I think every writer has a favorite character, or chapter, or sometimes even a line in their books. So, I thought I would share with you my favorite chapter from my latest book Becoming Eden. It was a fun chapter to write. It was, for some strange reason, an easy chapter to write (that usually never happens), and it's one of the chapters I find myself talking about the most.
A little warning - there are spoilers so read at your own discretion and hopefully enjoy :)
The smell of stale popcorn and sugary treats hit Eden's nose as she pulled her car into the grassy lot the festival used at a parking lot, the windows on her car rolled down. The lot was filling up quickly which was unsurprising. The Chili Festival was what Delphi was known for. People came from all over Colorado, even all over the U.S. to visit it.
The festival was held in a huge field of recently cut grass and yellow wildflowers, surrounded by tall pine trees. Lights raised high into the air, attracting moths and other small bugs. The large Ferris wheel in the center of the festival served as a bright blue and pink beacon letting people know where to go.
Stepping out of her car, Eden swatted at a moth threatening to get tangled in her long hair. She zipped up her black faux leather jacket over her peach lace tunic.
It eased Eden's mind to know that her brothers were in Boulder for the night at a laser tag party for one of Hunter's friends. She didn't need to worry about keeping an eye on them at the festival or leaving them home alone when killer vampires were on the loose.
Her friends were already all there, standing in a small circle and waiting for Eden. They were huddled up, all looking cold with pink cheeks and ears. Mel, who was wearing a bright purple thigh length wool jacket waved at Eden as she approached.
"Hey," Eden smiled as she reached them, "are we all ready to go in."
"As a Venator," Oswald blew on his thin hands before sticking them into the pockets of his yellow skinny jeans, "I think you should work on your time management."
They walked underneath the yellow entrance banner and into the festival. A man in a green chili costume began dancing around them and Oswald scurried behind Eden, shouting about how people in costumes were more terrifying than monsters.
After running away from the dancing chili, they made their way over to the food booths where Eden promptly bought and stuffed her face with nachos, soda, and a giant pretzel.
"How can you eat like that?" Oswald asked, taking a bite of his hot dog as they waited in line to ride the bumper cars, "You can out eat me!"
Eden sipped on her soda, "I'm seventeen years old. I'm never gonna be able to eat like this again without horrible mass amounts of exercise…I'm just taking advantage."
Jasmine stayed on the sidelines cheering the others on as Wes pummeled Mel, Eden, and Oswald with his bumper car. It took the entire walk to the Ferris wheel for Oswald to stop complaining that his car had been defective.
Once they had ridden the Ferris wheel, they were on to the pie eating contest where Wes was one of the competitors. They cheered him on and watched as he ate one apple and one cherry pie and ultimately came in second place, winning a free pie to take home with him.
They moved on from the pie eating contest to the photo booth, making sure Wes didn't clean all the pie off of his face. They all squished in, Jasmine sitting on Wes's lap, Eden sitting on Mel's, and Oswald squeezed up front, peeking his head into the shot.
"I can't believe I'm going to say this," Oswald announced, stretching his body out as they exited the photo booth, "but I'm actually enjoying myself."
Eden knew he would. You couldn't not enjoy yourself at the Chili Festival. She grabbed onto Oswald's green hoodie and dragged him over to the games area, straight to the ring toss. This was the part of the festival that tormented her every year. Eden gazed up at the giant stuffed pink gorilla that she had failed to win for the past ten years. Every year she was forced to see at least one or two people walking around with the giant gorilla, but never her. Eden didn't care if it took her another ten or twenty years, she was going to have that gorilla.
"Oh no," Mel groaned, "not again, Eden. You spend all your money and you never win."
Oswald pointed up at the stuffed gorilla, "What is that?"
"That Oswald," Eden took a dollar out of her pocket and handed it over to the man working the ring toss, "is my great white whale. It keeps eluding me, but I will have it!"
Wes snorted, patting Oswald on the shoulder, "Just give her five minutes, she'll run out of money, and we can move on."
