“This is illegal!” I yell through the door. I jiggle the handle again to find that it is still locked since I had last checked two minutes ago. “You could go to jail for this.”
“I care not for your human laws.” He says. His voice isn’t muffled in the slightest by the door. Add that to the list of creepy things about tall, dark, and over dramatic.
“What? It doesn’t matter what laws you’re going by. You’ve abducted a minor. There’s serious jail time for this.” I kick the door in frustration. Mom and dad must be freaking out. I’ve been gone for almost two days, they must have called the police… or not. I’ve left so many times they might just think I’m gone. But I’ve never been gone for more than a day and I always come back, not to mention that Trina never goes missing. God, they must be so worried.
I sit on the über plush bed and swung my feet back and forth. I lean back and count the dots on the ceiling, take a nap, raid the bathroom, and, in general, try to not to think of my current situation. I can’t believe that creep kidnapped us. I didn’t peg him for a kidnapper when we first saw him. And by ‘we’ I meant me and my older sister Trina. I’m not the prettier one out of me and Trina. I’m pretty (my thighs like being close to each other.), but Trina is beautiful. She’s beautiful in the way that Tyra Banks is beautiful: there’s a sad and tired face beneath the makeup. I’m more of the natural type. I used to wear makeup but then I saw Trina without it and I realized I didn’t want to have wrinkles before I even turned twenty.
Wrinkles aside, the rest of her is just as beautiful. Her eyebrows have a natural arch and dark, mysterious eyes that can always see between the lines. Her Cupid’s bow mouth knows every secret there is to know about you before she even speaks to you and her pointed ears hear more than the creaking bones of every skeleton hiding in your closet. And yes, her hair is that big because of all the secrets.
I, on the other, am not as skinny as her, not as tall as her, and it’s a definite no on being as graceful as her. We do have the same mouth, but I snap harsh truths. And the same snub nose, but I turn mine up at most people. I have dark eyes as well, but most people say, and I quote, “It’s like looking into a dark whole, I know there’s an end, but I just don’t know where it is.” I never know whether or not to take it as a compliment or an insult, so I take it as both.
The day we saw tall and muscular was when we were going shopping. One of my least favorite pass times. There’s only one aspect I enjoy: people watching. Trina thinks it’s rude, and I will admit that it is, but it’s so much more entertaining than trying to decide whether a pink sheer sleeveless button up will look better over a white or black camisole. She thinks I hate shopping, but that is untrue. I enjoy food shopping and shopping for things I’ll never use more than once. Several of these trinkets litter my room that I won’t throw away, but I know I’m not going to use them.
Trina stands behind me fussing over sun dresses, “Should I get a blue one of a peach one? I love blue, but peach is my color.” And I stand looking at the crowd of teenaged girls who could have done something more important with their lives than spend a day at the mall in cool weather. Summer is approaching fast, but spring always holds us in its cool grip until the start of June. I can tell that most of them aren’t happy with today’s selection in PINK, an ugly attachment from Victoria’s Secret that I tend to avoid. Not to mention the perfume here is stronger than it should be. Not as bad as Abercrombie & Fitch, but sneeze inducing just the same.
“Letty? Marcy, where’d you go?” I roll my eyes and turn as Trina looks in a frantic circle searching for me.
“Right here,” I poke her shoulder. She jumps and looks to me.
“Marcy, how was I supposed to know you were standing there?”
“I haven’t moved.”
“But you look like a guy from behind. You should grow out your hair. And, you know, where something other than sweats.”
“When it’s cold, I wear sweats, and when I’m forced to go somewhere, I wear them.”
“You do it to embarrass me, don’t you?”
“Maybe,” She shakes her head and goes back to the dresses. “Go with blue, you look nice in blue.”
“Aww, thank you.” She snatches the dress from the rack and we finally go to the register. The lady on the other side looks at me and turns her nose up. I cross my arms and drum my fingers. It’s a look I get a lot from the girls who work at these stores. It seems that they think the I-literally-can’t-care-less vibe I’m giving off doesn’t apply to their opinion. If I want it I’d have asked.
