How deep does a grave have to be?
Wasn’t there something about animals?
Chloe gripped the small heart charm which hung about her neck, taking solace as the metal warmed beneath her hand. The blue-white beam of her flashlight bounced off dark tree trunks and the thick bed of wet leaves and twigs which covered the ground.
Would the rain make digging easier or harder she wondered?
The sound of crunching gravel alerted her to a car traveling up the long driveway even before she saw the headlights. Turning off her flashlight, she ran back towards the cabin, tripping over a half-buried log in her haste. Throwing open the rough wooden gate that separated the forest from the clearing, she raced across the yard, ignoring the ice cold water that seeped into her sneakers as her feet sank into the rain-soaked grass. Cringing at the loud squeak the back screen door made as she carefully opened it, Chloe crouched low as she crossed the study into the kitchen. Keeping her head down, she reached up and turned off the small lamp she always kept lit on her kitchen table. Without the soft warm glow, the cabin felt cold and still.
Chloe held her breath, straining to hear the sound of any movement outside. A car door. The sound of an engine turning off. If there was a god, the sound of gravel as the car turned around and left.
The anxiety of not knowing was too much. Chloe crawled across the linoleum, around the kitchen island. She paused and listened.
Trying to calm her pounding heart, she crept closer to the front door. Her knees ached from crawling on the hard floor. Her damp jeans chafed and clung to her hips with every movement. She could feel mud squishing between her toes inside her sneakers. All she wanted was to take a hot shower and forget this night ever happened. But that wasn’t possible…she could never wash away the horror of this night.
Grimacing as small pebbles, tracked inside from the driveway, cut into the palms of her hands, Chloe slowly crept into the mud room. The front door was straight ahead. It had an open window pane, so she kept low and to the shadows. Just beyond was the small porch and the gravel drive. Leaning against the wall to the right of the door, Chloe tilted her head and listened.
Her heartbeat finally slowed.
It must have been a neighbor driving by.
“Chloe. Open the door.”
Throwing her hand over her mouth to stifle a scream, Chloe scurried farther back along the wall, staring at the closed door with wild eyes.
There was another long, excruciating pause.
“I know you are in there. I need you to open the door.”
The dark command of his voice almost had her obeying. How did he know her name? Who was he? The police? She would have welcomed the police. An hour ago. But not now. Now it was too late. Maybe he was a friend of his. Just another reason why she couldn’t open the door. The cabin was dark. The doors locked. Her car was parked in the garage with the door closed. There was no real way for him to know she was inside. Maybe if she stayed quiet, he would give up and leave?
“Baby, I’m losing my patience. Trust me. You don’t want that.”
The deep tone of the stranger’s voice was getting harsher. Did she dare continue to defy him?
She moved her hand over the low shelf that ran along the wall at her back, encountering bug candles, rubber boots, and fishing tackle. Nothing that could be used as a weapon. There were her late uncle’s hunting rifles in the gun cabinet in the living room, but she would have to crawl back through the kitchen. The cabin was dark, but there was no way he would not see the outline of her movements through the front door window now that he was standing just on the other side. The door wasn’t even secured with a deadbolt, just a simple key lock. She lived in a cabin in the woods in the middle of nowhere in upstate Michigan where all the neighbors knew one another. There wasn’t a need for extraneous locks and deadbolts.
“I’m giving you one last chance to open this door, babygirl,” the stranger growled.
Chloe knew the old door with its old lock would not hold. She needed to make a decision.
The door handle rattled violently.
She was out of time.
Rising up, Chloe bolted back through the kitchen.
The sickening sound of splintering wood and shattering glass reverberated throughout the cabin.
Chloe’s wet soles skidded along the floor as she sharply turned right down the narrow hallway to the living room. The gun cabinet was just over the threshold. Her trembling hand closed over the brass handle. The guns weren’t loaded, but hopefully the stranger wouldn’t get close enough to notice. Wrenching the handle upwards, Chloe threw open the cabinet door and blindly reached in, feeling for the cold barrel of the rifle she knew was there.
A hand closed over her shoulder, spinning her about and slamming her against the wall. She had no chance to even scream. That same hand wrapped around her throat, the long fingers easily encircling the slender column till her jaw was pushed upwards, her head crushed painfully against the wall.
The sharp angles of the stranger’s face came into focus. His angry, lowered brow. Dark, unreadable eyes.
