Home > From Bad to Cursed (Bad Girls Don't Die #2)

From Bad to Cursed (Bad Girls Don't Die #2)
Katie Alender

AT FIRST GLANCE, the town houses in Silver Sage Acres are as white and identical as an endless row of bared teeth. Looking down the single road that winds through the community is like holding a mirror up to another mirror and watching the world curve away into infinity.

If you search hard enough, you can find landmarks, even though the place is engineered not to have any. The ficus tree with the one branch that sticks out sideways. A thick splotch of paint (white, of course) on the asphalt from the can that rolled off the back of a contractor’s truck. Each discrepancy is a little scar on the landscape, in constant danger of being buffed away by the all- powerful homeowners’ association.

Every few hundred feet is a turnout with a colony of mailboxes and a row of guest parking spaces, because heaven forbid your guests should park in your driveway, much less on the street. And that’s just one of the billion rules: No dogs bigger than twenty-five pounds. No decorative items in the windows. And trash cans are like Cinderella—only allowed out for a few hours at a time. After that, the citations start piling up.

But for all its artificial cosmetic appeal, the development feels like it was built to last only until somebody came along with a better idea. When it’s rainy, the gutters get so full of water that you have to take a four-foot leap to keep from getting your shoes soaked. When it’s breezy, the street becomes one big wind tunnel, freezing you to the bone and pelting your eyes with an asteroid belt of grit and crushed leaves.

We’ve lived in #29 for a year and only know one other family, the Munyons in #27, who pay me five dollars a day to feed their cat when they go on vacation.

Really, though, it could be worse.

One thing about a place this locked down—there are no surprises.

Twenty-nine Silver Sage Acres Road is everything our old house wasn’t:

Modern. Sterile. Generic. Efficient. Compact. Controlled.

Most importantly, it’s completely devoid of murderous ghosts.

And that suits my family fine.

GRIMY PATCHES OF MUD, drops of dried blood, a sprinkling of gravel, and a full-body sheen of sweat that plastered his long-sleeved tee to his back…and I was still tempted to fling myself into Carter Blume’s arms and declare my undying devotion.

Not that I ever would. In my opinion, the L-word deserves better than to be tossed out on a sweaty August Saturday afternoon like some sort of emotional Frisbee.

Furthermore, I’m not the flinging type. And even freshly laundered and not bloody, Carter wasn’t the sort of guy to invite girlfriend-flingage.

I did fling the car door open, but that’s different. He stepped out, wincing as he put weight on his left leg. As we walked to my front door, pebbles skittered to the ground, dislodged from his knee or his thigh or wherever they’d ended up when he ate it on our hike.

“It’s your own fault,” I teased, pulling out my key chain. “Holding back your fellow racers and then running off ahead is very bad karma.”

“Is it?” he asked. “I almost forgot, in the thirty-five seconds since you last brought it up.”

I opened the door, and Carter hesitated at the welcome mat like a well-trained dog. “I don’t want to get the floors dirty.”

“Don’t worry,” I said. “I mop on Sundays anyway.”

He cocked his head. “I thought you mopped on Wednesdays.”

The main part of the town house was basically one big, echoing room that held the kitchen, dinner table, and family room. A hallway extended to the left, bending around a corner to conceal the bedrooms.

“Come on,” I said, heading for the pantry, where the first-aid kit lived.

Carter trailed behind me into the kitchen and stood still, afraid to touch anything. I wet a washrag and wiped the dirt and blood from the palms of his hands, which he’d used (semi-unsuccessfully) to keep himself from skidding down the mountain.

“You didn’t answer me,” he said, voice low. “You mop twice a week, don’t you?”

“This is going to sting,” I said, plying his hands with a layer of antiseptic spray.

He flinched and then held his palms steady. “Don’t distract me when I’m making fun of your OCD.”

“It’s not OCD,” I said. “I just like things clean.”

“I’m not clean.”

“No,” I said. “But for you…I’ll make an exception.”

He leaned down, using his wrists to pull me close. I pressed up on my toes to meet him halfway, then we kissed.

The only way to describe kissing Carter is this: it’s like being on a roller coaster in a pitch-black room, and you’re going downhill, and for a few moments you’re weightless, and you want to throw your hands in the air and scream.

After a minute, a thought popped into my head, and I pulled away. “You’ll need to pretreat those bloodstains and wash everything in cold water.”

Carter gazed into my eyes and brushed a strand of my pink hair away from my face. “You’re insane.”

“You might need to use a toothbrush to get the mud out. I keep extra old ones around, if you don’t have any.”

He gave me a crooked smile. “All I want in the world is to be close to you, and all you want is to clean my dirty clothes.”

“It’s the twenty-first century,” I said, pulling his face down toward mine. “I want it all.”

And we were kissing again, the edge of the tile countertop pressing a cold line into my back. Carter rested his hand against my shoulder.

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