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If Looks Could Kill
Obsession wasn't new to Maria, but even she had to admit, she had gone to a new level. At least before Wednesday night, she could still momentarily divert her attention from his face, manner, and unmistakable presence, which always seemed to grip her like the jaws of a snapping turtle. Even utterance of Dawson Barrow's name sent a warm flush to her cheeks. Except for a frighteningly short temper (which Maria knew she would never evoke), he was perfect'the most wonderful person ever to set foot in the small town of Ryderville. She thought of him all day and dreamt about him all night.
Finally, on Friday afternoon, she decided that this could not continue; she was going to destroy this fixation, even if it cost what little remained of her sanity.
As a distraction, she decided to drop by the local video store to rent the new sci-fi flick she'd been dying to see. However, once she turned onto Maple Road, a startling sight snatched her attention.
There, in front of her, purred a ruby red Porsche with a dramatically inclined spoiler'the exact type of car Dawson drove. One peek at the license plate confirmed it was him.
What should I do? she wondered. Perhaps she should just continue on and forget about the random sighting. Then again, maybe it was an omen, a sign meant to urge her not to give up just yet.
Somehow, that possibility was all she needed.
She followed Dawson down the road to Louis's, a 50's-style diner frequented by many locals with nowhere better to go. As he emerged from the car, his striking image stole Maria's breath. Below the fuzz of light brown hair that coated his scalp, eyes the sheen and color of dew-sprinkled Kentucky bluegrass flickered in the sun. Light stubble emphasized his chiseled jaw, while his slightly short yet muscular silhouette emerged from within jeans and a black muscle T-shirt.
A lanky brunette in a mini-skirt whom Maria recognized as classmate Andrea Baker climbed out the other side.
I can't believe this, she thought. Dawson could have any girl he wanted. Why Andrea?
Consternated, Maria followed them inside, where Dawson and Andrea snagged a booth near the back. After a few minutes, Andrea excused herself to go to the bathroom.
As Dawson surveyed the menu, another approached. Maria nearly gasped when she saw who it was: Dawson's ex-girlfriend, Vannah.
The two talked briefly, then, without waiting for Andrea's return, snuck out to his car, which Maria then followed to Hadley Park.
While they settled on the nearest bench, Maria crept up one of the open-armed oaks that stood like sentinels behind them.
'So what's the deal with that Andrea girl anyway?' Vannah asked, a seductive grin creeping across her sharp-featured face.
'Just an impulse,' said Dawson. 'She is pretty hot.'
'Dawson! Do you think she's prettier than me?'
'Of course not.'
Vannah leaned once more, only this time, Dawson followed. After their eyes met, he threw his arms around her, kissed her for the first time in six months.
'We were silly to break up,' said Vannah as they parted.
'Vannah, you were the one who dumped me.'
'Well, you would never stop interrogating me: 'Are you seeing someone else?' 'Who bought you that new necklace?' 'Why weren't you home Friday night?' ' Vannah giggled. 'It was cute, but, at the same time, really pathetic.'
Anger flushed Dawson's face until it simmered red as a jalape'o pepper. Jaw locked, shoulders trembling, fists clenched so tightly that the knuckles became splotches of white, he growled, 'What's that supposed to mean?'
He did not wait for an answer. Instead, he leapt off the bench, then snatched rock the size of a basketball from the ground. Before Vannah could react, he hurled it onto her head with a sickening crunch.
Could this be real? Maria asked herself. She wanted to scream, but the words caught in her throat. She had to be dreaming. Her arms began to tremble, so weak that, though she clutched the branch as tightly as a child her favorite doll, she slipped and plummeted to the ground.
'Hey! What do you think you're doing?' called Dawson.
Though pain pounded her temples, she forced herself to rise. 'I didn't see anything! I swear''
Dawson scooped up his weapon again, then released an almost inhuman growl.
Through quivering lips, Maria whispered, 'How could I do this?''her last words before the blood-splattered stone shattered her skull.