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“She didn’t say shit.”

“How come?”

“Cause she’s fucking dead.”

*     *     *

Nikki was dead.

I couldn’t catch my breath.

My head spun.

King had said that anyone who stole from him would have to pay a price, and Nikki had paid it.

With her life.

There was no doubt, that without King being able to ask Nikki about my involvement, that I was next.

Thunderclouds clapped overhead. King and Preppy walked back toward the house, but I could no longer make out what they were saying. I closed the window and propped myself on the bed just as they’d left me.

The first chance I got I was going to make a run for it. There was no time to wait and plan. This was going to have to be quick and on-the-fly.

After a few minutes, Preppy came back into the room and uncuffed me. “Let’s go,” he said. Yanking me into an upright position, he dragged me toward the door.

“Where are we going?” I asked frantically. Then, it came to me. This was King’s house. His bedroom. He wouldn’t carry out killing me in his own home, so it was very likely they would take me somewhere else first. This was my only shot, and I was going to have to take it.

“Not far,” Preppy said.

It was getting dark, and it was about to storm. Couldn’t they at least wait until morning? I could think better when I wasn’t being choked by my own fear of the dark.

“Why?”

“Come on. You’ll see.”

We walked down the narrow hallway and down the stairs to the main living area of the house. King was nowhere in sight. Figures he would ask Preppy to do his dirty work for him. A part of me wanted King to do it.

I wanted him to see the look in my eyes as he killed an innocent person.

But it didn’t look like I was going to get that chance.

Preppy led me out onto the balcony, and I stopped short when we reached the stairs. Preppy was already a few steps below me, his grip on my wrist still tight. He turned around when he felt me come to a stop. This was my only chance to escape with my life. I didn’t think. I just acted.

I reared my foot back and kicked him in the balls. HARD. He released my wrist to grab his crotch and I shoved on his shoulders with all my might, sending him tumbling backwards down the steep staircase.

I ran down the steps and jumped over Preppy who was curled up at the bottom of the stairs groaning obscenities face-first into the grass.

I took off as fast as my bare feet and weak legs would take me. Clutching the sweats with one hand, I ran down the dirt driveway, but when I reached the road, there was nothing but more trees in every direction. I didn’t remember which way we’d come from the night before, and there was nothing telling me which way would bring me toward people.

Toward help.

A door slammed somewhere behind me. Heavy boots against the wooden deck echoed over my head. The wind carried the shouts of a very deep and very unhappy voice.

Shit.

The sun had almost fully sunk into the horizon. Although I couldn’t see in the dark, I had to get off the open road where I was a sitting duck.

I took off across the road. Pushing some brush aside, I jumped through the opening I created, stumbling over twisting roots and cypress knees. Finding my footing on the soft wet ground was almost impossible.

So was running straight.

Vines and brush blocked my every move. Spider webs stretched over my face as I tried to clear a path. Just a little further in, and I would be able to hide within the thick brush.

My foot landed on something sharp and I hissed, tumbling forward onto a narrow path. I leapt across the mud and used all my weight to flatten a bush. I’d just lifted my leg as high as it could go so I could step over it when I was tackled from behind, landing hard on my side. The wind left my lungs with a whooshing sound.

No matter how hard I tried to suck air back in, I couldn’t. Over and over again, I opened my mouth to breathe, and over and over again, my lungs failed me.

I was still gasping for air when strong arms flipped me onto my back. Massive, hard thighs held me like a vice on each side of my ribcage, threatening to snap them with one twist of his knees.

King leaned over me, his grip tight on my wrists, which he held together and raised above my head. I tried to gain control of my lungs. When I was finally able to pull in some air, my chest rose and fell in quick pants. My breasts brushed up against King’s hard chest.

The wind howled. The sky answered with a thunderclap that I felt in my bones. The rain started slow. Icy drops caused my skin to prickle. I was suddenly hyper-aware of the man lying on top of me. The rain quickly turned from drops to sheets. Water poured down King’s face and into his dark demon-like eyes, but he didn’t look possessed.

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