His full lips lifted in a sneer. “I warned you, baby.”
Chloe tried to rise up on her toes to ease the pressure on her throat. Desperately, she clawed at the man’s t-shirt. A garbled scream escaped her lips.
“Shhh…all that will do is piss me off more than I already am, and we don’t want that do we?” He’d leaned in close to whisper the ominous threat, his lips skimming along her jaw. The scrape of his stubble rubbed against the soft skin of her cheek.
She tried to shake her head no, but his grip on her throat would not allow it.
He spread his legs wide before leaning his hips forward, pressing into her body. He was a large beast of a man. Both his size and voice were frightening…intimidating.
He ran the back of his knuckles down her cheek. “Now, you are going to be a good girl and obey me.”
Chloe tried to convey her willingness with her eyes.
He seemed to understand because he released his grip on her throat, but he shifted his hips as if to remind her he still held a portion of her body prisoner. As if she needed reminding.
With a warning look in her direction, he flicked on the switch by her shoulder.
Chloe blinked as the room flooded with light. The moment her eyes adjusted, she caught her first real look at the stranger who had forced his way into her cabin. If he had not been holding her against the wall, her knees would have given out in sheer fright. Jesus Christ! The man looked like the type of prison thug you only saw in the movies…or mug shots on the news. Impossibly tall, his chest and arms were thick with muscle. He had a neck tattoo. A goddamn neck tattoo. Piercing blue eyes watched her with amusement.
“You like what you see, babygirl?”
Oh god, thought Chloe. She had survived one horror this night only to be raped and murdered by this man.
Maybe it was what she deserved.
He ran a finger over her collarbone and then traced the V-neck edge of her pink t-shirt.
Chloe bit her lip to keep from crying out. Her fists were clenched so hard, her palms hurt from where her fingernails bit into them.
Still he taunted her. His finger slowly ran up and down the edge of her neckline, till it dipped into the low vee. Hooking his finger into the flimsy, damp fabric, he pulled it towards him.
Chloe cried out in alarm and started to defensively raise her arms.
“Don’t,” he ordered.
She had no choice but to lower her limbs helplessly to her sides.
Her t-shirt gaped open, exposing her to his intense gaze.
Chloe closed her eyes in mortification. The generous top curves of her breasts encased in delicate white lace were clearly on display. Embroidered onto the bra, right in the center, nestled in her cleavage was a small pink design.
The stranger raised one dark eyebrow. “Hello Kitty?”
Chloe slowly nodded her head yes.
“Later I’m going to want a closer look at this cute bra, but for now, we have some business to attend to.”
A warm tear escaped the corner of her eye. Later? Her stomach twisted.
Her cabin was isolated and hard to reach during the day, let alone during a torrential storm in the middle of the night. Even if she were willing to call the police, they would never reach her in time. It would take the small force of Glennie at least an hour to respond to her call for help. She shuddered to think what this dangerous man could do to her in the span of an hour.
“Please,” she choked out. “The stones are in my office. In the safe.”
“The diamonds. Just take them.”
The man chuckled. The sinister sound was devoid of any mirth.
“I don’t give a fuck about any diamonds.”
“Then what do you want?”
The moment the question left her lips, she knew it was a mistake.
The man leaned in with his hips. The hard ridge of his arousal pressed against her stomach.
Chloe whimpered as she shifted her body to the side, desperately trying to break his hold.
What kind of man turned down diamonds? A crazy fuck, that’s who.
Chloe didn’t trust anyone who claimed to not be interested in money. Money was cold, unfeeling. Straightforward. Every horrible moment in her fucked up, twisted life could be traced back to someone else’s need for money. At least it made things uncomplicated. There was no wondering why or any deep self-reflection or even a need for that elusive idea of closure or meaning. She knew why…money.
There was only one other thing besides money that could influence a person’s actions…sex.
She could feel the ominous power of his intention as he used his body to cage her own.
She would not give in without a fight. Clenching her small hand into a fist, she lashed out. The fifteen carat, vintage amethyst ring she always wore caught him on the cheekbone. A droplet of blood trickled from the scratch caused by one of the diamond accents.
He raised two fingertips to swipe at the blood. Keeping his eyes trained on hers, his tongue flicked out to taste the crimson drop.
Watching him, she could almost taste the metallic tang on her own tongue.
“I was hoping you would fight me. It will make this all so much easier.”
Her scream was lost in the deep, dark woods.