Taken by the Beast

By: Natasha Knight

Prologue





The sound of the bus coming to a halt drew Elijah’s attention. He sat on the minuscule balcony looking out into the dark, unremarkable night; too much light pollution in the dirty city to see the magnificence of the sky above.

Her shoes clicked along the pavement. She was walking faster than usual; something wasn’t right. He couldn’t see her, the bus stop was two blocks away, but he always listened for her around this time.

He closed his eyes and concentrated. Cats fought in the alley below, a man relieved himself along the side of the building. Conversations buzzed from inside the apartment complex. He muted all of those sounds. Standing, he gripped the rail.

Her gasp filled the night and his eyes snapped open. With an angry growl, he launched himself over the balcony, shifting midair, and landed on all fours in a run.

He knew she wouldn’t see him, too dark with only a single street lamp still working. But she must have sensed something because she ran.

Clever girl.

She was inside the building when his roar drowned out the scream of the man who would surely have hurt her if he hadn’t intervened.





Chapter One





Three Months Later



Kayla looked at her watch. Half past ten. She hit Save on the file she was working on and rubbed her eyes. Her paper was due Friday and she needed an A to keep her average up. Working full time at the diner and taking two accelerated courses at the community college in the evenings left her little time to study. But she was close to the end. One more semester and she’d be a college graduate. Or well on her way to being one with an Associate’s degree for starters. It was something though. At twenty-four, she knew she had a late start. She’d have to work harder than the kids coming out of high school but, well, that was life right now.

She pulled the bedroom door open just as Todd walked through the front door. She stopped dead in her tracks and wished she’d been just a minute later. She’d have stayed in the bedroom all night if she’d heard them come in.

Todd smiled at her, but it was the sort of smile that chilled her, draining the color from her face. He was high on coke. Again. And he wasn’t alone. Four “friends” walked in behind him, bringing with them the stench of dirty man, cigarette smoke, and cheap liquor.

“Hey, babe,” Todd said, walking toward her as the rest of them settled on the couch.

“Hey,” she said, her grip on the doorknob tightening. She wanted to push it closed and lock it, but knew it would only anger him.

Todd’s gaze ran the length of her. She wore a pair of yoga pants and a tank top and wished she had kept her hoodie on.

“Where you goin’, hon? Come say hello to our guests.”

“You’re high again, Todd. Besides, they’re your guests. I have to finish my paper. Just…hang out, have fun. I’ll be quiet.”

One of the guys laughed and another made some remark about being pussy whipped. Todd’s expression changed and this time, Kayla did take that step back and pushed the door closed. But he was stronger than she, even if she was faster. He turned the knob before she could lock it and pushed his way in, coming at her.

“Todd,” she said, knowing she needed to remain calm and keep talking to him. She needed to convince him to leave her alone and if she cowered, he’d only do more damage.

“Are you embarrassing me in front of my friends, Kay?” The way he said her name was more a hiss than an endearment.

“No, I would never. I just have to get a paper done for school and…”

“I have to get a paper done for school,” he mimicked. “What, you think you’re something special? Better than me? Bitch,” he spat, grabbing her laptop.

“No, Todd, stop! Please!”

He took hold of her when she tried to take it from him and held her at arm’s length.

“You’re nothing, Kayla. Never going to be anything. This,” he held up the laptop, “this is nothing but a waste of time.” With that, he threw the laptop across the room and into the wall.

“No!”

When he let her go, she ran to retrieve it, knowing it was too late. It would be broken and she didn’t have the money to fix it.

“Now get your ass out here and get my friends a drink, bitch.”

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