My bare feet hit the ground hard, sending electrical zingers up my calves. I didn't have time to dwell on the pounding pain, I had to keep moving. I had to run.
I threw my duffle bag over my shoulder and ran like the dogs were chasing me. Ignoring the stabbing sensations rocketing through my feet. Sticks and leaves snapping beneath my weight.
My chest was heavy, my arms worked overtime pumping back and forth; and by the grace of God, I finally made it into the tree line without anyone noticing some crazy girl running. I sighed with relief, finally protected by shadows of the large evergreens above and around me. Losing myself in the dense greenery of the forest.
I could finally breathe again. In and out. In and out, deep breathes, Alexis.
I looked down at the notebook page crumpled in my hand:
'Out for Milk ♡ Bas'.
I shook my head in disbelief. We had been so careful to cover our tracks, but this code. The code meant our whole operation had gone to shit and the law would be coming for all four of us. Now all I could do was wait for Bastian to come and take me to safety.
The vibrations of my burner phone sprung to life in my pocket, making my heart race through my chest.
"Bas?!" I whisper-yelled into the phone, panic creeping up my throat.
"What? No!! Lexi, we are compromised! Get the hell out of dodge!" I threw a stick at a tree, running my free hand through my hair. Police sirens echoed in the distance, coming closer to the hotel whose window I had fled from.
"Is he with you?" I couldn't even ask what happened. It had been too risky of a job and we had all known it. But the dangerous game was the thrill of it all.
"Bas?" She questioned like I was stupid.
"Car was gone and so is he." I continued to walk slowly through the forest, letting the darkness shield me.
"That boy has followed you like a lost puppy dog since you were 9. He wouldn't...."
I scoffed, "he's been acting weird for the past few days. He barely played his part."
"Just---just wait, Lex, I'm sure Bastian will show up. He has to. He wouldn't strand you in the middle of Chattanooga." She sounded so sure of herself and I wanted to believe her. But the butterflies doing flip flops in the pit of my stomach, begged to differ.
"Have you called him?" Came a second voice from over the phone. "Just call him! He'd be an idiot to leave you!" He yelled into the phone and I could imagine him leaning in, as he drove.
I swallowed hard, trying to keep the heat in my eyes from falling down my cheeks. I knew it. I could feel it in my heavy heart.
I was boned.
"Are---" I licked my lips, swallowing the tingling lump in my throat. "Are you guys still here? Anywhere near?" I hoped. I begged in my mind with God to make them be near.
"Sorry, Lex, the moment it went south, we went south. Get out of the county, better yet--get out of Tennessee! I'm sure the FBI will be all over this! Ever since..." My stomach dropped to my feet and my head swam in anxiety. Rocketing my heart to sputter against my chest.
"Fuck that banker! He had it coming!"
"Doesn't mean our faces aren't on the most wanted list!" They were arguing with each other now like the children they were.
"Fuck that! They'll never catch us!"
"You're too full of yourself you, Idiot! He knows all our faces! He could pinpoint us....he could!!!" Claire yelled back.
"Guys!" I shouted, still looking over my shoulder for company, silencing their lover's quarrel. "What if he is gone, how the hell am I supposed to get out of here?? The art dealer knows my face, I talked him into the con!"
"Time for a face transplant!" David yelled into the phone, making my eyes roll towards the sky.
"If Bas doesn't show, you're going to have to call her." I raised my lip in disgust.
Always have a plan B, they said. But I was terrified of my plan B. She was fucking scary.
"Fuck," I cried out, probably louder than I should have, "you think she'd actually come? I promised her last time..."
"Once a con always a con!" Dave yelled, obviously not helping my frantic thoughts.
"Fucking shit, Dave, shut up!" Claire yelled, making a distinctive thud and a grunt coming from his side, followed by obscenities.
"Layla is the best option you got. Listen--I'm sorry you're stuck. But I gotta go. Gotta get our faces off the internet! Call Bas! I'm sure he's worried sick over you! God's speed, Lexi!!" Before I could reply I heard the distinct beep of her phone and then nothing.
Nothing but the bird's late-night chirps and the crickets violins rang through the brisk night air. Followed by distinctive knocks on a door in the far distance and yelling from the police.
I picked up the pace, looking back every so often, trying to get further and further away from the yells, until I heard the thud of the door being busted open.
"Sophie Devereaux! Elliot Spencer!!! Come out with your hands up!!" Their voices were far enough away, but my stomach still dropped. They were looking for us. And he was gone, probably long gone, and I was here. Stuck in the woods with the police hot on my trail.
I held my phone to my ear. One ring. "We're sorry, the number you're trying to reach has been disconnected." My heart sank more. The bile in my stomach rose to dangerous levels, almost hitting the back of my teeth. I could taste the sickness on my tongue trying to come out at the thought of him.
I dialed again. I couldn't believe it. I had just talked to him before our con had evidently gone south. He had been with me last night at the hotel. He had helped me to bed. He had told me he loved me….held me, cuddled me, fucked me like we always did.
