2. Spark

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Of all the men Ray brought home, Trenton was the worst. Outside of the often visible and audible PDA they engaged in, he never seemed to leave. Reagan, now 15, usually ignored her mother’s company, since they never stuck around long anyway.

Reagan stood in the bathroom, snapping pictures of herself in the new striped shirt she’d purchased with her first paycheck. She’d felt him creep past a few times, but ignored him. If he was hovering for the bathroom, he could wait; this was HER house.

The last time he walked by, he lingered in the doorway. Even though he was obviously homeless, his clothes and shoes were always brand new. “Don’t you think those shorts are too short?” he said. Reagan turned to see his eyes snap back upward to her face.
“What?” she said. Normally, she’d answer respectfully, since he was an adult, but she didn’t take kindly to her mother’s company talking to her. At all.
“You got…a lot going on. I don’t want anyone getting the wrong idea about you,” he said. By now, he was obviously looking at her body with more than concern. Reagan reached the handle and slammed the door in his face.
 
She remained there for the rest of the afternoon. Alma marched up the stairs and banged on the door with all the strength her palm could muster. “Reagan Mae Dobson, you better get the hell out my bathroom before I tear this door off the frame!”

Reagan opened the door, now clad in her grandmother’s robe. “I thought you had somewhere to be. Why are you in my robe?” Reagan tried to open her mouth and tell her grandmother what happened but she closed it. The only thing she felt was shame and couldn’t handle whatever her grandmother would say. She crossed the hall into her bedroom and shut the door.

Alma was on her heels, joining her in the room before the latch could catch in the doorframe. “Reagan, talk to me,” Alma said. She knew something was wrong with her granddaughter and she feared the worst.
“Trenton told me my shorts were too short.”
“Well, who the hell is he? If I bought them, they’re okay.”
“No. It’s not that,” Reagan said, folding her arms across her chest. She couldn’t shake the disgust that snaked up her spine. Alma sat on the bed next to her granddaughter, patient as she waited for her reply.
“It was the way he…looked at me. Like he does when he follows Mah into another room.”
“Lust,” Alma sighed. Beneath the surface of her smooth cocoa skin, she was fuming.
“Talking about he didn’t ‘want anyone to get the wrong idea about me’,” Reagan said. She roughly wiped away the tears that had begun to fall, annoyed she’d become this emotional again. Alma pulled the girl into her chest and held her. “You didn’t do anything wrong, Reagan. You’re a good girl, you always have been and I promise that it will never happen again, as long as you are under this roof and there is breath in my body.”

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1. Return

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Reagan didn’t know what to expect when she crossed the threshold of her childhood home. The walls had been repainted, the furniture was replaced but she still recognized it as home. Her grandmother’s wall of plants were still thriving, perfectly placed in front of the bay window. “Gigi? Mah? You guys here?” Reagan said, dropping her backpack on the couch. She walked down the hall towards the kitchen, hoping her grandmother was cooking a welcome home feast of all her favorite high-calorie foods. She found the kitchen spotless and empty.

Reagan made her way throughout the rest of the house until she found her old bedroom, still decorated with her Word Up! Posters of boy bands long gone. The collage of photos hung over her desk, full of pictures of friends and postcards of destinations she’d planned to take. The bed was freshly made, dressed with new yellow linens to match the yellow throw rug at the foot of the bed. As she slipped deeper into her nostalgia, she heard the heavy front door open and close. She galloped down the stairs to see her mother, kicking off a pair of 5 inch heels.

“Hey Mah,” Reagan said, coming down the rest of the stairs.
“Reagan? My baby!” Ray said, throwing her arms around her daughter. “I didn’t know you were coming in today! I would’ve taken the day off!”
“It’s fine, I just got here. Where’s Gigi?”
“It’s Wednesday. She’s got her card game with the biddies down the street. Come in, let me look at you!” Ray said, spinning her daughter around. They sat on the couch and Ray threw her arms around her daughter again.
“I have missed you SO much!”
“I missed you too, Mah.”
“Tell me everything. What happened with you and what’s his name? Jetson?”
“Hudson. And nothing really. He proposed, I said no, then bought a plane ticket,” Reagan said, shrugging her shoulders.
Ray patted her daughter on the thigh. “Good for you, baby. Don’t let these nappy-head niggas tie you down. You have so much more going for you than being a wife,” Ray said before standing again.
“We need to celebrate! Let’s go out tonight!” Ray said, pulling her daughter from the couch. Reagan had forgotten how much natural energy her mother had. “I don’t know, Mah, I kinda just want dinner and a hot bath.”
“Oh, don’t start that old lady shit with me! I get enough of that from Mah!”

