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Steely, cold, and focused, he’d do anything to keep me safe.
Except there is no safe and there is no us.
There’s only stolen moments and reckless touches, secrets and lies.
And the stranger who wants me dead.
Cast in shadows and biding his time, he pulls on the threads of my life hoping I'll come undone.
Even surrounded by people I'm completely alone.
Though I’m afraid, I don’t want to feel safe.
I want to feel prepared.
Fear doesn't have to be my weakness; it can be the fire in my veins.
Fear might just keep me alive tonight.
The house has been empty for years, with no one to maintain it, no one to look after it. It's a shadow of its former self.
My steps leave shoe prints on the dirty linoleum of the hall. Behind me, a trail of my progress leads all the way to the back entrance. I'm not worried. I'll clean it all later.
I stroll past the pictures lining the walls, covered in dust. Pictures of them. Gone. All gone. The skeleton of my life. Of everything I had before it all disintegrated in my hands.
No matter. Tables turn, and no one on this earth can escape reaping what they sow. Not even her. Soon she'll understand what she's done, how her words destroyed everything.
The air grows stale as I head down into the basement. The first three stairs groan under my weight, just as they always have. A shiver runs through me. It's always been chillier down here than the rest of the house, especially in the winter months. But my shiver isn't from the cold. It's from excitement.
Even though I know I shouldn't have come. Not during the day when the neighbors could see. But I couldn't help myself. I needed to make sure it's all just the way I left it.
Reaching the foot of the stairs, I straighten and inspect the room I've prepared.
The single, twin-sized mattress, pushed against the bare wall of the unfinished basement. Any movement I make echoes in the cavernous space. The chill hangs in the air, and the thick silence is almost buzzing around me.
I get goosebumps just standing here, imagining what it's like to wonder.
Wonder and wonder and wonder.
Wonder if you're going crazy.
Wonder if you will live or die.
To gain hope. To lose that hope. To break.
I wonder, gleeful and fidgeting in my excitement.
Straight across from the bed is the only other furniture I've placed in the room. A shabby nightstand with a small television monitor perched on top of it.
That's where she'll see it all.
That's where she'll see herself.
I run my finger absently over the blade cradled in my hand. I don't remember pulling it out, but stroking it helps everything in my head go still. I've had this particular knife for so long, I know just how to touch it so it won't cut me.
It's part of me.
You're forgetting something.
I slice at the air with the knife. At the voice. I know it's my own, but it sounds just like him. Mocking. Belittling. Making me question myself. He doesn't know me anymore. I've changed. The things I've been through…the scars that pucker up inside of me, never healing, never showing themselves to the world. But no matter. They make me stronger. I'm better than him now. I won't make the mistakes he made.
You're going to get caught.
"Shut up," I hiss.
But he can't hear me. It's one way with him. It's always been one way.
I won't get caught. I've planned it perfectly. I won't squander away the position of power I've gained. Not the way he did. Tactlessly and without forethought, letting his anger rule him. No. I'll get my revenge and I'll live to see it all play out. I'm patient. I've been biding my time. I've done my homework, set up the smoke and mirrors. They see only calm and control and camouflage.
No one knows tonight's the night.
I stroke the blade with my forefinger and pull up an image in my mind's eye. An image of her. Sitting on the mattress, staring at that television with those pretty eyes of hers, wide as an owl's. Watching, for the first time, what happens when she's the headline. When the hunter becomes the prey. When the reporter becomes the story.
About the Author
Veronica Larsen’s romance novels are angst-driven and steamy. They tend to feature strong female leads who keep their male counterparts on their toes. Veronica enjoys building intense chemistry and anticipation while creating believable, down-to-earth romances. She’s an avid reader of all genres, coffee addict, and a Harry Potter fanatic.