Share this:

Page 61

Joey stood guard at the door.

Scarlet stood at the end of the bed. “Elleny, is that man your father?”

Elleny, clothed only in the sheet that had pulled up to her neck, shook her head.

Scarlet nodded. “That’s what I thought. I’ll be right back.”

“Scarlet,” I warned.

She ignored me and walked to the front door, pausing in front of Joey.

“He’s headed south,” Joey reported.

Scarlet pushed out the door and we all looked at each other, unsure of what to do.

“Should I . . . follow her?” I asked, looking to Bryce and Joey. No one had an answer. It was difficult to even form words.

A scream echoed from the south, followed by a single gunshot. We all jumped at the noise. A few seconds later, another shot was fired.

I ran out the front door, followed by everyone else, stopping when Scarlet came into view.

She stopped, letting the barrel of her gun tilt toward the ground.

“You killed him?” Ashley said, her voice high and nervous.

Scarlet didn’t flinch. “I wasn’t going to let him walk away with my daughters out there.” She stomped past all of us to the house, and slammed the door behind her.

After a few seconds of stunned silence, we all followed. Scarlet was inside the bedroom, talking to Elleny, whose whimpers turned into wails.

“What do we do?” Miranda said.

“Looks like it’s taken care of,” Bryce said. He tugged on her hand, and she followed him back to their bedroom.

Cooper and Ashley did the same, even though Ashley was still upset and asking questions.

Joey and I stood in the living room alone, listening to Scarlet speak calmly to Elleny. After an hour, she emerged from the bedroom.

“She’s asleep.”

“That was . . . I’ve never seen anything like that in my life, have you?” Joey said.

“No,” I said, a little shocked that he’d even had to ask.

“They should all get the same end.” Scarlet propped her rifle against the wall by the door, and then fell onto the couch, on top of her covers. “Better get some sleep. It’s too late to bury him tonight, so we’re going to have work to do in the morning.”

“You shot twice,” I said. “So did you make sure he wouldn’t come back?”

Scarlet nodded. “I shot him in the dick, first.”

Joey shook his head, satisfied. “Bastard. What did he do, take her in the chaos?”

Scarlet took a deep breath. “Her parents were killed. He lived down the street. She thought she had no other choice, even after he . . . she’s safe now. She’s going to be okay.”

I kneeled beside her. “That is a freak occurrence. You know that, right? Andrew is with Halle and Jenna, and they’re safe.”

Scarlet nodded. “Everyone’s a little safer now.”

Chapter Twenty-One


Elleny followed Scarlet around like a scared child, even after she helped bury Kevin’s body. We were all stunned for days after. I wasn’t sure if I was more shocked about what Kevin had done, what he was caught doing, or that Scarlet had killed him. The house didn’t feel the same, and I wasn’t sure if it was because of the new, awkward addition, or because we realized that it wasn’t just teds that we had to fear.

Because Elleny stayed so close to Scarlet and so far from the rest of us, it was hard to get to know her. I didn’t know how to talk to her, anyway. I’d never known anyone that had been through something like that. I didn’t want to say the wrong thing, so I didn’t say anything at all.

Nathan and Zoe had returned to the front bedroom, but Scarlet moved downstairs with Elleny, leaving Joey the couch. That made it easier for me to stay up and talk to him at night, and I felt more like we were just hanging out as friends instead of sneaking around in the basement like . . . nonfriends. I couldn’t even say the word, that’s how wrong it felt.

Whatever it was, I couldn’t deny that I liked being around Joey. I more than liked it. Even if a moment had to be stolen when no one was looking. Bryce would get so angry to even see us chatting about nothing in particular, so I took what I could get because going too long without a moment with him made me feel like I was suffocating.

Everyone seemed to be suffocating. We were surviving, but every passing day felt less like living.

Every morning and night, Scarlet would stand out on the porch my father built and watch the red hill for her daughters. Nathan would wait with her, assuring her that they would come. Ashley pretended to be a teacher. The guys tried to keep themselves busy with upkeep of the house, and taking shifts to patrol the perimeter, and Joey and I pretended to ignore each other, but what was supposed to be our safe haven was beginning to feel like a prison.

Nathan, though, didn’t seem to feel the weight like the rest of us. He and Scarlet would spend hours talking. Once, I walked by the door and saw them holding hands while they waited together on the porch. After that, they seemed to steal more moments alone, sharing secrets and whispering jokes that only the two of them found funny. Joey and I were sitting up late one night, talking in the darkness of the living room, and were both startled when the French doors opened, revealing Scarlet.

“Hi,” she said, looking caught. “We were just talking.”

I shrugged, and so did Joey. “So are we,” I said.

Scarlet nodded before retreating downstairs to join Elleny.

Joey looked at me. I was barely able to see his eyebrow rise in the dim light. “Think they were . . .”

“No. Zoe’s in there.”


“No,” I said, shaking my head, disgusted in Zoe’s honor. “I remember walking in on my parents, once. It scarred me for life.”

“My parents split up when I was four,” Joey said. “I don’t remember what it’s like to have them both in the house.”

“Your mom never dated?”

“Once or twice. I did a pretty good job of scaring them off. I was a hateful little shit.”

I smiled. “I can see that.”


I didn’t mean to keep making comparisons, but Aubrey was the first woman I’d ever loved. So I had to wonder, now, feeling the way I did about Scarlet, if I just loved her differently than I ever had Aubrey, or if it meant I’d never really loved Aubrey at all.

Leave a comment

We will not publish your email address. Required fields are marked*