Eden took one ring in her hand and placed the rest down on the booth in front of her. Her strategy in the past had always been to just toss it and hope it landed on a bottle. She was going to throw her first ring using that same strategy, but as she shot her arm forward, about to release the ring, her eyes focused on a bottle towards the center, and her hand seemed to instinctively turn towards it. Eden released the ring and it sailed towards the bottle, hitching onto the edge and falling off of it.
"Oh my," Jasmine breathed out behind her, "that was closer than you usually get."
Jasmine was right. Eden took a moment. That toss had felt different to her. It had felt like she actually had control, like her body knew what to do to make the ring hit its target. She had four rings left so she figured she might as well try it a new way. She would let her body have control, which was strange for Eden considering she always felt like she was in a constant war with her own body.
Eden took the ring in her hand. She let her eyes focus on the same bottle they had the first time. Taking a deep breath and letting it out slowly, Eden shut out all the distractions around her. She didn't think about it; just let her body take over. Flicking her wrist in the smallest of motions, she released the ring. It sailed through the air and Eden didn't breathe. The ring lowered and came down directly around the bottle's neck.
"Oh my God!" Mel and Wes shouted as Eden began to scream and jump up and down.
She couldn't stop screaming she was so excited, "I did it! I did it!" Eden jumped over to Mel and gave her a huge hug, continuing to scream and hop. Wes, Jasmine, and Oswald all got their hugs next.
The carnie pointed up to the huge gorilla's hanging from the stand, "Which color?" He asked.
There was a yellow, blue, and pink one. Eden didn't even need to think about it, "The pink one!"
The man took down the gorilla and handed it over to Eden. She scooped it up into a giant hug, her arms not fitting around its massive body.
Eden continued to scream and jump, the gorilla's arm flailing up and down with every jump.
"It was worth it!" Eden beamed, hugging her gorilla close, "It was worth becoming a Venator to get this!"
Wes choked on the soda he was sipping, "What?!" He coughed, "It was worth getting killed by a vampire and coming back as creature bait all to win some oversized monkey?"
Mel shoved Wes hard into Jasmine, who then shoved him back towards Mel.
"Don't take this away from her." Mel scolded Wes harshly.
It didn't matter what Wes said, nothing could take away Eden's elation at this moment.
"Alright," Jasmine said, taking hold of Wes's hand, "now let's go dance."
Wes groaned as Mel exclaimed, "Yes!"
"Cheesy pictures I'll do." Oswald complained, "Stupid rides and bad fair food I'll do, but I draw my line at dancing. You've found my line and I'm not going over it."
Putting the gorilla's arms over her shoulders so that he rested on Eden's back, she followed her friends to the open are in the center of the festival that they used as the dance floor.
They reached the dance area after a quick stop to let Eden get some cotton candy. There was a local band playing modern alternative songs. A large number of people were out on the dance area, dancing to a slower paced ballad with a catchy tune. There were painted blue wooden picnic tables around the dance area and Eden and the others claimed an empty one.
Eden set her stuffed gorilla down on a bench and leaned against the picnic table, finishing off her cotton candy and watching the dancers. Oswald went to sit on the table next to Eden when Genny Serrano, a pretty girl one grade below Eden, came up and begged Oswald to dance with her. He refused for as long as he could, but Genny wasn't going to take no for an answer and ended up dragging Oswald out to dance as he kept shooting panicked looks back to Eden.
It was easy to see why Oswald hated to dance. He was terrible at it, with no rhythm whatsoever. He ended up resorting to doing a sort of robot dance, and he was even bad at that.
Jasmine and Wes went to join in the dancing as Eden and Mel stayed behind at the picnic tables, laughing hysterically at Oswald's attempt at dancing.
