Page 30

“I didn’t know any of this.” Calista looked into Lena’s eyes and knew that none of this mattered. She could see the insanity and emptiness in her eyes. She glanced around for a weapon, and saw her friend slumped on the floor, unmoving. William still stood under the basketball hoop looking smug. That’s when reality sank in.

“What have you done to her?” Calista screamed, near the point of hysterics.

“It’ll wear off in a few hours. I injected her with this not too long ago.” He held up a syringe, then threw it to the floor. “It won’t matter one way or the other, because in a few hours you and I will be long gone.” William looked directly at Calista, but all she saw was empty holes for eyes. He picked up the fallen gun as he started to walk towards them.

“What are you talking about, Billy? I thought we were going to kill her here and then head to your father’s compound in Cuba.” Lena looked at William, and Calista saw the raw fear in the other woman’s eyes.

“Change of plans.” Before either woman could react, he fired two shots, striking Lena right in the chest.

Lena went down without a sound. Blood poured from her chest, pooling all around them. Still huddled on the floor, Calista backed away from the crimson liquid. William bent over Lena’s lifeless body and shot her again, this time in the head, and said, “I hate the name Billy, you stupid slut.”

William yanked Calista up off the floor and held the gun to her temple as he led her out the same door she’d originally come through.

“She was a whore too, but I needed her in case you decided to disobey me. She’s no longer of any use to me.”

“Where are you taking me?” Calista struggled as he shoved her through the dimly lit parking lot. She strained to listen for the sounds of sirens, but the only noises were the gravel and snow crunching underneath her boots.

“I have a place set up for us just outside of town. It’s a small cabin, and it’s very private. No one will hear you.”

Despite the gun pressed into her back, Calista stopped walking and turned towards him. “Why? I at least deserve to know why you hate me so much. If you’re going to kill me, I should know why.”

He shoved her again. “Keep moving.”

“No. If you don’t tell me I won’t move. You’ll be forced to carry me, and I won’t make it easy. You might have to kill me before you get a chance to do whatever it is you’re planning.” Keep him talking. Calista prayed Dane had been able to track her cell phone; that is until it had died on her. It was a slim hope, but she was betting her life on Dane’s resourcefulness.

William spared a quick glance at their surroundings, so she spoke again to distract him.

“Don’t you think if I’d brought backup you’d be dead by now? If there was anyone else out here they’d have stormed the gymnasium after those shots were fired.”

Her logic seemed to sway him, but he persisted. “How did you get away unseen? I know you have people watching your building all the time.”

She shrugged and was glad that she could be honest. It would show on her face. “When Dane was in the shower, I snuck out. I have a motorbike that no one knows about.” She motioned to the other side of the parking lot with her head. “When I put on my helmet, I’m unrecognizable.”

He nodded, and she inwardly sighed. “Fine, I’ll tell you but keep walking. My car is parked just over there.” He pushed her towards an open field behind the parking lot.

Calista wasn’t sure if she believed him, but she had no choice other than to keep walking.

“I worshipped you. You were the perfect woman, and I knew when you broke up with my brother, whatever happened had been his fault.”

“Why do you hate your brother so much?” Calista didn’t want to get off track, but she needed to understand how Mike fell into all of this.

“Because he left me alone with our whore of a mother. He knew what it was like living with her, and he promised I could come live with him when he made a name for himself as a photographer. Of course he lied.”

“That doesn’t explain why you hate me.” Calista slowed her pace and prayed he didn’t notice.

“When he started dating you I thought maybe he had changed. You were America’s sweetheart, and I knew that you’d never put up with anyone unworthy. When you ended things, I knew it was because he showed his true colors. Hey, keep moving.” William shoved her again, but with such force she fell face first into the dirt and snow.

He yanked her up by her hair, but she didn’t cry out. She wouldn’t give him the pleasure.

“If you think you can delay this you’re dumber than I thought. Keep moving.” He shoved her again, but not quite as hard.

“A few months ago he came around and needed money. When Mike moved away he cut all ties with our mother and me, but he didn’t count on our dear departed mother marrying someone so rich. He thought he’d ask me to hit up my step dad for money. I laughed in his face. We argued and somehow your name was brought up. I mocked him for losing you, because after you his whole life went downhill. He called you a whore and said he had the pictures to prove it. I didn’t believe him, but about a month later I received a package in the mail with pictures that you’d let him take of you.”

