“Jake,” I whispered, hoping he was messing around. If he was, I would be angry. I lifted one leg after the other and slipped my high heels off, holding them both so I could tiptoe through the half-constructed mansion without making noise.
Jake didn’t answer, but the footsteps had stopped from the moment I whispered.
The scary movie marathon we’d had before Rachel died flashed through my head, bringing ideas and memories with it. I tiptoed around the corner, brushing my Frankenstein’s bride dress on the rough edge where the unfinished walls met. The drywall scraped against me, making me wince as I hurried along the corridor to the back deck. Whoever was in the house with me was either moving silently too or they were standing still, listening.
Either way, I had a terrible feeling this wasn’t a game.
That meant one thing: Jake was injured or hiding.
And I was alone.
My heart raced, my eyes burned from not blinking—fearful I would miss something—and my mouth was as dry as a mouthful of popcorn.
The floor creaked.
“Sierra,” someone whispered into the dark.
My skin crawled when I realized it wasn’t Jake. It wasn’t his whisper. I’d heard that enough times, always in the dark, to know it wasn’t him.
“Sierra, don’t be scared.” It sounded like something it couldn’t be, but I didn’t believe. I stayed perfectly still, waiting for the moment I needed to run to the back deck and jump down onto the sandy beach.
What had the girls in the horror movies done wrong? What could I avoid? My mind raced, remembering the runners always got caught. They always got stabbed. Usually in the back. The thought of it made my skin burn where I imagined the knife would slice.
The hiders always got caught. They were the ones breathing too loudly or hiding in stupid places.
“Sierra, I won’t hurt you if you come to me.”
I squeezed my eyes shut for half a second and waited for the answer, the right choice, to pop into my head.
A dog barked, making me jump and open my eyes. The sound was joined by the creaking of the floorboards again.
With gentle breaths and controlled movements I crept along the hallway, entering the spot where the kitchen or master bedroom would likely go. The house was freshly sealed with windows and doors, but it was still in the drywall stage with plywood floors.
The massive back deck was through the white French doors, facing the beach and open ocean. The moon offered light, enough to make shadows move with me.
I hurried to an alcove I assumed would one day be a nook for a breakfast bar or maybe the ensuite soaker tub. I pressed my back against the wall and stared at the bright white French doors. If I could make it to them, I was free.
If only I had my cell phone, I could call the police or Jake or Vincent. Someone would come and help me. Even Ashton might answer.
But that wasn’t an option. I scolded myself for my weakness in me and forced my focus to be on the doors. They were my answer. They were my hope.
As I exhaled and plotted my moment to run and everything I would do from that point on, the floor creaked in the hallway behind me.
It was now or never.
Live or die.
I took one more breath and pushed off from the wall…