The Immortal Pact
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"That's my good girl," Darius moaned, "Someone is going to behave herself tonight, isn't she?" ~~~ Miranda Moore is a 22-year-old college girl from Ravenfalls, a town generally quite outside of its menacing woods. Now something sinister is brewing and people have begun to disappear. Desperate for answers, this local girl will have to face her fear of the woods if she has any chance of finding her loved ones. Can Miranda uncover secrets that have been buried by time and put an end to it all? Or will she become the next victim? ~~~ The Woods - A place that nightmares are made of. For years it sat untouched by the town until the arrival of a last heir, Darius Ryder. He is the dream man every girl wishes she could take home, but he only has eyes for one...
“I am so horny,” Alex sighed, practically frisbee-ing a plate of baby carrots onto his lunch tray. “Like seriously, horn dog horny.” His gay twang made his horny sound particularly so, at least that was what Miranda thought.
She grabbed a plate of carrots for herself. On her right, taking up the end of their nerdy three-buddy system, was Trisha. She rolled her eyes when Miranda turned to face her. “We get it, boo! You haven’t been laid since God knows when. Now, how about you stop taking up the line? That orange jello is calling to me erotically.”
Now it was Miranda's turn to roll her eyes. Trisha loved her sweets and had the perfect metabolism for them. No matter how much she ingested, her roommate's caramel tummy never pushed her waistline out any further. Trisha's boobs were a different matter. Standing next to the other girl always made Miranda feel like she was wearing a board under her shirt. Those Double Ds had a way of standing out, and though that always came in handy for free drinks from the club, it didn't help Miranda in the dating department. It was hard to whisper sexily into a blonde jock's ear about what she wanted him to do to her when his eyes were magnetized toward a roommate's chest.
“Be nice,” She scolded, taking a small cup of grapes to put on her tray next. Miranda was desperate not to be embarrassed by a summer Bikini when the three of them took their annual camping trip. Of course, she had made herself a weight promise the year before, but all that landed her was a one-piece and a s'more of shame. “Alex,” she took her next words with caution, “Don't you think maybe you should save sex till the end of the term?”
Trisha snorted around a mouthful of jello; she never could wait till they reached the end of the line, “Askin' him to hold off on waiving his who-ha around for almost two more months? Gurl, please! That boy has a well-oiled zipper and a library of condoms stuffed in his man purse. Telling him not to have sex is like...” She looked around adamantly for a good example. Her hazel eyes narrowed in on the fudge sundaes at the end of the line, “Oh my god, they added nuts!”
“The Fuck, girl?” Alex glared over his glasses, “You just left me hanging for nuts?”
“Hellz yeah,” Trisha scoffed, “And I plan to put them in my mouth with enthusiasm!”
The student worker who was scanning ID cards at the checkout looked up at the crew with an annoyed frown. Miranda felt sorry for her. It probably reached a whole new level of annoying spending two hours swiping cards and listening to constant sexual innuendos, particularly on a meal day involving nuts and a ton of October-related treats.
Taking back her card, she stuffed it in her jeans pocket and looked around for a free table. That was when one of her hazel curls escaped from its hair band prison and was now blocking her left eye. “Damn it,” she growled, balancing her tray into her right hand so she could attack back.
“Girls, let's eat out,” Alex suggested. He swayed his hips from side to side, making for an adorable exit. They had a spot outdoors where they enjoyed vegging. As much as Miranda wanted fresh air, she wasn't sure that she could keep up the wrestling match with her hair, balance the tray, and get her hips to cooperate against the steel door. Following behind Trisha, she tried to spring after her friend just as the door was closing, but that only made way for disaster. Her tray corner somehow got stuck in the incredibly large handle. In one thrust, the girl almost lost everything.
Two strong hands appeared out of nowhere and swept up the orange plastic just before it slipped out of Miranda's fingers. Shocked, her lips dropped into an oval shape. She fish-lined her head up, attempting to prepare a quick ‘thank you’ but it never left her lips.
She could almost kid herself that her rudeness was because of being winded or surprised.
Standing before her was the most excellent excuse of a man that the girl had ever spied with her two doe eyes. He was perfect, no more than 35 and tall… and built… and... she didn't know where to let her gaze settle. Sporting a perfect pitch of black hair, he stared back with crystal blue eyes and a tiny grin that made her insides melt.
“Hey there,” The man's voice sounded like warm honey dipped into a refreshing glass of milk, “You should be more careful. We wouldn't want you to get hurt, would we?”
