Sebastian was staring at me, long and hard. He just revealed how he got Summer to be my roommate, and he echoed softly, “That’s how I did that.”
I took a breath. My nerves were stretched tight. I needed to stall him so Mason could upload the flash drive. It had to be from a computer as close to Sebastian as we could get. Once he was done, he’d be coming through that door. I looked at it now, wondering how long he would be.
“You can’t run, Samantha.”
“You think you can run, but you can’t. The door is locked until I choose to unlock it.”
“You opened the door—”
But he hadn’t.
I was rewinding everything in my mind. He hadn’t opened the door from the inside. I opened it from the outside.
“People can come in?”
“Sure.” He shrugged. “But they won’t.”
“Why not?” He was too casual, too confident.
Mason was coming.
“Enough with my truth. I told you all about The Network. I didn’t want you to come today. I thought, after what had happened with Logan, that would’ve cemented it. Even if someone else reached out, you’d have nothing to do with us, but here you are. You came to the party. You came to this room. You heard about everything. Now, it’s your turn.” He paused and leveled me with an intense look. “Why are you here, Samantha?”
My mouth was dry, and my heart was pounding. It was my turn to spin a web so I started with my first lie. “I came in here to record a confession from you.”
His eyes were still narrowed, but they relaxed slightly. “Really?”
Mason taught me well. The first step to lying was, give a lie that would be believable.
I nodded, steadily holding Sebastian’s gaze.
That was the second step—I remembered what I had to do. Don’t look up, don’t look down, and don’t look to the side. Look them in the eye, and calmly say the words. No tone inflections. No awkward pauses. No heated motions. Talk like you’re sharing your most intimate secret with someone.
My insides were churning, but I envisioned Mason was in the room already. I felt stronger, more sure, feeling he was already here. Pretending he was behind Sebastian, I said, “I wanted to hear the words that you were the one responsible for having Nate beaten up and that you were involved when Logan and Mason were both jumped. I wanted to hear all of it.”
He lifted an eyebrow, chuckling to himself. “And how were you going to make that happen? Why would I open up to you?”
I shrugged. “I was hoping to drug your drink.”
“This drink?” He held up the glass in his hand.
I gritted my teeth. “I’m not saying the plan wasn’t foolproof, but yes, that was the plan.” I started for the bar. “But you beat me to it. You already had a drink.” And speaking of, my mouth was like the Sahara. There was a water bottle in the mini refrigerator, and I grabbed it.
I ignored his sarcasm, taking a big sip. “Thanks.”
“You were telling me…” he prompted. His hand moved sideways in the air. “I was going to confess everything to you?”
“You would’ve.” He never would’ve. I continued to lie, “You would’ve admitted to the hit-and-run, too. Mason was the target, not Marissa.” My stomach rolled over on itself. Sebastian bought her off, but all the pieces fit together now. An abrupt laugh ripped from me. “That wasn’t the fraternity, was it?”
His smugness rose a level. He was almost grinning at me. “What do you mean?”
“Last year, Marissa never came forward against you guys. She didn’t charge you. We thought it was the fraternity, but it wasn’t.”
I looked at the portraits. It was like they were looking down at us. They were laughing. We were center stage for them.
“It was them, wasn’t this? This network. You guys got to her somehow.”
“My, my.” Sebastian’s voice as soft. “You really are piecing things together.”
“But…” I knew there was more. “What else? What else have you done?”
“You’re right. Marissa was paid, and when the money wasn’t enough, she was threatened. I will admit to that.”
I knew there was more. I pushed. “What else?”
“You’re eager to know everything, huh? Are you sure, Samantha? Are you sure you want to know all the dirty secrets? That’s what they are. They’re all dirty.” He moved a step toward the bar, intently watching me. “Have you thought about what will happen to you afterward? Because you know too much now?”
There it was. My eyes held his. I couldn’t look away. I couldn’t shrink against the bar like I wanted to, so I just held on to it. This ride was going to get a little bumpy.
“Maybe that’s your other truth,” I said.
He was enjoying this now. I was a mouse to him. He was playing with me before eating me—or whatever he had planned. He was a sick fuck.
I said, “You know what I’m saying.”
“I do.” He laughed, and the sound filled the entire room. I heard an echo even. “And you’re right. I do have something planned, but it’s not as sophisticated as what you might think. It’s almost primal.” He paused, and his eyes narrowed again.
