- Author: Eva Robinson
Read book online «Influenced by Eva Robinson (love story books to read .TXT) 📕». Author - Eva Robinson
For Mike Omer who helped me with every aspect of this book.
2. Twenty-six days earlier
A sharp blow splintered the back of her head. Pain shot through her skull.
Stunned with the blinding pain, she stared out across the garden. The knock from behind had been a pure shock to her system, robbing her of rational thought. She wondered vaguely if she was ruining the party somehow.
She opened her mouth to scream, but she wasn’t sure if she was making any sound.
Gripping the railing, she tried to make sense of the world around her. A labyrinthine garden sprawled out beneath the old wooden deck. It stretched all the way to Fresh Pond, where dark water glittered in the distance. It should be peaceful here, but pain was ripping her head open, and someone was screaming.
Only now did she realize she’d dropped her phone onto the gravel path two stories below. It lay there, shattered.
Was she screaming, or was it someone else?
She nearly lost her balance over the railing, and she gripped it tighter. The feel of the rough wood under her hands sharpened her senses, and her thoughts crystallized.
Her friend wanted to kill her.
And if she didn’t get away right now, if she didn’t flee from this old mansion, she would die.
Right here, right now, her blood on the stones.
But before she could turn to run, thin fingers gripped her shoulders, so hard that they were digging into her flesh like talons.
Run, run, run.
Her blood roared in her ears.
“Wait—” she cried, but the word came out garbled.
A sharp, angry shove pushed her forward, and she flew over the edge of the railing. Wind whipped over her, and panic exploded in her mind with the rush of the fall.
A single thought rang out.
I don’t want to die.
When she hit the path, pain rocketed through her bones, through her head. She couldn’t breathe. Her lungs were collapsing.
I don’t want to die.
She couldn’t feel her legs anymore, couldn’t move them. She felt only the shattering pain in her head, in her ribs, her arms. When she sucked in a breath, it was like a knife piercing her lungs.
On the gravel path, she tried to pull herself forward, fingers digging in between the little rocks. An agonized grunt escaped her, an inhuman noise as she inched forward. Her legs weren’t working, but her fingers, her arms could pull…
Fractured with pain, her head lolled forward.
She couldn’t do it. Her body wasn’t working properly, and the pain was too much.
Quiet. Be very quiet, and maybe they won’t find you.
Someone still screamed above, shouting her name. Warm blood dripped from her ears, her nose… What if they thought she was dead? Maybe they’d leave her here.
How could she be quiet when her breath was so loud?
Quiet like a mouse. That was what her teacher had said long ago, when they’d hide behind bookshelves or under desks. The lockdown drills had scared her so much back then. The principal would walk through the halls with the bullhorn. He’d pretend to be the killer and they’d hide from the bad man, listening only to the sound of breathing, arms wrapped around knees, eyes closed. Dark rooms and death stalking the halls. Quiet like a mouse. That was how you survived. If you couldn’t run, you hid in the dark and hoped he never found you.
But death wasn’t coming in the form of a strange man stalking the halls. It was coming from a friend. Someone on a Victorian deck surrounded by fairy lights and colored lanterns.
She lifted her head a little, her gaze catching on the little gold bracelet. The fleur-de-lis charm glinted in the moonlight, engraved with S&O, ’09. Her thoughts drifted back to the past. The day she’d gotten it in high school, she had already known she’d never take it off. All the girls in their graduating year at her chichi private school had them. It marked her out as a member of an elite tribe, a graduate of Saltonstall and Oakes. She’d been destined for great things. Anyone could see that back then. Her chest ached for that day.
The sound of screaming pulled her back to the present, to the danger.
Should she be quiet, or try to move again?
Something was wrong with both her arms. The sound of a river rushed in her ears. For a dazed moment, she thought of her mom.
No, it wasn’t her mom she wanted…
Maybe she should try to pull herself forward again.
But shadows were filling her mind.
Twenty-six days earlier
In her cramped school office, Hannah felt like the walls were starting to close in. Morning sun filtered into the room, streaming over a desk strewn with papers. Test kits and books crammed the bookshelves around her room. Once, there’d been a time when she was organized. A time known as September. But by the time the school year was ending, chaos encroached from every crevice, from every mislabeled folder in the filing cabinet.
Sighing, she stared at the poster on one of the filing cabinets. Believe in Yourself, it said in rainbow colors, with stars shooting out from the bottom. She’d bought it two years ago, thinking it would spruce up a drab school psychologist’s office. Now the words seemed to have no meaning.
For a moment, she toyed with the golden fleur-de-lis charm on her bracelet, engraved for her graduation from Saltonstall and Oakes. Things had been much simpler back then, hadn’t they?
She’d never been this tired in high school.
During the first half of the night, she lay awake listening to an amateur house DJ upstairs. Then Nora, the love of her life and