Was that his goodbye song to me?
One ring and again, "we're sorry, the number you're trying to reach has been disconnected." A single tear fell from my eyes, burning a river of tears down my cheeks.
Bas was gone. He had finally disappeared and left me like my Grandma told me he would. The love of my life--was gone. Vanished like a thief in the night--only he was an actual thief. A thief who I had helped steal thousands of dollars with and the most valuable item he had with him now, was my shattered heart.
I had known Bastian since I was nine. After my parent's death, my grandparents got custody of me. And Bastian? He was their neighbor. I had been a lonely 9 years old trying to navigate through my parent's death and he had been a shoulder to cry on, my person to vent to, and he had accepted me for who I was.
Which turned into a hot and heavy teenage romance, sprinkled with a little crime here and there. Leading us to now. A Confidence man and woman team, gaining your trust and ripping you off for every penny we could squeeze out of you. We were good too, really good at what we did. This time though, we had gotten too greedy. We couldn't pass up a 4 million dollar art con. Each couple would have walked away with 2 million dollars and we could have settled down and finally started the family we had talked about for years.
We were going to be normal.
The sun fell from the sky at approximately 8:30 pm, leaving me in total darkness. Cars sped up and down the highway a few miles away from the spot I was standing in. And I knew what I had to do.
I had to enable plan B. My terrifyingly, horrible, plan B.
I swallowed hard and leaned against a tree, trying to get the courage to call. My body ached from all the running, my legs cramped and my poor feet were bloodied and bruised by now. I brought the phone up and dialed the number I knew by heart, praying she hadn't changed it.
"Hello?" She asked gruffly, a computer mouse clicked in the background. Obviously still up to her old computer games at midnight.
I cleared my throat, my tongue feeling heavy at the sound of her voice.
"If you're one of those god damn computers calling you can screw off!" She shouted into the phone.
"Layla," I said calmly and everything on her end-stopped momentarily. I could imagine the shock on her face at the sound of my voice, a voice she hadn't heard in three years.
"Alexis," she stated back monotone, not letting her emotions get the best of her.
"Grandma---I," I closed my eyes, hearing her chair squeal on the other end.
"Where are you?" Emotions seeped into her words, but I could tell she was trying to keep herself together.
"Outside of Chattanooga," I whispered. She took a deep breath on the other end. "Near Highway 41."
"Mile marker?" Her keys clinked together in the background.
"91," I said breathlessly, the heaviness releasing itself from my chest and body.
"You realize it'll take me a day," she said, closing the door behind her.
"I know and I thank--"
"Don't thank me yet," she said gritting her teeth. I could imagine her finger pointed at the phone.
"I'll be here," I said and she hung up. And now all I had to do was wait.
Morning came and went. The nature around me resuming their daily activities in front of my eyes as if I wasn't there. I sat like a statue, still against the tree. Nursing a persistent rumble in my stomach, fighting off the urge to grab a squirrel and tear into it. What a mess that would have been and what a sight I would have been for my grandma. I kept a sharp eye on my phone, obsessively watching the time and battery.
Finally at the stroke of midnight after trying to entertain myself and get some sleep, I heard the distinct sound of my grandmother's Ford coming to a stop at the edge of the road.
This was it. I took a big breath. In and out. In and out. I tried to calm my nerves, but it was futile with what I was up against.
I hadn't seen her in 3 years, not since the last time she had bailed me out of a sticky situation. I promised her the last time I had seen her, I wouldn't go back to this life--to Bas. I had lied for the sake of my heart and snuck off with him again. Resuming my dangerous life of crime. Here I was again, up shit creek without a paddle, begging my grandma for a life raft.
I walked toward the truck, dirt, and sweat covering my face. My head hung low in shame. She leaned against the truck, her plump arms crossing her chest. Her eyes examining my worn down features.
"Ya know, Alexis, I swore on your mother's grave I'd protect you no matter what. But it's getting harder and harder to keep that promise." My eyes darted down again. I felt like the same 9-year-old kid getting a scolding from her again.
"Get in the truck," she said pointing back to it and we took off down the road. She must have known I'd be starving and dehydrated because the moment I got in, she flooded me with nutrients like any grandma would do.
Another day passed in the truck and we were finally in the driveway. The ride had been tense, with little to no talking. Only to stop for the restroom or more snacks. I knew she was pissed at me, but I couldn't blame her. I had messed up----yet again. I had betrayed her trust and had gone off with Bas. Who seemed to be my only weakness.
The moon shone brightly above us. We sat stock still in the truck, my body unable to move. My grandma didn't bother to look at me, but I knew how disappointed she was.
"I won't be doing this again. If you turn your back on me again over him, I'm done."
"I understand," I said looking over at her, taking in the extra wrinkles lining her eyes.
