Samantha Marie Vargas
COPYRIGHT Samantha Marie Vargas, 2017
All Rights Reserved
Book Cover Original Images/Illustrations by Fernando Butcher
First Shakespir Edition
Shakespir Edition, License Notes
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TABLE OF CONTENTS
IN OVER YOUR HEAD
White skin glistened under a thin sheen of sweat, brittle bones jutting out from beneath the folds. Dark bruises hung heavy under bloodshot eyes, pupils a black pinprick of an island surrounded by green. Veins stood out, dark and angry like raised scars against his skin, varying shades of purple and green.
The man’s eyes darted between Blake and the mouth of the alley. His hand moved, the blade glinting in the dim streetlights as it pressed against her sternum. A sharp but light pressure against the bone.
Steam wafted from the grates below, the howl of a train’s horn blaring from underfoot as the concrete shivered. Puddles rippled, distorting their reflections. Condensation clung to the brick walls, mirroring the white light of shop windows, the yellow lights of the streetlamps.
“You don’t wanna do this,” Blake said. Her biceps twitched under the fabric of her jacket. She rolled her shoulder, curling and uncurling white fingers into and from her palm with a grimace. Her gloves sat like weights in the pockets of her jacket.
Thin, cracked lips curled back in a sneer, eyes narrowing as he pitched forward, hissing. Reeling back, the man blinked, dragging his hand down his face, stretching it as he swayed on his feet.
“You don’t know what I want. You aren’t-- aren’t psychic. Can’t-- read my mind.”
Blake hissed, lips pulling back in a strained grimace as the blade broke skin, pearls of red springing forth from the wounds. Pressing her lips together, she breathed through her nose, jaw working.
“Listen,” she said through clenched teeth. “Just. Turn around and walk away. I don’t think you want any trouble, and honestly? I’m the last person you wanna have troubles with. Especially considering you look like a stiff breeze might knock you over.” Her hands drifted from above her head to her hips, arms outstretched, head cocked to the side as intense gray eyes remained trained on the man’s face.
The man shifted his weight from one foot to another, his head twitching to the side, like he was trying to shake water out of his ear. He lurched forward, his movements clumsy and uncoordinated.
“You don’t tell me what to do,” he said, stepping forward.
Blake stepped back.
“No one tells me what to do. I need-- I need. I need what I need and I need it from you.”
Blake’s eyes flashed, narrowing.
“Fuck this,” she said, snarling. Smacking his arms away, she stepped forward, planting her right foot beside his left and grabbing his shoulders. She hooked her right leg around his left, twisting as she leaned her weight into him, pushing him down.
His back hit the concrete with a dull thud, head bouncing as she flipped him onto his stomach, twisting his arm behind his back.
Blake jabbed her knee into his lower back, leaning down, her breath skirting over the shell of his ear.
“I gave you fair warning. Now listen: I’m going to get up. I’m going to take this knife, and I’m going to leave. And you-” she bounced her knee, “-are going to stay. Just, stay. Until I’m gone. Okay?”
The man lay silent beneath her.
She smacked the back of his head. “Hey, I asked you a question. Do. You. Understand?”
“Okay, I get it just, get off you psycho bitch!”
Blake hummed, frowning.
“Guess that’s all I’m gonna get out of you.” She shrugged. “Oh well. You win some you lose some.”
Blake stood. Moisture clung to the fabric of their sweats from where her knees pressed against the alley floor. “Now that that’s settled, I am out.”
Blake trotted from the alley, back onto the sidewalk. She looked over her shoulder, head turning, left, right, then left again. Her right leg extended in front of her, she pitched forward, jogging across the street.
The man twisted, turning onto his back and propping himself up on his elbows as wide eyes followed her disappearing form. “What the fuck?”
HIDE AND SEEK
The door of the motel room opened, a long, thin sliver of yellow light illuminating the floor and rumpled comforters. A small body slipped inside, the door slamming shut behind them as they leaned back into it.
The comforter on the far bed shifted, a head of dark hair appearing from beneath the covers. Brown eyes caught in the light peeking through the cracks in the curtain.
“Cassie?” The voice was sharp, alert. The sound of flesh slapping against wood rang through the room. A click, and the room was cast in a dim yellow light.
Cassie stared back at the woman with wide eyes, chest heaving as she breathed. “He’s here.”
The woman cursed, throwing the covers back to reveal jean clad legs. Retrieving a black T-shirt from the floor beside the bed, she pulled it over her head. She moved from her shirt to her shoes, socked feet slipping into dark boots as she pulled the laces tight.
