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Moonlight (By My Light, Book One)

By:Mac Flynn

CHAPTER 1


Some nights are just like one another. The moon rises, sets, and another day beings. Then there are other nights where things are different. The moon rises, but the night never seems to end. Your world turns upside down and things are never the same. That's what happened to me one ordinary night.

"And another day bites the dust," Dakota quipped.

The heels of our shoes clacked against the linoleum floor of the office building. My best friend Dakota was at my side, in front of us were the elevators that led to freedom, and behind us was another week of work in the trash. Our office was on the twentieth floor of the pit of hell. Who knew hell was aboveground?

"And another rent due," I added.

Dakota cringed. "It went up again, didn't it?"

"It went up again," I concurred.

She sighed and shook her head. "You've really gotta find another place to live. That place is an overpriced dump."

"But at least the cockroaches are free," I pointed out.

She snorted. "You can always find the deal in any scam."

"I'm just that talented," I teased.

"So what are your plans for this weekend? Going out on the town?" she asked me.

"I haven't figured anything yet," I replied.

She grabbed my arm and stopped us. "Come on, Gwen. You have to come out into the world some time, and don't give me that excuse that you can't do a thing with your hair. You don't have to."

Dakota was right. I'd be lying if I tried to make an excuse for turning men into statues with my looks. I was pretty, if I ever did anything with my looks. You know the kind. Long, wild blond hair tied haphazardly behind their backs. A thin but not narrow face. Nice enough body, but getting on the plump side as I approached twenty-nine.

My twenty-five year old friend was more than a little plump, but her bubbly personality made everyone forget everything about her except her raven-black hair and her infectious laugh.

I shrugged and walked on towards the elevators. We were in the midst of the Great Daily Migration out of the office, and to stop for very long was to risk being trampled. "I guess I'm just too much of a loner."

"A lone wolf has to settle down some time," my friend teased.

I playfully punched her in the arm. "Maybe when she's found the right mate."

"Someone say mate?" a voice spoke up. A man emerged from the depths of his cubicle and leaned against the entrance. He was a little over six feet tall with sandy blond hair that fell perfectly over his handsome face. His auburn eyes twinkled with mischief.

Gwen here is looking for a mate," Dakota spoke up. Her own mischievous eyes flickered between us. I had to admit I blushed whenever Lance looked at me. He was the only person who could disarm my cute-guy security system. "Know of anyone she can take on a date?" I glared at my friend."

"Well, I'm available this weekend," he offered.

I stepped behind my friend and pushed her towards the elevator. "I'm sorry, I've got plans."

"Are you nuts? He's cute and into you?" Dakota hissed as we left Lance far behind. "What kind of plans can be more exciting than snogging with him all weekend?"

"I'd rather settle down on my couch for a long weekend of watching TV," I told her.

Dakota rolled her eyes. "Again? Why don't you go out with me and some of the girls? It'll be fun, and if you don't want Mr. Perfect there then you might meet a new acquaintance who can give you some old-fashioned love."

"The only new acquaintance I'm meeting is an unopened tub of ice cream," I quipped.

My friend scowled at me and looked me up and down. "You know I hate you, don't you?"

"No, why?" I asked her as we stepped into the elevator.

"There's nobody else I know who can scarf down as much food as you and still have your figure," she explained.

I shrugged. "It's a gift."

"One day I'm going to curse you, and then you'll be sorry," she warned me.

I laughed. "Curse me with what?"

"With-well, with acne, and a chubby belly, and maybe a cute guy you can't have but want badly enough to tackle him in an elevator and-" I clapped my hand over her mouth. We weren't alone in the elevator.

On the contrary, the place was standing room-only. Not that anyone was encouraged to sit down, but you get the idea. We were packed tighter than a can of clams. Dakota got my hand off her mouth and glared at me.

"I need to breathe through my face," she scolded me.

"But that shade of blue was very becoming," I teased.

"Ha-ha," she retorted.

The elevator doors opened to the busy, open lobby of our office building. We worked in one of the smaller financial companies in a large city inhabited by ten million miserable people, all crowded together trying to making a living by not dying. Crime was up, hope was down, and home was a precarious walk in-between them.