"All the neighbors who knew you have moved away. If anyone asks you are my sister's granddaughter." She still looked forward, keeping her eyes on the big oak tree in the middle of her acre lot.
"I'm sorry, grandma it won't happen again."
"I've heard that one before." She scoffed bluntly, reaching for the door handle of the truck, but stopped. "You can show me how truly sorry you are by getting your shit together. If I get word your snooping around the park again pickpocketing our neighbors, you're over."
"I won't, I promise. I'll go to school. I'll get a job."
"The community college has a nursing program, get yourself registered," she finally turned toward me, putting a cold hand over mine. "Make your parents proud, Lexi, make your grandfather proud. Stop putting Sebastian before anyone else." I nodded my head, I knew she was right. I had put him on a pedestal for so many years, it was finally time to show myself what I could do.
"I'll make you all proud, once and for all." I smiled genuinely, tapping her hand for assurance.
"Let's get you some food then, I have leftover meatloaf and mashed potatoes." She smiled back, relief washing over her face.
For the next six months, I tried to forget about Bastian and his betrayal. Secretly hoping in the back of my stupid brain, he would come back. I continued to cry myself to sleep every night thinking about the last words he had said to me.
"You know how much I love you, don't you, Lex?" He cuddled close to me, nudging his nose against my pulse point. Dragging his soft lips towards mine.
"Of course, Bas. Forever and always, right?" He smiled leaning in, hovering above me.
"Forever and always, remember that."
Looking back, it had felt like a goodbye of sorts and I suppose it was. He intended to strand me there and reap what we had sewed.
The love I had for him was unstoppable and unconditional, because---I didn't know why. I didn't know why I had fallen so hard for him, but I had. 12 years of running cons, even as kids, and he had never abandoned me like this before. Sure three years ago we had gotten separated, but we came back for me.
It wasn't until I started nursing school, I finally felt normal. I didn't need to con anyone into giving me money, although on occasion it was nice to get free drinks at the bar. But I used my time to reflect on who I wanted to be and who I was.
I was me.
A future nurse, who didn't need Bas to fill the lonely void in my heart. I had my grandma. She fed me. Funded my future and loved me until the day she died. Six years of living there and I had to watch her slowly wither away to nothing because of cancer. I knew the moment she drew her last breath, she was free and back with grandpa. Which left me alone. I had never been alone before. I always had grandma or Bas.
And I was utterly alone and it terrified the shit out of me.
I heard a bang on the back door of my grandparent's house, which they had left to me after they had passed.
"I'm coming!!" I said in frustration, waving a hand. My first day off in four days and all I wanted to do was relax.
Without thinking I swung the door open and looked down, my jaw falling open at the sight of him sitting on the ground of my porch.
And I did the only logical thing I could think of when he opened his mouth.
"Lex, don't shut the doo--" and you better believe I shut the door--NO-- I slammed the door on his goddamn face.
Stupid, smug, asshole. How dare he come back, after the hell he put me through. 6 years! 6 years of mental and heart-shattering anguish not knowing if he was alive or dead. And with one fell swoop; he was back.
I pulled the curtain over the small window and stood there, staring at the wooden door like it was a disease. The door I knew he was nestled behind waiting for me. He grunted in agony, I stayed still.
"Alexis Campbell," he winced, his voice sounded off, shaky even. I rolled my eyes. He was staying out there, sitting on the ground of my enclosed back porch.
"Lex, listen," his voice was softer now. I leaned down to listen in the crack of the door. "I need you, please. You know I wouldn't be here...." He was pleading with me, sounding more desperate than he had ever sounded before.
I leaned my forehead against the door. Fuck. Don't do it. Don't open the door. He's a goddamn conman.
My heartstrings were pulling me towards a bad decision, a very, very bad decision. A decision that would cause me to break the promise I had given to my grandmother. God rest her soul.
"You know I'll just pick the lock if you walk away," he said again through the crack. Which was true, any good con could pick a lock in a matter of seconds.
So me, the smartest person on the planet, opened the stupid door. And there he was, looking as stupidly handsome as ever. His shaggy blonde hair caked in sweat, sticking to his forehead. His massive ocean blue eyes staring up at me pained, but still eerily beautiful.
"Hey there, Lex," he winced again, giving me his usual memorizing smile.
And that's when I noticed the blood slowly seeping from a wound on his upper arm. His hand nestled snugly against his shirt trying in vain to stop it from flowing over. Fingers stained red and clotted blood present all over him.
He was a walking 'look at me!!'
"Bastien Greene, who the hell did you piss off now?" I nearly growled, peering around the screened-in porch looking for the offenders. But no one was there.
This was going to be one hell of a day off.
I am slowly transferring these chapters over and trying to write down more chapters.
As of right now, there are more chapters of this story in my other book f#ck me up, but with what I have planned, I'm adding more early chapters in this book. So I don't want to post them just quite yet. But enjoy this for now!!! And I'll get to writing lol
Please like or comment if you enjoy. And as always:
I heart you.