“Where did you see him?” the woman asked. She stood from the bed, turning and crouching beside it. She reached underneath, pulling a duffle bag from the darkness, unzipping it.
Cassie pushed off the door, eyes wide as she wrapped her arms around her middle. “I was just going to get ice. How did he find us, Val?”
Cassie’s wide eyed gaze shifted to lock onto Val’s back.
Val stood, moving across the room, leaning down to pluck any stray belongings off the floor. Shoving them into the duffle, Val sighed, glancing over her shoulder. Her eyes fell shut as she straightened, hand wrapped around the strap of the bag. She dragged her hand down her face, eyes squeezing shut as she breathed in through her nose.
“I dunno kiddo. But listen to me.” She moved to crouch in front of Cassie, taking the girls upper arms in her hands, brown eyes meeting hazel. “I fought to get you out of there. There’s no way in hell they’re getting you back without a fight.”
Val pulled Cassie against her chest, cradling the back of the girl’s head as she rocked from side to side. “You’re gonna be okay.”
She pulled back, taking Cassie’s face in her hands as she bounced on the balls of her feet. “Now, go. Grab your stuff. We can’t risk him finding you. Not when we’re so close to getting you out of here.” Val jerked her chin toward the bedside drawer.
Val stood, moving into the bathroom.
She had just exited the bathroom when a knock sounded at the door. Both froze, gaze meeting before turning to the door.
Lifting a finger to her mouth, Val’s eyes followed her other hand as she pointed from the lightswitch, to the bed.
Cassie nodded, thumb pressing against the lightswitch. With a faint, dull click, the room fell into darkness. Cassie ducked under the bed as Val lowered the bag from her shoulder, setting it on the chair by the door. Looking through the peephole, Val’s lips pressed together.
Wrapping her hand around the knob, Val twisted her wrist, pulling the door open. Her eyes scanned the man up and down. She leaned against the doorframe, crossing her arms over her chest.
“What’dya want?” Val’s voice was rough. She lifted a hand, using the heel of her palm, to scrub at the corner of her eye. Her eyes were heavy-lidded, dark as she glared at the man.
The man smiled, yellowed teeth peeking out from dry, split lips. His black hair was greasy, reflecting the yellow light of the streetlamps. He tilted his head, removing his hands from his pockets, lifting them with his palms facing her.
“Hey there.” His smile pulled tighter, eyes narrowing as his cheeks lifted. “I’m just looking for my little one. ‘Bout yay high.” He held a hand at his hip, palm facing the cracked concrete. “You seen her?”
Val rolled her eyes. Her muscles twitched beneath her skin, her jaw working as sweat gathered in the palms of her hands. The hair on the back of her neck stood straight. “No. That all?”
The man’s smile faltered, the narrowing of his eyes having nothing to do with the rise of his cheeks. His arms fell limp at his sides, fingers curling and uncurling into his palm.
“Yeah. That’ll be all. Thank you…?”
“No prob,” she said, closing the door.
From the window, Val’s eyes followed him down the hall. She pulled away when he disappeared around the corner.
“Is he gone?” Val’s eyes locked onto Cassie, propping herself up on her elbows.
Val moved across the room, crouching and curling her hands under Cassie’s armpits, lifting her. Val reached over Cassie’s head, dragging her bag off the bed. She guided Cassie’s arms through the straps. “No. He’s onto us.”
Cassie’s eyes grew wide, her breath hitching on the inhale. “What? How?”
Val shook her head, moving over to the chair by the door and pulling the strap over her shoulder. “He may be a lunatic, but he ain’t stupid. We’re leaving. Now.”
The pair peeked out the door, looking up and down the hall before creeping across the parking lot, toward the red pickup. The doors creaked as they opened, groaning as they slammed shut. With one arm, Val lifted the duffle from around her shoulders, tossing it into the backseat as she turned the key.
The engine roared to life, and Val threw the car into reverse, throwing an arm across the back of Cassie’s seat as she pulled out.
Cassie’s eyes locked onto the man’s as he rounded the corner, his eyes going wide as his mouth pulled back in a sneer. He rushed forward. Cassie screamed.
Val’s eyes darted toward Cassie, and she turned following her gaze to find the man. Cursing, Val threw the car into drive, stomping on the gas.
The car flew down the road, scenery speeding past as Val sighed. Her eyes lifted, gaze locking onto the rear view. The man stood in the middle of the road, stomping and gesticulating, pointing at the car, his mouth moving.
Val reached across the car to wrap an arm around Cassie.
