You will be mine, p.19

You Will Be Mine, page 19

 part  #2 of  The Cellar Series

 

You Will Be Mine
 


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  "Lylah!" Chace shouts.

  My body leaps, startled that he's here. How did he get here? I push myself to my feet. Chace closes in, and I stumble the final few steps toward him.

  "She's dead," I sob, falling into his chest and clinging to him. My body is trembling.

  "Thank God you're okay," he mumbles. His arms are too tight, but I don't tell him to loosen them because I need him. "I was so scared when I saw."

  Saw?

  "What do you mean?" I ask, pulling back to look at him.

  "There's footage and photos on Facebook," he says quietly.

  "Are you serious? Charlotte is..." I can't finish my sentence.

  Charlotte is dead and half naked, and people have posted it online for everyone to see. Now her body will be on the internet forever, this way forever, and my heart aches for her. What if her family sees that picture before they hear the news from the police? Even if they weren't close, that would be such a cruel way to find out that your daughter is dead.

  Finally, Charlotte's body is covered and zipped into a dark bag.

  I cry. "That means Jake can see this too. He can see his handiwork and reactions on fucking Facebook! She was violated!"

  "Shh," Chace shushes, pressing his forehead against mine. "We'll get him, Lylah. I promise you."

  And I cry harder. I know we will...because I'm going to make a deal with the devil.

  26

  Wednesday

  February 14

  We're there in that parking lot for an hour. Charlotte was taken away, and Detective Lina took my statement, but I could tell her nothing new. She had driven Chace to the scene after he refused to stay put. Other officers were left at the house with Sienna.

  Detective Lina said someone was on their way to find Charlotte's family and tell them the news. They might know already. I haven't checked any social media because I can't bear to see those images, but I know by now she would have been identified. People may have even tagged her.

  The whole thing is sick.

  After we're taken back to the house, Chace follows me to my room, watching me like he's sure I'm going to shatter into a million pieces. We left a stunned Sienna in the living room with a cop answering her thousand questions as best he can.

  A door slams. "Where is she?" Riley shouts from downstairs.

  Chace and I look at each other. I should have known my brother would be here after today's events. He must have seen the news online. Or on television. It's everywhere at this point.

  Riley's footsteps hammer up the stairs.

  "Good luck," Chace says, backing out of the room to give me some time to talk to my brother.

  Seconds later, Riley fills the room with his broad frame. "You're coming home with me right now."

  I shake my head, filled with confidence. "No, I'm not."

  "Are you shitting me, Lylah? You stay here, and you could die! It's too dangerous to stay here."

  With him standing right there, glaring at me, my steely response falters. "No, Riley. You...you remember what Lina said. Jake will follow us. There is no way I'm--I can't put anyone else in danger."

  "Oh, come on. They won't be in any danger. He's not going to go after the neighbors."

  "You don't know that!" I shout back. "None of us knows what he'll do next, but we do know he has no morals and no compassion. He doesn't care who he hurts, don't you see that?!"

  Riley sighs, closing his eyes. "I feel like I'm failing, Lylah. Ever since you moved here you've been distant, and I'm worried about you. I really don't care about 'getting my life back,' like you've said in the past. Family comes first. Always."

  "I like it here. I like being on my own, Riley. When I lived at home, I was so reliant on you. We've always been close, and I love that," I tell him quickly. "But I think we were too dependent on each other. When Mom and Dad died, we formed our own little family, which was so great. But I found it hard to function without you. I want us to always have each other's back, but being so dependent on each other is not healthy. And right now, I need to be here--for the investigation and for my friends."

  Riley frowns. "Lylah, we're siblings, we're supposed to be there for each other."

  "Of course, we are, but we're also supposed to be able to live normal lives. I used to practically hyperventilate if you left the house without me," I finish quietly.

  It was a really dark time. Back then, all I could think when he walked out the door was that he was going to get in an accident and never come back. Just like our parents.