As if on cue, the front door opened once more and Alma Mae entered the house and took in the scene. “Reagan! Baby!” Alma said, pulling her granddaughter into a tight embrace.
“Hi Gigi!” Reagan said, embracing her grandmother. Alma even smelled the same to Reagan, like warm shortbread cookies.
“What are you doing here? I thought you didn’t come in for another few days.”
“I was…really anxious about getting here,” Reagan said, partially fibbing.
“Anxious to get away from that Jetson boy,” Ray said, sauntering into the kitchen.
“Hudson and no, I was not,” Reagan yelled after her mother.
“Why, what happened boo?”
“He just…proposed a little.”
“OH MY LORD JESUS! Let me see the ring!” Alma said, clapping her hands together.
Before Reagan could offer an explanation, Alma had pulled her left hand up to inspect the ring that wasn’t there.
“He didn’t have a ring?” She asked, her top lip turned slightly in disgust.
“I didn’t accept it.”
“Oh, honey, you can always go pick out a new one. That’s what gift receipts are for,” Alma said as she headed to the kitchen behind her daughter. Reagan sighed before following them.
“I didn’t accept his proposal,” Reagan said, sitting down at the table.
Alma, who had begun pulling leftovers from the fridge, froze. “Well, why not?” she said, dropping the Tupperware on the table with a little too much gusto. Ray snorted into the glass of lemonade she’d poured.
“Maybe she doesn’t want to be tied down to some ain’t shit man for the rest of her life.”
“Oh, shut up Ray,” Alma said, swatting at her daughter.
“I don’t know. I just wasn’t…excited. I always thought when I met the one, I’d feel it. Sparks or something,” Reagan said, shrugging her shoulders.
“You don’t have to settle. There are plenty of men who will set your whole person ablaze,” Ray said, setting another glass in front of her daughter.
“Sparks are overrated. I felt sparks the first time I met your grandfather. Sparks lead to fire,” Alma said, sipping from the glass her daughter left unattended.

The woman straightened her dress after she pressed the doorbell. She’d seen the address on Theodore’s driver’s license so many times, she had it memorized: 341 Tireman Rd. The woman, his wife, opened the door and dried her hands on the towel she’d draped on her shoulder. It was the day before the holiday, July 3rd and she had plenty of food to prep before the family arrived.
“Yes?” Alma asked the mystery woman. She was empty-handed so Alma immediately knew she wasn’t a saleswoman.
“Alma Dobson?”
“Yes?” Alma repeated, finding herself annoyed.
“Who is it, Mommy?” A little girl appeared behind her mother, the spitting image of Theodore, with pigtails.
“Mind your business, Almathea.”
“Hi, little lady. What’s your name?” the woman asked the small child, kneeling slightly. Alma stepped in front of her child and placed her hand on her hip.
“Can I help you?”
“I just wanted to know if Theodore was coming home,” the woman said, straightening suddenly and staring Alma square in the eye.
“It’s the holiday. Theodore is already home.”
The woman chuckled and licked her lips, prepared to spill the secret she’d been keeping for weeks.
“Everyone knows he’s just playing house over here, until he gets up the courage. He might be afraid of you, but I’m not. I just wanted to let you know that—“
“Know what? You need to talk a little faster,” Alma said.
“Your husband has been sleeping with me. For weeks now. I just wanted to be a woman and let you know that we plan on getting married.”

Alma’s face didn’t budge, not from surprise or distress; she’d already known about her husband’s extracurricular activities. “Is that all?”
“I’d just like to know when Theodore is coming home,” the woman repeated, gathering up what little dignity she had left. Alma grinned at her audacity.
“You enjoy your weekend,” Alma said, attempting to shut the door, when the woman stuck her foot in the doorframe.
“Excuse me, bitch, I wasn’t done,” the woman said, trying to push the door off her now-pinned foot.

What happened next would be talked about for months and would prevent any of Theodore’s women from darkening their doorway. Alma opened the door again and stepped onto the porch, forcing the woman to take a step back.
“Theodore Macrae Dobson lives at 341 Tireman Rd,” Alma said before backhanding the woman with her left hand. The strike stunned her and knocked her to the ground.
“There is but ONE bitch with paperwork on Theodore Dobson,” she said, before punching the woman full in the face. She tried to crawl down the steps before Alma grabbed her and shoved her into the banister three times, breaking several of the wooden planks on the side.
“That bitch’s name is Alma Mae Dobson and if you ever come over here again, thinking you run some shit, you better remember that you are on MY property and the police won’t think twice about me defending my home and my family,” Alma said, before kneeling to whisper in the woman’s ear. “With my pistol,” she said before throwing the woman out onto the street.

