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Chapter 23 - A Shadow’s Return

“Horror or Romance?”

Looking over my left shoulder I see Reece waving her iPad back-and-forth. She’s been going through a list of movies, trying to show me the best ones none have caught my attention so far.

“You know my dad doesn’t like me watching scary movies,” I remind her as I shrug my shoulders and look back at the large projection screen in front of me.

A while ago, my father installed an in-home entertainment system that features a large movie room on the third floor of our home, the basement level to be exact. However, most of the time it remains untouched. I’m not fond of coming down here alone unless it’s with my mother, who usually has a less than busier schedule compared to my father.

Sometimes I dread being an only child.

“What he doesn’t know won’t hurt him,” Reece playfully snickers.

Mockingly I laugh as I roll my eyes at her words. “No, but it’ll definitely still get me into trouble.” Sometimes Reece can be so forgetful of serious consequences, though it’s not done with ill intent.

“A saint.” I hear her breathlessly say with a dramatic touch. “You really are a saint.”

“I try.” Leaning back, I sink further down into the seat of the third row. There are an unnecessary amount rows and seats in this room, and because of that its image truly embraces an actual movie theater.

“But seriously, I don’t think anyone will bother us down here. Besides my dad and your dad are busying themselves with other matters.” Reece seems relentless on the subject, but then again a love story probably isn’t something she wants to see right now.

“Alright,” I sigh defeatedly. Turning around I look to the top row and point a finger in her direction. “Horror, but don’t put on anything too scary! Sometimes your boundaries are almost non-existent with those things.”

“I won’t,” she responds with a mischievous smile whilst looking down at the iPad she’s searching for movies on. “And I know exactly what to put on.”

“Oh, and leave the lights on.”

“What!” she gasps in offense. “But that’ll ruin the experience.”

With the size of this room I refuse to compromise when it comes to the darkness. If we were in a smaller space that would be different but I’m not trying to look over my shoulder every minute just to reassure myself that I’ll be okay. “Dim it then.” Before I turn around I watch as she begrudgingly walks over to the light switch near the top of the back row and dim the lights.

Sinking back into my seat I close my eyes and wait for the movie to start.

Just being like this is comfortable, peaceful.

But unintentionally, my mind drifts off Alessio.

I miss him.

Is that strange? Too miss someone... like him?

Alessio is confusing, never predictable. But I expected no less.

The men in my family are hard to read, difficult to get through, so I knew not to expect any different from the Romanos’.

When Alessio and I had our first real conversation in the rose garden, he had threatened my family, I didn't forget that, and just a few days ago he was telling me such sweet things.

His mood swings are definitely worse than mine.

And I’m expected to marry this man.

However, I’m glad he hasn't brought up such threats since then, and that he treats me with kindness, because if he ever goes back to those types of threats, I don’t think I’ll be able to go through with this union.

I can’t be in a relationship like that.

No matter what type of damage it does to the family business.

Despite what my mother and father say... I don’t think I’ll be able to handle those types of threats again.

My family means everything to me, so I won’t allow the idea of love to blindside me not will I be impulsive with any decisions.

I just hope It’ll never come down to that.

Yet I can’t dwell on the thought for too long because the sound of light scratching draws me out of my thoughts. It’s like someone is running their nails down a wall. My eyelids fly open as I push myself to sit upright and look all around me then back up to where Reece is still slowly pacing at the top. She’s distracted when the noise comes creeping in again.

“Do you hear that?” I squint into the dark.

A giggle comes out of Reece as she says, “oh relax, I haven’t even played the movie yet and you’re already psyching yourself out.”

A brief moment goes and when I hear nothing I feel as if I can drop my guard again.

My shoulders tense before settling. “Wow, I’m grateful for the reassurance,” telling her with every drip of sarcasm.

“Um, way too dark!” I suddenly squeal out as the lights go darker.

“I didn’t turn it down. Hm, maybe the lights need to be changed in here.” she speculates.

Maybe she’s right.

With my attention on her I watch as she sets the iPad down on one of the seats and makes her way to the light panel.

Figuring that she’ll fix it I face back front but in that very moment I’m interrupted by the same scratching I heard from earlier.

Instantaneously my attention immediately zeros into the where the source maybe coming from.

It’s closer this time, making it easier to pinpoint the sound. My instincts tell me to look to the far left corner of the room, the opposite end of where I’m sitting. It’s then I see something shift in the shadow. My body quickly moves to sit straight up. My eyes slightly widen and brows furrow with disbelief.

Quickly I shut my eyes and shake away the image that I think my mind is playing on me. However, when my eyes open them I see that the shadow is no longer something small but an outline of something I’ve seen before.

“Reece,” I call out in a low breath. My forearms push off the armrest as I carefully stand up and keep my attention on the shadow. “What...”

I’m at a loss for words. A hard swallow passes down my throat as I take slowly take a step back.

“I can’t turn up the lighting, the settings look weird for some reason.”

“Reece, look this way-”

“Hold on, I think I got it,” she cuts me off, but her words are nothing I can concentrate on because in a split-second the figure takes a step in my direction.

Instinctively I raise my hands in front of me. “Wait!” I scream out to whoever it is.

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