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For once in a really long time, Lanie woke up feeling completely rested. Apparently, the inclement weather had passed. Late morning sun caressed her body, naked on top of all of the sheets. For a moment, she forgot everything, and just laid there, remembering what it was like to sunbathe on a beach in Belize. She turned over, letting the sun warm her front. Her stomach rumbled, and she remembered she hadn’t eaten since breakfast yesterday.
Lanie blockaded the thoughts, and sat up. After going to bed straight out of the shower, the sheets were rumpled and damp. She tried to flip her hair out of her eyes, but it snagged on her fingers, hopelessly matted since she hadn’t even bound it.
Groaning, She gave up. She needed to drink something. She needed to eat. Then she needed to set up her final meeting with Bel and catch her flight. That’s what she’d been about to do before…before…
After dragging an oversized tee-shirt out of a drawer, she tromped down to the kitchen.
Opening the fridge, she palmed an orange, then stood woodenly for a moment. It was impossible not to remember. When Dre was born, she’d essentially lived in the kitchen. It had been too difficult to go up and down the stairs with the bottles and soiled receiving blankets and snacks. There was that brief week when Sean had been there to help. He’d kick off his shoes right there by the front door, then come to the kitchen to start cooking for them. One day, she’d sat, basically asleep at the table, and he’d carried her to the couch. She’d pretended to stay asleep as he stroked her hair and talked to her, though she couldn’t remember now what he’d said. All she’d cared about was how good it felt when he was nice to her.
An unexpected, powerful longing for her family overcame her, and tears pricked her eyes. What had gone wrong? If only she’d tried to work things out, none of this would be happening. Things hadn’t been perfect, but deep down, Sean was a good guy. For the first time, she let herself really think about what he’d said in his letter.. He wanted to change. Now, he might be the father that Dre deserved. Now, they might be able to have the relationship that Lanie had always dreamed of. If only she could turn back the clock – there would have been some way for her to bring him to all those revelations earlier. Then she wouldn’t be here, all alone, confused and scared and lost. Head hanging over the sink, she couldn’t hold back a sob.
There was a soft snuffling sound from the living room.
Suddenly, her brain caught up with the last few moments. Something was wrong. There were shoes by the front door. Men’s shoes.
Slowly, carefully, she shut the fridge, then stepped to the knife block on the kitchen counter. Tipping it up, she revealed the small handgun hidden inside. Was it Collins, or a group of his lackeys? Did he realize that she could only let their conversation lie for so long? They hadn’t killed her in her sleep, so they must have still needed something from her.
Gripping her weapon, she tiptoed to the living room, where she now realized that strange rumbling sound had been coming from. What were the henchmen doing? Maybe she should have grabbed the gun from under the toaster oven, too.
It was quiet now. Holding her breath, she peered around the corner, and despite her best efforts and preparation for the worst, she was so wired and strung out from all that had happened yesterday that she couldn’t help but scream when she saw the hulking mass of man on her couch. Without thinking any further, she fired.
The man opened his eyes, and started screaming, too.
The front door crashed open behind her, and another huge man stood there. She turned to fire again, but before she could blink, he had her wrist, and then grabbed her other wrist, and suddenly the gun was gone.
Everything was still.
They all looked around in shocked, confused silence.
Somehow, Ben was on her couch. She couldn’t even begin to wrap her brain around that. He was mute, his eyes nearly popping out as he stared at the bullet hole in the wall above the couch, a dozen centimetres from his head.
And Jake. Jake was here, gripping her wrists from behind in one iron hand.
Jake was at her back. Ben was on her couch. She wasn’t wearing any underwear, and though the shirt reached her knees, it didn’t quite hang the way it was supposed to with both arms stretched above her head. Was this the beginning of some sort of steamy, lucid dream? Surely, she was still sleeping. But the pain from Jake’s grip cast doubt on the notion. Which, in a way, was a little disappointing.
And then she heard a car crunching in the driveway, jumpstarting her sensibilities.
“Shut the door!” Lanie screeched, and Jake allowed her to break from him. She pulled the back of her shirt down with one hand, and pushed the door shut with the other as she peeked through the window. She noticed that Jake’s motorcycle was there, too, and she wondered why she hadn’t seen it when she’d come downstairs.
Through the windshield of the car, she could see two distinct figures having an argument in the front seat.
“No!” she groaned, her heart sinking.
“What’s going on?” Ben squeaked from the couch.
Lanie forced herself to come up with a plan. Putting on a commanding air, she turned to Jake. “Take Ben to the bathroom, just through there.” She pointed, and he went without question. After taking a pillow and propping it on the back of the couch to hide the bullet-hole, he scooped Ben up, ignoring his protests. Lanie glared at him. “And you. I have no idea how you got in my house, but I need you to be quiet. Both of you need to be as quiet as possible, and don’t come out until I tell you to.” Jake nodded, and gave Ben a stern look. Finally, he shut up.
While Jake dealt with Ben, Lanie grabbed a belted jacket from the closet, and then rushed to the kitchen junk drawer. After depositing her weapons, she searched for an elastic band, jerking her hair into a messy, but more-presentable, ponytail.
The doorbell rang. She took five seconds. Five deep breaths. “Hello! We meet again.”
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~ Romans 15:13