Theodore, tall and dark, bound out the house when he heard the commotion from the kitchen. He came out to see his wife walking back into the house while Whitney struggled to stand in the street, her face covered in blood. Stunned, he turned to Alma, who kissed him sweetly on the lips before asking “Are the ribs done, baby?”

“Gigi, when are you gonna get this porch fixed?” Reagan asked, as she began pulling her boxes from the car out front. Alma stopped and admired the broken posts. “They remind me of your granddaddy,” she said, smiling to herself.

Ray didn’t give her daughter a chance to unpack before she began demanding they go out. “Here, wear this,” she said, tossing her daughter a strappy navy-blue dress.
“Mah, really?” Reagan said, inspecting the dress. Knowing her mother, it would reveal way more than Reagan was comfortable, however, she knew her mother would pick out something much worse if she complained.
“Just put it on!”

Dressed, Reagan tiptoed into her mother’s room and watched her at her vanity. Even as a child, Reagan loved watching her mother get ready to leave out, because she made everything seem as though it were a special occasion. Even in her 40s, she was still exceptionally beautiful and she used that beauty to pass for a woman in her 30s. Everything about her appearance had to be perfect and in place. Ray had encouraged her daughter to be everything she could be: smart, funny, cultured, but her emphasis on beauty was paramount.
Alma walked by and spotted her daughter in her mirror before she whispered in Reagan’s ear. “Maybe you guys will be gone by Labor Day.”
“I heard that!” Ray said, never taking her eyes off the mirror as she drew a perfect line of eyeliner. “I am so excited that you are here, Reagan. I just started going to this new place called Clover and I just LOVE it! And the men,” Ray said, before giving a suggestive shiver.
“I thought it would just be us, Mah,” Reagan said, sitting as best as she could on the end of the bed in the bandage dress.
“What’s a party without men?” Ray said as she sprayed setting spray all over her face.

The party at Clover seemed to be just that: men of varying ages, shooting their shots at every available woman in the room. As soon as Ray and Reagan entered, they were swept up in a bevy of offers and compliments. Ray, a frequent flier, danced away, eager to entertain her new friends, leaving Reagan standing awkwardly near the exit. She migrated to the bar, where she planned on staying until her mother tired herself out.
“What can I get you?” the pretty blonde bartender asked.
“Jameson and coke,” Reagan said, before surveying the room. Out the corner of her eye, she spotted her mother climbing up onto a table and dancing to the Migos song that was playing.
“Actually, hold the coke,” Reagan said over her shouder to the bartender.

An hour had gone by before she saw her mother again, who had rushed to the bar on the arm of a stranger. “Reagan! Meet Hammer! Hammer, this is my daughter, Reagan,” Ray said, snuggling up to the large man.
Hammer?” Reagan said, giving her mother an incredulous look.
“Daughter? You guys could be sisters,” the man said, looking too hard at the two of them. Reagan could sense the gross thoughts that were crossing his mind as he stood in front of two beautiful women and she scoffed.
“Can I buy you another drink?” he asked.
“No, Hammer, I’m good,” Reagan said, before downing the remainder of her third drink and walking off.

Ray followed her daughter to the bathroom, where she was washing her hands. “Are you ready to leave?”
“Yeah, kinda. I don’t wanna stop the party between you and Hammer,” Reagan said sarcastically.
“I’m sorry, I just wanted to cheer you up.” Reagan sighed as she looked up in the mirror at her mother.
“No. I’m sorry. I have been a Debbie Downer today. I guess I’m just more tired than I thought. We don’t have to leave if you don’t want.”
“Or…you could take the car and I can ride with Hammer,” Ray said, smiling.
Reagan turned around, ready to tell her mother off. It annoyed Reagan that her mother was still up to her old tricks and had used her as an excuse. However, the whiskey was kicking in and she wanted nothing more to lay in her bed. Plus, she’d just be wasting her breath. Her mother would never change. “Sure, Mom. Have fun,” Reagan said, pulling her mother into a tight hug.

