There was no response, and I couldn’t see whatever or whoever it was. Willing my heart to slow down, I started back toward the summerhouse. I’d made it about five feet before I heard a crunching sound behind me. I whirled around, eyeing the gloom that was falling between the trees.
The shape shot between two trees. The shape was male—dressed in black. A cap was pulled down, hiding his face. Hope sparked, but it was quick extinguished by dread. It couldn’t be Carson. He wouldn’t hide behind trees, and he would’ve answered when I called out.
A normal person would’ve answered when I called out.
Icy fingers of anxiety trailed down my spine. My chest compressed as I took a step back. “Hello?”
Throat dry, I turned around and picked up my pace. It could be anyone—it could be whoever was responsible for what had happened to Cassie and me. Not wanting to take any chances, I glanced over my shoulder. I saw nothing at first, and then…he was several feet behind me, off the trail, moving in quick, ground-eating strides.
I took a step forward…and his step matched mine.
This…this wasn’t good. Warning bells went off. Instinct kicked in, and I took off. Over the sounds of my feet slapping on the ground and my thundering heart, I heard him crashing through bushes. Coming after me, chasing me…
I darted through the trees, kicking up dirt and small stones. Fear caught my breath as I pushed at the branches ripping at my hair. The edge of my sneaker caught on an exposed root, and I spilled forward, my knees and palms taking the brunt of the fall. Rocks ripped open my hands, tearing the denim and then the skin on my knees. I yelped in response to the sharp pain.
My vision dimmed. The color of the fallen leaves and muddy brown faded into gray. Not now. Please, God, not now. It was too late—I was sucked into the vision.
I was crawling on the ground, one hand in front of the other. No. Not the ground—a rocky, slippery hill. Pebbles and clumps of dirt broke free, pelting my face. I was numb, moving only on instinct. Nothing hurt. I clawed my way up, and my fingers slipped. Grasping wildly at rocks, roots, anything I could get my hands on, I slid down several feet, losing whatever ground I’d gained. My hands were gray, but red streaked the backs of them, caking my fingers. Nails cracked open.
Gasping in air, I blinked and color returned to the world. I looked over my shoulder. Two legs encased in black jeans stood a few feet behind me. Terror punched me in the gut. Scrambling over the ground, I ignored the pain and ran.
It felt as if an eternity had passed before the boats came into view and my feet hit the sand. I didn’t dare look back as I rushed toward the woods separating the lake from our house. My breath pawed at my chest as I shot free of the tangled branches and darted around the porch.
I cried out when I saw Scott’s car. Kicking up gravel, I slid around the hood and finally looked behind me.
No one was there.
Turning around, I scanned the thick trees. He could be hidden anywhere, waiting to jump out and do…do what? Finish what he’d started? But why? Who was he? I reached for the handle and the door opened. Had I locked the car when I left? I couldn’t remember.
Climbing in, I quickly pressed the button on the side to lock all the doors. I slumped in the seat, dragging in deep breaths that shook my entire body. I was nauseated and dizzy—adrenaline had me feeling as if I’d had one too many energy drinks.
I opened my eyes and put shaky hands on the steering wheel as I glanced at the passenger seat. A piece of yellow paper folded into a triangle was resting on it. My heart took another painful jump.
That hadn’t been in the car before.
Hands trembling, I reached over and picked up the piece of paper, quickly unfolding it. There was just one sentence, written in the same childish handwriting that was becoming as familiar as my own.
You know who killed Cassie.
I threw the note in my purse and started the car. Peeling out of the gravel driveway, I maneuvered the car down the narrow road, the back of my neck tingling.
Keeping my breaths long and even, I pulled out onto the main highway. I couldn’t afford to think of what had just happened. Time to freak out would come later, when I wasn’t behind the wheel of my brother’s car. I reached for the volume on the radio, wanting to drown out my thoughts, when I glanced up.
All I saw was the dark shape of him in the backseat, a brief glimpse in the rearview mirror. The world tilted, pitching me to and fro behind the steering wheel.
Oh my god.
He is in my car.
Terror rolled through me like thunder through the sky, dark and threatening, stealing my breath. Everything happened so fast. I thought about stopping, jumping out of the car and running, or slamming on the brakes. But I didn’t know what I did. Panic seeped from my pores, coating my skin. My brain was firing useless signals. There was a blast of a horn that sounded like it was miles away, and I couldn’t breathe.
He’s in my car.
A scream rose from the depths of my body as the darkness moved toward me, and then this sound—metal crunching, ripping apart—cut off my scream. Knocked to the side in one heartbeat, I was jerked back in the next, slamming my head off the steering wheel. Fierce, blinding, paralyzing pain stabbed at my skull. Glass shattered, picking at my skin.
And then there was nothing.
An annoyingly persistent beeping sound thrust me into a world where my skin felt too tight, too dry. And every—every—part of my body ached as if I’d gone one-on-one with a truck. My eyes opened into thin slits, and the lights were too harsh. I moaned, immediately closing them. I wished I could disappear back into the darkness.
“Sam?” The bed dipped beside me. “Sam, are you awake?”
The sound of my brother’s voice dragged me back, forcing my eyes to open. His face loomed over mine, blocking some of the light. Dark shadows blossomed under his eyes. His hair was a mess, sticking up every which way.
He smiled weakly. “Do you remember me?”
“Yeah,” I croaked, wincing. I tried lifting my arm, but something tugged on my hand painfully. Tubes. There were tubes everywhere, connecting to that damn beeping machine. I wet my lips. “What…what happened?”
“You were in a car accident.” He dragged his hand through his hair. “Dad’s out in the hall, talking to the doctors. The police think you lost control on the highway.”
I struggled to sit up, too weak to really lift my head. “What about the other driver? Are they okay?”