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Devoured (Devoured #1)
Author: Emily Snow

CHAPTER ONE

“Your baby brother called. Three times.”

My gaze snaps up from the mail I’m holding in my hands to meet Tori’s dark eyes. She’s ten feet away me, sitting behind the Formica countertops in the kitchen. My cool, confident roommate—who I met four years ago when she rescued me from a wasted frat boy—fidgets anxiously with the rim of a supersized shot glass that boasts some raunchy slogan. She knows my brother well enough to realize something is going on. It must be important because Seth wouldn’t stop avoiding me for anything else. He’s owed me two grand since July, six months ago, and the last time I actually spoke to him was Labor Day.

Even when Seth had backed out of visiting me for Christmas break, he’d done so via email.

God . . . this can’t be good.

“Did he say what he wants?” I croak. I press my body up against the steel door behind me, the long row of deadbolts poking into my back. Crisp envelopes crumble between my fingertips, but I’m powerless to stop myself from obliterating the stack of bills and postcards from Tori’s parents. I’m too worried about why Seth has called me.

Three times.

Tori shrugs her bare, shimmery shoulders, squints down at the splash of clear liquid in her glass, and then downs the shot in one swift flick of her wrist. There’s no bottle in sight, but I know she’s drinking peppermint schnapps. Her telltale bottle of a chaser (chocolate syrup) sits next to her phone. Plus, schnapps is her usual Friday night pre-gamer. Sometimes—when my boss has an off week that inevitably rubs off on me—I let Tori talk me into drinking a little. I’m in no mood to even consider touching the stuff right now, though.

There’s already a migraine building in that frustrating spot between my eyes.

“He just said call him . . .” she says. But as her voice trails off, I know she’s thinking the same thing I am.

What the hell has my mom done this time?

Because last time I received a frantic call from Seth, a year and a half ago, Mom had made a suicide attempt which she later told me she fabricated for attention. I ball my hands into fist, vividly recalling how she laughed at me for being naïve and stupid enough to come running.

“Always so quick to please,” she’d said in her thick accent. Then she took a long drag of a cigarette that she probably had to do unmentionable things for.

Forcing thoughts of my mother out of my mind for the time being, I give Tori a fake smile. “You going out tonight?”

The answer is obvious. It is Friday night, and even though only her upper body is visible, I can tell she’s dressed to kill. Immaculate hair and make-up, check. Strapless red dress that’s probably no longer than my top, check. Her mile high, “screw-me” shoes, double check.

“Vanguard with Ben, Stacy, and Micah.” Her jet black, perfectly arched eyebrows knit together as she parts her lips to say something else. I shake my head stubbornly, and she snaps her mouth shut. We both know that her inviting me is pointless. Tonight, no amount of sweet-talking will convince me to leave the apartment. There’s a good chance that whatever Seth is about to tell me will ruin my night and the rest of my year, too.

I swallow hard, over and over again, in my best attempt to get rid of the burn in the back of my mouth.

“That’s it,” Tori snaps. She reaches across the counter to grab her phone. “I’m calling to cance—” But I lunge forward and pluck the cellphone out of her hand. I drop the balled-up—and now practically fused together—pile of mail beside her empty glass.

“Please, just . . . don’t. You look way too hot to spend your night with me. I-I swear I’ll be fine.” She doesn’t seem convinced because she purses her full lips into a thin, scarlet line. I slide her phone into her hands and curl her fingers around it. I move my face into an even brighter smile and tell her in the most chipper voice I can muster to have a good time.

She’s talking, protesting me, but I can barely hear her exact words. I’m already walking down the narrow hallway to my bedroom, my own phone clutched in a death grip.

Seth picks up on the second ring, as I’m shutting my bedroom door behind myself. On those rare occasions that we speak, he always lets my call go to voicemail and then responds to me five or six hours later.

This is definitely not good.

“Thank God,” he hisses before I can get a syllable out. “Where’ve you been, Si? And why the hell didn’t I have this number?”

Less than ten seconds into our conversation and Seth’s arguing with me. I slam my oversized bag onto my bed. My wallet along with a bunch of tampons and makeup spill out onto the lavender cotton sheets and some fall on the carpeted floor. I’ll clean it up later. “I work. And I’ve tried to call you from this number several times. You just didn’t answer.” I don’t sound angry, which is how I feel, but like I’m explaining myself to my brother. Like I’m the one who should be sorry for him ignoring me.

I hate myself for sounding like that.

“Sienna, it’s Gran,” he says.

And this—this is when I literally freeze in place, standing between my bed and desk. I must look like one of those tragic, serious statues in the cemeteries back home. My heart feels as if it’s stopped. The first thing I’d assumed when Tori told me Seth was trying to reach me was that my mom had somehow gotten herself in trouble again. I hadn’t even thought of my grandmother because she’s so strong and resilient and wonderful.

She’s also 79 years old.

I try to say something, anything, but there’s a lump the size of a lint-flavored golf ball clogging the back of my throat. I’m choking and wheezing when Seth finally exhales an exasperated sigh and snaps, “She’s fine, Si. Well, physically fine.”

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