Handsome

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The cardboard box in Marie’s front seat jingled as the car came to a halt. It had recently been filled with her personal items from a cramped desk after she was emailed a layoff notice. She sighed as she yanked her purse from beneath it and left the car.

Woody’s was her normal haunt on the weekends, a means of celebrating her often short-lived weekends with her friends. During the week, like this particular Wednesday, the place resembled a ghost town.
“Whiskey, please. Make it a double,” she said, perching on one of the lesser worn stools at the end of the bar. The bartender, one of the weekday workers, poured the drink swiftly and slid it in front of her. Marie downed the drink in one gulp.
“Another one, please.”
“Looks like you had the same kind of day I had,” said the man several seats away.

She hadn’t noticed him, at first. She’d been too preoccupied with her drink choice before deciding it didn’t matter; it wasn’t as if she had to work in the morning. Now, looking at him, he was far more attractive than his surroundings. “Well, I just lost a really cushy job. Of course, they wanted me to finish the day first,” she said, taking a sip from the fresh glass in front of her.
“I guess we both learned how little we matter today,” he said. His words stung a little deeper than she expected.
“I’m sorry. My girlfriend…she left me today,” he said, shaking his head before sipping the clear drink in front of him.
“Her loss,” Marie said, raising her glass and taking a sip as well. The man wiped his hand on his jeans before extending it to Marie, leaning across the seats between them.
“Jefferson,” he said with a grin.
“Marie.” Continue reading

More of the Same

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The stove’s clock changed to 10:52 silently. The flat was dark, except for the dim light that shined in from outside. Sonia sat at the dining room table, spinning her 3rd glass of cognac between her fingers. The last 6 years had been the same: her husband would walk out the door for work and manage to find his way between the legs of a young co-ed. Marcus was beautiful and charming in the beginning. He’d lavished her with gifts and trips, promising that she was the only woman he’d ever loved. They consummated their relationship in the balmy waters of Santorini & they were inseparable from then on. The first year they were married was everything she’d hoped. He spoiled her, prompting to her to quit the measly desk work she’d believed was her career. He helped her mother & sister move to a better home in a better community and doted on his wife, loving her as largely as he could. Continue reading

The Trouble with Diamonds: Ten

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He pushed deeper inside of his wife. Her gasp pushed her warm breath onto his full lips, her brow furrowed in borrowed ecstasy. He wound his arms around her, sharing the air between their mouths and the sweat on their skin. “Tell me you love me,” he said as he watched her. She squirmed on top of him, trapped like a field mouse and its slithering predator. He filled her again and again with no remorse for her moans. “Tell me. Say it.”
“I love you.”

He rolled over deftly, still tucked away but she was different, her scent spreading through the room: honeysuckle and orchids. She pushed her knees back so he could peer down and watch her love bloom for him. He pressed his lips onto her knees as he dipped inside of her. He could feel every muscle inside of her twitch around him and he felt himself unravel with every thrust. He wanted to hate her; he wanted to stop and drag her into the deepest hole the federal government could provide. Yet, he wanted nothing but to bury himself deep inside of her, to release the thick sorrow and melancholy that kept him captive. He was trapped in quicksand; a harrowing love for his dead wife and the forbidden lust he possessed for the thief.

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The Trouble With Diamonds: Eight

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Olivia squealed as Dorian picked her up in a bear hug and swung her around. “Congrats, baby!” she laughed. He set her down gently and kissed her cherry red lips. His graduation from Quantico was a huge achievement, however, it wasn’t the reason behind his fluttering heart. “Marry me,” he said, his forehead pressed against hers. “Shut up,” she said, slapping his chest and laughing. He caught her arm and sank down on one knee. He reached in his inner pocket and produced the blue box holding the single solitaire. “Olivia…” he began. They’d only been dating for 8 months but Dorian was sure the sun rose and set with her. “I’ve never been in love before you. I’ve never known someone so amazing, so loving, so deserving of everything the universe has to offer and if you say yes, I promise I will spend the rest of my life trying to give it to you.” Olivia’s eyes swelled with tears at the beautiful man knelt before her. Her head was nodding before she could get the words from her lips. “Yes!”

“Where the fuck is the power?!” Dorian yelled into his earpiece, making his way through the dark and panic. It was her, it had to be. As soon the power was out, she slipped from his grip and into the darkness. “I had her!” he yelled as he got closer to the Markov. “Sanchez, do you have eyes?!”
“I can’t see shit! It’s pitch black!” The party began to grow more and more anxious in the dark, escalating to some screams and raised voices. “Everyone, everyone, please remain calm! We are working on this issue as expeditious as possible! If you can all just stay where you are to prevent any further injuries,” Mayor Hayes said from somewhere in the dark.

