There was another pause and I swore I heard my mom’s sharp inhale. “Are you okay, honey?”
“Yeah,” I croaked out, forcing my eyes open. The lady behind the desk was staring at me like I was a deranged mental patient. “I think I’m coming down with something.”
Mom said something about being sick for Christmas, and then got off the phone in search of Dad. I felt terrible for asking them to drive more than an hour to come get me, but I couldn’t be in the house with Kyler after this. I didn’t think I could be anywhere near him ever again.
Thanking the lady, I handed the phone over and headed out to the snowmobile. I don’t remember the ride back to the house. Only that when I slid off the snowmobile, I realized I’d left my helmet back at the lodge. I hadn’t even felt the whipping wind of the flight here. I was numb as I stumbled through the snow.
I saw the tracks first. Not snowmobile tracks, but two separate sets of slashes that came from around the side of the house, like the kind skis made or from dragging feet through the snow.
My stomach flipped.
Had Kyler come back while I’d been at the lodge? And had he brought Sasha with him?
I stared at the marks in the snow. No. No way would he be that bold. Unless he just didn’t care. Oh God, I couldn’t even think about that. I pressed a mitten-covered hand against the front of my jacket. If he was in there with Sasha, I was going to kick him in the junk.
The back of my throat burned as a sharp pain sliced across my chest. Blinking back tears, I turned to the garage door. It wasn’t closed all the way, and the gap in the bottom was a lot bigger than I’d left it.
I briefly considered going back to the lodge and waiting however long it took my parents to get here, but since I was a complete idiot, I hadn’t told my parents I’d be at the lodge. They’d come here first and besides, I had to pack up my stuff.
I could do this. I wasn’t going to be a baby and run. It was bad enough that I’d called my parents. I could do this.
Forcing one foot in front of the other, I hastily wiped at the tear sneaking onto my cheek. Knowing with my luck the sucker would freeze on my face, and the whole world would know I was seconds away from bawling like a kid being told Santa wasn’t real.
I’d cried then.
I was about to cry again.
As I reached the garage door, I wondered why Kyler had parked out back. That part didn’t make any sense, but I really didn’t give a crap at this point. The ache in my chest got worse. Lifting the door, I took a deep breath and it got caught in my throat.
I blinked slowly, thinking I’d stumbled into an episode of Law and Order.
Two men were kneeling at the back of Kyler’s SUV, by the rear tire. Black ski masks covered their faces. One held a wicked-looking knife, dragging it through the thick black tire, and the other held a baseball bat. Both were staring at me. They started to rise.
Everything seemed in to move in slow motion. Part of me couldn’t believe what I was seeing. My brain refused to digest what was happening, but my heart and body were so on-board. Instinct kicked in as my pulse went into overdrive.
The man raised the baseball bat. “Shit.”
Backpedaling, I opened my mouth to scream, because screaming would be real good at this moment, as my foot hit of the edge of the snow by the door opening. I went down, arms flailing as my foot slipped out from underneath me. My back and legs hit the hard cement, knocking the air out of me.
One of the guys laughed, and I wasn’t sure if I should be pissed or be more terrified by that.
The one with the baseball bat loomed over me, head cocked to the side. “Shit,” he said again, turning back to the other guy. “We need—”
I let loose an ear-splitting scream as I scrambled backward, through the snow. Twisting at the waist, I pushed up. I had to get to the snowmobile, head back to—
An arm circled my waist, snatching me clear off the ground. A hand smacked down on my mouth, stifling another scream. My heart jumped against my ribs. I started struggling, kicking my legs.
“Well, well, what do we have here?”
The voice sounded familiar, but I was too panicked to give it much thought, especially when the guy with the baseball bat appeared in front of us. That meant the knife wielding dude was the one holding me. Terror dug in with razor-sharp claws.
“Whoa, man, what are you doing?” Bat Guy demanded.
Knife Guy kept walking backward, alongside the SUV, completely undeterred by my struggling. “What? We’re just going to have a little fun. Nothing serious.”
My heart thumped against my ribs. This couldn’t be happening. Horror hit me and I twisted my head, trying to dislodge his hand. Every safety video the campus police had forced us to watch warned not to let someone get you in a car or out of sight. And we were already enough out of sight, considering where we were. This wasn’t good. Oh God, this wasn’t good at all.
“This wasn’t part of the plan,” Bat Guy said, and he dropped the bat. It clanged off the cement as he held his hands up. A different kind of panic punctuated his voice. “You said we were just going to screw with the tires. I’m not—”
“Shut up! Jesus.” Knife Guy wretched my head back against his chest and needles of pain shot down my neck. “Don’t be a pussy. We aren’t going to do anything serious.”
I pleaded with Bat Guy with my eyes. He didn’t seem like he wanted to be part of this, whatever this was. He was my only hope.
“Serious?” He gestured with his hands at us, but refused to meet my stare. “What the fuck do you think this is? What are you planning to do to her? This is fucked up.”