“Are you coming to the food court with me?” Trina asks.
“No, I think I’ll go to Hot Topic for a bit.”
“Alright, don’t get too lost. And call before you take off.”
“I’ll try to remember.” I give her a two finger salute and walk off in the opposite direction.
Hot Topic is my go to place in the mall. I never buy anything and I never even look for something to buy, but I enjoy the atmosphere and music. The sales and register people never try to kick me out (unlike Spencer’s where the manager called a mall cop because I was trying on hats but not buying anything.) I’m pretty cool with them.
“‘Sup, Short Stacks,” Lacy calls from the behind the back wall. Lacey, stereotypical scene teen, has an uncanny ability to know when I, or anyone she talks to, walks into the store. There are cameras, sure, but no live video feed anywhere in the store. “Have a nice time shopping with the devil in pink?”
“She’s not the devil. She just happens to be good at what she does.” Some way somehow, Trina got info on Lacey’s background and found that she had been in a detention center for two years. Since then, Lacey’s never referred to Trina by name.
“And what she does is try to ruin friendships.” She grumbles. “Help me out, will you?”
“Two seconds.” I scoot around the wrack of items over to her and hold a pile of shirts for her to sort. “What are you doing after this?”
“I was thinking about curb crawling. You up for it?”
“Sure. I got nothing better to do.” I love curb crawling. It’s something we do on Tuesdays and Fridays. The trash guys around us never pick up trash before six and a lot of people just toss away valuable things. I once found a painting of Mozart that a pawn broker bought for seventy dollars and a topaz ring that sold for one hundred fifteen. It’s a quick and easy way to get cash, but you have to know where to look. In middle class, you might get a few good things, but you really want to crawl through upper class. They’ve got money to blow and often throw out expensive jewelry, art, clothes. Clothes are less common but still worth it.
“Cool beans, Letty.” She takes the last shirt from me and puts her hands on her hips. “I’m actually off right now.” She skips off to the register to talk to Janice, her manager. I stiffen. Someone is watching me. I, on average, ignore this feeling. If someone wants to stare, who was I to deny them their happiness? But I have this particular feeling when a certain someone is staring at me. It’s like the old saying of someone walking on your grave. It’s a chill down my spine and a stampede of butterflies in my stomach.
I turn to see Sebastian leaning against the rail watching me. He winks and walks off. Damn it, damn it, damn it.
“Ready to go?” Lacey asks bounding up to me. “Got my check so well have to make a stop first.”
“Uh, Lacey, I’ll have to do a rain check on curb crawling.”
“Aw, why? Your sister call you or something?”
“Uh, no. It’s just, I forgot that I had something important to do.”
“Oh, okay. Well, see you soon?”
“Yeah, see you soon.” I make a beeline for the nearest exit. I can’t believe he showed up here. He told me he wouldn’t need me until later. Stupid lying prick. I hate him. Hate is a strong word, I know, but it’s better than saying I loathe him, which I do. I blame him for my not being able to be around my family. Since I met him, he’s gotten me mixed up in so many situations—dangerous situations—I’ve lost count. I swear, hating him is the only way I get through it.
I shove through the doors and glare at the man leaning against the wall. “Hey, baby.” I would love nothing more than to smack the smirk off of his face.
“Letty. For the last time, my name is Letty or Marcy. The hell do you want Sebastian.”
“That’s no way to treat me, light skinned.”
“My skin tone has nothing to do with this. Get to the point, I had something planned and you’ve ruined my day.”
“There’s gonna be a drop tomorrow.” He says. The wind picks up and he moves his curly hair out of his face. “We need you to do it.”
“What, no. We had an agreement. I look pretty for you at your stupid meetings and I don’t have to pick up another drop. There will not be a repeat of what happened last time.”
“Look, baby, there won’t be a repeat.” He assures me. I hold my glare.
“Just go get one of your tramps to do it. They’re the ones who need a fix.”
