Best Laid Plans

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Chapter 23

Throughout the night I toss and turn unable to find a comfortable position. I surrender myself to my insomnia and sit up in bed. I’ll just read until I pass out, I decide. I grab the suspense thriller book Cora lent me and flip on the lamp. A few pages in, I realize the book uncomfortably resembles my current situation with Dominic. Goosebumps run down my spine. Thunder shakes my apartment and lightning strikes light up the sky. It sounds like a war zone outside. Focusing my attention on reading, my eyes start to get heavy. I start to fall asleep when I hear a tapping sound on my front door. Startled, I walk over to check it out. I peer out the peephole and see a shadow move across my view. I gasp and jump back. I double check that I latched my door and that all of my windows are locked. Great, now I’ll never get to sleep tonight.

At some point during the night, I manage to fall asleep. I don’t realize I am in a dream as it starts playing out. I knock on a door and a woman answers it. She recognizes me as her patient and I address her as my therapist. We walk into her house and I enter the living room. The lights are dim in the house, which is also her office space. I see children’s toys all over the ground and I bend down to pick two up to give to Dominic’s nephew, Jack. The therapist leads me upstairs to a room where we will soon begin our session. She tells me to undress for my exam. “Undress? For a therapy session?” I think to myself. As I look around the room, I realize I am in a bedroom. There is a teenage boy with his girlfriend. He turns to her and says, “Let’s go, she needs to see my dad.” They exit the room and close the door behind them. All of the lights go out and the room is pitch black and suddenly, I am aware that I am not alone. I see an outline of a man sitting in a chair and when he stands up, I hear him unbuckling his belt. I quickly surmise that I am in a dream that has suddenly turned into a nightmare. I scream, “No!” as the man walks towards me and I run out of the room. The entire house is now pitch black and I am disoriented. I will myself to wake up and force my eyes open. I now lay in my dark room in silence. My heart is pounding in my chest. It almost feels like I’m having a heart attack. I talk myself down and lay awake in my bed for the rest of the night. Trying to decipher my dream has been fruitless. I feel as though attempting to gather my thoughts has sent me on a wild goose chase.

The dark clouds are cloaking the sky and making it nearly impossible to gauge the time of the morning. I took the day off to focus on myself and regain my strength after this weekend’s events and last night’s insomnia. I wish I had Ludo. I would love nothing more right now than to hop in my car with Ludo and go for a hike, although, that wouldn’t happen today anyways due to this stormy weather. It is raining cats and dogs outside. Maybe a day out shopping will do me some good. I can get my nails done and heck, I’ll go get my hair done, too. Why not? Even though I’m still in shock over the turn of events with Dominic, I need to move and continue to live my life. The stress from his strange phone calls must have taken its toll on me. That explains the nightmare I had last night.

After giving it some thought, I don’t think I will file for the restraining order. The phone calls stopped after I made that threat, so to me, that is sufficient enough. Besides, filing a police report will just conjure up suppressed memories and thoughts. One thought I am unable to shake is that Dominic strongly discouraged me from getting the police involved that day I found the letter on my doorstep. I never really thought about it before, but he showed up about a minute after I found the letter. Something about his timing feels off, now that I think of it. Why wouldn’t he want the police involved? I ponder this for a second, but then I decide to let it go. It’s over now, he’s long gone, and it’s time to move on. Fretting over details of the past will do me more harm than good.

I see that the rain let up and I throw on a sweatshirt, tennis shoes, and leggings. I look out the window to check if I need to find my umbrella, but I see a break in the clouds with blue sky peeking through. I grab my purse and keys and head to my car. When I get outside of my apartment, I take a quick look around to see if whoever was near my door last night left some kind of tangible clues, but I don’t see anything. A thought creeps in my mind, perhaps the door creeper was Dominic? I’m starting to reconsider my plans for the day. I feel like I’m being one of those frustratingly thick-headed girls on tv who makes the wrong decision upfront to not involve the police, and then all of these events occur that could have otherwise have been avoided if only the girl had just done the right thing in the first place. I turn to lock my door with my key when I see the word “bitch” scratched into the paint. I can feel the blood drain from my face. There it is in plain sight. This isn’t a random act, this is purposeful. He really was here last night and he is angry. I need to leave, now.

