Aria’s words were muffled as she spoke rapidly next to me. All I could concentrate on was Tate. I didn’t want to think about where she was, what was happening, if that bastard had his hands on her. That last thought was making me so sick that I started to shake.

It had started to rain harder but I didn’t care. I felt the water drenching my hair and clothes but I didn’t care. I looked up and saw dark clouds rolling across the sky, blanketing it in blackness.

I was fairly certain that was a bad sign.

“Did you hear anything I just said?” Aria practically shouted at me.

I turned to her, moving my wet hair out of my face, and looked at the parking lot outside the school.

“Did you bring your car?” I asked loudly.

The wind howled in my ears, blocking out whatever she had said. I couldn’t read lips.

“We need to get to his house and it’s a long walk from here!”

We had walked far in a short time. We were almost to my house when I thought of something. There was no car in the driveway, which meant that my father had taken my truck somewhere. I opened the front door and waited for Aria to get inside.

I came in beside her and watched her walk around in the kitchen for awhile. She gathered her hair in one hand and squeezed, getting most of the water out. Then she tied it back and shivered.

“Do you not believe in heat?”

I frowned. “It won’t matter much since we have to go back in that storm.” She gave me a look. “We have to go on foot -- he knows what our cars look like.”

“This is like a creepy suspense movie,” she said as we stepped out into the rain again. It wasn’t as bad now.

“This isn’t a movie, Ari.”

I watched her shiver again, and I wondered this time if it really was from the rain and cold. I doubted it. I think she was staring to realize the gravity of the situation, and what was going to happen if we were too late.

“This isn’t real,” she said, shaking her head. She was walking faster, away from me now.

If we kept going in this direction, we were going to head straight toward--

“Her house is deserted at this time,” Aria told me. “Her mom works late.”

I stayed behind as she walked up the empty driveway and hopped onto the porch. She reached under the doormat and pulled out a silver key.

“Are you coming?” she asked, looking back.

I opened my mouth to say yes, to tell her that I just needed a minute, to say anything. But all I really wanted to tell her was that it didn’t matter now. If she was going to collect some of Tate’s things to bring to her, she was an idiot.

She was halfway inside the house before I found my voice. It was like thunder, loud and commanding.

“Aria, stop and listen to me!”

She froze, one foot on the carpet of the foyer, her other still on the mat outside. She turned her head and looked at me. For the first time since this started, she looked truly concerned for another person, as she should have from the beginning.

“What’s wrong, Cal?” she said, her eyes wide as she shut the door and came toward me. She looked afraid now. “You know what’s happened to Tate, don’t you?”

I nodded. “You should too.”

To my surprise, Aria’s hazel eyes filled with tears. She kept shaking her head, mumbling to herself. Cautiously, I moved closer to her, reaching.

“I don’t believe you.” She stepped back and glared at me. “Tate would never go with him.”

“Why the fuck do you think we’re out here? Why did I get his card, Aria? Put the pieces together.”

She flinched at my tone.

“This isn’t happening,” she muttered, squeezing her eyes shut. She nearly collapsed into me but I held her up. She buried her head into my chest and started crying.

“It won’t happen if you stand here and do nothing,” I said, dragging a hand through my hair. I hated being this much of a dick to her, but it was necessary. “Please let go of me so we’re not too late.”

She nodded and ripped the information card from my hand. Then she head South, leaving me to look after her. I followed quickly, hoping what we’d find when we got there was not an empty house with broken glass and a blood-stained floor.

The End

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