“Maverick, what the fuck happened? We still had time!” Noelle said, pushing through the obscured guests. “I may or may not have blown the power for the entire Eastern grid. Don’t worry, I’m working on getting it back! I guess it couldn’t handle the surges I was sending to the security systems and I didn’t realize that…”
“Maverick! Focus! I wasn’t in position! How long until the power comes back on?” Noelle barked when suddenly, the lights flickered on in the manor. “The entire grid just came back live! I didn’t do this!” Noelle had nearly made it to the display holding the Markov when she noticed the glass case was already empty. “Oh my God, it’s gone.”

“What’s gone?”
“My wedding ring! I took it off to wash my hands and when I looked back, it was gone!” Olivia half-sobbed. “Hey, no, it’s ok, baby, we’ll find it.”
“I can’t believe I even took it off…” she said as he pulled her into his chest. “Don’t cry baby. If it’s really gone, we’ll just get another one.”
“That’s not why I’m crying….I…I just haven’t told you…” Dorian’s heart dropped into his stomach. Her tone had changed and he immediately feared the worst. In the few months they’d been married, they’d been fighting more frequently. At first he wrote it off as the end of the honeymoon phase, but after the things she said to him last night, he slept on the couch. He silently prayed for control over his temper over whatever she told him, no matter how awful. He pulled her away and looked in her tearful eyes. “My emotions have been all over the place and making me a little crazy lately and I just decided to take a test and….I’m pregnant.” She could tell Dorian was braced for bad news and it took a few seconds for his steely resolve to melt. “You mean…I’m gonna be a daddy?”

She had to move fast when she saw the Fed making his way towards her; it would be a matter of seconds before he and his backup surrounded her. She ducked out of sight into a nearby hallway. She needed a few seconds to look over the plans for the house again when she spotted it out the corner of her eye: her father’s coin. Tied to string, it dangled on the doorknob catty-corner to her position. She crossed the hall and examined the coin closely. She instantly recognized the symbols on either side. How did it get there? Who put it there? Questions burned in her mind until her adrenaline prodded her. It had to be a sign. She pushed the door open and slipped inside.

The office was decorated warmly: pewter green wall, gray carpet and a large oak desk decorated the east side of the room. A French double door was situated on the other side, showcasing the grounds towards the main entrance. Someone had given her a way out. She had no time to contemplate the mire; she needed to run. Now. She kicked off the gold heels and pushed through the doors in a full sprint.

Dorian had made his way to the front door as the party continued on inside. He scanned the view until he spotted the woman in white hopping into her red Corvette. He drew his weapon and pointed in her direction. “FBI! FREEZE!” There was no way Noelle was giving up that easily. She peeled away from the curb, almost hitting the valet and burned rubber down the driveway. “Dammit!” Dorian yelled as he galloped down the stairs. He made his way to the Mustang being pulled around. “FBI! I need this vehicle,” he said as he shoved the valet out the way. He sped around and down the driveway after the thief.

“Shaw, where the hell did you go?”
“I am in pursuit of the suspect! Female, African American, approximately 25-30 years old, driving a red 2017 Corvette!”
“I’ll put local P.D. in the loop. Dorian, are you SURE she has the bracelet?”
“Affirmative. I’m going after her ass,” Dorian said, before hanging up the phone. The hum of their engines ripped through the air as they sped down to the expressway. Dorian remained mere paces behind her as she zig zagged through traffic trying to lose him. Noelle hit redial as she dodged a Caravan in the farthest lane. “Maverick, I need you to get me out of here. I got a Fed on my tail!”
“Whoa, FBI?! How did that…”
“Never mind, Gina! I need to lose him!”
“Take the expressway for 4 more miles. You’re close to the Casup Basin. There are a few cabins still in those woods.” Noelle stomped on the accelerator hard and shot away from her pursuer, eager to get out of sight. “Exit’s on your left!” Maverick yelled as she watched her GPS display of Noelle’s location. Noelle turned the steering wheel hard and zoomed across three lanes to get off the freeway. “Shit!” The Fed yelled, nearly having to make a U-turn in front of several cars.