“These guys need a new pretty face to look forward to. Those girls have all deteriorated.”
“Who’d have guessed it? Sebastian, I’m not doing it.”
“You owe me.” He says grabbing my wrist. “You’d be dead if it wasn’t for me.”
“And whose fault was it that I almost died, huh? Did I put myself on the front lines of that stupid deal? No, I didn’t. It was your fault, so the way I see it, we’re even.” I jerk away from him and start to turn.
“Walk away from me, I dare you.” His near black eyes pierce into mine and I remember why I stick around. Why I never leave him to rot like I should. “The lives of your family and that preppy blonde girl are in your hands; choose wisely.”
“That’s not a choice,” I grind out. “That’s a moral death sentence.”
“I’m sorry, baby. If I had my way—”
“You’re not sorry,” I growl. “And if you had it your way, if I was as complying as all those other tramps, you’d have me by your side because your sorry ass can’t function without someone to lean on and to tell you what to do.” I should have seen it coming, the slap that now stings my cheek. The manic look in his eyes doesn’t scare me. And I already knew that my mouth would get me in trouble with him one of these days.
“Baby, I-I’m sorry. I didn’t mean—”
“Sure you didn’t. Fine, I’ll do the drop.” I turn and walk down on the side walk. He doesn’t stop me this time. I won’t go home tonight. I’ll walk down the highway and pretend not to hear the catcalls. And I’ll fall asleep on a park bench pretending that my tears are just that, pretend.
Trina finds me the next day. “Letty, why are you sleeping on a bench? And why haven’t you been arrested?”
“I didn’t want to come home and the cops in this area are stupid and slow.” I sit up and yawn. “How’d you find me?”
“I figured you were still in the mall area. You don’t go far from where I last see you.”
“Right,” I rub my ear and flex my fingers to get feeling back in them. My phone starts to ring.
“Letty, you should come home. We’re cooking pork chops tonight.”
“Tempting,” I say seeing Sebastian’s name displayed on the phone. “Hold on a sec. Hello?”
“We need you now.”
“Now?” I pull my phone back to check the time. Trina starts fixing with my bangs. “It’s, like, noon.”
“It doesn’t matter to him. Get over here, whatever you’re wearing is fine.”
“I haven’t even showered.”
“It doesn’t matter!” I wince and pull my phone away from my ear. He sounds on the verge of a break down. “Just get over here as fast as you can.” I can hear the strain in his voice as if he’s trying not to yell again.
“Yeah, whatever, I’ll be there.”
“Who was that?”
I sigh and stand. “No one important. Can I borrow your car?”
“You don’t even have a learner’s permit.”
“I’m seventeen, I got this.”
“Not unless you tell me where you’re going.”
“Then you can’t borrow my car.”
“Trina, this is important.”
“Why can’t you tell me?”
“I can’t tell you. Just let me borrow it. I promise I’ll bring it back to you in one piece.”
“That’s not what I’m worried about.”
“Trina,” I pull my hair. She’s making this difficult. I have about ten minutes to get there. “You know what? Fine, you can come with me. But, I drive.”
“Fine by me.” Stupid and stubborn are two words that I often use to describe my sister.
I speed out of the parking lot and cut across traffic. I’m grateful I only have to stay on one street. “Don’t you think you should slow down?” I shake my head and swerve around a minivan. Her Mitsubishi Lancer Evolution is affordable but fast. If it wasn’t for that, I wouldn’t have asked to use her car. The drive to Joseph Street Salt Marsh is eight minutes, but I’m driving twenty over the limit and can cut it down to five or six. No cop in the area seems to be on duty and all the lights are in my favor.
I skid to a halt so fast Trina slams against her seatbelt. “Jeez, Marcy. You could have killed me.” I jump out and grab one of her text books, hiding it under my sweat shirt. I push her forward into the abandoned building. The door slams shut and dust rises; Trina wrinkles her nose and waves it away. “What could you possibly—?” I lower the textbook and catch her before she can hit the ground.