Mel clutched Eden's arm tightly, pulling and pushing at her as she cracked up. Eden threw her head back and laughed as Mel imitated Oswald's robot. She gave Mel a light tap on the forehead with her cotton candy, letting her know she should stop her mocking before Oswald saw them. Mel stopped and turned to Eden, still laughing. Then, all of a sudden, Mel's eyes moved a fraction of an inch over Eden's head and her laughing stopped.
"Oh…my…" Mel said slowly, staring at something behind Eden.
Eden went to swivel her body and see what Mel was looking at, but Mel quickly grabbed onto Eden's shoulders, turning her back around.
"Don't look." Mel told her. Her face was anxious.
Eden cocked her eyebrow at Mel, "Well now you know I have to look."
It was easy enough for Eden to turn despite Mel's hands on her shoulders, but the second her eyes caught sight of what Mel had seen, Eden immediately wished she had taken Mel's advice.
There, standing at the other side of the dance floor was Max Weston. He was with a group of teenagers, including Emmy Dawson, and much to Eden's displeasure, his cousin Sari. Besides a tight fitting white t-shirt, he was dressed all in black. That mixed with his dark hair made his sun kissed skin almost seem to glow.
Eden would have glanced away immediately, trying to pretend she had never even seen him, if only his eyes hadn't been planted directly on her when she had turned around and caught sight of him. She held his gaze. Even at this distance she could swear that she could see the stormy gray of his eyes, almost begging her to walk over to him.
After a few seconds of gazing at each other, Max's mouth opened slightly. His face, which had held its usual unreadable expression, broke into one that looked close to yearning. That was all Eden could take. She tore her eyes away from him, spinning back around to face Mel.
Mel was eyeing Max, moving her eyes up and down his body. Her tongue came out and rolled across her upper lip.
"Okay," She breathed out in a heavy sight to Eden, "I know Max was kind of an ass to you, but get on him. Get on him, now!" With her hands still on Eden's shoulders, Mel told her firmly, "Climb him, lick him…make him beg."
"What is wrong with you?!" Eden put her own hands on Mel's shoulders and shook them, "Get ahold of yourself."
Mel tilted her head in Max's direction, "You're going to need to get ahold of yourself because…"
Eden shut her eyes tightly, "Please tell me his is not coming over here."
"You know," Mel smiled taking a step away from Eden, "I think I need another soda."
Eden's heart began to race, "Don't you dare." She wanted to chase after Mel as she began to walk away, but thought that might look ridiculous.
"Eden." She heard Max's accent tinged voice directly behind her.
In that moment she realized she was wrong when she thought that nothing could spoil her good mood for the night. She was screaming internally as she twisted her body around to face Max.
"Max." She said in a clipped tone, not bothering to try and be polite.
"Can we talk?" Max asked, sounding more unsure than Eden thought possible for someone with as much confidence as he had.
Eden stared out at the dancers, purposely avoiding looking at him, "Oh, I don't know," she sighed, "the last time we talked it didn't go too well for me."
Max let out a long breath. Eden had let him know she wasn't going to make this easy for him.
"Look," he ran his hand through his thick hair, "I didn't mean…" as he struggled for the right words, Eden continued to watch the dancing, "I didn't…you know there's no way I could have meant what I said."
"Wow," Eden said, placing another tuft of sugary cotton candy on her tongue, "you weren't kidding when you said you weren't used to apologizing to people, because that 'apology' sucked."
Max took a few steps, stopping directly in front of Eden. She tried to stare at his slender torso like she wasn't bothered in the slightest, but he stood in front of her waiting for a reaction and it was only so long that she could pretend his body in her eyesight, only inches from her face, wasn't making her hotly uncomfortable.
Shaking her head in frustration, Eden pushed herself off of the picnic table and moved to walk away from Max, but he took her hand in his own and placed his other hand on the edge of the table, blocking her escape.
"Come dance with me." He commanded in a whisper, leaning in to her.
Eden wasn't going to allow him to use any of his seductive games on her. She raised her hand up and placed it on his chest. He flinched ever so slightly under her touch, something Eden hadn't been expecting. His reaction threw her for a second and she let her hand rest on his chest, feeling the curve of his collar bone just barely touching the tip of her middle finger.