"But seriously, are you coming or not?" she asked me as we stepped out.

I sighed. "I guess I-" My eyes caught on something strange along the right-hand wall.

The lobby had a few metal benches along the walls, and one of those was occupied by a threesome of women who were obviously triplets. The triplets were about twenty-five and sat close together so their hips touched. They wore matching gray business shirts, the kind with shoulder pads that could poke out an eye, and stiff skirts that ended just below the imagination. Their eyes were a strange gray hue, like the color of ash, and all three pairs of them stared straight at me. Sly, coy smiles graced their perfectly red lips.

"Gwen? Gwenneth? Hello? Anybody home?" I started back when Dakota waved her hand in front of my face. "Something wrong?"

I blinked and looked at the bench, but it was empty. "Did you see those three women?" I asked her.

She looked where I looked and frowned. "Which ones?"

"The triplets. The women in gray," I persisted.

Dakota shook her head. "I didn't see any triplets, but the lighting in here is pretty bad. They haven't changed a bulb in years, and the sun'll set in a few minutes." She looked back to me, but I just kept staring at the empty bench. I was sure they'd been there, and then they weren't. "You sure you're okay?"

I clutched my head in one hand and closed my eyes. "Maybe I'm coming down with something."

"Oh no, you're not getting off with that old I'm-seeing-things-so-I-must-be-sick ploy," she growled.

"I did see them," I insisted.

"Uh-huh, and I'm the Easter Bunny," she quipped.

"Your ears are showing," I returned.

She stuck her tongue out at me. "That shows what you know. I left them in my other outfit."

I dropped my hand and sighed. "But seriously, I don't feel up to a weekend I can't remember. Maybe next time."

By this time we'd stepped through the doors of the building and into the growing dusk of the busy streets. People in suits and casual wear walked to and fro in an endless stream of restlessness. A cool autumn breeze swept past us, reminding me that I had forgotten my coat. Even the hot concrete jungle of the city couldn't completely block out the chill air and sweet scent of falling leaves.

Dakota turned to me and pursed her lips. She set a hand on my shoulder and looked me in the eyes.

"You promise to go next weekend?" she pleaded.

I sighed, but nodded my head. "I promise."

Dakota smiled. "Good. Let's get a taxi to your place. My treat."

I shook my head. "I think I need to clear my brain out a little."

Her eyes twinkled. "Aren't you supposed to have one to be able to do that?" I playfully punched her on the arm, and she rubbed the bruised spot. "You're not supposed to hurt your friends."

"With friends like you who needs enemies?" I quipped.

"Well, with your crazy behavior you won't have to worry about anybody but enemies," she countered.

"What crazy behavior? I just want to walk home," I pointed out.

"Through some of the darkest streets in the city," she reminded me. "You know you live in Slum Alley."

"It's better than Crime Alley," I argued.

"Oh, right, I forgot. You only get shot at once a week," she retorted.

"And I've had my quota filled for the week. I was shot at Tuesday, so I'm safe for today," I quipped.

Dakota shuddered. "Gwen, please let me call a taxi," she pleaded.

I patted her shoulder and with a small wave I turned away. "See you Monday."

"See you. . .I hope," she added.

If only that had meant to be.





CHAPTER 2





I walked through the busy commercial streets and into one of the less fashionable residential districts. Those streets were places the city development department forgot, at least for the last seventy years. The ten-floor brick apartment buildings were so run down even the rats wouldn't live in them. They were up-to-code only on paper. Bribing the inspectors was all that kept the slumlords in business.

The streetlights flickered, if they lit up at all, as the setting sun finally finished its work for the day and went below the horizon to rest. The multitude of homeless gathered around burning barrels to warm their hands and swap news of the best shelters for grub. Others hunkered down on stoops with their grocery carts close beside them mumbling words no one else could understand.

I in my fancy work clothes stuck out like a sore thumb, but I didn't mind. My apartment was only a twenty-minute walk away from work, and the rent was cheap. Part of it was paid by my cockroach roommates. They were usually easy to deal with. The bugs would greet my coming in with a scurry of their feet into their dark holes, then wait for me to shut off the lights for bed to come out again.

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