  But until now, I didn't realize how much Riley relied on me too. He took on the role as dad, and he's still doing it. Couple that with the situation now and him promising our parents to always take care of me, and it's easy to see how he's starting to unravel.

  But I don't know how to fix this.

  Riley straightens his back. "Okay, no more talking about that. I'm going to make some food. You need to eat. Then we'll put something on TV."

  Despite not wanting to rely too heavily on my brother, I feel my heart warm. That actually sounds perfect, like the good parts of our old times living together as a family.

  Riley spends the whole day being my shadow. It's actually nice to have him with me again, but after he follows me around like I'm going to break for hours and hours, I'm exhausted.

  He's cooked and made sure I've eaten lunch and dinner. He's tried to keep my mind off everything by putting on movies and telling me about the home improvements he's planning.

  Soon it fades into night--a little early for bed--but I can't hold off any longer. I need sleep and, honestly, I just want to be alone for a while now. I fake a yawn and stand up. Riley gets to his feet and turns the TV off.

  "I'm really tired, Riley" I say. "It's been a stressful day."

  "Yeah, of course. You coming home then?"

  I cut him a look and grit my teeth. "We'll deal with that later, but for now I'm staying here." I'm not going at all, even if I made it sound like it's a possibility, but I need him to back down for a while.

  "You're coming home."

  I narrow my eyes. "This is my home."

  Riley's hand flies out and slams into the wall beside him.

  Gasping, I jump back. "What the hell was that?" I snap.

  "Whether you like it or not, you're coming home!" Turning, he thunders out of the room, his stomps driving home his irritation.

  How dare he demand I leave with him! He's not actually my father, and I'm a damn adult now! I need to be here for the investigation, and no matter what Riley says, I will not be leaving.

  A moment later, Chace is by my side. "What happened?" he asks softly. He must have been listening from his room, because it didn't take him long to get back here.

  "He's impossible! I'm not going anywhere with him."

  "You don't have to. Let's stay here together. I really need to curl up with you and forget today."

  That sounds perfect, though neither of us will likely be able to forget anything.

  "Okay," I reply. I grab my pajamas and phone so I can go to the bathroom to change. I leave Chace in my room, knowing he'll be stripping and getting into my bed.

  I lock the bathroom door behind me and set my clothes down on the side of the sink. With a deep breath, I type a message to Jake: You and me. Let's finish this.

  His reply is almost instant. 5A Baker Street. 11 PM.

  He doesn't tell me to come alone. He knows I will this time. And I know Baker Street--it's a shady part on the outskirts of town. There are rows of tiny houses, most of which are empty and vandalized. There's talk of demolishing the old houses and rebuilding that part of town.

  Makes sense him being there, I suppose. If anyone were even around to see him, they wouldn't look twice.

  I get changed, leaving my clothes stuffed in the bathroom cabinet so I can put them on later, and go back to the bedroom. Chace is lying in my bed with his hands behind his head. The call to forget everything and just cuddle with him is strong. I don't want to face Jake, but I know I h
ave to go through with this. Or this will never end.

  "Come here, you," he says.

  I waste no time in filling his request. Slipping beneath the covers, I snuggle up to Chace and close my eyes. I don't want to think about what could happen tonight. The chance I won't come back crosses my mind, but I push it away.

  Chace's lips brush against the top of my head. "I feel like I should say happy Valentine's Day, but I'm guessing you're not too concerned about that."

  My heart beats faster, but I'm not entirely sure if it's in a good way.

  When I don't reply, and silence stretches out in front of us, Chace sighs. "I'm sorry. I know this day isn't great for you anyway...for either of us."

  "It's okay. I only wish we were a normal couple. I wish we could have had coffee together this morning and be at some fancy restaurant right now. This day is just awful. I'm sorry."

  I feel his lips smile against my head. "We can do that on any of the other three hundred and sixty-four days of the year."

  Closing my eyes, I sink further into his embrace and whisper, "Thank you."

  "So, how are you doing?" he asks, steering the conversation to where he really wants it to be. But I'm not totally sure if he's asking about my parents or the Jake situation.