Rushing to my car, I have the familiar sense that I’m being followed. “Do you think he’s stalking you?” Her question sends chills coursing through my body. If my life was a suspense thriller book, he would make the most sense as the villain. He’s a veteran, which means he is handy with weaponry and stealthy when he needs to be. He’s a trained hunter. He teaches self-defense, meaning he is in shape and knows the attack moves that he often teaches women to fight off. Hmm, would the villain want to teach potential victims how to fight him off? I’m not sure that’s wise for him, but then again, he may have kept a few secret attacks in his back pocket. Wow, I have been entertaining this thought too long and need to think about something else. Although, if his phone calls keep coming through, I might really go to the police station and file for a restraining order. I know it’s just a piece of paper, but I feel like Dominic would respect the law enough to leave me alone after he gets served.

I get to my car and hear something or someone behind me. I turn to see who it is, but I have a sudden pain on the back of my head. Everything goes black.

I wake up sweating in a dark space. I can barely breathe and there is duct tape covering my mouth. I lost all track of time. How long have I been tied up in the trunk of the car? The truth then springs to mind. Dominic was stalking me and he abducted me. I wonder how long he has been tracking me and planning his assault.

I remember a few tips that he gave me for escaping certain kidnapping situations. Panic is taking over, my heart is racing and my mind isn’t clear. I wiggle my body and will myself to flip around. This is a newer model car. I know there are safety features to open the trunk from within. Suddenly, the car stops. The engine is still running, but I can hear what sounds to be footsteps in gravel. I look up and notice a lever. My hands are duct taped together, but I know I can reach the lever. Desperately, I pull the lever and the back seat of the car folds forward. I roll myself into the cabin of the car. My body is overheating from being in the trunk.

There’s no time to waste. I sit up and hold my duct taped hands directly above my head and bring them down full force into my folded up legs. It worked! The tape came apart, but this small victory cannot be celebrated. I need to get out. I pull the tape off my mouth and begin gasping for air. I need to escape. A shadow covers me from behind and I turn around. Perhaps if he sees how scared I am, maybe if he sees me cry, there’s a chance that he will remember he loves me and how much I love him.

When I turn around, I can’t believe my eyes.

“CORA!” I shriek as she opens the car door.

“Shh, hurry up, get out of the car!” She helps drag my heavy body out and I fall to the ground. “Get up. He’s going to come back. Hurry!” The fear in her voice is enough to get me moving. We run together into the trees and brush.

“How did you get here? What is happening? Please Cora, I’m so scared!” I plead.

“Shut up! He will hear you and he will kill us both. Don’t you get it? You’re his toy, his little play thing. He never loved you.” Cora’s words are harsh, but in this moment, I need to accept the truth. We slip in mud from the rains earlier in the day, but we keep moving.

Ultimately, we hide quietly. Birds are chirping, a small breeze rustles the trees and a butterfly flutters near. It’s unusual to be surrounded by such beauty and life when we are fighting for our own.

“Lucy! Lucy, where are you? Please, please Lucy!” Dominic’s voice is thunderous. His acting skills are on point. If I didn’t know any better, I’d believe he was searching for me, searching to save me. I hear Ludo barking in the distance.

“Let’s move. MOVE!” Cora pushes me and we run. We run until we can’t run any longer. We stop abruptly when we see a 20-foot drop into a raging river below. We’re trapped. We can’t go any further. I strain myself to listen and can no longer hear Dominic or Ludo. We are utterly alone in the wilderness.

“He wanted to bring you here to kill you. I followed your car out here and I don’t know, I guess part of me thought you were dead. When I saw you in the backseat of the car, I was so happy.”

“I think we’re safe now,” I whisper.

“Safe? We aren’t safe until Dominic is dead. We have to kill him, Luce. I’m sorry, but he’s a crazy stalker.”

“What? No way, I can’t kill him. Maybe we can sway him to get help or seek therapy. Do you have your cell phone? Call the police, please hurry. Call 9-1-1,” I beg. Cora’s eyes darken, reminding me of the night she lashed out at Ellie and said the cruelest words to hurt her. This isn’t the Cora I know and admire. Suddenly, I feel every fiber in my being telling me to run. My instincts are on full tilt when I turn to run from her.

“Stop right there, Lucy Goosey,” I hear a click and turn around to face her. Cora is pointing a gun at me. “Don’t move and I

won’t have to kill you, too.”

“What are you doing? Put the gun down.” Tears are rolling down my face and my voice is shrill.

“No, fuck you. I’m so over this bullshit. You don’t get to tell me what to do. I have the gun. I have the power. Now sit the fuck down!” Cora’s voice is filled with infernal rage.

I hesitate, but I kneel down to the ground and when I hit the dirt, I fold into myself and cry. I remember when Dominic told me what to do if someone pointed a gun at me. He said it is better to run because moving targets are harder to hit, but my fight or flight response seems broken. I can’t run anymore. I’m trapped here. My life is over, Cora is going to kill me.

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