I nearly dropped the bag in my grasp when he came even closer and I had nowhere to go.

“I have a message for you to deliver to him,” he told me. “If he ever goes against me, your entire family will suffer the consequences.”


“Carter?” I breathed his name, shaking my head out of instinct from knowing Carter hadn’t done anything. “He doesn’t know anyone. You have the wrong person.”

All he did was laugh again, the same sick sound coming up from the pit of his stomach. I repeated in the breath of a whisper, “Carter hasn’t done anything.”

“Not yet, but he will.” The words were spoken with such confidence from the darkness. “And I’ll be watching.”

He left me standing there, on the verge of trembling as he walked away. The pounding in my chest was louder than his quiet footsteps although I didn’t dare breathe.

That was the first night I met the man I would now call my enemy. Whatever fear I had for him as a child has turned to resentment and spite.

That’s all he is. He’s only a man. A man with no face, a hefty bag of threats and a penchant for eliciting fear in all who dare to walk the streets he claims as his own.

These aren’t his streets. He has no right to them, but I do.

He treats this world like a game; the lives and deaths of those around us are only pieces on a board to be lost or taken, used however he’d like.

But the mistake he made is simple: He dared to meddle and bring Bethany into this game.

She’s mine. Only mine.

Not a pawn for him to play with.

It’s time for Marcus’s game to end.

Bethany

Fuck. Fuck. Fuck. Fuck. Fuck.

A numb prickle of fear races up and down my body like a thousand needles keeping me still. All the while, my heart’s the only thing that’s moving. It’s frantic and unyielding as it thrashes inside of me.

The floorboards creak again as someone moves toward the stairs while I keep my feet firmly planted in the kitchen. Someone. Who? I don’t know.

No one has ever walked into my home unannounced and I know it’s not Laura; I know it’s not Jase. Just thinking his name sends another chill down my spine. The fear, the regret, the unknown from what I just read in The Coverless Book are all things I can’t dwell on right now. Blinking furiously, I shut the wayward trail of thoughts down.

No, it’s not Jase.

It’s someone else, someone with bad intentions. Deep down, I can feel it.

If I’d just been back in the living room when the door opened, back there where I was a moment ago, reading The Coverless Book and using this notebook to jot down the underlined words… if I’d been there, whoever just opened the door would have seen me instantly. If I’d left the notebook in the living room, and not in the drawer in the kitchen, whoever it was, would have seen me. I wouldn’t have had a chance to run.

Fate spared me, but for how long?

My fingers tremble as I silently set the notebook down on the counter, devising a plan.

Get my phone. Run the hell out of here. Call the cops.

It’s as simple as that. If I can’t get the phone, just run.

Whoever it is, they’re heading upstairs and once I hear the creaking from the floorboards move from the stairs to one of the bedrooms, I’ll move as quickly and quietly as possible. I can barely keep it together while I’m waiting, listening, and feeling the numbing fear flowing over my skin.

Hot and cold sensations overwhelm my body at once and I don’t know how I’m even capable of breathing with how tight and raw and dry my throat is. All I know is that I can’t fail. I can’t let him know where I am.

My movements are measured as I release the notebook. The second I do, I hear another person open my front door. Thump, thump, thump. My heartbeat is louder than anything else. Another person’s here. I’m not in control as I instinctively back away from the threshold of the kitchen, closer toward the back of the house.

One person and then another.

Thump, thump, thump.

Abandoning all reason, I turn my back to where they are, ready to hide somewhere as quickly as possible. Somewhere. Where? Where can I hide? My head whirls with panic. I need to hide.

My body freezes when I hear my phone go off. It’s still where I left it in the next room over, the living room. Footsteps come closer, closer to me, closer to the threshold of the kitchen where they can see me. No, fuck, please no. Inwardly I beg; I plead.

I’m trapped in the narrow kitchen with three people sneaking into my home. I can’t die here. Not like this. Not after everything that’s happened. It would be more than cruel to make me suffer in the last weeks of my life, like this.

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