Chapter no 27

A Flicker in the Dark


I hear a voice outside my bedroom door, barely audible above the shrieking of the alarm. It’s calling my name, but my eyes are still glued to the box in my hands. The box I found pushed to the back of the closet. The box that holds Aubrey Gravino’s necklace draped gently inside. All of a sudden, the sounds swirling around me evaporate away and I’m twelve again, sitting in my parents’ bedroom, watching that tiny ballerina twirl. I can almost hear the chimes, that rhythmic lullaby lulling me into a trance as I stare at the pile of jewelry ripped from dead skin.


My eyes glance up just as my bedroom door starts to creak open. Instinctively, I shut the box and slide it back into the closet, throwing a pile of clothes on top of it. I look around, looking for something, anything, to arm myself with when I see a man’s leg step into the bedroom, followed by a body. I’m so sure I’m about to see Bert Rhodes’s dead eyes and outstretched arms come barreling toward me that I barely even register Daniel’s face as he turns the corner and stares at me, huddled on the floor.

“Chloe, my God,” he says. “What are you doing?”

“Daniel?” I push myself up from the floor and start to run toward him until I stop in my tracks, remembering the necklace. Wondering how the hell that could have found its way into our closet unless someone put it there … and I know didn’t put it there. I hesitate. “What are you doing here?”

“I called you,” he yells. “How do you turn this fucking thing off?”

I blink a few times before pushing past him and running down the stairs, pounding a string of numbers into the system and shutting off the alarm. The deafening siren has now been replaced with deafening silence, and I can feel Daniel behind me, staring at me from the stairs.

“Chloe,” he says. “What were you doing in the closet?”

“I was looking for the gun,” I whisper, too afraid to turn around. “I didn’t know you were coming home tonight. You said tomorrow.”

“I called you,” he says again. “Your phone was off. I left a message.”

I hear him walk down the stairs and make his way over to me. I know I should turn around; I know I should face him. But right now, I can’t look at him. I can’t bring myself to look at his expression because I’m too terrified of what it might reveal.

“I didn’t want to stay away all night,” he says. “I wanted to get home to you.”

I feel his arms snake around my waist, and I bite my lip as he pushes his nose into my shoulder, inhaling slowly before kissing the side of my neck. He smells … different. Like sweat mixed with honey and vanilla perfume.

“I’m sorry if I scared you,” he says. “I missed you.”

I swallow, my body tense against his. The medicated calm I felt earlier tonight has evaporated completely, and I can feel my heart crashing against my chest with startling force. Daniel seems to feel it, too, and squeezes me tighter.

“I missed you, too,” I whisper, because I don’t know what else to say. “Let’s get back into bed,” he says, running his hands up my shirt and

across my stomach. “I’m sorry I woke you.”

“It’s fine,” I say, trying to pull away. But before I can, he flips me around so I’m facing him, and his arms hug me tighter, his lips pressing hard against my ear. I feel his breath hot on my cheek.

“Hey, you don’t have to be afraid,” he whispers, his fingers combing my hair. “I’ve got you.”

My jaw clenches as I remember those exact words exiting the mouth of my father. Me, running down that gravel roadway and up our steps, slamming into his outstretched arms. Him, hugging me tight. His body a vessel of warmth and safety and protection, whispering into my ear.

I’ve got you. I’ve got you.

That’s what Daniel has always been to me: warmth. Safety. Protection not only from the outside world, but also from myself. But in this moment, locked in his arms, the heat of his breath sending goose bumps up my neck,

a dead girl’s necklace hidden in the depths of our closet, I start to wonder if there is more to this man than what I’ve always thought. I think back to all those times I’ve gotten involved with someone and wondered: What are they hiding? What aren’t they telling me?

I think about my brother’s words, all of his warnings.

How can you really know someone that well in a year?

Daniel releases me from his grip and holds me by my shoulders, smiling in my direction. He looks tired, his skin uncharacteristically baggy and his hair ruffled out of place. I wonder what he’s been up to tonight, why he looks like this. He seems to notice me scanning his features because he runs his hand over his face, pulling his eyelids down with it.

“Long day,” he says, sighing. “Lots of driving. I’m going to shower, then let’s get to sleep.”

I nod, watching as he turns around and walks up the stairs. I refuse to move until I hear the hiss of the showerhead come alive, and only then do I exhale, unclench my fists, and follow behind him, cocooning myself as tightly as I can in the covers of our shared bed. When Daniel emerges from the shower, I pretend to be asleep, trying hard not to flinch when his bare skin slides against mine, when his hands start to massage the nape of my neck, or when he emerges from the covers minutes later, tiptoes across the bedroom, and slides the closet door shut.

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