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Kimberly Loth Books

Circus of the Dead Book Twelve

Circus of the Dead Book Twelve

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Juliette never wants to see Samuel again. In fact, she’d prefer it if he stayed on his side of the island and she on hers, but when a good friend becomes a monster’s latest victim, she has to turn to him.

Things between them are icy and cold, but she manages to keep things civil.

However, as the clues in the case reveal the true monster, Juliette isn’t sure she’ll ever be able to trust anyone again.

Synopsis

Juliette never wants to see Samuel again. In fact, she’d prefer it if he stayed on his side of the island and she on hers, but when a good friend becomes a monster’s latest victim, she has to turn to him.

Things between them are icy and cold, but she manages to keep things civil.

However, as the clues in the case reveal the true monster, Juliette isn’t sure she’ll ever be able to trust anyone again.

First Chapter

There is this undercurrent of emotions that feel as though they aren’t mine. They’re frustration and anger and depression. Sometimes rage. The rage is mostly focused on one person.

I sit up in my bed and look out at the lake. The water is completely frozen, which is what I was hoping for, but I can’t seem to remember why. What is hope? Why do we cling to it?

My hands are now the hands of a monster. I flip them over and study my palms then roll my fingers and clench my fists. I am so much stronger than before I was attacked and turned into a banshee. I’ve broken three of my four coffee cups already. They were cheap but still. 

I make coffee in my condo and have food delivered because I can’t even fathom the idea of leaving this small space. After hunting down monsters like myself for eight months, I know they look human. I know I look human. But I still can’t get past the fact that I’m a monster on the inside, and I’m afraid everyone will be able to tell once I step out into the world.

I take a deep breath and place my head in my hands. My nose scrunches up because I smell. I can’t remember the last time I showered or changed my clothes.

My phone buzzes on the nightstand. I expect it to be Callie or my parents. They’ve called a number of times, but I’ve returned all their voicemails with texts. If I get on the phone with them, I’ll turn into a blubbering mess and make them worry. There’s no sense in doing that to them when there’s literally nothing they can do for me.

My heart clenches at the thought I will never see them unless they come to this island.

I glance at my vibrating phone and see Samuel’s name. Every muscle in my body reacts, and if he were in this room, I’d attack him. I’ve gone over every possible scenario in my mind as to why he saved that old man from Normandy and left me there by myself. I replay the confrontation over and over, thinking perhaps there wasn’t as much time for him to get back as I believed there was. 

I could just ask him. Let him explain his version of the story. But I can’t even stand to look at myself right now, let alone have someone else look at me.

I close my eyes, hearing and smelling things way better than I did two weeks ago. A central presence pulls at me. Like a collective consciousness. It’s subtle, but it’s like I can, to some small extent, feel the other monsters on this island. I wonder, if I went outside, whether I would know who else was like me.

My heightened senses pick up on someone coming up the stairs outside my condo long before there’s a knock on the door. I inwardly groan. I’m tired of telling every concerned person on this damn island to go away.

“Juliette, if you don’t give us some proof of life, we’re calling the police. You have to open this door!” Dylan shouts. I don’t respond, and he pounds on the door. 

“We’re serious.” Now, it’s time for Katy to put in her plea. “Not only will we call the police, but you won’t have a door left either.”

I swallow hard and clear my throat. Even with the preparation, my voice comes out hoarse due to not being used. “I told you in my texts, I’m fine,” I yell.

“How were we to know someone didn’t steal your phone and text that?” Dylan asks.

“Well, you know now.”

“Nope. Proof of life,” Dylan states again.

I growl and push myself out of bed. “I am speaking. This is your proof of life.” I stop outside my bedroom with a good look at the front door.

“Do you hear something, Katy?” Dylan asks loudly, for my benefit. “I didn’t hear anything.”

“I didn’t hear anything either. Let’s call the police.” 

I roll my eyes. “Don’t call the police.”

“Still don’t hear anything.” Katy’s statement is followed by the sounds of her dialing her phone.

I take several long strides and unlock the door, leaving the chain lock still in place. Once it opens a crack, someone pushes it farther with such force the chain breaks off and clatters across my kitchen. I’m left with my jaw on the ground as Katy and Dylan rush inside my house.

Dylan raises a hand to his nose. “Oh. My. Word. This is horrible.”

I cross my arms. “I didn’t invite you in. I’m not apologizing.”

Katy looks around my apartment and then at me head-on. “What the hell is going on? Your house is a disaster. I don’t think you’ll ever get that rat’s nest out of your hair.” She holds her hand to her nose. “And Dylan’s right. I’ve never smelled something this bad.”

I know they mean well, but the monster inside me wants to rip them apart. “Then, you can both leave.”

Katy’s eyes narrow. “Look, we have no idea what happened to you. You’re freaking us out. A couple weeks ago, you stopped answering calls or texts. It’s apparent you haven’t left your apartment.” Katy gestures at my war-zone. “What happened? Is it your breakup with Luca?”

“Is it Samuel?” Dylan adds.

I want to tell them they’re wrong, but I can’t tell them the real reason. That I was turned into a banshee and will never be allowed to leave this island again. I’m stuck here with Samuel, who left me for dead. Actually, worse than dead.

I’m a prisoner here for all eternity. Compelled to hunt and kill. And I will feel these emotions that are not mine for the rest of my life.

Dylan rests a hand on my arm, and I bring him into focus—those kind, inquisitive eyes. His unwavering friendship and love. I flick my gaze over his shoulder to Katy—fiercely loyal and blunt. Exactly what I needed right now.

I shrug one shoulder. “Both. It’s both Luca and Samuel.” My intake of breath is shaky. It’s Luca and Samuel. Serena’s betrayal and the abrupt end to a career I loved. The monster I’ve become and my destiny to be trapped on this island forever.

My vision gets blurry, and Katy and Dylan embrace me in a huge hug. Through tears and snot, I blubber into their shoulders. “I’m so sorry, you guys. I shouldn’t have shut you out again. I’m just dealing with so much, and I guess this is how I go about doing it.”

Katy rubs my back. “It’s okay. That’s what we’re here for. We won’t let you shut us out.”

I don’t know how long they let me cry, but when my tear ducts dry up, Dylan gently pushes me back and looks me in the eye.

“Here’s what we’re going to do. We’ll get you in the shower and find you fresh clothes. Then, we’ll grab some grub and beverages and hang out. And maybe you’ll talk about what’s bugging you, but maybe you won’t, and it frankly doesn’t matter.” He tilts his head down slightly. “You got that?”

I sniff and nod. “Got it.”

“Good.” Dylan pulls out his phone. “I’m also calling in professional cleaning help.”

My stomach drops out. “No, don’t. This place is a mess.”

Dylan holds his hand up. “No judgments. She’s the best, and she’ll put this place right back to its glory days.” The phone rings a couple of times and Dylan points to my bathroom. “What are you still doing here? Shower, girl!” 

Katy throws an arm around my shoulders and leads me to the bathroom. “You get cleaned up, and I’ll find some cute clothes.”

“Thanks.” I have the best friends. I can’t believe they haven’t given up on me yet.

She rubs my arm. “Any time.”

The warm water runs over my body, and I imagine it taking these feelings that aren’t wholly mine down the drain. Being clean helps.

But it can’t clean away the monster inside me.

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