed the type of guy who would be recovering from partying hard on a Saturday night. Eventually, she turned her eyes to her own pile of homework, that hadn’t lessened during her 30 minutes of mindless gawking.

After nearly four hours of actual studying, Lisanne’s eyes felt tired and gritty – as if the pages of her books had been covered with sandpaper as she’d read them, and she wanted nothing more than to go back to her room and sleep. She really hoped Kirsty wasn’t going to come back hyper and noisy, although the odds were against her. She rubbed her face and looked up – straight into the hazel eyes of Eyebrow Ring guy.

She expected him to glance away, but he didn’t. He held her gaze, his face impassive. Much to her annoyance, Lisanne felt her skin heating with a blush. No, no, no! Not in front of him!

But her blush was badly behaved and didn’t pay any attention to her whatsoever.

She was saved by the librarian, who announced that the library was closing. By the time Lisanne looked back, Eyebrow Ring guy had already shoved his laptop and books into a black canvas messenger bag, and was on his way out.

Hastily, Lisanne grabbed her books and hurried after him, telling herself she didn’t want to be alone in the creepy old building. He was twenty feet ahead of her when Lisanne tripped over the library’s threshold, and went sprawling across the cold steps.

She cried out as she grazed her hands and landed painfully on her knees. Eyebrow Ring guy didn’t even break pace, let alone turn around to help her. Although he must have heard her yell, he ignored her completely, striding off into the darkness.

Hurt and humiliated, Lisanne gathered her books, quietly cursing the black haired boy who had distracted her so disastrously.

* * *

The next morning, Lisanne crawled out of bed far too early for someone who’d been woken, as predicted, at 1 AM. The palms of her hands were scraped raw and her knees were black and blue. But, worse than that, she felt bruised inside. How could he just ignore her when she’d hurt herself like that? Lisanne knew that she wouldn’t let a stranger lie sprawled on the ground without trying to help. What kind of person behaved like that?

She definitely didn’t want to find out.

“It’s too early,” moaned Kirsty. “And who the hell allows a construction crew to do roadwork on a Monday morning outside a dorm room?”

Lisanne glanced outside. Nope, no road crew. The pounding was all in Kirsty’s head.

Lisanne rolled her eyes, but couldn’t help a sympathetic smile slipping out as she watched her roommate nurse a grade-A hangover.

“You look like you had a good night?”

Kirsty pulled herself up to lean against the headboard, bunching the duvet around her.

“You should have been there, Lisanne, it was awesome. Our fake IDs were totally cool. Shawna was drinking tequila shots – she was a mess.”

Lisanne couldn’t help a small, superior smile, and Kirsty looked at her curiously.

“What did you do?”

“Not much. Studied.”

Lisanne couldn’t bring herself to tell Kirsty about her misadventure in the library, or rather, on the library steps. And she certainly wasn’t going to mention Eyebrow Ring guy’s part in it. Well, that was a giant non story anyway.

Kirsty groaned and Lisanne couldn’t help wincing, too. She’d been drunk once, and she hadn’t enjoyed the sensation. It had been at her cousin’s wedding and it was not a feeling she wanted to remember. Ever. Especially the part where she’d vomited down the front of her new dress.

She grabbed a bottle of water from their tiny fridge, and placed it with two Advil on Kirsty’s bedside table.

“You are a lifesaver,” moaned Kirsty, her fingers scrabbling for the pills.

She looked up as Lisanne started to open the door.

“Where are you going?”

“Classes!” said Lisanne, raising her eyebrows.

“Okay, see you later? We’re going Italian tonight.”

“Um, no thanks. I’ve got some stuff to do,” said Lisanne, evasively. “See you.”

Kirsty moaned, and gave a small wave.

* * *

It didn’t seem such a good idea, now Lisanne was standing outside the building. She bit her lip and checked the flyer again. Yes, this was definitely the address, but it didn’t look like the kind of place she wanted to enter without an armed guard. Scuzzy: that was the word. Rundown: that was another. Disreputable. Scary. A dive. Even standing outside, she could smell stale beer, and the sidewalk was littered with cigarette butts. At least it was broad daylight. Not that anyone inside would have known that fact – the windows on the street side had been painted black.

She felt slightly nauseous, and realized her palms were sweating as she rubbed them against her new jeans. This was a bad idea. She should go back to the dorms before she made an even bigger fool of herself.

Lisanne had just convinced herself to turn around and leave when the steel door swung open. The biggest man she had ever seen stared down at her. Jeez, he was enormous. He looked like he could have crushed her ribs with one hand if he wanted to. His head was either bald or shaved, and his arms and neck were entirely covered in tattoos.