Almost reluctantly Eden pushed at his chest, "Leave me alone." She said, more weakly than she had wanted to.
Max swallowed hard and took his hand off of the table, cupping it over Eden's hand that still lay on his chest.
"Come dance with me?" His voice was no longer a command. He was asking Eden to dance with him, almost begging her.
Despite every thought in her mind telling her to turn him down, to push him away, to hurt him, Eden squeezed his hand, letting a faint smile be her answer. Max smiled back and led her out onto the dance area.
Max wrapped his arm around Eden's waist. The tips of her long hair brushed his hand and he delicately played at them with his fingers. He pushed her gently in to him and Eden let him. In her boots she was able to reach and rest her head on Max's shoulder, making sure her face stayed turned away from his.
They stayed dancing, not saying a word, for a good minute. Eden listened to the slow ballad the band was playing, trying to think of something to say.
"You're here with your friends?" Max asked just as Eden was approaching the uncomfortable silence phase.
She nodded. If Max wanted to make small talk she was fine with that, but if he thought he was going to get away with not talking about what he said during their last conversation, he had another thing coming.
Max's hand moved up Eden's back, "You all seem very close."
She continued to keep her face turned from him, "Like I told you, they're my family."
Eden felt Max's head nod next to her, "I like Mel. She has a strong personality," Eden laughed lightly thinking that was a perfect description for Mel, "and Wes is…well he certainly is one of a kind…same as Oswald. The men you choose to surround yourself with are all quite…"
"Special." Eden helped Max finished his sentence.
Max laughed, his chest moving Eden slightly up and down, "And Jasmine is…well Jasmine is quiet."
Eden nodded again. Jasmine had always been quiet. She wasn't sure if it was because she was actually just a quiet person or because Mel, Wes, and Eden could be so overwhelmingly talkative. It was most likely a mixture of both.
Max shifted his weight, "She seems like she could be hard to get to know."
Eden shook her head, "She's quiet, but that doesn't mean she's secretive."
"No?" Eden could hear the doubt in Max's voice
"No." Eden shook her head again.
Max turned his head to face Eden, "So what can you tell me about her?"
"What?" Eden spun her head around. Her nose grazed up against Max's chin as his nose grazed her forehead. The both jerked their heads back slightly, taken aback by the closeness of their faces.
Pushing the hand that held hers out a little, Max moved Eden a step away from him, "Tell me a little bit about her."
Eden squinted her eyes up at Max, wondering why he was so interested in Jasmine. She wondered if playing with her emotions was all some sick game to him. Whatever it was Eden wasn't going to tell him a thing about Jasmine.
"Would you rather be dancing with Jasmine?" Eden asked, taking another step away from Max so that their bodies were no longer touching.
He gave her a chiding look, and pulled her back close to him, "The only person I want to be with is you."
Eden pulled back from Max a little, not letting the closeness of his body distract her, "So why the Jasmine interrogation?"
Max threw his head back and let out a frustrated chuckle, "You know most people, especially females, just answer my questions."
Eden snorted, "Well then you've obviously been hanging out with the wrong kind of people, especially the wrong kind of females."
Moving their cupped hands up so that they rested on his chest, Max told Eden in a serious tone, "Lately I've been thinking the same thing."
Rolling her eyes Eden said, "Just don't." She didn't want to hear any compliments from Max, any niceties or declarations. She didn't want him confusing her emotions any more than he already had.
"Eden, please," he rubbed the side of his face against her wavy hair, "don't be angry with me." His voice sounded like a little begging child and it almost made her consider forgiving him…almost.
Eden stopped dancing, staring Max straight in the eye, "Why would it matter to you if I'm angry?"
