By: Shanna Clayton

This time I’m unable to stop from groaning out loud. “Okay. I’m done.”

“No, don’t hang up. Dolly, wait—”

“I’ve asked you not to call me that.”

“Sorry. Just stay on the phone for one more minute. I need your opinion.”

I sit down on the foot of my bed. Might as well hear him out at this point. “About what?”

“What if I told you I may have found your map?”

I suck in a breath. He’s messing with me. I know Styler, and he always has tricks up his sleeves. This is one of them. “I would say I don’t believe you.”

I should’ve never told him about the map. It was mine and Harland’s thing. Something we researched together for fun. It leads to an ancient sword covered in gemstones. I dream about finding that sword almost every night. Most people think it’s a legend, but I happen to know it exists. Harland had already found one half of the map before he died. If I can just find the other, I could get to the sword.

“What would you do if it were true?” he asks me curiously.

“It doesn’t matter. You’re lying, and I’m not feeding into your games, Sty.”

“I always said I’d find it for you, Doll.”

“Yeah, well, I’m pretty sure I’ve spent more time than you researching. There’s no way you could’ve gotten to it before me.”

“That map is everything to you. What would you do if I actually found it?”

“I don’t know.”

“Humor me.”

I let out a breath, still wishing I’d never answered the phone. “Probably anything short of selling my soul.”

“That’s what I thought.” His tone lightens, and he says, “I’ve decided to come to Gainesville, Doll.”

He’s told me that before. The first time it scared the living bejesus out of me. Now I take everything he says in stride. All the talk of winning me back, of coming here and sweeping me off my feet—it never happens, thank God.

“Yeah, okay, Styler. Listen, I’ve gotta go.”

“I’ll see ya soon, babe.”

“Okay then. Bye.”

I click the end button before he can say anything else. Stupid phone. I need to figure out how to block him.



Fucking treasure hunters.

They can try every tactic they know, but they won’t beat me through intimidation. Fear is something I let go of a long time ago. Why let some baseless emotion stand in my way? It didn’t take me long to figure that one out. There’s too much to gain, and I have nothing to lose. Seeing things from that perspective kills the fear pretty quickly.

I’d never even heard of Black Templar up until last year. Sounds like some boy scout secret society, if you ask me. I doubt they’re affiliated with the Knights Templar. Probably just fame seekers looking for the next great find.

Well they aren’t getting it through me—and they sure as hell aren’t getting a hold of my sword. It took me years of research and dead ends to find it. The only thing their threats manage to do is piss me off. They can come after me if that’s what it takes.

I log out of my email and slam my laptop shut.

The effects of my hangover come back in full force, and I groan. This headache is nothing short of a pounding hell.

Alka-Seltzer dissolves in the glass of water sitting in front of me, foaming around the outer ridges, popping and sizzling. I don’t reach for it though, just continue to sit there on my barstool, rubbing my temples. Yesterday is a blur, but not so much that I don’t remember how I ended up this way. Images of Tyson handing me shot after shot run through my head, each one hazier than the last. Later I’m going to kill him.

I shift in my seat, and my stomach lurches in response.

Yeah. Kill him.

Francisco breezes inside the kitchen through the swinging door, surprising me. I didn’t expect him to be here today. “You won’t get rid of your hangover that way,” he says, nodding to my glass on the counter. “How about I fix you up something better?”

“Sure. Why not.” At this point I’m willing to try anything.

He opens the cupboard and takes out the blender. He’s always doing these kinds of things, checking up on me, making sure everything is okay around here. He’s just my dad’s old attorney. Technically he doesn’t have to do shit except to make sure the stipulations in my dad’s will are carried out. He’s supposed to verify that Dahlia and I get our bachelor’s degrees and that neither of us move out of the house, but those are the only things he’s required to do. Everything else he does because he and my dad were good friends.

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