“I’m sorry, Trina. Just… stay put for a while.” I tie her scarf around her eyes and lower her to the ground.
“Baby, finally—what the hell is this?”
“My sister you threatened to lynch. Take her, hide her, and make sure that if she wakes up, she’s sedated. She’ll talk you to death or hurt you. Violence runs in the family.”
“Why can’t I just take her home?”
“Because my parents can’t know about you and why I don’t come home anymore, okay? Just make sure she’s okay when she wakes up, I hit her head pretty hard.”
“Learned from the best.” He says. “Go to the back, they’ll be there.” I trudge forward maneuvering around boxes, stepping over fallen beams. An abandoned building is by far the crappiest and most cliché place to have a hideout. I step through the doors and shield myself against the wind.
“He was right.” Two pack a day smoker by his voice. “Prettier than I thought.” Whoever spoke took my hand away from my face kissing it. “What are you doing here?”
I snatch my hand away. “What do you think? Do you have it or what?”
“Feisty aren’t you? It’s right here.” Someone says, I don’t bother looking. I keep my eyes pinned on the heavy smoker. Everything about him feels wrong. From his crooked teeth to his black hair so greasy it would put Snape to shame.
Into my hands, he drops a leather suit case. “Nice doing business with you.”
“Hold up, princess. We’re not done yet. You get what you want, we get what we want.”
“What?” The door bangs open behind me.
“I’m going to kill you, Marcy.” Trina marches forward and grabs my shoulder. For some unknown reason, she can’t read the mood.
“Two of them,” Smoker says. “Must be my lucky day.”
“What?” Before he can touch Trina, he flies backward into a wall. Something, or rather someone had shoved him hard enough to where he was no longer conscious once he hits the wall. Dark skin, brooding expression, tower-like tallness. He looks solidly built and strong enough to punch through a brick wall. He stands between the idiots and Trina and me.
“Marcy, what’s happening?” Trina whispers to me. Her voice shakes in fear as she takes in the scene before her. Damn it, damn it, damn it. I’ve been trying everything to keep this from her. Nothing ever goes my way.
“Nothing for you to be concerned about.” Two guys. Smoker only brought two guys with him. Big, sturdy men who crumple at one good punch to the gut.
“Who’re you?” I ask. He turns to us and we take a step back, but for some reason he looks familiar. His amber eyes seem to glow for a second. He has golden brown skin, hard features. His demanding presence is of someone in charge, a commander or something.
“Your savior.” His voice, deep and melodic; smooth like honey.
An odd sense of déjà vu washes over me. “I suppose,” I look to Trina who looks like she’s frozen in time. “Trina? Trina, talk to me.”
“Not even a thank you?” he asks. “Pity I saved you.”
“I could have saved myself,” I mutter. Wait… we saw him at the mall yesterday. That’s why he looks familiar. He was walking out of Dillard’s. Weird. “Thank you. If you want me to grovel, you’re looking in the wrong direction. Besides, I have bigger problems.”
“Grovel not, what I want from you is far more important.”
“And I don’t care.” I put my arm around Trina and turned. I should really learn not to turn my back to guys. The next thing I know, there’s a sharp pain in the back of my head and the world is tipping and the ground is rushing towards me.
When I wake, I’m lying in a room with a plush bed, surrounded by expensive furniture. I get up and creep out of the room. It takes no time at all to realize, or to find, that Trina is right next door. She isn’t awake. I try to shake her, I call her name as loud as I dare, but Creepy Creeper finds me before she wakes. “What are you doing?”
“Checking on my sister. Why are we here?”
“I cannot quite tell you yet.”
“Why not?” I stand and face him, crossing my arms. He shakes his head. “Then I want nothing to do with this.” I start forward.
“Will you abandon your sister?” he raises his eyebrow.
“Of course not, I don’t abandon family.” I don’t fight. I think it’s pointless to hurt oneself to hurt others. But that doesn’t mean I don’t know how. After two years being around Sebastian I have to, otherwise I’d have died a long time ago. I prefer not get my hands bruised, so I tend to kick more than anything. I caught him off guard, but I suppose that’s because I don’t look like much. He almost falls over but regains his footing in time to grab me. “Put me down you over grown oaf.” I swing my legs in hopes of hitting a sore spot.
