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Chapter 19| Thwarted

The ride back felt much longer than the ride there, but at long last, I was home. All the anxiety and anger I had felt these last three days have drained me.

If it weren't for having a sense of self-preservation I would have fallen asleep in the memory foam heaven of that car seat.

I had to keep telling myself that it was only a matter of time before Malachai got here, and I still needed a few things from my apartment.

I dialed Linda's number.

"Linda Marie Calloway speaking."

"Calloway?"

"Yeah, just a test run, I wanted to see if it sounded right."

"And why would you be doing that?" I asked as I trudged up the stairs to my apartment.

"The name, it's all in the name. If it doesn't sound right, he ain't it honey."

"Right," I said skeptically, "And who is this man?"

"Only the most gorgeous man I have ever met. On Sunday, I went to work even though I could barely function with the massive hangover I had thanks to Saturday's festivities at Ascend, but on my lunch break I bumped into him, and girl, he is sex on a stick. What I would give to have his babies."

"Pump your breaks," I said laughingly, "All that from an accidental bump in?"

"Yes! All that and more!"

"And what's his name?"

"Antonio Calloway," she squealed.

"Well, that is a nice name. I take it there was a date?"

"Of course there was! Men that look like him are few and far between. I had to sink my claws into that before some other hussy did."

"You're insane, but I wouldn't have you any other way."

"Why thank you, and you sound like shit."

"I feel like it too,'' I said as I grasped the railing for support.

"Are you coming down with something?"

"No, I just feel sore. And tired. Nothing a good night's rest can't cure."

"So how does it sound?"

"How does what sound?"

"The name, idiot!"

"Oh, yeah it has a nice ring to it."

"I knew it did!" She said victoriously, "I had to make sure I wasn't being biased."

"Although I wouldn't use it as a determinant for whether or not a guy is hubby material."

I scoffed as the thought crossed my mind, Amina Kayde Rendell had a nice ring to it, but that asshole was definitely not husband material.

"Way to rain on a girl's parade."

"It's what I do best,'' I said with a sigh.

"Are you sure you're alright?"

"Yeah, I've just had a rough couple of days. Listen can I spend a few days at your place?"

She didn't reply, oh God, here we go. Linda was always one to worry, and after Aaron, she'd gotten even worse.

"Amina," she said, her voice ladened with worry, "What's wrong?"

I sighed as I rested my head against the door to my apartment. I knew this would happen, but I didn't have the energy to fight or explain. The sheer effort it took to get my limbs to cooperate was exhausting enough.

Talking just took up more energy that I didn't have. I closed my eyes tight, willing for the tears to stay inside, but a traitorous tear escaped, staining my cheek.

I took in a shuttering breath, "It's too much to say over the phone."

I sounded so broken and defeated and if I was being honest, I was. Deep down, I wanted things to work between Malachai and me, which in hindsight sounds so ridiculous. I met him a week ago, and I was already hoping for a future?

I didn't even move that fast with Aaron, why had I already gone there with him?

And Linda, what was I going to say? I couldn't possibly tell her the truth. Besides, she'd probably think I had lost my mind, and I didn't want to bring her into all of this.

I was in enough danger as it was, even going to her house was a risk, but I didn't have anywhere else to go.

I would have to give her an abridged version of the truth, one that skipped over some very important parts, and I'd only spend three days. In three days, I would have a new apartment, or I would stay at a hotel if I had to.

"You're always welcomed here, you know that. Where are you?"

"I'm at home."

"Well hurry up and get over here, we need to talk."

"Alright, let me just get a few things, and I'll be over in about an hour."

"One hour," she said before hanging up. It was a classic Linda move, whenever she wanted to avoid having her demands questioned she'd abruptly end the conversation.

I punched the code in and entered my apartment, I had needed to grab a few things, but the hunger that evaded me these last three days had returned with vengeance.

I threw the keys on the island and made my way to the fridge to grab a drink and put together a sandwich.

As time wasn't on my side, I packed the sandwich, deciding to eat it on the way to Linda's. I grabbed my suitcase out of the closet down the hall and retrieved my passport and all my other important documents.

I'd grab a few clothes, but beyond that everything would have to stay. Maybe I could have the girls ship me my things if they felt up to it.

When I made it to my room, I opened up the suitcase, filling it with as many clothes and shoes as it could take. Under normal circumstances, I could make the world fit in there, but the feeling of impending doom just kept growing.

Fight or flight was slowly but surely kicking in, and while I knew I would flee, a part of me wanted to give up. Despite all my effort, I felt hopeless, like there was no distance I could put between Malachai and me that he wouldn't traverse.

And then I thought about how he sounded when we last spoke. How I had felt his feelings, his state of mind. I didn't think anyone could possess such anger, such rage; it felt unnatural. While I was hurt by his absence, it felt like he became unhinged by mine.

His voice, his fury, they held too much promise, that sent my heart rate into overdrive and summoned my anxiety right to my doorstep, overpowering any of the fatigue I felt earlier.

Malachai would scour the earth until he found me, and I didn't want to stick around to find out what he would do if he did.

I would just have to keep running.

With sore limbs, I dragged my body to the bathroom, gathering the last of my things to add to my suitcase. It took great effort, but in one bathroom trip, I was able to carry my eight million essentials down the hall.

My victory was short-lived when all my things fell to the ground in a crash as I stood in the archway of my bedroom door. I couldn't move a muscle; I wanted to scream, but it was like the breath had been stolen from my lungs. I wanted to run, but like my lungs, my limbs refused to cooperate.

I stood there immobile, frozen in time, as the familiar feeling crept over me, through me.

A racing pulse.

Frozen veins.

Oxygen deprivation.

He was here.

"Going somewhere?"

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