Miranda's cheeks didn't like to play it cool, even when she begged them. Neither did her jaw. She could feel the heat rising in her face long before she had time to register that she was blushing. Nodding quickly, the girl snatched back her tray and moved on. She could feel his eyes on her as she shimmied around him and chased after her friends. It took all her courage to look back, to take in his suit so finely pressed, and his briefcase held tight in one hand. He was here on business.
'Out of range.'
She almost called over her shoulder. Almost asked him what he was at the college for.
Alex was staring at her over the rims of his specks as she caught up. “What the hell happened to you?”
“Are you blushing?” Trisha reached out a hand to annoyingly stroke Miranda's face.
The girl managed to catch it with more grace than she had when handling the door. “I'm fiiine,” She huffed, “Thank you ‘oh so much’ for asking.”
Trisha grinned. It was the widest grin in the world - Still sometimes freaking Miranda out even after all their time as friends. “Gurrrl, you trippin’ if you think I'm going to let this go. You are blushing.”
Miranda huffed, making her evasive curl flutter.
Alex reached into his satchel and pulled out a glittery pink hair clip. Mother hen style, he pushed it into Miranda's stray lock and clipped it on top of her head. “Miss Thang doesn't want to tell us who the hottie is. That's fine... I have patience.”
Miranda knew what patience meant for Alex. She had about two hours of trying to collect her thoughts. At that time, her roommate would be planning Hell. First, it would come up again over dinner. Later it would rear its naked head over their reading time. An hour later, just when Miranda thought Alex had gone to bed, she would come hopping out of the shower to find him leaning on the sink. 'Oh look, Miranda, your skin is so red. Almost as red as it was earlier when you saw someone hot but decided to be a heifer and not share with me.'
All the little hints and subtle messages would be leading up to the big reveal. Yes, Miranda knew Alex very well. He had done it all so many times before. The most current had been two weeks previous when he had noticed her gumdrops were particularly perky after a trip to the gym. The boy kept up with that one for three days until she finally caved and told him about the Quarterback with a Boner. Living with Best Friends meant no privacy.
Trisha, who was currently distracted going to town on her ice cream, suddenly snapped up straight and turned to the other two. “So did you guys hear what happened to Mrs. O'Gary?”
Miranda crunched into one of her apple slices and shook her head. Last she had heard about Mrs. O'Gary, their very rambunctious English professor, she had stolen away for a weekend of cabin writing. Her little impromptu hermit expedition always came back with pretty incredible stories, many of which were immortalized by pen and paper. “Is she back already?”
“Nu-uh gurl, she ain't nevah coming back.”
Alex choked on his carrot, his green eyes dilating. “Excuse me very much?”
Trisha nodded, her face lighting up over the fact that she knew something her friends didn't. “Yeah, she's like gone gone, y'all. She got super roughed on her camping trip and had to be flown to Florida to stay with her family. They have to find her a sub for the rest of the semester.”
Miranda couldn't believe what she was hearing. “Poor Mrs. O'Gary, is she going to be alright?”
Trisha shrugged, the suspense making her chest puff up. “Nobody knows, gurl. The deets are pretty murky and she can't seem to tell anyone what happened out there.”
Alex and Miranda had begun leaning in, letting the whispering envelop them.
“It serves her right!” Came a suddenly high voice that brought everyone roughly back to Earth. At that moment, Roxanne and Morgan, the remaining roommates, came purposefully marching up. Roxanne was tying her golden rays of hair up into a perfect bun without the need for a mirror. Her amazingly tanned skin was bunched up in a frown as she stared down at her three other roommates watching her in confusion. “Oh, come on, guys! Mrs. O'Gary has been warned about camping alone out in Ravenfalls Woods, even in the cabin resort. Things happen out there, and if you go hiking out by yourself, you are just purposefully trying to get hurt.”
Roxanne's younger cousin, Morgan, who was equally black in his wardrobe as Roxanne was pink, looked to the sky in frustration. “That is messed up, Roxy. She got really hurt. Mrs. O'Gary was such a sweet old lady.”
Miranda watched Morgan with a newfound interest. He was the kind of guy who listened to songs that mostly consisted of screaming. He put on guyliner, painted his nails, and his pants had more chains than material. She had lived with him for one full semester now, and never once in any of that time had she heard him express any kind of sentiment. His honest concern for Mrs. O'Gary was as equally moving as it was mind-blowing.
“Are the cops looking into it?” Alex questioned over a mouthful of cheese cubes.
Roxanne stared at him with a little disgust before answering, “Well, it's not like they can do much, now can they? There is no sense in endangering the lives of innocent cops to search through miles of uncharted forest and try to figure out what attacked an old lady who knew better.”