Calista saw the car up ahead and knew what awaited her. She squashed her fear. “I was just a kid then. How can you hold something like that against me?”

He just ignored her question and kept talking. “When I saw those pictures I knew the truth about you. You’re just like all the rest, just like my mother, and you need to die. You’re a role model for young girls everywhere and it’s disgusting. When I’m through with you I’m going to make sure the world knows exactly what kind of person you are.”

They stood directly in front of the car. She knew what she had to do. If she got in that car she was dead. It was now or never. Luckily after he had her gun, William hadn’t seen fit to search her person. She ripped the pepper spray from her pocket, turned, and sprayed directly into his eyes. He screamed in agony and shot the gun off wildly.

Without waiting to see what he would do next, she turned and sprinted back towards the gymnasium. As she ran through the empty field, she heard him cursing behind her. She spared a quick glance over her shoulder. He clawed and wiped at his eyes as he stumbled across the snow, but he still had the gun gripped in his hand. When she turned back, she thought she saw the silhouette of another person in the parking lot, but couldn’t be sure. This was a dicey area and it could be a local thug looking to steal her bike.

If need be, she had the rest of her pepper spray. Her feet hit the pavement and she slipped on the gravel. Calista scrambled to her feet, ignoring her bleeding hands. In the distance she heard her name being called, and then she heard a shot ring out. She flinched and turned back, afraid of what she’d see. She lost her footing again on the pavement. Before she hit the ground, strong hands lifted her up.

“No!” She screamed and swung her arms up defensively. Her trigger finger twitched on her pepper spray, but she dropped it when she realized that it was Dane holding her. Unable to contain herself anymore, she sobbed against his chest.

“I’m sorry, Dane, he had Lexi.”

“Baby, I know. Shh,” He whispered into her hair and wrapped his arms tighter around her. “You’re safe now. He’s dead.”

She pulled her face back and looked up into his eyes. “You’re sure?”

“Nikolai took him down with one shot. I was calling your name, but you didn’t seem to hear me.”

She managed a half smile, but more tears spilled down her cheeks. “I couldn’t hear anything.”

“That’s normal. When adrenaline kicks in, your surroundings disappear and survival is the only thing that seems to matter. You don’t see or hear, you just react.”

His words were spoken with first-hand knowledge, and she could only imagine how many times he’d run for his life. Calista wiped her tears and pulled out of his embrace. “I need to see Lexi.”

Dane held onto her shoulders to steady her. “She’s fine. She’ll probably be knocked out for another hour, but her heartbeat is steady and her vitals are good. I’m sure they’ll want to take her to the hospital for observation, but she’s totally fine.”

Calista swatted his arms away. “I want to see her.”

“Okay, come on.”

Red and blue lights flashed from numerous police cars, and half a dozen men in uniforms ran around sectioning off the area. When she saw Lexi being wheeled into the back of the ambulance, she tore across the parking lot, ignoring her bloody hands and bruised body.

“I want to ride with her,” she demanded to the uniformed man.

The paramedic shook his head. “I’m sorry, we’re full, but you can meet us at the hospital.”

She turned to find Dane trailing a foot behind her, hands shoved in his pockets.

“Can we go now?”

He nodded. “Yes, but you’re going to have to make a statement tomorrow morning.”

“Fine, whatever.” She gripped Dane’s large hand and allowed herself to be led across the gravelly parking lot.

As soon as they were settled into the front seat of his car, he turned the heat on full blast, but didn’t make a move to leave.

“What are you doing?”

He turned on the overhead light. “Just hold on one second. She’s not going anywhere. I want to make sure you’re okay.”

“I said I’m—”

He took both of her hands in his, examined them, then lifted up her sleeves.

“Are you sure you’re not hurt?” His deep voice was hoarse and scratchy, and for the first time that night she realized what was different about him.

A vulnerability was etched deep into the worry lines of his face. She stopped his perusal of her wounds and took his face in her hands.

“Hey, I’m fine. I’m alive aren’t I?”