You will be mine, p.13

You Will Be Mine, page 13

 part  #2 of  The Cellar Series


You Will Be Mine

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  "Very funny. I meant a sandwich. Or I could order in?"

  His eyes meet mine with such intensity that I'm transfixed. It's like I'm frozen until he looks away and breaks the spell. "Thanks for not kicking me out of your room," he says softly. "I really need the company."

  "I'm not going anywhere...and apparently neither are you," I reply with a grin.

  He meets my eyes again, but this time, he doesn't look away. It feels like the air is getting thicker.

  "You're going to need to be more careful," he responds.

  "What? Like when using the stove?"

  His lips twitch. "No, in general. When you go out."

  "We all do."

  Chace falls silent. I'm missing something.

  "What's going on? I'm not following."

  "Nothing makes sense right now, so why do I have to?"

  "Because it's frying my brain! Not knowing how to be supportive is stressing me out. Do you want more protection? Do you want food?" My voice gets an octave higher, which makes his mouth part in a heart-stopping smile.

  "Order something so you don't have to cook, and I'll try to eat. I want you to have more protection, Lylah. I want you to have the entire fucking army surrounding you." He frowns, his eyes still glued to mine. "I don't know what I'd do if anything happened to you. I can't lose anyone else."

  "Oh," I reply like an utter moron.

  Oh? That's really all I could say?

  Chace breaks eye contact and sits up. "Have the detectives called recently?"

  Why is he changing the subject? Hysteria bubbles under my skin. He was basically declaring his undying love, right? Now he wants to talk about the two detectives who we're not fond of at the moment and who aren't really our fans right now either.

  Calm down. He's concerned about you as a friend. Like a sister.

  "Lylah?" Chace waves his hand in front of my face. I swat it away, my heart jumping at his interruption.



  "Yeah. Sure."

  I grab my phone, half reeling from our conversation and half wondering if the detectives do have any news. They wouldn't be allowed to withhold any developments just because they're angry with us though, only if releasing that information would impair the investigation.

  I'm pretty sure of that. Maybe.

  When the pizza is delivered, Chace and I eat in my room. Sienna and Charlotte were both downstairs and not hungry. No one is feeling very chatty. We all miss Isaac and can't help but wonder who is next.

  The only time I've left my room today is to use the bathroom and answer the door for the pizza. Classes were canceled. The entire campus was shut down. The administration said it was in respect for Isaac, but I think it's because this shit is now serial and everyone is afraid. If I was brave, I would check social media for updates, but I have no doubt it's a media circus: people posting their condolences for Isaac and his family, appreciation to Isaac for getting them a day off, thousands of theories. I'd rather not read those.

  The cops were able to keep their suspects under wraps after Sonny's and Nora's deaths, but not anymore. Sienna told me this morning that the entire student body seems to be hunting for Jake. Maybe they'll have better luck than the cops.

  At ten, Chace falls asleep in my room. It's the second night we've shared a bed. I change into my nice pajamas and slip between the covers next to him.

  I could get used to this.


  When I wake in the morning, Chace is already up. His hair is damp from his shower. He gives me a smile from the end of my bed where he sits.

  I push myself up on my elbows.

  "Morning," he says.

  "How long have you been up?"

  "About thirty minutes."

  He looks better this morning. There's color back in his cheeks, and his eyes don't look as defeated.

  "You should have woken me when you got up, Chace."

  "No, I needed to sort myself out, and you looked peaceful. I'm so sorry about yesterday." He runs his hand over his face and sighs. "Finding Isaac like that..."

  I sit up and reach for his hand. "Don't apologize. You lost your best friend."

  Sienna and I have been close since we met, and I would be beyond devastated if she died.

  "I want to be here for you, Sienna, and Charlotte too."

  "Chace, just because you're the only man in the house now doesn't mean that you're responsible for looking out for us. You need to take time for yourself too."

  Clearing his throat, he stands. "I'm making coffee. I'll see you downstairs."