“If you would stop struggling, I might be able to.”
“If you’d let me and my sister go, I might not call the cops.”
“You have not a cell phone.” He winces as I make contact with his shin. “I might speak with you, but in your current state you cannot be reasoned with.”
He tosses me into the room I woke up in and locks the door from the outside. And that series of unfortunate and weird events lands me here, still trying to reason with my captor after destroying the room he put me in. What can I say, I have a short fuse.
“Just let me out.” I groan. “I can’t deal with confined spaces. I won’t even call the cops.” Not just that, I need to get to Trina. I can hear movement on the other side of the door. “I promise I won’t try to kick you anymore.” After a minute the lock clicks. I swing the door open and punch the first thing I came in contact with: his throat. I watch his amber eyes bulge and his golden brown cheeks puff out as he chokes and gasps for air. “Never said I wouldn’t punch you,” I smirk and go into Trina’s room.
“Marcy?” She looks half awake and ready to pass out again.
“Is that your name?” Creepy Creeper asks walking on unsteady feet into the room.
“You sound hoarse. Need some water?” I lift my leg to kick him again, but quick as lightning, he tackles me and we all fall into Trina’s room.
“You are being very difficult.” He grunts. He straightens his shirt and glares at me.
“Thank you, I try my best.”
“Who’s this?” Trina asks.
“Huh? I don’t feel kidnapped. It’d be weird that a kidnapper took us to such a nice place.”
“You’re right, I suppose.” I cross my arms and look at him. “If you don’t want to rape, murder, or molest us, why are we here?” His disgust looks genuine. “What’s your name anyway? You know ours, and if you’re not the typical kidnapper, you might accommodating.”
“Very,” he grumbles. “I am Ryner Hyde.”
“So Ryner,” Trina says with caution. “What do you want with us?”
“I’m trying to protect you.”
“Uh, why?” I ask. “I can protect myself and Trina just fine.”
“There are forces even your kicks cannot conquer. Your friend, Sebastian—”
“He is no friend of mine.” I spit at him.
“Fine then, I know that for some time you’ve been under his thumb with your family and friends hanging in the balance.”
“Yeah, how do you know that?”
“You would call me a stalker. Your sister might say it’s an observation.”
“Depends on how much you’ve been observing.” She says.
“I only care for your safety. I have no further interest in either of you. But there is something I would like to tell you regarding your interactions with Sebastian.” Ryner looks nervous which is far different from the brooding and irritated expressions he’s shown us (me) so far.
“What is it?” I ask in a slow tone. For some reason, I feel like he isn’t often nervous about much and if he was, I should be worried.
“It is your parents. Very early this morning there was a fire at your house. They were rushed to a hospital but died shortly after.” Trina looks to the window. It’s dark outside. I hadn’t noticed before, probably because I was trying to escape and I knew that some amount of time had passed, but it’s dark enough to be nine or ten at night. But I’m not focused on that.
“Liar,” I whisper. “You’re a damn liar. How the hell would you know?” He tosses a phone through the air.
“The police called and left a message. Although, I know by other methods.” I turn the phone over, looking at the case. Trina’s phone. She doesn’t have a password, too trivial for her. I click the phone icon and press it to my ear. Trina stands next to me and listens.
“You have one new message. First new message sent today May 23rd from Unknown Number at 9:54 a.m. Beep. ‘Ms. Winters, I am sorry to say that this morning, at approximately seven ‘o six a neighbor of your called the fire department after seeing untamed smoke coming from your house. By the time the fire department got there, the fire had raged out of control. Unfortunately, it took a while for the fire to die, and when the firemen searched the house, your parents made it to the hospital but they died soon after they got to the hospital. Your aunt, Tressa Montgomery, has taken care of everything so as soon as you can, please make your way to the Quincy Police Station. I’m sorry for your loss.’ End of messages. To—”
“Damn it, damn it, DAMN it!” I throw the phone at Ryner which he ducks with ease. The screen shatters when it hits the wall. Trina sits down on the bed. “What did you do?”