“Man, come on.” Knife Guy shifted. “Just open the fucking door, you pansy-ass. We’re just going to scare her. That’s all.”
My heart stuttered and my eyes were wide, filling with tears. This isn’t happening. Those words were on repeat. I couldn’t process how my morning had started one way, so full of hope and love, and had gone to Shittyville in a nanosecond.
Bat Guy cursed under his breath as he moved around my flailing legs and opened the door to the basement. My stomach dropped. As I was carried through the opening of the basement, I froze up for a second. The rush of dread was paralyzing. It sank down deep, threatening to drown me.
The familiar landscape of the covered pool tables, the air hockey table, and the picture of Kyler as a small boy with his father snapped me into action.
Twisting my head sharply, I dislodged his hand far enough that I was able to bite down on his fingers. Clamping my teeth onto his skin, I pressed down until I felt his skin pop and a metallic taste exploded in my mouth.
Knife Guy howled and yanked his hand away. His grip on my waist loosened enough that I tore myself free. He blocked the only exit from here, and while every horror movie in the world replayed in my head, I had no other choice but to run farther into the house.
I ran faster than I’d ever had. The soles of my boots were damp and slick from the outside as they slipped over the wood floors. I entered the stairwell at breakneck speed. A weight hit me in the back, throwing me down on the stairs. I caught myself before I face-planted the steps.
“You little bitch,” he grunted, grabbing a fistful of hair as his knees pressed into my hips. He yanked my head back and a wave of sharp pain rolled down my spine as he pulled me up. Twisting onto my side I kicked out, catching him in the shin.
I didn’t see the blow until it landed. Pain burst across my face, hot and stinging. Crying out, I clawed at the hand in my hair.
“What are you doing?” the other guy yelled. “Holy fuck, are you out of your mind?”
Knife Guy ignored him, dragging me up the stairs. My scalp was on fire as we hit the living room and my gaze landed on the bed Kyler and I had built. It was messy from what we’d done that morning and seeing that right at the moment caused nausea to rise in my gut.
This isn’t happening.
“I fucking hate stuck-up bitches like you,” Knife Guy said, pushing me forward.
I stumbled and lost my balance, falling to my knees near the coffee table. Desperation clouded my senses. Full-blown panic set in. “Why?” I winced as my lip pulled. “Why are you doing this?”
“Why?” he mimicked my voice. “You little shits come up here every year and think you own this place, acting like you’re better than us. You’re not. You aren’t anything.”
I blinked against the tears filling my eyes. A cord of familiarity rang inside me.
He dragged me past the coffee table, toward the blankets. “And that fucker Kyler? He thinks he’s the shit, right? Thinking he can boss me around.”
It hit me then, and for a second I couldn’t move as realization sunk in. I knew who it was behind the mask. I almost blurted it out, but clamped my jaw shut. If he thought I didn’t know he was Zach, then I probably had a better chance of walking away from this. At least, I hoped I did, and I clung onto that.
“Come on, dude. This is enough,” Bat Guy said from somewhere behind us. “She’s scared, okay? We need to get out of here. You fucked with their stuff enough already. This has gone too far.”
“Too far?” Zach hissed in my ear, and I shuddered in revulsion. “Like it wasn’t too far when Kyler fucked my girlfriend? Or the fact that he’s with her right now?”
Holy shit—did he mean Sasha? Kyler had mentioned that there’d had been something between Zach and Sasha, but Kyler had said nothing had happened between him and Sasha. I suddenly got the animosity between the two at the bar.
He’d lied to me, actually lied to me. And now Kyler was with her and I was with Zach. How unbelievably fucking twisted,
Kyler had slept with Zach’s girlfriend, once upon a time.
The rusty knife that had been planted in my heart when I’d heard where Kyler was twisted deeper, and then broke off. I was in this situation because of Kyler and his inability to keep his dick in his pants. Plain and simple. The emotional pain slicing through me was just as potent as my stinging lip and aching muscles, and the bruises on the inside would take a hell of a lot longer to fade than the ones that no doubt blotted my skin. The hurting went to a whole new level, cutting in so far I knew there was no chance of repairing this.
That is, if I actually made it out of here alive.
I struggled to get control of my breathing to think around the soul-shattering hurt and panic. “I’m sorry,” I mumbled. My lower lip was numb, causing me to stumble over my words. “I’m sorry that he slept with your girlfriend. I’m so—”
“You’re sorry?” Zach laughed harshly as he shoved me forward. “That little bastard should be sorry.”
Okay. Obviously sympathizing with the psycho wasn’t going to work. Scrambling off my knees, I spun around, aiming for the doorway to the foyer. I could get out the front door, and then what? Run like hell.
I made it halfway across the room before he got hold of my jacket. In a frantic attempt at escape, I tore the zipper down and slipped out of it. I’d almost made it to the door when he tackled me from behind. I hit the floor hard. My cry was lost in Bat Guy’s shouts. Zach roughly flipped me onto my back and the terror amplified, bursting through me. I swung at him, my knuckles glancing his jaw. He caught my hands, easily pinning them beside my head.