  I watch him walk out of my room with his shoulders bunched tight, wishing there was something I could do to help him. He must be feeling so much pressure when all he should be concentrating on is mourning his friends.

  We all should.

  Throwing off the covers, I get out of bed. It's a little chilly, but it's worse since I'm not wearing my fuzzy jammies.

  Once I'm showered and dressed, I check my phone.

  Riley. He's not pleased. I promised I would give you space as long as you're OK. YOU'RE NOT, LYLAH! ISAAC IS DEAD!!! I'll be there today. NO EXCUSES.

  Well, that's just great. He's clearly angry with me for not telling him the news myself.

  Chucking my phone on my bed, I head downstairs. There's no point in replying to Riley's message. I won't be able to convince him to stay home again.

  I grab the banister and take the stairs slowly. This is all getting so out of hand...not that it was ever in hand. My breath catches. On the beige welcome mat is a cream envelope. Chace obviously hasn't seen it. Charlotte and Sienna would have shrieked if they'd found the note. It almost blends straight into the mat.

  "Chace," I call, stepping toward the envelope like it could explode. My teeth find my bottom lip, and I look around as if Jake is going to appear beside me. I call again, this time louder and more frightened.

  Chace hurries into the hall with Charlotte and Sienna close behind. They notice the envelope immediately, and Sienna mutters something under her breath.

  I release my lip. "Do you think it was left just now?" Chace left my room about fifteen minutes before I came down here so there wasn't much time. Besides, it's morning. It's light out. Surely Jake wouldn't risk coming here when he could be seen so easily?

  Sienna shakes her head. "I was asleep."

  "I didn't notice it last night," Charlotte says. "But you would have to be looking in that exact spot to see it on the mat."

  Chace bends down to pick it up. "It's not addressed to anyone."

  "What? That's weird." I reach out and put my hand on his back. His muscles are locked tight. "Should we wait for the police?"

  "No," he replies, opening the envelope.

  It's not a new threat, but it still gives me chills.

  "He's recycling his psycho notes. He should get some new material," Chace spits. The anger and hatred in his voice makes him sound like a different person.

  I can't find any amusement in his remark, so I snatch the note out of his hand and cut him a look. "It's not funny. We know how dangerous he is."

  "I'm calling the detective," Sienna says. Charlotte follows her into the living room.

  Chace bends his head to look more directly into my eyes. "Hey, sorry for the sarcasm. Are you okay?"

  "I'm fine, I guess. Riley is coming today."

  Chace grips the letter in his fist, crumpling it. "Your brother, really? I'm glad I've managed to convince my parents to stay home every time they far. I don't want them here in case Jake turns to them, and they think they'll bump me up his list if I have them around me constantly. He already likes doing the implausible. Imagine what he'd get out of killing a man with his parents near."

  I wish Riley would agree to that. If something happened to Riley because he came to protect me, it would kill me. But there is no way I'll ever convince him to keep his distance; he would rather anger Jake by being an obstacle between me and him.

  "Yeah. Riley's not happy t
hat I didn't tell him about Isaac. He wants the case solved now, and he wants to make sure the cops are doing what they're supposed to. Like they're just sitting around twiddling their thumbs!" I don't tell Chace that Riley doesn't think I'm safe here, because I don't want him to feel even more pressure.

  "The last time I spoke to him on the phone, he wanted me to move home. I explained that it wouldn't matter where I am. In fact, leaving all the police protection here would make it even easier for him to get to me."

  Chace raises his eyebrow. "I take it he didn't like that."

  "Nope. His text said he's arriving today. I hope he doesn't hang around long. He's going to be a nightmare, demanding answers and telling people how to do their job. Plus I don't want him here in case he becomes a target. I mean, look what happened to Zak when we met for a drink. If Jake can attack his own brother, there's nothing stopping him attacking mine."

  "Well, there might be one thing."

  "What's that?"

  "Jake's probably not going to feel romantically threatened by your brother."

  I turn my nose up at the disgusting thought. "Ew. There is that, I suppose. Hopefully Detective Lina will be able to convince him to leave the investigation in their hands. He sounds like he wants to go all Sherlock on the case."