  I sigh. "Honestly, I don't know. You?"

  "I'm ready to leave. Take out cash, train hop randomly until we're confident Jake isn't behind us. Lay low until he's found."

  His plan is appealing. I'd be a liar if I said it wasn't, but there are too many variables. What if he does find us? What if he gets angry that we've gone missing and kills more people? What if he goes after our families?

  Sighing, he adds, "I know we can't."

  "Can we not talk about Jake anymore, please?"

  "Sure. Sleep, Lylah, it's been a long, shitty day."

  That it has. I can't fall asleep though. I'm waiting for everyone else to drift off, and then I have to get out without the cops seeing. After Chace and I snuck out, and Charlotte too, they've been tighter on security around the back, parking the cop car in the pedestrian zone so they're closer, so it's probably going to be easier to sneak out the front now.

  I kiss Chace's chest, feeling his heart thumping beneath my lips, and move next to him, making sure his arm isn't holding me, so it will be easier to get away later, after he's asleep. Chace turns on his side and runs his fingertip along my jaw.

  "Good night, beautiful."

  God, I've waited so long to hear him say something like that to me. In the midst of all this chaos, I'm so grateful to Chace for making me feel happiness. I've missed it.

  We stare at each other in silence; no words are needed. I feel so light here with him, like we're the only people in the world.

  I savor every second.

  Chace's eyelids start to become heavy. His blinks grow long. When he doesn't open his eyes, I start to count. It shouldn't take too long for him to fall into a deep sleep. We're all exhausted.

  I never realized how peaceful it is to watch someone fall asleep. Or how tired it makes you. Stifling a yawn, I shift slowly out of bed and head to the bathroom.

  My hands shake as I change back into my jeans and sweater. This has to be the dumbest thing I've ever done. Meet up with a killer, Lylah. Excellent idea.

  I creep out of the bathroom and down the stairs. The house is cloaked in darkness, which I was counting on. Outside is also super dark since the trees shield the streetlights.

  Whipping my coat off the peg by the door, I slip it on and slowly unlock and open the front door. I step outside, sticking to the wall, and slither along. If I stay at the side, I'll be able to watch the cop from the front gate and make a run for it when he looks away. We're not far from the corner, so all I have to do is sprint there and hope he doesn't look back until I'm gone.

  It all seems great...in theory.

  Crouching down, I hold my breath to prevent it from fogging and giving myself away. Gripping the ice-cold metal gate, I peer around the side. The cop is sitting in the car, looking out at the road.

  No time to second-guess. I've purposefully not allowed myself to think about what I'm doing so I can't talk myself out of it. I run. I shove myself to my feet the way sprinters do and fly down the path.

  My footsteps aren't heavy, but they sound deafening to my ears.

  Once I'm around the corner, I pause for a second.

  Baker Street is about a fifteen-minute walk if you cut through a housing division. It's even colder than I anticipated.

  Ignoring everything around me, which isn't much at almost eleven at night in the suburbs, I focus on the task at hand. If I wasn't scared that I would stick out if I used a light, I would use the flashlight on my phone. But I don't want to draw attention to myself. I should probably think of some plan, but I have no idea what I'm walking into or what Jake wants from me. I do know that I'm going to play along with whatever he's got planned. He liked me once, so maybe I can exploit that to get him to turn himself in.

  Who knows.

  It might all fall apart, but I have to do something; I can't sit back while my friends die.

  And I'll die before I let anything happen to another one of them--or worse, my brother.

  When I turn on to Baker Street, the magnitude of what I'm doing hits me. A chill runs down my spine.

  I take a breath as I walk past the first house.

  You can do this. Be strong.

  I focus on the pure hatred I feel for Jake. I've spent every second trying to expel the images of Sonny, Isaac, and Charlotte from my mind, but right now, I welcome them. They will give me the strength I need to do this.

  There it is. A silver number five with the letter A on a blue door, tilted to the side like some of the screws have come loose.