My hand clutched the water bottle, and I drank half of the water in one gulp. I didn’t know if I was heated or if I was becoming sick from being in Sebastian’s proximity. Either way, I licked my lips and finished the rest of the water. My head was swimming.
“Go on,” I croaked. “I want to know your plan.”
“That was it.”
He took another step closer and nodded at the water bottle in my hand. “Right there.”
“What?” I still wasn’t following. My stomach felt like it was dropping out of me. My hand pressed there. I needed to calm down. My head needed to be clear. “What are you talking about? The water…oh, shit.”
The light bulb turned on as he laughed. “I thought it was ironic that you were going to drug me, considering…” Another step closer. He pointed at the bottle again. “You know.
Mason said, “We have to fight smarter.” He looked at Nate and Logan. “That means, no more physical fighting, not if we can help it.”
Nate nodded in agreement, rubbing his hands together.
Logan rolled his eyes. “For real? I’m not signing up to run for the senate. You can’t fight, Mr. I’m Going into the National Football League, and Everyone Will Watch Me.” He pointed to himself. “I can still fight. High school wasn’t the best years of my life. I’m planning for college to be that time. Sorry, Mase. I love you. I’m with you, but if I feel a good fight coming on, I’m not holding back.” He jerked his head upward, his chin nodding to Mason. “And don’t even try arguing with me. You love fighting as much as I do.”
Mason didn’t agree, but he did say, “With this group, we fight back smart. Okay?”
I hadn’t been smart. Sebastian outsmarted me.
I thought, Fuck me.
“I figured you wouldn’t drink. You’d be coming into enemy territory, and Mason would’ve coached you better. That meant a clear head, but I also knew this would take a long time. There’s a lot to explain, and I’m not even done. I still have more to enlighten you about. I knew you’d want some water. The only problem was that.” He gestured to a cupboard behind me.
My arms were growing heavier the more he talked, but I opened it. Two cases of water sat there. I could’ve grabbed one of those twenty-four bottles. I’d taken the single one in the refrigerator.
Sebastian said, as his hand rested on top of the bar an inch from mine, “But I eliminated the risk and put only one in there.”
“A syringe,” he said so matter-of-factly. “If you turned your bottle over, a very, very small leak would show up. It was big enough, though, for what I needed.”
Everything was getting even heavier. I wanted to lie down.
I wanted to shake my head. I didn’t want to hear the rest. He hadn’t won. He just thought he had, but he’d find that out in the morning. I started to look around. I needed a chair. I would tell him where his plan wouldn’t work out when I woke up.
I needed to rest.
“You’re not going to fall asleep.”
That was not what my eyelids were saying. I grinned, laughing at my stupid joke. My eyeballs, my legs, everything in me wanted to check out and go away.
“You’re going to stay awake.”
He was an idiot. I took a step around the bar. That couch was my goal, but my body went the other direction. Sebastian grabbed me.
I didn’t want him to touch me. I tried to swing my hand at him. Nothing. I slapped my other arm. I started to shake my head, but the room turned to the left. It wasn’t upside down. It was just sitting at a side angle.
He helped me to the couch. His touch was soothing. He cradled the back of my head, and I was placed on a pillow.
“There you go. See? That’s not too bad.”
I wanted to growl at him.
I couldn’t do a thing, except hear him and stare at him.
My body was almost paralyzed. He could do as he pleased. This…this was what he thought of when I came to the party.
He’d drugged me, and he was going to rape me.
“Ah, yes.” His head floated right above mine. He was staring down into my eyes, waiting. “I see it now. You know what I’m going to do, don’t you?” His hand ran down my forehead and traced the side of my jaw, tucking a strand of hair behind my ear. It was almost loving. “My grandfather and The Network want Mason and his father in with them, but that can’t happen. Mason pissed me off, so no, he won’t be brought in. I’m going to do everything in my power to stop that from happening. I thought the little battle would be over in a few months. I underestimated you guys. All of you. Mason. Logan. You. Even Nate. All four of you were together in this against me. I don’t know how to fight like that. It’s me, but I realized I could use the fraternity against you. When Nate left the house, it didn’t take me much to stir up resentment. The hit-and-run was my idea, and of course, Mason was the target. He already knew that, and he knew why. I wanted to hurt him, but I wanted him to live with it. I thought football was his obsession. I was wrong.” He sighed to himself. His hand fell to my arm. He began rubbing it in circles, caressing me.