The girl leaned into the embrace, her eyes squeezed shut, tears streaming down her cheeks.
“It’s okay,” Val said, rubbing the girl’s arm. “It’s okay.”
“Hey,” Aaron said. She stood in front of Jason on the sidewalk, arm outstretched, pointing at the space behind him. “I don’t wanna freak you out or anything, but were you aware that you have a death omen following you around?”
Jason stared at her for a moment before casting a glance over his shoulder.
A black hound sat on the concrete, it’s shadow long and dark in the glow of the setting sun. Its eyes were bright as it returned his look, head cocked to the side as its tongue retreated back into its closing mouth.
“Holy fuck,” he said, turning to Aaron with wide eyes. “You can see it too?”
Aaron nodded, her eyes narrowing, brow furrowing.
Jason barked a sharp laugh, hands rising to clutch at his hair. His eyes followed the dog as it stood, coming alongside him.
Large, brown eyes gazed up at him, the dog’s pink tongue lolling out of its mouth as it panted.
“I thought I needed to adjust my meds again,” he said.
Aaron shook her head. “I worry about you sometimes.”
Jason shot her a lopsided grin, hands falling from his head. “Maybe you should. I mean-” he gestured to the dog “-I am being followed by a literal death omen, as you so kindly pointed out.”
Crossing her arms over her chest, Aaron shifted her weight to her other leg. “Yeah, how did that happen?”
Jason shrugged. “Hell if I know. It happened a few weeks ago. I noticed that it was following me around whenever I went out. Grocery shopping, running, yard work.” Placing a hand on the dog’s head, his fingers curled around the animal’s ear, scratching.
Brown eyes disappeared behind furry black eyelids, the dog’s pants continuing as it sunk to the floor, rolling over to expose its stomach.
Jason crouched down beside the dog, hand moving from its head to its belly. “Anyway, I just got fed up with it. So, I went and bought dog food-”
Aaron raised a hand, an eyebrow lifting. “Wait, you bought it dog food? You bought food for the dog that’s been following you around?”
Jason shrugged. “Well, yeah. I felt bad. I mean, it was following me everywhere. Standing outside the house. I never saw it leave to eat or anything. So, yeah, I bought the weird, death omen dog food.”
Aaron crossed her arms, ducking her head. “I just find it odd that you made the conscious decision to go buy dog food for some random dog that had been following you around for no apparent reason.”
“Yeah, well, you know me. Grade A weirdo right here.” He jabbed his thumbs at himself, grinning.
Jason shook his head. “Anyway, I bought it dog food and set it out on the porch. The next morning, I woke up, and it was in the house. When I checked the front porch, the food was gone. Along with the dish.”
Aaron’s eyebrows rose to her hairline, her eyes darting from Jason, to the dog, then back to Jason. “Interesting. Sounds like it took the food as an appeasement offering.”
Jason snorted. “Then why is it sticking around? If I’m home free, what’s the point of staying?”
Aaron interlocked her hands behind her, rocking back on her heels. The corners of her eyes wrinkled, cheeks rising as chapped lips pulled up into a smile. “Maybe it likes the belly rubs.”
Jason laughed, startling the dog. It flailed as it rolled back onto its stomach, pushing itself up to its feet. The dog’s tail swung back and forth, eyes bright as it shook itself off.
Jason sputtered and fell back when the dog approached, its tongue darting out to lap at his face. Through his laughter, his hands braced against the dog’s chest as it pawed at him, Jason looked up at Aaron.
“That would be the most plausible explanation, wouldn’t it?”
Aaron nodded, smiling down at him. Then she rolled her eyes, throwing her hands up. “But what do I know? This isn’t something that happens to everybody. It’s not as easy as diagnosing an illness and prescribing medication.”
“The diagnosis being my impending death, and the prescription being dog food and belly rubs?” Jason asked.
Aaron laughed, hands moving to rest on her hips. “Exactly.” She paused, her eyes lifting to stare at the sky as she frowned. “Unless, of course, death is a terminal illness.”
Jason frowned, his eyebrows pulling together. “That metaphor took a dark turn.”
Aaron nodded, grimacing. “No shit.”
Jason outstretched his arms to Aaron, curling his fingers into the palm of his hand twice.
Aaron smiled, wrapping her hands around his wrists and rocking back on her heels. “Do me a favor though,” she said, stumbling back as Jason found his footing. Letting him go, she wiped her hands on her pants. “Try and hold off on dying ‘til you pay me back those forty bucks you owe me.”
Jason brushed himself off, tugging at his shirt. He turned to Aaron with a grin. “The day I give you anything more than a dollar is the day I die.”
