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The agony of sixth period geometry had ended at last, and Frederica Fitzgerald shot out the back gate of her high school to freedom before the bell had even ceased to sound. She adjusted the weight of her backpack and slogged uphill to her house. Quiet prevailed in her neighborhood, with only the swaying rustle of pine trees and the scratch of her sneakers on the sidewalk for background noise.
The promise of a storm loomed in the sky and, with a sigh, Freddy pulled the hood of her sweatshirt up on her head. Yesterday was gorgeous, she thought. Sunny. Warm. Now we have a sludgy dish drain for a sky. She dug her music player out, tucked her headphones in and cranked the volume.
She'd only taken a few steps before halting. Her nerves prickled, and a strange tension took hold of her. The air itself seemed wrong, too thick, sparking with a strange power that weighed her lungs down as she breathed in.
A black stallion suddenly appeared before her on the road. She gasped as she fell, her nerves jolting, certain he'd flatten her. The horse reared. Freddy's stomach flipped, but his rider, with a firm hand on the reins, brought his mount back under control. The brutish horse glowered at her, but his agitation eased at last.
Freddy gulped in a breath, and her heart stopped trying to batter its way out of her chest.
Where did they come from? Even with her headphones on, she should have heard the horse coming, she should have seen it on the road ahead of her. Had it just materialized with its rider out of thin air?
The rider dismounted. A floppy straw hat screened his face from view, and he kept his back to Freddy. Obviously, he preferred soothing his stallion to checking on the girl he'd almost KILLED.