  This is the house.

  He's inside, waiting for me.

  Wetting my dry lips, I pad slowly down the path up to the front door. My stomach may burn with anger and the desire to make him pay, but I'm still petrified. I clench my fists so he won't be able to see them tremble.

  When I approach the door, it's open, only by an inch, but it's clear this is for me--an invitation to enter. I step through, and my eyes, which are already acclimated to the dark, slide everywhere, searching for Jake. The hallway is narrow. I press my lips together and try to breathe quietly through my nose.

  Jake doesn't mess around. When he gives an order, he wants it followed to his specifications. I learned that the hard way. It cost Charlotte her life. I'm in love with Chace, Sienna is my best friend, and I cannot lose my brother. There is no way I'm risking any of their lives to protect my own. Jake has to be stopped. Tonight, I walked into the lion's den knowingly, willingly, and I'll face the consequences without any doubt or regret.

  At the end of the hall, there is another door. It is closed, but light seeps around the ill-fitting frame. I step forward and reach for the knob. My fingers twitch the closer I get.

  It's such a strange feeling to walk to your death. Doing something you know is going to get you killed is quite possibly the dumbest thing a person can do. Yet here I am.

  I place my hand over the round door handle and twist. It's cold and sends a shiver down my spine. Though the shiver could just be from my terror.

  "Jake?" I call as I push open the door.

  My eyes widen, and I suck in a gulp of air.

  The small room is filled with photos of me. Candid photos spanning a year. Maybe more. Some of my clothes are strewn around the room. A scarf I thought I lost at a party hangs off an armchair. On a coffee table at the side of the room is a large bowl full of hair clips, jewelry, and a few knickknacks I've collected over the years.

  Stacked in the corner of the room is a large pile of magazines that once were read by me.

  I have a lot of stuff, but even so, how did I not notice that any of this was missing?

  Behind the table stands a man in a hoodie. The man who's been torturing my friends and me. He stole their lives. He won't steal any more.

  H
e lifts his hood to stare me in the eyes.

  My breath catches.

  "Riley?" I whisper.

  27

  Wednesday

  February 14

  Riley smiles. It's not sinister. He doesn't look pleased with himself. He doesn't look victorious. He doesn't look evil. He looks normal, like he's smiling at me over the dinner table.

  "What's going on?" My eyes dart around the room, taking in the scene again, and it makes my brain hurt. Why is he wearing that hoodie? "How did you know I was here? Where's Jake?"

  How on earth did Riley find me?

  Deep inside, I think I know what's going on, but my mind is rejecting what my eyes are seeing.

  "Riley, where is Jake?" I repeat.

  "Jake is gone."

  I shake my head. "Gone? What do you mean he's gone?"

  "He's dead," Riley says, matter-of-factly. "You should have heard him, Lylah. Every time I came to visit you, he was always going on about you like he thought you were interested in him. Like you were in love with him. It had to end."

  I freeze and my face drains of blood.

  No.

  No, there's some mistake.

  Riley...this can't be right.

  My brother can't be a...a killer.

  "Riley, what are you saying?" I mutter. Pinching the bridge of my nose, I try to process the meaning of his words. "I need you to be more specific, because none of this makes sense. I don't understand."

  "I can explain everything, sis. I promise."

  I lower my hand. "Tell me what you've done, Riley." The realization of what's happening begins to sink in.

  "You needed me again."

  If I wasn't so stunned I could have fallen over.

  "You've done all of...this because you wanted me to need you again?"

  Eyes the same shade as mine glower. "You left me, Lylah. Everyone leaves me. We were supposed to be there for each other. We said we would always stay close, and then you moved away!" His voice gets louder, and his chest puffs with rage.

  "Riley," I say, holding up my hands. "I moved away to go to school! I thought you were happy for me. You agreed it would be the fresh start I needed."

  "I was supposed to be part of that fresh start! You told me you'd be home on holidays and some weekends, but your visits got less frequent."

 
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