Aaron reeled back, eyes wide as she brought a hand to her chest. “Well in that case.” She turned, flipping her hair over her shoulder. “Make sure to keel over sometime before Tuesday.”
Jason scoffed, laughing as he looked down at the dog.
The dog looked back with an open mouthed grin.
Jason lifted his gaze to stare at Aaron’s back. “Harsh.”
Aaron looked over her shoulder, shrugging. “What? Girl’s gotta eat.”
Jason raised an eyebrow, holding a hand over his heart. “And I don’t?”
Aaron turned, placing a closed fist against her hip as she shifted her weight to one leg. “I’ve seen you eat. You definitely won’t starve if you go without for a day.”
Jason smirked, turning his head to the side as he lifted his arms, flexing. “What can I say? I’m a growing boy.”
A beat of silence passed between the two before they broke out into laughter. Aaron gripped her sides, bent over at the waist. Jason’s fingers curled into his sides and he leaned back, laughing toward the sky. Tears gathered at the corners of their eyes.
Aaron wheezed. “Oh my god, I hate you.”
Jason gasped in a breath. “Ditto. By the way, if I die of laughter, you best believe I’m coming back to haunt your ass.”
Aaron braced her hands on her knees, looking up at him through the hair that had fallen over her face. She lifted a finger, pointing at him. “Noted.”
Catching his breath, Jason straightened out, sighing as he looked down at the dog. He blinked. “Not gonna lie, totally forgot you were there buddy.”
The dog cocked its head to the side.
Jason sighed, looking at Aaron. “Alright. Well, I should head back. As is, I’m being eaten alive by mosquitoes.”
Aaron grimaced, lip curling back. “Ugh, talk about terrible ways to die. But yeah, talk to you soon.” She stuck a finger in his face, backing away. “Bitch better have my money next time.”
Jason rolled his eyes, waving her off. “Alright Rihanna.”
Jason’s eyes remained locked on Aaron’s retreating back as the sun fell below the horizon. The street lamps flicked on as the light faded. The sky changed from shades of pink and orange, giving way to black as specks of white starlight broke out across the inky expanse.
He sighed, looking down at the dog. “Well,” he said, patting the dog’s head. “Time to head home. Come on.”
The pair walked at a sedate pace down the sidewalk, their shadows stretching under the yellow light of the street lamps towering above them. Jason’s sneakers padded against the pavement, the dog’s nails clicking in time with each step.
They came upon a crosswalk, Jason’s house just across the way. Both turned their head to look left, right, left again.
While his head was still turned, facing left, Jason stepped out into the street.
The dog followed, but it froze when it’s front foot hit the concrete, one ear perking. Turning it’s head to the right, it’s eyes locked onto a car, fast approaching. It barked once, twice.
Jason continued walking, his hands shoved into his pockets.
The dog barked, moving forward in one great bound.
Jason turned, freezing. His eyes widened, pupils shrinking as they reflected the headlights.
The dog barked once more, leaping and headbutting Jason in the back, pushing him forward.
The car sped past, the wind following it rustling his shirt as Jason fell.
Jason stumbled forward, catching himself with the palms of his hands against the pavement. He flipped over, crab walking over the curb and onto the sidewalk. His breaths were uneven as his eyes darted from the car, to the dog.
The dog walked forward, pressing its wet nose up against his cheek, nudging him.
Jason flinched back, lifting his hand to block the dog from licking his face.
The dog sat back on its haunches, panting at him as he pushed himself up.
Jason looked down the street after the car. It had long since disappeared into the distance. He looked back down at the dog, eyes wide.
“What the fuck just happened?” he asked.
The dog didn’t respond. Instead, it stood, turning and walking down the street.
Jason watched it leave, its black form blending into the environment, disappearing into the shadows. He sighed, looking back toward his house. His eyes widened.
“That’s what you were waiting for,” he said, head whipping around to stare into the shadows the dog vanished into. “You were waiting to save me.”
A howl resounded through the night, and Jason slumped. With a sigh, he moved toward his house. Two spots of light peeked out of the darkness, staring after Jason. They vanished soon after, a black shadow moving across the pavement and into the distance.
“Do you even like me?” Mary asked, eyes trained on the passing scenery outside the passenger side window. Her forehead was pressed up against the glass, and when she pulled away from the glass to look at Hunter, some of her makeup remained.
Hunter stared straight ahead, one hand gripping the steering wheel while the other rested outside the open window.
A moment passed in which no words were exchanged. Where the only sounds to fill the silence were the rush of wind passing them by and the rumble of the car’s engine.
