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Rowe took a step forward. “Stay right there”, Jace ordered. His eyes flashed. Rowe stopped. One hand extended toward Gray. The other was resting on the door handle. She was at a loss of what to do. Rowe looked to Gray. He showed no sign of fear. In fact, he appeared bored. His indifference angered Rowe. How could he be calm?
She took another step. Jace pressed the gun further into Gray’s head. “Don’t tempt me Rowena”, he threatened. This was Jace’s element: calling the shots, with lives on the line. Rowe attempted calm. However, this was no easy feat. Her panic progressed into hyperventilation. Rowe wrapped her arms around her stomach. Closing her eyes, she hummed the first tune to spring to mind.
Rowe was running through the atrium. Time ticked by, as a merciless bomb waiting to go off. It was proving difficult to find Dahlia. The Tudor-style manor, built in the 1900s, mocked her with its secret tunnels and passageways. Jace acquired it during his prior business days.
She felt angry with herself. Why had she chosen the chateau as the boundaries for Ransom? At the time, it seemed a good idea. However, now Rowe regretted it. Jace was a step ahead. As he always is.
Rowe ceased from wandering about the house. Her effort was proving fruitless and time was running out. Something clashed up ahead. The noise issued from the kitchen. Rowe stopped abruptly. She stood a few feet from the open kitchen door. She felt vulnerable. Jace forbid Rowe from carrying a weapon. Another cheating tactic, since everyone else would have a weapon. A part from Dahlia and Gray; the Favors were never given weapons.
A cutlass hung on the wall beside Rowe. One of Jace’s many prized possessions. A part from her, Rowe thought to herself. Rowe removed it from the wall. She did not care if Jace would be upset. Rowe made a promise to her sister. One she would not break if she could help it.
Rowe jumped into the kitchen. The stainless steel oven clock read 2:00am. Two hours! Two hours since the game started. Three hours since she had seen Elle. Four hours since she met secretly with Gray in the Atrium. Rowe peered around the kitchen. It looked undisturbed. A stainless steel serving spoon lay on the ground. Rowe bent down to pick it up. A door opened and slammed shut. She stood to her feet. Rowe wheeled around. She brandished the sword, as she had seen in pirate films. The shutters, covering the back door, quivered. It must have been Dahlia, Rowe thought.
Rowe cracked open the back door. The dark grounds looked ominous. Silhouettes of hills and forest covered the surrounding acres. When Elle was younger, Rowe would tell her stories about the towering trees. Tales of how the trees protected and shielded them from harm. However now, these billowing giants resembled prison guards.
Rowe tiptoed across the soft grass. The balmy weather silenced her footsteps. This hot July month was proving useful. Rowe scanned the yard. The familiar grounds induced memories of playing hide and seek with Dahlia and Elle. That was a different time, before the nonsense and games.
A wrenching scream rang through the air. Rowe spun around several times. She knew that scream. Rowe ran blindly forward. She tripped over tree roots, but did not stop. What could make her scream like that? Another scream sounded. This one drawn out and closer. Several birds flew from their homes. She must have left the planting fields. Rowe disregarded her loud steps. The game did not matter anymore. Elle was in danger.
“Stop it!” Someone slapped Rowe’s face. Her eyes flew open. Dahlia stood before Rowe. Her face contorted with rage. Rowe did not respond. Dahlia’s anger was confusing. “Stop humming that”, Dahlia whispered in a horrified tone. “You were the one who created that song”, Rowe accused. “Please don’t hum it again”, Dahlia pleaded. Her voice wavered.
“Dahlia, that’s enough”, Jace drawled. She did not move. Dahlia stared at Rowe.
Footsteps rushed up behind them. London bolted pass Rowe and Dahlia. “You gave me an empty gun Jace”, she shouted. London threw the gun at his feet. “Clearly it was a good idea”, Jace responded, without looking at her. His focus was only on Rowe. London flushed. Dahlia went to her sister. “That’s enough London”, she chided. London shook her off. “Stop bossing me around Dahlia.” She stood beside Gray. Dahlia went to Jace.
Aspen staggered toward Jace. Rowe was satisfied to see his eyes and nose swelling greatly. Gray flashed a mischievous grin at Rowe. “Aspen, what happened?” Gray teased. Aspen ignored him. He stood by the roof ledge.
Despite the events around him, Jace never took his eyes off Rowe. “You have two choices Rowena. Come with me willingly and I will not shoot Gray. However, if you fight me; I will end Gray’s life in front of you.” Rowe considered him. “What will you do with Gray if I go with you?” Jace smiled. “I will set him free. I am a man of my word.” Jace crossed his forefinger over his heart.
Rowe did not respond. She knew Jace would never let Gray go. Jace used to make this specific deal with past clients. He would make a deal with the client, promising not to kill them. Once he obtained all that he wanted, Jace would then kill them. “Tying up loose ends”, is what he used to call it.
Another set of footsteps climbed the stairs. Labored breathing accompanied them. Gavin stood beside Rowe. He clutched his side. Blood was seeping through his hand. In his other hand, Gavin held a handgun. Rowe recognized it from years ago. He never went anywhere without it. Gavin fell to his knees. His skin color paled greatly.
Rowe kicked the gun out of his hand. It clattered to the ground. Dahlia and London ran at her. In one swift movement, Rowe lunged for the gun and jumped to her feet. She pointed it at Dahlia and London. Both halted.
She then pointed it at Gavin’s head. “Choose Jace! Me or Gavin?”
Copyright © 2014 SarahHardy. All Rights Reserved.