“Push, Olivia, push!”
“I CAN’T!” she yelled before collapsing back into his arms. “Please…we can still make it to the hospital, Dorian,” she sobbed. Her labor began and progressed quickly, too quickly for them to make the trip to the hospital like they’d planned. “How long before that ambulance gets here?” Dorian barked into the phone. “I’m sorry, sir, but they are still 20 minutes out due to the collapse. From the sound of things, I’m gonna have to walk you through delivering your daughter,” the 911 operator said calmly into the phone. Olivia, slick from sweat, shook her head furiously. “No, no, no, no, please, I can’t—“ she began before she was overwhelmed by another contraction. She let out a scream that sent a shiver down Dorian’s spine. “Dorian, can you please look between Olivia’s legs and describe to me what you see?” He kissed his wife on the top of her head before changing his position on the bathroom floor. “Oh my God! I think I see the head!”
“Ok, Olivia, that means you’re crowning. You need to push as hard and as long as you can so you can have your baby tonight, ok?”
“No, no, we had a plan. Dorian, tell her, we had a plan,” she said, on the brink of exhaustion. “Hey, hey, look at me,” he said to her. “You are going to have our baby tonight. But I need my warrior right now. I’m not giving up on you and I’m sure as hell not letting you give up. So on my count, I need you to push hard and long so we can meet our kid, ok?” The tears welling in Dorian’s eyes were enough to convince her. “With me, one, two, THREE!”

“Shaw, what….your….-cation?” Dorson yelled into the phone. His connection faded the farther he drove into the woods around the lake. “She’s in the Basin! I’m not gonna lose her!” he yelled before the phone disconnected. He threw the phone into the seat next to him and pushed on. Noelle steered the car deeper and deeper into the darkening woods but with every turn she made, the headlights behind her followed. Dorian pushed the car next to hers, both of them casting heated glances at one another. He turned the wheel and bumped the back of the Corvette with the front of the Mustang. Noelle shot an incredulous look at the Fed before she tried to zoom away, however, the ground had become too muddy for the car to gain necessary traction. Noelle, afraid for her life, veered the car away from his last bump and steered the car over a log. The car skidded down a slight embankment and rolled twice before landing on its lid. Dorian slammed on the brakes but the mired ground sent him sailing headfirst into a large oak tree.

Pillow Talk

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He had been watching her for a while.

She laughed loudly with her friends, taking occasional sips of her Cosmo. Her hair was slicked back neatly into a ponytail, accentuating her face.

He had finally worked up the nerve to talk to her, pouring the last of the whiskey into his mouth. “Amanda”, but her friends called her “Mandy”. They talked, she flirted; batting her long eyelashes and touching his arms. She took the final sip of her drink and he could tell she was already drunk, even though it was only 9pm, even though she did her best to remain poised.
Let’s get out of here.

The motel was clean enough. She paid no mind to its order; she was too excited about being entangled in the arms of this beautiful man. They stood in the doorway, entertaining the empty parking lot with their kisses and groping. She gasped as he bit her ear and kissed her neck. She wrapped her leg around his waist and pulled him closer to her. He lost himself in her perfume, pushing his face into her bosom. They made their way to the bed, the heavy door snapping shut behind them. He tossed her onto the bed, sending her down with a squeal and a giggle. She began undressing and kissing his body. He was beautiful, muscular and lean. She opened his jeans and took him whole into her mouth. He moaned at the feeling. It has been so long since he felt this way. He gripped her ponytail and guided her head in her motions, giving her as much as she could handle. She felt his legs quiver and she stopped to shed her clothes.
Take me now, she moaned, laying back onto the bed.

The pillow was on her face before she couldn’t react. He was on top of her, pinning her arms to her side. She screamed into the fabric, muffling her voice as she fought. Confusion, fear and survival flooded her mind as she fought but he smashed the pillow harder into her face. In a brief moment of clarity, she searcher her mind frantically for an answer. Surrounded by darkness, her thoughts grew foggy, her screams quieted and her jerking stopped. She felt herself slipping away, out of the bed, somewhere else.

Then she was still. He held her for a moment longer, angry tears sliding down his face. His breathing quickened and his heart sank down to his stomach. It wasn’t his heart that escaped from his throat but bile that escaped out onto the floor. Now he had nothing.
He wiped his mouth and sat on the edge of the bed and dug into his pocket for the newspaper clipping. The picture was one he had taken on his daughter’s 8th birthday, the pair of them smiling brightly. He had finally gotten the monster that took his family away from him. He reread the clip again: Mother and daughter slain by drunk driver. Now he had nothing. No wife, no daughter, no obsession.