Sometimes Miranda wished she could punch Roxanne in the face for being so bitchy. At times it was honestly like living with an evil queen from a fairy tale. In those moments, the girl wondered how on Earth they had managed to put up with each other for years. Then Roxy did something awesome like help to braid her incredibly impossible curls, and Miranda remembered how they did it. Roxy swiped up a piece of her apple cup with a cat ate the canary grin.
“Any idea what they are going to do with her class tomorrow?" Trisha questioned.
“Probably combine us with another group,” Roxanne responded uninterestedly. She bounced off in the direction of the cafeteria, Morgan quickly followed behind his cousin - Lest he get swept up in a conversation with other mortals.
Trisha watched them go, “That poor bastard.”
Alex shuttered, “Wow, guys. Like, I don't think I can eat anymore. That is just super crazy.”
Miranda nodded, closing up her lunch for the day. She wished that Mrs. O'Gary had stayed long enough to say goodbye or at least left a forwarding address where she could send her a 'Get Well' card. She wondered if Mr. O'Gary had gone along with his wife to Florida or if he was sticking around to get some things in order before he went.
Trisha looked up at the afternoon sky with distaste, “Come on, guys. Let’s get inside before the rain comes.”
Miranda eyed her friend in confusion. It was a beautiful sunshiny day. She followed Trisha's gaze, and her jaw dropped for the second time that afternoon. In the far distance were some angry-looking storm clouds. They came out of nowhere and were racing across the sky like disastrous giants. “But the Weather Man said nothing about rain today.”
Alex snorted, “Please Miranda, when is the Weather Man ever right?”
He almost always was, she thought.
It did indeed rain, much to Miranda's great surprise.
It rained hard.
By the end of study hall, she was soaked down to her underwear from class bouncing and just wanted a fresh pair of sweatpants and a warm cup of cocoa. In an apartment split by coffee and tea drinkers, Miranda felt it was her duty to come up between the two parties with a big mug of chocolatey goodness and marshmallows.
Her mouth was already watering over the delicious flavors about to explode against her lips. She took a shortcut through the gym to stay semi-warm. At that hour, it was relatively deserted, save for a few stragglers who were secretly trying to become ripped by winter break. Miranda sprinted down a hall filled with paper skeletons and ceiling-hanging bats. Her goal was to make it between the lights that still flooded from each of the different workout rooms. It was a game she had been playing for as long as she could remember, one that she and her father had made up together.
Running through the dark to get from one light to another before the shadows ‘caught you’.
The silence of the hall made it seem more like a sacred ritual than the game of a silly 22-year-old. Somehow it was enough to lull her into a feeling of relaxation, one that filled her mind with cheerful memories. That was until a deafening noise interrupted her thoughts.
Looking around in confusion, Miranda made her way toward the sign marked 'Pool.’ No one was supposed to be in there after hours, not without a lifeguard present.
Coming up to the door, she peered through the small window to see who was brave enough to have a late-night party. Her eyes swept over its calm watery surface until they narrowed in on the perp who was just emerging out of the end nearest to her… and then they very suddenly became hazel saucers. She took in the bare-muscled form of her lunch rescuer. He was still just as perfect with his clothes off as when he had them on. Baring nothing but a pair of wet swimming trunks that ducked so low that they left little room for imagination, the strange man stood up straight and looked right up at Miranda.
A sly grin started at the corner of his mouth and laced its way across the man's face. Lifting his left hand, the stranger extended his pointer finger and curled it back. The gesture was an obvious invitation to join him.
The girl felt her breath catch and her heart pound right up against her rib cage. This was the perfect pantie-wetting moment in any romance novel. It was where the damsel got to be perfectly felt up by a half-naked man without even the slightest morsel of guilt. She could almost imagine the sexual texture of the small stubble around his chin rubbing against her bare neck as she moaned into his ear and begged him to take her. Would they get caught? No one ever did in the books.
Taking a step back, the girl shook away all thoughts of sliding her tank top over her head, snapping her wild curls from their bun, and shimmying her legs out of the seclusion of her jeans.
These were fantasies. They never happened...
With a hasty retreat, she backed into one of the rectangle tables that the sporting clubs used to pass out fliers. It made such a loud noise in the once-quiet halls, that it took away the last of Miranda's courage. She dropped her tan backpack to the floor in a quick race for the nearest exit. All her womanly desire was telling the girl to go back for it and maybe get stopped by the stranger who wouldn't take 'no' a second time... Unfortunately, all her logic was (loudly) reminding Miranda that she could retrieve her things the next day and would probably find them undisturbed.