Max sighed and let his hand drop from around Eden's waist, keeping her other hand clasped against his chest, "You don't get it, Eden." He looked defeated and Eden could swear she saw some of those walls he kept up begin to crumble behind his weary eyes, "You can't understand yet and that's fine, but…" he side smiled, gazing down at her, "You're so very real. There's no pretense or hiding with you." Reaching up with his free hand he gently stroked Eden's cheek, causing chills to break out across her body, "You let the world see you as you are. That's a very rare thing." Max bent his head down so that his lips were just inches away from Eden's, "It's a thing that gives a person hope, even when that person didn't think he had any."
Tilting Eden's head to the side with his own head, Max was about to kiss Eden when she abruptly backed away, covering her mouth with her hand.
"I can't do this." She told him, shaking her head.
Eden briskly strode off of the dance floor, desperate to get away from Max. She knew if she remained near him any longer she was going to let him kiss her, or even worse, she was going to throw herself on him. The things Max had said to her the other morning couldn't be forgiven so easily, no matter how tempting his words and lips may be.
"Eden, wait!" She heard Max call from behind her.
Eden groaned internally knowing she wasn't going to be able to get away without talking to Max some more. Preferring not to pour any deep emotions out while surrounded by people, Eden walked over to a secluded area behind the music stage.
Max, who had been chasing after Eden, tried taking hold of her elbow when he reached her, but she flung it out of his reach.
"You told me that I was nothing!" Eden shouted, letting everything she had been feeling come to the surface, "You said that I was just one girl in thousands and now you try to kiss me! What is your problem?!" She was actually beginning to think that he might have some kind of personality disorder.
"It's not," Max reached out to touch her, but quickly dropped his hand after thinking better of it, "It's...it's complicated." Seeing that Eden wasn't going to take that as an answer, he continued, "You see, my cousin, Sari, doesn't really like you very much. Well," he shrugged one shoulder, "it was more like she didn't like me spending time with you."
Eden felt there better be more to Max's explanation, because so far it was crap, "Why would she even care?"
Max gave Eden a succumbing look. It was a look that let Eden know he was about to let the rest of his walls. He was going to tell her everything, whatever the consequences may be.
"If you were just some girl…one of thousands," he bit down on his lip, "some girl who meant nothing to me, then she wouldn't care, but she knows me." Eden held her breath as Max went on, "She could see that you meant something to me, that you were special." He dared to reach out and touch her face, and this time Eden let him, "That those big blue eyes are the only thing I seem to be able to think about." He dropped his hand away from Eden and turned away from her, taking a few steps, "Sari thought you would be a distraction, and she was right, you are, "Max spun back around to face her, "but the truth is I don't care. I'm supposed to be getting to know the town, but I only want to get to know you."
He began walking towards her, but Eden held up her hands to stop him. She felt overwhelmed. On one hand, Max had just said things to her that she had literally fantasized about at night, but on the other hand, there was still so much about him that confused her, so much about him that was a mystery, and as appealing as that was, she didn't want the truth behind the mystery to end up breaking her heart.
"Why is your family so…weird?" Eden asked, still not sure why Max had to try and make her want to stay away from him just because Sari didn't like him spending time with her.
Max raised his eyebrows and shook his head, "Now that is complicated, and I want to tell you, I do." He emphasized, "I…I need to tell you, just not here and not now."
Eden so badly wanted to hear what he had to tell her, but she had to think rationally. She had too many people depending on her, not just her brothers and friends, but the whole town. If she got involved in some complex relationship with one of the most difficult people she had ever met, Eden was pretty sure her new Venator powers and responsibilities would take a back seat.
"Max," Eden choked out, already regretting what she was about to tell him, "I don't think…"
"How do you feel about me?" Max blurted out, sensing where Eden was going with her sentence and stopping her.
She shook her head, taken off guard, "What?"
Max didn't move, didn't try to get closer to her. His face was pained as he carefully asked again, "How…do you feel…about…me?" The last word was so raw with emotion that Eden could barely hear it.
Eden could have ended everything between them right then and there. All she had to do was tell him that she felt nothing for him or that he was more trouble than he was worth, but she couldn't.
