1 And it's not even Afternoon


I yawn as I turn onto the path that leads to my dorm. It's late and I just finished studying for tomorrow's math test at the library with my friends. There's a rustle in the bushes and before I fully process it, a creature bounds onto the path in front of me. I freeze, struggling to understand what's happening.

Huge fangs gleam in the unsteady glow of the street light. Solid yellow eyes hold me in place. I can't move, can't think, can't breathe. What the hell is that thing? There's no way it's real! Something like that can't possibly be real!

It stalks forward, barbed tail twitching. I want to move; I need to move, but my body isn't listening. There's triumph in those horrid eyes. My vision blurs. I'm hyperventilating. Gotta move!

It springs.

I'm on the ground. My gaze locks with the creature's. What just…?

Claws rake down my chest. Something white and splattered with red is showing through my skin. Are those my…?

A scream drowns in blood, unable to break free.

Stop! Stop!

Glowing eyes. Slashing claws. Tearing teeth.

So much red.

So much pain.

Make it stop! Make it…

I bolt upright, tangled in sheets. Sweat drips into my eyes as I focus on calming my breathing. Slowly, I stand and make my way into the bathroom. With an effort, I glance at my reflection in the mirror. The silver scars on my torso seem to glow in the moonlight.

That's right; I'd forgotten. It's the fifth anniversary of my death. I shudder. Five years and it still creeps me out. Five years and I'm still nineteen. Five years and my "life" has completely changed. With another shudder, I head back to bed.

Morning comes way too early. Usually it's just too early, but after last night this is way too early. I roll out of bed and throw on the clothes closest to my bed. Most of my options are black anyway. Bracing myself for the rest of the day, I step out of my dorm and start for the main office building for the Realm of the Dead Association (RotDA). As I head for my squads' headquarters, I can hear footsteps pounding behind me. There's only one person who would be running this early in the morning.

"Morning, Skandar!"

My partner, Chris, slaps me on the back and grins. Usually I don't mind his energy, but today it's a little too much. "Whatever." Headquarters opens up in front of me. I hate the office. All our desks are lined up like a classroom. The fact that there are papers on each desk, some more than others, doesn't help.

Frowning, Chris studies me. "You okay?"

"I didn't sleep well last night," I say as I slide into my chair. Piles of paperwork stare at me from the desk. I hold back a groan. Missions are interesting and I look forward to them, but the paperwork that goes with them is a pain in the ass.

"Really?" From his expression, I can tell he's calculating, thinking through all the possible reasons I couldn't sleep. Something clicks and I sigh, waiting for the reaction. "It's the fifth anniversary of your death, isn't it?"

"Give the genius a prize."

Chris is only amused. I guess after working with me for so long he's become immune to my sarcasm. Pushing some papers out of the way, he sits on the edge of my desk. "Must've sucked." His expression is hard to read, probably remembering his own death.

The door slams open and everyone scrambles to their feet as Captain Larissa, our squad leader, strides into the room. Finding everything satisfactory after a quick scan, she takes a seat at the big desk at the front of the room. At nineteen, Chris and I are some of the youngest members in RotDA, but Cap's fourteen. New recruits are always thrown by her age, and I was no exception. But having been here for fifty years, she's more experienced than most and it doesn't take long for them to realize that Cap is not someone to cross. So long as you stay on her good side you'll be fine, but cause problems and you'll find yourself stuck playing janitor for however long she sees fit.

With a yawn, I sit back down and glare at the paperwork. Chris smirks. "You'll have to do it eventually," he says. "Might as well get it over with."

"You don't want to do it?" I ask, though I already know the answer. It's my turn to do the written reports.


"Not a chance, bro," I laugh, putting my hands up. "It's your turn, and you know it."

Skandar snarls at me, eyebrows furrowed dangerously over his azure blue eyes.

I first met him five years ago when he arrived at the RotDA. Back then he'd been restless, never able to sit still, always watching his surroundings. Then again, watching him now…A pen spins around and around in his hand as he glares at the form in front of him. I grin. Nope, he hasn't changed.

"Chris. Skandar." Captain Larissa summons from her great mahogany desk.

Skan glances at me. It's his 'what did we do' look. All I can do is shrug. As far I remember we didn't do anything during our last mission that would make her mad. I learned not to do that years ago.

"Christopher! Skandar!"

"Coming!" I call. Getting off Skan's desk, I trudge up to where Captain Larissa is standing, Skandar trailing behind me while muttering under his breath. Her firecracker red hair's pulled up into a practical ponytail and her avocado green eyes watch us as we approach. Something seems a bit off. She's usually completely in control with a neutral mask, but today she seems ruffled, left eye twitching almost imperceptively, several strands of hair already flying loose, hands folded so tightly her knuckles are white.

"You need something, Cap?" Skan asks, sounding resigned.

Standing, she gestures for us to follow her. As she opens the door leading to her inner office, she sighs, "I'll show you."

What has her so frustrated? There's a man sitting in the chair against the wall. He looks familiar. Wheat blond hair and slate grey eyes. Freckles on his nose and cheeks. Is he the cause?

"Chris," Captain Larissa says. "Skandar." Her voice is tightly controlled. No doubt about it. He's the problem. And judging from the way she's acting, he's one she doesn't know how to solve. Why does he look so familiar? "Let me introduce you to Osborne Moore."

Uh oh. I know where this is going. Apparently Skan does too because I can sense his displeasure from where he's leaning against the door.

"It's nice to meet…" I start, but Osborne is already out of his seat and grabbing my hand.

"It's an honor, Christopher Sanders," Osborne squeals. "You're one of the highest ranking agents! And you've only been here for thirteen years!"

Don't flinch. "Almost thirteen," I correct. "And thanks." But he's already moving on to Skandar. One look at my partner's face and I'm fearing for the other male's life.

"Skandar Lynch?! No way. You're amazing! Five years as an agent and you're on the same level as Chris." Osborne's chattering away like a monkey on too much caffeine. Skan, on the other hand, looks like a panther ready for the kill.

Hoping to draw Osborne's attention, I ask, "So what's going on, Captain?"

There's a flash of annoyance and then resignation. Taking the seat Osborne abandoned, she says, "Osborne is a recent recruit."

"Not hard to tell," Skandar mutters. I shoot him a look, though I can't really disagree. After only a few months here, Osborne's already earned a record of being clumsy, clueless, and spacy.

Eye twitching even more, Captain Larissa continues. "Yesterday, he was reassigned to our squad for training. Seeing as…"

"I'm only twenty-two, Larissa decided that you and Skandar Lynch would be perfect trainers," Osborne finishes.

It's a good thing he isn't facing her. If he was, she'd have strangled him. As it is, I'm amazed her glare hasn't killed him. Not only did he interrupt her, but he skipped over her title.

Skandar is going to kill me if I take Osborne into our care, but…leaving Osborne under Captain's supervision would be like sentencing him to death. Besides…maybe he just hasn't been taught by the right people?

Carefully glancing at my partner, I smile. "We'll need to talk, but it should be okay."

Grey eyes bright, he nods. "I can't wait!"

If looks could kill, Skandar'd have had me six feet under in seconds. I swallow hard. I am so dead.

A/N: Hey guys! So this is the first installment of my editing. I decided to try something new with the chapters by combining them, since they were so short the last time. This is an experiment so let me know what you think.