  "She's probably got the best chance. Not sure I'm ready to have your brother puff his chest and glare at me twenty-four-seven though. I usually have more time to prepare."

  I slap his arm. "He doesn't hate you."

  "Lylah, he spent the entire day calling me Chacey and threatening to castrate me if I got within two feet of you."

  "He's protective."

  Chace's eyebrows shoot up in the cutest way. "Protective."

  I lift my shoulder in a lazy shrug. "Uh huh." I know he's overbearing, but I'm the only family he has. "You would be too in his position, especially since we're getting more notes like the one you're currently holding."

  "Yeah, I guess." He looks down at the note in his hand, releasing it slightly until he's holding it at the edge with only the tips of his fingers. "We should probably get this to the cops stationed outside."

  "Mind if I wait in here?"

  "Course not." With a smile meant to comfort me, Chace goes to the front door to start this process all over again.



  February 10

  Riley's car pulls up outside the house just as the detectives are leaving. Forensics will examine the note, but no one is expecting much. Now that we've gotten several of these, we've learned Jake is far too good to leave a fingerprint or any DNA.

  Not even the postmortems have turned up anything. The autopsy on Sonny's body showed that he died of multiple stab wounds. They were able to tell the general height of the killer and that he's right-handed, which Jake is, but that also describes most males on campus. Hell, even Chace fits the bill.

  We're all pawns in his game, and it feels like we're only ever going to see the killer when he wants us to. The thought sends my anxiety into overdrive.

  "What the hell, Lylah!" Riley pulls me into his arms as he rushes inside.

  I know I'm supposed to be a proper grown-up now since I'm living on my own, but as soon as Riley is around, I feel so much younger again. It's not necessarily a bad thing. He's always been protective, a safety net I can always fall back on. But I get that I shouldn't rely on my sibling like I would a parent.

  "I'm sorry. I didn't want to worry you." As soon as the words leave my mouth, I know they're not going to be received well.

  Riley grips my upper arms and holds me out so he can glare. "Don't be ridiculous, Lylah, you're my baby sister. We need to talk."


  "Sure. My housemates are in their rooms, so we can talk in the living room."

  They're in hiding. Chace knows Riley isn't his biggest fan, but he doesn't know it's because of how I feel about him. And Sienna and Charlotte wanted to give me some space to explain what's going on.

  My housemates are lucky they've managed to keep their family at a distance through all of this. Chace's family is apparently talking closely to the cops, but haven't swooped in because they believe that would be worse for Chace. They're petrified of doing the wrong thing. I don't really know what's going on with Charlotte's family, but since she said they weren't on good terms, I'm not surprised we haven't seen or heard from them. And Sienna's parents are in Korea visiting family. I get the impression she hasn't been totally honest with them about our situation.

  Sonny's parents have also come in town, but they haven't been by the house. I suppose it's something they will do when they're ready. I can't go in both Sonny or Isaac's rooms either.

  Riley and I sit on the sofa, and I wait for the lecture to start. Riley has the same shade of blond hair and the same dark-brown eyes as me. We've always looked similar, just like our mom. She would be glad he's here with me now.

  "I should have come when I first heard about Sonny."

  "No, I needed some space to process. To be with my friends. We've been supporting each other, Riley. I need you to know that."

  "But the murders are all over the news now. Since Isaac, people are saying there's a serial killer on the loose. I didn't even know another girl--one of your neighbors!--had been killed because my little sister didn't feel the need to tell me."

  "Come on, Riley," I say. "I'm sorry, okay? It's just hard to talk about..."

  "You don't want me here, and I can't figure out why."

  I sigh. "I'm scared that I'll rely on you as much as I did when Mom and Dad died. Things have been going really well here. I like being independent. I've been doing well in my classes, and my anxiety has been in check thanks to therapy. I haven't needed to see my therapist in a little over four months because I've been successfully using the tools she gave me. You know how big that is for me. I haven't wanted to jeopardize that."