A tear welled up in my eye. I couldn’t do a thing. I wanted to run. That was all I wanted.
Sebastian continued, “I realized it was you. I needed to find a way to destroy you. Summer was supposed to help me, but everything she told me about you, none of it seemed to matter. I already knew about Analise. Your other father and stepmother—they weren’t weak. Your only weakness is yourself. Once I knew what I had to do, I guess you brought it about. When you came here, that was the perfect time to do this.”
He looked down, skimming up and down my body. “You really are beautiful, Sam. All that running has kept you toned. I can see why Garrett fell for your mother. With your eyes and how your face is framed, you’re both stunning to look at. There’s a light inside of you.”
He sat up and leaned over me, so his head was directly above mine. His eyes went dead. “And I will enjoy taking that light away from you because that’s how I’m going to destroy Mason. I don’t need a camera. I don’t need to record anything for blackmail. Just me, violating you over and over tonight. That will do enough damage. You’ll never get over it. You’ll never be whole again because that’s what rape does to a person.”
He wouldn’t be here in time. This was going to happen now. He’d be too late.
Sebastian laughed to himself. “At least, that’s what the psychologists all say. Now, let’s get to it.”
I started to go somewhere else.
He was taking his clothes off, so I closed my eyes. It would be Sebastian’s body, but it would be Mason in my mind. Sebastian would be raping me while Mason would be holding me.
It’d be Mason.
Where was Mason?
Upload the information. Click Send to everyone in The Network—or those we knew.
That was the plan and I got inside, uploaded everything to the closest computer I could find to Sebastian’s location, but once I heard Sam’s voice coming from the vent, the plans changed. I heard what Sebastian was going to do to her.
That wasn’t going to happen.
Opening the door, I stood there for a minute. He didn’t hear me come in and he was bending over her now, stroking her face like she was his damn child. It was tender and loving.
It made me sick.
“I told myself I was going to be smarter,” I murmured. My hands were flexing into fists, then relaxing, and flexing back again.
His head jerked up. His eyes went wide. Blood drained from his face, and he stumbled away from the couch, moving back a few feet. “Mason.”
I stepped inside. His gaze went to the door, and my head tilted to the side. Fear and panic were there.
Good. I wanted him to be pissing himself. His pants should’ve been drenched already.
When he kept looking at the door, I laughed to myself. It sounded sick and twisted to my own ears, but there was rage, so much damn rage.
I mused, “The door wasn’t locked from the outside, but I know Sam. She would’ve left if she could’ve, so that means the door was locked. Let me guess.” I moved farther inside and shut the door behind me.
“No!” He surged forward, his hand reaching in the air, but he caught himself.
I smiled at him. No joy. No fun. The only part of this that was enjoyable was what I was going to do to him. My smile made him shrink backward.
I said, “And, yes,” I tried the door, but it didn’t move, “it locks from the inside.” I paused a beat. “Why would a door lock from the inside? What kinds of things might happen inside a room where the door has to be locked that way? Where the occupants couldn’t leave?”
My foot moved forward. My eyes were trained on him, and I kept my hands at my sides—for now. “Why do I get the feeling that other nightmares have happened in this room? Maybe this is the house I should’ve burned down?” I lifted an eyebrow at him.
He didn’t react. The fear was gone, instead replaced with resignation.
“What’s wrong, Sebastian? You’ve had a lot to say every time I’ve seen you. Why are you quiet now?”
“This is my grandfather’s home.” His tone was almost timid.
“Yeah?” I held up my hands. “So what?” My jaw clenched. “What does that mean? Tell me. Why should I be scared that this is your grandfather’s house?”
The fear came back. It flashed across his face. His mouth fell open, and his shoulders hunched down.
A brave front appeared. His shoulders lifted back up. His mouth closed again, and his eyes narrowed. “Do you know who you’re messing with? Do you really have any idea who I am, what I can do to you?”
“Why haven’t you?” I shot back.
I moved forward, stopping by Sam’s head, where she seemed to be sleeping on the couch. She looked peaceful, but her fingers were tucked into her palms. Even in her sleep, they were curled inward. I knew that if I unraveled them, blood would come from the palm of her hands. Her nails were digging into them. I skimmed over her, making sure the rest of her looked fine, and it did.
I saw a little droplet of blood. It pooled on the underside of