“I didn’t realize you had so much stuff,” I groaned, shifting the moving box to my hip. “God, what’s in this, anyway?”
Cade hurried around the side of his car to grab the box from me.
“It’s my collection of murder weapons,” he said with a smirk as he plopped the box inside.
“Cade Woods!” I replied, laughing. “Is that a sense of humor I detect?”
He shrugged his shoulders. “It has been known to surface from time to time.”
It was nice to see that side of him. That side of us.
It had been one month since The Prince of Terror—aka my best friend, Emily Sanders—had been caught.
The girl who’d welcomed me into Elk Springs, made me feel like a normal teenager for once, who’d been so warm and kind…it was all a lie.
Once again, Elk Springs had been thrown into the public eye. Consumed by mass panic, its residents had drawn their proverbial pitchforks and demanded blood.
But once the truth had come out, and the swarms of reporters had found something better to do, Elk Springs grew quiet again.
And, believe it or not, I was starting to like it.
Cade and I went to the movies. Got ice cream. He was even starting to use the front door at my house.
And tomorrow was the first day of school.
I was actually excited.
Joey emerged from the garage, carrying another box. “This is the last of it,” he wheezed, placing it in the back seat.
He leaned against the side of the car, catching his breath.
“Do you have to keep that thing on all the time?” Joey asked suddenly, nodding toward the awful, orange Jerry’s Pizza sign on the top of Cade’s car.
“Yeah,” Cade replied, slamming the trunk shut. “They made me sign something.”
“I’m gonna order so much pizza,” I smiled mischievously. “I can’t wait to see you in uniform.”
Cade wrapped his arm around me, pulled me close, and kissed the top of my head.
“I’m warning you now,” he replied, his lips curling slightly. “It’s not good.”
“Are we done here?” Joey asked.
I stared at the house, which had been like a prison to me those last eight years.
Eight years of tiptoeing around my aunt, praying to whoever that she wouldn’t get angry with me. That she wouldn’t hit me.
It wasn’t the pain of her abuse so much as what came after.
That terrifying place that her touch would instantly transport me to.
The bathroom. Her death.
Eight years of a nagging voice in my ear—the only connection I had left to my mom—telling me that I was just like my father.
That I was evil.
And I’d believed her too.
So, when Joey’s parents had offered to take me in for my senior year, I knew I had to go for it.
I should have hated Aunt Lynn. I should have hopped into my car and never looked back.
But standing there, watching the curtain of the living room window pull back slightly as my aunt watched me leave, I couldn’t help but feel it.
My aunt was going to kill herself one day.
Maybe in five years. Maybe in five days.
I knew there was nothing I could do to stop it. That fate was fate, and yet, I wondered…
Is this why she does it?
“Cade,” Raven said, almost reading my mind, “you have to do this. It’s the right call.”
She and Joey were watching me, and I could see the pity written over both of their faces.
“Yeah, man,” Joey added, exchanging a look with Raven. “You can’t live like this anymore. She’ll be fine.”
“Just give me a minute,” I said suddenly.
As I walked back up the driveway toward the house, the curtain of the living room window fell back into place. I stepped onto the front porch, and the door creaked open.
Aunt Lynn stood in her bathrobe, staring at me through the screen door. I paused.
“You leave your keys?” she growled, looking away.
“Yes,” I said. “They’re on the kitchen counter.”
She didn’t reply.
“Your groceries and your medication will be dropped off once a week. There’s a service that delivers them right to the door. You’ll just have to sign for everything.”
Aunt Lynn made no sign that she could hear me.
“All of your log-in information is taped to the fridge, in case you need to change any of your orders.”
“I don’t need your help,” Aunt Lynn mumbled quietly.
Yes, you do.
“I know,” I lied.
After a long pause, my aunt finally looked at me.
“Sometimes I wonder what would have happened if you’d never been born,” she said. “Maybe she’d still be alive.”
And then the door slammed in my face.
“Slow down! Shit!” Cade exclaimed from the passenger seat while holding on to the dashboard.
I glanced over at him, smirking. “You’re worse than Grace,” I mused. “I wasn’t even speeding.”
“I just don’t want my car wrecked before my first day of work tomorrow,” he replied.
I wonder what his aunt said to him.
“Which way?” I asked Joey, who was sitting in the back seat.
“Straight for a while. It’s gonna be on the left.”
“Thanks.” I glanced back over at Cade. “You know, I really think I’m getting the hang of this.”
“Downshift,” Cade replied.
“Look,” Joey said suddenly, poking his head between us. “Movers.”
We watched as two massive U-Haul trucks turned onto the street in front of us.
“I can’t believe someone else is actually moving to this town,” Cade said.
I followed behind the slow-moving trucks for a while, oddly curious to see who was inside.
As we neared the turnoff for my street, the trucks began to slow.
“They’re turning onto Marbury Street,” said Joey.
I wonder if…
“Maybe somebody bought the Sanderses’ house,” Cade guessed.
The Sanderse~s~’~ house.~
I could only imagine the level of harassment that Emily’s foster parents must have endured in the days following her arrest.
It seemed the entire town blamed them for not catching on to Emily’s scheme. In less than two weeks, they had packed up their things, sold the pharmacy, and disappeared.