  He nods. "I know. And all of that makes me so proud of you, Lylah. But someone threatening you, murdering your friends? That's a good time to lean on your family."

  When he puts it that way, I suppose he's right.

  "It'll be two years soon," he says as if it's news to me.

  "I know. I think about Mom and Dad all the time." I grip my necklace between my thumb and index finger.

  He tilts his head, eyes narrowed. "What I mean is, we need to pull together at this time of year even more. I'm going to stay here until Jake is caught. Or you can come home with me."

  "No, I don't want that. Either option. I can deal with this alone. I don't want you to get dragged into this too."

  Shaking his head, he stretches out his legs in front of him. "Not happening."

  My chest burns. "Riley, please--"

  "Would you leave me if the situation was reversed?"

  Damn it. "That isn't the point." It so is--I wouldn't leave him, but I don't want him here where he could be hurt.

  He stands. "I'll make us some coffee so you can tell me everything, and after that, I'm going down to the police station to see what the fuck is going on."

  Closing my eyes, I flop back against the sofa as he walks out of the room. Having him here makes me feel like a helpless teen again.

  Riley returns with two coffees and sets them down on the coffee table. "How have you been dealing with this on your own? I want the truth, Lylah. Don't tell me what you think I want to hear."

  I sit up and grab my coffee. I hesitate but don't sugarcoat my response. "It hasn't been easy, and a few times I could feel myself slipping back into my old ways. But I haven't, and I'm determined not to. Chace's support helps."

  Riley rolls his eyes.

  "Don't be like that. He's one of the good guys, I promise."

  "I'll be the judge of that."

  Of course he will.

  I continue. "When we found Sonny, we were devastated, but we thought that was it, a single incident. Then there was another note, another threat. Everything snowballed so fast it made me dizzy. No one has a handle on it, and I'm scar

  "Damn, Lylah. I hate that you've been going through all this, especially at this time of year."

  "None of it makes any sense. Jake seems to be the most likely suspect, and the detectives think so too. He tried to kiss me last Valentine's Day. Four months after I rejected him, he left college, and now, eight months after that, he's killing."

  "What about the girl?"

  "Nora. We think she and Jake knew each other, but no one knows how. Either that or he's trying to throw everyone off by hitting other targets too."

  I shrug and take a sip of coffee.

  "And the police have no idea where he is?"

  "Not a single clue where he could be or where he has been...besides the crime scenes." Saying the words out loud makes me feel defeated. When will this ever end?

  Riley thinks for a moment. "How is he doing this alone? Carrying a dead body can't be easy."

  He doesn't know about Jake cutting out their hearts yet. And no one knows where Sonny's and Nora's and Isaac's are.

  "Jake used to work out a lot, almost obsessively. He had weights in his room, he ran, he went to the gym twice a day. The guy was strong. I don't know if he had help. His friends and family are all accounted for. His dad and brother are staying in a hotel nearby, assisting the police as they can."

  "And you're sure it's not better for you to come home?" He looks skeptical. "I know you were all friends, but doesn't it make you worry that these people were friends with Jake too?"

  "Detective Lina, the officer in charge of the investigation, doesn't seem to think there is reason to leave. She said it could cause the killer to go on a spree. I don't want to be the reason for that, Riley. Here, we can be a support network for each other."

  He nods. "I'll stay instead then, Lylah."

  "You can stay in a hotel."

  Chuckling, he lifts his eyebrow. "Charming. You won't even let your brother stay at your place."

  "It's not only my place. I have roommates, and we want to keep things as normal as we possibly can. Detective Lina can arrange protection for you."

  "I don't think so," he scoffs, frowning like I've offended him. "What do the notes say?"

  "Mostly things like 'you'll be mine.'"

  We sit in silence for a moment as he considers it, then asks, "What are you holding back?"

  I sigh. Riley does know me well. "We tried to trap him twice. Once in a club, I thought I saw him but I must have been mistaken because when the cops cleared the area, he was nowhere to be seen."

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