"I…" Eden swallowed and looked to the ground, unable to stare into Max's eyes as she told him, "I have feelings for you." Once she had started she figured she might as well go all in, "I think about you all the time and I just always want to talk to you and hear what you have to say and see you smile and…"
Max had covered the distance between them in a split second. He cupped the back of Eden's head, tilting her chin up with his thumb. Eden felt as though her heart had stopped. She reached her hands up to stop him, but before she could his lips were on hers.
The kiss was gentle at first, his lips just barely brushing the sensitive skin of Eden's lips, as if he was testing Eden to see what she would do. She kept her hands placed on his lower chest as Max's other hand softly moved down her upper arm.
As Max's thumb brushed across the delicate area under where Eden's chin met her neck, something in Eden crumbled. She let down her guard, dropped all of her reservations regarding Max and completely surrendered to the kiss. Eden slid her hand up Max's chest, over his neck, and up through his hair, letting her fingers lightly tug at his shaggy hair.
Max wasted no time responding to Eden's surrender. He wrapped his arm around her waist, pulling her in tight against his body. His soft kisses turned hungry and he pressed his lips firmly to Eden's, giving her bottom lip a gently nibble as his kisses became more and more fevered.
Eden's entire body felt as though it was on fire. Max's hand drifted down to her hip, lifting her shirt up slightly so that his fingertips touched the warm flesh around her waistline. The feel of his hand on her body fueled Eden on and she clutched at the coarse material of his jacket, pulling him even closer to her. She needed his lips on hers, needed his touch. It was a sensation she had never experienced before.
Finally, Eden pulled away, more from needing breath then want for the kissing to stop. She turned her head slightly to the side, sure she would continue to kiss him if her lips were to near to his and she knew she needed to get back to her friends.
Max kissed her temple, nuzzling his face into her. When she turned her face back to him he smiled and licked at his lips.
"You taste sweet." His smile widened when Eden let out a small laugh.
Eden bit down on her lips, slightly embarrassed. She was thankful it was cotton candy she had just eaten and not the Chili Festival's famous deep fried chilies.
Locking his hands behind her back and leaning his forehead against hers, Max told Eden, "There's a lot I have to tell you, Eden…a lot that you have to know."
Max's eyes fell and his body stiffened. Eden could feel his apprehension. It wasn't a feeling she wanted to sense coming from him a moment after they had just finished kissing.
"What's wrong?" She asked, leaning back from him.
His face looked even more unsure than Eden had feared.
"I just," Max gave Eden's hand a light squeeze, "I hope what I have to tell you isn't too much for you."
Eden gave him a light push, almost chastising him for thinking that way, "Max, I want this. I want us to have a chance to be something."
He smiled, relief washing over his face, "I want that so much. You can't imagine how much I want that."
Max moved in close to her, hovering his lips just above hers for a second. He took a deep breath, as if he was breathing her in and then softly kissed her. Eden leaned into the kiss, bending her back at the waist.
Everything felt perfect until Max's body went completely stiff. He broke away from the kiss abruptly, leaving his face just centimeters from her.
"Sari." He breathed out, standing straight up and looking off into the distance.
Eden raised an eyebrow, not expecting that name to come out of Max's mouth. After recovering from the shock of so suddenly being rocked out of a great kiss, Eden asked, "Excuse me?"
Max's face was tight. It was like he was seeing something important in the distance that Eden couldn't. After a moment he blinked and turned back to Eden.
"I'm sorry, I um…" he shook his head, "I just remembered I have to go meet my cousin."
Eden opened her mouth to say something, but nothing came out. Everything was happening so fast and so oddly that she didn't know what to say.
Max released her and began to walk away. He made it a few steps when he spun back around and strode back up to her, pulling her into a hard quick kiss.
"I promise," he told Eden, just barely taking his mouth off of hers, "I'll call you later tonight."