The only evidence left was the “For Sale” sign in the front yard.
Did it really sell that fast?
I decelerated, flashing the right turn signal.
“What are you doing?” Cade asked.
“What do you think? Following them.”
My suspicions were confirmed as we approached the edge of Marbury Street—where I still lived (and to think, where I had once been so excited to have Emily as my neighbor).
As the trucks pulled into the driveway, I quietly pulled to the side of the road and cut the engine.
The first moving truck driver’s side door swung open, and a woman with coppery red hair jumped out of the cab.
She planted a kiss on a muscular, tanned, dark-haired man who climbed out of the second moving truck.
A sudden beeping grabbed their attention as a bright red, classic Mustang convertible came to a screeching halt in front of the house.
A girl who looked roughly my age hopped out of the showy car and skipped up the driveway toward them.
She was tall, with tawny skin and long, black hair that hung in waves down her back.
“Looks like you’re not gonna be the only new kid,” Joey murmured.
It smells like piss in here.
My nostrils flared at the offensive odor, and I scowled, looking around the interior of the bus.
The prison vehicle was empty aside from the two guards sitting several rows in front of me and the two behind.
Each one of them was dressed in ridiculous tactical wear, clenching their shotguns for dear life. Their eyes followed my every move, though none would dare look me in the eyes.
All of this for little old me?
I couldn’t help but grin.
Their fear was tantalizing. If anything, it only made me hungry…
One of the guards—the young, eager type—caught me watching him.
“Can I help you, freak?”
I chuckled at his attempt to insult me. It wasn’t his fault that he was nothing more than a pathetic bedstain. Most are.
I marveled at his youthful skin, wondering what it would look like with a little splash of hydrochloric acid…
How he would beg for his life.
I was almost getting aroused at the thought.
A shame I’ll never get to hear it.
A shame that I’m chained up like a dog.
A tiny pop jostled my attention.
What the hell?!
The handcuffs digging into my wrists were…
My eyes flew back up to the guard, who had resumed his petrified stance, staring out the window.
How is this possible?
I cautiously slid my wrists from the metal bracelet, rubbing the red indents in my skin thoughtfully.
Maybe a screw was loose.
It didn’t change anything.
The shackles around my ankles were still secure as ever.
I stared at them with contempt.
You’ve gotta be shitting me…
I pulled my legs free of the restraints, my mind racing.
But my first thought—the one that brought a grin to my face and really got my blood pumping…
I looked back up at the guards, the mindless cattle who were just begging to be given a purpose.
“Admit it,” Raven murmured between kisses, her hands clamped on to the sides of my face. “I’m a great driver.”
I tried to respond, but my tongue was halfway down her throat—and I had no intention of changing that.
Where did this girl come from?
I pulled her onto my lap, my hand running down the length of her spine.
She’d come over to help me set up my new room at Joey’s house, but we’d quickly gotten distracted.
I couldn’t stifle the smile drifting to my face.
Raven pulled back suddenly, and I opened my eyes. She was staring over my shoulder, a strange look on her face.
“What’s up?” I asked, stroking her back.
Raven ignored me.
“Alright,” Raven said suddenly, climbing off of me. “Let’s see it.”
I followed her gaze and watched as one of the moving boxes opened on its own. A book slowly floated out from inside the box, levitating in the air.
Why does he ALWAYS do this?
“Randy!” Raven exclaimed. “That’s incredible!”
I watched as the book floated over to us and then gently settled down onto the bed.
That couldn’t have waited?
I knew I was just being salty, but I was finding it hard to mask my annoyance.
Randy was making a habit of showing up unannounced. Always at the worst moments, when Raven and I were alone.
“Wait, who is this guy?” Raven asked. “Yes. I definitely need to meet Duke sometime… Yeah. Alright, see ya.”
And then she turned to me, smiling.
“Sorry about that.”
“What’s up with him?” I replied.
“Randy’s been learning a lot from this ghost he met a couple of years ago. He’s been teaching him how to move things in the physical world.”
Raven grabbed me and rolled us so that I was on my back and she was back on top of me.
“He’s definitely getting stronger,” I replied with disinterest, my eyes settling on her very cute lips.
“Mhm.” She brought her face back down to meet mine. “Now shut up and kiss me.”
“Oh my God, I’m so excited!” Grace gushed, scooping a heap of spaghetti onto my plate. “First day of senior year tomorrow. This is huge! What are you going to wear?”
“Don’t make a big deal about it, okay?” I begged.
I casually glanced at the TV, which was just visible from the kitchen table.
The news was on mute, but the caption made my ears ring:
“Grace,” I murmured. “Grace, turn up the volume. Now!”
Grace used the app on her phone to unmute the TV.
“Convicted murderer Willy Woods escaped custody yesterday while en route from Colorado State Penitentiary to Colorado Mental Health Hospital after allegedly killing three police officers,” the anchorwoman said.
“A spokeswoman for the sheriff’s office said that Woods was being transferred one month after being pardoned from death row.”
Willy’s mug shot flashed over the screen.
“Woods is presumed armed and extremely dangerous. If seen, do not approach; contact your local law enforcement.”
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