The Quiet

I followed her gaze to the other side of the room, where there were two windows. One was closed tightly. But the other was opening slowly. I could see some kind of shadow come over the bottom.

Someone was coming inside.


19. Blackout

To make matters worse, the lights had decided to go out in the house. I only knew because the TV shut off, then when I tried a switch on the wall, nothing happened. I stood with my back to Clay, my eyes shut.

“Cari?” His voice was soft. “Are you alright?”

“Yes,” I breathed. “How are you?”

“Honestly,” he replied, like he was actually thinking about it, “I’m really freaked out. This isn’t what I had in mind when I thought about asking you out again.”

“Are you serious?” I muttered, still not turning around. “This isn’t exactly the best time to bring up the fact that you like me, don’t you think?”

Clay laughed nervously.

“I want to protect you,” he said.

I opened my eyes.

The couch squeaked as he got up. Then I felt his body against mine, his arms around my waist as he pulled me into a hug. He rested his chin on my shoulder, his lips so close to my ear that I could feel his warm breath.

“Clay,” I whispered, my voice tight. I wrapped my fingers around his wrists, meaning to pry them away, but his lips against my ear distracted me.

But he didn’t listen. Instead, he turned me around and kissed me. He tasted like spearmint, and as I reached up and tangled my fingers in his hair, my phone vibrated on the coffee table.

“Ignore it,” Clay muttered, his fingers against my cheek now.

“I can’t.” I pulled back and looked at him. “It might be my dad.”

He sighed and rested his forehead against mine. He backpedaled, got my phone, and gave it to me. “No caller ID. Be careful.”

I bit my lip and answered.

It was a girl’s voice.

“Cari Delagard? If this is you, it’s Lena Haywood.”

“Lena?” I said. Clay looked at me, his eyebrow raised. “How did you get this number?”

“I asked the office for it. Made up some bullshit story. Listen, have you seen the news?”

“Yes,” I said, nodding. I sat down on the couch. “What about it?”

“Did you get any calls from the asshole?” Lena asked.

“Yes,” I muttered. “Did you?”

“I need to talk to Clay.”

I blinked and gazed at him. He shrugged. I pressed SPEAKER and put the phone down. “How did you know he was with me?”

“Your car was still at the school when I left, his wasn’t. Now where he is?”

Her voice, somehow annoyed despite what was happening in the town, would have bothered me but tonight it didn’t.

“I’m here, Lena. Are you okay?” Clay asked as he sat down beside me.

“I don’t know. Look, I need to get somewhere safe. My house is pretty much in the middle of nowhere and I’m alone.”

In the glow of the cell phone screen, Clay turned his head toward me. Then he looked down. He slid his hand into mine and laced our fingers together, squeezing gently, protectively.

“You can come here,” I told her. “But be careful. This guy might be out on the roads somewhere, hacking up people, too.”

“Jesus, Delgard, you’re fucked up.” But Lena chuckled a little. “I’ll be there soon, if I don’t die on the way. It’s a mess out there.”

“Take it slow,” Clay said. “Traffic lights are probably out too.”

“No shit.”

Then the line went dead.

I leaned back against Clay, surprised at how relaxed I was feeling considering what was going on. Any normal person would have been terrified, and maybe I would be, if things got worse.

Slowly, I reached a hand up and touched the  necklace around Clay’s throat.

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