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When she saw me, her mouth dropped, and so did the phone.

“Don’t you say a word!” I hissed at her, gun aimed. “You pick it up, and hang it up.” Hands shaking, May did what I’d asked, then handed me the phone when I motioned for it. “Now you tell me what the hell is going on?”

“I… I was just doing what I was told,” she stammered, her eyes flicking all around the room, looking for an escape she wouldn’t find.

“Told by who?”

“Tommy,” she insisted, her voice breaking with emotion that rang hollow to me, even in my half-delirious state. “He… he set the bomb, and told me where to find the money, and—”

“Wait, so youknewabout the bomb?” I cut her off, taking a step backward to use the doorframe as some support. “Are you telling me this was planned?!”

“I don’t know! I don’t know what’s happening, all I care about is my daughter. Just please, don’t hurt me or my daughter! We didn’t do anything!”



I whipped around to see that my lack of diligence had caught up to us in another way – that thorn from the garage, from the house, had found us.

And he had a gun pointed in my face.

“Step back, and drop your weapon. I don’t mean you any harm, but I can’t let you hurt this woman or her child,” he said, closing the space between us so fast it made me feel dizzy. “I said step back,” he repeated. “And put your weapon down.”

I licked my lips, trying hard to think of what my options were here – really, it didn’t seem that I had very many.

So I put the gun down, banking on the fact that he didn’tseemparticularly ruthless. Not weak, justgood.

As soon as I’d laid the gun down on the floor, I looked up at him and raised my hands, signaling surrender. In turn, he softened his stance, and took his finger off the trigger.

He was one who wanted to do the right thing, didn’t care to harm women and children.

Once again.

His mistake.

I pulled all my energy and focus into attacking, diving at his legs to knock him off balance.

From there… we fought.

Well, I tried to, but each attempted blow sapped more of my energy, every defensive move slowly stripped a little more lucidity until I couldn’t even resist it when he pinned my arms behind my back.

I had nothing left.

“Where’s my mommy?”

The thorn and I both looked up to see Amelia standing in the bedroom doorway, tears streaming down her face. Her normally light brown skin was flushed red, and to my horror, her little legs seemed to just give out, and she dropped to the floor.

It was suddenly as if my presence didn’t matter – the thorn immediately dropped his hold on me to rush to Amelia, checking her pulse and breathing.

“May!” I screamed, wondering myself where the hell she might be while her daughter was collapsed and barely breathing. I dragged myself up from the ground to stumble into the room where I’d left her.

She was gone.

And so was the money.

Just the thought sent my mind reeling.

Had she really taken the money and left her sick daughter?

I dropped too, my head pounding as I struggled to make sense of what was happening. I could hear the thorn talking, first soothing, pleading to Amelia, and then urgently to someone on his phone.

“Hey!” he called out to me, and I forced my eyes open.

I hadn’t even realized they were closed.

“Areyouokay?” he asked, but I couldn’t find the energy to answer.

Andthatwas the moment I realized… what I was feeling wasn’t exhaustion at all.

I’d been drugged.

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