Sighing through her nose, Mary shook her head, placing her face back up against the glass. “I know you don’t love me. I do. But do you even like me?” Her eyes closed, eyelashes brushing against her cheeks as she swallowed.
Hunter said nothing, eyes never leaving the road.
Yellow lights flashed across their faces, illuminating them for only a moment before the shadows returned, hiding them. The streets were barren, empty save the old Ford Galaxy.
“I don’t know.” Hunter’s voice broke the silence, the sound of the car’s engine fading into the background, white noise.
“You don’t know anything, do you?”
Hunter’s eyes darted to the wheel for only a moment before they returned to the road.
Drawing the letterman jacket tighter around her small form, Mary turned her head to glare at him.
“I don’t want to keep doing this,” she said. Her legs were bare, her clothes having been tossed into the back seat some time ago. She wore only the letterman and a pair of undergarments.
“Then why did you come tonight?” Hunter asked. His knuckles had gone white, fingers coiled around the wheel as his foot pressed against the gas with more force than necessary. The odometer reading 50, 55, 60.
“I don’t know,” she said, her eyes never leaving her lap.
Beside her, Hunter snorted, his foot lifting from the gas and moving to the brake as the car pulled off to the side of the road. “You don’t know anything, do you?”
Hunter shook his head, placing the car in park. “Let me ask you this, then. Do you even like me?”
Mary smiled. “I asked you first.”
“And I gave you my answer. Now what’s yours?”
Mary drew her legs under her, pulling at her seat belt to loosen it as she adjusted her position. When she was comfortable, she settled back, arms crossing over her chest.
“I think I like you,” she said. Her eyes flicked to the side, looking out the windshield, to the empty streets ahead of them.
They had parked beside the football field, the large spotlights shining down, illuminating the field with harsh, white light. The white light was a cold contrast to the warmth of the yellow streetlights.
Goosebumps broke out across Mary’s exposed skin, and she tucked in on herself even further, shifting and drawing her knees to her chest underneath the letterman jacket. Pulling the long sleeves over her hands, Mary wrapped her arms around her legs, looking to the football field.
Hunter threw his head back against the headrest, sighing as he stared at the inside of the roof of the car. Turning his head, he spoke. “I don’t like you.”
Mary said nothing. Made no move.
Hunter lifted his head from the headrest. “I like… this. I just don’t like you.”
Mary closed her eyes, still facing away from Hunter. She pinched her bottom lip between her teeth. “Okay,” she said, voice cracking.
With a sigh, Hunter leaned forward, foot pressing against the brake as he threw the car back into drive. Pulling away from the field, they continued down the road, entering a residential neighborhood.
“This is it then?” Hunter asked, pulling into Mary’s driveway. He turned to face her.
Mary continued looking out the window, unresponsive.
Hunter’s eyes moved from her to the house, and he sighed, reaching out to grab her shoulder. Turning her to face him, Hunter placed a finger under her chin, lifting her head.
Mary glared back at him, chin lifted in defiance. Her eyes were red rimmed and bloodshot, her carefully applied makeup smeared across her face. She pulled away from him, uncurling from herself and unbuckling her seatbelt. Opening the door, she climbed out, shutting it behind her before moving to the backseat. She retrieved her articles of clothing, gathering them up in her arms and looking at him.
“I’ll see you,” she said. Then, she closed the door, disappearing around the back of the house.
Hunter waited a moment before putting the car in reverse, lifting his foot off the brake and twisting to see behind him. As he pulled away, he sighed.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Samantha Marie Vargas is an author earning a BFA in Creative Writing for Entertainment at Full Sail University. Vargas is also a member of the National Society of Collegiate Scholars (NSCS).
Born and raised in the hellstate of Florida, Vargas has dabbled in multiple artistic mediums to avoid the sun and pursue her career as a vampire. Her strongest talents lie in her writing. She specializes in the genres of romance and sci-fi, her works consisting of dramatic romances and supernatural sci-fi.
Learn more at &
What do you get when you pit a mugger with a pocket knife against an underground MMA fighter who just got out of a match? The answer? "In Over Your Head." A comedic suspense starring Blake and The Man. "Hide and Seek," raises the stakes, dramatic suspense following Val and Cassie, and their escape from Cassie's father. "Omen," is a supernatural comedy following Aaron, Jason, and Jason's mysterious new dog. The final story in the collection, "Yellow Lights," introduces high schoolers Mary and Hunter. This romantic drama delves into the nature of high school relationships and their meaning.