Alana sat down at the kitchen table, staring hopelessly out into the moonless night. She knew Ben was out there. She didn’t need to see him; she could feel him. She’d felt his presence outside her door for weeks now. The officer camped outside wouldn’t phase him. With Ben getting to her would simply be a matter of time.
“Eat,” Jennifer said, sitting a hot bowl of soup in front of Alana. “I can’t believe Matt’s let you get as skinny as you have. He and I are gonna have a serious talk next time I see him.”
“Don’t bother,” Alana said. She pushed the bowl aside and laid her head on the table. “He’s tried to force food on me, but frankly I’m not hungry. Fear kinda does that to you.”
“I’ll be glad when they finally catch that son of a bitch. It’s already been too long. Surely they’ve got a fix on him by now.”
“Not according to the detective Matt’s been talking to. It’s like Ben just vanished into thin air.”
“Maybe he decided to high tail it outta here,” Jennifer suggested. “I’m sure getting a little taste of prison life has changed his perceptive on things considerably.”
“You think so, huh?” Alana asked. She stood up and walked to the doorway. “No, he’s out there. I know he is.”
“Hun, do you think maybe you’re being paranoid?” Alana turned around to look at her, stunned. “I’m not saying you don’t have every right to be. I’m just saying maybe he’s changed his way of thinking a little bit. Prison does change people.”
“Yeah,” Matt mumbled, stomping in through the living room. “It changes people for the worst.”
“When did you get here?” Jennifer asked him. “I thought you had a date tonight.”
“I do,” he shrugged. “She’s waiting in the living room.” He glanced at the un-eaten bowl of soup on the table and shook his head. “I see you didn’t have much luck either.”
“Not even a bite,” Jennifer said. “Carly again?”
“Yeah, she’s a pretty cool gal once you get to know her.”
Alana tuned out the conversation and turned her attention outside. It was so quiet out there tonight. The crickets had all but disappeared. She hadn’t seen hide nor hair of the barn owl that usually nested in the big oak tree beside her back porch. The normal sounds of cats chasing mice have been non-existent for days now. Why?
Then she saw him. In the bushes across the courtyard she could see a pair of glowing eyes peering out of the bushes. Though he hadn’t revealed himself, she’d know that cold stare anywhere. Ben was indeed waiting for her. Her body began to shake uncontrollably. Her breathing irregular.
“Lana?” Matt said. “Lana!!” He rushed to her side as she collapsed to the floor. Nicholas, who until now had been listening from the bedroom upstairs, flew to Alana’s side. He’d been worried about her health lately too, but was helpless to much more than slip her a little blood now and then while she slept. “Dammit, I knew all this was gonna catch up with you sooner or later. You’ve got to stop doing this to yourself!”
“Yeah, yell at her,” Jennifer shot at him. “See how well that works.” She wet a hand towel and held against Alana’s head. “What in the hell just happened?”
“He’s here,” Carly said, from the kitchen doorway. Placing herself between the door and Alana, she looked into the dark court yard and finally saw the same pair of eyes she had. “Right there,” she said pointing at the row of hedges across the way. “I’m guessing that’s where he stays every night.”
Jennifer jumped up and looked in the direction the girl was pointing to. By now Ben was standing just feet away from them. Matt pulled Alana closer to him. Carly stepped forward to further block Ben’s view. Jennifer’s eyes moved from one to the other, stunned to see Matt hadn’t already gone out there and taken Ben’s head off.
“Well if you’re not gonna go out there and rip him a new one, I will.” She got as far as placing her hand on the latch before her body was thrown to the floor. When she looked up she saw the back of a man she’d never seen before walking straight towards Ben. She stood up and started for the door again. This time Matt caught her by the ankle. “What is up with you? I thought you wanted him to pay for what he did to her. Yet you sit there?”
“Look at him,” Carly whispered. “Does it look like any of us could hurt him? It’s best to stay where we are for now.”
Ben did look different. Both Alana and Jennifer had to agree with that. Somehow he looked crazier; stronger. There was also an air of superiority emanating off him. That was something he’d never had before. Alana has long thought his insecurity is what prompted him to attack in the first place, but now that it was gone she wasn’t so sure. He looked even more dangerous now.
“What do we do?” Matt asked Carly. “We can’t let him stay here. You already said he’s part of this.”
“He may be her best defense,” Carly said gravely. She’d been right about Nicholas. All his nights were spent here. “He’s obviously claimed her.”
“But he’s the reason Ben’s back. And,” he stopped and looked at the two men outside. “And like that.”
“Like what?” Jennifer asked. Apparently she was missing a huge chunk of the puzzle.
Alana watched them closer. The man with his back to them seemed familiar. There was something about his voice that calmed her. Even now, while he stands outside threatening to kill a man his voice was soothing.
She let it fill her, consume her. She liked the warmth his low, soft tone brought to her. It was as soothing as a lullaby…Contentment washed over. That’s until she heard someone say those words.