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Suddenly feeling a level of tired I hadn’t felt since sleeping on park benches, I moved to the bed, sweeping the plethora of stuffed animals onto the floor. Crawling up toward the pillows, I landed on my side. The mattress and comforter were plush and soft, but the bed felt empty.

It’s because he’s not here.

Only a few months ago I was just a girl without a home, a name, or a family.

Then I was Pup. A girl who lived in Logan’s Beach with the family of her choosing and a home I loved.

Now I was Ramie Price, daughter to a senator, a mother. I was finally back where I’d come from. Where I belonged.

I was finally home.

Drifting off into a heavy sleep I wondered why this place that was supposed to be my home felt like anything but.

Standing in the middle of the ice, I take a hesitant step toward the shore, the first echoing crack of the ice under my heavy boot is deafening. I have to take another step. I have to make it across before it’s too late, but I can’t move my legs. All I can do is stare in disbelief as the crack expands into millions more, and like jagged snakes, they race in every direction, sending the thin foundation of ice, and me, crashing into the freezing dark waters.

It’s so cold.

I’m going to drown.

Deeper and deeper I sink into the dark water until two arms appear above me, hands extended out, calling for me to grab them so I could be saved. One arm was adorned with a gold wrist watch, the other was wrapped in a thick leather belt. I try to grab onto both of them, but I can’t reach and they don’t reach into the water any deeper.

It’s then I realize that in order to be saved, I can only chose one.

I reach toward the belted arm and grab hold, but instead of being lifted out from the abyss and thrust back into the frigid air as I expected, the arm turns me around and pushes me down deeper and deeper until I have no choice but to inhale the murky water.

I fade into oblivion wondering if there really was a right choice, because I have a feeling that no matter which one I chose, they both would’ve pulled me under.

Chapter Four

Doe

Tap Tap Tap

I thought what I was hearing was still the ice cracking from my dream, but when it grew louder and more impatient I opened my eyes and realized that the sound was coming from my window.

When I opened my eyes I realized that the TV I’d left on for light had turned off sometime during the night and I was encased in darkness that made my fear spike to epic proportions.

And then I heard the distinct sound of the window slowly sliding open. I froze, having no clue where there might be something I could defend myself with and not wanting to bring any more attention to my location. The only thing I could do was clutch my comforter to my chest, and wait.

The unavoidable shadow slinked through the window, one long leg after the other. I spotted a snow globe on the desk and was about to make my move to grab it and launch it at the intruder when the shadow started toward my bed. Then to my surprise as the shadow moved closer to the bed, my panic receded.

There was only one person whose very presence could quiet my overwhelmingly loud fear of the dark.

King.

My anger toward him, which I’d been suppressing all day, was barely a thought in the back of my mind as I leapt out of bed. But just as I was about to jump into his arms a cloud rolled away from the moon, the light beaming into my room like a spotlight, introducing my visitor.

Tanner.

I stopped abruptly and when I realized I was still holding my arms open in the air, I lowered them and awkwardly held my wrist behind my back.

“What are you doing here?” I asked breathlessly.

“I told you I was coming to talk to you,” Tanner answered. “And who did you think I was?”

I shook my head and waved my hand dismissively. “Oh, no one, you just surprised me is all when you came through the window.” I lied. “Who’s with Sammy?”

Tanner gave me a look that said he wasn’t buying my answer, but thankfully he moved on anyway. “My mom’s watching him.”

“Oh,” I said. Twisting around at my waist, averting looking Tanner in the eye.

“I’m sorry that I surprised you. And honestly, I didn’t even think about coming through your front door instead of the window, because unless I had Sammy this is just how I always came…” Tanner stopped and closed his eyes tightly. He shook his head and moved over to the bed. He shot me a tentative look and I nodded. Taking up only a small portion of the corner of the bed, he wasn’t really sitting, more like bracing himself. “I keep forgetting that you don’t remember any of this.” He pointed at himself and then me.

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