For the first millionth in her life, Miranda chose to follow her head over her heart - and lady parts - as she bolted through the rain in the direction of her apartment. The girl knew she would feel foolish when she tried to explain the lack of her bag to her roommates later, jumping over dirty details (of course), but all thoughts of going back made her feel even crazier. What would she say if she found the man standing in the halls waiting for the girl’s return?
As her apartment came closer into view, Miranda stopped for a rest. There was no sense in showing up winded as well as backpack-less. That would only force her storytelling to take an earlier jump into the stratosphere. She placed a hand over her beating chest as she bent in for a deep breath, completely ignoring the slight drizzle that raced down her back.
The girl leaned against the iron gate that ran alongside the campus, separating the school property from the surrounding woods.
Miranda shuttered and stared through the gaps in the fencing, her breathing becoming more frantic as she realized that this was the closest to the woods that she had been in years.
They were a continually looming presence over the town - It was as if those trees knew that they had the ability to reach out, with claw-like fingers, into everyone's life. From here, they didn't look as sinister as they felt, and yet Miranda would be kidding herself if she tried to think of them as anything less than dangerous. Those woods were a terror to the community and that was something that no one should ever forget.
She closed her eyes and took a step back, remembering a promise made years ago to her father on the night her whole family's life had changed. She wasn't about to break that promise now. No matter how old the girl got, or how strong she felt, Miranda would never forget staring into her father's terrified eyes as she promised never to enter those woods for as long as she lived.
“Hey, Miranda!” Morgan's voice filled the night with a familiar tone that was surprisingly almost comforting. An emotion she had never thought she would ever feel from that kid. He was waving from the balcony, his favorite place. Unlike Miranda, Morgan loved the forest. He loved to talk about it, read about it, and even watch it from the safety of his perch. “Come on! Pizza is getting cold!”
Now there was another comforting thought. No one came between Miranda and her pizza.
She pushed her legs to move her forward, right up the stone steps that led to the second-floor landing. She loved the second floor. It wasn't just a matter of it being so high up. She loved the feeling of home that she and the other tenants had made there. Walking past the entrance to the second-floor lobby, Miranda could hear a small gathering going on inside. That was how it was most nights. Small groups would gather in front of the flat screen, around the pool table, or by the community stove to whip something up. Miranda never saw the same kind of excitement happen on the first floor.
Stopping to quickly evaluate herself outside of the apartment, the girl couldn't believe how much she felt like a naughty schoolgirl. She hadn't done anything wrong that entire day. Not a single thing. It wasn't her fault, after all, that some strange man was appearing all over campus and trying to tempt her with his amazingly gorgeous body. She could already hear the annoyance in Roxy's voice for not getting his name, let alone his number. Miranda shook her head at the thought. She didn't need a new fling; her old one was still annoyingly texting.
“Is that Miranda?” Trisha questioned loudly from the kitchen as the front door opened.
“Yeah,” Miranda said back, kicking her sneakers off. “I'm home at long last, and you know what I want to dooooo????” She called out, making her way down the hall to the bedroom she shared with Alex. “I want to get all nice and warm, and...”
“Miranda, no!” Trisha cried out too late.
The girl threw open her bedroom door and came face to face with a bare naked moon. The sound of Alex's cries of joy escalated to ones of bliss and surprise.
“God damn it!” The girl agonized as she slammed her door shut. “WE TALKED ABOUT SOCKS FOR A REASON!” She called over her shoulder as she made her way back down the hall to a hysterical Trisha. “And who the Hell is that guy riding Alex?”
Roxanne poked her head out of her private quarters with an annoyed groan. “What is with all the shouting?" Spying the return of her roommate, the Diva's face softened in a way that was only for her, "Oh, hi Miranda. Do yourself a favor and don't go in your room right now. M'Kay?”
The Second Floor Laundry room was empty as Miranda let herself in.
With there being no sign as to when she would be allowed to enter her bedroom again without fear of a sticky white shower, the girl decided to take drying her clothes to a new level. Yanking off her outfit and standing in nothing but her underwear and bra, the girl tossed her soaked clothes into the first dryer and popped in a quarter. She figured it would not take more than 20 minutes to have her meager clothing load dry, and in that time she would be able to respond to her abundance of unanswered text messages.
Jumping up onto the icy surface of a washing machine, Miranda positioned her butt cheeks so that they didn't feel as if an icicle was spanking her. Sighing, the girl started with her most important contact first. Unfortunately, she really didn't want to have to explain, step by step, how her day was to an eagerly awaiting Dad. Thinking over a good response, Miranda knew she needed to pu
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