Eden nodded even though she hadn't really meant to. Breathlessly she watched as Max jogged off in the direction of the parking lot. She pulled her jacket around her tightly, feeling cold in the absence of Max's warm body. Letting out a small laugh, she turned her head downward and smiled at the ground. It might be crazy for her to try and start a relationship with everything she was already dealing with, especially with Max Weston, but Eden didn't care. In this moment she was happier than she had been in as long as she could remember.
Walking back to the picnic table, Eden felt as though she could have been floating. Everything seemed dreamlike and beautiful.
Oswald leaned against the table, his arms folded and a disapproving scowl on his face. Mel sat in between the stuffed gorilla's legs, resting her head back on his fluffy chest. She had a wide smile on her face. Wes and Jasmine were still dancing, Wes looking just as uncomfortable as he had when they started dancing.
"Seriously?!" Oswald scolded Eden harshly as she approached, "We're in the middle of hunting a murderous vampire and you're off tongue sucking with Mr. Romance Cover!"
Eden felt a blush spread out across her pale cheeks, "You saw us?"
"Mmm hmm." Mel grinned wickedly, "Now you know you have to tell me all about it."
Oswald covered his ears and groaned with disgust as Eden plopped herself down next to Mel and began to gush about what had just transpired between herself and Max.
Fifteen minutes, two sodas, an order of fried zucchini and a box of red licorice later and Eden and Mel were still going on about Max.
"Oh my God!" Oswald shouted, now sitting on the table and munching on fired chilies, "I swear if you two don't shut up about Max Weston's perfect lips I am going to kill someone!"
A second later a high pitched scream broke out across the festival. There was something about the scream that caught Eden's attention. It wasn't the kind of scream you heard from people horsing around or riding a scary ride. This scream was laced with pure terror and it made the hair on the back of Eden's neck stand up.
A second scream, this one a little deeper pitch rang out a moment later, causing Oswald to drop his plate of fried chilies and Mel to stand up, a scared look on her face.
Eden, Mel, and Oswald weren't the only ones who were disturbed by the scream. All around them people stopped what they were doing and stared off into the direction of the screams.
Eden dropped her soda on the ground and started to run towards where the scream had come from. Oswald and Mel began to follow her, but Eden abruptly turned around and hollered at Oswald, "My gorilla!" Oswald gave her a 'what the hell' look so she shouted, "Grab my gorilla!"
Throwing his hand up in the hair and shooting Eden an exasperated glance, Oswald spun back around and clumsily scooped up Eden's giant stuffed gorilla.
It wasn't hard to find where the screams had come from. A large group of people were forming near the edge of the festival where the clearing met the forest and there was mostly darkness, just the eerie glow from the bright and blinking festival lights.
Right away Eden could tell simply by looking at the bystanders faces that something terrible had happened. She pushed her way through the crowd of shocked and petrified faces. Moving aside a crying girl, Eden saw what everyone was staring at. Lying on the ground face up with her eyes still open was the lifeless body of a young woman. Her skin was a ghostly white, taking on an almost purple hue. Her throat hadn't been torn out like Dr. Winterberg's had. Instead there were a series of small round puncture marks on the lower part of her neck. Eden could tell she hadn't been dead long.
Oswald had used the stuffed gorilla to bully his way through the crowd and was standing next to Eden. He placed his hand over his face and turned away from the dead girl.
"This is bold," Oswald whispered to Eden, clutching onto the gorilla like it was a life jacket in a sea of horrors, "This is a statement."
"But a statement of what?" Eden asked, unable to tear her eyes away from the girl's body.
The only dead body, besides vampires, that Eden had ever seen before had been Dr. Winterberg's, and that had been all blood and gore, but the scene in front of her now was totally different from that. If it hadn't been for the blood pooling around her neck or her lifeless stare, the woman in front of Eden could have easily been mistaken for sleeping. There was something even more horrifying about the serenity of this death scene.