“I have done nothing. It was Sebastian.”
“Why? I gave him no reason to set that fire.”
“I would guess that he wanted to keep you close. By setting that fire, he hoped it would scare you into staying by his side because you would not want something to happen if you actually did do something to set him off.”
“I knew that bastard was crazy but this…” I look to Trina. She doesn’t know what’s happening but after this, I can’t just keep her in the dark. But then again, I can’t just tell her. I don’t want her to be in danger. Still… I turn to Ryner. “Get out.”
“—is indeed your house, but since we aren’t kidnapees, we’re guests. And it’s rude to ignore the requests of a guest. Isn’t it?” He studies me for a moment before turning to leave.
“I’d suggest clearing the air. It is quite stuffy in here.”
Trina sits still on the bed. I really wish she wouldn’t freeze when she’s shocked. It’s one of the only things that scares me. “What… did he mean? When he said that our lives hung in the balance.”
“I… I can’t tell you.”
“Can’t or won’t?” she snaps with a sudden jerk. “Our parents are dead because of whatever mess you’re in. If you’re trying to protect me it’s too late.”
I bite my lip. It’s now or never. I won’t feel the need to tell her more than I do now. She wouldn’t be able to get it out of me again. I take a breath and start. “Two years ago I met someone. Sebastian Banegas. We weren’t together as more than friends, I swear. But he… he got too attached too fast. I tried to tell him to, you know, slow down, that we were just friends. He wouldn’t listen. He kept coming back again and again. It was getting to be too much for me, I didn’t think I could handle it. I wanted to leave, but when I told him, he just snapped and pulled out a gun. I was shocked, I guess, but I wasn’t really surprised. I always knew that he wasn’t all there. He said that he needed me more than I realized and that if I was a good person like he thought, then I would stay with him. And if I was a good person I would do him a favor. I didn’t know what else to say but yes. He needed me to look pretty and pick something up for him. When I got to the place, five or six guys were waiting. They gave me what I came to get, but they wanted something else. I was scared and terrified and I was ready to just give up, but I didn’t. Somehow, I made it out. But I didn’t get away unscathed. I had broken my wrist and dislocated my shoulder. They didn’t get what they wanted but when I got back to Sebastian, I told him that I refused to do it again. I wouldn’t be his lapdog. But then he said that he would kill you and mom and dad if I didn’t do what he said. He said that if I left him he wouldn’t hesitate. I called him a liar, told him to screw off. He lost it again. He… he almost killed me. That was why I wore turtle necks for so long and my voice was hoarse. When he came to his senses, he apologized, promised he wouldn’t do it again, but I knew he was lying. Guys like him, they never keep their promises. But he did say that all I would have to do from then on was stay by him whenever he needed me. If I did that, then you guys would be safe. And for these last two years, I’ve kept my distance from him whenever possible and everyone was safe. But there was only so much I could do, I guess. I was hoping that he would get over his fixation but it was a pipe dream, I knew that he wouldn’t.”
She sat in silence for a long time staring at her hands.
“Then why… why didn’t you go to the police? Or try to get help or something.”
“I don’t think you understand. It’s not just Sebastian that I can’t get away from. He’s a very important person with a lot of protection. They don’t like me as it is. Now that I’ve ‘abandoned my post’ they’ll do anything to sway his opinion and now Lacey is in trouble because of it.”
“Lacey? That girl from Hot Topic? What does she have to do with it?”
“I cut off my friends for a reason, Trina.” I sit next to her and pull up my leg. “If I’m close to anyone they’ll hurt them if I mess up.”
“Who is ‘they’?” Trina turned towards me. I can’t meet her eyes. “And why is Sebastian so important?”“He’s just dangerous, okay? If I don’t diffuse him, mom and dad won’t be the only ones I’ve killed.”