He smiled at Lisanne, and she automatically took a pace backward.

“Hey, girly, you here for the audition?”

“Um, yes?” said Lisanne, hesitantly.

“Come on in, honey.”

Lisanne wanted to say no. She wanted to turn and run, but somehow her feet wouldn’t obey her body. The man was still staring at her, so she took a deep breath and stepped inside. She really wished she’d left a message with someone to say where she was going – so they’d know where to find her mangled corpse. Maybe her cellphone had satellite tracking. Maybe she should hide it somewhere in the club before…

“This way, honey.”

Giganator led her into the bowels of the building, the dark walls saturated with the scent of sweat and hard liquor, or possibly liquor that had been sweated out from dancing, heaving bodies every weekend.

The lighting was dim, and no daylight had been permitted to enter the crypt like web of rooms. Lisanne tried hard to tell herself that the staining on the floor couldn’t possibly be blood.

Then she heard the echoing sound of someone laughing. It was such a happy, carefree laugh – not at all how she’d imagine a serial killer would sound. Unexpectedly, she felt her body relax.

Peering through the gloom, she saw a group of men standing on a small stage. As one, they turned to look at her, and the laughter died away.

“Another lamb to the slaughter,” came a low voice, and several of them snickered quietly.

Lisanne swallowed, then straightened her shoulders and walked forward with a determined air, belied by the way her stomach rolled and lurched.

They watched her with amusement but despite their scary appearance, their behavior wasn’t threatening. She ground to a halt when she saw one of them was Eyebrow Ring guy. Why did he have to be here to witness her further humiliation? He gazed back at her without recognition, and Lisanne felt ridiculous for thinking that he’d know her – or even remember her.

He was leaning against the piano, one foot propped up behind him, his knee bent, his stance relaxed and at ease. As Lisanne approached, he jumped down from the stage.

“I’m outta here – fucking auditions,” he said in a bored voice.

“Sure, Dan.” One of the men spoke quietly. “Don’t be a stranger,” but Eyebrow Ring guy ignored him, pushed past her, and carried on walking, swinging a motorcycle helmet in one hand.

Lisanne felt incensed by his rude behavior. He was such a jerk.

* * *

Daniel was irritated with himself for going to the club. He knew it would just stir up a shit storm of memories, and he really didn’t need the aggravation his brother would give him when he found out: but somehow he hadn’t been able to stay away either. Even so, there was no way on earth he was going to hang around for another lame audition. He had his limits.

He’d been surprised when the latest victim had turned up. She didn’t look anything like the kind of girl who would go to their club. He loved the place but he had to be honest: it was a shit awful pit. She looked too young, for a start, and too fresh.

But Daniel knew that appearances could deceive. He was all too well aware how people judged him the moment they saw him. The reactions were predictable. Mostly, he didn’t care what people thought. No, that wasn’t true. He didn’t care what people thought about the way he looked. He knew that his tats, his piercings, the way he was dressed, gave people a giant f**k off message, and that suited him just fine. That shit was deliberate. He’d learned to be wary of people in general, and starting at the college was a big deal for him. He’d already had to lay out a couple of ass**les, and Zef had given him hell when he’d come home with bruised knuckles two days running. Which was pretty f**king funny when you thought about it. Maybe ‘ironic’ was the word.

He was used to the way people reacted to him: girls checked him out, even some older chicks, which was cool; guys either avoided him or tried to prove that they were harder than he was. They rarely were. Most adults just pigeonholed him as a delinquent and passed by on the other side. His professors didn’t seem bothered, for which Daniel was grateful: tats, piercings, weird clothes and hairstyles – they’d seen it all before. But Daniel wanted to avoid trouble as much as possible at college. Unfortunately, that looked like it was going to mean avoiding people, too.

He was aware that his so-called rep was already following him around. It infuriated him, but when you were Zef Colton’s brother, there wasn’t a lot you could do about a bad rep. Which was why he’d pounded on those two dickwads last week: they’d made the painful assumption that Daniel and his brother were the same – painful for them, anyway.

That girl had looked at him the way everyone else did: she checked him out but thought he was trash, too. Bitch.

It was only when he’d pushed past her on his way out of the club, and saw the flash of anger in her eyes, that he recognized her: Library Girl. He’d seen her there on Sunday evening. In fact, he was pretty certain that she’d been staring at him for at least 20 minutes. It had started to freak him out, and he’d just about decided to say something when she’d finally started concentrating on her own work, and he was able to relax.

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