Eden felt a hot anger beginning to form deep inside of her. A vampire had taken this festival where people and families come to laugh and have fun and turned it into something gruesome. They had taken the life of a young woman who had just been here to enjoy herself. They had taken one of Eden's best days ever and perverted it. She wanted this vampire dead. She was going to find it and plunge a stake into its chest or behead it, whatever struck her fancy in the moment.
Eden and Oswald pushed their way back to Mel, who was standing on the outskirts of the ever growing mass of onlookers. She had no desire to see any dead bodies.
"Vampire?" Mel asked when they reached her.
Oswald nodded, still clutching onto the gorilla.
"Okay, we have to find this thing." Eden said, "We have to find this thing and we have to…"
Her words were cut short by Wes who had come sprinting over from the festival. He was out of breath and red faced and looked panicked, even more panicked than usual. He appeared close to crying as he placed his hands on Eden's shoulders, shaking her back and forth.
"Jasmine!" Wes managed to blurt out through his heavy gulps of air, "Jasmine!"
Eden still had no idea what Wes was trying to say, but for some reason her own panic began to grow.
Mel placed her hand on Wes's arm, "What is it?"
"Jasmine's missing!" Wes shook Eden.
Eden took hold of Wes's arms, stopping him from frenzily shaking her in his fear, "What do you mean?" She kept telling herself to stay calm until Wes told her everything.
Wes released Eden, pulling at his red hair with both hands and beginning to walk in a tight circle, "We were dancing and then we heard the scream and then we saw you guys running towards the forest," he continued talking without taking a breath, "and then we started to run after you guys and then I was pushed to the ground. It happened so fast and whoever pushed me was so strong. I landed hard on my face in the ground and when I stood up…Jasmine was gone." He stopped pacing, scared tears beginning to fall out of his eyes, "She was just gone! And I called out her name, but she didn't answer. I called her phone, but she didn't pick up!" Wes wiped at his face, clearing his tears away, "Jasmine's missing, Eden! Jasmine's missing!"
Eden's mind began to enter panic mode, but she talked herself down. If she let herself freak out they'd never find Jasmine.
"It'll be okay." Mel told Wes, seeing Eden wasn't quite able to speak up yet.
Wes gave Mel a desperate look, "How?!"
"Oh, oh, oh," Oswald chimed in, raising his finger in the air, "the tracker! If she's wearing her tracker, we can locate her."
Wes nodded, looking hopeful, "Yeah, I think she's wearing it."
"Okay," Eden told them, "Oswald and I will go try to activate her little tracker locator thing, and you two," she pointed towards Mel and Wes, "keep looking around the festival. She may have just gotten turned around or lost in the crowd." Eden doubted that. Jasmine wasn't someone who got lost easily, "Keep trying her phone, Wes." Wes nodded, still noticeably upset. He would have done anything Eden told him to do in hopes of getting Jasmine back.
Eden started to lead Oswald towards the parking lot when Mel stopped her.
"No." Mel told her, grabbing tightly onto her wrist, "I know you're just telling Wes and me to stay here because you think some terrible thing has taken Jasmine and you're going off to fight it alone. So, no, we are not staying here. You're not going off alone."
Mel was right. Eden was purposely leaving them behind. Mel knew her too well so she wasn't going to try and deny it.
"Mel," Eden said, "I need you here to keep Wes sane." Before Mel could argue, she added, "I know you want to help me and I love you for that, but honestly worrying about you, or Wes, or even Oswald is a distraction for me."
Oswald let out an offended cough, "What do you mean even Oswald?"
Ignoring Oswald's question Eden told Mel, "The only time Jean Jacket got the upper hand on me is when he took out after you and Oswald. I can't worry about you guys when I'm fighting. It's safer for everyone if you and Wes stay here."
Mel didn't like it, but she let go of Eden's wrist, sighing heavily and telling her, "Just be careful…and find Jasmine."
Eden nodded and took off running towards the parking lot, thinking finding Jasmine and killing a vampire was easy compared to Mel's job trying to keep Wes calm.